Sigh… I didn’t really want to write this post, but I knew I had to. I know that someday when I’m back on land life sitting in a cubicle I will enjoy reading how we got our ass kicked by this passage, not once, but twice. I take a small amount of solace in the fact that this passage has kicked the ass of MUCH better sailors than me.
Alright.. First some background. Why can the Anegada be such a bad passage? To answer that question we need a little graphic help understand what is going on here.
Ok first things first.. THIS IS A GENERALIZATION! The wind is not constant and I’m doing an average (for wind, wave, swell directions here).
Now with that disclaimer out of the way, lets analyze what it going on. The very first thing to look at is the waves and swell. Notice that in Winter the wind, waves and swell go the same direction! However, in summer that changes. The wind and wind waves go one direction and the swell goes another. When this happens we get a condition most mariners refer to as “Confused Seas”. That’s a pretty adequate description as the waves seem to come from every angle. It feels like you are in a washing machine. Pure shittiness! Franze our autopilot would agree as trying to hold a course when waves are knocking you 20% off course every 1 min is super tough.
The second big problem is wind angle. Sailboats CANNOT sail directly into the wind. Our boat needs about %25-%30 degrees (of difference between our direction and the wind) to make headway (ya ya, I can hear the monohull supporters yelling at the screen). Even at %25 degrees, we call that pinching and don’t make great headway. At that point, we would usually fall off (point away from the wind) to get more speed. Then we would sail past our destination and tack back to hit it. Because we are moving faster, we get there in shorter time even with the extra distance (as opposed to pinching). However, once the wind direction matches the destination (within 5%) we have no choice but to tack back and forth in a zig zag pattern to get there (very slow).
So now that you understand some of the physics of the Anageda you can better understand why its difficult. The first big problem is picking a weather window that will produce the winds you need to actually sail that passage (in summer). The second problem is getting to a starting point that will give you a high enough angle on the wind to sail. Of course everyone will look at that image and say I should have started from the island listed as “The Settlement”. That island is actually the island of Anageda (that the passage is named after). Yup, it looks ideal in that image. However in real life, there are 2 problems with that. One, Anageda is surrounded by reefs that make it difficult to leave from. You need to go south and then way east to get away from the reef (which has 100s, maybe 1000s of wrecks). The second problem is political. Anageda does not have a place to “Check-out” of the BVI. Politically, leaving from there can be problematic.
Ok.. So now lets talk about what went wrong with our passage and where I screwed up (I won’t talk about the first time, cause I made the same mistakes. Yup shame on me!). Again to understand it, a graphic will help.
Alright.. Lets talk about mistake #1. First I opted to not take the most north point in the BVI as it would require me to check-in (costing money and time). That point is the anchorage we loved most, just off of Eustatia island. Instead we would overnight in a USVI anchorage and motor our way through the BVI, not requiring a check-in. We would just motor to a spot past the BVI that would put us on an angle as if we left the Eustatia anchorage. We were OK spending the money on diesel knowing we would throw up sail after that and sail the rest of the way. It was a solid plan… However about 4 hours in (crossing the BVI sound) all the kids got sea sick. Sigh! We medicated them and made the decision we would stop at Peter Island and anchor in Deadman Bay. Yup, technically illegal as we were not “checked-in” to the BVI. I can already hear the crotchety bastards yelling at their screens while quaffing their rum drinks. Go back to Cruisers Forum, your not welcome here!
The next morning we pulled anchor at 7:15am and headed out with rested and medicated kids. The first few hours sucked as we were still on the BVI bank and the ocean was stacking up and making short steep waves. Super poundy! Once we crossed into deep water (2000+ feet) things flattened out and the waves were what we expected from deep water. They still sucked as they were largeish (5-6ft) and coming from every angle. We idled up Tom and Jerry (our motors) and set in for a 4 hour motor to our waypoint!
We arrived at the waypoint and I was disheartened to see the wind was at such a shitty angle. The wind was around %115-%120 degrees and our path was about %140. No matter, we threw up our sails to see what headway we could make. Sigh, 2 knots under sail alone, 3.5 knots with one motor choochin at low RPM. No Es Bueno. We had 137 miles to Monsterrat.. Ya, math that out (spoiler… a work week). Now realize we are being tossed in 5-7 foot waves coming at random angles. Not happening.. Drop sails, restart motors, adjust another 15 miles east to get a better angle so we can pick up speed with our sails up. (Yes, I hear you true sailors saying I should have fell off. Maybe I should have! I chose to cheat with the coal smokers). However, I should have added some south to our track (mistake #2).
Those extra 15 miles were super slow as we were now motoring into 15 knot winds with waves coming at every angle. I think we averaged 3.8 knots with both motors choochin! It was during this period when I began to feel truly bad. The headache that started before we left had begun to escalate (pretty sure a viral sinus infection). Eventually it got to the point where I was having trouble keeping my eyes open as it hurt so bad! When we eventually hit that adjusted mark, I was still doing some head math and realized I would never make a 30 hour (from this point) trip with the way I was feeling. I quickly measured our distance to St. Martin and made the call that we would beat the 42 miles there (remember our eventual destination is Antigua). Mistake #3, I should have made this call WAY earlier. Now here is where the true sailors are going to freak. I was feeling bad enough at this point that I decided to let the stink potters continue belching black smoke the whole way! I initially tried the whole tack and forth thing but just knew it wouldn’t work. Night was falling and I wouldn’t be able to physically keep it up. Instead we were “Floating Coal” as we steamed through the night taking 2 hour shifts to get to St. Martin. I will admit I wasn’t able to complete my last 2 hour shift without a nap. I set 2 alarms and needed to lay down for the last 15 minutes of that shift!
Rhonda took the last shift as we neared St. Martin. She awoke me as we were 4 miles out so we could drop the mainsail (yes we still had a sail up for stability and a little help). For the second time this season we arrived in Marigot Bay in the dark. However, this time we didn’t have the luxury of S/V Grateful to turn on their lights and give us a target. We just put the motors on slow chooch and wound our way around the boats in the dark looking for a solid spot to anchor. Our initial drop set us to close to a big wooden boat and we had to pull up and try again. The second time we got a nice spot and just as I was backing down on the anchor I noticed the sun had come up and we could see all the boats! There were multiple people on decks drinking coffee and looking at the crazy people anchoring at O’Dark’Stupid!
With the passage over, Rhonda and I had a quick shower (we had hot water from all the motoring) and then fell into bed. I had a fitful sleep as my head pounded and I dreamed of all the mistakes I made and the things I could have done to make it better! Lets hope I learn from my mistakes this time and don’t need to be “reminded” next season!