Friday, November 28, 2014

A Happy Happy T Day

Hi All,
It's a gorgeous TCI day as we leave Leeward. We are setting out really early because I've been stewing all night about the fact that someone saw a large dolphin (JoJo) and two small dolphins (calves) playing in front of The Sands while we were someplace else. One of them spy hopped to look in a boat that was watching. First, how did we miss them?!  Second, I hope he was looking for ME!
As we slowly travel by Beaches, a dolphin on his side zooms under us at speed. He can apparently hold his breath forever because although we look for him, we never see him again.
Just, as we are finishing another "dolphin loop"around the bay, we see JoJo hanging out just past Coral House. I whip out my gear, get in the water and swim over. He's very interactive and rather playful. After we swim together for a while, he spots the ski boat and gets in the wake as they make big circles with a little rubber raft being dragged behind. There is so much activity that JoJo is drawing a lot of attention. By now, there are at least seven tour boats all coming to watch the famous JoJo. It's great to see he's still frisky and playing with humans. After a little more showing off, he starts heading in the direction of Turtle Cove. John makes a pass by him to see if he's ready for a ride. He is!
Off we go with various tour boats coming along side to watch him surf in our wake. Beaches biggest snorkel boat, "Cat 54" has a boat load of very young kids who can barely see over the side. They are all smooched together on their tip toes cheering wildly whenever JoJo surfaces.
After traveling down to Turtle Cove then back to the end of Pine Cay, JoJo wants a snack. Today, he seems to want me with him as he echo-locates along the bottom swinging his head back and forth. Sometimes he swims on his side. He glances back to see if I'm still there, then plunges his rostrum deep in the sand coming up with a Jaw Fish hanging out of his mouth. Just as I'm thinking how lucky I am to go crater fishing with a dolphin, he travels out toward the reef where he meets two more dolphins. After a happy greeting with much circling and rolling together, I catch up. JoJo swims around behind me and follows me as I go to meet the other dolphins.
One I've never seen before. The other I think is  "Whitey". I met him last year and remember him because of the distinctive white mark on his dorsal. He comes to look at me as if to say, "I remember you, too".   I notice he now has a big scar running horizontally at the base of his trunk, just in front of his fluke.
JoJo returns to his fishing as Whitey and the other dolphin slowly swim in the vicinity occasionally fishing. Everyone seems to be enjoying the day and the company.
Now, this is my kind of T day!!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

North and Middle Caicos

Hi All,
With the weather coming in John and I decided to take a trip to North and Middle Caicos. We boarded the water taxi which gets you from dock to dock in 1/2 hour. We had made arrangements to rent a car from Mark Mclane who ironically, comes from Maine. After filling up with $7 a gallon fuel, we set off on our adventure. First, we went all the way to the far end of Middle Caicos where there had been plans for a development. After a 40 minute trip (the length of No. Caicos and Middle Caicos),
view from our room

Mudjin Harbour
 we drove10 bumpy miles off the paved road to the Casurina forest where we left our car and walked through the trees to the longest abandoned beach you can imagine. As we entered the forest, I noticed a nest up in one of the Casurina trees. Shortly there after, the Cuban Crows started shrieking at us and following us flying from branch to branch just over our heads!! Cuban crows are like our crows but they make a sort of gobbling noise much like a turkey! They followed us all the way to the beach and sat on branches about twenty feet away and continued to shriek their displeasure at our presence. Apparently the gobbling noise is used for friendly exchanges and the shrieking is used to tell us to leave! Perhaps that nest had some babies in it or they just didn't want their remote forest disturbed by humans!
After a walk down the beach where the wind was blowing a gale, we returned to our car without further incident with the Cuban crows!!
Our next stop was Daniels Cafe which sits right on the water. Daniel remembered us from our past visits and we had a nice chat before he served us the most amazingly yummy meal.The really fresh fish comes out whole and you have to be careful about the bones as you eat it. It comes with home made bread which is to die for and salad with the produce locally grown. We then went off to a new restaurant that has just been built that overlooks Mudjin Harbor, perhaps the most photographed view in the Islands. We wanted to see how the restaurant turned out. It was in the process of being built on our last visit. It was spectacular and the ice-cream was awesome!
When we got back on North Caicos we went right to The Pelican Beach Hotel, where we have stayed on previous visits.  There were a few people at the Baracuda Bar so we wondered over. Clifford and his wife own the hotel. Clifford was talking to a strikingly pretty lady who was working on her computer. She asked us if we were coming to the great celebration on Friday and Saturday. She said the Pelican was celebrating their 30th year in business. There would be two days of festivities including live entertainment. Maggie our new friend not only sings but runs the drama center on North Caicos. She then told us she's also a teacher of literature grades 1-9 at the school on North Caicos. I showed her my children's book to see if she could use it. She was very interested so, I planned to send Maggie more books on the water taxi when we got back to Provo.
Clifford's wife cooked us a great meal before we retired to our room which was about 50 feet from the ocean. We could hear the surf pounding all night. I couldn't wait to get up and step out for a swim at first light.
We had planned on a beautiful walk on the nature trail on Middle Caicos. However, due to all the rain there was a colony of  blood sucking mosquitoes that attacked the moment we got out of the car!! We ran back totally covered, swatting like mad with welts appearing all over. Apparently, they thrive on "OFF". We returned to the water taxi a bit ahead of schedule and I got a chance to talk to Ashton who oversees the dock. John and Ashton then sat down to a rousing game of dominoes which is set up under a gazebo and played regularly by many of the islanders.
The water taxi appeared and we boarded for the fast trip home and a chance to check out how the seas were for future boating.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

At Last

Hi All,
We have another day before the big blow arrives. As we are heading out of Leeward channel, we listen to Bob warning all boaters to beware of the strong system coming our way. I'm figuring we might get at least another day before having to stay on shore. I actually have booked a trip to North Caicos during the two reputed windiest days.
We do our cruise around Grace Bay then head up to Pine Cay all eyes on the water. The visibility is pretty good. We don't see anything and then, once again JoJo appears right in front of Spy Hop. Stealth dolphin! We're always honored that with all the boats out here he chooses Spy Hop. As we turn around to accommodate his wish to go back toward Grace Bay, I wonder whether he's hungry or looking for his friends. I feel for his longing to find others and hope he can locate some. We've been here a little over a week and the six times we've seen him, he's been covering a lot of territory searching.
When we get to the end of Grace Bay, he branches off and swims in a big circle with me trying frantically to keep up. I get back in the boat and he wants to go back in he direction we just came. I think he was calling to see if any one was there. We head back toward 7 Stars Resort where he branches off and instead of going toward his private  dinner area, he heads out toward the reef with me again following as best I can. I get back in Spy Hop and John tells me he has seen a dorsal of a smaller dolphin! JoJo then returns to Spy Hop and waits for me to get in staying close as we head towards the other dolphin. He wants me to come with him to the other dolphin. Unfortunately, the other dolphin is fishing and moving rapidly. JoJo picks up speed and then disappears. Even though we lose them, I'm so happy JoJo found his friend. I am looking forward to a meeting and finding out if its someone I've met before.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Private Dining Area

Hi All,
We were honored again with JoJo's picking our boat to take him wherever he chooses to go.
We were traveling along the end of Pine Cay closes to Leeward  when JoJo popped up beside our boat. Please understand that I spend every second on our boat searching the water for dorsals. Not once this trip have I spotted JoJo before he popped up at our boat! This would be a very different scenario if he were with other dolphins in which case I'd see dorsals and we'd motor over then he'd come to the boat.
In any case, JoJo indicated he wanted to go past Leeward and on past all the resorts. He branched off in front of 7 Stars and started fishing in earnest. I don't swim with him when he fishes by diving and chasing them. I think I may scare off the fish or just get in the way. Besides that, I can't keep up. When he fishes for the little fish that live in the sand he's cool with my company but today he's not after them. I think 7 Stars and the resorts nearby are his preferred restaurants! When you think about it, no humans can fish there and most dolphins don't come that close to shore so, JoJo goes into the swim areas and has his own private restaurant with his favorite fish that aren't touched by anyone else. Bar Jacks are one of his favorites.
I was quite sure JoJo would want a ride back up the coast to Pine Cay after his meal but actually we lost sight of him and truthfully, we were happy to return to the marina because it was getting late.
 I have been trying to learn how to bring our new slightly bigger boat into the slip. I'm preparing for John's not being here for the first couple of days on our next trip down. The day before I managed to get it in like an old pro. At home I have a CDL and can drive a nine horse trailer. I thought docking a boat should be a piece of cake. This time I didn't judge it so well. We weren't quite close enough to the edge for John to tie up so I tried to back out. First I almost crashed into the boat next door which was sticking out inconveniently. Then I managed to get the boat so close to the side wall of the marina I almost hit the motor and then almost hit another boat that was sticking out way too far from its slip in my opinion. I hope no one was watching because I must have looked like I was playing some sort of bumper boat game!!At that point,  I handed the controls over to John sufficiently humbled thinking I'd better stick to my truck and trailer!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Boating In The Caribbean

Hi All
As we pull out of Leeward, we go to channel 72 on our marine radio to hear Bob from Southside Marina give us the Cruiser's weather forecast. He warns of a stiff wind from  the East building during the day. He gives the tides, wave heights and various other nautical information as well as greeting to anyone who's listening and wants to radio in a "hello". After all the pertinent information, he does a quick ad for his marina, telling us they have showers, will give rides to the local market and have slips available!
We head out circling Grace Bay with hopes of finding JoJo before the waves pick up. On our second lap past 7 Stars Resort a dark form shoots under our boat. It's JoJo. There is no doubt in my mind that he now knows we are in the new boat Spy Hop, which was a concern when I decided to upgrade to a bigger boat. He wanted to give us a quick greeting but apparently had other things on his "To Do" list.
As we are looking for him to surface, we notice two old geezers (probably my age!!) sailing a very small Hobie Cat built for one person. They are having a great time! We can hear peels of laughter as they try to sail in the mounting wind. Clearly this is not their forte as tacking seems to be a mystery for them. This does not bode well, so we decide to keep an eye on them.
We motor off to chase down an inflatable toy which has gotten away from some child and is heading out to the reef. We snag it before it heads out to become a menace for marine life. Sure enough on our way in, we see the giggling old men now hanging onto the edge of their flipped over Hobie. They are trying to right it with no luck. We're not sure if the issue is with righting the boat in large waves or if they're just laughing so hard they can't move! As we pull up to try to help, so does the Beaches' rescue boat and a few other sail boats wondering what's going on. The man from Beaches determines that one pontoon has filled up with water and the boat will need to be towed in. He says he can't do it because he needs to get back to the people from his own resort. He tells the old men, they need to get their resort to come get them. This news is met with more merriment. Whatever they are on, I want some. By now all the curiosity seekers have disappeared and if it weren't for us they would be all alone with the  ever mounting wind pushing them further out to sea.  We ask them what hotel they are from so we can try to get a rescue boat to come get them. They said Wind Song but weren't too sure which building it was from the many hotels that line the shore. We head off to figure it out and try to get help. They were perfectly happy staying with their over turned Hobie, joking with one another the whole time. John drops me off at the hotel they pointed at which of course isn't the right one. I start running down the beach asking where Wind Song is. I get to Coral Gardens which I am familiar with and ask the beach attendant if he knows where Wind Song is and he has no idea. I go into the restaurant and the lady says its next door (can someone really not to know what hotel is right next door???) I head over and find the water sports guy who says they are sending a rescue boat. I decide to swim way out to a buoy and signal to John to pick me up once the guys are rescued. As I'm treading water and watching, I see a kayak approach John and the old men but no rescue boat. After what seems like hours, I decide to swim back in to see what happened to the rescue boat. When I reach the guy at the beach, he now tells me the rescue boat is broken and points up past the dune.
I look out to see that John is towing the kayak and the Hobie with one old guy sitting up front in Spy Hop like a boat ornament with a big grin. On the way in, John asked him where they were  from. He said, "From England. You know - you know land of  the sailors" and broke into hysterical laughter.
As I swim out to meet them, I can hear the other old guy laughing happily holding onto the mast as it drags him through the water. Apparently the kayak was the rescue boat!  The captain of the rescue kayak jumps off Spy Hop and starts to drag the Hobie and the kayak ashore. He's very eager to shake my hand. He seems to know all about our relationship with JoJo. The old guys say thank you and that they are enjoying their adventure (why I'm not sure).
As I get in Spy Hop John, tells me the nice guy from Wind Song in the kayak didn't know how to swim! It turns out that a plug wasn't properly installed before the boat was launched causing it to fill with water. If it had been, the result would have been different, perhaps not better but different! We can hear the old geezers howling with laughter at their adventure (near miss with death if you ask me) as we motor off  into the building waves.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Remora trying to Catch a ride

Hi All,
When I can't find dolphins, I like to snorkel at Smith's Reef. It was low tide and the water wasn't very clear but I thought you turtle lovers would like to see this turtle swimming along with a remora swimming above him. Remora's have a suction disk on the top of their heads which they use to attach themselves to other swimmers usually sharks but apparently turtles!!

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Why Dolphins Should Not be in Captivity

Hi All,
The weather forecast was fifty percent rain but we thought we'd venture out and hope we were in the other 50%. The sea was totally flat making it perfect  for dorsal spotting. The trade off was no beautiful Turks sunshine.
We found JoJo right away in front of Seven Stars which is between Oc and Grace Point. He wanted a ride so we headed off in the direction he indicated. He got in our wake and stayed there until we got to the extreme south west end of the Island. We were opposite Northwest Point Resort which was Crystal Bay Resort not long ago. He branched off and in stealth dolphin manner and disappeared for about 20 minutes. Then surfaced near our boat and wanted a ride back toward Grace Bay. He stayed in our wake past Grace Bay and all the way to the point on Parrot Cay where Keith Richards supposedly owns a house. This was 3 and 1/2 hours later. If you look on the map on the website you'll see how far he went. I believe he was covering all this territory hoping to locate other dolphins.
I can't even imagine how miserable he'd be in a small enclosure.  He traveled all this distance and the day was just beginning.
 We left him at Parrot Cay due to the black sky coming our way. Here is a little video of JoJo in the wake.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

JoJo Greeting Me For Our first Swim of The Season

Hi All,
We finally made it down, only loosing one bag which the airline had us pay a huge overage fee it was so heavy (JoJo books!!). When they retrieved it they wouldn't deliver it because no one wanted to carry it!! Welcome to the Islands:)
I heard lots of reports that JoJo had been sighted in front of Ocean Club a few days earlier. That always gets my hopes up although I realize most people can't tell if it's him or another.
We traveled up and down the coast and were almost to the end of Pine cay when he surfaced beside our boat! He wanted a ride back toward Grace Bay. He stayed in our wake all the way to Leeward with me grinning like a cheshire cat as I watched him. He branched off at Leeward and I got in. The video shows a little of our first of many great swims yesterday.