Dominican Republik

Mona Passage: mission accomplished

We made it, the infamous Mona Passage is behind us. We had to wait 6 days until the conditions would not have smashed all the china on board. For our crossing day, 1.3 to 1.5 m waves and little wind were forecast. This was less than half the wave height of the previous days. We set our mainsail shortly after 7.00 a.m., raised the anchor and left the pleasant Puerto Rico. With a big recommendation for a visit for all sailors. Our dear friend Bettina remarked that I was doing too much charter sailor bashing. Well maybe so: In Puerto Rico and the Dominican, charter sailors have been very noticeable to us by their absence. 🙂

160 nm lay ahead of us, 20 nm along the west side of PR, 70 through the passage and another 70 nm along the Dominican Republic. Our destination was Samana, in the north of the island.

Never before did we pay so much attention to depth contours on the charts. The difference is enormous when you suddenly sail locally from 2,000 m to 60 m water depth. There are regions in the Caribbean, such as the Virgin Islands, where there’s hardly any 60 m depth. We had a little more wave than the announced 1.5 m, which normally provides a relaxed sailing. The simultaneous currents from the northeast and southeast made it quite unpleasant. Well, we have handles on board and we were comforted by the thought that it must have been much wilder the days before. But you don’t have to like it.

As dusk fell, we had only a few hours left in Mona Passage. 15 nm from the coast, we didn’t see the slightest bit of Dominican coastline. Other islands with mountains can be spotted 30 nm ahead if the weather is right. We checked the chart plotter often to reassure ourselves that we hadn’t sailed in the wrong direction..

It was only when night fell that we could see lights on shore. At night you can’t see anything in the water ahead, so no fishing nets either. That’s why we stayed at least 10 nm away from the coast at 400-500 m depth. Even the most motivated fisherman won’t set any nets there. At midnight, the moon rose and a little silver glow illuminated our way. The night went quietly and we only encountered three cruise ships and two sailors on their way to Puerto Rico.

Whale Watching

We had planned our arrival in Samana Bay for sunrise. Not only because of the fishing nets, but also because of the whales. A lot of whales. Samana is a hotspot in the world for calving mothers. Visitors make a pilgrimage to the Dominican for this special encounter. Ka saw the first whales jumping at the end of the Mona already at sunset. During the night we hoped that whales see better in the dark than we do, so as not to collide. After sunrise in the bay of Samana, the show really started. Huge humpback whales were popping up everywhere, jumping and showing their babies what to do in the water. Humpback whales grow up to 15 m in size and are therefore as long as our vessel, only twice as heavy with a weight of 30 t. Even the babies are impressive.

So many Whales and no time to take a photo

On the approach to the town of Samana, 3 of these beauties suddenly crossed our path less than 20 m away. This grace is unsurpassed and seeing whales so close gives you goose bumps. Our tiredness disappeared in seconds. Whales up close are moving, leave you speechless, it’s simply archaic. I immediately took the speed out of the boat. Everything whales do looks elegant, but also slow. Especially from extremely close up. However, within seconds the three were within ample distance – the slow thing is deceptive. What a welcome.

As we continued our way into the bay, the first whale watching boats packed with tourists headed towards us. People were certainly getting their money’s worth. We had enjoyed our private show and happily continued our way to Puerto Bahia Marina.

Beautiful bay of Samana

Fantastic Marina Puerto Bahia

If it wasn’t for our friend Martin, we certainly wouldn’t have gone to the Dominican or the Marina Puerto Bahia in Samana. What would we have missed. The friendliest marina crew welcomed us and we were perfectly protected from the bad weather that had been forecast. This Marina Bahia Samana is one of the nicest we have visited so far. The Marina Chef Gavi is a perfect host. The invitation to the cocktail reception was in style, it was the first on our journey. It is a perfect place to explore the island and wait for the next weather window. Dear Martin: thanks for the tip. It looks like the weather will give us another opportunity for a few trips around the island.

We cannot confirm anything about the bad reputation of the DR. The clearance in the port was quite slow and uncoordinated, but friendly. Customs, Immigration and Navy checked the same documents over and over again and our vessel was inspected twice. But everything was super friendly and at the same time a language course for us, because the guys don’t speak English. The clearance cost us 94 USD (with receipt) and nobody asked for a bribe. Everything was great.

After the night sail, we were of course really tired, but it was still enough left in our tanks for a romantic Valentine’s Day dinner, open air by the sea. By the way, this was our very first Valentine’s dinner – the Americans have infected us.


Relaxing well deserved, impressions from Marina Puerto Bahia


And again we meet friends

To our happy surprise, we happened to meet our Swiss sailing friends Manuela and Christian, whom we last saw 2 years ago in Grenada. This sailing world is so special. The two of them had been here for some time to do some boats work. Their direction is also like ours, the Bahamas. Now we have a buddy boat for the next leg.

Plans change

Our route changed yesterday, because we are going to skip the Turks & Caicos differently than planned. On our way we kept meeting vessels coming from there. The exchange with sailors is always a source of knowledge and experience. Not one crew recommended losing time for the Bahamas in favour of the T&C. The Turks are ok for land tourists but not so great for sailors. And above all, there was nothing that was not to be found in the Bahamas. We won’t find out for ourselves now. So we have less time pressure and in addition always the freedom to decide differently every day.

For us, this means that the next leg will take two days and two nights. The direct route is 270 nm long. This is the longest distance since our Atlantic crossing. We’ll be getting weather routing advice from Chris Parker again. The next time we will hopefully report from the Bahamas. /Holger Binz

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