Our departure from Ensenada was amazingly beautiful. We departed at 2:00 am and the night had calmed the winds. The anchor (which I had worried would be difficult to pull because it was embedded deeply into a grass bank) pulled up very easily with no problem. We stayed to the deep side of the harbor and well away from the coral we knew was behind where we’d anchored… and glided out in dark tranquility. The rest of the night passage followed that beautiful start. We took no water over the bow and simply glided along. There wasn’t enough wind to sail, but the engines worked flawlessly – and purred like kittens after all the work Jay had put in, changing filters and bleeding lines.
In the early morning hours we arrived at Luperon. It was time to officially check into this country we’d already been enjoying for several days. With no sign of the military, we decided to head up to immigration and start the process. I was sent to multiple people and charged fees that totaled more than the $175 I was told it should not exceed. But I really don’t know how you can argue with “illegal fees.” It was unclear to me where they were overcharging. And the one fee I thought was bogus and I tried to argue, got me absolutely no where. The people I dealt with were friendly and felt helpful for the most part, but I think the warmth and small town atmosphere we had just left, caused us to be a little jaded for our experience in Luperon.
We knew the harbor would be dirty, but knowing and experiencing anchoring in the green unfathomable depths are two different things. And even though the cost was less to check into DR than to Caicos, I kept worrying I was being conned. In retrospect, I think that worry has negatively tinged my entire experience at Luperon and it just hasn’t felt as warm. Or maybe it was just that I no longer had Domingo as my protector, to show me where to go with the luxury of a native’s knowledge of how things work. Or maybe it was the difficulty adjusting to the pollution so clearly evident everywhere in the city streets as well as the harbor. I don’t know what it is, but I wish we were still at Ensenada, talking and laughing with Niulka, Domingo and Jose Louis. That was so special and I will always remember my time getting to know them, short as it was.
We thought we would go ahead and leave Luperon that same evening – but the Navy informed us that the harbor is closed at night and ships are not allowed to depart. We would need to see them for a “dispatcho” before we left. They said it would have to be by six, and to give them a call on VHF 68. At 5:30, we gave them a call… no answer. We tried calling on VHF 16 – no answer. Jay and Pat drove down with the boat papers and even talked to the commendant… they said they would fill out our paperwork tomorrow at 2Pm. So, we stayed another night. They also said their radio doesn’t work.
The next day, we realized we had a great weather window for getting to Puerto Rico. We also realized that the difficulty we’d experienced with officials here, was going to be replicated should we try to bounce our way down the coast and check out in Samana… stories of officials fleecing people were abundant. So we announced that we would be going directly to Puerto Rico and checked out of the country… leaving at 6pm – as late as the officials would let us depart from the harbor.