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[Neophytes] [Close Encounter with Ship] [Weather] [Arrival at Virgin Islands] Nov 1992
This was really our first double-handed off-shore trip out of the sight of land - and was a real shake-down cruise for our skills and psyches.

Neophytes Loose On The Sea

We left the safety of Beaufort behind and faced a 10-day trip to Jost Van Dyke in the Virgin Islands - knowing we could only predict the weather for the next 3 days.  The details of the trip are fading, but words from the log bring them back:

    10 Nov    1700        Entered Gulf Stream - lumpy
    11 Nov    0200        May be out of Gulf Stream 
    13 Nov    0036        Winds SSE 30-35, Heeled over, lots of seas
                  0835        Winds 20-25, standing watch inside, too wet
    14 Nov    1324        Winds 5-10, light winds, motoring
    15 Nov    0200        Front moving by, bird riding with us
    18 Nov    1800        24�42'N 66�21'W; changing to W/P "Jost"
    19 Nov    2230        Struck by lightning (see details)
    21 Nov    0125        Winds 15-20, a little bouncy
    22 Nov    1900        Anchor down in Charlotte Amalie, USVI

First Close Encounter With A Ship

One incident stands out in our minds - as we took a break from our routine to have a spot of lunch below, Judi looked out a porthole - and saw the profile of a ship REAL CLOSE!  We popped up, and noted that it had diverted to go around us, as it should.  Still, we let it get too close without seeing it, so we sheepishly got on the VHF and asked him how we looked on his radar and apologized for not contacting him.  He assured us he always kept a good watch, and by the way his radar was off.


We have more to say about this elsewhere, but a couple of things made an impression on our maiden voyage:

  • Herb on Southbound II - We discovered, along with hundreds of other cruisers, the wonderful help provided by this man, then based in Bermuda and now in Canada, as he collected weather information from many sources and provided it to those of us who were at the mercy of the weather systems - it was a great comfort talking with him each day.  
  • NMN - The US Government's weather reports by 'Mechanical Mike' were also very helpful for this part of the ocean.
  • Weather Systems - We learned how weather systems move differently at different latitudes: 
    • At the NY/MD latitudes systems move briskly from West to East.
    • At the Florida latitudes they move much more slowly, and sometimes stop for a while.
    • In the tropics they move slowly from East to West (hurricanes come from Africa to the Caribbean.

None of this was new news, but we did not appreciate it until we were affected by weather systems that moved in ways we did not understand at the time.

Arrival at Virgin Islands

The lightning strike knocked out all of our instruments, so we diverted to St. Thomas as a better place to obtain parts and repairs. (smart move - when we reached finally Jost Van Dyke we found just a beach bar and anchorage.)  It took us 12 hours to rest and mentally prepare ourselves to continue the trip.  The next 2 days were reasonably uneventful, except for the 2 final incidents as we approached St Thomas:

  • Knock Down (almost) - As we entered the pass between St Thomas and Culebra, a 6-8' swell from the NE exposed our port side to beam seas, but we seemed to be riding them OK motor-sailing in moderate conditions.  Unfortunately the shoaling seabed made some of them break, and one caught us, breaking on our port beam and knocking us over to 60-70� - dislodging a radio and other loose items below. After our arrival in St Thomas we talked with the crew of a Hinckley 50 that lost its life-raft, kayak and dinghy in the same area that day.
  • Night Entrance - We had been trained not to enter strange ports at night, but with the guidance of a charter skipper on the radio we chanced Charlotte Amalie - see Virgin Islands for the gory details.

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