Turks & Caicos

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Turks and Caicos

  Sapodilla Bay, Provo Grace Bay, Provo French Cay Northwest Provo West Caicos

From Conception to Provo, Turks and Caicos

30 April 2006

 

 

 

 

Left West Bay, Conception in the Bahamas at 9am for the 220 mile run to the Turks & Caicos Islands. Planned to use the passage of a cold front and its clocking winds. Headed east passing north of Rum Cay, the gradually turned southeast as the wind clocked from south to southwest. Had a fantastic sail most of the way. Our route took us to the east of the Bahamian islands of Samana Cay and Mayaguana, before heading into Providenciales (known to all as Provo) the main island of the T & C.

On Thursday night there was a tremendous lightning show right across the northern horizon. At one point on Friday we were accompanied by a family of dolphins, including babies not more than 4' long, having fun leaping out of the water beside us.

Later the same day a small bird arrived on board. He hopped around, not at all phased by us, even walking right over us as we sat in the cockpit. He flew away a few times but came back. No land in sight so had selected us as his nightstop. We fed and watered him and he chose our vegetable basket as his nest for the night, leaving us just after dawn on Saturday, just off Provo.

On Friday evening the wind had dropped so we motorsailed for a while. If we had continued we would have arrived in Provo in the dark, so in absolutely calm seas we switched off the engine and just drifted for a few hours. The sight was amazing. Out in the North Atlantic, sea like a mirror, no moonlight and every star reflected in the sea.

By dawn on Saturday, the wind had picked up and was blowing 18 knots by 8am. By 10am 29 knots as we hit a squall. The sea went from millpond calm to 8' peaks within no time. And it rained. We were drenched. Had a rough ride for the last two hours until we turned into the shallower banks south of Provo and headed for Sapodilla Bay. We anchored there and went ashore to clear customs and immigration.

As we were leaving Conception, we had received a call from another sailboat, "Luna" who were also heading to T & C. They arrived in Sapodilla Bay ahead of us having motored rather than wait for the winds to clock. We invited them to go ashore with us for clearance. Joined Stan and Kathy on board Luna for a sundowner later. We were only given 7 days immigration clearance, which is standard for visiting yachts and were told we would have to go into Provo town for an extension if we wanted to stay longer.

Sapodilla Bay, Provo

30  April 2006

 

 

 

 

 

Sapodilla Bay has no facilities for sailors. There is a small commercial dock where we had to go to clear customs and immigration, but that's it. No dinghy dock, no shops, no restaurants. So, we anchored the dinghy on the beach and started towards Provo town centre on foot, a five mile journey. We were offered a lift to Turtle Cove, the main marina and restaurant area and spent the day exploring this area and the long beach of Grace Bay and watched the condo building boom.

All of Turks & Caicos is in a building boom. Resorts with hotels, condos for sale or rent and areas with large private homes on hills, or with marina or seafront positions. We looked at a townhouse overlooking Turtle Cove Marina with a private dock big enough for Dream On. If we had had $1 million available to us we would have bought it! But we are just sailing paupers so drooled and dreamed for a while and walked away.

We were lucky in finding another ride back to Sapodilla Bay in the hopes that the dinghy would still be waiting for us on the beach. It was, but it was way out of the water and it took as over 30 minutes to drag it back into the bay. It is no lightweight with a 50kg outboard motor!

 

French Cay

1 May 2006

 

 

 

As there was a heavy northerly swell running for the first few days, which meant that the wall dives off Provo and West Caicos would not be viable, we headed south across the shallow Caicos Banks to remote French Cay, where there is some good wall diving. There were three dive mooring buoys, but we arrived too late to dive so anchored off French Cay on the banks. We caught a grouper for supper, but this guy was a survivor. After almost an hour out of the water and lying on our filleting table on the stern, he woke up, hopped off and swam away!

The following day we moved out to the mooring buoy for the dive site called "DD". This was a good introductory dive with very tame and curious fish. Full dive details on our Diving page. We stayed on the mooring overnight.

Wednesday 3rd May, still at French Cay. Moved to another mooring buoy at the site called "G Spot!" Made two dives here. On the second we saw two Caribbean reef sharks and a loggerhead turtle.

On the same day we moved west and anchored on the banks by Southwest Reef, close to West Caicos.

Grace Bay, Provo

4 May 2006

 

Left our anchorage at Southwest Reef and rounded the southern tip of West Caicos. Motored up the coast over the reef to log the GPS positions of the dive buoys, in case they had been moved since our chart was produced.

We then moved on to the west coast of Provo to do the same. On the way, our starter battery overheated, (we had suspected it was a gonner), and had to do a nifty and funky rewiring job while sailing on the genoa to get the engine started again.

Stopped off the western shore of Provo at the "Tiki Huts." The site of a French reality TV show some years back. Now converted into a luxury resort, "Atlantic Village." Had lunch there then completed our dive buoy logging and moved around the north of Provo to head for the infamous Sellars Cut, a narrow channel between coral heads that leads into Grace Bay and Turtle Cove.

The plan was to anchor in Grace Bay, much closer to town than Sapodilla Bay and obtain our immigration extension. As we approached Sellars Cut, with a heavy northerly swell still running we decided to change and go for the safer, wider but longer Stubbs Cut. Good decision, as we heard on the radio the saga of a French Catamaran that had misjudged the entrance to Sellars Cut in the swell and ended up hard on the reef with waves breaking over the boat and the youngest members of the family being evacuated.

We found our way through Stubbs Cut and into the reef strewn Grace Bay. We anchored as soon as we found a clear area and watched the beach activities of the various resorts and condos into the evening.

The following morning, we moved the boat closer to Provo, then dinghied into Turtle Cove. Found a lift to town and visited immigration, to be told that we had to visit three different offices for signatures and had to pay $50 each for a 7 day extension! Now why can't the T & C do the same as Bahamas, where on arrival, you are issued a long immigration stay, a one year cruising permit and a fishing license? No, the T & C, (British, alas!), has to do it the hard way by surprising the boater with new additional fees. And you have to pay another $15 for leaving!

We took a local mini-bus back to the marina, quite an experience with a bunch of groceries to carry, but a scenic tour of more of Provo on the way and door to marina delivery. Lunched at the waterfront restaurant, the "Tiki Hut" drooling over the townhouse across the marina, then dinghied back to Dream On, found our way out of Sellars Cut in far calmer water and returned around the northwest point of Provo to the dive buoys off west Provo. Moored to the "Tiki" buoy.

 

Northwest Provo

6 May 2006

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The dive buoys have supposedly been placed by the Government and can be used by private boats provided priority is given to commercial dive operators who we believe are asked to maintain the buoys. Whether in French Wells, NW Provo or West Caicos, we always stayed out of the way until a mooring was free and were prepared to move if required. Only once, at French Cay were we requested to move to another buoy by a live-a-board dive operator, but received some free local dive site information in return.

Dived the "Tiki" site. A bit disappointing and quite shallow, but we found the large metal cage that was erected for the original French TV show. Contestants had to dive down into the cage to find certain items. If they ran out of air they could obtain air from tanks in the care of a group of "mermaids." Alas, Geoff could not find the mermaids.

Moved Dream On to "Black Forest" dive site. Very nice wall dive, best dive in the T & C so far. 1 hammerhead shark. strong current.

Left NW Provo and headed for West Caicos. On the way we received a radio call from "Changes in Attitudes" last seen in Georgetown.. They had planned a stop in the T & C so we could meet up but were many days behind us. As the weather was good they decided to continue past the T & C to the Dominican Republic, the next stop south and called us on the off chance we might be in range. Just saw them on the horizon some 7 miles ahead of us but on a parallel course south.

Arrived off West Caicos and moored to "White Face" site buoy overnight. The buoys are all anchored around 1/4 mile off the rocky coast of West Caicos in around 45 feet of water over white sand with the occasional coral head.

 

West Caicos

7 May 2006

 

 

 

West Caicos is uninhabited, although it used to have a sisal plantation back in the days of early European settlement. There are a few remains of this activity. There have been a few attempts in the past including a Esso Oil refinery plan in the 70's which happily fell through. It is a diver's paradise. A new marina, luxury resort complex with exclusive lots for private residences is now in development by Ritz-Carlton.

Dived "White Face" and "Driveway." At Driveway, we saw a shark patrolling the coral heads under the boat as we started the dive, then a large loggerhead turtle on the wall.

Kayaked ashore and scrambled onto the rocky shore by timing the waves. A bit precarious but worth the trip. Fossilised sea life in the old coral. Some sea glass in the rock pools, but because of the difficulty of getting ashore, no foot prints.

As there was still a swell, we decided to move Dream On overnight into the unfinished Ritz-Carlton marina basin. It is a very large dredged area but not yet a marina so can take half a dozen boats at anchor with good protection from swell.

On 8th May we moved out of the marina to "Brandywine." One dive there then moved again to "White Face" for our second dive. Back to the marina development overnight.

9th May - Moored on "Elephant Ear. Canyon" 1 dive there then to "Driveway" again for the second dive. Returned to the marina, then dinghied out into Bernard Bay on the north coast of West Caicos and walked the very nice beach. This area is being developed by Ritz-Carlton and is the site for very exclusive private residences.

10th May - Moored at "Gullies." Fantastic site. 1 dive there then moved to "Stairway to Heaven" a vastly different site and not as dramatic as the other wall dives.

We sailed away from West Caicos the same day at 1900 to head for Hogsty Reef overnight, a distance of 78 miles at a heading of 275. At first, we had a good wind from ENE and made good time, but this dropped below 6 knots early the following morning so we had to motor sail the rest of the way.

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