September 27th, 2009- Luperon, Dominican Republic:
"We sell fresh fruit and coconut milkshakes"
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.
Brian and and our good friend Keli of BEANNACHT getting a snack.
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!
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
A pictoral explanation by AMC. We'll sail while the cows and whales are sleeping.
And so, like the Spanish galleons, war
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
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!
Daytime will be for doing stuff like this.
Alicia floats in Cambiaso, a lovely little cove 5 miles east of Luperon.
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.
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.
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
Here's our giant friend with two flashlights and the camera flash to light him up.
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.
one of the smaller ones we saw. Alicia is risking life and limb
for the sake of scale. Not really - tarantulas aren't poisonous.
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
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
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.