Provo, Turks and Caicos
I was very excited to arrive there, in my mind a continuation of the Bahamas, just a bit southeast of it. Helas, TCI - Turks and Caicos Islands - are NOT that at all.
So, after going to the pictures and if you are planning to get there by sailboat, hereafter is a short survival guide...
Provo Survival Guide (as of Dec 06):
After the cruiser friendly Bahamas, arriving in Provo is quiet a bit of a culture chock. I know of 3 guides that would allow you to navigate there ;
- Bruce Van Sant, The Gentleman's guide to passage south
(Bruce hereafter) ; Bruce information are perfect if you are only passing
through - the lot of most of us, at least after a first stay here.
Sandbore Channel : I went through 3 times, never seen less than 12 ft, coral heads and rocks are few and far in between, easy to spot. Just pilot it, and it doesn't seem to be challenging at all. Some caution near Turtle Rock, as there are a bit more dark spots to avoid. If you are using Bob, his charts are very detailed and may give you the feeling of a land mine. But most rocks charted are rather deep, so no need to stress. Again, just pilot it.
Sapodilla Bay : The anchorage itself is rather wide,
good holding in general. A catamaran could get rather close to the beach.
On the North side, beware of the wreck - mentioned by both Bob and Steve.
It's an old Haitian sail boat, and it come a bit out of the water at low
tide. Also, there are a few private moorings, just be a bit careful if
transiting in poor visibility.
Turtle Cove Marina : Well protected, this is an option to have access to a bit more life. A few bars, a few restaurants around, but limited night life. A grocery about a mile down the road. As of Dec 05, the public phone was broken, marina charges $0.95 / ft / day and offers Wifi Internet access. A good deal if you want to spent some time on Skype calling home. Limited space available for multihull. The small anchorage outside and east of the channel is good - mentionned by Bill and Steve - , but do not expect to be welcome there, and you will be boarded by police and fisheries checking out that you are not planning to stay more than a night. Be sure to have your paperwork squared. You could dinghy to Turtle Cove from there, and leave your dinghy just between Tiki Hut and the fuel dock, under the weight station.
Customs, Immigration, etc...: Arriving in Sapodilla
Bay, dinghy to the beach, and follow the road to South Dock, the commercial
harbor near by. The officer - very nice and pleasant I must say - will
clear you in (and out when that time comes) quickly. The basic is that
you get a 7 days stay, for just $5, have the exact change in hand. If
you are thinking or planning to stay longer, think twice. Still thinking
about it? then ask for a 90 days cruising permit, which he will issue
for free, but you will need to report to Immigration before your seven
days expires. Now, if you had arrived by plane, you would have received
a 30 days stamp on your passport. Only 7 days if - or because ? - you
are on a boat.
Transportation : First problem after clearing in at customs is transportation. Form Sapodilla Bay, you have two choices. Try to get a taxi on VHF 06, ask for the price right then, and it might work for you. A lot of cabs will not come to pick you up without requesting an astronomical fare. Steven mentions Morris Taxi as a good solution, but Morris Taxi is no more in service. Second choice, you hitchhike your way to town. You will usually be quickly picked up, ask for the price for the ride - yes.... - and you should go to downtown between $3 to $5 per person, and sometime for free. Add another $2 or $3 to get to Turtle Cove. Note that pick up at night is not that easy, so try to comeback to Sapodilla before sunset, and wear good walking shoes.
Fishing : So now you are legal, you have a fishing
permit, time to hook up some dinner - can't spear in the TCI...-. Not
that fast. Most of the shore line is off fishing limit (park or reserve).
You can fish in Sapodilla, but you won't eat. So you need to be comfortable
for a long dinghy ride to the head in the banks, or the Western reef.
And you might catch something. You could also snorkel for lobsters, learning
how to catch them by hand, keeping in mind that clarity in the bank is
not really good.
Snorkeling & Diving : Do not plan to dive or snorkel in the banks, visibility there is usually poor. But it gets excellent on the West and North shore of Provo. With kids, or for beginners, the Coral Garden in Grace Bay is a great spot. The ones wanting to go scuba diving should contact Caicos Adventures, ask for Fifi (www.caicosadventures.tc). They also monitors VHF 16 and will pick you up at your boat in Sapodilla Bay.
Shopping etc...: With access to a car, you will find in Provo several well provisioned grocery shops, and prices are not too outrageous. IGA has the best selection. Except may be the Duty Free Jewelry's, I did not find anything very attractive around for some fun shopping. In the other hand, I'm not much of a shopping addict so...
Various : Security and safety seem to be an issue, just be on the cautious side. In various places, you might feel accepted at best, welcome likely not. Keep your expectations low, and everything will be fine. Finally, I have not been to South Caicos and Grand Turks, which I'm told are significantly more pleasant for the typical cruiser, so the above really stands for Provo.
Xanadu : if anchored in Sapodilla, try to give a call to Xanadu on VHF 16 around 0830 or 1200. You may talk to Jim, who lives close by when not cruising on his custom built ketch. Jim is a great guy, an avid cruiser, and when at home, enjoy meeting and spending time with other cruisers. He knows the TCI well, is a great story teller, and since you asked, drinks Seagram VO bourbon.
So yes, one could say that Provo is not cruiser friendly. Checking in for more than seven days is an expensive marathon all over the island, and a frustrating one in addition. Locals are not too excited to see you around, and well, nothing there looking like some warm welcome. Yet I have made some very good friends there, Jim being one. And I enjoyed my stay because of them, so all of you I spent time with, Thank You. The scenary is very pretty, and may be in the future, the situation will improve a bit for the visiting cruiser. Until then, you may just end up following Bruce's advise : get in, get out.
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