Sailing Caribbean again: Jamaica - Turks & Caicos

Jamaica, Montego Bay, early morning
From 22 Feb to 3 March 2017, I have been crew on a 50 ft catamaran cruising the Caribbean seas. On this leg, we sailed from Jamaica, past Cuba, Haiti and Bahamas, to the beautiful island group of Turks and Caicos.

Sailing off early in the morning
Sailing two-handed is lovely, in my opinion. One person sleeps, the other keeps watch. This is my Vipassana. This is how I crossed the North Sea, the Pacific, most of my logged miles actually. We worked 4-hour shifts, which means 4 hours on watch, 4 hours sleep. The passage took almost 3 days, due to the wind being lighter than expected.

On passage, just prior to entering Caicos Bank

We arrived just at dusk. Drawing below 4 ft, we entered the Caicos Bank from the South, hoping to safely hit the charted channel towards the Customs dock. On the charts, the bank is safe for a cat – but in reality, it is specked with coral heads, and should be approached with caution. We anchored in the dark, and moved to a marina the next day.

Docked in a marina in Providenciales, Caicos Islands
Turks and Caicos define “Island Time”. The customs authorities were not in the office on office hours; one has to sit around on the sun-drenched porch and wait until they choose to arrive an hour and a half later. When it comes to Immigration authorities, we were told to relocate to a marina and wait for them. They were on their way… any time now. That is, tomorrow, maybe. After waiting for them for two or three days, we gave up. They never came despite reminders and phone calls. The motor yacht along the dock had been waiting for the customs to come and clear them out. Same story there. They missed the weather window for a BVI delivery, and were stuck now in strong Easterlies, breakfasting on local Bambarra rum in pure desperation.

This place is so much quieter than the rest of Caribbean. I’ve been sailing to most of the islands in this sea, on my previous travels, and the experiences have been mostly positive but also mixed. Here, it’s very unlike the Antilles, almost hard to believe. Surely, tourism is the main industry here, but even the most popular beaches are far from crowded, there is no garbage, no visible social problems. Apart from small Belonger settlements, there full star constellations of hotels hugging the most popular beaches, with a low-key luxury ambiance, and top-notch restaurants and service centers. No charter tourists, no back-packers (they can’t afford it), and the Belongers I have spoken to seem to have good, respectful lives. This is (at least a facade of) a luxurious paradise tucked away in the corner of the Caribbean, and I do not mind it being unexplored by sailors and mainstream tourists. I would love to come back here again and have it for myself and the chosen few.

Tranquility at the beach