Once we got Sanitas’ engine fixed, we didn’t waste any time! Laundry, groceries, filling the water and fuel tanks, moving from the marina to the anchorage…in about 24 hours we had Sanitas ready to move. A good weather window was coming up at the beginning of April and we wanted to be ready to take advantage of it.
Take advantage of it we did! Around noon on Tuesday we raised anchor and started north. The engine purred like a kitten (or maybe more like a tiger) when we used it to navigate out of the anchorage and get ourselves on our point of sail. But as the Captain says, “We’re a sailboat!” and we didn’t use the engine for long. We had a glorious sail up the west coast of Martinique, past Diamond Rock, and anchored in St Pierre just before sunset.
We set the alarm for 4am and were underway well before sunrise. Setting off in the dark is always a bit disconcerting, but the harbor in St Pierre is wide open with few hazards, so it wasn’t dangerous. We mainly had to watch out for fishing boats and floats for lobster pots. Sunrise at sea is always glorious, and this morning we even had a beautiful bright double rainbow to welcome us back to the sea.
Conditions were perfect for a fast, salty sail. We had easterly winds pretty consistently from 90 degrees between 12 knots and 20 knots. However, we encountered a lot of variation in conditions as we traveled part of the day between the islands of Martinique and Dominica (where seas can be quite big, and winds are strong and sometimes swirl as they are funneled between the islands) and partly in the leeward protection of mountainous Dominica (where wind and waves were lighter, and we actually had to motor sail for about an hour when we had no wind at all). Capt. Mike was kept on his toes putting in reefs and shaking them out. Bringing out the headsails and furling them in. We both ended up with callouses as our soft little hands had to become accustomed to line handling again.
Seas hit us on the beam which makes for a very rocky and rolly ride. There was a period of about an hour when we experienced the worst of the wind funneling effect with consistent 29 knots and I mostly just held on for a very wild ride. Capt. Mike took a picture of me in what he calls my gecko pose. You probably can’t tell from this photo but we are heeled over about 30 degrees so I’m bracing myself with my legs and holding onto the companionway and the winch. I’m kind of huddled in the protection of our bimini because waves on the beam create a great deal of splash.
Speaking of splash! We had a huge wave hit us without warning, and Mike and I were both soaked. The cockpit was swamped – good thing we have good scupper drains – and both bilge pumps turned on, and an alarm started beeping loudly. The worst part of the chaos was that we had forgotten to close the companionway with the sliding boards. So at least a couple of liters of that huge wave ended up with in the cabin. We spilled a bit of wind off the main and once I was sure that the Captain had things under control, I went below to survey the damage. Bilge pumps seemed to be doing their job. The alarm came from the lpg propane gas sensor, so I turned the propane solinoid off at the breaker panel. Mike disconnected it back at the tank just to be sure. I mopped up the saltwater lake on the cabin sole, rolled up the rugs, and did my best to dry off the port settee. I wiped down the breaker panel and port bulkhead. It’s the first time ever that I had to wash saltwater off the INSIDE of the portlights as well as the outside. Looking back on it, we weren’t in danger, but things were pretty darn exciting for a while.
Speaking of water in the cabin, I found a new leak, or what sailors call euphemistically “saltwater incursion.” I noticed that small drops of water were landing on the cushions of the port settee. I first thought that we hadn’t closed the cowl vent well enough. Nope. Watching for a while, I observed a drop forming on the zipper of the headliner, growing, growing, and then falling onto our lovely comfy couch. Darn it! That’s a problem to investigate for another day.
All in all, we averaged over 6 knots today which is crazy fast for little Sanitas. We made it to the mooring field near Terre-de-Haut in The Saintes, Guadeloupe with plenty of time to pick up a ball before sunset. After a day and a half of very active sailing, we were much too tired to go ashore. But after taming the chaos of the boat a bit, we could enjoy a magical view of the island during dinner and then a well-deserved early bedtime.