It's taken a while to get through all the photos we snapped during this year's Valentine's Day Cup. That's the model sloop races on Middle Caicos. With two cameras going these days, we really stack up some images. We're only posting about a third of them here. This annual event is always good for a lot of nice colorful photos this time of year. Some of our readers living further from the equator have had a fairly insistent winter. Maybe looking at some tropical sunshine photos will help. We hope that it does. We well remember winter.
First, this is a photo taken just after sunrise a few days ago. I thought it had a certain buckle to its swash, or something. Of course I'm always a sucker for a nice blow boat photo. Sailing with the dawn. Headed roughly south. Always makes me think about the experiences and adventures they are headed for next.
This year we once again bummed a ride over to North Caicos with Preacher Stubbs on his boat "Cay Lime" for the Valentine's Day Cup. I think there were about seven of us that rode over. At least. This year Preacher's nephew Tyrese rode along with us. I think you can tell he's pretty blase' about boat rides. I'm thinking he's logged a few hours on his Uncle Preacher's.
No these are not stranded boaters trying to flag us down. They are people vacationing on Pine Cay. This shallow sand bar area is called Sand Dollar Point. It's a good place to find shells at low tide. We come here to find Christmas stump decorations from time to time. Of course Preacher had to cut between the sand bar and the beach. Of course.
As we zipped up by Ft. George Cay we saw that someone has set out a nice tent and seating on the beach. Maybe a wedding? This is a popular place, only a short boat ride from Leeward. The ruins of the old Loyalist Fort George are under that mound of trees in the background.
We arrived intact and Preacher and his brother Hammer tied Cay Lime up at the Sandy Point marina. Here they were lifting Preacher's model sloop out of the boat.
I know most people won't think much about this boat photo below, but the "panga" fans out there will recognize it. You know who you are.
Once again we loaded up into Froggy's pickup truck at Sandy Point and headed out for about an hour's drive down to Bambarra Beach on Middle Caicos. Hammer, La Gringa, Dooley the Delighted and I got to ride in the back. I was about ready for a pickup truck bed ride...
And of course Dooley the Delinquent is always up for some trucking down a highway..
When we got to Bambarra about sixteen thousand potholes later, we found that a sizeable number of people were already there and setting up for the day. We always see a lot of familiar faces here.
This is the traditional style sloop Preacher brought over for the big boat class, sitting on the Casuarinas needles:
We could tell right away that this event is still growing and is a bit bigger than it was last year. There were quite a few model sloops in all three size classes sitting up and down the beach:
I doubt that any two of them are identical. All are hand made. And while the general layouts appear almost identical at a casual glance..... upon closer inspection the individual touches of each builder become evident.
These are traditional model sloops, the way they have been built here for generations. They almost all use the 'weatherboard' method of keeping the boat upright. That's the outrigger looking board sticking out away from the main boat. They get swapped to the upwind, or 'weather' side of the boat on every tack across the wind.
The rigging, sails, and paint vary from boat to boat. Every keel seems different. The rudders are different designs. The mainsheets and tillers are rigged in a variety of ways.
A lot of hours has gone into some of these sailing models. A few of the more modern designs use ballast in the bottom of the boat instead of a weatherboard.
Scattered up and down the beach were an assortment of boat builders making last minute trim adjustments and minor repairs. This is serious stuff, ya know. At least at this point, it still is.
There are three classes of boats racing. They all compete by size. And there is a big range of racers, in boat size, captain size, and age.
Here's a look down Bambarra Beach before the main spectator "crowd" arrived. Notice that scruffy looking little Jack Russell Terrier in the bottom left corner of that photo? That's Dewey. He belongs with Art Pickering, who runs one of the long time major dive boat operations here. In the photo, Dewey was staring at Dooley the Detained. The two of them were together for a short while last year at this same function. I have found it's not a good idea to let Dooley the Doofus run around in a crowd of people unrestrained, in the company of another Jack Russell. There seems to be some friendly, running joke between them having to do with territorial markings. Lets just say I don't need another case of Dooley auditioning for Piddler on the Hoof....
Most people made their way over in some similar manner to our own. A few of the locals living on this side of the island can come over by boat:
This is Mike, a full-size trimaran builder and sailor. Mike's well known on Providenciales as a fine welder and fabricator of aluminum and stainless steel. After I saw how his model boat, The Banana, was sailing I was almost sure it would be the winner. He needs a tether to keep it from sailing away from him.
People were trying out the boats, adjusting sails for the wind conditions. Enjoying the day.
We didn't count how many boats were there this year. Or people. If I had to guess as to the crowd I would think maybe 300 or so. It's come a long way since we first came here by splitting the cost of a flight to the airstrip and then walking and hitch hiking. There were only about a dozen boats that year. Whatever year that was.
Dooley the Disgusted doesn't believe he should be restrained at a beach. It seems to offend something he thinks is a dog's by right. But in a crowd like this, with all the goodies being consumed, if we relied upon Dooley's self-restraint when offered something to eat... well... we would have to airlift him out of here.
The man in the straw hat blows the conch shell trumpet and the first race is started:
The course is from a stretch of beach out around a small buoy and back to the beach. First boat to get back to the sand wins. Simple. The sailors can run alongside and make nudging adjustments to sail and rudder as needed.
This section of Middle Caicos is ideal for this. There are a few very small cays, or islets, just off the beach here. They protect this area from the swells that get over the reef. And the result is a nice shallow, sheltered sand bar extending all the way from the cay to the beach.
You can see what Pelican Cay and the reef beyond look like in this telephoto image La Gringa took of Brodie and Daniel setting the race buoy for the larger sloops. It's knee deep for most of the way.
I'd show you the Google Earth image, but the data for this area is ancient and not very good to begin with.
As you might expect, on a sunny mid-winter Saturday like this, the beach was busy with all kinds of kids:
To tempt the racers, a table was covered with nice shiny trophies for first, second and third place in each of the three events.
There were some serious competitors and some colorful combinations:
We usually get to Bambarra early enough to grab our favorite spot at the far end of the beach. This spot works well under normal trade wind conditions. Shade, breeze, out of the traffic and a great view. We were watching Hammer trying to trim up Preacher's boat when we became aware that he was having some problems keeping it upright. We found out that in the rush to get out the door this morning, Preacher had forgotten some lead ballast weights for his weatherboard.
They were able to get the boat to float upright by lashing a rock to the weatherboard. It didn't do much for the drag, but it was workable. Then it was discovered that the rudder that got grabbed in the rush was for another boat. It was not working at all on this larger one. A rock for ballast was workable. But even the great boatman Preacher was not able to conjure up a new rudder an hour before the race. To his great disappointment, he was unable to compete this time around and had to pack it up. At least he can still say it's undefeated!!
Meanwhile, an increasing audience watched while the middle class race was run.
By now it was past mid day and the picnic coolers were out in force. Vendors were also selling a variety of freshly prepared foods from stalls along the beach.
This year we saw a radio-controlled boat sailing around for the first time. I was wondering when that might happen. Of course he had nobody in the same class to compete with, so he was only sailing for fun. But we could tell that this new toy was definitely generating some interest. I know there are a few people in the Turks and Caicos Islands with some radio controlled experience, including us. Maybe someday a new class might emerge. I could see an open class with any sail technology allowed.
It wasn't just beach nuts, picnic fanatics, model boat enthusiasts, bloggers and photographers here. This event is actually starting to attract real artists.
And speaking of real artists... (did you catch that segue?) we were pleasantly entertained by the well known local artist Lovey Forbes and his own brand of mellow reggae.
If you'd like to see and hear Lovey performing, along with some great video of the Turks and Caicos Islands, check out his video.
In addition to the food and beverages that vendors were offering there was a good selection of t-shirts and hats this year.
The Valentine's Day Cup logo is getting pretty well-known around the islands these days. Imagine a micro version of the Martha's Vineyard Black Dog t-shirts. Except these are a lot more rare.
Some guys were able to ignore the hubbub and excitement and stay concentrated on the reason for being here......the boats:
I know I wrote reason. I might have meant to say justification. After all these years I still get those two mixed up from time to time.
Finally we were getting close to the final event, the big boat class. This is always a tricky thing for us, timing-wise. In order for us to make it back to Providenciales by dark we need to be leaving Bambarra Beach around 3:00 in the afternoon. With the tendencies of schedules to get pretty loose on sunny beach afternoons, there have been a couple of years when we had to leave before the last race was run. This year it was organized just right.
I found a piece of bamboo washed up on the beach. With one end stuck in the sand it made a good snubber. I wanted to keep Dooley the Delinquent from digging divots and dashing determinedly downhill during his dreaded doggie demolition derbys. All it takes is another dog coming too close. Sometimes he acts like a grouchy little old man. And he would mug a toddler for a piece of anything edible, if we let him. Oh, he'd be all waggy-tail and gentle about it. But he'd end up with the candy. I'm sure he doesn't see it that way.
If you noticed a dredlocked local in a red t-shirt roaming throughout these photos, that's Danny... excuse me, I meant Daniel Forbes of Middle Caicos.
He runs a nice little restaurant just down the road a bit, called Daniel's Cafe. It's worth the trip.
Eventually the day rolled around to the final race, the big boats. There were some serious contenders this year.
And after it was all over, the winner was the gaff rigged sloop, Little Blue.
This boat was entered by Mark Parish and the guys from the local dive and eco-tourism business Big Blue. That's a real good link to have if you intend to visit here one of these days, too. Check it out. Good people. Fun stuff to do.
And we were talking with Mark about small sailboats, of all things. He had asked us about the new Hobie and whether it would be a good boat to put in a rental program. Big Blue rents kayaks and organizes tours, already. We don't think the Tandem Island is a good boat for a rental. Too many parts to break or lose. We suggested something like the Sunfish might make a good rental boat that everyone is familiar with. Easy to sail. If enough people show an interest, Mark would be glad to add a few to Big Blue's rental fleet at Leeward-Going-Through.
Well, by this time we were packing up to start the long trip back to Provo. A one hour pickup truck ride, then another half hour or more of boat ride, then a half hour in the Land Rover. It makes for a full day.
First we had to wait for Hammer to finish up his on-camera video interview for the local television broadcast station. I'm not sure what he had to say about a boat that didn't compete. But I bet he came up with something good. He's Hammer.
About half way through the beating that passes for the truck portion of the trip, we try to stop for a break alongside the old ferry dock on North Caicos. This time there was a boat pulled up. I thought it must have been wrecked there, but was assured that it's probably still being used.
I dunno. Looks pretty rough to me. Think this would get an inspection sticker from the USCG?
La Gringa, Tyrese and Dooley the Dreadnaught figured all it needed was bailing out and it was ready to go.
When we had a volunteer skipper, I knew it was probably time to get some of our party out of the sun for a while.
We picked up a couple more riders on the way back to Provo. Usually the word that a boat is leaving is enough to generate some interest in a ride home. I am pretty sure I can see glimpses of nine people on board Cay Lime in this photo:
And that's not counting the dog.
We did make it back in plenty of time before nightfall. This looks like a fairly peaceful, smooth ride in a still photos, doesn't it?
And it is, by local standards. But what you don't get in the still photo is the sense of speed and wind. By the time I thought to take a video we were over the fun parts, but this will still give you an idea:
I know this post has a lot of photos, so I've tried to keep the word count under control. I'm not going to tack on a bunch of my little DIY projects this time, either. We have enough of those coming down the pike, as well as a new skiff supposedly on its way down from the USA. Well, not a new one, exactly, but one that's not too used, yet. We plan to do that to it.
In the meantime I thought I would close with La Gringa's sunset image from about a week or so back.
I can't believe how close the cranes at South Dock look through a telephoto lens. We spent about a week sailing back from there last Sunday...crashing waves, howling wind, nervous dog...but that's a post for another day.