Monday, April 9, 2018

Crooked Island Passage

We are under way off the north coast of Crooked Island (map). We weighed anchor at 10:15 this morning and the chart plotter is predicting an arrival in Providenciales, Turks & Caicos between 4 and 5pm tomorrow afternoon.

We dropped the hook yesterday shortly after 6pm in Clarence Town Harbor (map). There were perhaps a half dozen boats in the anchorage, and just three at the marina. We opted to forgo our usual afternoon beer on deck in favor of heading directly ashore for dinner.

Vector in the distance in Clarence Town Harbor, from the government dock.

We splashed the tender and rode the half mile to the government dock, where the mailboat/ferry was offloading. The small boat steps are partly destroyed so we had some acrobatics to get off the boat and get it tied up. It was a short walk to Rowdy Boys Bar and Grill, which, name notwithstanding, is actually a nice white-tablecloth place attached to a hotel. We did have to ask for directions, graciously provided by local farmer Ambrose who was out driving his herd of goats.

Now that we are in the tropics, and spring is here, the temperatures have become, well, tropical. Thus far it has been mostly comfortable on the boat just with the windows open, especially overnight, but now we need a modicum of air conditioning. After dinner we pulled Mr. Roboto, our LG free-standing air conditioner, out of the closet and set it up in its usual place in the master stateroom, and we turned it on as needed throughout the night.

Scalar, our dinghy, tucked under the government dock, dwarfed by the mail boat.

This morning promptly at 9am I tendered ashore with our passports, cruising permit, and immigration cards to clear out. I landed at the Flying Fish Marina, which is where our guide said customs and immigration clearance could be found. The place was deserted save for a construction crew working on a new building, and a lone employee at the marina desk.

The desk clerk informed me that it was not necessary to clear out of the Bahamas. When I asked where immigration was located, she told me they come down from Stella Maris, well up-island, for a charge of $100. I mentioned we had immigration cards from Bimini that needed to be turned in, and she took them from me to hand to Immigration on their next visit.

Fortunately, Turks & Caicos does not require us to present a zarpe to clear in, so after handing in the immigration cards I called it good and headed out, with our cruising permit still intact. When we come back through the Bahamas on our return we'll check in with Immigration and, if needed, have Customs extend our existing cruising permit. It's good till June 15th, and we may be in-country just a bit longer than that.

After leaving Flying Fish I headed back to the government dock to offload ship's trash before heading back to Vector. If we come back through Clarence Town, the government dock is suitable for us to offload scooters to explore this very large island.

Trash run. The steps are hanging loose at the bottom.

By the time we weighed anchor, half the other boats in the anchorage had already departed, with an excellent travel forecast today. Other than a little swell, we, too, had very benign conditions for our cruise southeast along the Long Island coast.

Between Long Island and Crooked Island lies the Crooked Island Passage, a very deep (8,000') channel that connects the Atlantic Ocean to the Old Bahama Channel that runs along the north coast of Cuba to meet the Strait of Florida at the Cay Sal Bank. The current in the Crooked Island Passage runs north and is quite swift. Since departing the protection of Long Island we've been crabbing an average of 15°, steering a heading of 132°M to yield a Course-over-Ground of 117°M.

Today's wind is partly opposing this current, and we've had steeper-than-forecast seas in the Passage. For the past several hours we've been slamming over them. It's nothing dangerous, just tedious, making it difficult to move around the boat and even uncomfortable at times just to sit still.

As we continue to enter the shadow of Crooked Island, we are hoping this current will ease off somewhat, reducing the crabbing for more speed-made-good and also perhaps some less steep seas. (Update: we are now mid-island and we're still crabbing, but only by 10° now, and the head seas are not as bad.)

We are still on track for an arrival mid-afternoon tomorrow. We may have a bit of Internet in the morning as we pass south side of Mayaguana, but then we will be off-line until we clear in and find some way to get Internet. It seems none of our phones are compatible with the LTE on-island. Also, data there is very expensive if we could even make it work.

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