On passage

The biggest challenge in a cruising passage is deciding when to go.  There is always the tug of friends and places that enchant holding you back a little longer, with the pull forward of a good sail and new destinations building excitement.  Yet the practical considerations must now begin with watching the weather patterns.

The challenge coming out of Guatemala to head south is that you must first head roughly 400 nm east into prevailing trade winds and waves, an uncomfortable prospect.  We  saw an opportunity coming with a [late] cold front coming down from the north that would help to change the wind pattern.  Could we get so lucky to have even more west winds to turn the corner?  

It was an easy decision to pick up the anchor in Roatan (green circle) after talking with weather router Chris Parker and viewing the cold front weather pattern below.  This website displays  real-time wind patterns across the earth using public data.  More west winds!  

You can see how we have to turn a "corner" around the coasts of Honduras and Nicaragua before heading south.  As a point of comparison, here is the weather pattern on the day after we arrived in San Andrés Colombia (new green circle), showing the predominant wind patterns out of the east in the Caribbean sea.

Most of our cruising over the past 6 years has been coastal passages like this one.  These range anywhere from ~20 to 200 nm from shore and could be day hops to multi-day passages.  The trip from Roatan to San Andrés took place over 4 days.  

We enjoy this type of sailing and have a pretty well-established routine.  


The boat is prepped for offshore by rigging our running back-stays in the rear chain-plates with a midway tie-down so that they are ready to release and deploy on either side if needed.  


Mark also runs a rope from the shroud to the bow as a chest-level lifeline and extra visual cue of the deck boundaries and then runs the blue nylon jack-lines from bow to stern.  


These jacklines are used to clip the harnesses of inflatable lifevests that we use when outside the cockpit at night.  An  emergency beacon (EPIRB) is also set-up for easy access.  

We also prep a ditch bag with strategic items that we store in the dinghy in the event that we'd have to abandon ship.  We do not have a liferaft for coastal work, but would have one for ocean crossings.


Reach's cockpit is sunken (i.e., below deck level) and enclosed with a dodger that makes it almost like a pilot house.  Good for staying dry in squalls, eating dinners and keeping watch out of the wind.

Speaking of squalls, there were a few that couldn't be avoided but most of them were just downpours without high winds.  We could prepare for them just in case by viewing them on radar.  This one at sunset made a full, double rainbow for us to sail through.

IMG_5389 IMG_5393

Like any good passage, we enjoyed the company of a few visitors...

... and watched majestic sunsets and sunrises each day.

This east/west route also brings another fun observation at night when the stars are out.  

You can look to one side of the boat and see the big dipper and north star, then to the other side to see the southern cross.

At various points in this trip we saw winds from just about every point of the compass.  We started sailing in light south winds and then followed them around behind us to the SW -> W -> NW.  

Then the winds reduced to the point that we needed to motor sail for a bit and the seas were nice and flat.

The winds filled in from the NE just as we were ready to turn the corner after the Vivorillos islands ~ good timing!  We'd planned on stopping at these islands for some fishing, but had to pass it up due to a tropical wave heading that way later in the week.

We only had one mishap in the middle of the 3rd night out.  Sailing with the first reef point in as we usually do at night, the [continuous] slab-reef line chafed through at the boom exit point.

This reef line had not worn in the past 15 years, yet Mark had changed the block configuration this sail to try and optimize strains in other areas.  

Well, some optimization still needed...

Boy, did Reach hit a new mode of sailing that we'd never seen before the addition of the new sterns!  


On a beam reach (!!) in NE winds ranging from 10-15 kts, she was doing a steady 7-9 kt range sail in only a small NE swell.  This took us all the way to San Andrés and we did not want the sail to end!

© M&M 2019