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Date: 14 Jun 2009 16:12:27
Title: Isla Serranilla

Hello Friends                     "15:47.8N 79:51.1W"
 
This blog seems to have turned out as a sailors' technical special - but we hope you find it interesting.
 
We had an easy passage south from Grand Cayman - we managed to get a reasonable wind with plenty of north in it to start with and relatively flat seas. So after 4 days at sea with 4 hour watches we were well rested and comfortable.
 
The sea between Honduras / Nicaragua and Jamaica looks superficially like a large empty bit of water. But I think you can see from Google Earth that a lot of it is very shallow. In fact the whole sea is dotted with shallow banks and channels with strong currents up to 5 knots. So rather than head directly South from Grand Cayman to Providencia, we took a long route round to the east of Thunder Knoll and the Rosalind Bank. We encountered several ships which seemed to be taking the same route, so I guess we chose correctly.
 
The Eastern edge of the Rosalind Bank (the large bank to the NW of Serranilla) is only 7 to 11 metres deep and the seabed rises very steeply to this edge, causing "a race which has the appearance of breakers" according to the sailing directions. The pair of channels running SE / NW which you can see to the W of Rosalind Bank have currents up to 5 knots setting NW. Our neighbours in Grand Cayman - a 100ft US motor yacht - took the direct route when heading north from Panama and had a very rough passage through here, actually damaging the boat's stabilisers.
 
Anyway, having checked out the area, we also noticed that there are a few tiny islands on some of the banks. There are some interesting satellite photos on oceandots.com (no www prefix).
 
So we decided to have a look at Beacon Cay on Serranilla Bank - the location for this blog - which is either Colombian or an outlying US territory according to which website you look at. The sailing directions describe it as a good anchorage, though that advice is aimed at large ships rather than little yachts. As we approached, the Colombian troops hailed us on the radio, though their total lack of English and our total lack of Spanish (other than 'tres cervezas por favor') made it an unproductive exchange.
 
 
Sadly the skipper decided that the anchorage which they wanted us to use was too dangerous for us to stop - a narrow entry through reef and a shallow anchorage of unknown depth with a lee shore...
 
The troops were clearly very excited at the prospect of visitors and positively anguished as we turned away and did not stop. But since they had been dropped on the island and had no boat to escape, I guess any visitors were welcome. The Beacon has been painted the colours of the Colombian flag (only the top being visible on the photo) and as you can see there are numerous coconut palms, which were not present on the only (googleearth) photo we could find.
 
We've now completed our passage to Providencia and found that their festival starts in 2 days time ! So Blue Sky is dressed overall and the next blog will report in full.
 
Best Wishes
 
George, Michael and Garrison
 
 

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