Monday, February 23, 2015

Storm Surge

We've been watching the Weather news about all the snow and cold up in the high latitudes and we're quite happy not to be shoveling anything other than metaphorically.  But we don't get away without any weather issues here, either.  Oh it's nothing like the blizzards in Boston or the temperatures in Toronto, but we do have these fierce sunrises on the south side of Providenciales.


Somehow, I'm not expecting much sympathy here from people looking out their frozen windows at over two meters of snow with more on the way.  I know it's going to be a stretch for some imaginations, but these days we start feeling chilled when the temperature drops down to levels that I suspect are still warmer than the settings on most home thermostats. The temperatures dropped into the low 70's here right before Jacob went home to New England.   Dooley hauled his favorite Colorado winter sweater out of his suitcase to help Jacob mentally prepare for the cold.


We're just getting to the end of a nice little two day storm that blew through here over the weekend.   The original forecasts were for almost 40 knots of wind, although I don't think we saw quite that much.  Such a storm forecast coming at the beginning of the yearly cruising season produced a bit of a crowd at South Side Marina.  Anticipating strong winds and seas from the north, sailors were looking for places to hide from the storm.  Every single slip at Bob's marina was filled.  South Side Marina is sheltered from the worst of our north and north east winds.  It's a good place to hang out in a blow.  Here's a view looking upwind, into the salina.  You can see what the wind is doing to this protected water.  We heard it was pretty grim on the north side of the island but we were too tied up in our own little world to drive over to look.   It was bad enough here.


We  decided to see if we could get some aerial photos during the storm.  You might remember that I've now got three kites picked for various wind conditions.  I've got a big 12 ft. delta style that will fly and lift a camera in six knots of wind.  This covers me on mild days.  And that kite gets very little use.   Next in line is our standard 9 ft. delta.  This one is good from around 10 knots up to near 20. We use that kite most of the time. But I've also got a small parafoil kite that I've been told should hold together up to 30 knots.   We decided to see how it would handle these conditions.  We had a nice little storm to test it with.  The parafoil kite fits into that bag. Nice package. 


And it worked.  We managed to get some useful photos in driving rain and wind gusts to 30 knots.   Here's South Side Marina full of boats riding out the storm.
 

I'm  not sure what kind of photos we were expecting in these conditions, but we were pleasantly surprised to get any at all.  I used 200 lb. dacron line, and had to wear gloves to handle it.   The parafoil kite handled the wind, although the rain,  reduced light, and platform motion didn't produce our usual tropical scenery. The strain from the wind and constant gusts got to me very quickly, and I took a wrap around one of Bob's parking lot fence rails to control it.


I was expecting something to come loose from the KAP setup with all the violent motion we were seeing from the ground.  Here's a view from the camera pointing toward the kite. The KAP setup is usually  50 to 100 ft. down the string from the kite itself.    You can see  how everything was tilted at an extreme angle due to the wind velocity.


That's a view looking west from South Side Marina, showing some of the Discovery Bay canal system. Gnarly day. And I am almost certain I would never have been able to get any useful photos if we'd been using any drone that I could afford. There's just something to be said for simplicity.

Now I didn't want you to think that Providenciales looks like those photos for the month of February.  Because it doesn't. We get these storms blowing through from time to time, and then the weather gets back to winter normal for us.

A normal afternoon at South Side Marina is much more laid back than it would appear during a storm.  We often set  up a camera just for the heck of it, but hours go by before any boat action so we never bother to post any of that footage.  I'll show you what  we mean.

Here's most of an afternoon at South Side Marina, with the camera attached to our boat Twisted Sheets.   The dive charter boats all come in shortly after noon.  There's a little story in this video. There was a cruiser aground just outside the entrance to the marina.  It's obscured in the video. The Club Med dive boat, "Batray" fouled on the anchor the grounded boat put out.  The Club Med boat finally had to swing around backwards to get free of the grounded boat's anchor line, helped dislodge the grounded boat and for some reason decided to come into the marina backwards, with  engines in reverse.   They spun the boat around as soon as they had room to do so, and the other boat traffic that was waiting for the mess to get sorted out all came in behind them.  LaGringa sped up the time lapse to make the hours go by quickly, and slowed it when the boats were maneuvering.  So that's what was going on in this video with the boat traffic:



Watching this makes it seem like we're stable when we're on the boat.  It's the rest of the world that's looking a little shaky at the moment.

Last week after the storm before this blew through, La Gringa and I  decided to see if we could get some fun photos by sticking a GoPro camera to the SUPs.  I stuck one camera on my head again and won't bother you with additional images of that ludicrosity.  And we tried using a suction cup mount on the SUP. Of course the first thing I did was attach it to the underside of the surfboard.  I got a few hundred mostly useless images of murky water because it was still stirred up after the storm.   I'm not even going to post any of those photos up here.  They are terrible and not representative of the water clarity here.  We also  tried sticking the camera to the top of the  paddleboard to see how that would work. We got some surprising results, although not what I was anticipating.

We continue to learn things about attaching cameras to moving objects.  For an example I can illustrate one of my own "duh" moments right here.   I had moved the suction mount from under the board to the top of the board.  I tied a piece of paracord to it as a safety line should it fall off.  Or in the more likely event of a big bald headed oaf falling and knocking it off.   This has been known to happen.


Can you tell how murky the water is?  It typically takes about a day or a day and a half for the sand to settle out after a storm blows through.  This was only a few hours after unsettled weather passed through.   If you look at that photo above you can see the shadow of the GoPro camera on my head that took this series of photos.  You can also see that the camera is not pointing just exactly straight ahead on the board.  I wanted it pointed straight ahead.  I thought I would just scootch up on the board and turn it. Wrong.

You see, moving my considerable weight that far forward on the paddleboard caused the front of the board to go underwater, raising the back of the board into the air.  And dumping the dummy firmly and completely into the ocean. The GoPro on my head was on a two second repetition rate and it caught this image as my grasping hands slid completely past the camera I wanted to adjust.  I think this is about when I got that unmistakable and momentary "Ah Oh!!" feeling...

You know the one where you suddenly realize what's going to happen and that there's not a danged thing you can do about it.


We all knew what kind of situation I was going to be in two seconds later, I suspect.


I mentioned earlier that we got some surprising results with the camera on the SUP, but what I didn't say was that these results were not in the water.  The results we want to show you were from the trip home from the beach.

If you're not familiar with these cameras, you should know that they have a firmware /menu  setting that  flips the image upside down.  This is so that the cameras can be attached to the underside of things and still record video right side up.  I had the camera set to be shooting upside down.  I didn't worry much about the images being reversed because I can easily change that with the editing software. When we loaded the SUPs on our vehicle to take them home, we left the camera in place and turned on. This is what it looked like on the board:


And this is what the ride home looked like with the camera in the inverted mode:



Yes, sure, we could have flipped it back over in software, but then it would just be like a zillion other 'SUP with camera on top of the car on a dirt road on a tropical island" videos, wouldn't it? I like this  better. And if you really feel the need to view it right side up, well, you do have options.   You might look silly doing it, but hey, your choice.

Other than little things like that, it's been a quiet week.   We got some some of that crystal clear weather that often comes the day after a weather front blows through and I tried the little pocket digital camera to see how it would do with night photography.  This is the night sky from our patio.   Now there's a view you haven't seen before, and now that I know the camera can handle it I might be able to get some more of this.   We have some incredible starry nights when the moon is away.   I just haven't tried to talk about them here before.


Other day to day mundane things include getting another flat tire fixed. That doesn't sound like such a big deal, does it? I mean, EVERYbody gets a flat tire from time to time, right? Sure.

But do you average one a month?  For ten years?  With five different vehicles?

This is bad country for rubber tires.


That's bordering on DIY so I'm going to grab this opportunity to show the sailors among us another little project that might be useful.   Rust stains on sails.  We had the sails off of Twisted Sheets recently to try to eradicate ugly things.

Needless to say, this takes a calm windless day.   We found out the hard way that things get real complicated when trying to lay out a big sail on a patio on a windy day.  Don't do it.

But for this experiment we managed to  grab a calm day.  This is our jib on the patio.


Apparently one of the previous owners of our old boat had rolled up the sail with some metal shackle or something similar in contact with the dacron.   The metal thing rusted, and left a series of stains on our nice white sail.   We didn't like that.   We had a bunch of stains like this:


There were a number of rust removing compounds included with the boat equipment, and I had already tried a number of them with mixed results.  Finally I noticed that the main active ingredient in the ones that worked the best seemed to be oxalic acid.  I needed to get the well set rust stains out of dacron sails.  I didn't need all the conditioners and lubricants and greases and oils that some of the rust compounds include.  I mean, after all, they're mostly formulated for iron and steel objects.   Sails don't need oil.  I bought a jar of the active ingredient without the marketing additives.


We weren't able to find a lot of information on relative strengths so with typical oafish overkill I mixed up a small batch and saturated it with as much oxalic acid powder as would dissolve in hot water.   I used a toothbrush to scrub it lightly into the rust stain.


And it worked immediately, if not sooner.   This is that particular set of stains after about 30 seconds of contact with the acid:


And this is the stain after a minute.  Notice all the small stains to the left of the main one are practically gone, and the main one is getting close.  I applied one more little splash of the acid to the stitching and about thirty seconds later the stain was just another fading memory. The next and important step is to scrub the entire area down with a mixture of sodium bicarbonate and water. This neutralizes the acid. You know you're done when the bubbling stops. Then rinse it with water and let it dry!


I could show you the last photo, but you already know what it would look like. A white bit of sail with no stain.

I wanted to end this post with some nice local water images instead of rusty sails, so I picked a few more from another little scenario that we witness quite often here lately. We live very close to the Caicos Marina and Shipyard.  This is one of the very few marinas between Puerto Rico and Florida that have the ability to lift a boat out of the water for repairs.  So it's not uncommon for boats with engine problems to get themselves close to us using their sails.  They  typically drop the anchor just outside the marina and call for help.  The marina will send someone out in a power boat to tow the damaged vessel in to safety.

This sequence is just another example of exactly that very scenario.  This sloop was unable to start their engine, and the forecast was for bad weather.   They managed to get themselves here by sail alone. In this photo, Jamie from Caicos Marina is  discussing the towing operation with the stricken sailboat.


He passed them a line and secured it to the transom of his boat and the bow cleats of the sloop.


And after a few minutes of adjustment he was able to tow the boat into the marina for some welcome repairs.  And you might ask why I bothered to include this.  Well one reason is that it's just another of the little vignettes that make up our typical days around here.  


And the other reason is that Jamie's boat is our former Contender 25 with the 300 HPDI Yamaha outboard that I am so intimately familiar with.  It's great for us to see "Off Cay" still out working and boating.  So many boats here seem to break, get parked on a trailer for repairs, and stay there.  For years.  For ever.  But not this one.  We're glad to have found a good home for the Contender as we moved further and further away from power boats and into sail.

We're continuing to spend the majority of our time working on the sailboat.  Most of the major systems are up and running, and I'm finishing up small projects and cosmetic issues.  I had already shown you photos of how a friend solved his engine access issues using mast steps.   I had decided to do something similar because it let me get rid of two aluminum ladders.  I won't go back and revisit that whole boondoggle.  I liked Frank's solution better, although I didn't choose the same kind of folding steps.   Frank used mast steps, and I used folding steps from a firetruck supply company.   A third of the price, two fewer holes to drill, I ordered a handful of these:


From what I have seen, this step is going to be  a lot friendlier to bare  feet.  It doesn't stick out into the area so far, and it's not pointed on the end.   I think this is going to work out well:


Those rust stains on the left are from the recently removed water maker.  I decided that I didn't like sea water that close to our solar controllers.  And they're slated to be moved as well, as soon as I figure out where to put them.

I've been meaning to post this photo for some weeks now, and it keeps getting put aside because it's unrelated to the other things I'm working on at the time. But I'm not going to let it slip any longer.  

Bob's Bar is surrounded by drop-down hurricane shutters.  People who gather at the bar often use one of the marking pens that Bob and Nevarde supply to write their names, boat information, or messages on the inside of these shutters.  When we returned from our trip to Colorado last year, we found  that some visitors to the island had stopped by to say hello to us.   We missed them, dagnabbit, but they did leave us a message written on a storm shutter:


Neil and Terri, thank you for taking the trouble to try to look us up.    We don't get that many visitors in this little out-of-the-way place, and we're sorry we missed you.  We hope you had a great time in the TCI and that you'll try again if you ever come back through.

Well that's it for this Monday's post.   We have a lot going on right now and I don't anticipate any problems filling this blog up with photos going forward.  In fact we're a bit excited about some of the trips we have planned.   And soon.