The Good With the Bad

We took a short pause on our way to the Bahamas in La Paraguera, Puerto Rico because we needed a quick provisioning stop, and we knew the grocery store there would have what we wanted. The entry is a bit convoluted, but easy to follow on the chart. The harbor is well protected from waves, and has no roll or surge.

It’s a very “boaty” town. On a weekend afternoon it seems everybody is on a boat out on one of the little islands. For all that, the town hasn’t thought of visiting cruising boats at all. The shoreline is totally packed with private docks, houses on pilings, and boat-based tourist businesses, but it has never had a dinghy dock. Last time we were here the dinghy landing was a tiny muddy gap in the mangroves, right off the main square. This has now been completely blocked by hurricane wrecked boats.

We cruised back and forth trying to locate any tiny spot that had physical access, and wasn’t obviously private. A couple queries didn’t turn up any options. Finally, we asked at one of the tour boat docks if we could tie up for an hour, “Sure, no problem, right here. Just be back before 9:00PM when we close the gate.” Success!

A successful grocery run, a dinner ashore of delicious dorado tacos, and the next morning we were off, headed west toward the Mona Passage between Hispaniola and Puerto Rico. Next stop: Great Inagua in the Bahamas.

The Mona Passage has a bad reputation among sailboats transiting this area. Even in good steady trade winds, the surrounding land can leave the winds in the passage light and shifty. Along with fast, unpredictable currents. And very lumpy waves. Add to that when the unstable air coming off the mountains in Puerto Rico hits the warm water and for much of the year it spawns a continuous set of afternoon and evening thunderstorms.

We were just flying around the southwestern corner of Puerto Rico, with 20 knots of wind behind us and a course I plotted as far from land as possible to stay in clear wind. I was feeling very proud of myself, having cheated the wind demons of Mona through skill and good planning.


Just as we settled in for a fast and furious passage, the wind changed: From 20 knots behind us, in less than a minute it shifted to 4 knots right on the nose. We are going nowhere. In the rough water without wind in the sails, the boat is rolling—a lot! We try waiting and working with what we have, but progress goes from fast to zero. We finally surrender and fire up the Volvo. We end up motoring all the across to the other side where we pick up the trades again on the north side.

Right now sailing downwind along the north coast of the Dominican Republic in ideal conditions. Relaxing, smooth. 10 knots of wind, calm seas, we are making steady, comfortable progress if not setting speed records. We expect to lose wind again for a bit in 24 hours or so as the very southern end of a cold front swings by. We should be anchored off Mattewtown, Great Inagua in a little over 48 hours.

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