Thursday, January 17, 2008

Turks and Caicos Crossing

We are finally out of the Bahamas! We arrived in Turks and Caicos on 1/15/08. Doug crewed on the Christa, a 32ft. Westsail, for our friend Christian, a single hander heading to Columbia. Also, along with us was, Loon, an English couple, Ian and Tracy. The beginning of the trip was a little rough, but later settled down. True to form Mike had to change the alternator belt while underway, but all went smoothly. The ocean on the rest long journey was like glass, so we motor sailed the entire way. It was so smooth that at dinner time we fired up the barbie and cooked steaks on the stern of the boat. We then had the great idea to pass a couple of steaks to Doug and Chris, the bachelors surviving on PB&J. We did a 180 to meet them which is unheard of on a crossing and tossed the steaks and some A1 across to them as they had pulled up to our starboard side. The transfer was a success as Doug saved the day when Mike threw a short pass and he lunged to catch the bounty. The crossing was truly comfortable, and the weather was beautiful. No complaints here. We arrived just before sundown so we anchored at the mouth of the bay. The transit across the bay is 10 miles which we completed in the morning because there are coral heads everywhere. We are now anchored up in Sapodilla Bay along with 11 other boats. After anchoring we met up with our friends from Tomahawk, Gary and Mark, a father and son team who are also headed for Columbia. We met them in Georgetown just before Christmas. They told Mike where to clear customs. In the afternoon we headed to shore with Christian to explore the island. Provo, as the island is called, is more modern and there is a lot of development here. This is an offshore banking haven so there are very nice houses and some franchise stores. We ran into Jim from Sierra Hotel, a Lagoon 47 catamaran. He had a rental car that was so tiny that Chris nicknamed it tic tac. It was so low to the ground that each time we hit a bump the tire would scrape the inside of the fender well. My golf cart had bigger tires that this car. He was kind enough to give all 5 of us a ride into town which is about 4 miles from the bay. We pulled the clown trick as we loaded into the car. We then decided it was a good idea to rent our own tic tac. At the Budget rental agency there was a candy bowl filled with condoms. The sales lady quickly informed us that there were different flavors so Mike handed a few to Chris who is still in search of a long flowing haired woman with a healthy appetite. You can imagine the conversation from there… We had the people in the agency in hysterics. We asked the question, what does one call themselves when they are from Turks and Caicos…a Turkcaician? The answer we found, is that they call themselves Turks Islanders.
Our next stop was the grocery store called the Cost Right. It is a very mini Sams Club that sells in bulk. They also had a pizza counter. This sounded so good after months without pizza so we ordered three. We were all so hungry that we sat in the parking lot next to our tic tac and chowed down. It was after dark so we decided we had better head to the dinghy. We had carried it up past the hightide waterline and tied it to a tree to remain while we were gone. With groceries in had we headed down the path to the beach and were shocked to find that the tide had receded 50 yards. Our dingy was quite secure! I’m sure the Turks Islanders got a chuckle out of that. Next, we had to carry the dingy along with our purchases to the water in the dark across the mucky sand taking breaks because we were laughing so hard. Our next little quandary was, “I smell gas.” “Do you smell gas?” Our bags of groceries were sitting in the bottom of the dinghy in gas that had spilled from the gas tank as we carried the dinghy to the water. So we unloaded the bags onto a towel and washed each item which took about an hour. The joys of cruising! Today, we still have our tic tac until 5pm. We are planning on running errands and will offer our neighbors an “experience” with a ride in our tic tac.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Rum Cay- First Mate's View

We sailed to Rum Cay with several other boats some of which decided to go further on an overnight sail to Mayguana, dispite the fact that one of then was taking on water and was not sure where it was coming from. They encountered a change in weather and ten foot seas. Glad that we didn't decide to go with them. We anchored on the southeast end of the island. We are now rocking sideways to the swells and I am unable to sleep. Sumner Point Marina is just in sight; however, the zig-zag channel is not clearly marked and surrounded by shallow coral heads. Doug helped another cruiser, Christian, navigate through the sand bars and the many corral heads. I am trying to convince Mike to head into port but he is not budging. He refuses to put the Adamo at risk.

We met Christian at Long Island. He is recently retired from 20 years with the Coast Guard. He is single handing a Westsail 32 named Christa. He had gone forward to Mayguana but turned back when the wind shifted. He is in desperate need for a first mate with long flowing hair and a healthy appetite.

We went to an island cookout. The food was good and spicy. Chris was conned by Captain Perkins AKA mumble man for an eight dollar drink. This may have been because he was flirting with a lady that he later found was married. Bummer!

The next morning the boys took Chris out fishing. They came back with two fish and a couple lobsters. That night we initiated him into the spear-fishing community. Mike prepared the fish and also boiled the eyeballs and placed them on a plate well decorated with parsley, vegetables, and French salad dressing. Chris ate them both without question. We were all fairly impressed and had a good laugh.

There is a bar across from the government docks. The floor is covered in sand and there is a pool table located in the middle of the room. The boys enjoyed playing pool while Mike and I sat at the bar and drank a couple beers and spoke with some of the locals. There is a big scandal on the island. Bobby, the former owner of the marina, sold his liquor license for big $ to an American, thinking he would be able to get another one. When his application was denied he wanted his old license back. The new owner said no. Bobby then allegedly burnt down his house among other things. Bobby's court case is in one week in Nassau.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Captain'sView - George Town and Long Island

We got our weather window and sailed to Long Island approximately 25 miles east of George Town. It was deep water sailing, so we used the opportunity to test out the swing keel. It was an amazing difference in performance and comfort. The keel kept the boat from rolling despite the sideways waves. Thank you Garry Fulmer!

On our last trip five years ago, we were not big fans of George Town. This go around we were optimistic that it would be better. Anchoring off of Volley Ball Beach, we could dinghy to the Chat and Chill Bar and Grill. As it turns out, we’re still not big fans of George Town; too many boats, too many people. The attitude of the boaters and locals is that of big city not a friendly small town, customary at most other places we have visited.

Long Island is a unique island with its caves, blue holes, and white cliffs. The people are very different here as well, very friendly. Andrew and I were walking down the street from the ocean side beaches back to the bay side where we had anchored Adamo in Thompson Bay. A car slowed down next to us as we carried a super sized coconut and a buoy we had found on the beach. The lady in the car told us that the “door open” sign was illuminated on her dash board, and would we mind closing the back door for her to see if that would alleviate the problem. The back seat was full of wrapped Christmas presents. I suspect one of them was the culprit in keeping the door ajar. I nudged the door with my hip and heard the “click” sound. No sooner was I done, when she informed me the problem was solved. She then offered us ride if we needed one. With the presents in the back seat, Andrew and I would have to share the front seat of her sub-compact. “Thank you ma’am, but our dinghy is just ahead”. With that she wished us a good afternoon and drove off. Andrew and I looked at each other shrugged our shoulders and keep walking.

The following day, we set out on a family excursion to one of the cave systems. We saw a cave entrance from the water and anchored the dinghy along the jagged rocks. After crouching through small caves we were convinced that this could not be the caves described in the cruising guides. So we went in search of the path that leads to the cave from the main road. We climbed through sharp rocky terrain and thick under brush. When we finally made it to the government docks, we headed north in search of the path. No path was to be found. Doug and Sue decided to head back to the dock. Andrew, Phil and I headed down someone’s driveway to get back to the water to retrieve the dinghy. As we were making our way through the outer fringes of the yard, we heard a dog barking. Phillip said:”Oh shit!” (My thoughts exactly). We froze and a yellow lab came running at us. He was barking and happy to see us. The owner, however, was a little bit more leery. We explained the situation and introduced ourselves to him. Chris and his wife Jean Pierce have lived on the island since 2002, having moved from Napa Valley. Jean was a writer for Rand McNally and various dive magazines and diving guides. In any case, they pointed us to the cave entrance. They have even carved a stone sign to mark the entrance from their property.

We picked up Doug and Sue and return to explore the 1700 foot long cave. Sue did not enjoy it as much as the boys did. Perhaps it was the hundreds of bats that fluttered around your ears as you walked through. Maybe it was the fact that we were walking through “guano” (bat shit). Or possibly, it was the fact that when bats fly, they drop their guano! Or maybe it was simply the smell. (See picture of Phil with bat flying on his right)

We rented a car one day and drove to Dean’s blue hole. It is a 630 foot deep hole, sheltered by a cliff. The boys and I took turns jumping from the cliff into the water. Andrews last jump did not go as planned. He landed in a seated position, rather than straight up and down. Per his calculations he was going 64 mph when he hit the water, which would explain why his backside looks some what like a baboon today. He’s a young strapping lad however, so I expect a quick recovery.

At the North end of Long Island is a marina and resort, Stella Maris. This is the first time since we left the US that we have gone into port to dock up. What a treat it is to have constant power and water, and not have to worry about whether the anchor is dragging. The resort spans the width of the island from ocean to bank side. Sue and I enjoyed the beach side hammocks and a beer or two.

Posting to the blog has become more difficult, because it’s becoming harder to find broad band internet service. But keep checking, we’ll be updating less often, but with more stories.