Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Thrilla on the Way to Anguilla

Wind Microburst! 
Photo Credit:

We have owned Genesis for 17 years.  We have always heard about “wind microbursts” affecting sailboats, but we had never personally experienced one. Until now. With dear friends aboard.  Isn’t that always the way it always happens? As Captain Ron says “If something’s gonna happen, it’s gonna happen out there!”. 

Photo Credit:

What’s a wind microburst? A microburst is a pattern of intense winds that descends from the clouds, usually rain clouds, hits the ground, and fans out horizontally. 

Microbursts are short-lived, usually lasting from about 5 to 15 minutes, and they are relatively compact, usually affecting an area about 0.5 to 2 miles in diameter. They are often but not always associated with thunderstorms or strong rains. By causing a sudden change in wind direction or speed-a condition known as wind shear-microbursts create a particular hazard for sailboats because you don’t have time to prepare for them.

Looking Back at St. Martin on our way to Anguilla

We had a perfect weather forecast that day to sail from Grand Case, St. Martin to Road Bay, Anguilla.  

We were sailing along under sunny skies, broad reaching with winds in the 15-20 knot range. 

Perfect sailing conditions, had the main sail and the genoa up and we were having a fine time. 

Photo Credit:
Suddenly, without warning, a microburst of wind over 60 knots descended upon us! One moment we were sailing merrily along, and the next moment the boat was practically knocked over, heeled over to 40 degrees. Although the mast and sails did not go into the water, it was damn close! This is probably what we looked like as we heeled over.

LA was at the helm. Melissa was on the low port side of the boat, fortunately wedged in under the dodger.  Martha, LuLu and I were on the high side of the boat and we were suddenly standing straight up watching our cockpit side curtains hold hundreds of gallons in them, causing the boat to remain heeled over and sending hundreds of gallons of water into the cockpit washing over Melissa’s legs up to her thighs. There was definitely a lot of “holding on” going on…Melissa was holding my waterproof camera between her feet and holding on to the dodger, Martha was holding LuLu with one hand and the lifelines with the other, and I was holding on to Martha with one hand and the lifelines with the other and Melissa with my feet. LA was holding on to the wheel and fighting it furiously. 

As LA struggled at the helm, the water drained out of the cockpit amazingly fast by the large cockpit drains. Genesis rounded up as our autopilot was no longer able to hold our course. LA was not able to control the direction of the boat with the wheel. The wind had overpowered the rudder and steering the boat was momentarily impossible. Fortunately, the boat rounded up…which is what a well-built sailboat is designed to do in these conditions.  As the boat headed up into the wind, LA quickly regained control by steering the boat off the wind to refill the sails and get Genesis back on course.  It had now begun to rain and the winds started building, so we needed to reduce our sails. We brought in the genoa, which required a great deal of strength on my part due to the high winds and stress on the boat. Time to bring out the electric winch!  

Our boat guests...true sailors! Martha and Melissa
Everything was over in a matter of minutes, but it certainly startled all of us.  In my early sailing days, this would have probably caused me to have a heart attack, as I was so afraid when the boat heeled over even 20 degrees I would start to cry. It took me a long, long time to get over my fear of boat heeling. However, not the case with Martha and Melissa! They were champs! They remained calm and handled it great.  Natural sailors, these women are!

The rain subsided, the winds subsided and we continued to sail along the coastline of Anguilla and had a beautiful sail.  The sun came out, and everything was perfect again! 

The beautiful coastline of Anguilla

It's true what they say about cruising sailing... 98% calmness and 2% fast action. It's amazing how quickly you forget about the fast action part and get back in the calmness mode.

Road Bay, Anguilla

I’ll have to admit, it was nice to get to the anchorage and have a cold beverage (or two)!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Tintamarre Island Adventure

Photo Credit:

An uninhabited island located 2 miles off the northeast coast of French Saint Martin, Tintamarre is a beautiful tranquil place to visit.  Known as “Flat Island”, Tintamarre lies within the boundary of the Saint Martin Nature Reserve.

Traveling with our boat guests Martha and Melissa, we departed Marigot one morning (starting point on map... the 3rd arrow after Simpson Bay), heading to Tintamarre for a day trip. We had to wait to get through the Marigot bridge, then had to stand off and wait for 20 minutes in Marigot Bay so that we could head back to the west side of the bridge to get fuel. 

Here's Melissa, starting out for the day feeling pretty good.

As it turned out, the night before we had all imbibed a bit too much and the morning of departure we were all suffering varying degrees of the "cocktail flu". Martha was looking pretty chipper... but she didn't feel too chipper. 

We rocked and rolled our way the entire two hour, 12 mile trip.  It was certainly did not help with our "flu" recovery. Melissa decided to lay down on the bow of the boat to catch some rays, but it only served to make her queasy. 
Our Approach to Tintamarre Island

When we arrived to the island, we picked up a mooring ball on “Baie Blanche”, the calm leeward side of the island. This side of the island is quite popular, with charter boats from St. Martin arriving with boat loads of tourists to snorkel, swim and beach comb. 

We were all a little worn out from the trip and still suffering from the night before. Everybody except me sacked out when we arrived.  

Captain LA and LuLu visit "Planet Naptune".  Admittedly, one of my favorite places, too, but for some reason I could not sleep.

All Alone in Paradise!

I read for a while until, late in the afternoon, the tourists departed the island, leaving the island deserted. 

I asked LA to run me to shore in the dinghy for some exploring. I just couldn't resist a deserted island! 

I walked down the beach and found a "trail" to walk across the 80-acre island. As I was soon to discover, "trail" was a pretty loose term. Looks like what happened is many people walked off the beach toward the brush in search of a trail... then after they saw what they were going to have to DO to actually hike that trail, they obviously turned back. The trail ran out just a few hundred yards off the beach.

Which is probably what I should have done as well! Oh no, not me! I was not going to let some dense scrub brush and cacti get in my way. It was pretty rugged and it was hard to find a trail.  I ambled around in a zigzag for quite a way (actually, I pretty much blazed my own trail) searching for anything that remotely resembled a trail. 

And to make matters worse, I met up with a mean little cactus who succeeded in latching on to me as I hiked past it. Ouch! Double Ouch! (insert favorite cuss word here).  If you look at the photo closely, you will see that there are several spines sticking in my leg at all angles. I couldn’t pull the spines out! They were stuck in too deeply!  I had to hop along for a few yards until I found a stick that I could wedge under the spines next to my skin and pry the cactus straight off!  (Ouch again and insert more cuss words here). Such are the hazards of hiking alone on a desert island!

Note to self... quit looking up and start looking down! I might not be able to see a trail, but at least I could keep a sharp eye out for cacti! Picking my way gingerly across the island, I found the remains of a cotton plantation, several house foundations, and the remains of an airstrip.  
 A bit of history... a man named Mr. van Romondt once inhabited the island. Legend has it that van Romondt, fed up with paying taxes in Sint Maarten, boarded up his “Mary’s Fancy” estate and sailed off to Tintamarre sometime around 1907. There he hired workers from Anguilla and Sint Maarten to build him a large manor house with a farm, where he cultivated Sea Island cotton and raised cattle and goats, and made cheese and butter which were renowned throughout the West Indies. 

The island has now reverted to scrub brush and wild goats. Obviously, the goats were a hardy prolific bunch as I came across a herd of them heading across the island. Which also had an added bonus that I could follow their trails. I got as close to them as I could without scaring them away, taking a few photos along the way, and followed them across the island. 

There was a pretty good-sized herd, about 30-40 of them...mamas, daddies, and babies in tow. 
Unfortunately, they were just grazing along the middle of the island and had no intention of going anywhere near the beach, so alas, there were no trails leading to the beach. They ambled off, leaving me goatless, and on my own.

Being determined to reach the other side of the island, I finally found a place to get through the thick scrub brush to reach what I hoped was the windward beach.  I low-crawled under this tree and then crawled on my hands and knees through the bushes to finally come out on the other side... the beach!

The beach was wild and rocky and untamed. It was definitely not a place for swimming as the current was too rough. I could see all kinds of fish swimming in the surf.

I meandered down the beach and had a great late-afternoon view of the island of St. Martin. 

It was getting late and I needed to make my way back to the other side of the island.  I found a big trail that led back to the island’s interior. It looked like the lower east side of the island was the way most of the beachcombers crossed the island. I was sorry I had not come across this nice trail when I started this little adventure!

Aah... not so fast, Miss Robinson Crusoe! The nice trail ran out quickly and once again I was faced with scrub brush and cacti. I knew that tourists had to be hiking across this island... but where, oh where, did they cross???

I picked my way carefully back, looking down the whole way. The brush got thick as I approached the leeward side of the island. I found a sand trail through the brush and suddenly the beach appeared.

I was relieved when I saw my beloved Genesis waiting for me.  LA was already on the bow scanning the beach and waiting for my appearance. Fortunately, this was not his first rodeo dealing with me and deserted beaches, so he was not worried.

I radioed LA on the handheld VHF and he came over in the dinghy and picked me up.  It was time to head back to St. Martin.  Everyone on the boat was well rested, and ready to head back to St. Martin for a night of fun.

The sunset put on quite a show for us as we leisurely motored over to Grand Case in a short 45 minutes.

There is a lot of history about this tiny island... involving kings, a navy, and an airline. Want to know more?  Click on these links:
Tintamarre: A History
The Smallest Kingdom in the World

Friday, March 7, 2014

Sint Maarten 2014 Heineken Regatta!

Sint Maarten 2014 Heineken Regatta
March 6-9, 2014

The Sint Maarten Heineken Regatta began in 1980 with a modest 12 entries and has steadily climbed to over 200 boats and has drawn web traffic viewing from over 160 individual countries! The event attracts around 2500 sailors and approximately 1000 supporting people to the island. This year, 211 boats participated in the event. Over 100 boats were charter boats that race in the Bareboat fleet and around 50 of those came all the way from Holland. 

The Heineken Regatta is known as one of the “must do” events in the Caribbean and we didn't want to miss it. Four days of world class racing and four nights of fun-filled Heineken parties were scheduled with great food, ice cold beers and international music performers each night.  With the official slogan being “Serious Fun” it is no wonder people come from over 25 countries to attend this one of a kind regatta. We left the US Virgin Islands, we zipped past the British Virgin Islands, staying only one night, so that we could arrive on Sint Maarten in time for this unique and fun regatta (our first!). 

This year was the 34th edition of the regatta, and we were invited to "crew" on a Moody 46 cruising boat, Ke'OlaKai, in the Lottery class.  Ke'OlaKai is a beautiful, solid, seafaring boat. 

Photo Credit: Facebook: Ke'OlaKai:Life on the Sea The Nautical Adventures of Dave and Lisa
The owners of the boat, Dave and Lisa Franco, are experienced racers. They live aboard their boat and travel in the Eastern Caribbean.
"SeaDog" Dave
"Hurri Cane" Lisa
Rene and Stacy Foree, Pipe muh Bligh
Crew members: 

John Hoedemakers and Jolanda Geerdink (JoHo)

LA and Susan Wyatt (Genesis)

The day started with a parade of boats past the Sint Maarten Yacht Club.  This year, they made a show out of the bridge openings, turning a negative time-consuming process into all out fun! The Yacht Shop representatives were at the bridge openings both morning and evening scoring boats on the effort they made as they came through the bridge. 

Ke'OlaKai means "Life on the Sea" in Hawaiian, so Lisa chose an Hawaiian theme for the race.  Here the the women of Ke'OlaKai preparing to be presented to the judging platform.

And the men (!)....

The judging area on the deck of the Sint Maarten Yacht Club rated each racing boat according to originality, effort, and reaction from the crowd on the deck. They scored the boats with cards from 1 to 5 and held up cards for each boat to see the reaction.  We scored a 2 and a 3... I don't know exactly if that was good or bad... but I'm sure it had something to do with the two goofballs shown above :)

Off to the races! 

Captain SeaDog Dave was the captain of the boat for the race and determined the racing plan for the day.  He gave orders to the crew throughout the race. His crew's experience level varied. Lisa (very experienced), Rene and Stacy (experienced), John and Jolanda (limited experience), and us (racing virgins). 

LA and I were excited to be able to participate in the race and see what racing was all about. Being inexperienced at racing, our main jobs were 1). Stay out of the way and 2). Be "rail meat".  "Rail meat" (a highly technical term!) are those crew members in a race who scramble from one side to the other to sit on the edge of the boat to balance it while tacking, or changing its position into the wind. On this keelboat with lifelines (wires around the perimeter to keep from falling overboard), we were in the "hiking position," with our legs dangling over the side. It was nice to take in the atmosphere -- the racing boats, the water, the sky, to be mesmerized by the wind in our face. 

Ready, start, go.... Here's a quick video of the start of the race on Ke'OlaKai!n
Click the highlighted area.  Change the "auto" setting to "HD" resolution for viewing.
And they're off!

When I wasn't being rail meat, I enjoyed taking photographs during the race.  It was so much fun watching all the exciting racing action!

John and Rene hoisting the main sail.
Rene handling the winches.

Stacy and LA looking at the racing instruments awaiting Captain SeaDog Dave's next instruction.

Jolanda and Lisa searching for the next racing buoy.

Captain SeaDog Dave checking out the competition and planning his next move. 

Two videos of racing action! These racing boats really get close to you! Change the "auto" setting to "HD" resolution for viewing.
Racing Action 1
Racing Action 2

How did Ke'OlaKai fare in the Heineken Regatta? Day one (the day we crewed), we were disqualified right at the finish line due to a torn jib. 

Photo credit: Facebook, HurriCane Lisa

 Day two, Ke'OlaKai finished first! Here are the happy winners at the end of Saturday's racing. 

Photo credit: Jolanda Geerdink

At the end of the three day race, Ke'OlaKai placed sixth overall. Congratulations, Ke'OlaKai!

Photo Credit: Jolanda Geerdink

Some post regatta relaxin' action....
We were worn out!

Click the yellow highlighted link below to the our video showing our racing action photos set to music in the Heineken Regatta.  When the video appears, click on the little "gear" in the right hand corner and select "HD" for best video quality.