|AWAKENING Log Wednesday October 23, 2002
We awoke this morning to mirror flat waters of a pink and blue shade heading gently into the sunrise, under power. It was a breathtakingly beautiful night crossing from West Palm Beach to North of the Abacos in the Bahamas. We were facing a full moon from the time we headed out of the ship channel. Gloriously flat all the way across the Gulf stream. We have a light head wind, and so did not raise the main, just motored the crossing.
Patrick Corkell is at the helm now, our Capt for the “learning” trip. Our boat is AWAKENING, and so far she has lived up to her name. She is a CATANA 431, which means she was built in France last year by the CATANA sailboat company, and she is 43 feet in length. CATANA is considered the Cadillac of sailing catamarans. We were very fortunate to find such a new boat, for sale, and already in the USA. Her original owner and his wife thought they were going to sail away, but during the time the boat was delivered from France to the Caribbean, they were surprised by the first pregnancy in their 12 years of marriage. So, they have a baby daughter now and we have a boat. Michael is at the cooking station, fixing bacon and eggs. Jib is at my feet in the aft Port cabin/office. We are doing fine.
It didn’t start out like that. We had hoped to leave at noon yesterday, after a frantic week of preparation. By the time we motored out of the slip, and over to the gas dock, it was after 3pm. Even that 200 yard trip was problematic. The starboard engine alarm went off, and would not give up it’s insistent and repeated warnings. Pat and Michael tried this, and that, and all else. Finally it just stopped behaving badly. The theory is a wet connection that finally dried. Engines have hummed since than, and twelve hours later, no oil use or other issues. Since they were nearly new, with only 100 hrs each, we are actually doing the first “shake down” cruise.
We finally left the fuel dock, and got the Flagler Memorial bridge to open up for our departure, right at sunset. Our next “problem” was almost immediate, as the gauges were not recording speed. Didn’t dare leave if the problem was the nav instruments themselves, but if it was just the sensors under the boat we could fix it. So, Pat and I found the sensors that go through the hull, and are accessed in the bilge midship starboard. Pretty tricky pulling a plug out that lets in the ocean immediately! The deal is, you jam a plug in right away, but that burst of water sure makes you think. The two speed sensing wheels were really jammed with growth, less than two months of sitting since her bottom job. We cleaned them up and the speed o meter kicked in.
By this time it is dark, and we are still in the narrow channel of Lake Worth. Michael needed to go below and see what Pat had done, so I took the helm. First time, and within a minute I couldn’t figure out where my next green channel marker was. I called for Michael, and started to ask him, when I ran aground. YIKES. Good news, the dagger boards hit first. Good news, I put it in neutral right away. Good news, when we pulled up the dagger boards and put her in reverse, we pulled off easily and were back in business. Bad News.... I’ll always be the first one who ran her aground.
We took two hour watch duty all night heading East. Besides the moon and stars to see, I had occasional dolphin visits and flying fish leading the way. Each of us got some sleep, but now I’m hungry, so I’ll sign off. Looks like a hot, peaceful day in store. Now we’ll want some wind.
Arrived on a glass sea of pastel colors quietly at Great Sale Cay early Wednesday Oct 23, 2002. We are sailing along just after noon, and it is sunny, warm, calm and bright blue. We are in the Abacos, the Northern Bahamas, on the banks, which are shallow and sandy. Lovely vista, and light breeze. Last night at anchor off Sale Cay we celebrated with wine and steak, and all four of us slept very well. Jib was the star of the evening, when he used his green pretend grass door mat toilet on deck. It took a very full bladder, and no offer of shore leave, before he watched Michael demonstrate over the rail, and got into the act on his mat. Very smart.
We had a nice breakfast and pulled anchor heading South. Hope to find a spot for diving today or in the morning tomorrow. The new compressor and gear will get sorted out and broken in.
So far so good.
My starship trip log continues. We spent Thursday night anchored off Allen’s Pensacola Cay, and enjoyed the chance to use the two person kayak for shore leave. I took Jib in first, and then Michael paddled him in the following morning.
Sunrise on Friday was another calm gorgeous pink day. We decided to test our dive gear and boat plan for scuba. Motored out to the East between the islands and just inside the reef. We anchored, and sorted gear. The boat has six scuba tanks on board, and we have a compressor for refilling. It was a bit hectic for the first time, and that’s why we took our time. Michael and I went in and poked around for about twenty minutes, just saw a few fish, but were happy with the check out phase.
Pat took the helm and we headed south again. I made our standard salad lunch and we all worked on projects, navigation skills, boat maintenance, and just enjoying a smooth ride.
Our destination for the day was Green Turtle Cay, which is a major safe harbor we are looking at for a possible winter home for AWAKENING. We arrived about 5pm and Michael took the helm through the very skinny and shallow channel into the harbor called Black Sound. We anchored and took the dinghy ashore to a dock. We needed to check in with Bahamian customs.
We found the customs officer on his sofa watching TV. While Michael went in and got the paperwork, Pat and Jib showed me the way to a cold Kalick beer. The town of Old Plymouth is very quaint, with classic Bahamian buildings. I took photos, and enjoyed strolling the narrow streets.
Michael found us, and we filled out our forms, which he returned and we are now legal. The evening was beautiful and we did sunset drinks on a deck bar, where Jib was able to get to the beach, and retrieve a wood block I threw repeatedly for him in the water.
The locals were doing a kids program of running contests on a dirt lot, and we sat on the sea wall to watch, drinking our bottle of nice red Chilean wine. Then next door we had dinner consisting of the Friday night special....Prime Rib Sub and Clam Chowder. Sounds strange, and tasted fabulous.
We headed back to the boat, but hit one more lovely little outdoor bar with a pool, where we had our dessert rum drinks. It was the balm. Best of all, we have found that our screens aboard are very effective against mosquitoes!
Here’s today’s news:
Sunday afternoon, just sailing along. We have a light breeze from the NE, and a gentle blue swell. We are sailing peacefully South toward our evening anchorage plan, near Man O War Cay.
We are doing well. Yesterday morning it was my turn to “drive the boat” out the narrow channel from Black Sound on Green Turtle Cay. All went well, and we anchored out just off the little town of New Plymouth where we had spent Friday night drinking etc. Pat headed off on the kayak, for a bar with the ball game, so Michael and I took the dinghy in to town and went to lunch and the museum. Very enjoyable afternoon. Back at the boat, I just wanted to go swimming, so Michael headed for the “other” sound, White Sound to check it out.
Jib and I went swimming off AWAKENING, and within moments the Poodle learned to “climb” the stern swim ladder. Very important, as all of us overboard are lost if we can’t get up that one and only boarding ladder. He has to climb like a monkey, using his front feet to hug and pull his way up, and then must slither like a seal with his back legs as he goes over the top bar to the deck. Amazing. I feel better knowing he can do this, especially if we are not on the boat and he were to go over.
It was a lovely evening, and we had reservations at the Bluff House in White Sound. The three of us cleaned up, and headed to town in the dinghy. Wearing a dress, I sat on my shoes, to keep my bottom dry on the long ride to shore. Arrived at 7pm for drinks and hors de ourves. Dinner was lovely, and I had rack of lamb while the guys had fish. Enjoyed a South African red wine, and the company of a few other travelers.
After dinner we took the dinghy across the harbor to another joint where the “best band in the country” was playing. The Gully Roosters may be the best band in the Bahamas, but after a dance and a night cap, we were ready to head home.
I got up before the sun, and took Jib ashore in the kayak. The water was so smooth it was like a mirror. Only the roosters were at work. Just beautiful. We fixed breakfast and pulled anchor. Pat set us up to navigate and steer a course to a dive area Michael had heard of. We managed to find the locale, grab the mooring, and go diving. It was an OK spot, and all the equipment worked.
When we were done, we rinsed the gear and headed off South. I fixed our standard salad lunch as we motored along. The wind came up enough to raise the main, and now the Genoa, so we shut down the engines.
Just extra info... we make water with a machine that converts salt water, we have air conditioning if we want it, we have a big freezer and a bigger refrig, we have music (which we have only turned on once) and the telephone works. We don’t drink alcohol while the boat is under way. We open a cold beer as soon as the anchor hits bottom. Michael cooks on his gas grill that hangs off the stern rail, or on the gas three burner stove in the galley. We take turns doing the dishes. We have a washer dryer, but do hand laundry and dry it on the rail. I’m hoping for a hard rain soon to clean my deck. We all have projects in the works. The learning is constant.
An hour ago Patrick caught our first fish, a nice little mackerel. It will be a snack if we don’t get another.
Anchored outside of Man O War Cay, we had a lovely pork loin supper, and slept well until it rained about midnight. I just wish I could have scrubbed the deck. In the morning Michael and I took Jib ashore in the dinghy, and went shopping. The sail makers shop had canvas bags of all shapes sizes and colors. We bought one for clothes pins, one for small tools, and a purse for me. Went to the dive shop and hardware store before heading back to the boat.
We headed AWAKENING for Hopetown, and it was easy to find, with a red and white candy stripe lighthouse that is picture post card wonderful. The channel in was narrow and curved, but I managed it just fine, and the guys picked up a mooring. We took the dinghy to a waterfront joint called Capt Jack’s for lunch. The waterfront was lined with clean little gingerbread cute houses of pastel Bahamas shades. The Loyalist colony here was very prosperous.
Lunch was lobster salad! We walked the town, and then dinghy crossed to the lighthouse for a walk up. It was open and empty, so we enjoyed the view and all the old time equipment used to keep this light working.
Michael skippered our exit of the harbor and we motored to Marsh Harbor about an hour away. Marsh is actually on Abaco, so is very busy and has plenty of boats. I had heard a call on the radio from MAXI CAT to Harbour View Marina. We had met Glenn from Bend Oregon at the dock in West Palm Beach, and he had left several days before us, headed directly to Marsh Harbour. So, we went to Harbour View too. Michael docked at the fuel dock, without incident, and while he got the diesel topped up, I found Glenn.
We anchored out in the harbour Wed night, and took the dinghy in to meet Pat’s friends Carol and Russell who have a home on Marsh Harbour. Glenn and Rick joined us for drinks and light dinner at the Snapper. Glenn loaned us a DVD movie, and we headed home. Pat and I stepped aboard, but Michael missed the last step, and landed in the drink. Oh well, he showered and changed, then hooked up the movie. Pat fell asleep on the bench seat in the cockpit, but we sat on the sofa and watched “Living Loud”, with Danny Devito. Good flick.
Glenn wanted to show us a boat slip this morning, so we took Jib ashore and checked out the dock before leaving Marsh Harbour. We just passed through the reef in a narrow channel East of Man O War Cay, and are now running South on the outside of the reef breakers. We plan to cut back in another channel south of here, and go snorkeling off Sand Cay after lunch.
The plan is to anchor off Little Harbour tonight. It is on Abaco, and is our last spot before jumping off the Abaco islands, and heading across to the island of Eluthera. That will be a 10 hours crossing, so it is set for tomorrow morning early. Weather is gorgeous but not good for sailing. I figure we should just enjoy it, and snorkel while it’s so calm. We are bound to get wind eventually, and right now I’m happy it is calm. The engines are running great, and getting good gas mileage, losing no oil etc. They are Volvo Penta 40s. Our generator is a Northern Lights, very good and quiet.
Only slightly sunburned, but doing well.
Caught fish! Running outside the Abaco Islands in the blue, we hooked our first two eating fish. Pat set up the lines and the first strike Michael pulled in a good sized Jack. About half an hour later it was my turn, and the luck was very good. A Dolphin Fish, or Dorado, better known in the restaurants as Mahi Mahi. She was a beauty, bright yellow, aqua, pink and jumped out of the water half a dozen times before I could land her. We had sashimi (raw fish) before dinner, then Pat cooked the rest of the fish. We even had left overs in salad yesterday.
Tuesday Oct 29 afternoon we were headed for Little Harbour on the Southern end of Abaco, but stopped to snorkel off Sandy Cay. We anchored AWAKENING and took the dinghy to an area set with moorings for snorkel fans. The coral was great, with BIG Staghorn stands in bright golden colors. Plenty of fish, a turtle, and one free swimming green moray.
The small but secure Little Harbour has a very shallow and narrow channel entrance, so we had to go very slowly, as the tide was down when we arrived. We had plans to leave at low tide in the morning too, so this was a good test of our shallow draft. There were only 4-5 boats in the harbour, and nobody home. The beach was deserted until we got ashore, and a woman showed up to collect the $10 per night mooring fee. Pat and Jib played on the beach, and then we all walked around snooping in Pete’s Pub, which was empty. All manner of beach treasures hung from the ceiling of this famous outdoor bar. We are off season, and there is something to be said for the peaceful result, but Pete’s must really rock in July.
We had to screen up onboard, and even had to cook and eat inside as the bugs were BAD.
Early Wednesday morning we slowly made our way back out of the channel, and set a course for the island of Eluthera. The open water crossing was about 50 miles, so it took us all day. There was not enough wind to really sail, but we had the main up, and the Jib part of the time to add a little boost to the engines. It took seven hours to cross. We took turns at the helm of course, and Michael used the time to calibrate some of our instruments which had never been used since the boat was built last year.
We came through another narrow channel into Spanish Wells harbour with only ½ hr until dark. Spanish Wells is a commercial fishing town, and we passed several big fishing trawlers in the channel that is the harbour. Back out the bottom end put us all by ourselves in the protected waters of Meek’s Patch.
Took Jib to the beach by dinghy, feeding the mosquitoes. Thankfully the bugs didn’t come out to the boat. We did grilled steaks and drank a nice Kenwood Zinfandel. Life is not too tough on board.
The night of Oct 30 was spent off Meeks Patch, a buggy slip of an island that was obviously the local kids weekend party island. There were chairs of every description lined up at the top of the tiny beach.
We pulled anchor early Friday morning and headed out for Governors Harbour, which is half way down the Western side of Eluthera. Still very light wind, but we were able to use the main a bit. Came through Current Cut which is very narrow, with a fierce current. We were headed “uphill”, but had plenty of power to get right through. Traversed the shallow reef area past that, then headed straight for the harbour, four more hours ahead.
When we arrived, the locals were setting up for an evening of festivities. I have been to this place before, about 8 years ago, and little has changed. Michael and I took Jib ashore in the dinghy and walked around Cupid’s Cay and the surrounding area. Signs of past glory, loyalist buildings of stone, all falling down, and mixed with tiny shacks and some surviving Victorian gingerbread wooden cottages.
The holding is poor in the harbor, so we pulled anchor and headed for a better spot further out before dark. Another sailboat, which we had seen in Green Turtle Cay, pulled in too. Bill and his Venezuelan wife wanted a ride to town in our dinghy, as their outboard was much smaller. Five of us and Jib headed back to town for dinner. Jib was a big hit with the local kids, and the island food was great with us. Conch salad, jerk chicken, jerk pork, fried grouper, and plenty of rum or beer.
All this made up for the unpleasant and messy job in the afternoon, of changing the oil in both engines. There seems to always be work to do. We are currently sitting anchored off Cape Eluthera, which is the Southern end of the island. Took Jib ashore, had lunch, found the current too strong for much relaxation. However, we all have been swimming. Pat cleaned the Prop, Michael worked on the bottom, and I put markers on the anchor chain. Jib got to go swimming, and was able to get back to the boat in about a 2 knot current.
We are going to grill burgers for dinner and leave around 9pm for a night passage to Cat Island. That way we get to spend time during the day there, instead of sleeping. We will take turns at the helm during the night. It’s Friday night, Nov 1, 2002.
Just to mark time, we are out of lettuce, and have turned to eating cole slaw. Not too much of a down turn. Provisioning has been very good so far. Just when we ran out of Kalick, a case of Presidente opened. I really scored points with my wine cellar, purchased at Costco of course, in West Palm.
Saturday night at sunset, Hawksnest Creek marina.... We departed Cape Eluthera at 9pm and motored through the night on very calm sea with little or no wind. I had the 2AM to 4AM watch, and saw one ship about 6 miles away, the lights of Little Salvador, a red light on Cat Island, the crescent moon rise, shooting stars, and about a dozen satellites.
We arrived at our planned anchorage on Cat Island around 8AM and cooked breakfast first thing. Then we all went ashore in the dingy to visit the Hermitage near New Bight. It was built between 1939-1956 by Father Jerome, from England. It is a very interesting work, obviously cut into the island with loving hands over many years. It is situated on the highest point in the Bahamas and has a 360 degree view. From the shore, it looked the size of a Cathedral, but as we walked up the little dirt road, it got smaller as we got closer. By the time we reached the gateway, and stations of the cross, rising up to the main building, it was obvious the scale was way off. The Hermitage is like a tiny monument atop this little island. All the scale is as though Father Jerome was 4 feet tall. Beautifully cut stone, and very interesting architecture.
We returned to the beach and walked a mile or so while Jib chased sticks. Took the dinghy back out to AWAKENING, and all went for a swim. Pat had caught a small black fin tuna during the night, so we had fried tuna and cole slaw for lunch, as we motored toward Hawksnest Creek.
Dinner here is in half an hour, so I’ll close with a description of the Marina. Michael and I came here four years ago on TAO the trimaran we took from Provo to Staniel Cay. We feel we have upgraded considerably. Michael brought our girl into the marina nicely, and we docked and hooked up for the night. Air conditioning! Pat and I cleaned the boat, washing off the salt and oil. The men took off on fat tire bicycles provided by the marina, headed for the bar and pool. After cleaning the kitchen and bathrooms, I followed. Lucked out with the arrival of the produce man, who drove up in his car. Got lettuce, cabbage, bell peppers, and celery. Yeah salads again!
We are going to jump on our bicycles and head over to the club house for dinner of lobster, and a few cold ones.... life is sweet.
Finally we have wind. Woke Sunday to dark skies and scattered showers, with a Northeast wind at about 15-17. I took the boat out of the marina and turned her into the wind, so we could deploy the sails. She headed into the wind at about 8 knots, for Conception Island. The seas were about 2-3 feet, so we were rolling along at a good clip without the motors, and took four hours to reach our destination.
This is an island where we have gone diving before, during the TAO trip. There was only one other boat here, it is a BIG dive boat from Florida, called the Nekton. It is a power catamaran about three stories tall, and the size of a grocery store. Plenty of room for both of us though, as we grabbed the mooring about ¼ mile from them.
Pat took the dinghy to check out a snorkel site, and we jumped in to dive from AWAKENING. The visibility was great, and the coral and fish are very good. We did a dive to 115 feet, and really got a kick out of looking up and seeing “OUR” boat waiting for us. Pretty cool.
Hope we can get a bit more sailing in, though the weather is calling for changes tomorrow, with more sunshine and less wind. I’ll just have to deal with those delightful conditions.
Monday morning Pat dropped Jib and me in the water near the beach on Conception Island. We walked and played fetch the length of the powder sand crescent, about ½ mile. Back onboard we motored South and picked up another dive mooring for another great dive. This time the mooring procedure was made difficult by a faulty mooring, but after several tries we managed.
Michael and I headed for the wall at about 60 feet, and were greeted by a lovely Grey Reef Shark. We also saw a Midnight Parrot Fish, and the wall itself was terrific. Good stuff. We packed up after the dive and headed out for Rum Cay.
Rum Cay has a lot of shallow water near the shore so we had to anchor way out. Took the dinghy to check out the marina first. They are dredging and building, and mostly hoping to make it attractive to future boaters. On to “town”, we found the dinghy dock, and a local guy laying on the dock. Sort of the welcome committee for “Rum Cay”. We stepped around him and of course headed for the local bar. We went to both bars, and they were about 100 yards apart, and in each we were the only patrons. The best is Kayes and had real white sand floor indoors. Very cute. The woman who owns it is about 80, and born and raised on Rum Cay. We purchased her book and signed the register book too.
Back aboard AWAKENING it was my turn to cook. Thawed and nuked precooked baby back ribs and made a big salad.... mmmmmmmmm.
We headed out early this morning, as the Rum Cay bugs found us, even that far out. It took us 7 hours to sail to Crooked Island. The wind was very good. It was sunny all day and we took turns at the helm. Pat is making sure Michael and I can do things without him telling us first. The pressure is on.
As soon as we anchored off the West side of Crooked Island, I suggested we jump right in and dive while there was still light. We were in the water within 15 minutes, and the wall is right under the boat. We are anchored in 30 feet, but the wall at our stern drops away to the big blue. Beautiful dive, saw a reef shark, spotted moray eel, and many fishes.
Pat and I took Jib for shore leave, and went to the local bar for a sunset drink. We came back to the boat to find Michael up to his eyeballs in compressor and generator issues. I’m wondering when dinner might be?
Dinner seems to keep coming around, no matter what. We had a lovely meal, though late by our standards aboard, maybe 8pm last night. Chicken breasts in a squash and sugar pea spicy perfection. Always with a fine wine, and followed by a small French pastry dessert. awwww
This morning Jib and Pat went ashore by dinghy and went to town. Pat says he could have sold the dog on any street corner. There were probably four or maybe five intersections....
Meanwhile, Michael and I went diving from the boat. The Wall here on Crooked Island is very nice. TCI quality without the crowd. The water is 82 degrees, we are only wearing bathing suits with our dive gear. We were in the water almost an hour. Saw a 6’ sleeping nurse shark, 3 rays, 1 turtle, several fun and unusual fish. The wall was covered with barrel sponges and all manner of fans and coral. Beautiful to say the least.
We pulled anchor about 9AM and I fixed breakfast as we headed for our next anchorage. The plan was to end up on the Southern most part of the Crooked Island/Acklin island area. It only took about four hours, and that was time enough to do my laundry and clean house. It is very important to keep everything ship shape. I wash by hand, and hang things on the rail to dry. I have a washer/dryer, but without shore power, it is a real waste.
It was a sunny day, and very light wind. We are in the lee of Acklin islands, so the water is very calm. We motored to our evening anchorage. During the passage Michael fixed his famous pizza for lunch.
Turns out, we couldn’t find a good sandy spot here, so Pat got in the water, and Michael at the helm with me on the anchor chain. The anchor is dropped by pushing the “down” button on an electric control. It is attached to 150 feet of Stainless steel chain. We need to “drive” the boat to set the anchor and to pick it back up. This is very important. The beach we are now about 100 yard from, has a wreck near shore that proves even big boats like us have bad days.
The good news is, we found treasure on board the sunken ship!! Pat speared four lobster for dinner, one was in the engine of the sunken vessel. I swam ashore with Jib and went for a long walk, throwing the pink flip flop he found. Michael snorkeled and saw a grey reef shark. We all returned to the boat, showered on the deck as we got out of the water, and prepared for sunset.
The stern Port Hull has a fresh water hose, so I give Jib a weekly shampoo, and all of us use it as an outdoor shower after swimming or diving. We don’t have to heat water, though we have water heaters, as the engines do that, and we have PLENTY. Making water every other day seems to do us just fine.
It was a lovely sunset, and Michael cooked another one of the many “winter” squashes I brought (all stacked above our bed like a Thanksgiving decoration). Pat cooked the lobster, and I chilled the wine. A fabulous meal by all accounts. Just a crescent moon and pink clouds, plus a green flash sunset.
Wednesday evenings sunset seemed so nice, until the Acklin Island no-see-ems hit. They were flying sharks! We got the screens up and dove indoors. Unfortunately it was just about then that the wind shifted, and died. It got stuffy indoors, and we were still getting bit a little. Of course if we were really desperate we could have put on the generator and fired up the Air Conditioning, but instead we pulled anchor and “bugged out” at about 3AM.
Headed for wide open water, on an extremely flat calm sea. Had to motor, but it was a lovely morning. Our destination was Hogsty reef, an atoll in the middle of no where. It only has a small sand island with a little unmanned light on it, and another tiny sand patch with nothing else. The only other things you can see, for 360 degree view, is two rusted, very large ships, wrecked on the reef.
This turned out to be my favorite day of the trip. Flat calm azure water, 84 degrees, and 25 feet deep under the anchored boat. Jib and I jumped right in and I snorkeled for about 15 minutes with him swimming right along side. Michael and I took our tanks and went for a long shallow dive looking at pristine coral heads with every kind of critter. The water was gin clear and we really took our time. Only used 1000 lbs of our 3000 lb air fill in a tank, with a 45 minute dive. Came back to the boat for lunch and found that Pat had speared lobster and a big Grouper for dinner! I felt empty handed, so went back in the water later in the afternoon and returned with three big conch for dinner too.
The sunset, meal, wine and water was all perfect.... not a bug in sight other than the lobsters.
Still, we pulled anchor in the dark this morning around 3AM to head for Little Inagua. We are now under full sail, moving along at about 8-9 knots. The plan is to arrive by lunch so we can do a wall dive this afternoon. This will be our last night out, as we plan to get another early start tomorrow morning and arrive Turks and Caicos Saturday noon. The Turtle Cove Marina has a slip reserved for AWAKENING, and I’m very excited about showing her to all our friends on Providenciales.
I was hasty. Not surprising for me, but really, Hogsty reef was great, but Little Inagua is better. The island is uninhabited, and only has one area that is listed as a possible anchorage, and hardly anybody has been there. We arrived midday and gently passed over the underwater wall to an anchorage in crystal clear 30 foot azure water just off the beach. The wall is very real. Near some of the islands here, and especially Turks and Caicos, the deep ocean comes close to the shore. When it does, in places the wall of shore underwater is vertical and covered with coral, sponges and every kind of sea life. It makes for great diving, with easy navigation because you just go left or right, and turnaround when you are half way on your air or time.
We head toward the island beach, after reading all the charts of course, and follow the guidance of our navigation system, including two separate depth gauges. One reads the water below the boat, and the other is “forward” looking, so we can see the wall coming. The top of the wall is underwater, unless it is a reef, which of course we avoid. It is very cool watching the water color go from Cobalt Blue, to Indigo which is reef, then aqua and azure as we reach shallow water over sand. We pull up to a spot between 20-30 feet deep, drop the anchor and drift back until the stern of the boat is just over the wall. The perfect dive platform.
Little Inagua is just picture perfect above and below the water. Pat and I took Jib ashore, and both walked the beach in opposite directions. By the time we returned to the boat Michael had the dive gear set up. We did a 125 ft profile to the left first, and our second dive was only slightly shallower at 105, to the right on the wall. This wall is one of the most magnificent I have ever seen. I remembered it from our TAO trip, and was not disappointed. The size of the sponges and diversity of coral is incredible. The Barrel sponges are so big you could fit inside one. The black fans are 4 feet around and the bright orange Elephant Ear sponges are African Elephant size. The visibility was about 150 feet and all the colors of fish and reef just popped. We saw a large turtle, both underwater, and from the boat.
No bugs! We were able to thoroughly enjoy the sunset and our cockpit dining location. Very relaxing evening, and star watching from the forward trampoline. We did however have a very large flying visitor just after we were all in bed. I heard it coming a long way out, but the helicopter sort of checked us, and then flew off. Since a boat anchored off Little Inagua would be very rare indeed, we were worth checking out. Sure enough, I hear them coming back, and this time I went up on deck just as this massive military flying machine hovered right next to us. They turned on a blinding white search light, and checked us out thoroughly. Michael and Pat came on deck, and we expected radio contact, but didn’t get a call. I suspect we looked harmless, though I had put both my shorts and shirt on inside out in the dark. Finally they just roared off into the night.
We were up at 4AM to pull anchor. It seemed a shame to leave Little Inagua’s perfect paradise. After three weeks of practice, we handled departure smoothly and motored North to clear the top end of the island. The wind was right on our nose, so we motored the entire trip to Providenciales. The sea began to roll, with bigger and bigger swells as we got closer to the Turks and Caicos. They were up to about 8 feet, though quite far apart, and certainly no problem. It was just a bit uncomfortable if you weren’t sitting topside.
The entrance to Grace Bay on Provo is tricky on a calm day, but it was really like surfing with the big rolling waves coming in. The crashing breakers on both sides of our route showed how dangerous it would be to miss the cut. Michael got on the radio to speak with our guide boat, and Pat drove AWAKENING like a surfboard through to the bay. We followed the guide boat through the curving channel that keeps us out of the shallow reef areas.
It was 2pm by the time we pulled into Turtle Cove, and our slip awaited. Docking is always tense, and it took Michael a couple tries, but we are safely docked stern to now, and plugged in with AC and all.
After three weeks, I was looking forward to arriving, but while Pat and Michael are changing fuel filters and working on maintenance this morning, I wish we were headed back out sailing today instead.
Sunday Nov 10, 2002