Shamal's Logo

Shamal's Logo


ADDITIONS TO THE BLOG as of the 23rd June 2015 (NZST): Shamal and her Crew are cruising the east coast of the US * Should you want to contact us you can do so by clicking on the Contact Us tab below. * We recommend that you subscribe to the Blog, so that new posts are emailed to your inbox.

30 September 2015

Florida to Rhode Island, then Massachusetts

Hello One and All

034 Our time in Putnam, Connecticut with our grandchildren was such a joy. We stayed with our son-in-laws parents, where our daughter and and son-in-law are living until they settle into jobs. Tim and Marcia were wonderful hosts.  A GREAT BIG THANKYOU to you both.  As they both work we were needed to mind the Munchkins. Summer in Connecticut is beautiful.  We did outings, and when home Tim and Marcia have set up a wonderful back yard.  It is a real children's playground.

050 Play School036 Matthew looking for yought Then it came time to fly back to Florida and pick up SHAMAL and keep heading north.  We had been called back to Grandparent duties once again at the beginning of August, so decided it would be best to sail directly up to Rhode Island, and do the site seeing on the return trip.

Our return flight took us through Detroit then on to Orlando where once again Ed and Aubrey came to our assistance, picking us up from the airport and driving us back to their home on the waterways in New Smyrna Beach. Aubrey took us out shopping to stock up as we were sailing straight through, a trip of about a week.

030 See Yah Ed So Tuesday 21st July sees us saying farewell to Ed and Aubrey and heading off to the fuel dock.  This will be another long leg and we don’t anticipate stopping.  We hope to head out to sea and pick up the Gulf Current which should give us a good push along.

034 New Smyrna  Beach As we are about to depart the fuel dock a squall passes through putting visibility down to zero.  We wait for that to pass over as we have a mile of water way channels to negotiate on the way out.  Then just as we pass through the entrance we are hit by another squall bringing visibility right down.  Thank goodness for the AIS and radar.  We are able to pick up three large fishing trawlers just ahead of us.  All clears and we are on our way.  We find the Gulf Current, and in the first 24 hours have done just over 160nm. That is with winds only between 10-15kks.

037 Thunderstorms  !! Things went well for the first couple of days, then we lost the wind, thunderstorm clouds started to build, and Military exercises were going on which shipping was asked to change course to avoid.  By now we were about 100nm off the coast of Georgia. It becomes very hot and humid.  Just before midnight we have a line of thunderstorms showing on the radar some 30 miles long and 7 miles wide!!! We get a call from a ship who sees us and asks if we have had an update on the weather situation, which was nice of him.  He has just passed through the thunderstorm line.  We can see there is no way we can outrun this, so Alec makes the decision to down sails, run parallel to the line of them, and once they are upon us we will turn into them and pass through.  It really is our only choice.  Not being a fan of fork lightening I unplug everything that is not needed, e.g. microwave, washing machine etc. and make the decision to take my beanbag down to the office area and ride it out there unless I am summoned on deck to help with anything!!! 

An hour later we are out the other side unscathed..  Fork lightening has been dancing all about us. We have heavy rain, and wind gusting to around 47kts, but the seas were not big which was good.

038 Heavy Rain For the rest of the trip we had a mixed bag of weather.  More thunderstorms were about with lightening, but we managed to avoid them.  Winds were too light and we did a lot of motor sailing.  We were joined by dolphins on different occasions, I tried fishing, but no luck there, and, more warships were doing exercises offshore which we were asked to avoid.  But worst of all around Cape Hatters we lost the Gulf Current.  We stayed well off the Cape as it does not have a good reputation !!!  We picked up a south flowing current which did not help our progress.

Around 0245 of day eight we had a call from the Coast Guard asking our position and our ETA into Rhode Island Sound.  At that time of the morning and with winds so light, I had no idea what time we would arrive. The family had now been wondering where we were and made some calls !!!!!

IMG_2760 IMG_2732 By 1800 that evening we had tied up to a mooring buoy which had been made available to us by Dan’s brother Chris’s father-in law. We had just completed 975nm.  We have been so lucky with the generosity of the people here.  Nothing seems too much trouble. Dan, our son-in-law, daughter Brigitte and the boys were there to meet us and spent the night on the boat with us.  They returned home the next day to leave Alec and I to do our clean-up, then, picked us up the following day for Grandparent Duties yet again.

We had only been in Putnam three nights – where the family are staying, when we had to take Alec back to SHAMAL.  He was keeping an eye on the weather each day and saw that thunderstorms with strong winds had been forecast.  He spent the night onboard.  Around 0600 the following morning the blast came through the Bay.  Alec said the winds were 60kts plus, and strong enough to cause a blinding spray to come off the seas.  He was unable to see the boats moored around him.  When he could see, Gene, who’s mooring we were on and who had a small yacht moored next door to us, had damage to his boat.  The jib had unfurled and ripped and was in the water, and the mast had broken in half. SHAMAL came through unscaved. 

IMG_2815 Before Dan headed off to work flying for a corporate company, and Brigitte headed off to Europe again crewing on a private jet, we took them out to Block Island about 30nm from where we were in Rhode Island Sound, but only 8nm from the mainland.  We had a lovely weekend visiting the Island from our anchorage in Old Harbour.  It has a mixture of gingerbread and Victorian style homes, and a slightly rolling hill landscape.  The island is 7.5miles long and 4 miles wide with fresh water ponds all over the place. Alec Dan and Brigitte got into the water to give SHAMAL’S hull a quick clean.  We even took the boys to the beach for a swim.  A little on the cold side for my liking as it is now around 24 degree c.

IMG_2814 052 Block Island Also when we motored into Great Salt Pond on the western side of the Island, there was another Seawind 1160 at anchor. “Courageous Couple” owned by David.  Alec and I went over to say hello, but it was a short visit as we both had guests aboard, but, we left our card and we hope they will get in touch with us again.

IMG_2838 While looking after the boys we returned to SHAMAL every few days to check on things.  On one of these visits we found our front deck had been used as the “bombing range” by the sea gulls, who would fly to some height with their crab catch, let it go so it would smash on the deck, then come in for their meal.  Oh help you can imagine the mess.  We had the carcasses of about 10-12 crabs to clean up along with dried bits.  The deck had to be scrubbed down completely.

So, after another fortnight on land we moved back to SHAMAL and started heading north again.  We are heading for Martha’s Vineyard. Again we stop at the fuel dock before leaving Rhode Island Sound.  We have good winds and are able to sail the whole way.  We are in an area of shoals, reefs and rocks, but the channels are well marked with red and green lateral marker buoys,and most have huge bells or horns on them due to the fogs that can descend here very quickly, we are told.

014 Menemsha About an hour out we hear a Pan Pan call.  It comes from a 45ft launch which reports smoke coming from one of its engines, and they are taking on water.  We were the closest boat in their vicinity being only a mile away so offered to go to their aid.  They were very pleased to hear from us and said they would appreciate us coming over and standing by for them, which we did.  It did not take them long to sort the problem and they radioed us back to say things were under control enough for them to make it back home.

017 Menemsha Fishing Village Our first anchorage on Martha’s Vineyard is at the western end of the Island at Menemsha. We went into the harbour, but came out again and anchor off the beach as it will be too shallow at low water inside. There were a couple of mooring buoys in the fishing harbour, but they are already taken, and the rest of the area is full of lobster boats. The following morning we take the tender into the harbour to visit the town.  It was here that “Jaws” was filmed. The quaint weathered fishing shacks still stand that were built for the set.  Menemsha is a small village. There are lots of little antique and second hand shops along its two main roads, and places selling clams,oysters, lobster etc.but they were quite expensive.  We had a good look around then found a nice place for coffee before returning to SHAMAL.

We then headed along the coast for 12nm to Vineyard Haven where we picked up a mooring buoy.  It was here we replaced our anchor chain.  When we bought SHAMAL she came with 60mts of 8mm chain and 50mts of rope.  Alec changed that for 100mts of 8mm chain.  We have been very happy with that, but the time has come to replace the chain.  So in the mean time we have gone back to our original chain and rope which is still in excellent condition. Hence the reason for us spending a night on a mooring buoy.  We changed that over the following morning before heading into town.  Later, when way out to sea in deep water and away from anything, we had a burial at sea for that old chain !!!!!!

035 Vineyard Haven Vineyard Haven is a very quaint area which has a 19th century charm about it.  Main Street is full of antique ,jewellery, craft and clothing shops.  Many of the buildings also throughout this region are weatherboard then finished with wooden shingles. These weather giving that lovely greyish look to the buildings. We are also amazed at the number for old sailing boats and ships which have been beautifully maintained and are seen sailing around here. Many are used over the summer to take tourists for sails. Martha’s Vineyard, like the next door Island of Nantucket, are also famous for their whaling history.  In fact this whole area around Cape Cod is steeped in whaling history.

Nantucket was our next stop.  This island is really pretty with grassy moors, salt bogs and blueberry fields.  We have been eating blueberries every morning since arriving in the States.  That’s how much we have been enjoying them. Also lots of sandy beaches, but with the water temperature now around 23 deg. c. swimming has not been on our list of ‘must do’ things. Some of the more hardy locals are taking a dip off the back of their boats. We anchor in the lagoon in Nantucket Harbour.  We have a steady wind blowing of 15kts and the sun is shining so we are making good power with the wind generator and the solar panels.

012 Nantucket Our trip ashore was most interesting. Again a very quaint town, actually the nicest so far, with cobbled streets in the old heart of town and lots of lovely shops.  We visited the Whaling Museum which really is a must see, giving the history of the whalers, Quakers and Island life. Whaling ships left Nantucket and ventured off to different corners of the world for up to three years at a time chasing their catch for its prized oil.

Our second night at anchor in this harbour was not comfortable.  We are now getting into areas of greater falls in tides and stronger currents.  At 04.00 we were both woken with SHAMAL really swinging about doing a 360 deg on the bridle, then swinging back again. We must have been sitting right in one of these tidal streams. By 05.30 we had had enough of this and we had enough daylight to raise the anchor and head on out.  We were on our way around Cape Cod.

IMG_3033IMG_3047 It was a full days sail of 70nm from Nantucket to Provincetown which sits just inside the northern tip of Cape Cod. The first part of the trip was across Nantucket Sound dodging shoals, but the area is very well market with buoys.  Then we stated sailing along the coast of the Cape with it’s windswept dunes and beaches, and towards the northern end with high cliffs. This area is  really exposed to the Atlantic weather, and many wrecks are testimony to this.  It was also along this coastline we see our first whales.  They really are quite majestic as they rise and fall back into the ocean.  Some were very close and others some distance away.  It was a thrill to be among them, but, I do like to keep my distance.  As we got closer to the top of the Cape we were seeing more and much closer in.  Boaties are asked to keep a distance of about 500 yards away from them, but no one has told the whales this !!!!  At times they were coming up just meters away from us.  I was never quick enough to get a good photo. Later when we were at anchor in the bay off Provincetown we had two visit us.  Alec was in the shower and looked out the window to see one come up about 10 mts away, and again in the afternoon one swam around us.

IMG_3083 We also had a huge pod of dolphins with us along the Cape coastline, but, also hundreds and hundreds of lobster pots which need to be avoided.  They are marked with a buoy, often with a rod on top, but some are so close together. That can be quite a challenge when you are sailing.  We arrived into Provincetown exhausted as we had both been on watch all day, just as the sun was setting.  On our way in we passed a lovely restored sailing ship, and Alec passed the comment that we would be arriving before the pilgrims!!!!  Our anchorage here was perfect.  Excellent holding, and we were well protected from the wind and seas by the Cape.  When the tide was out sandbars appeared with lobster pots sitting on them, and yes they held a catch.  The local fishermen can just walk out to clear these ones.

IMG_3101 IMG_3128 Provincetown is where the pilgrims from the Mayflower first set foot on US soil.  They stayed here for five weeks before sailing to Plymouth and settling there. A huge granite monument to honour its first visitors has been built which can be seen for miles.  One can climb to the top and also see for miles, which we did.  We also visited the museum, and again wandered the streets of the town finding a nice bar on the waterfront at the end of MacMillan Wharf for an evening drink before returning to SHAMAL. Again this town had a long whaling history.  This area is also the home to the endangered right whale. 

Well we will sign out for the time being

Love to you all

The Admiral and The Commander

04 August 2015

Florida – U.S.A.

051 Passing through reef entrance, Provo We were on a pole mooring in Turtle Cove Marina, Providenciales – Caicos, which we had gone in bow to, and only just squeezed in. With the help of a Danish yachtsman we were able to back out with only an inch or so to spare. We followed a mono out through Sellar’s Cut – the opening in the reef, and hoist the sails once more.  Another glorious day with winds from the east at 16kts., some whitecaps and a following sea of 1.5mts.  The evenings are cooler with no moon.  Day 2 and we are able to hoist the MPS and give it another airing.  We are able to fly it until just before midnight when the winds strengthen, so down it came as it is only for winds up to 17kts.

055 SHAMAL under MPS on leaving Caicos Each day I put the fishing rod out but all I catch is that golden seaweed.  Day 5 and we have now entered the Santaren Channel which runs along the western side of the Great Bahama Bank.  We have chosen not to cross the Bank this trip, but run further south and keep in the deeper waters of the Old Bahama Channel which then runs into the Santaren Channel. and, we have totally lost the wind.  The seas are so flat and calm.  It is like a mill pond !!! and a very hot day – temperatures are well into the mid 30’s, but a good day to do some jobs.  Alec polishes the stainless steel and I start cleaning. Early afternoon and my line takes off.  It certainly is something fairly big.  As I bring it in we see it is some type of swordfish.  Oh help, this is a bit too big for the freezer.  It would be such a pity to waste it, so we make a decision to let it go, but not before taking photos.  Later we learn from our fishing expert in the UAE, many thanks Graham, that we caught a Short-billed Spearfish.  Also he says they are not common in these waters.

065 A Short-billed Spearfish062 A Painted Yacht On A Painted Ocean Later that evening with still not a breath of wind we stop the boat for a swim.  The water temperature is just perfect.  This is becoming a very slow trip due to the light winds, but off the Florida coast we pick up the Gulf Stream which carries us along at 8kts for a time.  We arrive off West Palm Beach well before daylight and once again do not want to enter in the dark.  Alec sees that it would be no good to hove to as the current would still carry us well past our destination, so we put third reef in the main, full jib out, and turn SHAMAL back around the way we had just come – into the 4kt current.  Our speed through the water is now 5kts, BUT speed over the ground is only 1kt.  Therefore we only did 3nm in the wrong direction.  If we had faced the correct way we would have gone 15nm in the 3hrs, past our destination. All quite technical but it worked really well.

001 Entrance into West Palm Beach, Flordia 014 Homes at entrance to West Palm Beach We pulled into the Riviera Beach Marina, West Palm Beach to do our check in procedures.  We had just completed a 659nm run.  There was an English couple who had also just arrived, so we shared a taxi out to the airport together where we made our visit all legal !!  We discovered this couple were also in Marina di Ragusa, Sicily, at the same time as us.  Roy and Madeline Hibberch off “Mithril”.  As I explained in a previous Blog we had obtained our US Cruising Permit in Porto Rico which is valid for one year, and, before we left Europe we had obtained a ten year multi entry visa which is valid for a six month visit at a time.  We were surprised we were not met by Homeland Security, Customs or Quarantine, and that the boat was not searched.  This made for a very pleasant arrival procedure.

008 Holiday Weekend, Peanut Is. West Palm Beach The following day was Memorial Day – a big holiday, so we moved off the pontoon and motored up under one of the many bridges on the Intracoastal Waterways – this one was fixed with a clearance of 65ft. To the top of our mast is 58ft !!!!! then back again to anchor off Peanut Island just inside the entrance to West Palm Beach, and rested. The place was insanely crowed with holiday makers.

017 Bridge opening on ICW, heading north Next day it was time to head north to Stuart – this is where we will have our new sails made.  We decided we would do the trip along the coast to make use of the current, and had motored back out to sea again when we read up that the Stuart entrance is over a bar which is only recommended for “local” use due to the shifting sands.  So we motor back in again and now get our first experience of using the ICW – Intracoastal Waterways. It takes us seven hours to do the 30nm trip.  We had to pass under 1, and through 8 bridges, sometimes waiting 20 or more minutes for them to open to allow you through. Some will open straight away for you, and others only open on the hour or half hour.  The route took us past beautiful waterfront homes, through towns, and through the swamp areas which have been dredged.

The ICW runs from Key West, South Florida all the way to Chesapeake Bay, Norfolk, Virginia. It is approximately 1200 miles of dredged navigable canals running just inland parallel to the coast.  There is a speed restriction in many places to protect the manatees – what we call dugong or sea cows.

At Stuart we leave the ICW and enter another channel which takes us into Manatee Pocket, known as the “Sailfish Capital of the World” !! We drop anchor, and from here set out to find our sail loft.  The time has come for the old sails to be finally removed – for good !!  While all this is going on we have a call from our daughter up in Connecticut saying she is bringing the boys down for a two week holiday while the sails are being made.  She will fly into Fort Lauderdale, which means we will return via the waterways to West Palm Beach.  From there we hire a car to pick them up from the airport.  It is well over a year since we have seen our grandchildren, so it is very exciting. 

035 Matthew, Peanut Is. 036 William, Peanut Is. Our first week is spent around Peanut Island where the waters are clean and warm with lovely sandy beaches for the boys to play on.  We find a play ground when a change of scene is needed.  This is where Alec was threatened with a red sticker, his first citation - yes that is right.  We had tied the tender under the big bridge well out of the way, not being able to find any where else to leave it, and, we locked it to a fence. We then took the boys into the play area to use the slides at the park, then off for a walk. On returning we are approached by the CEO of the park who told us we COULD NOT leave the tender where we did.  When Alec asked where we were meant to leave it, the guy said he didn’t know, there was actually nowhere.  Come on, how do all these people come ashore.  He said some come ashore in there tenders because they don’t want to use the marina where you have to pay, but they are not meant to.  The marina was NOT in walking distance from the park and amenities we were using.  We read later that a by-law is trying to be passed in their State Parliament where no-one can anchor within 200 yards from any homes built along the waterways.  Well that would make it impossible to stay the night on most part of the waterways in this area, as they are not even 200 yards wide in some places.Thousands of boats use them – is that not what they are for.

111 Back in the Tender 113 Back in the play area We moved SHAMAL around the Island anchoring in different places.  On the first occasion we up anchor, it won’t budge. Brigitte goes overboard to see what it is stuck on, then Alec goes over as well.  Out comes the Power Snorkel and they both go down again.  The chain is caught around a bow-sprit on an old sunken yacht.  Thank goodness it does not take them long to untangle us.  Our next anchorage on the other side of the island also saw us getting the chain snagged, this time around a rock, but that came unhooked by just driving the boat around it thank goodness. After a week there, we motored south towards Fort Lauderdale and dropped the anchor about half way in a small lake.  Most of the lake was very shallow and the last bridge attendant gave us directions where to park among some other boats. These guys do a great job and are polite and helpful. Later that evening one of the boat owners came out in his tender and told us we it was a big lake and we were too close to his boat.  Rather paranoid, but we moved a little just to appease him.  The next anchorage was where Alec was once again told he had parked the tender in the wrong place – a public wharf !!!!  This was after we had dropped Brigitte and the boys off for their return flight to Connecticut.  It was the water police who told us we were parked in the wrong place, and again were not too sure where we could tie up ??

William's Green Frog !! As we were loading everyone and the luggage into the tender for that last trip ashore, William was trying to tell Poppa that there was a “green frog” .  No one was taking any notice till Brigitte turned and saw a rather large iguana had swam out to the boat and climbed out onto the outboard motor.  I have never seen the Brigitte evacuate the boys and herself from the tender so quickly.

Alec and I returned to West Palm Beach taking the coastal passage, then back into the waterways to reach Stuart.  The sails were ready and fitted, some new lines, main sheet traveller replaced, new track and Carr on the boom for the main outhaul, a new mast anchor light which works on a sensor so it will come on at night and off at dawn when at anchor, etc etc.  We are working through the list of jobs.  All a bit of a rush, but we are ready to keep heading north.

Our next leg to New Smyrna Beach is 132nm which will be another overnighter. We decide as it is the weekend we will follow the other million boats out through the passage to the open sea as they all must have “local” knowledge they way they skim through the waters here. We also have had a call from Brigitte asking if we could leave the boat somewhere safe and fly up to Connecticut to mind the boys while she is off on a trip to Europe with a new job, and Dan is away flying as well.

IMG_2686 We have friends in New Smyrna Beach who offer us the use of their waterways pontoon which was wonderful.  Ed and Aubrey Lunsford.  Our first night is spent at anchor in the waterways, then the following morning we pick Ed up and he navigates us around to his pontoon.  We would have run aground if he had not been onboard.  Aubrey met us with her wheelbarrow.  Aubrey how practical – a fellow sailor understanding the needs of cruisers.  Yes she was there to collect our laundry.  I do have my small washing machine, but we had had the family with us which always creates more than our usual.  Also while we are away we will be able to leave SHAMAL in very safe hands on their dock which is just wonderful.  They also have a Seawind 1160, which at this time is out in the Bahamas.  Even though they have their other catamaran on the pontoon, they make room for SHAMAL. Ed and Aubrey are the most hospitable hosts.  We stay with them while making arrangements to fly north.

So Friday 26th June sees us leaving SHAMAL for a couple of weeks while we head out of Orlando via Washington, and on to Hartford where we will be minding our “ Munchkins”.

Love to you all from

The Admiral and the Commander

01 August 2015

Puerto Rico and onto the Turks & Caicos

We were able to clear out from Sint Maarten the afternoon before leaving for Puerto Rico. This meant we were underway just on day-break.  With sails up we clear the island and change tack to get onto the correct heading.  Oh “B” the mainsheet traveller has jammed up.  This will be interesting.  We need this to move the main sail from the port to starboard tack and back !!!  Something in the workings of it has failed !!  After about five minutes Alec manages to get it to work, but with difficulty. It will need an overhaul very soon.  Another job to add to the tech list which is now growing longer by the day it seems.

001 Trying to Fish !!! We have a lovely sail with eastly winds giving us a good push from the aft quarter.  The seas are between 1-2 mts but this is something SHAMAL handles with ease and it is a comfortable ride.  During the night we pass the British and US Virgin Islands out to our STBD side some 28nm away.  We have an almost full moon which makes for a lovely night passage.  The main and jib are still holding together, but, Alec is still adding a patch here and there to keep them together.  Not long to go now before they will be replaced – just on a 1,000nm till we reach Stuart in Florida where the job will be done !!!!!!  We also have the rod out again fishing, but all we are catching is the golden seaweed.  This is becoming very frustrating.

We are now hearing the US Coast Guard on the radio.  I suppose as Puerto Rico falls under US jurisdiction, they will become a familiar voice on the radio from now on. Puerto Rico sits in the northern Caribbean and came under US possession in 1898.  Puerto Ricans have been US citizens since 1917. The Spanish name means ‘rich port’, that, we are not totally convinced about !!!

006 Sunbay Marina, Fajardo For the last 24nm we lost the wind so dropped the sails and motored in watching out for reefs, rocks and sandbars.  By midday we are all tied up in Sunbay Marina, Fajardo, on the north eastern end of Puerto Rico.  Not a wonderful spot as it is very shallow, even for us, to come in here.  We visit the Marina Office to see what the check in procedures are.  The staff here are lovely.  They make phone calls for us and order a taxi as it is a bit of a hike to the customs office, and they advise us not to walk there, or even take the tender across the bay as the area is a little dubious.  The poor taxi driver waits for over an hour for us as things move rather slowly in this office, but we come out with our U.S.A. Cruising Permit which is valid for one year, and is the main reason for our stop off here in Puerto Rico.  So it was all worth the waiting.  Next we need a chart to get us through the Turks and Caicos Islands which will be our next stop.  Again the office girls phone around for us but alas to no avail.  None can be found in the boat shops in this area..  Oh well we have everything on the chart plotter, but a paper chart would also be most helpful. We will be entering an area of lots of shallows and reefs.  We will stay off shore till daylight in the deeper waters and negotiate our way in in daylight.

002 Fajardo The next day we walk into the local village to find not much there.  It is getting warmer now, summer is well and truly on its way.  We decide to top up our diesel tanks and anchor out where it will be cooler. We will wait for a good weather window for our next leg.  An American woman on the mono we were anchored next to comes over to say she remembers us from Marina di Ragusa – Sicily.  It is Shanna and her husband Doug off “Hobnob”.  Talk about a small world.  As we end up in the bay for a couple of nights, we visit each others boats for drinks and a catch-up, which was great.

Friday 8th May – the winds are eastly at 18-20kts.  Just perfect for our next leg, so by 06.30 we have upped anchor and are on our way.  We have joined a radio network for this next leg which Shanna and Doug also participate in, of yachts returning to the States, where we call in twice a day and give our positions and see how everyone is going.  Some, like us, will be stopping along the way.

003 South Dock Beach 004 Cruise Ship at South Dock This next leg is around 400nm.  The wind is never above 30kts and seas around 2mts.  There are some squalls about hence we sometimes have a reef in the main and jib, and sometimes are sailing under full sails. The seas here are the most spectacular sapphire blue, and with the waves having foaming white breaking tops it is a picture perfect sight.  It is night as we are approaching Grand Turk and Alec says we need to slow  down so as to arrive in the daylight.  We drop the main sail and pull the jib in till we only have a third of it out – we are still doing between 5.5-6kts, and yes we do arrive before daylight, so hold out in the deeper waters till there is enough light to anchor.  We drop anchor in 8mts of the most beautiful clean clear turquoise waters with a white sandy bottom at South Dock.  This place is pristine.

Grand Turk and several smaller cays make up the Turk group which lie east of the Caicos Islands and are separated by a 22nm wide passage.  This passage drops to 4,500 meters deep, and in this area the Atlantic Humpback Whales migrate here during the winter months from the New England coast, as it is their breeding grounds.

014 SHAMAL at anchor off Cockburn Town 015 Tender at Cockburn town jetty The Turks and Caicos were part of the Bahamas up until 1848.  Today they remain part of the United Kingdom having previously been semi-autonomous.  In 2009 Britain  suspended the island’s government and constitution  due to political corruption. 2012 saw new elections and today they are a self-governed colony of the UK.

016 Cockburn Town Once we had completed our check in formalities, which resulted in a couple of hot, tired dusty people wandering around looking somewhat lost, and being picked up by a lovely couple who run a hotel on the island, and being deposited outside the customs “shed”, we returned to SHAMAL and moved her up the island to anchor off Cockburn Town, the capital of the Turks and Caicos.  There is nothing big or sophisticated about this place.  Just two parallel streets running along the beach, the odd bank, a post office and a couple of shops, a church, and some colonial-era houses, give the place a real rustic charm.  Cruise Ships do come into South Dock and one arrived the same time as us, but we missed the crowds thank-goodness. It has become a very popular stop off, and a $60 million Cruise Centre has been built with duty free shopping, a huge swimming pool – can’t see why as the most beautiful beach is right next door, plus snorkel and dive trips etc.

 031 Cockburn Town  020 Cockburn Town The following morning we go shore and set off to find the museum to read up on the history of the Turks, which is said to be the first place in the Caribbean that Christopher Columbus made landfall.  Also it is the place where the astronaut John Glen splashed back to earth in his Mercury Spacecraft.  Just our luck, the museum was closed that day !!! Still we found a supermarket and a place for a coffee with Wifi after walking around taking in the sites.

We decided to cross the Caicos Passage that afternoon again wanting to arrive in daylight into Cockburn Harbour on South Caicos.  We have another lovely sail and drop anchor in 3mts of again clear waters.  This place looks quite dead.  Just the odd fishing boat about and one other yacht anchored in the harbour, without a mast – they must have a story to tell.  Also just to the north of the harbour up on the reef is a mono stuck hard and fast lying on its side.  A very sad site indeed, and quite recently run aground.

002 Seaview Marina General Store 004 Seaview Marina General Store Ashore the next day we are off to find the “Seaview Marina” to see if they have charts.  This is a one stop shop.  It reminded me of a local country store from the 1950’s.  Just delightful.  It sold EVERYTHING. Fuel, gas, oils, lubricants,spare parts, food items from fresh through to frozen and everything in between. Hardware products, fishing gear, cards, books, children's beach toys, and YES, CHARTS.  So we purchased the last chart of what we thought was the Caicos Banks – beautifully wrapped in and sealed in cellophane.  We made the mistake of not opening it. Later when we did open it up it only covered the area around Providencials – the island we were heading for – not the Bank it's self.  

012 Crossing Caicos Bank013 Crossing Caicos Bank We chose to cross the Bank rather than take the longer route around the outside. One of the routes across the bank is called the Pearl Route, and this is the one we chose.  The area is dotted in reefs and rocks. Again it was well marked out on our chart plotter.  It is approximately a 50nm trip with average depths between 1.8 to 3.8 mts.  You need to cross it in good daylight with the sun behind you.  As we started a little later in the morning we decided to spend a night out on the bank which is recommended as a night passage would only be foolhardy. The crossing is quite a unique experience, and the anchorage in just over 3mts of water in the middle of no-where quite surreal. Here we are sitting out with no land in sight.  The wind had picked up to 18kts with small white caps, but it was so warm that before dinner we went for a swim.  By morning it was flat calm again with clouds dotting the skies.  They reflect the stunning aquamarine waters on their undersides.  As we continue on I take my position up front again to help steer Alec around the rocks and coral heads.  Occasionally I am steering us around what turns out to be cloud shadows, but better to be safe than sorry!!!  During the morning we have first one, then two large dolphins join us for over an hour, swimming along with us in the shallow waters.

015 Heavy Rain, Sapodilla Bay, Provo Later the clouds start to build and by the time we drop anchor in Sapodilla Bay on the south side of Providenciales – called Provo for short, a good old thunder storm has built.  We then get 20 minutes of really heavy rain.  The Germans on the boat next to us all hop out with their soap and shampoo to take a fresh water free shower !!

We move SHAMAL from the southern side of the island around to the northern side the following morning, passing through the narrow entrance in the reef at Seller’s Cut, and anchoring just inside.  We take the tender ashore to make arrangements to move the boat into Turtle Cove Marina the following day.  The marina is situated in a natural lagoon and is totally protected from wave and surge action.  The other great thing about the marina is that we will be able to check out from here as the customs and immigration officers come down to the marina.

032 Sunset, Turtle Bay Marina Providenciales, Provo.  About two-thirds of the population of the Turks and Caicos live here. The North Coast is the up-market side of the island with hotels, apartments and private mansions spread along the beautiful shore-line.  Most amenities can be found here on the island, but distance between things can be quite far.  Out came our bikes again and off we set to explore the place. From where the boat is parked it is a seven mile ride to the eastern end of the Island where another marina is situated.  We head on out.  It is hot – around 36 degrees c.  We are peddling along the main, and only, highway, Alec well in front of me, when one of the locals stops beside him and says, “Hey Man, slow down, you left your lady way behind !”. Then a little later a van pulls over and offers to take us to the marina as he is going the same way. Thank goodness !!!!!! We just had to ride all the way back again.

045 Looking sth from Leeward Hwy, Provo We spend four days here making new friends and exploring the area.  There are beautiful beaches, those lovely aquamarine waters, marine parks and historical sites to see.  It was here that we finally got to have our first conch meal.  A large shell fish that is harvested throughout the Caribbean and found on most menus.   We had it lightly grilled and it was delicious. Finally it is time to move on again.  Monday 18th May sees us once more departing another gorgeous Island, hoisting our sails in a perfect 15-17kt breeze, and this time heading directly for Florida.

Till next time we will sign out

Love to you all from

The Admiral and The Commander