2017 Caribbean Cruises
Schedule of Courses
Ocean Training Cruises
Friday, Mar 10, 2017:
Once clear of traffic in Red Hook harbor and well into a crowded and rolly Pillsbury Sound, all have to opportunity to maneuver the boat and conduct MOB drills under power. Once our “tipsy dummy” is finally secured, we make our way under sail to an anchorage in Rendezous Bay. Chip, our navigator for the day, confirms our position with a two bearing fix as we enter this open bay. We have this quiet anchorage all to ourselves once a lone power boat leaves. With the anchor set, we enjoy this beautiful spot knowing winter is still very much alive back home.
We set up the grill only to find that we have to improvise a system to keep the grill high enough off the coals to keep things from burning – it’s too late to make the fix tonight but close attention to the pork loan insures we have an excellent dinner and enjoy a beautiful sun set. As we clean up after dinner, we find the anchorage is not quite as empty as we thought. The Captain finds there are two VERY LARGE remoras under the boat that are looking for any “handouts” that might come their way. The almost full moon and star filled sky provide a great backdrop to review the day’s events, go over knots and prepare the navigation plan for tomorrow. It’s great to be on the water.
By late morning we have worked our way around the Two Brothers and after reviewing mooring procedures, pick up a National Park mooring at Caneel Bay. The resort here has special history for Chip and Karla who honeymooned here years ago and for Barb who visited the area as a school girl. We take the dingy into the resort; have a look around, make a quick visit at the gift shop before heading back to the boat. Back aboard we head for the Windward Passage and our anchorage in Francis Bay. The winds have built and backed a little to the NE at 14 knots with gusts to 25 as we tack our way thru the narrow Windward Passage. It’s a nice sail where we have a chance to see the value of the staysail and “play” the traveler to balance the helm in these windy conductions.
Once we have secured a mooring, all take and pass the ASA101 test. Classwork complete, it’s time to enjoy the warm afternoon with some snorkeling while Barb and the Captain work on the navigation plan for tomorrow. We have another excellent dinner using our modification on the grill and discuss the day’s events. The bright, nearly full moon and dropping wind make for a quiet night and well-earned rest.
We also review marine weather and MOB under sail procedures. Once clear of the mooring area, we sail out into the area south of Jost Van Dyke and exercise several MOB exercises in building wind and sea conditions. The point all take away is to stay onboard but with practice, recovery under sail is very possible. We have a great sail to the entrance of the Cut with lots of company and refine our tacking procedures as we pass Sopher’s Hole and enter the Drake Channel in east winds of 20 to 28 knots. We sail in company of two catamarans, which despite their reputation from not being able to sail to the windward, slowly pull away from us. By early afternoon we have rounded the east end of St John. The wind is now off our port quarter so we set up a preventer to stabilize the boom and prevent an accidental jib. All quickly see its benefit in these rolly seas. Barb has plotted a danger bearing using the prominent landmark of Rams Head to ensure we stay clear of Eagle Shoals, a potentially dangerous area for the inattentive sailor. As we sail along the coast we take several danger bearings to ensure we are staying well clear of the Shoals.
Barb had spent some time years ago in the Lameshur Bay area so we head to Great Lameshur Bay to pick up a mooring. It’s a little rolly from the swell but a beautiful area. Not a lot has changed in this beautiful spot and we spend some time snorkeling, visiting the marine research center area and preparing for our downwind sail to Culebra. As part of preparations, we check the fuel filter and find the bowl filled with increased amounts of algae. We drain and refill the bowl, restart the engine – a now standard procedure. All seems fine but we now know we have a fuel problem that needs to be monitored very closely. After another great dinner, we enjoy a beautiful night under a full moon and quiet night once the swell quiets down.
Matt tracks our progress by taking several two bearing fixes and we rotate time on the helm to give all practice sailing in these conditions. Once clear of St Thomas and Savanna Island we come under the influence of the NE swell and easterly wind-driven waves making keeping the sails full and drawing a challenge but well met by our helmsmen. All again see the advantages of running with a preventer to secure the mainsail boom in these rolly seas. To prevent the genoa from coming out of its track in these conditions, we reef one full turn on the headsail. We carefully approach the entrance buoys to the reef guarded entrance to Ensenada Honda and follow the channel markers into the very protected anchorage off the town of Dewy.
After dropping anchor and clearing in with Customs and Border Protection, we head into the store for some additional provisions and make a stop at the Dingy Dock Restaurant for some cool refreshment. It’s a beautiful spot to enjoy the view of a harbor filled with boats flying a wide range of country registrations. We take some time to wander the streets of this small town before settling on Mamacita’s for an excellent dinner before returning to the boat. Once back aboard, we open hatches and enjoy the beautiful anchorage lighted by a bright full moon.
Bob plots a new course that takes us safely past the small islands off the west end of Culebra and into the Atlantic Ocean with a still moderate swell. As we tack our way east past the northern beaches, Bob finds that keeping a “dead reckoning” plot of our position with some leeway added in provides a fairly accurate estimated position (EP) when compared with our handheld GPS. The north side of Culebra is almost completely undeveloped. We work our way east into the Canal de Cayo Norte, finally motor sailing into the beautiful anchorage off the Canal del Sur in Bahia de Almodovar where we pick up one of the free moorings. It’s a beautiful spot behind a reef with a view all the way to St Thomas. Several boats are already there but the area is large enough for all. The first order of business after mooring is the ASA103 test which all pass without a problem.
After checking the mooring, the Captain checks the fuel filter and finds the bowl completely full of algae and what appears to be a little water. We are able to drain and clear the bowl. The engine starts with a little prompting. I report the situation to Skip at Island Yachts and find that another boat has had similar problems but the fuel line is blocked and the engine will not run. There is not much we can do at this point, so after discussing the situation, we determine to continue as we have been. We finish out the day doing a little snorkeling, planning our trip back to St Thomas, enjoying a great dinner and a fine sunset.
snorkeling turns up a marine mystery. We find an “upside down jellyfish”
swimming in the area of the mangroves.
Despite all the time in the water by the crew in different area of
the world, this was a first. One
is recovered for further study but is returned a little prematurely to the
sea before close examination. The clear, dark night provides an opportunity
to do a little practice in timing of navigation lights. The very prominent light atop Isla de Culebrita
and several buoys in the Canal de Sur serve as excellent
training aids. Another
beautiful evening and quiet night.
It’s great sailing in fresh winds and ocean wave as we cross the Virgin Passage. As anticipated, Sail Rock becomes our reference point for tracking progress as we move east. Once in the lee of the NE swell from Savanna Island and St Thomas, the wind freshens as we tack our way toward Brewers Bay just north of the busy St Thomas airport. Just short of entering the Bay, with our headsails furled, we attempt to start the engine – no success. We make several attempts and try different solutions to include “jumping” the starter but with no success. Matt, Chip and the women keep us under control and away from shore and airport runway while Bob and the Captain work on the engine. Finally a call to Wolf, Island Yachts service manager, solves the problem. The engine starts after we push a “reset” button on the instrument panel. Wolf indicates this is a very infrequent issue, required only maybe once a year but it does the trick and we head in the crowed anchorage.
Once the anchor is secure, we finish out the day planning our way home, grilling an excellent dinner and enjoying a fine sunset. We have chosen this anchorage because it affords and opportunity to see the “green flash” just as the sun sets. Despite being in the perfect position to see it, the clouds line the horizon – no green flash. A little disappointed we enjoy this beautiful location and a very quiet night once the airport shuts down for the night.
attempt to sail across the Sound but the winds have turned
light so we make our way under power to a National Service mooring.
After lunch, Bob, Chip and Matt all take and pass their final ASA
test (104). The test includes as no surprise, course plotting which all are
now very familiar with. There’s time now for a little snorkeling before we
take deck showers and head into the resort for dinner and opportunity to
discuss the events of the day and review the course.
The snorkeling finds better than expected coral and lots of sea
turtles and rays. It’s nice to see healthy looking coral especially in
this well used area. After an excellent dinner, it’s back to the boat for
packing, star gazing and an early bedtime.
has been a great class with unique opportunities and a few challenges but
each has grown in skills and confidence.
I salute each of you – with thanks and appreciation – and wish
you Fair Winds as you continue in your sailing adventure.