For the 2014 season we planned to sail all the way to the northern end of the Leeward Islands where we hoped to take part in the Classic Yacht Race festivities. We needed to be in Antigua somewhere around the first of April to allow ourselves time to visit the island before the event began, and before good friends Joe and Casey McClash joined us for the week of the events. So, we planned to move north fairly quickly, but still taking time to enjoy places along the way.
We headed for Tyrell Bay, Carriacou on February 16th, with wind hard on the nose around 20 knots. Seas were moderate at 5 to 7 feet and closely spaced, making forward progress a little slow and a lot bumpy. I plotted a course to sail about a mile to the west of the underwater volcano “Kick-em Jenny”. As we approached the volcano’s middle safety zone (3 miles)seas became very confused, and the autopilot was causing the boat to slam straight on into the waves. I decided to take over steering for the balance of the day in order to hold course, but steer around the worst of the waves whenever possible.
Shortly after taking over, I saw a wave ahead that was easily 3 times the height of highest waves, and as we reached the top, I saw no bottom, just empty space. I told Joy to hold on tight, and I turned the boat sharply off the wind, nearly beam on to the wave’s crest. We slid down the back side of the wave on the Angel’s port side, the toe rail kissing the water, and landed in the bottom of the trough with a loud “whoosh”. Water exploded up around the boat dousing us from both sides. I came to course quickly because I saw a similar sized wave, and we repeated the experience one more time; then things settled back to more manageable waves around 9 to 12 feet for the next two miles or so.
My heart began to slow back down, and I took some deep breaths. What the heck had just happened? I know that as water heats up, it loses buoyancy; I also knew water around and over the active undersea volcano is much hotter at times than the surrounding seas. Had we encountered a loss of buoyancy in these freaky conditions? I don’t know, but I swore to Joy that we would never attempt to sail anywhere near the volcano again.
Not long after this experience we anchored in Tyrell Bay, and we took the next day to regroup, then cleared out the following morning to head for Union Island.