Atwood Harbour was fabulous. While the wind and waves were doing their thing outside, we sat in completely calm and beautiful waters, staring at sugar-sandy beaches all around. Like on Conception Island, we could have spent a week here (or longer!). It is a special thing to be all alone with nature and experience awe at God’s great creation. But, we needed to move on. After careful consideration, we decided to leave on Friday morning for the Turks and Caicos. As the marine weather guru, Chris Parker, put it, this day would be the least bad of the bad days in store for the foreseeable future. We need to get somewhere with a secure marina and a decent airport in order for me to fly out to work after the New Year. The forecast for our passage would call for our ship to point into 14-16 knot winds and 5’ seas for 22 hours straight. If you’ve never been on a sailboat in those conditions, that is not a thought to cherish. But… the forecast for the next 9-10 days would call for even stronger winds into the 20-25 knot range and still from the worst direction. So, we decided to take our lumps and go for it.
We hated to leave, but around 10:15 a.m. we weighed anchor and made our way through the opening in the reef and out into the open waters of the Atlantic. Except for about an hour when we were in the lee of Mayaguana, we experienced just about what we expected. Winds were generally in the 14-17 knot range with gusts into the low-mid 20s, and the waves were generally in the 5’ range with the occasional 7-8 footer. A squall passed just to our north late in the day kicking up winds in the 20-22 knot range with gusts to 30 for about 30 minutes. During this time, I was soaked to the bone while sitting in the helm station. These were probably the worst conditions we’ve been in. (I attempted to video the conditions, but was not happy with the videos. They just don’t accurately depict what it was like.)
As the sun set, and the night wore on, it was more of the same. It certainly wasn’t fun. Everything and everyone was covered in the salty brine of the sea. We couldn’t stay dry. The seats, the railings, the floors were all covered with a fine layer of sea water. There was, however, the pleasing sense of accomplishment at having completed such a passage twenty-one hours later as we pulled into the lee of the Turks and Caicos. We motorsailed the entire way with one reef in the main and no jib. We averaged about 5 knots under the power of our two faithful 39 horsepower Yanmar diesels. They, thankfully, worked like a charm all the way. I noticed our speed dropped in the hour or so before dawn. Once morning’s light had illuminated our rig, I discovered that my reefing line had chafed through. This is the second time that has happened. I’m not sure why, but I’ve got to figure out how to stop it from happening over and over. That and the chafing through of several small pieces of line that held the luff of the mainsail to the slides on the mast track, though, were the only casualties of our difficult trip. Experiencing the banging and rattling of the vessel as it climbs the waves and falls down into the trough below burying its bow in the oncoming wave, one might get the idea that the whole boat is going to break up at any minute. Imagine lifting 38,000 pounds of fiberglass, metal and wood and dropping it from 5 feet onto the water below — and then doing it over and over and over again for 22 hours straight. I have a healthy respect for the integrity of our vessel. Speaking of the lifting and slamming into the waves…. Imagine sitting on the head (toilet) while underway and suddenly going airborne as the toilet drops out from beneath you. Even the simplest things become difficult when underway in rough conditions. 🙂
I was rejoined by my new friend, the Southern Cross as we neared our destination. I saw this constellation for the first time ever as we were making our way south to Atwood Harbour a few days prior. Making a brief appearance in the low southern sky, just before the sun rose, it cheered my heart again making me realize how far south we have come. About 30 minutes before reaching Sellar’s Cut, which traverses the reef surrounding north Providenciales, I radioed Turtle Cove marina. They sent out a guide boat to lead us through the winding, coral head-infested channel into Turtle Cove. Following immediately behind the guide boat, we safely snaked our way into entrance to the marina itself, which strikes a rather picturesque setting in a well-protected cove. We backed Beatitude into her slip and breathed a big sigh of relief. The passage was now behind us. We checked into the marina and immigration, but had to wait a couple of hours for the customs officer to arrive. This gave us a couple of hours to shower and clean up. Once she arrived, it was a painless process (other than the $400/dollars for a cruising permit, which allows us to stay in the country for 90 days.) And, by the way, this is our second foreign country we’ve visited aboard Beatitude! (Although, they both speak English and readily accept American dollars.)