Nigel North
Tue 9 Apr 2013 22:48


We set sail for the Turks and Caicos at a sprightly 0900 on April Fools Day in sparkling sunshine, working our way out between the islands with a gentle wind on the starboard quarter, and once clear of any land effects on the wind, poled out the two foresails up front and off we went. A nice Force 4 for the next four days meant no sail changes at all, but a lot of rolling - a fact of life when downwind sailing in a monohull. Now, surely, was the time to learn how to troll for fish! The handline went out with four rubber squid thingies jiggling on the end. Hours later it came back in looking remarkably similar.

Disheartened but not beaten, Skipper struck back; 30lb line with a really quite realistic four inch rubber fish hiding a stonking great hook was substituted and the lot paid out over the stern, and promptly forgotten about. Until, that is, a blood curdling wail from the eagle eyed crew alerted me to the fact that there appeared to be a fish on the line splashing about behind the boat. My first fish! And a big one too, a good 2 footer according to the Spotter. The fishing rig was basic, just a line dropped over the pushpit and attached to a spare inner tube to act as a snubber to take the shocks. But what to do now? Ah! Of course! You've got to play the fish right? I'd seen the movies. I gave the line several jerks and proceeded to play the fish. Well I guess the fish didn't want to play as after a bit of tugging back the line went light and that was that. He'd given it all back, albeit a bit the worse for wear as the hook was now almost detached. Tinned herring then for supper..

About 2200 I noticed the Blue Ensign had managed to jam itself right through one of the small blocks for the self steering, which wasn't working now in protest. Devil's own job to get it out again, but succeeded by hauling the rope out first.

I took the 2300 to 0200 watch, and 0500 to 0800, whilst Ali came on at 0200 - a routine we kept to throughout. A couple of ginger snap biscuits and a nice cup of tea were all that was needed to keep going, and a little chocolate of course. Day sails were anyone who felt like it, usually both of us, unless one wanted to catch up on sleep.

And this is how four days passed, rolling along at 3.5 knots boat speed but with the help of the Antilles Current, achieving another knot faster over the ground. We had a choice: go to Grand Turk - the nearest island and the capitol - or carry on to Providenciales (Provo). But at this rate we would be arriving in Grand Turk at 0530 - hopeless, still dark with all those coral reefs to avoid, or Provo at an equally unacceptable 2000. So Grand Turk it was then, but needed to slow down so we would arrive in daylight. So the staysail was struck. Still going too fast. Reefed the genoa even more: Nope, still too fast. Now under bare poles and still doing a good 2 knots in the right direction!

Then, quite suddenly, the wind got up and was soon blowing at over 30 knots from the port quarter, and with Ali asleep below I made a decision to go the extra 60nm  to Provo instead and put this strong wind to good use

We arrived off the 2 mile reef protecting Turtle Cove Marina on the North coast of Provo at 1700 going like the clappers. To get to the marina meant taking a tortuous but marked 2 mile passage across the reef with depths down to about 2metres and rarely more than 3.5metres - an unnerving experience at the best of times, but in this strong wind it was near impossible to see much beneath the surface. After some VHF calls to the marina a pilot boat was sent out to lead the way in. All went well, but as we passed through the S bend entrance to the marina the depth gauge dropped to 1.4m, luckily in sand - Pinballs limit.


But we weren’t quite there yet. Concerns over the reef and the speed of arrival - we had come straight in - meant we had had no time to prepare lines or fenders for our slip in the marina. However our reception committee on the dock were very ready, and stood bemused watching as we drifted about tying fenders on etc. All the other boats were moored stern to the dock, as always, and I considered trying it but old Pinball does not like going backwards too much and invariably turns to the right when you really dont want it, so we came in bow to.

What we didn’t realise until later was that we had come in at high tide on a spring tide; the levels would be dropping from now on...and we had yet to leave!



09 APRIL 2013: NEWSFLASH!!!!