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  #1  
Old 09-24-2008
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Swell Direction in the Leeward Islands

hi

going antigua to st martin in late march/early april and doing some early trip planning. some anchorages along the way untenable in swells from the north, some from the south.

my question is does the swell direction pretty much mimic the prevailing winds for that time of year (E/ESE), is it random, or is it predictable but different from the prevailing wind direction (and, if so, does anyone know from what direction and how bad the swell is at that time of year)

thanks acres in advance
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Old 09-24-2008
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Swell is typically in line with the trades BUT large systems from the north can generate large swells from other directions. Typicaly in the lee of the islands there is not much to worry about and swell is only a minor factor with wind funneled between the islands a more significant concern.
Chris Parkers website gives daily swell predictions.
Carib WX - Caribbean Weather Information

Example: Todays...
SEAS:
SE Caribbean: building to 4'/7-sec from ENE-E today thru tomorrow; 3-4' Fri26, mostly 3' thereafter.
NE Caribbean: 5'/7-sec from ENE-SE today, 4' tomorrow & Fri26; 5'/5-sec from ENE-E Fri26 night & Sat27; 5-6'/6-sec Sun28.
DomRep: to 8' from various directions today, to 4-5' mostly in a 10-sec N swell tomorrow thru Sat27; 5'/5-6 sec from ENE Sun28.
Venezuela: mostly 3'/4-sec from ENE-SE thru tomorrow, from E threafter.
ABCs: mostly 3'/4-sec from various directions thru tomorow; 4-5'/4-5 sec from E-ESE Fri26; 3-4' Sat27 morning into Sun28, 5' late.
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Old 09-24-2008
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Cam's spot on... Swells in the typical anchorages in this region are mostly minor - the episodes that seem the most troublesome are those caused by intense weather systems to the north, setting up a northerly swell that manages to curl down the leeward sides of the islands, making ordinarily good anchorages a bit uncomfortable. In addition it can make getting ashore in the dinghy a lot more interesting as well.

I'd recommend a stop at Saba (if the swell conditions allow - there are no real good anchorages here, mooring bouys on the "leeward" side, but swell state has to be low in general) - a most fascinating island that is a real counterpoint to all the other sandy palm fringed islands in the chain. Not far from St Maarten if you have the time.
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Old 09-24-2008
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thanks

thanks! very useful info

we booked 40 foot monohull for 10 days. our plan is antigua -> Nevis/St Kitts -> statia and/or Saba (depending on weather and how we're doing for time -> St martin then a few days in a hotel in st martin on the back end of the trip.

cheers
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Old 09-25-2008
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Hopefully you were able to book a hanse! to try it out vs one of the Bene/jeanneau's usually found in Charter!

Have fun!

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Old 09-26-2008
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swells

If you stay in Simpson Bay in St Marten the only swells you'll get is from the other boaters, Saba is normally swelly because its round and they just travel around it. St Barts is swelly at the entrance to town on the SW side but you tie up at the seawall in side for a small fee.
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Old 09-29-2008
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Yup - what they said! Just keep in mind that swell tends to wrap around islands and find its way into even relatively protected anchorages. Just make sure your hook is well set and you leave plenty of room to swing. Try to time your passages between islands so that the tide will be running WITH the wind to minimize wave action ... which can get interesting from time to time when the sea swell gets squashed between the islands.
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Old 11-23-2008
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Most of your anchorages should be fairly comfortable. Nevis can be exposed, but you can see the swell action pretty easily. You may want to move if the swell changes, either north or south St Charles, depending. Saba is a roll of the dice.

Swell-wise, the crossing from Antigua to Nevis will probably be a bit uncomfortable. You'll likely be on a broad reach, taking the swell on the aft quarter. Very rolly. We did that passage on a charter 2 years ago and the rolling stirred up sludge in the fuel tank, so we had no diesel when it came time to anchor. But anchoring off Pinney's Beach was very easy under sail. Clearing the clogged fuel line, not so much.
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