St Thomas to St Maarten

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This passage is known as the OH MY GOD-A PASSAGE, or the Anegada Passage, the leg from the USVI / BVIs 90 miles East Southeast to Sint Maarten (Dutch) or St. Martin (French) Caribbean Island.  This passage is usually rough, very rough, with big seas. That is because it is open ocean with nothing between here and Africa. The course is 120 degrees and the winds are ALWAYS 090 degrees.  This places the winds 30 degrees off the bow and a sailboat cannot sail this close to the wind. So, we put up a staysail, sheeted it in hard, turned on the motor and pushed into the waves. Here is Happy Radeen as we are leaving St. Thomas to stage up at Christmas Cove off Great St. James Is.. We need to go for a swim, and Charlotte Amalie harbor is not the place but Christmas Cove certainly is.

Radeen wanted to drive past the cruise ship because we both enjoy taking cruises, as well as cruising on our own little ship.

Stage up at Christmas Cove

Christmas Cove is a dream spot in the USVI. With the anchored PIZZA PI boat there, what else would you need? Sadly, this stop we never did get a PI as we swam, and snorkeled, and worked on firing up the Spectra Watermaker.  Remember, we are only 2 days out of Puerto Rico and we are still working on setting up the boat and getting all systems back up and running. So, starting the watermaker was a big deal. This is the unit we had to tear down and have rebuilt in Grenada. It had been pickled (storage chemicals installed) for 10 months, then in May 2021, pickled again for 6 more months. Not a good thing, but lucky for us, it fired right up and started producing fresh drinking water from salt water, all the while only using 8 amps of 12-volt battery power. WILLAMINA WAS BACK, We named her Willamina Watermaker, another valuable team member on the Island Spirit.

This is what 8 gallons per hour looks like, it is the amount of a drinking straw.
Snorkeling off Christmas Cove, we saw a “squad of squid” eleven of them, a first for us. So interesting to watch them swimming in formation!

Anchor up at O500, depart in the Dark

We were going to leave Christmas Cove at 1000 to 1200 on Christmas Eve day, but the calm was here early and we said let’s go at 5 am. This meant getting out of the harbor in the dark and it would also mean arriving in St. Maarten in the dark. Both harbors are wide open, so we decided we could do this with our digital radar, and bright spotlight, and also the moon. Well, it is still stressful moving a boat in a harbor at night, but we were in the back of the pack, so we cut between two yachts and then took the stern of another one and we were OUT. Next, we pointed the boat onto a 120-degree course heading and watched the sun come up. The sea was calm, the winds were 10-15 knots, which is quite calm for the Leeward Islands. We set the boat on autopilot to hold the course and off we powered.

Our B&G Autopilot is #1. We can set it to run to a coordinate, or to hold a compass heading or, best of all, to hold a given wind angle. We rarely sit at the helm offshore, auto takes over.
The sunrise at sea is always a joy to behold. This one was so beautiful.

What you can see at NIGHT

This passage would be 90 miles and at 6 knots that would take 15 hours. Well, in actuality it took us 17 hours as we left at 0500 and arrived at 2300. We went slowly in the beginning, taking an hour to get out, and then we went slowly at the end, going into the harbor at night. It is always interesting what you can see at night from the helm of a sailboat. First off, your red-lit compass is #1, here you can see we are on a course of 120, and that was the course the entire 17 hours.

It is crazy, that course 120 degrees is the course from Miami to Antigua, 1,200 nm. Here we are running 120 degrees from STT to SXM, into the wind we go.
This is the view from the helm. The compass at the bottom, then the digital radar with the red lights from below deck also seen. Over the bow, it is pitch black, we can see nothing but stars, maybe.

THERE SHE IS….Sint Maarten

Arriving into Simpson Bay, Dec 24, 2021 at 11 pm from sea might not have been the smartest thing we have done in a while. Guess what? There were tons of other yachts anchored there as well. All light up with Christmas lights, plus the shore lights and it was like arriving into Times Square. WOW, was this a difficult entrance, but we went slowly and watched our digital radar making sure there were no targets off our bow. We simply pushed onward and navigated our way into Simpson Bay, which is a big open bay. Look at the view from the helm as we approached the island.

Arriving Simpson Bay Dec 24, 2021 at 11 pm, from sea

Hello Daybreak, Sint Maarten

The next morning at daybreak we looked at the beautiful mountains of Sint Maarten and the calm harbor where we anchored. We were so happy to be here as our new Yamaha 15 hp outboard could be bought here. That is why 4 days after launch, we pushed 200 nm east to reach here, so we could get a running dinghy again. Hello Sint Maarten, Merry Christmas all….

Our anchorage in Simpson Bay, just behind the old broken down “DRY DOCK” structure that is abandoned in the center of the harbor. It was on the radar and it was on our charts. Good item NOT to hit at 11 pm at night because it has no lights on it.

Now, it was time to check-in and  to plan our new outboard  purchase so we can have a running dinghy. You can not row in these tradewinds, you need a working dinghy if you anchor out all the time, like we do. A big thank you to John Knight of IP420 Adventuress who had just completed his Atlantic crossing. He moved from the French side to the Dutch side and cheerfully provided transportation to Customs and Immigration for us to clear in. More about our fun Christmas Day with John to follow….

Merry Christmas to ALL.

We did it, Arrival Sint Maarten / St Martin Dutch / French Merry Christmas to All.
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