Puerto Blanco Class of '03 (KS)
The are a bit over 100 cruisers laid up in Puerto Blanco for the Hurricane Season. Some have been here for years, some (like us) are here by accident. Accident you may ask??
The toughest thing to do in the Caribbean is to make headway East. The standard route for the "Circuit" is to cruise through the Bahamas down to the Turks and Caicos -- all fun & games. The next segment is approximately 575 miles East Southeast, past the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, to the Virgin Islands where you can once again fill the sheets and head due South. The entire way you are likely to be beat into prevailing winds, waves, and current. And let's not forget the need to navigate the treacherous Mona Passage between the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, where the Puerto Rican Trench and the Caribbean Sea battle for the right to pass current.
With the right weather window and season, this is a challenging and exhilarating passage. Whether they got a late start into the cruising season, or delayed leaving the Bahamas because they were having such a good time (both can apply to us), Hurricane Season snuck up on many of the boats here only a quarter of the way into Easting.
Puerto Blanco is a fully enclosed harbor that can accommodate up to 200 boats on the hook with drafts up to 8 feet. The holding is thick mud and quite good, although it takes 2 days for a dropped anchor to "Sink & Set". Backing down on the anchor doesn't work, as it will simply slide over the mud. I recommend that someone stay on the boat for the first 24 hours, as there is a substantial risk of dragging during that time.
A Mountain range to the Southeast sloughs Southerly weather fronts past Luperon. By overlaying weather Files (Grib Files) onto our computerized Charting Software (MaxSea), we have literally watched Tropical Depressions split around Luperon and then reform to the Northwest. Unsurprisingly, Puerto Blanco has not felt the full brunt of a hurricane in over 12 years.
The morning in Puerto Blanco is the time to be out and about. There is a slight breeze, the water is glasslike, and the harbor is abuzz with cruisers flitting around in their dinghies to socialize, gossip, and share a cup of coffee. By 1PM the winds will be blowing over 20 knots as the land starts to heat up and draw in the cool sea air. VhF Channel 68 is the Switchboard for cruisers to plan their adventures for the day (and parties for the night). There is at least one "all cruiser event" each week (not including the Sunday morning Swapmeet at the Marina). The week we arrived, there was a Bastille Day party on a nearby beach. 4 Pigs were roasted, each Cruiser brought a side dish, and the whole town of Luperon was invited. 350 people showed up, we Marenge'd until two in the morning, and the Mayor of Luperon personally thanked every Gringo at the party. By the way, the whole event cost each cruiser about $7.
There are numerous Cruiser planned excursions each day, leaving for all parts of Dominica on Bus, GuaGua, Taxi, and Motorcycle (shopping, sightseeing, river rafting, snorkeling, waterfall climbing, horseback riding, etc.), just listen on channel 68.
Linda, "Tranquilo" Joe, and Patrick sailed into Puerto Blanco about 5 years ago and decided to stay. After a short while, they became tired of Chicken with Rice, Rice & Chicken, and Pollo con Arroz, so they opened the Bahia Luperon Restaurant which serves a broader range of culinary delights. Patrick has a special each day which may include Cream Corn Chowder, Marinated Pork Loin with Sautéed Roast Potatoes, and Tapioca Pudding for desert. Of course they are a bit more expensive, if you are not careful you might spend $8 per person. The Pico Pollo (Chicken Shack) right next door serves a more traditional Chicken and Rice dish for $1.50 a person.
Ok...so to the point. There are approximately 100 Cruisers here this Hurricane Season. There are very few boats coming in and out due to the time of year. Most everyone has been here for at least a month and will be staying through the end of October. The Town of Luperon has a population of around 1000. Cruisers make up 10% of the population and there is a great repartee between the Gringos and Natives. Luperon is not a "tourist town", so all the Gringos are boaters (or former boaters who have gone native).
Within a couple of weeks of arriving here, you will know all the cruisers and half the town. It's like high school, only funner. I have already made numerous close friends who I look forward to cruising with for years to come and I would like to thank everyone who was part of the Luperon Class of 03 for good times and fond memories.