Antigua, you can’t get there from here…yet

It’s Tuesday morning and we are motoring along in conditions that are more like Long Island Sound on an August day than ocean sailing hundreds of miles from land.   The wind has become very light and is likely to stay that way for at least another day.

In the next day or so, we will reach a point during the trip when we are the farthest from land and in every direction land will be some 500 miles.  There’s not much out here except the occasional ship that passes on the horizon or dolphins that come up to check us out for a few moments before moving on.

Currently, we are nearly 300 miles from Bermuda and even farther from the US.  Perhaps more importantly, we are about 1/3 of the way to Antigua.  But not so fast, as some pretty impressive headwinds will be arriving in a few days so we will have to tack to the east and even northeast for perhaps several days while we wait for more favorable conditions.  Sadly, when we tack we will actually be heading away from our destination, and that will be very frustrating.

The big driver of the adverse winds that will blow from the SE and keep us from making headway toward Antigua, is a major storm off of the US east coast that is expected to form in the next few days.  That storm, or low, will suck wind in from thousands of miles in every direction and disrupt the easterly trade winds that we would normally encounter as we get closer to the Caribbean .

While a big storm off of the east coast brings nasty weather to the US and Bahamas, those same winds disrupt the trade winds and generally weaken the winds down south.

For now, we are motoring in very light winds, heading in the general direction of the Caribbean.  However, in a few days we will have to head on a course that will likely be perpendicular to our destination and while we will be moving along nicely, we will be in more of a holding pattern, waiting for the winds to shift and allow us to turn south again.

I really do hope we can avoid that multi day delay but we won’t know for sure by Thursday.

Another fear is that we will not have enough fuel to make the rest of the trip but I think that we will do well as we did a good amount of “easting”, under sail, over the first few days of the trip and resisted the temptation to head south.   I was pretty sure that a direct run south might not be in our best interest and I am glad that I took that approach as being a bit farther east than some in the fleet will allow us a better angle for sailing south.

As a general rule, you want to do as much easting as possible early in the trip so that when the easterly trades fill in, you have a comfortable point of sail.

Well, so far so good.

So, when will we get to Antigua?  I actually have no idea as it is likely that we will spend a few days sailing perpendicular to Antigua, and that will feel like “you can’t get there from here”, well, at least until the trades fill in again and we can make our way south for the remaining distance to Antigua.

All and all, I can see us arriving in Antigua, but when that is will remain a mystery for now.  Being at sea is a lot different than being in a car with a GPS that calculates the arrival time within minutes.  While roads can become congested, they generally don’t go away.  At sea, when the wind blows from where you want to go, there is just no way to get there until conditions improve.

So, for now when I wonder when we will arrive all I can say is that we will but who knows when.

One thing for certain is that for the part of the trip when the wind is on our nose, the phrase that will come to mind is more like “you can’t get there from here”.

Let’s hope that part of the trip is short.

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