Crossing the Caicos Bank – Crazy or Brave?

A beautiful day for crossing the bank. Photo by Toni Erdman
A beautiful day for crossing the bank. Photo by Toni Erdman

I just had one of the best boating days of my life. My husband Robert and I left South Caicos after a wonderful three-night stay and crossed the Caicos Bank heading towards Providenciales (Turks and Caicos Islands). Prior to leaving South Caicos, I questioned our very experienced anchorage neighbor, Kevin, solo captain aboard the yacht Opela, who has been sailing for nineteen years, what he thought about the route north bound crossing through the Caicos Bank? He inferred that anyone attempting the bank was a bit crazy or brave – his words, “I give them credit, I wouldn’t do it.” He left an hour after us and we verified, via our AIS tracking, that he chose to sail the southern route below the bank with his deeper draft monohull heading elsewhere.

Photo by Toni Erdman
Photo by Toni Erdman

Our Lagoon 45 catamaran requires 4.3ft clearance before she leaves sand scars or runs aground. I am glad we took on the challenge and chose the path less traveled – the Caicos Bank. Skinny water can be nerve racking; Robert settled down at the fly bridge helm and I took a dolphin seat monitoring every nautical meter as we glided gently along. Robert maneuvered the boat around the charted and the uncharted rocks. The water was so clear and shallow that Robert spotted star fish on the bottom. We could not resist the water and dropped anchor a few times to snorkel random rock sites discovering shy fish and beautiful underwater life unaccustomed to intruders.

Robert at the helm station of their Lagoon 45 catamaran. Photo by Toni Erdman
Robert at the helm station of their Lagoon 45 catamaran. Photo by Toni Erdman

We did not rush our day, had lunch at anchor and became accustomed to this new world along the path less traveled. We seriously considered anchoring on the bank overnight to extend our experience; we did not want this day of perfection to end and longed to star gaze. It was simply a perfect day for a gentle motor in shallow water loaded with coral heads and rock clusters.

Our Waterway Guide 2017- Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos recommends, in fact, insists that a crossing be done in high sun, good visibility, and to avoid the ‘no-go areas’ (p.375-376). And that is exactly what we enjoyed. The entire first quarter of this year we endured high winds and rough water on our way up from Antigua, so that a quiet day on the water was overwhelmingly appreciated. The sun shone from over the stern lighting our path and no catspaw of breeze or wavy ripples marred our underwater visibility. The weather god was good to us and the vast uninterrupted open vistas created a sense of peace and wellness with the world: a boater’s delight.

Life in the slow lane. Photo by Toni Erdman
Life in the slow lane. Photo by Toni Erdman

After eight hours cruising it was time to rethink our overnight spot. The winds were due to crank up and change direction. Predict Wind warned us of an impending northerly blow. As  far as weather predictions go, we have found that their accuracy and timing can be off not just by hours but by days. Also, I am anchor shy in unexplored holding grounds, especially when no other boaters can be seen or appear on AIS (we saw only one sail boat and a dredging barge going the opposite direction all day), so we pushed ourselves a bit to make Providenciales, to anchor in the lee of Bay Key, just prior to sunset. The winds did pick up, a little, and we had a rocky night.

This one perfect day, the timing of this crossing was exceptional. The next day our experience would have been very different. Sometimes the blessing is not in what actually happens but in the timing of what happens; and my experience of crossing the Caicos Bank remains in my heart and mind as my best boating day ever – well, at least, so far. I expect more blessings along the way.

Kevin, solo captain aboard the yacht Opela. Photo by Toni Erdman
Kevin, solo captain aboard the yacht Opela. Photo by Toni Erdman

 

Toni and Robert Erdman plan to spend this year sailing Our Time to Florida and then north to Annapolis, MD.  They hope to return to the Caribbean next season. For more information, visit: www.ourtimecharter.com