Night Moves

Anegada Passage

I’m not sure how the term “beating to windward” evolved, but I suspect it was because you can take a beating trying to sail into the wind and waves.

This blog entry starts with us in the Virgin Islands having to work to windward across the Anegada Passage to reach St Martin.  First we had to fix some problems with the boat, then we wanted a weather window where the wind would be enough from the north that we could sail to St Martin.  We watched the weather develop and it looked like if we worked out way north around Virgin Gorda we could gain an angle to the wind sufficient to sail to St Martin.  It wasn’t perfect, but we also had to consider when our nephew, Richard, could fly home from the various islands we might visit.

We had overnighted at Marina Cay in the British Virgin Islands and early the next morning we worked our way up around the north side of Virgin Gorda.  We ducked into Gorda Sound to put the dinghy on deck for the crossing to St Martin.

You can sail most of the eastern Caribbean by leaving early in the morning and arriving in the afternoon, which makes for pretty easy trips.  But the distance to St Martin is such that we would be hard pressed to do it in a day, so the typical approach is to start in the afternoon, sail overnight, and arrive around dawn the next morning.  We had the dinghy on deck by noon.  We had a good sail up for the second half of the trip to Virgin Gorda, so we elected to leave right away and hopefully tack a bit north to give us a better wind angle for the trip to St Martin.  As luck would have it the wind dropped and we fought to make progress against the waves and current.  We never quite achieved the wind angle we needed, so we started the engine and motored towards St Martin.

We had to head almost directly into the waves.  They weren’t very big – just enough to bounce the boat around.  This would be annoying during the day, but it’s very disturbing in the dark.  Both Jackie and Richard got seasick and I wasn’t quite as settled as on other passages.  We did get a few hours of sailing in, but then the wind shifted and died.  The trip may very well be the most uncomfortable we have experienced.  We had hoped for a good crossing so that Richard (and we) would have a fun passage, so we felt very bad that it was so miserable.  To his credit, Richard stayed upbeat the whole time.  We wouldn’t hesitate to have him on a passage again.

We approached Marigot Bay, St Martin, as the eastern sky began to lighten.  We had never come in the French side before, so I was feeling my way in as the sun began to light the bay.  I noticed a ketch off to our right and moments later I heard Mark on Liahona hail us.  We knew they planned to cross the same night as us, but their boat is so much faster than Compass Rose, that they waited until well into the night before leaving the Virgin Islands.

We both wandered around the bay waiting for the bridge to open.  We then followed Liahona around to the NW part of the lagoon to a nice anchorage away from the crush of cruising boats farther east in the lagoon.  There was a hotel that let us beach our dingies and provided internet access, a bakery where we got croissants for breakfast and crepes for lunch. Just down the road were a pharmacy and a grocery store, so we could get most of what we needed pretty easily.

Looking out into our anchorage in Simpson Bay Lagoon, St. Martin

St Martin

We looked at St Martin mostly as a stepping stone to the rest of the Leeward Islands so we didn’t plan to stay too long.  Many of our friends were treating it the same way.  Sailacious, Here Today, and Nirvana were already there, but left within a couple days.  Persephone arrived a few days after we did, but planned to only stay a week or so.  We expected Chimayo a day or so after we would leave.  Only Liahona seemed content to stay a little longer.

Hanging out with Willie and Mark from Liahona

Dave and Lori anchor Persephone in the rain - we get to do this later in Antigua

This was also the jumping off point for Richard.  We dinghied across the bay to a restaurant for lunch, then we walked across the street to the airport.  Some things can be so much easier in the islands.

Speaking of jumping off...while out for a walk we came across some boys doing backflips off the French bridge

While in St Martin we met up with Jon and Carol, formerly of Aldebaran.  We hadn’t seen them since we were anchored together in Bequia last spring.  They had just sold their boat and were living in an apartment for a few weeks before flying back to the US.  We got together a couple times, once to go the the Friday night party at Barnacles and again to go to Sunset Beach for an afternoon.

Jon and Carol at Barnacles

You might think that the big Sunset Beach attraction is the sunset, but that’s not quite it.  The beach is at the west end of the airport runway.  The planes typically takeoff and land going west to east.  When a jet takes off people stand by the airport fence and get blasted by the engines – sandblasted if there is much sand on the road.  The runway is a bit short so planes landing come very low over the beach so they can use as much runway as possible.  The Sunset Beach Bar even posts the schedule of major airline arrivals so you know when to watch for the planes.

Can you imagine getting this close to a runway in the US?

We saw planes come in even lower than this

On to Antigua

After about a week we were ready to go.  Our next stop was Antigua.  It was too far to go in a day, so again we were faced with an overnight passage.  We watched the weather and picked what looked like a pretty good forecast.  The seas were supposed to build the day after we planned to leave, so we wanted to be in just after dawn.  We caught the 11:00 AM bridge opening and left St Martin.  It was a beautiful day with calm seas, but light wind.  We motored about three hours to St. Barts and then the wind filled in.  It was not quite as north as we expected, but it worked.  The trip was pretty uneventful. The wind picked up a little as did the seas, but never enough to cause a real problem, although it just bumpy enough that it was a bit hard to get to sleep. 

Motoring the flat seas between St Martin and St Barts. There was a string of these fishing floats the whole way between these two islands

Compass Rose really flew and we soon realized that we would reach Antigua in the wee hours of the morning.  We already had the main down so we reefed down the jib and mizzen to slow the boat down.  Still we were off Jolly Harbor on the west side of the island at about 4 AM.  Jackie was asleep, so I just kept sailing down the island.  We turned the corner which brought the wind too far forward to sail, so we dropped the sails and motored the rest of the way to Falmouth Harbor.

We went through some rain, but it cleared just before we entered the harbor.  We had never been here before and there are a couple shallow areas, so we carefully felt our way around.  We saw some dark clouds appear over the hills, so we hurridly found a spot and dropped the anchor as the rain started.  We were a bit close to another boat, so we moved after the rain let up.

We got settled and then met Steve and Janice from Sailacious at the dinghy dock.  They walked us over to customs in English Harbor and showed us around a little.  Then it was back to the boat where we relaxed and caught up on the sleep we missed on the passage down.  It really felt good to be here, because we shouldn’t have any more overnights between here and Grenada and we should be able to avoid passages to weather as well.

Next: the Antigua-Barbuda experience

2 Responses to “Night Moves”

  1. Dale Says:

    I finally found you again. I moved to a laptop and lost favorites. Looks like you’re having a grand time. Be Safe.

  2. Pierce Says:

    Hi Eric and Jackie…

    So now we are caught up. : ). Except where are you now? I assume you are back in Grenada contemplating your movements (or lack thereof) for the upcoming sailing season. Send us a note at the same old email address or call – our phones will be active until sometime in December when we plan to pitch them overboard on our way across from FL.


    Pierce and Ruth

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