Sailing Adventure; Turks and Caicos
On our recent trip to Turks and Caicos in the British West Indies we decided to do something different. We chartered a sail boat for an afternoon out on the water. After doing some research online we booked our charter with Captain David Douglas at Sun Charters. Sun Charters takes guests out on their 77' sailing schooner Atabeyra. For those not familiar with boating or sailing, 77' is a big boat.
Sun Tours normally takes out groups of tourists, but for this charter there were only two of us plus crew. A private charter is more expensive, but it's a great way to customize your day on the water and the crew is there to cater to you.
As we left Atabeyra's protected inlet and passed Blue Haven Marina Captain David told us how he used to sail Atabeyra between the Dominican Republic and Turks and Caicos as a cargo vessel. Now, re-fitted as a charter vessel, Atabeyra's cargo is tourists looking to escape dry land for the turquoise waters surrounding TCI.
We selected a half-day charter with a sunset cruise. We headed out around 2pm and headed back into the dock just as the sun was going down. During our trip to Turks and Caicos hurricane Gonzalo was hammering Bermuda. This didn't really impact the weather in Provinciales, but it did create choppy seas on the north side of the island. As a result Captain David took us south.
The ride was relatively smooth and tranquil. Once we cleared Blue Haven and made it into open water the sails went up, even a member of the Travel at Random team helped with the lines. We sailed south with Long Bay Beach off of our starboard (right) side. The water on the south side of Provo is relatively shallow. In fact, at low tide it's not uncommon for boats to get stuck.
Our first snorkeling destination was a beached and abandoned Russian cargo ship. This eerie ship wreck sits on the bottom of the ocean in about ten feet of water. Built in the 1950's, Captain David told us this ship ran aground during a hurricane about a decade ago and was eventually towed to its current location. Now it serves as a tourist destination. If you're brave enough, and have had a tetanus shot, there's even a cargo net on the ship's port side that you can climb aboard and then dive off the ship into the ocean.
Captain David and his mate anchored us off of the ship's starboard side near the stern. We geared up and jumped into the water to snorkel around the ship. The water is normally crystal clear, but because of the hurricane it was a little cloudy on our trip. Despite this, we still had great visibility. It was interesting to see the ship's rudder sitting in the sand and it's propellor was home to schools of fish. As we made our way to the bow we saw random debris from the ship that prior visitors had thrown overboard. Captain David had told us to look out for a barracuda that liked to hang out near the bow. Sure enough we found him swimming around the ship's anchor.
When we climbed back onboard Atabeyra, Captain David greeted us with a pitcher of rum punch and a bowl of chips and salsa. The charter fee includes beer, wine, rum punch, water and light snacks. If you charter the boat for the entire day they'll prepare lunch. If there's something specific you'd like ask ahead of time. While there may be an extra charge, the beauty behind a private charter is that you can customize your trip.
Upon leaving the shipwreck we sailed northwest towards the southern most point of Provinciales. Our crew had another destination in mind, a small bay just off the beach. We pulled into a shallow cove, so shallow most boats wouldn't dare venturing this close to land, but Atabeyra did it without any problems. Moments after setting the anchor Captain David spotted a couple of reef sharks swimming nearby. They retreated into the rocks as we got into the water. (Reef sharks don't normally bother people) In this snorkeling spot we saw schools of fish, some patches of corral and empty conch shells.
Once back aboard more rum punch was waiting. We were able to sit back and relax and enjoy the forty-five minute trip back to port. Captain David and his mate were very knowledgeable about the islands and were a pleasure to sail with. They made the trip enjoyable and I would definitely charter with them again.
- Make your reservations in advance. Especially during the peak season charters fill up.
- If you want to do a private charter remember to tip your crew. 10-20% of the charter cost is typical. The captain will distribute the gratuity to the crew.
- If you have special requests let the charter company know in advance.
- Group charters are less expensive and can be a great way to escape the beach for a few hours.