2020-03-30 – As I write all this down, it is Saturday evening and I am in Sapodilla Bay, Turks & Caicos, safely at anchor.
I left my last Bahamas anchorage at Mayaguana Island just after midnight on Friday and headed across a lonely stretch of ocean in the dark. The leg to the Caicos banks was about 55 miles total with the last 10 miles to Sapodilla Bay in the shallow banks of the Caicos.
The passage was fairly smooth except that the fuel system problem is now even worse and needs to be fixed before I can move on. I had hoped the continued NE winds would be strong enough so I could sail the whole way down. This wind angle is perfect for a broad reach instead of fighting into a SE wind like many who make this passage. Sadly, the wind averaged around 10 knots or less so I went motoring through the dark night. The engine started dying every 45 minutes so after about 3 hours when a bit of breeze picked up, I decided to pack in the engine for a while in favor of sail. I was also starting to worry that as the frequency of having to bleed the engine increased that I might be left with a finite number of tries before something gave out completely. I had not figured out the cause of these issues and I wanted to save the engine for the final approach.
As dawn broke, I saw nothing but ocean around me as the wind decided to die again and it was back to motoring. A slight loss occurred when one of the battens decided jump ship as I lowered the mainsail, the velcro closure on the pocket having worn through. It dropped into the ocean mere inches from my outstretched hand. Diving in after it was not on my list of things to ever contemplate so I watched it slowly sink out of sight.
I got to the edge of the banks around 9:30 in the morning. As I got closer to the banks, it was incredible to see how the sea swell start to build as the ocean floor came up from over 3000 meters of depth. I had nice, long swells during the night of 6-8 feet but as I got closer to the banks, the waves going past me got bigger and bigger. On each swell, the sea would rise up in front of you while you sank down the back side, rising well above the horizon until the next swell took you back to the top again. It is difficult to judge the true size of waves, but as I looked down into the trough of each successive swell, they had grown to the point where they were close to twenty feet tall. The sheer power and size was awesome. I am really glad that the sea state was otherwise mellow and swells were well spaced out at about a ten second period. Since I was going with them and there was only a light wind, it seemed relatively calm even if a bit scary.
As I approached the bank to go through Sandbore cut, I started to get worried that there might be breakers at the entrance to deal with. These large swells could cause havoc coming into the shallower water. Luckily, the angle of the swell was such that the reef on the North side of the cut took all of the fury out of the seas to allow an easy entrance. The next 2-3 hours were pretty calm as I motored through the bank with an eye out for coral heads and shoals. With good sunlight, I was able to navigate through without any problems, but I kept my eye on the depth as it averaged around 16 feet and shallowed to 11-12 feet in places. I did need to duck down into the engine room to bleed the fuel system every 45 minutes when the diesel died so whenever this happened, I would drop the anchor, spend 10 minutes dealing with the engine and then pull up and start going again. I was really looking forward to getting this issue resolved. I got into the bay around 1pm, dropped the hook in about 12 feet of water, and was able to get some much needed sleep.