By midday on Monday, Cutter Loose is underway to the now familiar destination of Red Hook on St. Thomas for a final visit with Neal before departing the Virgin Islands. Our recently rebuilt wind speed/direction instrument has been behaving erratically. At certain times, the wind speed reading is errant. At other times, the wind direction pointer remains stationery in the 6 o’clock position. Ironically, the masthead anemometer is spinning freely and the wind vane is moving in sync with the wind direction. For some unknown reason, the wind instrument in the cockpit is not getting the message.
During our afternoon consultation with Neal, he informs us that another trip to the top of the mast will be required to repair/replace the wiring socket that connects the masthead unit to the cockpit wind instrument. It would be preferable to accomplish this on a calm day because soldering may be required. Since it is breezy today and the harbor at Red Hook is exposed to the east, we agree to try again tomorrow.
On Tuesday, the wind is still howling through the harbor. Typically, the calmest period of the day occurs at sunrise and again at sunset. Today, however, there is no break in the brisk easterlies. Yet another night at American Yacht Harbor marina will be required in order to tackle this project early on Wednesday morning. During our stay at AYH, we befriend our dock neighbor, Lorenzo, a resident of Rome, Italy. Lorenzo introduces us to nautical charts of Italy on his iPad. In the process, he makes a compelling argument for cruising the Mediterranean. Later that evening, we meet friends Tom and Cindy for dinner.
Neal arrives at the dock bright and early on Wednesday morning. By 9 AM, the repair is complete and Cutter Loose is eastbound for a return visit to Francis Bay. The forecast calls for windy and squally weather conditions during the next 48 hours. Francis Bay is the ultimate place to hide in a blow since it is surrounded on three sides by mountains. Alternating periods of rain and sun with 18 to 25 knot winds ensue through Friday morning, but the water in the Bay remains relatively calm. During this layover in Francis Bay, we study the cruising guide for the Leeward Islands in anticipation of our forthcoming transit of the Anegada Passage to St. Martin. The long range forecast at www.passageweather.com is favorable for a crossing to St. Martin early next week.
As a pleasant surprise, Tom and Carey of Dragon’s Toy swing by in the dinghy on Wednesday afternoon. Over cocktails aboard Cutter Loose that evening, they describe their recent visit to Culebra, Vieques and the mainland of Puerto Rico. Like us, they are headed down island and are looking for a weather window for the crossing to St. Marten. We agree to stage at North Sound, Virgin Gorda on Saturday.
Under improving conditions on Friday, Cutter Loose enters Funghi Passage and into the Narrows of Sir Francis Drake Channel for a brief stop at West End, Tortola. BVI Customs officials in West End graciously permit us to clear in from USVI and clear out for an anticipated February 4th departure to St. Martin, all in one step.
Having completed the official entrance and exit formalities, we press on to a stop at Nanny Cay Marina, the site of our initial landfall in BVI. Here we will visit with Caribbean 1500 friends Ken and Laurie from Adagio before they fly home to Rhode Island next week. Joining Ken and Laurie at the dock to catch our lines is none other than Mia Karlsson, the personable Swedish blonde from the World Cruising Club who greeted us when we made landfall at Nanny Cay Marina on November 13th. This is an unexpected déjà vu reunion. Unbeknownst to us, Mia arrived at Nanny Cay a few hours earlier having just completed a transatlantic crossing from the Canary Islands. We pass the afternoon and evening with Ken and Laurie, enjoying relaxed conversation with them at the pool, in the cockpit of Adagio and at dinner. Getting to know these folks was one of the highlights of our Caribbean 1500 experience. We will surely miss being in their company.
After final goodbyes on Saturday morning, Cutter Loose is eastbound once again to Virgin Gorda. The easterlies are calm today at 10 knots, which makes for a smooth and rapid trip to North Sound. At this anchorage, we have access to the Internet through Saba Rock wifi. This enables us to check the weather forecast frequently.
On Sunday afternoon, Passageweather indicates a period of calm weather overnight with winds less than 15 knots out of the east and seas less than two feet. Since our destination is to the east, we expect to motorsail the entire distance. Based on the favorable weather forecast, the optimum time to depart North Sound for the 80 mile passage to Marigot Bay in St. Martin is 5 PM. Cutter Loose should arrive in Marigot shortly after sunrise on Monday morning.