Sailing to the British Virgin Islands in the Caribbean 1500

Weather (continued)

Very lumpy seas during a squall on the afternoon of Wednesday, November 7. I took these pictures from inside the saloon, shooting through the big glass windows. Click on the left-hand picture to see a bigger version; use your browser's "back" command to return here.

The Weather During The Trip

We didn't log any weather information and I kept a spotty journal, so I only have a few details of our local weather. The most notable weather events were near the beginning of the trip when a strong cold front moved off the continent and passed over our area; a low-pressure system then developed and moved along the front. During the 48-hour period before and during the frontal passage, we experienced numerous squalls with winds of 30 to 50 knots, building seas to 12+ feet, torrential rain with occasional lightning, and we even saw multiple waterspouts on two different days. Here are some edited passages from my journal for that period:

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

9:03 am AST, position 33°20' N, 070°25' W, 923 nm to BVI

Weather still OK in morning, warm west to southwest winds, mild to moderate conditions. Front still far enough to northwest so it's not affecting us, but weather expected to worsen due to approaching pre-frontal trough. Began seeing clouds and rain.

In afternoon got several-hour-long squall, with lots of wind 30+ knots, for a while hitting 40 knots, steep choppy seas to 10 feet, heavy rain. Vicious and rough weather with occasional lightning; radar showed broad area of active weather. CiCi was at helm sailing to the wind and did a great job of broad reaching with following seas. By nightfall the weather calmed down a lot.


Tough night with numerous squalls, wind to 40+ knots, very bouncy with building seas. Off watch I had a miserable night, sleep was impossible, soggy sodden berth, seawater sloshing through lockers, sails banging, anchor clanking, boat rolling and heeling severely. Have to hang on even trying to sleep, no good sea berths, just big wide queen and king berths. Splashing, pitching, heaving; slap and thump of waves; crash and clatter of things thrown around. When panning flashlight beam across dark cabins, seeing things jumbled in disarray, the garbage bag's contents strewn across the galley floor, pens log sheets cushions here and there around the saloon floor, an inert body sprawled across settee, seeking unobtainable rest. Getting dressed for watch, I put on damp clammy foul weather gear, soggy cold shoes.

During squalls, engine room flooded, major fuel leak, high-water alarm went off, bilge pumps clogged, anchor got loose, bow deck lockers flooded, miserable night, went to bow with Jeff to secure anchor, he was violently seasick, wildly pitching bow, water washing over us.

Late at night we were sailing a particular course, not sailing to the wind, and it was tough to hold a steady course with wind almost directly aft. Off watch, I was in the berth (but awake, naturally) as boat was tossed and rolled by large seas. I heard tremendous banging/flogging and kept waiting for it to stop (by helmsman adjusting course so sail doesn't flog). It was so windy and boat was so overpowered, helmsman couldn't hold course. Everybody came on deck and saw jib was blown to shreds, later saw main was damaged, sail plan way unbalanced. Furled jib then had trouble furling main. Somehow it had been reefed the wrong way, so it was let out full so it could be wound up correct way. Very difficult time, boat not into wind and really tough to get it there and keep it there.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

9:00 am AST, position 31°35' N, 071°05' W, 840 nm to BVI

In morning checked boat, bucket gone, nav light damaged, boom car for mainsail bent but works. Last night during storm, Schooner pooped and peed on settee, he was too afraid to go outside. In a.m. winds in 30+ kt range but puffy, sometimes less, sometimes more. Jeff doesn't want to use main, we may use trysail and staysail. Last night I looked in engine room and saw huge genset box had broken loose. Today Jeff used big timber to push it back in place and jury-rig a brace to secure it.

Winds and seas decreased during the day. Kept motoring off rhumb line to keep seas at better angle for comfort of off-watch and to avoid dislodging genset. Diesel leaks and water leaks, boat pumps able to keep up. Saw many squalls on radar. Much rain and wind, some lightning, saw several waterspouts. Everybody tired today. Decided to align watches with radio schedule, Jeff did radio call today but they couldn't hear us. Many boats far SE, they may cross the line in a few days. Confusion about. Big diesel leak, bilge full of water and diesel.

We had more nighttime squalls a few days later on the night of the 14th - 15th; on my watch I had winds to 38 knots and Greta had winds to 48 knots. We even had rain and squalls the day we arrived at BVI, though not nearly as vicious as before. In general, it was a pretty squally passage, but we had some nice weather, too, plus periods of light wind that required motoring. Because our sails had been damaged during the initial squalls, we couldn't get much power out of them, so we wound up motoring more than we might have with fully-working sails.

Greta at the helm, standing watch on a rainy and squally day.   Later the same day the bow was pitching up and down in the lumpy seas. When it plunged, the heavy seas would pound against the hull portholes located in the forward cabin. It was like you were looking into a violently agitating washing machine.

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