It has made a nice change to get some diving in over the last couple of weeks, although timings were difficult as the weather has not been brilliant. Tropical waves have been passing through the Caribbean every 3 to 4 days bringing quite a bit of rain and cloud cover for quite often two days at a time, so we really feel as though we haven’t seen the sun for very long.
Nevertheless, we grabbed an opportunity with new friends, a Swiss couple Iris and Martin from neighbouring Catamaran Kalea, to head off to the outer reef in the dinghies, about 2 miles from shore outside the buoyed entrance. It is amazing how much protection the small island of Santa Catalina gives to this anchorage, as soon as we reached Morgans Head the seas roll in and look a little confused as wind competes with current. After a bumpy ride we found a buoy to tie the dinghies up to and jumped in. We had already been warned about the reef sharks here, not that they are aggressive at all but unfortunately some dive operators feed them and so they are overly inquisitive of humans. Only a few weeks ago a diver lost part of his hand whilst apparently feeding them so of course that made me a little apprehensive.
Visibility was poor on both dives, and the coral rather disappointing on the wall and in the shallower areas. A distinct lack of fish too, we have been thoroughly spoiled diving in Bonaire and more recently The Caymans where reef and critters are flourishing. The reef sharks, however, were soon on the scene and patrolling their patch up and down checking us out. I hid behind Jez of course, offering him up for a nibble as he has more meat on his bones. They soon lost interest when we swam through a cut in the wall leading upwards into shallower water. The second dive, a little further along the wall, tested our nerves a little further. After patrolling up and down a few times, three decided to circle us continuously, the size of the circle diminishing. I felt like we were a flock of sheep being rounded up by some rather eager and hungry collie dogs. My comfort zone became well and truly breached, and we all agreed to head back to the mooring after just half an hour in the water. Only one followed, almost escorting us off the premises.
Back on dry land we continue to walk the trails through Santa Catalina, discovering many new lizards and birds every time. Apparently they have a boa constrictor too, but we have yet..thankfully…to happen upon one as we are usually watching our feet as we walk to avoid treading on the tiny lizards and nasty biting ants. The many varieties of mango trees are still producing so we usually return with enough fruit to juice for happy hour drinks (to add to the rum of course). We have now taken to using one of the small docks on Santa Catalina when we go to town, so we can have a nice walk along the edge of the island and over the bridge to Providencia. We rescued a very sick dog out of the water too, at first we thought he was in the shallow water to cool down but then saw him trying to get up and falling back down, his head only just keeping above the water. With the help of a local boy who had also stopped, Jez waded in and carried him out. He was thin and emaciated and could not even stand. Not sure whether he had fallen in or was thrown in. After laying him in the shade I tried to coax him with a biscuit but he just whimpered and shook. A young girl of about ten came along and said it was her dog and she started calling to someone else. Animal welfare is sadly not a top priority here and we had no choice but to walk away. He was gone when we returned from our walk.
The bridge to the mainland is always busy with small children either fishing or having swimming lessons. There are many juvenile black spotted eagle rays in the clear waters too, and yesterday we saw a huge stingray the size of our dinghy.
Joy has also been attracting her own wildlife, mainly bees. At first we couldn’t work out how little green leaves kept appearing in the cockpit until we eventually caught the culprit. By then the busy bee had started to make a neat nest with them inside the chartplotter cover, forming them in to a cigar-shaped tube. It caused rather a lot of confusion when we removed the cover to discourage it.
This month the residents of Providencia celebrated their Independence Day, unfortunately for us we were up late with a hangover from a night onboard another boat and missed the early procession through town. Lucky for us though, Iris had made it and took some video for us. The children grooved and played instruments, we have heard the band practicing for some weeks, the boom of the drums wafting across the water from the other side of the bay.
We have been watching the weather closely as always, a very strong tropical wave has moved accross the Atlantic into the Caribbean over the last week and was finally given Tropical Storm status yesterday and named Earl. Earl passed just 180 miles north of us late yesterday heading for Belize, causing very light winds across Providencia which in the evening came from a westerly direction (usually east to north-east) so we have had a change of scenery. With the lack of breeze we had a very hot night, but took the opportunity this morning to take down both our headsails, the genoa and jib, so that we can repaint (again) the chainplate that the forestays attach to. That will be another maintenance job ticked off the list whilst we sit out the hurricane season.