Last Beat to the Caribbean!
12 April 2022
The route from the Bahamas to the Caribbean is mostly east and a little south. Weather in the Bahamas is influenced by the fronts, highs and lows coming off the US. But when we sail past the Bahamas, the wind is primarily east, the tropical trade winds. I believe they are called the trade winds because they are so reliable, old, sailing, trade vessels could plan routes to take advantage of these consistent winds.
But sailing from the Bahamas to the Eastern Caribbean involved beating into these winds. Step one is the most difficult, sailing from the Bahamas to the Virgin Islands. We completed this 760 mile passage in less than five days. It wasn’t easy. See my previous blog.
Next was a sail from Culebra, Puerto Rico to St. Croix, USVI. This was only 40 miles but having to beat into the wind, we ended up sailing 60 miles. Most of it was in nice conditions but part of the trip was a little rough.
From St. Croix, one normally sails to the BVI then 100 miles east to St. Martin. We have only 1 ½ months left to get to Grenada so we decided to sail from ST. Croix SE to Guadeloupe, about halfway down the EC island chain to Grenada. This looked like an easy, 200 mile beat but there is nothing easy about beating into the wind.
Weather forecasts were for strong easterly trades for weeks on end. We chose a lighter weather window leaving Sunday afternoon, arriving Tuesday morning. Having to beat, we covered 220 miles in 40 hours.
Uproar is a rare boat that sails very well to weather. She loves a beat to weather without complaint. It is her crew who cuss the waves crashing over the deck. About half of our passage was rough and half rather pleasant. We could not sail straight to Deshaies, Guadeloupe, we had to zig zag or tack forth and back.
By playing the predicted wind shift, we sailed on the favored tack which pointed us more directly to Guadeloupe. When the wind shifted, we tacked to the other tack which was then favored. This is a racing tactic we know well and it shortened our trip.
We also observed that the mountains of Guadeloupe blanket the wind and waves out about 15 miles. Our lasts tack brought us toward the middle of Guadeloupe to enjoy some flat water and lesser wind for the last three hours of the trip.
Uproar made the trip at the speed of a lawn tractor and much of it felt like driving over railroad tracks.
But this is the last beat to weather this year. The east trade winds mean sailing north and south along the Eastern Caribbean is reaching across the wind, very easy sailing. There can be big seas between islands but this lasts for only a few hours. And we are not beating into those seas!
What can be better than sailing into a quiet anchorage, surrounded by mountains? Sailing into a quiet French anchorage tops it off. Clearing into the French West Indies consists of going to a computer terminal in a gift shop, inputting boat and passport data and paying 5 Euros! C’est tout!
After, we visited a little boulangerie for café au lait and almond croissant. Viva la France !