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Old 02-04-2015, 10:34   #1
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Windward passage question

I tried the search function for this one, but didn't find much. Can any of you Americans who have sailed a catamaran south through the Windward Passage between Cuba and Haiti tell me if people typically go non-stop from Gt. Inagua to Jamaica, or is it common to break the trip up somewhere in Haiti? I'm figuring that's a 230 nm run, and if we averaged 7 knots it works out to over 32 hours. There are two of us, and we can do that, but we'd prefer to take a break if possible. Does anyone drop the hook for some zzzz's in the lee of Navassa Island? Looks rocky, steep and rolly.
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Old 02-04-2015, 20:53   #2
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Re: Windward passage question

Did the run from Acklins to Port Antonio on a frontal passage. Conditions were pretty sporty in the Windward Passage (30-35 knots, seas 8-12'), but all from the NNW so a great ride (reefed deep, but still surfing to 15).

The land masses around the WP tend to funnel winds so winds in the WP can be a bit higher than winds in the region. In our case, winds in the area were about 25 gusting 30. In the WP 30 gusting 35. Conditions settled back down after clearing the WP.

Lots of commercial traffic in the traffic separation scheme off E Cuba. Its shown on charts. We sailed outside of it to avoid the traffic.

We did non-stop, 2 people, just rotated watch, not a bad run.
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Old 02-04-2015, 21:23   #3
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Re: Windward passage question

What if I sailed a monohull through the Windward?

Made that passage several times but always had 3-4 on the boat so didn't feel the need to stop. Was curious about Navassa and thought about stopping but my research indicated that there was really no good place to anchor except in very settled conditions so always passed it by.
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Old 03-04-2015, 05:05   #4
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Re: Windward passage question

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Originally Posted by belizesailor View Post
Did the run from Acklins to Port Antonio on a frontal passage. Conditions were pretty sporty in the Windward Passage (30-35 knots, seas 8-12'), but all from the NNW so a great ride (reefed deep, but still surfing to 15).

The land masses around the WP tend to funnel winds so winds in the WP can be a bit higher than winds in the region. In our case, winds in the area were about 25 gusting 30. In the WP 30 gusting 35. Conditions settled back down after clearing the WP.

Lots of commercial traffic in the traffic separation scheme off E Cuba. Its shown on charts. We sailed outside of it to avoid the traffic.

We did non-stop, 2 people, just rotated watch, not a bad run.
Thanks for the info. Did you do that in the Wildcat? Did you have radar on the boat? I haven't replaced our fried one yet, but I did add an AIS receiver. Not integrated into any chart package, though. I've been studying the charts and see the references to a traffic separation scheme. Haven't been able to find much positive info on going into Haiti. We were helping the Star of the Sea missionary program a few years ago, and they invited me to make the trip to Ile a Vache with them but it didn't happen. Did you skip Gt. Inagua entirely?
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Old 03-04-2015, 07:15   #5
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Re: Windward passage question

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Thanks for the info. Did you do that in the Wildcat? Did you have radar on the boat? I haven't replaced our fried one yet, but I did add an AIS receiver. Not integrated into any chart package, though. I've been studying the charts and see the references to a traffic separation scheme. Haven't been able to find much positive info on going into Haiti. We were helping the Star of the Sea missionary program a few years ago, and they invited me to make the trip to Ile a Vache with them but it didn't happen. Did you skip Gt. Inagua entirely?
Yes, in the Wildcat which has RADAR. Timing worked out so we transited the shipping lane area during day light so didn't really need it. I was tracking some targets on RADAR, but we never got close. And listening to them and traffic control (Cuban?) on VHF so aware of their intentions. Visibility is typically good in the area so I would be OK with just AIS & VHF.

We skipped Haiti. Things were worse there at the time and I think my insurance excluded it also. Haiti would still be a security concern for me...its a terminally F'up country. Though cruisers do stop in there.

Skipped Great Inagua...favorable conditions and making 8 knots, so why stop? Anchorage doesn't look so good anyway, but I've never anchored there.

Personally, once I get into the groove of being underway I would rather just keep going. Its not very restful to disrupt the routine just to have a restless night in a crappy anchorage (one of my least favorite things...I would rather be underway in a full gale). But, on short runs of just a few days, I do really well with power naps. I just need someone to take watch for about 30 minutes and then I'm good to go for another 6 hours. Habit from decades of being a hardcore workaholic and running boats. Your personal sleep needs may differ.

If you stage to GI then its only about 230nm to Port Antonio. Diverting to Haiti, or S Cuba, is a significant % of the total distance. Doesn't seem worth it to me unless I were going to spend some time in either place (or both...now there is more of a cruising itinerary!...GI, Haiti, Cuba, Jamaica). As we transitted the area of the shipping lanes, I was dreaming of visiting Cuba again, when a USCG chopper appeared at low altitude off my starboard side like they had mind penetrating RADAR. ;-)

The entrance at Port Antonio has potential to be hazardous (lots of rocky shoreline), but is wide, well marked, and well charted so not likely to be a problem. Its a pleasant place to spend some time....partially because of the tall security fence that surrounds it. Making landfall in Jamaica is a dramatic contrast to the Bahamas...Jamaica is mountainous, lush, and beautiful...even Crhistopher Columbus commented on its beauty.

What's your citizenship & vessel registry? S Cuba could be an option.

When do you plan to make the run?
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Old 03-04-2015, 07:43   #6
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Re: Windward passage question

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What if I sailed a monohull through the Windward?

...
No big difference for mono vs cat on this run except possibly the effect of sea state. Seas can stack up in the WP. We had seas of about 8' with a periodic bigger set to about 12'. Cats in general surf much easier than monos and we had one spontaneous and fast surf that I did not like when a 12 footer formed right under our stern. Big beam seas would be unpleasant on either, but more so on a cat.

However, for me it was a fun and memorable sail. Near the end of transiting the WP as night fell my late wife was offwatch and sleeping. I was having a blast sailing fast and surfing with Bob Seger rockin on the stereo....when my wife popped up and told me I had to slow the boat down because I was throwing her out of the bunk...really crushed my groove. ;-)
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Old 03-04-2015, 08:03   #7
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Re: Windward passage question

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No big difference for mono vs cat on this run except possibly the effect of sea state.

That and the cat will outrun your typical mono.

Seas can stack up in the WP. We had seas of about 8' with a periodic bigger set to about 12'. Cats in general surf much easier than monos and we had one spontaneous and fast surf that I did not like when a 12 footer formed right under our stern. Big beam seas would be unpleasant on either, but more so on a cat.

Have been through there with 8-12', 3-6' and once in a dead calm. Motored until we were well south of the SW tip of Haiti before we picked up any wind.

Also had the USCG fly a couple of times but in a C-130. Don't know what it's like these days but back in the wild times they would check out every yacht going through, at least northbound.



However, for me it was a fun and memorable sail. Near the end of transiting the WP as night fell my late wife was offwatch and sleeping. I was having a blast sailing fast and surfing with Bob Seger rockin on the stereo....when my wife popped up and told me I had to slow the boat down because I was throwing her out of the bunk...really crushed my groove. ;-)

Sounds similar to one of my trips through. It was totally overcast and so dark you literally could not see your hand in front of your face. The only light at all was the compass light and amazing phosphorescence in the water. Wind 15-20 kts, sailing a broad reach for Montego Bay and flying (for a monohull). Put on Pink Floyd Dark Side of the Moon (seemed appropriate for the night) and cranked it up. One those nights on the water you never forget.
Assume it's still broadcasting. For about a day we would pick up really good music on "Guantanamo Bay. American Forces Radio" (can still hear the jingle in my head).

Those days we would swing wide of Cuba. Knew of a couple of boats that got too close and were towed in by the Cubans. Found VHF and nav radios on board and accused them of working with the CIA. One guy I think never did get his boat back.
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