Monday, February 29, 2016

Night Passage to Virgin Gorda

Our last day in Statia was pretty typical of a cruiser's life. We arrived early at the Customs Office only to find it closed. When it opened, they told us we needed a form from the Port Authority Office and it was closed. So we waited for them to arrive, got our form, went back to the Customs Office and found several other cruisers there checking in. We had a mini cruisers' get-together while we all waited, and we met two West Coast boats. We don't see many of them here in the Caribbean, so it was fun to compare notes and share favorite anchorages.

When we got back to our boat, we took one last snorkel with the sea turtles, had lunch, prepped the boat for a passage, loaded the dinghy onboard, and got underway at 1:30pm. Conditions were unbelievably perfect and we enjoyed several hours of a gentle beam reach.

We soon settled into our typical overnight passage routine of three hour watches. Doing a night passage is kind of like riding a bicycle: you never forget the mechanics of it and in no time at all everything feels right. There's plenty of time for star gazing and thinking.

Not having done a night passage since November 2015, I'd forgotten what a perfect layout our Alden 44 has for passage making. Our small aft cabin has the Nav station with all the instruments just 5' from the companionway; all clearly visible, but protected from the elements. On a passage the aft cabin becomes the "office" with head and galley just a step away, and the rest of the boat stays dark and quiet for the off watch. As important as the duties of the on watch crew are, we feel the (equally important) duty of the off watch crew is to SLEEP.


Our narrow cockpit with its solid rails and bimini supports all around makes a secure and comfortable spot to sit while on watch. We virtually never sit at the helm while on watch, preferring to sit against the cabin or on the bridge deck. We never leave the cockpit at night unless the other person is above decks, but the sails can be adjusted from the cockpit, so unless we need to reef that's not a problem.

I thought about all this on my 2:00am to 5:00am watch. Then I woke the Captain, told him about traffic, pointed out the lights of Virgin Gorda in the distance, and went to my bunk, happy in the knowledge that we had selected a perfect boat for passage making.

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