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…..in 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!