Monday, January 10, 2011

It was a tough passage. Those 5 words are short and succinct, but don't really do that trip any justice. I set my alarm for 1am but woke up just before midnight and set off earlier. Departing was easy, I had prepared some sandwiches and made a coffee to fuel me for the first part of the trip and weighed anchor, departing the north sound at 00:15 in mild conditions. After motoring between Neckar and Prickly Pear island and passing the shoals and little island with the palm trees I put up sail and got going using both sails and engine at 1800rpms to get 7 knots of speed and was able to head just 10° south of St. Martin (usually the wind is directly from St. Martin, so this was a good direction) but after about 2 hours the wind shifted and I had to tack. To make things worse, I had ignored something on the weather reports - I'd only checked rain, wind and wave height and had decided that a 1.8 meter (just shy of 6 feet) swell of 8 seconds was still acceptable. What I'd neglected to see was that the wave direction changed from a southerly to north, meaning two trains of waves that were relatively high met exactly where I was sailing. This made for confused seas and I'd be rolling from a wave from aft and pounding into a wave from forward at the same time.
Despite 3 reefs in both sails the wind would occasionally heel me over to the toe rails and that, coupled with the constant pounding into the seas, made for an uncomfortable ride. The spray from the waves occasionally blew over the bimini and even hit the wind generator. But I tacked and made good speeds and the passage was over at 14:30 the next day when I anchored outside of the Simpson Baie bridge and took stock.

- The string tied to the back of the wind generator managed to get snagged in the rotor and, at first, caused a high pitched whining sound and then seized the blades so that the wind generator froze and wouldn't turn anymore. Not too great an issue as my batteries were already full from motoring.
- A bird followed my boat for a good hour, using the lift generated from the upwind side of the boat as he would hover motionless relative to the boat for long periods and look forward at the sea. I think that the bird knew that the boat would surprise fish, which would then jump and thus become prey for him. While fun to look at, the bird produced copious amounts of excrement with which he bombarded my boat.
- With all the pounding and green water on decks some made it into the forward bilge (I will have to see where that came from, perhaps from the ventilator in the sail locker hatch). Since the boat was heeled over, it made it into the section where I'd stored my extra life vests and gotten into the plastic bag and caused one of them to set off. This wasn't a good thing as it lifted the floorboard and was bending a plywood support board. At first I thought I'd take a knife to it, but I managed to pry it out. The other bags were also wet, but hadn't triggered.
- The bilge isn't deep, so when heeled over some of the water washes along the bottom. At that extreme heel some had splashed on my Victron inverter and all the lights were blinking on the control panel. Despite switching it on and off all I would get were some blinking lights. I'll have to undo all the wiring and take it in for repair. This is the most depressing part, since I'll have to do without my espresso!
- I couldn't take any pictures due to the constantly flying spray
- I found one small screw and one set screw rolling around the cockpit during the passage and have absolutely no idea where they could have come from. That will be a project for a calm day to see if they came off anything important.

I got the dinghy overboard and ready quickly and showered, put on my formal shirt (one with a collar) then proceeded to clear into the Dutch side. I had to fill out 2 forms which were almost identical then paid my $51 for clearing in, bridge fees and one week in the lagoon and was out of the office within 15 minutes. Back at the boat I had little energy to start cleaning up and the boat was rocking so heavily in the swell that I couldn't do much in any case. I waited for the 17:30 bridge opening and was in a block of at least 25 boats ranging from small ones my size to huge mega yachts. All of us were circling or holding position close to the bridge in order to get in as quickly as possible when it opened. The Maltese Falcon was outside and I'm sure she doesn't fit through the bridge or have enough water under their keel to make it inside. Right after the bridge I saw Heinz-Dieter in his dinghy taking pictures, so I hope that I can grab one of them to put on this page, otherwise I'll have no pictures for this day.

I am heading ashore at 7pm to get dinner at the Steak place in the Palapa Marina and will take care of my boat on the morrow.

Zanshin I coming into the Lagoon Heinz-Dieter from Pinta took this picture of me while I was entering the Simpson Baie lagoon from the Dutch drawbridge at the 17:30 inbound opening.
[18°2'9.08"N 63°5'36.83"W (facing W)]
Zanshin I coming into the Lagoon
Inflated lifevest I put this lifevest underneath the floorboards in the forward section of Zanshin I and, unfortunately, it got wet during a particularly rough passage and deployed, almost breaking a wooden transverse stringer in the process.
Inflated lifevest
Zanshin coming into St. Martin Zanshin I just after passing through the drawbridge into Simpson Baie, taken by Heinz-Dieter on Pinta
Zanshin coming into St. Martin

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