Tuesday, September 18, 2007

North Caicos fishing trip, cottage pond

We hadn't been fishing in a couple days, so we decided to get a few hours in this morning. The fishing has been pretty flat. We had some good bites day before yesterday, but haven't really caught anything lately worth mentioning. We both have work to get done, so we decided to head out not long after sunrise.

Its really nice here this time of year. There are very few people around. I think there were four humans and one dog on this 800 acre island all weekend. We didn't run across either of the other two.

And the little marina is empty, except for our Andros, and the water was really calm at dawn. Its like having a really sweet hunk of the world all to yourself for awhile.

We trolled around for several hours, and the only things we really accomplished was feeding a couple ballyhoo to some barracuda that we didn't get to keep. However, we did get joined at one point by a pod of about six or eight small bottle nose dolphins. They came over to the boat, and were body surfing on the bow wave.

We finally had to head in just before lunch, the weather started doing it's normal thing for this time of year. The dog insisted we had "stayed a little too long at the prom", and were pushing our luck. I think he was exaggerating, but still, it was a good time to head home. Lightning on the water still makes me nervous, too. Although not as nervous as it makes the dog.

(Now, you gotta imagine both these little panos together in the middle. I couldn't get them to match up. This is actually four photos, but I discovered that panos don't work well when the series of pix are taken from a moving platform.... all the object relationships, angles, and distances are constantly changing from scene to scene,and just don't match up smoothly. duh... Well, now I know. Gotta learn, somehow)

But I hope that's enough for you to visualize this squall that was chasing us.
The dog is now sleeping in his favorite Presidente Beer Hurricane Shelter carton. It's a good indication of his concern when he sleeps with the storm flap down.

(This is bizarre. I just spent about a half an hour writing a post for this thread, and when I got near the end, it vanished. I don't know what keys I must have hit, but its gone. After I quickly try to recreate it, you will see why I think its bizarre.) Here goes, again:

Yesterday we got skunked fishing for just the second time since we launched our boat back in April of this year. We fish a fair bit. Yesterday morning we had two of our best and proven lures, tattered and scarred from all the times they have been hit. We had ballyhoo, we trolled deep, we trolled shallow. Nothing.

We were in an area where the fishing should have been good. Just off the northernmost part of these islands, where the local waters meet the expanse of the Atlantic ocean. Africa four thousand miles thataway. After we had reached our max distance and started home, we passed the very visible old freighter wreck off Pumpkin Bluff, North Caicos:

(note the distance photos don't blow up very well with this little camera. Sorry)

I blew up the chart on the GPS at this point, to see if there was any info, and was surprised to see that there is another wreck marked just off of this one, in deeper water. I have asked the locals about this old boat, and have only found out that they don't go there. They tell me it's got a lot of sharks around it. They tend to talk of things in terms of fishing, and not so much about history or other aspects.
Here's a Google Earth shot of it, with the lat/long on the bottom if you want to look for yourself. He had no chance of clearing, with that draft, through that false cut. I wonder what circumstances drove him to try. Most likely a storm. One of these days when its calm we will take the Andros panga in and see if we can get a name.

As we continued on our way home, I looked back at another spot on the beach, within sight of the wreck, called the Prospect of Whitby Resort. We had driven to this spot last year when showing some friends from the Bahamas around. Its a beautiful spot for a private resort. A great private beach. Tall Casuarinas trees whispering in the trade winds. I found a travel writeup on the resort as recent as five years ago.
But today, its in ruins. Deserted. The windows of the cabins are broken, the rooms ransacked, the pool cracked and filthy. The breeze moves around old magazines and receipts through the deserted lobby. I had to ask myself WHY would a nice resort in such a beautiful location fail? We have heard rumors of drug deals, money laundering, etc. But the truth is we don't know. I do know the receipts are in Italian.

I snapped a photo of the beach there last month on our trip back from Bottle Creek:

You can see the remains of the boat dock on the right, some ruined beach cabanas falling down on the left. The hotel itself is now hidden from view by the overgrown brush and casuarinas trees that have flourished with nobody to keep them trimmed.

Here's a GE image of the resort at Whitby. Judging by this photo I think the image is at least two years old. It was much worse last time we were there.

Just a bit further down the beach from the wreck and the ruined older hotel, there sits a new venture, the Royal Reef project. This is a modern, resort and condo being built between Pumpkin Bluff, and not far from the highly successful Parrot Cay resort ( where Bruce Willis, Donna Karan, Michael Douglas, and Keith Richards all have vacation homes, among others):

You can see, it's not finished. There were some financial problems, and we read in the papers that the developer owed the contractor over a million and a half, and after negotiating for months, the contractor finally cut his losses, packed up and took his crew out to work on the new resort going up on Ambergris Cay. The Royal Reef, as of yesterday morning, sits growing weeds, deserted.

When we were researching the TCI prior to moving here, I came across reference to a small freshwater lake on North Caicos called Cottage Pond. It's very small, only a couple hundred feet across. Theres nothing around it, and its on the end of a short dead-end road.
It's about two miles due south of the Prospect of Whitby resort. It's also about two miles from the Royal Reef.

In my reading about it, I found references to reports that years ago the locals considered it "bottomless". They are not used to lakes where they cannot reach the bottom. I found at least two references to the "legendary mermaid of Cottage Pond". I also found, to my surprise, that a local friend of ours ( Mark of Big Blue Diving) had participated in a technical diving expedition to find out what was in it.
Cottage Pond is over 250 ft. deep. The divers talked about finding tunnels in the sides of it that they think connect to the open sea. They passed through murky fresh water into crystal clear seawater 75 ft. down. They laughingly refer to strange sensations, and disorientation during the dive. Now, I am a diver myself, for about 42 years now. I KNOW there are always logical and physiological explanations for strange feelings. Always, right?

The white line I drew south of the pond is 180 ft. long. The pond is 255 ft deep.
Its a steep cone in the island. And its over two miles from the nearest ocean, which is surrounded by reef. Where do these tunnels connect to this seamount??

(Mark wrote up the dive, and for those interested in this kind of stuff, its a good short read. Please note the references I mentioned, though:
http://www.caicoscaves.com/cottage_pond.htm )

So, yesterday morning, after a total failure of a fishing trip, I was thinking about all this. And for some reason, our location seemed a bit coincidental. If you erected a small tower on the shore at Cottage Pond so that you could see the horizon, and if you gazed straight ahead even further into the heart of the Devil's Triangle you would be able to see the snakebit Royal Reef on your left. You would see the ruined Prospect at Whitby hotel on your right. And you would be looking straight ahead at the freighter disaster. And you would see them all without moving your head.

It occured to me that people sure seem to have a lot of bad luck when they get between this pond and the middle of the Triangle, and I ain't just talking about our fishing. Coincidences are a funny thing sometimes, aren't they.

(Like, when I wrote this the first time a little while ago, suddenly the whole post disappeared, and I still don't know why. Are my posts THAT bad?)

(Lucky for you, I just realized that this re-write is a lot shorter than the original)

I was searching for some photos online of that shipwreck. I have been thinking about it, but more specifically, about the other sunken wreck marked on the Garmin Bluechart, which is shown behind this one. This one is linked on Google Earth, a really nice aerial, I went to the original. Loaded it up into Paintshop, and cut the haze and sharpened it a little. I think I can make out the site of the other wreck below the surface, and I can see how we can take our little boat out and around, and come up alongside this one.

I can only wonder what the Captain was doing when he grounded here. I am thinking it was intentional, because there is no way he would have thought he could pass between the reef and the shore at this point. There has never been a channel there. Maybe he was just trying to save the crew and the cargo. I'll see what I can find out.

You can see why we will have to pick our days to get in there, I think. And I want to dive on the other wreck, the one you can't see from the surface. The locals talk of sharks does concern me a little. We have tiger and bull sharks here, and they bear some respect.
One more thing on the list of places to investigate a little deeper...(pun intended).

I see on the sat views the East Coast of the US is getting weather today. Good thing Ingrid broke up when it did.
We are trying to put together a trip over to the ruins on East Caicos, but house related things keep insisting we go back to Provo. Weather permitting, we are shooting for sometimes this weekend. It's a long trip, we would boat down to South Caicos and then up the outer reefs to have the seas behind us til we duck into Jacksonville Cut. I better do my homework if I am going to put any words with the photos. I know I get a lot more out of stuff like that if I read up on the history before I see it in person. Kinda lets you know what you are looking at.

East Caicos has 18 miles of supposedly beautiful beach facing the Atlantic, and it's totally uninhabited. I am looking forward to seeing that, a tropical beach in its natural state. No people,no developments Getting hard to find in this modern world. At least it is in this hemisphere.

Yesterday was slow, I have been working on the boat. I had mentioned to Andy at Andros Boats that the panga really needed two more cleats up forward, as we tie up to a lot of crumbly concrete docks. We needed a couple more places to hang fenders, and tie lines. So, he sent me two new pop-up cleats. (What a great little boat company . I would buy another boat from them in a heartbeat. )

Anyhow, first I crawled into the anchor locker head first myself, to get the washers and nuts on the underside of the cleats.. Big mistake. I wriggled in, and then got jammed upside down in the locker, trapped. Could NOT wriggle out easily. My legs were flailing in the air, couldn't reach the deck with my feet. No ventilation, fiberglass fumes, anchor stuck in my ear, I was getting perturbed. It wasn't pretty. I finally managed to kick my legs hard enough to essentially yank myself out a half inch at a time until I could touch the deck with my toes again, leaving skin on the fiberglass edges of the anchor locker. I left some choice words in that anchor locker,too.

While I caught my breath and looked around, I saw Brother Mac, an elderly local Baptist minister, who paints houses when he's not preaching. He was standing on the beach watching this show, his eyes as big as saucers. I don't know what shocked him more, the sight of these two white legs kicking at the sky from the hatch of a boat, or the language he must have heard coming muffled from within the boat hull.
He just shook his head at the stupid American, and walked away without saying a word. There was nobody else around, thank god. I am especially glad there was nobody around with a camera.

SO, after I explained what happened, ( and after she stopped laughing herself silly) La Gringa climbed down into the locker in a more sensible way ( feet first) and being younger and more limber, she put the hardware on the cleats and tightened it up for me;

Then I moved on yesterday afternoon to installing a new little amp and speakers so we can play MP3s on the boat, While the demented dog hid in the console from passing thunderstorms. I told him they were at least five miles away, but he has now declared his personal safety zone to be somewhere over the horizon where lightning is concerned. This dog will hide at the very memory of past thunderclaps he has known. He refused to even watch the Weather Channel at ten minutes before the hour, he knows its Tropical Update time.

So, this morning I hope to finish up the stereo installation. Used a roto-zip tool to cut the holes for the speakers, now just need to run wires. Pretty boring day, but now the Missus knows how to use an adjustable wrench. I think it's a good thing to cross-train the crew. Especially if it means I don't have to get wedged upside-down in hatches with my butt in the air and legs kicking. Man, am I ever glad certain ones of our local friends didn't see that. I would never live it down. I am hoping Brother Mac thought it was a vision, or a portend of something better left unspoken.

And so far this morning, it's looking pretty good:

So, another cup of espresso, and back down to the marina to finish up. I hope to have some more interesting photos to post in the next few days.

Yeah I did mention it, I thought. She wasn't there when I stupidly stuffed myself upside down in the hatch. When I explained it to here, she laughed herself silly at the mental picture of me trying to kick my legs hard enough to jar myself loose. And she knows Brother Mac, so when I said his eyes were as big as saucers she thought it was hysterical.

We just made it back from Provo before dark. We ran over this afternoon, to meet with our architect, and ended up at a little Spanish cantina talking to the guy who is going to be making the pavers for our patio. He does concrete and stone work, runs a cantina, and a restaurant, and a commercial fishing boat, and a fish market. He was born in Kentucky, grew up in Tampa, and moved here 12 years ago. Wealth of information.

Then we stopped by the Pakistani underwear/cigarettes/electric guitars/big screen Sony TV/refrigerator/camera/Cuban cigars/diesel generators/rugs/ and furniture store cause I needed some speaker wire. We ran into wildman Steve, the redneck Canadian, who is always a trip. We rent storage space from him.

Stopped at boat and fishing tackle store for 2 stroke oil, lures, a switch and boot. Then at the marina we ran into Hayden the Texan and Stephanie living on their catamaran. And Roger the Brit and his Canadian wife and their kids living on their catamaran. We had to talk to everybody, of course. Man, that's the most expat people we have seen in a week. Oh, had to stop for groceries, too. ran into Avianne, who has been home in Guyana for the summer. La Gringa and her had to do the woman hugging catching up thing, ya know. tick tock tick tock..

By the time we made it back to the marina it was too late to buy gasoline, especially after we had to rescue the dog from three mutts who are determined to kick his butt. They always chase him, I think its kinda like "lets gang up on the mouthy little terrier from Joisey..."

Anyhow, since it was late and we couldn't fill up, we decided to go straight over the Caicos Banks to stretch what gas we had. Its really shallow with a lot of sand bars, and I have never done that entire trip in the dark, so we hadda honk on it while we still had a little light. There are things like a bunch of unlit,unmarked little limestone islands sticking up all over the place. But it's a couple miles closer that way, and quicker if you don't run aground. If you do run aground, it takes longer, of course. Maybe all night. La Gringa did get a couple good photos as we dodged squalls, though.

Made it into Pine Cay right as it got dark, ZZ Top blasting through the new setup on the boat!! yahoo, y'all


Joy said...

Yeah, this was the post I was thinking of. You mention here about the divers' strange sensations, etc. when diving in Cottage Pond, and the Nat'l Geo article goes into that.
This was a great post... can't believe no one commented on it (myself, included.). I can almost hear the Twilight Zone music...

Caitlyn said...

OK, I'm a huge fan of your blog, and now going back to read it from the beginning. On this one, I just had to chime in...

My husband and I ended up by accident at that abandoned resort last year. We have BOTH never in our lives had such an experience of creeped-out dread as we did when entering what turned out to be the resort grounds. There was something utterly 'Deliverance' about it. Thank god we were able to get the car turned around and out of there. For a minute we thought we might be stuck, and when the car lurched out of the giant pothole and off back towards freedom we could not get out of there fast enough.

When we got back to Provo we discussed it with friends who reside there and they said they came across it too by accident and found it to be one of the scariest feeling places they ever accidentally ended up.

We all agreed- there is something that is just plain old not right there. It's just an empty building, shouldn't be a big deal right? No way. I've never gotten such a bad feeling from a place in all my life.

So I find it super interesting to read your post now, especially the triangle/wreck/cottage pond angle... I'm a pretty rational person, but, as you say, sometimes I just think there is something to these things...

Anna said...

I was at the prospect of whitby hotel long, long time ago. It was a beautiful hotel, owned by the parmalat group which want bankrupcy around 10 years ago. I feeling so sad by seeing the pictures. Really sad.

Michael MacGregor CPT said...

I lived on North Caicos in the 77-79 in a house just down from prospect of whitby it was right on the Marina my dad was a SCUBA instructor and did diving tours. one day I would love to take my wife there so she could see a part of my childhood.