Z E N I T U D E
Blue Water Dreaming
The Mona Passage - From Dominican Republic to Puerto Rico - The feared crossing
The area between the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico is called the Mona Passage. I had the first hint that a difficult passage lay ahead of us when I started reading the "Gentlemen's Guide to Passages South" by Bruce Van Sant and realized that the author had dedicated seven pages to describe the strategies for crossing the 60 miles passage needed to reach Puerto Rico.
Besides the problem of the usual trade winds blowing 20 to 25 knots from the exact direction where we are heading, the first consideration when plotting this route is to avoid the Hourglass Shoal. This is an area where depths are about 100ft which of course poss no danger of grounding, but the problem is that the waters running on to it come from the Puerto Rican Trench and this is the second deepest trench in the world, second only to the Mariana Trench in the Pacific. The effect of the ocean flowing from over 15,000ft in the Trench to 100ft on the shoal is very large and confused seas. Another consideration are the strong and unpredictable currents, you might need to adjust your course to take these into account when on route. And finally, we should not forget the thunderstorms. They are formed because of the heat and height of the land in Puerto Rico and almost every evening strong thunderstorms flow off the west coast of Puerto Rico and head in a NW direction up the Mona Passage. Bruce's guide recommends to run South if you see them approaching on the horizon and you want to survive the experience.
Considerations for the crossing - Getting ready to leave
Leaving Bahia Samana - 8 January 2007 - (19.11.9N-69.19.6W)
We happily received the good news from Chris Parker, we could leave before sunset and would find the Mona Passage as good as it gets. And so we did, we lift anchor and left Samana at 6.00PM, the winds were SSE just under 15 knots and were calming down. They gradually subsided to 5 to 10 knots and we had a very calm night for the start of our crossing.
The wind picked up a little during the morning hours and we were able to sail for sometime until something happened and we lost the main sheet. By the time we made a temporary fix the wind had died and we just motored, no sails, but still we were very happy to find these conditions on the feared Mona Passage. The weather was really settled and there were no squalls or thunderstorms that evening.
Underway - 9 January 2007
(our position at noon: 18.08N-67.37W)
We decided to take advantage of the lack of wind and keep going east to Salinas rather than stop at Boqueron because we need to reach Saint Martin by January 20th and do not have a lot of time to spare. Along the south coast of Puerto Rico in a very calm night we had to slow down waiting for the day to break before entering Salinas.
Chris had been right once again, we crossed the Mona Passage with conditions as good as it gets!
Arriving in Salinas, Puerto Rico - 10 January 2007 - (17.57.5N-67.17.5W)
Choosing the rigth window for the Mona Passage - Like a lake!