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Jan. 12 -24, 2008

Provo, Turks and Caicos

   

After saying our good-byes to all of our friends in George Town, we left early Saturday, January 12 with two other boats, Sea Otter and Snark, on our way to Providenciales, or Provo, in the Turks and Caicos. The crossing was about 250 nautical miles, however we decided to split the trip by spending one night in Rum Cay. Besides the fact that it makes the trip easier, we had also heard there was a very good restaurant there that we wanted to try. The weather was also not ideal when we left, but by the next few days it was supposed to improve, especially as we got closer to Provo.

After we left George Town and were motoring towards Long Island, Sea Otter called on the radio to let us know that their autopilot was not working and they were going back to try and repair it before making the long passage without it. We and Snark continued on. Heading around the north end of Long Island, the wind and the seas picked up and we were now pushing into a 1 knot current which slowed down our progress. In the late afternoon we finally arrived in the rolly, bumpy anchorage of Rum Cay. Meanwhile, Snark was still trying to sail into the wind and were still quite a bit behind us. They continued to sail through the night to try and make way towards Provo.

The next morning, we walked around the island towards the marina where the restaurant was supposed to be. When we got there, we recognized the building from the cruising guide, but the name had changed. Despite that, we made a reservation. We had dinner with several other cruisers and the camaraderie was great, but the food was disappointing.

The next morning, we pulled up anchor and started motoring to Provo. We talked to Sea Otter and they managed to fixed their autopilot and were on their way. In the meantime, Snark had been tacking back and forth all night long and were only 25 miles in front of us. As the wind started to die, they finally decided to turn on their engine. It was a very calm, very comfortable motor trip to Provo and we arrived early in the morning outside of a marina on the north side of Provo. The other boats went around to the south side of the island to Sapodilla Bay. After waiting for the pilot boat to arrive to help us navigate through the reefs to the Turtle Cove Marina, we were docked before lunch after fueling and clearing through immigration and customs.

Provo is much more populated than the Exumas and offers far more opportunities for shopping, eating out and more interesting for us, diving. In the marina there was Provo Turtle Divers and we immediately reserved a two-tank dive for the next day. This dive was on the western side of the island in about 60-80 feet and included a fantastic wall. Two days later, we went diving again, but this time with Caicos Adventures (on an extremely comfortable power catamaran) on the south side of the island. Paul and Mary on Sea Otter joined us. Another great dive, however this time it was a little deeper and colder. Mary was shivering so badly when she came out the first time that she couldn't apply her chap stick. The dive boat loaned her a wetsuit and her second dive has fine.

On Sunday, January 20, we left the marina to go around the south side of the island to anchor in Sapodilla Bay with the other boats we had traveled with. The plan was to wait here for a good day to transit across the Caicos Banks. Like the Banks in the Bahamas, the Caicos are generally shallow (8-12 feet deep) so the waves can pick up quickly if the wind pipes up. The difference in the Caicos is the bank is littered with coral heads a few feet under the water. With good light and moderate waves, you can work your way around the coral heads without too many problems. Cloudy days or high winds make it very dangerous and doing so at night is suicidal.

Finally, on Wednesday, January 23, all three of us decided to cross the banks to Long Cay. The wind was almost too strong, but it was mostly sunny so we decided to try it. Snark found the wind too much for their sailboat, so they turned back, but Sea Otter decided to push on with us. I spent almost all day on the bowsprit on the front of the boat checking for coral heads while relaying instructions back to Terri at the helm - a long, tiresome job. We arrived at Long Cay early in the afternoon. I was happy this ordeal was over.

The next day we crossed over to Big Sand Cay in order to improve our wind angle before making the last passage to the Dominican Republic. The relatively short crossing from Long Cay to Big Sand Cay was extremely bumpy and we were unable to make good time. We eventually arrived at Big Sand Cay in the late afternoon.

The island had a beautiful beach and there are normally thousands of migratory birds. However, due to the time of year, there were only one one pair of hawk-looking birds. We dropped the dinghy in the water and picked up Paul and Mary for a quick walk on the beach before sundown. If only the anchorage wasn't so rolly, this could be one of the most beautiful anchorages in the Turks and Caicos.

Late on Friday, January 25, the two us weighed anchor and started the overnight trip to the Dominican Republic. The day before, Snark had managed to cross the Banks and were now ahead of us, although quit a bit more to the west. Early in the evening, the expected wind shift arrived and we raised all the sails and turned off the engine. Suddenly, we were really sailing for the first time in almost two months! With a beautiful, nearly full moon, we quietly sailed towards the Dominican Republic.

 


Phone from beach (Rum Cay).


Isn't this beautiful? I don't think it is possible to get the right color on your computer, but think of it as a lilac-colored shopping cart.


Checking for coral heads across the Caicos Bank



The beach at Big Sand Cay.


The new lighthouse and the old lighthouse on Big Sand Cay. As usual with many lights in the Caribbean, this one did not work.

 

 

 

You can't get fresher conch than at Da Conch Shack in Provo. Live conchs are kept in the water off the beach before they are harvested, cleaned and sent to the kitchen to be cooked.

During the second day of diving, this inquisitive shark came along to check us out. Luckily, the shark left without asking for a hand-out.
 
 
Sponges.

Flying the wall.
 
 
Soft coral.

Thunderdome is the site of the underwater tasks that the contestants had to carry out in a 1980's French "Survivor"-style game show.  Like the Thunderdome in the Mad Max movie, it was a hemispherical iron grillwork dome, sitting on a sand floor at 50 feet, and with a single narrow entrance/exit at the top, about 25 feet deep.  Contestants had to free-dive down and search for "pearls" hidden in the dome, begging lungfuls of air from scantily-clad "mermaids" with scuba tanks.  Back on shore at the "Tiki huts" where they lived, they could exchange the pearls for food and water.  Unfortunately the show was canned after two contestants suffered lung damage - they hadn't been trained to breathe out when surfacing from the dome.The tikis are long gone and the lattice dome collapsed during a hurricane several years ago. Now, there are thousands of colorful fish hiding in the shadows.
 
 


Any one ready for a lobster dinner? These guys were safe - the whole area we dove in was a no-take area in one of the many underwater parks in the Turks and Caicos.
 
 


Golden Moray.

 


 
 
The Anacaona Bar at the Grace Bay Club in Provo.

Terri enjoys the view over Grace Bay, Provo.
 
 

 

 

 

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Copyright © 2008 Jan Buskop