Antares has been in Georgetown Exumas for too long. My daughters and I arrived there in late August 2016 and the plan was to go to Cuba in early November. It didn’t happen. I had to extend my cruising permit instead and it expires at the end of this year. I don’t have the choice, I have to move and I m looking forward to it ! Richard and I are going back to GT on December 12th; we have our air plane tickets and people at work know I won’t be reachable most of the time. Because of recent changes in regulations, Cuba is no longer an option so we will be sailing to Turks and Caicos. The islands are just now recovering from the ravages caused by hurracain Irma. The population has been resilient and most businesses, including South Side marina where I m planning to go, have started to operate again.
When I get to GT in December it would have been almost eight months since I last saw Antares. The longest time ever, it has not been easy. I have been worried not only about hurricanes but also basic maintenance that is not done on time. It took a while, for instance, to get the guys at the boat yard to put an additional coat of varnish to protect the teak.
Last time I was there during spring break with my daughter Sofia and son Juan David (Marina decided not to come at the last minute). We spent most of the time at anchor in front of Black Rock in Stoking Island. A mostly uneventful and enjoyable trip except that customs confiscated my drone again, we didn’t have a reliable dingy (very annoying), Antares’ hull was damaged at the marina, and I finally managed to fool a line in the propeller. The most depressing part was Antares’ hull that had just been painted. She was left at the marina, facing norht, with fenders on the port side and the wind blowing from the South. No problem. Unfortunately, overnight the wind veered to the east — the usual direction — and increased in intensity. In those situations I usually run two lines on the port side, one at the bow and one at the stern, to the piles on the other side of the dock so that Antares doesn’t “touch wood.” They didn’t and she spent the night rubbing her hull against the dock. Even worse, when they saw the problem in the morning they didn’t really fix it (by adding the lines) so when we arrived to the marina Antares was again in close contact with the dock and the gel coat was badly damaged in several places. To his credit Dunca, the manager of the boat yard, offered to take care of the repairs at no cost and, eventually, did it.
There are a couple of things that I have been doing in preparation for the crossing to Turks and Caicos. First, I called the Civil Aviation, Customs at the GT airport, and the Ministry of Finance to make sure I have what is needed to be able to bring the drone. I understand they have tried to simplify the process. I only need to get a letter from the Civil Aviation allowing me to fly the drone and then, upon arrival, declare the drone and pay a deposit of 50 percent of its value (to be calculated on the spot based on my purchase receipts). Once I clear customs to leave the country I get the deposit back. Apparently the monies stay the whole time in an envelop that nobody can open. I get back the same bills I give them. In terms of the letter, it is easy to get. You just need to send an e-mail to Mr. Gregory Edwards (email@example.com) with information about the make, model, and serial number of the drone; the FCC registration number; the dates you plan to be in the Bahamas; and the areas where you plan to fly. I did it last time in April. What I was missing was the authorization from Finance.
I also decided to invest in a GoPro camera. This happened while reading Webb Chile’s blog “Self-Portrait in the Present Sea.” He had just purchased one. We all use our smart phones to take pictures and shoot videos but it is not the same. Other than been able to film and take pictures under water the GoPro has features that allow you to film continuously and then keep scenes that you think are special. The various accessories to hold the camera or attach it to different structures also comes handy. I might, for instance, attach the camera to the stern pulpit and keep it filming while we sail. I might be able to catch-my self reefing or poling-out the jib !
To carry the drone, the camera, and other electronics including the Iridium Go, the navigation wireless displays, a hand-held GPS, a VHF, an Ipad, and keyboard I also decided to purchase a Nanuk waterproof hard case. I am very happy with it. Everything fits. It is supposed to be the right size for a carry-on although it seems a bit too big to me. Worse case though, I will check-in. I can add two locks for security and the case is rough enough to keep the equipment safe. Overall, it is great to be able to have all the electronics in one place and well protected from impact and water.
Finally, while listening to the On the Wind podcast I learned about CrewWatcher. It is an app-based crew overboard alarm system, produced by Weems and Plath, that is considered the fastest — and I would argue most reliable — way to rescue a person who falls overboard. If it happens, the system sounds an alarm and then provides latitude/longitude coordinates of the MOB event and the time. It will then visually guide you to the person. What you buy is the app and the beacons that each crew has to wear. In my case, for now, I just bought two. I hope I never have to use them but if an accident happens — particularly when short-handed, at night, or with my daughters — I better have this type of support.
In terms of the crossing itself, I have been thinking about the best way to do it. Most likely the winds will be blowing from the East, a few degrees north or south. Beating to Turks and Caicos is not very appealing, particularly with wind speeds above 15 knots, which are common during the winter. Because I have to be back to DC on the 21st to take a plane to Ecuador the next day, I cannot be waiting for a weather window; in this case a mild front that would carry me from say Rum Cay to Mayaguana on a reach. I’ll have to manage with whatever wind we get, short of a gale ir storm. I was reading Bruce Van Sant’s Passages South. He recommends to go from the North of Long Island to Crooked Islands and transit their north cost at night (assuming there is a night breeze that neutralizes the trade winds). From there go south of Plana Cays, eventually tack and anchor in Mayaguana for a 50-60 miles passage to Turks and Caicos the next day (see chart). Will have to see and will keep you updated.