Ship's Log

September 27th, 2009- Luperon, Dominican Republic:

"We sell fresh fruit and coconut milkshakes"
Brian and and our good friend Keli of BEANNACHT getting a snack.

We’re getting ready to leave Luperon, which is bittersweet.  This town has such great character to it, the scenery is spectacular, and we’ve made some great friends here in the harbor.  But El Niño has made this year’s hurricane season really quiet for the Atlantic (knock some wood), and it's almost time to move on.    

As the height of the season winds down, our plan is to keep our ears glued to the weather reports and creep our way eastwards along the northern Dominican coast.  We’ll stop to hang out for a few days in Samaná, just across from Puerto Rico.  Like Luperon, Samaná is another good hurricane hole, and it's also got some spooky caves and more waterfalls to see.  Hopefully from there, it won't be too long before we get a good weather window, and we’ll make the jump over to Puerto Rico, where 
our guidebooks tell us there are manatees and an island inhabited only by Rhesus monkeys waiting for us on the south coast!  

This particular leg of the trip will be tricky since we’ll be heading almost dead east the whole time, right into the trade winds that blow east to west, 20-25 knots, almost every single day.  How to bash into these winds and make any sort of headway?   For hundreds of years, sailors have used a nifty trick along coasts to sail against blasting trades, all based on the way land heats up and cools down faster than water.

When the sun rises on a land mass, its heat is concentrated on the top layer of the land's surface and doesn't penetrate deep into the ground.  So the surface warms up fast under the sun.  The heat of the sun on the ocean, however, gets transmitted slowly and much deeper, meaning it takes the surface of the ocean a much longer time span to warm up.  The heat of the land rises and draws in the cooler air over the ocean to take its place, creating a sea breeze on the coast.  

When the sun goes down, the cycle switches.  The surface of the land cools down faster than that of the water, and air tumbles down towards the warm ocean and blows out to sea.  Along the coast of the Dominican Republic, this nightly land breeze is strong enough to cancel out the trade winds and create a bubble of calm around the island in the late evenings.   After especially hot, clear days, sometimes there's even a moderate breeze off the land, perfect for leisurely night sailing.   The only catch to this trick is that to feel any of these effects, you have to closely hug the shore.  Luckily for us, the coasts we'll be night sailing are deep and clear of obstructions that would make us require daylight for navigation.

A pictoral explanation by AMC.  We'll sail while the cows and whales are sleeping.

And so, like the Spanish galleons, war frigates and pirate ships that sailed these coasts before us, we’ll do the bulk of our sailing between 2am and 7am.  This arrangement allows us to be safely anchored and napping (or jumping down some new waterfalls) by the time the day heats up and the trade winds are howling.  

Daytime will be for doing stuff like this.  
Alicia floats in Cambiaso, a lovely little cove 5 miles east of Luperon.

Sailing in cool moonlight sounds much more pleasant than working in the sweltering heat of the day, and also puts us at sea during prime fishing hours.  Alicia's strung together a series of neon-colored plastic squid lures that we named "The Saturday Night Dance Party" to trail behind SARABANDE during our nighttime sailing.  Hopefully fish will find it irresistable!

So that's our strategy for early October.  Until then, we’re spending our last few weeks here in Luperon getting ready to sail again, which means a lot of different kinds of preparation:  getting SARABANDE "ship shape" again, and shifting ourselves from harbor mode to cruising mode once more.   Onboard, we've got a flurry of projects on track for completion before we leave town, and we did some monster grocery runs to fill up our lockers with several hundred pounds of food.   We're putting our sails back on, topping up our tanks, and stowing everything in its upright and locked position.

One of the major tasks associated with leaving is cleaning off the marine growth that's formed on
SARABANDE's bottom, our anchor chain and the dinghy's bottom.  
Here's the underside of our dinghy on the day we decided it was time to scrape.

A close-up on the weird and wonderful life forms we had to evict.  We can only imagine what the bottom of SARABANDE looks like!

There was even a tiny baby lobster scurrying around under there!

Aside from all the cleaning, shopping and putting away, we’re also trying our best to spend some time just wandering around Luperon, trying to memorize the feeling of the place and appreciate all our favorite things about it before we go. We'll always have a soft spot for this crazy place.

Several afternoons a week, we hop in the dinghy and speed away from the crowd of anchored boats to the opposite leg of the harbor.  It's too shallow for anyone to anchor their boats there, so it's deserted and quiet.  We land our dinghy in the mangroves and walk the winding trails that lead along the rocky shoreline overlooking the ocean, and then down through the thick mangrove forest along the bay.  Nobody lives there, and there aren’t any livestock wandering around, so we can walk confidently without worrying about cow pies or picking up litter.  At one end of the trails, someone built a four-story wooden observation deck with a lovely view of the bay.  It’s a really gorgeous, unspoiled place and we’ve never seen or heard another person in all the times we’ve walked there.


The view from the little tower.

September 13th was our first wedding anniversary, and so we decided to celebrate with a twilight hike up to the observation deck to watch the sunset.  With a backpack full of champagne, chocolate and bug spray, we climbed up the rickety tower just in time to catch the sun slipping behind the mountains.  Then we spread out our picnic and toasted ourselves as the light faded and millions of stars came out.   For hours, we laid on our backs and watched falling stars, listened to the fish jumping in the bay, and savored the breeze from our perch.

One year of marriage and seven as a couple, through good times and some absolute crap times, and we still like each other!
When we were ready to leave, the moon hadn’t risen yet and so the path was nearly black as we made our way back to our dinghy.  We used our headlamps to light the way, chatting and joking absentmindedly as we strolled along.  But we shut up in a hurry when our lights illuminated a giant tarantula directly in our path, bigger than Brian’s hand! 

Here's our giant friend with two flashlights and the camera flash to light him up.  

This is one of the smaller ones we saw.  Alicia is risking life and limb for the sake of scale.  Not really - tarantulas aren't poisonous.

We gave the giant spider a wide berth as we passed by and our pace slowed to a crawl as we thoroughly examined every inch in front of us before taking a step.  We saw two more tarantulas and a toad the size of a bowling ball before we finally made it back to the dinghy and sped off towards home.   The evening was an exciting blend of beauty, romance, and high pitched, little girl-style shrieking. 

Off to the deli to pick up some milk.

Knowing that we're going to miss the spanking fresh, untampered-with food in this country, we jumped at the chance to get milk right from the cow when we heard it was there for the taking, just up the hill from our anchorage.  With two other milk-loving sailors, we took an early morning walk up to Senor Arturro’s hut, built mostly of sticks and tin in the middle of a clearing.  It was a dairy in the most primitive meaning of the word:  cows, a man, and some buckets.  

The farmer milks 'our' cow while her calf waits for his turn.

Each of us got the milk of a different cow, and our heifer was very ladylike and gracious.  The milk went right from Mr. Arturro’s milking bucket into our jug from home, filtered through fine wire mesh.  We hurried back to the boat and stirred the stuff into a fresh pot of Dominican coffee.  Heaven!  It had an unbelievably wholesome smell to it, and the delicious cream rose to the top.  We could taste hints of the grass it was made of when we sipped it straight.  It made the creamiest, most ridiculous chocolate milk ever!  

In other news, young Steve was neutered earlier this month by an eccentric ex-patriot Canadian veterinarian known as “Dr. Bob”, a man spread thin as he tries to help as many Dominican animals and people as he can.  He not only made short work of Steve’s poor little cojones, but he also helped us solve a problem we’d been wondering about since March.

We had about 60 bags of lactated Ringer’s solution aboard the boat leftover from Sheba’s daily treatments for kidney failure.  The public hospitals here are always short on money and supplies, and we wanted to donate the bags, but we weren’t sure of the proper way to proceed.  We mentioned this to Dr. Bob, and he recommended a group of Catholic nuns that he’s worked with for years.  These hardworking sisters quickly and fairly distribute medicines and medical supplies to the neediest places throughout the country.  “They’ll be so thrilled to see those!  The hospitals always, always need ringers.  Dehydration is one of the things simple enough for them to treat,” Dr. Bob happily assured us.  We brought our bags with us to Steve’s appointment and off to the nuns they went.

Steve lived to tell the tale.

We’re happy that Sheba’s fluids are out there doing some good, but it was sad to realize that something we had onboard for one of our pets was so sorely needed for hospitalized human beings.  The private medical care in the DR is excellent and affordable, but the poorest of the poor must suffer their ailments in public hospitals that lack the very basics.

A common house and front yard scene.  This is a beautiful country, but there is a lot of poverty here.

On a much happier note, far away, in a clean, up-to-date hospital, our new nephew Pete was born on September 23rd!  Our sister-in-law Angie is a real champion, and the little baby's doing great.  We look forward to a lifetime of being the "Wacky Aunt/Cheesy Uncle" combo, and Alicia will have the honor of being Pete's godmother.  We can't wait to meet him this December to start spoiling him rotten!  Lots of love to our brother's new family.  

Pete and his mom finally meet face to face!

Belated birthday wishes to our fabulous Aunt Katie, our good friend Kevin, Brian's beautiful Grandma, and Happy Early Birthday to Alicia's wonderful Dad!  

Ta Ta For Now,

Alicia & Brian

PS - Want to read more?  Check out our new PSA concerning ship's cats, and we also added two new recipes, one workaday and another one that's more exotic and mysterious.  


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