The excitement of making landfall, and the thrill of crossing an ocean on a small sailing yacht give rise to some intense emotions as the yachts reach the Caribbean.
Once over the finishing line, yachts take down their sails and head in through the marked channel to Rodney Bay Marina. On the dockside World Cruising Club staff and official greeters from the St.Lucia Tourist Board are there to welcome the crew to the Island. There is a basket of fresh tropical fruits and ice cold rum punch for everyone, no matter what time of night or day they finish. Friends from other boats join in, and often as not, the party rolls onto the next arrival.
Although it has been a fast crossing the wind and sea conditions have made it hard work for most. Sailing downwind in a following sea can be difficult, with several yachts reporting wrapped spinnakers and broken poles. Accidental gybes are a constant risk, which even with a boom preventer, can cause a some anxious moments. Fiona, sailing on Three Ships describes it like this. "Allan passed me the helm with a reassuring "its an easy 270 degrees" we were on Port tack with headsail winged to starboard. Within 5 minutes the wind had come round and we had to gybe the main and the pole, the wind was back to variable direction and strength and my spirits sank with rain clouds fast approaching from astern. With Chris and Allan on the foredeck working the pole I did an uncontrolled gybe receiving a well deserved black look from the mast!"
Line squalls, a sudden thundery patch of cloud and rain with gusting winds, 10 or 15 knots above normal wind force are a feature of trade wind conditions and can catch out the unwary. Steadfast, a Swan 60 reported one as they closed towards St.Lucia, "one this morning went from 12 knots to 38 knots in just 30 seconds. We grit our teeth, cover ourselves in "Ocean Gortex" once more and speed down the waves. We are rewarded with a new best time of 16.7 knots!"
Some crews can use their radar to spot the advancing squalls and sail around them. For others, a surprise squall can mean hours sewing sails afterwards. The only consolation is a good wash in fresh water, for both boat and crew!