Sunday, January 1, 2017

Sailing South and East

As you may have realized, we really like St Barth’s.  The hiking, the beaches, the culture immersion, working on our “pigeon French” the mega-yacht sightseeing, it is all just fun!  But, we have other places to go and things to do so we ventured out into the Caribbean. 

This season has been very “unique” in that the forecasted stray squalls have not been stray at all – you can watch a line of them, sometimes 10 miles wide, cross from east to west on a daily basis.  One day I stood in one spot and counted four black rainy, windy squalls in every direction.  When you’re sailing, the squall could go from 15 knots to 40 knots in an instant, or it could just be rain with no wind change.  You never know.  The hard part is the sails you would use in 15 knots of wind are very different than in 40 knots….so, what’s a boat to do?  We end up hoping for the best and planning for the worst which means that we have very little sail up and don’t go very fast but are prepared for the big hit.

We were thinking about going south to Antigua which means going generally east from St Barths and, since the tradewinds (the same ones that Columbus sailed to the Caribbean) come from the east, it is hard to go east on a sailboat without a lot of tacking. (“Tacking”: since a sailboat can’t sail directly into the wind, which is from the east, you have to sail at an angle to the wind in one direction, away from your destination, and then tack, or change to the opposite direction off the wind, essentially making zigzags to your destination). Also, when the strong winds blow across the water they create big seas and swell. That means that a 30nm sail can actually be 50mn beating into lumpy 7-9’ seas.  Needless to say, this can get old and is the reason that early sailors coined the phrase; “Gentlemen don’t go to weather” meaning that no one with any sense, or the ability to avoid it, sails upwind (in this case, to the east).

So… since we don’t have better sense or no other options, we decided to take three days and head to Nevis and anchor overnight and then to Montserrat and anchor overnight.  From Montserrat, the trip to Antigua is more of a northeast direction and less than 30 miles without including the tacks.
We were happy (jolly?) to make Jolly Harbour, Antigua on New Year’s Eve and check in to the country – just in case they were closed for the holidays.  Every country requires boats to check in and out with customs and immigration but on top of that, with Antigua being previously a British island, they have strict regulations and document requirements for animals and Kala needed to be examined by a vet to obtain a permit from customs.  We set the anchor in a rainy and windy squall and set off to check in to the country and make arrangements for Kala.  With all that done, we enjoyed a great NYE dinner at a local restaurant and even stayed up until “cruiser’s midnight” (about 10pm).

Waking up to the beautiful teal color of the water in Jolly Harbour is a great way to start 2017 and we are excited for the adventure ahead!  Wishing you all the best of the New Year and hope you are making the most of every single day.

Dolphins are just amazing creature, wouldn't you agree?
Terrapin at anchor in Montserrat with Redonda (uninhabited big island/rock) and Nevis in the background.

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