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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Thorny Path, sort of...

We were up with first light and moving across the last bit of the Great Bahama Bank Tuesday morning, heading out from our anchorage in the lee of Little Exuma Island to the Nuevitas Rocks Cut out into the Atlantic. It was a glorious morning; the front had passed and the winds had eased a bit, and we knew we had a good weather window to make our way east through the southern Bahamas to the Turks and Caicos Islands.

Heading across to the southern tip of Long Island was smooth; we had an easy, somewhat-following sea, with waves 4'-6', although definitely larger when the underlying N swells would swoop beneath us. So, rather easy sleigh-ride conditions for Equinox across the Crooked Islands Passage since we had to go south-southwest and the winds/waves were from the north-northeast. Ron had the lines out fishing as soon as we came off the bank, of course! There's a small seamount about 6 miles long and 3 miles in between Long Island and the Crooked Islands called the Diana Bank that draws in a lot of migratory fish such as wahoo, tuna, dolphin and marlin, so Ron was hoping we'd get a strike while we were near there. Its steep sides and shallower bank makes for some rougher swells and larger waves as the current pushes up over it, and yes, it was definitely rougher as we passed it on the north side, but despite our hopes, nary a nibble while we were there! Next time, perhaps?

The Atlantic was such a gorgeous cobalt color after 
we left the Great Bahama Bank, I had to take a photo!
We came around the southern point of Acklins Island just after sunset, although we could only see the light on Castle Rock as we made our way through the Mira Por Vos Passage. The Mira Por Vos Passage -- which supposedly means "Watch Out For Yourself Passage" -- refers to the group of small cays and reefs off the southern end of Acklins Island which are unmarked and have been the site of many a shipwreck. Currents commonly set southwest across the passage and onto the cays, which is I suppose why they are named as they are! It's too bad we couldn't see anything in the dark, as the Mira Por Vos Cays are one of the most important seabird nesting sites in the entire Bahamas and I'd been told that one of the cays is probably the most northerly colony of Brown Booby tropical gannets. (What do they look like?)

After we came through the passage between Castle Rock and the Mira Por Vos Cays, we turned to the east and were nosing into the current ... thus, had the wind and waves coming sort of on the nose/at our port bow. Not exactly a comfortable combination! At that point, there was no lee from any island (as we weren't passing that close to Mayaguana to the north) so we simply just resigned ourselves to hobby-horsing/lumping along for the duration. 


The crossing between the Bahamas and the Turks is called the Caicos Passage, and is traditionally known as the beginning of "The Thorny Path". From this point south, sailors on eastbound/southbound yachts face 300 miles of relentlessly contrary winds, waves, and current, and almost no attractive refueling options, so getting to the lower Caribbean isn't an easy task. For us, aboard a trawler, at least we can travel in a straight line! While conditions weren't exactly comfortable, we've certainly been in worse seas so it wasn't unbearable, knowing it was only a 12 hour crossing. We took our usual turns with the watches; I took the first watch 8 to midnight, then Ron took the witching hours of midnight to 4 am, before I got the choice slot to watch the dawn arrive! The slow breaking of light over the rolling waters was incredible to see; a peaceful interlude on a jolting, rolling ride just prior to our arrival at the Turks and Caicos. A low cloudy morn, but serenely beautiful to watch nevertheless...  nothing better than that!


Dawn trying to make its break through the clouds









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