Still navigating by paper charts and hand compass, we exited the Caicos Bank just north of the Fish Cays, crossed the Turks Passage to Big Sandy Cay, and set our sights on Hispanola and the Port of Luperon in the Dominican Republic, across some eighty miles of open ocean.
The night was cool, the wind steady and gentle out of the northwest, the deck of Strolla rolling sweetly. Long before we could see land, we could smell it in through the darkness, the sharp scent of charcoal cooking fires, the faint odor of dirt and cow dung and stagnant mangrove swamps.
With the break of day, the mountainous headlands of the Dominican Republic could be seen, pale and jagged in the morning light. We were thrilled. Here, at last, were real mountains, the tallest in all of the Caribbean, some more than 10,000ft. From Florida's flat swamps through the low rounded cays of the Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos, none of us been much higher than the top of our own mast since the trip began.
We picked our way slowly into Luperon and took up an anchorage amongst our fellow cruisers on the south side of the well protected harbor, too excited to sleep despite our long night underway. It was Christmas Eve day.