What a crazy year it’s been! Since we left St. Petersburg a year earlier, we’ve had sails tear, battens fall out, refrigeration failures, and fire onboard. We survived one of the most powerful hurricanes ever recorded and also survived our first ever week at Fantasy Fest. After what seemed like a never-ending stretch of boat problems in Marathon, while battling the flu, we finally crossed the gulf stream and made our first international passage.
What once seemed like an impossible task of uniting from our home dock now seemed like an unstoppable momentum as we breezed through the Bahamas and Turks and Caicos. We fell in love with Luperon and the DR on the way down but felt like we had room for more. It was a beat past Puerto Rico to the Virgin Islands as we battled against the trade winds, but well worth the effort.
After a well deserved downwind sail, we returned to Luperon. Time to settle down for a while? Not exactly!
The Best Spot in Luperon!
We returned to Luperon with about two weeks to get things in order before flying back to the United States. Before leaving Luperon in March, we decided to build our own mooring with the help of Domingo and Handy Andy, two of the local boat boys. We were able to claim a spot directly in front of Puerto Blanco Marina. The marina has the main cruisers dinghy dock and is known as home base for the majority of the sailors. There is also a direct view of Satori from the marina restaurant. In my opinion, this is the safest mooring in the entire harbor… with with one exception, loose boats in the harbor!
Since our mooring lies on the western side of the North Mooring field, it’s the last line of defense for any boat that breaks free from it’s mooring. You would think this could not and would not happen often, but you may be surprised.
Boat Loose in the Harbor
We were onboard Satori, editing our next video when we hear our friend John announce a loose boat floating through the harbor. This was the third in a series of boats that had gone drifting off in the harbor in a matter of a couple of weeks. Since we had just arrived, this was the first one we had seen, but the other cruisers in the harbor were on high alert.
In one of the other incidents, the actual mooring line failed. Another incident was the result of a local Dominican attempting to move a derelict sailboat boat across the harbor. He ran the boat aground on one of the three shoals that decorate the harbor and left it to fend for itself. Upon high tide, the boat floated up and off, leaving the cruisers to fend for themselves.
Diagnosis, User Error
In this case, the Captain accepted the painter (the line that attached the boat to the mooring) that had been previously attached to the mooring he was renting from Papa, one of the other boat boys. Neither Papo nor the Captain inspected the painter. Later that afternoon the winds picked up as the often do in the harbor. As the boat began to swing, the old sunbathed halyard painter failed. Amazingly, in all three cases, no boats were damaged beyond a possible scratch or two.
We had heard stories about mooring failing in the past, but it’s quite a wake-up call when you see a boat drifting through a busy harbor. It was also eye-opening to learn that their failure wasn’t necessarily on a poorly maintained mooring either. I take the stance that no matter what the circumstance, as a Captain, you are 100% responsible for your boat. In the case of a Luperon mooring, that means inspecting the mooring rig, the painter used, the method of tying to the mooring, and backing down on the mooring to test it.
After all the excitement, we still had work to do. Cleaning, prepping, and locking up the boat for the 6 weeks we would be leaving the boat. Since I would be back prior to the most active part of the hurricane season, I decided to secure the sails in place rather than tear everything down as I did for hurricane Irma. I will admit, part of this decision was driven by the fact that it just didn’t want to tear it all down again. But there is a good support system in harbor, so we felt good about it. Worst-case scenario, I would have flown down if a system were to threaten the area.
Legend has it that in Luperon, that there has never been any serious damage to boats from a Hurricane. Due to its location on the north coast and the surrounding mountains, hurricane an extremely unlikely to affect the harbor. Hurricanes coming from the south will be broken up by the tallest mounting in the Caribbean. Hurricanes heading west across the Dominican north coast will bounce off the mountains in a tumbleweed effect, with is what happened in the case of moth hurricanes Irma and Marina. They both took the same path and head straight west approximately 60 miles offshore. Winds in the harbor maxed out around 40 knots.
In our previous stop in Luperon, we rented a motorcycle for a couple of weeks. This was my first time riding a motorcycle, but I took to it quite well. We decided that we would certainly rent or buy a bike for our stay over hurricane season. The rentals over at Bob and Sue’s hotel are good, but we wanted something a little more capable. many of the “roads” in the DR are a bit of a challenge. And with both of us on the bike, we wanted something with a little more power.
A brand new Chinese branded bike like the one we bought was only $1500 USD. We figured we would have no problem, selling that bike for $800-$1000 at the end of the season. The dollars worked out about the same as renting, but we would get exactly the bike we wanted for the entire season. In the end, it worked out very well. I would have no hesitation in doing it again.
When leaving Luperon, you have two solid options to fly out of the DR. Puerto Plata or Santiago. Depending on where you’re going to, one of the airports will have better ticket prices and both are about the same driving distance. You can get a driver to bring you there for about $40-$50 USD. For us, flying out of Santiago and connecting in Miami on our way to Tampa was the way to go. It’s a long day of travel, so we made sure to give Arthur plenty of exercise that morning so he would sleep as much as possible.
Unfortunately, our first flight was delayed for about an hour. We had a two-hour layover, so we were not too concerned. But when we landed in Miami, we learned the reality of the international connection flight. We had to exit security to retrieve our bag, then go through customs. Then go back through security, all with Arthur. The kicker is that we were given large orange piece of paper that got us to the front of each line. Not because we are mega-famous youtube sensations, but because we had a tight connection. And of course, the departure gate was at the far end of the huge Miami concourse.
Flight Crew A-Holes!
I used to fly every week for 13 years. I know how the system works. But I am amazed that the crew of the departing flight knew we were on the ground, making our way through the airport. We ran across the Airport, FULL speed, for almost a mile with half-open bags, a computer under my arm, and a dog on our back. They know that our other flight, on their airline, was delayed. They also know that they are the last flight of the day to Tampa. Regardless, they chose to close the doors to the plane, 15 minutes before the scheduled departure time. They could have held the door for another 5, 10, or even 20 minutes. But they didn’t. All we needed was TWO MORE MINUTES!
Rather than spend money on a hotel for the night and deal with security, flying with Arthur, etc., we decided to rent a car and drive through the night. Miami to Tampa is a 4-5 hour drive, with a pit stop for pizza along the way. After arriving in Tampa at about 3 am, we still needed to jump-start the Super Van (my 2004 Honda Odyssey minivan), return the rental car at the airport, and pick up our luggage that did make it on the plane. Unfortunately, our bags would not be available until 8 am. FML.