|Our Mona Crossing|
|Motoring past our sleeping neighbors as we left at dawn|
Most of the published information for crossing the Mona Passage assumes you are crossing from Samaná. "Everybody" goes the route along the North Coast of the DR... But it seems that few do the southern route. I had to read and re-read the resources at hand to try to come up with the best route almost by reading between the lines.
All of the information I could find - as well as listening to Chris Parker Weather... made it sound like the "Southern Route" of the Mona Passage crossing was typically more kindly. You don't have to worry about the storms rolling off of Puerto Rico, they pass to the north of us.
|Approaching Isla Mona - going "under"|
We actually had considered stopping in at Isla Mona. There are caves there and mooring balls... But again, the timing wasn't right. If we stopped there, we would want to spend an extra day exploring... That would require that we leave before the calm weather came and risk seas of 5-6 ft. or we could wait for the calm winds and arrive in Puerto Rico after the arrival of the forecast Norther. It just didn't work...
We had a LOT of time for mulling while we waited at Isla Saona and we flip-flopped repeatedly... Finally our weather window solidified and we had choices. We could leave on Sunday with winds 12-17 knots and seas up to 5 ft.... or we could wait until Tuesday and have a nearly flat-calm crossing. We were tempted to take a chance on the former but we always expect the winds to be stronger than forecast... and we were REALLY READY to leave the Dominican Republic and all of their restrictions behind.
|Heading for the Mona around Isla Saona|
AND, when we heard the forecast we decided that we could not pass up this one last chance for a "good" crossing. There may not be another norther coming this far down again this year! Not wishing to "look a gift-horse in the mouth" (where does that come from?) we decided to leave Samaná for the return trip and head for Puerto Rico!
So... back to the timing issue. Best Practices say to leave the DR in the night while the island cuts the tradewinds... It would take us 3-6 hours to get past the Island Effects of the DR and out into the Mona. That's score one for leaving at night. But... If we leave at night and the passage takes the 18 hours estimated by our chart plotter, that puts us approaching Puerto Rico late in the day with no room for error before nightfall.
The weather window had winds progressively lighter during the daylight hours but blowing STRONGER at night in the Mona. That's strike two against leaving at night. So, lets look at a daytime departure... If we left early morning to mid afternoon and our trip took much longer than estimated, we could still be arriving in PR at night.... So what does that leave us?
|She missed her morning nap...|
|Tacking to get out of the lee of the island|
This is the first Wahoo we've caught and we were ecstatic! Please don't let it get away!!!
Bruce got the thing onto the boat without even using a net. He gaffed it and hefted this big boy up.
|Apply a little tequila and there is less violence...|
|Lots of Frigate Birds around this area|
It really is a shame that the overwhelming emotion upon leaving the Dominican Republic is relief... Really it was good. We enjoyed our time there, but the Despacho thing was just so predominant in our minds and in governing our movement... It's a cryin' shame...
Adding to the elation we felt was this! You can't have too many dolphin pictures, can you? I heard a sound... that distinctive sound of a dolphin's breath and a splash. Suddenly there were a dozen or more of them racing along at our bow!
I snapped picture after picture and took several videos that I've combined above. Finally when I began to make noise they scattered. It was like they had forgotten I was there until I began to yell! Dolphin are very camera shy and it's usually difficult to get good pictures of them... so this was very special. We felt like they were escorting us out of the DR and we took it as an omen of a good passage to come.
|See the curve of our track as we approached Isla Mona?|
The winds would continue to moderate and the waves followed. The currents that are reportedly very unpredictable in the Mona Passage were against us but it was a GOOD thing!
Why? Because we could sail to the wind and the current carried us right around so that we could pass just below Isla Mona without touching the sails. No more tacking. No trimming of sails of any kind. We just sat back and watched with huge grins as the Mona took us right where she wanted us. Could we make it? Could we be this lucky? What a hoot it was to see that line just curve perfectly for us as we sat back and enjoyed the ride.
|Isla Mona in the sunset|
Bruce brought up our life jackets and made sure we had flashlights at hand. We passed within a mile of the Island, which I thought was close until we saw that another sailboat was sailing the other direction well inside our track.
As usual... I hardly slept at all. As soon as I got past the "what's that sound" stage... Bruce started making noises. It's not his fault, they were normal noises, but for some reason I was tuned in and kept starting awake as soon as I drifted off.
Then he decided to roll in the jib to slow the boat down because even without the engine we were going to reach the coast before light. Then he started the engine because the winds became so light the boat was hardly moving. Then the mainsail made noises as the winds, light as they were, moved around to come right on the nose... I was doomed.
All too soon it was my turn on watch. To say that I was grumpy would be an understatement. I had not slept and knew that the next three hours would be long! I was cold going up into the cockpit and had to mentally talk myself out of being bitchy about Bruce going down to sleep... If I was a mean girl I would have made all kinds of noise to keep him up but I'm not... So, after we dropped the mainsail I settled with my blanket, my iPad for music and navigation app... and I began to enjoy the feel of the warm breeze on my face as we motored on toward Puerto Rico and our next adventure.
There was a bit of phosphorescent sparkle on our wake. Watching it never gets old. Once I saw something about 30 ft from our boat make a sparkly splash. It was dark so I couldn't see what disrupted the water, just the glowing sparkles. It's very strange. I strained my eyes to see if it would happen again but never saw it after that one time. I moved to the companionway where I could see ahead better and moving around kept me awake.
|The last bit|
I kept checking the chart to see what lights should be there and how many seconds their flashes should last. I could see the lighthouse on the point at Cabo Rojo. It was pretty neat. I saw a looming light and consulted the AIS to find that it was a luxury speed boat that would cross in front of us. I watched as it did.
I can't choose which pictures to show you of the coming morning... so I will show you all of them!
|Another Frigate bird...|
|Coming into the harbor at Puerto Real|
We're here! Our Mona Passage wasn't worthy of a "Sea Story"... at least not the exciting kind. But you know what? That's fine with us. You see... the wise Cruiser HAS no Sea Stories. No near death experiences, no drama, no fanfare even...The wise Cruiser waits until the right weather brings peaceful easy passages on calm seas... and who wants to hear about that?