I know that to many the name sounds vaguely familiar but one can't quite figure out where one has heard it before. In the Atlantic, just under 80 nautical miles south east of Mayaguana in the Bahamas lie the islands of this British Overseas Territory which boasts a population of approximately 30 000. The Turks and Caicos islands are very similar to the Bahamas; full of coral reefs, flat, semi-arid, a little short of fresh water and blessed with absolutely clear blue water. One of the longest coral reefs in the world is found along these islands.
Wednesday, 19 November 2008
Thursday, 13 November 2008
Our second last stop in the Bahamas was the idyllic island of Jamaica Cay where we had a barbecue on the beach with miles and miles of golden sand and no one else around. Not even sandflies disturbed our precious evening meal.
The following day we left for Salina Point settlement, the most southern village on the island. We negotiated for five hours through shallow water dotted with menacing coral heads. At some point we had to take the sails down as the wind was piping up and it was becoming difficult to steer the boat with that much power on the sails. We motored the rest of the way through some treachorous areas in the bight of Acklins and then came out on the deep side and headed straight south.
At the entrance to the bight on the southern side, we were met by jumping dolphins who seriously looked like magical creatures in the orange afternoon light. I knew then how the references to mermaids originated. As we watched, the telephone rang and we were all taken aback as the Bahamian telephone network was a bit of a hit and run making it impossible to know when you would be able to receive or make phonecalls and that we had not used the phone for a month. It was Tshina calling from Denmark wishing Pam a happy birthday in advance.
We crawled our way through some more coral heads in an attempt to find a place to anchor. We tired to anchor twice and still no luck. The bottom being rock solid hard was not cooperating with us. In the end Mads snorkelled down to the third anchor spot and had to shift some sand for the anchor to settle a bit. We had, earlier with Liz and Paul, made jokes about American seamen who told stories of carrying shovels for digging holes for their anchors and had written them off as ridiculous and bored yachtsmen. Not that a shovel would have helped in this coralled bottom but it would have saved the skipper's arms from engaging in complex under water exercises for which no water aerobics class can ever prepare you.
We settled for the night and watched the fishermen's boats rolling in the shallow waters.
Salina Point Settlement
Bye Baha Mar
Mission water collection was on the programme. Ingrid, Thyra, Fika and I left the skipper to go and forage in the neighbourhood. This time it would take a dinghy ride, a 3km walk with four jerry cans to get to the settlement. It seemed that Saturdays were reserved laundry day. All the young girls, whom we asked for directions, were engrossed in the weekly washing of school uniforms and Sunday school dresses. Salina point is located on the eastern side of the island facing the Atlantic which pounds the rocks everyday making the sea look menacing. The village has everything the inhabitants require: mobile phone connection, desalination plant, school, clinic, church and also amazingly 3 restaurants and a small hotel.
We were even escorted to the general store where we could purchase frozen food and canned goods. The proprietor, a very friendly man with a warm laugh, drove us to the public tap, filled our jerry cans and drove us back to the harbour. His children were then asked to load our dinghy and help push us it out as the tide was low by the time we returned.
The captain was pleased to see his crew return. We prepared the boat for departure. We were all a bit subdued as this was our last anchorage in the Bahamas.
At four o'clock on March 23rd 2008 we picked up and waved goodbye to Acklins island. We were aiming for Turks and Caicos, some 160 nautical miles south east of Acklins island. Typically the wind was not cooperating with us as it came straight from the south of east. As we rounded off Castle Island, we decided to make a straight course towards Turks and Caicos and then tack up north. As it were, we tacked up north and the skipper realised that the best option would be to sail all the way up to Mayaguana's north coast and hope that the wind woud shift east so we could make a straight southerly run for T& C. On the second afternoon we spotted Mayaguana and waved and waved. This would be the last island we would see in the Bahamas.
Bye Baha Mar
As we chatted about leaving this beautiful desert in the Atlantic, the fishing rod suddenly started coming to life. Mads got very busy in the next half-hour. We could see that we caught a dorado, the most delicious fish on the planet. As Mads reeled it in, we could see all its fantastic colours and children and adults were clapping like mad in anticipation of a feast. Then the rod just bucked over forward and silence. Lo, the fish was gone. We thought it had managed to untangle itself. But what were we seeing behind the boat. A ginormous shark of some sort. We ran downstairs to check in the marine book. It turned out that it was the rare Atlantic white tip ocean shark. The fellow was quite pleased with our catch and it stayed with us for an hour just behind the boat. We were determined that we were not going to fish for it, so the fishing rod stayed put. We sailed on towards the east coast of Mayaguana during the evening and by midnight we were well out of Bahamian water.
Our exit was dramatic, exquisite and expressed our true sentiments about the Bahamas. We would never forget the warm friendly people who prize their conch and rice and peas above all dishes. We would remember their national pride and resilience in this blue water desert of the Atlantic. We respect them for making themselves into what they today are; from slavery into a thriving people who love their children, their homecoming meetings and their regattas.
Now some of you might be wondering what in the world I am talking about, mentioning strange fruits that are not a common sight in world supermarkets. Well in the Bahamas and the rest of the Caribbean, this very tasty fruit is part of the daily diet (in season of course). It resembles a kiwi but tastes like a mixture between a pear and a mango. If you ever find one, enjoy.