Friday, March 4, 2011

Marching right along...

Yep, we've managed to survive yet another February here. And now the days are getting longer and once again the sun is rising a little further to the north every day.

In the week since the Middle Caicos post, we haven't had any really newsworthy things going on here. No recent festivals. No big events. We have taken every opportunity to get out on the water, as usual. And we continue to use the little Hobie Tandem Island kayak as a really fun way to travel between islands here.

We realize that it's been a few months since some of our readers have seen a warm sunny day on the water. And since we don't really have anything of importance to report, how about we just put up a double handful of kayaking photos? Good old kayaks. I can always find few nice clear-water kayak photos when I need some blog content.

Our first little excursion early last week didn't turn out like we planned. We thought it would be a great idea to sail out to the old airplane wing wreckage to see what's changed since our last visit. I knew the lobsters would be gone after posting the videos of them here before. Somebody was bound to see that and zip out there to clean them out. (This is why I never post anything about the really good lobster and shipwreck sites that we find... so don't even ask, ha ha)

Well, we thought we would go see how the Lionfish population was doing, six months after we took those videos in that earlier post. This was Plan A, at least. We knew it was a windy day, but having a Plan A got us up and out of the house to go enjoy it. To get that initial motion toward the boat going. That always seems to be the hardest part of these small boat excursions on windy days.

We launched our little boat at Leeward and headed out past the old freighter. This would be the first time we sailed out to that landmark without an outboard motor. The water was already lumpy when we started and the wind was picking up. But since we were already in the water we decided to give it a try.

I have found it's pretty difficult to get a good still photo of wave chop on the ocean here. I well remember us getting soaked on this trip and yet when I look back at the photos it looks calm. The only hint is that if you look closely at the distance you can see some white caps out where the waves are beginning to break. We were getting bounced around enough that we didn't take a lot of photos on the trip. Now that I look at this photo below, I realize that I had been trying to get an image of the ama lifting off a wave. But all I got was what was left of the splash. I'll happily blame 'shutter lag' if I can get away with it. ('Slow reflexes' seems so.... so... disturbingly appropriate, somehow.)

We sailed out past the old wreck, and then decided it would be a good time and place to stop for lunch. We thought we might be able to find some calmer water out of the wind if we snugged up behind the freighter's hull. Now we are looking at it from the other side, with Leeward off in the distance. Wow, we sailed this far out in these waves?

The very minute we swooped around the stern of the old boat and into its lee, things got smoother. Again, it's tough to show in a still photo but if you look closely I think you can see where the unprotected water begins, back where we just came from:

Now I know that you guys have already seen countless photos of this old wreck on this blog. And I am not going to go over it all again. But I did want to point out that using this spot as a shelter from the wind or squalls is something we haven't talked much about. If you compare the photos of it that we have taken over the years, you can also see where it is breaking down and disappearing. There are holes big enough to swim through in the submerged section of the hull now. Looking at the other end of the old freighter we quickly see where the unsheltered water off the bow is also pretty bumpy out in the wind:

Ah, but right here we find a spot where the bulk of the rusty old waypoint does a great job of sheltering our little boat from wind and waves:

We found a spot where our small anchor would hold and, once out of the wind, the ocean was delightful. Sitting here was a calm oasis in a moving blast of wind.

We had packed a lunch and refreshments and had left Dooley the Dangerous at home. Our plan was to be off the boat and diving and we knew the weather was going to be rough. He doesn't much care for staying on board the boat when it's rough and we both hop in the water. It must look to him like we are abandoning ship and leaving him behind. He hates that. Usually ends up in the water with us. It was bouncy enough on this day that we kept the trampolines rolled up and that's usually where Dooley hangs out anyhow. They add a scary element to sailing this little boat in winds much over about 18 kts. The upslope tramp catches the wind underneath it, and the lee tramp wants to dive into the waves. We find it better to sail with them rolled up on any day when we might also need to reef the sail.

We were sure glad to have a calm spot to rest, dry out, and have lunch.

After about an hour or so relaxing behind the old freighter, we debated whether to continue out to the airplane wing wreck site. Listening to the wind shrieking around the old rigging and noticing that the waves had gotten a little bigger...

We elected to make a nice downwind sail back to Provo. We decided to pick a calmer day to be snorkeling out on the airplane wing. One of those days when the waves don't keep clogging up one's snorkel.

Even though the strong winter trade winds continued to batter us from the north east, after a few days ashore we decided to pick our spot and to get back on the water. Looking at the charts, we determined that if we were to essentially hug the coast on the south side of Providenciales, we could still sail and stay out of the rougher ocean.

We had been over to look at Sapodilla Bay and South Dock from the land side a few times over the years. We decided to sail down to South Dock and see what Sapodilla Hill looked like from the sea. There were a couple places where we would have to be exposed to the wind a little (we told ourselves) but we could tuck in close to shore and use the shelter of the islands if needed. All we need is a plan and away we go.

Looking at that image I notice that the Google Earth data for here is still from 2003. There are going to be some amazing changes if and when this area gets updated. A lot has happened in eight years. There are resorts where there used to be just rocks and lizards. But don't worry, we still have plenty of rocks and lizards.

With the NE wind, we scooted on out of Southside Marina and were down at Sapodilla Bay within the hour. It was an exhilarating ride, to say the least. We were pretty much too busy hanging on and sailing the boat to take many photos. We did run aground once on a shallow section right where anyone with any sense would have expected a shallow section. The TI has a centerboard that kicks up if it strikes anything, and we had the Mirage Drives up, so we didn't damage anything. This time.

This is an interesting section of the Providenciales coast, in that it is almost entirely undeveloped for any hospitality or tourism purposes. Or even residential development. There are a lot of shipwrecks along this section, we noticed. This is another abandoned Haitian sloop:

These are commercial boats and tugs that are anchored in the relatively protected waters off of South Dock. I marked this anchorage area on the Google Earth image up above. (If I understand what I have read, this is the area where the old wrecked freighter "La Familia" was originally anchored when the storm moved it to its current position up at our new picnic spot.)

Once we turned the point and were at South Dock, we were back in protected water and able to take time for some photos. This is the dock where all commercial shipping comes into Providenciales. When we came by on this day, a small container ship for G&G Shipping was just backing out of the facility with a load of empty containers. Or I assume they are empty. I can't imagine what would be shipped out of here, other than household goods of people returning to North America after an assignment here. G&G is one of several companies who ship from Florida to the Turks and Caicos Islands. We have used their services three times in the past few months. Importing via ocean freight used to be a daunting exercise for us. Somehow, over the years it seems to have gotten a lot easier. Maybe it's just become another part of our lives now.

Making up the western side of the South Dock basin is Sapodilla Hill. We have often hiked up to the very top of this dusty, dry little hill and read the ancient graffitti carved into the stones there.

And now we know what the captains of those old ships would have seen if they were looking back at the hill from their deck to see where their lookouts were stationed.

Sapodilla Bay itself is not that spectacular. But it has a beautiful soft, safe sand bottom. It is protected from the wind. It's a really good spot for a sailboat to ride out the weather, assuming it's normal trade wind weather. On this day we counted nine sailboats anchored in Sapodilla:

We don't yet know the story behind this little structure on the point at Sapodilla. It sure looks like a great spot, though.

We knew we were going to be beating back into the wind after we turned around at Sapodilla, so we didn't waste much time there with sightseeing. On the way back by South Dock, we got a good view of the little facility after the container ship left. There is even an impounded Haitian sloop on the beach here. From what we've been told, these sloops are generally hacked up into manageable pieces and hauled to the dump. What a waste of decent timbers, in many cases.

A pile of scrap iron waiting to be exported to some country that can process scrap iron. And another boat well on it's way to becoming more scrap iron. At least it's in a good location for it:

This section of coast has a lot of wrecked boats on it. I suspect someone plans to repair and refloat this one.

Or maybe I should say that perhaps someone once planned to follow that course. It's amazing how fast planning and repair estimates seem to run out on you when the ocean is involved. It keeps its own time, and ignores the plans of those puny animals on its edges.

After we rounded that point and travelled out from behind the shelter of the last little cay on our way back, it got ugly. No matter which tack we choose we got battered and soaked. La Gringa got the worst of it sitting in the forward position. The water comes over the bow of the boat and every wave splashes the front passenger on this boat in rough weather. All of us got soaked. At one point I looked over at Dooley the Drenched and noticed that his two rear feet were lifting completely off the boat on some of the waves. By the time it occurred to me to take some video, we were almost across that large rough opening. We were getting closer to the sheltered area again and he was not being tossed up nearly as much. But still, if you imagine it being about 1.25 times this rough you can probably imagine it:

(“The Thrill is Gone” by the one and only, BB King)

You might notice that La Gringa was just basically ducking incoming waves at that point. And this was not the worst part, by far. yep. We need to get her some splash protection and a warmer shirt!

Well as you can imagine, after a trip like this, we just wanted to get out of the water and get home. That was two rough sails in a row.

Looking at the photos of the marina we took on the way through, it reminded me of something I promised myself to finish. Two of our readers had written in with questions about specific boats we mentioned in an earlier post about Southside Marina.

I had posted some photos and comments on the catamaran Kari Bela and someone had asked who manufactured it. Well, when we next stopped by the marina, the boat was gone. This week, she stopped back by and reprovisioned and I managed to get a photo of the bow before she left again. The Kari Bela is a Dean 440 catamaran, manufactured in South Africa. I spoke with Bob at the marina and he tells me that this boat has crossed the Atlantic at least 12 times now. I thought about that and I figure that if it started in South Africa and it's presently on this side of the Atlantic, it must have crossed it an uneven number of times. Wouldn't it?

But would you ever tell anyone you were on your 13th crossing? That might not be such a simple thing for a true sailor.

Anyhow, the strength of the rigging and the way the boat is equipped make it obvious that this is a serious sailor, indeed:

Our other question was about Simon's boat, the Lily May. I wanted to confirm that yes, she is still for sale and she is, indeed, a 46 ft. Island Trader. If you would like to see some details on Lily Mae, just click on that link.

It just occurred to me that for far less than the price of a crowded condo here, someone could buy this boat and just pay the monthly storage and maintenance costs and have a wonderful place to stay here in the Turks and Caicos Islands.

Now I just stuck this next photo in because I saw this boat at the marina and I thought a thousand horsepower was impressive in an outboard powered boat. I wouldn't want their fuel bill, though.

That boat with the four Yamahas might be impressive and I am sure it's a certified hoot to drive, but we've already played that bigger and faster motor-boat game. For our own purposes, we find that we continue to move in a different direction. We like our quiet, clean, low maintenance kayak as an alternate way to enjoy being on the water. Notice La Gringa has a new long sleeved 'rash shirt' after our last expedition? We were determined that she not freeze to death while sailing in the tropics if we could help it.

So, after finding a nice warm sailing shirt for my crew, the very next time we took the boat out we had a sunny day, with very little wind and we had to go looking for some way to get wet. Go figure.

On Tuesday we decided to see if we could sail to Pine Cay and back in an afternoon. The winds were down to less than 10 kts. and it was the first calm day we had seen in over a month. We grabbed the kayak and headed out.

That white spec in the distance is a dive boat anchored just outside the reef. Normally, there would be waves breaking on that reef all the way across this photo. Pretty calm, I would say:

This kind of lazy sailing is Dooley the Drowsy's favorite kind. He can relax on the trampolines and, with the calm seas, he usually starts dozing off in the sun.

Oh, he gets these serious, contemplative looks on his hairy little face from time to time but I don't think it signals too much other than contentment to be on a boat. I mean, it's not like he's composing doggie Haiku or something...

It was so calm that La Gringa decided to try standing up on the boat while we were sailing along. She found out that this is a nice new camera angle. Maybe now we will be able to show you guys some photos from the Hobie that don't include the same two views of the Hobie.

The water depth along this route varies but generally averages about 10-15 ft between the beach and the reef. Of course there are coral heads that come up to within six feet of the surface in some spots. And parts of the reef itself are exposed during extremely low tides. The water here is about 10 ft. deep:

Even with the distortion, we could clearly see live shellfish tracks moving over the sandy spots.

We sail over a lot of different underwater terrain. Smooth sand, rocks, coral, and grassy areas.

La Gringa was having a good time standing and trying different camera angles. This little video captures a lot of what we were seeing:

(music is “Fever Dream” by Iron & Wine)

This is just getting into an area of scattered rocks:

And that leads up to an area of rock outcroppings, and coral.

Do I think there might be a few lobster in this rock pile? Oh, yes.

At one point Dooley the Distended decided he needed to go ashore for a few minutes to check out the local plant life. At least, I think he said something about needing to see a tree. So we scooted into the beach and hung out in the shallows for a while. As soon as we were close enough for him to jump ship, Dooley the Distressed made tracks for the nearest break in the cliff line. You can see his tracks, in fact:

And he doesn't really need much of an excuse to hop in the ocean anyway. So we let him swim along for a while chasing the boat while it drifted.

We thought we might hang out on the shore and beach comb for a while but then we looked up the beach and could see another boat anchored about a half a mile up to the east...

And there were another couple of boats off in the other direction as well:

We tend not to hang around when the beach is crowded like that. There's no need to. There are plenty of beaches with nobody on them. Besides, Dooley the Distrustful was worried about something and obviously ready to head home.

So with the winds diminishing even further, we limped our way back to Leeward looking for ripples of wind where we could find them. We hopefully left Dooley's demons behind, as well.

We had to resort to our Mirage Drive pedals for several miles of the trip home.
It was smooth sailing for the most part. The only things that broke the near perfect glossiness of the ocean were the wakes of other boats. Here's what the wake of the local water taxi looks like from our perspective:

(music is “Point of Origin” by Yanni)

Notice that while someone with a camera was making movies, someone else was frantically trying to turn the boat into the wake...

Finally we made it back into Leeward-Going-Through. Before dark. Without mishap. Another great day on the water. I could tell that even Dooley the Delinquent was thinking of how nice the calm water and lush mangroves were at the end of a nice sail:

I really don't know what he's thinking. When I ask him, he goes all uncommunicative on me and changes the subject. On this trip, though, I did think I caught him tapping his forepaw to some inner beat...

(“Into the Groove” by Ziggy Marley)

So that's our last three kayak trips, all in one week. We had hoped to have some new boat news to post before today but we are still awaiting word on when we can get our hands on it. Hopefully, it should be through customs on Monday.

In the meantime, here's another one of La Gringa's sunsets. We're kinda glad to see that the sun is moving north again. A change of scenery is good, from time to time.


Unknown said...

A buddy of mine that worked for Caicos Adventures is now a Captain for TCI Ferry. His name is Roger and I think he is from Scotland.

Anonymous said...

We have a long time friend who is a captain for them, too. Trenton. You probably can't see it in the video but they were waving to us as they went by. All the local boat operators know us in Leeward. We been around long enough. In a small island community like this people can tell a lot about someone with just a glance at them and the boat they are in. We've run boats back and forth to Pine Cay in storms, at night. A foot or two of wake is not a big deal.

The water taxi and Parrot Cay guys don't worry about their wakes, either. They'd slow down to avoid a collision, but that's about the only thing. And that 'each shall alter course to pass to the right of the approaching vessel' stuff?

That ranks right up there with sailboats having the right of way.

Those are things that were written in a book in a foreign country where the local people have to follow those rules or face the authorities.

That's not here.

Bill said...

Looks like a lot of fun!

I like all the head sails on the "Kari Bela", she is definitely set up for some cruising.

Anonymous said...

Gringo...great stuff as usual..
Have followed yall from the beginning but never have conversed....
Met u briefly along the rd. infront of Harbor Club / Flamingo Lake a couple years back. (friends of j & sandys') We learn lots from your posts & appreciate it.....
keep it up.......

marcrs1 said...

that small structure, we were told several years ago is part of aa area constructed to market a development that went bust some time wife and I climbed to it with a bottle of wine. there is a parking area and path

Anonymous said...

Lovely pics. I should show you my backyward. 4 ft of ice and snow!

Try BING's map, they're 2010 for TCI (and elsewhere).

What's the depth at the freighter stuck there where you sheltered from the wind?

jeeperman said...

Another great post.
So what happen to your Sloop entry for the Valentines Day race?
Is that hull carved out of solid wood?
Does that container ship go all the way to Florida? Or do they just use that ship for shallow ports and transfer to a "high seas" container ship?
Just curious.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for all the feedback. We were pretty excited about the potential for some new satellite images from that Bing site, but I checked and for here it's still the same stuff Google Earth has, from 2003.

d_pattee said...

Enjoyed it as always!!!

Sure wish I could make it down there :o(

It is beautiful and sunny here, but the air is in the 60's and water temps in the high 50's. Going in the water is still a couple of months away.

Anonymous said...

Hey when did y'all break ground on the house? I was looking at and it says the recent images are from 2007 but it looks like the same images from google earth. Maybe you would notice more differences than I.