Strange Brew

You can hear it coming for a minute or more. One second you’re gently swaying to the anchor in a peaceful lagoon and the next you’re lurching, springing back due to the elasticity in our rope bridle after reaching the end of our anchor rhode, hoping that it holds. It’ll go from 5-10 kts to 35 kts in one of these williwaws which happen quite frequently, many times an hour. Apparently these winds are called catabatic winds and it’s cool or dense air that builds pressure at the mountain tops only to burst down through the warm air layer in the valleys. I first noticed them in Charlotte Amalie but it’s definitely more intense here. It’s a little disconcerting but I’ve learned the to chant the cruisers’ mantra…she’s gonna hold, she’s gonna hold, and so far she has.

We are waiting for the eight foot sea state to calm down a bit before we venture out again but time is growing short so we shall see. Heading south and passage weather dominate most conversation at the sailor bars. The lagoon on the Dutch side, at least, has thinned out considerably. Yesterday S/V Magus anchored next to us broke free of her anchor and headed for the barn (Barnacles Bar) and several cruisers got to her just before she hit the docks at that fine establishment. Turned out to be a broken link in her chain. That does not fill me with confidence, EV’s chain looks like it’s been around the world, which it has, but that’s got to count for something.

Andrew, our autopilot man, returned our AP ram today and with renewed confidence and a new set of brushes, it looks like we may have a functioning AP system. It had many problems but most were of the adjustment and why-the-hell-did-he-do-that variety. It’s no longer drawing huge amounts of current and shouldn’t overheat the autopilot computer anymore. With fingers crossed and touching wood because the problem with autopilots is the only way to truly check them out is to leave on an ocean passage. They all work great in harbor.


In the meantime many niggling projects are being addressed and St Martin is apparently one of the last stops for lots of reliable chandleries as we head south for a summer rendezvous in Grenada, out of the path of your average hurricane.

That’s life on the water.

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One Response to Strange Brew

  1. Cliff Cole

    Fascinating discussion about the catabatic winds. I had no idea that such phenomena existed but it really makes a lot of senses. The frequency and brevity of the winds are very curious. Did you find that the winds diurnal in nature? Were they micro-local winds; that is if you moved anchorage a few hundred feet you would not experience the winds?

    One thing I take away from reading your escapades is that it takes a lot of work, knowledge and planning to do what you and Jack are doing successfully.

    Happy sailing.

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