The answer is you bet…..a huge difference. This year my Anegada passage continued to be delayed. First, I had to rebuild my dinghy engine. Next, deal with some leaking hoses in the main engines. Finally, due to weather. It just kept blowing and blowing and blowing. The last great weather window to cross the Anegada Passage was the day I was rebuilding my dinghy engine.
Finally, the weather looked ok to cross. I was looking for 15 knots from the east or north of east with 3-5-foot swells. I got three different weather reports that all had the winds between 13-18 from 80-100 degrees with 4-6-foot waves and so I headed out from the North Sound on Virgin Gorda.
I aimed for Nevis which is 125 miles away and I made it in 24 hours averaging five knots, but it wore me out and kicked my butt. The problem was the wind actually came from about 120 degrees, which meant I had to motor sail on one engine to make it and even then, the waves were almost straight ahead.
The first 80 miles is the actual Anegada Passage and then you come to Saba. I aimed perfectly, because I passed to the west only three miles from the island and halfway between the island and the Saba Bank (The Saba Bank is a 30 mile wide shoal that is some nasty and you do not want to get on). When I am sailing somewhere by myself I like to keep giving myself benchmarks. For example, 40-mile mark means I am half way across the Anegada Passage, 60 miles means I am halfway done, etc.
I started with a reef already tucked into the sail, but once night time came I went ahead and tucked a second one in. Good thing, because there were a couple thunderstorms that gave out 30 knot gusts. During one of them my bow navigation light got ripped off and was hanging by the wire. Why does this crap always happen at night when it is nasty out? Since I was by myself I stopped and thought through everything I was going to do and then I went forward with my tether to clip in and a roll of duct tape. Within 5 minutes I had the light taped into place. It looked Red Neck as heck, but it worked until I could fix it when I got to Nevis.
By the time I arrived at Nevis it was 8am and I had been up for over 24 hours and getting my butt kicked by the waves and gusts. I feel right to sleep for a couple hours and then got up and fixed several things including the light. I also took some time to relax. The next day I got up at 3am and headed out by 4am to sail to the southwest corner of Guadeloupe. I have to admit I was not looking forward to this 85-mile sail after the last sail, but I had to get it out of the way. This is where the 10 degrees makes a difference. The weather was the exact same, but my route was 10 degrees further south, which meant I could sail it. Granted it was still a close haul, but I was sailing it none the less and for the first 75% I was averaging over 8 knots and loving it the whole time. Then I got into the lee of Guadeloupe and it was like someone turned off the wind and waves! I was still 13 miles west of the island and 20 or so from my destination and the winds went from 20+ to 10 and really variable. After dorking around with the sails and angles I finally gave up and turned on one engine to motor sail the rest of the way.
I dropped anchor outside the marine just south of Basse-Terre at 6pm and averaged 6 knots (being in the lee really knocked the average down). Regardless, as much as I hated the Anegada Passage I loved today, and it was all due to 10 degrees. Now I sit here at anchor in calm winds and flat seas and then all of a sudden, the winds come tumbling down the mountains and it feels and sounds like a freight train passing by. This is happening ever 10-15 minutes, but that is ok, because tomorrow I will do a quick little 30 miles sail over to Dominica and start exploring that island, so stay tuned to hear all about it.