Luperon, Dominican Republic | Cruisers Perspective | Sailing

We have been in Luperon for about a week now and hope to squeeze out in a day or two on the next weather window for Samana and then across the Mona Passage to Puerto Rico.

Luperon is a significant historical site. These deep protected bays provide the best harbor on the island of Hispanola. In November of 1492 Martin Pizon anchored the stolen Pinta off the low cliff face on the east side of the entrance channel to trade with the Indians for gold. Columbus’ guys found him when their longboat rounded Cape Isabela from El Castillo looking for the Nina’s next anchorage. We entered on this historical site.

We used Van Sant’s cruising book for waypoints and visual range to make our landfall and it was spot on the mark. We were a bit surprised to see so many boats in this harbor after leaving the remote out islands of the Bahamas. There are about 60-70 boats in this harbor, mostly sailing vessels but a few trawlers. Some are active cruisers and some seem to have been here for a very long time and still others seem to be in disrepair and abandoned. We arrived on a Sunday and the entry officials had gone home so we went ashore without clearing in with the proper authorities. We ran the gambit the next day with Customs, Immigration, Agriculture and the Comandoncia of the Port Authority. Our total expense to clear in was about $86 dollars and was quite painless with no signs of the reported “gifts” that many speak of in other blogs or posts. We were told by other cruisers the Dominican Navy was looking for us and that we had to clear in with them as well. A navy representative tracked us down in town a few days later and asked me to meet him at Puerto Blanco marina with my dinghy so he could come to our boat for an official inspection. This was also painless as I joked with him and asked if the Navy did not have any boats. I also told him that I would have to charge him for the ride to my boat. He laughed and we parted to meet in about one hour at the marina. I arrived at the appointed time and he and another navy representative with clipboards climbed aboard our tender for a short ride to Mary Rose. Once aboard he asked for the usual documentation papers for the boat and completed his form. Then there was some conversation regarding “no official fees” for the navy inspection but they did accept donations. I smiled and said “of course, I have half for you of what you have for me!” He laughed and patted me on the shoulder as this is a familiar exchange in Latin America when one returns from a trip. I went below and opened an ice cold beer and the two men shared it as I pored them a ration of Jim Beam from the Captain’s locker. Later before leaving the ship, I gave them each a very small donation and they were quite satisfied and responded that the Navy would be watchful of our vessel and protect us. This process was quite painless and an enjoyable exchange.

Luperon is a small agricultural based community on the northern coast of the Dominican Republic. One must not confuse the lack of familiar sophistication with the lack of warmth, charm and integrity. The people here have been extremely helpful, honest and welcoming. The small homes along the city streets are clean and inviting. There happened to be a main street rebuilding project in progress that made terrestrial navigation a bit difficult due to several days of rain and drizzle.

We went to the local farmers market last Tuesday morning and were amazed at the abundance and quality of the fresh grown fruits and veggies. We purchased about 30 pounds of potatoes, onions, carrots, cabbage, pineapple and fresh herbs for less than $12 US. We brought them back to the boat and washed them in sea water and then gave them a fresh water rinse with a small amount of bleach to kill any larva or bugs. The items are all organic, grown with out any chemicals and the flavor is amazing. One tip we can give you is to use the fresh fruits right away. The produce here is picked as vine or tree ripened, unlike the states where items are picked green so they can ripen in the process of transportation and storage. The pineapple is like eating candy and the sweetest I have ever tasted. The remainder of our provisioning took place in Santiago a few days later. We rented car and driver for about $50 US to drive us to Santiago and take us to the various shops and stores. We had to pick up some engine filters and get eye glasses repaired as well as food provisions. Be sure to look up Nino for your transportation needs if you find yourself in Luperon.

We also were in need of fuel and water since we had not filled our tanks since we left Georgetown, Bahamas. We learned of “Handy Andy” from a cruising guide and he stopped by our boat before we even had a chance to call him on the VHF. We made arrangements for him and Pabo to bring fuel and water to the boat a few days later. The diesel fuel was pumped directly into our tanks from a bulk tank fitted on a special fuel transport boat and the water was purified RO water in five gallon jugs. Handy Andy carried the water down the companionway and filled our tanks for about $1.50 per five gallons. The diesel fuel was $4.50 per gallon delivered. The prices were fair and service was outstanding. I highly recommend the services of Handy Andy and Pabo. They will also scrape your boat bottom, watch your boat, and do cleaning services and any thing else you require. We also rented a mooring from them for $2 per day for the remainder of our stay. This is a deep harbor and it requires a lot of chain to be let out for good holding in the deep muddy bottom. We do not want to waste a lot of time washing ground tackle as we are trying to depart on a weather window so we took the mooring.

We have had a chance to visit many of the local markets and restaurants here in Luperon. There are a few restaurants that are run by US citizens that have made Luperon their home as well as those from other countries. The first place we visited on arrival was Shaggy’s and we found it to warm and inviting. Shaggy is a wealth of information and his food and beverage is fairly priced. He offers free internet service to his customers and hosts a local musician’s night on Wednesday. This is a must attend event that will give you hours of fun and entertainment all for the price of your favorite beverage. If you play an instrument be sure to bring it and join in the fun. Shaggy even helped us secure a local cell phone for about $15 that he will buy back when we depart. We enjoyed Shaggy’s very much and recommend you stop and see for yourself. We also ate a several of the local cafĂ©’s and found there food to be fresh, high quality and priced well below what one would expect. Captain Steve has a unique restaurant and bar that offers internet, showers, swimming pool, hammocks, food and beverage. The amenities are included for twelve hours with the purchase of a meal. We found Steve and Annie to be welcoming and helpful and also on our recommended list.

As we walked the streets we found open air clothing sales of new brand name clothes and shoes priced for pennies on the dollar. We were told that the folks selling the goods were Haitians and the clothes were donations that churches and others in the United States had provided to them. I was told there is an over supply of clothes and shoes in Haiti and that is why they bring them here to sell. My first thought was, why are people sending stuff they don’t need? I need to blog about this and help get it stopped so the right stuff gets to them. After further thought and investigation is seems that this process works just fine. You see, if you send them money it will never get to the people that need it. It is not feasible to send them high quality fresh food that they do need. So send the clothes and shoes. It gets passed on to the poor and needy and they sell what they do not need and buy high quality fresh food and take it back to Haiti.

We have spent several long days ashore getting our blog caught up, downloading photos, talking to loved ones on skype and relaxing. When we leave it is very dark and there are but a few street lights along the way to the government docks where the dinghy dock is located. We try not to use the flashlight as it kills our night vision. There is another bonus to saving our night vision. The harbor water in Luperon is teaming with organic life; fish, crabs, algae, bioluminous organisms and more. When we board the dinghy and start across the harbor the biolumious organisms begin to activate with a purple white glow all around the dingy wherever the water is disturbed. Some of you may have seen the cars at night that have the neon lights in the undercarriage? Well that is the appearance of our dinghy going across the harbor. The bow wave, the wake and the turbulence for the propeller all seem to be generating light. But wait there is more: as we motor through the water, the fish swim to avoid our dinghy and motor and they also activate the microscopic creatures that create the glow. So we get to watch this wonderful show of fish streaking just under the surface of the water that give the effect of neon bottle rockets being blasted off from the front underside of our dinghy. So maybe we stay in town a bit late after dark just to watch the show on the way back to Mary Rose.

Luperon has been a wonderful experience but it is time to leave as we make our way further east. There appears to be a marginal window opening up in the next 48 hours for a passage to Samana in the Northeast tip of the Dominican Republic. From there we make the crossing of the Mona Passage to Puerto Rico then on to the BVI. We hope to be able to make another stop in Luperon on our return trip to Florida.