Hi-Bye, Turks and Caicos

Since we were able to buy diesel in Mayaguana, we felt comfortable passing through the Turks and Caicos without making landfall (and paying the check-in fees. The cost would be reasonable if we were stopping for the reportedly excellent diving, but seemed exorbitant just for a fuel stop.) One of our books counseled against entering the Caicos bank with GPS alone, so we set out after dinner to get the right arrival time at Sandbore Channel. And then we moved faster than expected, and had to slow ourselves down to avoid an early arrival. This turned out to be for nothing, because the channel is deep and wide and accurately represented on the Garmin charts, and we could easily have passed through in the dark. Better safe than sorry, I guess.

We’re still working out how to handle sleeping when we travel at night. So far, the plan is that I get the first shift while Jazz tries to sleep, and then I wake her up when I start to get loopy. Then she wakes me up a couple of times in the night to confirm that that big ship coming at us is actually the moon, or to help her reef the sails (still a two-person task for us), and then a little after sunrise we swap again. This passage, we had to take a reef in the wee hours, and we both wanted to be awake for the “difficult” entrance, so by the morning we were both a little wiped. All this to give context for this photo of Jazz taking a 20-minute sitting-meditation-nap.

So we sailed into the Caicos bank, and then sailed across the first half of the bank, beating into the wind but at least not using up all that precious diesel. Then at the waypoint in the middle, we had to turn further east, and the wind wasn’t interested in turning further north, so we had to motor. And this was one of the least pleasant legs we’ve had so far, because despite the shallow water of the banks limiting the wave height to a couple of feet, the wave period stayed punishingly short, and we slammed into these tiny waves for hours. The engine tries to accelerate, and then any momentum sends the bow up over the next wave, and it crashes down into the next one. We anchored off of Middleton Cay, with slight protection from Middleton Bar, and got the screens on the windows just before the hoards of insects descended.

The next morning, we got up and got going, and I motored over First & Last Reef while Jazz made breakfast. This is one of those terrifying places where the coral is visibly everywhere, the current is pushing you sideways at a couple of knots, and you just have to trust the charts that say it’s all much deeper than your 3′ keel. In twenty feet of water, the reefs shouldn’t often be close to the surface, but the water is the right combination of clear and choppy to make it very hard to verify visually. The books said that the water should calm down once we made it out into the Turks Passage: in the beginning, thousands of feet of water are pushing their way up onto the shallow banks. Perhaps that’s true in other weather conditions, but for us, the whole passage was a choppy, bouncy ride. We arrived at Big Sand Cay feeling like a couple of tenderized steaks. At least we sailed most of it, and the anchorage was well protected.

The morning brought promising new weather forecasts, which said that we could sail to the DR in good time, so we got a chance to have a relaxed morning and take a couple of photos of the beautiful anchorage. I don’t remember why we needed rope, but Captain was happy to help us find the one we wanted.

We estimated our trip to Luperon at about 20 hours, and we wanted to arrive in the morning calm, so we set off around 11. As always, the wind was going to be forward of the beam, so we set up the staysail. (We’re super tempted to put it on a furler.)

Jazz did a better job documenting than I did: here are her views while trying to sleep out my shift.

As we approached the island, we had to fall off a bit to keep sailing. Then the promised calming effect did materialize, and we dropped the sails again to motor the last few miles along the coast.

And here is where all that foreshadowing in previous posts about the alternator comes back. We got plenty shaken up on this leg, as with all windward passages, and when we turned on the engine, we saw that there was no power coming from the alternator, again. When we opened up the engine compartment, we saw that the alternator was dangling limply: the bracket that holds it in place was no longer attached. On closer inspection, we found that the supporting bolt had sheared off completely! Unable to really fix it, we wedged the alternator back into place as best we could, to provide enough tension to keep the salt water coolant flowing, and limped into Luperón.

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