Monday, June 07, 2010

June 7, 2010 - Enroute to Bermuda

Cooling down with a bucket shower

June 1st marked the official start of hurricane season. Although our insurance would cover us for storm damage incurred in the Caribbean through the end of June, we were starting to get itchy to get north. Already this year at least one system has popped up between the Caribbean and Bermuda that had it occurred after June 1st, would have been labeled "tropical" by the meteorologists. But since it went through in May, it didn't get the tropical designation. These past few weeks the local papers and conversations at cruisers happy hours have been peppered with reports that it is going to be a busy year for hurricanes. So it was time for us to get out of dodge.

The route from the Caribbean to Bermuda passes through the Horse Latitudes, a region known for its calms. The name for the region hails from a time (before combustion engines) when becalmed seamen were forced to eat the horses on board to keep from starving. These days it might as well refer to horse power (as in Mata'irea's 64 hp Yanmar) because one expects to have to motor through the calms (dallying and waiting for a tropical storm to develop just isn't worth the fuel savings). Unfortunately, there hasn't been much wind at all between the Caribbean and Bermuda for the past few weeks, and what there has been has been associated with unsettled squally weather. We carry enough fuel to motor most of the way there (an expensive way to go, but cheaper than repairing storm damage), but not quite enough. So we were waiting for a window that would give us at least a few days of sailing.

Since we can only stand being anchored in the cesspool that is the Simpson Bay Lagoon for so long, last Thursday we motored up to Anguilla to enjoy our last few days at anchor in the warm, aqua blue tropical waters of the Caribbean. Anguilla has a bunch of rules in place that make it very expensive to explore any of the island or its outlying reef by boat. So we resigned ourselves to hanging out in the only free anchorage, Road Bay, which has clean, clear water, free wifi (so handy for downloading big weather files), several beach bars, and is within walking distance of one of the best restaurants on the island. Even with all that to keep us entertained, we still were anxious to get going.

We've been watching the weather, waiting for the Atlantic High to set up to give us some decent wind south of the High. But it just wasn't happening. So on Saturday we had lunch at one of the beach bars, disassembled the dinghy and, just as the charter boats were returning from their day out at the out islands, raised the anchor and headed north.

During the first few hours of the trip we had terrific sailing. The wind was well forward of the beam but it was light and the water was pretty flat, which are awesome sailing conditions for Mata'irea. We were flying along at 7 knots, slicing smoothly through the water, which also made for great sleeping conditions. And then the wind began to slack off. By morning we were doing 2.5 knots, and then eventually we had to turn the engine on to keep moving. It is still running.

Ever since we cleared the reefs north of Anguilla we've had another sailboat within visual or radar contact. There is an adage that any two boats headed in the same direction constitutes a race. That first night, while we were still sailing, having another boat ahead of us did make us more attentive to sail trim as we worked all night to whittle away the distance between us. We had a little more speed, but they were able to point higher. By morning we were abreast of them, but a few miles to leeward. We think the other boat might be Trond on Maryam (the boat we met in St. Barths) but we haven't been able to raise them on the VHF. If this calm persists much longer we might just have to motor over and see who it is.

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