In case you were wondering, no, that’s not fast. Not even for a sailboat.
So as noted below, we reached St Barts–formally known as St Barthelemy–which is the third island from the top in the Leewards, after Anguilla and St Martin/Sint Maarten. It is 115 nautical miles ENE from St John in the USVI. In the Caribbean, anything east kinda sucks, because the wind is more or less always coming from there, and so is the ocean current, which can run at about a knot.
Given all that, we had a near perfect passage, almost. We motorsailed as far as the end of Virgin Gorda to escape the cape effect around the islands, then cut the engine and sailed close hauled for nearly 80 miles at a very nice steady 5 knotsish. Then the wind dropped and veered until it was right on our nose and weak, so we motored again, being not that far out.
At some point in the early morning, Otto decided to quit, flouncing off yelling something about “Drivestop!” in unintelligible Euroglish. OK, we can deal with hand steering for a few more miles.
At 0830, as we passed St Martin with only 15 miles to go to St Barts, the engine suddenly lost power and wouldn’t rev above 1000rpm. Great. So we started to beat upwind, making very slow progress and concerned at making landfall in an unfamiliar port in coral country under sail. I will gloss over the dramatics; suffice to say that I was manly and rugged and probably dashingly handsome in a Hemingwayesque way. Yeah.
With the current, waves, crappy winds, lack of practice and so on, we were not making a lot of progress, so after making only 8 miles towards St Barty in 6 hours, we decided to heave to for the night and make entry the following day.
Night was boring. They tend to be.
The following morning–this morning, as it happens–was when the awesomeness occurred. We beat up to the entry to Gustavia harbour, which is full of super-, mega-, and probably even giga-yachts. We short-tacked our way between the gajillian dollar manhood extensions like freaking pros, despite winds that backed and veered and gusted from 10 to 35 knots at random, dropped the hook and finally let out our breaths. Paddy from Rita T drove alongside in their RIB like the chase boats at the America’s Cup. Oh, yeah, totally like that.
The problem with the engine was immediately apparent in the clear waters of Gustavia–a large nylon fishing net had caught around the prop (I had guessed the previous day that the prop was fouled at first, but it didn’t stop me from changing the fuel filters, etc, all at 15° of heel). Because I am so studly and the water would probably boil away on contact with my suaveness, HB “volunteered” to jump in and clear the prop. Props to her for that. Heheh, geddit? Props to . . . eh, n’mind.
Now we are chilling out in Paddy’s brother Larry’s pool overlooking, well, pretty much everything (seriously, I think one of those islands is Corfu).