Saturday, 21 March 2015

Providenciales to Mayaguana

Or Turks and Caicos to the Bahamas.

We spent a few days in Sapodilla Bay, waiting for the engine. I tracked its progress - Maine, then Fort Lauderdale where I assumed it would be loaded onto a ship, but no - it then went next to Memphis, Tennessee, and stayed so long, we started referring to it as Elvis. Suddenly, we had a message saying the engine was here, in Provo. It came on a plane after all. Fedex didn't have an address to take it to, so I collected it from their office, 8 miles away. They were kind enough to bring me and the engine in one of their vans to the beach where I'd left the dinghy, and all the concerns about dates and arrivals and points of possible failure disappeared - we had an engine again, and the danger of being required to fork out $300 for a cruising permit was gone.

The engine fitted with only a little tweaking, and we resolved to motor round to South Side marina where we could fill up with water, do some laundry, buy some food and so on, leaving Sapodilla Bay the following morning, at dawn. At dawn the wind would be lightest, and we'd have our best chance of motoring directly into it.

I forgot that the engine would need running in, and that it required the first 2 hours of running to be at less than half speed. 6hp isn't a lot for a boat this size, but running it at half revs - was it feasible?

Well, it is, and we made it, though in it did get up to F5 before we made it round the corner, and we were hobby-horsing into the waves a bit. Good test though. The propeller popped out of the water very briefly, just a couple of times, so the shaft is long enough. And I'm thinking the power might prove to be enough too.

I called in on Byron (who keeps a spirit-lifting blog, whether you're into boats and fixing things or not) - a fellow I'd been in contact with on a couple of sailing forums, and who had provided encouraging advice when I was researching the feasibility of importing an engine to Turks and Caicos. I've met internet people before, and as Byron said, the results are sometimes disappointing. Well, the only disappointment here was that we didn't get to swap any more good-natured yarns, and I didn't get to see the output of Byron's 3D printer. I'd have liked to have seen the printers too, but ah well, we had already overstayed our permit. And the wind was settling for a favourable run to the Bahamas.... so bye Byron and Polly - really nice to meet up.

First we spent an afternoon sailing to the west of the island, to hang onto a mooring buoy used by diving boats. We took the short route, through the coral, carefully creating a route and waypoints on the detailed charts on my phone and then transferring the route to the laptop navigation software. We lost our nerve following the route - there was coral ahead, not like on the route we planned. So it was nice to be able to start the motor, and head dead upwind, and wind our way through the coral - a man on a bow, another on the roof, and something similar on the tiller being shouted directions and corrections and all.

We left the next day at dawn for Mayaguana. Terns wheeled about in front of the boat. I imagined they must have been playing about in the turbulence caused by the sails, but they seemed too far off for that. I got on with some fishing. Surely, there'd be tuna here, and I had my new rod, new reel, and a range of lures to try out. And we were all getting pretty sick of beans and lentils.

The wind was fair all the way and we ranged between 5-7 knots. No fish were attracted to any of my lures. Not spinners, not Dean's pirks, not my home made lumps of lead with a treble hook and a bit of sliced up Marigold glove. Nothing worked.

I sat in the shade of the mainsail and watched the terns. They seemed to be feeding on small flying fish. But they always stayed in front of the boat, as if all the fish were there. I saw a glint in the water ahead, and stood at the bow watching. In front of the boat, like dolphins playing about, there were tuna, about 2' long. Lots of them. We watched them for a while. Occasionally we'd see one or two off to the side, but we never saw any behind the boat. After a while it became obvious that the terns were marking where most of the tuna were. Looking carefully, we could see the fish shooting through the water, and sometimes leaping out. They were chasing the little flying fish, and the terns were taking what they could get. The tuna swam with incredible speed, leaving a spray of water from their backs. The only sensible thing to do if you were a little fish being chased by such devils would be to fly! Get out of the water. And then the terns would dive for the fish as soon as they shot out of the water, and time after time we watched the fish weave about as they flew through the air trying to dodge the acrobatic terns. What a life!

I tried casting a lure forward of the boat, and the tuna would shoot towards the lure immediately, but after they'd taken a close look, they soon turned back towards the flying fish. I rigged up a windsurfer mast with a line and a lure, and dangled the lure to the side of a bow, but the tuna weren't interested in that. I figured they might only be caught with bait, so I rigged a mackerel line with little lures to catch a fish to use as bait. Nothing!

We sailed into Abraham's Bay, Mayaguana while the sun was still high enough for us to make out the coral easily, and dropped the hook in the sand.

A long row! The lagoon is huge and shallow, so we had to anchor far off!

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