Wednesday, April 22, 2015

The Mona Passage

Crossing the Mona Passage was the second to last hurdle on our journey along the thorny path. We were a little disappointed that we couldn't spend some time cruising Bahia Samana but the desire to move forward was powerful. We loved the DR for so many reasons but found it draining at the same time. The weather was optimal for pressing on and so we plotted our course and cleared out.

The planning and details of our passage making are so important to us in the moment. We huddle over weather reports, charts and guides for what must be, collectively, many hours. We ponder and analyze and often stop each other in passing to suggest an alternative or add a forgotten consideration. We compare notes with others going the same way. During our travels we have met sailors who simply go. And sometimes they go alone. They've crossed oceans backwards, forwards and upside down. It's easy to feel inadequate - even cowardly - after these encounters. But when we reach a destination safely and comfortably with our smallest crew members well rested and feeling positive about the experience, we can grab one of those all too rare flashes of self-acceptance. We have to live with our own limitations and tolerances and, especially, those of the kids. Bravery be damned! For as long as we're sailing, we will continue to be total weather bores!

The Mona Passage is the body of water between the Dominican Republic and the west coast of Puerto Rico. It has a bad reputation for its varying wind conditions, currents, capes, shoals, and thunderstorms. So, in typical yellow-bellied form, we planned our trip carefully and it was....annoying, bouncy and boring. We left the marina in the morning and staged ourselves at Cayo Levantado for a night departure. Once anchored, we were surprised and excited to hear, after six months, VHF transmissions from the US Coast Guard in Puerto Rico. We kept the radio on just to hear the sweet sounds of those mush-mouthed coasties making their Securite announcements! Andy took the kids snorkeling while I chewed my nails fretting over being in yet another non-legit anchorage.

Overnight we traveled along the coast of the DR and it was the most challenging part of the trip. The number of practically invisible little boats we encountered during the moonless night was mind numbing. A turn at the helm meant standing up, eyes wide open, scanning the darkness for twinkling lights for a couple hours at a time. By 7:00AM we tacked off the coast north of the hourglass shoals. It was pretty bouncy for most of the day but by nightfall, as we turned southeast toward the coast of Puerto Rico, the conditions settled and we had a peaceful motorsail toward Puerto Real. We entered the channel at 3:30AM, nearly hit a wreck, dropped the hook, and collapsed into the deep, deep sleep of the truly unburdened.

Approaching Cayo Levantado we saw fishermen setting out their net in the spot where we wanted to anchor. It has that ideal tropical paradise look.

These guys redirected us to a spot on the south side of the island. It didn't look promising, the charts didn't give a lot of detail, and we didn't have a backup plan for the backup plan.

We found the one sandy patch. There were very dense schools of fish moving around that were so dark we thought they were patches of coral and so dense they were giving us false and alarming readings on our depth sounder. 

An impromptu movie theater is set up during a long, hot, boring passage.

We arrived in Puerto Real, PR in the wee hours of the morning of Cubby's 8th birthday. For the first time ever, the kids let us sleep in. Instead of waking us up they set up a stuffed animal tea party and served themselves oreos and coffee for breakfast. 

This was more a moment of desperation than an actual desire for fast food. We all felt gross, sad, and hungry afterwards. 

It took us about 5 minutes to get completely sucked back in to the world of stuff. 

The birthday girl was sad not to wake up to presents to open on her bday but a trip to Toys R Us more than made up for it. Between the Bahamas and the DR there was nothing to buy. And no TV or peer comparison to fuel the desires. Which is a happy place for a parent. But we quickly learned the flame of wants never fully extinguishes. It just burns low until the colorful flashing marketing lights fan the flame and then it EXPLODES. We were all susceptible and found ourselves suddenly needing all kinds of things.

We took turns secretly picking gifts while The Rock kept Cubby distracted.

A spontaneous dinner out with new friends makes it feel extra special.

With about an hour to spare, the wish to open presents ON THE DAY is granted.

Happy Birthday, Cubby! 

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