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Turks and Caicos

I have to admit that I felt really sad when we arrived in the Turks & Caicos. After the undeveloped out-islands of the Bahamas -and even compared to busy Georgetown!- North Caicos's developed sprawl hurt my eyes. The islands themselves are much like the Bahamas: low and arid, and the water has the same gorgeous turquoise color over the shallow banks. But the similarities end there. North Caicos, and the main town of Providenciales (just "Provo" most of the time) have been rapidly developed since the 70's. The beautiful beach on the north side, protected by a long barrier reef, is lined chock-a-block with hotels and condos. The kite-sailors and jet-skies and "banana boats" were shocking to us after the laid-back islands we'd spent the spring in.

You can get a lot of things in Provo that you can't in the Bahamas, like luxury foods in huge American-style grocery stores, but everything is so spread out over such long distances that it's incredibly inconvenient for cruisers. It's also very expensive. There are also no good all-weather anchorages to be found, so you must either endure bone-jarring rolling in an exposed harbor sometimes, or spend days traveling from one end of the archipelago to another searching for shelter, or go into a marina. In addition, although they deny that they are discouraging visiting yachts, the immigration authorities will only give you 7 days visit before they make you pay $50 per person for an extension. If you arrive by airplane, you get 30 days free. Go figure.

In Provo, we said goodbye to our friends on Adrianna II. We expected to see them in the Dominican Republic or Puerto Rico, but unfortunately this turned out to be the last time we'll see them for a long while, as they decided to head back to the Bahamas soon afterwards. Liv will miss Sophie and Anna!

 

Turks and Caicos was not ALL bad, though. We had a really wonderful visit with my brother Josh and his wife Lisa. It was definitely worth the minor inconveniences, although I wish it had been an easier and more restful place for them to cruise for their vacation.

We met them at the Turtle Cove Marina on the north coast of Provo, and then went west to cross "the banks" in hopes of finding some more secluded anchorages for beachcombing and snorkeling. Just off Sandbore Channel we landed a small Blackfin Tuna... sushi night!!!! We passed by the industrial docks, with several haitian sloops anchored off, and spent the night at Five Cays. Josh and Lisa couldn't wait to try out their new snorkel gear! (most photos by Josh and Lisa)

And Liv couldn't wait to try on her new outfit that her Nana and Grampa Bob sent her for Easter!

The next day we motored across the "Banks" in a flat calm. The Caicos Islands are like a semi-circle enclosing half of a large, roughly circular bank that averages about 12 feet deep. In calm weather you can see every starfish on the bottom, and the brilliant turquoise color is beautiful. We stopped in the middle of the banks, with no land in sight, for a little snorkel to cool off. We also trolled a line and caught, of course, nothing but barracuda. Those guys are tricky to get off the hook and let go: look at those teeth!

Our first night's anchorage was at Six Hills. We were hoping for a sandy deserted beach for Josh and Lisa to camp out on, but the islands here are mostly rock and scrub. We spent the next several days meandering around South Caicos and Ambergris Cay, sailing a little, fishing a little, and snorkeling before the weather forced us back over the banks to Osprey Rock for the last nights of their stay. Liv was in heaven because Josh and Lisa would actually play games with her, and often included her in their shoreside walks while Neil and I attended to the boat. Here's a Cero Mackerel we caught: a shark got the biggest portion but there was still plenty for dinner!

We ate really well during Josh and Lisa's visit, between the provisions they'd brought and the seafood we caught locally and the lobster, conch, and tuna we'd frozen in the Bahamas. YUM! Here Neil and Josh clean some conch for conch ceviche:

Josh, Lisa, and Liv went ashore at Ambergris Cay and found hundreds of Turk's Head Cactus as well as iguanas and a great swimming beach:

We were so sad to see them leave!!!

Next: passages south...