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courl 07-05-2007 11:08 AM

Antigua to St Barths
Dear All,

we are planing our family sailing trip for Christmas 2007. Our boat 43' Cat is with Moorings in BVI, but since we have been sailing there already for some years we would like to explore some other islands.
The plan is:

Our boys (1 very experienced, the other less but still good) sail down from BVI to Antigua, where we, ladies join them. (they claim it will be fine journey, they did BVI to St Martin last year, but I am still very much worried is this a good idea. Could anyone advise how safe/tough this is?

5 days do some sailing around Antigua

Then head to St Barths (is this passage rough? i know the winds can be quiet strong there. How is the see and swell? Our gentelmen keep telling us it will be round 9 hours and easy, but i would really appreciate some inputs on the conditions and experience required for this passage). :confused:

Thanx so much in advance and looking forward to your feedback!

tomaz_423 07-05-2007 12:36 PM

A few disclaimers first:
1) I have no experience on catamarans, I have 43 feet mono hull (Bene 423)
2)I have not done exactly this route, but have done a few (not many) in Jan or March time (which should be similar to Christmas) from Antigua to Barbuda, St. Eustatuis (Statia), to St. Martin, St. Barth Nevis, ... so all the islands around your route.

I would plan more time for this passage - it is 70 miles, so most likely you can make it in this time with a 43'Cat and "predictable" winds, but I had this year in January less then 5 knots of wind on a passage from Guadeloupe to Antigua all day long :-( Forecast was 12 to 15.
On some other occasion I had large N swells in the area (forecast) and had to slow down to make it more comfortable.
And if you have never been to Gustavia (I assume that would be your port of entry) it is better to arrive in daylight.
So I would plan either very early departure or even and overnight passage. We did so once and it was very nice. We left anchorage in Barbuda at 11 in the evening, made a nice passage and arrived in the morning to our destination.
Or you can brake the 70 miles into few smaller hops - there are very nice islands between Antigua and St.Barths. Barbuda is my favorite.
Warning: clearing out of Barbuda may be a challenge, but if you take it as adventure it is a lot of fun. Plan full day for it.
Of course if the wind is forecast to 15 knots and stays at 15 knots and with no N swell then your Cat can make the passage in 9 hours or less.
Once we had guests prone to seasickness - solution we used was: They took medications and went to sleep, others made a passage. We all arrived happy.

You said Moorings: Can you take a sister ship and start from Antigua (or some other base) - I have my boat with Sunsail and I can take either my boat or any other boat from their fleet - so why not start where you want to sail and save long passages unless this is part of the fun. It only works if you have contract which allow you to use some other boat...

courl 07-06-2007 05:30 AM

Hi Tomaz 423!

Thank you so much for the quick and comprehensive feedback! We will definately consider some of your points! The reason for doing the passage at one shot is the lack of time, we thought to spend 5 days in Antigua, 2 St Barths, 2 St Martin (flying back from St Martin). Though, i have to admit barbuda sounds very tempting, as in BVIs Anegada is my favorite.
What do you exactly mean with challenging clearing out of Barbuda? :)

We have been sailing for past 3 years on Christmas in BVIs and I have to say i can't recall a day with less than 20 - 25 knots. Wouldn't mind to experience that for once, but obviously not when doing a longer passage.
My biggest concern is about our 2 guests (first time sailing) and their reactions to high seas and swells. Have no experience myself in this, was it really horrible with those N swells???

As regards to Moorings, yes, we do have an opportunity to use sister weeks, the problem though is that we have used them up for this year (Australia) and have already planed some next year in La Paz and Med. From my end long passages are definately not part of fun, the guys claim though they enjoy it... :)

Appreciate your feedback very much and wish you a pleasant day!

camaraderie 07-06-2007 09:56 AM

"The reason for doing the passage at one shot is the lack of time"
I would second everything Tomaz has said but also add that this is also the time of the "Christmas Winds"...which are the heaviest winds and seas of the entire year...Conditions offshore of 25-30knots from the NORTH/NW are accompanied by impressive seas making passages between the islands difficult and dramamine a basic food group!
These conditions come and go for several months and people generally hunker down in harbors or sail in protected waters when they are active. What concerns me about your plans is that they are time bound and you can't sit and wait things out...and you may get there just fine then be faced with a return sail to the NW into the teeth of such conditions with no time to wait it out. On a'll get a new appreciation for the words "sea-kindly" .
I'm not saying you can't do the trip...but I would suggest you also make alternate plans and not be driven by the vacation clock in your decisions. Leave the boat and hire a captain to sail her back when conditions permit if you can't sail back yourselves in safety.

tomaz_423 07-06-2007 11:12 AM


Originally Posted by courl
Hi Tomaz 423!
What do you exactly mean with challenging clearing out of Barbuda? :)

You can clear out of Barbuda in Codrington (the only town there).
You can not moor or anchor in front of Codrington,

You either anchor on the South coast (East of Palmetto point), try to get a taxi (call them on mobile if it works or VHF is someone is listening) and let the taxi drive you to Codrington. We never tried this.

Or, you can anchor on the West side (in Low bay, close to Palm Beach House), Dinghy to shore, drag the dinghy over a sand bank (perhaps 100 feet), dinghy across the lagoon (about 1.4 miles) to Codrington and than the fun begins.
The town is small, but the 3 offices (port, customs and immigration) are all in different locations and you must find them in the right order. There are no official hours, so it is most likely you will visit one or more of the officials in their homes or local bar. And then you have to go to the airport (perhaps 30 min walk) to pay exit tax and return to police station to get final stamp.
So, if you take it as just clearance procedure it is bad. But everybody is very friendly, all town knows what you are doing and where the next officer is (chances are you are the only tourist in town), so it really is quite funny. And you can take this as "site seeing".
One official was not in the office and not at home (I think he went fishing), but it was not a problem: His wife stamped out boat papers in the living room while her little daughter was doing her homework.

You can do a bird sanctuary visit (recommended) and than clear out and leave next day.

N Swells: My wife tried to sleep in the forward cabin in the Oceanis 423 on a passage, but she could not, because she was often lifted from the berth and after she hit the overhead she would land on the berth again (if lucky) or on the shelf (if unlucky).
The aft cabin was more acceptable (but not comfortable).
Water over the decks and in the cockpit was more a rule then exception that night. Going forward to fix something would be a challenge.
But the wind was great (25) I liked it. As this was my first time in the area I thought this was normal.
And I agree 100% with Cam. Don't be on a tight scedule or you can get a bumpy ride. Your Cat will take it, but what about the crew?
It should be a vacation.
I have few friends, who like it this way, but I know more who prefer it easy.
Anyway, have fun.

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