Friday, August 10, 2007

Bottle Creek Trip

Yeah, a parrothead, pilot, and pirate. Jimmy Schaeffer and his lovely wife (and dynamite cook) Sharon. La Gringa knew them when they managed the Meridian Club on Pine Cay some years ago. Then they bought Windmills Plantation on Salt Cay and have been in business for themselves ever since.

I can't believe I cant find a better photo of them, but I did find this one:

We just got back from running the boat over to meet the owner of the Bottle Creek Lodge, on North Caicos. We have been wanting to explore that part of the island for a long time, but have heard stories about how shallow and treacherous it is. We have been in contact with Jay, the expat owner of the Lodge there, on emails. I wrote him last winter when I found out from Andros Boatworks that he was looking at their pangas and had some questions.

Its a bit of a white knuckle run if you don't know the waters, and I don't. 46 miles round trip of mostly shallow water over coral and rock outcroppings, some of them within a foot of the surface. Then the entrance to Bottle Creek, which isn't much wider than a small boat, and maybe a foot deep at low tide. We had clunked the skeg once on coral, already, then dug up some sand getting into the inlet. Looking back at the Yammie, I noticed that it was no longer 'whizzing'. So I went to idle, and looked for a place to anchor while I checked it out. Only way to get out of the ebb current was to essentially beach it. I guess there are worse places to be stranded while you work on your outboard:

For you outboard enthusiasts, the problem was not serious. It was just that the "whizz hole"in the engine cowling was totally packed with small shell fragments. I still had to remove it to clean it out, but it was not a particularly difficult thing to do. I could have used some more tools. But every time I try to keep tools on the boat down here, they rust up to the point as to be worthless. I need a tackle box with an 0-ring seal. Maybe a Pelikan box.

(By the way, that shallow, sandy area on the left in the photo above IS the entrance to Bottle Creek.)

Good thing for me I have an automated anchor handling system on board:

(I was going to write "anchor wench" but thought about it for a second..)

While I was educating myself on the cooling system on the new outboard, La Gringa Suprema wandered off down the beach with the camera. She found this jellyfish she liked:

Once I had the motor back together, we cruised up Bottle Creek. Saw some lifeboats high and dry. Bet they have some stories to tell:

and this strange little thang:

They don't seem to mind hauling their boats right up on the rocks here. Its one of the more remote areas of the inhabited islands here. The difficulty of getting into Bottle Creek is a big part of it;

that would be a heck of a fun trip, endoman. Just work your way down the Bahamas chain. Longest ocean crossing would be getting over to Bimini. I figured out one time that the furthest you would have to be from land after Bimini would be 20 miles, halfway between Mayaguana and Providenciales. Of course you would have to go from fuel stop to fuel stop. It would be quite an adventure. I'd love to do it, myself.

This is the mouth of Bottle Creek, just hook a hard right around that rock and no matter how cautious you feel you want to be, you have to suck it up and keep it on plane. You have to S-turn, and read the water pretty quickly. Its shallow. And there are rocks. And a couple knots of tide rip.

This freighter is sitting on the reef, rusting away and breaking up. you can see what the bottom is like where we are, coral and rock. It's about 3 ft. deep at this point. It was kind of gnarly today, 20 mph winds, which is why we made the trip inside the reef. On a calm day, we would have looped outside and looked for a cut. (This guy didn't make the cut, in more ways than one.)

Here's a couple more from yesterday. It was not a good day for photos. Scudding clouds, intermittent rain squalls, and 20 mph winds kept the chop up, the water gray with wind drifts. This is a group of three small cays, called Three Marys. We crept up in the lee of them and I had hoped I could scoot between the outer two. But it was not to be. It was too shallow at low tide, even for the panga.

After protecting my new toy for over four months, with 115 hours on it, the skeg finally kissed the earth for the first time yesterday. Now, it's started to look like all the other skegs down here, shiny metal. Was just a matter of time.

You can see the shallowness, and uneven bottom a little better in this photo. I had to back off from trying to go through, and work my way back to deeper water and then out and around. We just missed that squall to the right. We didn't miss all of them, though. Then we hugged the beach most of the rest of the way down to Bottle Creek:

Three Marys Cays, from Google Earth, on a MUCH nicer day than yesterday:

The weather turned to crap yesterday, and we've had squalls and t-storms. The dog hates thunderstorms. He'll take on three dogs five times his size without a second thought. He'll jump overboard in a thousand feet of water two miles out after a full grown barracuda I threw back. He's fearless in the face of vacuum cleaners.

But let there be a flash of lightning on the horizon and he turns to jelly. I swear he's counting the seconds til the thunder arrives. He gets worried if he sees dark clouds. Lately, he's even been getting nervous if we just watch the Weather Channel.

Found out he gets some measure of comfort when he hides in a beer carton. I don't know if its an early sign he's eventually gonna need counselling, or if its just cause he heard Fidel is getting old and he is trying the Presidente label on for size. Or maybe he really believes a beer carton is thunder-proof.

In any case, its better than having to kick him off the bed all night. Did you know a Jack Russell Terrier can leap four vertical feet faster than a lightning bolt can illuminate all four corners of a room?

Headed between a rock and a hard place:

'Nuther sunset. Hopefully, this weather will break today and I can get some more pretty blue water pix. Drug out the hookah last night, and we may go out diving on the wreck site later on, that might be good for some underwater shots.

We had to boat over to the "Big Island" to get some gasoline for the diving hookah this morning. Ended up staying for breakfast, and talking to some local friends. Threw some lures in on the way over, caught a barracuda. Instead of icing him, we put him in the livewell this time. At the fuel dock we asked the guy if he wanted a barracuda, and of course he said YES!! grinning from ear to ear. So I reached in the livewell and grabbed it by the tail and flung it up onto the dock, flopping and snapping......the crowd got a kick out of it. Can't get much fresher than that.

This fish is very much alive, and starting to get in a very bad mood.

Near Malcolm Roads, the "far, remote" part of Provo. (Canute was right)
I was looking for a fossil I had found in the rock near here earlier, but the tide came in..

Couldn't get the hookah engine fired up after draining old gas and replacing it, so no diving yesterday. Could get it running by dribbling gas into the air cleaner, but none would come out of the carb bowl, duh...its gotta be varnish sticking the float valve, for one problem. So this morning I get to disassemble the carb and clean it out. Shouldn't have left gasoline in it. I was just too lazy to run it dry. That's bad in the tropics. Just goes to show you, its always something.

Here's a photo of our new house from the marina where we keep the boat. We chose the lot ( only 1 acre) because of the view, the fact that its on a dead end road, well away from town and the tourist industry, and because we could tuck a house in there and design it for hurricane winds. If I got it right, wind SHOULD run up the hill and flow over the house. We also liked it being 60 ft. above sea level. We don't sweat storm surges during a high tide. The other new house going up down on the water is nice, over 5,000 sq. ft. We were coming out of the marina in a mild blow ( 20 mph from the east,three-four ft. breaking chop hitting the shore and flying high in the air, very picturesque but I had my hands full motoring into it), and could see the salt water spray hitting their sliding glass doors, windows, etc. They also don't have the 330 degree view we have, although they are literally right on the water and that has some advantages, I suppose. I don't know, though. Living on an island, access to the water is not an issue. We tried to think it through a little deeper, I hope.

This is the waterfront down the hill right in front of our house, taken in '05 when we were looking for a location to build. Notice the rather large pieces of stone in a "high tide mark" looking heap behind La Gringa's shoulder. Those were broken off the edge of the overhanging rock at the water, and thrown back up on the land by Hurricane Donna, in 1960. Our friend, Preacher, lived on this island and was 12 years old then. He remembers it well. He said the waves went halfway up to where the road is now. We built on the other side of the road, and 15 ft. higher than the road. He built his house in the middle of the island, between two ridges. I listened.

The neighbors-to-be's new home is being built right where that green vegetation is in this photo, right up against the line of boulders, even closer to the water than the house in the photo. The storm that broke those rocks off and washed them 40 ft. inland like they were seaweed, was 47 years ago. I trust some statistics. We are due. I hope the wind and waves are from a different direction next time, for the neighbors sake.

Well, just found out that we got two son's arriving on a flight tonight at 9:00 PM, for a visit. So, looks like I get to run the boat 15 miles in the dark for the first time tonight, getting from the "big" island back out here. Better dust off my boat "instrument" rating.

Here's the route. Piece of cake, huh?

The good news? I got a high tide at around 22:00.

The bad news? I got NO moon. And since there's diddly here for lighting outside the town, it gets darker than Charlie Manson's political future.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Looks like you knew what you were talking about...from a previous post of yours "The neighbors-to-be's new home is being built right where that green vegetation is in this photo, right up against the line of boulders, even closer to the water than the house in the photo. The storm that broke those rocks off and washed them 40 ft. inland like they were seaweed, was 47 years ago. I trust some statistics. We are due. I hope the wind and waves are from a different direction next time, for the neighbors sake."

I have enjoyed reading your blog!