Monday, January 28, 2008
Spanish Town, BVI to St. Maarten (the Dutch spelling).
This is the story of the 80 mile crossing to St. Maarten that Capt. Scott turned into a 128 mile odyssey. Yeah, you can do that. Well, I can do that.
It all started with the promise of true north east winds. Maybe even from as north as 070 or 060. This could be great for a run to St. Maarten which bears 115 degrees from north sound of Virgin Gorda. We check out of Spanish Town which is in the middle of the west coast of Virgin Gorda and get under way around noon. Plenty of time to get around the top of Virgin Gorda and begin a night sail to St. Maarten. Right?
Well, getting around the top here turned out to be a little more difficult than expected. We went more north than planned to get around the top of Necker Island instead of under but that’s ok to head a little north as the winds are going to turn to the north (right?) so this just means we’ll take even more advantage of them. Once clear of all shoals we checked our two close hauled courses: 25 degrees and 145 degrees. Don’t be shocked. Our boat tacks 120 degrees if we are lucky! Well, do the math. If we sail 25 degrees that is at right angles to our rumb line which means we are essentially going nowhere so that’s not good. The other course, 145, is pretty far south of the line but what the hell at least I’m sailing. We get on that tack and stay there accepting the east we are getting and we need a little south anyway.
A beautiful night. Stars aplenty and the moon came up like a big orange egg in the east. Sue suggests that we maybe put on the engine and get east. Naw! It’s a F---- sailboat. Who cares when we get there?
But you do have to get there.
As the night wore on we demonstrated some of the worst behaviors of sailors ever. I got a little sick. We both had too much crap in the cockpit and started tripping over it in the dark. Someone at the helm (Sue) got us backwinded and forced a tack. . . but only TWICE.(Sailor Sue: It’s hard to see in the dark! Although there’s no excuse.) We shook out the reef in the main. We put it back in. In the middle of all this we had an encounter with a catamaran.
It was past dusk into dark. We had been watching her running lights for some time and figured we’d get close. We could see through the binocs that she was bare poles and under engine only power. We’re sailing and clearly have the right of way. When you have the right of way I feel it is important to stay on course for fear you get into the sidewalk dance where two people can’t quite figure out how to pass each other when walking opposing directions down a sidewalk. Of course for this to work both boats have to know the rules of the road and they have to be watching. As we got even closer I tried to hail them on the radio. Nothing. Then the air horn and an emergency tack from us. As we spun out of their path we saw people coming to the helm from down below looking around to see what was going on. We think they were all down below, on the auto helm and not even keeping a watch. This is way out at sea with no other boats around. You never know. Catamarans are just a step above power boats! (Except for our friends on Puddle Jumper.)
We marshaled on. I figured the wind was from about 80 degrees so I would sail through it so that St. Maarten would bear maybe 70 degrees so that we could use both tacks to get us there. The trouble with that was that by the time I got to the point where that might have worked around day break we were 30 miles south west of the island. Yeah, I had basically sailed past our goal. This is maybe excusable on a boat without an engine which this is not one of! Now the gps shows our eta to be around midnight. Our 16 hour trip is turning into days!
We now try a number of things including checking the charts to see what the hell island we ARE heading for and maybe we just go there! St. Somewhere? No. Now it’s motor and main. Motor and full sail. Motor reefed main and reefed jib. Motor, full main no jib. We’re both exhausted and beat up from bouncing around the cockpit all night and cranking on the winches. St. Maarten now bears 65 degrees. I still can’t sail there! I hate me. I hate my boat. I hate republicans. I hate my 3rd grade teacher. The depth of my hate for the world, the sea and sailing in general has no limit. And, good old Mismo the cat sits on the top stair of the companionway and screams at us to come out which we are not going to let happen at night on the rolling sea.
So come morning we are now 32 miles from St. Maarten. Let’s see, around 5 pm we had 75 miles to go. Now it is 7 in the morning and we have 32 to go. Just about anything I do with the boat we go 3-4 knots and not in the direction we want to go I say, let’s set full sail, crank up the engine until it smokes and sail due north to get due west of the island. Maybe we can motor/main in from the west then. (I’m still living in a world where the wind is going to go to the north east as promised, the good guy always wins in the end (and gets the girl), and good deeds don’t go unpunished) At this point I go to sleep in the v-berth and Sue takes us north. From there we proceed to motor/main to the island. With luck we might get in before dark which is our goal.
Look really closely at the horizon and you'll see St. Maarten - 26.2 miles away; a marathon that will take us 6 hours to reach the finish line; same as some marathon walkers; basically we were walking to St. Maarten.
Of course you can’t sail 90 degrees because that is dead up wind. North-east my ASS! We bear off and sail 100-110 degrees to get the speed and do manage to tack and get there by about 1700 and anchor down. We’re exhausted. The cockpit looks like a fraternity party happened there with spilled coffee, candy, and brownies. We hoist our Q flag (yellow flag meaning you’ve not yet cleared in.) We have a rum, some cheese and go to bed. Before turning in I check the trip meter on the gps. 128 miles and 30 hours sailed. 80 miles accomplished.
Maybe we could have done better.
I still say stubbornness is a GOOD trait!
Finally safely anchored at Simpson Bay, St. Maarten Scott and Mismo play footsee or is that fingersee or pawsee.