Monday, January 30, 2006

South Caicos Island

RAFT catches fish
South Caicos Island
Originally uploaded by S/V Raft.

Just as we approached East Caicos, Avalon V radioed over, asking us if we were fishing, because ahead of us were a flock of birds and a school of flying fish. We had been unsuccessfully dragging our lines from Georgetown to Rum Cay, but hadn't bothered with since. So out went the lines, after all it is Bev's ambition to catch a fish this year. But RAFT is a better fishcatcher than us. One of the flying fish decided to attack our boat and lost. After the picture we returned it to the beautiful indigo water. We could have kept it for bait, but Bev didn't want to deal with freezing it at this point. It was approaching happy hour time (1500) and we were still had over 10 miles to go.

Next sighting: dolphins playing off Phillips Reef. Ross at first thought they whales, because whales do migrate through the Turks passage at this time of year, but these were dolphins. We were still excited, because we hadn't seen dolphins since Georgetown, and always say they are good luck. Hopefully we would make Cockburn Harbour before dark.
Avalon V at Cockburn Harbour Entrance-- lit entrance between the larger islets
1700 arrival at the harbour entrance, going due west into the sun, no not this time. A large dark cloud very conveniently covered the sun, but also included a squall with 15-20 knots of wind and rain. Doesn't the wind always pick up when it is time to anchor. Despite the squall we did find the harbour, was very easy to enter. The lighted buoys have been replaced to reflect Red Right Returning, and we followed Avalon V into a good sized anchorage, and set the anchor down, just as the sun went down. A little late according to Bruce Van Sant, but safely none the less. Bev Hoisting the Turks & Caicos Flag

We celebrated with Avalon 5, opening a bottle of champagne left over from the Christmas holidays. A fitting celebration, we had now completed our first 2 night crossing, were out of Georgetown and the Bahamas, and only 110 miles north of the Dominican Republic.

One quick toast, and we returned to RAFT for a well deserved night's rest.

Saying Goodbye to Georgetown

Sunrise over Sanddollar Beach anchorage
Saying Goodbye to Georgetown
Originally uploaded by S/V Raft.

After many days anguishing over weather reports and charts, we lifted anchor from Sanddollar anchorage, Georgetown around 7am on Tues, Jan 24th. The winds were predicted to be southeast 12-15 for the day, promising a great sail to Cape Santa Maria at the north end of Long Island. There was an armada of about twenty boats exiting Elizabeth Harbour that morning. Some were heading for Thompson Bay, Long Island, others to Conception Island, but we were determined to keep going east. By 2 pm we were abeam of Cape Santa Maria, the wind had dropped to less than 10knots, on the nose, and combined with the swells and current against us, we were making no progress tacking. We had to give in and fire up the "iron genny" and motor sail toward Rum Cay. The seas were very confused and even with the engine we were only making 3-4 knots over the ground.

About 1600 we were in radio contact with Eclipse, a ketch that had left just ahead of us, and they were experiencing transmission problems and heading back to Conception Island. since it was going to be close to dark when they arrived, we relayed to the boats we knew in the anchorage to be ready for them and help them in, which they did. We heard the next day, by SSB, that they limped back into Georgetown safely, going to arrange repairs.

We really had not planned how far or long we would go for. We had decided that we would go as long as the weather, boat and our bodies would accomodate. We had never done 2 overnights together, and thought this was a great opportunity to see if we could. As opposed to an open ocean crossing, if we decided we could not continue for whatever reason, we did have island and anchorages nearby that we could go to.

We continued to talk to boats all night, by VHS and SSB as we spread out. It was reassuring for all of us to know that we were not alone, and that everyone was having difficulty making speed against the swells. We anticipated the winds to drop, but had hoped we could handle the swells better. the weather forecast predicted that the winds would come up NE 10-15, which we should have been able to sail with, so we motored/sailed east and north of Samana in anticipation. By Wed. afternoon, we had to make a decision. Chris Parker was recommending that everyone be "tucked in by Thursday evening", so where were we going to go, Mayaguana, Provo or East of the T&C. We were sailing close to Avalon V, and they were planning to go to Cockburn Harbour, South Caicos on the east side of the T&C. they had been there before, and said it was an easy entrance, good holding, customs and fuel where readily available. We checked up the writeup in Pavlidis's guide to the T&C and he certainly concurred with Avalon V.

But it was about 130 miles away, and to ensure we got their by happy hour (1600) Thursday we were going to have to do 6-7 knots. The wind should pick up and swing to the NE, and if we ran the engine with the sails and did a second overnight,we should be able to do it. And this would avoid the Sandbore Channel and the Caicos Banks, neither of which Ross was keen on doing. But we could always bail out in the morning and back to Provo or Mayaguana if we deemed it necessary.

The night passage was much better than the first. The seas had settled down, and the wind did move to the NE, so motor sailing was much more comfortable. Plus as we had been told, the second overnight is easier than the first. You do get into a routine and sleep better. In fact Thursday morning, we both felt great!! We still had to push RAFT to get into Cockburn before dark, and we were determined to do it.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Nassau back to Georgetown January 2006

Paul took an early flight on Wednesday, Jan 11 back to the states, only to have his flight from Laguardia to Toronto cancelled and had to spend the night in that airport (no hotel voucher this time because the airline blamed "weather"), before getting home to Toronto Paul says he will never fly American again. We think he had a good time. He took over 300 pictures, burnt a CD to take them home.

We spent some time in Nassau with Ed and Nancy from Solent, they were in Allans with us last year, remember that adventure. They were asking about Steelaway and La Voile au Vent, and we filled them in. One other note about Nassau, we were able to get propane by delivering our propane cylinder to the BASRA office, where the fellow takes them to the filling station on his way home and brings them back to the office the next morning. We really appreciated this service.

We knew that there was another front coming on Saturday, so we hustled out of Nassau, and made it down to Big Majors. We questioned our choice of place to weather the front, since we were the only boat in that big harbour. Everyone else had hidden in Pipe Creek, or between the Majors. We tucked up right beside Fowl cay, and put out 2 anchors (in a V) buried in sand, with 100 ft in 8 ft of water on each and waited. The forecast indicated that the front should move through quickly clocking from SW to NW. We were open to the SW and protected from the NW. The front hit Sat. afternoon, with SW clocking to W and stayed blowing 30 knots from noon Saturday until 3 am Sunday when it finally clocked to the NW. Although it was really rough, we set an anchor alarm on the electronic chart, and suffered through it. By this morning, Sunday, the winds were North, but still blowing 25, just as had been predicted. By Noon we had pulled up both anchors, and had a great down wind sail to White Point. With low tide, and the wind strength, we didn't attempt the skinny water passage to Farmers or Galliot. On the south side of White Point, we settled into this beautiful bay, all by our selves again, but with only one anchor and the winds have dropped to 10. You may ask, why we moved...The next front is supposed to be here on Wed/Thurs and Monday appeared to be the only day that looked suitable to go to Georgetown. We didn't think we had enough light to make it from Staniel, but could from here (5 miles North of Farmers).

The next day we were off to Georgetown. there we need to return flippers and a fishing spear that were lent to Paul, get water, go to the library, last minute groceries, say our goodbyes and get out of town. We have a long list of boat chores we have been putting off doing,(like all cruisers) and we will wait for a good weather window to start our trek south east.

Showing Paul the Exumas, Dec/Jan 2006

Picture: Paul and his Barracuda

It is our overall objective to head south east to the Dominican Republic, but we wanted to show Paul the fabulous islands of the Exuma chain, so we headed out of Georgetown to north Little Farmers. All the way, in the deep indigo ocean we dragged 2 lines, loaded with Ballyhoo. We had one strike off of Rat cay, and it took the back hook, and bait, but nothing for us. We continued on our way, and as Paul was bringing in the lines as we approached the cut, he said "I think I have a fish" and pulled in a 30" barracuda. Although we did not keep it, non Bahamians don't eat Barracuda due to Ciguatera Poisoning. But he still had the fun of landing it, and photo shot. Not much was open in Farmers. It seems that everyone went to Nassau for Junkanoo and holidays and probably won't be back until the New Year. (Little Farmers only has about 50 full time residents)

Next stop: Staniel Cay for New Years. We anchor just east of the Grotto, so that we are close to all the action and do the required snorkel of the Grotto and feed the fish (corn works well) Club Thunderball is finally reopened, (no mooring balls) and the music serenaded us until 330am. Saturday morning at 9am, the Bahamian boats were scheduled to race, However, as in the Bahamas, the first race didn't get going until about 11 am. They had a lottery of interested cruisers who wanted to crew on these small, about 20 ft sloops. They have a small foresail, and a long boom, allowing them to carry a huge mainsail. The crew is provided long boards to sit on, on the windward side to counterbalance the effect of the sail. Unfortunately the wind was light, so there really wasn't a lot of excitement but at least one of the cruiser crew did get dunked into the water. The marina and local bars were offering Pig Roasts and dances and Fireworks, but we spent a quiet evening on RAFT and even slept through the Fireworks.

Paul seems to be enjoying the slower pace. One afternoon, he took the dinghy and trolled with 2 lines dragging, in and out of the cut for a couple of hours, listening to his MP3 player. Didn't catch anything, but said it was fun anyway. Then he spent the rest of the day reading in the hammock, strung up on the bow of RAFT. He has read more on this trip, than he had read in the past 5 years.

We continued up the Exuma Chain, hiking the Exuma Park, snorkeling the plane at Normans and doing laundry with water from the cistern. The old resort is to be redeveloped, many construction trailers are on site to house the workers, but nothing else is happening yet. Ross did speak to the staff of McDuff's who are planning to reopen soon, and apparently one of the developers has diedÂ…. Paul wanted to see the iguanas at Allans, so we kept going north. Paul was documenting his trip with the digital camera, and he was particularly interested in all the animals he was seeing. At Allans we went through a serious front, our first bad weather since leaving Florida.

During the front, we found out that one of the solo sailors was in bad pain. He had had both knees replaced and something was very wrong, because within a few hours he could hardly move. Fortunately one of the sailors in the anchorage was a nurse, and Raquel took his blood pressure, checked his meds and figured he was dehydrated and had screwed up the dosages of some of his drugs. He wanted to return to Nassau to seek medical attention, and since we had an extra body on our boat, Bev volunteered to be crew for John, and see him safely back. He had a dock to go to in Coral Harbour, south side of New Providence, near the airport. So Paul and Ross sailed on RAFT and John and Bev sailed on Zafu. Then she caught a cab back to downtown Nassau. It felt real good to help someone out, after all the help we have received along our trip.

We were very busy in Nassau. We shopped, got water and fuel and then started to have fun. We did the bus trip to Bacardi's, those jitney buses are something else and a great way to see the real Nassau for only a buck. We missed the Bacardi tour, but we got enough samples at the bar....The next day we stopped at Potters Cay, where the local mailboats come in, for lunch. Under the bridge (to Atlantis) are all sorts of food vendors most selling from shacks, but Paul chose lunch from the lady selling out of the back of her van. Mutton, peas and rice, mac and cheese and coleslaw for $7. Nobody needed supper. Then we continued to walk over the bridge to Paridise Island where we snuck in the back entrance to Atlantis. Atlantis is quite the place, and we all enjoyed it. Paul especially liked the huge jewfish, the hammerhead shark and the waterslide, he wished he could have tried it.

Christmas in Georgetown December 2005

Picture of Island Dreaming, resting after Junkanoo

This is our second Bahamian Christmas, so we are getting accustomed to hearing Christmas carols talking about nasty cold snowy weather as we enjoy the gorgeous sand beaches, blue, blue water and the fabulous warm temperatures. Do we miss the former? Only our friends and family up north, but you soon develop a cruising family to compensate.

Our son Paul has flown in to join us. He spent all day travelling by shuttle bus, 2 planes, another shuttle bus to get from Barrie, 60 miles north of Toronto, to Miami, only to find his flight to Georgetown had been cancelled. The airline did give him a hotel and a couple of meals, and put him on the morning flight the next day. Since he will be here for over 3 weeks, the day delay isn't that bad, but if you were only coming for a short time, it would really reduce your holiday time. We had moved over to town, booked his taxi pickup and were trying to figure out how to get Paul and gear to RAFT dry, with the winds blowing 15-20. The next afternoon, when he did arrive, it was sunny and calm so the guitar stayed dry!!

His first week, the week before Christmas, was spent adjusting to Bahamian time, slowing down, for a last year university student, this wasn't difficult. We hiked Stocking Island to the monument, walked the beaches snorkelled the reefs, tried to get or even see lobster, volleyballed and beered at Volleyball beach. We spent one day sailing around Stocking Island, dragging fishing lines hoping to catch a fish. We had a couple of strikes, loosing our ballyhoo bait fish, but nothing to cook for supper. For Christmas day, there was a cruisers potluck dinner, attended by over 50, complete with live entertainment.

In Bahamas, Christmas and Junkanoo go together. Last year when we were in the Abacos we saw 3 different Junkanoos over the Christmas period. Here in Georgetown there is only one, and it happens at 4 am on Boxing Day (Dec. 26th morning). Seems like a strange time to start a street party, but it goes until dawn. Paul didn't want to go, having seen too much junkanoo last year. Ross and Bev thought about going, but when we got up at 3 am, and the wind had picked up, blowing 10-15 from the west, which put RAFT very close to Voilleyball Beach, plus the dinghy ride to town would be straight into the winds and waves, a wet ride. Also yesterday we figured out the antenna on our new handheld VHS radio was broken (it had worked poorly all fall and we didn't know why). So I decided that going to junkanoo wasn't worth the risk of the dingy trip in the dark so we went back to bed.

Dawn arrived and we discovered Island Dreaming, one of the boats that we were to go to Junkanoo with, had drifted onto the sandbar off Chat and Chill. Someone had gone to town to get them, as tide was falling. Ross and several other guys helped Bob and Jeanie set 5 anchors, with winch lines, but they had to wait for high tide in the afternoon to get off. No damage done, and by 3pm, Island Dreaming is reanchored having provided the anchorage with lots of excitement.