Tuesday, March 31, 2009

New Location(s).Let the Games Begin

On Monday at 11 am(ish), we left Provo with an outboard on board (it worked at the shop.we'll see if "yoshi" performs on the reefs) heading for French Cay. It's a 15 mile trip so we should make it past the reefs on both ends in daylight. It was a bit windier than predicted (sound familiar?). As we passed by some nice coral heads en route, we decided to drop anchor and explore them. Perhaps a fish dinner.or lobster.or conch? Michael dove in as Lorna and Dave got their gear together. He saw a shark (small nurse), tropicals, trigger fish, a small lobster, conch, a few snappers and a grouper. He came back for the spear. Spear in hand he heads back for the grouper.he stares dinner in the face, pulls back on the spear and SNAP! The seven year old rubber breaks.the fish lives to tell the tale about the spear fisherman that got away! Hot dogs tonight!

Lorna and Dave snorkeled a bit. Lorna retrieved a beautiful shell / sand-dollar / urchin (still to be identified). They saw lots of cool fish, corals, sponges and sea creatures. After about an hour playing around the coral - we headed back on course towards French Cay. It took four tries to find a place where the anchor "held" (and that was questionable). Michael snorkeled out to check all four attempts. He certainly got a workout on this day. We did see green flash number three for Dave and Lorna. We put a lot of chain out and put on the radar anchor alarm and GPS alarms as it was a very roll-ey anchorage. After a rough night trying to sleep in the roll (listening to silly alarms) though we never drug an inch.it was an early start on Tuesday morning.

We woke up to head to Ambergris Cay - about 40 miles east. The weather was predicted to be pleasant for the trip. But alas, another weather weasel falsehood. The wind picked up (right on the nose - so no sailing) and the seas were quite rough. We were only going about 3.5-4 knots most of the way and had to get there with good sun because of all the coral heads. And there are a LOT of them. Michael repaired his spear sling (thanks Gene - he still has the original you made him). We arrived and found a lovely anchorage - it's flat, comfortable and the anchor got set very well. Michael checked the anchor by starting up outboard "Yoshi" (which worked enough to get him to the anchor and a small reef that he checked out.)

Now we await Dave's feast of pasta and shrimp. Followed by a quiet night's sleep (hopefully) and a full day of snorkeling tomorrow. We're hoping to spend at least tonight and tomorrow night here and then move on, weather permitting.

A little note on Ambergris Cay. There are two cays imaginatively named "Big Ambergris" and "Little Ambergris." They are private islands being developed as resorts. Big Ambergris (that we anchored near) has a private airstrip, tiki hut beach bar, club house and several homes built.

"Ambergris" is a wax-like substance that is excreted by the humpback whales that pass through the Turks Island Passage. We hope to spot some of these whales as we head to Grand Turk through deeper water. Ambergris is often found on the windward shore of the cays. But because the islands are private - we aren't allowed on shore so we won't be hunting any whale excrement.

Here's to a great dinner - a quiet night at anchor, great snorkeling tomorrow and good luck for Michael and his freshly re-made spear. Perhaps fish or lobster for dinner tomorrow night!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Countdown to Leaving Provo. . . .FINALLY!!

Tomorrow morning (Monday), we’ll pick up the outboard – ready or not – and take off from Provo for other Turks and Caicos cays and islands. Weather looks like it will be favorable. We’re in the South Side Marina (yet again) so we can get the outboard first thing in the morning and then a quick NAPA stop for more carburetors cleaner and fuel additive and then we’ll be off. We may have to wait a bit for the tide. The goal: French Cay – a short 15 mile trip.

On Friday night in Sapodilla we rolled a lot. One of our guests didn’t feel great – and it wasn’t great sleeping for anyone. So in the morning (Saturday) we left for what’s know as “The Annex.”
It’s a cut into the rocks that leads to a pond-type area – large enough for about four to seven boats. It’s surrounded by a completed sea wall.

Lots and lots of Seawall!

Fairly tight, but no roll!

This was to be a marina but went bankrupt before completion. Anyone interested, we hear it is available in unfinished state for a miserly $80 million. Now boats anchor there in fully protected, flat water. That’s the good part. The downside is that it’s pretty murky water (not getting cleaned out by tides very efficiently) and the landscape looks like something out of a bad Star Trek episode. Lots of dirt, dust and rock.

The entrance, looking in.

The entrance looking out.

A tight fit going in or out!

But it was a smooth night (other than the walls got a little closer when the wind changed and there was an odd banging on the boat that kept Michael awake much of the night. Perhaps it was the anchor chain dragging across a rock or something. But it wasn’t at all rocky- and enough of a breeze to keep the “moseys” (mosquitos) down.

We came into the marina today so we can get an early start to get the outboard – and not have to wait for tides to get in and then get the outboard. That would have cost us yet another day with this darn little engine. So we all got cleaned up with long shore showers and perhaps we’ll even splurge on a load of $10 laundry!

But starting tomorrow – hopefully you won’t hear another peep about a bad outboard – and we’ll say good-bye to Provo.

Friday, March 27, 2009

More Outboard Issues. A Little Partying. Eric Clapton's Boat Anchors Nearby

Yup…the outboard’s dead again and back in the shop. Yesterday (Wednesday) the four of us went to shore for a walk-about. We hiked up the hill that overlooks Sapodilla Bay. It gives you an incredible view of both Chalk Sound, the Bay and the coral banks. There are also some interesting carved names in the rocks at the top. It seems when the pirates of old were up there on lookout – waiting for a boat to pass by that they would attack – they were a bit bored and spent hour after hour elaborately carving their name into a rock. Some date back to the 1800’s.

Where's Astarte?

We enjoyed the walk on this beautiful day. As we got back in the dinghy – it wouldn’t start. At all! We got towed back to shore by the gentleman from SV Jade. We then let Michael fume and work on it for a bit. After awhile it seemed hopeless so we walked the dinghy along the shore to the far end so we wouldn’t have to row against the wind. It was a bit of a comedy act as Dave and Michael each had an oar and argued with each other over the best rowing technique. We made it back to the boat, got the outboard aboard Astarte and Michael tore it apart (yet again). No luck.

We got on the skype phone to Yamaha customer service only to find out that there are no “official distributors” or “authorized repair” facilities in the Turks and Caicos that have “deals” with Yamaha USA (where we bought the motor). So these customers don’t feel very satisfied at this point. They tried hard to be helpful – but the answers weren’t what we wanted to hear. So it looks like this continual problem may be out of pocket (though the engine’s still on warranty). We think we may have a lemon engine. But it needs to be fixed. So the money bleeding will continue. We’ll deliver it to JPs tomorrow.

On Wednesday, this big boat arrives. It’s an older 100 plus foot vessel named “Blue Guitar.” We quickly got the binoculars out to see if we could spot Eric Clapton aboard. The guess was that he may have come down for Bruce Willis’ wedding. Or maybe the boat was simply chartered. But we’d like to believe we spent the night at anchor in the same harbor as EC.

The big one, not the inflatable!

Earlier in the (Wednesday) afternoon we invited Ian and Andrea (the Aussies) from Cape Finisterre and Robin and Diana (the Brits/Swiss) from Solveig aboard for sundowners. (We thought of inviting the folks on Blue Guitar – but we could barely fit the eight we’d have!) Barbara made “tortilla pizzas” as snacks. It was quite a party. Lots of arguments/discussions on politics, religion, boating, traveling etc. It lasted much later than it should have and we consumed much adult beverage. A good time was held by all. We were all moving a bit slower on Astarte this morning.

We got up early to once again – head to South Side Marina to get the help of Simon and Charlyn to get the outboard to JPs repair (that’s who fixed it the first time.) We also did another grocery run having decided we didn’t stock up quite enough for 16 days for four people. After all the errands were complete we headed back to Sapodilla Bay.

It’s gotten a bit rollier in the anchorage tonight. Hope everyone can sleep. We’ll head back tomorrow to hopefully get our engine back yet again and finally head out of Provo. (again please send positive thoughts!!)

Sunset on Turtle Rock, Sapodilla Bay

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Conch for Lunch. Lobster for Dinner. And that wasn't at the Willis Wedding!

First off – we didn’t get our invite in time for the Bruce Willis Wedding here in the Turks and Caicos. It must be lost in transit. We’ve heard the event was on Parrot Cay – in North Caicos – a tiny cay surrounded by reefs.

But even without that star studded event – we’ve been living the high life when it comes to dining. We really feel like we are in the islands with today’s (Tuesday’s) menu.

Southside Marina
Astarte at the Dock.
Michael liked this marina.

Entrance range to the Marina

There was another adventure with the folks who run South Side Marina where Astarte has been for a few days. Today we piled in the truck (six in the pick-up bed and two upfront) and negotiated the pothole-filled, dusty streets, scary round-abouts(rotarys) and Simon’s wild driving to get to “Da Conch Shack.” This is a very local restaurant specializing in – you guessed it – conch. They also have a tasty rum punch. So plates of cracked conch and some conch fritters were devoured by the crew. Our guests Dave and Lorna seemed to enjoy the feast and Lorna learned how to clean conch. That’ll come in handy hopefully. She also scored a beautiful large conch shell for her coy pond back in Ohio. Poor Dave will be schlepping a bag filled with shells (at least they have room after offloading all the treats and parts they brought us!).

Lorna's new best friend.
Dave's new best friend.
Arrival at Da Conch Shack, not our ride!

Simon and Charlyn, our hosts and John Wayne our Waiter!

What a great beach!

It was a fun trip and the location was absolutely beautiful. It was mighty windy on that side of the island. After our return from lunch, we needed to leave the marina and head back to Sapodilla Bay. It was a pretty low tide when we headed out and we bumped the bottom about four times. Luckily on the sandy parts – missing the coral heads. We had a lovely hour sail back to the Bay where we are safely anchored for at least one night. There’s a bit of a rock – but the comfortable “lullabye” style rock that is so pleasant at anchor.

For dinner we enjoyed the last of the lobster tail we grilled on Sunday night. The tail was enough to make a nice lobster salad for four with some fresh French bread – it was a nice meal after our hearty conch lunch.

Exploring around the marina.

Everyone is tuckered out and calling it an early night. … Sleep well.

Monday, March 23, 2009

We Have Company!

Dave and Lorna arriving at the Airport

Island Transportation to Southside Marina

Dave and Lorna Gibson have arrived from Oberlin, Ohio to Provo in the Turks & Caicos!!! They are our first guests for Adventure 2009. All was good with their flights and arrivals – other than the confusion about how many bottles of alcohol can be brought in duty free. They were told two bottles each in Charlotte…but upon arrival somehow the rules changed it was only one bottle each – so extra duty had to be paid for the “excess” adult beverages.

They brought many gifts (nuts, dried fruit, precooked bacon, a new American flag, radio cord, bicycle pump, cooling tray (for the bread Dave is going to teach me to make) and water maker pump – but the best gift is their company.

We’re back in the marina at South Side for a few days – did some provisioning for the next few weeks for the four of us. It’s not a cheap place to provision. We considered a turkey breast – but $41.00 for a 12 pound turkey seemed a bit much. Also, need to run to the airport again today so Dave and Lorna can book an inter-island flight from Grand Turk back to Provo to catch their return flight home.

Last night there was a party for their arrival – actually there was a party because cheap lobsters were available. Simon, the marina manager, came by earlier in the day to ask if we wanted some lobster at $10 a pound. We ordered 8 pounds. The good news is it was for tails only and the price went down by evening. We had five BIG lobster tails for $50. What a deal! They were all thrown on the grill – Dave was our lobster chef. People brought side dishes to share…Barbara made potatoes on the gill – they were yummy. There were about 20 people all enjoying a lobster feast. It was a very fun evening. A few adult beverages were consumed. Our guests were tuckered out though – and it was an early night aboard Astarte.

MMMMM, Lobster
Chef Dave
Too many cooks?
When do we eat?
Ian and Andrea, enjoying!

Today (Monday) a big boat rescue took place off French Cay, It was fun to listen to on the radio…and I’m certain during “happy hour” the stories will be shared. We’ll leave the marina tomorrow morning and head back to Sapodilla – and then hopefully the wind and seas will settle enough for us to head to French or Ambergris Cay to start the adventure and get Dave and Lorna into the water for some great snorkeling.

Dave Goldberg – word is, though there is lots of digging around the islands – you probably wouldn’t enjoy it – as it’s architectural not archeological.

Michael and Barbara celebrated their anniversary yesterday – thanks mom for the card. We’re happy to be together and continue to be grateful for our time on the boat.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Ooh, La, La

First things first. We got the outboard fixed. Just before we were to pull out of Southside Marina,(we had been paying to stay so we could pick up the outboard when it was repaired) and had figured it wouldn’t be ready for another couple of days, J.P. the Yamaha mechanic called to say it was ready!! Whoo, hoo! Thanks to Simon, who drove us out, Michael went to pick it up. He was expecting the worst regarding the cost. We had already shelled out too much to a guy who didn’t do a thing except eat a lunch provided by us and drink two waters. J.P. said he wasn’t exactly sure what it was, but replaced a reed valve in the fuel pump and assured us it was running great. He was right and the really cool part he charged us less than the guy who didn’t accomplish a thing. But all in all – the outboard cost us a pretty penny (two repairmen, two nights in a marina and tips to Simon for driving us all over).

We left after we got the o.b. on board and anchored yet again in Sapodilla Bay. Then yesterday morning we headed out for French Cay (thus the title of this post). It was a really calm day. 5-8 knots of wind out of the WNW and flat seas on the banks. We even stopped at a coral head to look for dinner. No joy. Arrived to see a couple of boats we knew who were waiting to head to Luperon, Dominican Republic. They didn’t want to arrive into the DR too early so stopped at French Cay to get some last minute rest before the all night passage. They should have had a great trip. Light and favorable wind. Not a common occurrence. We stayed. Looked for conch. Lots and lots, but none that looked big enough. We don’t want to get yelled at by Kathryn again. Looked hard for lobster, but again not joy. At least Michael finally got in the water and didn’t freeze to death. In fact, he managed to still be able to free dive in shallow water, just not able to stay down quite as long. That will come with more practice.

We had the cay all to ourselves. Then the wind came up and backed a bit. Now we are being blown toward the shore. Let out some more anchor rode, turned on the radar and watched it pretty closely all night long. It was a bit rolly so we were up anyway. Were up early and went on one more hunt for lobster, but will be eating chicken for dinner tonight. The outboard is running great. We have decided to give it a nick name. Maybe it was feeling left out, so from now on we will be referring to our 8 hp Yamaha outboard as Yoshi, Yo for short!

Left this morning to come back. The winds are forecast to be building all day. They did. The really good news was that Sapodilla Bay has no roll in it today, and most likely none tonight. We made water on the whole way back, motoring into the wind. After we arrived, started cleaning (more organizing) to get ready for Dave and Lorna’s visit (they arrive Sunday afternoon). We will head into the marina tomorrow early so we can have electricity for the vacuum and some water to tidy up the inside of Astarte. We are looking forward to our first guests!

Tonight, we got an invite aboard SV Cape Finisterre for sundowners. The boat is a 50 foot Oceanis. Andrea and Ian are writers having written a book ”Letters from the Med” and are working on “Letters from the Caribbean.” They also write for Sail World. They are Australians (actually Kiwis (New Zealanders) who have lived in Australia for 24 years. They’ve been cruising for eight years in both the Med and now Caribbean. Great folks and the rum punch was tasty! So it was a nice way to end the day – tomorrow – back to cleaning and then guests.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Disappointment Continues

Yesterday (Tuesday), we pulled into Southside Marina for outboard repairs. A local outboard guy named Vincent came down to the boat – we were hopeful. The hopes soon waned as he asked for the manual and didn’t have any parts with him. $160 later – the outboard wasn’t repaired and Michael (with the help of Simon) took it to a Yamaha dealer. (We’re sure this will be at least another $160). Plus now we have to add the cost of a night at the marina.

We await word this morning from the shop. Simon (think Austin Powers but older and taller) is quite helpful and kindly offered us his own outboard until we return Sunday to the marina. We have friends, Dave and Lorna, coming from Ohio for a visit – that’s why we’re scrambling to get everything in running order. We can’t do much without an outboard.

So we’re asking everyone to send us positive energy and prayers for a positive outboard repair.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

No Joy on Astarte

An outboard engine on a cruising boat is a very important piece of equipment. It’s like your car at home. Without it – you’re stuck with wherever you can row or take the “mother ship.” Our outboard right now is dead. Michael has tried everything he knows to fix it. Yesterday he took it apart at least three times and cleaned the carburetor (which seems to be the culprit). Now this is a new outboard – bought in June 2007 and hardly used until now – so that makes this all that much more frustrating. This morning, we woke up and tried again this morning – finding some new “gunk” and hoped that cleaning that would be the ticket. No joy. So now we’ll eat the cost of a marina for at least one night and get the outboard to a Yamaha dealer to see if they can do something QUICKLY. The marina and repairs do serious damage to the cruising kitty.

On a better note – the oil change was successful yesterday. Michael accomplished that messy task changing oil and all the filters (oil and fuel). Just in time for the fuel filters(they were looking pretty bad!).

The other good news was we cleaned the refrigerator and there was no spoilage and a stock of cheese was found on the lower shelf. There goes the cholesterol count! Some beer was also located.

The big news of yesterday was Jack on Anthem. All his varnish work in the marina literally paid off! He was approached by a still photographer who wanted to use Anthem as a background and location for a magazine photo shoot. It all worked out and yesterday morning they all showed up. Jack motored Anthem around the anchorage with models on board and a chase boat with the photograher following along, snapping away. It was a hoot and we have been teasing him ever since. They spent all morning on board , and weren't too demanding. He did have to move the fuel jerry cans, and take off the sail cover, and pull up the anchor so he could motor. All the guys in the anchorage were disappointed it was not a bikini shoot. Jack was happy and it was very entertaining for the rest of us.

What a "GQ" pose from the guy in white.

Make up!!

"Jack, steer more out of the sun!"

Last night, the boats of Sapodilla Bay were invited to “Inspiration Lady” for a party. This is a Brewer 48 custom built sailboat – built by the owners Jackie and Gary. It took 23 years to build in a shed in Canada – now that’s dedication. They did everything themselves – then sold the house, their possessions and sailed from Canada to here. They are continuing south for a planned circumnavigation. The cockpit could hold 12 people for the gathering. Lots of treats were provided from the various boats and good conversation. There are such interesting people who are cruisers. One guy, Theo, taught accounting in Dubai, Beijing, Malawi and also worked in Pakistan.

Cruisers of Sapodilla Bay enjoying sundowners.

It was a fun evening (much needed for Michael). Today, we’ll head into South Side Marina and impose on Simon and Charlyn the managers to drive us to the outboard repair place and hope they can help us and do so at little to no cost.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day to all the Irish and Irish wannabes out there.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Glow Worms Mating

We enjoyed sailing down here with the glow of a full moon and now for two nights, we’ve enjoyed a glow from Odontosyllis enopla. Three to six nights after the full moon, an unusual phenomenon occurs in the ebbing tide of the Caicos Banks. About one hour after sunset for about 15 minutes, a marine worm performs its sparkling mating ritual. As the female releases an egg mass, it spirals to the surface , emitting a pulsating pale green luminescence. The male, also glowing neon green, does a zig-zag dance until he encounters the eggs and darts about creating an even brighter green “glow.” Unfortunately it’s their last dance! Last night there were more and tonight fewer, but still some fun “glow worms” to watch in the water after dark.

No glow in the sky though – we had hoped tonight to see the shuttle launch. It was pretty cloudy here and we’re quite far, but we watched the horizon after 7:43 (1943) with the hope of a glimpse. We had to settle for looking down at the glow worms.

Today we didn’t even leave the boat. It was a rough night in a very rocking and rolling anchorage – and it continued all day.

It was boat project day. Michael started on the galley sink which had “issues” draining last night. Then he tackled the barbeque grill which also had “issues” last night and gave Michael a rare hamburger (not something he is very fond of!). So he took that all apart and cleaned it thoroughly.

He then tackled a broken hinge on the lazarette (a large locker in the back of the boat outside that holds tons of “stuff”). That took a lot of time and heartache. That was a successful project.

The sink issue continued after Barbara opened a drawer under the sink and it was filled with water – not a good thing. So then Michael ended up trying to put a new hose on – but these boat builders obviously never have to repair the boats. It was simply humanly impossible to reach one end of the hose without taking out the entire sink. With much frustration and #$@&^%$ … he successfully completed that project.

The grill however, didn’t work tonight when we tried to grill some chicken – so back to the drawing board on that one. Barbara in the meantime was faithful hander of tools and holder of parts and panels. She was also re-washing things from sodden drawers and was looking for some missing memory sticks (flash drives). They are L.O.B. (lost on board).

More pictures are posted on the web page. Still more to come from the Bahamas.

Happy Sunday everyone.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

New Position Posted. . . .Finally!

Sorry – but after a few lumpy days at sea, anchoring, clearing into customs and immigration – Michael forgot to add the new position here in Sapodilla Bay. It is now on the position page. Sorry about that – we sure do hear from you when we don’t keep things up!!

Last night we entertained aboard Astarte. We had “sundowners” with three other boats. “Sundowners” is the term used by cruisers to have a few snacks and drinks and watch the sun set, which was quite magnificent last night. It usually lasts well past sunset. Some saw a green flash last night – others didn’t. Do you suppose it had to do with the consumption of alcohol? Everybody brings their own drinks as well as an hors d’ouevres to share. Barbara made brouchetta (thanks to getting a nice French bread at the IGA grocery store earlier).

We shared the evening with Gary and Jackie, Canadians from “Inspiration Lady,” Marion and Theo from aboard “Double Dutch” (Dutch/Canadians); and Jack from “Anthem.” Great stories were shared about boating adventures, boat building and travel plans and as always some politics, gossip, recipes, fish tales etc.

Now for more information on the Turks and Caicos (T&C):

The earliest settlers in the islands were the peaceful Tainos (from Arawakan tribes in South America). When they arrived on the islands via large dugout canoes with as many as 150 rowers, they became known as luddu-cairi or luko-kayo meaning “island people.” They are known today as Lucayans. They built conical houses of wood and thatch and survived on conch, fish, native game, and plants. They were basket makers and skilled at manufacturing polished stone implements. They slept in hammocks and it is assumed it was from these people that the Spanish seamen started to also use hammocks for sleep. The Spanish sold the Lucayans as slaves. By the early 1520’s, sadly, this peaceful civilization was wiped out. All that remains are 20 Lucayan based words (including: avocado, cannibal, guava, hammock, hurricane, iguana, manatee, potato and tobacco).

After the Lucayans and Spanish, the first Englishman to make mention of the Turks and Caicos was interestingly enough a Captain John Hawkins. So it is really appropriate that Captain Michael Hawkins is now here. His ancestor (perhaps) was a privateer (aka pirate). He came to the islands in 1564 in search of salt (Captain Michael Hawkins is in search of lobster!) This began a salt industry in the islands.

From salt the economy went to “buccaneers” (boucaniers) – both Spanish and English. Then there was a bit of French ownership in 1783. The Treaty of Versailles in 1783 restored the Turks and Caicos to Great Britain. Today the governor is appointed by the Queen but the islands enjoy autonomous internal rule.
The name Turks and Caicos is thought to come from the strange cactus plant found on the islands. When this green, fattish, prickly cactus blooms, it produces a red top that looks just like a Turkish fez (those round red hats with the tassel worn by the Shriners!) That cactus impressed the early Europeans navigators so that’s where “Turk” came from. Caicos may be arawak/Lucayan for “cay” (one of the 20 surviving Lucayan-based words).

Enough blah – blah for today. On to a few boat projects. It’s a windy Saturday and we’re in a bit of a roll prone anchorage. Maybe we’ll take a dinghy ride or hike later.

Friday, March 13, 2009

We're in the Tropics. . . . .Really!

As we crossed Latitude 23 degrees and 30 N we were in the Tropics. The real Tropics. What’s so special about that line? It’s the tropic of Cancer – that’s as far north as the sun travels above the equator during our summer. So now, we’re hoping the weather and water will truly start to get warmer.

So now some “lessons” on the geology, history and climate of this new country we’re in – the Turks and Caicos (T&C).

Though the Turks and Caicos share many similarities to the Bahamas – there’s no geological connection (for all our scientist friends). Just as the Bahamas are made up of shallow sub-sea platforms and some isolated sub-sea mountain peaks, separated by deep ocean troughs, so are the T&C. The two areas share a physical similarity, but have no physical linkage.

Politically, the same holds true. Though the common ancestry as British colonies suggests that the Bahamas and the T&C are tied together – they are quite different. As the British shed their former possessions, it was thought that the Bahamas and Turks and Caicos would join together and form one territory. That was suggested but it didn’t work. Historically they are quite different. From their settlement patterns, to their development style to their personalities – they are very different. As for political status, the Turks and Caicos are still part of the United Kingdom. Though on a day-to-day basis they are semi-autonomous, the direct link with Britain remains. This link provides financial benefits and a string connection with the European Community. The currency of the islands however is the US dollar – not the pound or Euro. English is the language of the T&C.

The climate and weather is tropical with the prevailing winds being the “Trades” easterly to southeasterly. Rain is a rarity (though we had a drizzle yesterday – more on that later) – and the average annual rainfall is 29 inches. With no underwater aquifer and little rainfall - the islands rely on desalinization. They are in the “Hurricane box” and last year got hit with two pretty serious hurricanes. We see little damage here in Provo – but we understand it’s quite dramatic on the other islands.

Tourism and “banking” are the big industries on the islands. Diving and snorkeling in the crystal clear water and on the numerous reefs is a big draw. The beaches are beautiful with soft sand. And fishing the deep ledges is outstanding (or so they say – we didn’t have much luck as we entered the T&C waters). There is a lot of development and building going on in Provo and there are actually traffic jams and rush hours here – so it’s a busy place.

Enough “lessons” for today – more tomorrow on the people, the name and the flag.

Last night (Thursday), we went to a cruisers’ barbeque at the South Side Marina. The managers Simon and his wife Charlyn are incredibly helpful to visiting boaters and host the BBQ every Thursday nite. They provide the grill, the transportation to the marina and ICE CREAM for dessert. Everyone brings their own fish or meat to grill as well as a shared dish. We had a blast meeting many boaters and the ride to and from our bay to the marina was an adventure all by itself. Simon came in a big pick-up and the 3 men went in the back bed and the 3 woman joined Simon on a very crowded front seat. The bumpy road and high speeds was quite a ride for the guys. On the way back, Barbara joined the gents in the back as we took the “smaller” truck back and there was only room for three in the front. It started to rain and of course the truck had no windshield wipers – but that didn’t change Simon’s fast driving and bumpy ride a bit!!! We arrived to and from the event safely.

There’s one boat here, Annie II that had a bit of a tough time getting down island. It was coming from the Bahamas (same route as us but several days before us) and the little 29 footer got de-masted. They had to limp into port – but the two folks on board are safe. That would have been pretty scary! We met those folks last night – they are nicknamed “the survivors.”

Today we went with our friend Jack on a tour of the island – he rented a car. Thanks to him, we got a bit of grocery shopping done and found the “two for one” wine sale as well. More socks needed to re-fill the bilge!

Tonight we’re hosting “sundowners” on our boat with three other boats – it’ll be crowded but fun.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY MOM/TRISH! It’s a special one…cheers to you – we’ll raise a glass in your honor tonight.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Chasing Moonbeams into a New Country!

Sorry for the lack of entries the last few days – we were underway in (what’s new) lumpy seas. So let’s go back to Monday, March 9. We left Georgetown and all those wacky festivities (the scavenger hunt was still looking for red high heels and a red boa!!); the bocci ball tournament and sand golf tournament were scheduled etc. But we headed out the south cut of Elizabeth Harbour. The plan was to go straight through to Provo, in the Turks and Caicos. (Ms. Gifford’s students – here’s a math question: if the boat travels an average of 5 knots and the destination is 236 nautical miles away – how long will it take to get there?)

Back to the trip: we pulled anchor at 1250 and were on our way. Elizabeth Harbour’s south end is filled with patch coral reefs so you have to watch for them. As we entered Exuma Sound – the fish line went in the water, the wind was unfortunately on the nose and we were motor sailing through some pretty good swells and seas.

FISH ON! Barbara was watching the fish line and saw a tuna leap out of the water and seconds later a hit on the training line…tuna hopefully! But we pulled it in and it was another mahi. We’re getting better at landing them and the tail loop was tied perfectly by Capt. Mike. He filleted it and as it was starting to get dark, we pulled in the line.

The perfect tail loop.

Mahi #3

Fillet stance!

The overnight motor sail was actually quite pleasant thanks to the full moon that was very bright. In fact, the moonbeams on the water looked like an underwater spotlight. It was actually fun to watch and chase after. It hid every so often behind clouds which gave the clouds an eerie look. Through the night we saw few other boats.

On Tuesday, the seas picked up a bit with bigger swells – probably 6-8 feet but they were farther apart so Astarte rode them well. The line was in the water – but no love from the seas on this day. (Unless you count the barracuda who grabbed our line as we got into more shallow water – it (and its nasty teeth) was released unharmed!) We sailed some during the day and night whenever the wind was in our favor we could shut down the motor and it was peaceful.
The personal best under sail was 6.5 knots.

We arrived in the Turks and Caicos around 1 pm and anchored in Sapodilla Bay off Providenciales (called Provo). We anchored in the bay with local knowledge from our friend Jack Warren who is aboard Anthem (a Cabo Rico 38). He is a fellow Dolphin Cruising Club member and from St. Petersburg who is single handing his boat south.

We got cleaned up (the showers were great) and then headed to customs and immigration. There’s a little more security here with checking in at the front gate (no frisking as promised, darn!) and getting badges. We parted with some more American dollars (that’s the currency of the Turks & Caicos) having to get a cruising permit because we’ll be here longer. So $90 later, we had to go to immigration – but nobody was there. We have to return this morning to get stamped.

I’ll do another entry later with more details on the Turks & Caicos.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

A Conch on a Leash!

That was one of our favorite entries in yesterday's "Pet Parade."

We're stuck here in Georgetown because of weather - so we figured we might as well attend some of the festivities, meet some other boaters and have a few laughs (and Kaliks). So yesterday, we headed to "volleyball beach" (near the Chat 'n Chill Restaurant) for the Pet Parade followed by the Amateur Variety Show."

The beach was packed with plenty of dinghies and the benches and chairs were filled to capacity. It was a happening place! People were of two persuasions in the crowd - those attending because they were really into the dolled up doggies; and those who couldn't believe what people would make their pets do! We knew it would be great when a long haired dachshund arrived on a bier, carried by six bare-chested men! From Chihuahuas in straw hats and Hawaiian shirts to spaniels in bikinis to border
collies in t-shirts and leis it was quite a sight as the dogs' owners paraded them around and the judges judged in a variety of categories. It seems only dogs (and one conch on a leash) were the pets on parade. We had hoped for a parrot; rabbit or pig to mix things up. The crowd was feisty - one yelling "when does the ugly kid contest start" - because it was clear some of these pooches were treated better than people.

It was a hoot and the twenty plus entries were entertaining. Our favorite was the dog with a "hot dog bun" costume (and of course the conch on a leash).

Next came "the variety show" - this is where boaters with little or no talent get up in front of the cruising community and give everyone a laugh or two. Couldn't quite tell if some were actually serious. Where do we begin to describe this? Okay, how about a French Canadian woman in her late 60s, easily 60 pounds overweight, dressed in skin tight lycra belly-dancing? Then there was the mom, dad and two daughters who did "evolution of dance"(look it up on u-tube) and they were terrific. The dancing
"heard it through the grapevine" raisins; the white guys "blues (though they called themselves "booze") brothers - not bad; the "R" rated skit of the red light district in Amsterdam; the poor women who can-canned in the sand (tiring); the kids spoof of the morning radio net (very funny and clever); the two families who got together and did a skit on cruisers (fun) and many "lip-sync" acts that ranged from clever to boring.

One of the highlights though was the "conch orchestra" - about 25-30 conch horn blowers. The "conductor" was quite comical. (Pictures to follow)

We had a good time though getting back to the boat was wet, cold and a bit scary as both of our lights wouldn't work!

Today was boat project day - still a rocking and rolling anchorage and the wind still blowing pretty good. Bit we got a few things done on board and then went for a nice walk on our white sandy beach - "sand dollar beach."

The prospect for leaving is looking like a Monday or Tuesday departure. We've connected with a few other boats heading south as well.

On a personal note - congrats to Barbara's nephew Matt - who has recently asked Meaghan to marry him and lucky for him, she said "yes." Cheers to you both

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Trapped. . . . . Paradise

Our Georgetown anchorage, early evening

The dinghy dock at Exuma Market

Why we have a water maker!

Wind. Wind. And more wind. Our progress south (but we have to go north and east to get there) is being slowed by a series of fronts, ridges and simply put – inconvenient weather for that trip. The wind has been a steady 20 plus knots from the northeast.

Last night there were lots of anchor drills in the anchorage – a catamaran dragged its anchor and hit another boat – anchor lines got all wrapped up and wrapped around rudders, dinghies came to the rescue – people had to get into the water … whew ! Luckily Astarte held firm at anchor and no other boat around us had anchor issues. Of course none of this happens in daylight!

We spent most of yesterday trying to get phone calls made from Georgetown. But "it’s the islands, mon". There was no way to call home. We tried everything (except buying a costly cell phone from Batelco) and no luck. We spent hours in town hoping JK Productions would open – but it never did – we heard from some other cruiser that there were issues yesterday with phone and internet.

The internet cafe, closed yesterday for the regatta events!

If the wind settles at all today we’ll try again – but at this point it’s not prudent to leave the boat.

It’s regatta week in Georgetown. So the activities are accelerated. There always are plenty of activities – but it seems regatta week brings out even more. Yesterday there was a boat parade (though fewer boats participated because of the winds) and several ran aground. Most were decorated with lots of flags. There was also kids festivities in a park yesterday.

Coming up: a pet parade; Texas Hold ‘Em poker tournament; Golf tournament; Trivial Pursuits tournament; Coconut Harvest Contest (where teams of four in a dinghy with no motor and 4 flippers – (each person with one flipper) have to collect floating coconuts with a bucket); Volleyball tournament; Tennis tournament; dinghy dance; Dance contest, Amateur Night (karaoke gone crazy); T-shirt design contest; softball tournament; Kentucky Derby Hat contest and pseudo horserace; Sock Hop; registration party; and, believe it or not – an actual boat race/regatta around Stocking Island (though even that is kinda funky). Then there is the legitimate race for Bahamians and Bahamian boats only – called the Family Regatta. It cracks us up just listening to the announcements on the radio.

Speaking of the radio – we’re entertaining ourselves with commenting on all the different boat names and callers. There is one woman who’s always on the radio and she has a voice that is fingernails on a blackboard! She’s nicknamed the “Tongue of the Ocean” (actually that was what someone called her this morning on the radio and challenged her to WWF Smackdown wrestling match as a regatta activity!)

We’ll find boat projects and if the wind settles to anything below 20 we’ll make another attempt into town today to see if we can make phone calls. The dinghy ride is wet and wild getting into and back from town – full rain gear required.

So still in Georgetown…trapped on the boat listening to the wind.

P.S. We made it to town and actually posted from J & K Productions. Got our phone calls made, all is well . For those of you that remember the story, "soon it will all be calm".

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Georgetown - the Floating City

When we came into Elizabeth Harbour on Saturday night, we anchored on the Great Exuma Island side of the harbour in Kidd Cove. Then on Sunday when winds were predicted from the south, we moved to behind the "Peace and Plenty Hotel." Well the winds ended up being more west/northwest and it turned into a very lumpy few days and nights in this location. (History lesson: The Peace and Plenty was named after the ship that transferred Lord John Rolle's many slaves to the Exumas and slaves were once
bought and sold on the site where the hotel now sits.) From this location we did finally get four loads of laundry done (having to bag the clean clothes in large garbage bags to keep them from getting soaked with salt water on the way back to the boat. Michael also did two very wet runs to fill jugs of diesel. These trips required the donning of full raingear and lots of bailing of the dinghy to keep it from sinking. It was a slow, wet ride back to Astarte.

Today, Tuesday, we moved again. This time across the harbour to Stocking Island. This is where the vast majority of boats anchor in locations along the western shore of the island(the best protection from prevailing winds). There are lots of places and they all have interesting (and descriptive) names. There are the holes, monument beach, hamburger beach, volleyball beach and sand dollar beach (where we are.) It's packed here but the seas are much flatter - so it is way more comfortable.

Today was also "internet day." We took our laptop into town and Michael got in line at J&K Productions Computer Shop - one of the better wireless deals in town. He was there before they opened and third in line. Unfortunately - they don't allow Skype there - so phone calls were not possible. We'll try again for calls tomorrow someplace else.

THERE ARE NEW PICTURES ON THE WEB SITE ON THE PHOTO PAGE. (Captions still to follow). We know you want more photos - but we have to get internet to be able to post them. We're getting better about carrying the camera - it's just posting them is the issue when you're on a boat. We are on a budget so we don't have a fancy satellite phone or worldwide wireless. If someone wants to sponsor us and send it to us - we'll be happy to post more often!!

It was good to catch up on all our e-mails from friends and family. Thanks for sending all the comments, contacts and e-mails to our other accounts. It was a fun day to feel re-connected with people.

Back on the boat we did a little dinghy exploring in our new location, watched boats anchor around us (always entertaining), defrosted the freezer, baked banana bread and enjoyed some grilled mahi from our catch!

Check out the pics - and keep in touch.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Fish on.Fish On!!

The curse is broken. As we headed into Exuma Sound yesterday (Saturday) through Little Farmer's Cut, we had the yoyo fishing line already rigged and in the water. We left through the cut around 8 am with and incoming tide and wind from the east. The current was running pretty strong and we were making about 2 knots over the bottom. But as soon as we cleared the current we put sails up and attempted to point into the wind. The seas had not flattened out as promised by the weather weasels - and
in fact they were 4 to 6 feet with the waves and chop close together. Not exactly comfortable (but Pam, it's not always like that!)

We weren't making much progress and needed to make it the 40 or so miles before dark - so we had to turn on the iron genny and motor sail. We were heeled over pretty well - so we switched fishing sides putting the yoyo on the low side and Barbara with her Slick Butt Slammer fishing pole on the high side. Let the fishing competition begin!!!

Michael had on a rattle jet in blue and light green. Barbara had a skirted lure in dark blue and pink. About 9 am - Michael had a hit on his line. Of course, we weren't quite ready for a fish. No tail loop line on deck, no alcohol (for us or the fish), no gaff set up. And it was rolling. After the fire drill of getting everything sort of ready - (and not being able to get the hook off the pole to put the gaff on) - Michael was able to land the fish on deck. Barbara couldn't tie a tail loop
to save her life and the fish (a lovely mahi (also called dorado or dolphin fish - but not of the "Flipper the dolphin" variety) was flopping about. We knocked the knock-out alcohol bottle overboard after barely getting some in the fish's gills.

But in the end the fish was on-board. Michael 1 - Barbara - 0.

Michael cleaned the fish (not an easy task in the sloppy seas for an out of practice fish filleter.) Then cleaned the decks off. As soon as that was done.Barbara had a hit on the reel and watched the fish leap out of the water. It ran with a good bit of line and was a good fighter. As soon as we got him close to the boat he ran again - and she had to reel him in. At this point we have a gaff ready and Michael expertly (okay second try) gaffed the fish and brought him on board - and the tail
looping went more smoothly as well. He was a BIG mahi.

Score even. Michael wins first fish, Barbara wins biggest fish. Michael cleans this one and the decks. Now the fishing gear is paid for. We figured we spent about $54 on new lures, hooks, swivels etc. We have easily nine meals of fish at $10 each (which is what Michael used to pay at the fish market for that amount of mahi) - we're ahead.

The freezer is full again and we dined on fabulously grilled, very fresh mahi after arrival and anchoring in Georgetown. We arrived around 4:30 pm and anchored. This place is amazing - the population of boats is 30% of the population of the entire Exuma chain of islands. It's like a little city - with all kind of planned activities (softball, volleyball, scavenger hunts, yoga, painting lessons etc). People come here and spend the entire "season" anchored here. It's also nicknamed "chicken harbor"
because this is as far as many cruisers make it.

We are using it as a stopover for laundry, fuel a few fresh grocery items and then we'll be on our way south. We're hoping for internet connectivity so we can post pictures, make Skype calls and check our other e-mails. But so far no luck. We went into town this morning hoping to get laundry done (all the books say the laundry is open daily) - but we found out daily doesn't mean Sunday. Same with the fuel. So we won't get as much done as we had hoped.

Happy Birthday to Captain Michael. Maybe I'll bake a cake this afternoon for him. The weather is supposed to be really bad overnight into Monday morning - so we're hoping we can get stuff done and sneak out of here on the next weather window.