Marina ZarPar and Boca Chica

It's Marina ZarPar in the Dominican Republic

It’s Marina ZarPar in the Dominican Republic

Eventually I did arrive at Marina ZarPar in Boca Chica. The marina is comfortable and offers all the usual yachting services (though at a premium), from laundry to WiFi. Even free transport to the local supermarket. But it suffers one large drawback (for me anyway).

View from the marina

View from the marina

A marina that does not allow me to bring visitors onto the premises, or to my boat, will inevitably get poor reviews. To be fair, it is possible. Just pay a fee and sign the person on as temporary crew. But frankly, I find this requirement both cumbersome and borderline insulting.

My boat is my house, and I feel I have the right to invite anyone I please to it. Locals with boats at the marina have no such restriction! So what gives?

Now that I have expressed my indignation, I’ll switch to the proverbial “good stuff”… and even allude to the reasons why I find the marina rules so restrictive… 😉

Marina ZarPar is well placed, beside a popular beach that extends all the way to Boca Chica, and this beach is where “it” all happens.

One continuous party extending for miles.

Pictures describe the scene better than any words so without further ado let me present:

Life is a beach in Boca Chica

Life is a beach in Boca Chica

The beach.

See if you can spot the tourist in this photo!

As you can see, if you want crowds…, no problem,

Waiter...., bring me a beer!

Waiter…., bring me a beer!

If you are more the 5 star beach resort type…

Lay down on your deck chair and order pina coladas to your hearts content.

I think I will go and chill out over here...

I think I will go and chill out over here…

Want to idle away a few hours in rustic solitude…

Pull up a chair!

Fantastic! But what makes the Dominican Republic a must see tourist destination in my book are the people. Why?

For a start nobody here is camera shy. What a joy to have someone smile at you when you take their photo instead of looking at you as if you had just committed a crime.

Now don't be camera shy...

Now don’t be camera shy…

See what I mean?

The only place I’ve visited that displayed a similarly positive reaction to my camera was the Cape Verde Islands.

I'll buy 10!

I’ll buy 12!

For a smile like that I’ll buy a dozen bags of peanuts!

Who's up for a banana ride?

Who’s up for a banana ride?

Over Easter everyone was out to have a good time.

Music please maestro!!

Music please maestro!!

To the accompaniment of bachata music to be sure, whether on the beach

Music in the streets!

Music in the streets!

or in the streets.

Hello sailor...

Hello sailor…

I even found a bar that catered exclusively to sailors! Sort of…

Not quite the usual fish & chips

Not quite the usual fish & chips

Hungry? Take your pick. Fine dining or the Dominican Republic’s version of fish and chips.


Would you like to see my boat?

Would you like to see my boat?

I could have stayed a month or a lifetime…! If the marina had allowed me visitors.

Santa Marta Colombia

Too lazy to go further than the beach or town square.

Too lazy to go further than the beach or town square.

Let me try to impart some useful information on Santa Marta in the form of pros and cons for yachtsmen contemplating landfall here.

Starting with the bad news:

  • It’s about ten times more expensive (about 250 US dollars) to stop in Colombia than in the windward islands. Why? Because it’s bureaucratic. By law you must employ an agent to do all your paperwork and it can take up to a week before it’s completed.
  • There are no Aguila girls.
  • You can’t go anywhere with your yacht once you arrive. Not without repeating the red tape and expense. Not even a little day trip to nearby beaches.
  • There are no Aguila girls.
  • The beach down town is fine for a walk, but I doubt my immune system would handle a swim.
  • There are no Aguila girls on the beach either…
  • While the town can boast being Colombia’s oldest, there really isn’t much left architecturally to support the claim.

So I spent my mornings by the seaside, and my afternoons in town at a café just soaking up the atmosphere. Which brings me to the pros:

  • Santa Marta has a great vibe! It’s a lively place. Vendors, tourists, street artists, restaurants, bars, you name it, it’s there and it’s all thriving. Even I had difficulty being bored once I’d worked up enough courage to leave my boat for the day.
  • It’s safe and it’s friendly.
  • If you are a little more adventurous than I am (which isn’t difficult), there are interesting places to visit just a short bus or taxi ride away.
  • But I’ve saved the best for last. While there were no Aguila girls in Santa Marta, I did find the next best thing. Two in fact.
  • Aguila Light girls!

The rest of my stay in Santa Marta is a happy drunken blur. Apparently Aguila light girls are no lightweights when it comes to partying.

Two reasons to stay in Santa Marta

Two reasons to stay in Santa Marta

Oh, and if the next time you ask a pretty girl in Santa Marta “what would you like to drink?” and she answers “Champagne of course”, you know who’s to blame. 😉

Just another gringo with his camera

Like I said, the marina has seen better days!

So what wondrous tales of sybaritic excess have I to tell after my week long stay at Pier Salvador marina in Ribeira?


While still harboring “great expectations” for Bahia, (I know I’ve experienced but a morsel of what the region has to offer) I’ve had to be satisfied with imbibing freely on its visual and auditory splendor (plus several cold beers for good measure).

Unfortunately I leave unsated.

No tourists on this beach in Ribeira

Yes, Salvador is the diverse and interesting metropolis I’d sought, yes, its beaches are spectacularly lively, and yes, music is everywhere, spontaneously encouraging both young and old to dance openly in the street (and wow can they dance!)….


Music in the streets!

Salvador is also the first place where I’ve actually been made to feel like an intruder. Not at the marina, not at any of the restaurants or main tourist traps, so obviously not when I’m seen as a potential source of income (yes I’m a cynic!).

The “bad vibe” (a cynical wannabe hippie) is apparent when I’m out on the street, amongst the locals, making my habitual photographic rounds. Somehow I doubt it’s just a case of “gringo-photo-phobia” (fear of featuring in some tourist’s holiday snapshots, or heaven forbid… a sailing blog!).

No smile for the camera?

I chose to stay in Ribeira because it’s where the majority of tourists don’t. It’s my way of effectively mingling with the general population. Here the strategy has backfired!

Bahians appear troubled by my presence. It’s as though I’ve bullied my way into their last tourist free oasis. I’ve gatecrashed, an uninvited guest and I’m not sure they’re too thrilled about it.

Not too thrilled about being photographed…

Given that the city is overflowing with hoards of carnival party pilgrims, I can’t really blame them.

So if you were wondering why there are so few smiling faces in my latest collection of photographic impressions, you now know why.

It’s because the “gringo” with his pocket camera has been noticed!

Oops! I’ve been spotted…

So, I’ll just wander off to take a few shots without people in them before surreptitiously sneaking a couple in while they’re not looking… 😉

Knock knock….

Except it’s harder than you’d imagine…

Who’s there?

Ah! The secret is to catch them while they’re distracted…

Too busy to notice Mr Cameraman!

Yes, operation ice-cream is a success…

The best ice-cream in Salvador!

and I’m finally able to show you what the locals get up to on the beach…

Highlighting that Bahian tan!

Don’t ask me… I’m just the photographer…. but apparently this is the way the women work on their tan.

Under the inflatable doll tree

The men on the other hand look for some shade…

Sunglasses for sale, Ribeira, Salvador

Or shades?

Food served on the beach!

But Ribeira is not just beach, bikinis, beer and food stalls.

Freelance recycler

Some people have to work for a living (present company excluded).

Working out Bahian sty;e

Bahians don’t always get that lean muscular body by going to a gym.

I’m going this way…

I get mine by going for walks… 😉

From Sal to Tarrafal, Sao Nicolau

Tarrafal, Sao Nicolau, Cape Verde

The 22hr down-wind sail (averaging around 4 to 5 kts) from Porto de Palmeira to Tarrafal was exhilarating. Unfortunately, I was not able to get much sleep (for fear of running into the island), so I was mentally if not physically exhausted on final approach to Tarrafal, No matter, plenty of time to rest once at anchor.

Halil, my new Turkish "brother"

I was on a natural high, and having caught a large tuna on route I felt sure to win the fishing competition spontaneously organized with my Turkish sailing buddies in Sal. “Ah, what a fine meal it will make!”, or so I thought…

Of course, nothing ever goes precisely according to plan.

Upon arrival I found the small anchorage filled to capacity, and all shelter behind the breakwater taken by local boats. I spent almost two hours trying to set my anchor but it stubbornly refused to hold.

No problem, I can do stubborn…. besides I need the exercise. Hauling aboard my 25 meters of chain, I moved Eileen for the umpteenth time to seek better holing in shallower water by the beach.

I flagged down a Frenchman as he sped by in his dingy and asked if he could kindly deliver my prize catch to my Turkish friends so it wouldn’t spoil in the increasing heat (they have a refrigerator), and continued my game of drag the anchor.

Having unsuccessfully tried both my Danforth and CQR, (and motored backwards past everyone else’s boat at least a half-dozen times), a Spanish registered vessel took pity on my valiant attempts to plow the seabed, and surrendered their mooring to me.

I thought it was out of pity, but apparently it was out of extreme gratitude. Gratitude for mistakenly being the recipients of my tuna dinner. Curse that Frenchman, he took my catch to the wrong boat! Well, at least I will be able to sleep now that I am secured to their buoy…

No such luck…

Keep your mooring buoys!

What followed was a string of interruptions as several enterprising young men swam out to my boat, climbed aboard (despite my protestations), and began insisting they be paid a fee for using “their” mooring.

That triggered the proverbial “straw that broke the camels back” response in me, and I’m ashamed to admit that at this point I completely lost my temper…

Throwing the mooring buoy back in the water, I started Eileen’s engine, told my uninvited guests where they could put their fee, and sent them scrambling back into the water as I motored away.

So much for Tarrafal, I’ll sleep on route to Mindelo.

Sailing along the western coast of Portugal

Avian hitchhiker

24 Hours later I weighed anchor and started the 50 plus nautical mile leg north to Cascais on the outskirts of Lisbon. The sailing was in light winds on a relatively smooth sea, so generous use of my mighty 13.5hp Beta engine was necessary. Even at a consistent 5kts, it was almost dark as I approached the Rio Tejo. I really should learn to wake up earlier…

Dolphins made an occasional half-hearted visit, but this was more than compensated for by frequent social calls by exhausted avian hitchhikers.

Overall, the passage was soothingly tranquil, ignoring a brief episode of near panic when my favourite hat forced me into another impromptu “man overboard” drill. I did get it back however! As you can see in the accompanying photo, it is just the thing to compliment my sailing ninja apparel and I would be loath to lose it.

Sailing ninja apparel

I spent two nights in Cascais marina and I will happily return here (perhaps at anchor) in summer before heading toward Madeira or the Canary Islands. There are interesting little beaches, quaint winding cobblestone streets, and a multitude of bars, restaurants and cafes catering to all tastes.

I was also pleased to find the “out of hours” marina staff exceptionally helpful and professional; evidenced by the quick defusing of potential disaster as an accompanying Finnish yacht bungled repeated attempts to tie off at the reception pontoon. The incident prompted a spontaneous and amusing discussion on general marina mishaps, and having witnessed first hand what these people have to contend with on a daily basis, they have my deepest respect. Let me elaborate with an example;

Beach, Cascais Portugal

I’d noticed quite a substantial number of seagulls resting on the marina breakwater in the afternoon and a sudden cacophony of avian cries disrupted my hapless attempts at Wi-Fi prompting me to pop my head out of the companionway, I was just in time to see an enraged fisherman take out a pistol (the air gun type from the sound it made) and start shooting willy-nilly at gulls attempting their getaway with stolen fish. I’m afraid I do not have an accompanying photo captioned “enraged fisherman shoots sea birds”, but I was studiously minding my own business at this point.

Besides, dealing with this sort of thing is the business of those aforementioned, exceptionally helpful and professional marina staff. 😉

I was too tired to sample Saturday’s marina nightlife and had to content myself will meeting other cruisers “en passant” partaking in the new and ridiculously bizarre yachtsmen ritual of wandering marina grounds seeking improved signal strength for Internet Wi-Fi, laptops extended, face aglow.