Information Overload

Too much detail can sometimes be exactly that: Too much. From "Osprey's Flight" from our August 2010 issue

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The grapevine was wrong: It was all peaceful in Luper¿n¿s harbor.Wendy Mitman Clarke

In the morning, just offshore, the air wafting from the Dominican Republic's north coast smells like cigars and exotic plants. Or maybe it's burning trash. Either way, it isn't like anything we've smelled in a year of cruising in the Bahamas or along the U.S. East Coast; this scent is entirely foreign, earthy, dark, and a little mysterious. As I breathe it in, my worries about coming here begin melting away. In their place is a growing sense of excitement. We aren't in Kansas anymore, Toto. And that's good.

I can't deny that I think too much. Some people come out here with an enviable sense of easygoing certainty that everything'll work itself out, and while in general that's my personal philosophy, it hasn't quite translated to the cruising life. Even while I dream of the unknown (for me), I fret about it. Then, in my need to gather as much information as possible, I can think myself right into the fetal position, where I'd like to stay until the whole idea blows over, and I can safely look up and see that everything is just as I'd left it-secure, familiar, and, well, boring. Needless to say, if I let this pattern dominate Osprey's sailing, she wouldn't leave a bathtub.
Luperón and the Dominican Republic had always been on the itinerary this year, but as the time approached to leave the Bahamas, I started thinking too much and began to talk myself out of it. How many times had we heard and read that the harbor was like a cesspool? And the town itself? Dirty, dusty, and dangerous said the grapevine. And what about the stories of corruption and "gifts" to the local authorities? Depending on whose guide or blog you read, you could end up spending a whole day fending off heavily armed men in camos and khaki making attempts at your wallet. Then there was me, with my Spanish lessons from 30 years ago; did I still even have those brain cells? And the whole gun thing; did I really want to take my children to a country where people walked around with automatic weapons the size of a horse's leg?

I was ready to skip the whole place. Not until I heard the sadness in my friend Nica's voice after I'd voiced my thoughts did I snap out of it and remind myself why we're out here in the first place. If we wanted the security of the familiar rather than the challenge of the new, then we wouldn't be here at all. If we weren't willing to open ourselves to different cultures, warts and all, we should've just stayed home and saved ourselves a lot of time and money.

In the end, Luperón turned out to be one of our favorites. The harbor wasn't any worse than plenty of places we'd anchored in the States. The officials were polite, and to clear in, we paid the same or less than other cruisers who'd entered at some of the big marinas. Yes, the town was dusty and dirty, as well as lively and fun, and it's populated with gracious people who encouraged my staggering Spanish and always answered my "Buenos días" with a smile and a hello right back.

It's the nature of cruisers to pass on their experiences, good and bad. Hungry for real information, other sailors will always listen. But that information isn't so different from a sandbar noted on a chart; it may be there when you sail by, or it may not. Either way, it shouldn't scare you out of the water entirely. In the end, others' experiences belong to them. I'm learning all the time that it's up to me to go and make my own.

The Clarkes are off to make some more experiences of their own in Guatemala, where they'll wait out hurricane season.