Entry for February 18, 2008

The past 2 days have been awesome sailing from Ste. Pierre in Martinique.  On Saturday morning we were up early and had the boat ready to roll by 6:30am.  We motored out of the anchorage and had to motor-sail for the first hour until we were out of the wind-shadow of Mt. Pelée.  The wind gradually freshened to 15-20 knots on the beam and we shut off the engine which is my favorite part of the day.  Because we were a little unsure of the winds, we just had out the staysail, ¾ main and mizzen.  The winds became steadier as we sailed away from the island and we eventually pulled down the staysail and rolled out the jib.  At this point we were sailing on a beam reach at 7-8 knots with a few 9’s and an occasional 10 when the swells pushed us along from behind us.  It was great!

We sailed like this until we were in the lee of Dominica – about 25 miles.  Dominica is the most mountainous of the Caribbean islands and you can tell by the very erratic winds while sailing in the lee.  We had to run the engine for about 2 hours during calms but the rest of the sailing was great.  Around 5pm we motored into Prince Ruppert Bay on the northwest tip of the island.  The bay is huge and we found a nice, isolated place to anchor away from the 30 or so other sailboats there.  It was the best night’s sleep I’ve had in weeks.  The water was calm without any swell and the boat never moved a foot during the night.  We were wishing we had several days to spend there and Dominica is a place we haven’t spent any time yet.  Oh well, we have to leave some sights for next time….

Even while we were motoring into the anchorage a local motorboat came out to us and introduced himself as “Martin” the tour guide.  We told him “Maybe next time…” since we were only staying for the night on this trip.  Before we had the anchor set another gent came by rowing a surfboard wanting to sell us a bunch of mini-bananas – only about 4 inches long.  He gave us a free sample and they were excellent.  We ended up purchasing 20 bananas and 5 mangos for $15 EC (about $6 US).  It was a little expensive “for the islands” but Laura’s frozen Hummingbirds, with fresh bananas, were excellent and well worth it!  A couple other locals came by to sell us stuff but we declined and they gracefully went their way.  Since the wind had died down in the anchorage, we had our first BBQ in several weeks – pork chops!  Mmmm.

We slept in a little longer today (Sunday) and pulled up the anchor around 7:30am.  Once again, it was a great sail to Guadeloupe with only 15 miles across open ocean until we were in the lee again.  We sailed most of the way up the west shore of the island and the winds only became a little crazy when we were within 5 miles of Deshaies (pronounced “Day’ hay”).  For the first 4 hours of our sail today, we averaged over 7 knots / hour which is a first for us.  Second Wind really comes into her own with the winds on the beam.  Even when the winds were down to 10 knots, we were still sailing at 5 ½ – 6.  What a great sail!

Tomorrow we are planning to head out early for a NEW ISLAND (for us) – Antigua.  We have a 45 mile sail across the ocean to a beautiful anchorage north of us.  You have to visit Antigua on the way north because it is into the wind when you are traveling south through the Carib.  We’re planning on staying there a couple days or more (depending on the weather) and may head north from there – 25 miles to Barbuda for some great snorkeling before turning west to St. Barth and St. Martin.  St. Martin is a milestone for our trip since it marks the northeast corner of the Caribbean.  From there we sail mostly west all the way to Turks and Caicos (just before the Bahamas).  We’re already logged over 400 miles from Trinidad (of the 4,000 miles before we reach the Hudson River).

These last 2 days we’ve covered what took us 4 days of close-to-the-wind sailing on the way down.  In addition, we haven’t had to leave real early to make our destination before dark and we’ve been able to anchor and clean up the boat before sunset each night.  Maybe this is what sailing the Caribbean is supposed to be like!

Remember I said we had traded DVDs with Freedom and I had scored the first 4 seasons of Cheers?  We’ve watched them all except for the last ½ of the 4th season.  We have been watching 3-4 episodes each night since the local TV had been in French or not at all.  This morning, Laura woke up and said maybe we had been watching too much Cheers.  She had a dream about it with people she knew playing the characters.  The funniest part was my friend Jim Briele was Norm.  I couldn’t stop laughing as she was telling me about her dream.  Bob – if you read this, make sure to tell Jim the next time you see him at volleyball.

Monday morning we were up at 5:45 and underway by 7am.  We had hoped to make this the 3rd good sailing day in a row but it was not to be.  Our cruising guide said the winds usually wiped around the north end of Guadalupe so we were not concerned when we pulled out of the anchorage with 20-25 knot, gusty winds. 

As we sailed away from the island, the winds didn’t calm down and the seas increased to 8-10 feet.  We played with different sail plans and finally settled on the “jib and jigger” (jib and mizzen) flying with the main in reserve.  We were sailing along pretty nice at 7 knots but the seas were lumpy and the ride a little wet at times.  A couple hours into the trip one of the swells started breaking as we went over it and dumped a lot of seawater into the cockpit.  The walls of our cockpit are about 8 feet above the water so that was tough to do.  We both were soaked but the Sun was out so I just took off my wet t-shirt and dried off in the warm Sun.

There was a sailboat 1 mile in front of us that was motoring through these big seas and eventually turned around and went back to Guadalupe.  It reminded me of some “sailors” we had met in Grenada who never sailed but motored everywhere.  The wife didn’t like the boat leaning over.  Unfortunately for them, the ride with sails up is much, much better than without.  This is because the sails act as a buffer to the boat rolling from side to side.  The wind resistance against the sails greatly dampens the roll of the boat.  When we saw this sailboat coming back toward us, they were rolling from side to side probably 20 degrees each way.  At the same time we were sailing along (without the engine running) and our attitude from side-to-side was between 20 and 25 degrees to port.  Of course we were bouncing up and down with the waves but we were not moving side-to-side hardly at all.  With the boat heeled over 20 degrees, we just wedge ourselves into a corner where we can watch things going on and not be tossed around the boat. 

We arrived in English Harbor, Antigua around 2 pm.  We averaged close to 7 knots again for the 44 mile trip.  We motored around the harbor for over an hour looking for a good place to anchor.  We finally decided on a spot but I’m not too comfortable here because we are close to a couple other boats.  On my way to check in with Customs and Immigration, I stopped by the boat nearest us, introduced myself to the guy polishing his teak decks and asked him if he was ok with how close our boat was.  He was fine with it so I hope I will get some sleep tonight without worrying too much.

Customs, Immigration and Port Authority were all in the same building and I checked in fairly quickly.  Antigua was more expensive than most places and charged us $35 US for a week in the country.  I hope it is worth it!

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