Monday, June 25, 2007

Doin' the Luperon Walk

Four days ago I finally did what I've been threatening to do since we arrived in Luperon. Walk for exercise. The first day Scott and I walked from Puerto Blanco Marina to the town of Luperon. It's a lovely walk (about 2 miles one way). As we make our way up the steep gravel covered road to the top of the hill we eventually come to this scene. Nice.

Little Bird
Walking along we hear a distinct little cheep - cheep- cheep. What is that? Where is that? A tiny bird no bigger than a hummingbird is perched up in a tree calling us over. He stayed there for several minutes allowing me to photograph him.

We continued on into town, sat down at Captain Steve's Place for lunch then since we were refurbished and refreshed decided to walk back. (That's 4 miles round trip)

The next morning Kathy from Bellagio and I walked to town. We also found ourselves sitting at Steve's Place this time for passion fruit juice (chinnola) and coffee.
town and beach walk Luperon

Then the next morning Kathy and I walked to the beach past the Luperon Resort (all inclusive which means you have to wear a wristband at all times while on the premises). It was a good hike of about 3 miles. We tried to find the path around the point to make a loop back to the marina but only found dead ends (roads blocked off with branches of trees tied together). We didn't really want to walk all the way back the way we came. So we decided to walk through the resort and back to our marina. Just look casual, try to hide your right wrist, and don't stop walking. Of course if you happen to see a peacock sitting on the balcony of one of the hotel rooms or pink flamingos strolling in a pond you must stop to take a picture. We found our way to the entrance and out onto the road without a soul stopping us or even looking at us funny.

Back at the marina we drank a few well deserved beers and enjoyed a game of Mexican Train dominoes with friends.

From left: Donna and Rick (Naomi Marie), Kerry and Kathy (Bellagio) and Scotto.

Yvon and Carmelle's House
Sunday was the flea market so no scheduled walk that day. However we did visit cruising friends Yvon and Carmelle who are renting an apartment just across from the resort. It's only about a 1/2 mile walk but all up hill. So that counts as exercise in my book. They have two huge cats which were fun to play with.

Sunday night we had dinner with Kathy and Kerry before they leave for their trip back to Canada. We ate at a place called Casa del Sol. Stanislaus picked us up at the marina, took our drink and dinner orders, served us Caribbean Coffee - a flaming treat- and drove up back home. What service and a great meal.

At left: Stanislaus brewing the caribbean concoction.

Today- Monday I'm taking the day off and only have walked as far as the stern of the boat to take this photo of Handy Andy and Poppo who cleaned the bottom of our boat and the anchor chain today. It was well worth the trip. Don't you think?

From left: Poppo and Handy Andy

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

FIRE in the marina!

A day with more excitement than one would want. I was in town at Steve's Bar and Grill when I heard on their VHF that boats were on fire at the Luperon Yacht Club. As many of you are aware a marina fire is the worst because once it starts many boats can go up. I could see the smoke from downtown Luperon. I've put the pictures in the album below. The smoking hulk used to be a 62 foot Hateras motor yacht. 3 or 4 boats were pulled away from the marina and saved. The owners weren't around but everyone pitched in to pull boats away from the fire. Sheesh. . . who needs a hurricane!

On another front, we felt like we needed to move our anchor. In the high winds we've had the last two days it looks like we stretched our our chain and perhaps pulled the anchor a little deeper into the ooze. Enough so that we look to be a little too close to a couple of boats off of our stern. This will also be a chance to clean up the ground tackle which we expected would be a little barnacled.

A LITTLE? Holy CRAP! My chain looks like barnacle sausage! I spent an hour and cleaned off abaout 15 feet of chain using wire brush, hammer, and stiff brush. This isn't going to work. We stopped and put out another anchor (since I had reduced my scope by the 15') and we are now considering buying a mooring and having it screwed into the bottom. An alterntive is to drop an old engine block into the ooze with chain on it up to the surface. We'll see.

For now we'll keep and eye on our position and go withthe two anchors.
I'll now have to be prepared to untangle them each morning. Sigh.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Scott and Sue...Motorcycle Maniacs!

What a great day. Let me just say first off that a motorcycle is THE way to explore this country.

Note: Some of the pictures are links to Picasa Albums. Click and enjoy. Back arrow to come back to the blog

motorcycle pictures
We started out at Puerto Blanca Marina to get the bikes. My friend Kerry is VERY experienced with motorcycles and gave me great lessons. I’ve NEVER ridden a motorcycle before. It’s not that hard. It’s like driving a stick except your left hand is the clutch not your left foot. Your left foot is how you shift gears. Your right hand is the throttle AND the front brake but DON’T USE THAT, and your right foot is not the gas but rather the rear brake. Oh and you use your hands to steer as well. Oh, and look in the rear view mirror on occasion. Got that? Like all ‘sticks’ first gear is the only adventure. Sticking my legs straight out until I got going seemed to help and I looked great doing this. I made a few runs up and back and then again with Sue on the back (she’ll try anything!) and we were off!

Our first order of business was to go through downtown Luperon to get some fuel. Let me just say that every man between the ages of 20 -30 has a motorcycle and they drive them like crazy up and down the main street of Luperon. I was a little nervous but then I realized that by the time I got there I’d have 5 maybe even 10 minutes of experience so what’s to worry? We fueled up and back tracked through town and then headed west along the coast. What a beautiful ride. We could see the ocean often and the DR mountains always. The road was in pretty good shape and not too much traffic.
Well, the main traffic was cattle. (Are cattle really stupid or just shy?)

motorcycle scenary
After about 11 kilometers we came to the beach at Cabo Isabella (Isabella Bay). Columbus named this region for Queen Isabella and established a settlement there in 1494. It lasted about 5 years. The beach is beautiful and, like so many places here, nearly no one there. I was thinking of the time we spent at Clearwater and at Fort Myers and what the traffic looked like on a Saturday. This beach is probably 5 miles along the bay and there is nothing on it.

los americas church
From here we continued on and found the oldest church in the Americas. This is actually a re-build of the original but inside they have stones laid in the floor showing the outline of the original church. There was a gardner or caretaker there and he was gracious (like many Dominicans) and proud to show us around. We didn’t understand much of what he was saying but we smiled and said ‘si, si...ah si’ a lot. (si means yes)

restaurant museum
Now we are ready for lunch and we knew of a place called Miamar that is a restaurant and hotel. After many dead ends on gravel roads (nice way to have a first ride on a motorcycle!) we finally backtracked and found the “main road” to the restaurant. This was two rutted lanes of gravel with washed out parts. Well, we didn’t fall and we did find the restaurant and it is spectacular. It overlooks the ocean and has it’s own pool. It is run by a German couple. The food was so delicious and, as with all German restaurants, the portions were as big as the Sudatenland. This place also is currently housing the grad students from Indiana University who are engaged in an archaeological dig. The restaurant itself has one of the best museums of Taino artifacts in the country. When the couple began building their restaurant they began to uncover many interesting artifacts. So they collected them and made a little museum room for them. They still dabble. All the stuff is at least 500 years old. Once the Spanish came the Taino didn’t last long. They went the way of the Aztecs and the Mayan and the American Indian (not counting the casinos). A great meal and certainly a return trip is in order. Perhaps we’ll spend a night or two in the hotel!

Our ride back was uneventful and just as enjoyable as the outbound trip. We again had to slow way down for a cattle drive. Everyone waves when you ride through a town and the children LOVE to yell, “Hola”! Sometimes they like to try their English and holler “Yankee Pig”...just kidding, they yell, “HELLO”. . . and then giggle. Hell I giggle after I say, “Hola”!

We ended the day with a couple of beers back at Puerto Blanco Marina. A great day and as usual, much fun with Kerry and Kathy!

By the way...It's been two years as of last Tuesday since we began this cruising life. Still good. We had a number of fellow cruisers over for 'corkscrews'. Don't go there! A good time had by all. Sail on.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

A Day in Santiago

We are on a quest for a couple of things. One is a Honda 2000 generator so that we can charge our batteries (so we can make ice) without running the ship's engine twice a day. This is a pretty big country and you'd think you could find stuff and we probably will. . . it's just not so easy.

To get to Santiago from here you first take a gwa gwa (pronounced Gwa Gwa) which is a smallish van to Imbert. This costs 40 pesos or just over a dollar. When we left the gwa gwa stand in Luperon there were about 6 of us on board. By the time we arrived in Imbert we had 18 souls on board! I counted.

We looked like clowns getting out of one of those little cars at the circus! The bus to Santiago was waiting so we just jumped on board. This hunk is a very nice air-conditioned (un heard of in this country) bus for 80 pesos. All together the trip is probably around 50 miles for 120 pesos or just under $4.00.

Above photo is looking forward, other photo is looking aft. That's Kathy and Kerry sitting behind us.

Santiago is a very bustling city with busy streets, cabs and lots of honking. We walked all around the 'old town' which is the downtown area. I got a prescription filled for 3 months for what it costs for about 1 month in the states. Oh, and you actually don't need the little doctor note, just the empty bottle! Sue checked on getting glasses. They have same day service but you'd have to be there earlier and stay later than we were. Looks like new glasses will be about $90 including the exam. Can you tell that we are like the Howells here (Gilligan's Island reference)? We walked back out on the road into town to find the Ochoa (8A is there logo...get it? 8 - A = ocho - A) This is there Home Depot/Target. Lots of stuff but no Honda generator. We found the big grocery store and while Sue and Kathy did food stuff Kerry and I did manly hardware store stuff. No generator but I did get the rest of the rig I need to keep the frig charged up. The sales guy spoke no English but went and got a guy who spoke a little. Together we figured out what I was asking and needing. At the end I apologized for my rotten Spanish and he apologized for his weak English. I told him THAT'S not a problem. . . it's your country! Too bad I couldn't have said this in Spanish...would have had more punch.
Above photo is of the monument sitting on a hill overlooking the city. We're not sure who scored but it was obviously GOOD!

We hauled our groceries the few blocks back to where we saw the buses to take us back to Imbert. After much hollering and waving of arms we stood in the right place for our bus. The ride back was uneventful and the gwa gwa only had 5-6 people all the way back to Luperon. In Luperon we stopped at the little restaurant on the corner that has the tree growing right inside and had a couple of beers. We were all pretty thirsty and beat from walking around all day.

This is a photo of an eager mango collector. As we sat sipping our cerveza on the second floor of the restuarant, suddenly we hear bang! bang! bang-bang-bang!!! This guy is shaking the mango tree and they are falling on the tin roof below then rolling to the ground. Several other fruit lovers are gathering them up. The shaker guy doesn't wait to taste the fruits of his shaking.

We're working on a photo essay on the wonderful variety of cruising boats in this harbor so look for that coming up soon. Also we plan on renting a motorcycle for the day and exploring the countryside on our own. It is very mountainous and beautiful here and so many times while in the gwa gwa I've wished we could stop for some photos or to have a beer or a snack at the VERY little towns along the way. We'll see. I don't actually know how to ride a motorcycle but then. . . I don't actually know how to sail either!

Finally. . . here's a couple of links I've been meaning to post:

All about Luperon is a site by Bruce Van Sant author of Gentleman's Guide to Passages South. He lives here now and his boat is for sale. Check it out!

Also for all you wannabe or active runners my daughter, Leah and her husband, Jason, maintain a wonderful blog on running. If you have ANY questions about training, equipment, or shoes (especially shoes!) check out their blog. They are actively in training mode for the Chicago Marathon right now.

Thanks in advance for all comments! Our e-mail us directly. Addresses are over there on the right. . . or left. You'll find it!

Captain Snappy internetting at the Luperon Yacht Club. Nice view!

Saturday, June 02, 2007

The Longest Day

Every school kid knows this one. The longest day of the year (most hours of sunlight) is June 21 - the Summer Solstice. The sun takes its highest (most northerly) path in our sky giving us the most hours of daylight. I taught this very thing for 20+ years.

Not true! Well not here anyway...we are south of the Tropic of Cancer! ‘So what’, you on.

The sun rises in the east and sets in the west every day but it does not follow the exact same trail day by day. During the course of a year the trail that the sun follows will creep north from December to June and then creep back south from June to December and that’s what makes our seasons. What is the farthest north the sun ever goes in its yearly trek? Let’s ask this another way as my astronomy professor used to put it...”Where would you stand on June 21 to be in the shade of your own sombrero at noon? The answer would be somewhere on the Tropic of Cancer (22.5 degrees north latitude). That’s the farthest north the sun goes and that then makes for the longest arc through the sky for the day and voila’ the summer solstice. But wait a minute...we’re now south of the tropic of cancer. That means the sun will be directly over our heads before June 21 and THAT will be our longest day. Hey...that should be around now...and it is!

The picture is of me roughly standing in the shade of my own hat taken around noon on June 2. Notice how tiny my shadow is (and just because of my sveltness!) . This means that we’ll have another ‘longest day’ when the sun passes overhead again on its way south sometime after June 21. new ‘rules’ now that we live in the tropics! Oh, and by the way, why is that latitude called the Tropic of Cancer? When the sun is over that line on June 21 it is actually sitting within the constellation of Cancer. Tropic of Capricorn is the same thing in the southern hemisphere for the winter solstice on Dec. 21.*

*That’s actually a big lie but it used to be true. Way back when the Greeks made up the stories that go with the zodiac the sun WAS in Cancer on June 21. Because the earth’s orbit is an ellipse and the ellipse itself slowly changes its orientation around the sun the entire zodiac is off by about one constellation. In other words your ‘sign’ is supposed to be for which ‘house’ the sun was in when you were born. They set that up with the calendar centuries ago. So now when they assign ‘signs’ just by the date it really has nothing to do with astronomical things at all!