Friday, November 22, 2013

Moving to South Caicos

[Kyle]From Salt Cay, we pulled up anchor and headed dead downwind on a course perpendicular to the shore. Seas were flat in the protection of the island and grew to a slow relaxing swell by the time we were on the other side of the Caicos Passage. Maryanne made a delicious breakfast of cream cheese-stuffed French toast and we passed the rest of the time tidying up and rereading (out loud to each other) Bill Bryson’s “Notes From a Small Island”.

Salt Cay disappeared over the horizon at about the four-mile mark; about the same time the much hillier South Caicos came into view eighteen miles ahead. As we made the turn into the harbor a quick survey with the binoculars once again turned up no other anchored boats. None. How is that possible? Did everybody just decide to stay up north and get snowed on this winter?

South Caicos!

We dropped the anchor at the edge of a little patch of sand surrounded by sea grass. After doing the usual post anchoring checks (the last of which included various engine fluid checks followed by a big hug of thanks to each 65°C [147°F] engine block for not letting us down) I was ready to jump in with the excuse of checking the security of the anchor. It was nicely buried in the soft sand, but I decided to linger a bit to get a second data point. In the meantime, I spotted a couple of anemones and an urchin. I also took the opportunity to look over Begonia’s underwater bits. She only had the slightest coloring of green starting and only a very few tiny barnacles, I don’t get it. I mean, I’m grateful, but I don’t get it. Three days in Bristol Harbor and scraping the bottom was like pulling up a layer of sod.

I got out and deployed the dinghy, which made me hot enough to need to jump in again. I had expected this and was still wearing my dripping swim shorts. The tide was going down and our keels were now a foot and a half above the grass.

We gathered our things and headed out for a reconnaissance of the town. I already liked it better. The Turk Islands are very flat, but South Caicos had just enough hilliness to give the land some texture. Also, from the anchorage, several islands could be seen in the distance across the blue Caicos Bank.

As in all the T&C Islands so far, we find both Horses and Donkeys roaming around - adorable (except for the poop!)

Maryanne: like most islands in the western Atlantic tropics, it isn't really all postcard perfect views. Dominating the scene are often roaming dogs, a rusting steel wreck in the harbor, dust, litter, junk cars and general abandoned feel to the infrastructure, punctuated with the occasional newly built store, hotel or government building. In this case of South Caicos we are so far off the tourist track that we didn’t find any typical tourist attractions ashore (not even post card vendors!). But even here, every so often, there is a cracking picture postcard view that avoids any of the less attractive parts of the islands, and reminds us that we are so lucky to be exploring the tropics.

[Kyle] We did a circuit of the town and found nothing of much interest. I spotted a big decrepit house on top of a hill and instinctively wanted to go there to see what the view was like from its vantage point. As we were eye-balling our way in that general direction, we suddenly became swarmed with aggressively ravenous mosquitoes. We have had no bug problems to date in the Turks and Caicos, but these little terrors were making up for it.

Kyle wanted to get closer to this house on the hill, but had to make do with an old lighthouse(?) in the end

We climbed up toward the house by cutting through what seemed like a fancy hotel’s half-built grounds or perhaps a private compound, moving fast and swatting at ourselves like we had gone mad. We only stopped long enough to get pictures of the beautiful views of the harbor below.

We descended to the beach, walked a little further, and then as quickly as it had started, our mosquito problem stopped. Well, we don’t think we’ll be going into that part of town again! Wouldn’t it be unfortunate to buy a house there and then after the fact find out you lived in *that* part of town?

We came across a place along the sea cliffs that clearly used to be somewhere impressive. An empty pool covered in graffiti lay at the edge of a large expanse of tile on several levels, which were bordered by giant pots that seemed to be intended for palm trees. Perhaps the place was destroyed in a hurricane and it turned out not to be worth rebuilding. What a shame.

A little further on, we came across the tiny, three-boat harbor of the SFS, the School for Field Studies. The SFS is an American based organization involved in collecting scientific data from various world locations, in this case for the study of Marine Biology. Maryanne noticed that one of the boats looked as though it still had its navigation lights on, so she went to find someone to tell while I snapped pictures.

The first person she came across was a young man named James. He had a mild, east Scottish accent. She inquired about it and after a few back-and-forths, soon found out he was the son of a friend of hers, Clare, from the University of St. Andrews where Maryanne had received her Marine Biology degree.

[Maryanne]Despite understanding the statistics of chance, I was still quite beautifully shocked that the one person I had happened to stop to talk with also happened to be a son of a friend and SCUBA guru from Scotland. Of course I haven’t met with Clare since I finished studying and living in St Andrews (back in 2002) but she is one of those amazing women who to excel at everything she cares to spend any time on; someone not at all forgettable (and of course we have remained Facebook friends so get to peak into each other’s lives occasionally).

James and the SFS grounds

Anyway, meeting James led us to a tour of the SFS. After walking around the dusty town entering the doors of the SFS was surreal, setting foot into a different world completely. At the entrance was Lula, a dog recently hit by a truck, secure in a cage while the SFS are helping Lula recuperate. The veranda and courtyard was full of people active at various tasks, mostly on computers, but some mending research nets, etc.). At least 50 people might call the SFS ‘home’ at any time. The property grounds include a small and inviting swimming pool; apparently it used to be either a hotel or a villa where Columbian drug barrens would stop on the delivery trips back and forth to the USA. There is a great view of the harbor, and a feeling of being quite separate from the rest of the island town. EVERYONE was friendly and spoke, smiled or nodded at us as we were given the tour. We left with some snorkelling suggestions, and invites for both lunch and dinner at the SFS the following day. Until meeting James we were seriously wondering how we might spend our time at South Caicos, and now we were booked solid!


Mommy Dearest said...

It's so very cool you ran into James, but what a coincidence this is. The likelihood has to be pretty darned remote. Enjoy your new community of folks while you're there!

Karen said...

What a small world, Maryanne! It was surely meant to be that you found James and the great group of people at SFS. A huge plus which I’m sure made for a more entertaining and memorable stay on the island.

Happy sails!