Thursday, April 5, 2012

The Magical Mona

Looking back at Culebrita as we departed our mooring at dawn
The weather gods are smiling!! We had a comfortable weather window of following seas and light winds for the passage from Antigua to Culebra, Puerto Rico as you know....and the good weather just continues! While we wanted to stay and play in the sunshine -- talk about being torn --- we also wanted to keep moving, because such weather is also the absolute best time to be cruising!! (Our motto: Never cruise when the weather is marginal -- or, why be uncomfortable when you don't have to be?) SO ... having enjoyed our time diving at Culebrita, when we were gifted such phenomenal weather, we opted to move on!

Ron and I were up early and off at sun-up the next day, and we reveled in the incredible weather. It was a magical morning of barely any wind with the early dawn pastel colors breaking into blazing gold at daybreak, reflecting off the calm seas horizon to horizon.  Nature's beauty so brilliant and glorious --- it was everywhere at once, yet it felt like it was ours alone, being the solitary boat there, at that moment, at that instant of time. Truly breath-taking, and as I tried to soak it all in, I was so thankful to be out there, seeing it and experiencing it! 

And so the day continued in fine fashion. It's not often you can cruise the entire length of the north shore of Puerto Rico in such conditions!! It was splendid indeed!! our speed and distance would have it, we crossed the Mona Passage in the the wee hours of the next morning on our approach to the Dominican Republic. Ah, yes, that infamous "thorny path"...!! The Mona is known for its strong, shifting currents and unpredictable waves. Why? The currents and waves are there, as the US Geological Survey office noted in a 2007 survey of the area, "because the Mona Passage is an area of shallow banks over which a vigorous exchange of waters takes place between the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea". A scientific way of saying it's nature's washing machine, for the fickle piece of water often has waves that churn, punch and pummel vessels attempting to cross the area. Crossing the Mona is a rite of passage! We've done it four times now, every which way, with different conditions each time. But our caution and vigilance regarding the area never changed, I can tell you that!  

Our first time crossing the Mona was the roughest, with seas lumpy and seemingly from all directions as we went. It wasn't treacherous, just mostly uncomfortable, as we headed east along the north coasts of the Dominican Republic & Puerto Rico. The second time, we were headed back north, and cruised along the south side of Puerto Rico and north up through the Mona itself enroute to the northeastern part of DR -- a much easier time of it, but the waves again had no rhyme or rhythm. The third time was when we were heading south this past October, and cruised along the the north coast of DR and south down through the Mona to follow the south coast of PR  and the Mona was actually not bad at all. (It was the seas along the south coast of PR that were ugly.)  Finally, this last time of crossing the Mona, was a simple reverse course  from Puerto Rico west to DR. And the conditions? The crossing was on the calmest seas we've ever experienced there, with moonlight providing a twinkling, silver path. Definitely magical!!

Yes, every time crossing the Mona was different, and every time held its own challenges --- which is where the lure of cruising lies! Being able to meet those challenges, knowing that you and your spouse (or crew) can do it together by handling your boat well, charting a safe course through waters that are well known for its challenges -- priceless! Thus, it was deeply appreciated that this last time crossing the Mona was so enchanting. It felt as if it was a "thank you" from the sea, for simply being out there. For that, we are thankful, too.

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