As captain, it was my privilege to spend our first morning in Luperon clearing the boat and its crew through customs. It was Christmas Eve and Friday. Everyone would be going home early to their families. If I didn't get us cleared right away, it was very likely I wouldn't be able to until Monday. While I waited in one office after another (port authority, customs and immigration, office of agriculture, office of the commandant at the naval station) struggling to understand the slurred Dominican accents of bored government officials, the rest of the crew were confined to the boat, yellow quarantine flag flying. They weren't legally allowed to go ashore until I'd gotten them cleared in. They spent the morning hanging out, napping and snacking. When I finally returned, angry and exhausted, they were rested and ready.
We motored back in to the dinghy dock and set forth to explore the town. It was the first time setting foot on land since Clarence Town a full week prior. Initial impressions were favorable. After the emptiness of the sea and the largely uninhabited cays of the Bahamas, Luperon was a shock to the senses, vibrant and raw and pulsing with energy and color.
One story buildings lined both side of the main road, rusty corrugated metal roofs, sides made of concrete and rough cut clapboards, brightly painted in greens and blues and yellows and pinks. The spaces in between were filled with lush palm and banana trees. Bachata music blared from storefront speakers. Motorcycles roared down the dirt streets kicking up clouds of yellow dust that swirled in the glaring afternoon sun.
We wandered the town in a dazed little group, soaking in the sights and sounds. As we passed the front of one restaurant, the proprietor, a native of Key West, called us in. "Capt'n Steve's" offered free WiFi, a full BBQ chicken dinner for 100 pesos (conversion rate of 37:1), and an owner who spoke English and had eleven years of knowledge in the country to share with us. We'd found our base of operations.
Advised by a fellow sailor, we took our dinghy over to the Puerto Blanco Marina for an evening of caroling. Aided by the first cheap beer we'd found since leaving Ft. Lauderdale, we became a powerful addition to a rather pathetic choir.
Christmas morning got off to a late start. We shambled in to town and spent the day online and on the phone, conversing with family and sipping fruit smoothies. The town was quiet. We had nothing to do. By spending a week aboard ship, no one had been able to get each other presents. We bought each other breakfast and toasted our success in reaching Luperon.