I apologize for taking soooo long to be in touch! We spent a month or so sailing from George Town in the Bahamas to the Dominican Republic where we have been anchored out for about 6 weeks (actually we have been on an anchor since March 1 at one island or another). The trip down was BEAUTIFUL!--lots of gorgeous deserted islands and overnight, multiple night sails (thus the lack of contact--no cell service or internet). When we could manage a call it had to be short and sweet, so we opted for calling our parents. We sailed with 4 other boats a lot of the time (a young couple, an older couple, a Polish family with a 10 year old girl and a 14 year old boy, a single guy in his thirties, and us). It turned out to be a really fun mix and we all arrived off the northern shore of the D.R. in the wee, dark hours of the morning where we "heaved to" for several hours waiting for morning's light before attempting to manage the entrance to Luperon harbor, which can be tricky. In fact, the older couple had major engine trouble earlier on, so arrived with another boat several days after us and ran hard aground at the entrance. They also hit coral after leaving here and heading for Puerto Rico, which incapacitated them...ouch!
Anyway, we had planned on heading for Puerto Rico for the hurricane season, but after much debate and conversations with the locals and other sailors, we have decided to stay here. The harbor is very well protected with mountains almost all the way around us and the chance of a direct hit runs at only about 2%. The next best place would be Granada, but we were too slow coming down to make that a realization unless we did a straight shot (not much fun as we like to stay several days at each new island). Furthermore, Granada's hurricane chances run at about 8%, but they don't have enough adequate hurricane holes. Puerto Rico, as it turns out, is not the best hurricane hole unless you haul the boat and have it tethered down. Another option is to take your chances in a marina. Either one sounds icky to us. So D.R. here we are!
The Dominican Repulic is gorgeous and we really love the people here. We have rented a motorcycle for several trips across the country, including to a place called the 27 waterfalls where we climbed up through the gushing falls (quite trecherous) and then slid (literally--like a water slide) or jumped off to get back down. There is no other way of descending. This was one of the best things I've ever done--such fun!!! We only did 7 of the falls before pooping out due to the long and tiring motorcycle ride. We will definitely go back for more! We took a local bus for the 6 hour ride to Santo Domingo, another experience I would not have missed. We took several beers and people shared food and drink up and down the aisles, visiting and talking all the while. As is typical to anywhere we've been so far, we were the only "Gringos," but the locals welcome us with smiles and open arms (often literally). Santo Domingo is an unbelievably beautiful, historical city. We've seen two of Columbus's homes and many more historical sights and museums. We stayed in the "old city" in a great hotel with a balcony overlooking the park and what can only be described as the promenade. The town comes alive at around midnight, when things cool off, and then the decked out ladies and the hot to trot young men stroll up and down, lingering in the park and frequenting the many music and dancing spots...great fun!
Luperon (the small town where the harbor is) is delightful. Smiling children run on the streets and greet us with huge grins and "holas!" It is extremely rare to find anyone (except another cruiser) who speaks English, so we are rapidly trying to learn Spanish. This is a developing country and the people are extremely poor. It is very difficult to find anything in the way of groceries or restaurants that have much that is familiar to us, so we are learning the local ways of cooking and enjoying what the locals cook. I guess what you could call the "plus" side is that the prices are extremely affordable (a typicle meal out runs about 3 U.S. dollars and a BIG beer [1 litre] will cost 1.50 at a bar and less to take away). The streets are full of herds of goats, cattle, horses, and dogs. On the motorcycle it was common to ride through a herd of 50 or so cows being herded by men/boys on horseback. The food here is good, but the preperations do not vary much. We enjoy a lot of roasted chickens, fresh fish, rice and beans, and fresh fruit. Surprisingly, the food is not spicy at all, but rather fresh and flavorful. The people here, even as poor as they are, look very fit and healthy. The main two roads are lined with open stands for food and private dwellings that open right onto the street where you can see beds and dining room tables inside. As is common in most Latin countries, siesta is strictly observed and often you step over people sleeping with their heads out on the sidewalk where they can catch a bit of breeze as the tempertures in the afternoon soar (no air conditioning here!). There are many more interesting and enlightening things to share, but that can wait until we (hopefully) see each of you in person.
Mark and I are happy and (for the most part) healthy. I am suffering right now from the aftermath of a spider bite. the critter got me right on the temple. The bite proceeded to swell until my jaw and gums and tongue and lymph nodes all puffed up. It has been very painful (not to mention unattractive), but I am on antibiotics now and I think it is subsiding.
I have been playing a lot of music. Several local bars have jam sessions that I have been partaking in and many boaters and expecially the locals are quite talented. There are Gibsons and Fenders and Martins, and just a lot of beautiful guitars and players. The Dominican music is fantastic and they relish in playing it loudly and constantly. The locals who play, play a lot of horn arrangements and accordian...super beats that you can't hold still to! We had a couple over the other night to play. He used to played guitar with Eric Clapton and she played flute with Kenny Rogers (in the seventies--glory days and all that!). It was a fun evening.
Mark is loving the life and I think he has dropped about 30 pounds since we started this adventure! He has updated the website (www.susurra.com) if you would like to see some pictures and learn more historical information that he is much better at than I.