Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Passage Making... It's a Real Bash!

A BASH you say??  More often than not it IS a bash heading down the islands, and I'm not talking about a party with wild bands and booze, I'm talking about slugging it out against the prevailing winds and currents day after day. 

Where are the lazy days of sailing we had in the Bahamas! We had it sooooo easy, but we just didn't know it at the time.  We bashed all the way from the Bahamas to the Turks and Caicos.... all the way to the Dominican Republic... all the way to Puerto Rico.... all the way to the US Virgin Islands... then all the way down to Sint Maarten.  Would heading to Grenada be any different?

The Latest Passage Plan....Leave Sint Maarten and sail directly down to Grenada.  The fast track, if you will.  Yes, there were plenty of islands to visit... but we knew we would catch them later on our trip back north after hurricane season.  It is hurricane season already, and we wanted to get into the safer (?? hopefully!) waters of Grenada, and we were anxious to meet up with our friends Rene and Stacy Foree on Pipe muh Bligh and have some fun!

Anticipated Date of Departure:  Tuesday, July 1, mid-morning. A projected 68- hour passage directly to Grenada, arriving early Friday morning, July 4. 

Trip Planning: Customized weather forecast from Chris Parker, the Caribbean weather guru.  Tell him when you think you want to leave and he will advise you on whether:
A). You can safely go 
B). You shouldn't go 
C). You could chance it and go, and it might work out OK 
D). You are bat crazy if you go.

Here is the weather forecast we received on Monday, June 30, the day before our planned departure. 
(Please scroll on through this if it is like reading Greek or bores you out of your skull; I'll give a brief translation at the end so you won't miss anything...)

squalls and windy weather in the area today (Monday) are associated with WAVE Action But conditions should subside significantly on Tue July 1, allowing you a good opportunity to sail S from SXM beginning Tue1.

Weather looks very good Tue1-Thu3 (moderate E Trades in upper-teens gusting a bit over 20k, and seas close to 5', with very little squall activity).

Thu3 night-Fri4 builds ENE@20g27 with larger seas...but from a N-of-E direction so you'll be on a beam reach.

Late Fri4 afternoon-night and into Sat5 you would see: 120-140@20g27, squalls/T-strms to 35k, seas 7-10'. You definitely don't want to be out-and-about in that. If, for some reason. you fail to reach Grenada Fri July 4, you'll want to stop wherever you are.

Sea Surface Currents:
You should see mostly adverse NW-N flowing currents of 0.5k to 1k. There's probably not as much adverse current near the Leeward Islands than there would be if you were significantly W of Leewards....so I'd stick close to the Island Chain. You might want to pass N&E of StKitts/Nevis area...then pass on either side of Montserrat (I would probably pass W of Montserrat)...and pass W of the rest of the Islands all the way to Grenada.

Tue1 morning, departing StMartin: 100-110@17g22, wind-chop 5', swell 6'/8secESE-SE.

During Tue1, sailing SE-SSE toward StKitts/Nevis...wind moderates to 15g19k, wind-chop settles to 4'.

Tue1 night-Wed2, passing W of Montserrat/Guadeloupe/Dominica: 080@17g22, wind-chop 5', swell 5-6'/8secESE.

Wed2 night-Thu3, passing W of Martinique-Grenadines: 090@17g22, wind-chop 5', swell 5-6'/8secE.

Thu3 night-Fri4 morning, approaching Grenada: 090<060@20g27, wind-chop 6'.

Fri4 afternoon-night, near Grenada: 070<140@15-20g27, squalls to 30-40k, wind-chop 7-10'.

And now for the brief translation.... Better get your fanny down to Grenada in a timely manner because the sh*t is gonna hit the fan just a few hours after your arrival. 
In other words, option C). You could chance it, and it might work out OK 

OK, then.  We had our forecast and we were ready to go. Things had to go perfectly in order to safely arrive on time.  Perfectly, huh? Has ANYONE out there EVER had anything go PERFECTLY when it has to do with a boat?? Well, hope springs eternal! Obviously, one can hope, because we decided to head out and hope for a perfect passage. (Note to self:  A thought lurks around in the dark crevices of my mind...Hope? Hope?  A good friend of mine always said "Hope is not a plan". I am pretty sure she is going to be proven right once again). I'm just going to tamp that thought back down and go with the plan. Grenada, here we come!

Here's our planned route from Sint Maarten to Grenada.  Yep, a straight shot. Not the most comfortable route, but the fastest. Remember that tight weather window?? This route will give us some wind so that we can actually SAIL to Grenada. After all, we are in a SAILboat and we'd actually like to sail it once in a while instead of bashing into the wind for a change.
Heading out from the islands was definitely going to make for a rougher trip. We were prepared for the trip... we cooked food for the passage and planned our watches so that we could get some rest along the way.
Heading out through the Simpson Bay Lift Bridge in Sint Maarten at the 10:30 a.m. bridge opening.

Tuesday was a nice day for sailing. We were making pretty good time, averaging about 6 knots of speed with winds in the 17-20 knot range. 

LA and LuLu getting some rest on passage. LA was the one catnapping and LuLu had her "worried face" on.  She does not like it when the sails are up and making noise. She feels it is her duty as boat kitty to keep a close eye on those sails!

As the day turned into evening, the winds and seas began to build some. We were sailing with one reef in the main and the stays'l. By Tuesday night, we were bashing into the waves and it was hard to sleep off watch. We took 2 hour watches and didn't get a lot of sleep that night. 

By Wednesday morning, the winds were around 25 knots and had switched direction so that we were sailing pretty close to the wind, which made for a more uncomfortable passage. We were well offshore from the leeward islands and bashing our way down. The westerly current had also begun to slow us down to about 5.5 knots. Bashing sends waves of spray over the boat from stem to stern, covering the boat with salt. 

At 6pm Wednesday evening, we had traveled 170 nautical miles, still bashing, and the westerly current against the wind continued to impede our speed. We realized that there was no way that we were going to make it to Grenada before the scheduled heavy weather was going to hit and we were going to arrive right in the middle of it. Sometimes you gotta change the plan!

We checked out the chart, and we were 83 miles off the leeward coast of Dominica.  We could be there by morning, stay for a while, get some rest, and resume our trip south on another weather window.  We turned Genesis toward land, and bashed our way into the wind all night long to get there. 

Land Ho!  

We were so happy to see the island of Dominica!  We were exhausted from yet another night of bashing and very little sleep. 

The plan: check in with customs, then get some much needed sleep. 

Can't wait to get rested and explore this beautiful island! Stay tuned!

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