Posted by: rosyroadsadventures | June 12, 2011

Mona Passage and Southwest Puerto Rico

 N 17° 58.26′  W 67° 03.02′

La Parguera, Puerto Rico

Just arrived in La Parguera, after crossing the Mona Passage, and spending time in Puerto Real & Boquerón.

We have covered many miles since the last post, and finally found good wifi in this anchorage – yeah!! We arrived in Puerto Rico, and I am glad the long passages are behind us. The next few months will consist of shorter hops, probably no more than 15 miles at a time.

We left Samaná shortly before 7 am on Wednesday June 8th.  We got a despacho to Punta Cana, about 12 hours away on the Eastern tip of the Dominican Republic, in case we needed to stop. The weather looked good, and we planned to continue through the night across the Mona Passage, directly to Puerto Rico, about a 140 mile trip. The US doesn’t care about seeing despachos from foreign ports, so a modified plan wouldn’t impact our US arrival. It would have been more complicated if the Dominicans dispatched us to Puerto Rico and we then had to stop in the DR along the way.

Leaving Samaná we kept a careful watch for most of the morning for logs and debris in the water. With all the rains of the past week, the run-off from the mountains was heavy. We tried to stay out of the garbage line, the offshore zone where debris tends to flow, but still had to dodge chunks of trees from time to time.

The Mona Passage, the waters between the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, is known for its rough seas. The Hourglass Shoals are prominent in the northwest part of the passage, an area with one hundred or so foot depths adjacent to extremely deep seas, one to three thousand feet deep. The rapid depth transition can generate high waves over the shallower waters. We carefully avoided the Hourglass Shoals, as recommended, staying close to the Dominican shore, scooting around the western edge, then crossing south of the shoals and north of Mona Island. We experienced some moderate swells as we came closer to the shoals, but nothing terrible. Freighters didn’t seem to worry much about the shoals and we saw several on radar that plowed right over the area.

On Bob’s watch around 11:30 pm, as we approached Mona Island, we were contacted by the US Coast Guard by radio, asking for the vessel at our latitude/longitude to identify ourselves. We were asked for the boat name, number of crew aboard, where we were going, and if we had contacted US Customs yet. Bob provided all the data, which they took a few minutes to check, then cleared us to continue. Without actually seeing our boat, or getting more specific information, we weren’t sure how they really knew we weren’t running drugs or carrying a load of Haitian refugees. They were very cordial, and advised us we could contact them if we needed any assistance on our passage. It was nice to know they were out there in the middle of nowhere if our small vessel ran into trouble. Our US tax dollars were hard at work!

The crossing was about as smooth as we could ask for, although not glassy like the Turks & Caicos trip. Despite the gentle seas and seasickness medication, I am not yet the greatest sea traveler. I spent much of the trip flat on my back, which seems the most comfortable position. Bob got some relief with daytime watches for a couple of naps, and about a 4 hour break in the middle of the night. After a long passage, it takes me a day or two to feel back to normal again.

Sunrise arrival in Puerto Rico

We arrived in Puerto Real about 6:30 am, and had to slow our speed so we didn’t get there before sunrise. Mayagüez is the official port of entry on the west side of Puerto Rico, and is a commercial port. The port isn’t well set up for pleasure boats, so we opted to check in with the authorities by phone, knowing that they might ask us to come to the Mayagüez office by land to check in. We found the US officials in Puerto Rico to be extremely pleasant and they went out of their way to accommodate our situation. Bob arranged for them to visit the boat, saving us the time and transportation costs to get to Mayagüez. I wasn’t sure that was a good idea, and had visions of my boat being torn apart to search for contraband items, such as any morsels of the delicious Dominican fruits, vegetables & meats that might remain aboard. The brief visit went smoothly and seemed more of a sixth sense assessment of who we were and what we were up to. We are lucky that we look “American” and pretty harmless – just Mom & Pop and the pups out cruising the Caribbean. They also logged the visit as our official interview for the Customs Local Boater program that will make future US clearances simpler, possibly just an internet filing and phone call. We haven’t met up with the infamous Puerto Rican Marine Police yet, but hopefully our positive experiences with the various authorities will continue.

Puerto Real waterfront

Puerto Real is a neat little town. Small houses built on pilings dot the waterfront, and fishing boats frequent the harbor. The town’s restaurants are known for outstanding seafood, and people visit here on the weekends just for the great food. We would have stayed longer but there wasn’t a good place to take the dogs ashore. There were no beaches or dinghy docks nearby. Marina Pescaderia, where we stopped for fuel and Customs, is a sparkling new and friendly facility but totally paved. The houses along the main road are built very close to the street, and if there is any lawn at all, it is fenced in. People park on the sidewalks to clear the narrow street. We had to walk about a half mile to find our first patch of turf. We were welcomed by the town dogs, including numerous strays that came out to bark at us, and the pet dogs that howled behind just about every fence. When we got to the fire station, about a dozen dogs of all sizes and shapes sounded the alarm and came running out to bark and follow along. We figured the firemen must feed the strays. It was comical and a little unnerving to have that many dogs in tow, and we certainly woke up the town that morning. Puerto Real could use our friend Judy’s help to set up a community spay and neuter program like she did in Graham County, NC.

Downtown Puerto Real

Jose, a most hospitable man and owner of Marina Pescaderia, oriented us to the area and reviewed nautical charts with us, pointing out his favorite anchorages along the south coast of Puerto Rico from Puerto Real to the Spanish Virgin Islands. We added fuel, and Jose let us pull into a slip for the afternoon at no extra charge while we finished the Customs check-in. Once everything was in order we scooted around the corner and anchored in Bahia de Boquerón, just outside the town of Boquerón (“boh-kay-ROAN”).

Waterfront bandstand in Boquerón getting ready for another big night

Boquerón was a lively beach getaway town with music and partying into the wee hours of the morning. We had free entertainment in the evenings that could be enjoyed from the anchorage. There was an adjacent mangrove anchorage that we explored by dinghy. We had more options for doggie trips ashore, although we managed to rustle up another pack of strays on one morning walk.

Cabo Rojo lighthouse is perched on top of the reddish rocks

We spent a night anchored off the park near Cabo Rojo, then got up early for the three hour trip to La Parguera (“lah par-GAIR-ah). Wound our way through the reefs to a pretty anchorage off the town, which we will check out later.

Approaching La Paguera, protected by reefs and tucked behind the mangroves. Today is Sunday, and the anchorage is rocking with little power boats zooming out for the day.

We look forward to taking our time over the next couple of weeks to explore the southern Puerto Rican coast as we make our way to Fajardo.




  1. Puerto Real looks like a neat place to visit! Glad to hear the Mona passage went smoothly! Now you can really enjoy the Caribbean with so many unspoiled spots in paradise to discover! I’ll be living vicariously thru your blog! I sent some pictures to Doug, that he has hopefully passed along to you? I could not remember your e-mail address. Doug gave it to me now and I will send a few more pics from Luperon directly to you.

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