Monday, April 10, 2006

Georgetown to Luperon, Dominican Republic

We stayed in this lovely spot for a week and met many other interesting cruisers. A group of south bound boats had had several meetings already and we joined them for several more. We had "Lioness III", "Nereia" and "Casa del Mar" came over for drinks one night and all had dinner together another night. Diane and Mitch Korbey flew in on April 1 with twenty pounds of meat, assorted groceries, lots of boat supplies and our mail. It was so great to see them and we decided against the big "Bob" party on the beach in favor of a quiet dinner together. The next morning most of the boats in our group left for Conception Island.
There were eight boats in a convoy behind us going out the North Channel Rocks cut at dawn. It was pretty rough and many had to use the full strength of their engines to maintain headway. This is one of the many times we are thankful for our big diesel motor. We spent the day motor sailing into the wind and waves - even though the wind wasn't that strong, it feels that way when you're headed directly into it. Three of the boats peeled off near the end of Long Island and either anchored there or headed south down the east shore; Dan and Jamie on "Nereia"(that's Jamie on the left in the second picture below with Dan in the middle between Terry and Marietta), Ed and Linda on "Dreamtime", and Alistair and Joy on "Seagulls". Terry and Marietta on "Lioness III", Mike and Linda (on the right immediately below with Benno) on "Casa Del Mar", Mick and Jill on "Nortada" and Benno and Marlene on "Diesel Duck" followed us. Conception was amazingly lovely, the water crystal clear and the anchorage surrounded by reefs and beaches. We celebrated on the beach with drinks and food and snorkeled the following morning after a long walk. Around 2 PM we started for Rum Cay and we at least sailed the whole way making up to 7 knots with fairly large seas. Near Rum at 4:30 PM we tried to start the motor and couldn't see any water discharge. We'd had problems with our impeller before and assumed we'd blown another one. This meant sailing into the reef entrance in rough seas and over 15 knots of wind. The easier entrance was 10 miles away but we couldn't sail direct but
had to make long tacks to position ourselves. It was almost dark when we finally crossed the reef and pulled down the sails as the sun set. Three dinghies from our fellow sailors appeared, roped themselves to us and motored us over to the anchorage. We really enjoyed our "sundowners" and dinner that night!
The next day Scott tore apart the engine while Diane, Mitch and I dinghied into the small village for some provisions and a walk. The engine checked out fine and the weather was looking great so we decided to sail the 140 miles directly to Mayaguana and spend a night there. We had a meeting aboard our boat to discuss everyone's plans. "Diesel Duck" decided to sail direct for the Turks and Caicos. The rest of the boats decided to sail two separate nights with shorter distances and join us there.

The first night the seas were rough enough that Diane and Mitch couldn't sleep in their V berth and had to share the salon seats. The next day it smoothed out some but we cleaned up the lower bunk bed and that made a quieter berth for Diane. It was a lovely evening and so easy with four of us to share watches. We stood two hours watches with six hours off. The next morning we spoke to "Dreamtime" who were now ahead of us and had decided to sail directly for Luperon. We had never considered that option but had always planned to go through the Turks and the Caicos. When we looked at the charts and spoke to Chris Parker about the weather, we realized it was a great opportunity.

The weather was going to disintegrate in two days time and we'd be stuck in Provo for most of the next week. We needed to arrive in Luperon in the erly morning and according to the bible "Passages South" by Bruce Van Sant, the anchor had to be down there by 8AM. That gave us some time to spend in the idyllic anchorage at Mayaguana tucked into the reef for the afternoon snorkeling, napping, and having an enormous late lunch. We did have showers briefly and a gust of wind that generated a water spout which looked like a thin tornado coming down from the clouds and roughing up the water at it's terminus. Near sundown we carefully retraced our path out of the reefs and set sail for the Dominican Republic. It was a lovely trip, 2 nights and one day of good seas and wind enough to mostly sail. We saw very few boats, mostly sailboats heading north from Puerto Rico. These three nights in a row sailing was a record for us and with a fabulous crew, lots of fun. Diane and Mitch are such great company and of course, much more experienced sailors than ourselves. They cruised the Caribbean and South America for eight years on their boat, "Segue". One unusual occurrence was the appearance of a Coast Guard helicopter which flew out just to circle us and then disappear on the horizon. Another was stopping the boat while out to sea and in pairs being towed behind the boat on a long line - the water was wonderful, a deep clear sapphire blue.
At 4AM we could see a faint glow on the horizon and the smell of land, quite distinct, was lovely. Soon the high mountains of the Dominican Republic loomed up and so did a series of showers that thankfully didn't contain gusty winds. At 6:30AM we were off the entrance to Luperon and called "Seacomber Mike" as advised. He came out in a dinghy and led us through the sometimes narrow channel into the anchorage and then found us a good place and advised us on the process of setting the anchor. At 8AM as ordered by our guru Bruce Van Sant, our anchor was down (and set opposite to the direction of the other boats and towards the prevailing winds)! The four of us celebrated with a big breakfast.
Luperon is a hurricane hole, surrounded by deep mangrove lined channels. High mountains stretch off in the distance on three sides and over one hundred boats shelter within. There is a small marina and a "yacht club", really another small marina, each with a bar and restaurant. The yacht club sits high on a hill and has a beautiful view of the harbor. The town itself is small and simple, two main streets with small stores/cafes etc. lining them. There are several locations with intermittent internet access and tiny grocery stores with various choices. Several open air restaurants are in town as well. This is a town with a lot of "expats", known as a black hole, where cruisers come and often, never leave. The Dominican people are very nice and the scenery everywhere, beautiful - and of course, things are much cheaper than the states. We met a number of former cruisers, some still
living on their boats, others that have bought property, that now call Luperon home.

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