|Departing Ocean World at 6:00pm wasn't the best of ideas.|
We cleared our first cape, Cabo Macoris, in the dark. This was a long 95-mile leg and we needed to be around the next cape, Cabo Frances Viejo, by 8:00 am before the winds funneled around it and made passage difficult. Trading off watches Meryl and I made it through the night without t-boning any small fishing boats or getting caught in their buoyed nets which were extremely difficult to see in the best of conditions.
As we rounded Cabo Frances Viejo Field Trip and Flying Cloud took photos and videos of each other with the dramatic steep-sided cape basking in the orange morning light.
Our original plan was to stop just short of the cape at Rio San Juan, but we decided to just go for it and get this tough piece of coastline over with. The way things work in the Dominican Republic is you have to check in and out of every port. That's a huge hassle and we didn't want to do it if we didn't have to, so our plan was to just stop when we needed rest and not get off the boat until we were in Puerto Rico.
The Dominican Republic is quite spectacular from the sea with towering mountains covered in a verdant green cloak of tropical vegetation. As we approached Escondido (also know as El Valle on the chart) at 1:30 pm we marveled at the beautiful, secluded little bay. It looked like something you'd see in Tahiti or Bora Bora. There were a number of fisherman's huts on the shore and Field Trip radioed back that the fisherman would like us to anchor down the beach a ways since they were fishing right out in front of their village that day. Fishing was a community effort, a small boat manned by five or six fisherman would put long nets into the water a distance off the shore then circle back to the beach and pull the nets in with, hopefully, their catch.
|Keeping a look out in the dim light was not easy.|
Once again we left at o'dark thirty for the 34-mile leg south by southeast down the coast. We had to round two major capes, Cabo Cabron and Cabo Samana, before a short open water passage to Les Miches. The wind was on our nose so we motor sailed a good portion of the trip. During Meryl's watch, Sarah called to warn us of a diver along our course to starboard. We soon passed a solo diver in waters over 40 feet at least a mile or so off the coast with no flags or boat nearby. He simply waved as we motored by. Maybe a half-mile later we came across a small boat with a person just sitting & looking around. We surmised he was with the diver, but not safely nearby by in any means. This gave additional impetus to keeping a good watch along the DR coastline.
Around noon we arrived in Playa de la Cana, a beautiful curving beach with a point stretching out to the southeast that provided protection from the tradewinds. We didn't realize it at the time but may have anchored right in front of some sort of military base with white walls and barbed wire fences. A boat with some guys in uniform started out to where Field Trip was anchored, but saw the kids playing on the foredeck and turned around. As usual after a long night passage, we took a long needed nap during a strong rain storm, then had a leisurely dinner in the cockpit watching the beautiful scenery as the rain cleared out.
|Route across the Mono Passage from Les Miches to Mayaguez.|
All the expert advice is don't try to cross in any wind more than 20 knots. As we started out early in the morning it looked like we'd have somewhat decent wind 10 - 15 from the northeast. We paralleled the coast as far south as Punta Macao, the last "bail out" port. The sailing was brisk, but controllable.
|Abandoned resort complex looks like some sort of modern Mayan ruin.|
Right before the Hourglass Shoals we hung a left and began the crossing the Mona. The winds increased to about 18 - 20 knots and we reefed the genoa and sheeted the staysail in tight. The most difficult thing was keeping the bow from being slammed down to leeward when the bigger waves hit. Field Trip had left one-half hour earlier but was doing a horizon job o us as the wind angle seemed to favor the big cat. It was basically a day of attrition, trying to hang on as the waves hit the boat and getting some much needed sleep for our upcoming night watches. As night fell we keep an eye on the radar and once called Field Trip when we saw what looked like a huge spaceship on the water straight ahead, only to find it was two large cruise ships, one heading south and one heading north, that were right next to one another. It looked like a brightly lit football field at night in the middle of the Mona Passage. We weren't in a huge hurry as we wanted to arrive in Mayaguez around 6:00 am so we could navigate the harbor entrance in the morning light. Turns out Field Trip arrived around 2:00 am, anchored, and took a long nap.
|Field Trip at anchor in Mayaguez while the crew clears US Customs.|
We decided to just stay on the boat and veg out. We had hoped to go ashore and get new SIM cards for our phones, but since it was Sunday we didn't think anything would be open. We'd had a continual problem not having working cell phones (with the exception of the satphone) and limited Internet and hoped that was something we could correct in Puerto Rico. We had ordered a new WiFi antenna and amplifier to be shipped to Ponce, but that was still about a week away. The new plan was to try and find SIM cards in Boquerón the next day. We had been traveling at night for almost a week on and off and the erratic sleep schedules where taking their toll on us. It was time to slow down and as Bruce Van Sant recommends in his Passages South guide book, have a SG&T. (Sundowner Gin & Tonic). We just need to follow all of his good advice.