|Mr Mac anchored off of Isla Beata|
OK, picture this: blue water, white beach, swaying palm trees, colorful native fishing boats, and warm, friendly people. Sounds like a tropical island cliché, right? Maybe, but it describes Isla Beata to a T. This island off the southwest coast of the Dominican Republic is a must-see if you’re in the area. You can only reach the island by boat and, unlike the islands farther east along the coast, there aren’t dozens of day boats ferrying multitudes of tourists here. The palm-lined beach is in the northwest corner of the island; farther south are high rocky bluffs. The only buildings here are the Marina de Guerra (coast guard) outpost, and fishermen shacks lining the beach. The shacks are patchwork quilts of small pieces of wood, corrugated tin, and whatever other building materials were available, but seemingly well-constructed, and everything is neat and clean. Fishing boats are moored off the beach, with some pulled way up on the sand. When we arrived, the Marina de Guerra officers came out to the boat to welcome us, check our papers, and invite us ashore. Very friendly folk, as were the fishermen we passed when we walked along the shore. At the north end of the beach were a couple of half-built/ruined block buildings and a two-story watch tower, and a concrete sidewalk that led nowhere, making you wonder what used to be here. The north shore of the island is hell rock that looks barren, but as you pick your way across it, you see that much vegetation has taken hold. In the holes in the rocks were succulents with fat, oval leaves; a low ground cover with small, shiny green leaves; grasses in deep holes that had accumulated some soil; very prickly catci; and several low plants with yellow flowers. There was an entire beach of conch shells, old and bleached black and white, and when we walked across them, it was like the scene in the movie Return of the King where Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli are walking across all of the skulls that crunch under their feet. The north shore overlooks the Canal de Beata, the channel that runs between the island and the Dominican Republic mainland.
We were pleasantly surprised when all these guys asked was whether we could make any copies of their despacho form (you are required to get a despacho to go from one port to the next), and if we had any books, Spanish or English, to pass on. “¡Muy importante!” said the commandante of the books, and I can see why, since there’s little in the way of diversions here, and no place nearby to escape to if you need a change of scenery. We took the despacho form to the boat, scanned it, and printed out a couple dozen copies, and brought them back in along with the pile of books we’d already read. Chris also gave them a signed copy of Scimitar Moon, figuring that coasties would appreciate the nautical theme. We’ll certainly stop back at Isla Beata if we’re ever in the neighborhood again. Beautiful place and great people.
|Chris readying the kayak to go for a paddle|