After a busy week fixing, mending, polishing, trimming and generally getting ready we finally got away from the seething fleshpot that is Sint Maarten early in the morning Thursday 16th. Here’s a happy snap (courtesy of our friends Blair and Edi) of us passing out of the lagoon and into Simpson’s Bay. Note Daisy pondering whether to go for the full ‘Rose Dawson’.
After getting clear of the lee of the island we hoisted the main and mizzen, rolled out the genoa and had the most wonderful afternoon beam reaching North in a 10-12kt Easterly as we passed Anguillita (the tiny island off the SW corner of Anguilla) and then between Dog and Prickly Pear Cays and out of the Caribbean two months after we arrived in Martinique. A small group of dolphins appeared to jump around in and out of the bow wave, reminding us of how much we’d enjoyed their company on the way across. Late in the afternoon we were overtaken by the long legged ‘Morpheus’ also heading for Bermuda, 850M ahead. The Atlantic was in a gentle mood that evening, a nearly full moon rising into the clear sky just before sunset meaning that it hardly got dark at all.
Next morning the gentleness became all embracing, the wind dying away to just five knots but I was feeling pretty relaxed, happy as long as we could make at least three knots in the right direction. This state of affairs was brought sharply to a close when we received the five day forecast which showed strong Northerly winds for Bermuda from Wednesday. Out of the window went noble thoughts of drifting slowly up – it was time to shake a leg or face a beat into a 25kt+ headwind. Beating into a F6 is all well and fine in its season but is unlikely to be much enjoyed by the girls. Likewise, Pols feels she had enough tough windward work to last a lifetime back in the Red Sea fifteen years ago – so on went the engine. We’d got five days to make good about 720M.
The skies echoed my darkening humour, clouding over as I ran through the arithmetic, which ran thus; the wind was set to remain light for them next few days, mainly from the SE and S around F2-3, sometimes F4. We’d do well to make much more than 100M/d in the F2-3, 125, maybe 150M/d in the F4 so long as it wasn’t too much to the S (ie dead behind us). If we kept sailing we’d be probably 150-200M short of Bermuda when the wind veered N. That would mean perhaps two days of head-banging before getting in. Yuk. Alternatively, we could motor at about 7 knots, which would get us there in plenty of time – except that our diesel tank would have run dry about, er, 150-200M short. Oh dear, same outcome.
Faced with this hand we decided to set a minimum boat speed target of five knots, sailing when we could make that pace and motoring when we couldn’t. For three days the light winds and overcast conditions were varied by regular torrential downpours from clouds as black as the Earl of Hell’s weskit, tho’ mercifully the gusts associated with the squalls were modest – rarely more than 25kts. A routine of engine on, sails down, sails up, engine off every six hours or so was established. The sea state was generally vile, a nasty chop being delivered by post tropical depression Andrea (first cyclone of the season) out to our West. It was all rather hard on the nerves after a two month residency on Easy Street but relief arrived on Tuesday afternoon. After a yet another dump of cold, fresh water from the heavens, the wind finally firmed up from ESE soon reaching 15 knots and we were able to sail fast directly on course. Early on Wednesday morning we passed through the frightfully narrow Town Cut…
…into the stunning natural harbour of St George’s to go through the formalities of arrival with the charming officials on Ordnance Island. Our anchor chain rattled out at 0800 with the wind freshening in the West having veered sharply overnight. By noon it was blowing hard from the N. Like Waterloo, the passage had been a damned near run thing.