Turks and Caicos | Distant Shores Sailing Newsletters

Turks and Caicos - Exploring Provo

Hello Everyone,

Our adventures in the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI) continue!


After crossing the Caicos Bank on April 21st from South Caicos where we'd had a very special Easter Weekend we arrived at the island of Providenciales, better known as “Provo”. This is the most developed island in the TCI with many beautiful resorts, luxury villas, white sand beaches including Grace Beach reputed to be the most beautiful beach in the world, along with great shopping and several good marina facilities.

South Side Marina looking out to Caicos Bank

Border Control - ProvoRadio
When we were on the bank 12 nm out from Provo we were contacted by ProvoRadio on VHF 16 and asked our intentions, the number of people on board, particulars of our boat, the port we were coming from, etc. ProvoRadio mans the coastal radar station at Five Cays, Providenciales, and is directed by the Ministry of Border Control and Labour. All boats on international voyages are required to report in when within 12 nm of Provo when arriving and departing. We were also required to fill out a Vessel Arrival Information Form either over the radio or by e-mail. We opted for e-mail and completed the one page form after we anchored at Sapodilla Bay for the night and e-mailed it back to them. We received a courteous e-mail thanking us for our cooperation. Shortly after we anchored in Sapodillo Bay, a catamaran came in that ProvoRadio had been trying to contact but had not replied. Within minutes a large Coast Guard helicopter descended on the anchorage. We could see that photos were being taken of the boat. They take security seriously here.

South Side Marina
We were in need of marina time to top up our water and do a repair and friends had recommended South Side Marina, “a marina managed by cruisers for cruisers”. So on the morning of April 22nd we raised anchor and made the 40 minute trip along the coast to the east. There was virtually no wind and the colour of the banks was stunning as we approached the harbour entrance.


When we came through the cut, we were met by manager Bob Pratt, dockhand Julien, and the lovely Nevarde who serves as office assistant and bartender at Bob's Bar which recently opened at the marina. Distant Shores II was quickly secured on a floating finger pontoon and we were welcomed into the friendly cruising community at this delightful marina, also a port of entry. The team here does everything to help you get settled, get your repairs done if needed, and makes sure you enjoy your stay on the island.

Bob Pratt, manager of South Side Marina. A friend to cruising sailors in the Turks and Caicos

Road Trip Provo
The next day Bob and Nevarde helped us organize a car rental so we could get out and explore the 37.5 square island. (Turns out the guy that works at the Holiday Rentals is Canadian and his mother is a director and vendor at the Orillia Farmers Market who we know from shopping there when we're home! Small world.)


In the morning we had a lot of fun driving the little back roads of Provo filming for the Distant Shores TV series and discovered some quiet beaches at Northwest Point which we had all to ourselves.



The water is such a beautiful colour and it was a pleasure to just stroll, beach combing as we went along.

This worked up an appetite so we drove along the north coast road where there are many popular beach bars to choose from with fresh seafood and locally prepared dishes. I had a delicious meal of grouper, peas and rice, coleslaw, and fresh avocado and tomato slices. Paul opted for stewed beef with peas and grits and fried plantain. All yummy!


Next we hit the downtown in the centre of the island to pick up a few things at Walkin's Chandlery, then headed to the east end of the island to see the beautiful 5 mile/8 km long Grace Beach and the gorgeous resorts there. This area is such a contrast to the small settlements in the outer islands such as South Caicos. But you can get everything you need here in the Graceway shopping district. We were able to find a few computer accessories we needed at Computech that we didn't expect to find until we got back to the US mainland.


We also checked out the large modern marinas at Turtle Cove and Blue Haven which we found to be reasonable priced. But South Side Marina is still the best deal at $50 a day for our Southerly 49 sailboat.

Blue Haven Marina at the east end of Providenciales, Turks and Caicos

Since we had the car we concluded the day’s road trip with a stop at the Graceway IGA supermarket which is reputed to be the best supermarket to be found between Florida and the Virgin Islands. It is exceptional and we stocked up on goodies we hadn't seen for a while. Things were pricey compared to home but they had an excellent selection. We also picked up the latest Explorer Charts for the Bahamas (our next destination) at the Unicorn Bookstore which shares the same parking lot.


Meanwhile back at the marina, folks were getting ready for the Wednesday Night South Side Potluck Supper and BBQ. This happens weekly at Bob's Bar at South Side Marina with everyone bringing whatever meat they want to BBQ for themselves plus a side dish to share.


Bob's Bar is a really fun place to hang out because local homeowners, ex-pats and island visitors show up as well as sailors so it's a lively mix of interesting and interested people who aren't afraid to make conversation and have fun together. We had another great evening and then Bob treated everyone to a dish or two of ice cream! Boy, does Bob know what sailors love!


This morning, Paul spent the morning completing a repair to Distant Shores II’s bow thruster (rusty contact) and at noon Bob organized for the Customs and Immigration officials to come down to the marina to clear us out as well as another boat. It was another $50 US to clear out so $100 US total for a one-week permit. If you stay more than a week you must pay $300 but have 90 days to cruise. Our week in the Turks and Caicos has flown by so quickly! The officers were kind and courteous and tried to persuade us to stay for the weekly Thursday night Fish Fry tonight :-) Next time!


We said thanks and farewell and this afternoon crossed the bank to the island of West Caicos where we picked up a mooring off the west coast for the night. It is a national park area and there are some excellent dive sites here, hence the moorings.



We'll spend the night here and at sunrise will head northwest to the Bahamas where we plan to clear in at the island of Mayaguana. You may recall we filmed an episode of Distant Shores there a few years ago for Distant Shores season 5 so are looking forward to seeing how things have changed.

Red sky at night is a sailor's delight so it should be a good day tomorrow...


Until next time,

Sheryl and Paul Shard
Aboard S/V Distant Shores II
West Caicos
Turks and Caicos

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Caicos Banks

What a spectacular day we had for crossing the Caicos Bank! We left the anchorage at South Caicos around low water to head out and onto the banks. It will be about 50 miles all told to get to Provo... Sailing around we are in 1000 meters water, then it immediately shoals to 6-7 meters as we enter the banks!
You can see the water is quite shallow... It started about 6 meters deep and gradually shoaled to 4 meters then finally less than 3 near Provo.
We were looking out for coral heads carefully as there are quite a few sprinkled around. Charts can never show them accurately since they grow taller. A low coral head sitting in 6 meters will be well under your keel but in a few more years it may be getting nearer the surface. Do not go over a head unless you are absolutely certain there is enough water.
Sheryl hoisted me up the mast to see how much the height helped to see the heads. Basically any extra height helps see much further ahead. But the additional height above 10 feet or so makes less difference. (Here is a link to our classic Cruising the Bahamas how-to video with segments on piloting in shallow water)
I went to the upper spreaders. The motion is a bit worse there as everything is magnified by the height, but the view was worth it! WOW!!
Happy Crew enjoying this blue marble!!

Fair Winds

Paul & Sheryl
PS. For more adventures exploring the shallow waters check out our Distant Shores Episodes on the Bahamas here. Downloadable episodes on Vimeo here and here plus our classic Cruising the Bahamas how-to video with segments on piloting in shallow water.

BVI to Turks & Caicos

After a great visit to the British Virgin Islands (BVI), which was concluded by a spectacular lunar eclipse, we set sail for the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI) on Tuesday April 15/14 with perfect conditions for a lovely 3-day downwind passage from the BVI.
We were on starboard tack for the whole voyage starting out by sailing wing and wing.

Occasionally we had to bring the genoa over to the other side to keep on course but finished with it poled out wing and wing as we arrived in the Turks and Caicos on Thursday night.

We kept 3 hour watches at night and 4 hours during the day. The nights were bright with the full moon and as we soared along north of the Navidad and Silver Banks we often saw cruise ships on the horizon and on AIS. We only had one short but heavy rain squall during the 3 days. The rest of the time the weather was lovely.

Caicos Q Flag
Our port of call was Cockburn Harbour on the island of South Caicos. Here Sheryl raises the “Q” flag to signify that we intend to clear in.

Clearing in was a story... we climbed out of the dinghy in the small fishing harbour on Good Friday, a hot and dusty day in the little town, where we asked the first person we met where we might find customs and immigration. Betty Craigg told us the 2 officers were on the way to their church for Good Friday and invited us to come join in the service. She assured us the officials would be happy to process our paperwork after the service.

Betty Craigg invited us to her church where she assured us we would be able to clear in to the Turks and Caicos with the Customs and Immigration officers attending the Good Friday service.

Turns out to be a rockin’ service at the Firm Foundations Ministries! Great fun and great singing! Thanks to Pastor Hall and Pastor Cooke and the congregation for such a warm welcome! Turns out the Immigration officer, Sandra Hall, is the wife of Pastor Hall, and the Customs officer, Markia Lockhart, is a very active member of the church.

Customs officer Marika Lockhart, left, and Immigration officer Sandra Hall, right, singing on Good Friday.

Sure enough we pop into the back room after the service is over to deal with the paperwork. “Hallelujah! We are Cleared In!!”

Homiest clearance ever!

Fees were $30 for Immigration and $65 for Customs for a 1-week permit. Overtime charges were included since it was a holiday.

We went back again to celebrate Easter Sunday with our new friends. It was an Easter we will never forget! Here are a few photos...

The telling of the Easter story. Pastor Brandford Hall at the pulpit.

Church dancers add to the story.
Customs officer, Marika Lockhart, also does the choreography for the church dancers.

Sheryl with Pastor Cherimay Cooke, who is a fantastic singer! What a joyful and memorable Easter in South Caicos.

We are looking forward to more adventures in Turks and Caicos. On Easter Monday we will be sailing north across the Caicos Bank to the island of Providenciales.

Best regards,

Sheryl and Paul Shard
Aboard SV Distant Shores II
Cockburn Town, South Caicos
Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI)