Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Back to Georgetown - March 2008, originally uploaded by S/V Raft.

Picture: One of Bev's dreams - a ride in the back of a pickup!!

Spent a few days waiting in Boqueron for weather. Boqueron hadn't changed much in the past two years, although the weekend we were there, the Harleys didn't show. A new marina store had opened, opposite where the vegetable/meat man was last time, whom did not open while we were there. The Peas and Rice restaurant is still there, offering cheap breakfasts and lunches, the bakery is still up by the highway, as is the only ATM. Rodrigues offers very limited groceries, but we did luck into a farm truck selling great fruits and vegs on the street by the bakery, so we were able to restock those items. Marina looked the same, but we didn't need water or fuel, so did not confirm availability. Gallaways, has free internet, if you are enjoying their food or beverages. Ross sat there all morning, slowly enjoying a couple of beers and no one hassled him.
We knew we had been having long distance problems with our VHF radio, and Paul from Vixon had determined we were having power output problems. The new marina store had one in stock, so that one has made a new home in RAFT. We didn't want to make the next passages without full VHF coverage.
Waiting for weather, created another problem. We had decided to sign up for Chris Parker's personal SSB verbal weather service last fall, so that we could get his weather expertise for our longer passages. Wouldn't you know it, the week we were planning to jump to the Turks, he was in Georgetown giving a weather seminar so not on the air. So based on our own expertise, we decided to head out expecting lighter SE winds than we would like, dead down wind, and we would be racing a cold front which might meet us there. We hauled up the anchor about noon, Sunday, sailing with Vixon. The trip went quite well, mostly sailing, some motoring until we approached the Turk's passage. In the middle of the night, the winds were up to 20+ still dead astern, and we were doing over 7 knots. Ross decided to take the longer course, around Big Sand Cay, to kill some time and arrive in Cockburn at dawn. We were very pleased that the depth sounder, which had been giving us problems since St. Croix,
decided to work as we entered the anchorage. The passage had taken us 68 hours, our longest ever, but we could have done it in 62-64 hours if we hadn't slowed down to arrive in light.
After a brief rest, Denise and Bev went to check in, having to ask several of the local people for directions. As we had experienced the last time we were there, the people as so friendly, but none of the buildings have signs indicating whether it is a business or private home. We needed to find both immigration and customs, customs had a new office since we were there last. Cost $15.00 to check in. One new thing, free wifi internet available to all the boats in the harbour.
While the women were doing the legal thing, the guys were checking out the damage to Vixon's davits and determining that a welder would be required. The locals indicated that out at the new hotel development at High Point, the job could be done. Unfortunately the only way to get there was by taxi, $50 return trip. We all went, and received a tour of the island at the same time. Saw the airport, the salt flats, the flamingos, plus spent a lot of time out at the work camp waiting for the welder to show up and do the job. The US hotel project is massive, overlooking the beautiful sand beaches and gorgeous blue water on both sides. Most of all the workers are imported from Haiti and the Dominican Republic and live on site. The morning we were there, immigration was on site extending all the workers' visas, and that was the main reason for our wait. Even the airport is being upgraded to take larger planes, in anticipation of this project bringing huge numbers of tourists to the island. We are glad we had the opportunity to see South Caicos before the world discovers it.

Picture: Flamingos in front of unfinished resorts

No matter how we planned the trip, it seemed impossible to get to Mayaguana without doing an overnight trip. Neither Vixon or us were excited about heading across the banks, especially with our lack of confidence in our depth sounder. So we decided to leave Cockburn Harbour and sail the north coast of T&C directly to Mayaguana. During the night, we had to deal with lots of current in the Caicos Channel. We experienced a north setting current on both east and west coasts of the Caicos, and a west setting current on the north coast. The combination resulted in confused seas, and the light east winds required motor sailing, preventors to hold out the main sail, and we furled in the foresail to just a small triangle.
In the morning, the seas had settled down, and the wind had completely died, so we motored the last four hours, and anchored after lunch in Abrahams Bay. We had never been here before, and were surprised how large the protected bay is and quite easy to enter. We anchored with Vixon and Excaliber who had come from Provo, too far from the reef to snorkel, and too far from the town to go visit. But Excaliber had caught a 4' Mahi Mahi on the way over, and was sharing!! What an excellent meal that was.
That night the wind did catch up with us, and blew and blew and the rain fell, so we did laundry and filled all our water tanks. Next day, we had a meeting on RAFT to discuss weather and harbours available between here and Georgetown. Neither Vixon or Excaliber wanted to do any more long trips, so wanted to stay put until the next week, when more settled weather was supposed to come. We still had 2 weeks to get to Georgetown for Brenda and Dan's arrival, but were feeling some pressure. We knew we could go now, and sail directly to GT, or hang around for the next few days, and hope that the weather would cooperate and allow the day sails. Probably the unreliability of our depth sounder, which was still working, pushed us to the decision to make our move.
We left at first light, expecting moderate winds from the stern. Timing the trip to GT was difficult. The distance to travel was about 185 miles, which at 5 knots would mean 37 hours. However, we rarely average 5 knots, especially lately, even downwind and with currents. But maybe we would be lucky and arrive into the harbour at sunset the next day, and we knew the harbour well from our previous visits.
We were doing alright for the first nine hours, averaging just under 5 knots and then as we approached Plana Cays the winds died and the sea went smooth. We had to start the engine until midnight, we had finally found wind off of Long Island. We did 106 miles in our first 24 hours, not bad for us.
Day 2, we had lots of wind, averaging over 5 knots but it was evident that we couldn't avoid another night at sea, so we spilt wind, slowing RAFT down to try to arrive at dawn. But once we rounded the north end of Long Island, we were on a beam reach, and RAFT just wanted to run. At 0400 we dropped the main, and did a 180 turn, killing time sailing with a small jib. It was a beautiful night, stars shiningÂ…didn't mind being out on the water at all. 0800 we dropped anchor in Kidd Cove, ready to assault GT.