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Seashells by the Seashore

In all the crusing guides, Betty and I have highlighted the pages where it tells about good shelling or beach-combing.  The best part is in the Turks and Caicos access to all beaches up to the dune line is allowed, even if the island is private.

a serious sheller Our first big find was at Dellis Cay.  Stephen Pavlidis’ guide book said “The cay is subject to a unique pattern of tide and current, giving this island the nod when it comes to some of the best shelling and beach combing.”  The cay was named after John Dellis, who developed a small but thriving sponging industry here in the late 1800’s.  At the north end of the island it was quite rocky and there wasn’t a good place to anchor the dingy, so I let Betty off to check it out.   Before I knew it she was down on her hands and knees, doing some serious collecting.  Within 45 minutes she had a ziplock bag full in an area 50 yards long.  Back in the dingy, we headed to the south end.

2delliscayIn 2005, a Turkish developer acquired 209 acres on Dellis Cay and construction began in 2008 and lasted for just over a year.  The Residences at Mandarin Oriental was part of an elaborate Ponzi scheme.  Wealthy clients were offered exclusive homes, yet no infrastructure was ever completed.  By 2011, the two principal developers were sued for over $50 million.  They were accused of using the clients money as a “personal piggybank” paying off their previous loans, buying an $8 million Miami Beach home, paying government bribes and globe trotting on private planes.

We could anchor right next to shore in front of the half built homes on the south end.  It is sad to see them slowly deteriorating and felt sort of creepy, like maybe there was a boogy-man watching us from the shadows.   But… the shelling beat out the creep factor and we both got busy selecting the best of the best.  I kept asking Betty, were we out for quantity or quality?  Her answer was always quantity, as you can never have too many shells!

DSCN1437Once back to the boat, we rinse all the shells in salt water to get the sand out of them.  A bucket and all of the galley sieves come out to the swim platform to help with this project.  Then, we soak them in fresh water, throw the broken ones out, same with live critters in them, and sort the rest to different size plastic containers.  Betty has a second purpose for every piece of plastic that comes onboard the boat, whether it held coffee, yogurt, nuts, parmesan cheese or Chinese food in its first lifetime, it holds different varieties of shells in their second.

DSCN1544Great Sand Cay was our ultimate destination in the Turks and Caicos.   Commonly called Big Sand Cay, it was once a habitat for the West Indian monk seal and the manatee, the former hunted to extinction and the latter well on its way.  Legend has it that Spanish treasure is buried on the cay and that a British Captain named Delaney recovered $130,000 in pirate treasure from a cave in 1850.

Big Sand Cay is a desert paradise, just over 1.25 miles in length.  Iguanas and curly-tailed lizards roam the prickly pear cactus landscape.  Green and hawksbill turtles nest on the beautiful western beach south of the light and nurse sharks mate in the shallow lagoon.  The eastern shore  is riddled with coral.  The dangerous reefs southwest of Sand Cay took their toll on so many passing ships that a light was finally established on the cay in 1848.  Currently, like most other lights throughout the Caribbean, it doesn’t work.  Nonetheless, ships still continue to pile up on Endymion Reef, about five miles away.

Big Sand Cay is usually just a stop for boats transiting to or from the Caribbean.  Waiting here puts them 20 miles farther to windward and closer to Hispaniola than any other route.  But for us, this was our “primo” destination.  “The windward shore of this uninhabited jewel has the BEST beachcombing in the islands”, says Bruce Van Sant.  Stephen Pavlidis wrote “There is all manner of flotsam and jetsam that has washed ashore on the cay from the open Atlantic Ocean”.  That word BEST had us intrigued!

The anchorage was deep with a sand bottom for good holding, so we dropped the anchor in 19′ of water, about 200 yards off the western beach.  There was a bit of surge, but nothing like we had had in previous locations.  Once the dingy was down, the difficult part started.  Reviews in Active Captain, stated that the water was 10′ deep right up to shore and that the surge tended to swamp dingies of previous cruisers, so beaching LILI-PAD was out.  I dropped Betty off to do a recon mission to the other side to see what was there.  She came back and said I might find what I was looking for, so we changed places and she headed back to LILI, while I ventured out.

Since I was a little girl, I always enjoyed searching the beach on Lake Erie for beach glass and “lucky stones”.  I was never one to just sit on a beach!  In the past three years, I have developed a fascination for sea beans or drift seeds.  They are not true beans, but seeds that drop from trees in tropical rain forests, floating down the various river systems, such as the Amazon, to the ocean. Once in the ocean, they drift around the world on the various currents, until they get washed ashore due to hurricane activity, wind and temperature changes.   They are hard and buoyant which helps them to survive their long distance voyages.  Since they are light, they normally wash up to the storm tide line, known as the wrack line – it is where all the junk (plastic, flip flops, fishing nets, etc.) ends up.

Previously, I found my one and only sea bean on Harbour Island, a Sea Heart.  The residents of the Azores call it the Columbus Bean, as they believe when Christopher Columbus saw them floating in the ocean, it lead him to search for land to the west where the seeds grew.  Every April while we are in The Bahamas, I have searched for more, with no luck.  Big Sand Cay was rumored to have my elusive sea beans!

DSCN1615Big Sand Cay turned out to be a bonanza, for both Betty and I!  She found some unusual shells and I found SEA BEANS.  My bounty includes – 11 Sea Hearts, 2 Sea Purse, 1 Hamburger Bean, 5 Laurelwood, 1 Starnut Palm, 1 Crabwood, 1 Golf Ball Seed (commonly called a Sea Coconut) and 1 mystery seed.

A Day on Grand Turk Island

Our day starting out with a husky male voice calling out “TCI Police, can I come aboard”.  We were both still in our nightgowns, so I hollared back, “Give us a minute to get dressed”.

image Friendly Officer John came onboard to make sure that we had cleared Customs/ Immigration and to check our passports, cruising permits and paperwork that all was in order. Then he asked about our cruising plans, where and when.  He explained that they documented the information and IF there was an inquiry from the U.S. about us being overdue, they would be able to provide the information we had shared.  Made us feel comfortable that someone was watching out for us.

After they left, we hopped in LILI-PAD and were off to see the sights of Cockburn Town (pronounced Co’burn).  We brought three gas containers along to get refilled.  We tried to anchor at South Dock, but all the dive and sightseeing boats were busy with the guest from the cruise ship,RUBY PRINCESS and the commercial dock didn’t have a dingy dock.  Archie, a divemaster with Blue Divers, suggested we take the dingy on to downtown, another three miles up, and anchor off the beach there.

As we were bringing the dingy into anchor, a gentleman named Charlie, came down to greet us and help us.  After a bit changing out anchors, unloading our stuff and getting LILI-PAD positioned so she wouldn’t wash up on shore, I went to jump out and landed flat on my stomach and was completely soaked.  So much for keeping my clothes dry.

In the mean time, I explained to Charlie that we needed to get gas and would he mind watching out for the dingy while we visited the island.  Betty looked at me like I had lost my mind, by giving this gentleman responsibility of her dingy!  Hey, sometimes to just gotta go with your first impression and trust in mankind.  Charlie wholeheartedly agreed to the task and loaded our gas containers onto his bicycle and we were off to the Texaco station.  $56.40 latter we had six gallons of gas and Charlie’s cousin, Kyle was going to take them back to the beach on his bicycle and watch over them while, Kyle’s friend Greg, was going to show us to the Welcome Center (to find out what to do)  and the Turks & Caicos National Museum (think very small).  Greg got us to both locations safely and received a $4 tip, with Betty sending him on his way.

Betty loves museums, especially the small ones.  Jill loves the museum gift shops and tries to support each and every one.  I had found some books for my grandsons.   The clerk shared that the author of one of the books had just walked in and Donna would be glad to sign it for me.  We asked for a recommendation for a late lunch  from  Donna and the two museum docents, and everyone agreed we should go to the Sandbar.  Donna and her husband, Paul, offered us a ride.  (One cruiser told me you never turn down a ride.)

In five minutes, they shared that they had been coming to Grand Turk since the 1960’s, when Paul’s  mother bought a home here.  There were 1,500 people on the island.  The “Belongers” (TCI natives) loved the American Ex-Pats, did not like the illegal Haitians and deported them.  Grand Turk is a close knit community, with virtually no crime and no homeless.  I was getting warm and fuzzy vibes about Grand Turk!

imageAfter lunch, Betty and I walked around Cockburn Town.  It was clean and neat.  The homes all had walls or fences around them and the yards had been swept, no grass.  Since two of the Turk Islands had been colonized by Bermudians for developing the salt industry,  the homes had that distinct flavor.  Donkeys are still roaming wild over the island, left over from the salt trade.

imageBetty always loves churches.  This is St Mary’s Anglican Pro-Cathedral built in 1899.

 

 

 

 

imageThe library reminded me of the one on Eleuthera.

 

 

 

 

 

The best part of the day was that LILI-PAD was right where we left her, with Charlie and Kyle watching out over her and our gas containers.  Charlie helped us get into the dingy, making sure we didn’t get wet.  Then he handed us the gas and waded out to get us off shore.  Meanwhile, Kyle wanted nothing of getting wet!  Charlie renewed my belief in mankind especially in the smaller islands, as they depend on tourists for the livelyhood.  Charlie got a $20 for his service, Kyle got $5.

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The Science & Art of Anchoring!

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I just read an article about anchoring.  This is one topic that you will never get two boaters to agree.  Everyone always has their favorite type of anchor and way of setting an anchor.  The end result that everyone will agree upon is that you want the boat to be in the same place where you dropped the anchor in the evening, when you wake up the next morning!

I remember the first time, I questioned Betty’s choice of anchoring locations, it was Five Fathom Creek in McClellanville, SC.  The creek was narrow, with just enough room for LILI to turn around with the tide.  The current was roaring thru there at 4-5 knots.  Betty’s answer was “The worse that can happen to us is we end up in the weeds in the morning.  TowBoatUS or SeaTow comes and tows us out.”  (Betty carries the unlimited towing package with both services.)  That did not give me much confidence and I stayed up most of the night, checking out my port windows to make sure we hadn’t ended up in the weeds.  When I did catch a bit of sleep, I had nightmares about being stuck in the weeds and all kinds of snakes getting onboard.  I DO NOT LIKE SNAKES!  Not to worry, the next morning we were in the middle of Five Fathom Creek, the same place where we dropped the anchor the night before.

Now anchoring in the Turks & Caicos and Out Islands of The Bahamas, takes a bit more care, as I have already mentioned there is NO TowBoatUS or SeaTow.

To quote from the article – “The anchoring system is made up of the anchor, anchor rode, the attachment point, the boat and (i believe, most often forgotten) the bottom.  LILI’s current anchor is a big Super Max.  Krogen owners believe when people on the dock think your anchor is too big, then it is just about right.  She has 300 feet ⅜” high tensil chain (weighs 4 lbs per foot).  There is a fancy swivel and shackles and I bought her a new snubber for Christmas a year ago – Betty just had to splice the chain grab on to the line.  LILI’s big windlass, Maxwell 2200 HWC, is hydraulic and she gets it serviced every year, cause these two women do not want to pull up that chain and anchor by hand!  The boat – LILI is a 48′ Kadey-Krogen (53′ LOA), that weighted 56,450 lbs at half load when brand new.  Now, she has got to weigh 65-70,000 lbs, as every inch of space is packed with food stuffs, spare parts, rain coats, shoes, etc.  LILI carries 1,000 gallons of diesel fuel (weighs 7.1 lbs per gallon), which was full when we left Nassau.  She carries 400 gallons of fresh water (weighs 8.3 lbs per gallon) and with the water maker running just about each day, we keep the water tanks full.  The black water holding tank has a 90 gallon capacity, but it never gets above half full.  We legally pump overboard outside the 3 mile offshore limit or pump out at a marina.  Oops, I almost forgot, you have to count the boats exposure to wind or windage – I’ll guess 250 sq ft.  Do you get the picture, LILI is a really BIG GIRL!

Now the math science part is all about scope and backing down on the anchor to set it.  Let me first share that Betty graduated from Duke University with a math major.  Jill flunked every math class in high school and only had to take one remedial math class at Palm Beach Junior College to graduate!  I have a husband that does all my math problems for me.  After 36 years of marriage, he keeps trying to teach me simple algebra, but in the end gives up and just gives me the answer!

imageScope is the distance from the anchor on the bottom (once deployed) up the rode to where it is attached to the boat (A) divided by the vertical distance from the bottom where the anchor has penetrated up to the where it is attached to the boat (B).  A divided by B equals Scope!  So if we put out 100′ of chain and we are in 10′ of water plus another 10′ to the top of LILI’s bow, our scope is 5 :1.

LILI has a 32″ four-blade propeller with the John Deere 6068 engine producing 201 horsepower at 2,600 rpms.  There are tables that will give you the load on boat due to wind and maximum thrust provided by boat propeller.  Let’s just skip to the answer.  Our anchoring experts (Robin & Jim) have told us that once we have the proper scope out and windlass locked down, that if we put LILI in reverse and rev her up to 1,000 rpms for about a minute and she doesn’t move, the anchor will hold in up to gale force winds (34 knots).  The big key is the anchor penetrating the bottom!

We are constantly referring to four different guide books about anchoring locations in the Turks & Caicos.  They all are suggesting various locations, depending on the wind direction.  We are checking our daily email from Chris Parker and also looking at Windguru online.  Somehow we just can’t get the definition of “settled weather” correct.

Anchored at Pine Cay,  we had a wonderful night on anchor.   The second day, Chris said the winds would die down as they clocked around.  Well, they didn’t where we were anchored.  During the afternoon they built to 3 to 4 footers on the nose.  Betty and I decided to head out to Grand Turk overnight to get away from the rocking.  By daylight the next morning we were off Grand Turk as two Carnival cruise ships pulled in.  Ugh…  We continued on to Salt Cay and would come back the the next day.  We anchored off  North Beach.  The guide books said to only use this anchorage in settled weather.  The wind was due to die down to 3-4 knots.  Sounded settled to us.  So we dropped the anchor.  The anchor set in the sand and we took naps.

imageThe surge coming over the reef on our nose, and the wind on our port beam continued to build all afternoon till it was just like Pine Cay.  Where is the light and variable wind?  We decided to put out a “surge bridal”, as by this time LILI was rolling from side to side and everything in the cabinets were clanging and banging.  Our friends on SYLKEN SEAS, showed us how to do this last spring.

We took a boat’s length of line and clipped it on to the chain rode at the bow.  We cleated off the other end at the port stern, then let out chain till we faced the swell.  Now this is where the math major wanted to make an isosceles triangle.  So we let out more line on the stern, then took in more of the chain and back and forth.  You get the picture!  Finally, LILI was riding a bit more comfortably, no clanging and banging.  Then, an hour later the tide changed and suddenly the line was underneath the boat pulling the chain from the starboard side.  Yuck!  We undid the bridal and gave up.  No sleep on Tuesday night and we never got off the boat to go to shore.

First thing in the morning, we pulled anchor, headed for Grand Turk and a quiet anchorage!  We tried anchoring at South Dock, near the cruise ship dock, but the locals had taken all the available space before the depth dropped off to over 150′.  We moved up to in front of the TCI House of Assembly building, where a woman from the Harbor Master’s office told us to anchor off a red roofed building.  We tried three different locations near there, but it was bare coral rock and the anchor would just not penetrate it!  There was also a man on shore waving his shirt, screaming “NO” at us.  So, we gave up and headed around the southeastern end of the island, making our way thru the coral heads to Hawks Nest Anchorage.  By this time we truly had no wind.  The guide books said that this anchorage would be surgy in no wind and can get quite rolly!  We looked around and it seemed much better than where we came from.  We finally found a patch of sand in the middle of a large area of grass.  The anchor went down and set right away.  Thank goodness.  The surge was gentle and we had found quiet anchorage.  Finally!

The art of anchoring can best be described by peaceful locations with beautiful sunsets!

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Sex in Paradise!

Sex on the Drag – One of our highlights of sightseeing on Provo was the tour of Caicos Conch Farm.   When we began the tour, little did we know what was at the end.

Started 25 years ago, the conch farm is the only commercial grower of conch in the world.   Conch has long been a staple of the Caribbean diet.  Its meat provides a major source of protein for the region, while its shell has been used for tools, weapons, jewelry and as construction material.  Over-fishing has depleted wild stock of the Queen Conch and it is now listed as a commercially endangered species.  Countries throughout the Caribbean have quotas on harvesting wild conch, but the remaining conch population continues to decline rapidly as over-fishing continues to occur.

The hope was that the conch farm would be a profitable entity and be able to be replicated on other Caribbean islands.  That has not been the case.  Hurricanes have done damage in the past.  Their processing building was demolished 18 months ago and since have not been able to sell any product.  To diversify, the conch farm developed aquaculture for four varieties of fish to grow commercially – grouper, snapper, cobia and pompano.  They have their base stock and are currently waiting for the government’s approval to start the program.

The tour of  farm begins with a short biology lesson of conch and a description of the technology developed for cultivating the animals from egg through all stages of life.  We then saw the various tanks holding the different sized conch from when they develop their shell through six months at which time they are then transferred to wire pens on the Caicos Bank.

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At the end of the tour, there was a small tank with two full grown Queen conch, named Sally and Jerry.  Most conch will recede into their shell when picked up or moved.  Sally and Jerry have been trained by the staff to come out of their shell when picked up.  Not only did they come out of their shell, but their eyes looked around to see what was going on.  Our tour guide then proceeded to show us the difference between Sally and Jerry.  I must say that Jerry’s junk was something to behold!  It could extend a full 12″ to be able to slide under Sally’s shell to do the dirty deed.  In the photo, Jerry’s junk is the dark thing at the top of his body, the eyes are at the middle right and the foot is the thing on the bottom left.  Not sure I want to eat cracked conch or conch fritters anymore!

Sex on the Run – The other highlight of sightseeing was a phenomenon I came across while reading about the Turks & Caicos, before we ever got here.  Once a month, the marine worm, ondontosyllis enopla (or better known as the glow worm), puts on a sparkling mating ritual.  Three to five nights after the full moon, about an hour after sundown, the glow worms put on a show that lasts anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes.   I found out the full moon was on April 15th, little did I know it would also be a lunar eclipse, too.   The best location to observe the glow worms would be on the northeast end of Provo by Donna Cay.  After much pestering, I convinced Betty that we needed to move LILI to the other side of the island (a 64 nm trip) to anchor by Donna Cay from April 16th to the 19th.  Then I kept my fingers crossed that these glow worms put on a really good show, or Betty was going to razz me about it for a very long time!

Female glow worms release eggs that float to the surface.  The eggs give off pulses of pale green bioluminescence.  The pulse of light is the signal for the male glow worm to dart among the eggs to fertilize them.  Then, the poor male dies and falls to the bottom.  Hey, but he went out in a big flash!

Thursday night, we got ready for the big show.  Betty kept razzing me.  I thought I saw something by the shore and called Betty.  No, she said it was just the sand’s reflection in the shallow water.  Every five minutes I came out to take another look.  Then, a little after 8 pm, I saw a flicker, then another.  I called Betty and she started to see them, too.  All in all, Betty saw 25, I saw 50 or more.  We definitely were anchored in the prime location, as they floated along against LILI’s hull.  Not a huge show, but proof they exist and not a figment of Jill’s imagination!  I’m hoping tonight will be even better!

Unfortunately, it is almost impossible to photograph the glow worms, so sadly no photo.  Look them up on the internet!

Those of you who have been around for some time, might remember the “Glow Worm” song, released by The Mills Brothers in 1957.  Johnny Mercer wrote the modern lyrics.

“Shine little glow-worm, glimmer, glimmer. Shine little glow-worm, glimmer, glimmer. Lead us lest to far we wander. Love’s sweet voice is calling yonder. Shine little glow-worm, glimmer, glimmer. Hey, don’t get dimmer, dimmer. Light the path below, above. And lead us on to love!”

The Bishop and a Craft Project

Palm Sunday, Betty and I head to the local catholic church for mass.  On their webpage they offered three services – 9 am in English, 10:30  in Creole, and 12 noon in French.  We arrived 20 minutes early for the 9 am service,  were told that the Bishop was on-island and they would only be having one service at 10:30 am.  There would be a procession from downtown to the church, with the Bishop leading the way.  Deciding to wait for the later service, we took a drive out the northwest end of the island and back.

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Bishop Peter Baldacchinno had recently been selected Associate Bishop for the Archdiocese of Miami, after 15 years of building the Roman Catholic Church in the Turks & Caicos.  When he first arrived in Provo as a priest, there were nine people attending mass regularly.  By the time he left, there were over 1,200 parishioners attending mass in their new church with a new catholic school having 110 students enrolled.  He even taught himself Creole to be able to minister to the Haitian population on Provo.  Needless to say, the locals love him dearly and are so proud of their new Bishop!

The church was overflowing with standing room only and there were palms for everyone, all having been blessed by the Bishop. The Haitian Choir sang accompanied by their steel drum band and students from the school assisted with the readings and carried the gifts to the front.  It was an unexpected pleasure for Palm Sunday.

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After mass, I treated Betty to brunch at Sibonne.  Sibonne is a small boutique hotel on Grace Bay that Mom, Jon, the boys and I stayed for Thanksgiving week, about 13 or 14 years ago.  The food was wonderful back then and today is known as the top restaurant on the island.  Our waitress was Izamay, who I remembered from my last trip.  Betty had the coconut banana pancakes and I had eggs benedict, both delicious!  The best part was sitting by the beach looking out at the gorgeous turquoise water!

Fast forward two days later, what do you do with your Palm Sunday palms blessed by the Bishop?  You guessed it, the craft project.   The internet has become the encyclopedia’s of the this generation and you can find out how to do just about anything.   In 14 easy steps, wikiHow showed Betty and I how to make a cross out of a palm frond.  Good thing we got a couple extras, cause our first ones did not look real good.  Hey, practice makes perfect!

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South Side Marina, Provo

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South Side Marina is known as the “cruiser’s marina”, as Bob, the owner, used to be one.  Every morning at 7:30 am, he does a cruiser’s net on channel 74, with a personal welcome to each boat in the marina and at various locations around Provo.  Then Bob, gives the weather for the next seven days.  On Wednesday evening, he hosts a BBQ for all the boaters in the marina.  He even invites those on anchor in Sapodilla Bay and will provide a ride back and forth.  We get a lift to the local IGA grocery store with his friend, Ken.  Bob also arranges to get us a rental car, and between he and Ken, map out all the sites to see in Provo.

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Everyone here is passing thru either on their way back to the U.S. or down further in the Caribbean.  We are the odd duck, as the Turks and Caicos is our destination.  YARA, a catamaran on one side of us is from Hamburg, Germany.   Ursula and Robert, left home 11 months ago, on their way around the world.  From here they plan to head back south to the A, B, C Islands for hurricane season.  After a couple days, they head out to do some diving at West Caicos.  We make plans to meet them later in the week on the north side of the island in Grace Bay.

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On the other side of us is MONARCH, from Houston, Texas.  Dalton and Jody have just spent the last year in The Bahamas and are leaving the end of the month for the Panama Canal, Galapagos and South Pacific.  Taking YARA’s slip is WONDERLAND.  Dixie and Rex are on their way to Charleston, after spending the winter in the BVI.  They are ready to sell their boat and move back to a “dirt house” (vs living aboard).

It is Wed, April 16th and we are heading out to round to the north side of Provo to meet YARA.  We will miss the BBQ, but the wind is supposed to pick up this afternoon through the weekend and we hope to get tucked in somewhere quiet before it does.  I will get this posted while I still have the marina wifi.

 

 

 

 

Things That Go Bump in the Night

In preparing for our trip to the Turks and Caicos, Betty and I read everything we could get our hands on – Passages South The Thornless Path to Windward by Bruce Van Sant (the bible for weather and cruising directions from the U.S. through the Bahamas to the Caribbean),  A Cruising Guide to: The Southern Bahamas (which includes the Turks and Caicos) by Stephen Pavlidis and Waterway Guide’s Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos Islands.  

Bruce Van Sant explains that with the trade winds being out of the east and south east, if you catch the back end of a front clocking around, you can ride it south east without bashing into the waves and trade winds.  So, that was our plan.

We subscribe to a weather forecaster, Chris Parker, while we are in The Bahamas and when we travel offshore in the spring and fall.  For an extra $55, Chris has a special personal service – we give him type of vessel, when and where we would like to go and he gives us vessel-specific weather forecast and routing advice for waypoints every 12 hours of our route.   Betty also downloaded our waypoints in Buoyweather and printed off their forecast.  In addition, our friend, Gregg, was watching the weather for us and gave us the thumbs up.

George Town is know as “Chicken Harbor”.  Many who were bound for the Caribbean found their first passage after George Town rather unpleasant and returned to venture no farther southeast.  Weather and timing make all the difference.  Once past George Town, except for the occasional settlement, you are in the Bahamian boondocks and on your own.

With the weather in our favorite, we headed out of George Town on Tuesday afternoon, to cross to the north end of Long Island.  We anchored in Calabash Bay to wait for the wind to start clocking around.  At 2 am, it clocked from the SE to the SW.  By 4 am, I woke Betty and we pulled anchor, leaving Calabash Bay an hour ahead of our schedule.   In the dark, we headed around Cape Santa Maria, the north end of Long Island.

When we travel offshore, we have our ocean PFD’s with strobe light and whistle attached, laying on the floor by the helm seat.  The ditch bag is out and readily available.  Betty has a life raft on the boat deck at the ready.  We also have the dingy ready in case with need it – the battery is on, keys in the ignition and the three cable tie-downs have quick release pulls attached.  All of the fenders (bumpers) have been braided to the boat deck railing, so in case of a man overboard, we can yank on the end of the line and they will come free to be thrown overboard.  Lamps are put down on the floor, picture frames laid face down, dish cabinet doors locked down and dishtowels stuffed among all the pots and pans to keep them from rattling.  We collect koozies from everywhere we travel and place all drinking glasses and glass bottles in them to keep from rattling into each other.  We had everything cleaned up nice and neat.

We had two friends, Mike Warren and Larry Polster, who knew our schedule – route, waypoints and time expected at each waypoint.  When we reached each waypoint, we set off SPOT to send a email message of GPS location and that we were OK.  If they did not receive SPOT in a timely manner, they were to call out the troops.  In this part of the world, not quite sure who would come…

To get to the Turks and Caicos, we had three deep water passages to cross, similar to the Gulf Stream.  First was the Crooked Island Passage, then Mayaguana Passage, and finally the Caicos Passage.  At our first waypoint, Booby Rock, off of Clarencetown, Long Island, we were 40 minutes early.

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Then we headed across the Crooked Island Passage.  The 2-4′ seas were on our beam, but the stabilizers were doing their job and our ride was pretty good.  As we came up to Crooked Island, Bird Rock Lighthouse was off in the distance.  The lighthouse was built in 1876, out of Crooked Island stone.  When it was electrified, the 19th century machinery and museum-quality Fresnel lenses were destroyed.  The Bahamas Defence Force tried to get Bird Rock Light working, but despite success in the beginning, it failed.  Having survived over a century, the lighthouse is deteriorating and no longer works.

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At 7:21 pm, we made our second waypoint 69 minutes early, NE Aklins Island.  As dusk turned into night, we headed across the Mayaguana Passage.  At each turn, we expected the winds and waves to be on our port stern quarter, but they seemed to clock with us, continuing to stay on our beam.  The wind and waves picked up and LILI’s stabilizers worked all the harder to keep us from rolling.

During the night, Betty and I take three hour watches.  While one is at the helm, the other is trying to get some sleep.  During the night, the radio was quiet, no one was chattering.  We did pass a total of five freighters, but none closer than five miles off.

At 1:35 am we made our third waypoint, 85 minutes early to Devil’s Point Mayaguana.  For a bit we had some relief from the wind/waves as we went around the bottom of Mayaguana, but as we started across the Mayaguana Passage, the wind increased, 25-30 knots and waves were 5-7 footers every seven seconds, still on our beam.  Now it seemed like LILI’s stabilizers were screaming, as they tried to keep us from rolling!   We could hear bumps during the night of stuff moving around in the saloon with all the rolling from side to side, but nothing major.  Just before dawn, there was a crash and glass braking – a vase had tumbled over and hit the floor.  That was the first thing broken in all of LILI’s offshore travels.  Once the sun came up, a look down below from the pilothouse showed a bit of a different picture, Betty’s normally immaculate saloon was a mess!

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Our last waypoint was Sandbore Channel, as we came onto the Caicos Bank.  We arrived at 9:50 am on Thursday, April 10th, ten minutes early.  Every boat in Turks and Caicos waters is required to call into Provo Radio, while they track their course on radar.  As we came onto the bank, we radioed in on channel 74.  A friendly voice welcomed us to the Turks and Caicos, as they took down all our information.  From there we made our way to the marina, arriving just outside at noon.  It was low tide and too shallow for LILI’s 5′ draft to make it in the channel, so we dropped the anchor to wait.  It gave us time to get the boat straightened up and put back together.  We each got a shower and a well deserved nap.  Anchor came up at 4:30 pm and by 6 pm, we were tied up at South Side Marina in Providenciales, Turks and Caicos and had cleared Customs and Immigration.  We had made it!!!

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Visits with Unexpected Friends

There is an app, Krogen Finder, that is available for free to anyone who owns a Krogen.  It shows a map of the world and over 75 Krogen’s have signed up for it.  Every night once we are anchored, Betty and I drop a pin to show where we are located.  We also look around to see if there is anyone near us.  So far, just COMPASS ROSE has been the only other Krogen we have seen in the Exumas.

Leaving Black Point, we anchored at Cave Cay.  We had heard that their was a marina there, but didn’t know much about it.  Just as we were dropping the hook a dingy came racing at us, saying “Hi Betty and Jill”.  It was Krogen  friends, Perry and Karen, from MORSE CODE, and they were staying in the marina.  They invited us in for an impromptu cocktail party – come as we are.  We spent an enjoyable hour sitting in their cockpit, hearing about their winter in The Bahamas.  I feel at home talking with Perry and Karen as they live right across Lake Erie from me, in Leamington, Ontario.

The next morning, we headed out Cave Cay Cut into the cobalt blue water of the Exuma Sound.  We had a 40 mile run down to George Town.  George Town is the second largest town in The Bahamas and the locals love cruisers on the VHF radio announcing all the days activities.  By the time we had arrived almost half of the cruisers had started their trek back to the U.S.

A cold front was due in in two days, so we headed back behind Red Shank Cays, to find some protection and wait for a weather window to make it to the Turks & Caicos.  As we turned the corner, in front of us was a pleasant surprise, SEA WOLF, another Krogen with Gabe and Gail onboard.  They came out to wave and welcome us in.

Normally, Betty and I have anchoring down pat and almost make it look easy.  With an audience watching, we had our worse day ever trying to get the hook down!  The communication between us, which is always really good, was just not there.  I couldn’t get the boat where Betty wanted it and Betty couldn’t get the anchor down where I thought it should go.  After looking like rank beginners for almost an hour, we traded places and somehow managed to drop it in the right place!  Arghhhh…..

Gabe and Gail dropped their dingy in the water and came over for a much needed visit.  For the next two days, we went back and forth between the two boats, until we got our weather window and it was time to head out.

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Are We There Yet?

So far, I have posted about our problems and how we’re dealing with them, but we are in The Bahamas!

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The VHF radio is the lifeline in the islands.  Most areas have a daily forum to announce activities and restaurants advertise their specials.  Friday morning there was an announcement about a school fundraiser luncheon in Black Point at noon on Saturday.  Even though we are on diets, we thought we better go support their cause.  The anchor came up in the afternoon and we motored over to the Black Point anchorage.

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The next morning, Betty pulled out the bottle of Joy!  That means it is time for a salt water bath…  Yes, we are in The Bahamas.

We headed into the dingy dock at 11 am, so we wouldn’t be late.  Stopped at Lorraine’s Cafe for internet to download email and then wondered down the road in search of the luncheon sight.  Noon rolls around and we can’t seem to find it.  12:30 goes by, still nothing.  Do we have the wrong day or location?  Finally at 12:45, we see some action under a picnic area across the street from the school.   We forgot that we are now on “Bahamas Time”.

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The menu was BBQ ribs or chicken, Bahamian rice & peas, Bahamian macaroni and cheese (has hot sauce and chopped up jalapeno’s in it), cole slaw or potato salad for $10 a person.  Grilled cheese burgers, served with macaroni and cheese, for $7.  Needless to say, we were first in line, but the cruisers and locals showed up quickly.

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Ida owns the Rockside Laundramat in Black Point and it is the nicest, cleanest laundry in the islands.  Sharing the other side of the building is a small marine store, that also sells local woven baskets and her home baked banana bread and carrot cake.  Upstairs are a couple apartments for rent.  Ida is the local beautician, where you sit on a bench outside of the laundry, looking at the gorgeous Exuma blue water, as she cuts your hair.  As if that isn’t enough to do, this year Ida, is the president of the school PTA.  She organized the fundraiser and cooked most of the food.

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Did I mention that dessert was also on the menu – chocolate cake with peanut butter icing or sapodilla cake for $2 a piece.  Sapodilla is a fruit that grows locally on trees is smaller than a mango, about the size of a kiwi and has a large seed.  The ladies serving said it was much sweeter than a mango, and very plentiful.  Both cakes were delicious!  Oops, where is my diet going…

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The school currently has 38 students and 5 teachers.  It used to have 100 students but Samson Cay Marina and Resort closed down as well as a few other businesses, so some families needed to move to Nassau to find work.  In previous years, we have seen the children on their way to school dressed up in their clean, freshly pressed uniforms, without a hair out of place, always friendly saying “Hi”.    Most definitely a great cause to donate to.

Back to the boat with full tummies, we pulled anchor and headed south to Cave Cay to anchor for the night.  We are definitely in The Bahamas, Mon!

Difference Between Man-Tight and Woman-Tight!

LILI’s most important system when on anchor is the genny.  It is what produces energy to keep her batteries charged, run the watermaker, keep the refrigerator cold, etc.  Therefore, before heading offshore to the Turks & Caicos, we want to make sure it is running properly.  All the gauges on the Northern Lights panel at the helm are now jumping around like jumping beans and the temp gauge  is sometimes even pegged at 250 degrees, which may mean in addition to a faulty heat sensor, we may have a loose wiring harness, too.  The good news is that genny will automatically shut down if the temp goes too high or the oil pressure too low (so far that has NOT happened), but the bad news is that to check the temps, we have to manually do it with the heat gun to the sensor on top of the genny while it is running (hot and noisy) .

As we head out of Nassau, our first stop is Shroud Cay for the night.  Betty and I reminisce  about our first trip down the Exuma chain four years ago – we were in a panic to get a mooring ball and all were full at Shroud.  This year, we didn’t even look for a mooring ball, as we have become much more proficient at anchoring.

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Now to the difference between “man-tight and woman-tight” – first there is space issues.  Once anchored, Betty shimmy’s in behind the helm to check the wiring harness for a loose wire. The space is greatly restricted with lots of wiring to the electronics, two PC’s for navigation, an air-handler for the pilothouse air-conditioning, hydraulic reservoir for the throttle and transmission controls, plastic file boxes full of operating manuals and other odd items.  This space is extremely “man-tight”, but a woman can easily make her way back in there.  Betty looks at the wiring behind the genny panel and there doesn’t seem to be any loose connections.

On Wednesday morning, we continue on to Big Major Spot and anchor behind our friends, Pam & John on Compass Rose, a Krogen 42′.  It seems that there are not many other Krogen’s cruising in our area this spring.

Betty receives an email from Gregg, encouraging us to change out the impeller on the genny, just in case there is something wrong with it that we can’t see.   OK, on Thursday morning, the time has come for us to learn a new skill and neither one of us are excited about it.   The genny is working, once we start messing with this impeller, we reach a point of no return, where we have to complete the task or we have no working genny.

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Now the difference between “man-tight and woman-tight” – second issue is force, meaning the force it takes to open a jar lid, radiator cap or in this case pull off an impeller.  This round hard rubber thingy is what pushes the sea water thru the heat exchanger to keep the genny from overheating.  In LILI’s case the main engine muffler is about 3″ from the genny impeller housing.  They make a tool called an impeller puller, but 3″ is not a large enough space to use it.  Betty purchased two electrical screwdrivers on George’s advice to do the job.  Both of us are back playing Twister in the engine room, trying to pull off the old impeller.  In addition to the screwdrivers, we also try using needle nose pliers, grabbing onto one of  vanes.  We are both pulling, tugging, sweating and swearing for over 45 minutes and we have it moved ⅛”.  Time to call in the “man-tight” reinforcements, John from Compass Rose.  In a matter of two to three minutes, he has impeller off!  Examining the old impeller, there seems to be nothing wrong with it other than the damage we did trying to get it out.  Arghh…  John helps us get the new impeller back on before he leaves.  God bless John!  We start the genny back up again and it seems to be running a bit cooler, but we continue to monitor it frequently!

Waking up Friday morning, both Betty and I can feel the muscles that we strained trying to get that damned impeller out!  There is something to be said for keeping a man around the boat.