Wednesday, April 13, 2016

We Made It! - Crossing The Mona Passage For The Third Time

An early morning start out of Luperon with 7 other boats all heading on an overnight passage to Samana.
The route taking us back to the east Caribbean via the Bahamas, the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico is known as the ‘Thorny Path’ for good reason. Travelling east into the prevailing trade winds and building seas is no easy task. An understanding of how to take advantage of night time lees produced by the huge land mass of Hispaniola, the effects of currents and shoals in the area and picking the right weather window are all essential in smoothing the ride. Bruce Van Sant’s book ‘The gentlemans guide to passages south’ is a must have when transiting this area. Even if you don’t follow his advice to the T, you need to have an understanding of it.
The mass following in our wake as we leave Luperon harbour.
The prickliest part of this trip is moving along the north coast of the Dominican Republic and crossing the Mona Passage. We waited for over two weeks for the winds to abate enough so that we could get moving again.  On Tuesday 5th April there was a mass exodus from Luperon as eight boats filed out of the harbour like a trail of ants for the 130nm trip to the next decent anchorage on the east coast of the DR. I can’t say I was sad to go. As much as I like Luperon I was ready to shed that dirty, grimy feeling that comes with the place.
Sailing in company.....Wandering Star and four of her companions showing up on AIS.
It was not an uneventful trip. One boat lost its entire anchor and chain in the seas and two more boats later had fuel problems from the notoriously dirty fuel available in Luperon.
Leaving Luperon we mostly motorsailed with a couple of hours of pure sailing all the way to Samana.
But on the plus side we got to see the gorgeous landscape and a family of whales frolic in the morning sun as we rounded the corner of Cabo Samana.
It was awesome to watch a family of whales frolic iabout
Rounding the headland at Cabo Samana in the morning sun.
Our destination was Marina Puerto Bahia in Samana - a very reasonably priced marina/resort at the east end of the Dominican Republic. At $1/ft we could afford to lap up the luxury for a couple of days without it breaking the bank. 

Three restaurants, three pools, fresh water, showers, gym, laundry and mini-mart make it a very attractive place indeed.

Unfortunately we were put on dock B close to the wall where there was less protection from the breakwater. A gentle swell crept in and ricocheted off the wall causing us to snatch and pull at our mooring lines making an awful racket. 
Yes its a tough life for some!
The resort part of the marina.
Even though it was a lovely place to hang out I don’t think we would have stayed more than the two days unless we could have moved docks. But an opportunity to move on presented itself and though it wasn’t a perfect weather window we decided to take it.
We left Friday 8th April afternoon with one other boat for a two night sail. We motored down the coast of the DR, then headed north to miss the hourglass shoal where the seas can ferociously build; and then headed southeast towards Puerto Rico. 
The black zigzag line indicates the route we took to miss the hourglass shoal.
Despite the hard slog, with our powerful 85hp engine (Percy the Perkins we love you!) we made good time and dropped anchor in Bouqeron in the dark at midnight on the second night. We drank a couple of stiff drinks to toast our arrival and flopped into bed.  This was our third Mona Crossing and once again we were grateful to have successfully crossed this body of water without too much trouble – if perhaps only a little uncomfortably. The biggest annoyance for me was the horror of discovering a cockroach in the dead of night in the cockpit and knowing that the little critter was there while I couldn’t see a thing in the dark surroundings. Believe me - mission kill cockroach is on!

We moved around to Puerto Real the following morning as we heard the marina was helpful with clearance procedures. A retired ex army guy met Sim and Tony (from Exit Stage Left) at the dock and helped them make the relevant calls to Customs and Border control. As it was a Sunday and the offices closed we didn’t have to do the paper work until the following day. The ex army dude picked us up in his beat up old Volvo the following morning and drove us all 10 miles to Mayaguez to officially clear customs. We are not sure if he was just some friendly guy wanting to be helpful or a taxi driver, or someone wanting to earn a little extra side income. Either way we slipped him a few bucks each, grateful to him for helping to ease our arrival. Now we are all legal and happy to be back in familiar waters again and our old stomping grounds, and looking forward to creeping our way back through the island chain.

Read an article I wrote for All At Sea Magazine about Samana when we passed through the first time in 2009. Click here to read article.

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