21:29N 71:32W South Caicos

Madeleine and Martin
Mon 1 Apr 2013 19:39
So this is the story of Mick and Nikki’s holiday with us in the TCI. But first a word about the Marina at Leeward Going Through. This is an amazing place. The Marina has been developed for Super Yachts – so a standard berth is something between 120 and 200 feet long - but it is empty apart from Lucky Four Us and ourselves. Inland, the cut itself is wide but quite shallow, stunningly beautiful with an aquamarine colour against the backdrop of Mangroves on one side and a five story hotel complex adjacent to the marina on the other. The “hotel” is nearly as empty as the marina but has an excellent swimming pool and sandy beach but no other hotel type services. The rumour/story is this: a money launderer from Fort Lauderdale persuaded some Middle Eastern gentlemen to invest untold billions in the site but the development was built without planning permission; the relevant government officials had received their no doubt substantial backhanders and duly turned a blind eye but issued no paperwork. Before the development was finished the corrupt government of the TCI was chucked out by HMG and it all came to a halt – there appear to be a number of similar stories around the TCI with part finished mega developments hanging in the wind. Eventually some kind of accommodation has been reached; the “hotel” finished as expensive apartments, the mega marina completed with all mod cons and the marina office close to completion. But we crossed the cut in the reef at mid tide and cleared the bottom by about a foot so “mega yachts” – maybe not.
Following a couple of days of provisioning, boat washing and general furtling, we picked up Mick and Nikki from the Airport on Monday evening 18th. Spent Tuesday to Friday, sleeping, sunbathing by the pool and sightseeing on Provo (local name for the Island of Providenciales). We made a dinghy trip down Leeward Going through to Little Water Cay for the Iguana tour and some snorkelling on the seaward side but that aside we were pretty idle – of course M and N needed the rest! As it turned out we might have done better to stay in our aquamarine idyll but sailing holidays are about exploration, exposure and effort so off we went on Friday to tour the TCI!
Another sticky exit through the Cut – no water under the keel at one point and we were off on a day sail to the Island of West Caicos. Guess what – the only thing there is another mega development of hotels and apartment buildings, this time shells with no windows and a marina, no pontoons or facilities. We anchored behind the reef in a spot called “ Gateway to Heaven” and watched the surf breaking – too rough to land the dinghy. The following day we sailed the coast of West Caicos but returned to “Gateway” for another rolly night at anchor. Sunday found us navigating part of the Caicos Bank, average depth 4m, and anchoring amongst the islands close to Sapodilla Bay. Our arrival did not go unnoticed; we had been tracked by Provo Radar who obviously thought we had arrived from “abroad” and were in hiding! To say that we suffered the third degree by VHF does not come close. Then on Tuesday we set off to cross the Caicos Bank proper- a 40 mile passage with depths between 5m and 2.7 metres with a seabed largely of a sand with the odd coral head, rock or weed; bizarrely a voyage where we could see the bottom the whole way. We anchored in the evening off the edge of the bank at six hills cay for a much needed swim. The following day we made the 25 mile deep water passage (2500 metres) across to the Island of Grand Turk. An abortive attempt to anchor in the north part of Cockburn Town Harbour (ran aground briefly) left us at anchor offshore. Ashore we inspected the quaint old wooden buildings on the seafront most of which date from the early to mid 1800s and then  meal out where we made more effort than the staff!
The northerly wind drove us round to the south of the island early on Wednesday. The shore party hunted for provisions and booked diving lessons for three for Friday by which time the weather was supposed to have improved. The dinghy was sent out in the afternoon in response to a Mayday for a lost swimmer who eventually turned up on the beach unharmed but only after a major island response – one police car on the beach, an ambulance and a dive boat! Of course Grand Turk and its sister island Salt Cay are famous for the seasonal arrival of 3000 migrating humpback whales so on Thursday we set off to find “a few”. The exit from the shallow bank south of Grand Turk was heart stopping with one too many close shaves with the coral heads – we discovered that they could stand 10m tall in 11m of water and then out into the deep water of the Mouchoir Channel. It was rough out there but your gallant crew was rewarded with the sight of no less than three whales including spouts, a tail dive and a swim past by one humpback. 32 miles later we were back in our anchorage having circumnavigated Salt Cay in the process. Good Friday. Mick took the golden oldies diving ably assisted by the professionals Chris and Peers. Mick was doing a refresher dive but a dive lesson in the shallows off the beach was a testing experience – a 360 degree vertical rotation is definitely not part of the course! “The Lesson” over, we set off for the deep. Mick was in his element but the oldies struggled variously with masks filling with water, remembering to breathe, surfacing uncontrollably and earache! Nonetheless the reef and its abundant fish and plant life were visited  - more by some than others. Unaccountably, despite a water temperature over 30 degrees and wet suits it was still freezing back on the dive boat. An experience not to be missed but perhaps not repeated by all. The following day Mick went off for a proper dive with the some experienced divers and the professionals and was clearly pleased as punch with the two further dives off the reef. Ah well, takes all sorts.
So here we are in South Caicos harbour following a speedy passage from Grand Turk. The weather these last few days has been grey and windy now blowing a steady 6 with swell right into the harbour. Another day when we will not be able to get ashore to explore. We will sail back to Leeward Going Through tomorrow not least because we are running out of basic supplies and of course Mick and Nikki fly home on Thursday. Hope the weather improves!