Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Saints to Guadeloupe

With the rising sun off our port side, we pulled anchor and left St Martin this morning. All day we have been riding on the wind and surfing down the 3-6(daytime)4-10 foot(night time) waves past various saints--St Martin, Sint Maarten, St Eusatatius, St. Kitts. The boat lunges forward, then dips down to the left and lifts up to the right. Quite a dance step we are doing with extreme dips and lifts at uneven intervals while maintaining a tilt of 15 degrees. And so, as the sun set on Nevis tonight we are headed towards Montserrat.
In about an hour or so we will be in line with the famous volcano. The course one takes keeps you out of the ash zone so your sails don't get toasted by the ashes. I have heard that you will smell the volcano well before you see it with the right wind, and tonight the wind is coming from the southwest where the activity is on the island...more later, I need to check radar, the charts, and give the horizon a visual check right now.
All is safe and sound--no ships, same waves, same wind, and the smell of Montserrat is in the air. The north end of the island is visible and contains most of the existing population as well as the new airport. The lights on shore are thick and clear so there must not be too much smoke in the air. Clouds keep covering the full moon but I am hopeful that we will get a view of the volcano when we pass...
12:40 AM I see a huge bank of lights on shore and they appear to be yellow or orange...and I just read an excerpt from my book, An Embarrassment of Mangoes, about the daily color codes used for volcanic action. Volcanic alerts are given daily by the Montserrat Volcano Observatory, ranging from green(quiet), yellow, orange(eruption possible within 24 hours), to red(eruption may begin without further warning or is in progress). I wonder what the alert was for today? Boats are advised to stay 10 miles clear, and our course is set for 12 miles. I'm going with the thought that those were indeed YELLOW lights.
1:20 AM The night sky has high wispy clouds until you look at the bottom half of the island. From the horizon up there is a large billowing cloud rolling and growing wider. Dave woke up and watched it dissipate with me. Our winds are now kicking up to 27-30 with gusts of 33. He has the main up and we are bucking a current, making only 3.8-4 knots. As time moves forward the lights on the island get dimmer, the cloud must be moving forward as well.
2 AM We are at 16 degrees 41" N, 62 degrees 26 W and I can see very little of anything. The moon has been buried into the cloud coverage, the island has dimmed to almost nothing, but the winds have picked up to 35-37 and we are reefing the sails and holding on. Yeeha!
4:40 AM O.K. Dave got drenched at least 8 times, me just 3 times. Squally winds caught us and have been swish swashing us like a washing machine for almost 3 hours. It has calmed down to 3-8 foot swells, a few seconds apart, and the wind has slowed down. We can finally get a look again at the volcano, Dave says, in about an hour when the sun rises. I'm thinking the heck with that I want some sleep without the bounce effect that lifts me off the cushion every 3-6 seconds.
Hope you all got a great night sleep, we will be catching some quality winks when we drop anchor around noon today in Guadeloupe.

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