Just back from a whirlwind 6 day/6 island passage training course on a chartered catamaran with a client interested in extending his cruising range by sailing longer legs across international borders in more challenging, open water conditions.
Day One: Starting in St. Martin, French West Indies, we headed 40 odd miles south in 15-20kts of true wind toward Saba in the Dutch West Indies. This is the island depicted as King Kong’s home in the opening scenes of the original 1933 film.
The seas were forecast to be moderate but we still secured the cat’s dinghy with lengths of cross-bracing line to prevent chafe, noise and damage. We were happy that we did as some of the waves that we sliced through were large enough to make the 48′ cat’s forward cockpit look like a Jacuzzi!
Saba is, perhaps, the most spectacular island in the Leeward Islands chain. It’s dramatic cliffs, 3,000 foot cloud-capped peak and fairytale villages with names like ‘Bottom’, ‘Windwardside’ and ‘Hell’s Gate’ make for a memorable taxi ride after clearing-in and out with Dutch customs and immigration.
With its steep 1,000′ underwater drop-off, we had to anchor close in…but not so close that we touched when the tidal current changed!
Day Two: A beat to windward against the prevailing trade winds to St. Eustatius (‘Stacia’), also a part of the Dutch West Indies but we nevertheless were required to present ships papers and crew passports to the local authorities. Along the way, we sighted a pod of Pilot whales swimming northeast.
Day Three: Another beat to St. Christopher (‘St. Kitts’) which is the larger part of the independent federation of St. Kitts & Nevis. Although the distances were shorter along the rhumb line, the tacking angle in choppy seas (over 100 degrees!) made for slow progress toward the east.
Day Four: Yet another beat, though much shorter, to Nevis, the birthplace of Alexander Hamilton of $10 bill fame.
Day Five: Genoa fairleads went forward for a 50 mile, broad reach to St. Barthélemy (‘St. Barths’), French West Indies. The port here, Gustavia, is home to well dressed people driving chic little cars. Clearing in and out was similarly smart via self service terminals in the tasteful Capitainerie building right in front of the superyachts Med-moored to the town quay.
Day Six: A quick run back to the charter base in Oyster Pond, St. Martin after a fly-by deserted Ile Fourche and a lunch break anchored off Tintamarre.
The week flew by as well but I know the memories will last a lot longer.