soil here is a rich, coffee brown, the type of dirt coveted by
gardeners around the world. The land is
blessed with incredible fertility and abundant rainfall, and
everywhere you look there are giant, glossy-leaved plants competing for every
square inch. So although this country is poor by US standards,
Dominicans don't have to rely on expensive imports to feed
them; crops and livestock thrive here. Which is
excellent news to us! We no longer have to hoard
and ration overpriced, wilted produce on SARABANDE!
Our money goes a lot further here, and every Tuesday we get up at dawn
and head over to the farmer’s
market to grab our week’s supply of fruits and vegetables.
We take home all we can carry for around $6 or $7 - the price of one
lousy head of cabbage in the Turks and Caicos.
AMC pondering papaya.
Rice paddies are at the base of the moutains, and coffee is grown around 5,000 feet.
Of course, things are not sold here the way they’re typically
sold at home. The eggs have never seen the inside of a
refrigerator and occasionally have some residual chicken poop or feathers on them. The local
honey (sold in recycled old rum bottles) needs to be inspected for bees
before purchase. If you feel like chicken, the one-armed man will
cheerfully select a bird from out back, tie up its feet and hand it
over. Or, for a very reasonable 8 pesos ($0.22) more, he’ll
kill it, clean it and pluck it for you: money well spent! The
coffee here is so good that our first cup nearly brought us to tears,
as did our first fresh pineapple. Mangos and avocados are just
coming into season. If we’d wanted our eggs cold, our honey
filtered, and our meat in styrofoam trays, we could’ve stayed
home. We don’t mind food that’s a little more vivid;
we’re eating fresher and tastier even than we did in New York!
The meat section
is a flip side to the incredible vitality of the Dominican Republic.
The insects here bigger, smarter and meaner, and they desperately
want to come and live with us on SARABANDE - gnats, horse flies,
regular old house flies, wasps, mosquitos, and an army of others we've
never seen before. If your swat is anything less
than deadly, the bugs just shake off the blow, spit on the ground,
and go after you for revenge.
Brian whips the flyswatter into a deadly blur.
It turns out that reptiles are also abundant here, as we learned one
evening while we tidied up the boat for dinner guests. Brian
reached into one of our low galley lockers and found a 4 1/2 foot snake
curled up on a cookie tray!
After a few minutes of quiet, controlled panic, we suited up in all the
Snake Safety gear we could gather: leather barbecuing gloves,
shoes, long pants, kitchen tongs, and a big stick that we use to prop
open our main hatch.
It was a ridiculous struggle, and luckily our snake was a fairly mellow
guy. After we managed to zip him into a duffel bag, we
paused for some quick research. After a few minutes on the
internet, we were able to identify our snake as a type of boa
constrictor common throughout the island of Hispaniola.
Apparently they can swim quite well, and this one must’ve
slithered up our boarding ladder one night and made himself at home!
We were relieved to learn that there are no venomous snakes in
the Dominican Republic.
“Thank god it's only a boa constrictor,” said Alicia.
“I’m telling our future children that you said that,” Brian replied, wiping snake pee off the floor.
We ferried the duffel bag to shore, wished our much-harassed snake
well, shook him free of the bag and ran away without looking back.
our spazzing out has disturbed our friend, and he's trying to sneak
through a hole that leads to impenetrable places in the bilge.
We took swift, brave action soon after this photo was taken.
some of our fellow cruisers in the harbor our snake story.
Instead of comforting words, we heard tales of rats, giant
cockroaches, and other snakes swimming, jumping, or flying aboard
yachts anchored in the middle of the harbor. This inspired us to
spend the next day checking every single locker onboard for
vermin. We didn’t find anything, but now we're strongly
considering a ship’s cat, a ship’s hawk or a ship’s
Snakes and bugs aside, hurricane season is here and we've decided that
Luperon's our home for the storm season. The harbor's
safe reputation is centuries old; ocean waves can't
penetrate here, the bottom is thick, oozy mud that swallows
and holds them tight, and the surrounding mangrove swamps offer a soft
shore to wash up on if one's anchor does happen to fail. The
high surrounding mountains are an added plus, shielding the harbor
from punishing winds. The cost of living is low, and the
country's natural wonders will keep us entertained and amazed for
months to come. We feel good about our decision.
We're not alone in our conclusion: Christopher Columbus himself anchored here to hide from hurricanes on
his first voyage to the New World. He was so grateful to have
found a safe haven from the storms that he named the harbor
“Bahia de Gracia” - Thanksgiving Bay. And in describing the surrounding land to
Queen Isabella in Spain, Columbus raved, “these lands are so greatly
good and fertile......there is no one who can tell it; and no one could
Over 500 years later, his description is still
Happy birthday to Alicia's wonderful
Gran on June 27th, and belated birthday love to our dear friends Carly,
Mikey J, Alicia's brother Tom, and Alyssa on our buddy boat GAIA!
Alicia & Brian