Thursday, February 19, 2009

Into every life...

A little rain must fall. We know that. And we know we are not immune, but it would be okay with us if it picked days when we were not out fishing, but hey, you gotta take the bad with the good. And this post has both. The winter weather continues, with days of eye-watering wind and some seriously lumpy ocean interrupted from time to time by a day or so of relative calm while Mother Nature inhales. We have become serious weather observers while living here. Oh, we watched the television weather dudes when we lived in the States, of course. When the weather warranted keeping an eye on. Had to know what to expect. But here we seem to be aware of it continuously. Maybe because we are pretty much immersed in it full time. With the trade winds coming right across the ocean and up this slope over our home, we are part of the weather. The house is open to it, normally. There is no glass in our windows. We live in the weather.

This would be a typical sunrise on one of the calmer days lately, the sight that greeted us when we first opened the door to let Dooley the Desperate out for his morning bush call.

That's not too bad, and Sunday afternoon we decided to grab a few fishing poles and take the boat out for a quick afternoon fishing trip. Just to see what was biting, and to get out on the ocean. The fishing is really just an excuse to be on the boat. At least that's what we tell ourselves when we don't catch any fish. It works.

This is the route we took Sunday afternoon, just a swing up through Leeward-Going-Through ( and you can see why it got that name) and then up and outside the reef for some trolling, and back. About forty something miles all told.

You might notice that we swing way out past the shoals on the Caicos Bank these days, instead of taking the direct route up to Leeward. That is because our 'new' boat draws about a foot more water than our old boat, and there is some seriously shallow water there. With rocks and coral heads that seem to attract fiberglass and outboards like mobile homes try to attach themselves to tornadoes. That Google Earth image looks nice and clear, and it is usually nice and clear here. Really, most of the time. But not last Sunday. It was not nice and clear. It looked remarkably like this:

(There are some nice sunny tropical blue water photos in this post a little later, by the way. And absolutely no DIY stuff. Although I could tell you about the.....never mind)

We knew we were in for some grayscale when we saw this but we were determined to get some hooks wet, having come this far. We dodged squalls when we could..

La Gringa takes the wheel while I am in charge of fishing lines and Dooley the Disquieted keeps a weather eye out. He frets about weather, and heavy dark clouds are specifically just the very exact type of weather that worries him the most. He is a nervous wreck if anything in the atmosphere even looks like it might harbor the basic ingredients for thunder.

And this day qualified high on the thunder potential scale as far as he was concerned.

Sure enough, we finally met a squall we couldn't dodge, and the rain poured down. We could no longer see the islands, and while boat t-tops are good for shade, they really don't do much for you in a driving rain. Well, THAT was a washout fishing trip. Literally.

In fact, right before we decided to call it quits we were reduced to huddling in the one small dry spot on the boat near one corner of the console. And you can probably guess who was smack dab in the middle of that:

"Is it time to go home yet??? PLEASE??"

This is the reef off of Leeward looking back after we came in through the cut and you can see the swells breaking over the shallow parts.

Not so tropical looking this time. The brown looking water around the breakers is the surface of the reef just below the waves.

So, we headed home, and got in just before dark. Which also happened to be just about when the storms moved on, and it was starting to look like things were taking a turn for the better again. As they always seem to do, eventually.

Monday morning the day was looking like a real winner, and we decided to do something that we had been talking about for a year or so. We typically have gone to someplace outside the reefs on the north side of the islands to fish. The reef is only a mile or so offshore in most places so we are never really very far from land. We have been wondering what the fishing is like on the other side of the Caicos Bank. It is about fifteen or so miles from Providenciales, and most of it is out of sight of land. We decided the time was right, we had the weather and a very seaworthy boat, so we went for it. Here is Providenciales fading into the distance behind us,

as we headed for the southern tip of the island of West Caicos. This is the path we ended up taking on this trip:

We kept heading for that small group of clouds on the horizon. That puff on the left side of the cloud bank is over the far end of West Caicos:

Clouds form over islands when the wind blowing across the ocean gets forced upwards in order to go over the land. As the air goes up, it cools and water condenses. So this is a good way to tell where islands are likely to be. The clouds form continuously over the same spot where the wind hits the land, and while they get blown downwind new ones keep forming. It just keeps generating fresh clouds in the same place. If you look at the picture we took leaving Providenciales above, you can see the same thing happening there. The clouds form above the windward side.

After a while of zipping across the water we came to West Caicos, right under the clouds we had been aiming for:

I think the water here is some of the nicest I have ever seen anywhere in the world. We were in about 15 feet of water here, and could see the bottom as clearly as one would from the diving board over the deep end of a really clean swimming pool.

West Caicos is essentially uninhabited, especially these days with the resort project on the island in financial limbo. There has not been a permanent population here in over a hundred years. I guess 'permanent population' is not exactly correct, then, is it? There was no one on the beach, not even a foot print. We were in a rush to get to the reef to try fishing, but this water was so nice we cruised along the shore checking it out on the way. We spotted wrecked Haitian sloops, with this one being almost intact:

That boat is about thirty feet long.

There are plenty of nice small deserted beaches, isolated by the remoteness of the island and separated from each other by the rocky sections of the shoreline:

Dooley the Determined was really wanting to go ashore to explore, and I'll admit that the idea was very appealing.

The water is plenty deep enough to take the boat right up near the beach and anchor.

Some of the small sandy sections are completely covered in seashells a foot deep, with no one there to pick through them. A shell collector could go nuts here:

As we got near the end of the island we could see that the land flattened out a bit. We were going over rocks that seemed to be just inches below the surface, but we still had ten feet of water here.

I am really interested in taking a look at some of the caves we could spot even on this brief cruise-by:

That one is big enough to stand in. We could not tell from the water how deep it might be.

There are some apparently abandoned, futuristic structures here, along with a small cove and what looks like the beginnings of an unfinished boat ramp:

Here's another view of that, as we boated by:

Although our curiosity was going wild at this point and we were sorely tempted to just anchor the boat and explore, we decided to stick with the mission, which was to go troll outside the reef. We promised ourselves that we will pack a lunch and some snorkeling equipment and come back to this part of West Caicos for some exploring at the next opportunity.

Meanwhile, we put some lines out and started trolling. Within minutes something hit the lure hard enough to break 65 lb. braided wire leader. We never saw what it was, it just bent one of the rods almost double, and then it was gone. So of course we got pretty excited, and kept fishing. And we caught fish. Lots of fish. A half dozen or more, but the problem is that every one of them was a barracuda. Decent sized barracuda, to be sure, but they were not what we were hoping for.

Well, not what La Gringa and I were hoping for, anyhow. Now Dooley is another matter. He thinks all fish need to be bitten. It's his way of participating in the fishing, I guess. I know HE thinks he's fishing. He sees this as his own little part of the mission, and even though some of these barracuda are bigger than he is, doesn't seem to matter :

And even the smaller ones were getting him excited:

Other than the barracuda (which we threw back), we did not see much out there. The water is as you can see, crystal clear. It varies from a couple feet deep where there are sand bars on the edge of the reef, to a very steep underwater slope that keeps on going down to 7,000 feet just a short distance out. In several hours of fishing, we saw a few other boats in the distance but otherwise had the ocean to ourselves. Oh, one tug boat came by and crossed our wake on it's way to Providenciales:

But that was the closest we got to anyone else all day. Finally we had worked our way along the reef all the way to French Cay. It was getting late in the day, I was tired of unhooking barracuda, and we decided to call it quits on the fishing. Once through French Cut, we had clear water all the way back to Provo. The average depth was between 9 and 12 feet deep all the way back. Except for when it was suddenly four feet deep over any one of a zillion uncharted coral heads. This one is about ten feet across:

Once again we just made it back before dark. Having been boating for three days in a row, on
Tuesday we more or less just took a break. We had boated over 140 miles in two days and were a bit sunburned and weary. We didn't manage to hook any keeper fish, but we sure found an area we intend to go back to when we have time to spend hours on the beach exploring.

Ah, then Wednesday came and I was able to clear our new kayak through customs! We have been waiting two weeks for this. As you can see I was losing daylight when I backed the box into the garage to begin putting this thing together:

Can you believe there is a fourteen foot tandem kayak with Hobie Mirage drives, two paddles, and a mast and sail in that box and one other small one? It even comes in it's own rolling luggage case!

So over the next few days we expect to be trying our hand at kayaking again. We think this kayak should fit on board the Contender, and this combination should be good for some more blog photos. It is also going to give us the ability to get into some places to explore where we could never take the bigger boat.

Can hardly wait for the next stretch of good weather, and it should be any day now.
In the meantime, here's what was almost a really nice sunset.


Anonymous said...

Great Post! I never knew that about the clouds, thanks!


Anonymous said...

Gringo, i have the Hobie Mirage drive. you will love it.

Anonymous said...

Thanks to both of you for the very intresting and entertaining posts. I started reading your posts at THT and then Sportfisherman and now I check in serveral times a week to read your blog. Keep up the good work and thanks again.
D Martin

Anonymous said...

And thank you guys for the kind words. We figure that we are going to be exploring, fishing, and taking photos anyhow, so as long as anyone else might get some enjoyment out of them why not post them. We well remember when we lived much further north and dreamed of being in the tropics. Especially this time of year.

Last night La Gringa had a great idea, and if the winds die down a bit we are planning to take the kayak over to Chalk Sound. The water there is typically almost luminescent turquoise on a sunny day. It's stirred up I am sure, with these 20 mph winds, but it might be worth a trip. It's a National Park, no power boats, and has dozens of really small cays in it. We have never explored it at all. There are a few photos elsewhere in the blog, the little Caicos Sloop "Ranger" photos I took at sunset were at Chalk Sound.

We'll see if we can get some good images. If we can handle the winds.

Anonymous said...

Been reading for awhile now, never posted but had to say love this blog and the pics today are incredible! Fell in love with Provo 2 years ago and think about it everyday...trying to get back again this November. The water by West Caicos looks gorgeous. I can't wait for you guys to go ashore and see what's there!