Rob recently pointed out that for a sailing blog, I write very little about actually sailing. This is a fair point, but it is true what they say—sailing is boredom punctuated by terror. Most of the time we are just staring off at the vast seas and occasionally trimming the sails. But it doesn’t take much–a rogue wave, a squall, an engine pitch change, a pod of dolphins, a fish on the line—and things get exciting fast.
We had heard that strong northerly winds in December wreak havoc on otherwise calm anchorages, but we had never experienced this first hand. Last season we didn’t leave our safe harbor until February and saw normal trade-winds most our way south. We saw that these ‘Christmas winds’ were in the forecast, so the first chance we got, we booked it from Nevis to Deshaies, Guadeloupe. We planned to ride out the strong winds in a well-protected anchorage while munching on baguettes and sipping espresso.
At 10:00am on Nov 19th, the Simpson Bay bridge opened and we entered the Lagoon in St Martin. We had just sailed the Anegada Passage without any issues. We were exhausted, but excited to welcome aboard our first overnight guests, Michelle and Steve. Checking in was a breeze and customs didn’t even ask about the pups. We had finally made it! Now it was time to meet up with our friends and start exploring this new island.
Only about 2 hours into our 16 hour passage to St. Martin, our cooling water high temperature alarm started shining bright red. We were heading directly into the wind, so we only had our main sail up and we were running our engine at full cruising speed. Our autopilot was on and we were admiring the super moon when it happened. I jumped behind the wheel and quickly throttled down, while Rob rushed downstairs to inspect the engine. I glanced at our transom and saw that we had plenty of water flow coming out of our exhaust. Perhaps the sensor had just failed and there wasn’t really an issue. However, when Rob opened the engine compartment door our galley transformed into a steam room. It was clear that we had a severe leak in our cooling system, so I immediately fell off from the wind and shut the engine down.
We had a great time living in San Juan, PR over hurricane season, but we were itching to get back on the boat and continue our journey south. Last season, we quickly learned that cruising can be like a roller coaster ride with amazing highs and frustrating lows. And this season has started off the exact same way.
In order to travel from Luperon to Puerto Rico, we had to cross 300 miles of some of the most grueling and unforgiving seas. It’s the thorniest part of The Thorny Path to Windward. Bruce Van Sant provides excellent instructions on how to sail these waters under prevailing conditions. However, we decided to wait for weather windows with light winds and motor sail across as quickly as we could. We broke the journey up into two long overnight passages.
Rob is 30! Finally! He would often remind me of our age difference, but now his jokes won’t have the same effect since we are both in our early 30’s. We pulled away from Providenciales in the early hours of Captain Rob’s birthday (April 14th). The wind was nonexistent and the water was very calm; almost like glass. We always want to sail, but without wind, we had to motor across the Caicos Banks. The calm conditions and blue still water reminded us of our trip across the Great Bahama Banks.