Wednesday, May 09, 2007
The Big Jump
Rum Cay (23 37.8 N 74 51.9 W) to Provo in the Turks and Caicos (21 49.65 N 72 20.44 W) Friday 5/4 through Saturday 5/5
NOTE: Not a lot of pics due to time and computer connection restraints...more pics from Luperon!
Georgetown is called (by some) ‘Chicken Harbor’. There are a number of stories of people like us with every intention of sailing away to the Caribbean. They get as far as Georgetown and talk themselves out of it and head back north. Why?
I thought about this and it occurred to me that except for our dash to Portsmouth from Long Island, NY, nearly our entire trip so far had been in near coastal waters with the Coast Guard and NOAA weather close at hand. Even getting to the Bahamas only requires one 50 mile jump across the gulf stream and then you are again in water that is only 15 feet deep with if not the Coast Guard then BASRA (Bahamas Search and Rescue something or other. . . volunteers though) at the radio. You can sail in the protected waters of the Great Bahama Bank almost all the way to Georgetown down the west side of the Exumas. From Georgetown things get a little different. The islands to the south and east, Long, Rum, the Acklands, Mayaguana, are not on banks per se but sticking up in the middle of the kilometers deep ocean. No coast guard to save you. No BASRA. No NOAA weather any more. Plus, it is all to windward making the going typically slow. The big jump is to get from Georgetown to the Turks and Caicos. Now you have accomplished a ton of easting and are nearly due north of the Dominican Republic.
Well we didn’t chicken out. After waiting 3 weeks in Georgetown we then, as you have read perhaps, made it as far as Rum Cay. You could chicken out here as well as you are still only a day from Georgetown. In Rum Cay we waited 4-5 days for favorable weather. In that time a number of other boats showed up from Georgetown also waiting for a window south. On Friday we finally got that window. Wind was to be non-existent (usually it’s 20 knots from the south east) or turn and run a little light from the north. Perfect! We were the first ones out of the anchorage at first light. 5 more boats came spilling out in the next couple of hours and we all kept in communication occasionally on the VHF radio. This weather would make it possible to make a long run all the way to Mayaguana 120 miles to the south east.
The seas were still pretty rolly in the morning and we went at it with motor and main making around 4.5 knots. We raised the main once we were out away from the shoals and once again learned the same lesson. Raise the main in the flat water, not the rolling seas. We got the main halyard caught around the mast steps not once or twice but yes THREE times. Each time Scott had to undo the shackle from the sail, walk the halyard back through the lazy jack lines and whip the line free of the steps. Then rethread the line, climb back up the mast half way to the spreaders to put the halyard back on the sail. Hanging on for dear life as we rolled in the ocean swells. The third time Sue left the helm to hold the bitter end so that the halyard wouldn’t get caught again. Maybe this time we really learned our lesson. Maybe Sue should climb the mast (at a calm anchorage) and put lines through the outer edges of the steps to prevent this halyard hang up from happening. We finally got the sail up and back on course.
As the day wore on the seas settled down and the promised north wind came around. From mid afternoon into the late night we pure sailed the Atlantic Ocean. No land in sight. Nearly full moon came up around 9:00 p.m. We ended up being very close with Puddle Jumper and GeWill for most of the night. Not much talk but it is a comfort to look over and see a friendly set of running lights. What can I say. . . I’m sailing my own boat in kilometer deep water heading for another country. Making good speed and just the sound of the water slipping under the hull. Life is sometimes extra good. Wind pooped out around midnight and the sails needed a little mechanical help which we gave them.
We arrived at the southwest tip of Mayaguana around sun up. Well, that makes sense. . . 120 miles and we try to maintain 5 knots makes it 24 hours. Weather still looks good so why stop? We and others decide to press on and make the 50+ miles more south and east to Turks and Caicos. Hey...That’s a new country! Turks and Caicos is run by Great Britain. Once in those waters and after we check in we can fly our Union Jack courtesy flag. Just like Hornblower!
We can just maybe motorsail in today’s wind but it is pretty close to the nose. The bigger question is whether to enter the Sandbore Channel once we reach Providenciales (the big island of the Caicos usually called ‘Provo’ for obvious pronunciation reasons) or to anchor out along the western shore and wait until tomorrow to go inside. After discussions with others on our trail we decide to anchor out. We’ll do nothing once we arrive wherever today. The Sandbore Channel is not a huge challenge but there are shallows and coral heads to pay attention to. AND it is another 9 miles before you get to the anchorage at Sapodilla Bay. I don’t want to negotiate all that at the tail end of a 36 hour sail with no more than 2 hours sleep at any one time. Did I mention that we have to hand steer? Yeah, auto pilot went out and I sold if for parts months ago.
On our way to Provo we hear GeWill get on the VHF to announce that he had just caught a 9 foot Blue Marlin on his sailboat! He was still really excited. They took some pictures and then released it. That was on the tail end of HIS 36 hour sail as well! Wow.
We made the anchorage by what used to be called ‘The Tiki Huts’. These were left over from now defunct British TV game show (no kidding). Now in their place there seems to be a beautiful and what looks to be very exclusive resort. Oh well, no one owns the water. We anchor right in front after finding a sandy patch for the anchor amongst the rock and coral. Bellagio, a 42 foot Endeavour, followed us in about an hour later.
We’re very happy and excited. We sailed a total of 180 miles in about 36 hours. Sue and I take turns steering in two hour shifts and then switch to 3 hour shifts from 6 pm to 6 am. We’re tired but not totally beat. We had some left overs for dinner and a glass (or two) of rum to celebrate our crossing and the very nice sun set. Tomorrow we’ll go into Sapodillo Bay late morning and re-join Puddle Jumper and GeWill.
On Sunday, 5/6, we did just that and rejoined the fleet. Much celebrating ensued. . . ok too much maybe but we’re all so happy and excited. We all met on Puddle Jumper as they have the huge deck being a catamaran. We had us, Llyod & Val (Puddle Jumper), Kerry & Kathy (Bellagio), Bob and Bobby (Callisto), and Gene & Wilma (GeWill). What at silly bunch of people! I commented that we’re like a bunch of kids left home alone for the weekend. We stay up late if we want, we eat brownies for dinner if we want, wash them down with rum if we want, we shower if we want and sleep in . . . always!
On Monday we checked in with Customs. Only the captain can go ashore for this. Kerry, Gene, Llyod, and I all went in together in Gene’s dingy. Checking in was no problem and only $15. You can stay for a week without contacting immigration and we won’t be here that long we don’t think. There’s nothing around here. Town is about 7 miles from here to get anything. So, tomorrow we plan to rent a van and split it 4 ways. Then we can use the van to tote water and diesel to prepare the fleet for a Thursday or Friday departure. This is easier than trying to get the big boats into a marina for fuel here. The route from here to Luperon, Dominican Republic, is done in three hops. From Sapodilla Bay we cross the banks to either Long Island off of the coast of East Caicos, or a pair of little islands called 6 hills (three each). Next day we leave the banks and get back into the ocean for a run to Sand Cay. This is supposed to have a very nice long beach that we’ll anchor off of. From there we will be staged for about an 80 mile run to Luperon nearly due south. We hope that the easterly trades can be our friend for a change for this run.
Well, when I (Sue) found out that Kerry cuts Kathy’s hair I immediately asked if he would cut mine. Sure, he said....how about tomorrow? I slept on the idea for a couple of days and then on Monday finally agreed to the deed. Not sure why my hair has decided to get curly at this old age (perhaps the climate) but it has and I was kind of getting used to them. However, the longer it gets, the hotter it is and I have no patience to wait until it’s long enough to put up so........off it comes. And I am sooooooo very happy. People may not recognize me but my head is much lighter AND I think I’ve developed some superpowers. By the way, the hair on my back vanished once I jumped into the ocean. Whew!