June 12-14, 2011... Beating to Windward

With an early Sunday morning departure we started our trek eastbound to St Thomas. We knew a tropical wave was due through the Virgins and Puerto Rico Tuesday-Wednesday, so we thought it wise to get a move on. Our original plan was to make the trip in about three segments, with rest stops in between. Our first destination was Coffin Island (Isla Caja de Muertos) about 30 miles away just southeast of Ponce. We had forgotten how awful sailing east against the trades could be. We hadn't done this in over a year and suddenly remembered why. Its just so difficult to make satisfactory progress, and hard to get over the feeling of frustration.

Once stopped for the night at Coffin (and what a gorgeous place this is!) we checked the weather service for the forecast. Not only was the wave still due to come, but the tradewinds after the wave in the Thursday-Saturday timeframe were supposed to be 20-25 knots. Ugh. Not great for eastbound sailors. So, Monday morning we pulled ourselves up and decided we had to do the rest of the trip in one fell swoop -- meaning about 100 miles -- an overnight -- with an arrival on Tuesday in St Thomas.

Sailing was pretty good; we were getting better at tacking (almost on the hour...) and slowly making distance east. We were at the east end of Puerto Rico by evening, and like a bad joke, we got a squall in the Vieques Passage. This was our third time across this channel, and the third time we hit a squall! So, totally drenched, we soldiered on. About three hours later, after more tacking and bashing into very lumpy, churned up water, we decided to bite the bullet and turn on the engine to make a more easterly course across to Vieques. After motorsailing and motoring through the night, we finally got a break at the east end of Vieques. As the sun came up and our course changed for the 20-mile northeast trip to St Thomas, we turned off the engine. Sails up, we hurtled between the islands and made it in.

The toll on the boat wasn't too bad -- we lost a wire tie from the pin that held a lifeline in place. Found the pin on deck but not the wire. Also lost the headsail furling drum pin, though it had been secured to the drum. Must have broken loose and washed overboard in one of the hundreds of bow waves Anhinga took during the passage. The toll on the crew was a little greater. John, who lost count of how many tacks he made, ached all over. Patti, whose hands suffered from her deathgrip on the helm, also ached in shoulders and arms. We decided that beating to windward must mean beating up the crew. After arriving in Charlotte Amalie, we slept like babies.

Isla Caja de Muertos, Puerto Rico: 17d53.532'N 66d31.684'N
Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas: 18d20.237'N 64d55.780'W

1 comment:

  1. Hey Guys-
    Sounds like allot of work. Hope you have some time to relax now. Enjoy St. Thomas.DC summer is here already hot and humid. Had a golf weekend in the Poconos two weekends ago, this one coming up heading to a resort in WV for another golf weekend. Take care and enjoy.