North vs. South

Gudrun V
Axel Busch
Tue 24 May 2011 15:55
Tuesday, 24.05.2011, 12:00 local (16:00 UTC), 18:38.9N 66:54.8W
Iâm having big difficulties deciding when to go, and how to go, to Cuba. Sometimes I feel that my decisions related to passage planning are harder then any other decisions I ever made. Especially now that I also have to think about the wellbeing of another person. Lizâ safety and comfort is more important to me than anything else. And the current weather itâs not making things any easier.
Normally, the trades blow from the east with 10 to 15 kn to the Bermudas. But not in May, as I read in my âAtlantic Crossing Guideâ, when the cold fronts form North America cease and the weather pattern changes. Which is what we have experienced in San Juan, and sitting in the anchorage in Arecibo. Except for Sunday morning (rain) the weather was pleasant enough in the anchorage, but we could see frequent thunderstorms passing slowly through to the south and north of us. The result on our passage planning was that there was not much planning to do because this is not sailing weather. However, we donât want to sit in Arecibo forever. Especially not with the Hurricane season approaching fast.
So despite hanging flags we lifted the anchor this morning at six and went out of the harbor and due north. The plan was to get away from the island, catch some wind, see how itâs going, then turn west. We motored for three hours unil there was enough wind to fly the Parasailor. Two hours later I can say itâs going slower than expected. And the wind forecast for the next week isnât very comforting. Going downwind in 3 to 5kn of wind is not very fast (about 2kn), and not very pleasant. Roll left, clong, bang, roll right, bang, clong. We would get eventually to Cuba, in two weeks or so. The question is which one of us two would go crazy first on the way and jump overboard, take down the mast with the axe, or set the boat on fire.
But there seems to be a better way. South of Puerto Rico and Hispaniola is a lot of wind, thanks to the trades and a depression over Colombia. The forecast says 10 to 20kn from the east for the next week and it looks very stable. We would probably have to motor through the Mona Passage, but then there is enough wind for a nice and fast trip to Cuba. I love fast.
So we dropped the Parasailor and started the engine, and instead of NW at 2kn we are now headed WSW at 5kn at 2000rpm. There must be a lot of growth on the hull (again) which is slowing us down. Normally Gudrun does 5kn at 1600rpm. I donât like going with the engine, but at the moment there is no other way. I can be stubborn at times Winking smile, but not that much. We hope to reach Aguadilla on the NW end of Puerto Rico before nightfall. Aguadialla is a surfer paradise, so we might have to stay there for a day. Liz loves surfing, and I will clean the hull again. Then on to Mayaguez to pick up fuel and water. And then weâll see.