The Burnetts have been in the middle of nowhere. “Zero bars of Lime” kind of nowhere. (Lime is the cell carrier we have in the TCI. That’s “Turks & Caicos Islands” to those in the know, by the way. “Limin’ it up,” in actuality, really means “Getting your WiFi on.”) So we are not dead. We are just having the most awesome February we have had in a long, long time!
We left Grand Turk for Salt Cay, anchored south of Deane’s Dock, and explored the island and went diving. We took the dinghy to a mooring ball on the south side of the island after learning that the balls are privately owned by Salt Cay Divers (read: Debbie) and only handle boats up to 28 feet. Mel could just kick herself, but she put her iPhone UPSIDE DOWN in her Watershot case, and so there are no pics of the best visibility they have had on the lushest reef they have dived thus far. We went diving by the big dropoff – where the seafloor suddenly goes from 20 feet deep to 13000 feet deep. It was surreal. The coral just started growing sideways down the cliff. Even the fish turned on their sides – they were so confused! One has to watch one’s depth!
We spent a whole day whalewatching with Salt Cay Divers, taking out Marvin and contacting Salt Cay Divers on the VHF if we found an area with spouts. The Burnetts returned to Salt Cay disappointed that the only glimpse of humpback seen in 6 hours of hunting was a single dorsal fin and 8 water spouts. Of course, once anchored again off of Deane’s Dock, Mel was walking to the table to pick up some dishes. She looked up just in time to see A HUMPBACK BREACH 100 feet in front of their boat. “Whale! Whale!” she screamed. It never surfaced again. Let’s just say that everyone else is pissed. Mel has been awesomized, so she doesn’t care.
We then hung out on Big Sand Cay. This is essentially “The Galapagos of the Turks & Caicos” according to the bird nerds, iguana nerds, and turtle nerds that got together and made this handout: www.ukotcf.org. Of course, Mel thinks they could have used a “plant nerd.” That way the Burnetts could have been warned about all of the CACTI and STICKERS that riddled the island. Sandals are NOT appropriate footwear!
We learned a lot anchored off of Big Sand Cay. I mean, the Turks & Caicos are like the grad school that you go to after you get your cruising degree from the BVI’s. Advanced concepts here include: Don’t Take Your Dinghy to a Sharply Angled Beach at Low Tide, Flat Sand Islands Offer No Protection, The Wind and Waves Can Change Within Hours, and DON’T LEAVE YOUR SHOES TO DRY ON THE TRANSOM. So long, Mel’s left Ecco Yucatan!
Mel had to medicate her daughter to handle this anchorage once the waves kicked up. Ick!
We then went off and experienced something unique to this region: Dropping your anchor in the middle of the ocean. We crossed the Caicos bank, a giant shallow area 40 nm long, and dropped anchor with 5 feet under our 5’ hull. No land in sight. The sea was well behaved; getting there we were able to beam reach most of the time. Beam reaching a Leopard is satisfying because it is so efficient! Once anchored, we swam out there, in the middle of nowhere, and found 12 happy grey lobsters, a few grey crabs, and 5 different brown/black/yellow starfish. No colorful fish; everything was grey! It was like the alkali flats of Northern California – bleak but beautiful in its own way. Of course, once out of the water, the kids were instantly complaining: “This is so….BORING!” I think one has to be at least 18 before one appreciates the infinite blandness of a desert.
At night, it was overcast. With no land on the horizon, the Burnetts experienced PITCH BLACK. PITCH BLACK is almost palpable – it feels so…thick. Mel had to remind herself that she had air and could breathe. We practiced putting out a stern anchor. Just…because.
We then continued to navigate the bank on our way to the island of Providenciales, AKA “Provo.” This includes the following course: Dodging Coral Heads 101. When you have just 3 feet of water below your keel, a mound of hard coral is a bit threatening. We learned to recognize the dark black blobs ahead. Unfortunately, we learned that “clouds obscuring the sun” also look like dark black blobs about 2 hours past high noon. So the Burnetts now are very good about missing dangerous coral heads and menacing fluffy clouds. FU, fluffy clouds!
Of course, our biggest challenge came next. We attempted to get to South Side Marina in Provo, which was designed for cruisers. Some friends of ours had spent some time there in their Leopard 46 and raved about the services. Unfortunately, there were a lot of possible coral heads on the way to the entrance that were not well charted. A cat with a draft less than ours was stuck in the channel at low tide. Finally, Hurricane Joachim had stirred up the sand in the channel. As we later learned with our AWESOME dinghy sonar (post pending), the marina is currently only 3 feet deep at the entrance at low tide. They used to have some powerboats in the marina that would “dredge” that out, but they haven’t been around for the last 8 months. So we decided the marina was a little tight for us, and we anchored out in Bermuda Bay. Once again, we are the only ones here. Fine with us. After the BVI, we could use a little solitude! That means: skinny dipping!
(Well, except for the kids. They don’t like solitude! No kid boats here! Not good!)