Offshore Passage to the Caribbean

Half moon rising at 22:30 our first night

The stars aligned, though the moon was waning, as Lone Star and crew were ready for a passage from Beaufort, NC to the US Virgin Islands. We left on a cold (36 degrees F) November morning the day before Thanksgiving, with a favorable weather window. Sadly, we missed out on Anita’s family’s annual zoom call and individual chats with Tom’s folks on this special holiday. We are so thankful for our family and friends that mentally support us on our chosen adventurous lifestyle on the sea. We are so grateful for our health and happiness at what we do. Most importantly, we’re very thankful we are finally ready to head south! Looking forward to more than 9 hours of daylight.

Crockpot beef stew for dinner

We were bundled up in many layers of clothes including hats, long johns, down vests, windproof layers, and the dreaded socks and shoes. For the first night we had to dress warmly indoors too!

Bundled up in the cold!

Unfortunately, we can’t run our diesel heater when under sail because the smoke stack blocks the boom from swinging. Well the boom can still swing, but the stack would lose in that battle and likely be swept overboard. The air temperature warmed to the low 60’s after passing the Gulf Stream our first night out.

First cold front approaching from the west

Our third day at sea we double-reefed the main in preparation for a cold front. This was a quick passing weather system with southwest winds before and favorable northwest winds on the backside. We experienced a short 29 knot gust in a rain squall. Really enjoyed the next day surfing down the long rolling seas and sailing on a broad reach. We had our best daily run of 167 nautical miles in a 24 hour period. This is an average of 7 knots.

Reaching along, very pleasant sunrise and sail

We quickly adjusted to our four hour watch system, often having meals together. Occasionally, one of us didn’t sleep well during their night time off-watch so might sleep through meal time the next day. We generally slept 6-7 hours in a 24 hour period, though not all at once due to the watch system. Dishes were done only once a day but rarely by the Captain. This practice is occasionally broken.

Captain Tom doing the dishes, note the wide stance

Soon the wind settled to 5 knots or less. We sail beautifully in 10 knots, not so well in 5. It’s too early in the passage to burn up our limited fuel supply. So we took this opportunity to drift around and do a bit of boat maintenance.

When it’s this calm there is time for rest and…
… maintenance, replaced a discharge pump

The maintenance job on the head took two and a half hours. Tom will rebuild the pump. He needs to replace a very small bearing and some seals. Thankfully these are cheap parts, no need to buy the whole expensive thing. Sorry for the disgusting work picture, but such is life during maintenance.

Captain doing his daily deck check and rig inspection

We also reorganized things that shifted in heavier seas. Here’s an unusual thing to do in a calm: I gave Tom a haircut before he grabbed a hot shower.

Sunset, rain showers approaching

On our sixth day we experienced a second cold front. The morning sunrise above was beautiful. This cold front had mild winds and a full day of steady rain. This storm was a slow mover, in fact we sailed south to get out of it and it meandered east.

Sailing toward a squally weather trough

To get to the Caribbean this year one needs to sail through a zone with variable weather conditions before reaching the steadier and predictable easterly trade winds. Luckily during our passage there were squalls with wind and rain, but no convection (lightening and thunder).

Land ho!!

There be land on this ocean. It’s the Virgin Islands.

Hello Virgin Islands

We experienced three mild weather systems in our 1320 mile, 11 day and 4 hour passage with a period of calm after each one. We used about 18 gallons of fuel and motored for 31 hours.

The track of our offshore passage
Sunset over St Thomas, moored in St John

Goodbye cold winter, hello 11 hours of daylight and an 80 degree tropical winter!

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