Time for a New Adventure!

It rained heavily for most of last night, bringing a morning of grey skies and cooler temperatures. I know this is just a passing weather system (it was a sweltering 32 degrees just two days ago), but I can’t help but get that ‘end of summer’ feeling – cooler weather, fewer people in the bars and restaurants, and friends starting to pack up and say goodbye as they prepare to move back to wherever it is that they spend their winters.

Ignore the calendar for a moment, and does make sense. The Caribbean sailing season ends in June, so May is when we sailors have to start moving on to wherever it is that we plan to ride out Hurricane Season. Most either sail down south to Grenada or Trinidad (as we did last summer), or they head north, to the US east coast or even all the way to Eastern Canada. We have said goodbye to numerous friends already, and the SXM anchorages are slowly starting to empty out. In an amusing coincidence, Labour Day in St. Maarten is on May 1st – yet another factor in my ‘end of summer’ mindset.

Mike’s birthday was on Sunday, so we celebrated with friends on Monday night. Part way through the evening, we got the email we’d been waiting for: confirmation from our weather router that Thursday is departure day! Two days to finish our preparations, and then we will be setting off across the Atlantic Ocean, with the Portuguese Azores Islands as our destination. Several of our friends are also making this journey, adding to the dozens (perhaps even hundreds?) of other boats that make this annual pilgrimage back to Europe for the summer.

As the crow flies (or as the dolphin swims, given the context), it’s a distance of 2,200 nautical miles, or 4,100 km from Saint Maarten to the Azores. The direct route is mostly north-east, but we will – of course – be travelling with the winds. The normal weather pattern is for a high pressure system to set up south of the Azores, with the trade winds blowing to the west south of the high, and to the east across the north side of the high. Our most likely course will have us traveling north from St. Maarten, out of the trade winds and then through some light air areas before we can pick up westerly winds to the south and east of Bermuda. From there the course will run east, varying south if needed to stay away from high winds produced by cold fronts coming off the US east coast, or varying north if needed to stay in the breeze. In the event we are becalmed or have a problem with our sails, we are carrying enough fuel to motor for a week, or over 800 nautical miles.

Please follow along as we make this passage! We leave on Thursday, May 2nd, and expect to be at sea for 18-20ish days. Our PredictWind-based tracker is available here: PredictWind:https://forecast.predictwind.com/tracking/display/SV-Innisfree/   As with our passage to Antigua in 2022, we plan to post an update every day, letting you know what we’ve been up to for the last 24 hours.

We have also joined a group tracker page, which shows some of the other boats leaving from St Maarten in early May – that link is available here:
https://forecast.predictwind.com/tracking/rally/atlantic-west-2-east-2024/  Our friends on INO, Ultreia, Kanaloa, and Frog’s Leap are also on this tracker, so you will see just how much faster their boats are compared to us!

But now I need to get back to the last of our passage preparations. We decided to splurge and stay at a marina for this week before departure, so Mike is currently up front removing our anchor from the bow, and stowing extra fuel cans in the anchor locker. Next up is to re-pack the boat’s interior – stow the heavy items in closed lockers, pack up fragile dishes (namely, my collection of Murano glasses and my fun coffee mugs!), and make sure the cold-weather clothes are easily accessible. Perhaps that’s another reason for this ‘returning autumn’ feeling – for each degree of northern latitude that we gain on this passage, we are going to lose a degree of temperature! It may be late may on the calendar, but it’s going to be the first time I’ve worn long pants in over six months!


Note: the featured image shows a PredictWind forecast of our route, based on today’s weather information. Either, or none of these tracks could prove to be our actual route. We have hired a professional weather router who will give us daily updates on weather and route changes. All part of the process…