Friday, December 16, 2011

Sailing To Caribbean – 2011

November 1, 2011 was a perfect day to set sail from River Bourgeois and our new home. With mixed feelings and strong emotions we said goodbye to our friends and neighbours over the previous days. The planning was done, the routes plotted, the weather checked and rechecked. A little skim ice had formed overnight in the anchorage but with the sun and heat of the day it soon disappeared. The winds were light, too light for us to sail away. Carl kindly towed us out of the inlet and into the Lennox Passage with Harold and Gordon acting as deck crew. Waving goodbye the turned our backs to River Bourgeois as our sails filled taking us out to sea beyond Isle Madame. Little did we know that the Lighthouse at Canso would be our last sight of land for forty tumultuous days. The weather forecast included light to moderate northerly winds but these never appeared and we beat against the southwest wind to get below Sable Island. We had the winds turn to the north after getting off soundings south of Sable Island and enjoyed a few hours of downwind sailing before a weather front came through in the dark and gave us an accidental gybe and started the storm cycle that was to repeat itself a number of times. We got the sails down with a hole in the front sail and a tear in the main. Not a serious situation in the junk rig as we have discovered. This weather was a strong wind event so we had warps out the stern and rode under bare poles for thirty six hours before we were able to get under sail again. We anticipated that we would experience a couple of gales this time of year so were not surprised. Approaching the Gulf Stream we had good weather and favourable winds which made this crossing easy and uneventful. We are always wary of crossing the Gulf Stream as it can get quite nasty in a hurry if the winds are not good. We found two strong currents in the crossing which set us to the east within the limits of our proposed rhumb line. We were becalmed for a few hours shortly after get through the Gulf Stream and a large swell started to make its presence known from the South East. When the wind came back it was also from the South East and for the next three weeks stubbornly stayed in the southerly directions. We beat constantly and eventually worked our way to 56 degrees longitude, two degrees further east than planned but eventually worked in our favour. A second gale gave us a thirty six hour bit of heavy weather with large seas and strong winds again, fortunately out of the north, before we set sail again. This time we had more damage to the head sail that required a few repairs. The seas remained large and it took us more than three weeks to get south of Bermuda which we passed while it was three hundred miles to the west of us. A short time later we got into a full storm that went on for more than five days where we found ourselves running again under bare poles and warps with the wind from the north. This may have been the effects of Tropical Storm Sean. The seas and winds were the largest and strongest we have ever experienced. Easy Go kept us safe although the ride was extreme in the thirty foot plus seas. We closed down the hurricane hatch and made the boat watertight. It was a relief to see the end of this storm although the winds again shifted to the south making for heavy tacking in large seas that caused more damage to our weakened sails. One more bout of heavy weather, a tropical cyclone, came after four weeks and this again lasted five days under bare poles running and hove to. With about 600 miles left to go we started to get concerned about our time lines and water supply. We were fortunate that we were able to get a weather report from a passing Chinese Oil Tanker that indicated favourable winds a few days out. The northerly breeze of F5 was welcomed and we started making days of over 100 miles running on the Main Sail towards Antigua. When we cam within sight of Barbuda, just north of Antigua the winds went light and variable. We sailed north away from land to keep a good offing while the winds stabilized. A front with heavy rain and wind came though which we were able to ride through the channel between Barbuda and Antigua. A bit of tacking in the night brought us to anchor near the entrance to St. John's Harbour in Antigua. We called on the VHF for towing assistance. The sails were in pretty bad shape and were not relaiable enough to maneuver within the tight confines of this busy commercial harbour. We finally tied up to Redcliffe Quay after forty days at sea. Customs and Immigration were courteous and helpful in processing our paperwork. John, the fisherman that towed us in, got us a hire truck to take the sails to English Harbour where we met with a knowledgeable sail maker who we can work together with to make new and stronger sails. We are making arrangements to take a long term stay at Jolly Harbour, Antigua to do necessary maintenance, and evaluate the future of cruising Easy Go. This was the toughest and most demanding trip we have made to date.

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