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Mar Azul: Providenciales, Turks and Caicos (BLOG)


Follow along with Bob and Elaine Ebaugh aboard their 1985 DeFever 44 as they spend a few years cruising the waters off of South America from April 2011 through June 2013. To learn more about Bob and Elaine as well as their home afloat click here, or visit their blog, here.

May 14, 2011:

The 31 hour trip from Rum Cay was smooth and easy with almost no wind. I was able to cook hot meals while under way, a first. We celebrated reaching the half way mark to Puerto Rico during the night. Passed a couple of oil tankers and a Carnival ship, and were so glad to have the radar and electronic navigation systems on board. It was a very different experience for us 20 years ago during night sails just using the ships lights to try to figure out the specific position and direction of travel of other vessels out there.

Bandit learned to use the doggie potty location on the front deck while under way, another first. The pups are encouraged to use the front deck for that purpose, and we placed a small carpet scented with dog and human urine to mark the spot. Both dogs ignored it, and would wait 24 hours+ to get to shore. We were told by other boaters with dogs that 36 hours was the magic number, and we would have success. Lady, surprisingly, held out and waited 48 hours to get to shore.

Customs and immigration clearance procedures required the officer to visit the boat. We were worried how Lady might react to a brusque official boarding the boat, and I had visions of her baring her teeth to protect us and her territory. Fortunately, Mr. MacElver was the island’s canine officer, and had a great way with animals. Lady was his best buddy within a minute. We were admitted without any problems. We are keeping our fingers crossed that it will go as smoothly in the Dominican Republic, where multiple officials will come on board.

Sunset en route to Provo

Sunset en route to Provo.

We are staying at South Side Marina on Providenciales, one of the largest of the 40 islands and cays that make up the Turks and Caicos. It is a small and friendly facility located away from the tourist areas on the north side of the island. Bob, the owner, has lived here for 30 years and he and his staff are conscientious in providing good hospitality to everyone including marina guests, locals, and traveling boats that are staying in the nearby anchorage at Sapodillo Bay.

Most evenings at 5 pm they host a happy hour with simple hors d’oeuvres under the gazebo, BYOB. Thursday evenings they have a BBQ with ice cream, and guests bring their own entree to grill and a side dish to share. We were lucky this week as some of the locals brought fresh fish with enough for all.

South Side Marina.

South Side Marina.

The marina is quiet this time of year as it is off season for tourists, with only two other occupied boats here. Karl and Elisabeth from Austria have been here for most of the week. They have a lovely sailing catamaran, Perle, that is their home. They sailed from Europe, a 21 day Atlantic Crossing, and have enjoyed the Caribbean islands from the Bahamas to South America over the last 14 years. They take charter guests aboard from time to time to fund their travels. Their guests are primarily Europeans, who don’t mind that the boat is not air conditioned. They haven’t had as much success with American clients, so focus on the European market. Elisabeth is a wonderful cook, and has learned to create delicious local dishes for her guests. Karl is a very knowledgeable captain, and we enjoyed hearing about their travels and preferred destinations. Their favorite islands are Grenada and the Grenadines, where they will spend the hurricane season this year.

The dogs enjoy the quiet marina, and have gotten along with the two marina dogs here, Gemma and Effie. Lady is allowed to join us at happy hour off-leash after things settle down, which is a treat for her. Bandit, however, stays on leash, or she would be off partying in town.

Having a few days in a marina is a luxury, and has given us time to clean up the boat and take full advantage of the more plentiful and less costly electricity and water, and the larger laundry facilities. Plus a little R & R, and catch-up on internet time.

 “Blitzen” the rental car had traveled one too many rough island road.

“Blitzen” the rental car had traveled one too many rough island road.

We rented a car and explored ashore one day. The island has a cosmopolitan flavor with a mix of races and nationalities among the locals as well as the tourists. Everyone we met thus far has spoken English. The locals seem more entrepreneurial here than in the Bahamas Out Islands, and take advantage of opportunities to cater to visitors in a discrete manner. There were a number of development projects under way, including a new marina, single housing projects and condos. Seafood packaging is done here, and we saw a small quarry where concrete was produced.

Grace Bay, on the north side of the island, boasts beautiful beaches, and a number of lovely resorts, shops and restaurants serving an international clientele. There are gorgeous private villas on the hills overlooking the Chalk Sound National Park and Sapodilla Bay. The downtown area has an international airport, government offices, a medical clinic and shops. There is a low to moderate income area near the downtown with houses, schools and playgrounds, and this was the only area where we saw garbage on the streets. The tourist areas are kept very clean.

The island felt safe, and people are friendly and will go out of their way to be helpful. One man stopped to give us directions, seeing that we were obviously lost on one of the pothole ridden remote dirt roads. When our rental car died suddenly, another man came by to help rig up a temporary solution to reconnect the broken battery cable so we could take the car, “Blitzen”, back to Scooter Bob at the rental agency. We have met a lot of “Bobs” here.

Driving was an adventure since they drive on the left side here, as a British colony. Bob took on the challenge of driving, and my job was to issue “left, left” reminders every time we turned. They have numerous roundabouts, with no traffic lights on the island. Going clockwise around a roundabout, staying to the left, took a lot of skill. Unlike the roundabout on Clearwater Beach, drivers here entering the roundabout always yield to vehicles in the roundabout. The only problem was that sometimes what they considered a roundabout we would consider a minor crossroad. If someone needed to cross a 4 lane, divided highway, at one of the designated locations, the whole road would come to a stop. It struck us as comical, and took some getting used to. I guess we did okay – we did not add any dents to the rental car, nor receive any traffic citations.

We picked up the local newspaper and found that laborers doing domestic work could expect about $5 – 7 per hour. No mention of benefits. Several ads, for both professional and labor positions stated that one must be between the ages of 25 and 40 to apply. No EEOC concerns here!

Conch shell vendor at Da Conch Shack

Conch shell vendor at Da Conch Shack

Conch is a specialty on the island, and in addition to harvesting from the sea, they have a farm where they raise and process this delicacy. We enjoyed a conch dinner at Da Conch Shack on the beach, where they serve fresh conch in a variety of styles – cracked, curried, creole, sautéed in coconut milk, fritters & chowder. Enterprising locals had stands at the restaurant to sell beautiful, polished conch shells, and I found a small and sturdy conch horn that will travel well. The very top of the shell is cut off, and you blow into the hole to make music. It looks easy and the vendor quickly demonstrated that it worked. I don’t quite have the hang of it yet and definitely need more practice before using it to announce sunset each evening.

We will depart for Luperon in the Dominican Republic soon. Hopefully we will get Bob to post shortly and give his perspective, which will make for more interesting reading. As the ship’s admiral, I had assigned him to write the next post, but as I am finding, the admiral holds no great authority on the Mar Azul. Perhaps just a title to placate my ego? Bob is enjoying reading a couple of books, the first he has had time to read in many months, and well deserved after all of his hard work to plan and orchestrate our departure.