compass rose

 Accidental Cruiser in the West Indies

It Ain't All Peaches and Cream
This journal is a log of all the messages from Susie & Lance. For pictures, please see the Gallery.

Marigot Bay, Saint Martin 2.7.08

Key Cay, BVI
Key Cay, BVI
Mangoes and UHT yogurt would be more like it. Actually, stone fruits are one of those things you start to miss from home. Our adventure started as a reasonably good call on the best weather to make St. Martin. Tuesday was the best we were going to see for this notorious passage for the foreseeable future. The weather here has been lousy (Caribbean lousy, not South Dakota lousy). Very cold. Low 70's at night. Big winds (think "back of the pickup truck on a rural highway") We quite sensibly hung out behind Key Cay listening to the charter boats freak out on the VHF radio.
"Moorings, Moorings, Moorings. There's water pouring out of the cabinet in the port aft head" "Moorings, Moorings, Moorings. The propeller has come completely detached from the engine. Our anchor is out and we are drifting."
Green Flash at Lamashur Bay, USVI
Green Flash? You decide
Key Cay has no bars, no T-Shirt Shops and no services of any kind. It does have: turtles, colorful fish, spectacular birds, decent reefs with huge surf visible through the rocks on the windward side. Venus and Jupiter are close enough to touch and there was the merest hint of a waning moon. The BVI has otherwise turned into a kind of tupperware merry-go-round of the distinctive charter boats trundling from Willy-T's, to the Caves, the Baths, Foxy's and the ever popular "Bomba Shack". There are regularly scheduled races for the last mooring balls. Its a form of musical chairs; there are many, many more charter boats than mooring balls. We spent four days limin', doing one project a day and then rest of the day reading, listening to the wind howl and the surf crash. All that heavy weather you Californians have been getting passes back up through the mid-west and then bends south through Florida on the jet stream and becomes "dissipating fronts" in the eastern Caribbean. Gales in the North Eastern US send us down big ground swells and the fronts bring gusty winds and torrential rains.

All and all, we were cozy and dry. We had plenty of power (curtesy of the winds), water, food, books and DVD's. The problem after a while becomes: garbage. Garbage called us forth to Spanish Town on Virgin Gorda where we checked out of the BVI and lightened our load. We planned to hang out in North Sound until a suitable weather window opened for parts East and then take off for St. Martin. We got up to North Sound and found a wifi signal and perused the weather. Small craft advisories, Seas 6'-8' in a northeast swell winds also from the northeast to 20 Kts. This is actually a good thing. St. Martin lies slightly south of east and we are a sailboat. If the winds don't have any north in them we are forced to motor into the west-setting Equatorial current, the east blowing trade winds and the wind-driven waves. If they are a little from the north, we get a fast, adrenaline fueled ride to St. Martin. Not ideal, but better than anything in the foreseeable future.

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Neckar Island, BVI
Neckar Island, BVI

Stowed the kayak. Hoisted the dinghy. Had lunch. Took off. Fresh breezes, puffy white cumulus and a heavy current pouring down the sound between Branson's Neckar island and the Eustatia reef. We waved as we tacked up to Pajaros Point on the eastern end of Virgin Gorda and struck out across Sombrero passage for Marigot Bay 90 miles to the east south east. Fine start. Near dark we caught a nice Mahi Mahi. He bit while I was below changing out of wet clothes to get ready for the night. It turned out we hadn't quite closed the galley port. Tthe wet, slippery floorboards, the unhappy fish and my dishabille state made for the kind of comedy best enjoyed in reruns. By the time he was cleaned and stowed and I had dry clothes and a raincoat, it was dark. Really, really dark. No island glow, no other boats, no moon. Spray was flying, we were making good time against the current and laying a direct course for St. Martin. Susie was feeling a cold coming on and hid out under a tarp trying to stay dry. We have no dodger but I could see splashes coming by the nav lights mounted on the bow pulpit. Forewarned, I could keep my glasses reasonably clear by turning my head every time water came flying past the red/green light.
Westbound Square Rigger, Sombrero Passage
West bound Square Rigger in Sombrero Passage

Then we just drilled a wave. I could see the lights glowing underwater for just a short while until they went out. The night which had previously seemed dark, seemed positively cheerful in retrospect. It clouded over and the stars disappeared. My glasses clouded over with the repeated blasts of water and I could barely make out the instruments. We steered by the tilt of the boat and hoped there were no fish traps. By morning I was imagining parked, unlit fishing boats in the gloom ahead. The wind started shifting about as the squalls came through and more than once we got totally turned around. The saving grace was that we spent the whole night listening to "A Brief History of Nearly Everything" on the ipod. Physically, we are hanging on to a bucking boat, in the dark, getting irregularly hit by rain and seawater. Mentally, we are contemplating the colorful cast of characters who make up our scientific heritage. Thank you, Bill Bryson. Thank you, Steve Jobs.

Susie's nose is bright red and she is mainlining sudafed. We have an enormous sack of wet laundry. Things are otherwise dry, we are checked in and I laid in a stock of pain chocolat for the morning. I'm going to bed.

Susie Bowman with Mahi Mahi
Susie and Mahi Mahi

Susie and Lance

PS. Susie has forgiven me and is still smiling


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