It has been a taster plate of sailing on this leg. First, motoring in light winds. Then upwind sailing with unpleasant seas, followed by upwind sailing with pleasant seas. After that, we had extremely fast sailing with wind on the beam, a strong current and delightful seas. This morning, the wind shifted to be on our rear quarter with a gentle current pushing us along.
About an hour ago, we brushed up against a squall and had to drop our spinnaker in the dark in light rain and we are now motor-sailing with just the jib since we dropped our main earlier. Joe predicted squalls tonight and so far, he is correct. We both hoped for some rain to wash off all the salt and I think we will get our hearts’ desire, at least as far as precipitation goes.
It’s pitch-black tonight with no moon out and clouds covering the stars. Tiny ruffles of bioluminescence bloom when the waves slap up against the boat. When I took over my watch, I noticed a blacker black to the starboard side, where the squalls come from. It passed us over but was soon replaced by another darker mass. The wind had been coming in at a steady 15 knots at 120 degrees for the past several hours so it was quite noticeable when it shifted around to 90 degrees. I adjusted our course downwind 10 degrees and then had to turn 30 more degrees downwind over the next 5 minutes. Joe hadn’t slept much all day and was up watching a movie last night. I knew he needed some sleep so I hesitated to wake him. But I also felt like the squall was coming and if we needed to drop the spinnaker, he would have to come up.
As I debated waking him, the wind continued to shift and change, bringing a definite drop in temperature which seemed ominous. Cobin was still awake so I asked him to close his hatch and the head hatch, telling him that it would rain soon. I had visions of a huge wind coming through and was prepared to run downwind to save the spinnaker. I called Joe up to take over the helm, picturing a fierce slog through high winds with driving rain. Instead, the wind died completely and there was no rain. Calmness and black clouds – that was it.
We went from moving at 9 knots to 3 knots. Joe turned on the engine. Where was my violent wind and wave action? Joe told me that we were probably on the back side of the squall where the wind is often absent. In more not-so-good news, I turned on the radar and saw that, if we continued sailing on the course the spinnaker would allow, with the wind on the beam, we would essentially be following the squall at a 90-degree angle to our desired course. For those of you that are really into these things, you can probably see our turn on the World ARC tracker. We’re proceeding along and then suddenly, blip – long sweeping turn to the left to keep the spinnaker flying as the wind changed.
Not too far after that, you will see the hard turn back to the right where Joe decided we would douse the spinnaker and pull out the jib so we could sail to Grenada instead of to Suriname. Around then, it started to rain. I made a mental note to reclose all the hatches I had opened when the rain didn’t immediately materialize (I told you I had a thing about air flow) and went out to help Joe drop the spinnaker into the sail locker.
It was slippery out on deck with the rain covering the salt underneath. I did a cool ice-skating maneuver as I made my way across the foredeck. I’m not sure Joe noticed but I applauded myself. The rain considerately waited for us to return to the cockpit and for me to close the hatches before it began in earnest. The boat is definitely getting a good rinse as am I whenever I go outside to take a peek around. We dropped the main but didn’t zip up the sail bag. It must be collecting rain water and sporadically dumping it right onto the helm station. This doesn’t normally happen during rainstorms but I can’t look up to see what’s going on or I’ll get a face full of rain water.
It’s like one of those giant buckets at the water parks that fill and fill and fill and then suddenly dump vast quantities of water on all the people gathered below. Except it’s just me below and it’s not that much water. I tried moving the traveler to reposition the boom in a way that wouldn’t put it directly over the helm station but no luck, so I’m staying inside and watching the instruments from in here.
There’s not too much else going on. A small pod of dolphins came to visit for a few minutes - just long enough to tease me into getting my camera set up but not long enough for me to actually get any footage.
We had our last day of school before our day off (once again falling on a cleaning day but we’ll just suffer through it) and the kids are doing great. I admit I’m losing my motivation on the school front but am trying to keep up the routine because we finally have a routine that everyone has more or less accepted and I don’t want to give that up.
The biggest topic of conversation on the SSB radio net is COVID-19 and how it will impact us in future sailing plans. Some islands are closing their ports to cruise ships and are implementing more rigorous screenings for incoming private yachts, like us. The World ARC is trying to figure out if we will be able to travel to St. Lucia to complete our circumnavigation and have our final awards party. Right now, they are allowing yachts to clear in but things are changing rapidly everywhere.
Danica, already in Grenada, let us know that the panic hasn’t hit Grenada yet and therefore supplies are still available in stores. As long as they don’t require us to stay in quarantine after we arrive Monday morning, we will make provisioning one of our first priorities. We’ve heard about stores in the US with empty shelves and hope that we can get our shopping done before that comes to pass in Grenada.
There has been much speculation about the possibility of us getting quarantined in Grenada because we stopped at the Devil’s Island group. Other than Spirit of Catherine, the other boats in the World ARC did not stop, for a variety of reasons to include the risk of being quarantined. Boats that didn’t stop were at sea continuously for about two weeks, essentially in quarantine for the duration of their trip to Grenada. Grenada is requiring visitors from certain countries, like China, Japan, Italy and Iran, to be quarantined before entering the country. They haven’t said they are quarantining people arriving on yachts but they are imposing health checks and have the option to quarantine.
By stopping, we interrupted our self-imposed-by-sailing-long-distances quarantine clock. Ile Royale could by no stretch be considered to be a place teeming with humanity and we were careful to practice social distancing (who comes up with these terms?). It was quite easy because there was hardly anyone around. As far as we know, French Guiana has only 5 cases of the virus and they were all citizens that had visited France where they participated in some sort of religious ceremony. All are on the mainland, not the relatively isolated group of islands eight miles away. Looking at our situation objectively, it’s hard to see how we would pose enough of a risk to Grenada to cause them to put us in quarantine. But I know they will do whatever they want.
Stay tuned through Sunday night to find out if we get to run free or are confined to 10 more days on the boat (we should at least get to credit the days since we left the islands). If you don’t hear from me, it’s a good sign because it means I’m running around Grenada. If I’m trapped on the boat for 10 days, you will hear from me!
In the meantime, we are continuing to get moderate rain and now have 14 knots of wind on the nose so we are continuing to sample all available weather conditions on this last long leg of our journey. At least we won’t have to spray off the boat immediately after our arrival – Charm is getting a fantastic rinse.
Amazingly, I only took one photo today - of Tully with her “Dr. Tully” nametag on. So that’s the one you get. She still has the remnants of the injuries from her face plant on the rocks near the prisoner’s swimming pool on Ile Royale.image1