We are not in Deep Bay. After posting the last blog entry we decided to stay a few more days in Five Islands. The draw of free WiFi was one reason but sometimes we just get accustomed to a location and decide to stay. Keeping an ever-watchful weather eye out for changing conditions also influences our decisions.
In this case, the big winter storms up north start to have an impact on the islands, especially the northern Leeward chain of the Lesser Antilles. Antigua is pretty far north in the chain and so is subject to impact. Not that these storms that bring wind, snow, and cold temperatures to the East Coast have a direct impact but they do affect the weather patterns here. Two effects that are particularly noted concern the wind and swell.
The Trade Winds blow all year from the east and are strongest in the winter. The “Christmas Winds” at the end of the year announce the stronger trades for the rest of the season. They do, however, take a break if a strong storm comes off the East Coast. When temperatures suddenly drop in Florida due to a strong cold front pushing south, we take note. That raises havoc in the Bahamas as strong wind shifts occur that come out of the west. That’s a problem there, as most anchorages in the Bahamas are not protected from west winds.
Most times, that front is anchored in a deep low pressure system in the Atlantic Ocean. As the cold front pushes south, it reaches Puerto Rico and stalls. Eventually it dissipates. By doing so, the islands south and east of Puerto Rico, the Lesser Antilles, experience a drop in the trade winds. This is actually quite pleasant. Temperature don’t change, they remain in the low 80’s but the strong winter trade winds calm down.
The other affect may not be so benign. That big low pressure system that anchors the cold front spins in the North Atlantic after dumping snow and cold winds on the East Coast. As it does so, large waves are generated that head south. In a few days those waves arrive in the islands as long swells. Depending on their strength and the topography of anchorages, boats anchored can expect rolly to very rolly conditions.
What is meant by rolly anchorages? There are anchorages that are so well protected from ocean swells, that no roll – the boat rolling from side to side – is noted. The amount of tolerable roll is subjective. It also depends on the individual boat’s response to various swell periods and the angle the swell is relative to the wind. This makes for some interesting discussions with other cruisers. When queried by a fellow cruiser as to how rolly an anchorage is, we may say it is fine with only a little roll. When they show up and anchor, they may complain that their dishes are flying off the bulkhead. All a matter of opinion what “fine” is. Having gone through this a few times, both as the reporter and recipient of roll reports, I think we should be more specific in description.
In that regard, I devised a simple guide:
This might not suite everyone but it is a start!
So, with an eye toward the weather, we saw a prediction of a strong cold front and deep low coming off the coast. The effect was that there would be very light winds on one day and then large swell for a few days after. This was a good time to go from Five Islands around to Falmouth Harbor. The harbor would be immune to the swells and the sail along the southern coast, due east to Falmouth, would be easy. It actually turned out that way last Friday. In fact, the winds died completely, so we just motored around and anchored deep in Falmouth Harbor. Current role: Stage 1.
The other reason why we came here is that on Thursday we are going to get a quick COVID-19 test at the Antigua Yacht Club in Falmouth. We need that to board the plane back to NYC on Saturday. Kalunamoo will be in Jolly Harbor Marina while we fly up to NYC for a few weeks for my dad’s 100th birthday. We are looking forward to being there (although his birthday is in early March). We haven’t been back to the States in over a year. Will practice social distancing, masks etc. while in NYC, including a short quarantine in our friend’s empty apartment but all should be well. We will need another PCR test to return to Antigua and a quarantine period on the boat on arrival. Well, it will all be worth it, you don’t turn 100 all that often! Hopefully we don’t get snowed in. It should also be a stage 1 roll in the apartment.
In the meantime, we continue to keep busy with other cruisers. Antigua just entered a higher social restriction period. All restaurants have take-out only for the next few weeks and evening curfew starts at 8PM. The island has a current total case load of 37 cases with 508 people in self-quarantine.
With plenty of time to read and reflect, I have been posting some of my thoughts on Kalunamoo.com, apart from this blog. If your interested click on the Essays botton to read them.