25 March, 2013, Providenciales (aka Provo), Turks & Caicos
You've got to hand it to Maynard. He can sure pick good weather windows. All those years of racing have taught him a great deal about weather patterns and routing so instead of looking for the right wind speed, angles and sea conditions which we used to do with our sailing yacht, he now looks for a light stable weather pattern and low sea state. We still prefer the wind from behind if it's over 20 knots. Those conditions presented themselves on Wednesday so we departed George Town aka Chicken Town, Exuma with a light westerly wind and seas less than 2 ft. Our first day at sea was hot with a light following breeze so we had zero apparent wind. During the afternoon a high temp engine alarm started blaring in the bridge indicating the air temp sensor in the engine room had reached 135 deg F. After a fair bit of angst, checking systems, and taking heat temps with the temp gun, we found that an engine mechanic had failed to tighten a flange on the exhaust whilst doing a small warranty job in Freeport. It has now been tightened and reset and shouldn't scare the s#*t out of us again.
We have 3 large G-Series Raymarine screens in the bridge. At night we use radar on one of the Raymarine screens. The middle screen is used as a chart plotter with radar overlay and the 3rd screen displays the FLIR image (eg infra-red image) and we also use the Picture in Picture function to display the camera image of the engine room at the bottom of the FLIR display. This arrangement allows the watch person to pretty much keep tabs of the important functions of the vessel. We can also easily keep check of fuel usage, pump systems, alarms, power usage and many more statistics associated with the general running of Vanish via several other displays. We generally display the radar on a range of 3 to 6 miles and the FLIR image is great at a range of ½ to 1 mile. This combination with normal watch keeping has given us a good amount of security on those dark nights at sea. Maynard, Jake and I do 3 hour watches while Renae rests at night so she is fresh to help with meals during the day. This is working very well for us at present and means each of us can take up to 6 hours sleep before starting the next watch.
The trip took 34 hours for the 243 miles and included gensetting for 9 hours. We averaged 1 mile per gallon of fuel usage for the entire trip including blowing out the engines at WOT (wide open throttle) for 15 minutes prior to arrival at Caicos. Kyle, the Marina Manager at the Turtle Bay Marina guided us through the fringing reef in his small power boat and down the boat channel and had mentioned that the marina cut currently had a problem with a sandbar forming across the entrance. Well, this turned out to be a really really shallow convoluted entrance with only 25 feet of width and as our beam is 21 feet, both ladies had to call out clearances on each side of Vanish as rocks were threatening to take out the stabilisers on the starboard side while seagulls strolled around looking bored in ankle deep water on the port side. Meanwhile bow and stern thrusters were used to wiggle our way into the marina. Our draft is 6 ft and at high tide, the depth of water across the bar is only 6 ft 1 ins so we decided to try it. Anchoring off was not a happy choice as the north side of Caicos is exposed and rolls. We actually made it through and didn't touch. How crazy. We'll never do that again but wait, we still have to "gut it up" and get out of here. Trying not to think about that. After clearing in with Customs we needed several large glasses of red to settle the nerves (and rum and cokes too). We were cleared in by Chevron the Customs Officer for a fee of $50 which allows us to stay 7 days. If we stay longer than that, a Cruising Permit costs $300.
The best way to see a new small country quickly is either by bus or by renting a car so we had a choice of Scooter Bob's rental cars "Donner", "Blitzen" or "Prancer". All vehicles drive on the same side as Britain and Australia so all we thought to ask for was a car with air conditioning. We didn't think to ask for a car with a steering wheel on the right and ended up with "Prancer", a little rent-a-bomb with one functional seatbelt and a pig-squealing slipping fan belt with Maynard driving down the left side of the road with a left hand steering wheel right next to the sidewalk. Maynard said it puts your brain into a spin. Some cars have left-hand drive and some have right-hand drive. You can never pick who the driver is in a vehicle. It's weird. The island of Caicos is about 11 miles long and around 3 miles across so one can see most of it in a day. Turks & Caicos is a British Overseas Territory made up of 40 islands and cays with generally flat, rolling hills. These islands were the first landfall made by Christopher Columbus in 1492 in his search for the Far East. There are at least 50 restaurants and cafes on the island, resorts, upmarket rental homes on the beaches, Duty Free shops and all kinds of water sports and diving hosted by extremely friendly laid back Turks Islanders aka Belongers.
We know we only just announced our Plan but we've decided to make a "detour" and will be leaving soon. Can you guess where we're going?