Wednesday, June 7, 2023

Crossing the Caribbean Sea to Curacao

We said goodbye to Amy and Larry in St Croix; their parting words to us were "look out for the area around Udall Point (East St. Croix). It has potholes."

Boy they weren't kidding! But we picked our way through them, put up the sails and pointed Minerva Southwest across the open Caribbean Sea.

Amy and Larry, friends we made in St. Croix, built their trimaran from scratch.
It's made of cold-molded cedar and fiberglass and it looks like it deserves a speeding ticket even when tied to the dock.

The wind was coming from just a little East of due South. I suspect this is highly unusual. It is certainly annoying, since the whole point of doing the thorny path was to get all the way out here and have a nice beam reach run across the Caribbean Sea, which means we were looking for an East Wind - a trade wind, which is everyday here, right! Nope! Denied!

It's easy to become paralyzed by the options and waiting for a perfect weather window that may never arrive. There's also the fear that you pick the perfect window but it turns out to be a weatherman's lie. At some point you must simply go anyways and accept the consequences, and hope that you prepared well enough for the inevitable surprises.

I probably haven't mentioned this before, but I don't like leaning. We spent a lot of time choosing this specific boat because she's heavy and resists the lean. Close-haul = lean. But it was only supposed to be for a little while before the East Wind filled in and we would be at a nice comfortable beam reach for the majority of our ride.

One weather report suggested the wind would turn after only a couple hours. That came and went. A different weather report said we could look for the wind to turn at noon. That came and went. A third one said by 4:00, surely, the East Wind would show up then. By 6:00, still nothing. More leaning. And, you know what? It wasn't that bad! Minerva really seems to thrive in it. So we were cooking right along, leaning a little bit, and when a big gust of wind would come she would just sort of dump the excess wind and keep going. At first it freaked me out, and then I learned to trust her. She was really in her element. We've never experienced this before, and she's an old hand at it. It did feel a little bit like she was showing off, this was a side of my boat I've never really relaxed long enough to let her show me before.

Tethers are kept handy in the cockpit and our policy is to clip our lifevests to the safety lines on the boat whenever leaving the cockpit for any reason

There were a couple of incidents where our feet went out from under us on a lean, and some things went flying and broke, we earned some minor bruises here and there. All in all we did pretty well considering the sideways and bumpy state of living for a few days. Really great safety gear and a policy of always wearing it kept us on the deck when we fell topside, and lots of handholds in the cabin kept the below decks falls to a minimum (Merci Monsieur Amel).

We all got soaked by waves that slipped over the side now and then, unfairly attacking us as we were leaned over. Chloe always glared at us so indignantly, as if we were doing it purposefully to annoy her. She was the first to figure out the particular sound they make when they hit the hull and dive for cover before the splash could rain down on her, yes it seems the dog is Minerva's smartest crew member.

Sunrise on the third morning bathed the setting moon in cotton candy skies

The night watches were magical. As the sun went down and the full moon came out to play, the swell would lay down and Minerva would fly. We saw a handful of other boats on the radar, but only a couple of container ships were visible with our eyes, all of them distant. During the day we were kept company by schools of flying fish, who seemed determined to race with us, and the clouds made interesting moonshadows on the water at night. One night a small dolphin jumped all the way out of the water alongside Lance then quickly disappeared. Later that same night, on my watch there was a rather large cloud above Minerva and clear skies on the horizon, the moon caused a million little sparkles right on the horizon - it looked like we were sailing on a dark lake across from a bustling lakeside city. On the third night the wind did finally shift a little more to the East, we paid out some sails, the boat flattened out and we sailed comfortably the rest of the way, catching a free ride on a ripping current over the top of Bonaire and to Curacao.

The sacrificial suncover on the headsail went from gently frayed to completely shredded during our passage, and we pulled into the anchorage with the ravaged cover hanging like a row of sad flags. We arrived just before 5 pm and circled around a bit before settling on the perfect spot to drop the hook. We were on our final approach when we ran aground on a soft sandy shoal that wasn't on the chart, a rather inauspicious ending to an otherwise flawlessly executed passage. Of course it was getting close to sundowner time so everyone was on their boat decks to witness it, surely adding to our new neighbors' impression of us. Oh well. We set the hook and were treated to a front-row seat of the naked ancient French couple diving from their boat to swim upwind of us.