A re-positioning adventure; sailing, motor-sailing or motoring - depending on the wind and sea states - from Jamaica to the British Virgin Islands. We have a weather window of two weeks where the easterly trade winds will be light. That is what we need to be able to make the 800+ nautical miles east.
We must add; most sailors are heading any other direction but east this time of year taking advantage of the easterly trade-winds. However our schedule is set by the owners vacation destinations and though we try to find the best weather window to make passages; we have on occasion been slammed.
To clarify for the purpose of this post - Verbiage for non-sailors:
"Wind on the nose" - means wind is on the bow and you are going into it. Not a comfortable point of sail or motor.
A catamaran cannot sail into the wind very well, if at all. Whereas a monohull can sail close into the wind called beating into the wind. Still not a comfortable point of sail even for a monohull.
Seas - 3 to 4 ft may not sound too bad. However when the waves are only 6 seconds or less apart - called the wave period - it makes for an uncomfortable ride. The shorter the period the more pounding. Add to that higher winds and bigger seas and you are in for a long uncomfortable passage.
'In the lee" - to be in an area protected by an island where the wind and seas do not have a chance to build.
Days - our days do not start at 9am and end at 5pm. We are on the move when weather allows, meaning we could set out at anytime of day and sail for days. We take turns being on watch while the other one sleeps. We have the additional pleasure and luxury for this trip of having a 3rd person with us, Michael; whom we first met in Grand Cayman. Having an extra person helps with the watches, allowing longer stretches for sleeping.
To eat, or not to eat? That is the question.
Answer - Eat, and eat some more. Which seems counter intuitive to what your stomach is telling you but; keeping something in your stomach is better than stomach acid roiling around unfettered.
When readying for a passage I prepare meals ahead of time based on the interval to the next set of calm days for further meal prep. This trip will be a challenge due to the direction we are headed. I already know I will not be down in the galley chopping veggies, or slicing fruit and certainly will not be at the stove or oven with hot liquids jostling about; with the exception of making coffee, a challenge indeed, but a necessary ingredient to passage making and crew happiness.
I peel, slice and refrigerate fruit, veggies and cheese ahead of time. Nibbles are a must; crackers, trail mix, nuts,
chips and salsa, granola etc. I prepare dishes that can be eaten hot or cold. If we have a calm stretch, I can quickly heat up one of the options on the stove-top or in the oven.
It was a calm morning leaving Port Antonio Jamaica. No wind, calm seas; a good morning to make east. We hoped to cross the 83 miles to La Navassa Island before the easterly trade-winds and seas picked up. Our plan was to take an hour or two and explore the island before continuing on.
The views departing Port Antonio
Alas, what started out as a calm crossing in 8 knot winds and 2 to 3ft seas escalated inside of 4 hours, into 19 knots on the nose with 4 to 6ft seas that would last for 18 hours before dropping back to 3 to 4ft seas.
The sea states prohibited us from exploring Navassa; much too rough and the anchorage had little protection. We made the decision to push on hoping for a break in the winds and seas once we got in the lee shelter of Hispaniola.
Motoring in the conditions we had been dealing with, was not conducive to optimum fuel efficiency. We had not planned to stop in Haiti but we wanted to get more fuel. We pulled into Ile A Vache - the island on the south side of mainland Haiti - only to learn from cruisers there - that it takes a full day to get fuel and that we most likely would miss the water taxi for today and have to wait until the next day to start the procedure. Though a beautiful island with kind people that enjoy helping cruisers, we could not stay.
We opted to press on. We could not afford to get stuck in Ile A Vache due to weather. At this point in Ile A Vache, we are approx 161nm and 32.5 hours into the trip. We are tired, not just sleepy, but tired of being tossed around.
Hispaniola - Haiti/Dominican Republic on the horizon. Sunset setting fire to the top of the mountain.
An aside: as I write this we now know that Haiti, and the island of Ile A Vache, were destroyed by Hurricane Matthew. Our hearts go out to them. There was so much need there when we were there; but now the needs are overwhelming by magnitudes.
Departing ILe A Vache, we set a course for Isla Beata, an island off of the southern tip of Dominican Republic (DR) approx 132 miles away. Thankfully we found a bit of respite from the winds and seas cruising along that section of coast. Instead we had a spectacular lightening storm, most disturbing as we are a bit twitchy about lightening.
We arrived in Isla Beata and took some time to prepare a meal, explore the island and visit with the locals before continuing on to Salinas, DR where we plan to take on fuel. The locals on Beata were helpful, friendly and most curious about Michael's camera drone gear. Michael flew the drone for the crowd filming them and the island. Once the film sweep was complete they could watch themselves on Michael's phone. Michael was a big hit.
We wanted to get through the passage between Isla Beata and the mainland before the sun got too low, so we said our goodbyes and set a course for Salinas. We sailed through the passage but once out of the passage we were back to motoring the 72nm in calmer seas with light winds on the nose.
Made Salinas in 13 hours. We check-in to the country and purchased fuel. The check-in process was a fiasco, not that the officials were rude, they just wanted money and then more money.
Following day we pushed on to Boca Chica, DR just east of Santo Domingo. 55nm with wind still on the nose and seas 2ft. Not a bad ride but still motoring. Spent a couple of days exploring Santo Domingo and Boca Chica. We had two good nights of sleep, before topping off fuel tanks, checking out of the country and heading out. The weather is our constant reminder to push east when wind and seas allow.
We came into the marina in Boca Chica for fuel.
Left Boca Chica on a course to our next stop, Isla Saona, an island off the eastern tip of DR. Winds and seas picked up, so again opted not to stop, but continue past Saona and on to Mona Island; an island located just west of, and belonging to, Puerto Rico.
We set a course for the anchorage hoping to get in the lee of Mona Island.
Not much relief; wind blowing 14 and seas building to 4 ft
The heads in the water are surfers making the best of the rollers coming in the channel at Boca Chica
107nm and 17.5hrs later we picked up a mooring at Mona Island. We were inside the reef and protected by the island making the anchorage calm. Whew! Rest, exploration and meal prep on the schedule.
Mona Island Puerto Rico - this aerial photo of the catamaran was taken by our friend Michael
Exploring Mona Island
The Lone Palm
Michael setting up his camera equipment
Charlie in the distance
Tide is out and the above ledge has several occupants waiting patiently for the tide to come back in.
Not much left of this crab however.
Several mollusks tucked in and waiting,,,,
.....and a very delicate sea urchin skeleton on the left.
Fishing again and it must be a whopper. Charlie is really working to bring the fish in as Michael looks on.
The biggest stick fish we have caught; complete with fishing line, polypropolene rope pieces and sargasso weed.
After a passage with waves braking over the bow we sometimes have visitors on deck that go unnoticed.
Next leg of 84nm took us to Ponce, PR where we checked into the country and then headed out the same day to push on to Salinas, PR adding another 19nm to our day. Total of 24 hours hours from Mona Island to Salinas,PR including re-fueling and check in with officials in Ponce.
Happy Hour stop. Charlie and Michael on the right.
Next push was to reach Isla de Vieques, an island east of and belonging to PR. We had hoped to stop for rest but weather did not allow so we pushed onward to Mullers/Red Hook Bay, ST Thomas in the US Virgin Islands. A 93nm passage lasting 14hrs.
Next stop US Virgin Islands
And in the anchorage we found this pizza joint. You can call them on VHF and they will take your order.
You can pick-up or they will deliver to your boat.
Order your pizza early and you can get the happy hour beverage special.
We enjoyed local beer and the Mango Mami with spicy mango chutney, red onion, goat cheese, bacon and fresh mango - delectable!
Moved on to St John's USVI
Most of the island is a National Park with moorings available. You are required to use a mooring, no anchoring allowed. The pay stations are located in each bay making it very easy to pay the fees.
Moorings are $30/night. However, if you have a Golden National Park Passport, the one for senior citizens, the mooring rates drop to $26/night.
Another photo of the catamaran taken by Michael
Mother Natures Driftwood Art
Mother Natures Wrath Warning
British Virgin Islands
Checked into the country on Jost Van Dyke Island
An iconic establishment. Foxy is a legend in this bay bringing cruisers and music together.
Another welcoming establishment- Corsairs
Where we met a couple that knows "Cannon Carl". We shared Carl stories and when we were readying to depart the gal's closing statement was, " Carl is a lot of fun, but he is not a keeper."
L to R - Michael, Dale, Charlie, Karen and Harvey of the Cannon Carl Fan Club.
Another great aerial photo by Michael
Arid and rocky
Imbibing at Pusser's establishment in Roadtown,Tortola with Michael. He is having a Painkiller and I am having a Dark & Stormy and Charlie is enjoying a beer.
A bit of humour.
Michael (Michael Daley Schlink- owner of Smart Balloon - video/photo production) leaves us today to continue on with his lifes adventures.
Label from the Castle Beer -
Another Pusser's in Sopers Hole
It is a shame the rock wall and windows have been blocked by new construction.
Went up to a popular lookout spot here on Tortola only to have the clouds move in by the time we arrived. However, you can still get a sense of how close the islands are to each other.