Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Time Had Come… to Leave Luperon!

It was November 5th, my brother’s birthday, when Irie left Luperon Harbour. After four and a half months of sitting stationary (except for the short hops to and from the mangroves during hurricane Ike), she finally got some action under her hulls again. Boat and crew were ready for new scenery and different adventures. Mark and I felt sad and happy to leave this special hurricane hole and wondered whether we’d ever see it and its people again. Time for some reflections…

The active social scene was what made our summer stay in Luperon so memorable. We met wonderful people and experienced great events. Who would forget Dave from “Tatia”, so smart and talented he didn’t know what to do with himself? His dry humour was right up my alley and each time we saw him play the guitar, we were in awe. And, speaking of Daves, we had another one: Karaoke Dave. He provided entertainment whenever and wherever he was to be found. His wife Liz looks like she could be my sister and we have a lot in common. For the Halloween party we were actually going to dress up as twins, but for an unfortunate reason, she had to go back to the States. Many times I was walking around or sitting somewhere and somebody would approach me from behind, calling “Liz! Lizzy, how are ya?” I’d turn around with a smile on my face and saw the other person’s expression change. When my name happened to be Liesbet – or Lizbet to the English speaking – things became even more confusing. Of course by the time people started to get to know me as well, they were happy to greet me from afar, whether I would be Liz or Liesbet.

Kay, a former model in the US, wanted to be a mother to all of us, young cruisers. Not that there were many of us (most cruisers are above 50), but she wanted to take care of our little group and teach us one and another. She kind of introduced make-up to me and probably frowned more than once, while watching me try the stuff. Her husband Lou is a painter (http://jorgl-art.com/mainpage/mainpage.htm) and a character. I’ll always remember him as the cigar smoking, coffee drinking, cup holding man that strolls in and out of the marina area in his underpants. I got the honour of receiving some paint dots (one of his trademarks) on my left arm just before we left. Too bad it wore off so quickly. I could have been worth thousands of dollars!

Steve from “La Vie Dansante” became a good friend of the family. We watched a real love (and hate) story from close-by, when he was together with Davi, a Dominican woman, who was very involved in Luperon. She has a thirteen year old daughter, who I helped with schoolwork. A few weeks ago, Steve’s crew Emily (also from England) showed up. This 25-year old blonde, changed the dynamics a bit amongst the crowd of mostly single man. All of a sudden, I got some competition! I enjoyed her company a lot, since her presence made my life more fun and interesting. Together with another guy under 40, the South African Ed, Em and I spend a relaxing afternoon and fun night in Cabarete, the infamous wind and kite surfing town along the North Coast of the Dominican Republic. Ed (sometimes scruffy looking –the way we like him- and sometimes real clean and dressy looking) lives on his small, scruffy looking, cement boat “Nini”. That boat had the most comfortable spot in the harbour: a cloth hammock in the shade and breeze. Ed cooks the best curry ever and we enjoyed hanging out with him.

Frik (“Desire”) was another neighbour from South Africa, always friendly, soft spoken and very interested in the local women. Being a handsome doctor, volunteering in the local clinic, didn’t hurt his popularity. He brought me yammie fresh yoghurt one day and treated a whole bunch of us to breakfast on his luxurious sailboat. Jeff, an older, very sweet, but a bit rough on the edges, gentleman from England proved to be a good cook as well. For every event, on Irie or somewhere else, he provided tasty dishes. He was good company and we are touched by his fondness for us. He bought his boat “Hispaniola”, an Islander Freeport 36 (yep, the exact same kind we had as our first boat) here in Luperon.

Then there were Gene and Wilma from “GeWil’, who would always show up with a cocktail in their hands. They were involved in a terrible accident near Luperon last year and are still stuck there, waiting for the court case. Before the evening started, and we were ready for a drink, they seemed to be reaching the tipsy stage already. They are good fun and make the best mango daiquiris. We expect to see them along the way.

Of course there were many more characters that played an important role in our Luperon lives, like the amazingly friendly South African couple Margie and Brian, who invited everybody over for parties at their wonderful house up the hill. The view from there was awesome. Our little group of friends even got treated to an extra pool party with a tasty BBQ at their house “Fair Return”. They have been living in Luperon for a long time and make their money doing canvas work for us, cruisers. Everybody got used to Margie’s cheerful“Pennywhistle Canvas!” on the VHF-radio and could probably recognize her voice forever.

I could write a book or at least a short story about all the intrigues that take/took place in Luperon harbour, from love stories to funny gossip, to drunken events, blackmailing and hooker encounters. Maybe I will, one day, but for now this blog will have to do. A positive side effect of having all these different people together was the birth, more spontaneous than not, of many events. On Irie, we had a few “happy hour” moments, starting a tradition of gathering people on our boats instead of in the more boring and expensive marina. “La Vie Dansante” became the place for a drink after hours, “Wako” opened its doors for us and threw a “goodbye” party before we left and Mark and I even managed to get invited on “Nini”, a real honour!

We joined pot lucks at the Yacht Club, beach parties near the harbour entrance, a cultural dance night and a fun Halloween Party (Emily and I dressed up as dumb blondes) in the marina, several Karaoke evenings and lots of small gatherings on people’s boats. The cruising community in Luperon is alive, indeed!

During our summer in Luperon, we made a little land tour of a week and the two of us visited the amazing waterfalls nearby. Here, you swim through the cool river and climb on and over rocks and waterfalls until you get to the jump off point for the real adventure: following the river back by jumping off cliffs or sliding through waterfalls and pools. It was an awesome experience and the scenery was pristine and beautiful. Highly recommended! The dogs kept Mark on the boat during periods I wanted to see more of the country. Other than my trip to Belgium and Cabarete, I wanted to see the capital. I got a ride to Santo Domingo, where I looked at the sights and walked through the colonial zone for a couple of days before taking public transportation back to the boat.

So, even though we were stuck in a hurricane hole for a few months with little in the way of luxury, the availability of boat parts and beautiful water, we managed to have a great time and have fond memories of the country and its people, whether they were locals, temporary residents or transients. Keep an eye out for my book!

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