The Inagua’s and Passage to Cuba

It was 65 miles to Little Inagua Island for the night then another 55 yo Great Inagua, on our journey to Cuba. It was nice to break the trip up into a few days instead of doing it all at once. But not wanting to check into the Inaguas, we only anchored of the shores for the evening before continuing on the next morning.

Dorado
Dorado

Little and Great Inagua are owned by the Bahamas, and are guarded by the US Coast Guard. While being at anchor at Little Inagua, we were visited by a Coast Guard Blackhawk, circling us very closely. They wanted us to know they were there and were aware of our presence at the island.

Coast Guard Bahamas
Coast Guard Bahamas

0400 we departed Great Inagua for the SE side of Cuba. It was a painful motor for 110 miles to the first available anchorage of Bataqueri on the East side of Guantanemo. We arrived there at 1700 and were immediately visited by the Guarda Fronterra, who took our passports to his office. He gave them back about an hour later, and told us we cannot leave until 0600 in the morning, when its light enough to see. They want to make sure you are not taking any Cubans with you.

Entrance to Bataqueri
Entrance to Bataqueri

We sailed and motored to the best of our ability the next day for our arrival at Santiago de Cuba, our check in place for Cuba. It was a painless experience arriving there and were radioed on the VHF by the marina upon approach.

Santiago de Cuba Marina
Santiago de Cuba Marina

After an inspection by Customs and Quarantine, the quarantine officer asked for some money to maybe help her out. $10 in her hand smoothed any possible issues and she was overwhelmed enough to give us hugs and kisses and many thanks. Immigration was not a problem, and we were good to go in Cuba.

Cuba has different cruising rules than any other county we have been to. We would be allowed to cruise from marina to marina, but not anchor in any of the bays, and we were not allowed to use our dinghy for exploring. It is very controlled. We decided our stay in Cuba would be shorter than anticipated.

The Remainder of Turks and Caicos

After a bit of wifi at the cruise ship terminal, we made our way over to the Caicos Bank. Our stop was south Caicos with its large anchorage, and sheltered area. South Caicos was a complete different experience from its neighbor to the East ( Grand Turk). South Caicos was rural but friendly, and a bit twighlight zone-ish. It was like going back in time to the 50’s. As we walked down the street to find a market for some fresh veggies, everyone said hello to us. Children walked alone at 4 years old, or rode their bikes with their friends in their bare feet. They stopped to say hello or just to take a good look at us foreigners. They wanted to know where we were from.

Near the anchorage is an older hotel that has been turned into an Ocean sciences school. An interesting concept, we walked in to say hello and find out more. While chatting with the 18-20 year old girls there, we found out that they are on a semester study there as part of the biological degree. They dive everyday, and so marine studies. They live together, with the professors in the old hotel that has been converted to a dorm type school. It was really neat.

Leaving South Caicos, we travelled over the Caicos Bank to French Cay. It was a 20 mile journey across a bank of 3-4 metes deep crystal clear water, in the middle of the ocean. You could see the bottom, the reefs, the coral heads and at times, the fish throughout the day.

French Cay is lovely little island where we took our anchorage for the night. As part of a marine bird sanctuary, we were not suppose to go to shore, but we anchored off in 10 feet of water and watched the birds from the boat. Colin and Darren had a snorkel off the boat. Caicos in general, but French Cay area especially, is known to be a breeding ground for sharks, and it proved to be true when you could hear Darren signal thru his snorkel…!! He had obviously spotted a shark, but luckily it was more afraid of them than they were of the shark and it swam off.

Next stop was Providenciales, or as called by the locals, Provo. This would be the northernmost point of our adventure on FMD. We anchored just outside the marina after making our way thru the reefs by sight, and went in to have a look around. The marina was full of friendly cruisers and staff, but not much else. No store, no chandlery, nothing. BUT, there was to be a potluck that evening with a band and all. We met some nice people that evening, not just cruisers, but many locals and American residents came as well.

Moving onto the dock the next day for both fuel and to fix the anchor windlass, we spent a few days at the marina. It was hot and dusty. We provisioned at the mighty cost of about $400 USD. Grocery was not cheap in Turks. After fixing our windlass, being fuelled up, and provisioned, we started our journey southward after giving the customs and immigration $80 to be able to leave the island. T&C was not a cheap place to visit.


The bar for Pot Luck dinner
The bar for Pot Luck dinner

We moved from Provo to West Caicos so that we would have a good departure for Little Inagua Island, 65 miles southwest.
Anchoring at the deserted and isolated Southwest reef for the night, we were called on the radio at 8 pm by Provo Radio, the Turks version of Homeland Security. Provo radio could see us on the AIS and radar and they let us know that they could see a boat approaching us in the dark. They said it may just be a local fishing boat heading home… but wanted us to be aware. It was a nice call, and we were relieved to know that we were being watched.

Nest Post- the Inaguas and Passage to Cuba

Passaging to Turks and Caicos

If you could write a text book on how a passage was suppose to go, this should have been the theory portion. A nice easy sail with flat seas, although we had to motor for a day, then a gentle breeze eased in and filled our sails for the next day and a half, while the reefs to the north broke up the Atlantic swell. Dorados at sunrise followed by a nice tuna for Sashimi, and a half a Wahoo. Yes Half. We are not sure what got the other half while it was being reeled in, but whatever it was, it was big.

Sunsets were beautiful. Crew was happy. Seas were calm. And then it appeared,… out of the blue came the slightest mound of sand. Salt Cay of Turks Islands, rising a grand 40 feet into the sky.

We took anchor for the night at 3 in the afternoon, and rejoiced our triumphs! For some of the crew it was the longest they had been at sea, ever and the rum came smoothly!

We moved over to Grand Turk the next morning and checked into the country. We were given a 7 day stay, after which time we would be required to pay a $300 Fee. Making the most of our time in Grand Turk, we hired a van and a driver to drive us around the 7 mile long, 3 mile wide island and enjoy his documentary.

Wild donkeys roam the island its sandy shores and flatlands.

Turks and Caicos were/ are solidly built on the Salt Industry. Salt pans line the islands, either actively or inactively.

Flamingos in the Salt Ponds
Flamingos in the Salt Ponds

Grand Turks is not active in the salt industry any longer, but is main import is tourism. Cruise ships line both sides of the massive dock daily and fill the streets of the cruise ship terminal and its many shops and duty free with tourists.

Cruiseship terminal at Grand Turks
Cruiseship terminal at Grand Turks

We enjoyed a delightful meal onshore in Grand Turks with Wayne and Lorraine at a fellow Canadian sisters restaurant on the beach before heading to SaltRaker Inn for dancing and a local band. What a great evening we had!

Band at the Saltraker Inn
Band at the Saltraker Inn

On the East side of Grand Turks is a shallow bank and within this bank are many small islands- or cays. We ventured over to Gibbs Cay on the advice of our driver that day and some Canadian ladies who own a restaurant on Grand Turks.
Gibbs Cay is a sandy atoll with shrubbery that is perhaps 45 feet in elevation at its highest point. It is know for the sting rays that come to visit the generous tourists.

As soon as we anchored down, a ray came over to let us know he was there. We climbed in the dinghy, or swam to shore, as there were 6 of us, with a little bag of cut fish. The rays could hear the engine and immediately came to surround us, looking for their feed. At one point there was up to 8 of them, swimming around us, through our legs, back and forth, taking the fish right out of our hands. If we were not quick enough, they would swim right up our legs until they found what they were looking for.


Sting Ray

Sting rays are interesting creatures. You can see their eyes looking right at yours, and their firm silky flesh glides right past your legs. They were definitely not afraid of us. They had no intention of using their stinger.

Chilling on Gibbs Cay with Friends
Chilling on Gibbs Cay with Friends

Turks Bank is famous for Conch. Under the boat at anchor in only 10-12 feet of water, we were surrounded by them. Large and small. After having some delicious conch fritters ata a local pub, I decided that they would be easy enough to make so we collected some to use for our appies. They take some preparation, but when done correctly, are delicious.

Our bounty
Our bounty
Conching
Conching

We said goodbye to our crew the next day as Wayne and Lorraine had to return to Canada. It was a fun 18 days with them, and we will miss their company, stories, laughs and help.

The last supper with crew before their departure
The last supper with crew before their departure

Next Post- the Remainder of Turks

BVI to Puerto Rico

Our time in The Virgin Islands finally came to an end and we must bid adieu to a lovely country and its colorful waters and sea life.

With two additional crew onboard for the 300+ nm passage to Turks and Caicos, we left sunny BVI with light winds and full sails. Next stop would be Culebra, Puerto Rico for an overnight in the little village. It was a short sail around the reef fringed entrance, but we managed to sail “wing on wing” right into the narrow marked channel of Culebra Island. The beautiful colors of the reefs told us of the dangers and we drifted nicely to an anchor position off the town docks.

Culebra is a cute little village that attracts many tourists from Puerto Rico to its charming beaches and quaint shops. There is a large research University which hold the majority of its industry besides tourists.
Our stay only left us there a night before heading West to Fajardo to do our provisioning and necessities.

Fajardo is a busier city with a thriving Puerto Rican community and many American Ex-pats. You know you have entered America when you drive down the streets here. McDonalds, WalMart and Sizzler abound. Yes We are in America.

We got brave, having been here before, and we decided to commonly rent a van and do some exploring up to El Yonque National Forest. Abound with vegetation, tropical birds, tree frogs and of course Tourists, its was a lovely way to spend a half a day and see what the county looked like before civilization took over.

On the way back to Fajardo we stopped with the locals at the Kiosko’s along the highway and had some lunch and beers. Some of the best Ceviche Darren and I have ever had was there that day!!!

While in Fajardo, and one of the reasons we went there at all was to meet with one of our ISPA Instructors/ Friends Michael and Margarita, on their boat Bebe at Isleta. caribbeansailingsolutions

Michael had taken Colin for some tests earlier in the day, Thank you Michael, and Margarita stayed back and obviously cooked us some typical Puerto Rican food to enjoy later that day. It was very much enjoyed by all of us!

The forecast was good for the next week so our plans remained to head out in the morning for our offshore passage to Turks and Caicos, 380 miles to the North West.

turks-and-caicos

Virgin Islands and a Crew Visit!

Well the wind blew in BVI, and it blew, and it blew. We sailed, and anchored and sailed. We enjoyed a Noisy night anchored in The Bight at Norman Island just behind the famous floating bar, WillyT’s. Its known for jumping off the back in various degrees of clothing, and as they say, it is optional, very strong drinks, and loud music. We got little sleep, and the wind blew thru the night.

Willy T's

The next morning we headed in a counter clockwise direction in the lower Virgin Islands, stopping at Cooper Island and visiting the dive site of Wreck Alley. Cooper Island is a great little Eco Resort with a wonderful beach and a great Happy Hour! And they have WiFi! So we did take advantage of all three! Sunsets are fabulous from Cooper Island Resort.

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We had a fabulous snorkel around the pinnacle, where again, Colin almost Killed Darren on an epic snorkel. We saw big Baracudas feeding on the coral heads, turtles, many fish and more towels hats and bathing suits sitting on the bottom than you could imagine. BowerBird Colin put on his dive gear and collected the treasures. Loot: 4 beach towels, but no gold.

We had a few more nights anchorage, before heading to West End, known as Sopers Hole, and its colourful village theme. Colin and Pam had to make a day trip to St Thomas to get clearance for FMD to enter and land into US waters.
Murphy’s Law must rule that its always 1 am or 2 am when squalls appear, and we encountered near Hurricane conditions gusting thru the gap at Soper’s Hole that night. We were on anchor watch for a good hour before winds eased and we felt comfortable to go back to sleep. Such is the life of a sailor. We know we have a good anchor and ground tackle though!

SopersHole

Its been great weather for the past week in Virgin Islands, hot, windy and dry with the odd squall going thru to clean the decks. We enjoyed the day of cloud and rain while we waited for Wayne and Lorraine to join the boat for a holiday visit.

Crew Arrival in the rain

With a new crew aboard, we enjoyed our favorite spots in Virgin Islands again; Norman Island, Cooper Island Resort, Bitter End, Cane Garden Bay and finally Jost Van Dyke. The new crew enjoyed a fabulous hike around The orchid Trail on Virgin Gorda’s East side, where they had fantastic viewpoints, wild Iguanas, and of course wild Orchids.

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We Had our last day in BVI at Jost Van Dyke, with of course a quick stop at Foxy’s. Although we had a great lunch at a different restaurant down the sandy road, Foxy had a song for us Vancouver Islanders anyways.

Foxy

We will be checking out of the country today on our passage West then North, next stop Puerto Rico.