Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Change of Plans... On to Turks and Caicos!

One thing we have learned about traveling on a boat is plans are always subject to change. We had planned to leave Calabash Bay, Long Island, and head to Conception Island (still located in the Bahamas).  However, the anchorage was on the west side of the island and a west wind was blowing in during the day. Not a good place to be. Conception Island would have to wait for another day...or year.

We decided to head to Clarence Town, Long Island, and plan the next leg of our trip to Turks and Caicos.  We pulled up anchor at 8:00 a.m. and headed out. It was a beautiful day, but there wasn't a lot of wind.  We motor-sailed so that we could make the 45 nautical mile trip to Clarence Town before nightfall.   
We rounded the top of Long Island and I looked out into the expanse of ocean and said "Hey, what do you think about just going on to the Turks and Caicos right now?".  LA looked at me and said "Let's do it".  We had checked the weather for the next couple of days and we had good weather to make a 36 hour trip.  


The seas were a gorgeous blue as we charted our course to Providenciales, Turks and Caicos.  The wind was not in our favor so we motor-sailed.  We were busy charting our course from Long Island.  We estimated that the trip would be about 225 nautical miles and take us 36-40 hours.  We knew we were not going to be able to sail and make good time.  We calculated our fuel consumption and we had plenty of fuel to make the trip.

Most of the day was uneventful, but the seas were a bit rolly. Blue sea all around us.  However, around 3 o'clock in the afternoon, a ship icon appeared on our AIS device.  The Automatic Identification System (AIS) is an automatic tracking system used on ships for identifying and locating other vessels.  AIS information supplements our radar system to help us quickly identify the presence of nearby vessels.  We are able to get information such as vessel name, position, course, and speed... all of which are very useful in collision avoidance.  We were quite surprised to see a big ship out in the middle of nowhere.  We did not realize that we would pass through shipping lanes on our trip.

We were able to hail the "Evergreen" on the VHF radio and make sure he could see us and how he planned to come across our course. As he came nearer to us, we could see just how BIG he was... 

Cape Express crosses in the distance

Several more ships made their appearance during our passage. A small cargo ship, the "Cape Express" made her way across our bow.  I radioed the ship and asked the captain for a weather report.  He told me the wind was going to die down a lot during the night and it was going to be flat calm on Tuesday.  More motor-sailing.... fortunately, we had plenty of fuel to motor all the way to the Turks.

And, what was LuLu doing on our passage?? When we started out for the day and hoisted the mainsail, LuLu put on her "I am one worried kitty" look.
However, as she became more comfortable, she went into her "laid back kitty" mode, soon to be followed by her "I wanna get out of the sun" mode. LuLu is a good little traveler.  She doesn't like going down below so she stayed n the cockpit for the entire trip. Where she becomes very docile and we can pet her all we want!

We had some rain showers behind us, but we never got wet.  A beautiful rainbow appeared.  A good portent for the trip to come! 

As evening came, the skies cleared and the seas and the wind calmed. We were rewarded with a beautiful sunset.
Night fell and we began our evening to night watches.  LA began his watch at 6:30 p.m. LA had an uneventful watch with no ships in sight. I slept until 10:00 p.m. and took over the helm to begin my night watch. We had traveled 95 nautical miles and were motoring at 7 knots.  We were almost halfway to our destination. The wind speed was barely 1 knot so I knew I was in for a calm night.  At 1:00 a.m., a huge cruise ship, the Royal Princess, showed up on the AIS. The ship appeared to be coming alongside my course but it appeared that our paths would not cross.   I looked around but could not get a visual on her.  After about 20 minutes, I saw the horizon light up off my port stern and she popped into view.  The ship was over 1000 feet long and was lit up like a Christmas tree. Taking no chances, I radioed the captain and found that they were heading to St. Thomas and would not come near my course.  It is always a relief when these ships answer the VHF call. When we traveled to Mexico, we did not have an AIS.  When we tried to radio ships, we didn't have their names or position, and they never answered our calls.  The AIS definitely lessens the stress on passages, particularly at night.

At 4:00 a.m., another cargo ship came my way.  The Gulfstream Express, a 200 ft. vessel, was coming directly toward me, traveling at 10 knots.  I could see him from 5 miles out on the AIS and the radar.  Once again, I was able to make radio contact with him and he announced his intention to pass me port to port.  I breathed a sigh of relief as he passed me by.  At this point, we had traveled 138 nautical miles. We had slowed down somewhat.. Our speed was 6.2 knots and there was absolutely no wind.  LA appeared at 4:30 a.m. to take over watch.  I went below and got in our berth and quickly fell asleep.

I woke up at 8:00 a.m. and LA was at the helm reading.  It was a beautiful day, but was dead calm.  We had now traveled 162 nautical miles... 

Land Ho!  As we saw land in the distance, we were about 10 miles away from our final destination, Sapodilla Bay, Providenciales, Turks and Caicos. The Turks and Caicos Border Patrol picked us up on radar, hailed us on the VHF radio, and proceeded to ask us a litany of questions... boat name, documentation number, passport numbers, place of birth, etc.  Giving all of the information took quite a bit of time and attention for me so I missed a lot of the island scenery on the way to our anchorage.  At 3:45 p.m., we arrived at the anchorage and dropped the hook. We had traveled 217 miles in 36 hours.  We were happy we made it safely and we were ready for some rest and sleep.

Welcome to the Turks and Caicos!


Kathy B said...

Got your blog on my favorites so I can follow along! Just got the plans of MawMaw's Christmas done. Will be Lunch at Rolling Hills Country Club on Sunday. Y'all think about us because we will be thinking of you!
Glad to see you made it!

Unknown said...

Thoroughly enjoyed reading about the passage to the Turks! That AIS is cool!