Deploying the Flexible Plan Strategy
Had we been on a cruise ship it would have been quite acceptable to think that today we are in the Bahamas, we will cruise overnight and tomorrow we will arrive in the Turks & Caicos and stay two nights, then off we will go again and the next day we will wake up in the Dominican Republic. But we are not a fully crewed cruise ship, we are just Balvenie with two of us onboard, and visiting 3 countries, sailing over 300 miles and stopping just twice in 4 days was not the plan!
We left Atwood Harbour on the northeast coast of Acklins Island, Bahamas just after dawn in company with an American yacht C-Time, with Carla and Daniel onboard. They are new to full time cruising and left their home port of Charleston, South Carolina mid January (just last month) to sail around the Caribbean.
Our joint plan was similar – use the forecast light southwest winds to have a comfortable beam reach sail past the Bahamian island of Mayaguana and arrive at the entrance to Sandbore Channel, just north of West Caicos after dawn, then motor across the shallow Caicos Banks – before the sea breeze built - the last 10 miles to Sapodilla Bay on the south side of Providenciales, one of the Turks & Caicos Islands, total mileage 115, it was a perfect plan.
Flaws in the Perfect Plan
Firstly the wind gods decided there would be no westerly component in the wind, so much for a beam reach - we were hard on the wind again, but at least the winds were around 15 knots so not too bad but still plenty plenty salt water over the boat.
Thrown into the mix was the most hideous sea state we have seen for a very long while between the top of Acklins and Mayaguana Islands, a very short, sharp, steep and confused sea lasted for hours, aggravated more in places with an adverse current.
We decided to go around the top of Mayaguana which actually gave us a longer route but a much more comfortable ride which certainly seemed like a good idea at the time. We had a glorious full moon and for a while life was good.
Day 2, Country 2
Eventually after tacking and ultimately motoring the last 2 hours we entered the T&C banks and headed for Sapodilla Bay. The light was good and we motored along in less than 4 metres of clear water, dodging the odd dark patch along the way – might have been soft weed or crunchy coral heads, best not to find out the hard way so we avoided them all!
We anchored at 11.30am, 148 miles covered. Check in was easy, a short dinghy ride ashore, 5 minutes and USD50 later we were stamped into the Turks and Caicos, but this only included a 7 day stay for the boat, once this was up you either leave or pay USD300 for a cruising permit, ouch! We figured we could see what we wanted to in a week at a push, so it was back to Balvenie to plan our stay.
Should Have Checked the Weather
We found wifi access so checked to see if the weather forecast had changed much since we left the Bahamas. And it had … basically our period of light winds was drawing to a close, we had only 3 more days before reinforced trades would return and we would see over 25 knots consistently for well over a week, flip.
This meant that we would not to able to move around and explore for a week, and more importantly would not be able to leave until the winds settled. We were anchored a fair way out into the bay and it was not an ideal sheltered or particularly comfortable spot, furthermore town was a few miles away. This was not somewhere we wanted to be stuck for over a week, even if this island had just been voted “2nd Most Beautiful Island in the World” on Trip Advisor!!!
So we looked at our options and decided that we would rather forego exploring the Turks and Caicos and head straight for the Dominican Republic. We lifted anchor the next day again in company with C-Time and headed south in light winds motoring over the banks to French Cay for a night.
Day 4, Country 3
Another early start saw us farewell the T&C, as I started writing this blog update I realised we didn’t even take a photo there, almost like the country we didn’t really visit, but we do have the stamps in our passports!!
It was another overnighter hard on the wind, with various uncomfortable sea states, plenty of water over the bow and a couple of hours motoring after dawn to make our target of Luperon before the daily sea breeze set in. The fresh smell of land miles out, the silhouette of the high green mountains at daybreak and then the totally enclosed and sheltered harbour confirmed that this would be a much better spot to wait for the trades to ease.