17 June 2022: I Am Not Drunk, I Swear!
17 June 2022
Fort de France, Martinique
Le Marin, Martinique
Cumulative Mileage (NM)
Crew on Board
Skipper, first mate, chef, entertainment and more; I guess that is solo sailing for you!
GENERAL WEATHER OBSERVATIONS
16 to 20 knots
Scattered overcast and blue
Sunny with spotty showers
Departing before my planned departure time is something that never happens but I was a half hour ahead of schedule with my 7:30am anchor up. Go me!
Given the small anchorage at Fort de France was so crowded and it was a little gusty at the time, I did not raise my mainsail at anchor. Instead I motored out of the anchorage and out of the way of any ferry that might come by and raised it there. I put two reefs in the main because the trade winds are relatively strong (consistently stronger than I remember from my last time in this part of the world) and the gusts between landforms can really catch you off-guard. However, without the mainsail I do not seem to make very good time upwind so I was definitely not going to go jib only (Le Marin is very much upwind for the last half of the trip or more).
Once the main was up, I pulled out a good portion of the jib. Given the gusts I was already happy I had not pulled up more main sail.
My autopilot was really proving itself to be completely defunct because I could not keep a straight line for my life. It looks like a third grader trying to color within the lines/draw a straight line. By the time I turned upwind towards Le Marin I was frustrated with my progress, but the worst of it was yet to come.
I was immediately slowed to less than one knot of speed. It did not seem to be improving as I adjusted the sails so I turned on the engine to motorsail. With the engine I could not even break above two knots. I was trying to go along the shoreline and I figured there must be a pretty strong current and it was pointing a little too close to the wind so I realised I would have to tack out and then back into Le Marin.
However, on my tack out – as you can see from the photo above – I was literally moving sideways with the current at 3.2 knots! I was pointed south east and definitively moving southwest. If I thought my tracks made me look a little tipsy leaving Fort de France, the track now made me look completely black out drunk. The worst part was is that as part of my routing I had even review the ocean currents on Predict Wind to ensure that I had enough time to make it to Le Marin in daylight. I was astounded this someone I had not anticipated this insane current.
Thinking I was going mad I texted coach Jamie a picture of the chart plotter to ask what I had missed in my passage planning. He reminded me that tidal currents and ocean currents were different and that tidal was not represented on Predict Wind. However, upon looking at the tides for the ‘Fort de France’ data points it appeared that I should be at slack tide. IT MADE NO SENSE!
Once I finally tacked as far as I thought I needed to, I turned toward Le Marin and found the current just as strong. It appeared I may just have to put up with the slow progress. I also reasoned that perhaps the current was wrapping around the bottom of Martinique and that the further away I tacked out the longer I would be in the current, so if there was ever a time to bite the bullet and just go slow while I worked my way in it was now, before I got further away. There was now doubt that I would make it before daylight though.
I plodded along around the 2 knots mark for a while and eventually my speed slowly started to tick up. Little by little.
I stuck with it and managed to make it into the anchorage before sundown. And thank goodness I did, I have never seen such a large anchorage in all my life. Le Marin is a home base for the Eastern Caribbean chartered fleets and considered a hurricane hole. It has chandleries and supermarkets. And every boat in the western hemisphere seemed to be aware of this fact. Arriving after dark would have been confusing and disorienting and the anchorage had a couple of sunken sailboats with a portion of the mast just sticking out of the water. A fun obstacle for a tired solo sailor to get tangled up in in the dark.
In the end it did not matter that I arrived before dark as I misread the charts and anchored in the channel. Just my luck no one appeared to need the channel that night as there were no horns or collisions. I woke up at 7am to a French official on a jetski asking me to reanchor elsewhere as I was blocking the channel. I had wondered why there were no other vessels to my port side but assumed there must be some underwater wreck that I did not know about as the channel (in my opinion) was VERY poorly marked on the charts and in reality.
But I used the reanchoring excuse to knock one important to do items of my list. Now that it was officially hurricane season, my plan was to keep fuel tanks full in the even something pops up off the coast of Africa I would have enough fuel to get to Grenada. These events can often result in no wind ahead of the arrival of the storm, so I would need fuel to get safely south and out of its way. So I hauled up the anchor, grabbed fuel at the dock (and the most delicious popsicle and topped off my water tanks) and reanchored. True to my memory of these Caribbean anchorages, it was tight in the anchorage – but I refused to pay for a mooring ball – and so it took me two attempts. The first I had chosen my spot, but I drifted a little bit with the wind before getting the anchor on the bottom. The second attempt, I planned for it and aimed a little high so that by the time I dropped the anchor I had drifted to where I wanted to be.
The end result, I was about two boat lengths away from the cat behind me. The captain watched carefully as I was anchored but in the end he seemed satisfied and went back inside. I backed down and seemed to hold and was happy and ready to start on jobs for the day. I would be staying in Le Marin for a few weeks so was happy where I had settled!
“If you think adventure is dangerous, try routine. It is lethal.”
– Paul Coelho