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DON'S LOG: stories, experience and advice

CRUISING DURING HURRICANE SEASON

In my first hard covered Guide (first guide Yachtsman’s Guide to the Virgin islands 1964 was privately printed on a hand powered ereneo to the English mimeograph to Americans 1963) Cruising Guide to the Lesser Antilles l966 (reprinted facsimile editions now available thru iUniverse .com, Amazon and Imray,a wonderful bit of nostalga, the Caribbean in the late 50’s early 60’s) I stated that the best sailing months of the year were may June and July and sometime into August. This is still true today.

The trades are well settled in. Generally, May thru July and sometimes into early August, it blows 12/15 knots, seldom more seldom less. The vast majority of the time south of east, SE , SSE. This means if your boat has half decent windward going ability, heading north go to windward of St Vincent and St Lucia avoiding the frustrating light airs and calms to leeward of both islands.

See sailing directions that will follow.

I If you check the British and American pilot books covering the eastern Caribbean you will discover the highest AVERAGE wind velocity of the year is July! This is because in July as previously mentioned, it blows 12/15 knots seldom less seldom more. In the winter months, it can blow hard 25 sometimes 30 knots for a week or ten days only to be followed by a period of light airs or calm.

The first thing to do when planning to cruise during hurricane season, is to check your insurance policy. Almost all policies will exclude damage caused by named storms within the hurricane box usually 12 to 32 degrees north during hurricane season. In years gone by hurricane season was said to be June 1 to Oct 30. Now most underwriters say end of hurricane season is November 30.

Some underwriters southern limit is 12 30 north so boat in the south coast of Carriacou and all Grenada do not need named storm coverage as they are outside the hurricane box.

Properly worded policies will exclude all damage due to named storms in the hurricane box, unless named storm damage coverage is obtained and paid for. Boats without named storm coverage are still covered for damage incurred in the hurricane box if it is not due to a named storm. In other words if you run aground, have a fire or lose a rig, if the damage is not as a result of a named storm, you are covered despite the fact you are in the hurricane box.

As long as you are cruising in the area from Martinique south, if you listen to www.noaa/hurricanes reports twice a day and plot on your Imray Iolaire Atlantic passage chart 100 the position of hurricane the minute they are reported, you can then plan to make sure you are well clear of the hurricane when it hits the islands of the eastern Caribbean.

This is possible as until a hurricane hits the islands of the eastern Caribbean they never change direction more than 5 degrees in24 hours.

Re Read the section Trackng Hurricanes and you will see that you will have no problem being well clear of any hurricane  before it reach the islands of rhe eastern Caribbean.

Check your location and make plans to be at least 120 miles south of the south edge of the cone you have plotted. Do not even think of finding a hurricane hole and trying to secure in the so called hurricane holes. Read my section in this webb site Hurricane Holes

In all my guides you will see a section “Reflections on Hugo” were I state that the islands have become so crowded that there is no such thing as a hurricane hole as they are all too crowded. That statement was written 28 years ago. The Caribbean has become much more crowded as each year passes.

You must plan to be south of the hurricane as although a hurricane approaching the Caribbean never changes direction more than 5 degrees in 24 hours, once they hit the islands they can do anything.

There have been a two hurricanes  since 1851 that have hit the Grenadines, then made a right angle turn, headed north passing over all the islands north to Barbuda before heading off across the Atlantic If you r plotting show that the south coast of Grenada will be 120 miles south of the southern edge of the danger cone, do not head for Grenada. In Grenada the harbors will be so crowded with boats that even if it only blows 40 kts boats will be dragging, fouling and damaging other boats.

Head south, by pass Grenada, head for Trinidad, but by pass Chagaramus. The anchorage in Chagaramus is overcrowded, holding is poor, and there is a strong reversing tide which creates a problem for anchored boats

Continue south to the south end of Trinidad to Point a Pierre, 10 north, plenty of room and you are well south of any danger from a hurricane.

Both harbors are open to the west but you should be far enough south of the hurricane to be below and hard blows from the west.

If you follow the above directions and the sailing directions below, you can have an enjoyable time CRUISING thru the hurricane season. Cruising during Hurricane season is much more enjpyable than sitting at anchor in one harbor continually checking the weather reports and going rock happy. In hurricane season boats tend to sit in one place so long that by the end of hurricane season they are aground in their own coffee grounds.

In actuality you can cruise north of Martinique during hurricane season but if cruising north of Martinique your chances of having to flee south are greater than if you limit your cruising to Martinique and the islands south of Martinique.

It is time to re think where to cruise and routes to be followed. Forget the so called experts advise. The so called expert is usually someone who has cruised the islands of the lesser Antilles for two or three years, perhaps four years. The experts have always cruised north and south on the lee side of the islands. They have never visited any anchorages on the windward side of the islands. X is the unknown quantity, the pert is a drip under pressure.

The first time Iolaire cruised the dangerous windward side of Martinique was in August 1964. The crew consisting of myself, my late wife Marilyn, daughter Dory age 2years 3 months, plus schippery Merde. Since that time the 46’ engineless yawl Iolaire has four times, in the windy winter months cruised the so called dangerous east coast of Martinique.

Starting in late April, early may the wind in the eastern Caribbean tends to be SE or SSE making heading north much easier than in the winter.

Starting from the south coast of Grenada try exploring the SE and E coast, well described in Streets guide Martinique to Trinidad pgs 159/165. The guide is available facsimile edition from iUniverse.com, or Amazon. Use Streets guides as pilot books, use Doyle’s for information on shore side activities and harbors popular with the bare boaters, harbors you may wish to avoid. As many experienced Caribbean sailors have said, “ circle in red “in Street’s guides the harbors that Doyle does not mention and you will have a quiet anchorage.”

This area is covered in detailed insets on Imray Iolaire B 32. Check the text in the booklet that accompanies B 32 as I have done much exploring of this area since my Guides were last published.The latest exploration in a charted dive boat in 2017. For the explorer, there are four anchorages , Lascar Cove, Le Petite Trou, Requin Bay and Great Bacolet Bay.

The wind will usually at this time of year be south of east. This makes sailing north up the east coast of Grenada easier than during the winter months.

If planning to anchor in Grenville, be off Grenville by 1500 at the latest. After that hour the sun will be low in the west making spotting the shoals difficult. In Genville arrange for a taxi to explore north to Belmont Estate to see a working plantation,its museum and enjoy an excellent lunch. Then on to St Antione which claims to be oldest  continuously operated rum distillery in the world. They  have been in continuous operation since 1780. Watching their water powered cane crusher  is worth the taxii fare. The next day take a short  taxii ride south to Munich. Ask thetaxii driver to drop  you off to entrance to Carmil Falls. A short series of concrete steps leads to a path thru a bamboo forest to the falls with a pool underneath it, perfect for swimming and shower  under the falls.

If you figure you can not reach Grenville by 1500, stop in Great Bacolet Harbor. Anchor in th NE corner and visit Grenville the next day or on to Sandy island , or possibly direct to Carriacou. Head for Kenance Point the SE corner of Carriacou to enter Grand bay , see sailing directions in the booklet for chart B 31. This is bay is well protected by the barrier reef. Anchor close behind the reef and snorkel direct from the boat, no need to launch the dinghy. Possibly sail on to Windward side which will be most interesting if they are building a schooner of sloop on the beach.

Check pg 126 column 2 and 127 column 1 in Street’s guide Martinique to Trinidad for two amusing stories of how powerful are the Petite Martinique rum smugglers.

If you would rather go up the west coast of Grenada,  motor sail up the coast no more than 100 yards off  shore to enjoy flat seas and excellent scenery.  Give some thought when reaching Tanga Angla to heading due  east to  the basin behind the  breakwater that has  been built off the  town of Sauters. Go ashore and see a town that has  been by passed by tourism.

In winter months during the ground swell season from November thru April  the basin  is  often not  useable as an anchorage. In summer it is  always calm.

Tobago Cays B31 but better B311 will not be crowded, anchor in Petite Tabac which is in easy dinghy distance of World End Reef with its excellent diving.

Unfortunately the windward side of Cannouan is now barred for yachts but the windward side of Myreau there is an excellent anchorage behind the reef.

Good up to date piloting and sailing directions re done in 2017 are found in the booklets accompanying charts B 31 and B311

Then north to Bequia, try to time your leaving to pick up the first of the weather going tide as you leave the north end of Cannouan.With the tide setting   you  to windward you should have a nice eased sheet reach. Admiralty bay will be a crowded anchorage but good jumping off spot for St Lucia.

There are two options to reach St Lucia from Admiralty bay. Head directly north, a fast reach across Bequia Channel, to the SW corner of St Vincent. Once in the lee of the island get right up on shore, two pistol shots distance from shore, roll up the headsails, strap the main in flat and motor sail along the lee coast of St. Vincent in calm water and admire the scenery. At the north end of St Vincent follow the coast around to the east until the wind fills in then head north. Try to stay to windward of the rumb line 015m 27 miles to the Pitons. Anchor off the Pitons or a few miles further north off Soufiere . Cross check booklet for B 1 against Doyle for latest regulations and recommendations for this area.

Alternately try to leave Admiralty bay on a weather going tide. This will make beating to windward thru Bequia Channel fairly easy if the wind is SE or SSE. From Admiralty bay to Black Point St Vincent is roughly 15 miles. It will be hard on the wind a beat in Bequia channel, then if the wind is well south of east a tight reach to Black Point. Once Black Point is reached the course is roughly 035 mag, 30 miles to Veux Fort. You may be lucky with the wind SSE and have a fast close reach.

Veux Fort is an excellent jump off point to head north to Martinique to windward of St Lucia. This will avoid the frustrating light airs and calms found on the lee side of all the high islands especially in the summer months when the trades are lighter than the winter.They pretty much die out by late august.

If the wind was far enough in the south for you to easily lay Veux Fort, the best route on to Martinique is to sail to windward of St Lucia. From Vuex to to St Anne Martinique is 50 miles . From Veux Fort to Martinique, it is a short port tack until you can tack to starboard to clear the windward coast of St Lucia. . Once you tack to starboard it is roughly 50 miles, rumb line course about 015 to St Ann. This should be a fast reach.

Alternately from Veux Fort head west 4 miles to Laborie, or NW 10 miles to Pitons or Soufriere .

Then it is 18 miles motor sailing up the lee coast of St lucia to Rodney bay. Stay right up on the beach two pistol shots distance off, admire the scenery and smooth water.

From Pigeon island to St Anne, is 22 miles course 025 mag rumb line. Try to take off on the first of the weather going tide. With the wind south of east it should be an easy close or beam reach.

Once in St Anne make sure you have both B 30, the chart of all of Martinique and B 301 the detailed chart of the south and east coast of Martinique

Foreign yachts very seldom visit the east coat of Martinique as they have been scared off by the experts who have never sailed the east coast of Martinique but tell everyone the east coast is too dangerous. X is the unknown quantity, the pert is a drip under pressure.

The first time Iolaire cruised the east coast of Martinique, August 1964, the crew was my late wife Marily, daughter Dory age 2 years three months and skippery dog Merde.

The second time in the end of the windy month of January, the crew was myself, the late Sam Lane, his wife, daughter and Merde. The third time in the windy month of march the crew was myself, my Grenadian mate Selwin,daughter Dory age 9 and merde. We subsequently cruised the east coast three times. We ceased cruising the east coast of Martinique as the lure of the Venezuelan coast and off shore islands was too much to resist.

Street’s Guides Martinique to Trinidad give good basic coverage to the east coast plus there is good piloting information on the back of A 301. To really explore and enjoy the east coast of Martinique, obtain a copy of Jerome Noel’s guide to Martinique.

He is an excellent sailor, an engineer, who has cruise the waters of Martinique for over 40 years. Even if you do not speak French you will be able to understand enough of the guide to make the purchase worth while.

Spend hurricane season on the east coast of Martinique.The cruising is excellent, the food available in the supermarkets and the open markets is excellent. The variety is much better than that found in the ex British islands. The choice of wines is excellent and the price affordable.

In years gone by yachts would congregate in Baie de Fort De France where there are half a dozen good anchorages. However the anchorages have lost their charm as there are now too many fast launches carry commuters and tourist back and forth across Baie de Fort de France. Finding an anchorage that is free of the rock and roll of the ferry is all but impossible

If a hurricane approaches head south to Trinidad

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