With the worsening weather forecast, we looked through our guides, discussed our options, and since we needed fuel, propane, groceries, and a good hot shower, we decided to enter one of the marinas on the south side of Providencialis. The first marina that really caught our eye was Southside Marina, one reported to be run by cruisers, very cruiser friendly, but somewhat shallow at the approach. So we called and talked to Simon, the manager. When we told him our draft, he inhaled a bit, and said, “Well, I think if you come in at the height of the tide, you should be fine. Should be. You might bump, but it will be a sand bottom. No problem, we will talk you in.”
So taking him at his word, that afternoon we motored over on the rising tide, passing South Dock, the only commercial port in the TCI. Simon gave us four waypoints not found in any of the guide books and suggested we follow them closely, cautioning us that we would see coral all around, but that it was deep down and of no concern as long as we followed the waypoints.
Simon was right; there was plenty of coral, enough to scare the daylights out of us, but we only altered course once or twice, just to be safe. As we approached the last waypoint, Simon called on the VHF and asked if we were heading towards the last waypoint, No, I said, I had turned towards the first red buoy. Well, he said, I think you are cutting the corner a bit and should head for the waypoint, then turn to the mark; sorry, we moved that mark and should have told you. A little deep breath, an alteration of course, and we then clearly saw a reef marked by the red buoy. We probably would have missed it, but, who knows?
We bumped just a bit as we passed between the last red and green buoys, but we were probably 30 minutes shy of high tide, hardly enough to worry about. Just a couple of hundred yards more and we were safely inside the basin finding a team of cruisers waiting to help us bring the boat to the dock. What a welcoming committee.
South Side Marina is far and away the friendliest marina we have visited thus far in our travels, and that says a lot; the marina is owned, managed, and run by true cruisers with a wealth of information to share. We loved every minute of our stay at this marina and were sad we had so little time to spend with these wonderful people. Bob, off to the right, is the actual owner of the facility, and has slowly been working at a “labor of love” as he calls it, and it shows in every aspect of this quiet marina. Bob Pratt, and Simon and Charlyn Anderson, went out of their way to help us in every way possible. Simon and Charlyn have traveled much of the world in all kinds of sailing vessels. They have now given up sailing to cruise the canals of Europe on a beautiful barge they recently purchased. Since all three of these cruisers had sailed the waters we were aiming towards, they sat with us for hours sharing their experiences.
Talk about a great marina – We needed propane; Bob drove his truck and got it for us. We needed groceries and wanted to go out for a lunch and a dinner; Charlyn found us a cheap car to rent, $25. We asked about some of our upcoming destinations; the three of them sat with us for hours on end; come time to clear out, Charlyn called their friend at Customs, and he came to the marina after hours, sat and had drinks and snacks with us, and chatted till dusk. Oh, and he cleared us out also. Could you ask for anything more?
Aside from these wonderful people, we never really got to know much more about the TCI. Everywhere we drove, the city was walled off, and we found that disappointing. We shopped at a big grocery where the workers were the friendliest ever; music was playing throughout the store, and everyone was humming along with the tunes. Perhaps with more time we could get to know these islands and their people better, but the winds beckoned once again.