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When Night Falls

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I was returning from our boat in May, the sun had set and a full Pink Moon was rising over the mountains to windward. We are incredibly lucky in that our boat sits on a mooring off the beach opposite our apartment. I pulled the dinghy onto the sand and stepped ashore. Behind me, the palm trees stood in silhouette against the night sky, the edges of each frond tracing a pattern in the moonlight.

The Caribbean offers wonderful sailing. If we are feeling adventurous we might sail between islands. Then there are days when we prefer a gentle cruise from one anchorage to another, on the same island. Whatever we choose one thing is sure, night will fall and for me that is the most magical time to be yachting in the Caribbean.

Many of my fondest memories are built around life aboard at night. I remember a moonbow over Bequia and the sound of the tree frogs while anchored in a small inlet on the northwest coast of Grenada. One holiday season Jan and I anchored in a small cove in St. Vincent and had just climbed into our bunks when a choir in the village church began a concert of Christmas carols.

I love the sight of our port and starboard navigation lights and the way they cast an eerie red and green shadow. In higher latitudes the navigation lights can warn of fog for they take on a fuzzy glow before the grey blanket engulfs the sea.

What beats twilight, lying snugly at anchor with a rum drink in your hand, while watching the lights come on ashore with the smell of cooking drifting out of the galley? Well, yes, there’s that, but what red-blooded couple hasn’t while lying in their cockpit beneath the stars.

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As sailors and cruisers we owe it to ourselves and fellow mariners to keep an eye on the weather. On reading this, I know many people will scratch their head and say this is the Caribbean and the weather is always nice. And for most part they are right. But what constitutes good weather? For a powerful 80ft sailboat, a 25-30kt trade wind might be just the thing, but for a 25ft cruising boat – or a family taking a two-week vacation aboard a charter boat – being caught out in 25-30kts of trade wind can spoil your day. Weather forecasts and how we interpret them have always struck me as a dark art. It’s one thing being caught in mid ocean by a gale, but avoiding strong winds, or at least waiting for a more favorable wind while island hopping, makes a lot of sense. In the past, mariners in the Gulf of Mexico, Caribbean Sea, and portions of the tropical and subtropical North Atlantic Ocean have relied on the Tropical Analysis and Forecast Branch (TAFB) for weather analyses, forecasts and warnings. This forecast, which most of us are familiar with, has now been fine-tuned, and although still in the experimental stage offers a significant advance in the way the forecast is collated and presented. All At Sea contributor Terry Boram discussed the changes with Hugh Cobb, Branch Chief at TAFB inStorm Weather Forecasting Improves with High Def Gridded Marine Forecasts. With ‘big wind’ season just around the corner, this article couldn’t have been published at a better time.

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The chance of a lifetime! One boat that will leave the Caribbean this summer is the St. Maarten-based Beneteau 52 Corina IV. The boat was due to sail to Australia to be sold but then, over a glass of wine, the owner Allard Stamm got chatting to five young friends who grew up on St. Maarten. That conversation changed their lives because instead of selling the boat in the Antipodes, Stamm offered it to the youngsters, saying “I’m putting my faith in you, why not take the boat and sail it around the world?” All At Sea wish the adventurers a safe and wonderful voyage.  Check out Young St. Maarteners Set Out on Circumnavigation

About Gary Brown

Gary E. Brown is the Editorial Director of All At Sea Caribbean. He is a presenter on Island 92, 91.9 FM, St. Maarten, and the author of the thriller/sailing adventure Caribbean High. For more information, visit: garyebrown.net