Hurricane Irma and Maria Updates

The following are written updates of the effect Hurricane Irma and Maria had on our lovely Seasongs Cottage. Fortunately, there was no real damage to the interior of the house.

Read below for a play-by-play of the hurricane aftermath and photos showing the island's destruction. Our hearts go out to all that were impacted.


September 11, 2017

All of us are very grateful there was no loss of life or injuries that we know of on Grand Turk because of Hurricane Irma last week.

We know very little. There is very little word about Grand Turk anywhere that we can access. There are a precious few comments on Facebook and no pictures, yet. Power is off. We have heard everyone on the island is safe. Importantly, we do not know the extent of the flooding. The airport in Provo is open to commercial flights as of this morning and the Grand Turk Airport is supposedly open for emergency services, only, so far. One neighbor got off a quick sat phone call yesterday. Their house is two doors down and much more vulnerable to flooding than Seasongs and they are OK so I am hopeful.

I have a flight booked for September 27th, myself. We do know the eyewall of the storm passed 38 miles south of Grand Turk and estimated winds were supposedly about 100 MPH, so this was not nearly as bad as Ike in 2008. It sounds like the electrical and phone utilities are busy trying to get everything back working and the shipping port is open and there are food and fuel deliveries this week so I'm speculating we will be back to normalcy in a few months. 

I will post more information here as we receive it, especially pictures.


September 14, 2017

There is progress being made in parts of the Turks and Caicos to restore power and get basic services running again. Clearly the islands are trashed. The few green leaves left are mostly palm trees. The airports are open but only some airlines are operating flights to TCI. Jet Blue is flying to Provo via Ft. Lauderdale. Caicos Express is flying their regular schedule to Grand Turk. I was able to book flights for the end of September.

There is little word about power being restored to most of Grand Turk. Fortis has made good progress to many areas on Provo, but on Grand Turk, most everywhere is still without power.

We have great news about Seasongs. Per Facebook posts, it looks like Seasongs fared better than most and has no apparent damage. Anita opened the house and there was “not a drop of moisture” inside. I’m sure I will have a lot of yard work when I arrive in two weeks, however.

More and more Facebook posts show both stills and video of what Grand Turk looks like post Irma. It is not pretty. Compared to St Martin and the BVI, we look salvageable, however. Hopefully, all is well enough that we have some kind of peak season for visitors this winter. The water still looks fine!

I will keep posting updates and when I get to the island, photos.


September 19, 2017

We are getting ready for a repeat performance. Hurricane Maria is threatening. After Irma’s arrival on Friday, September 8th, we are now looking, two weeks later, for Maria to come by this Friday, the 22nd. We have kept the storm shutters closed.

Seasongs survived Irma without a drop of moisture inside according to Anita. We probably fared the best of any of the homes along West Road. All our fences and gutters are down and the trees took quite a beating. Anita couldn’t reach the front door initially. That mess is now all cleaned up. There is no power yet and only Lime has cell service up, but people are coping and putting the island back together. There is a large military and police presence helping the clean up.

We will keep you posted on the latest news. I’m still hoping to get to Grand Turk on the 27th, weather and flight availability permitting.


September 25, 2017

Well our luck ran out. Some of the roof covering is gone. A small piece of the shed was damaged. The ocean got in a little under the front door. A lot of the rain gutters are gone (that’s our water supply catcher). We are not alone. Unfortunately, Maria decided to amble along slowly and took about 12 hours to pass through, to the great infortune of our island.  Probably most of the structures on the island sustained significant damage.  

There will be a lot of work to do. I’m headed out a week later now, on October 3rd. I think it is fair to say the 2017-2018 tourist season is probably out of the question. There is no power and services are scant. The British government is warning against all travel to Grand Turk for the immediate future. Availability of food and water and other basic services are uncertain. Provo and the other islands largely escaped Maria, fortunately.

The damage along Front Street is appalling. The library looks like it was bombed.

The parking lot next to where Sanbar used to be is a real sand bar, without the old seawall.

We will rebuild. It will take an extraordinary effort but it will be worth it.


October 8, 2017

I am lathered in patchouli oil based organic mosquito repellant and working in 95 degree tropical conditions cleaning up and making repairs at Seasongs. I smell like a camper at a Grateful Dead concert. I feel like I’m in a new reality dealing with how to exist in this post hurricane place.  If you don’t show up early at the fish market you do not have any meat for the next day because what little is to be found at the market is either not appealing and/or ridiculously priced. If you do get there in time you eat lobster or red snapper. There is no refrigeration so you eat in the moment.  What has not been reported in the news is many of the homes here are reliant on roof catchment cisterns made out of concrete. Many of those cisterns lost their roofs and cracked and leaked all their water out. Local masonry practices are not the best. Getting water is a real issue here. There are a lot of people without weatherproof homes too. It’s quite a mess. Looking across the back salina ( Because the fence blew down and we now have a back view) I can see five new power poles topped with orange vested, white hatted Fortis workers busily getting power to the hospital. Our turn will be soon. I saw a few flamingos looking quite normal today in the Salina by the airport. Evidently many of them didn’t make it during the last storm. It was too much.

Seasongs did quite well considering the forces it endured. Inside the house is pretty much the same. There was no damage from Hurricane Irma which was stronger. Hurricane Maria however was a different story. We lost some roofing. Some water got inside through door cracks and the roof. The screen porch lost the screening and four support posts. It was effectively sandblasted. We will repaint tomorrow and reset the posts and as soon as long width window screen is available in Florida we will replace the screens. I had a big crew from Smitty’s yesterday doing garden cleanup. We hauled two full loads off this morning. There were pieces of tin roof lodged 12 feet up in our trees.

 

November 20, 2017

All is well!

We are delighted to report that all is well at Seasongs, and that Grand Turk in general is recovering from the hurricanes. Power was restored in October, which has made all the difference. Dive shops are back open, and the reports from the reefs are good. Restaurants have reopened, and the Bohio's awesome BBQ has resumed.

Everyone in Grand Turk has pulled together to set the island to rights. Rebuilding and recovery efforts work will go on for some time, and the best way to support them is to come and stay! Visiting Grand Turk Island not only brings in much-needed business, but lifts the spirits of everyone there.

For the latest on the various Island businesses and services, check out their Facebook pages. 

ERIC TAYLOR

5 Things You Need to Know About Getting Around In Turks and Caicos

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1.       Cash (in USD) is Queen.


The country may be a British territory, but retailers take cold hard US dollars. Most places on the smaller islands are cash only- especially cabs

2.       Cabs are priced By Person


Since most of the islands are fairly small, the prices for transportation are charged to each individual in the car.

3.       You can drive from one island to another!


There is a small causeway from North to Middle Caicos.

4.       Drive on the left side of the road


Because of their British roots, the cars travel on the left.

5.       Not all roads are created equal


The roads are in varying states of drivability depending on the island and last date of repair. They range from paved to potholes and dirt to golf-cart-only (Salt Cay). On the smaller islands, the rental companies will meet you wherever you are staying and some will even allow you to drive yourself to the airport when you’re through… Just leave the keys in the car!

Animal Spotlight: Sea Urchins

 

These cute little creatures are abundant on some of the beaches in Grand Turk. We all know you should look with your eyes and not your hands and urchins make that even more clear- they have a body made up of barbed and sometimes poisonous spines. Yikes! 

These little sea hedgehogs feed primarily on algae and have to watch out for starfish, otters, eels, and triggerfish lest they become lunch. Sea urchins move along slowly using their five tube feet. Urchins belong to the same family as sand dollars, sea cucumbers and sea stars which all boast five-fold symmetry.

There are separate male and female species but it is incredibly difficult to tell them apart. Males tend to hang out on higher, more open ground and females prefer to hunker down in crevices and on the sea floor.

If an urchin has intact spines it is nearly impervious to most predators but when the spines are damaged they become a slow-moving feast for many fish and crustaceans. They do not have any eyes but or central nervous system but can sense touch light and chemicals with either their eye spots or the entire body. Their mouths are located on the bottom and their anus on the top.

The urchins in Grand Turk have mostly black spines so they are fairly easy to spot through the clear water against the white sand. So watch your step and enjoy watching them with your snorkel mask on.

Ultimate Carry-on Packing Guide for One Week on Grand Turk

Want to get away with just a carry-on? Are you constantly over packing? Here is a guide to everything you need for a week in the tropics.

Accessories

o   Hat

o   Sunglasses

Tech

o   Phone

o   Phone Charger

o   Headphones

o   Camera (optional)

Footwear

o   Sandals

o   Running shoes

Clothes

o   2 Tank Tops

o   2 T-shirts- one for sport

o   2 Dresses, one casual one fancier

o   2 Bathing Suits

o   2 Pairs of shorts- one for hiking, one jean

o   1 Pair of pants

o   Light Jacket

o   Umbrella

o   4 Pairs of Socks

o   10 Pairs of Undies (just in case)

o   2 bra- one sport one regular

o   Pajamas

Extras

o   Basic Makeup

o   Sunscreen (they sell on this on the island)

o   Mini bottles of Shampoo and Conditioner

o   Any Prescription Medications

This should be plenty of clothing and accessories to get you through a week at Seasongs. We have extra shampoo, conditioner, and soap, but if you are particular bring your own. Everything on the island must be shipped in from the mainland so prices tend to run high.

Animal Spotlight: Nassau Grouper

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When diving in Grand Turk there are a lot of critters you run into. Some are locals, some invasive, some shy and some are very friendly. The Nassau Grouper is a medium to large sized fish (up to that 55 lbs) falls into the local friendly neighbor category. They have no qualms about following you around your dives. They are handsome fish and range in color from red at deeper depths to beige in the shallows with black spots and forked stripes around the eyes. They are usually solitary and gather once a year to breed in massive groups. During these times, they are more susceptible to overfishing so the Bahamas put a restriction on fishing them during their breeding season.

Threatened Species

Nassau Groupers are considered threatened because of commercial and recreational fishing along with reef destruction. Their curiosity and size make them a great catch for locals. They can be found in the western Atlantic between Florida, Bahamas, Brazil and in a few locations in the Gulf of Mexico.

Neighborhood Watch

They are bold enough to swim right up to you on a dive. I have even had one follow me around for the entire 40 minutes. When we surfaced the dive master told us that they are waiting to see if he catches any lionfish. Lionfish are an invasive species and a big problem for reefs. They can outcompete, out eat and outsmart their competitors. They also happen to be full of poisonous barbs. The barbs make them an off the menu item for most predators when they are alive. But once dead, the barbs relax and the like of the Nassau Grouper are in for a treat. Divemasters carry small spears to kill any lionfish they find on the reef. The Groupers follow along with the shadow of a promise for a meal. Aside from fine dining on lionfish, the solitary creatures also eat other fish, lobsters, and crabs.

Seasongs Updates!

To Seasong's past and future guests:

It seems like a lot longer than the two and a half years since we purchased Seasongs from Alessio and Jackie in November 2014. The early hectic ordering and shipping all the new furnishings has passed. We have settled into a routine with Anita (our property manager extraordinaire) of checking in guests and making sure their needs are met. We are starting to get repeat guests, which I take as a good sign of success. The new construction across the street and next door are essentially complete and West Road is a one-way street, now. Even the fish market is finally up and operational. Hopefully, this is a good sign that the local neighborhood is settling in.

Alessio's hand laid tile mossaics.

Alessio's hand laid tile mossaics.

 Speaking of Alessio, one of the lasting impacts to the cottage are his tile murals. Although I’ve never met them, I have heard many wonderful stories from their friends who are still on Grand Turk ( Jackie and Alessio moved back to Italy in 2013.). In many ways Seasongs embodies the upper tile mural on the wall above the dining table. On one side the gritting face looking at the toil of working life with the climb up the mountain while on the other side a relaxed face is looking at the pleasures of island life.

Reservation Changes

We are now managing the booking sites directly. As of the beginning of April, Karen is no longer managing the reservations. Nothing else has changed. Anita is still the onsite property manager. The ownership remains the same.

Summer and Fall Specials

Summer and Fall are the slow seasons on Grand Turk. The sun seekers from colder climes no longer need to warm up. It gets more than a bit hot by September and many people are simply not thinking about going to a tropical place in the summertime.

Grand Turk is all about world class diving and snorkeling and this is by far the best time of the year to dive. The more northern buoys are usually safe. In the summer, the waves are down. The water is in the mid-80's. Visibility is much better and there is less wind. Our relaxed atmosphere is even more relaxed as there are even fewer visitors. And to top it all off, the lobster season opens in late August!

We simply develop a few coping skills to deal with the heat. We stay in the water or indoors, mostly during the heat of the day (it gets into the 90s regularly in August and September). We go outside and socialize at places like Bohio or Sandbar in the evening. There is the fishing tournament in June and fish fries on Front Street in the evening.  We also got a brand new and more powerful air conditioner! The cottage can be kept very cool.

So, here are the specials:

Stay between August 1 and September 30 - $119 per night.

Stay between October 1 and November 17 - $135 per night.

We listed these specials on Homeaway with a 6-night minimum. 

If there are weather related closures or the threat of closures during your planned stay, we will give you a full refund during these times. Hurricanes and heavy rain are rare but they do happen or the threat of them happens. We had a scare last summer but it had no effect at all on Grand Turk. 

Her Majesty's Prison

Grand Turk has long been the Capital of the Turks and Caicos. Because of this both the Government Officials, documents and the prison for the country reside on the small island. Her Majesty's prison was built in the 1830's and remained operational until 1994. 

It still stands today though inmates are held in a newer, larger building located away from the center of town. Self- guided tours of Her Majesty's Prison are offered daily for $7.

At its inception, the prison was mainly used to house wayward slaves. There was room for between 2 and 6 prisoners. After the abolishment of slavery in 1834, it was often filled with people who were incarcerated for being drunk. By the time it shut its doors in 1994, occupancy was up to over 50 people.

The prison began housing bigger time criminals- including drug runners. Turks and Caicos lie about halfway from Columbia to Florida so in the 60's and 70's, it became a popular spot to refuel. There were several expansions made over the years as the average number of prisoners continued to rise.

The prison housed both men and women, separated into different wings. Prisoners were given the chance to go home and prepare for natural disasters- especially the large hurricane of 1866. This Hurricane was devastating to around 200 homes on GT and tore the roof off the prison itself.

These days it makes for a lovely tour with a lot of history.

 

Top 5 Reasons to Visit Turks and Caicos in the Summer

Top 5 Reasons to Visit Turks and Caicos in the Summer

When the winter weather finally starts to break, many people shift their focus from taking an exotic vacation to summering at home. But that does not mean that it isn’t the best time to hit up a tropical paradise. Check out our top 5 reasons to visit Turks and Caicos in the summer.