Antigua to St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands   March 2009

April 1:  Wednesday

Caribbean Sea

0800  Although it was not necessary I was awake early and underway at dawn.  The wind was light then and I thought I should raise the anchor while it was easy.  There was some growth on that part of the chain that had been near the surface, but not down lower.  The anchor itself was well set and came up with a big ball of sand and shell that I had to clear by repeatedly raising it out of the water and then dropping it back in.

As I was powering out of Falmouth Harbor a big gray catamaran with a Greek flag was powering in, and a mile farther I passed a 60’ sloop powering at speed into a swell that being behind me I hadn’t even noticed until I saw his bow driving up spray as it rose and fell.

At the moment two other sails are in sight.  I will seldom have the sea to myself here.

I cut the engine at 0645 and tried to sail, but there was too little wind, and I will be even more careful in the future about letting the jib collapse and fill, so I furled it and powered again until 0740, when off the reef at the southwest corner of the island, I turned to 300º, the desired course until we clear several islands to the west of us, including Nevis, St. Kitts,, St. Eustatius, and Saba, over the next hundred miles.

We’re now sailing at 3 knots on a beam reach.  Sunny morning.  Sky clear except for a few clouds over Antigua and Montserrat to the southwest.

A waypoint off St. Johns in the U.S. Virgin Islands is 182 miles away, bearing 295º.

My mooring in Opua is 7734 miles, bearing 246º; but I expect to have to sail at least 9,000 miles to get there.

1205  Sunny.  A few clouds about.  One sail passing east of us heading for Antigua.  Another near Montserrat.  Antigua, Montserrat, Nevis and St. Eustatius all in sight, mostly high volcanic peaks.

For a while this morning in the wind shadow of Antigua our speed dropped to 2 knots, but the seas were flat and we continued to glide along.  Since then we’ve done 5 and sometimes 6 under jib alone.  At 6 knots I could make the VI before sunset tomorrow, but would be too late to clear with the officials anyway.  An awkward distance still to go. 

Lunch of cheese, Anchor brand from New Zealand bought at the store in Falmouth Harbor, where it came I assume via the UK.

Noon position:  17º 11’ North; 62º 11‘ West.  Virgin Islands:  165 miles; bearing 294º.  Distance sailed to noon:  28 miles.

My Virgin Island waypoint is just off Cruz Bay, Saint Johns Island, which is probably the port of entry I will use.

Current SOG:  6.3 knots; COG:  306º.  Wind around 12 knots.  Sea 2’.  Barometer 1020.

1800  Rather late I decided to go for it.  The waypoint off St. Johns Island is simply too close--132 miles. which is only a 5.5 knot average; so a half hour ago I raised the mainsail and our SOG went to 7 knots.  6.8 at present.  The sailing is still smooth and perfect.  That was the problem:  it seemed perfect before and I’m not in a rush.  Wind on the beam at 12-14 knots.  Waves 2’.  Temperature 80ºF/ 26.6ºC.  Silhouettes of interesting islands to leeward.  St. Kitts is 7 miles abeam to the west.  It has two impressively high peaks on which clouds are caught.  Hatches open.  No spray on deck.  With the main up, it is all the same, but a knot faster.

I’ve lost at least 10 miles by not having the main up all day.  If I just miss making it to some anchorage tomorrow sunset, I have only myself to blame; but then I expected to spend tomorrow night at sea, and the wind may weaken tonight.  Anyway, THE HAWKE OF TUONELA is sailing beautifully on what is a cheese and crackers passage.  Dinner was the same as lunch, but accompanied by a rum and tonic.

April 2

Caribbean Sea:  Thursday

0610  Sun just rising.  57 miles to go.  12 ½ hours of daylight.  SOG 6.6.  So I think we are going to make it.  Want to.  Very little sleep last night.  Always ships and boats around.  Many seemed small inter-island ferries.  I was on deck at least every half hour until 0400.  May have slept an hour then.

I lowered the mainsail at 2200 off Saba where our course changed to 290º and the main started to blanket the jib, causing it to collapse.  Just raised it again when I got up a half hour ago because our boat speed had dropped to 5.5. 

At 0400 a shadowy line of clouds to the east looked as though it might hold rain, so I put the inserts in the companionway, but none fell on us.  Those clouds are now well to our west.

0945  Several islands visible ahead:  two of the British Virgin Islands, Virgin Gorda and Tortola; and I think St. Johns in the U.S. Virgin Islands.  The waypoint off Cruz Bay, St. Johns is 34 miles away.

Wind lighter.  Boat speed around 6 knots and we’re generally sailing high of the course to keep the main from blanketing the jib.

1200  Fine sailing.  Wind has backed so I can keep sails drawing.  Been making 7 knots.  Norman Island, in the BVI, is nine miles away, and the southeast corner of St. Johns fourteen miles away.  However we have to go to Cruz Bay on the west side of the island, which is just over twenty miles distant.  Going to lower mainsail soon.  If speed drops below 6 knots under jib alone, I’ll turn on engine.

Noon position:  18º 14’ North; 64º 27‘ West.  Day’s run 145 miles.  Rather good considering that I just loafed along until late yesterday afternoon and then had the mainsail down from 2200 until 0500, and there was a slight bend in our course after we passed Saba Island.

1900  I’m anchored in Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas.  This is the main harbor in the U.S. Virgin Islands and I ended up here after a number of decisions and changes of mind.  This is where I had to come finally in any case, I just eliminated the middle steps.

I was anchored at 1700 in 31‘ of water.  Time to reorganize the boat, have a solar shower, and a drink and dinner on deck.

This was truly a cheese and cracker passage:  two lunches and one dinner all cheese and crackers.  Tonight, with the passage over, I splurged with freeze dry lamb fettucini.

To return to the passage, the wind did drop and I ended up powering most of the afternoon, with the jib set until the last two miles.  If I had powered early in the passage when we were in the wind shadow of Antigua, I wouldn’t have had to power as much at the end.  In all I probably had the engine on as much in this two hundred miles as I did the six thousand between South Africa and Antigua.

The distance covered since noon is 27.5 miles.  With the 28 miles before noon yesterday, and a day’s run of 145 miles, the total is 200.5 miles.  I don’t understand why I ever thought it would take two nights.  Very glad it didn’t.

Passage over.