It was very
difficult to leave the Bahamas this year; amazing friends, clear waters, private beaches, more fish and lobster than we could ever eat...we heard from returning world cruisers, "It doesn't get any better than this," and started to wonder why bother with the world when we've already discovered the best!? Curiosity got the better of us; we won't know for certain that the Bahamas are the best until we've explored all that we possibly can. And so, we set sail on the next available front, headed south.
Rode Trip departed the Bahamas from Ragged Island. We traveled south, across the Columbus Bank, aiming directly for the Windward Passage between Cuba and Haiti. When we departed the wind was coming from the south and had not yet shifted north. We did a bit of motoring to ensure that we would not miss the north wind, as our forecast showed that the north winds might be light and short-lived. It was a beautiful motor/sail! In the chart view below, you can see our track. There are some waypoints from last year, but you can see our beginning for this track was at WP0013, continuing around the eastern tip of Cuba past WP0073 which marked Windward Passage.
The following day, we rounded Cuba and were entering the Windward Passage just as the sun was setting. We were sailing with full main sail and jib and the wind had shifted north. No sooner had we rounded Cuba's coast, the wind speed increased. Quickly we double-reefed the main sail. We continued blazing along, wind whistling in our rigging. Down came the main sail and we made full speed, 6-knots, under jib power. The waves built also, 8-10 feet, thank goodness they were following seas! We were not exactly comfortable but we were making darn good time that night, and the next two days and nights, with 30-knot north winds if not stronger. Remember, we don't have an anemometer to actually measure the wind speed but averaging 6-knots with the jib and seeing white caps and blowing foam on tall waves all around were signs that we were well into the 30-knot range of wind speed. On comparison with our good 'ol Beaufort Scale the conditions were between Force 5 and Force 6. This time, no seasickness for me! I certainly was cranky and tired, but I was also taking all my shifts and helping to prepare meals.
All the while we debated whether we should stop at Port Antonio, Jamaica (original plan) or change course and continue onward directly to Isla de Providencia by way of the eastern shore of Jamaica. It would be a shame to waste those strong north winds! Upon receiving the weather faxes, however, Brian discovered that the Columbian low was brewing to the south east of Jamaica and forecasting conditions that we were currently experiencing. While our current 30-knot/10-foot conditions were only predicted to be 15-20 knots; Brian thought it unwise to brave the Columbian low which was predicting 25-knot/8-foot conditions and could foreseeably be worse. Forecasts tend to low-ball speeds and heights and we certainly didn't want any worse conditions as we were already holding our own in the present circumstances. We welcomed the idea of stopping at Port Antonio so that we'd have a break from the seas. We began our shopping list...coffee, rum, honey, jerk seasoning, Ting soda...
Finally, we'd reached Jamaica's coast and we could see the lighthouse marking the entrance to Port Antonio. It was dawn and the north wind had subsided. The waves, while less choppy, remained 8-10 feet and were rolling straight into the entrance. We took down sails and Brian drove Rode Trip all the way to the entrance and just beyond the lighthouse nearly to the first red buoy. The waves did not subside; the north swell rolled into the entranceway and crashed hard against Navy Island forcing the water hard into the adjacent peninsula. We agreed it was not safe to enter with high, following seas. If one of the waves caught or pushed the boat just right while navigating through the narrow entrance, we could crash into the shoreline. We bailed.
Now what!? We agreed not to wait; those hours spend uncomfortably aboard had better be making forward progress rather than just bobbing around outside of Port Antonio. The most appropriate route to Isla de Providencia would be east along Jamaica. The wind had subsided that morning, so we began motoring east...and then within the hour the easterly wind built steadily. Soon we were making no progress upwind and the 8-miles of remaining coastline would take something ridiculous like 7-hours to complete! Go where the wind goes! We turned around, set the sails, and sailed west. At least we'd have another opportunity to enter Jamaica at either Ocho Rios or Montego Bay. We had a beautiful sail all day along the western Jamaican coast, through the night and all through the following afternoon.
Great sailing, no reason to stop now! We passed by Ocho Rios and Montego Bay and sadly did not re-stock Rode Trip with Jamaican goodies. At least we weren't spending money either! We rounded the western end of Jamaica and watched as a long row of thunderstorms came down from the mountains and out to sea. The thunderstorms sucked all of our lovely, east winds away! For the next two nights and days we were becalmed, barely moving and hoping the trade winds would return.
When the trade winds returned, we had beautiful downwind sailing. We raised the party dress (our drifter a.k.a. lightweight genoa) and poled it out with the spinnaker pole. We kicked back, read, ate, played iPad app games, listened to music, even had sexy shower time out on deck...the usual passage happenings. One afternoon, Brian hooked a very tasty bonito!
We arrived at Providencia at 2am; typical of us to arrive in the dark! Although the entrance is marked well with lighted buoys, we are never keen to approach a new location in darkness. We hove-to and waited for dawn to approach. It had been 10 days of travel and I was thrilled to finally see land! Not only land, but towering mountains reaching out of the sea! All my tiredness was pushed aside by energy, anxious to explore this new place!