From Annapolis to St. Martin

PART I: From Annapolis to St. Martin, 1988

Matko and Francoise Caric have been sailing the International seas for the past seven years. Their adventures have brought them everywhere from Concarneau (France) through the Adriatic Sea to Senegal as well as the Caribbean, Brazil, Venezuela and so on… Matko agreed to share his diary notes from one of his most memorable journeys from Annapolis to St. Martin in 1988.

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After spending so much quality time on our 12-meter beauty called “Island” we sold it in the Caribbean and returned to the States to buy a larger sailboat.

After an intense search for the right one around Annapolis, we got lucky and bought a wonderful Yacht type Shebec called “AKIMBO” (24 tons heavy ketch, 19-meter long). It was perfectly constructed and had all the necessary equipment for sailing through oceans, including Ketch, two masts, a roll-flock and a storm flock as well as a good weather radar with a radius of 36NM.

Other useful navigation instruments were LORAN, satellite navigation, Sonar, Nagrafax, sextant Ebco and Tamaya calculator.

After several days of preparation, we left for Annapolis on 13 November 1988. Our goal was to reach St. Martin in the Caribbean.

Typically, this journey takes approximately 10 days. We needed to go against the Gulf Stream in the Mexican Gulf and climb along the coast of the USA all the way to New York City crossing the Atlantic. This current was quite strong and the only way to overcome it was to move away from the coast about 400NM (750km) towards the Bermuda Islands and to find  better winds so we could reach St. Martin.

During the first night, we anchored in one of the many mouths of the river that leads into the humongous Chesapeake Bay.

14 November 1988

We are heading towards the exit of the Chesapeake Bay. As we pass other sailing and fishing boats, we see that the water is calm. Should be a sunny day. In the evening we turn on our heater as it’s a bit chilly. One more quiet and peaceful night.

15 November 1988

We woke up early this morning to witness a magical layer of fog above the sea.

We anticipate leaving the Chesapeake Bay in the afternoon around 4 p.m. due to the tide so the stream would go along with us. As soon as we left the bay we were followed by the dolphins that were jumping around the boat leading us in the direction towards the horizon (135°). By by America! Soon will be our first night at the Atlantic. We organised our guard duties for two and a half hours each or as much as one can handle.

From Annapolis to St. Martin

Wind speed is in favour of us from 15 to 20 knots and “Akimbo” plays around with the waves at a speed of 7 knots (knot=NM/h or 1,852 km/h).

Pleasant navigation, starry night, wandering thoughts, dreams and soft music in the background… Though, it’s still quite chilly.

The most difficult guard duty rotation is from 4 to 6 in the morning. The one who gets up last is in charge of getting the coffee for the one who is still at the helm.

The day went by fast… we cooked, we ate and had some good wine.

16 November 1988

One more calm night is behind of us.

Around 10 a.m. the alarm rings! Fish is on a hook!! I pulled it quickly, felt the resistance, and unfortunately, only the head of the fish was left on my hook. The rest was eaten by the shark.

We don’t lose hope and continue the process on our quest for another catch. Shortly after we succeed!! Tuna for lunch!

17 November 1988

Nothing important!

Our satellite navigator is broken, but it’s fine since I know how to navigate with a sextant. I write down the coordinates on the map. Daily we pass about 150NM. We are not participating in a regatta so why rush? It’s better to sail calmly and to reach our destination safely!

18 November 1988

I am sitting on the deck comfortably, waiting patiently to get a fish on my hook. The wind speed is mild, 15 knots, so “Akimbo” feels the waves. I check all the equipment and everything seems to be functioning quite well.

From Annapolis to St. Martin

This time of the year there is the possibility of cyclones and tropical storms that rise along the African coast and cross into the Atlantic where they gain more strength. I watch how the weather changes with caution since based on the forecast a cyclone is heading toward us.

Our position is west of Bermuda 29°42’N 68°17’W, we sail through the Gulf Stream crossing about 590 NM and changing course to 157° directly to St. Martin. There is still 770 NM to go.

Today, an American coast guard plane flew above us and greeted us since we were sailing under the US flag.

Weather for the upcoming night was announced to be from 30 to 35 knots, you can feel the storm coming closer. I do some last-minute adjustments to prepare for it. Making sure everything is tight! Francoise is scheduled for the first round of duty from 22 to 24h.

During the night, the wind speed increases and the waves grow higher and higher. The warm wind speed is from the southwest and reaches 35 knots. “Akimbo” is holding up well considering the circumstances.

Around 5 a.m. suddenly I hear a loud BOOM!!!”

To be continued…

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