Redwings Round the World

Dominican Republic

2 - 10 April 2001


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2 April - Leaving Puerto Rico

Aaron - Spent the morning doing a last round of e-mails, garbage dumping, and general preparation, and at 1200 left for Luperon, Dominican Republic, which is about 250 miles away.  We figure it will take us between 40 and 50 hours to comfortably make the run so we decided to leave at noon as this almost assures us a daylight arrival.  We are shooting to get in early on the morning of the 4th.  Also, the local wind here does not really kick in until 1200, so we will also have better sailing.

We've decided to skip Samana, the next "normal" spot on the run just 140 miles away on the NE tip of DR, partly as there are lots of reports of dingy theft and corrupt officials, but more because we would rather do one 40 hour trip than two 20 hour ones - much more efficient and we will then be able to relax a bit more "in country" without having to worry about getting going again, weather, etc. to do a second leg.

Good winds as expected and cranked out of the harbor under full sail at 7 knots.  The cats were fine down below - did not really seem to notice the motion much.  Fun for me to listen to opening day baseball games on the radio, cranking along drink in hand, cool breeze yet sunny, nice passage.

Halfway across the Mona Passage, the wind died completely and we motored into the early morning hours.  Beautiful 1/4 moon.  Really bright.  Shooting stars. 

3 April - On Passage Off Hispanola

Aaron - When dawn broke, we were already off Samana Bay - but the weather was perfect (now 10-15 on the beam) so we just keep tooling along towards Luperon as planned.  We have been doing a four on four off watch schedule which is what we prefer when there is only two of us.  Seems to be working well.  Not too tired, but then again, this is pretty easy stuff. 

Into the passage rhythm: watch, eat, read, sleep, watch, eat, read, sleep...

The wind eased and came right behind us for most of the afternoon and our speed dropped down to 3-4 knots, but we were way ahead of schedule so just plodded along under sail. 

Off Watch (We Hope!)

In the evening, the wind cranked back up to 15-20 from the NE and we were again whooshing along at 7-8 knots.  The cats are getting bolder and can now navigate the companion way stairs to the cockpit.  As they are not yet familiar with the concept of falling in the water, we keep trying to keep them below and had to close up all the hatches (mew, mew, mew).  Overall, however, they are doing great and really taking to the boat.  Eating well.  No sea sickness.  Basil and Sybil both yuked the first time out and were really freaked out by the motion and all the noises.  But then again, they were apartment cats for the first six months of their life.  These guys are only 6-7 weeks old so will be real sea cats.

4 April - Luperon, Dominican Republic

Aaron -   I furled in the genoa at 0400 and then triple reefed the main at 0500 to slow our progress a bit to ensure we had adequate light for a landfall.  We entered the somewhat treacherous approach (apparently boats go aground on the outer reefs all the time) at 0630 paying close attention to our GPS and visual transit lines as well as the radar and depth sounder.  No problem to find the channel and we were soon in the placid mangrove surrounded inner harbor.  Lossaboats.

Poking around quietly looking for spot and unnnn stop... stuck in the mud.  Shallow here.  Backed out and quickly took a less than ideal spot in 10 feet of water.  Just get the hook down for now.  Can find a better place later if need be.

When we were cleaning up the boat, I noticed two small flying fish in the gunnels.  Cats on deck now.  The boy cat went crazy and ate his with a vengeance.  The female was interested and nibbled her's, but then gave it up and moved on to explore the decks.  

My Fish!

The boy ate the other as well.  We don't have names for them yet.  Any ideas?  They have very similar personalities to Basil and Sybil (our first cats): pushy gregarious lovey male, sensitive, frail, sweet, yet more insular female.

This is a major cruiser stop.  By 0900 a couple of girls calling themselves "Flutterby Boat Services" stopped by and rapped on the hull and handed us a newsletter detailing all of the goings on in Luperon for cruisers: marine sell it and swap it flea market on Sunday, BBQs, live music, volley ball - as well as a list of their services - laundry, tours, and petting sitting among other things - could come in handy if we make the pilgrimage to Santo Domingo.

Lazy day taking naps and waiting for customs to come by.  Didn't bother to put the dingy in the water.  Around 1600 a little dingy with four smiling local people inside came alongside who turned out to be customs, immigration, and the agriculture folks.  Really nice.  Good service for them to come right to the boat.  The agri guy went through the fridge and spotted some French cheese "Can't take this ashore - we are worried about Crazy Cow disease".  Ok..... guess we can hold back.

5 April - Luperon, Dominican Republic

Colleen - For some reason this port feels so comfortable.  The anchorage is lovely, totally protected and calm.  A large fully enclosed bay with a border of mangroves and green hills all around.  This is truly the most social and friendly anchorage I've ever been in.  When we arrived around 6 am yesterday a man from Naya, John, immediately dingied over to give us the "scoop" on Luperon, and the aforementioned Flutterbys were soon to follow.  Yesterday evening I dingied in with Naya to a boater BBQ at the marina while Aaron stayed behind to decompress with the cats and listen to the baseball games on the radio.  I met the folks from Hecuba again at the BBQ and many others.  I ran into a girl, Ilana from S/V Windom, who said she was planning a hike up a mountain in a couple days and asked if we could join.  When I told her I was from Redwings, she said she was told to look out for us by someone that reads our website and hers (click here to find Windom's website).  The reader had sent her an email saying Redwings was on its way from Puerto Rico and to look out for us.  She said that when she was planning to go cruising a couple of years ago herself she accessed our website for info.

Anyway, back to today.... we dingied into town to check in officially with the "Comondancia".  Right in front of the office was a gang of men, with motorcycle taxis. One had a Red Sox hat on, so of course Aaron felt compelled to discuss how wonderful the Red Sox and Pedro Martinez (superstar Red Sox pitcher native to the DR) are.  As they spoke, I was a little alarmed to see he had a pistol casually hanging from the front pocket of his jeans.  I felt a little better when we found out that he was actually the comondancia, just hanging outside the office, giving a somewhat reasonable excuse to be packing a pistol.  

After checking in we wondered uptown to the internet connection shop.  Does it never end?  Aaron got very grumpy spending a lot of money to unsuccessfully hook up. I was really impressed to meet another boater there that runs free yoga classes everyday at the marina.  This place is too good to be true!  The town is really beaten up and third world ramshackle, but with its own undeniable flavor and depth.  This place seems much richer than Puerto Rico for atmosphere.  The people are very handsome, with most being some gorgeous mix of Hispanic, black and Indian.

We wasted too much time at the internet cafe on our fruitless mission, and empty stomachs long overdue for their lunch increased Aaron's level of grumpiness further. Back to the boat for lunch.  In the afternoon Ilana from Windom came over to organize details of the hike.  We quizzed her heavily on the Bahamas, where she spent two season.  It started raining and she got trapped on Redwings for a while.  Ends up that she and her husband are avid hearts players, so we agreed to come to their boat for dinner and a game after going over to Hecuba for drinks.

At sunset we went over to Hecuba for drinks.  Sandy put out an impressive display of hors d'ouvres, and we knew we had come to the right place, another English couple was there too.  Both of these boats are heading on to Cuba after Luperon.  We arrived at Windom a little later and enjoyed a nice dinner but decided to put off cards for another night. 

6 April - Luperon, Dominican Republic

Colleen - The "big hike".  We set off with Windom, Ilana and Britt, on an elaborate chain of transportation connections using the local public system (communal cars get filled up and head off on set routes).  From beaten up old car to car we finally made it to Puerto Plata, and the base of the c.2,600 foot mountain.  We didn't really know where we were going, and followed directions from people in the very humble neighborhood we walked through to the mountain.  Many guys asked if they could guide us (for a fee of course), but we kept politely declining.  Finally a gang of barefoot little boys started following us.  We couldn't shake them, and actually they were quite useful.  The crazy "trail" was pretty hard to decipher as it actually went through people's gated yards.  Finally one of them piped up that they would like to guide us for $20.  We said no thanks, but gave them a few bucks for their time so far and parted ways.

That's probably where we started going wrong.  As we headed up, we thought we were on trails, then off trails, we certainly were not on "the trail".  "The trail" was supposed to be an actual old road.  Anything we ever walked on would be glorified to be labeled a cow path at best.  As we ascended, it got harder and harder to figure out where to go.  It started to get rather steep, and we had a hard time climbing on rocks and steep mud mountainside. We were lost, basically off-trail bush whacking in the jungle so to speak, but were hoping to eventually intersect a path.  As we went further and further, it was hard psychologically to turn back, even though we were getting deeper into a mess.  All were reluctant to turn back as descending the steep mud sides and rocks would have been harder even than climbing them.

The way ahead started to get really steep and Britt went ahead to see if it was worth continuing.  Both Britt and Ilana were avid technical mountain climbers in their last incarnation.  They are from Colorado and actually named their boat, Windom, after a mountain peak there.  We slowly started to follow him, with Aaron 20 feet ahead of Ilana and me.  We moved slowly clutching at tree routes to prevent us from sliding down. 

Aaron was trying to climb up a limestone rock wall, when all of a sudden, the large piece he was using as a handhold to hoist himself up on came loose from the wall! He fell backwards with it on him, and it started a mini little avalanche, he yelled down to us to be careful, as the large rocks came flying down.  Luckily they missed us by a few feet, but we were all sufficiently spooked.  Aaron's shin was bloody, bruised and cut up.

Someone suggested that it was decision time to move forward or not.  With memories of our Dominican hike to Boiling Lake fresh in my mind, I voted to go back, believing we were getting further and further into no man's land only making the eventual descent awful.  Britt was so far ahead he had to descend a little to get back to us and realized that it was very difficult to move backwards down the steep mud slope, he voted to move on,  and Ilana and Aaron too.  I was at peace to go with majority rule and onward we trudged.  We had a good 20 more minutes of "bush whacking" up, but the worst of the steep mud slope seemed to be behind. Finally it leveled out as we hit the first mini peak of the mountain.  We moved on and on, getting muddy, scraped up, and "attacked" by prickly plants.  Finally we reached the road!  Almost three hours after our start.  Britt was the trailblazer and did a good job sniffing it out.  When he was younger he worked as a mountain guide in Colorado.  Overjoyed we climbed the last 20 minutes to the top on the road, and enjoyed great views at the park on the peak. 

We all made the easy decision to take the cable car down.  From there we took what seemed like a long walk into the heart of Puerto Plata.  Ilana was in search of an ATM (none in Luperon) and we need to find the central bus station back.  We eventually returned to our boats in the evening.

Right by the dock, the local kids where playing baseball in an empty lot.  They were using a tennis ball, sticks as bats, and folded pieces of cardboard for gloves in the twilight.  As an incredible 10% of US major league baseball players come from the DR, we found watching this neighborhood game really exciting.

Click Here to read Ilana & Britt's version of the adventure.

7 April - Luperon, Dominican Republic

Aaron - Saturday.  Slept in.  Needed to recuperate a bit from the bashes and gashes of the hike.  My shin has a contusion almost as big as a golf ball just below the knee cap where it was whacked by a falling bolder yesterday.

We headed in to town in the afternoon to do e-mails and try to upload these pages.  Frustrating.  I am able to get a dial tone, hook up, and then the connection is usually lost.  About 10% of the time, however, I am able to connect for 2-5 minutes so I keep trying.  Luckily, its only 30 cents a minute to call the US so not too draining.  I've tried slowing down the modem to a crawl, but no luck.  Driving me crazy and, in combination with my throbbing shin, putting me in a grumpy mood.

The cats are growing like weeds.  The male seems to have almost doubled in size in one week.  Thick, clean, flea-less fur may help to create this illusion. The female is a bony butt, but growing fast as well, though not as fat as "el Gordon".  We still have not agreed on names for them yet, though we have had a lot of suggestions from various website readers.  Thanks.

The cat litter situation is diabolical though - sand getting tracked everywhere throughout the boat.  I'm sweeping and cleaning 2X per day and constantly emptying the box, but its a losing battle.  As soon as we get them trained up on swimming and climbing back on the boat, we will move the box outside and go from litter to rocks.  This system worked well with our previous cats Basil and Sybil.

Colleen met a couple who do yoga and went into practice with them for the afternoon at the "marina" (a sheltered bar at the end of a long wobbly wooden dock).  So many potential activities here with such a large live-aboard community.

In the evening, we flocked in with all of the other cruisers for free food and drink at the one year anniversary celebration at local eatery Aqui Lucas.  Good spread of local grub.  We hung out with Windom and met their friends Mike and Kim on Hallelujah (Amel 40) who are doing a 3-5 year possible cimcumnav with their two kids aged 8 and 11. 

Now that we are in this part of the cruising world, we are the big experts having come all the way from Hong Kong, and everyone wants to pick our brains on all aspects of our experiences.  How quickly the tables turn.  From Thailand to the Med we were the new kids and drew heavily off the other "old hands" around us.

8 April - Luperon, Dominican Republic

Aaron - Another lazy day.  We headed into the marina at 1000 for the weekly "swap it or sell it" get together.  I brought along a new radar platform that did not fit our radar properly, but did not find any takers.  Good spread of junk, books, flags, charts, and parts.  Lots of gabbing and note sharing as well.  Discussed litter box strategies with the lady from Orca.

Town was pretty dead in the afternoon.  Hung out at the internet cafe surfing and generally wasting time.  Tried to organize transport to Santo Domingo, but no luck yet.  If we take the bus, we have to do an overnight which we are not too keen on, so we are trying to find some other cruisers to share a taxi for the day.

9 April - Luperon, Dominican Republic

Aaron - No luck in organizing a quick trip to Santo Domingo, so... as the weather looks good for a passage to the Bahamas, we decided at about noon to gear up and leave tomorrow morning for Mayaguana, a Bahamian island about 190 miles away.  We have decided to skip the Turks and Caicos islands, which are a bit closer, as we don't want to have to pay / bother to check in and out of another country with pretty much the same geography as the Bahamas where we will be for almost one month.

Spent the afternoon catching up on e-mail, doing a bit of shopping, and getting ready to go.  In the evening, John and Kim (and baby Hannah) on Nai'a, a 37 foot classic steel gaff-rigged catch, came by for a drink and chin wag.  They may be heading up to Maine for the summer as well so hopefully we'll see them again.

Luperon is a great spot, but we feel itchy to keep moving.  Running out of water also hastened our decision as we can't make water here in the harbor.  There was an opportunity to do a "waterfall tour" tomorrow for 25 bucks, but we've seen so many waterfalls down island I just can't get excited about it.

10 April - On Passage: Luperon to Bahamas

Aaron - We got up at 0530 and were hauling anchor at 0600 just as dawn began to break.  As it has been every morning, it was flat calm in the anchorage.  We slowly motored out through the channel and this time managed to avoid getting touching bottom, and were reaching away from the DR coast under 2X reefed main and full genoa by 0700.  Nice 12-18 knot breeze from the East, if a bit rolly.

Good speed throughout the day averaging 7-8 knots.  As we approached the Turks and Caicos islands, we fell into their lee and the waves dropped to 3-5 feet making for even more comfortable traveling.

The kitties have had no problem with the passage thus far and seem to be well adapted to marinating their balance and keeping the chow down.

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Copyright 2001 All Rights Reserved by Aaron Henderson and Colleen Duggan