Saturday, July 12, 2014

Crossing the Mona Passage

A sailboat pulled in next to us at Cap Cana Marina. They had traveled from the Mediterranean, and had just crossed the Mona Passage. Now I too had been watching the weather, and it seemed pretty nice for a sailboat crossing, a little wind from the northeast would make a motor sail possible. The waves and swells were relatively mild. We take weather reports with a grain of salt, and frankly there's too much salt in my diet as it is. I mean they get the big stuff right, but the little stuff, well that's a whole other matter. On any given day when they talk about waves at 4 feet or wind at 12 miles per hour, well a little more here or there is the difference between a nice sail or a beating when you're on a small boat. That's where the the "perhaps and maybes" take a toll. I know that we will never know the truth, but I have a theory about their methodology when it comes to predicting the little stuff, and it involves darts.
I surprised the kids with a new addition to the family.

One last walk on beautiful Juanillo Beach, in the DR.
The guide that most sailors use when they are trying to travel from the mainland U.S. to the U.S.V.I. (against the wind) is called "A Gentleman's Guide to Passages South" by Bruce Van Sant. The techniques that Bruce describes in his book do work, for the most part. The problem is that his techniques are so intricate and fragile that if any element is out of place you promptly receive the infamous punishment that gives this route its name, "The Thorny Path". He even tells stories of other sailors that literally follow him out of the harbor, no doubt in total frustration from having gotten it wrong so many times before, and still he makes it across with a cat, and a cup of coffee on his lap while the guys right behind him throw-up their giblets. If the intricacies of his techniques aren't delicate enough, Bruce's writing style is so uniquely original that only inebriation can explain it. Okay, okay, I know I'm spit'n into the wind here, but we're not talking about me right now.
Our new neighbors however, confirmed that the Mona was really calm, just a little wind and moderate waves. It was a go, we would leave at 7 pm. We had to get clearance to leave the DR, so we called the marina office and told them we intended to depart. They told us that they would notify the necessary government officials. A few hours later there were 8 government officials at my boat. It was a social gathering. They each wanted a little money, in all about 100 bucks would set me free, and I could be on my way. The kicker is that even though they are the Dominican government they would prefer the payment in American dollars. To my own demise, I just can't find any respect to offer these guys. I taunt, and joke at their expense, but with finesse if you will. They don't like me, but it's not enough to act on. It's my way of getting something for my 100 bucks.
The Mona Passage is famous for being rough. The horror tales work at your confidence like a drunk works the loose leg of a bar stool. It is considered the worst passage in the Caribbean. As we left the marina under motor, and headed into the Mona passage I couldn't believe how smooth the water was. I had enough wind, and from a usable direction, if I kept my motor on. I raised the main sail, and Mirador sped up to 5 knots. I was scared to wish the whole passage could remain this smooth. I had scheduled a 30 hour crossing, laying over at Mona Island during the midday, it's when the water is roughest, but if the weather held I will just continue on. Well the weather held and so did our speed. The kids never knew what happened. The next time they awoke we were approaching Boqueron Bay, Puerto Rico.
Hadrian and Eva awoke to Boqueron, PR.
This is a view of Boqueron Bay at dawn.
This is view of Boqueron Bay at dusk.

We crossed the Mona Passage in about 15 painless hours. I think we are getting the hang of it, which proves that you can teach an old dog new tricks. Now, understand that moving a boat from point A to point B with a couple of buddies on board is different than doing it with your better half and 2 kids on a boat that is way too domestic. You see keeping your domestic status in "stable" is the real challenge here. Oh, I've been threatened by each member of the crew. To that effect, we have a lot of equipment meant to improve quality of life that's not usually seen on a boat...take the professional espresso maker for one, and that's just the beginning. When we are a anchor or in a marina, man do we have it made. We are not camping out here! 
This is not your typical piece of equipment!


  1. Mr.Joaquín... CONGRATULATIONS on the pass!
    Great blog, great writing... keep it coming!
    They say that a great captain is not one that gets a ship out of a bad situation, but he who can avoid getting into one in the first place!
    Miss you at Dinner Key!

  2. the great La Pavoni...I enjoy mine every morning :)