Friday, November 20, 2009

Goodbye Carribean Sea Hello Atlantic Ocean

On a Mooring Honey Moon Beach, Water Island, St Thomas USVI

The time has come to roll out of Honey Moon Bay. It's tough, I mean have a look at a typical evening sunset seen from Christa's deck, but I have a weather window to sail north by north west.

My track takes me from St Thomas west by northwest, passed the north coast of Puerto Rico to the southern edge of the Navidad and Silver banks (north of Cabo Samana Dominican Republic), south of Turks & Caicos, where I turn north northwest, pass west of West Caicos to Mayaguana. Total distance is 527 nautical miles. At 5.5 knots should take me about 4 days. Should be a nice run with bale out points of PR, The DR and the Turks & Caicos.

The weather is forecast to be 15 to 20 from the east, with isolated showers and thunderstorms. It would be nice if the wind came around from the east north east to give me a better angle. I may be running very far off the wind. Could give me a chance to try and pole out the jib with my whisker pole, which I've never had the opportunity to use.

So all is well, but a little sad to be leaving behind dear friends. But the future looks great and that cushions the blow. Wish me luck!

Capt Chris

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Squalls......I loath Them

On a Mooring, Honey Moon Beach, St Thomas USVI

Not all squalls are created equal, but still I treat each one with heavy skepicism. This is based on my experience. Since I arrived here in Honeymoon about a week and half ago, we have been buffeted by squalls due to a trough of low pressure north of the islands. They have not been continuous, but there unpredictability is unsettling to say the least. The only forecasting silver lining is access to Doppler Radar out of San Juan, which allows us to gauge the motion and possible severity. That is if your up and about and aboard. Each evening the sunsets have been some of the best I've ever witnessed. This is due to the proximity of squalls and an unstable atmosphere. That is the paradox, mother nature is really at her most beautiful when unleashing her power.

Now, Honey Moon anchorage is protected from normal easterly weather.....aka....the trade winds. What has been disconcerting about the past week or so is all the squalls have produced west winds. This turns Honey Moon into a potential death trap. I don't mean death in the literal sense, but that all of us could end up aground on the beach in a big heap in a heart beat.

We have had two severe squalls hit, both at about 2am. It always happens at 2am. What happens is you wake to the sound of thunder and or rain coming through the hatch. The first squall, waves arrived into the anchorage before the actual squall. So this micro-storm was pushing water ahead of it like a bulldozer. Then it hit with wind in the mid 30's to low 40's, lightning and so much rain you can barely make out the boat next door. All hands made it through the squall unscathed.

Now the low that had been creating these conditions had moved and the forecast was for all this squall activity to subside.

So it was quite surprising two nights ago to awake with a doozy of a squall. Very small in terms of coverage, but what a punch. In a flash Christa swung 180 degrees with the bow now pointing into the wind coming in from the west. I don't have an installed wind gauge, only a hand-held wind gauge. I surely had no time to check the wind with the gauge. But I do know the blades on my wind generator are designed to "feather" at 45 knots (with a horrific noise) to prevent the mechanism from exploding. They feathered instantly, so I believe the wind was at 50 to 55knots. I got the engine started and navigation gear up and running in case I broke loose. About this time I hear Kristopher from Wandering Dolphin, right next to me screaming my name. A boat in front of them broke loose, slammed into the WD and had wrapped it's rudder around there mooring line. Those two boats were now attached and slamming into one another in the 50 knots and now 3 to 4 foot waves generated in an instant.

This type of situation always poses a difficult dilema. Do I leave Christa to go over and help WD? The chances of Christa breaking loose were good. However, WD seemed to be in real trouble and at the moment my situation was stable. I put on a shirt (as the temperature dropped and I was shivering) and got in my dingy and headed over. Things were not good. The crunch of  two 20,000lbs boats crashing together is horrible. I came around the stern of WD, trying to power into the waves with my little 4hp Yamaha, I hit a short steep 3 or 4 footer and the brunt of the wind, all the water that had collected in the dink, the fuel can and me, moved to the back of the dink rapidly. End over end we went. I found myself under my dingy, calm and getting my bearings. I took a moment or tow to orient myself and swam out from under the dink and climbed about WD dingy.  Chaos still reined. My dink was floating away upside down with the engine submerged in salt water, I leaped up onto WD to see what I could do. Nothing, no one could do anything until the squall passed. All of us were aware that now two boats were attached to the same mooring, pray the mooring holds or both boats will end up on the beach in a gigantic tangle. Not to mention I'm watching Christa pitching to and fro,  praying that she doesn't break loose as now I have no way to get back even if she does break loose. Like I said, I loath squalls.

What are the lessons? Well probably plenty. One maybe would be to get to an anchorage that has all around protection. Few and far between. But I will say this. I've realized since I left in 2007, this type of experience is just the price of admission. You can't prevent everything. If you can't deal with a 50 knot squall you probably don't belong out cruising amongst the islands. I still find them very frightening and can't stand them. But as Kristopher and I were discussing, it is amazing at how few boats actually end up on the beach or rocks. It's kind of a rarity.

So there is more to the story, but WD is fine, but has damage to the boat; two very nice cruisers in another boat, came over after the storm and spent two hours dismantling the outboard and flushing it out until 4am. We were able to get her running again yesterday. I lost an oar and a hand-held de-watering pump, a lock and much sleep.

So that is that. Right on schedule last-night another squall passed through at 2am, but thankfully was not strong, but we all swung around to the west....again.

Capt Chris

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Grenada to St Thomas Across the Caribbean Sea Compilation

On a Mooring Honey Moon Bay, Water Island, St Thomas USVI

I am having great fun putting together these video's and learning about editing. Hope you enjoy. I have some footage of just prior to me leaving Grenada and some other stuff, but mostly sailing Christa north.

Capt Chris

PS: I've been also busy with my Canon G11. Please surf on over and check my pictures out in My Photo Album