The Turks and Caicos

In one very big way this trip was unusual; the winds seemed to beckon us at every turn. We often thought we might have a week or two here or there to stop, explore, and rest a bit, but it was not to be. When we saw a forecast offering three to five days of absolutely perfect winds, we could not pass them up for we never knew when the next perfect window might appear, if ever.

Leaving Southside Marina
Leaving Southside Marina

So, once again, we dropped our lines, left Southside’s wonderful floating docks, and turned Ocean Angel’s bow southeast, motor- sailing off into gorgeous skies and perfect light northeast winds. Our destination for that day was some 50 miles south then east across the TCI banks to Ambergris Cay, one described in all our guide books as a deserted island where development never seemed to get off the ground.
Approaching Ambergris Cay
Approaching Ambergris Cay

As we approach, you can see the development at Ambergris Cay in the TCI; scores of homes and condos, large commercial buildings; a long airstrip with planes coming and going frequently – hardly what one would call failed development. And our cruising guide for the TCI is only a couple of years old. This discrepancy shows that times change rapidly, and information becomes out of date almost overnight. It pays to have up to date information, up to date charts, first hand cruising information whenever possible. All these pieces of information make your cruising easier, safer, and less worrisome. You cannot be afraid to ask for information – you have to be outgoing. Simon, Charlyn, and Bob taught us that for sure. 
As we sat at anchor off Ambergris Cay in relatively calm waters at a spot recommended by Van Sant, Pavlidis, and Simon and Charlyn, we watched other cruisers wander around over the banks to our north avoiding coral heads, working their way slowly eastward, and taking until nearly dark to anchor west of Fish Cays, a group of islands with somewhat easier access to the Turks Islands passage, but almost 4 miles to our north. That choice meant four miles of southing to make directly into the current and the wind. Simon and Charlyn had given us three waypoints that would guide us through the reefs north of Ambergris Cay and take us safely out into the Turks Island Passage. We weighed anchor at dawn and slowly worked our way north to the first waypoint, then turned east to head out through the reefs and the coral. Our up to date C-Map charts showed the cut, the waypoints, and the passage clearly. With me standing high in the bow as lookout and with Joy driving, we motored slowly through the gap that was almost 200 feet wide. Only one mound of coral reached to within 18 feet of the surface. I saw the coral mound as we neared it, had Joy turn a bit, and the rest of the way we never saw less than 30 feet of water with the coral reef clearly visible to the north and south of us.
Our path off the T&C Banks
Our path off the T&C Banks

Here’s the path. I passed the first waypoint before I knew it but we carefully worked our way to deep water with no problems, trusting our eyes, our friends, and our instruments, in that order. 
The sail from Ambergris Cay across the Turks Islands Passage was – well- it was boisterous. Winds were on the nose, and currents fluky. We sailed almost due south close to the eastern shore of Ambergris for quite a few miles to gain a better angle crossing the deep passage. We still ended up taking a couple tacks to make our landing at Big Sand Cay, the southernmost island in the TCI. When we arrived I expected some protection from the wind and wave action, but we found neither.
Big Sand Cay - I wonder where it got its name
Big Sand Cay – I wonder where it got its name

As we approached the roadstead we counted six other boats anchored, and as we closed the coast they all picked up anchor and sailed off to the south. I hailed them on the VHF to ask if we were missing something, and they said it was just too uncomfortable to stay for any length of time. The waves wrapped around the end of the island; the wind whistled over the top, and we found ourselves in an incredibly rolly anchorage. I had planned to nap for a while before heading out on the passage south to the DR, but sleeping was nigh onto impossible as the boat rolled from side to side. Joy made me a hot dinner, and by 1900, we raised anchor, some four hours after the others left.

On to the Dominican Republic
or
Swim Home