“Bienvenido a Cuba, Amigo”, the trip to Cuba and Puerto de Vita

I spent a few more days in Luperón to wait out the weather. Hubert had some things for which he needed some help and he invited me and his friend Franck for dinner at the El Bucanero. Afterwards we played a bit of pool which was real fun. Franck’s guitar didn’t need to be recorded but inspected. That had been a misunderstanding and after I had checked out the guitar he gave me three glasses of honey freshly made on his farm. I took a walk to the beach and went swimming and enjoyed myself but was also eager to leave. I still had a lot of miles ahead of me and there was still enough time (Zoe and I were supposed to meet in Varadero on April 12) but more adverse weather would quickly reduce this time to nothing. On Easter Sunday night the waves were finally small enough and from a direction where they wouldn’t break in the entrance to the reef and the Armada gave me permission to leave. Everything went smoothly and we sailed into a great sunset which was only the first of a series of unbelievable sunsets and sunrises.

the Cuban courtesy flag
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The Mona Passage and the trip to Luperón, DR

The Mona Passage is the infamous bit of water between Puerto Rico and the Domican Republic. It is supposedly the roughest place to sail in the Caribbean. This is because the seafloor is very uneven and constantly changes from great depths to very shallow places. And there are strong currents. This makes for rough high and steep waves. It should not be attempted in more than 15 knots of wind. I was going to have no wind for the first ten hours and then around 20 knots but by then I would hopefully be two thirds of the way through.
After the end of three days there would be thunderstorms on the northern Dominican coast so I wanted to go even if it meant motoring for ten hours. I couldn’t even remember the last time I had to motor that long.

Luperón
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Puerto Real, PR

My last stop in Puerto Rico before going on to the Dominican Republic. I was expecting it to be a bit rough especially around Cabo Rojo, the southwestern Cape. I weighed anchor at 0730. I could sail away from the anchor again. The wind was around force 5-6 gusting to around force 8. A weird combination of wind from astern and waves from abeam made this a very uncomfortable trip. Behind the cape the waves became much smaller but the wind did not let off. 

Cabo Rojo
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Ponce to Gilligan’s Island

Checking in with customs was a breeze with my fabulous US cruising license. I took a 10km walk into the town of Ponce along a highway in the incredible heat. The walk itself wasn’t very nice but Ponce is very beautiful and the effort was definitely worth it. After that I went halfway back to a huge supermarket, went shopping and got a SIM card. I shlepped everything home along the highway to the boat. At the Fishermans Marina I had a beer and watched some pelicans.

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Ponce, PR

I weighed anchor early with just the sails and very little wind. But it was great to glide across this totally still lagoon with a knot and a half. There would be more wind later and I would hopefully arrive early enough after the 25M trip. There should have been manatees again and when I saw some black lumps on the water and heard some snorting sounds I was all excited. But those things were dolphins in the lagoon and they were having fun with Amy and I was enjoying them a lot. Exiting the lagoon the Australians passed me and were soon almost out of sight.

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Bahia de Jobos, PR

I got underway for the 18 mile trip to the Bahia de Jobos. An anchorage that is enclosed by coral reefs and mangroves on all sides and supposed to be very quiet. The wind and waves were much stronger than forecast and I decided against the first entrance to the reef. I could see waves breaking everywhere and it was very scary looking. It was also downwind so there would be no going back. 

the deep water entrance seen from the lagoon the next morning
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Puerto Patillas, PR

There were many reefs along the way and I was a bit anxious to navigate around them during the night but the chart said there would be lit buoys. So I was relieved to find those buoys in place and being lit. There was very little wind but I didn’t want to motor and I needed to spend at least 12 hours for the trip anyway so that I would arrive in the light. There were almost no waves so the trip went very smooth and easy. 

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