Wednesday, May 2, 2018

On the flip-flop

I am typing under way across the Caicos Bank. This time we are westbound, on our way back to Providenciales. We have officially "turned around," and will be mostly westing from here on out. With relentless easterly trades, this is the "comfortable" direction.

We spent the last three nights anchored off Cockburn Harbour, South Caicos, at first right off the town dock (map). That proved much too rolly with the swell coming in the inlet, and we moved after one night to a spot across the harbor near Long Cay (map), which we shared with five sailboats who all arrived within a day of us.

Six Hills Cay from our anchorage before departure. Note the "cave" to the right, and the undercut all the way around. We never tire of this turquoise water.

We had a miserable run to the harbor on Sunday from our very pleasant digs at Six Hills. Notwithstanding a forecast that appeared so calm as to tempt us into crossing to the Turks, as soon as we hit the cut we found ourselves pounding into short-period six-footers. I dared not try to turn the boat around for an about-face for fear of taking a massive roll as we came broadside to it, so we pushed on through into open water.

The turn north toward South Caicos did have us beam-to the seas and wind, and I increased throttle to 1800 rpm to help the stabilizers try to keep up with it. Fortunately we were outside only a half hour. Vector took it all in stride, but much less so the crew, and so we ended up dropping the hook at the first suitable spot, near the docks. Fortunately we surfed the entrance on rollers rather than the breakers we had going out.

Two sailboats, Force and Another Adventure, came in the inlet after us, likely having crossed the entire bank before circling around Long Cay. We recognized them as part of the fleet that had left Georgetown with us. A third boat that was traveling with them, Colorado, was too far behind, and ended up anchoring for a night where we had, at Six Hills.

The rough passage made for a long day, and we enjoyed a bbq dinner on deck before retiring early. The swells built throughout the night, and by morning we had had enough of the rolling. We moved across the harbor to the lee of Long Cay, where the sailors had wisely anchored. It's shallow over there and we had to hunt around a bit, something we were reluctant to do the previous day.

Thus comfortably settled, I dove in to some projects that have been lingering, chief among them fixing the throttle/shift lever on the tender. This is separate from the emergency repair I made to the shift linkage in Provo, although both broke nearly simultaneously.

Why is my lever loose? Oh, because it fractured at a weak point in the aluminum casting.

I drilled a hole in the outer section, and drilled and tapped a matching hole in the aluminum inner part.

This stainless machine screw and washer should hold it all together for the foreseeable future.

The lever was still usable, as long as I was careful not to pull up on it, but I thought it best to fix it before going ashore. I have no choice now but to nurse this tender along until we return to the US, but we are definitely ready for a newer, more reliable tender.

Since someone asked: This is an example of the plastic part on the shift linkage that broke. It's called a rod-end bearing or "heim joint."

Here's the jury-rig, involving two nylon zip ties. This is the throttle linkage. I had to move the broken piece here from the shift linkage (where my finger is pointing), which is harder to reach and also under much more stress.

After wrapping up the tender repairs and a couple of other small projects including fixing the turn signal on Louise's scooter, and changing the activated carbon in the waste tank vent filter, we splashed the tender and I jumped in for a swim. The water was a couple of degrees cooler here, but after working outside in the sun it felt good. After cocktails on deck we loaded up our accumulated trash and headed ashore.

The brightly colored and very nice town dinghy dock was destroyed in the storm, and so dinghy landing is at the Seaview Marina, a basin just two feet deep where the commercial fishing fleet, the principal industry of the island, is located. On our way in we had to skirt around the tanker delivering the island's fuel supply; with his 7' draft he has to anchor well off the dock and pump the fuel ashore via a floating pipeline. We had watched him arrive and anchor earlier in the day.

After tying up and making note of the Sunset Bar and Grill across the street, we walked the length of the town, down to the resorts on the southeast corner of the island. We stopped in to check out the local grocery store, also operated by Seaview. They had a decent selection and even some hardware items, but it is much more like the stores in the Bahamian out-islands than the very nice grocery stores in Provo. Today as we were leaving we saw the RoRo ship arrive with containers, we presume to include the regular refrigerated replenishment for the store.

That's the Sunset Grill on the right. This boat is on what passes for yard stands here.

We would have eaten in the highly rated Blu at the East Bay Resort, but they didn't even open until 6:30, and we did not want to be walking back along the narrow streets into town after dark. Instead we walked back along the waterfront to the Sunset Grill, where we found the dozen or so folks from the five sailboats just wrapping up cocktails and snacks. We had a nice, casual dinner and enjoyed meeting a couple of the crew.

Yesterday we had a relaxing day on the boat. I got a few more things done and enjoyed another nice swim in the crystal clear waters. Had we realized we'd be leaving this morning, we would have taken the tender to the nearby "Admiral's Aquarium" snorkel site and/or the tiny beach on Long Cay; we'll have to save those for another visit. We had a nice sunset dinner aboard on the aft deck. Our evening was capped off with fireworks from one of the resorts, we presume in honor of May Day and International Workers' Day.

Vector and her five companions, at right, in the anchorage along Long Cay, as seen from South Caicos.

This morning we awoke to calm seas in the Turks Passage. We spent a bit of time looking at the weather to see if it made sense to cross over to Grand Turk for a visit. You may recall from my last post that the anchorage there is only viable in settled weather, and it looks like we'd have that for not even 24 hours. Later in the day we heard from Bumfuzzle, who was there and already starting to experience a swell moving in from the northwest.

Looking at the weather for the next five to seven days, it did not look like there was going to be a window to spend any time in the Turks without the possibility of getting trapped there with limited anchorages. We faced the decision to either remain in South Caicos for several days to see if the forecast improved, or else seize the window to curl back around to the bank and head west.

As much as I'd like to spend some time at Grand Turk and Salt Cay, we've now made commitments to be back in Nassau the second week in June. That's a comfortable trip in a comfortable time frame from here right now. But remaining in South Caicos waiting on weather could well keep us there two weeks or more. Ultimately, we decided the prudent course was to use today's window to make our way back to Provo.

Sunset from our anchorage at Long Cay. That's our neighbor, Chak Matay, who was traveling with the trimaran We Don't Neaux.

Update: We are anchored just west of Bay Cay, one of the "Five Cays" south of Provo (map). We had an excellent crossing in perfect weather, dropping the hook here just after 5pm and having a beer on the flybridge shortly thereafter.

We had a little roll here right after anchoring, with the tiny cay providing only a limited lee. We enjoyed a nice sunset dinner on the aft deck, watching the distant thunderstorms pass us by. But now as I resume typing, close to 10pm, the winds have built to 25 steady gusting to 30, and we've secured the decks for storm conditions. The boat is moving and we need to keep "one hand for the boat" as we move around, but we are comfortable.

It will be a wild and wooly night. If the weather cooperates in the morning, we will weigh anchor and steam around the west end of the island back to Grace Bay. If we are to be pinned down here for a week or so by weather, we want to be on the leeward side of the island, and it helps to have access to shore, restaurants, groceries, and other services close at hand.

For anyone not paying attention, this storm system is a monster, sweeping in from the Atlantic and threatening the entire Bahama chain with tropical storm conditions. Ironically, we'd be better off further into the Caribbean at this point, but Vector is a good heavy-weather boat and we have numerous options here to shelter from the worst of it.

Whenever the weather is ready to let us leave, we will clear out here in Provo and head over to West Caicos for a night to stage for departure. From there we will head west, either to Little Inagua (en route to Great Inagua) or to Mayaguana in the Bahamas, depending on conditions.

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