Once in awhile forecasts exactly predict the next day’s weather, and for once, that little arrow at the top of our mast was not pointing directly to where we wanted to go! Our sail north from Rodney Bay to Cul de Sac du Marin could only be described as something right out of a tourist brochure – a chamber of commerce picture perfect day. We raised full sails, and Ocean Angel danced with the wind and waves as we sailed towards our destination.
We weaved through a minefield of fishing traps off St. Anne as we slid into the protection of the harbor, then furled our sails for the meandering run between the reefs and sandbars to the southern side of the harbor right at the entrance to Hurricane Bay. Many boats permanently anchor here, tied stern to the mangrove shores, and.we anchored in this same corner the previous year because we liked the flat water we found even when it is blowing a near gale.
In most conditions Joy takes the helm to pilot us into a harbor to our chosen anchoring hole. I tend to the piloting, watching for landmarks, hazards, boat traffic, and navigation aids, then relay instructions to her. This system works very well for us, and over the years we’ve developed a set of hand signals to enable generally stress-free, silent communication from the bow to the helm. At night I use a red lens flashlight to communicate with the same motions, and I’d say that 95% of the time, we have no issues. Once in awhile, unusually strong or gusty winds coupled with contrary currents create a scenario making Joy uncomfortable, especially if there are a lot of boats close to us, and we adjust our tactics to find a solution that fits. We tried those voice activated two-way radios, but found that in any wind, sounds became garbled and the radios useless. Our hand signals always work.
We anchor in and amongst a large number of other vessels, some permanently attached to fixed moorings, others lying to an anchor like us. There’s an art and science to placing the boat in a hole that is large enough to allow enough swinging room at all times. Generally, the trade wind blows somewhere between the northeast through southeast quadrants, but every now and then, we wake to find ourselves pointing in an entirely unexpected direction. Those are the times we struggle to anticipate. So far, we’ve always done well. This year we anchored in three different spots before we were comfortable with the lay of the land. We knew we’d be touring the island, and the last thing we wanted was to be worrying about the boat the whole time we were out and about. As it turned out, this anchorage would be our home for quite some time.