SAMANA (Santa Barbara) Lat 19.11. N Lon 69.19 W
After anchoring a small local boat filled with officials came alongside. They included: Marina Guerra (Coast Guard), M-2 (Intelligence), Migration (Immigration), Portuario (Ports), Aduana (Customs) and Drugs. All were pleasant and went about their work.
First I gave my “Despacho” from my previous port to the Marina Guerra Officer. He accepted it and that completed his work. Next Immigration wanted to see our passports to see if they had been stamped when we entered the country. No problem with that. She inspected them and found them properly stamped. However she did ask for a receipt form from Immigration at the prior port which we were not given, and accepted the explanation that we were not given one. The important thing is that the passports had been stamped. (When you clear in BE SURE your passports are stamped). Drugs and Intelligence then asked to inspected the boat. I gave them the go ahead and remained with them. Their inspection was cursory and lasted less than 5 minutes. They were very polite and careful.
Lastly, Ports asked for a fee of $.70 US per foot for anchoring. This is a one time fee. I explained that the fee under the law only applies to using a Dock (called MUELLE) in the DR. As there was no dock and we were not tied to a dock, the fee was not applicable. I was very polite and explained it carefully in Spanish. However, had I explained it in English they would have understood anyway. The representative from Ports then told me that if I did not want to pay, I would have to come ashore to see her supervisor. I agreed and everyone departed. An hour later I arrived at the Ports building and went in to see the supervisor. The representative who had spoken with me earlier was also there as well as 3 or 4 other “assistants”. I explained that the law did not apply to anchoring and that the only port in the DR that was assessing seventy cents US per foot was Samana and that the charge was not called for. The supervisor called his superior and told him that he had a fellow who did not want to pay because he contended that the law did not apply (Law 519-5). I do not know what the supervisor told him, but I was allowed to leave without paying.
The TRUTH is that the Ports charge IS ONLY for using a DOCK (Muelle pronounced Mway yah), owned by the governmentand the charge of seventy cents US is per foot for up to 24 hours. I once used the dock in Barahona to load my groceries which took about 15 minutes and they made me pay for the entire day. Ports is a commercial government agency accustomed to working with commercial boats. In the case of Santa Barbara Samana, the charge is uncalled for and illegal. You can pay the charge or politely refuse at which point they will ask you to come to the Ports building to speak with the supervisor.
However, I recommend that you do not miss Santa Barbara de Samana. The town was founded by freed American slaves in the mid 1850s and there was more freed slave immigration from the United States as time went by. The town itself is remote, and while it is a Dominican town by any standard, it is not a typical Dominican town in so many ways, least of all its “hybrid culture”.
Santa Barbara de Samana
The town area is alive with life and movement and you can take a rickshaw (motor concho with covered roof) for 35 pesos ($1.00 US) for 1 one person or 40 pesos for two, which will take you from one side of town to the other. At the west end of town you will find the supermarket and the open fruit and vegetable market. This particular fruit and vegetable market is my favorite in the entire country. You will not believe the variety of produce that you see or the prices being asked (inexpensive). Beautiful Avocados (large) for .60 US each. Sweet eating oranges 12 for 25 pesos (about .80 US). Bananas at about .12 to .15 cents US each depending on size. Root vegetable, carrots the size of a small baseball bat, Sweet Potatos the size of a soccer ball. Fresh honey sold in recycled rum bottles. If you make a large purchase do not forget to ask for your lagniappe (free extra—it is customary and will gain you respect).
As you walk east down the main drag you will come to a row of brightly colored Victorian buildings which house banking services, restaurant, art shop and other stores of interest. Along the way there are also banks with ATM machines. There is also a Western Union office. There are car rental services should you choose to rent a car. You can make a day trip to the famous waterfalls at El Limon. There is also a small whale museum in town.
There has been reported dinghy and dinghy motor theft in Santa Barbara, so be sure to secure your dinghy at night. The harbor is otherwise secure from the weather and easy to anchor in. There is a small reef at the NE side of the harbor where the water drops below 6 feet. And there are many spots in the harbor where the average depth is 20 feet. Do not anchor in what is the obvious but unmarked channel as there is ferryboat traffic. There is no dinghy dock, but you can access a ladder at the town dock. If you leave your dinghy there be sure to chain it and the motor. Also would be a good idea to ask the guard to watch it for you and give him a tip when you return. ($3.00 to $5.00 US depending on how long he watches it for you).
From Santa Barbara de Samana you can get a Despacho to go to Los Haitises National Park (Bahia San Lorenzo) which is a “Do not miss destination”. One of the best and most beautiful anchorages in the world, and Native American cave art to see as well.
From the town of Samana, you can also spend a delightful day at Cayo Levantado anchored in front of the beach. Fresh fish and music make for a perfect day. You cannot stay anchored at Cayo Levantado for the night and must go back to Santa Barbara.
Once you decide to leave Samana Bay you can go north and west to explore the north shore of the DR with the wind behind you. Or you can cross the Mona Passage on your way to Puerto Rico. Or you can head south and west to Isla Saona at the SW corner of the DR and then explore the south coast of the DR with its numerous anchorages and harbors. Be sure to get your “Despacho” before you depart. If you are going south to see more of the DR, your Despacho would be to Cap Cana or to Casa de Campo or Boca Chica. Despachos are only issued to “Puertos Habilitado” (Ports that have full immigration, customs and coast guard facilities). If you are going north shore of the DR your despacho will be to Puerto Plata (Ocean World) or Luperon or Manzanillo.
If you have the time, explore the entire Bay of Samana, especially if you like out of the way quaint anchorages that are part of very small towns. I have cruised the Bay of Samana extensively many times and have never once seen a cruising sailboat beyond Los Haitises National Park.