As I wrote in my last post, we’ll be sailing from Antigua towards Guadeloupe today. Our friends on Earthling will be traveling there as well although they’ll be departing from Falmouth Harbour, 4 miles east of where we have staged in Carlisle Bay.
The trip between the islands is approximately 42 nautical miles on a course of 178˚ true, essentially due south. On a passage of this distance, or any real passage for that matter, we take a number of steps to ensure that the trip will be smooth and enjoyable.
To begin, we plot our route on our laptop computer. I have begun using the Polar View software that I wrote about a month ago. I really like how the software can “stitch together” the charts so that when zoomed out, I can see the big picture (as in the screen capture below) but when zoomed in, I can see the full detail of the smaller scale charts.
After the basic plan is sorted out on the computer, we plot the same route in the Garmin 546 chartplotter that we keep at the helm. We now know where we are going. Next we need to decide when.
When is ALWAYS dictated by the weather. Period. If Mother Nature says that we can go, we go. If She says stay put, we stay put. We consult two websites to get the forecasted wind and wave conditions, www.passageweather.com and www.windguru.cz. Fortunately, as you can see in the images below, both of those sites concur, saying that we should have winds north of east and moderate seas. Given that we’re heading south, this would put us on a comfortable broad reach, the ideal point of sail for a catamaran.
Now that we know where we’re heading and when we can go, we need to make sure it’s all legal for us to do so. This means that we need to pay a visit to the Customs and Immigration people. It’s always a little bit of a mystery as to what will happen when we do this, including what it will cost us. Fortunately the Port Authority, Customs and Immigration people were all very pleasant to us. It did cost us $70.00 EC ($28.00 US) to clear out, which we were a bit unprepared for, but oh well, what can you do?
The final bit of preparations involve making sure that the boat is shipshape for the trip. This includes confirming that we have adequate fuel for the voyage and also that there are no repairs that need to be taken care of prior to setting sail. As we recently acquired some fuel that item was looked after. We did have a minor sail repair to take care of though. During our trip from St. Martin to St. Barths, we had one of our mainsail battens jump ship. Now it’s hard to imagine that an 8 foot piece of fiberglass could go flying out of a sail high above our heads without our taking notice, but that’s exactly what happened. It has taken us all this time to get a replacement. Yesterday afternoon one of our pre-passage tasks was putting the new one in the sail and to make sure that we won’t lose this one, we lock-stitched the sucker in place! In addition to that little chore, we also scrubbed the entire boat’s bottom so that she’ll be a little quicker through the water. Lastly we removed our dinghy engine and stowed it on the rail, something we always do before a big sail. Occasionally, especially if we think that we might have a rough passage, or will be sailing overnight, we’ll prepare some food in advance. As tomorrow’s trip should be neither too long nor too rough, we’ll likely be OK to deal with food prep while underway.
Last on the list is making sure that we get a good night’s sleep. For trips that will not involve night sailing, we almost always leave around sunrise which today is around 6:30 AM. As always, we set our alarm clock so that we were awake with plenty of time to enjoy some coffee before getting underway. It’s going to be another great day on the water. See you in Guadeloupe!