It's not exactly a passenger boat, so there are no comfy seats and you mostly sit amongst cargo. They do have bunks and a hammock for the longer crossing (it takes about 10 hours to get to the DR), but for our "3 hour tour" to Grand Turk (yes, that's a reference to Gilligan's Island) everybody was up and about. I lent a hand where I could, heaving the life boat on board and stowing things for departure, but they didn't require it. I was treated like a guest of honor, invited into the bridge, and given the captain's chair. They wouldn't even accept payment from me. They said they'd charge to go all the way to the DR, but Grand Turk was free - probably just because of Daniel. The others at SFS joked that I was going to be robbed at sea or sold into a slave trade, but they were all as friendly as could be.
They took turns driving the boat. And some of them made better captains than others. One guy, who seemed to be at the helm for hours, didn't quite grasp the concept of steering such a big vessel. He didn't look out the window at all. Instead, he was fixed on the compass, trying to keep the needle on our bearing of 115°. The problem was that when we drifted a little to one side, he'd over-steer in the opposite direction. The boat would take a little while to respond, as you would imagine a boat of that size to do, and he would end up having to turn back the other way, over-steering again. We made a zig-zag pattern for miles. I was watching the GPS display and he ranged between 102° and 127°. I bet the trip would have been 45 minutes shorter if it weren't for this guy!
We arrived, finally, and they gave me a ride to the center of town. The customs officers were a little suspicious of what I was doing with a group of Dominicans and stopped us as we were leaving the port. But they let us pass when I presented my passport and resident's visa and their search of my bag turned up nothing. I had a couple of hours before nightfall, so I hurriedly searched for a grocery store and a place to set up my tent (it's funny how things revert to the basic necessities of life - food, shelter, and water - when in a situation like that). I got a few snacks and a slice of disgustingly chewy microwaved pizza, and set out to the north end of town. I made my way to the beach and just kept walking until I was sufficiently far away from development. I set up my tent just above the high tide line and then proceeded to be devoured by mosquitoes for the next 10 hours. I also had an ant hill on the inside of my tent (I have a floorless tent). Instead of packing up and finding a better spot, I just endured. Needless to say, I didn't sleep well.
I woke up early the next morning and headed back into town. Nothing was open. I figured this was just because it was early, but I found out later that there was no ship in port (Grand Turk is a stopping point for Carnival Cruise Lines). And when there's no ship, Grand Turk is deader than South Caicos! The next boat wouldn't be there until Thursday and, I was told, nothing would reopen until then. Fortunately, I found a place to rent a bicycle and just toured around. It was nice to get on a bike again. I went from relying on a bicycle as my primary mode of transportation at home to not riding at all here. I think I rode every single road on Grand Turk.
Grand Turk, the residents claim, was the first landfall of Christopher Columbus. In actuality, it's only one of a few possible places in the West Indies where he first landed. Despite this, there is a monument in the center of town quite confidently claiming it to be.
With not much happening on the island and the prospect of another mosquito filled night, I decided I catch the last flight back to South. It was a shorter visit than I had planned (though I had only planned on staying for two nights), but it was worth it. Especially because of the boat ride over there.