I arrived yesterday afternoon in Jolly Harbor on the west coast of Antigua
.......and really just in time. I made it just in front of a vigorous cold front. I had been watching the weather closely as always to try and take advantage of the NE and ENE winds decending from a whopper of a low coming off the east coast of the US. As always, things are tricky and never as simple as the cruising magazine make it seem.
I left St Maarten at a 4:30 in the afternoon in light, 10 kts or so of SE winds. Since the weather system bringing the NE winds had been around for days, was well defined the computer models and weather folks had a pretty good handle on what was forth coming. My destination, Antigua was 90 miles to the SE and a NE breeze would be just perfect. But as I have come to discover with sailing in the Caribbean, there are few perfect sailing days. Ahead of the front, ESE winds were predicted at 10 knots and as the day and night wore on the wind should start to move more east and then NE. With the passage of the front winds were going to pick up in spectacular fashion and crank at 25 to 30 knots from the northeast. I had about 24 hours or so to make my way to Antigua before the front. Now a prudent question that some might have is why not wait for the cold front to pass and then ride the 25 knots of wind to Antigua. My answer to that is I am a chicken. As I have said before this is not a men against the sea type of trip. I will go out of my way to avoid riding bucking broncos and favor calmer weather conditions even if that means waiting in places for extended periods or gasp....using the engine, than so be it. This is not to say that Christa and company could not handle those types of weather conditions. I simply don't seek it out. In my current circumstance I am glad I did what I did. About an hour after I took this picture that nice little round hump off Christa port bow was not visible as squalls and sideways rain had engulfed it. The cold front arrived with rain and heavy gusts. Another reason I error on the side of caution as I am by myself. A mistake on my part, even a sprained finger or something stupid like that could really impact my ability to manage the boat. So...
As I left Simpson Bay in St Maarten and cleared the south coast I shut down the engine and delighted in the light winds. Christa sailed between 3 and 4 knots in a lazy large ocean type swell. With a 3/4 moon we drifted along and it was wonderful. I was even able to get some sleep which is always nice. Sometime in the middle of the night progress slowed to between 2.5 and 3 knots. Just to slow, so I fired 51 horses of Yanmar and picked up the pace. Throughout the rest of the trip the wind picked up and I'd shut down and sail and then it would go light again and I respond with the turning of the key. About 2 hours before I arrived I could see the huge billowing clouds approaching from the NW.....it was the very distinct front. The winds then went straight north and picked up. I entered Jolly Harbor a little nervous about tying up to the customs dock give the windy conditions. But wouldn't you know it, Doug and Sheryl from Team Prudence
came put putting up in their dingy. They had come up from Dominica the day before and were dispatched to the dock to help tie up. I tied up without incident. And by the way, that is the first dock I have lashed to since last July! The paperwork went very smoothly, I paid my $12 entrance fee and had Christa anchored safely within the hour. It is now very windy, but the anchor is well dug in. The surrounding anchorage is just beautiful. I just stepped ashore and haven't done any exploring as of yet. Not sure how long I'll be here. Not very long as I am meeting Sandpiper
in St Lucia at the end of this month. Gotta Jam!