For many of you, the name PCMike or Punta Cana Mike is like having a friend on the island. For the past few years I have been assisting thousands of travelers to this country, through popular websites such as http://www.tripadvisor.com/ and http://www.debbiesdominicantravel.com/
My work as a destination representative offered me the opportunity to learn about this beautiful country and all that it has to offer. Eventually, my experience as a rep, lead to positions within some of the country's top rated resorts.
An adventurer at heart, my place was not to be in an office, but out where the all of my senses become one with the natural surroundings! I always felt best when accompanying friends on journeys to local gems...seldom seen by the casual traveler. Response to these trips was extremely positive and I was encouraged to move forward with my desire to provide this opportunity to everyone, thus the birth of Punta Cana Mike's Dominican Adventure!
So....how did a guy from Belleville Ontario end up in the land of swaying palms and hips?
A few years back....2002 to be exact, I was enjoying some quality time with a good friend and bartender extraordinaire "Reibel", at a beachfront bar in Guardalavaca Cuba. As the rum coated my brain, the dream process began and I remember jokingly say as I peered out over the turquoise waters, " Rei... one day my boat is going to be out there". To that, he responded while tipping a bottle of Havana Club 7 year over the remaining ice in my glass, "my friend, you keep drinking this and all your dreams come true".
Yes indeed, I thought.
Months passed as all around me lay the cold white and dirty gray streets of snowbound Belleville. The dream had begun to take root. I started putting ideas to paper and paper to people. I quickly was reminded of all the reasons I could not take a 25 foot sailboat all the way to Cuba, on my own.
In school, many an elementary teacher would write on my report card," Mike has a strong ability not to listen". This in the end, was probably a good thing, as had I been one of those who based everything on listening to others I would still be scraping snow off cars and dreaming of the next vacation.
Sailing solo to Cuba was a major undertaking especially in a small 25 foot boat. A date to leave was set, changed re-set, altered and eventually after 6 months of, planning for the day... most of which involved a rum drink or a beer... on Oct 23rd at 1:30PM on a cold and sunny afternoon, Viento was pushed gently off the dock and with a cigar in hand, Jimmy Buffet on the CD and no wind to speak of, I drifted slowly out of the marina, to the honks of a few air horns from the yacht club beyond.
I thought to myself, if all I do is make it one day and I have achieved my dream.
Two months later, having awakened before the sunrise on 60 previous mornings, I cruised at my speedy 4 knots, through the inter-coastal waterway of Fort Lauderdale.....my personal Christmas gift!
It was time for a rest, especially since I was no longer fearful of waking in the morning to frozen decks! Buttonwood Sound on the western shore of Key Largo became my home for the next 5 months. I was down to $6.60. It was hardly enough to consider buying a meal with, but a beer or two were within the budget!. One thing about the Keys...as they were...not as they have become...is that those in need...looked after those in need. Taking my $6.00 to a local bar, found me an opportunity to replenish my depleted inventory of currency. The daily ritual of property management was a welcome change from droning along ever so slowly for month on end!
June came and if I was to complete my journey, the hardest leg was waiting in front of me... 370 miles of straight line sailing, which ends up being 900 miles when you factor in all the tacking required to sail upwind! It took 17 days, most of which involved 10 foot seas and a bumpy ride. I was tired, bored, pissed off, frustrated, and worn out, with less than 100 miles to go. As would be the case, the closer I got, the worse the conditions. The constant pounding seas eating away at my enthusiasm. I was very tempted to turn around and take the relatively easy ride downwind and back to the Keys. Perhaps they were right, I couldn't do what I set out to do.
My guitar was my only friend. It gave me a chance to talk to myself through lyrics and thought. It was on this day, with the winds whipping up the seas and the salt coating everything, that I came up with my inspiration to get me through the last century of nautical miles.
"Dream your desires...then desire your dreams...the things you want most....are closer than they seem".
With a stubby well worn wax pencil I scribbled that thought onto a salt stained piece of paper and taped it to the bimini. It became my inspiration...my desire to complete what I started.
The miles ticked down and I was now seeing familiar landmarks on shore, beaches I discovered in the middle of nowhere and eventually, the lighthouse at the mouth of the channel leading into my point of arrival, Puerto de Vita...the Port of Life. As luck would have it, I made it all the way to the mouth of the channel as darkness fell, leaving me 2 miles short of my goal and forced to anchor in confused seas, until daybreak. The morning came and of course as luck would have it, the wind that pounded me for almost 3 weeks decided to disappear! A sailboat without wind is one of the most frustrating situations you can face! Ghosting in on the tidal current and the wisp of the shore generated breeze, I slowly made my way into the bay, with the docks now within site and my enthusiasm at a pinnacle not seen for months...that is, until the wind died out completely and the tidal flow diminished to nothing....a mere 50 meters from the dock. The offer of assistance was shouted and politely declined, as I wanted to complete this life changing journey as I started it...under sail.
The moment eventually arrived, gently tossing the bowline to the awaiting party of marina officials and customs inspectors. The white rubber bumpers squeaked as Viento gently made contact with the dock. I waited for a moment, thinking about what I had done, what I had overcome, what I had sacrificed and what I had actually accomplished.
I thought of those few good friends who believed in me. I thought of the many who thought I was crazy. I thought of the few good souls I met along the way, who shared my sense of adventure.
Below deck and carefully stowed, was a bottle of Havana Club that Rei had given me a year or so earlier to as he said "to help my dream come true". With the bottle in hand, I thought twice before taking a well deserved slug. Walking to Viento's bow, I tipped the bottle downward, allowing a stream of sticky amber to flow stern ward along her salty deck and said, "thank you my friend....you got me here".
Well, there you have it...at least the romantic part!
I spent a few months in Cuba, enjoying the culture and friendliness that was the reason for taking on this journey in the first place. But as they say, all good things come to an end, and it was time to figure out, what's next?
Why not become a tour rep??? That was the start of my life in the Dominican Republic, a place that up until that time, I had never stepped foot in! After a sail back to the Florida Keys and a drive back to Belleville for a few weeks, I was 36,000 feet vertical, looking down at the world I sailed only months before, on my way to Puerto Plata.
It was here where my sense of adventure continued. As a representative, I found myself enjoying the company of a good number of guests and ultimately answering a questions in advance of their arrival, via the internet. Someone coined the name "Sunquest Mike" and that was who I became known as for the year that I traveled between Puerto Plata and Punta Cana.
A newly opened resort, the Majestic was the next stop along the way and of course my now well known name, became Majestic Mike...then Sunscape Mike as the opportunities changed.
My track record was not too good with the resorts, seemingly getting let go wherever I went, thus I thought it wise to just call myself "Punta Cana Mike", clearing myself of any direct affiliation and being able to assist the entire market. In 2008 another new resort, NH Real Arena offered me the opportunity to further develop my reputation for service to the tourism market.
Since arriving in the tropics my life has moved forward, having met my wife and as a result, having an entertaining young daughter to keep me busy during the quiet times!
Much like sailing, I often thought of starting my own company....something that was in my control. And ultimately...the beginning of...
Punta Cana Mikes Dominican Adventure.