It seems that rumors of the crew of Windigo moving ASHORE have been greatly exaggerated, well at least for one of us!
The "parting" statement in the last eletter announcement was in reference of us leaving THE BAHAMAS after living there for over a year.
The Bahamas were a very good INTRODUCTION to cruising for us, as they are on the US monetary system and English is the official language. We will slowly move on to more exotic places as time goes by.
This BRAND NEW eletter focuses on our short visit to the small group of Islands called the Turks & Caicos . . . . . . O.K., so they speak English and use US dollars, but these island offer more diversity in a smaller place.
The complete eletter with fabulous photos and details of another subtropical paradise is at:
Enjoy the continuing adventures of the crew of Windigo as we sail further from the place of our birth.
After a year+ in The Bahamas, showing up at Providenciales [a.k.a. Provo] was a setup for culture shock. Three-lane paved highways; massive 40-mile-per-hour traffic; and a grocery store larger, cleaner, and more well-stocked than anything we have seen since Florida were a bit overwhelming at first, but we were born urbanites and we quickly adapted. Provo has really gone through huge development in the last twenty years, and there is only more coming during the next twenty.
The other islands in the Turks & Caicos Islands [TCI] are more akin to what we were used to in The Bahamas; small widely-spaced settlements where residents fish and live close to nature.
The TCI is along the normal path from the US to the Caribbean, so it is well-charted and the few anchorages host ever changing array of cruising visitors. There is a modern airport on Provo, and airfare from the US was reasonable enough for Karin's son, Adam, to come visit us for a week. From Wisconsin. And 80" of snow. And sub-freezing temperatures. Nice.
The Character Of The Land.
The TCI are made of the same stromatolite and aragonite lime deposits left behind by deceased sea creatures found in The Bahamas; and resemble them with the same bank / reef / porous stone island configuration. Low-lying and deprived of a great amount of topsoil, life on these islands has been tough. But there were many attempts at farming and livestock-raising as evidenced by plantation ruins and stray wildlife.
There is still salt production on one cay; the remnants of other salting operations are everywhere. This most valued commodity was harvested by hand hundreds of years ago and was one of the reasons why the TCI were important to the area.
For a couple hundred years, salt production was done all by hand. First dikes were constructed in low-lying flatlands, complete with canals and gates. Then the salt pans were flooded; On South Caicos they had the good fortune of utilizing a "Boiling Hole", from which seawater would flow up from during high tide. Windmills provided the power to pump the water as needed to increase the salinity. Some of these windmills remain in operation today, as tourist attractions in the Provo shopping malls!
When the brine reached a certain specific gravity, the saltpans were drained and the collected salt was raked from the floor of the pan. These old boat moorings are monuments to the hard work of long ago; they are statues depicting salters carrying blocks of salt from the saltpans.
Later, donkeys were used to rake and transport the salt, accounting for the large number of the animals roaming the island today. (As they say in Great Inagua, "It ain't a party unless you're eating donkey!".)
The TCI is still a wholly-owned subsidiary of the British Empire, having been ruled and protected by England since early in the 18th century. The Spaniards first invaded the TCI starting with Columbus, and then Ponce De Leon. The Spaniards did little to protect their claim, and Bermudans lived here, raked salt, and farmed the land since the middle 17th century. The French entered the foray in 1706, but other than a bit of scuffle and brief change-of-hands in 1783, the islands were watched over by England and its protectorate, Bermuda.
But pirates ruled the area for a couple-hundred years in the 16th & 17th centuries, and national flags didn't mean very much. Later, the revolutionaries in America made life impossible to those still loyal to the King, so a flood of Loyalists came to the TCI starting in 1789, joining their Bermudan brothers in farming and salting.
The TCI officially became part of the Bahamas and getting a seat in Nassau in 1799, but the Bermudans were not favorable to this ruling and largely ignored it. The Queen recognized this and in the middle of the 19th Century granted a royal charter to the TCI, making it an independent colony. This proved to be a burden on the peoples, so the TCI fell under Jamaican rule in 1873. When Jamaica became independent in 1962, the TCI opted to remain a Crown Colony, and received a new constitution in 1976 with an elective form of local government and the Governor appointed by the Queen.
Slavery was abolished in Great Briton in 1807, and English ships routinely commandeered slave vessels at sea and freed the captured men. Some of these ended up on the TCI, and when slavery abolishment was enforced in the TCI in 1821, many fled to Haiti. All slaves were granted freedom in the British Colonies in 1834. Today, many Haitians have returned to the TCI to provide the massive workforce required to keep up with the development. There are many other immigrants working on Provo, from as close as the Dominican Republic to as far away as Nigeria and the Philippines. These hard-working foreigners are able to earn a much higher wage than in their home country, provide the desired development in the TCI, and then return home with enough money to make a difference in their lives and the lives of their families.
Most interesting is what the residents of the TCI call themselves = they are "Belongers". Some of the Belongers move to Provo to find employment in the fast lane, where others move away from Provo to enjoy a slower more traditional island life. Almost 10,000 Belongers work directly for the government, accounting for one-third of the native workforce.
By stopping at Little & Great Inagua, we chose a route not often taken by most cruisers, who usually sail directly to the TCI from Rum Cay or Mayaguana Island. This normally puts them head-to-wind and against the prevailing seas, so their weather window consists of the calmest conditions available in order to motor against the forces of nature. Windigo does NOT motorsail kindly to weather but being heavy-displacement, she handles a wide range of conditions comfortably. By heading to the Inaguas from Mayaguana, we were able to sail both that leg comfortably off the wind, and then make a few tacks and sail back UP to Provo. Sure, it took a little longer, but we burned only a few drops of fuel whereas many boats motor the entire distance against conditions. [As a bonus, the very beginning of our track even resembled the stylized name of Windigo; Karin refused to let me complete the graphic name on the ocean!]
Once we tucked into Sapodilla Bay, the wind piped up and only relented a week later for a day sail with Adam, and then it was another 10 days before we could sail down to French Cay. The next few days were glorious as we stopped at the south end of Long key after traversing the Caicos Bank. We took off from that anchorage intending on making our last stop at Grand Turk. Although conditions were good in the Turks Passage, the west flowing current hindered our eastward travel, and it was becoming an arduous trip. Then we heard some unexpected chatter on the VHF from cruising friends that had made an unscheduled stop in South Caicos. So we did too!
We had a glorious time in Cockburn Harbour and on South Caicos, but the wind once again went through a fitful period, and we were unable to move along. As the number of days on our visas were dwindling, we needed to forsake a stop at Grand Turk. Too bad, I really wanted to see the reported changes since my last visit in 2004 on a delivery, and also check out the museums, a really cool lighthouse (on springs!), and investigate particular navigational challenges. But such is the life of the mariner, completely at the mercy of weather and to a lesser extent, the immigration man (and to even a lesser extent, the money tree!). in the end, we were not disappointed with the super protection of Cockburn Harbour and the delightful settlement of South Caicos.
The thing I remember most from my 2004 visit to Grand Turk was the number of domestic horses in the island. They would carry their owners to work in the morning, and then turn around and head back to the corral by themselves; a line of six unencumbered beauties walking slowly along the dirt road. Well, in South Caicos (and even in Provo), there are many, many horses still used for transportation.
Ospreys stand guard over their fishing grounds on all the TCIs, and seem less intimidated by people than Karin would prefer (one followed her for most of her hike on Long Cay!). she didn't mind this little fellow, though, when he tagged along.
She also came upon several of the famous Long Cay rock iguanas. This cay is one of the 33 national parks in the TCI, and all predatory animals have been carefully removed to allow sanctuary for the iguanas. They are 2+ feel long, and answer to the name "Harold".
On my bike ride to the north tip of South Caicos to see a 500' radio tower [the Atlantic Beacon], I came around the only tight curve in the road only to be facer-to-face with an 800-pound longhorn bull. I certainly surprised him too, so he decided to give me a little chase. Having much experience with free-range cattle when cycling in Arizona in the 70's, I wasn't worried he could overtake me, but needed to reverse my course nonetheless and sprint a short way back up the trail. He quickly lost interest and wandered into the bush, so I had to walk after him to get a photo. Later, in town, I met his little brother.
This ride also passed through a herd of donkeys, playing some game in teams of three. Except for the referee, the teams keep in their groups and wandered about the area. They wanted me to play, but I didn't bring two friends!
Feral dogs are a problem on these islands, but most are timid and do not offer a challenge to cyclists, nor are they intimidated by the traffic!
Many birds populate the TCI, and this American Oystercatcher feeds in the shallows at low tide alongside all those huge queen conch. Another ubiquitous bird is the long-tailed tropicbird; these were frequently high aloft above Windigo's anchorages. They behaved themselves and did not 'dirty' our decks.
Most of the action in the TCI is in the water. Although I snapped a few crappy pix with my underwater camera, I will treat you instead to the finest photos of aquatic animal life in the islands:
Just click on "WINNERS" from each year and indulge in the glorious reef vistas.
Because of the protection and sensible allocation of much land to the 33 federal parks overseen by the TCI National Trust, the state of the nature in the TCI is more stable than observed in The Bahamas. For instance, while anchored in Cockburn Harbour, we were amazed at the size and quantity of conch crawling around under Windigo. Many other countries have allowed their conch to dwindle due to over fishing, but the restriction on taking conch from the ocean combined with the Conch Farm on Provo have allowed them to be fruitful and multiply. Again, I took the requisite shots of Adam on the conch ponds, but the best photos [and complete explanation of the operation] are on their website.
White-tailed tropicbirds flew over the boat daily, and dolphins visited occasionally. But one of the most amazing displays of nature was the glow worm mating ritual in the water around Windigo. Triggered by the full moon, the female worms come to the surface three days later, just after sunset. Displaying their best bioluminescence to attract males. They spew out their glowing egg mass into the water. A few minutes later, the super-charged males shine around and fertilize the eggs with glowing sperm (just to show off!). it is and amazing display, and different every time I have seen it; this time it was greenish-yellow all around - the last time I saw it was out in the open ocean and the females were reddish-orange and the males green & blue! Sorry, too dim for my photographic abilities. . . but here are some links to info about bioluminescent worms and other stuff in the TCI:
Although the Turks Passage is a prime whale-watching area in the early spring, we were just a tad late and saw no whales. :-[
I cannot end this section without mentioning the source of the name for the Turks Islands. It seems there is a cactus that grows here with a feature that resembles the fez worn by Turkish men in the past. Here, Margaret explains this to Karin next to a Turk's Head cactus.
The historical Governor's Mansion on South Caicos was finally abandoned 7 years ago after a long-running battle with termites. It is believed that the termites were transported in a delivery of wood from the US some time in the 50's or 60's. The ancient house was sound until then, and now needs to be demolished. It seems these termites have spread to other islands here and threaten other historic buildings. The scourge of the conquistadors continues . . .
Another very old loyalist building shows signs of wind erosion high above the ground, which is NOT caused by "sand blasting", but "deflation" by the removal of smaller particles of dust. In researching this eletter, I stumbled upon this trivia tidbit:
"The wind is another agent of erosion. Many people assume that because the wind is so destructive (tornadoes, hurricanes, etc.) that it is an important agent of erosion. Wrong! The wind actually is a very inefficient agent of erosion, only being somewhat effective in very dry areas with little vegetation (= desert areas for the most part). Where these conditions are met, the wind erodes by deflation and sand blasting.
"Deflation is the process by which the wind blows the clay and silt-sized particles away, and leaving any larger particles behind. Sand blasting is where the wind blows a stream of sand against rocks, and thereby quickly wears away part of it. Contrary to popular belief, the wind seldom picks sand up more that a few inches above the ground level. The "famous" sand storms seen in the movies are really dust (=clay and silt) storms! Deflation results in two erosional features: blowouts (or deflation hollows) and desert pavement. Sand blasting produces ventifacts--a rock shaped by the sand blasting."
South Caicos is just now starting development with a sprawling Canadian resort being built near town, and a giant American-financed hotel up the east coast (there are THREE more of these buildings on the other side of the ridge, down on the shore).
The Belongers are not to be outdone by their Bahamian brothers when it comes to pallet usage = two sturdy pallets easily were transformed into this gate.
Meanwhile, on Provo . . .
Around Chalk Sound, just inland from Sapodilla Bay, there has been enormous development in the last 15 years. Homes and resorts are still being constructed as fast as the road can be extended.
A very large cemetery in South Caicos is a testament to the difficult life past islanders endured. Some met an untimely end at sea, while for others, the hard life simply made them stronger, as this recently deceased centenarian demonstrates. This stone affirms the family nature of the old life, while the dates on this tomb simply baffle me.
There were 3 geocaches reported to be in the TCI, all on Provo, so it was a good opportunity to include Adam in another one of our usual activities. The first two were different than any we sought in The Bahamas as it was discovered they were indoors! This took a while to discover and caused us to expand our thinking about where to look for these things.
But I believe we enjoy the ones placed out-of-doors so that we are in the sun & wind, sometimes climbing rocks, sometimes with the sand between our toes [and maybe it lets us feel like pirates for a moment!]. So Karin was happy when the coordinates of the third one placed it well out on the beach away from any structures. She and Adam searched for quite a while when the coordinates directed them to a lone bush far up on the beach. When no geocache was discovered, they expanded their search and carefully checked the whole area, but remained unsuccessful. I really understand their dilemma, for when Karin & I returned later, we searched for some time before I got aggressive and dove into the small bush, literally! I did find the cache, but as this movie shows, it not only was DEEP inside the bush, but was also very tiny (a spice jar) and covered with several rocks and conch shells.
Karin & Adam were also unsuccessful in finding "The Hole", a collapsed cave off the beaten path on Provo. Again, I did not fault them for because they were searching on a rented scooter over primitive roads with Adam driving (too fast) on a machine better suited to one person. I know they took a beating because when Karin and I returned later on the Moultons, it was very difficult terrain to negotiate. But find it we did, although the signs were small and misleading, The Hole was certainly magnificent in one respect = it was only several feel from the road and dropped 80' straight down!
and took this photo of a typical hole found in the cliffs along the shore. This one is very nice as you can see the beautiful erosion patterns and the sunlit beach below through the hole!
Beach parties are a staple of the cruisers life, and for our stay in Sapodilla Bay, the relentless wind blew many cruisers in and held them captive. This provided for wonderful potlucks and social gatherings. Their was a cruisers net everyday to link the Southside Marina with our anchorage, and everyone got together several times for great parties. My pyromaniac tendencies are exercised for these parties, and the tripod grill Karin brought from Midwest Wire in Wisconsin has been a hit on many beaches; Although some carefree Germans simply toss their potatoes into the fire! At another party, I can be seen here grilling Karin's hands.
I had to write this part because we all know how Kevin hates to toot his own horn :•).
This was a very, very exciting time for me for a few reasons. First and foremost, my youngest son, Adam, came for a visit, which I'll expound on more later.
Also. this was going to be the SECOND country stamp on my passport. I have traveled throughout the United States but have never traveled abroad. So the Bahamas were first and now the Turks and Caicos. I sure get excited about the little things but isn't that what makes living life fun?
Third, this was the most beautiful water I had encountered; The most brilliant turquoise color. Water has such a calming effect on me that looking out over this body of water literally took my breath away. Probably one of the first times that I could sit for minutes to absorb all this beauty, every day, many times a day.
Okay so back to Adam coming for a visit. I hadn't see him for over a year, had talked a couple times on the phone and shared many emails. But nothing matches the overwhelming emotions of seeing him in person walking out of that airport terminal! He was about to turn 25 years old, so much a man but still my baby. I didn't realize how much I had actually missed him until that minute and as I hugged him, I didn't want to ever let him go again.
We had a blast with him even though we just wanted him to live "our life" for this week. I did splurge a little by picking him up at the airport on a scooter. Since he had been traveling since 1 a.m., we took him out for pizza and beer. Then Kevin took his bags back to the boat on his bike and we took off to explore the island. This is when we couldn't find the geocache or The Hole but him just stepping foot on the beach, taking off his shirt and enjoying the beauty of it all was enough for now.
Unfortunately the weather didn't cooperate as well as we wanted but he still had a rigorous one-day sailing experience. He bathed in the ocean, drank lots of smoothies, had that special "computer & guy time" with Kevin and partied with us old people.
As I would get up each morning and announce the plans for the day (Miss Social Planner), him and Kevin would just roll their eyes. We usually ended up just letting things happen, as there would with no specific direction in mind, always turned out for the better.
Adam has his degree in Theater and slips into a role quite easily. His personality is so upbeat and he is very outgoing. He had no problem relating to all the different cruisers we encountered in Sapodilla Bay. I so enjoyed watching him talk of his acting roles to the older folks, tracking down a place to buy a six pack on Good Friday with the single guys, and learning to sail on a small Sun Fish with a great young lady. He really adapted well to "our" environment even dealing with the close living quarters and me trying to be the doting mom.
The week went way too fast and he was gone before I could protest, coerce, manipulate and whatever else I could think of to get him to stay. His visit became so entrenched in my heart that I soon wrestled with a big decision.
This next part is very hard to write. It is with great sadness, that I will, as of this writing, be leaving Windigo. I will be moving back to Madison to be near my kids. My oldest Nicholas will back from Iraq in a month and I miss him so much. Adam and Nick have put up with my gypsy ways for the last 10 years and I would like to be close enough to them now to watch their adult lives unfold.
Kevin and I have come to the point where we need to work again so I've decided to do that in the Madison area and he will continue on to the BVI, to teach sailing, as he has no desire to be a landlubber again. Our marriage is still important to us and we will see how this situation can be worked out as we are apart.
As I've said in the past, being able to live on Windigo, travel, pushing myself to the limit and always, always learning new things about this great world we live in, is a gift. I have many great memories and hopefully can continue to get those "new" stamps in my passport.
As mentioned in the Wildlife section, I had a few longer bike rides on the primitive roads of South Caicos. Although the Moultons have been serving our needs adequately, the less improved roads are taking their toll on the poor bikes which are really full suspension ROAD bikes. So after my trek up to the Atlantic Beacon, it was decided that we would sell the Moultons and have custom mountain bikes built. [Not that I have had any better luck in the past on a mountain bike!] After considering the bike shop in South Caicos (right next to the department store), I called my friends at Wheel & Sprocket, my old sponsor and employer. As I write this, Noel Kegel is working on creating the perfect cruising all-terrain bikes, and I will fill you all in on the details as they evolve.
Way at the north tip of South Caicos Island I found the Atlantic Beacon: it is a 50,000-watt Hispanic radio station erected on an old USCG station (they used the old sign!). The 500' tower is a monster, and the guy wires and ground plane are first-class. If you are interested in leasing this Radio Marti transmitter, I believe the Broadcasting Board Governors are soliciting bids at this time.
Much of the cycling in Provo was typical highway riding, with the official speed limit set at 40 MPH and most traffic actually obeying that constraint. The remainder were white roads, too rough for the Moultons.
Here is a synopsis of the places to stay:
[The BLUE tracks are Windigo; RED tracks are Pedigo; and GREEN tracks are hiking or cycling]
Sapodilla Bay, Provo, Caicos Bank N21o44.434' W072o17.213'
This was a nice anchorage, but with just a little less draft than Windigo, one could get VERY close to shore and it becomes an excellent anchorage. Customs & Immigration are in the same building, a short walk over Sapodilla Hill to the South Dock.
Be sure to check out the engraved stones on top of Sapodilla Hill; this is part of the National Trust, and some of these stones are hundreds of years old. It is an interesting "Park", as there are no signs, no fences, a barely discernable parking area and trail, and the stones are simply lying about as they have done for dozens of decades. The most famous was carved by a crew of the Palestine, a ship that visited the TCI frequently prior to being wrecked in the humungous hurricane of 1866. A plaster cast of these stones are on display in the Provo airport.
Several of the houses along shore transmit an unsecured i-net signal that one could receive from their anchored boat with a good antenna.
West Harbour Bluff, Caicos Bank N21o44.930' W072o21.171'
Diving & snorkeling are outstanding in the proper conditions around Osprey Rock just off West Harbour Bluff. A good place to anchor is a deeper spot called Bonefish Hole, just south of Bonefish Point, next to another rock (Bonefish Rock???) northwest the Bluff, as noted on your charts. Windigo could NOT access the deep spot on the day we were there; with a seven-foot draft, complete cooperation with winds, tides & currents is necessary. The water over Bonefish Hole was nearly mirror-like when we were there as there is good protection from easterlies.
French Cay, Caicos Bank N21o30.491' W072o12.217'
Looking for treasure left by L'Olonnois, the famous French pirate who used this as his base of operations.
Officially, you need permission (the $75 cruising permit covers this) to go ashore, but the easily accessed anchorage alongside the cay is great for everyone.
Again, great snorkeling and good protection from easterlies.
South End of Long Cay, Caicos Bank N21o27.700' W071o34.430'
Easy-in / easy-out, and surprisingly good protection even though you may be some distance from Long Cay (Windigo was one-third to one-half mile out). The further the wind is from straight east, the less time it will take to cross the Turks Passage to Grand Turk. It is generally an all-day affair to sail the 20+ miles directly east due to the trades and strong current in the pass.
We departed early enough to easily make it across, but the first two hours gave us a net easting of ALMOST 5 miles and a very boring ride. A month earlier, and we would have spent the day out there looking for whales; but as it was, we wussed out and ducked into South Caicos and had no regrets!
Cockburn Harbour, South Caicos, Caicos Bank N21o29.001' W071o32.493'
Now this is a HARBOUR!
A huge area to anchor, choices [close to town, close to desolate park-land, close to beautiful reef, etc.] abound and the protection & holding were great even in the 30+ knots we experienced for several days there.
There is a marina in South Caicos, and Norman has fuel & water, and a nice store.
Although I don't believe one could get the i-net signal at anchor, unless very close (and be in a rolly part of the harbour). A short walk to the pink fisheries building on the north shore of town will get you a strong signal. Just sit on the stone wall under the tree next to the road leading to the fish factory and connect.
The house there is owned by Howard Hamilton, a.k.a., "Cowboy", a shyster extraordinaire. I struck up a casual conversation with him and his friends; Howard mentioned he was the treasurer of a local congregation, and asked for a donation. When I demurred, he felt it necessary that I buy a round of drinks for the group (at 10 a.m.?). After all but demanding some type of compensation from me for "using" his wall [he admitted the internet was not his], he said we would call the authorities and have me put away. His friends chided him, and we all (including Cowboy) continued with our rousing conversation about politics, travel, etc. (typical 'gazebo chatting'). Sure enough, a few minutes later, the constable's jeep stops on the road there and Howard proceeds to pontificate on the offenses I have committed, and how I should be locked-up for my inconsiderate behavior.
Did I mention that I had been in town for several days, and of course had befriended the constable, his deputies, the immigration lady, and just about anyone else of authority there? Anyway, Cowboy's main "complaint" was that I refused to leave. One of his friends, Eric (the local full-time ambulance driver = good government job in a town of a couple hundred people with no hospital!) leans over and asks me if Howard actually had asked me to leave. He had not. Much laughter ensued from the group, and the police (quite laid-back, you see) ended the meeting with Cowboy by threatening to take him to jail for any number of made-up violations. The cops drove off, and Cowboy returned to the group, much deflated and in pretend awe of my high social standing in his town. It is pretty obvious how he got his nickname!
So if you need to use the internet in South Caicos, just sit on Howard's wall . . . and tell him, "Kevin sent me!".
Read about Windigo's travels in new & interesting countries in upcoming editions of the Windigo Travelogue Catalogue.
See where Windigo has been since Puerto Rico:
(and zoom in when it starts tracking)
[to see Windigo's anchorages from St. Pete to Puerto Rico, Enter the callsign: W3igo]
Where we are right now:
My permanent and EXACT address:
S/V WindigoIII • PMB 365
88005 Overseas Hwy. #9
Islamorada, FL 36033-3087
Text-only Email addresses aboard Windigo, checked daily:
Email addresses checked when at a land-based computer
(infrequently, but good for attachments):
And of course, the Windigo Travelogue Catalogue: