Monday, March 16, 2009

From the Bahamas to the Turks and Caicos Islands.

Our last stop before leaving the Bahamas was Mayaguana Island where our main goal was to clear out the custom and wait for the proper weather window to jump to the Turks and Caicos. Mayaguana, like pretty much everywhere else in the Bahamas is quite empty. A huge island but no people and as if it was not unpopulated enough the few people living on the island are split in three settlements. Our passage on the island was then supposed to be pretty boring and without interest. Of course, Danielle and I are pretty good at making situations with nothing at hand! On the day of departure we had to find the custom office of Abraham Bay as mentioned in our cruising guide. The bay is just paradise with its turquoise water populated with scattered coral heads and bounded on one side by the green strip of the island trees and on the other side by the white foam of the waves breaking on the shallower coral reef. No human presence to be seen other than what looks like a peer and a communication tower. In the Bahamas, a communication tower is like a beacon to human life and if there was a government office here it had to be by the tower. So we took our passport and boat papers put them in a water thigh bag, jumped in the dinghy and headed toward the peer. After six month on the water you may think that we would have paid attention to some small details such as the tide! But nooo, while approaching the peer the first thing we know is that we are digging a new trench in the sand with our propeller. Quickly we lifted the motor and Danielle jumped on the oars. Don’t ask me why but Danielle always want to oar the boat so don’t blame me to be unmanly by letting my wife do the hard work! However the wind was pretty strong and we had a hard time making any progress toward the peer. We had about 12 inches of water under the boat, as long as we stay in a very narrow channel of water and by lowering slightly the motor we were able to get some traction with it yet without touching the bottom. Slowly but surely, with Danielle looking ahead for the deeper channel we finally made it to the peer. Well remember, it is low tide so the fix concrete peer is VERY high. We managed to tie the dinghy to the 5 feet wall and I climbed it. Danielle looked a bit overwhelmed by the height of the wall so I told her to put her feet on that rock coming out at mid-height and I’ll put her up. This is when I noticed that she was wearing her stupid flip-flops, nothing better to climb a wall and walk who knows how long to the next settlement. I pulled her anyway and in no time we were both standing on the peer after 20 minutes of struggling in 12 inches of water and on a 5 foot of wall. Then I looked at her and asked “Where is the waterproof bag with the papers in it?”. Yep, we had left the bag in the boat and forgot to take it with us in the dinghy! There was no point being mad so we laugh a good bunch. To make a long story short we walked to the custom office, which was doing all the government business at the same time, to make sure it was opened and then came back to the boat. We waited a few hours for the tide to go up a bit and then went back. Believe it or not, the tide was then even lower! But this time we were experience mind you, and managed like pros to get to the peer using the motor in 8 inches of water, yes sir!

We sailed during the night to get to Providentiales (Provo), in the Turks and Caicos, in the morning when the wind is settled. The first day we just cleared in the customs (sorry no story this time) and slept. The next couple of days we wanted to see the city of course. First we needed to fill up one of our propane tank. The guide book we had tells us that we can get propane near where we anchored. Thus we take the tank in the dinghy and go ashore but no one had any idea of what we were talking about but a guy at the gas station told us we could get some at T.C. gas in the city. What we then realized is that the “city” per say was about 7km from the anchorage. We definitively had a transportation issue. We went back on the road and Danielle, with her legendary patience, said “screw this!” and as a car was passing us she lifted her thumb; the car stopped! Fitzgerald “Shoes” Thompson not only took us with him to T.C. gas with our 20lbs propane tank but waited for us to get it filled and even took us back to the beach! Things are very different here compared to the Bahamas but in both cases people are just plain nice. What we then learned is that on the island you can take a bus or a taxi but since there are no fixed bus routes per say and they are privately operated, we don’t really know the difference between the two yet. A third way to go about is using “jingsies” or something like that. I am not sure of the exact name and spelling but it is basically the normal people offering you a ride for a few dollars. You don’t really have to look for jingsies, they look for you. Being white skinned, every two minutes you get someone honking at us when walking on the street. I don’t understand how they figure out we are not locals! The next day we wanted to go see the “downtown” area, but even though Provo is spread over many kilometers its downtown is basically three streets with buildings scattered in a way to show you that urban planning is just a concept that exists somewhere else. With our new learning from the day before as soon as a car came to pass us I lifted my thumb and sure enough he stopped and off we went for a free ride to downtown. We walked the three streets and stopped at a restaurant selling fried chicken. In the Caribbean people like it fried! Nothing better for the diet but hey, while in Rome … They had more than fried chicken though so I took chicken curry and Danielle took fried fish, which were the expensive meals but while they were preparing our plates at the counter we understood that the cheap stuff here was the fried chicken and that for $2 you get a bag of 6 pieces or the bigger bag for $3. We added a “two dollar chicken” as they call it to our order and had quite a meal, a good thing we were starving. On our way back we stopped at the grocery, which was way cheaper than the Bahamas and took a jingsy back to the boat.We may go back to town later this week but for now we are relaxing while waiting for the next wind window to jump to the Dominican Republic, our next destination. Meanwhile we can enjoy every night a very special phenomena that apparently exists only in the area. Just after sunset and for only about 10-15 minutes on the few days following the full moon there a sort of very small worm coming out for mating. Nothing special here except that these little water bugs are fluorescent and glow a bright green light. Unfortunately they are too small to get a picture of them as they “turn on” only for a few seconds at a time. Just around the boat on one side we can then see 20 of them at a time glowing to their other half. We don’t know if it is the male or the female glowing like this but once it glows it takes about 2-3 seconds and it gets surrounded by 20 members of the other sex that would quickly swim toward it all at the same time but would glow just a flash. You then see all these quick flashes surrounding the poor bastard in the center who quickly turns off probably overwhelmed by the success of its fluorescent sex appeal!