Turks and Caicos

Phil May and Andrea Twigg
Tue 13 May 2014 15:16
21:44.6N 72:17.2W
We had a very uneventful sail to the Turks and Caicos due to a weak front that nullified the trade winds for two days.  In fact we actually had a north-westerly wind of 7 to 10 knots from leaving Clarence Town all the way to Sapodilla Bay.  The only problem with having the wind dead behind is that adding power from the engines directly reduces the wind effect and collapses the sails, so you can either motor or sail but not combine the two.  We were in no particular hurry so we just sailed slowly with two jibs, doing 3 to 4 knots.  Heading directly south-east we passed close along the southern shore of Mayaguana, and in fact we dropped the anchor at Abrahams Bay for a few hours just to time our arrival at the Caicos Banks for daylight.
Crossing the Caicos Bank heading east, with the sunlight in our faces, we couldn’t see the bottom very easily, but the waypoints for the Sandbore Channel are well tested and there were unlikely to be stray coral heads along this route.  We dropped anchor at 9am in Sapodilla Bay and I set off on the “short walk” to the immigration building at South Dock.
What the cruising guide doesn’t tell you is that this whole area is called South Dock.  The immigration building is on the commercial dockside but there are no signposts to it.  I stopped to ask at the South Dock police station and the receptionist there said it was in town, along the main road.  I walked a quarter of a mile, until I could see the town in the distance and realized it was not the right way to go. 
I tried just heading for the big crane I could see, assuming that would be the commercial dock.  Eventually I was walking through a small industrial area, looking suitably lost, and a guy passing by in a van stopped to ask if I needed assistance.  Fortunately he knew where immigration was - back to the main road and then down a dirt track I had passed that was clearly marked “No Entry”. 
Down the road we were chased by a pack of semi-wild dogs, brushing up against the car within an inch of their lives.  Dogs are a problem here.  A big sign on the main road said “If you could have 18 children a year, would you?  Why let your dog?  1000 dogs a year have to be put down on Turks and Caicos”.
Immigration was simple, friendly and quick.  The lady behind the desk gave me her mobile number so we could call, in case we wanted to check-out outside office hours.  There are also places along the dock to tie up the dinghy, rather than having to take the overland route.
I headed back to Anastasia, forgetting about the dogs until they were all around me barking madly.  I walked on ignoring them, and then decided that was the wrong thing to do when I felt one of them brush up against my ankle.  I turned around shouting and swinging my backpack and they slunk away.  Like with the monkeys in Bali, forget what the guide books say and let them know who is boss.
We rented a car and toured the island.  It is a well-supplied island with a big supermarket in the centre.  Some of the food is reasonably priced and some is ridiculously expensive, you just need to check what you are buying. Why is a loaf of bread six times as expensive as a pound of potatoes?  There is a well-stocked chandlers, Walkin Marine.  Our steering cable snapped in Clarence Town and we were reduced to steering the dinghy with a section of an old boathook that I bolted on to the front of the outboard.  I was surprised to be able to buy a replacement steering cable here, at a price comparable with a chandlers in the US.
The north-east coast has the best beaches and the rich tourists.  It is mainly hotels and condos and gated communities, but it is also the site of the world’s only conch breeding farm.  We took a tour, which was very interesting, although it is clear that the economics are never going to make conch meat a very good product for farming.  They are now looking at also farming fish, grown in deep water in underwater geodesic spheres.
Andrea found two thrift shops and got us Turks and Caicos t-shirts for $2 a piece.  She also found a John Lennon t-shirt in the surf, while hunting for shells.  It has a tiny hole in the arm, but she is still wearing it because making use of flotsam proves we are real cruisers.  More useful than another bag of beach glass anyway. 
Sunrise approaching Turks and Caicos
Anastasia in Sapodilla Bay
View of the dock from Sapodilla Hill.  Immigration is the beige building by the crane.
Baby conch are grown in tanks.  Here you can see the eyes and long mouthpiece.
Conch are grown in outdoor ponds up to two years old.
Pens on the reef for the two to four year olds.
A mature conch they keep as a pet.  This is a male.  He can extend his dark brown penis to a foot long for copulation with a female.
The tame conchs will come out to be stroked