**24 February 2017**
With the persistent easterly Trade Winds here in the Eastern Caribbean, most of the common anchorages are naturally oriented to protect us from those winds and the waves that they produce. These anchorages generally lie on the south or west shores of the islands and are open generally to the West.
While there are bays where we can anchor on the eastern shores of most islands, they are seldom used. Some have reefs that knock down some of the swells, but very few provide any natural protection from the constant and sometimes brisk Trade Winds.
So what happens when the winds decide to come out of the West?
We’ve seldom experienced winds out of the West in the Caribbean, other than those associated with a Tropical Storm. But twice this Winter we’ve had episodes of westerly winds, and storms associated with both of them.
We experienced one in St. Anne, Martinique back in November, and the second while anchored in here in Bequia. Even with some warning, the storm in November caught many unprepared and several boats sustained damage. But the most recent event came on with little warning until very late. Many were expecting only light winds from the west, but a late forming storm brought winds of 30-50 knots in Martinique. We saw winds probably 25-30 knots. We heard a Mayday call from a boat in Mustique that ran on the reef after breaking loose from their mooring.
With the swells building up over many miles due to the enormous fetch*, they roared unabated into the anchorages, making for a very rough ride. Even after the squall ended and the winds died down, the swells continued well into the night.
Our biggest lesson learned from the previous storm? Start up the engine and reset the anchor in the new wind’s direction before the winds build. It helped us hold fast all during the squall.
Around midnight Carrie and I both knew that we wouldn’t sleep with the swells rocking Brilliant mercilessly. Since we were getting underway the next morning anyway, we decided to get underway immediately and hope for calmer seas in deeper water.
*Fetch-The distance traveled by wind or waves across open water.