3 June 2022: 0.8 KNOTS!?
3 June 2022
Fort de France, 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
Anywhere between 5 knots and 25 knots plus
Warm not hot, but humid
Dry, thank goodness!
I was pleased with myself for getting a good start in the morning. It was not early enough to go direct to Le Marin in Martinique because I noted the evening before there were a few fish pots around and I did not want to tango with them.
So while I get kept my charts routed to Le Marin like the optimistic gal that I am, I knew in my heart I was headed to Fort de France.
Friends on SV Passat were ahead of me again as they did not have to stop for propane. They had sent back the report on the passage between Dominica and Martinique as they “can see why it is the most notable crossing between islands in the Eastern Caribbean”. Great. I had not heard this rumor but their description of over 25 knots of wind across that stretch and large waves over 6 feet did not sound fun.
I hoped that my waiting an extra day through light winds left me with a smaller sea state, but there was only one way to find out if that was the case.
As I left the anchorage it was light wind (they warned me not to be deceived) and I strongly debated whether I should put one reef or two reefs in the mainsail. The stretch between Dominica and Martinique was 22 nautical miles wide so if it was that gusty I would prefer to have two in. However, the forecast was lower than when they crossed so I was truly torn. In the end I decided on one reef in the main. If I had too much sail out I could always depower the main or turn downwind and reduce my apparent wind as they did in their catamaran.
It was probably the wrong decision. That 22 miles was still gusty and fierce with all the wind funneling through the pass, light wind forecast be damned. But I fully depowered the main until it was practically luffing and had a third of the jib out and handsteered the whole way. I can never tell how big the waves are so I just measure them by how much I have to handsteer and my annoyance level at the waves. And these waves were not in the good books.
Just as Vicki from SV Passat had advised, as I got closer to Martinique it was the worst wind of all. So much so that I did not feel like turning into it to reef down again (the autopilot was NOT cooperating anyways) and to windy for the sail that I did have up. So I did what they did and turned downwind to put the wind just behind the beam (center) of the boat. This definitely helped though I still had to be sure to point as much south as I can or else I would not be getting out of this wind at any point. I would wind up in bloody Colombia if I pointed too far downwind.
I was annoyed at myself for not putting in the second reef. It is easier to shake out a reef in calm conditions than to add a reef in crappy conditions. I got greedy. I wanted to make some miles and make them efficiently. And I even had warning from my friends and I still did not do it. What a dummy.
But it worked out. I ended up a little further off the coast. It seemed everyone handled this wind better, they probably double reefed. I could see lots of tiny boats on the horizon up against the backdrop of the tower volcano and peaks of Martinique. How did they stay so close! I was probably only a couple of miles off but still! It felt like they were all going to beat me into port.
By this point I knew I was not going to Le Marin and I re-routed my track on my charts to Fort de France (about 20 nautical miles closer). And as I pulled up to the bay a few hours later I was treated to this beautiful purple and pink sunset. I am not sure why but sunsets lately had been extra colorful and I was enjoying them immensely. Looking at my charts as I turned towards my anchorage – upwind – and I had three miles to go. Perfect, three miles motorsailing would be roughly an hour upwind and I would be dropping the anchor before dark.
However, I turned upwind and my speed was so slow. I could not seem to keep any wind in my sail and my minor corrections at the helm seemed ineffective. It took big corrections which led to oversteering and backwinding the sails and then overcorrecting back the other way. The engine was on and in gear, though it was running a little warmer than usual. I was frustrated and keeping an eye on things.
Given I could not keep wind in the jib I furled it in. Still so slow. Going 0.8 knots. At this rate it would take me four hours to go three miles!! I would NOT be in before dark. Not even close.
I carried on this way a little longer and realised there might be a strong current against me and I really needed my sails. Upwind was not going to work. So I turned a few degrees further off course and tried pulling out the jib again. Speed still not improving with this approach. AND THE STEERING WAS MAKING ME CRAZY.
When this did not work after a while, I decided to pull the jib in and started to consider my main. If I was arriving to this anchorage in the dark did I really wanted to be dealing with dropping the mainsail in the dark as well?
So jib in, main down and I pointed right where I wanted to go. And suddenly it seemed better. I was going maybe 2.3 knots. I wondered if this was a re-enactment of exactly what happened on the way to the Bahamas from Florida. On that trip I had the wonky steering and the engine was slightly overheating. Upon arrival, I found a lot of Sargasso seaweed on my rudder. I think when I pulled out my jib and heeled a little trying to get speed, maybe that knocked off the weed and was why I was able to go a bit faster.
Either way, I did arrive in the dark and the anchorage was packed. It is so hard to judge distance between boats in the dark. I drove around weaving between boats trying to decide if there was anywhere I could visualise room to fall back while I put out my scope of chain. Further back it was deep, around 30 or 35 feet. So I would need more room to put out ~ 150 feet of chain. Up close it was 10 feet, I would much prefer that!
But the spots close up were taken (I got down to 8 feet at one point and realised I was not going to find a spot near the front of the line). I pulled up to a couple of spots thinking I might drop the anchor and at the last minute deciding I did not have enough room. Finally, I just picked a spot. I dropped as close to the boat in front of me as I dared. Some people get really annoyed when you drop practically under their transom so I did not want to be that person, though in hindsight I wish I had. I dropped at a respectful distance and really only had room for 3.5x scope before I was as close as I wanted to be to the boat behind me.
I backed down on it, though not at maximum revs. I was ready to sleep and the forecast overnight was normal. I seemed to have no issues so tidied up, set my anchor alarm and went to bed.
Arriving in the dark and later than normal was becoming an annoying trend that I wanted to be over. But I would be staying in Martinique for over a month so it would not be an issue for a while!
I was so glad to be here knowing I am officially slowing down! My plan was to celebrate the next morning with a coffee treat when I went to check into the country!
“Adopt the pace of nature. Her secret is patience.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson