Sailing to Saint Martin: 40kn Winds, 8ft Waves, and a Busted Lazy Jack

A Week Aboard S/V Sabado: 12/10/2023 – 12/17/2023

Good morning, friends! Have you seen our latest YouTube video? We’re a few days behind but should be back in real-time soon. 🎥

Last Sunday, we visited the local bakery in Deshaies, Guadalupe. We’ve made a point to visit one every chance we get on the French islands! There was a line out the door, and by the time we reached the counter, they had sold out of my favorite croissant jambon fromage, so I settled for something the gal called, in broken English, “flaky brick with cheese”- sounds good to me! Plus, our usual plain croissant (for quality control purposes😉), espresso, and two baguettes.

We spent the rest of the day doing computer work and catching up on chores.

We listened to Chris Parker’s weather report while we sipped our coffee Monday morning. During his update, he advised us to take the current 24-hour weather window to get to Saint Martin in time for our haul out next week because the conditions between now and then only worsen. We downed our last bit of coffee and took the dinghy to shore to check out of Guadalupe. The forecast wasn’t ideal, but we had already booked hotels and flights out of Saint Martin around our haul out date, so we had a lot to lose if we didn’t make it in time.

We raised the sails in the mooring field, preemptively starting our trip reefed. Our SOG was immediately ~8kn. It was rolly, but not bad. We reefed again just outside the mooring field as we watched the wind speed creep up. As we left the protection of the island, the seas grew. We were putting our third reef in the mainsail when the wind speed hit 40kn. Even over the howling wind, we could hear the sail billowing more than usual. We looked back to see it ballooning out toward our port side. That’s when we realized one of our lazy jacks had detached from the mast and was now flapping free in the wind, leaving nothing to hold the sail in place. We stared at it momentarily, trying to understand what had happened. Then, we noticed the reefing lines wrapping around our Starlink dish- thank god we don’t have wind turbines anymore, or we’d have had much more to worry about! We were able to free the dish, and I quickly grabbed the lazy jack where the block was still attached and tucked it away, hoping I had caught it before it cracked a solar panel.

We furled in the jib and decided to drop the main. As we released the tension on the halyard, the wind shifted, and the entire sail spilled out. Again- thank god we don’t have wind turbines anymore! We adjusted our heading and evaluated our options while the boat sat head to wind, nose-diving over 8ft waves. We had to do something to secure the sail, but it was too rough to gather and strap it down like this. It continued flapping around, reaching over to the far side of the helm. Ray sprung into action, raising the sail while I grabbed our life jackets (admittedly, this should have been done earlier in the process). We dropped the sail again, this time while Ray was up top, clinging to the boom, ready to strap it down immediately. Once he secured the sail, we devised a plan: turn around and motor until we reached calmer waters. Then, I’ll send Ray up the mast to assess the situation. Hopefully, we’ll have the supplies we need aboard to fix it, and we’ll be able to do it fast enough to still make this weather window. We set our course back to Guadalupe.

We dropped anchor in the nearest bay. It wasn’t calm by any means, but it was an improvement. I sent Ray up the mast, watching closely as he held on while the boat swayed from side to side. He came back down and said my favorite phrase, “I think I can fix that… no, I know I can fix that.” 😍 It turns out we had just lost a pin in the shackle that attaches the lazy jack to the mast. We didn’t have a small enough spare shackle on board, but Ray was able to secure it with a piece of Dyneema.  

I made some food, knowing this would be the calmest it would be for the next ~16-18 hours. We inhaled it and got right back out there. Having already seen what it would be like, we started our trip reefed way down- main and jib. We were flying despite how little sail we had out! It was bumpy, and the salt spray had us both soaked, but we sailed through the night. The moments on my night watch shift, after I stopped complaining about the sea state in my head, were beautiful. The clouds had cleared, and the stars were beaming down from overhead. I counted four shooting stars, but there was no moon. These were typically conditions I’d feel seasick in, but I felt fantastic. Chunky green bioluminescence lit up our wake and the breaking waves around us. It got cold enough that I dug my sweatpants out from the back of my wardrobe. After, Ray let me sleep an extra hour, and I woke up to a beautiful rainbow and the coast of Saint Martin in the distance. We had made it!

We dropped anchor around 8am, raised our Q flag, and went to bed. It was blowing 25kn in the anchorage, so we waited until the following day to go ashore.

That afternoon, we went into Customs & Immigration. Halfway through the check-in process, their computers went down, so they told us to just “come back tomorrow.” Since we were already ashore, we stopped at the UPS store to pick up a very exciting package… our Rainman Watermaker!

This is a vital piece of equipment we are looking forward to having aboard for our upcoming Pacific crossing, as fast and reliable water desalination is critical on long passages and for long-term remote cruising. We’ll post in-depth about our chosen unit and how it works soon! 

On Friday, as promised, we returned to the Customs & Immigration office to finish our check-in process. Afterward, we decided to dinghy over to our favorite cheese shop for lunch despite the ominous dark clouds looming over us.

Of course, we got caught in a rainstorm. We stopped into a ship chandlery with a dinghy dock to wait it out and, naturally, found a few odds and ends we needed to purchase for various projects. We made a run for it during a break in the rain and happily spent the afternoon sampling different cheeses with freshly baked bread and dried fruit.

We picked a few favorites and bought portions to take home with us, then visited a nearby bakery for dessert and an espresso. I had my first ever eclair, and it was so good I forgot to take a picture! 🤦🏼‍♀️

Yesterday, we got to work. The boat was a disaster after our trip here, so we put everything that had accumulated in the cockpit away (life jackets, raincoats, towels, tools, etc.), rinsed the salt off the boat, and began categorizing some of our spare parts. Ray has been working on creating a digital inventory of everything we carry on board. It has been a long process, but it will be worth it in the end! Later that afternoon, we got a new neighbor: Sailing Yacht Hemisphere dropped anchor at our stern! Hemisphere is the largest sailing catamaran in the world, at 145ft long, and is available for charters starting at $260,000.00 per week! We watched as their crew, looking like tiny dolls atop the massive hulls, went about their duties.

Ray has spent the first few hours today repairing a part of our helm enclosure that ripped in last night’s high winds. Thankfully, it’s not the portion we need to see out of when sailing, but regardless we’re bummed at the thought of paying to replace it… Anyway, although breezy, it is bright and sunny! We’ve got some more work to do today to prepare for our haul out, and then I believe we’re meeting up with some fellow cruisers for sundowners later. What are your plans for the day? 🙂 

I hope you had a great week. ❤️

1 comment / Add your comment below

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