The time for our stay in Sint Maarten was up and we decided to sail to St. Barth for New Years Eve. Rumors state that St. Barthelemy is the top spot for the New Year’s celebration in the Caribbean. The distance from Sint Maarten to St. Barth is only 17 Nautical Miles and it shouldn’t take more than a few hours to do this passage... NOT! This passage was one of the most memorable passages ever. Let’s put it this way, we never made it to St. Barth on the same day!
The wind is blowing 20 to 25 miles per hour from the east. The main sail is double reefed and only 1/3 of the genoa is furled out. We are beating into short steep 8-10 ft waves with 1-2 knots current against us. In 5 hours we sailed only 10 miles toward the destination. In addition we are towing two dinghies, our regular Earthling 8.8 ft hard dinghy and the newly acquired 11 ft inflatable dinghy. We tacked a handful of times and it felt like sailing in a washing machine. This is not a pleasant sailing experience! The boat is heeling over and getting washed over again and again.
St. Barthelemy Channel is known for high steep seas because it’s so shallow. The waves build up easy and on top of that it is windy! Many sailors don’t have the patience to sail all the way so they motor sail, but we are eager and stubborn to make this passage under sail. Having said that, we would not have made it to our anchorage in St. Barth before sunset strictly under sail so we had to turn the engine on. The engine was on for about an hour before it stopped working and shut down. It reminded me of the passage from Key Largo to Miami when the system got air in it because I was heeling over on a low tank (read Engine Failure). I thought the engine sucked in air so while Kelly is behind helm I’m trying to bleed the air out of the system. This is not our lucky day, the inboard is not cooperating. Now we don’t have any other option than to use the wind and anchor under sail.
New Year’s Eve is the busiest time in St. Barth for yachts and any many visit Gustavia. I’m thinking, how am I going to maneuver around all these boats and find a good anchorage under sail after dark! I’m nervous, stressed and concentrated. Well, we can’t go to St. Barth and the closest anchorage on the current tack is Ile Fourchue. That’s where we are going, I told Kelly, since it’s not crowded and we can make it before dark. Luckily, there was a big spot between 2 sailboats and a mega yacht. As we are approaching you can tell the few boat around are looking at us wondering why we are sailing into an anchorage. I drop the anchor, we furled in the jib and dropped the main all in less than 10 seconds. The boat is drifting back and I’m just praying that the anchor is going to set. The anchor line gets tight and the boat stops. The gentlemen on the boat next to us start clapping with a thumbs up, like we did this out of choice! I take a deep breath and feel a little more relieved.
I spend most of the next day in the engine room, changing primary and secondary fuel filters, checking for fuel flow, bleeding air, checking for air flow, cleaning the air filter, inspecting fuel hoses, inspecting the water flow, cleaning the raw water strainer, and so forth. Still, we are out of luck. This Yanmar 3GM inboard is taking a break and it’s not running. I don’t know what else to do, we don’t have the engine owner’s manual since it was stolen in Puerto Rico 7 months ago (Read We've been robbed). Plus, there is no internet or phone on this little uninhabited island. We have to get to St. Barth, and this time we have to pull up the anchor under sail. Fortunately, all the boats were gone and there was plenty of room to navigate. Two hours later, here we are sailing toward a new anchorage in a very tight and crowded area without an engine. We are tacking between mega yachts. St. Barth is such a beautiful place and the view of hundreds of bigs yachts is exceptional. I have never seen so many gathered in one place. After all, it’s nerve racking not to have an engine going into an anchorage. I’m very anxious and nervous. Before leaving Ile Fourchue, we located Shell Beach on the charts, a site that is relatively idle with a good holding sandy bottom. Furthermore, the entrance to Shell Beach is considerably narrow. As we are approach, there are many boats with people on them partying and it literally seems impossible to sail through all them. The only thing I can do is pray and hope for the best. After 7-8 tacks in a half a mile distance, our angels nust have heard us and began to blow a breeze on our beam and bring the boat as close as possible to the beach in 10 ft of water. The people are swimming away from us, the people on the boats and beach are watching and pointing at us. We drop anchor 150 feet from the beach and 200 feet from a rocky cliff. We must have put on a show dropping anchor, main, and furling the jib all in no time. We drift back and we are set. Hoooooooahhh is all I can say!
Last night we walked to the board walk in St. Barth, intermingled with billionaires, danced, and celebrated the New Years.
Engine is still underpowered
Happy New Year 2012
Love from a Passage to Remember