Crossing the Mona Passage

Well we waited and planned and thanks to the weather expertise of Stephen we picked the perfect window to make our way across the Mona Passage. I for one am not excited about making any passage, and I’ve heard some pretty rough stories about The Mona Passage, so I was very nervous.

We met up with another couple in Luperon, Catherine and George aboard Picaro and they were headed south like us and were also studying the weather to cross the Mona Passage. We decided to go together. After a nice luncheon at Playa Blanca Marina and a chance to say our goodbyes we headed on back to the boat to prepare for our sail. In the evening of Easter Sunday we left our calm anchorage at Luperon and anchored near the channel in preparation for our evening departure to head south. At 9pm both boats left the harbor headed for the Mona Passage and places south. We had to motor sail all night and the next day and after conversing with George we decided to stop in Río San Juan, a small calm anchorage on the north coast of the Dominican Republic for an overnight stay. We arrived in the bay at 5pm for a nap and re-charge. During our trip we had noticed a vibration in the cockpit we did not normally feel so once we anchored while we still had light Stephen and Shawn jumped in to inspect the boat. This is were we found out the bad news. Our cutlass bearing was missing. This holds the prop shaft in the center. No more motoring. Now we had a real dilemma.

As sailors, we have heard that trying to plan to be anywhere at a certain time is dangerous and when you make the most mistakes. We have been very careful about our planing and not rushing and only sailing when the conditions said we could not when we wanted. But this time we were headed to Puerto Rico to be there in time to host some of my family members. Thus the dilemma.

Our options were go back 150km to Luperon where we think they have facilities that might be able to accommodate our needs or sail on ahead, possibly with out the use of our motor across the Mona Passage to a harbor in Puerto Rico that does have what we need. We chose the later and it turned out great. We left Río San Juan that same evening at 730pm and around 2am we had to use the motor for about an hour as the winds just disappeared. Once the wind came back we had a lovely uneventful and successful sail, all the way across the Mona Passage with out using our motor. Thank You Stephen for all your planning and weather watching, it paid off big!

Since we were sailing across we had to go in the direction the wind wanted to take us, we were pointed at the northwestern corner of Puerto Rico most of the passage. Most books and other sailors will tell you the best way to get to the eastern side of PR is to sail across the Mona down to the south side of PR and cross to the eastern shore. This would have required us to do a lot of motoring, if our prop stayed on that long. Once we were in PR we could access the weather via our radio and the winds and water seemed favorable enough for us to just keep crossing to the north, so that’s what we did. We did still have to motor sail across most of the north side as well but it was shorter than if we had headed south.
Our original plan was to go all the way to our final destination of Fajardo but we decided it was best to stop at San Juan. San Juan Bay was closer and it would have most everything we needed. Plus anything we had to have shipped to us would come to San Juan first. We arrived in San Juan Bay on April 23rd at 9am. Steve and Shawn dove in after we got anchored to have a look at the prop and decide on a course of action. A trip into town to get a few supplies and the guys were fast at work. They couldn’t locate a prop puller so they decided to make one. After some designing, cutting and assembling, they had the prop and all the pertinent parts off and cleaned ready to order what we needed to put it all back together.

After a trip into Sizzler, the restaurant at the marina where we can get internet, we had everything ordered and all we had to do was wait for our express delivery.

Friday we decided to get up early and make good use of our morning to explore some of Old San Juan before our parts arrived. We found the bus that took us to the trolley and off we went exploring. We have found the San Juan is much better equipped to help the local tourist find their way around. It is much easier to find maps and directions and most locals you stop and ask speak very good English. The people here are also super nice, and it seems everyone we encountered has gone out of their way to help us. When we arrived Wednesday in the marina a Navy man and his son befriended us and took Steve and Shawn to the marine store. The pilot boat captain that passes our boat often stopped by and offered to take us in his truck to the local Wal-Mart. Jaxson has always been noticed in our travels but here it seems the local abuela or grandmothers just want to hug and kiss him and Jaxson is always happy to oblige.

Our only stop the first day was Castillo San Felipe del Morro or El Morro. El Morro is a fort that was built to protect San Juan Bay from attack by sea. It is a very impressive site to see. The fort has 6 levels all dedicated to special purposes, from living quarters, gun powder storage, to firing and lookout platforms. They began construction in 1539 and it protected Puerto Rico from several attacks all the way up until World War 2. In 1949 it was declared a National Historic Site and was a wonderful place, rich in history to visit.

With a little sight seeing done it was time to head back to the marina, pick up our package and get back to work on the boat.

The rest seemed to come together quite well. The expertise working of Stephen and Shawn and the motor was back running in no time. All with out taking her out of the water.

Hopefully the rest of our trip will be problem free.

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