As we went south down the ICW, Jeff and I agreed that we were feeling a bit done with it. Part of the problem is that we were moving much more quickly than last fall so it was a bit of a slog. We also hadn’t been able to hop outside, and we were getting tired of not being able to sail.
With nothing to do all day but motor along, we had plenty of time to kick around some alternatives for next spring. We could poke along as we headed north, taking our time and only going as far as the Chesapeake. We could skip the ICW and head back to New England for the summer via Bermuda. Nothing was really grabbing us. What we needed was to take a break from the ICW and shake things up. So what did we decide?
We’re going to Luperon!
What?? Yep, it’s time to branch out. When we first decided we wanted to go cruising we had talked about traveling all over on Pegu Club. Of course the reality is quite different from the fantasy and it’s taken us a while to build our confidence, but we feel ready now to take another leap. We are going to spend winter and spring in the Bahamas, and then make our way east to Luperon in the Dominican Republic for hurricane season.
Luperon to date is an outstanding hurricane hole, having never taken a direct hit since hurricane tracking began in 1851. There’s nowhere on the East Coast from New England south than can say the same thing. I read an article online in Passagemaker where Chris Parker, the well-respected weather router for cruisers, described what makes Luperon such a good hurricane hole:
“No location in the western North Atlantic is completely safe from hurricanes, but if we were looking for a relatively safe spot, it would lie on the north coast of a large, mountainous landmass. Almost all hurricanes move in a general westerly direction during most of their time in the tropics. Later they turn north, then northeast or east-northeast. There are exceptions, but this is the usual pattern. If a west-moving hurricane passes along or just north of the north coast of our large mountainous landmass, then harbors along the north coast will experience the less-strong south side (left-front-quadrant) of the hurricane.
If a west-moving hurricane passes over our large mountainous landmass, dry air and tall mountains disrupt the hurricane’s structure causing rapid weakening of the entire system. If a west-moving hurricane passes south of our large mountainous landmass, then it is so far from the north coast that conditions on the north coast are mild.
Where can we find a protected harbor along the north coast of a large mountainous landmass? Luperon is one excellent example: In order for a west-or northwest-moving hurricane to affect Luperon, it would pass over 100-200 miles of the mountainous Dominican Republic, including several 10,000-foot-plus peaks located south of Luperon. This would severely weaken the hurricane, minimizing damage in Luperon.”
Passagemaker went on to say that while Hurricane Irma passed 50 miles north of Luperon in September, 2017 as a Category 3, it didn’t do much harm. While the hurricane had maximum sustained winds of 100 knots, the north coast of the Dominican Republic had wind gusts of 50 knots. Dozens of cruising vessels along with commercial craft from across the Dominican Republic and the Turks & Caicos took refuge in the harbor and amongst the dense mangroves that surround it.
So obviously it’s a good hurricane hole. Of course there’s always a first time, but you place your bets and take your chances.
What else does Luperon have going for it? From the research we’ve done it has an active and supportive cruising community, it’s very inexpensive, it’s safe, and the residents are extremely friendly and helpful. No, we won’t be able to swim in the anchorage, but there is a lovely beach a dinghy ride away. We also plan to do some land travel, exploring other parts of the Dominican Republic while we are there.
At this point we have tentatively planned to spend 10 weeks in Luperon, a month in the U.S. visiting friends and family and taking care of medical appointments, and another ten weeks in Luperon before heading off at the end of hurricane season. Where will we go after that? Well, that’s to be determined. We may go back to the Bahamas again, we may do a loop of the Western Caribbean, or we may continue on to the Eastern Caribbean (but that last option is highly unlikely given that neither one of us wants to beat into the wind for days on end to get there).
In the meantime we have ordered our courtesy flags for the Turks & Caicos and the Dominican Republic and we’ve ponied up $280 for the electronic charts for our chart plotter. Now that we have skin in the game for this decision, it’s highly unlikely we’ll be changing our minds – but we certainly reserve the right to do so!