Coasting South to Le Marin

Although Anse Mitan is a wonderful town and has a great harbor, access by dinghy is difficult for Joy. Since most of the reason for cruising is getting out and about once you anchor somewhere, we decided to move to the south shore of Martinique where we were fairly certain dinghy access would be good. We awoke before daybreak in order to motorsail south close in to the coast to take advantage of the early morning calm. Close to shore the trade winds generally start to build between 9 and 10 AM and by 11 or so, the winds are generally honking at 20 to 30 knots. 

Looking Towards Fort de France from Anse Mitan
Looking Towards Fort de France from Anse Mitan

Even though we departed early, by the time we rounded the corner at the south west end of the island, winds were already 20 and building. The last 10 miles was a tough beat straight into the wind and seas, and the slot between Diamond Rock and the main island acted as a big funnel accelerating the wind even more. Not a lot of fun, but thankfully, brief.
Diamond Rock
Diamond Rock

Diamond Rock juts up about 700 feet and sits just off the SW corner of Martinique. Water is very deep here, but still, this hunk of rock somehow manages to funnel the wind and waves creating quite a maelstrom for a couple of miles. All the boats following us gave up trying to bash their way through this cut and sailed several miles further south outside the rock, then they tacked back towards Le Marin, our destination. Once clear of the rock, the nasty waves seemed to miraculously disappear, and the balance of our sail was nothing more than a very tight beat into the wind. 
Diamond Rock Lies Astern
Diamond Rock Lies Astern

This is a good time to reinforce the importance of keeping as much weight as possible out of the ends of your boat. Too much weight in the bow and stern just makes your boat hobby horse like a bucking bronco, and in situations like this one, you seem to spend more time going up and down rather than forward. We watch many boats struggling to make headway against difficult seas, often bearing off substantially to make progress. This simple law of physics is one of the reasons we stow the dinghy forward of the mast when we’re sailing an offshore passage, just to move that 100 pounds into the center of the boat rather than hanging far out over the stern.    

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