Saturday, July 2, 2011

Crossing the open ocean again: ST. Martin to Tortola

My friend Ergin and I had our greatest adventure in life while crossing from St. Martin to the BVI. The two of us, two fairly inexperienced sailors planned and executed a very successful passage with 20-25knot winds and through 12-15ft ocean swells, without the help of a professional or experienced captain. Ruyam II was remarkable and handled the rough seas very well.
We weighed anchor at Marigot Bay around 0400h. In the darkness we motored around the Bluff Point and headed to west into the vast Atlantic ocean. As we left the shelter of the bay we realized that it would be a bumpy 12-14hr ride to Tortola. For the first hour or so we kept glancing back, at the lights of St. Martin at the stern and Anguilla on starboard, both slowly disappearing in the distance while the first lights of the day started to break. A little later we both decided that glancing back to the disappearing land and a the ocean swells chasing us was a bit disheartening and it was not the best idea for the morale of the two person crew. Before starting we had planned a 2hrs on-2hrs off watch routine for us, but at the end of the first watch we realized that no one was going down below to rest. We both preferred to stayed in the cockpit and keep the person at the helm company, talking and reminiscing about the years we spent together while we were classmates in a boarding school in Izmir, Turkey and as roommates during university years in Ankara. This helped us relax and enjoy the crossing, rather than worrying about the somewhat scary situation we were in; no land or vessels in sight, no satellite communication on board and 90 miles of ocean to cross at 6-8 knots according to our GPS. After daybreak we saw a few dolphins chasing us for a short while and a lot of small flying fish, jumping from one wave crest to the other keeping us company almost throughout the journey.
When we reached the Barracuda Reef, we said to each other: “Hey! We are almost there” although we had about 4 hours to the Round Rock passage into the BVI, and close to 6 hours of sailing to Road Town.
We entered the Road Town harbour at 1630hrs and were safely docked at the Joma Marina. We both thought that this kind of 12-14hr ocean crossings is not something you would want to do frequently during cruising, not before a 2-3 month break spent in the areas of the Caribbean where one can sail in calmer waters with land in sight most of the time.
The pictures below and the link to a short video do not do justice to the conditions we encountered; however they will give you an idea.


  1. Dear Al,

    Congratulations on your 2nd crossing! Thanks for the pictures and the video. Where are these 14 ft swells though? I am going to take back EWG's "rough sea sailor title"

  2. Dear Deniz, as I said the video and the pictures do not reflect the real height of the swells. The boat and the camera go up and down with the swells, the camera angle (we are about 6-7 feet above water on the deck at the helm) also distorts the image. I wasn't going to lean over the side and take pictures at water level with all that rocking and rolling. Moreover there is no horizon or any other object in sight for reference. We certainly were aware of the swelss, when the stern drops into a crevis, and the next chasing swell crest is at above eye level. You have to belive us (and the USWS offshore forcast for the day.) Or better, come along for the next crossing in the fall!

  3. Süpersiniz, diyorumya ha 14 saat ha 14 gün, artık her ikinizde "ocean crossing sailor" oldunuz bence.... Bu arada EWG biraz önce izmire uçtu buradan...

  4. Seeing is beleiveing...I reccomend the same crossing for sailors who wish to skip on 14 Ft.swells...

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