20 Mar 2011

[Captains Blog] Nevis

We look at the weather forecasts for the Caribbean region courtesy of the Miami Hurricane Weather Station, FreeMeteo, Weatherland, et al. at every opportunity to gauge whether the weather (or is that weather the whether?) will be conducive to propelling us through the water at the optimal rate of knots in the direction we wish to go. The weather stations lie. We were told that two days ago through to the day after tomorrow that the winds would be Northeasterly to Easterly, 10 to 15 knots. 

What actually happened is this: Friday 0-5 knots Easterly (which meant that our intended destination of Nevis was not practical so we drifted across to Montserrat instead) with a Northerly swell (which meant that we had a very uncomfortable night in Little Harbour which is totally exposed to the swell). Yesterday the wind was coming from the North North East starting off at 10 knots, but increased through the day to 25 knots as we had a brilliant sail to Nevis and passed another humpback whale in the process. Today the wind hasn't dropped at all and has been gusting all day at between 20 and 25 knots, again from the North North East. Tomorrow - who knows?

Fortunately, we are tied up to one of the Marine Parks mooring buoys which has a shiny new mooring rope attached to it and quite frankly the wind can blow itself out. We are securely fastened with double shot lines and even though we are bobbing around a bit like a cork on the water, we aren't dragging or going anywhere we don't want to, and we will sleep soundly at night.

Unlike Friday where we had the double whammy of the very uncomfortable and rolly anchorage, and the St Patricks Day celebrations going on one day late in the local disco which was right on the waterfront and which had music blaring out so loud until 3:30am that the people on Nevis 30 miles away could probably have been dancing to it. Needless to say it wasn't a restful night, and I think we managed about three hours sleep between us.

We will always anchor where possible and even though we are fastidious about digging the anchor well into the seabed, we never really relax during the night for fear of dragging. As you will have read in former blogs, we often end up on anchor watch if we have doubts about the holding. More recently in Falmouth Harbour on Antigua, we have had some very peaceful nights where the wind has dropped away completely, and we have woken to flat calm waters. In fact, on Thursday last week, the dolphins were cavorting around in the calm waters of the harbour, swimming very close by us; so close that I even got in the dinghy and was splashing the water to try to encourage them closer, sadly to no avail. 

Another hazard to be wary of when anchoring is snagging the anchor and not being able to retrieve it. We once had a problem with this when chartering a catamaran in Turkey when the anchor caught on a chain on the seabed and steadfastly refused to let go no matter which way I pulled it. On that occasion we had to get a local diver to go down and free us and I vowed I would never be in the same position again. Since then I have devised and created a failsafe (soon to be patented as the "Witting Weighwonder", retail price £29.99 in all top quality chandlers) means of tripping the anchor free from the dinghy if it gets snagged. It is something I will never be without when sailing. It doesn't take up much room, and the extra weight in the bag means fewer clothes, but hey, we all have to make sacrifices!

Still when the weather isn't quite so settled and it is blowing a hooley as now, sometimes the ubiquitous mooring has its advantages. They may cost a bit, but for peace of mind, they are invaluable. It has also prompted me to devise another product, also soon to be patented as the "Witting Wonderbuoy", retail price £24.99 in all top quality chandlers, which enables fast but secure mooring and unmooring to buoys. Anything for an easy life that will make enough money to buy me my Oyster!