After wasting a little time early last Sunday morning by sailing beyond our intended destination then back to time our arrival for good light, we entered the Saporilla Bay on Provo in the Turks and Caicos. Also waiting to enter the harbor were two boats we knew from Georgetown, White Wing and Simple Life. We all entered together, dropped anchor and went ashore to clear into the country. As it turned out, we spent little time in Turks and Caicos and could have done without paying the $100 customs and immigration fee – oh well we all did our part for the local economy.
We were all tired from the journey but got together for drinks in the evening where we got to know each other while discussing weather and travel plans.
Herman from White Wing is from Florida and had spent seven or eight months in Georgetown and had hosted a morning radio net while there. Having heard his broadcast daily we felt we knew him but actually knew very little. His 63 rd birthday is tomorrow, he single hands White Wing and is a very social guy. His former life included working as a probation officer and social worker, he has one son in his mid 20′s. He enjoys introducing people to the cruising life and participates has had visitors on board through “Couch Surfing”. Dave and Wendy from Simple Life are also from Florida and have lived aboard for about a year. Dave is retired Army and they have lived in many places around the world as a result of his military career. They too lost their 16 year old son just over a year ago. We also share the experience of adopting children as all three of their boys joined them in that way. We share so many life experiences and certainly understand their decision to move aboard their boat and head off.
We had known these two boats along with a few others had planned to travel together from Georgetown to Luperon in the Dominican Republic. Luperon is considered a great hurricane hole and many boats spend the season anchored there. Jeff and I decided to tag along to the DR with White Wing and Simple Life. The journey can be tricky and often involves heading right into the prevailing easterly winds. There was a good weather window predicted for the next few days so plans were made to transition across the banks to French Cay the next afternoon then the following morning make the passage to Luperon which we expected to be about 20 hours.
Although we spent so little time in Turks and Caicos, it is important to note how beautiful is was. The wind was completely still while we were there and there were a few wrecks right near the anchorage where many fish hung out. The wind remained calm on Monday while we all motored across the banks to an outer island (French Cay) for staging the journey Tuesday morning. This starfish picture gives you some idea of the water clarity, we were in 12 feet of water motoring along and could see numerous starfish along the way.
We all anchored off French Cay and went snorkeling before dinner. Water clarity was the best we’ve seen so far due to the calm winds, the reef was healthy and home to many fish. Dave and Wendy also found several Conch while snorkeling. Herman made a great beef stew for all of us that evening in his pressure cooker. Having never used one before we are quite intrigued with it. Energy conservation is important on the boat and pressure cookers are so much faster than conventional methods.
Herman left left at 8:00 am Tuesday since his boat is not quite as fast as Echo or Simple Life. We left 2 hours later. Herman had apparently been experiencing difficulties since leaving Georgetown which made his travel much more difficult. His Auto Pilot was not working so he had to hand steer the boat then his wheel Assembly failed which caused him to have to install his emergency tiller. Being alone on his boat these two failures made for a very difficult passage which was further complicated by the fact that his VHF radio was only accessible down in the cabin. Talking to other boats meant leaving the tiller unattended and going below. This proved to be a huge problem when the wind and seas picked up during the night, with the tiller left unattended the boat could not hold course. Wendy and Dave also had a challenge in that they did not have data for the area we were sailing on their chart plotter. They had purchased what they thought was the necessary software but ended up being unable to load it since it was in the wrong format. They stayed right with us for the journey allowing them to follow our course both visually and on AIS.
We had out trolling line out during daylight hours and once again failed to hook any fish while Dave was quite successful in his efforts. He caught one tuna, two barracuda and two sail fish all while sailing right behind us. In the morning we did find that a fish had in fact caught us, he had ended up on our cabin top during the night.
By early evening Herman was three miles back from us but began lagging further behind when the wind and seas picked up due to squalls in the area. Given the difficulty with radio communication we had to implement a plan to listen on the single side band radio on the even hours to keep tabs on him. By morning we learned that he had lagged behind by about 30 miles. He had experienced problems with his sails then his engine proved unable to make much speed in the conditions. We had all considered slowing down during the night but had determined it best to maintain our speed between 4 and 5 knots, Herman was apparently only making about 3 knots.
Echo and Simple Life entered the harbor in Luperon about 10:00 am. We had slowed down for the last few hours hoping Herman got a bit closer and allowing us to run the water maker and top off all our tanks. Once on our mooring balls we were able to reach Herman again by SSB radio for a status. He was sounding exhausted and still fighting to make way given all the obstacles. He realized that he would more than likely need more fuel than he had on board. Initially he thought he could make it to the entrance of the harbor where we could have a can of diesel delivered to him but as the afternoon wore on it became apparent that he would not make it before nightfall and he was in a serious situation. Between us and Simple Life we prepared to get the can of diesel, rig up Simple Life’s dinghy on our davits, our dinghy was not up to the job and Simple Life still has no chart data, them head out to find White Wing. We were still experiencing difficulty communicating with Herman via radio but had gotten his GPS coordinates and headed out, leaving Wendy on board Simple Life to coordinate logistics from the harbor. By the time we reached him, Herman was still 5 miles out and now experiencing 6 foot seas and 15 knot winds pushing him toward a rocky shore.
His boat was just about out of fuel, almost overpowered by the conditions and Herman was exhausted. While being bounced around pretty badly, we launched Dave in his dinghy to motor over to White Wing. It was quite impressive to watch him motor over to the boat, load the diesel can, board the boat and secure the dinghy but Dave managed quite well and soon we were both underway back toward the harbor. White Wing continued to struggle against the conditions and only made about 3 knots but we made it back just at dusk. It was a stressful time for all involved and we were all quite relieved to have all three boats safely moored in the harbor.
We are all enjoying getting to know Luperon – it’s a different world from the Bahamas. Will post soon to fill you in on our new adventure as gringos.