Enter the harbor at Charlotte Amalie

Rounding Hassel Island to the south we made a sweeping 180 degree turn following the buoys to enter the main harbor at Charlotte Amalie. When I’d pored over the charts ahead of time, I thought I might cut inside the big ship channel buoys, but as we rounded the corner and looked at the waves pounding against the shore a scant 200 feet away, we decided to play it safe and stay in the marked channel.

Entering Charlotte Amalie Harbor
Entering Charlotte Amalie Harbor
Once again, a few seconds saved were not worth taking the chance on something going wrong. My attitude towards simple choices like this one have changed with experience. Sure, we could have cut inside the buoys and shaved a couple minutes off the run, but why take the risk? Remember our friend Murphy? He always appears when you least want him to show up, and always at the worst possible moment. So, whenever possible, we choose to avoid encounters with Murphy. 
Carnival Cruise Ship
Carnival Cruise Ship

A glance at the chart for this area leads you to believe there’s a very large harbor with all kinds of room. After all, the cruise ships come in here every week and disgorge thousands of tourists at the docks. In reality, there’s not a lot of room, and those cruise ships make quite a spectacle entering and leaving this busy harbor.
Explorer Right behind
Explorer Right behind

We watched these two giant monsters leave the dock in very light winds, then execute the 90 degree turn to exit the harbor. It was quite the process and it took each of them more than an hour apiece to cast off, move ahead a couple hundred yards, then make the big turn. I expect the process might be a tad bit more interesting in the winter when the wind might be blowing 25 or 30 knots. 
Anchored in 35 feet near  Down-Town Charlotte Amalie
Anchored in 35 feet near Down-Town Charlotte Amalie

There is something you’ve probably begun to notice about many of the harbors and anchorages of these Caribbean islands; they are much deeper than what you are accustomed to finding back home. We rarely anchor in more than 10 to 12 feet of water back in Florida; we hardly ever anchor in less than 20 to 30 feet here, and sometimes more. In my preparations for this voyage I read about deep-water anchorages. We’d seen a few on earlier voyages, so our anchoring gear was up to the task. If you plan to cruise these waters, don’t think you can get in close somewhere and anchor with six feet of chain and a little rope; that’s not going to work here. You’ll end up like one of those other boats you’ve seen in our photos. You need big anchors and lots of chain, but once you load all that weight in the bow of your boat, your normally gracious vessel might begin to feel a bit sluggish and seem more like a sow. I’ll try to explain this problem. We carry three routine anchors weighing a total of 130 pounds; plus 200 feet of chain that weighs 240 pounds; add in 350 feet of rope, a chain snubber, the 85 pound windlass, a couple dock lines, and all of a sudden you are carrying a 500 pound gorilla on the bow. Obviously, that’s not going to work well. 
Wrecks off Water Island
Wrecks off Water Island

So, what do you do? You don’t want to end up like one of these guys off Water Island, but you can’t tow a barge for all your gear either. If you’re a cruiser like us, I know you’re sitting there chuckling as you read this. You improvise and experiment – that’s what you do. Our storm anchor is disassembled and stored in its own bag in a locker below decks. Savings off the bow = 50 pounds. Likewise with one of our shorter chain rodes = 110 pounds moved to the center of the boat. We slide our secondary anchor, a 33 pound Bruce still attached to its chain rode, back to the rear of the anchor locker = a weight shift that noticeably affects trim. All our chain is stored in the very aft ends of the anchor lockers, and the nylon rode rides up front = another weight shift. All of a sudden, our bow rides about six inches higher. Sounds simple, and it is, but those little changes make a huge difference in the way Ocean Angel slides through the water. While I’m still thinking about further improvements in this area, we’re ready to continue on.

Moving East