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Old 04-04-2016, 13:58   #1
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Anchoring in St Martin - Anse Marcel and Grand Case

Just returned from a charter in St Martin and curious about the problems we had at anchor at both, Anse Marcel and Grand Case. We were at Anse Marcel for a night and the winds were about 20 knots but blowing from EVERY direction possible swing the catamaran 360 degrees through the night.

We spent two nights at Grand Case. First with little adventure but second was a sleepless one. Winds were gusting to 35 knots and also seemed to come from multiple directions causing our cat to move about 180 degrees. We saw others swing around just as much. Then at 2 am we heard a couple of loud bangs which I could only contributed to the chain hitting the bow roller. We started to swing more and eventually dragged anchor. We ended up raising anchor at 4 am to get out of any problems and found one of our bridle lines snapped. Explains extra swinging a bit.

In both cases we had at least 8:1 scope and set the anchor hard. The gusts shook the 45 foot cat so violently that I thought a jet was lading near us.
What I am curious is:
- Is this normal for this area or is that normal anywhere?
- What could one do to reduce the cat from swinging?
- Is this what I am supposed to expect in other Caribbean anchorages?
- Any other suggestions?
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Old 04-04-2016, 14:08   #2
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Re: Anchoring in St Martin - Anse Marcel and Grand Case

We are in the Caribbean now and have been to Grand Case, but not Anse Marcel. Uneventful in St Martin, but we had similar winds in the Gustavia anchorage in the neighbouring island of St Barths. Steady winds more than 20 knots with strong gusts from a 180 degree sweep. We were thinking of visiting some friends ashore, but decided against because of the weather. Glad we did, as about 9pm a neighbouring boat started to drag and gradually crashed into us. It wasn't a large boat and easily fended off. So, in answer to your questions, Caribbean anchorages can be like this, but not all the time. What can you do? Apart from getting a bigger anchor (difficult on a charter boat!) and letting out more scope, there is not much. Maybe move to somewhere known for good shelter or even tie up to a dock if bad weather is forecast.
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Old 04-04-2016, 14:39   #3
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Re: Anchoring in St Martin - Anse Marcel and Grand Case

I've spent many, many nights in Grand Case and the wind can occasionally funnel through the cut in the mountains along the runway and hit the boat with gusts far beyond the normal winds speeds. One can be over a kilometer out of the Grand Case when the water goes down to below 20 feet, and close to shore where the ferry dock and Calmos are the holding is excellent with 10 feet of water and sandy bottom and I cannot imagine an 8:1 scope dragging unless the anchor was set in one of the grassy patches. Aside from some uncomfortable nights in high winds and two or three days where I missed the weather reports of a north swell setting in, I love the Grand Case anchorage and will be sailing for there tomorrow (from the BVI).
Anchoring too far towards the Grand Case Beach Hotel and Octopus Divers is not always a good idea, as the winds tend to swirl around the hilltop and you can easily get backwinded in that part of the anchorage.
Anse Marcel is well-known (or infamous) for swirling winds and if there's any weather on the forecast then I avoid that anchorage - plus it is not particularly well-protected from swell.
Both those anchorages are not typical of the Caribbean; they belong to a short list of well-known potential problem areas. Basseterre on St. Kitts and Saba belong to this list as well. What is quite important to note is when a north swell sets in most normally acceptable or protected anchorages are no longer such.
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Old 04-04-2016, 14:42   #4
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Re: Anchoring in St Martin - Anse Marcel and Grand Case

Thanks for the replies so far - where would one find those "short list of well-known potential problem areas" besides the 2 mentioned below?
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Old 04-04-2016, 14:50   #5
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Re: Anchoring in St Martin - Anse Marcel and Grand Case

Our Caribbean pilot book is a pretty good - Grenada to the Virgin Islands by Jacques Patuelli - and gives you a good idea of what to expect. I agree with Zanshin, that Basseterre and Saba are horrible in all but the best conditions. We checked into St Kitts at Basseterre (as you mostly have to) and left very shortly afterwards to find somewhere less rolly (White House Bay).
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Old 04-04-2016, 15:28   #6
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Re: Anchoring in St Martin - Anse Marcel and Grand Case

The last week, over Easter has been a tad windy. There are no really, really comfortable places when its hammering at you at 30 knots. I scrapped my Easter cruise plans and stayed in Simpson Bay.
The wind is just dropping off now... finally.

Sent from a stupid phone that replaces words with weird stuff.
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Old 04-04-2016, 16:03   #7
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Re: Anchoring in St Martin - Anse Marcel and Grand Case

How are you measuring the swing radius? By the average trajectory of the anchor line or or the bow?

Wind coming from multiple directions simultaneously would be odd. Reversing direction is not uncommon, but not abruptly as you've described.

It sounds more like you were 'wagging' or 'sailing' at anchor. You can wag hard enough to have it appear based on the view from the stern that the boat is swinging 180 degrees, when in fact the anchor is actually pointed in roughly the same direction.
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Old 04-04-2016, 16:20   #8
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Re: Anchoring in St Martin - Anse Marcel and Grand Case

180 was from stern. Looking at anchor line from the bow we would be easily doing 120 between the two hulls and it did seem like the cat was sailing at times. Especially given the high freeboard.

What was also strange is that it only happened at night...or maybe it just appeared to be more pronounced. Or does this have something to do with land breezes coming in at night?
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Old 04-04-2016, 17:57   #9
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pirate Re: Anchoring in St Martin - Anse Marcel and Grand Case

Personally I've never had a problem at Grande Case..
I've spent between 1999 and now on several occasions between 2-6mths on the Island.. started in the Lagoon first time but then moved, to spend most of my time anchored in Marigot Bay to get fewer mosquito's.. like to break it up by going round to Grande Case for 4-5 days every couple of weeks or so.. or if the weather was particularly settled drop the hook in little Friars Bay.. excellent Beach Café with some great live music.. if its still going which is likely I reckon..
Mind.. the last time was over 3yrs ago..
There's seems to be a lot of late activity in the N Atlantic and the Azores High is squeezed up tight.. Easterlies seem much further N than they should be by now..
I've left around this time in the past with much more settled weather.
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Old 05-04-2016, 14:25   #10
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Re: Anchoring in St Martin - Anse Marcel and Grand Case

Here in the Caribbean, if you have hills surrounding the anchorage and the predominant winds shift, you will get puffs that spread out in multiple directions as they hit the surface of the water. Besides those previously listed Pigeon Island, Guadeloupe and Chatham Bay, Union Island (St. Vincent & the Grenadines) have all provided us with interesting times.
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Old 05-04-2016, 15:49   #11
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Re: Anchoring in St Martin - Anse Marcel and Grand Case

I concur with Pigeon Island and can add the anchorage behind Sugarloaf Hill in the Saintes , the southern section of Anse Colombier in Grand Case to the "Interesting" anchorage list. And an additional anchorage which funnels the wind can be Deshaies on Guadeloupe - the wind can go from 30+ knot gusts to backwind at sunset there.
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Old 05-04-2016, 17:30   #12
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Re: Anchoring in St Martin - Anse Marcel and Grand Case

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sailingmartin View Post
Our Caribbean pilot book is a pretty good - Grenada to the Virgin Islands by Jacques Patuelli - and gives you a good idea of what to expect. I agree with Zanshin, that Basseterre and Saba are horrible in all but the best conditions. We checked into St Kitts at Basseterre (as you mostly have to) and left very shortly afterwards to find somewhere less rolly (White House Bay).
But the last time I was diving there I could tell when a cloud covered the sun at 100Ft. Amazing diving....
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