As I mentioned in my last article Part I of the Dominican Republic, we arrive too early to enter the harbor as it was not yet daylight. We did do not like to enter an unknown harbor in the dark, especially if we are not sure that the entrance is lighted and buoyed. We slowed GRENDEL down and just milled about waiting for daylight to come. Even though I had no sleep (just cat naps), here
I was defrosting my freezers at 0500. Who said, “Sailors have more fun?
The DR coast was the most magnificent we had ever seen so far. It was just breathtaking! For many miles offshore we experienced another wondrous sensation.
The aroma from the flowers and grass wafted through the air and we could smell their scent. Along with this pleasurable sensation was another smell, which although was not pleasant, was welcomed as we knew land could not be far away. It was manure from the livestock.
Morning at last! We marveled at the sights we were now privileged to see as weentered between the two lush mountains. Several small rather poor fishing skiffs with two or three fishermen glided by as the occupants eagerly waved and welcomed us. “Hola. Buenos Dias.” There were navigational aids now which were a welcome sight. However, they may be off station from wind, surge, and lack of maintenance. As we continued slowly into the harbor, Herm suddenly got very excited. Off to our left, wellhidden by rocks and vegetation, is a smaller harbor where Pinzon, who was the caption of either the NINA or PINTA, part of Columbus’s fleet hid his boat and was discovered by Columbus. Pinzon took the boat so that he could go off by himself and search for gold and treasures. What a feeling! Here we are “Herman and Fran” on our own little boat retracing the same paths that Columbus and his men took 500 years before. Our emotions ran the gamut from pride in our accomplishment to the wonderment of the history that took place here. It was awesome.
The entrance to Luperone Harbor is a sinuous path. As we rounded the last bend, we were thrilled to be in this landlocked, very protected harbor. We were not alone. Several other boats danced on their anchors. Other boaters waved and yelled greetings to us. Suddenly, we were no longer tired even though we had notslept in over 24 hours. The anchorage was a round basin surrounded by magnificent, imposing mountains. We anchored and called the Commandante on the radio on Ch. 16 to announce our arrival and ask for instructions for entry to the anchorage of another country. He replied and told us we needed to take our dinghy ashore to pick up the officials and bring them to our boat for check-in. That was easier said than done as our dinghy was deflated and packed on deck for our last open oceanpassage. After having only “cat naps” for the last three days this was the last thing we needed to do. However, you do not mess with the Commandante, so Herm launched the dinghy and brought them aboard to inspect our vessel and sign us in.
Once they left, we both took a well needed shower, dressed modestly I may add, as the Dominican is a very poor country. Our adrenalin was now flowing. No need for sleep. It was time that we got to see all that was going on here in the D.R. From our cockpit, we could see several boats which we recognized. We launched the dinghy and set out to visit acquaintences on another boat from up island and find out more about this mysterious country. They filled us in on some necessary how’s and how not’s of life in the DR. I have pages and pages of notes about life in the Dominican Republic, but these stories would take up too much space for this article. Perhaps I’ll save them for another time.
I do not think that any of us could ever be truly prepared for the visual and cultural explosion that was about to take place. First of all the water in the harbor was very dirty and brown in color. We had been used to blue-green clear water in all the harbors we had visited so far. Secondly, the dinghy dock was not a dock at all just arusty metal ladder mounted vertically against a cement wall adjacent to a slime covered outcropping making it tricky to get out of the dinghy. Trying to get off the dinghy and balance myself at the same time, I splashed some harbor water on my face hitting my mouth. “Oh my gosh, I’m going to die! Since I did not die on the spot, we continued on the dirt road to town.
The main street was dirt with cement curbs. Small, brightly colored, thatched roof shacks lined each side of the road. People were all sitting or standing in front of their very poor and humble homes. Loud music blared from every direction; not the same tune by the way. Pathetic, scrawny dogs, were everywhere. Donkeys, pigs, cows, chickens even horses wandered the streets at will. As we passed each shack, the folks looked up at us, smiled and said some form of “hello.” I tried not to stare or react to the poverty that I was seeing. Laundry was hung on trees and barbed wire fencing used to keep live stock secure. In contrast to all this poverty and unsanitary conditions, we were amazed at the children, girls in particular. Their clothes were clean, freshly laundered and ironed, no less. This is a real town. It had not been spoiled by tourists. We felt safe and welcomed.
Frances is a Commodore of the Seven Seas Cruising Association and a member of Sailing Association of Marco Island and AP United States Power Squadron.