Sailing the Mona Passage

Matt at the Helm

And we're off on our sailing adventure once again. We spent a few days at Puerto Bahia Marina in Samana and we found our weather window and set sail to cross the Mona Passage to Puerto Rico! We spent some time yesterday looking at the raw water pump on our starboard engine as it wasn't pumping enough water, but we couldn't seem to find the solution. We decided it would still be a go and we would just have to keep a close eye on it to make sure that it didn’t overheat. We also looked at our generator which was also having a raw water issue, again to no avail, but we were successfully able to open our water maker back up and I am happy to report it is ready for action when we need it! 

Full Main Sail Up!

Full Main Sail Up!

We untied lines at the marina and departed Samana around 3:00 in the afternoon. It was pretty smooth in the bay so we raised our main sail shortly after exiting the marina. We then put out the jib and we were able to motor sail at about 6 knots for a few hours until we were almost out of the bay and then the wind got stronger and the seas a bit bigger. The ride began to get a bit uncoforatable so we had to tack out a bit further from land in order to avoid beating directly into the wind which was blowing a steady 18 to 20 knots and waves that were 2-3 feet with a pretty short period. I went to bed rather early and Matt took over the night watch. He was able to motor sail for most of the night, and at points we were cruising at speeds upwards of 7 knots.  A bit before day break we reached Punta Macao and began to turn east toward Puerto Rico.

When I work up around 5:30 we were still cruising, just a bit slower. The sails were starting to luff, due to the lack of wind in the proper direction and our engines were starting to make some funny noises. I peered over to check the starboard engine and it appears to be spitting a bit of water but mostly some grey smoke indicating we were getting close to overheating. At this point, I pulled in the jib and started to investigate the possibility of a tack so that we could use the wind more and give our starboard engine a break. I ended up tacking a bit out of our way (about 10 miles north east) but the wind was carrying us at a speeds between 5 and 6 knots, which gave both of our engines a much needed rest, since we still had about 80 miles (14-16) hours left in the journey. A bit out of our way, and not something we normally like to do, this tack allowed us to have a better wind angle when we turned and headed south toward Puerto Rico. I had us on this route until Matt took over watch again around noon. 

Matt took over watch and was able to tweak our route a bit and get us on a course where we could sail, actually SAIL and give both engines a complete break. We turned off both motors and sailed at speeds between 4 and 5 knots for a few hours until the wind completely died around 3:00pm. At this point we motored with our port engine in dead calm seas for a few hours. I guess this is a perk of living aboard and cruising on a catamaran, two engines. So in this case we were still able to motor at a decent speed while giving our overworked engine a bit of a break. 

Cargo Ship Passing

The most excitement of this journey came around 6:00 when we were contacted on the VHF radio by a cargo ship that was just a few miles off the port side of our boat. We could see the ship and were tracking them on our AIS, however their captain felt that our paths would cross too close for comfort so he asked if we could alter our course for a safe passing distance. We altered significantly, and a short while later we we passed the cargo ship at a distance of just under a half mile. It was crazy to see how big these things are close up, because we normally only see them from miles away. We were also glad we altered our course, because running into one of these would NOT be fun! After this is was smooth sailing until the sun went down and the wind picked back up a bit. 

With about 40 miles to go we calculated that we would be pulling into our anchorage in Puerto Real, Puerto Rico around 4:30 in the morning. I was able to get some sleep while Matt again took the brunt of the night watch, and didn’t wake up until 2:00 to help put the sails down. We were approaching our next stop and we wanted to make sure we were set to get in. At this point we kicked on the starboard engine again and it was running good after having several hours break. Not ideal for us to be crusing into an anchorage in the pitch black, we much prefer to anchor during daylight, but the depths looked good and the area was protected from the wind so we felt confident enough to anchor cruise into the bay, and drop the anchor. We motored around until we found a spot that was about 12 feet deep and dropped the anchor, not really paying attention to where we were in relation to the channel. Turns out we were pretty much anchored in the middle of the channel, oops😬. We got up the next morning and moved out of the channel and over toward the beach a bit so that we could get the dog to shore for the bathroom. 

A long 36 hours of sailing, but we made it to our next destination and we are now reaclimating ourselves to life at anchor.

Stacy RiboliniComment