Saturday, March 26, 2011

Heading North, once again....

I'm sad to report that we’ve gone as far south as we will this spring, unfortunately….we have happy family obligations (a wedding in early June) that bring us back, and so we will use the upcoming summer to complete boat work that we’re contemplating (reconfiguring the flybridge!), boat work that is needed (more investigation into the port engine alternator/centerfielder situation), and various and sundry boat items we want upgraded. SO, reluctantly, sadly, we have turned the rudder hard to port and it’s back north we are headed. It’s bittersweet, since we’re absolutely loving cruising here; the Leeward Islands are so varied and diverse, charming and full of history that we feel like we’re cutting it short. There are still so many islands yet to explore! Unfortunately though, they will have to wait until this autumn. There is a lot to do before then, so we'll keep busy, never fear!

Thus, we started out heading north, thinking we’d moor off of Saba for the night. Since we also know Saba to be a rather rolly, somewhat uncomfortable anchorage when there are swells, we weren’t looking forward to a restless night getting tossed about. So...we took the weather with us! The weather conditions and sea state were so favorable (and were forecast to remain so) that we opted to bypass Saba this time and decided to press on to St. Croix! 
Chart plotter showing us heading across the Saba Bank
The Sirius weather overlay with the latest NOAA forecast for our
passage zone from Nevis to St. Croix: 3' - 4' seas, with typical trade winds
Lovely following seas with an easy 3’-4’ swell, light winds, wall to wall sunshine…it was exactly how we like our crossings: uneventful! We put out the fishing lines and relished the beautiful weather, although our fishing was only marginally successful as our only strikes were a couple of bar jacks that we caught and released. Periodically, we had frigates and shearwaters swooping around us, and even a long-tailed tropic bird of some kind, which we thought was a good omen...but, oh well! Perhaps better luck with the fishing next time! However, with the longer distance involved, we also knew we would be making landfall after dark, despite our early departure.

Frigate swooping low over the water near Equinox
The sunset was fabulous (although no green flash tonight like we'd seen in Statia!), and after dark, the phosphorescence was unbelieveable! On the way around the east end of St. Croix, it looked like the hull of Equinox was skidding along the water spewing sparks! Technically, it's caused by a tiny form of marine life called "luminescent dinoflagellates" which light up with a chemical reaction when disturbed in the water, but to the average person, they look like bright shooting stars on the water that glimmer intensely then fade out in the dark seas. It was incredible; some of the bioluminescence was very, very large, and bright!

The easy cruise turned a bit intense at the end as expected, since coming into st. Croix's Christiansted harbor at night can be a bit tricky. There are a lot of lights on the shore to confuse things, and lots of boats in the harbor without anchor lights! We used the chart-plotter and radar diligently, as well as the spotlight and the FLIR at needed moments, but mostly we had both sets of eyes scanning the water on high alert. It was a veritable minefield of buoys coming in through the channel marks inside the Scotch Bank, and some buoys weren’t even lit! But, slowly, and very carefully, we made our way in. The harbor was calm and the charts were quite accurate, and I was able to see well enough in the star-lit darkness to aid Ron, noting the positions of the various buoys without lights. It was slow and careful going, as I said earlier, but as always, it paid off!

We dropped anchor at the edge of the mooring field in the anchorage near Welcome Bay, east of St. Croix marina. The hook bit the first time, and while the anchorage felt a bit tight (it was 65 yds to the nearest boat, according to my laser range finder) we were secure with 8 feet of water under the hull and had plenty of rode out that kept us in good stead. Just the way we like it! Happily, we had an uneventful night on anchor....Oh, how I love the landfall after a long day of cruising!

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