If the British Virgin Islands are the play ground for charter boats, the Bahamas are the play ground for beginning cruisers, I think I will dub Turks and Caicos Islands the turnstile for the Caribbean. All of the cruisers we met in Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI) were on their way someplace else. Some boaters were heading to the Bahamas on their way to either the USA or Canada. Others were going further south. No one stays in TCI for very long. Most arrive and purchase the seven day cruising permit. After a hot shower, good meal and a trip to the grocery store they are off again. Every day boats arrived and leave at regular intervals like trains at a train station.
After a lot of discussion, we chose the 90 day cruising permit when we arrived. We did not want to be pressured by a date on a calendar. We wanted to have the flexibility to either stay in the islands or leave when we felt the time and weather were right. We are glad we did.
We really enjoyed the social atmosphere of marina life during our stay. We met a lot of cruisers and shared stories over evening beverages or meals at nearby restaurants. We have made some great swaps of charts, anchorages and “must see” places. One of the great things about cruisers is the sharing. While we had a car we ran cruisers around on errands. The night before our departure we were given a ride to the grocery store and to refill our propane tank. It is really nice to be around cruisers that can give us advice on what is ahead for us. It is nice to be able to share information with them as well.
Mark mentioned the entry and exit fees in an earlier post. With the entry fees, exit fees, marina fees (slip fee, water and electricity is metered) the cost of being in TCI adds up quickly. We received several emails from readers asking if we thought the fees are worth the stop. The answer for us is yes. We had a really good time in TCI. We had planned to stay longer to explore the rest of the islands, however, we saw an unusually great weather window to make the trip to Puerto Rico. I would recommend Turks and Caicos as a vacation destination at the resorts on the island as well as for cruisers. We did not visit Grand Turks so I cannot speak about the cruise ship stop but we heard it is very Americanized and there is a lot to do there.
As I turn our house back into a boat in preparation to leave Turks and Caicos Islands a lot was going through my mind. The trip to Puerto Rico, 4 days and 3 nights, will be our last multi-day journey for some time. We were ready to get it behind us. I think Mother Nature is telling us to go. There will be a full moon, the seas will be moderate and the winds should carry us almost the entire way without having to motor too much. A great weather window. Time to go.
The day came and it was time to grudgingly leave TCI. Kyle and Charlie from Turtle Cove Marina once again boarded the pilot boat to lead us out of the safety of the marina at high tide. Kyle radioed back to us regularly keeping us moving in the right direction away from shallow areas and coral reefs. At the entrance to Sellar’s Cut, Kyle lined us up and radioed directions as we moved through the ten foot breakers on both side of us. Yeah, you read that right, ten foot breakers. There was a sailboat following us through the cut. As I watched the boat rise, disappear and reappear again and again I was very glad we went first. I don’t think I would have been as brave if I watched them go through the cut first. Two more boats with fees paid exit the turnstile of Sellar’s Cut.
Once we cleared the cut the water slowly started to calm to waves of six feet. After our turn toward the leeward side of West Caicos the waves calmed to an acceptable four feet. Whew, the worst part is behind us. Time to relax. We are on our way. Time to settle in for a long journey to Puerto Rico and a new adventure……that reminds me……where did I put those Spanish translation books? Oh well, I have four days to find them.