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OCC Report from the Eastern Caribbean

by Alastair Hill 26 May 17:14 UTC
Peace and solitude in Barbuda © Ocean Cruising Club

This winter's cruising season in the E. Caribbean started off and then continued with some unusual weather patterns. Returning cruisers came back to sweaty boatyards during their pre-launch maintenance work as there was very little gradient wind during November and December.

The hot, muggy conditions with calm seas were, however, good for extended dinghy expeditions and sundowner get-togethers, especially at Christmas time in Sainte Anne where there was a good gathering of OCC boats.

It wasn't until the first week in January that a strong (up to 1040 hPa) high-pressure system came off the East Coast of the USA and dominated the weather pattern for a couple of weeks. Reinforced trade winds were commented on by lots of people, with a reported 57-knot gust off the southeast corner of Guadeloupe. That was followed, unusually for January and February, by numerous cold fronts some of which pushed far south through the E. Caribbean island chain.

We did manage to take advantage of one of those light wind periods to enjoy a lovely time anchored off the southern end of Barbuda - one of our favourite destinations. Peace and quiet, lobsters and conch to buy from the local fisherman, endless snorkel spots and hikes along the Atlantic side of the island in search of flotsam and jetsam treasures. There are not that many places in the Caribbean where your nearest neighbour is almost a mile away.

Regarding the gradient winds, I recall a meteorologist friend telling me a useful rule of thumb about the pressure gradient along the E. Caribbean chain between 15N and 20N and how it can be used to estimate the gradient wind. If there is 6hPa gradient there will be 'normal' gradient winds of about 15 knots. An 8hPa gradient will give 20+knots and 4hPa gradient will be about 10 knots. It's proven to be a good estimate for the regional gradient wind in my experience.

On to more social matters, the unofficial OCC fishing competition was won this year almost before it had started. Amanda Lerse on Infiniti B hauled in a huge Wahoo weighing about fifty pounds whilst on passage off St Vincent in December. Amanda is a keen fisherwoman and generous cruiser, as many others including my wife and I shared in the ocean bounty of delicious fresh Wahoo fillets, thanks Amanda! Sadly Infiniti B is now for sale and that means we will lose a cruiser, Frank Hatful, who has been extremely helpful to a number of OCC members who have needed assistance with a plethora of boat repairs; so thanks on behalf of myself and others who you have helped over the last five or so years, thanks Frank!

We also said goodbye over the SSB airwaves to Reg and Nicky Barker who are now in the W. Caribbean aboard Blue Velvet of Sark. Nicky has been one of the net controllers and thanks go to her for her perfectly clipped and efficient radio voice, thanks Nicky! On the other hand, it has been nice to see some new cruisers join the SSB net, especially Bob and Eileen on Songster and thanks, Bob, for taking over one of the net controller days.

And so that brings me to the presently unfolding situation due to the Covid19 virus. This brought an early end to the cruising season for some and a much more difficult, and ongoing, situation to handle for many others. We consider ourselves lucky that we haulout in St Lucia, which is quicker to get to than the marinas further south.

Information posted on social media has been very useful and suffice it to say that we hope our friends and OCC cruisers manage to stay safe, stay well and ultimately arrive at their chosen destination. No doubt there will be some interesting stories to tell when we meet again in late 2020.

This article has been provided by the courtesy of Ocean Cruising Club.

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