Heading North - Day Three - Arrival 18 26.995N 064 26.169W

Mike and Liz Downing
Wed 14 May 2014 02:50
24 hours of squalls! Some were very mild affairs, but a few were big and nasty and needed getting sail away pretty quickly. Flying 3 sails in between the squalls we made good progress in light winds. When we could see a squall coming the windward sail was rolled away, leaving the main and working genoa, and we would wait to see what the squall was going to do. Some just contained rain with little if any increase in wind so it was worth waiting a bit. If the wind even hinted that it was going to increase the genoa was rolled away as fast as we could manage it. A couple of the squall went from 10kts to 25kts in a few seconds and if the sails are still up, the boat just takes off! A couple of times I got very wet getting the sail away. The main was double reefed and stayed up the whole time, we just went off downwind to take some of the force out of the wind. The bigger squalls built up quite a rough sea as they passed through and the wind would sometimes drop right down after the squall passed to as little as 5kts, but the sea would still be up, so with no wind to drive it through the big seas, the boat would just wallow and it was most uncomfortable. We used the engine a few times to get some momentum until the wind came back and that did make the motion easier. Having got soaked twice in he rain, I caught one of the bigger waves while re-feeding a sheet after taking the windward pole down. It broke just as the boat rolled and I was soaked for the third time!

We were trying to get in before dusk this evening as we had a marina berth booked at the Virgin Gorda Yacht Harbour and we don't like going into any new harbour in the dark, but yesterday the winds were quite light and we gave up all hope of making it and sent an email to the marina to let them know. However, with all the squalls and the stronger winds they provided, we were making 6 to 7kts a lot of the time and got back on schedule, so more emails to the marina to say we thought we would make it after all. And we did, with just half an hour to spare. So what with the strong winds and seas off Martinique and all the squalls it's been quite a testing passage - certainly not an easy jaunt up the islands! We've had to work for every one of the 342 miles and it took exactly 2 1/2 days. We're looking forward to a bit of rest, although we're probably not going to get too much as the boat is scheduled to come out of the water on Friday and we'll have to get on with the antifouling.

The bird was back last night. Didn't see it arrive, but it was up on the solar panels this morning and left at first light. I don't think we will see him here in the marina. What we have seen quite a few of is tropic birds. A couple of pairs were fishing near the boat and they dive like gannets. They also chatter amongst themselves and we could often hear them at night, which is just a bit eerie until you know what it is. Talking of pairs, we also had close encounters with 2 cruise ships in the night - very big ones around 960ft long. The first one passed 3 miles ahead of us and being all lit up like a block of flats it seemed a lot closer. We called it up to check they had seen us and to agree that he would pass ahead of us. The second one, also lit from stem to stern, was on a reciprocal course, i.e. a collision course, so we had to call him up and agreed to pass port to port (or red to red, which is the terminology that most ships use). It passed just 2 miles away. That might seem a long way, but when the ships are that big, all lit up in the middle of the night, it doesn't seem far at all. The one good thing about cruise ships is that their radio operators generally speak good English and they are quite accommodating when it comes to moving to give us more space. The cruise ships all disappear when the hurricane season gets closer, as we too are endeavouring to do.

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