The Mona Passage

The Mona Passage separates Dominican Republic from Puerto Rico and has a reputation for unpredictable currents and, when the wind gets up, nasty seas.

I discussed the passage with the captain of a local whale watching boat and he told me not to try it in anything over 15 knots of wind – better still, he advised, wait for a dead calm. 

The forecast was for light winds for the next couple of days so we upped anchor and laid a course towards Puerto Rico.

It was early evening as we made our way out of Samaná Bay and the windows of the buildings clinging to the cliffs above us turned to molten gold in the setting sun. 

As night fell, Carol and I sipped coffee in the cockpit while Adriana cut a phosphorescent wake through the slight swell, exhaust gurgling gently and the mainsail sheeted flat. 

In the morning Cabo Engano, the most easterly point on Hispaniola, was off to starboard and we were entering the Mona Passage.

Each hour I marked our position on the chart – the course was straight as an arrow toward Mayaguez, Puerto Rico, and our distance-made-good never varied. There was no current and there was no wind. We moved across a vast, gently undulating sea of quicksilver and to the north a freighter was eerily suspended on the shimmering horizon.

The day crawled by and I treated myself to a cold beer, holding the icy bottle against my neck between sips. Carol read a novel, naked under a broad-brimmed straw hat. Bucket showers of wonderfully cool seawater briefly broke the lethargy in which we happily wallowed.

It was late afternoon as we approached Isla Desecheo, which we would leave to starboard and be safely past by nightfall. Of immediate concern was a container ship on collision course and I hailed her on VHF. The captain told me to hold my course and he would miss me and, true to his word, he swept past a mile or so astern. 

Night fell and the lights of Mayaguez twinkled on the horizon. The wind was back and I set the jib, slacked the mainsheet and cut the engine. Adriana leaned her shoulder into the sea and came alive, the sea swishing down her lee side and tumbling into her wake. 

The Mona Passage – a pussy cat, really.