Trip Start Aug 01, 2005
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Bahamas  ,
Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Our next planned stop was the islands of Turks and Caicos - which are almost always referred to as a set: the Turks and Caicos. This was a 4-day passage. We got to Grand Turk Island in the early evening and anchored for the night. Next day we headed northwest towards the Bahamas. This is what I've been waiting for. We saw a documentary in the Canaries that was filmed in the Bahamas - crystal clear water, dolphins and other incredible sea life. Bring it on. My only regret was that we didn't have all that much time to spend there with hurricane season rapidly approaching.

We neared our first stopping point and noticed that Johnny (Depth-sounder) started acting peculiar and not was reading the depth. There was also a cloud cover which hindered what is called "eyeball navigation". The water's blues and greens indicate the depth of the water. The blacks indicate coral heads. Since it was our first real go without a depth sounder, we decided to be safe rather than sorry and headed back out to deeper water. We then decided that since we couldn't tell the depth reliably and since the Bahamas Islands are coral-strewn, shallow-watered bits of land, we needed to either bypass them altogether or be very careful picking our anchorages. We also read in our pilot book that the Customs fee for checking into the Bahamas was a hefty $200. The other countries that we visited had fees less than $50. Still, we are law-abiding sailors and checked the book for a spot that listed deep-enough water and Custom's Office.

We kept motor-sailing (an additional 1 days) toward a harbor on Rum Cay (pronounced Rum Key) that said it would provide an escort through the reef. That's what I'm talking about! As we neared, we called the marina and asked if there was any room. Yes, and yes, they would send out an escort. We followed the boat into the tiny harbor that was nearly filled with sport fishing boats - not a single sailboat in the harbor. It was late afternoon and most of the fishing boats were in and most of the fisher people were watching us as we crept our way past them until buumph. We were on the bottom. We were grounded - not in the psychological way as in "gee that fellow is a very well-grounded individual"; and not in an electrical way as in "make sure those two wires are grounded"; not even in the meat market way as in "I'd like two pounds of ground meat, please"; but in the nautical way as in "Laaawdy Moses, I do believe we are grounded." 6.5 feet of keel and 6.4 feet of water. Chris was able to back us off and we continued our slow advance (still under the watchful eyes of the fisher folk who even offered suggestions - be sure to stay to this side of the channel, they said). Another few feet and once again buumph - as in the nautical way. I radioed our escort, who was by this time around the corner where he supposed we were going to fit. No way. He suggested that we anchor outside instead, but then another (heavenly) voice came on the radio and said we could tie up at the fuel dock.

It's a good thing that we had such a large audience, because they were also very willing to help us get snuggled into the fuel dock. Snuggled as in a shoe-horned way. There wasn't a foot of extra space on either end. I threw them our bow and stern lines and they literally pulled us in sideways. Our escort (a Tom Selleck look-alike) met us on the dock and made sure that we were all set. He said there would be a potluck later and we were invited. Cool. I asked him what time; he shrugged his Tom-Selleck-like shoulders, grinned and said "later." Then he told us it was in the building at the top of the hill - about 10 feet up.

Since it had been quite some time since we had been shopping and our refrigerator died about a week previous, the potluck pickings were slim. I ended up making a bean dip for crackers. Not wanting to get there too early, we left the boat at five minutes past later and joined the other folks. Dinner and conversation was wonderful - plus they had cold beer!

The next morning while we waited for the tide to rise (we were once again settled on the bottom - our waterline was about one foot above the water surface) we took a short walkabout until the heat and humidity forced us back to the boat. One critter that is common down here is the land crab. It is a freaky feeling to be walking and hear the scratching in the leaves and not know what may jump out.

When the tide was favorable and we were afloat, we headed out and once again had that grounded feeling. We inched ourselves off, worked our way to a deeper spot and then anchored. Chris then dove to check the keel to see if there was any marine growth on the depth sounder. It was clean, so that wasn't Johnny's problem. Chris dove one more time to see if there was any damage to the keel. Fortunately it showed no damage, in fact, the bottom was "sanded" perfectly smooth showing a nice white bottom paint!

Chris made a "lead-line" with measurements at 10 and 15 foot intervals. This was a length of line with the markers and a 5 lb shackle on the end. My job was to stand on the bow and chuck the thing in front and then read the water depth. If the water was deep enough, it was fine, but if it got shallow, my problem was how to haul the line up to keep it out of the propellers and signal Chris at the same time. Fortunately we didn't have to worry about that. I got the hang of it and as we neared our next planned stop, I got set up once again. Johnny must have sensed the competition, because as we approached shallow water, he started reading again!

It turned out that Rum Cay wasn't a Customs entry port after all. After two more nights of anchoring off tiny islands, we decided to skip the entry procedure altogether. We headed out to deeper water and made a two-day run for Ft. Lauderdale where we hope to get the electronic problems figured out, catch our breath and enjoy being in the good ol' US of A where cars drive on the right side of the road, stores are predictable and we know how to use the telephones!
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