"The Mona" is the passage from Dominican Republic to Puerto Rico, and it's the most dreaded of all the passages south. Why? It can offer up big seas, strong trade winds, squalls, ocean swells and currents...
The Puerto Rican trench is amongst the deepest spots on this globe, and when all of that water gets pushed onto the more shoal areas (ie. the hourglass shoal off the northeast of the Dominican), it creates big seas. Add in the effects of the currents, and these seas can be confused. Squalls are spawned by the heat rising up and off the mountainous coast of Puerto Rico, and the prevailing trade winds blow them across "the Mona." There's nothing to stop the ocean swells or wind blown chop, as "the Mona" is open to the Atlantic from the African coast.
I can say this now to our family and friends, as we have made it across ;). Here's our story....
Oh but before I get to the Mona crossing story, I must report our result in the second regatta. I think there were 13 boats at the start line. We were defending our third place finish from the regatta the weekend prior. Well we just missed the podium; coming in fourth. A respectable finish for the baby boat in the race ;) On to "the Mona" story....
A good weather window was forecast for Sunday March 23rd & Monday March 24th. Sunday's winds were diminishing from 10-12 knots in the morning to under 5 knots in the late afternoon; and Monday's winds were to be light and variable all day. Sea state would settle with the settling weather. A perfect opportunity to get across "the Mona."
There were a total of 7 boats waiting in Samana to cross, and the captains all conferred with each
other. Though there were differences in thinking as to the best time to depart (morning vs. afternoon vs. evening), in the end we all left together at 7am Sunday. The field of boats soon spread out, as those with the mightier engines made better headway. We were all motor-sailing, as both wind and waves were on the nose. Conditions were stronger than forecast (seems to be a recurring theme). Though we don't have instruments on board to tell us what the wind speed and direction are; several of the other boats did and were reporting 20+ knots. That's too much for our Serenada with her 20HP engine. Gil & I chose to modify our passage plan, and seek shelter at Punta Macao, an anchorage on the north shore of the DR, until conditions settled more; after which we'd resume our passage of "the Mona." The other boats, all bigger than us, pushed on.
Punta Macao was 7mi. away, and it was while we were on our way there, that we looked back and
saw a sight. One of our davits (the system that holds up our dinghy) was hanging low, and the dinghy
was dragging in the water! The starboard side davit had broken, and there was risk of further damage to the remaining davit system and the dinghy, with all the pounding they were taking from the seas. OMG. "Trouble" has to be Serenada's nickname, though we love her still.
Once again, Captain Gil sprang into action. He's amazing when faced with adversity... 'just gets right to it... 'knows what to do.... 'stays calm and focused.... I love him :-) Dealing with it started with "Di, get my harness!" Gil tethered himself to the boat, and methodically roped the broken davit to the boat (so we couldn't lose it), untied or cut the lines holding the dinghy in place, and finally he had to climb into the dinghy to unclasp it from the davit's lines, and then clamber back up into the boat .... all this in too big seas. I did not enjoy watching all this. I still tear up 'reliving' it, as it's OK to lose the davits and the dinghy, but it's not OK to lose Gil.
We towed the dinghy behind us to Punta Macao. At anchor, with the sea calm, we deflated the dinghy
and lifted it up onto Serenada's deck and strapped it down. We did not even consider towing the dinghy across the Mona, as we'd likely have lost her to the sea. We had another job to do while at Punta