Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Oh-My-God-A Passage! This is getting boring.

I’m about to indulge myself with a little complaining. That’s right, I have some complaining to do.Easting for months on end is really getting boring. I see all the self-satisfied sailors heading west, sometimes flying brightly coloured spinnakers. Show-offs! They’re getting a free ride! The grass is greener, the sea is always bluer heading west with the Trades.

Slogging into the Trades can be tough, wicked! We pinch a little off the wind where we can but mostly we are sailing 40-45 degrees off the wind and healing enough to get some exciting, splashy action shots.

Photographic proof that even the cars have to tack in the trades.

2,000 miles and we have the Chesapeake Bay and the Gulf Stream behind us, and the Mona (read Be-Moana) Passage from the Dominican Republic, the south coast of Puerto Rico, Vieques, Culebra and the Virgin Islands.1,000 miles of pure easting and we’re not done yet. Oh My God, Sunday May 10, we expect to cross the Anegada Passage (aka the Oh-My-God-A Passage) 64 miles from Virgin Gorda to St. Martin at 115 degrees (that’s east). Chris Parker, weather guru, gives us a “marginal” window with Sunday/Monday being the best of the bad days.

We could have dropped off the East Coast of the US and headed straight to the Leeward and Windward Islands to avoid so much easting, but we would have missed the Bahamas, the Turks and Caicos, the DR and Puerto Rico. And they are not to be missed.

We could have done what some smart sailors do and hired a delivery Captain. A delivery Captain could have had BR waiting in the Southern Caribbean for us to fly in and then work our way north and west along our route, and not missed anything. Unlike most of the sailors we’ve met, we won’t be sailing back to the States. So easting we will go.

M/V Spectra, St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands

One of the beaches looking west of Caneel Bay

Yesterday we said farewell to our friends Joe and Mel on Spectra in St. Thomas and had a great sail to Caneel Bay, St. Johns. It’s a beautiful anchorage and we enjoy a nice meal aboard, ready for sleep and a big day tomorrow. Tomorrow we will “yellow flag” past Tortola (UK) and on to Virgin Gorda where we might get a short rest before going through Necker Passage.

Approaching Tortola, British Virgin Islands

Sunday afternoon and we have tacked back and forth all day into the wind. The islands cause something of a wind tunnel with the prevailing easterly Trades. We take time out to rescue a kite surfer who’s hanging on for dear life having lost his board off Nanny Cay, Tortola. Amazingly, I spot the board with the binoculars and Robert is able to pick it up with the boat hook. We circle back and drop it overboard to him. It takes him no time at all to get back on and take off at great speed with a cheery “Thank you”.

Although the sailing and sights have been wonderful on this gorgeous sunny day, our timing is now a little off and we don’t get any time to rest before heading out into the Passage.

We connect with Night Hawk and Anthem around 4pm on the VHF. They are about 4 hours ahead of us and finding the going a little tough. We continue on and hope conditions hold, at least.
The conditions become more difficult and we cannot stay on our rhumb line. We have to do more tacking than we would like and we motor-sail on and off. We’re nervous about the repaired engine mount so we baby the engine more than we should. It is difficult to know why but we feel we are dragging and should be making better time. Is the current affecting us so much? We may have picked up one of the many fish traps that line the passage and it’s slowing us down. Whatever the reason, we’ve let our timing slip on a marginal window. That’s never good.

Monday night and after 24 hours of hard slog, and our most frustrating crossing so far, we drag ourselves in to the anchorage in St. Martin in the dark and collapse in a wet, soggy heap. There’s water in the boat where there never was water before.

Tuesday we check in with Customs and Immigration and check into a marina. All we can do for the next few days in St. Martin is catch up on sleep, do laundry and dry out and put ourselves back together again. We are looking forward to picking up our friend Barry who’s arriving from Australia on Thursday. We’ll use the time also to enlist the help of Ray, Night Hawk, to check our rigging. It’s time too, to get the barnacles and marine growth scraped off the bottom. Maybe that will help.

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