Unlike the Bahamas where you can do a onetime check-in and get a cruising permit for up to six months, the Dominican Republic requires cruisers to check-in and check-out each time you move anchorages. This adds a level of coordination to the process and prevents you from deciding to move at the last minute. With each move, you have to clear with Immigration, Customs and the Armada (Navy). The process has been made painless at the Puerto Bahia Marina.
Customs and the Navy are usually on site and Immigration will come once called. Each time you check-out you are given a dispatcho (exit papers) that you have to show at the next check-in. Here we are with Lieutenant Shepard on our final check-out.
We weren’t able to leave the next day with our buddy boats because I ordered a couple of Google Fi phones and they hadn’t arrived yet. The process of getting SIM cards at each new country was something that I wasn’t willing to do any longer. The Google Fi phones work in over 200 countries, there is no roaming and you only pay for the data that you use. The phones arrived and we took off for Puerto Rico the next day. We left Samana at 6:30am for the 150 mile trip to Puerto Real, Puerto Rico. Since the early hours usually come with very little wind, we were able to make good time. This lasted until about dark when the winds and waves picked up. Wind 17-23 with gusts up to 29 and 6 foot waves. All right on our nose. This reduced our speed from 6.5 to around 5 knots. We finally arrived in Puerto Real at 9:30am the next morning.
We found our buddy boats and the anchorage to be large with plenty of room. Since Puerto Rico is a US Territory, we were able to clear customs at the kiosk located at the marina. Already registered in the Customs and Border Protection program (CBP), all we had to do is enter our information and wait for the US Customs and Border Protection to initiate a video call. The whole process is stream lined and very easy.
While here, we refueled, replenished our water reserves and caught up on laundry. We stayed for two days and headed off to our next anchorage. This part of the trip takes us along the southern coast of Puerto Rico. It is also considered to be the worse part of the trip if you are heading east because of the direction from where the Trade Winds are blowing. Most cruisers leave before sunrise and bite off no more than 25 miles at a time in order to be safely anchored before the trades begin howling again which can come before 9:00am. We planned for that but if the weather wasn’t too bad, we would push further until we had enough. We went 43 miles all the way to Ponce, basically cut two days into one. The anchorage at Ponce is small and was crowded but we anchored at the back of the anchorage and found good holding.
Knowing that we wanted to visit San Juan, we decided to rent a car and head there in the morning. Unfortunately it is a few hours away by car and when you have to get the car, drive over and back, it doesn’t leave much time for sight seeing. But we decided to give it our best. First on our list was to visit the forts. We started at the San Cristobal Castle and walked along the city wall before turning into the historic district. The fort is amazing with some of the walls up to fifteen feet thick.
While wandering through the city we came across Fortaleza Street. It is know for its umbrellas hanging high above the street. They are not there to keep you dry in the event it starts raining, but rather to help shade you from the sun. This is one of the streets known for its shops and the umbrellas make it a must see. After the long trek to get here along with visiting the fort and some of the shops we decided that lunch was in order. The lady at the tourist information suggested Punto de Vista for its authentic cuisine. The restaurant is very nice and located on the top floor of one of the historic buildings. The rooftop dining overlooks the harbor where the cruise ships come in and you can dine inside or out. Since we had quite a long way back to Ponce and it was getting late, we thought we should head back.
From our short visit to San Juan we knew that we needed a few days to really get the feel of the city. We wanted more but without the car rental and the several hours of traveling. So we opted to visit the old part of Ponce. Ponce is the second largest city in Puerto Rico, has a large historic district and just a short Uber ride away. Our first stop was the Museo de Arte de Ponce (Museum of Art in Ponce). The museum is filled with paintings and sculptures from Puerto Rico, Spain and Italy. We thoroughly enjoyed the visit.
In the middle of town is the Parque de Bumpas (oldest Fire House in Puerto Rico) which was built in 1882. No longer used as a fire station, you can visit to see what it was like back in the day. One of the local vendors sits out front selling sherbert that is made fresh every morning. Of course I had to have one.
Just a short walk away is the Catedral de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe. It is the cathedral for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Ponce located in downtown. The cathedral lies in the middle of Ponce’s town square, known as Plaza Las Delicias, located at the center of the Ponce Historic Zone. Here is some pictures of the Cathedral and one of the fountains located throughout the city.
As is usually the case, we like to finish with some good food. Here we are Jen & Mike (Sanitas), Tim (Belle Marie) and Renee & John (5KNOTS). I would say it looks like everyone had a Good Day!