DR and Bonaire

Sunday, June 3, 2001

It has been over a month since we last wrote to you and we hope that none of you have worried too much about that space of time. We promised to write from the Dominican Republic, but somehow none of our experiences moved us to do so. As we travel there are experiences for each of us that persuade us to "like" or "dislike" a place. For each place there are those who have good experiences and those who have bad. For this reason we caution you not to take our persuasions too much to heart.

The DR was one of those places that we did not like very much. Garbage was a problem everywhere. It was strange to read signs which advertised their war against garbage. They had bins posted in many places in the city, but the bins were overflowing. Where the garbage was collected, the garbage bags and loose refuse stood in the alleys. The people cannot be blamed for this oversight. It is obviously a fault of the government. Taxes stood at 12% so one would feel that the garbage could be one of the priorities with that money.

We were anchored off a village catering to seaside vacationers, Boca Chica. It was about 20 miles distant from the capital city of Santo Domingo. Public transportation into the city was frequent and inexpensive, about $1.10 one way, so we went quite often. This is the oldest city in the western hemisphere and boasts some of the oldest buildings as well. The family of Diego Columbus (son of Chris) settled here. In spite of the age of the buildings, there is no sense of antiquity and peace. Perhaps that has something to do with the savagery of the Columbus family?

Our minds kept comparing this colonial area to that of the Old City in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and it came up very short. The oldest church in the western hemisphere is in the old part of Santo Domingo. It took 20 years to construct and was in the hands of several different people contributing to the various types of architecture present (our opinion was that it was quite unattractive). Jane wanted to experience the old cathedral on Sunday when it would be full of worshippers and music so we made a special early trip into the city on Sunday. Although it is purported to be open every day, the cathedral was closed as tight as a drum that day. In fact all of the churches in the old city were locked up - very disappointing.

On the whole the people that we met were not friendly. They have so much more than the Haitians; however, they did not seem happy and seemed to care only about how they could get more of our money. Our Sunday visit ended with our need to find the location for the bus back to Boca Chica. The transportation system is apparently different on weekends. A young man of about 20 told us that he was on his way to the bus station and that we could tag along. About half way there he informed us that we should pay for his bus fare to Boca Chica since he was showing us the way. Of course, we would have nothing to do with that suggestion, and told him that we did not need his help after all. Fortunately, there were enough other folks who would smile and point the way when we would ask.

We did have one really wonderful experience toward the end of our stay in the DR. We left the boat at anchor with our friend John to watch over and traveled into the highlands. The first place of visit was at an elevation of about 4,000'. The second day out we wanted to travel the back road from Jarabacoa to Constanza, both cities being in valleys between the mountains.

We had read that the backroad over the mountains was the most beautiful drive in the country but that the road was bad enough "to make a tank commander weep". Against the suggestions of the locals ("very uncomfortable", they said), we sought out a "publico" which would carry us over the mountains. Turned out that a publico was a pick-up truck in this case, and we climbed into the back end. For $2.25 we received a 2 hour ride that took our breath away (in more ways than one). We went over the ridges of the mountains with fantastic views at every turn. Have to admit that we were very lucky that the sun continued to shine. We could imagine just how bad that ride would be in a rain storm!

We left the DR on Friday, May 25th, with the destination of Bonaire. This is one of the five islands of the Dutch Antilles lying about 50 miles north of the coast of Venezuela. The course of 180 degrees should have given us a beam reach meaning that winds should blow steadily at a 90 degree angle to the side of the boat. This would give us our best speed possible. The distance was 375 nautical miles. Best laid plans -- We did make good speed but it was a very uncomfortable ride. We went through a tropical wave with wind speeds of 30-35 knots and short but steep wave action. Jane was seasick most of the way and was unable to eat or to sleep for more than 30 minutes at a time. Fortunately, our new auto-pilot worked very well and nothing broke along the way. The trip took 71 hours in all and then about that much time to feel human again afterwards.

Bonaire is quite a treat to us after the third world countries that we have visited. Other than a short stint of ownership by the Spanish, the Dutch have colonized this island. Although they are still associated with Holland, the island is free and independent. Bonaire has (and still does) receive income from the recovery of salt from the ocean waters. They have been shipbuilders and subsistence farmers. In this time the biggest income is derived from tourism, especially recreational water sports.

There are very strict laws for the protection of the reefs here. No anchoring is allowed. We are currently on a mooring provided by the national park system and for which we pay $6/day. One of the attached photos was taken from our "crow's nest" showing the boats moored along the island. Notice the variance in water color showing the very sharp drop off. We can snorkel and dive right off the boat here. There is no garbage - everything very civilized. Along with civilization comes expense - in line with prices in Holland.

Yesterday we rented a motor scooter to see the island. One of the photos shows Sander sitting at an area called 1000 steps on the northwest coast of Bonaire. The steps and walkways here were built to allow one to get closer to the sea - very lovely!

Our third photo is of our friends, John and Bridget. Yes, we are still with them and plan to travel to Curacao (about 30 miles from here) with them in a few days. Bridget will leave us there for the summer as she returns to Canada to see her parents and then to Britain. We have appreciated their friendship for many months now.

We have received e mails from many of you telling of the thawing that is going on there in the states. I guess that happens every spring. It's hard to remember about the changes in seasons when living aboard Satori. We hope that you are enjoying the spring and that we will hear from you often. Please remember to write to us through our ham radio address which is **** NOT the Yahoo address on which this message comes to you. We pick up mail every day on our ham radio, and very seldom go to the Yahoo address. Please be sure that your address book reflects the winlink address.

Best regards from, Jane and Sander aboard Satori