This was a fast passage with very little motoring. My mate Mr. Lassen and I covered the 830 some miles between Fajardo and St. Georges in less than six days and burned only about five gallons of fuel in the process. Not my fastest passage ever between the Onion Patch and the W'Indies, but I think it's the fastest northbound trip I've ever made at this time of year.
The normal pattern is to have moderate to strong easterly tradewinds for the first two or three days, followed by variable junk the rest of the way to Bermuda. If you're unlucky you may see more junk than wind and end up motoring most of way. What we saw was almost the opposite of normal--a good dose of light air during the first few days, then moderate to strong wind through the latter part of the passage.
The Lunacy Report
IT IS DIFFICULT when visiting Vieques by boat these days to get reliable information on where exactly you're allowed to go. During my exploration of the Spanish Virgin Islands this winter I've had three different set of charts aboard--all published after the U.S. Navy stopped using the island as a gunnery range--and they are maddeningly inaccurate and inconsistent about what areas are still restricted. Going ashore at Bahia Salina del Sur on Monday morning, however, Phil "Snake Wake" Cavanaugh and I were confronted with some very explicit signs (see photo up top) that suggested our presence might be prohibited.
One thing that has changed since the last time I cruised these waters in the late 1990s is that now everywhere you go in the Spanish Virgins and the east coast of Puerto Rico you see these tsunami warning signs. I wasn't aware that tsunamis are a serious threat in the Caribbean, so I'm wondering what the point of these is. Maybe it's the fruit of some kind of sweetheart deal between the sign manufacturer and the local government.
WHEN I FIRST SAILED through the Spanish Virgin Islands back in the late 1990s, the prospect of visiting Vieques was rather daunting. The U.S. Navy, operating out of its old base at Roosevelt Roads, was still using the island as a firing range and both the cruising guide and charts I had on hand were full of dire and confusing warnings about the place. Rather than risk an accidental shelling, I steered clear and focussed instead on the neighboring island of Culebra. But I always wondered about that long bumpy silhouette on the southern horizon, and one of my major goals when I based Lunacy on the east coast of Puerto Rico this winter was to at last find out what's over there.
O FUN-LOVING BOAT-WORSHIPPING CHILDREN of the Internet! Forget what you heard about doing up New Year's on St. Bart's. Tis a hyped-up overrated overcrowded experience if ever there was one, IMHO. I'm here to tell you: Culebra is the place to be (or have been). None of this dandified Beautiful People On Their Superyachts pretense and nonsense. On Culebra they know how to turn the page on the calendar with Egalitarian Style.
WE'RE HERE! In the photo, if you look carefully, you'll see the lumpy bumps of dry land--the island of Culebra to be precise--that we encountered at sunrise yesterday morning as we swooped in from the north on a moderate east-southeasterly breeze. By 1030 hours we were tied up at the fuel dock at the Puerto del Rey Marina in Fajardo, awaiting a U.S. customs inspection.
This, strange to say, focussed largely on our garbage. We answered several questions about the food we bought in Bermuda (all of it processed stuff or fresh produce that, of course, had originally been imported from the States) and our two small bags of garbage, composed mostly of plastic packaging we hadn't thrown overboard en route, were then quarantined. We subsequently had to pay the marina $15 to remove these biohazards from the boat.
HAVING SUFFERED NO DAMAGE while lying in port during Superstorm Sandy, Lunacy at last departed New Hampshire at 1000 hours last Thursday. Aboard with me were two pick-up crew enlisted through Offshore Passage Opportunities: Minnie Burke, 23, a young adventuress from Virginia, and Chris Salas, 41, a doctor from Rhode Island. Neither had much, if any, offshore sailing experience, and I was careful not to sugarcoat our prospects. I told them what I tell anyone who proposes to sail from New England to Bermuda in the fall: this is normally a difficult passage; you will be sailing in winds over 30 knots; you will be uncomfortable.
I was as good as my word. Indeed, I was thrice as good.
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