Sailing North to Martinique

Not long after we returned to Trinidad, Carnival festivities began to wind down and we watched for the first available weather window to make the jump north to Grenada. That 80 mile offshore passage often proves to be the most difficult crossing in the Eastern Caribbean because nothing stands in the way of wind and waves all the way to Africa. We’ve discovered with a forecast of 4 to 6 foot seas, we generally encounter waves running to 8 or 9 feet or more because the sea just north of Trinidad and just south of Grenada is quite shallow, and waves tend to heap up steeply on that shallow water. This crossing would be our first sail of the season, a sail that brought a tight feeling to my throat and chest. For the first time though, we sailed in company with two other boats, Island Time and Native Dancer, so we would have someone to commiserate with along the way.

Unbelievable Perfect Conditions
Unbelievable Perfect Conditions

Our cruising plan for the 2013 season entailed sailing north as rapidly as the weather would allow to reach either Martinique or Dominica, then work our way leisurely back south stopping for as long as we wanted on any particular island. We sailed rapidly past Grenada, the Grenadines, Bequia, St Vincent, pausing for one day off in Bequia due to weather before continuing on.

Our Boat Buddy, Native Dancer, a Westsail 43
Our Boat Buddy, Native Dancer, a Westsail 43

As you sail past the north or south ends of any of the larger islands, the wind and waves may rapidly build to well beyond the forecast conditions. This year as we rounded the north end of St. Vincent, wind speed increased to about 25 knots and backed so it was almost on the nose; waves built to 8 to 10 feet. This situation is one that should be anticipated when either approaching or rounding the ends of the big islands. Many cruisers dread this brief but predictable bending of the wind, but the simple solution to the problem is to bear off, then bear back in as the wind allows. No sense fighting it.

Approaching the South Coast of St. Lucia
Approaching the South Coast of St. Lucia

In the photo above you can tell by our angle to the coast that we are bearing back in towards the island as we approach. The wind has bent around the southern end of the island and is pulling us towards the coast as we close with the Pitons. From this point we sailed right in close to the island. As we made our way north to Rodney Bay; the wind all but died, and we motor-sailed for the last hour or so, then turned into the bay to drop anchor for a short rest.
A short while later Native Dancer pulled up alongside and anchored just off our stern quarter. They and Island Time planned to stop for a few days in St. Lucia where we would be moving on in the morning. The forecast promised a near perfect day for sailing north to Martinique, so we rose early, ate a good breakfast, raised anchor, then bid our friends so long for our short sail north to Martinique. 

North to Martinique