14degrees off the beaten track
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October 3rd, 2007 | categorizilation: all categories,The Caribbean

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Total distance sailed: 768 NM
Midnight GPS position: N 19.31 W069.30
Wind: Variable and light
Sea state: Calm

I walked briskly towards the marina office, hopeful that everything would be sorted out concerning my visa card. Without it, not only would we have no money for extra fuel to get to Tortola, but I will have no way of withdrawing funds from my visa account – my only means of getting cash in my hand – or purchasing food.

The news was not good. “I talked to my friend at the bank just before you arrived, Sir. Unfortunately the ATM automatically destroys the card if it is left in the machine.”

My mind went into problem solving mode. No point in worrying about it. Something will come up to get us out of this pickle.

The pickle is that Steve lost his credit card before we even left Tenerife, on the other side of the Atlantic before we set out on out original trans-Atlantic delivery. Since then, we have been using my credit card to withdraw cash and make payments. All the cash I originally had on me (500 Euros) I also lent to Steve. Silly me, I hadn’t replaced the cash once we arrived in Tortola, even though Steve had regularly returned the lent money via direct bank transfer using internet banking.

So during this Caribbean devilery, we have also been using my credit card for cash advances and payments. Now that it is gone, we have bit of an issue. The first and foremost is how are we going to pay our customs fee in Tortola. Second, how and I going to survive once in Tortola?!

I wandered back to the boat slowly, mulling over my options. The first thing on the agenda is to contact my bank and arrange a new card to be sent to me in the British Virgin Islands…

The look on Steve and Ellie’s faces when I told them the bad news wasn’t very encouraging. A sudden quiet.

Finally Steve spoke. “Don’t worry Rob, it’s nothing that hasn’t happened before on a trip. We always work something out.”

Steve and Ellie’s minds turned to Ellie’s parents in the UK. If somehow we could get them to transfer some money to us. Western Union! “That is instant, isn’t it?” Steve asked out loud.

Thank goodness for Wi-Fi and Skype. In minutes we were connected to the dockside Wi-Fi signal, and Steve was explaining the situation to Ellie’s parents on Skype. He asked them to go down to the post office in Chingford (a suburb of London) and transfer 400 GPB via a Moneygram. Both Ellie’s parents got on board the situation and went together to the post office that instant. Half an hour later we got a call back from them telling us that the money had been transfered.

Now, the moment of truth. Time to go into Puerto Plato, find Western Union, and hope that the money has gone through properly.

The marina office arranged a van to pick us up for the 15 minute ride into town.

When the van arrived, we piled in and left the marina compound for the first time since we arrived last night. The security guard waved a friendly wave to the van driver as he lifted the barrier to let us through. The driver nodded in return. It was cool inside the van, the air vents balsting out cooled air from the airconditioning.

Every two hundred metres or so the van slowed to almost a stop as the driver courteously inched over the judder bars, as if he were carrying a load of fragile eggs. The Dominican Republic is quite a wealthy place, I thought as we drove past upmarket condos and resort-looking hotels. The odd sunburnt Western tourist appreared now and then through the palm trees.

And then the driver turned onto the main road.

The change was dramatic. The crooked yellow line apparently indicating the center of the road and dividing the two opposing traffic lanes didn’t seem to be doing anything. Or perhaps it was. If a driver wanted to overtake another, it appeared the accepted thing to do was to drive on the yellow line and overtake – regardless of whether there was oncoming traffic or not.

Motorcycles were everywhere. They were no doubt popular for their superior ability to dodge the potholes, of which there were many.

Motorcyclists in Puerto Plata, The Dominican Republic

People selling all manner of things from belts to bananas were milling about to the sides of the roads, doing their selling thing with anyone who would care to glance in their direction.

Motorcyclists in Puerto Plata, The Dominican Republic

Puerto Plato town center is a maze of gridded streets, most only wide enough for one car to drive down. Our driver carefully navigated his way to the Western Union office. A rush of moist hot air hit us as we jumped out of the van and headed into the Western Union office. First thing I notice are the two security officers. Both weilding pump-action shotguns. The officer to the right of the door has his finger on the trigger. I hope that he has the safety on.

The office is not airconditioned. On the wall facing the swinging wooden entrance doors is a bright red number dispenser. A large sign above the dispenser indicates that customers are to take number and wait. There are pictures on the sign. The rest is in Spanish. I notice the words Per Favour.

Thank you. That’s all I understand. We are number 56. The large digital readout behind the dark wooden counter shows number 45. We are in for a long wait.

An attractive young woman I guess to be about seventeen or eighteen saunters through the entrance behind her parents. She sits down for a few minutes before wandering outside to smoke. I can see her through the streaked glass in the swinging entrance door. Unknown stranger pulls up in a panel van. Looks like a salesman Motions to the young woman and says something out the window. He smiles. A look of disgust crosses her face. Drops her slim cigarette and stomps back into the office.

Rough town I think.

Number 56 shows on the digital readout. Steve jumps up and goes in for his money.

“Sorry Sir, you are in the wrong place,” the helpful female clerk says.

We have been waiting in line for about 30 minutes. Our driver has been waiting for 30 minutes. Our patience is wearing thin.

No matter, we are directed to the right bank, and after another 45 minutes in the line, Steve finally has his money. We drop by a supermarket on the way home, and by 4:30pm we are finally away from the marina, heading in the direction of Puerto Rico.

Leaving the Domincan Republic

The situation with my credit card is that I have arranged for a new one to be couriered to me in the British Virgin Islands. It will take between seven and ten working days to get to me. Until then I will have to just hang around. Not quite sure how I will feed myself, but I’m sure something will come up…

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    Permanent Link     Comments (4)

Comment by Uncle Peter — October 7, 2007 @ 12:28 am | post a comment

Like I always say sometimes: life's an adventure to be lived, not a problem to be solved.

Comment by Scott — October 7, 2007 @ 8:25 pm | post a comment

What a drag. I read so much about these situations in 3rd world countries. Glad you got the cash! I'm finally doing a little catching up on your journal. It's wonderful to read about such different experiences. Will you be working a yacht for your trans-Pacific journey, too?


Comment by Carl — October 8, 2007 @ 11:44 am | post a comment

did you see the columbus light house? also had you let me know I would have had Lorenzo (shifty mate of mine) meet you and show the town… glad to hear your still wandering about will have a look at your travels when I get a moment as it's all abit busy here….

regards from darkest surrey

Comment by Carl — October 8, 2007 @ 11:49 am | post a comment

got that wrong the port of silver is on the north so you won't have seen the lighthouse, which is a monster… I went from there along the coast to Haiti… what was I thinking….!

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