Passage to Dominican Republic 25th – 28th February

Spent my last day in BVI at Sopers Hole, checking over the boat and getting some supplies. Someone once said that cruising is about fixing your boat in exotic locations and there is truth in this. I overhauled the bilge pump as I discovered it to be leaking at the flange and dripping salt water over the engine, not good. A new diaphragm dug out of the boson’s stores was fitted to cure this.
I slipped the mooring early on the 25th and clear of the harbour since it was quite windy hoisted the staysail only to run down the Narrows between Tortola and St Johns, part of the American Virgins. I could then turn towards the Windward Passage, so with the wind more on the beam up went the reefed mainsail and I passed through the Durloe Cays between Rata Cay and Henley Cay. Passing in between Cruz bay and Steven Cay I carefully avoided Skipper Jacob Rock, a more wicked looking rock I have rarely seen, sharp and pointed and I wondered on the unfortunate skipper who it was named after. The last obstacle in threading my way through the islands was the Dog rocks and then I could set a course to pass south of the Isla de Vieques, one of the so called Spanish Virgin Islands. I reached here late afternoon, I am sure they would be a delight to visit but they belong to Puerto Rica and you need an American Visa, which I don’t have.
Our first night at sea sunset at 6.30 and dark shortly after but around nine thirty a nice 3/4 moon arose to shine us on our way and off to the NW I could see a light high on Puerto Rica. Coasting westwards about 8 miles offshore shore lights could be seen clearly but it was a quiet night, no ships at all in sight or on the AIS. The Puerto Rican’s do however seem to use AIS extensively as a navigation aid for there were lots of AIS targets showing as leading lights and beacons.
Morning came with little change although the wind had dropped some and the swell which cause that troublesome rolling, eased a little. Later I rigged the genoa pole with uphaul, downhaul and two guys so I could pole out the yankee, its not a job i relish singlehanded but with a light wind and from directly aft, necessary to maintain some progress. All day spent passing Puerto Rica and in the late afternoon a pod of dolphins came to visit, playing around the boat and staying with me a long time, very nice.
And so into the second night for which I put a precautionary reef in the main and rolled away the yankee as the wind had gone around a little. Midnight saw me past Cabo Rojo and the red light of the buoy which marks the SW corner of Puerto Rica so I was starting to cross the Mona Passage and altered course a little towards the Dominican Republic. Another quiet night so plenty of cat naps, some curled up in a corner of the cockpit behind the spray hood and some stretched out below with the alarm religiously set.
Not long after dawn after I had reset the poled out yankee I could just make out the low shape of Mona Island to the NW and not long after a big black dolphin came to pay a visit. So past another day, towards eve I saw 3 ships in fairly close succession so I must be crossing the shipping lane for the Mona passage. With sunset the wind seemed to shift more abeam so I de-rigged the yankee pole, wishing I had done it an hour before while there was more light. The chart showed a nasty area of shoal and reefs extending a way south from the Isla Saona at the SE tip of Dominican Republic so I made sure I kept well off shore here though I could see the loom of the lights. Later I was past these hazards and could alter course towards Boca Chica.
Came the dawn and with the by now very light wind more abeam I could hoist the staysail so all plain sail set. Shortly before midday I was just about becalmed and concerned that I may not make port before dark resorted to the engine, fortunately after about an hour the wind returned.

Approach to Marina Zar Par
Approach to Marina Zar Par

I handed the sails as I approached the buoyed channel which led through the reef and behind the small island and into the Marina Zar Par. I was soon tied up alongside to be greeted by a welcoming committee of the marina manager, the coast guard and M2, the drug enforcement agency. After a cursory search of the boat all was OK, it being Sunday Immigration can wait until the morning.
It had been a fairly slow passage of 300 miles due to light winds but a fairly stress free one so I was happy to settle for that.

Dark clouds over Zar Par
Dark clouds over Zar Par

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