Crossing the Mona is one of the bigger passages that we have done, and since we were doing it alone (ie without our regular third person crew) we wanted to make sure that we were being smart about the weather, our departure time, the state of our boat, our food, etc etc. It got a little obsessive how often we were checking the weather, and maybe a little unnecessary how much water and food we had onboard, but in that sense better more than not enough. Well it ends up that we were overly prepared in some aspects, and very unprepared for others.
The weather window that we got was mostly easterly winds and ENE waves. Yes there was a slight North component, which Van Sant warns against, but with winds forecasted below 10 knots the entire way, much below that at certain times, and the waves being around 1.1 meters and 9-11 second intervals, we figured that we could handle it. The weather looked like it was going to hold for 6 days, giving us plenty of time to make the roughly 50hr trip to Puerto Rico. As the departure date grew closer the window began to get a bit smaller, but it wasn’t anything that would affect us since we planned to do the straight shot to PR without stopping along the way, unless we really needed to. That part we played by ear. We triple checked our weather sources from Windfinder, Passage Weather, and Chris Parker, made our decision, and then also felt reassured that many other boats in the harbour found this to be an ideal opportunity.
At daybreak on Saturday morning, Necesse, and 6 other boats, left the Luperon Bay in the hopes to reach PR during this window. There were three different sailing plans among this group. Some, like us, were just going straight through, non stop to Boqueron. Others were going to hop along the shore and rest whenever possible. And the third group were going to go to Mona Island and spend a day, and then continue on to PR. The thought of visiting Mona was intriguing, but the fact that we were short a crew and wanted to make sure we got to PR during the good weather window, we opted out. We also did not feel the need to stop and visit the shore line of the DR since we had done most of it by car, and as for the resting, we figured we could tough out two straight days. Toughing it out is definitely what we did, because much of it was not very pleasant for us, but I will explain that in a bit.
Although we were horrible procrastinators and were up very late the night before departure, stowing things on deck, we still had our boat in order and ready to go by daybreak. Eben had changed the oil and our filters that very day. So the food, water, diesel, gas, stowing, the entire boat really, was in check.
That covers all of the expected stuff, now for the unexpected. The weather played a pretty little trick on us, which turned out very ugly in our cockpit. Since there was no wind and big rolley waves, we just swayed along the coast of the DR. All the other stress factors that sometimes pop up while sailing, like something breaking on the boat, or hitting an unexpected storm, or having too much wind, none of those happened which made for a pretty ideal passage. What did happen though was, because of the swaying of the ocean it did not take long for the waves to hit our stomachs, and one after another we were struck by seasickness. The baby threw up first, then Arias, then Eben, and then me. Me, who has never been seasick before had my head buried in a kid’s sand pail reliving some of my previous meals. We expected that the baby would be sick, she has had a few boughts with nausia, but we thought the rest of us would be in the clear. Eben had his scopolomine on, the girls were taking gravol, but none of that saved us. In the end Eben had a full scopolomine patch on (he usually only wears half) and an earplug in (we read an article saying that an earplug in your non-dominant side is supposed to help). I had the seabands, half a scopolomine patch, an earplug, and the motion ease drops. I was trying everything I could think of that was fine in combination to make this feeling go away, but no immediate help. I can say that nothing ruins a trip like being that sick. Instead of doing regular sailing shifts, we were now on shifts of whoever felt less seasick at the moment was at the helm, while the other tried to sleep it off. I am glad I remembered to put those buckets in the cockpit, and even with those I still got puked on three times this trip. We ended up living in the cockpit for our 56hr trip, going down below just made the queasiness worse. We brought out all the bedding outside, and made small beds for ourselves everywhere in the cockpit, along the floor, on the cushions, allowing the whole family to be outside together and the least sick possible. And I think that we sang every kids song in our repertoire since it was pretty much the only thing that could entertain the girls and not make us feel like we were going to vomit at the same time.
Arias amazed us both with how strong of a sailor she was. She did get sick, but only the once, and the rest of the trip she spent having fun in the cockpit, playing games entertaining herself, and having a great ol’ time. She was also the one that was trying to convince Ellia that sailing, and the waves were fun, like a rollercoaster, and consoling her that everything will be alright. She was amazing and strong, she had high spirits, and so much energy that at times we had to calm her down because watching her was making us queasy. She definitely deserves a “shout out”. She also was the only one with an appetite, I think she ate three times more than the rest of us on this trip.
Due to the seasickness none of us ate that much, meaning all that food provisioning we did, we are eating it now that we are anchored in PR. We lived mostly off of gatorade, dry ramen noodles, apples, granola bars, and PB&J sandwhiches. Not the healthiest menu but that’s what worked. I even had prepared a few meals, but without the appetite, or the desire to do any prep work, even the slightest, those were all put on hold. Outside of the sickness the only other hard part was dealing with the heartbreak Ellia was giving us. She would randomly pipe up and say “no waves, no waves, no waves” and point to inside the boat and say “inside, inside”. Unfortunately I didn’t want to take her inside, because it made me queasy, but also because it definitely made her sick. So having to deny her that, and her not understanding why, or why we were still in these stinkin’ waves that were making her ill, it hurt our heart a little. But she was a trooper. As a reward for being awesome sailors we told the girls that once they arrived in PR we would take them to walmart and they could get whatever toy they wanted. Arias got herself a keyboard, and Ellia chose a baby doll.
The trip itself was pretty uneventful. We motorsailed mostly the entire way, turning our engine off for only about an hour the whole trip. There just wasn’t enough wind to carry us at a reasonable speed to our destination, and we figured that from PR on we would get plenty of chances to be completely under sail, so for this leg we didn’t mind so much powering our way through it. We saw a few squalls but weren’t affected by any of them, outside of some rain and slightly increased winds, but nothing dangerous. And oddly enough, the Mona was the calmer part of the trip, especially on the Puerto Rico side, where the waves subsided and our stomachs grew stronger. It was a wonderful way to end a passage, with the sun shining down on us and the waves pushing us into harbour.
On the upside there were a few happy memories made on this trip, like Eben catching a 4ft wahoo, and my other favorite was the look on the girls faces as they sat in our cockpit, cuddled together in our captains chair, while they watched mama and papa simultaneously getting sick, first thing in the morning. Their looks will be ingrained in our minds forever.
hard to tell, but these are the rollers outside of Luperon
Jackasso, Mezzaluna, and Mistress in line in front of us leaving Luperon
And the seasickness sets in
both girls out of commission
at least we could stomach yogurt
Eben’s catch, a 4ft Wahoo
Isla Desecheo off the coast of PR
all smiles and clapping because we are only an hour off of our destination