Thursday, June 26, 2008

Destination Luperon

On June 19th, we bit the bullet. We decided to leave for Luperon in the Dominican Republic the next day. Mark checked us out of the country and the alarm clock was set for 5:30 am.

We could have easily spend more time on Grand Turk and the anchor got set pretty well, but the growing temptation of being settled for a little while and the growing chances for storms and hurricanes got us going. That and the fact that there wouldn’t be a good window to make the crossing for at least another ten days. As it was, the weather wasn’t ideal for our voyage, but we took our chances. The wind would blow between 15 and 20 knots. Its direction would be south-south east, so we could sail close to the wind. Not the most comfortable point of sail, especially with the higher wind waves, but manageable. The reason you want winds under 15 knots, is not only the smaller waves, but what’s called the “lee of the land” effect. At night and in the early morning, the waters off coast of the Dominican Republic are dead calm, making it easy to motor into and towards the harbour from wherever you end up sailing. The hotter and the less windy the previous day is, the bigger this effect. When it blows more than 15 knots the previous day, the wind doesn’t slow down and might even accelerate off the land.

Anyway, we started our trip with a great three hour sail to Big Sand Cay. There we anchored very close to the beach in some swell, being the only boat. We rested for a couple of hours and took the dogs to the pretty island for one last potty break. Early in the afternoon, we left the Turks and Caicos to soon enough be all alone in the mighty ocean. We motored for an hour to clear a big reef. Then, we sailed the rest of the 80 miles to Luperon. We tried to steer as close to the wind as possible to keep to our course as close as possible. The autopilot helped with that. Mark and I took turns at the helm and Irie charged forward, pounding along the waves, slamming onto the bridge deck. A bright moon kept us company during the quiet and tiresome night. Kali and Darwin handled it all very good and I didn’t get seasick. The wind never stopped. So far for that “lee of the land” affect.

Around 4 o’clock in the morning, we started to smell dirt in the air. An hour and a half later, the outlines of mountains became clearer and the smell of flowers penetrated our noses. Right after dawn, at six ‘o clock, we entered the harbour. While the sun and the temperature rose, the lush surroundings appeared. We saw green hills, palm and other trees, grass and flowers. What a contrast with the flat, barren land and beaches of the other countries we visited! The wind died inland, making our approach very easy. We weaved our way through the brown water and between the many boats. Being tired and wanting to scout out the area later by dinghy, we dropped our anchor in the middle of the long bay, not too far from town. After a couple of tries and an hour of digging the anchor in the mud with our engines, we called ourselves temporarily settled. We quickly cleaned the boat up a bit and Kali was a good girl peeing on the trampoline. Darwin waited until we took him and his “sister” to shore, not too much later. We checked into the country and got all the paperwork and fees straight.

For other cruisers who plan to visit the DR: immigration cost $63 (for the boat and two people), $10 goes to a tourist card (money for the town?), $10 has to be paid to the port authority, agriculture is $10 for fruits and vegetables and $10 for dogs (people without dogs get that $10 charged for something else, like meat), these amounts are just for the officials because they come out to your boat and inspect a few things. My understanding is that you always pay these fees, whether you posses these products or not. The last fee ($20) has to be paid to the “comandante” upon departure. You do have to check in with him when arriving, though. All the money has to be paid in dollars and ideally in exact amounts.

Well, just like that, we had made it to Luperon harbour, our summer destination! Tired, but happy, we are ready to explore a new country. We’d better start brushing up that little bit of Spanish we acquired on previous travels…


aerialsoul said...

Ahh, a summer destination. I hope you still keep the blogs posts regular!

Anonymous said...

Hi Mark & Liesbet,
Great meeting you the other day.
I presume that we will meet again soon, specially if Alan heads out that way to see you.
He'll be emailing you soon, I'm sure.
Feel free to email me for any DR related questions, if you like.
The address on the website will work fine.
Regards, Marco.