Photo by Captain Warren East
Photo by Captain Warren East

Surprising Providenciales

If you crave remote, uncongested anchorages, abundant dive and snorkel sites, and insanely beautiful beaches with ocean vistas, then look no further than Turks and Caicos. My last visit to these beautiful islands was in 1998 when I cruised in on the way to Miami for the hurricane season. I recall catching the biggest mahi mahi of my life, as we rounded north of Grand Turks on approach from the east. We sailed down the coast to anchor off the main town and were greeted by a school of dolphins, residents of the bay between the main town and South Caicos. But most of all, I remember how undeveloped it was.

We stayed long enough to get a good feel for the island then moved on to South Caicos spending a few days checking out the recommended anchorages and dive sites. One place we didn’t visit though, was Providenciales, or Provo for short, due to the lack of facilities for larger yachts. This island is situated on the western end of the chain and is now home to what has become a thriving community. Grace Bay, the most famous beach on the island, is speckled with fancy homes, villas and a handful of exclusive hotels boasting excellent restaurants and facilities for their guests. It’s a magnificent part of the island with strong and healthy reefs for snorkeling. The barrier reef protects the beach from all but the worst hurricane storm surge so the beaches are stunning!

As I drove around the island I noticed there were yachts anchored in random and remote spots inside and on the edges of the reef areas. Fifty percent of them were locally operated boats taking visitors on day trips. The rest were yachts, seen regularly around the Caribbean, clearly testing new grounds. They inspired me to start looking into what services were available and where these yachts were operating from. I found a new marina known as Blue Haven Marina, an Island Global Yachting (IGY) destination, located on the eastern tip of the island.The marina, having a channel depth of eight and a half feet, can accommodate yachts up to 220 feet. As a bonus it is also a port of entry!

On the day I visited, the marina was half full of motor yachts along with several large cats. Access to the marina is from the northern side of the island through a clearly marked channel in the reef so a passing yacht now has no excuse not to stop. Within a five minute walk from the marina is the northeastern end of Leeward Beach. About a 10 minute drive from there is a very well stocked gourmet supermarket that is easily comparable with St. Martin’s best (albeit significantly more expensive), but considering how remote the island is, prices are quite understandable.

I found another marina that resembled Jolly Harbor in Antigua tucked away deep inside the reef at Thompson Cove. Turtle Cove Marina is a residential area, where grand private houses line an intricate maze of channels with boat docks at the bottoms of gardens. A small island in the center of the cove has a commercial dock which bustles with the comings and goings of day charter boats, sports and commercial fishing boats and the odd private yacht. The marina offers reasonably good protection during a hurricane, for sailors unfortunate enough to find themselves there at the wrong time of the year.

My favorite stop on Provo was Malcome Beach, close to the very exclusive Aman Resort. Situated at the very northwest tip of the island, the beach wraps around from windward to leeward. Just a quarter mile offshore is a 2000 foot drop-off offering divers frequent encounters with humpback whales and an abundance of world class wall dives. It’s possible to enter the shallows by yacht to one of several designated sand bottom anchorages on the 10 mile stretch of coast down to the tranquil Sapodilla Bay. The area also has a well protected commercial dock and is a good place to clear customs if approaching the island from the Bahamas.

It should be noted that navigation is considered tricky in the Turks and Caicos. You can go from 2000 feet to 10 feet in no time and there are coral reefs scattered all about the shoals.

It is easy to fall in love with Provo thanks to its amazing vistas. A week on a charter yacht there would be extremely fulfilling and for those lucky enough to find themselves with no schedule at all. There is a plethora of places to go and things to do. Access to the island by plane is easy, thanks to the commercial airport with direct flights from Miami and Atlanta.

 

Warren East, East Yachts Ltd
www.eastyachts.com

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