We have reached another big milestone, having completed the Mona Passage, the long and (sometimes) treacherous waterway connecting the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico. But the fun, stress and rewards are truly in the details of getting here. It was anything but ordinary for us. A series of memorable moments that ended with the sweet reward of finally being in Puerto Rico. Here is part one of our journey. Part two will follow in a few days.
Where to begin? In Luperon, Dominican Republic of course!
Last Wednesday, we were still in Luperon and planning to get our despachos (exit papers) on Saturday, the day before Easter Sunday. The weather looked perfect for a one or two-night run along the north coast of the Dominican Republic to Escondido, near the Northeast tip of the country. From there, we could hug the Eastern Dominican Republic coast to Punta Macao (just north of Punta Cana) and then head east towards Puerto Rico. On paper the plan looked beautiful. The weather looked near perfect. There were about 6 other boats planning to make the same journey.
Then we got the news. Semana Santa (Easter) business and government closures in the DR were going to begin at twelve o’clock noon on Thursday. All stores would be closed and, worse, if we didn’t get our despacho by noon, we would have to wait until the following Monday when the government opened back up. The Armada (the Navy) wouldn’t be issuing any despachos on the long weekend.
Getting a despacho is serious business. Once issued, the Armada wants you gone within a few hours or, if late in the day, you must be gone by the next morning. Yikes! The weather wasn’t great for leaving Luperon on Thursday night. We were experiencing several squalls, bringing high winds with lots of rain and more of the same was forecasted to come over the next day. No worries, we thought. We will just get our despacho on Thursday and then go around the corner from the official harbour and hang out until Saturday April 8, our planned departure date. We were technically skirting the rules but, really, it was the safest option and surely the Armanda would understand.
With despachos in hand, and in between squalls, we moved Wild Horses just outside the Luperon harbour. We were still in the Luperon inlet but not in plain sight of the Armada. Three of our buddy boats joined us (“Caretta”, “Indigo Lady” and “Bitty Rose”). We enjoyed a lovely evening in the bay and woke the next morning, ready to do a little preparation for our long journey ahead. But why rush? We weren’t leaving until Saturday so making water and cleaning the boat bottom could be done tomorrow. On the Friday, we started the day with a beautiful walk along the coastal trails and then leisurely set about doing boat chores. All was quite calm and lovely.
Indigo Lady sent our group a text that changed it all. The Armada had informed them that the four of us were in violation of their rules. We were told to leave within the next hour or surrender our despachos. Uh, oh. The northern Dominican Republic coast has high winds, waves and swell every afternoon and today was no exception. Indigo Lady pleaded our case and finally the Armada agreed that we could leave later into the evening, but was clear that they didn’t want to see any of us in the bay the following morning. Yikes! We left at midnight.
The winds had abated long enough on Friday night to allow us to make a safe and fairly easy motorsail to Rio San Juan, a very rolly and uncomfortable anchorage 10 hours away. The next night, we again weighed anchor at midnight and journeyed another 10 hours. This time, it was to Escondido at the Northeast tip of the DR. Having arrived at 0900 hours, it was now Sunday morning. Escondido was a beautiful place to spend our Easter Sunday, with its perfect beaches, small, intriguing caves and towering green cliffs. But, oh, was it rolly! The swells coming in from the Atlantic rocked us soundly. All four boats made plans to leave as soon as possible.
There were two options for our next landing point. The first was Samana, on the east coast of the DR. It is the usual next stop for sailors awaiting a good weather window to cross the Mona Passage. In Samana, we could fuel up and get our international despachos, which allows you to leave the country (the despacho we got in Luperon granted passage only to Samana, Dominican Republic but not beyond). The second option was to head straight for Puerto Rico, 150 nautical miles away, foregoing any official checking out procedure from the DR. Could Wild Horses skirt the rules a second time?
Stay tuned! Part two will follow in a few days!
Victoria is a hiker, dog-lover, blog writer and planner extraordinaire. Oh, yeah and she is kind of fond of living on a boat.