Thursday, February 19, 2009

Man is it Windy!

Capt Chris, 80 degree's and windy!
St Maarten Leeward Islands

Thus far my initial impression of St Martin it is a very busy place. Some folks can't stand a place like this. I prefer both really. When I get sick of the chaos I move to a more tranquil setting. I will try and give you a accurate impression. First off the airport flight path goes right over the anchorage. So thundering aircraft take off with full thrust to clear the mountain to the east. Could rattle someone. I happen to love planes so it doesn't bother me and I love watching the Gulfstream GV's take off. The island has two sides, one French and One Dutch with separate everything. Including governments, language and regulations. The fee schedule is different as well. The French side you pay an 8 dollar entrance fee and that is it. This is why the French side of the lagoon has many more cruisers. The Dutch side charges $30 a week to anchor. The lagoon is ringed with marina complexes that mostly cater to the mega yachts that cram this island. Along with all the wealth comes the casinos, shops and cafe's that are very very nice and is something I have really missed.

Something that I have also missed is all the cruisers that I pretty much have been separated from since I stopped in Puerto Rico almost a year ago. Other than a handful of boats I haven't seen a whole lot of people on the move. But now in St Martin, the whole anchorage is cruisers. As an American I clearly am in the minority. Boats from all over the globe abound. I checked into the morning radio net this morning which I haven't done since Luperon Dominican Republic. Here is a typical broadcast. A net person greets all the boats on Ch 14 and asks for any emergency traffic. Then he or she reads the weather. All new arrivals or departures chime in with commentary and questions and then it is onto safety and security issues. Then a radio swap meet takes place. Boat X is looking for part Y and boat Charlie may have a outboard for sale. Those folks move to a working channel to make a deal. Then announcements of activities such as drunken bashes, yoga and library hours. By this time folks have "net fatigue" and any long winded people are being cursed unbeknown to them. And that is a typical net broadcast. It is the best way to get information about everything.

Now I know I do an awful lot of complaining about the wind and for non sailors it can be confusing. But I just would like enough wind from the correct direction when I need. That happens rarely. If you were to log onto and check out the wind in the Caribbean basin you would understand. The whole Caribbean is really really windy. The anchorage here in St Martin is totally enclose so no swells of any sort will get through. But the wind is in the mid 20 knot range with occasional gusts that come powering out of the mountains. The bottom is mud and grass and other than the older couple who dragged yesterday, no other boats have moved. The longer Christa is exposed to these gusts without movement the more confident I become. But I like most people I worry about dragging. About 4 this morning a squall came through and with it an extra 10 knots of wind piled onto the gradient wind. Cumulative wind was about 35 knots. I was up checking my bearings and relative position to other vessels. I was proud to see several other boats with cabin lights on checking things out. One boat dragging can create chaos.

So today will be some more exploring around the island. I plan on working on my resume to drop off at one of the yacht crew agencies. Back in St Thomas I met a mega yacht skipper who has been in the business for 30 years. He invited me over to the big ship for some training on my resume. I learned a great deal from him about the industry and what I may be qualified to do. So I am may be interested in being hired on a yacht as part of a delivery crew. Generally these monsters will head across the Atlantic to the Med in May or June. Many ships give there crews vacation time during the transit and hire delivery crews. So we'll shall see. I am not hell bent on working on one of these yachts but I certainly would do it given the right circumstance. Plus it could be a hoot.

Capt Chris

Monday, February 16, 2009

Bound For St Martin Leeward Islands

Currently in the Anegada Pass

With the weather window holding and with great anticipation I weighted anchor and departed St Thomas this morning just after 7am. Once again with heavy heart I had to leave Wandering Dolphin waving. They did video my departure and maybe they have uploaded the clip. Check out Wandering Dolphins blog under my sidelinks. So the first 3 hours of the trip were more than I had anticipated. 15 knots straight on the nose with a 4 to 6 foot chop. I hate punching into slop, so I tacked back and forth and by the time I was south of St John the wind as predicted eased right up to about 8 knots out of the southeast. Today has been downright beautiful. Crystal clear skies with light winds and a sea that is smoothing out the further east I go. I motored sailed along the south coast of the British Virgin Islands and left Virgin Gorda to port and now am on a rum line for Simpson Bay on the Dutch side of St Martin. Doesn't look like I'm be getting much sailing in. Winds are forecast to stay light all night. At present Christa is motor sailing between 4 and 5 knots. The Yanmar is running perfectly and all systems are G. I anticipate to be near the south coast of St Martin between 8 am and noon time. Late tomorrow afternoon the cold front will be approaching with 10 to 15 knots SW breeze which would be a perfect broad reach. However once the front passes the winds will clock to the NNE at 16 to 22 knots with a 9 to 11 foot sea rapidly following. That would be nearly straight downwind which is a real pain and the wind velocity predictions have varied amongst several sources. So I think instead of soldiering on to Antigua I'll make a stop. So I have a couple of other sailboats on the horizon and I would think a gaggle of boats will take advantage of the current calm conditions to move east. I'm getting close to being done with easting. Bout time, I've been easting since September of 2007!

Capt Chris