"Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing—absolute nothing—half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats."
(from "The Wind in the Willows" by Kenneth Grahame)
I've used that old quote in an early blog post back in '08. But it still fit when we decided to go messing around in a small boat again this past week. I'm pretty sure this isn't going to surprise anyone. We've been messing around in boats of one sort of another for quite a while now. A lifetime, really. We actually did have a purpose in taking the RIB (Rigid Inflatable Boat) out for a ride. I've been doing some work on this old outboard motor and wanted to give it a good workout. To get an idea of how reliable it is. I wanted to run it for several hours simply to see if it will run for several hours. This is a good thing to know about a boat. One treats boats that will run happily for hours differently than one does those little monsters that stop running when they feel like it. The ones that turn on you viciously. We needed to know which type ours might be. That's the excuse for the trip in any case.
We don't really need a purpose to go for a boat ride. If you've read much of this blog you already know we're pretty well inclined to hop on a boat at the slightest excuse. We'll even accept flimsy excuses. Sometimes we'll even accept flimsy boats. What we do not want to end up with is a flimsy excuse for a boat. Two flimsies together at the same time is bad juju.
We've zipped around locally in this RIB a few times. Mostly we stayed within rowing distance of the marina. Short rowing distance, because these things row like badly designed air mattresses to begin with. Well, maybe not quite that bad, but bad enough that rowing one is a last resort. So this time we thought we were due to see just how reliable the old Mercury two stroke might be.
We set out from South Side Marina without much of a destination in mind. If the engine sounded strong I thought we might make it all the way to Bay Cay, or perhaps even South Dock. We actually made it a lot further than that. We took it out to Turtle Rock. Here's the approximate path we took marked by a light blue broken line. I forgot to mark the location of the old wreck in the Cooper Jack Bight. But you can see the squiggle where we diverted from a direct path across.
We didn't start taking photos until we were out by the old wreck where we had sailed the Hobie Tandem Island a few years ago. We swooshed by it to see how the steel had fared during Hurricane Joachim a few months ago. We could tell immediately that a lot more of it has collapsed since we were last here.
I'll apologize for the photo quality right up front here. I didn't bring the better camera because the better camera is not waterproof. We also were dealing with one of those days with varying light quality as there were storms passing by and some of the clouds really darkened things up. But if you want to compare this old wreck with what it looked like just a couple years back, here are some other photos from a previous post. The wreck is the third one in that post.
The engine was running fairly well, and we continued onward. We headed over to see how the old wreck of the M/V Serenade was faring. You can find plenty of previous photos of this wreck in the same post I linked to in the previous paragraph. At this point we were pretty much following the same path as before.
We didn't go into the beach to look at the wreck this time. One reason is that it was low tide, and the rocks between these little islets are sharp and treacherous. We're in a rubber boat, remember. Without a patch kit, or even a roll of duct tape. And we were on a mission. And we were concerned about the weather. And two of us didn't feel like it.
The cloud cover was intermittent, and we did get some nice periods of sun. I think you can tell by the water color whether we were under cloud or not. When not, it looks more like this:
We zoomed out away from the shoreline to go around those islands. A lot of the water between them and the beach is dangerous for boats. Shallow and rocky in places. The motor was still running well and we decided to just push on a bit further.
We did skirt along the southern edge of the several small cays here. We decided to just take a lot of photos for no discernible reason other than to show you. We've gotten a few emails lately from people up in the northern USA and Canada and the feeling we get from them is that some people like to look at the water and islands here in February. We do, for example. One of the reasons we live here in the first place, come to think of it.
Anyhow, we just cruised along snapping photos. I think we must have a couple hundred of them from this trip in total. I've selected a few dozen of them, and have broken them up into two blog posts so you don't have to wade through all of them at once. Stretch it out a bit. Doing what we can for the snow-bound tropical daydreamers. We well know the feeling.
That little rock in the foreground is the reason we don't scoot along at full speed closer to these islands. There are a lot of those around, and they'll rip a boat up pretty well if you hit them at 20 mph.
Just another winter day south of Providenciales.
This is the Turks and Caicos Government's radar installation. That tower in the photo has a fairly new radar system at the top, and people man the display and the radios there 24 hours a day. Their primary function is immigration control. They try to spot illegal boats approaching Providenciales. When they see a boat they try to contact it on VHF radio. If they can satisfy themselves that the radar target is a legitimate vessel, they allow it to continue to approach the island. If the boat doesn't answer the VHF calls and looks suspicious they will vector one of the Marine Police boats over to take a look.
Quite often the radar target is another one of these Haitian sloops, like this one recently intercepted out on the Caicos Bank. This one has been lifted up onto the shore at South Dock. This is the major port of entry for commercial vessels and shipped goods entering the country.
This is not a shipwreck. Yes, I realize that it might appear to be a derelict to the untrained eye, but the truth is that it just needs a decent coat of fresh paint. We didn't notice a lot of activity on board, so it might be awaiting some kind of government action. I know there have been several instances of lobster poachers from the Dominican Republic getting caught in TCI waters lately. I'm not saying that this is one of them, but this is where they would be brought if they were. We tend to hear the names of the most common commercial boats in the area on our radio, as we have it on 24 hours a day. We don't remember the "Randy B".
Now the thing on the beach in the left side of this photo is a wreck. No doubt about it. Sitting on the beach open and rusting is a pretty good giveaway. This is also within the South Dock Customs and Immigration complex. It's not a marina for pleasure boaters to tie up in to sip Mai Tai's or Rum Punches.
When we spotted those two other RIBs pulled up on the beach in this photo we knew there was a high likelihood that there were cruisers anchored around the next point in Sapodilla Bay. It's common to bring the dinghy in to South Dock to clear Customs and Immigration. So we decided to continue our trip further westward to find out what kinds of boats were on the hook in the Sapodilla Bay anchorage.
This is not one of them. "I'll bet you figured that out already, didn't you?", says Captain Obvious.
This wreck has been here for some years now, and isn't really falling apart yet. Well built steel hulls tend to mess up the scenery for years before slowly falling apart and slipping underwater to become hazards to navigation. Sadly, this little country just doesn't have the resources to clean these messes up. So they become local landmarks, artificial reefs, and the subjects of many photographs. Like these. We went between the old wreck and the shore to get some more pretty-water photos for you.
This is what that upside down wreck looks like from shore.
And this is pretty much what the shore looks like from near the upside down wreck.
After rounding the point we quickly saw the anchored cruisers who had sent their dinghy's to South Dock for Customs and Immigration clearance. There were two monohulls and a motor yacht on the hook in the outer, deeper part of the anchorage. This kind of sailboat typically needs 4-6 ft. of water under the keel to be safe.
You might not be able to make it out in this photo, but the tip of another cruiser's mast is just visible over the left side of the rocks here.
That little gazebo is a nice looking place for someone to watch sunrises, sunsets, stars, boats, waves, clouds, birds.... whatever one might want to watch. We snapped a couple more photos as we rounded that point.
I know I'm probably pushing it, but hey, I figure there's someone out there somewhere who will like the tropical scenery, and won't mind seeing it from different angles. Or not. Personally, I think it's scenic.
We continued onwards around the point into Sapodilla Bay. We already knew that if there was another sailboat in the anchorage that far in, that it was probably a multihull. Catamarans typically draw less water than deep-keeled monohulls. They can anchor closer to the beach, in more protected water.
Kind of like this one, the third sailboat at the Sapodilla Bay anchorage that day. A Lagoon catamaran riding comfortably on the hook in about 4-5 feet of protected water.
We weren't really doing much in the way of sightseeing, much to the dog's disgust. The outboard was running sweet and clear and we wanted to push on. There were cloud banks approaching from the distant north and we knew we might have to cut the trip short at some point to seek shelter.
This is looking across towards the western edge of Sapodilla. This is actually from a spot where we may be anchoring our sailboat sometimes in the near future as we head out on some new adventures. Soon.
We continued on along the beach of Sapodilla, and rounded another point. This one has one of La Gringa's favorite beach houses on it. Except, well, there's no beach here. And 'shore house' just doesn't sound right for some reason. Nice place, though.
Rounding that point brought us into Taylor Bay. This is a smaller and less crowded version of Sapodilla. Many of the houses and villas along these beaches are available for holiday rentals, and these are some of the nicest, safest beaches on the island. These are great places for families with small children, or really anyone that doesn't want to get slapped around by waves. These are gentle, sand beaches that stay shallow well out into the bay. That power boat anchored there is in water just slightly over knee deep. We saw people walking around it.
See the line of clouds approaching from the north in that photo of Taylor Bay? We figured we might have another hour or so in this general vicinity before the clouds and possibly squalls arrived. We had no real reasons to hang around Taylor Bay, for we had promises to keep...
This is the western sidee of Taylor Bay. Not much development on this part of it. Makes for a really nice protected beach, too.
I could tell that Dooley the Demented had beachcombing on his little mind. Or something.
We looked out toward West Caicos to the Southwest and could just see the speck of Turtle Rock out there. We decided to make a run out to it before turning around and heading back home to South Side Marina. Turtle Rock is the little speck just to the left of middle in this photo.
And a few minutes a full throttle brought it all more into focus.
We came out here in our skiff some years back. It was August of 2011 and the weather was perfect and the photos came out much nicer. Here's a post with better photos of Turtle Rock.
Seeing this cave half way up the face of this rock reminded me of my intention to come out here some day, climb up the 3 meter rock face and see what's inside. I still plan to do that. It will have to be another time, though, as I didn't bring the shoes I would want to wear to climb this rock.
This was the westward extent of our little RIB trip, so we circled the rock to get a few photos before heading back. I don't know if you will be able to see the underwater ridge that extends from near the rock almost back to where we were sitting with the camera, but several spots between here and the rock have obstructions within a hand's width of the surface. The darker patches are the broken off rock ledge.
I stuck a little arrow on this one, to show you one particularly dangerous little bit of limestone.
Well I don't know that 'little' is accurate there. The whole piece of rock is the size of a small RV. It sticks up to within six inches of the surface. I'm sure more than one boat has collected a scar from this one over the years.
This is the west end of Turtle Rock, where we anchored and swam on our previous visit four and a half years ago. I am astonished that it's been that long. We need to get out more.
Well, this is it for this first batch of photos. I have a couple dozen more we took on the way back to South Side Marina. We stopped and let the dog run up and down the beach for an hour or so. I'll go ahead and post these now, and then upload the rest of them in the next few days.
Things are picking up at the marina. It's full for the first time this season. The bad weather in the Bahamas has taken a break, and the more adventurous cruisers are starting to show up on their way south. Life is getting a little more interesting. More to follow.