At long last, the weather window we have been waiting for is forecasted for this weekend and into next week. We are expecting an extended period of light winds and mild seas for both the northern coast of the Dominican Republic and for the Mona Passage, the 80-mile long strait that will take us from the Dominican Republic to Puerto Rico. With such a magical weather window before us, our plan is to leave Luperon and go all the way to Puerto Rico, a journey of approximately 245 nautical miles. Going straight there (without stopping) would take us 44 hours. But we do plan on stopping a few times along the way, to rest and to wait out the stronger winds that inevitably develop in the afternoons. Our journey is likely to take four or five days when all is said and done.
Our planned departure date is Saturday April 8 and we have about eight other boats travelling with us. Our only problem is timing. Huh? Well, weather isn’t the only thing we have to work around. The Dominican Republic has a very controlled system for issuing exit papers (called Despachos in the DR). You request your Despacho from the Armada (The Navy) on the day you wish to leave. If granted, you are expected to weigh anchor and be gone within a few hours. If you do not leave, you must surrender your Despacho and re-request another one for your new departure date. In addition to the request process, they have rules around when they will issue a Despacho. Never before 6am or after 6pm; Never on a Sunday, and; Never on holidays. Uh-oh. Our weather window is lined up exactly with Samana Santa (Holy Week or Easter). We are hoping to plead our case to the Armada today (Thursday) and get an exception so we can leave on Saturday. Fingers crossed!
In addition to planning for our departure, we had a very busy week! We did a little bit more exploring, including checking out the old yacht club near the harbour. In its day, this was a beautiful building with sleeping quarters, pools and with gorgeously maintained grounds. Now, it is almost in ruins, abandoned by the local wealthy family that once owned it.
Boat work was also on the agenda for this week. We did some much-needed maintenance, including changing transmission fluid, engine oil and checking the engine impellor. Our friend Barry on Caretta also got in on the action. He is an electrician by trade and was able to fix our electric winch, which has been inoperable since before we left Canada. Yes!
To us, though, the most rewarding time was the three days we spent volunteering at the Luperon Dog and Cat Clinic. What an eye-opening and soul-soothing experience! The clinic is held once a month and offers rabies and other vaccinations as well as deworming, and parasite (flea and tick) medication. Nails are cut, dogs are dewormed, ticks are removed. The incredible part is that the clinic is run completely by volunteers using funds donated by locals and cruisers. Wow!
The first day of the clinic is closed to the public so we could do prep work. Syringes containing deworming and flea medication were filled for over 300 local dogs. The idea is to prepare these medications ahead of time so that the owners can pick them up on the two open-door clinic days. And, oh man, we quickly learned why. The clinic doors opened at 9am on Monday and there was already a line up of owners with dogs and puppies waiting for medication and vaccinations. Dogs arrived in make-shift crates, with barbed wire leashes, on motorcycles, or carried two or three in hand. There were wee four-week old pups, big dogs, little dogs, senior dogs and even a few cats. It was mayhem! We were scratched, bitten (lightly), licked, nuzzled and drooled on. But with each dose of medication, we saw big thankful smiles on the owners. It was two full exhausting days and we are all the better for it. To be certain, these were the experiences we wanted as cruisers. Having a chance to give back to the community is beyond rewarding.
It will be bittersweet leaving Luperon this weekend. We have loved the people, the dogs and the town. Now it is time to move on and see what other incredible experience awaits us as we continue to travel south to Grenada. 😊
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Victoria is a hiker, dog-lover, blog writer and planner extraordinaire. Oh, yeah and she is kind of fond of living on a boat.