Samana, Dominican Republic to Mayguez, Puerto Rico
There is a book entitiled “The Gentleman’s Guide to Passages South” which many people consider to be the definitive guide for making your way upwind to the Caribbean. This book recommends that you motor close in along the coast of the DR at night, using the “night lees” to reduce the headwind. It also recommends that on no account do you go with any northbound component to the swell.
Mr Van Sant doesn’t say why the swell is so important. I guessed that it might be that the north shore anchorages are untenable and we might not be able to anchor in Sosua overnight, as planned. All the other boats in Luperon decided not to leave due to the swell, but a four foot high 12 second period north-easterly swell seemed like ideal conditions to me, especially for a catamaran heading south-east, so we set off.
We tried the shore-hugging approach for our short hop the first night, from Luperon to Sosua, and it was unpleasant. The waves reflecting off the rocky shoreline made for a bumpy passage and you had to pay attention to the course at all times, being less than half a mile offshore. The anchorage at Sosua was fine, however.
The next day we headed offshore, where there is nothing to bounce the waves in random directions, and we had a much calmer time, managing to sail half way to Samana before the wind dropped. We got hit by a couple of squalls that night, one with 35 knot winds, but we were perfectly safe out at sea. I was glad we were not close inshore when those hit.
From Samana you are supposed to continue hugging the coast down to the cape before heading out into the Mona passage. Here again this seems illogical, since you are giving up so much valuable northerly latitude at the start of the passage. Our approach was just to sailed close hauled in a light north-easterly breeze, managing to hold an easterly course until the southbound Mona current hit us. Then we continued sailing slowly to the south-east until the wind died and we had to motor the rest of the way to Puerto Rico. The sea state was beautiful, with a gentle swell and small wind waves. Leaving Samana at dawn we arrived in Mayaguez at 7am, precisely on schedule.
My conclusion is that with modern weather reporting you can be pretty confident of the wind conditions a few days in advance and if there are a few days of light winds (the gribs were predicting 8 to 12 knots max throughout the period) then I would recommend sailing the Mona passage just like any other ocean crossing.
The anchorage at Sosua is tucked in behind this point
The waterfront at Samana
Samana harbour is enclosed by a pretty chain of islets linked by a concrete walkway you can walk along
Leaving Samana at dawn