Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Big Dogs Arrive

The marina in Marigot Bay is getting more and more crowded as the holiday approaches.  In the past couple of days, three very large sailing vessels became our neighbors on the dock.

First to arrive was the sloop, s/v Ghost.  Our navigation instruments receive signals from the Automatic Identification System required of all large vessels.  This tells us, among other things, some basic information about the boat. We learned from the AIS that Ghost is 33 meters long and 7 meters wide (that’s 108 feet x 23 feet). That seemed pretty big to us.

The following day s/v SPIIP came into the marina.  She is sloop rigged, and even bigger:  the AIS reports she is 34 meters long and 9 meters wide (that’s 111 feet x 30 feet). 

Later in the day, the ketch-rigged s/v Rosehearty cruised slowly into the bay.  Rosehearty is 56 meters long and 10 meters wide (184 feet x 33 ft).  She is simply enormous.  Watching her dock, I would estimate that there were at least 8 crew on deck.  No telling how many were below during the maneuver. According to her website, you can charter her for $225,000 per week.  Not including fuel or booze.

Well, our homey 14 meters is plenty for the two of us and some occasional guests. It is interesting, though, that the basic process for tying up stern-to the dock is exactly the same for our boat and the behemoths.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Christmas Winds

Often, at this time of year, the Caribbean experiences a few weeks of unusually strong winds and waves.  Because of the timing, many people refer to these as the “Christmas Winds.”  They don’t always happen exactly at Christmas-time, but usually pretty close.

Sure enough, the forecast for next week is for 20-25 knot sustained winds, and gusts approaching 30 knots.  This much wind creates big waves.  Out in the open ocean near St. Lucia, the forecast is for waves as big as 4 meters (13 feet).  That’s the average of the wave heights, there will be some waves that are much bigger.  One forecaster described the expected sea state as a “washing machine.”

We don’t mind sailing in 25-knot winds, we just reef our sails.  But sailing in 4-meter waves is another story.  We experienced waves that large, and even bigger, when we sailed from Virginia to the Virgin Islands in 2010.  But they were out in the blue water, which means far apart and not very steep, and Callisto simply rode over them.  In the Islands, they are close together and steep.  No fun.

Of course, when you’re cruising you can choose what weather to sail in.  We work very hard to avoid sailing in conditions like this.  Frankly, even riding at anchor in many harbors isn’t comfortable.

As it turns out, we are currently in one of the most protected harbors in the southern Caribbean, Marigot Bay in St. Lucia.  We had guests earlier this week who aren’t experienced on boats, and chose to tie up in the marina here to make it easier for them.  We had originally planned to sail north today, stopping in Rodney Bay for a few days before going to Martinique.  With the weather forecast, we’ve decided to stay here for several more days and then go straight to Martinique.

Keeping a flexible schedule is important in dealing with the weather.  This can be difficult, though, when we have visitors on the boat.  People’s flight arrangements are not very flexible.  We deal with that problem by planning to arrive at the meeting point several days in advance, giving us the needed flexibility.
For example, our daughter and her husband are flying into Martinique on 26-December.  Our working float plan had us arriving on Martinique on 21- or 22-December, with the option of arriving even sooner if need be.  That way, we have at least a week of flex in choosing our sailing date.  While they are with us, we hope to make the passage to Dominica with them, and then return to Martinique.  But if the weather fails to cooperate, we’ll just stay in the protected waters to the lee of Martinique.  Flexibility is the key.

Generally, by the middle of January the Christmas Winds are gone, and we settle into the typical tradewinds, with windspeeds in the teens. Much more relaxing!

Holiday Colors!