Part 3 of 7: Running aground in Provo Caicos (USVI to North Carolina Trip)

After thoroughly enjoying Grand Turk we decided to leave the island at night so to arrive in Provo, Caicos the following morning. Rather than spend the evening sleeping we thought it made more sense to travel at night so to have more time exploring our next stop.

Just below are the video clips I took of Provo, Caicos. Watch the video and then continue below to read my full review of our stop in paradise.

Provo Caicos Video

Furthermore, Britican started to swing closer to a rocky patch and Simon, was getting increasingly uncomfortable

Throughout our stay in Grand Turk we kept diving down to ensure there was at least a couple feet of clearance under the keel. I still find it hard to believe that we anchored in the ‘Large Vessel Anchorage’ and still had depth concerns. Perhaps a 56’ monohaul is beyond ‘large’ for the area.

As we pulled up the anchor, and the boat lurched forward towards the shallows, I held my breath and prayed that we didn’t come across a large bolder or hit an elevated rock patch. As soon as we moved away from the 1 and 2 meter depths and out into the 100 meters I started to relax.

And it only took minutes before we once again started seeing depths of over 1000 meters

For dinner Kyle warmed up some defrosted Butternut Squash Coconut Soup with lentils that I made while in the British Virgin Islands. We had a lovely lunch on land and didn’t need a large meal for dinner. By 8:30pm all of us except Simon were in bed.

During my 2am to 5am watch the water was so calm. There was a total absence of wind. The moon was a little less than full and sea sparkled as the moonlight danced across the tiny swells. Having a flat journey I grabbed my laptop, put it in the cockpit and started typing about our experiences in Grand Turk.

To my amazement I typed for three hours straight and the time went by in a flash

I took a few breaks to survey the lights on the land, use my Skye Guide to determine a planet I noticed (it was Saturn) and I also noted a new smell. As we passed some marshy mangroves I sensed a musty odor that was unlike a smell I’ve smelled ever in the Caribbean.

Around 6am I woke Simon explaining that our final waypoint arrival was imminent. Kyle and Sienna were soon up ready to make our entrance into the Blue Haven Marina in Provo, Caicos.

Provo Caicos

The entrance to Blue Haven is marked by tall channel marker poles

It winded us from left to right and back again and seemed a mile long. Kyle and I stood at the bow of the boat ensuring to notify Simon of any large boulders. Based on our intelligence (pilot guide, RayMarine and Navionics Maps) the channel would be deep enough during high tide for us to make it in.

Provo Caicos

And then I felt us touch ground. And again. And again.

The delayed forward motion was very noticeable. The boat still went forward, but it was stunted for a second. Fortunately I was at the bow of the boat and yelled back to Simon that we were simply skimming the sand ripples. We all held our breath and Simon yelled out, we’re getting deeper again. After rounding another curve the marina came into view and I visualized being safely tied up and wandering around new lands.

Simon backed us in, two attendants helped us with the lines and within a few minutes we had the sail cover on, the boat cleaned up and were all checking out our surroundings.

Provo Caicos

To say that the marina grounds were amazing is an understatement

As we wandered towards the marina office, we noted lovely patches of white sand peppered with wicker sofas and navy blue patterned pillows, double sized hammocks and manicured walkways. Everywhere I looked my eye were met with beautifully maintained tropical trees and colorful shrubs all lining the most beautiful turquoise waterway I’ve ever seen!

We stopped off at the marina office where Simon showed us the incredible bathrooms. These bathrooms rank up there with Grand Harbour Marina in Malta and Nanny Cay Marina in the BVI. They are spacious, clean, have excellent water pressure, warm water AND they are air-conditioned!

Thereafter we walked past the Salt Bar restaurant, outdoor pool table, sand beach volleyball court, huge lawn chess set and over to the infinity pool that simply made my eyes smile.

Provo Caicos

Beyond the infinity pool, with a water bar, was a lovely beach, swim area and a massive sea trampoline

Through the marina hotel lobby across the parking lot you could also find a high-end convenience store serving coffee, hot food, groceries, beer and wine. And next door a Spa!

I treated myself to a pedicure and not only was the result fantastic but I thoroughly enjoyed speaking with the woman about her history on the island (she was from Hati), the difference between modern countries (like USA and UK) versus island life and the role of a parent.

Aside from enjoying the Spa, the four of us used the pool, enjoyed some cocktails, ate at the Salt Bar (I recommend any of the burgers – they’re exceptional) and spent hours in the bathroom.

Provo Caicos

During the first day on the island we chilled out around the pool and the second day we rented a car to explore the island

Waking to a rainy start of the day, it was actually nice to sit in a car. At first Kyle sat in the drivers seat while we waited for Simon but Kyle’s confidence waned the more he thought about driving on the ‘wrong’ side of the road. In Turks and Caicos drivers drive on the British side of the road.

Simon became the driver and Kyle opted for navigational instructor.

I think it would be fair to say that we saw every road on Provo, Caicos and that’s not due to intention. The map Kyle was using was a tourist map and didn’t depict the roads very well. When we ended up at ‘Departures’ at the Provo, Caicos airport Simon and I started questioning Kyle’s abilities.

After the airport we ended up in a junkyard where we had to dodge roosters and chickens and pray the transmission didn’t scrape along the potholed dirt road.

The few hours of driving around gave us a good feel for the island

By far it was a modern island with modern shops and facilities. I noticed a couple gyms, a yoga studio, many strip malls or complexes, a few grocery stores and restaurants.

In the main touristy area there were a variety of duty free stores and restaurants. We stopped at Danny Buoy’s restaurant and had what felt like an all-American bad food festival. We ordered nachos, potatoes skins, fried pickles and chicken wings. While I ate everything I moo’d like a cow but afterwards my body asked me when it was going to have access to a thing called vegetables!

Provo Caicos

The rain finally broke so we drove to Grace Beach, which is continuously ranked either number one or number two in the world for best beaches. The waves were mammoth so I admired the sea from a beach chair! We entered the beach through the a resort and to my surprise the attendants didn’t kick us off the beach chairs!

There were very few people on the beach so I think there was no need to ask us to leave

Simon, Kyle and Sienna had a sand sculpture contest. Themes included a sand castle, donut, turtle and footprint.

After Grace Bay we got in touch with some family members of friends of ours. Two sailing seasons ago, we met the owners of sailing vessel ‘Why Knot’ and quickly became very close. After spending two years sailing the Aegean and Ionian Sea with them we said our goodbyes and promised we’d visit their family in Turks & Caicos when we made it there…

Provo Caicos

So, Tanya and Gary said they’d meet us at the marina with their two lovely boys

The plan was to have a drink and then go to a restaurant to get to know each other. Our daughter, Sienna, quickly hit it off with the boys and they played with the lawn sized chess set while the adults swapped stories.

Just over three years ago Tanya and Gary decided to leave South Africa in search of a better quality of life. With an uncle in Caicos who had a business already started they moved over to help him expand. Tanya drives a semi-submersible submarine and Gary started out doing speedboat excursions. Now Gary has established himself as a photographer and video expert helping estate agents showcase some of the most expensive properties for sale.

When asking Tanya and Gary if they had any regrets, they quickly responded with a solid ‘no.’ They explained that their quality of life was excellent. The one thing they mentioned (and everyone else I spoke with) was that it’s extremely expensive to live in Turks and Caicos. After we went for a shop before returning the car we found out for ourselves!

Provo Caicos

Our evening with Tanya and Gary was fantastic

As we ate dinner in a veranda overlooking an inland waterway with islands we laughed, told stories and simply enjoyed each other’s company. The children played on the beach where they caught a jellyfish and a sea cucumber!

Before parting ways we invited the family over to our boat the following night for a couple drinks knowing our time in Provo was soon coming to an end.

Our third day in Provo was decision day regarding our next port of call

Simon and Kyle spent hours pouring over the pilot books and looking at maps. Eventually they came up with a plan to stop at four different spots in the Bahamas before getting to Fort Lauderdale, Florida. When discussing the passage plan I could detect a foreboding energy.

Provo Caicos

After some discussion and research a few things popped up as potential concerns and issues. To start, the cost to enter the Bahamas was $300. I didn’t mind paying the fee if we’d be able to see a good chunk of the area. Simon explained that the places for us to anchor or get into a marina were far and few between. Furthermore every area seemed to have potential depth issues. Considering that we hit bottom on our way into Provo I didn’t want to sail for four to five days constantly working about running aground. And then when Kyle brought up the fact that we’d have to sail against the Gulf Stream – going against a current of 4 to 5 mph – we all looked at each other and asked, ‘what are our other options?’

Simon found an atoll or deserted reef one days sail away from Provo called Hogsty Reef. The reef was 40 miles from any land, was 7 miles long and 2 miles wide with ample room to anchor. It’s not on Google maps on the map view but you can find it on the satellite view.

The idea of sailing to a deserted location sounded exciting

Looking at maps and areal images of Hogsty Reef we noted several ship wrecks, amazing blue water and two patches of land. The area looked amazing.

It didn’t take long to come to a unanimous decision to anchor at Hogsty Reef. The plan was to stay a couple days at the reef and then sail three to four days straight up to Ft Lauderdale benefiting from the Gulf Stream current.

A decision was made to leave Blue Haven Marina at midnight that night exiting at high tide

I felt okay about the plan. I was excited about Hogsty but not about the passage up to Ft Lauderdale. Ever since we left the American Virgin Islands I felt slightly seasick. Even when I put a Scopamine patch on my leg I didn’t feel great.

My belief is that so many things are psychological. Considering that I’m feeling conflicted about taking my home to my homeland I’m more negative about my seasickness than usual. For the most part I can shake it off a bit…but on this trip I’m feeling more stressed than usual. Read: Conflict! What happens when you take your sailboat home to your homeland?

Also…I wasn’t keen on leaving the marina in the dark

Considering we hit ground on the way in I wanted to have the use of my eye’s to get us out! I kept my fears quiet and simply started to prepare for a long time away from civilization. Knowing that there’d be no restaurants or grocery stores for five days at most I went to work cooking some food to freeze.

I made beef stew in the slow cooker, Spanish rice with olives, bacon, green and jalapeño peppers and tomatoes. Additionally, I made my easy cabbage and ground beef slop – it’s so easy and just so tasty while sailing.

Simon and Kyle prepared the boat, chased after Immigration and Customs to get sign out

And around 5pm Tanya, Gary and the children arrived for our last time together. They brought a roast chicken and beans and rice from the store. I made some bruschetta, herbal dip and opened a tub of hummus with some veggie sticks and crackers.

Provo Caicos

The children walked over to fishing boat to see them prepare the fish for market and the adults once again enjoyed a lovely evening of telling stories and sharing laughs. It was such a shame we had to leave them!

Around 9:30 we said goodbye to our friends and started to prepare the boat for a 24 hour sail to Hogsty Reef. Just as I was messaging my mom about our departure a message come through FaceBook from David Wheatley, a contributor to my VHF Messages Book and weather specialist.

To my dismay the message contained information about a tropical storm forming in the Atlantic with potential to cross our path!

My stomach instantly turned. I read the message out to Simon and Kyle and we all jumped onto the Internet reading as much as we could about the storm. After some discussion we decided to wait until morning to determine what the storm was going to do.

I took all the chicken left over on the carcasses and put it in bowl to make chicken salad the following day. After that, I hit the sack.

Provo Caicos

In the morning we woke and quickly looked at the weather forecasts

Fortunately everything indicated that the storm was going to head north rather than south or west, hitting Georgia and North Carolina rather then southern Florida. At the time of reading the report, the National Hurricane Centre still hadn’t issued a formal warning.

We decided to have one final lunch at the Salt Bar while waiting for high tide and around noon we said our goodbyes to Blue Haven Marina on Provo, Caicos. I took the opportunity to use the excellent WIFI to download a couple more thrillers from Amazon Kindle.

As you can image we all wondered if we’d hit bottom at the same point in the channel.

Sure enough we felt the keel drag along the sand – at least this time we expected it

Once we were in the deeper waters we pulled up our main, unfurled our genoa and headed towards Hogsty Reef.

 

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