June 16, 2019

A big sail south: bound for Bequia

A week into our time exploring the British Virgin Islands, we saw a great multi-day weather window open, which is what inspired our blitz through the BVIs.

We initially planned to hop to the next island in the chain, St. Maarten, some 80 nm southeast of the BVIs, but the day before we planned to leave, we made a somewhat last minute decision to head offshore directly to St. Vincent and the Grenadines rather than island hop our way south.

No plan, no problem

Any sailor will tell you that having a destination and a timeframe to get there is a bad combination. As we mentioned in our recent update, we have a mid-June haul out date scheduled for Borealis and flights booked back to the States to visit our family and friends; since we needed to get ourselves and the boat to Grenada, we were sailing on a much dreaded schedule! While we had a month to get to Grenada, we worried that bad weather, boat repairs, and any other number of other things could pop up and slow our progress, which was already causing us some stress.

BVI to Bequia, Take 2

On Wednesday, May 15 at 11 a.m., we weighed anchor in Leverick Bay, Virgin Gorda and after a stop at the Leverick Bay Resort and Marina for diesel fuel, we headed out to sea for the 380 nm sail towards Bequia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

We were incredibly excited to make this passage on Borealis, as it was one we'd done before. In 2017, to get some offshore sailing experience, we sailed with Mia Karrlson and Andy Schell of 59 North Sailing aboard their Swan 48 on the very same passage from Virgin Gorda to Bequia.

Sailing aboard Isbjorn in 2017 from BVI to Bequia
Since we would be arriving several weeks in advance of our scheduled arrival date, we aimed for the Grenadines rather than Grenada, where we knew we could relax and enjoy ourselves for a few weeks  before sailing the last 80 miles or so south to Grenada.

A three hour day cruise

Our three day sail was mostly uneventful. Winds unfortunately were more southerly and lighter than forecast, and we found ourselves becalmed for most of the day each day of our sail, so we motorsailed with a full main and jib. Overnight, the wind and seas had a tendency to pick up, but we were lucky to have a bright full moon to guide us along. In fact, on our last night, the sun rose before the moon set, so we had a full moon all night, which makes a real difference on night watches out at sea.

Speaking of watches, we've found that 3-hour night watches work best for us. Any longer than three hours is too tiring for the person on watch, and while 2-3 hours of sleep at a time isn’t much, eventually exhaustion takes over and sleep comes easily. During the day, we are flexible in our watch schedule and will usually sit at the helm for a few hours until one or the other decides to take a nap, make a meal, or tackle a project. The first 24 hours are tiring, but eventually we fall into a routine and it gets easier.

A tired captain enjoys his morning coffee
There is little to see or do out at sea - except for the occasional bird or cargo ship -  but nonetheless here are a few highlights from our sail.

Highlights from our 3-day sail:

5/15/19 11:00 - Winds under 8 knots so motorsailing. Had a pod of dolphins swim at our bow.

5/15/19 18:00 - Caught a skipjack tuna. Fresh sashimi for dinner!

5/16/19 07:00 - Crossing over Saba Bank (where the water depth goes from several thousand feet to less than 100 feet) with very mixed seas for the past few hours. 115 miles so far!

5/16/19 12:00 - Another pod of dolphins swam with us for 30 minutes or so.

5/16/19 15:00 - Lost our cedar plug (our best lure!) to either a very large fish or seaweed. New lure on the pole and back to trolling!

5/16/19 23:00 - We've hit the halfway mark: 190 nm sailed at an average of 5.5 knots. Winds kicked up to 18 knots and seas are sporty.

5/17/19 04:00 - In the lee of Dominica (too far away to see, but islands are getting closer to us on the chart); winds are light under 10 knots and seas are calm. Almost 20 degrees off course from 12 hours earlier because of equatorial current.

5/17/19 08:00 - The doldrums of being at sea! Nothing new to report. Sailed 245 nm in 45 hours at an average of 5.4 knots.

5/17/19 11:00 - Great sailing the past few hours with winds 45-60 degrees off the bow (and not beating upwind like we had been the previous 24 hours). Gave up on fishing because of too much sargassum seaweed.

5/17/19 4:00 - Squall came through with showers and light winds. Since we got wet and were becalmed after the storm, we took showers on deck. Back to motorsailing.

5/17/19 22:00 - Battling a strong current again (in the other direction from earlier) and beating upwind in 17 knots of wind and mixed seas. Three cargo ships nearby; Sara radioed Star Navarra, a 650-foot cargo ship, on her watch because of approach less than 0.5 nm.

5/18/19 04:00 - In the lee of St. Lucia. Very mixed seas and winds gusting over 20 knots. Really bashing into the waves (the galley fan fell after the wiring came loose) and the decks and cockpit are soaked. Sailed 65 hours and 335 nm.

5/18/19 07:00 Slow progress because of wind and swell the last 12 hours. Spotted St. Vincent on the horizon just after sunrise. Too rough for fishing.

5/18/19 12:00 LAND HO! Arrived in Admiralty Bay, Bequia, St. Vince and the Grenandines.

Total time: 72:51 hrs
Total distance: 380.6 nm
Average speed: 5.2 knots

We were tired, but so happy to have made the passage on our own boat and to arrive back in such a beautiful place and where our cruising dreams began two years ago!

We noticed immediately how much hotter it was here than the BVIs - those 5 degrees of latitude made a real difference in the temperature. But we didn’t let it stop us from exploring the delightful little island of Bequia.

Next up, we spend two luxuriously relaxing weeks exploring this charming island.

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