I’m glad you asked. A LOT. We were there for a full month! Pretty funny considering we had talked about skipping out on the Turks and Caicos completely. It’s a good thing we didn’t . . .
For starters, Chak’s engine was acting up again, after hanging out for so long in Mayaguana. By the time we made it down to T&C she was in bad shape. The cooling system would overflow in a moments notice with hardly any acceleration at all. We anchored in the bay near South Side Marina (below) and checked in for a week – $80 ($50 regular, but $15 extra for the customs guy AND the immigration guy for checking us in on a weekend).
In Providinciales, Sterling was able to get some dog food for Mancha, and we realized Provo would be the best spot to find parts if needed. There’s an IGA supermarket on the island for goodness sakes. We hadn’t experienced commerce like that in months! And people, lots of white people, lots of Brits. We even met a few Frenchmen. One, David (Daveed), and his Russian girlfriend, Natalia (NaTALia) – two of the most interesting individuals I’ve met, they live in D.C. and work for the World Bank – invided us back to their boat for wine, beautiful music, and inuendos. It may have been a complete setup. We stayed just long enough for things to get pretty interesting before running home back to Chak. That’ll have to be a story for another time.
This problem with the cooling system had been plaguing Joel since he bought the boat three years ago with Tony and Jarrad. (In their very first episode, when turning over the engine for the first time, she makes a horrible grinding, squealing noise before cutting out for good – they start rubbing foreheads, realizing the dream is going to be one hell of a project) Fast-forward to now, and she certainly runs much better, but Joel knows the underlying itch hasn’t quite been scratched.
The good news: we found a machine shop to loosen the siezed bolts, finally allowing Joel to fully clean out the elbow for the heat exchanger with Muratic Acid. This does the trick! Chak’s engine runs better than ever.
The great news: this little stopover allows Jilly Pilly (the prodigal bum) to hop on an airplane and come join us!! She moves on to Sterling’s boat to give him a hand for our next big crossing. And all of a sudden we have a gang. The four of us are a party all our own.
The worst/best news: Chak’s propeller experienced crazy revolution speeds – the likes of which hadn’t been seen in years – meanwhile electrolysis had been chewing away at her brass fins. Needless to say, we blew a prop while crossing the Caicos Bank. Except we didn’t know we threw prop fin, we just knew that after a sickening BANG Chak was now shakin-like-a-dog-shittin-peach-seeds. And we were practically pooping ourselves. But we knew the routine: cut the engine, pull the sails and keep going.
If we had known the propeller was busted we might have turned around. But we didn’t. We were on the far east side of the bank by the time Joel dove to find two thirds of a propeller down there. The closest marina was in South Caicos, so that’s where we went, dropping anchor for the first time under sail power alone.
We were outlaws, having checked out before leaving Provo (another 60 bucks), by limping into South Caicos we were overstaying our welcome. But Sterling assured us maritime law was in our favor, that the authorities can’t force you to leave if your vessel is needing repair. We hoped he was right, checking in again would cost us another $300 that we didn’t have to spare.
It’s crazy to look back at this trip and realize South Caicos was such a critical building piece of the story. Everything, of course, leading up to our final, insane crossing to the Dominican Republic. While in South Caicos we realized our best bet for finding a prop was all the way back in Provo. However, this stop for our prop was time enough for Sterling to get a little crafty and inspired enough to think about fixing his mast.
During this time, Joel and I experienced the rockyest patch in our relationship to date. Tensions went high as money and time ran low. Uncertainties of mine that had simmered in the past now started boiling over, one night it surfaced with screaming, yelling, sobbing, it was ugly and gut-wrenching. Another story for another time, a good one though, with a (spoiler alert) happy ending.
Sterling jimmy-rigged the two halves of his mast back together, and raised it, for the sweet steal of $70 (spent only to rent a forklift and a driver and a dozen curious bystanders). We didn’t get as good of a deal, but we found a prop, for $60 + $200 for the ferry ride. It wasn’t the right prop though, the one we pulled off was right-turn and the only one we could find small enough to fit was a left-turn. But, plot twist (!), turns out Chak has had the wrong propeller this ENTIRE TIME, we’ve been running her in reverse this ENTIRE TIME. We put on the new prop, put her in what we knew as “reverse” (actually forward), and she revved like a totally different boat. She sounds way better too. What are the freaking chances, huh.
Both of our boats pulled out of the Turks and Caicos looking better than ever. Never woulda thought. Best of all, Jolly Holly – the infamous she-pirate Captain of Another Adventure – swooped in outta nowhere with her friends on Force and Colorado. They made it just in-time to catch a window with us and make the crossing to Luperon. We left after a few days together spent snorkeling and exploring the beauties that South Caicos has to offer, and dodging the officials who were finally starting to ask questions…!
And what happened during our insane crossing? Well, you just have to wait to find out.