Tuesday, May 31, 2011

First Impressions of Luperon, Dominican Republic

Saturday, May 28 – Sunday, May 29, 2011

We can’t believe it – we’re really here! We had an easy overnight trip from South Caicos, and arrived at the entrance to Luperon Harbor shortly after sunrise. Our only hiccup was a tricky entry into the harbor thanks to a faulty chart plotter chip. Our Navtech chips have been trusty companions for over two years, but the map of Luperon is a total mess. The land masses are a quarter-mile off of reality, meaning our GPS waypoints look like they’re forcing us over land instead of safely weaving us through the shallow spots. Harbor depths on the chart show 96-120 feet, when the truth is 15-20. (That makes quite a difference when you’re supposed to put out seven times the depth amount when dropping your anchor!) We managed to sound our way in following the waypoints and our cruising guide (trying our best to ignore anything on the chart plotter), and rafted up to Storyville until Papo and “Handy Andy” came by at 8am to assign us a mooring. What a great pair; Papo and Andy can rent you a mooring, bring you gas, diesel, or water (washing or drinking quality), get you a rental car, organize a waterfall tour, clean your boat bottom, or provide a dozen other services the visiting cruisers might need. We paid $250 up front for five months on a mooring ball – well worth it not to have to put our anchor in the quicksand-like mud that makes up the bottom of the anchorage. Papo even agreed to install a new mooring for us, one that was bigger than our initial one and closer to Storyville.

Next up was a trip into town to clear customs…or should we say customs, immigration, harbor entry, agriculture, and the Navy Commandante, followed by a trip back to the boat with two Navy “inspectors”. Each office meant new paperwork and more fees, and we were $93 poorer when we were through. Still, that’s a whole lot better than the Bahamas’ $300 cruising permit!

After taking the Navy boys back to shore, we joined Storyville at Captain Steve’s Bar and Restaurant in town. Steve and his wife, Annie, run the place that has become a cruiser staple in Luperon. They have a pool, shower, free wi-fi, grande cervesas (big beers) for under $2, and daily specials like bacon cheeseburger and fries, grouper fingers, fried chicken, Thai pork, chili, or spaghetti Bolognese, all for 100 pesos (about $3). We each had a great lunch and beer, all for $11 per couple. Supposedly you can eat further out of town for even less. No wonder so many cruisers come down here and end up staying! A couple can easily live here on $1000 a month. We’ve met two single-handers who do it for $500-550. We can’t wait to go to the vegetable market on Tuesday morning; the delivery trucks line everything up along the sidewalk and you can buy directly from them before the produce gets taken to the stores. Mangoes, papaya, pineapples, broccoli, peppers, and who knows what else for pennies. It’ll be hard not to go crazy!

Sunday we listened to the cruiser’s net to get the run-down on all of the available activities in Luperon: a Sunday morning cruiser swap-meet, watching the Indy 500 on the big screen at Wendy’s Bar, twice-a-week Spanish lessons, Monday-Wednesday-Friday yoga, twice-a-week movie nights at Wendy’s, Thursday lasagna night at the Upper Deck, Friday night dinner and karaoke dance party at the Puerto Blanca Marina… Plus cruisers will announce when they have extra space in a rental car or van going on a major shopping run to nearby Puerto Plata or Santiago. Even with all of the get-togethers, it doesn’t feel nearly as “adult day care” contrived as Georgetown. Maybe it’s because we plan on staying here for five months, or maybe it’s because there are so many other long-term cruiser “residents”; either way, there’s a real community feel to this place, and we think we’re going to love our stay here. People (both locals and cruisers) are so incredibly friendly, and everyone tells us that, with the exception of some minor theft (e.g. don’t leave things in your cockpit or dinghy if you don’t want them to disappear), Luperon is very safe. Somehow we just have to figure out how to say “no” to those humongous beers... Cheers!

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