Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Heading south

Hurricane season is well and truly upon us and the buzz is that this year will be an active lively one. We were anxiously watching the development of a tropical wave out in the Atlantic last week with predictions at one stage that it had a 60% chance of developing into a tropical cyclone. We made the decision to stay in St Martin until it passed rather than be caught sailing into it on our way south.
We were hoping to explore the two Dutch islands just south of here, Saba and St Eustatius, but the weather hasn't cooperated - too much rain and cloud combined with heavy seas has made them unfeasible as they have a reputation for being uncomfortably rolly to visit.
A small weather window of easterly winds finally opened up on Monday and we decided to set off for Dominica before the winds turned more southerly. It all started out well but, as we approached St Kitts around lunchtime, the winds turned south easterly and remained so for most of the next 30 hours. We battled our way upwind in high waves cursing the weather reports inaccuracy - where were the F4-5 east winds and 1-2 metre seas predicted? The only thing we could be grateful for was the lack of rain we were expecting on Tuesday.
We haven't quite made it as far as Dominica, we pulled into The Saintes, south of Guadaloupe, yesterday evening, exhausted and salty. It seemed a better plan than trying to anchor in an unknown bay in Dominica at 1130 at night.
Torrential rain washed off the salt last night and continued through this morning but it has cleared up a bit this afternoon. We had a wonderful snorkel here, typically without the camera, moray, drum fish, 10/12 flying gurnards all together, a colour-changing octopus and a striped burrfish with irridescent green eyes.

Saturday, 19 June 2010

Back to St Martin

I have to admit we did not abide by our 12 hour departure limit from Virgin Gorda. The weather wasn't cooperating for a passage back to St Martin so we moved up into the reefs of Eustatia Sound, a stunning spot, and waited a couple of days. We were joined again by Argo Navis and had a fond farewell dinner together before we head off in opposite directions.
On Thursday we set out for St Martin with trepidation, knowing we would be fighting our way against the prevailing winds. In the end our passage was far better than expected, we covered 130 miles instead of the direct 70 and it took almost 24 hours but the weather was good and Irony performed incredibly well with the barber hauler that Nic rigged. She seemed happiest to steer herself at around 40/45 degrees to the wind without the intervention of the autopilot and without any input from us on the helm!
We are now in St Martin to pick up some parts we have ordered and to collect Nic's birthday cards and presents sent here for the 1st May. They hadn't arrived in time due to the appallingly unreliable postal service and the added problem of the Icelandic volcano interfering with flights in April. Although not the prettiest Caribbean island, St Martin is a good stop for provisioning and services and a great place to meet other yachties. The trick is not to get stuck here, as we did last year, we know too many people pulling in here for a week and not leaving for months!

Monday, 7 June 2010

Continuing to enjoy the BVIs

From Tortola we sailed across to Sandy Spit off Jost Van Dyke - it's a picture postcard island of sand surrounded by turquoise water -busy during the day, but empty at night. It is inhabited by some very aggressive birds who dive bomb anyone walking on the island - and has made for some very funny video footage! Then we moved to Guana Island - the very rocky bottom has stripped our chain of its last galvinising but it's a beautiful spot. Next we spent a couple of nights off Little Camanoe anchored in sand but with fabulous coral gardens to snorkel on. After an overnight stop in The Dogs (possible due to very calm conditions) we are now back on Virgin Gorda in Savannah Bay.
Nic has been working on our dinghy for the last 2 weeks, trying to glue it back together and it will only be ready to go back in the water tomorrow. (We've been very lucky to be travelling in convoy with friends who have ferried us back and forth.) We swam to shore today to walk into Spanish Point to check out - hoping to leave in the next day or so for St Martin. We discovered, from some extremely sullen and unfriendly officials in the Port Authority office that you are only given 12 hours after checking out so we are supposed to leave the Virgin Islands at first light tomorrow morning.