Unbelievable colors show depth
Sapodilla anchorage, Caicos
Historic Sapodilla Hill
Monument anchorage, Georgetown
With a beautiful forecast we sailed out of Boqueron, Puerto Rico, on Saturday morning, March 17 heading north and west to the Turks and Caicos. It was one of the very best passages we have had in all our 15 years of cruising. Seas were regular and smooth, winds were constant from one direction, giving us a nice broad reach all the way, and there was no rain! Just before noon on Tuesday we made the turn into Sandbore Channel to get to Sapodilla anchorage in the Caicos. In the photo, the dark blue is the open sea, over 4000 feet deep. The lighter water is over the sand bore lining the channel, just 2 to 20 feet, and the medium water is the passage in. We are relearning how to read depths from the colors.
We were last in the Caicos in 1999, and the building boom has changed the whole place. Sapodilla used to be remote, and to get to town cruisers hitchhiked. Now, the bay is lined with beautiful homes, but the water and the people are still as nice as always. We hiked up the "hill" by the anchorage (probably 100 feet high) and saw grafitti from sailing ships passing here long ago.
After only 2 days in Caicos the weather looked good so we decided to make the 2 night passage to Georgetown in the Bahamas, where we are now. More fantastic colors in the water, an anchorage which can, and does, hold 100's of boats, and perhaps our last clearance into a foreign port with Cormorant. It is wonderful to be here after the famous Cruisers' Regata which finished March 11. Now the dinghy dock has plenty of room, the stores are well stocked, and we can even get room here at the internet place. We'll be heading up the islands toward the Abacos, and will probably update from there.
CRUISER INFO: Clearing in and out of the Turks and Caicos, staying no longer than 7 days, cost $100. Clearing in the Bahamas is $300 for up to 4 people, and it is good for 1 year with one re-entry, so boats wanting to cruise the eastern US and return within a year do not have to pay again. There is a transit clearance of $50, but you must be out in 7 days and if you want to then change to the cruising permit you have to pay the full $300, with no credit for the $50 you already paid.
Dinghy exploring in Salinas
We ended up spending a week in Salinas, getting groceries, installing the fridge, and just messing around. It has the reputation of being a good hurricane hole and this creek shows why.
Lots of birds, but lots of stink too
The banks are lined with mangroves, and in a storm, boats go as far in as draft will allow and spider-web lines across the creek. One boat, visible under the clear water, didn't make it.
and some birds like to roost on boats
"House" on the reef, Culebra
Moving west from the US Virgin Islands, it is an easy day sail to Culebra, the closest of the so called Spanish Virgins. It is a whole different world, with no cruise ships, no charter boats, no beach discos, and plenty of nice friendly people. We felt like we were cruising again rather than being on vacation. As we entered the large sheltered harbor on Culebra, we passed the reef anchorage called Dakity. When we anchored here in 1999, navigation was "eyeball" to find the deeper water through the pass and into the anchorage behind the reef. Now, the DNR has put out free moorings (however we tried one and were not satisfied with the maintenance, so we slept much better on our own anchor) and red and green buoys mark the channel. One enterprising soul seems to have made a home, with 360 degree sea views, for a song.
After Culebra we sailed 10 miles to the south to Vieques. In 1999 it was closed to cruisers because the navy used it for test bombing and local people were protesting after a tragic accident. Since then, the navy base in Puerto Rico has been closed and Vieques is now mostly a park--very little development and all of that on the west end of the island. We spent 3 days in Ensenada Honda, and anchorage that is totally protected by mangroves and reefs and is so large it could hold well over 100 yachts. The most we saw was 3.
Then came one of those days which unfortunately happen when cruising. As we sailed 10 miles west to Esperanza, the strong winds ripped a meter long tear in our 14 year old headsail. That night, as we were rolling miserably in the anchorage, our refrigerator evaporator sprung a fatal leak. Harry repaired it 2 years ago, but the metal is so thin to improve efficiency that, on a constantly moving boat, its useful life is about 5 years. We put this one in 7 years ago in New Zealand, so it was time. Our despair was short however. The next day we sailed to Salinas, on the south coast of Puerto Rico and found a very large, beautiful protected anchorage with friendly, helpful people ashore. We took the sail in for repair, got in back in only 2 hours, and the total cost was $45. We ordered the new evaporator which had to be shipped from South Carolina, and 30 hours later we got the call that it was in the store and when were we coming to pick it up! Now Harry has been working all day to install it, and right now the lid is going back on the freezer. We will enjoy our sundowner time today for sure.