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Date: 18 Jan 2010 00:56:23
Title: St Marteen to BVIs 18:27.26N 64:29.67W

Passage St Marteen to Virgin Gorda
 
Just done our first sailing passage,  as most of you will know Colin is
never keen to run the engines, I am at this stage a little more keen but
really have tried  to 'keep shtum' over this one.  So reports of next to
no winds and Colins decision to push off from St Martin, or as he called it
the 'Carribean Benidorm', was welcome.  I have to admit having spent afew
nights at anchor drifting off to sleep to the dolset sounds of Chaz and Dave
does ring true Colins description.   The very positive repair we did in St
Martin was to replace our Rigging,  we know this was a must in the next year
and reports told us that St martin was a great place to get it fixed.  So at
the eleventh hour, 2 days ago we found a company in the cruising guide.  Not
knowing if it was the right one or not they came out to the boat to do a
survey and discovered the mast was hanging on by the skin of its teeth as at
least three strands of the forestay were broken and the swage at the bottom,
hidden by the furling system had a crack almost along its whole length,
thank heavens for very very fair winds across the atlantic.  So, we went
through the lifting bridge, and moored on to the dock of FKG Rigging.
Within 24 hours all the standing rigging was replaced and we were ready to
crack on.  We are now almost 4 wks later than we expected to get up to the
BVI's which has always been the plan so I can have a jolly good go at
learning to sail a big boat.  I think it's quite an achievement to have
lived on a boat for 8 weeks and still not know really what I am doing.  But
hay hoe off we go.

We finally caught up with our old dentists, Tim and Stph (with Fin, 6 and
Sam, 4) from Emsworth in Simpsons Bay, St Marteen which was great,  having
never met them socially only one or the other has been looking at our molars
it was great to hook up,  especially as they are doing a very similar thing
to us.  They plan to take a bit more time, 5yrs.  It has dawned on Colin and
I that we do feel in a bit of a rush.  But just now are thanking our luck
that we are doing it independantly not in a rally.   So the Dickensons kids
and ours had some fun together but what was an enourmous help for Colin and
I was we have been able to get on with stuff whilst Cos and Zin where
playing on a play date,  ohh 'high five' to Steph.
We finally got our selves ready to leave about 4.30 Tim was slightly bemused
asking if we were waiting for the current winds to drop, as forcasted, for
us to leave.

Lovely gentle departure,  Supper on route with the kids and then to a bit of
Annie on the dvd player and a joint sleep over in Zinzan's room for a treat.

The trip started just exactly as planned, Colin planned to start the watch
system at 10 and change every 3 hours.  All sounding do-able, but in good
old Colin fashion 'we' have decided not to rush and amble our way with out
the use of the engines.

As Colin settles down for a pre-shift sleep he wished for a nice 12 knots
across the bows,  in his dreams.  But about half an hour later, that is what
he got.  Then off for my sleep at 10 I go.   Eventually at midnight Colin,
who has been trying to hold off waking me needs to get me up to put a reef
in as the nice 12 has not very gently whizzed up to 20+ and we are powering
along at 8-9 knots.  Come 1am Colin takes his turn at sleep.  And luckily
for me the wind drops off a bit and I'm able to get some more of my
addictive book read. This only last for 1 hour when suddenly the swell grows
and the wind over the deck hits 25+ consistantly.  "COLIIIIIIIIN ! !".

Nice to see him again but then we loose our annemometer readings, so in goes
another reef and a bit of gib in.  Once this is done and we get back on
course we are vexed by an unidentifible group of lights looking just like
the flybridge of a tanker with a bow light, and nothing on the radar or AIS.
To add to this we are now faced with going over a sand bank with increases
the swell.  Having been drowned by a couple of waves we don our oilskins,
still complete with shop labels.
The depth guage dropped and dropped, again not like the chart, and started
to read between 6 and 0.8m.  Not very encouraging.  You know the chart
depths are nothing like this, but you can't help wondering.

Having rechecked and check again the GPS Colin realises his school-boy error
and we discover we are 4 hours ahead of ourselves and the GPS is working on
GMT and we are due to his land under the night fool, not a good idea even
for a passenger liner in to a Port.  So what to do......  Unidentifiable
lights with no AIS signal already 2 reefs in and still running at 7-8 knots.
Once we have dropped the sail and are going along with a tiny bit of jib we
are still going at quite a speed.  Given our luck on this trip I am only so
very glad we bit the bullet on the rigging as painful as it was.

Finally, with no abaitment in the weather we enter through a tiny passage
into Virgin Gouda.  Given the access thank god we depowered ourselves even
in day light the entrance round the South of the Island just missing the
'blinders' which just poked up menacingly through the waves.  We were
running with a scrap of job and engines running, with a squal coming up
behind through a passage 300m wide. It was hairy and exhilirating.

We are unable to give you exact details of wind speed etc due to the demise
of our helpfull anemometer, but take it from a novice it was fast and the
sea was high, think I may have this sailing thing sorted now.  Wear a life
jacket, Clip your self on and never believe what they say on the weather
reports!  Perhaps to I should add that even a best laid year long plan for
gently learning to sail in the BVI's is a wee bit fool hardy, It's raining
cats and dogs here and blowing a hooley,  not sure it's love at first sight
between the Prices and the BVI's.
 

I think Colin might be alittle more carefull about what he wishes for in the
future.  But glad to say despite the grown-ups having a sleepless night the
kids didn't mermer once,  the Rum in the hot chocolate obviously works......

Oh, and the unidentified lights in the sea turned out to be a strangely
positioned island village and a patch of good visibility.

Signing off now from the 'not-so-smug weather-resistant Prices'.

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