Passage from the Bahamas to Turks and Caicos Islands (Part Two)

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Great day for a sail

Hanging out in Abraham’s Bay on Mayaguana, we killed time until the winds died down. Well actually, they died down yesterday but we are giving the sea a day to settle down a little bit from the 2 days of strong northeasterly breezes. And, it rained yesterday most of the day so we stayed put. Cream Puff enjoyed a wonderful long freshwater rain shower removing all the dried salt crystals from her crevices.  There’s no point in sailing in the rain unless we have to. It still feels a little odd to me a 55 mile journey now takes us all day. We used to be able to drive 55 miles in one hour! This morning the alarm clock started to rudely beep at 4:30 am. We had to leave Abraham’s Bay in the dark to ensure we arrive in the Turks and Caicos Islands by 3 pm. This meant hoisting the anchor at about 5 am giving us a full ten hours. Do the math and you’ll find out we planned our average speed today at 5.5 knots (6.3 MPH or 10.2 KPH). Yep! We travel really fast. The area we plan to enter is shallow and we need the extra 2 feet of tidal height to give us a safety cushion over the reefs. We arranged for a pilot boat ahead of time as the entrance through the reefs is nasty.

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Hi Cindy

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Doing The Sunday Times crossword puzzle kills a couple of hours

For some reason, most cruisers skip the Turks and Caicos Islands. I have read on other blogs that unless you play golf or SCUBA dive then the islands offer nothing. I think another reason some cruisers skip the island chain is because of the landing fees. Cruisers (us included) don’t like to part with their money. For us to stay past seven days the cost is US$380. This is for Cream Puff’s cruising permit and a $15 per head immigration fee. If we stay for 7 days or less, the price drops to $80. We think we will be here longer than 7 days so we plan to buy the longer permit. I would hate to pass by or briefly skirt a very popular tourist destination group of islands because of what others have said. We figured if all the resorts are here then there has to be something to see, right? We are going to find out for ourselves. We’ll let you know what we find.

Our day today was clear skies and 10-15 knot winds. Believe it or not, this was not enough to keep our average at 5.5 knots. About half way into the journey we started the engine to give the Puffster an little extra boost. A quick check of the on-board ships computer put our ETA at Sellar’s Cut at 3 pm, exactly high tide.

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Google Earth view of Sellar’s cut – reefs everywhere!

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Navigation chart plotter view of Sellar’s Cut

About an hour outside of the reef we made contact with our pilot. They told us to radio when we were 15 minutes out and they would depart the marina to meet us just inside the reef. Sellar’s Cut through the reef is about 150 yards wide. It’s a little scary knowing an error just a few yards one way or the other can result in Cream Puff’s name being added to the list of thousands of sunken boats about the Turks and Caicos Islands. Once inside the reef, things get worse. Coral reefs are scattered everywhere with depths ranging from 10 feet to 1 foot. We need 7 feet to float. Now you can see why we used a pilot to guide us.

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Following the Pilot boat to stay in deeper waters

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Looking backward at the reefs which are everywhere (dark areas)

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Communicating with the pilot boat by VHF radio.    Pilot: “Rocks on both port and starboard sides. Very narrow ahead.  Stay close to us. Stay in the middle!”

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Cindy hoists the Turks and Caicos courtesy flag to indicate our arrival and clearance through Customs and Immigration

On the way to Caicos Island I started to wonder about something. What do you call an islander from the Turks and Caicos? What is the correct demonym? Are they Turks? Are they Caicosian? Are they TCI’s or TCian? I guess I’ll find out soon enough. I’ll let you know.

 

Categories: Caribbean, Sailing Adventures, Sailing Blog, Turk and Caicos

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