Living in Luperon

It is amazing to come across flat water all night and wake to mountains in the distance. By 0730 we could make out the north coast of the Dominican Republic with its massive topography. We were used to the flats of the Bahamas and so this was rewarding. As we travelled closer we could see the lush tropical landscape that covers the island. After a motorsail from Turks and Caicos, we managed to arrive by noon in Luperon.

Upon entering the protected waters of the Bahia de Luperon, we made landfall ( literally we  briefly  touched that muck bottom on our way in!). We found a spot to anchor in this quiet harbor.  Surrounded by mangroves but with towering hills and mountains as backdrop, this place is considered one of the best storm and hurricane holes in the Caribbean. We needed to be here for the next cold front and North wind. We were surprised by the number of resident boats that were on moorings here. And all sorts of vessels (let just say some just needed more love than others to get them out to the open water).

After squaring things away on the boat, we took off looking to check in. Upon arrival, at the infamous dinghy dock from #€£¥!! We encountered several official looking  gentlemen sitting by a couple of trailer-offices. We asked about checking in and looking at their watches mumbled something like ” not today , return tomorrow” in Spanish. Through hand signals and smiles however we were allowed to venture into town, despite our quarantine status. It was Sunday and there was very little open, but we were able to get our bearings on el banco, el supermercado, and a few restaurantes we might like to try.

We met other cruisers in town who told us about a nice restaurant /bar at a little marina in the harbor. We made our stop there after visiting Luperon and had our first taste of the national beer Presidente. How good it felt to relax after a long day and overnight in some challenging waters. 

We did return for the clearing in process on Monday. We paid our entrance fees to Immigration, Agriculture, and  Customs was a freebie, and were told Port Authority would be available on Tuesday. The final task was to await the arrival to the boat by the Commadancia of the Navy. He was the official one to declare us clear to boringly touristas. There was only one problem, he didn’t have a boat. What? We said politely with furrowed brow. The Commander of the Navy for Luperon doesn’t have a boat to visit the boats coming into his harbor?  Well isn’t that a bit of irony. With further explanation, we were directed to an office across the river and up the hill where we might find him, but the bridge was out. So it was suggested that we walk through town, turn left,  cross the bridge and make another left onto a dirt road and up the hill or we could just wait until someone else brought him out to the boat. We opted for the latter. 

We found the ATM  as the banco was still closed due to holiday. OK so the exchange is 46 pesos to the US dollar. Which means, although 500 pesos sounds like a lot it is only $10.So after a few withdrawals we finally heave enough money for a light lunch. We stopped at Jeff’s French cafe and ordered a pizza and couple of Presidentes and partake of the free WIFI. We were happy to have arrived and looking forward to enjoying some different culture. We had been told that the folks of this city are so kind, and of course we welcomed the first person to approach us speaking English offering to help us with any of our needs during our visit. He looked quite prepared for the day with a huge umbrella. We asked about a road map we could use if we decided to take a motorbike into the country. So this kind individual said ” come with me to my house and we can get it” ( little children are told not to speak to strangers for a reason….” come here little children, want to see my big fat oven?” In the pouring rain we walked 4-5 blocks, finally glad when he pointed and said ” there is my house”. We managed to duck out of the rain into a carport sort of outside patio. He was dry but the cuffs of his jeans….did I mention he did not share the umbrella…leaving Mike and I soaked to the skin. He offered a chair, as I politely sat I felt the degree of dampness in my clothes and quickly stood, hoping that I would drip dry faster. He introduced his mother and sister, told his mother to make us coffee and took out a set of cards which had very worn pictures on them of beach and sunset scenes. He said “they are hand painted t shirts, for 10$ which I will get for you tomorrow… please pick one. “. I was polite and said NO I don’t need a t shirt today. Unfortunately he didn’t find a map, but we thanked him for his effort and would find him of we had any needs. We knew that we had other contacts in Luperon for just about any needs. We were approached at the boat day 1 by both ‘ handy Andy’ and ‘Poppo’ in their meager fishing / supply boats letting us know that they had services. They could get water, fuel, essential supplies (beer), wash the boat, clean the prop, etc. Handy Andy was a very likable guy who told us ” you want just one egg?  I’ll bring it out to you”. They would stop by about every other day if they saw us on deck and ask if ” is ok?” Meaning did we need anything.  We did take him up on fresh water fill for our tanks. He also sent Domingo, his right hand man to clean our prop the day before we left Luperon.

Most days we woke to Chris Parker weather reports hoping for a weather opportunity to sail to Puerto Rico , the next island on our way through the Greater Antilles into the Leeward and Windward islands of the Caribbean.  We spent a few mornings with coffee in hand just taking in the beautiful mountains ape of the Dominican we had from the cockpit. Several mornings we awoke to rain showers that lasted on and off during the morning hours. There were usually tasks to get done: re -arranging the supplies, cleaning the stainless, working on managing our email, finances with limited internet access and fixing something. Wind and waves are hard in this home of ours. It’s well built but things take a beating and we are continuously maintaining the systems. We did have the need for another part to be sent to us for our wind generator. The company was in Portugal and they agreed to send us a new unit until we arrived in the US to return the broken unit, for the price of shipping! Our only problem was that none of the major shipping companies came to Luperon, but they did to Puerto Plata, just a 30 min drive east.  Day 4 Luperon we find ourselves taking a motor scooter, NOT a motorcycle 30 miles off the coast through the coastal mountains to Puerto Plata to find a company that will accept shipping. We thought it would be an adventure and great sightseeing tour. We were warned to watch out for the trucks. We later learned the highest cause of death of Gringos in DR is driving motor scooter!!! We got to see some of the landscape that was used in the movie Jurassic Park. The route was littered with several fruit and vegetable road stands. We arrived in rain to Puerto Plata admits thousands of motor scooters driving well over reasonable speed. We stopped a few times, negotiated the language to finally find a Fed Ex office. We took time for lunch and returned on the same back country roads for Luperon… the rain.

We did a few hikes locally to beautiful beaches on the Atlantic, found an abandoned resort, walked alongside dairy cows and mules roaming the roadsides. We hiked along the cliffs of the DR to watch blow holes, enormous crashing waves, and find caves carved into the island. In order to obtain WIFI, we found a small bar/ restaurant that would accommodate our needs. It was convenient to ride the dinghy less than 5 minutes to this destination, order a few Presidente beers and log on. We were usually accompanied by several other cruisers doing the same. We got to know 4 other boats anchored up ther also waiting for weather to proceed to Puerto Rico. Our evenings consisted of in depth discussions of the weather we needed to make the Mona Passage crossing to Puerto Rico from the Dominican Republic, which  is not usually an easy task. We had spent a lot of our prep time int the last year loooking at approaches to making the 250 mile crossing. It can be fraught with currents, cross winds, rain and high winded squalls, all of which certainly add to the adventure, but also the peril. We had seen a window of VERY calm weather coming up and  all 4 boats ready to go.  We decided that the day following the retrieval of our wind generator part and provisioning in Puerto Plata ( via automobile) would be departure day. There was excitement that night before as we gathered for pizza and libations to discuss the journey. We needed to check out of the country first thing in the morning to get leaving papers……..we hoped that would be easy. 

Hang in there….Luperon departure and Mona Passage is next, what an adventure!


Midnight Seas

It’s one of my shifts during our 48 hour sail from the west shore of Long Island in the Bahamas to the country of Turks and Caicos. We left at 0830 and sailed through the night. We have night sailed before, but on this one it is different. We continue a slow and steady progression farther East and South to reach the Caribbean Sea and its chain of tropical islands. Tonight we are blessed with clear skies and a waxing moon that came up mid day which always means that at some point thought the night it will get very dark as she sets, before the light of day reappears. There is a long cast of moonlight on the water leading from the starboard aft. Its shape changes with the movement of the undulating swells which you can clearly see with all the ambient light. We know these liquid souls are like small hills of water that move around the earth as remnants of old storms 100s and 1000s of miles away. (Thank goodness!) It is like looking at a barren field that stretches endlessly. 

We saw the last of “terra firma” passing Mayaguana Island at dusk tonite and will not view land until morning. Tonight there is no boat traffic. ( We usually see 1-2 tankers, cruise ships, or barges on an overnight sail…the reason for keeping at least one person on watch, besides to monitor the navigation). We are in a part of the North Atlantic Sea in the very SE part of the Bahamas that is not a main route for commerce. There are stars which seem muted by the bright light of the moon, but they soon show their extreme radiance after the moon sets and this turns the night into a literary a ‘starry starry night”. The air is moist and the winds are very light. The sails were taken down at sunset today because the were just like sheets in the breeze, flapping and flailing refusing to fill with the lightest of wind. We must run the engine tonight , however, to propel us on to the next port by morning. It will be those hours we use to aid daylight navigation through shallow waters strewn with coral heads. So admidst the drone of the diesel there is the rush of water heard from the stern. It is quite mesmerizing in the cockpit as the gentle rock and roll of the boat moving over the swells through the water incites the slightest bit of somnolence. (Quite unlike the previous night with 12-17 knot winds where we were cruising at 6 knots over 3-4 ft swells at times.) The radio is also quiet as we are out of range from many boats and most civilization.

My watch duties are simple tonight. The navigation is straight forward as there is little wind or current to set us off course. A cup of tea is a welcome bonus and an easy task under theses mild conditions. We are fortunate to have state of the art electronics and chart screens to help safely carve our journey through these waters whatever the conditions. We read about each destination and the stories of ships or other craft trying to find their way only to end up on the rocks or sand, so we maintain a careful watch however advanced our gadgetry.

As my shift is ending the moon is moving off to the horizon, the reflection on the ocean water becomes narrower and almost takes on an orange tint, until the moon sets. The multitude of stars overhead now become visible and share their own light into the night. As I scan the horizon there is less and less distinction between land and sea. The eyes strain to make some perception of depth out of the liquid landscape. I can pick out a hint of light in the distance as we make the distant approach to our next landing. The almost unreal sparkling fluorescence of the bioluminescence is now evident as Lost Loon makes her wake and disturbs the water. There is comfort even in the dark, knowing that only 6 hours will elapse until the light will begin to fill in from the East as we make arrival in Providenciales, Caicos. 

Thank you for reading! 

Leave me comments, questions…advice. Love hearing from everyone!

Next post….Life in Luperon!!

On the Water and In the Water…

It is a respect that you develop with the ocean and deep waters as you travel by boat from continents to islands in the manner we have. We have been in waters so deep our depth sounder doesn’t compute (fathoms it says, on the Raymarine screen) crossing the Gulf Stream and making our way off the banks of the Turks and Caicos islands to within a mile of the Dominican Republic shoreline. And we have unfortunately been in waters so shallow that the muck below grabs onto the keel like an octopus until we overcome the suction force with engine power (happened on our way into Bahia de Luperon, briefly, no damage, and quite humbling). We have swam in waters at 60 ft that with each kick of the fins you gain 3 – 5 ft against the current and relax when propelled by the same, and then float in surface waters that are so warm and silent and relaxing to the inner soul. In our travels, there are waters so crystal you can see the ripples of the sand 10-15 ft below. Therefore I am watch person in these waters for coral heads that sneak up on us from the depths and threaten to catch the keel. They are not as gentle as the muck and sand, we have no first hand experience, but have heard and read that they stretch like stalagmites with claws that take out sections of fiberglass when encountered.
We are smart on the water, watching the course of the water for direction and surface current as to not be caught off guard, whether entering from the beach or the boat. Balancing our moves on deck whether the boat is moving or anchored is important. Most of the waters we have encountered are clear and refreshing until this week in Luperon Harbor. However a safety location as well as a town with wonderfully helpful inhabitants, the harbor waters themselves are well, filthy. The outer beaches of open ocean are beautiful, but we have been warned about the constrained waters of the harbor as being contaminated with garbage and waste. As one enters the harbor, the color of the water changes from blue to green blue. In all my reading, I expected a deeper brown color and odor. None of that exists. So we are no longer in waters where a brief dip off the boat in the afternoon or evening are luxury. Showers are done on the transom or in the cockpit or shower aboard. That is fine….we have an incredibly safe location with the most awesome view of the mountains and hills of the DR into the tropical waters of the Caribbean.
Our second day in Luperon Harbor and we had made our trip to customs , immigration, agriculture and port authority. We paid out our pesos at each stop. Following which, we ventured into town for a look and to get a few fresh vegetables from the small individual markets along the streetside. We had run into a local fellow selling the services of the local talent: divers, laundry, taxi services, boat cleaners, car and scooter rentals. He wanted us to use him as a type of middle man for our needs. We walked with him in the pouring rain a few blocks to get a map, (he had an umbrella, we did not, he was not sharing) which he didn’t produce, but were introduced to his sister selling jewelry, and he wanted us to buy hand painted t-shirts done by his cousin. The pressure was on. We were savvy sailors and had read all about this tactic. We kindly declined and left with smiles and thanks for the opportunity. We made a bee-line for the dinghy to return to the boat for dinner as we had seen dark clouds approaching. We were within a quarter mile of the dock when a squall hit. We were immediately pelted by rain and 20 knot winds. We took on our adversary faces down with each step. The initial blow steadily weakened to a downpour. All we could think of was getting out of the wet clothes back on the boat.
I approached the dinghy to unlock the line. As I was proceeding to put the key in the lock, and over the heavy patter of the rain and whipping wind I heard a sound of a person to my back that wasn’t normal….then a slight splash. As I turned ,I saw Mike slipping into the water ( almost in slow motion) off the hurricane damaged dock. You see, the dock lay twisted half in and half out of the water along the one side. We had not had a problem with footing on a dry dock upon arrival. My first instinct was to try to retrieve the wet bag with our computer and phones, but as I took an initial step from unlocking the dinghy, I found myself literally upended and off my feet sliding as well into the dark waters. I think my bum hit the greasy edge of the green algae laden dock before I was fully submerged. There was initial moment of panic (or was it more disbelief that I had also befallen into the water!?), as there was no holding on the inclined slimy surface. I made one or two grasps of the flooded docking and couldn’t obtain a hold. The only way out I saw was to work my way toward shore where there was more of a horizontal holding, as I saw Mike scraping for some holding on the slimy surface of dock before us. My thoughts raced…how did this happen?….how did I make the mistake of slipping in as well? As I pulled myself onto the dock like a seal,(quite un-lady like, but life-savingly effective) sopping wet, grabbing the wet bag with our possessions. As Mike hoisted himself out just as wet, we were careful with our footing now…I realized we didn’t lose a shoe. What a crazy thought ! How do you hold on to 2 crocs and 2 flip flops sliding off a 45 degree incline? It was then that the hilarious nature of the event set in. Of all the waters on our voyage we had made special effort to avoid, we had now entered. What made this worse was the day before we had been returning to the boat by dinghy and the motor gave out. We found an oil laden shirt wrapped around the us first hand knowledge of the filth in the harbor. Laughter ensued, mine. We had slipped into the abyss of filth in the most comical manner. I was sure we could have wont the “un mil” on funniest home videos for this. As we motored away, watching the skewed dangerous dock, I wanted to warn others. I had no way. Would they take care? Would they avoid the slimy side of the dock? Had this happened before? Were we the first ones?
We wanted fresh water. Returning to the boat, we were again laden with fresh water rain….a godsend… but quickly secured the dinghy and had the transom shower ready. We were relieved after stripping of the soaked clothing, washing our faces and scrubbing hands. My thoughts reflected the decontamination procedures at the hospital I had learned in the event of a chemical exposure. We had sustained a few abrasions and mild lacerations to the hands scraping for survival, but we cleaned those very well. We continued to replay the event and laughed to tears throughout the night. Two eager Midwest born sailors finding themselves IN foreign waters.

Christmas in the Bahamas

Christmas in the Bahamas….
(I’m catching up)
Sitting on the boat at Sapodilla Bay in the Turks And Caicos…found a free WIFI signal…cant post pics, but will get some ASAP!!!

It has crept up on us here. We are not spending our weekends decorating, going to parties, picking out a Christmas tree, or trudging through the snow or slush to get the right Christmas gifts. We are only slightly aware of the holiday because of the calendar and when we go into town, there are a few decorations about Georgetown. What is very strange is walking into a store or passing one that is playing Christmas music. My brain has made a very solid connection with that music and all the activities we are not doing. We instead are fixing a broken outboard, cleaning the anchor windlass, polishing chrome stanchions, and trying to dry clothing in the wind that got soaked from yesterdays downpour. We throw in a beach excursion, hike to Stocking Island Monument (163 verticle feet!), and a swim ashore to round out the day, but none of the typical Christmas fare we have been so used to for the last 50 some years. There are no big department stores having sales on Keurigs or Christmas wrap. There is no waiting for a parking space at the mall. There is no worry about the Christmas Eve menu. (Ok, I will admit that before leaving Wisconsin I secretly stashed away 2 strings of white twinkle lights that I managed to get strung on the bow of the boat!). There are no regrets, it is just SO different. Christmas has just come very simply this year.

We met a couple of friends a couple of weeks back at an anchorage north of here. Diego and Marina. He is an experienced sailor from his home near Lake Como in Italy and she if from Brazil and has joined him for a trip to the Pacific as a journalist. We kept in touch on our travels south and find ourselves anchored right next to each other here in Georgetown. We have decided that we should have Christmas together, and after they kindly made us dinner, Mike and I will reciprocate. There is somewhat of a tradition of making homemade ravioli for Christmas dinner in our family and that is our plan. It means finding the key ingredients at a couple different markets (via scooter excursion) on these islands, but we were successful.

By 3 PM on Christmas Eve, outboard motor parts were put away and we were full of flour and dough creating our little ravioli pillows! With sauce completed and a fresh loaf of bread we had a great meal with good sailing friends.
Christmas Day. Well, there are no presents to open. We have decided that our gift is this awesome experience we wake to daily. We hiked back up to the monument in the early morning (where we secretly found out that the WIFI signal is awesome and the view incredibly spectacular, to make a few WIFI calls to our family!) We spent the afternoon at a cruisers potluck on volleyball beach where met some of our neighbors in the anchorage and new sailing friends from all parts of the US and Canada. We played in the water with the stingrays, relaxed, shared stories of sailing adventures, discussed the latest broken equipment and thoroughly enjoyed each others company.
It is a different life, but one we have imagined and planned for over the last few years. We feel incredibly fortunate to have this opportunity to explore our dreams. I would also say to anyone with a dream …nuture it, save for it, visualize it and continually to plan for it. Don’t give up on dreams, for they keep us young and focused in life.
Merry (Belated ) Christmas!