Sunday, September 30, 2012

Sunday in Luperon

Rosa selling jewelry and books 
We spent today as we do most Sundays in Luperon.  Puerto Blanco marina has a cruiser swap meet every Sunday.  Some weeks there are more swaps going on than others.  Mainly it is just a chance for all of the cruisers in the harbor to get together and socialize.  The marina restaurant has a BBQ lunch that is very good.  I had the BBQ and Troy ordered the Pico Pollo (a Dominican version of fried chicken).

Sorry I don't have anything more exciting to post today, but it sure was a nice relaxing day! Since we don't have a way to watch the Texans with their undefeated season, a game of Mexican Train with friends was the next best thing.  We spent the whole afternoon playing with Stacey and Rene from Pipe Muh Bligh, Darnell and Pat from Island Dream and Lucy and Pat from Illusions.  I don't need to mention that I won, but I will anyway! LOL

Chicken on the barbie, yum, yum
Bruce Van Sant's books - must reads for cruising in the Caribbean
Pico Pollo
A little Mexican Train
Troy and I with Bruce and Rosa Van Sant - they call Luperon home
How beautiful it is to do nothing, and then to rest afterward.  ~Spanish Proverb

Friday, September 28, 2012

Under The Sea

 We enjoyed some great snorkeling in the British and Spanish Virgin Islands. One of our favorite places was Culebra in the Spanish Virgins. I got a new underwater camera for my birthday and I had so much fun taking pictures of the beautiful underwater world. I highly recommend my new camera, the Canon D10, and now (of course) there is an even newer version. I REALLY love the looks and features of the new one. Isn’t that the way it always works? You buy an electronic device and practically the next day they come out with a better one? Anyway, in case anybody needs ideas for a Christmas gift (hint, hint), take a look at the Canon D20!

I didn't get much blogging done while we were sailing this winter/spring. I guess we were having too much fun, plus, I use the age old excuse of poor internet. Hopefully we have been able to make progress with the internet issue by our purchase of the The WirieAP. We have only used it here in Luperon so far, but we can't wait to get out there after hurricane season and check it out in other harbors. It sure is nice to have internet on the boat instead of lugging the computer to a local restaurant/bar and trying to get everything accomplished before drinking too much beer! Hopefully the Wirie will help me keep the blog more current.

There were so many pictures that it was really hard to edit them down. I will post them to the blog using my Flickr account. So click on ******* this link ******** and enjoy a slide show of some of the beautiful sea life that we saw in the Virgin Islands.

By the way, we just added our blog to the Sailing Blogs website where you will find many similar blogs as well as all kinds of blogs about boat building, racing and well, just about anything to do with sailing.  Click on the icon at the right and give us a "boost" or a comment!

For whatever we lose (like a you or a me), it's always our self we find in the sea.
~e.e. cummings

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Extreme Makeover: Home Edition (Dominican Style)

Glenny, her mom and children

  The other fund raiser that I mentioned in a previous blog post was to benefit a wonderful lady that we have all come to know and love. Glenny works at JR's Bistro. She is a single mother with two young children and she always has a smile on her face. She has been a great help to me with my Spanish and she is learning to speak English really well. Our friends Joe and Kim, former cruisers that decided to make Luperon their home, discovered that Glenny was living in a house with holes in the roof and walls and a dirt floor. You can imagine the conditions of the dirt floor when there is rain. Anyway, thanks to Jerry, Joe and Kim, they organized poker runs, auctions, bake sales and raffles. We enjoyed ourselves while raising money to completely rebuild the roof, floor and outer walls of Glenny's house. No more walking in the mud for her and her children.

What started out as a project to put a new roof on her house ended up being a complete tear down and re-build. Thanks to the hard work of Joe and Kim and to the generosity of the local gringo population. We all adore Glenny and it was wonderful to know that we were able to help such a lovely person. She is the talk of the neighborhood now and it seems like she has been an a Dominican version of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition!

The house still needs to be painted and we are trying to raise a little more money so that she can have a kitchen sink. I will be sure to post an update.

The is the back of the house
Termite were taking over!
Hard to believe the shape the house was in
Getting the new floor
It was a challenge for the guys to get the walls straight
The house looks great on the inside
Glenny - see, she always has a smile on her face
All the neighborhood children are excited
Here is the kitchen - now we need a sink
Nicest house in the neighborhood!

It takes hands to build a house, but only hearts can build a home.  ~Author Unknown

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Look! There's a Boat on that Mountain!

Just look at that view!
 We took a trip up in the mountains to visit our friends that are living up there. We had a great visit with Esther and Derrick and with Cade and Lisa. Esther and Derrick have a home on the mountain and Lisa and Cade are in the planning stages of building. While they are preparing the land and planning their home, Cade set a plan in motion that he had been dreaming up for quite some time.

They have a beautiful sail boat named Sand Dollar that has been their home for many years while they sailed the Caribbean and South America. Sand Dollar was for sale, but Cade decided that they could move the boat up on the mountain and live in her while they build their house. After the house is built, Sand Dollar will become a guest house. They have some exciting plans for an add on bathroom/mud room. The will have a “ground level” entry through the mud room into the boat. We can't wait to see what it's like to sleep in a boat at 2500 feet with none of the gentle roll that we are accustomed to.

It was quite a feat just to get the boat up there. Absolutely amazing that Cade was able to pull this off. Of course, he's an engineer, so he had every detail thought through and planned out. That doesn't mean that everything went as planned. I think he was in double trouble with plans because, 1) it's a boat – nothing goes as planned when working on or with a boat; and 2) we're in the Dominican Republic, nothing goes as planned when working on or in the Dominican Republic. So, against all odds, Sand Dollar has a new home on the mountain. I bet the local Dominicans think they just got some loco gringos for neighbors!

We love riding up to the mountains, for one thing, it's a lot cooler up there, so that's a nice break from the heat. Plus, we never fail to be amazed at all the wonderful plants that grow wild. The sweetest bananas that we have ever eaten, not to mention the avocados, limes, oranges, mangoes, coffee..... the list goes on and on. I must admit that I'm a little jealous of Lisa having her very own avocado trees. Lucky for us, she likes to share!

The poetry of the earth is never dead.  ~John Keats

Monday, September 17, 2012

Time for School!

Most cruisers that we know are just like us, they are cruising on a budget. They either have no income, or a fixed income from a pension or other investments. Most of us certainly don't think of ourselves as rich, or even well off. We are just trying to stretch a dollar (or peso) as far as it will go. Many of the locals here in Luperon think that all the boaters have lots of money and, of course, we disagree. We have spent enough time here to learn that, to most of the local population, we do have lots of money. It's was really eye opening to Troy and I to see the conditions that some people live in here and to realize that, while we don't realize it, we are certainly rich compared to them.

We have become great friends with Jerry, the owner of JR's Bistro. Jerry has a big heart and he has connections with local people that know the best ways to help the community. Jerry organized a couple of fund raisers recently and we were very impressed with the generosity of the cruising community as well as the community of gringos that have decided to call Luperon home.

It came to Jerry's attention that children who cannot afford school uniforms are not allowed to attend school. We couldn't believe it! What kind of rule is that? Anyway, through Jerry and with the help of the assistant principal at the school, we collected enough pesos to buy uniforms, notebooks, pencils and a few school supplies for 38 children.

We had a lot of fun passing out the uniforms to the excited kids. I was wondering if the kids “back home” would be as excited about getting school uniforms. Somehow, I think not!

We also had another very successful fundraiser that we are all excited about. I will post about that one soon.

If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.  ~Attributed to both Andy McIntyre and Derek Bok

These girls can't wait to get their uniforms!

Jerry and Assistant Principal Anilda - checking the list

Here you go

Look at all the happy students and parents

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Storyville gets a Nature's Head

We recently decided that it was time to start thinking about replacing the heads on Storyville. For all my land lubber friends, you probably know me well enough by now to realize that I'm talking about the toilets on the boat. I know what you're thinking – gross. It get's even grosser (is that a word?) when you think about the hoses and holding tanks and everything that has passed through them in the last 30 years.

We have several friends that are using waterless composting toilets. It just makes so much sense for us so, we decided that it was worth looking into. It would mean that we could do away with two thru hull – don't worry about what that is if you're not a boater, but if you are, you know what a benefit that is – and, bonus, we would get rid of all those stinky hoses and the holding tank as well. Creating more room for storage. Just kind of plug and play, so to speak.

We decided to try to bring one back with us from our visit to Houston. The packing box was just under the airlines size requirements and well under their weight requirements. We were still a little nervous, not knowing what to expect with the shipping. It all went incredibly smoothly. We were stopped by customs when we entered the DR. They sent the box through their scanner and decided that they needed a better look. They were a little surprised when they opened the box. You should have seen the look on the inspector's face when he lifted the lid! I guess he was worried that we were traveling with a used toilet. Oh well, it worked! Free shipping.

Anyways, we got the toilet back to Storyville and she is now fully installed, thanks to Troy's hard work. The removal of the old system was the worst part of the ordeal and I will spare you the details. Let's just say that Troy is my hero for handling that stinky, nasty job.

It took us a little while to find the composting material. We took our Dominican friend, who speaks great English, with us to 3 different nursery’s, but the language barrier proved to be too high because he didn't know what peat moss was and we couldn't describe it. They really don't have much use for that here, I guess because the ground is very fertile. We did a little more research and decided to try a mix of coconut husks, banana leaves and mulch. Wish me luck.

Let the composting begin!

We give a great big thanks to Gene Cupples, owner of Eco-mmode, distributor for Nature's Head in the Kemah area. Click the link above to learn more, or give him a call at 419/306-3351.

The old head, ready to come out

Nature's Head

Ready to remove the old system (yuck)

That is a picture of "gross" right there.  The old holding bag.

Ready to compost!

Installed and ready to go!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Trip to Santo Domingo

Oblisk at the Malecon in Santo Domingo
We have been wanting to take a trip to Santo Domingo for at least a year now. It's all they way on the other side of the island from Luperon and involves a gua gua ride and two buses to get to there from here. We had the prefect excuse since Santo Domingo is the capital of the Dominican Republic. Rene needed to renew his Dutch passport and that's where the embassy is located. There were six of us on the trip, Troy and I, Rene and Stacy and Patrick and Lucy.

We headed out on Sunday morning and had a fairly uneventful trip. The bus rides were great and the gua gua was an adventure as always! There were 7 of us (including the driver) in a small Toyota type meant to carry 5, tops; 2 in front and three in back! So we went with 3 in front and 4 in back. I got to ride in the middle, in front on the console with a cushion on top of it. There were a couple of instances where I accidentally shifted the car into neutral with my leg, but the driver took it all in stride!

Only one little bit of excitement on the 30 minute ride. It's not unusual to see herds of cows being driven down the middle of the road, in fact, it would be more unusual not to see a couple of herds along the way. We recognize the signs by now. Usually one guy is ahead of the herd and he waves a red flag to let oncoming traffic know what lies ahead. It could be anywhere from 2 or 3 cows to a whole big herd. We met a fairly good sized herd along the way and the driver slowed almost to a stop for the oncoming cows. All was going as planned until the cow directly in front of our car was mounted by a bull that came up right behind her. I could see my life flashing before my eyes (that's not ALL I could see, I got a pretty good look at the working parts of the, ahem, bulls reproductive system) when it seemed that the both of them would certainly come crashing through our windshield. Fortunately, the bull decided that he might have picked the wrong time and place to display his amorous feelings. It was all over in a matter of seconds and the driver never even blinked an eye.

We finally made it to Santo Domingo – 1 thirty minute, exciting gua gua ride, two bus rides (1 lasting 45 minutes and 1 lasting about 2 hours) and a short taxi ride to our hotel. We took a walk down the malecon and to the shopping square where we found the Hard Rock Cafe. We couldn't resist the chance for a great hamburger and a few cold beers, not to mention the air conditioning! By that time, we were ready to head back to our rooms and get some rest, in the air conditioning (do you see the pattern?).

Catedral de Santa Maria la Menor
     The next day Rene headed out to take care of his business while the rest of the part set out on foot for some shopping. We did a lot of walking in two days and we enjoyed our morning of shopping. By the time we met up with Rene again we decided to check out the Catedral de Santa Maria la Menor. It is the oldest cathedral in the Americas, having been started in 1512 and completed in 1540. Women must wear skirts below the knee to enter. It was absolutely beautiful inside and we spent about an hour just taking it all in. We had a wonderful Haitian guide who spoke to us about the history of the cathedral and answered our questions.

Before we knew it, it was time to head back to Luperon. We enjoyed the big city but without transportation it was difficult to take it all in. It is the capital of the Dominican Republic and has a population of over 3.7 million. It is also the largest city (by population) in the Caribbean. We are used to the crazy driving in this county, but we were left in a daze after a taxi ride through the busiest part of the city. Not by the speed, but by the sheer number and closeness of the cars and motorcycles. They drive within inches of one another, they use their horns (a lot) and somehow, they almost never hit each other.

We definitely enjoyed our trip to Santo Domingo and we are already planning some other fun trips around the country.

Inside the Cathedral - Stunningly Beautiful

Reloj de Sol (Sun Dial)
Sun Dial

Christopher Columbus' sons palace
Tommy Lee!

An artists gallery
Jethro Tull's flute at the Hard Rock

Friday, September 7, 2012

Damon and Marcie Become Sailors

We were very fortunate to meet some really good friends by accident.  Well, maybe not accident but more just by surprise at the time and place. You never know when you will meet people that will become lifelong friends.  One of the things that I love/hate about the cruising life is the people that you meet along the way.  I love it because we meet people from all walks of life and spend time getting to know such a diverse group of people.  I hate it because sometimes you have to say goodbye before you want to.  It's more of a blessing than a curse though, 'cause we get to meet so many awesome people along the way.

I will let Damon tell you the story about how we met.  Here is a guest blog from Damon and Marcie, friends that came to visit us in the US and Spanish Virgin Islands:

Marcie and Damon chillin' at Mamacita's in Culebra

Little did we know that a trip to a Dominican Republic resort would change our lives. It started innocently enough: While lying in our cabana, soaking up as much of paradise as we could, we kept seeing the same group of friends whooping it up in the cold tubs on the beach. I nudged Marcie and said, “We gotta get to know those people, I overheard them talking about living on their boats.” It sounded like a fantasy life, and we had to know more.

We invited ourselves in the tub and made quick friends of the whole gang; Troy and Deana, Rene and Stacy, Patrick and Darnell, and Ivy. We were fascinated by our new friends, and we just didn’t stop the barrage of questions about the lifestyle and their idyllic life on board their floating homes. All of our curiosity and Deana’s southern hospitality added up to an invitation to spend time with them on Storyville. What a gift!! It took us a couple months to work out the details but we met up with Storyville in St Thomas in May. 

Growing up on an inland lake in Michigan, I love the water, but neither Marcie nor I really knew what we were in for. Would we be comfortable on a boat for ten days? Would Troy and Deana be our kind of people? Would we fit in with the “boat people”? If they got sick of us would they make us walk the plank? Well, it all worked out well. Storyville is a beautiful and comfortable boat, and Troy and Deana could not have been more hospitable. They made sure we felt right at home.

A cuttlefish see on a reef at Culebrita
We set sail out of St Thomas on a beautiful day. It took us only a few hours to reach Culebrita. The uninhabited island is only accessible by private boat so the only people we saw during our visit were other cruisers.  The small protected cove is exactly what you see on brochures for Caribbean vacations: beautiful bright blue water, a pristine beach and snorkeling right behind the boat. I think we were in the water about three minutes after hooking up to the buoy.

Can you see Troy waiving?
The only structure on Culebrita is an ancient light house built by the Spanish Crown in 1886. It took us about an hour to hike to the peak and take in breathtaking views of the entire island and Storyville below. If you look real close in this picture I think you can see Troy waiving from the cockpit.

One of the best evenings we had on the trip was Mexican pot-luck night. We made a couple of dishes, grabbed a couple of bottles and dingy’d over to Island Dream for an evening of getting to know your neighbors. What a blast! I can certainly say that the boating community is very warm and welcoming. At least this group of sailors is. It was great to get to know the rest of the cruising armada Rene and Stacy, and Pat and Darnell, and also to experience each of their floating homes. A big thank you to all for their hospitality.

The ten days seemed to go by in a blink and we were not ready to leave when the time came. Our hosts had effortlessly made our adventure an amazing and memorable one. One thing is for sure: our lives have been altered forever. We have a three-year plan to become cruisers. Thank you Troy and Deana!

Damon was even brave enough to go up the mast for us!
Strangers are just friends waiting to happen. ~Rod McKuen, Looking for a Friend