compass rose

 Accidental Cruiser in the West Indies

Waiting for weather window for the Passage to St. Martin
This journal is a log of all the messages from Susie & Lance. For pictures, please see the Gallery.
Little Harbour, Peter Island, BVI. Thursday, May 8, 2003
    Haven't we been here before? Yes, in fact, many times. This spot is just under 4 miles straight across from Road Town, which is the only major town in the BVI, so if you need something while in the BVI, you probably have to go to Road Town. But Road Town is a big open rolly harbour with no comfortable overnight anchorages.
It has several marinas which, being in town, are hot, dusty, noisy etc. Anyway, we ran out of propane this morning, after the first cup of coffee, but before the second, which made it an emergency. We have found no place where you can get propane without leaving the tank overnight, which means we have to go back to Road Town tomorrow. Another good reason to be in Little Harbour. The big barracuda immediately came over and hung out briefly under the boat, but the turtle has not been around yet.
    Last night we were in Benures Bay on Norman Island. The turtle there likes to stick his flippers up in the air along with his head. Perhaps he is warming them, I don't know, but he pokes his head and flippers up when he surfaces, and he is quite large, a couple of feet across. The weather has picked up again, making a crossing to St. Martin not recommended. We spent some time visiting with our friends Larry and Roberta on Dionis before they left for the season, and then we made appointments to have the boat hauled for the hurricane season, and then we decided, that with all this wrapped up, we could go to St. Martin. We sailed up to Virgin Gorda, to wait for a weather window in which to go, but of course, the problem is to recognize it. St. Martin is due east about 80 nautical miles. The winds are blowing from the east. For those of you non sailors in the crowd, sailboats don't sail directly into the wind, and are pretty slow: generally, you could walk faster. The recommended procedure is to take off from as far north in the Virgins as you can, leave in the afternoon, sail all night, and arrive in the morning. Pick a time when the waves are low, the winds are moderate to none, and either sail a couple of long tacks, or motor, or motor sail all the way. Don't go if the seas are high, or the winds are too high. With only two of us, we're hoping for fairly optimum conditions.
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    So, we went up to Virgin Gorda, we listened to all the weather reports, and it sounded like it was just a bit too windy with waves a bit too high, but what do we know? We've never done it. So we sailed out to the point where you take off, and the we sailed in the direction of St. Martin for about 10 minutes to see what it was like. The seas were a bit too "lumpy" and the winds were "fresh" so, we said, no, these are not good conditions. It would be fine for a short sail, but not all night. So we sailed around the back side of Virgin Gorda, examined a bluff named "Lance's Bluff" (not even picturesque, what a rip off) and reentered Drake's Channel by Round Rock. Much of the time we were roaring along, which for us is 6-8 knots per hour. At one point, we were trying to avoid a lobster trap (buoys floating on the surface) but the winds kept pushing us towards it, and it disappeared under the boat. As we sailed on at high speeds, we joked about how fast we would be going if we weren't dragging that lobster trap. When we arrived in our anchorage, Lance went swimming to check the anchor, and to look for the lobster trap. Imagine our surprise when he came up with a length of line that had been wrapped around the propeller. No lobsters though.
    While listening to the weather forecasts, we heard that there was another monthly Ham Radio breakfast on St. John, so we went over there. We found several more experienced cruisers waiting for a weather window. Now we get together on the radio at 3 each day to talk about when we think there is a weather window. We preliminarily made an appointment with "Dancin' Fool" to meet at Drake's Anchorage for a Friday departure. Each day, we listened to Eric (the Barbados weather net), George (the St. John weather net) and Herb (Southbound II), and regular chats with the crowd gathered in Francis Bay, St. John "waiting for a weather window" We got charts, we exchanged opinions. For at least 2 weeks we have been obsessing on the weather. This is getting close to hurricane season and people either want to get south of the hurricane zone or are going home. We just wanted to have one last adventure before putting the boat "on the hard".
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