When my husband purchased our catamaran Our Time, I had visions about what sailing life as a liveaboard would be like. I envisioned all the new people I would meet and all the new places I would explore. I nervously anticipated how I would handle traveling on a boat. My husband loves to sail and I am in love with a man who loves to sail. You get the picture? When we reached Providenciales, Turks and Caicos Islands after a four-day crossing from St. Thomas, USVI that ended with rough weather and an impending northerly blow, we decided to forgo our budget and dock at South Side Marina. I feel like a wimp when we go into a marina but at this point I didn’t care, my rocky overnight anchorage meter was worn out and my psyche needed a reprieve. South Side Marina turned up at the right time in our north bound passage to Ft. Lauderdale providing us the perfect respite and the marina owner lived up to my expectations of meeting interesting people in new places. Marina owner and creator, Bob Pratt, is the man behind the entire South Side Marina atmosphere and milieu.
Bob moved to Providenciales in 1978, one of the first expats, initially working in the hotel industry and then as a paralegal for over ten years. In 1992, he purchased the first boat lot in Copper Jack Bay, along a very bumpy road known as Turtle Tail. He expanded the area into the marina you see today, a cruiser friendly pit stop with just the right amenities and services to meet your cruising needs. First impressions matter and Bob and his longtime employee, Julien, along with greeting dog, Maddie, were at the dock with a cruiser husband and wife ready to catch our lines and secure the boat. No nonsense and straight forward; that was my first impression of Bob Pratt. He has the look of a man who has been here awhile and seen it and handled it all. No argument from me, I saw Bob as a potential wealth of information.
The marina has the island flow, a well-worn, comfortable, relaxed atmosphere. I like unique and once ashore this seemingly small marina held a lot of interesting touches: very good internet; fun artwork, the fueling bell made from a dive tank, the wooden man that Bob’s brother made to hold a hose and the bathroom signs designating gender. The shower area became a favorite for both men and women (I hate to spoil the surprise, it is an open air shower, I loved seeing the full moon). Another favorite, the laundry – only one washer and dryer but what a washer and dryer, it literally held a double load and does NOT take coins, honor system here, and at the bargain price of $5 per wash and $5 per dry. Up the high stairs there’s Bob’s Bar (restaurant opening soon) overlooking the South Caicos landscape. On Wednesday evenings a local band composed of Bob’s friends come in to entertain the local resident/cruiser grill out. Oh, and the regulation bocce ball court next to the bar provides fun for all ages. My favorite is the dockside gazebo for outside internet users, cruiser chats and customs clearance meetings.
We stayed longer than expected as we had two sets of family pass through. In that time my eyes and heart became attuned to Bob’s impact on this particular place and on many lovely people. I had time to chat with him and learn his life’s guiding philosophy. In his younger days, while attending Cornell University’s summer hospitality program he noticed, inscribed above the doors of Saddler Hall, ‘Life is Service’, a motto he has lived by ever since. In his own words, Bob does not regard himself as a ‘boat jockey’ but more as a ‘hotel jockey’ where service to the boaters’ needs are key.
A stop at the marina taught me that part of life aboard should include time to tie up at a dock to absorb local flavor which, in turn, enhances my cruising lifestyle. It allows me time to be refreshed – to get really clean sheets – and enables me to sail yet another leg of our journey.