On Tuesday, April 18th, we started our day at 7:30 a.m. by moving the boat to the mouth of the Luperon harbor entrance to stage for an afternoon departure . The water was cleaner to swim in and scrape barnacles off the boat's bottom. Not only was the water in the anchorage not clean, it was a perfect environment for crud, barnacles, green hairy moss, etc. to grow on the boat, propeller, chain, dinghy bottom, etc. After a month and a half, what a mess. Bob had already cleaned the chain the day before. Along some links, the chain was double and even triple its normal size and had to be scraped with a wire brush to get the growth off. In the cleaner water near the ocean, Bob went down with snorkel, fins, and scraper, intending to clean the boat bottom himself . After a few minutes, he decided he needed help if the job was going to get done without total exhaustion. He went to the marina and found Ernesto to help him. Bob cleaned the prop and the transducers and supervised Ernesto who scraped the rest of the hull. Once the boat was cleaned, we did final shopping for produce, ate our last meal at our favorite restaurant, and cleared out with customs. Bob got his guns from the commandante who cajoled him out of six bullets and we were off to Viking Rose to make final preparations.
With a mixture of sadness and excitement, we left the DR, sadness at leaving the lovely people and beautiful scenery and excitement at making a passage to a different country. At 5:30 p.m., we headed into the open ocean. We paralleled the coast, the sun setting behind us. As darkness enveloped us, the moon broke through the clouds in front of the boat, its moonbeam providing a silvery beam along which we traveled. The water was so glassy that you could have easily water-skied on it. Occasional ripples would divide the moonbeam into sparkling diamonds. After a while, we passed Puerto Plato, two towns over from Luperon. From the water, its lights appeared to be a crown of sparkling jewels along the shore, twinkling gold, silver, pale green, and red. High above the city hovered a space ship like Close Encounters. In reality, there were lights on top of a mountain but the outline of the mountain was barely visible from the water. The moonlight became muted by scattered clouds and it was impossible to tell where the water ended and the sky began. The ocean had a gentle swell to it. The light wind was on our nose so we motored rather than sailed. What a magical night to be out on the water!
At 2:00 a.m. on my second watch, the moon had risen overhead. Very few clouds were in the sky and occasional lights twinkled along the darkened shore. With so few clouds and the bright moonlight, you could easily distinguish the horizon where ocean met sky. We traveled with September Song, a young couple and their two year old child from Athens and Knoxville, Tennessee. Rainbow's End was an hour behind us. We stayed in radio contact with them through the night but lost them as we pulled further and further ahead and got out of radio range. September Song decided to drop anchor and rest so we were alone. We used radar to show the position of boats around us. During the night, a freighter, a cruise ship, and several sailboats passed us heading in the other direction. The water was "deep as forever," a line from Shirley Valentine. Technically, the depth meter showed a broken line indicating a depth over three hundred feet deep.
About seventy miles from the Mona Passage, Bob was ready for his afternoon nap. I was on watch and he was below when one of the fishing poles started singing. He came up and grabbed the pole, line stripping out like crazy. Before Bob realized what was happening, ¾ of the line was out. As he tried to stop the line, the fish started jumping,. High into the air he jumped, arching, suspended for a second before diving back into the water. He was about 200 yards back, a six-foot Wahoo who jumped at least eight times. I put the boat into neutral and slowed down so we wouldn't drag him so fast. All of a sudden, during one of the high jumps, the line went over one of the wind generator blades and slid down onto the hub of the four blades so that the fish didn't have any drag. He just snapped the line, taking hundreds of feet of line and the tackle. The wind generator stopped as did my heart. We had just gotten a new motor in George Town and I didn't want to go through that hassle again! We got the boat back on course, and while underway, Bob climbed the radar arch to get the fishing line untangled and off the wind generator hub. There was a bit left that he couldn't get off without tools so he secured the blades, climbed back down and took his nap. During naptime, the wind worked the line loose and it was gone by the time he woke up. Fortunately, no damage was done and the generator was no worse for having gone fishing.
The dreaded Mona Passage is the body of water running between the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico. The Puerto Rican Trench is the second deepest hole in the world and that, combined with the equatorial current, can cause some wild weather conditions. I had been dreading this leg of the trip since I first read about it last year. Any place the water is shallower than another can cause very rough water, even though the "shallow water" may be several hundred feet deep. The weather window we picked had the wind on our nose, but it was under 15 so we motored in decent weather conditions. We headed diagonally across the Mona and came straight into Boqueron, Puerto Rico without any problem. What a wonderful trip! Bob and I took turns on watch and made the trip from Luperon, DR to Boqueron, PR in 44 hours! For motoring and very little sailing due to the wind on our nose, that was excellent time.
While at Luperon, I took Spanish lessons from Julia, a cruiser, and Joanny, a local. The day of my last lesson, I was the only student to show up, so they tag-teamed me, teaching me numbers and how to tell time. I don't claim to have retained all the knowledge, but I now have some vague notion of numbers. After class, Joanny and I were chatting and she was telling me how busy the rest of the week was going to be with all the parties and tourists coming to the beach from inland. I asked her why and she said, "Kris is coming." "Kris?" I asked, thinking it was a singer or performer. She started to explain about religion in her country and then it dawned on me that she was saying, "Christ" and that it was Easter week. When you're cruising, there's really no calendar and it's hard to keep up with days, times, holidays, etc. It never occurred to me that Easter would be a beach party weekend in Puerto Rico.
When we arrived at Boqueron, the masses were already there for Easter weekend. A beach resort town, vacationers and tourists had taken over, making it party central. Horribly long lines snaked around for every service and concession. One of the cruisers quipped that we came 1,400 miles to get away from this! During the weekdays, this may be a quaint little town, but on Easter weekend, it was no fun.