Thursday, October 28, 2021

Under sail again to Saint Martin

Marigot in the foreground and Simpson Lagoon in the background. Beyond is the Dutch side of St. Martin.

Marigot in the foreground and Simpson Lagoon in the background. Beyond is the Dutch side of St. Martin.


Frances Diebler

We’re on the move again. After spending two months in the beautiful Virgin Islands, we finally sailed over to Marigot Bay, St. Martin, French West Indies. The Christmas winds were blowing for two whole weeks now and the sea state was rather rough.

This next passage was a serious open ocean passage from Anagada Passage, aka, “Oh, MY GOTTA PASSAGE.” This is an overnight sail which is only 80 some miles, but it can take anywhere from 13 hours to 24 hours. There are eddies, ocean swells, wind and sea state to deal with all along the way.

On top of all that, the trip that day was to windward most of the time. We were hoping that the wind would switch enough to get a north wind or northeast wind. Since the pressure gradients were so high for so long, the sea state was very high at 8’-10’ with foam on top. We decided to stay in port ready to go when things calmed down.

Some hardy sailors did go and had the ride of their lifetime. We sat poised from February 1, when we cleared out of customs, to February 8th when all signs said, “It’s a go.” This is one of the main reasons to give oneself plenty of time to travel

On arrival, raising the French flag. SUBMITTED PHOTOS

On arrival, raising the French flag. SUBMITTED PHOTOS

from one place to another.

The main reason most cruising sailors get into trouble, rip their sails, lose things overboard and on and on, is trying to hurry their trips even through stormy weather. When you are cruising, please give yourself a weather window to travel from point “a” to point” b” and not have to go out in the storm. I do understand the urgency to travel when you have a charter boat to return or a situation back home. That is why it is very important to keep a daily update on weather reports both AM and PM.

If staying on board one more day is possible until a weather window opens, please consider doing so. A phone call or radio call to the charter company, family, or friend on another boat would be advisable.

Remember last year or so when I wrote about the boat anchored next to us in Georgetown, Bahamas? The owner had business the next day and had to get to Miami, weather or not. We later learned that he and his guests went down in the Gulf when a strong storm, which was expected, hit with 70 per hour winds. The boat went down in the storm and was never found.

We waited for an appropriate weather window to continue

Lunch at the many outdoor cafes.

Lunch at the many outdoor cafes.

on our trip. As predicted, we had a windward trip out to the SE of 8-12 knots and a head sea of 4’-6’. We flew our mainsail and staysail with some help from our trusty engine. We were not alone out there. By this time there were so many boats that were waiting weather to cross that night, our boat alarm kept going off in the four mile range. When sailing at night, we use our radar as a spare set of eyes and set the alarm band at the four mile off range. If anything out there comes between us in that four mile band, the alarm goes off. We counted seven masthead lights all around us.

Grendel sliced through the waves so effortlessly, that by 1 AM, we had to slow down the boat so we wouldn’t arrive in Marigot Bay, St Martin too early. It would still be dark and we like to arrive in an unknown harbor in daylight. Night sailing has its own charm as well as concerns. We like to do this on open water voyages as there is not much to look out for except masthead lights.

Frances is a Commodore of the Seven Seas Cruising Association and a member of Sailing Association of Marco Island and AP United States Power Squadron. 

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