Join Date: Jun 2011
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Re: Caribbean, What works and doesn't
I've given your post a lot of thought because I didn't want the reply to be snarky.
It seems to me your problem is in an overload of information, at least in the winter. We use one source, Passage Weather, and generally for wind only. It is fairly accurate for 3 days and becomes less so as the time goes on, but with 24/7 internet, that is no longer a problem. Personally, I don't waste my time with rain or cloud forecasts, as we are in the islands and there's no amount of forecasting that will accurately predict the squalls, and I've got a good set of foulies if I can't miss one.
But you can't take what you see on the screen at face value. Interpolation is the key. A light blue 10-15 from the east day is not going to be that if you are sailing along. Your forward speed will affect both the apparent wind speed and direction. That will turn your lovely 10-15 on the beam into possibly 18 to 22 somewhat forward of the beam, especially if you have a boat that will foot along at 7 to 8 knots. So, ALWAYS add around five knots or a bit more to the forecast. Then you must consider the lees and gusts created behind the islands and you could easily find yourself rail under in over 40 knots that came screaming down some valley. This is why we often choose to go windward side of some of the islands, turning a Deux Pitons to Bequia into a daylight run, for instance.
There are a goodly number of anchorages in the eastern Caribbean where the conditions inside give little indication of what you'll get out there. Some, like Admiralty Bay, will exaggerate the wind and others will do the opposite, but a quick look at how fast the clouds are moving over the hills surrounding the anchorage will give you an excellent idea of what wind direction and speed to expect out there. You can't get that from a forecaster either.
Now waves. The Caribbean isn't like sailing the Pacific. You can literally do half your sail in 100 feet of water and the other half in thousands. Water depth, current and the proximity to land do more to affect the waves in the EC than the thousands of miles of tradewinds that blew them there. The shape of the waves will show you the direction of the current a lot more accurately than any forecast.
When we leave Canouan for Bequia, as we approach the north end of the island the winds can easily rise to 25-30 knots as they curve around the end of the island and the seas to 6 meters or so. I've known folks to turn around and wait for the next day. And the next, etc. But it's a short (˝ hour to an hour) local phenomenon that is easily motorsailed through and very common on many of the islands, both on the north and south ends.
My point being, you can sail through waves from 3-5 feet and waves of 5 meters plus on the 16 nm trip from Canouan to West Cay Bequia, and no amount of internet or personal talk will have any worthwhile contributions on these sorts of local weather situations.
Anyone preparing to cross the Mona Passage should have been told a dozen times or more that they're gonna get their a$$ kicked. You can wait months for a 'weather window', but you will still probably get your a$$ kicked.
Same with the Anegada Passage from Virgin Gorda to St Maarten; 80 miles of hell, except in the dead of summer, then it's a fun run from Stt to Cheeseburger in Paradise on St Barth's and back for lunch in a 38-foot cigarette.
Relax and enjoy. The Windwards and Leewards are some of the easiest and most pleasant places to sail on this planet. There are good days and tough days, but rarely, IMO, bad days.
"Any idiot can make a boat go; it takes a sailor to stop one." Spike Africa aboard the schooner Wanderer in Sausalito, Ca. 1964.
“Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing - absolutely nothing - half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.” ― Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows
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Last edited by capta; 03-03-2019 at 12:50 PM.