Cruising Info


GENERAL

  • Many marinas meter power and charge about $.50/KW.  Verify your meter reading in and out.  Make sure it agrees with theirs.  We don’t think any mis-readings are on purpose but meters can be difficult to read so honest errors can happen.  Also sometimes they use the check-out reading of the last boat instead of your reading.  If somebody plugged in a grinder for a day or two before you get there you pay for it.
  • So how much power do you expect to use in a day?  It varies a lot depending on what you run but we use 10-20 KW per day with one AC running and normal lights and battery charger.  If we run the water maker it uses a few more.  All this translates to $5-$10/day for power.  We would only take on water if our water maker malfunctioned for a long time.  That’s never happened to us.
  • Internet connectivity has gotten way better in the anchorages.  There is now a new device called a wifi amplifier that enables boats to connect to hot spots up to a mile or two away.  We use one from www.Bitstorm.com called a “Badboy”and it is fantastic.  We know at least 10 boats that have added this so we no longer have to lug computers to the nearest wifi cafe.  Bitstorm has great customer service and will help you through the installation/setup if you need it.  Island PC is a similar device with an equally happy group of customers.  They cost about $200.  In many anchorages and marinas we get near dsl speed in Bahamas, Turks and Caicos, and Dominican Republic.  I hear this works all the way down the eastern Caribbean now.
  • No matter what you hear about satellite weather and sat phones get an SSB for weather and emergency communication.  I can’t tell you how many people call me to get weather since their XM weather doesn’t work in this area or they only get short term forecasts.  Or they don’t have anything other than internet weather.  My 2-minute SSB conversation with Chris Parker 6 days per week gives me a custom for sailing wind, wave (ocean swell height, direction, and period plus the same for wind chop), and current forecast that is essential to a comfortable ride.  Nobody is 100% on weather but Chris is one of the best.  If you can’t afford a transceiver get a receiver only at least and listen in to his broadcast.  You’ll usually hear one that is close to what you need.  Check his website http://www.mwxc.com for current time and frequencies.


CLEARING PROCEDURES, 2011

    Bahamas

Clear in at any port of entry and there are many.  Check your Explorer charts for info on where you can clear in.

You need passports and boat registration.  Expect to pay a $300 fee for a one year cruising permit and fishing license.  Under 36‘ the fee is only $150.  You will also be issued a visa for each person.  There seems to be a lot of consternation about this since many officers are only giving a 30 day visa which can be renewed but usually with some inconvenience because it has to be renewed the day it expires.  Ask for a 90 day visa when you get your cruising permit.  Some are even getting 180 day visas.  Canadians seem to have more problems due to a political riff.


    Turks and Caicos

Clear in for 2 weeks at a very modest fee (I believe it was $20) at the customs building from Sapodilla  Bay.  Walk up the road and turn right then follow the sign.  If you stay more than 2 weeks you have to get a cruising permit for $75.  If you stay at South Side Marina they will arrange a customs officer to meet you at the marina.  If you go to Dominican Republic be sure to get a dispachio showing where you will arrive at DR.


    Dominican Republic

DR is the worst place to check in so far on our trip.  When you arrive several officers will attempt to board your boat.  Only let officers with ID aboard.  They will want fees and tips.  Fees were outlawed this year if the boat is anchored but many still try to collect them and then also want tips.  We usually paid about $30 at each port just to get rid of them.  When you depart you have to get another dispachio to the port you plan to visit next and this is another attempt to extract fees and tips... a real pain in the ass!  The best way to avoid this problem is to checkin/out at the newer marinas.  They have a fixed price sheet and more on time performance of their in house customs and immigration personnel.  You can get this service at:

Ocean World Marina, Puerto Plata

Puerto Bahai Marina, Samana

Cap Cana Marina, Punta Cana

   

    Puerto Rico

Check in either at Mayaguez at the customs office near the dock.   Or checkin via the new Customs and Border Protection phone checkin.  The phone number is 877-529-6840.  If you have a CBP sticker the checkin is free and they will give you an arrival number over the phone.  If not it is $19 for an annual cruising permit and they will ask you to present yourself and crew at Mayaquez.  Some boats are charged $25.90 but I’m not sure what the difference is.  This was the easiest checkin so far for us.



USEFUL FACTS BY COUNTRY


Bahamas, Nov-Dec 2010

  • Diesel is about $5.20 per gal, gasoline around $5.50.  It’s usually available unless the tanker is late making delivery so we look for fuel at about 1/2 tank level.
  • Food is 25-50% above US except meat, vegetables, and a few other essentials.  Rum is cheap $8-$15 Beer is $30+ for a case.  A hamburger out is $10-$18.
  • Water is 20-50 cents per gal and not always available and sometimes questionable quality.
  • Parts for boat can be imported duty-free with cruising permit but must be a part of the boat not an add-on such as water maker.  Duty is typically $35% but can be 85% on luxury items.  My camera battery charger cost ended up doubling in cost after duty, fees, and shipping.
  • Cruising permit is $300 good for one year with fishing license.  You are permitted one re-entry within 90 days of arrival.  After that if you leave you pay another $300!
  • Right now they are hassling Canadians and sometimes Americans with short time visas.  Even though the cruising permit for the boat is good for a year expect 30 day visa that has to be extended multiple times.  Ask for 90 day when you check in.  Sometimes they’ll give it to you sometimes they won’t.
  • The best checkin we’ve done was at Spanish Cay, Abaco (eat lunch and have a drink while they do the paper work!) but expect a fee of around $40/per boat if you don’t have a meal or stay the night.  George Town, Exuma was pretty easy for renewal of visa.
  • George Town now has a pumpout service and it is required to use this when you are in the harbor.  Discharge overboard is not permitted unless you are 3 miles offshore.  A lot of people don’t like this but we think it’s great.  The harbor gets nasty when there are 300 boats all pumping their sewerage overboard and we like to swim.  Contact the harbor master (Elvis) on ch 16 for info on the schedule.  They are very accommodating. 


Turks and Caicos, Jan 2011

  • Diesel is about $5.20 per gal, gasoline around $5.40.  Eating out is about the same cost as the Bahamas and surprisingly there are a lot of places to eat.  But most require a car rental to get there.  See below for how to get one.
  • Southside Marina is a superb cruiser-friendly marina.  Contact them on ch 16 at Sandbore channel entrance.  $50-$75 per day.  Power is $.71 per KW!  Wifi at dock is $5 connect fee +$1 per day with slow dsl speed.
  • Sapodilla Bay is great anchorage if you have 4’ draft or less so you can tuck into the protection when the easterlies blow strong.  Free internet is available at dsl speed.  All the good stuff is a long way from this end of the island except La Brisa restaurant about 1 mile away.  Rent a car to see the rest of the island it’s well worth it and you can stock up at two excellent grocery stores.  There’s also an excellent marine store.  You can call Southside Marina on ch 16 for directions or assistance on clearing in.  If you stay at their marina they will have an immigration officer come to your boat! 
  • Call Tropic car rentals at 649-946-5300.  Tell them we sent you and you heard good things about them.  They will deliver a car to the beach for you.  Price is $70-95/incl fees and insurance.
  • Food is 15% above US except meat, vegetables, and a few other essentials.  Rum is cheap $8-$15 Beer is $30+ for a case.  A hamburger out is $10-$18.
  • Water is 25 cents per gal at Southside Marina.
  • Parts for boat can be imported duty-free with cruising permit but must be a part of the boat not an add-on such as water maker.  Duty is typically $35% but can be 85% on luxury items.  My camera battery charger cost ended up doubling in cost after duty, fees, and shipping.
  • Cruising permit is $75 good for one year and not required unless you stay longer than 1 week.


Dominican Republic, Feb 2011

  • Diesel is about $5.09 per gal, gasoline around $5.20 at Ocean World Marina. Water is 25 cents per gal metered at your dock.  The have a pump out at the fuel dock.
  • Food seems about the same price as US.  Rum is still cheap.  My Canadian friends say Presidente beer is very good and about US price.
  • Ocean World is a superb cruiser-friendly marina with a pretty fancy resort including casino and discotheque.  Call them at 809-970-3373 ext 4001 for reservations and gps coordinates.  Price is $1.66/ft for less than one week and $1.26/ft for longer.  They have great facilities including restaurants, pool with swim up bar and a great little “liquor store” that will give you ice and serve snack food while you drink on their veranda.  The marina office closes at 5 pm or 8 pm depending on the day but security will help late arrivals 24 hours.  We made the entrance at night with good weather and radar no problem.  Stay away from the red markers!  20’+ depth along and outside the green markers.  Make sure you leave the last marker to port or you will hit the shallow reef.  You’ll stay at fuel dock ‘till you check in.  They will ask for passports and exit dispachio from your last port.  They may also do a brief search of you boat.  You’ll do the rest of the checkin in the morning at the office behind the dock.  They’re very friendly but don’t speak good english and often have no radio.  Checkin is $43 US plus $10 per person.  A departure fee of $20 is paid to the Navy officer at the dock before you leave.  Don’t try to leave without it, they will go out and make you return and you could be detained.  There’s a little surge in the marina but we didn’t have any problems with it once we got our fenders placed correctly.
  • No cruising permit is required.  They seem to want you to say as long as you can.  Security seems to be a little bit of an issue and you’ll have to get used to heavily armed guards anywhere cash is handled.  Not sure we’ll get used to it entirely but the people are extremely friendly and helpful.  The scenery is superb and there are lots of land excursions including the rum distillery tour, cascading water falls, and several historical sites.  This place will be at least a 1 week stop before we continue on the north coast to Semana.
  • Samana has a lot to offer on the water and in the surrounding mountains and some services in the smallish town.  But entry to Samana via the anchorage documented in most cruising guides is a totally unacceptable mess.  Not only is the checkin process a continuous line of people wanting tips and providing on the spot rules you’ve never hear of before but the dinghy dock is flat out dangerous and loaded with more people trying to extort money from you.  Luckily, there’s a new marina in Samana that isn’t documented in any of our cruising guides.  They answer to Puerto Bahai on ch 16.  Currently they only have a hand held radio so they may be weak until you get close.  Pedro is friendly and helpful  It has only been open a couple of months and is one of he best managed marinas we’ve found so far!  $1/Ft transient rate with onsite Customs, Immigration, and Navy documentation.  Plus a price list approach similar to Ocean World on the north coast.  No haggling, no guessing if your getting the right price.  The marina has 4 pools, 4 restaurants and superb 5 star service.  It is located just around the corner from the Samana anchorage and is simple to get into.  It also has a fuel dock with prices that match Puerto Rico.  If did this trip again I’d stop here first for at least one night just to simplify checkin.  The process at Samana anchorage is completely untenable.  Four people board your boat including an interpreter to collect the “harbor fee” that isn’t supposed to be collected anymore if you anchor.  Then they begin pleading for “tips”.  It is very uncomfortable and would deter me from coming back so I’m glad there’s a very improved way to do this.


Puerto Rico, March 2011

  • Boqueron is cool!  Neat little bar right at the end of the dock with good restaurants and a few shops walking distance.  And great restaurants a few more blocks away.
  • Call Raul at 787-519-3177 for a great taxi ride to the mall or anywhere else you need to go.  Plus he knows everything you need to know about the area and speaks great English.  He’ll even teach you Spanish.  A ride to the mall is $15 each round trip.  He’ll drop you off then pick you up later.
  • Change oil here and drop the oil off at Autozone.  It’s a cab ride away or do it on your way to the mall and see if Raul will hold your empty container in his trunk while you shop.
  • Diesel is around $4.10.  Pretty similar to US SE east coast price.
  • Ponce has a Quantum Sails dealer and loft.  It also has an upscale mall that has a Sears and Penny’s with a lot of other shops.  Close by is a Home Depot.

Here’s where you’ll find info we would have liked to see before we departed and some recent details about each of our stops.  I hope you find it helpful and please feel free to email us at chrisblair@blairpage.com on it’s usefulness or let us know what else you’d like to see here. 


© Christon Blair 2012