Tuesday, August 14, 2007

New House, Leeward Dolphins, Changing Gear Oil

Man. Its just after midnight, and we just got off the boat.. THAT was intense.

The run tonight was a real exciting ride. There was no moon at all. There was also absolutely no danger of falling asleep at the wheel.

It was surreal, especially in the stretches where I ran it up to about 35 mph...pitch black. And I turned all the boat lights off and just ran in the dark for several hundred yards at a time. Only used the low-light compass for a heading. Then I would switch the GPS light on long enough to see where I was.

Incredible rush, launching off a swells you never saw coming, water hitting you in the face totally unexpectedly..that zero-G floating in space feeling right for a brief second... people were whooping and yelling excitedly. (Well, maybe screaming and praying would be more accurate, but you get the picture.)

The dog did his best fur ankle bracelet imitation the whole way. The whimpering, whining, and cowering on the deck was kind of annoying....oh wait...that was me..

The boat was kicking up all this phosphorescence in the water. It looked like someone ran a few zillion fireflies through a blender and they went spraying off in arcs to each side in a smooth ice-blue glow. The wake glowed a long way behind us like the vapor trail from a single engine jet. No other boats on the water.

We got no photos during the pitch-black night trip, of course, and all I got this afternoon were some more Land-Rover-on-rough-road pix, and some more of the progress on the house. Nothing interesting enough to post. I still got lots of other stuff, though.

We stopped for pizza at a new restaurant a friend of ours just opened. I noticed there was a view of the new Seven Stars resort going up on Grace Bay. One of the reasons we are building on the other side of the island, but it should be great for people who want to come down and do the resort thing:

The developers just asked the government if they could go up another three floors, from seven to ten. Thank god the government said "Nah...its the tallest building in the country. Its big enough."

The carb for the hookah is in pieces soaking in a bucket of gasoline. Actually, not a bucket, its a Mr. Peanut can.. Should have that together in the morning. Planning on some underwater stuff if the weather holds. Preacher called and invited himself to lunch tomorrow. Said he wants some fresh conch. Now THAT'S a hoot....a native guy asking ME to go get some conch....and cook it. Tomorrow is shaping up to be interesting.

This is the only pic I have showing how close the neighbors-to-be are building to the water. On the flat spot at the bottom of the hill, with their fill sitting right at that line of storm rubble. Its a 5000 sq. ft. house. That's probably around $ 1.5 mil. construction costs, give or take a few kilobucks..

I had some ideas for building down there on that lot, but their house doesn't incorporate anything like my thoughts on it. I would have considered a two-story monolithic dome, garage underneath. With steel tied deep into the rock, like ours is.
I definitely wouldn't have used shingles for the roof, either.

We built in some barriers between us and the ocean, not blocking the view, but adding some protection. If their house comes apart, the pieces most likely to come our way would be roof structure. There are going to be a whole lot of loose house pieces flying around when the feces hits the air circulation device, all over these islands.

When I stood on the road and took this, their house would be about 50 yards behind me downhill and to my left.

(That little plywood structure is our crews' rebar bending bench. They bend a lot of steel.)

When they look out their windows in this direction,they look directly into the hillside and they see rocks and bushes. When we look in this same direction from the other side of our house, we see stuff like this:

The Seven Starts resort, in an earlier photo here, is visible in this one. Just to the left of center, all the way across the island on the opposite shore.

I am also going to sink some eye-bolts into concrete on the other side of the house, so I can put the boat on its trailer and cinch that sucker down tight. I'm not sure what else I can do to make this house hurricane resistant, and safe, and still have it look like a house...

Had to run our friend back over to the "big island" today. Snapped a few photos, just the usual goings-on at 'Leeward Going Through'. Honest, that's the name of it. It's where you Go Through the island chain, between Providenciales and Little Water Cay. Across the Caicos Banks East of here, between Middle and East Caicos, there's another passage between islands that's mostly too shallow to be used these days except by very small boats at high tide. We are debating whether to try it in the Andros....oh...the name of it? You'll never guess. Ok...yeah....its 'Windward-Going-Through'.

I really appreciate the simple descriptive names around here. Over on West Caicos there's a place called Logwood Beach. It's not a fancy name given by some real estate marketing guy..it's a name derived by what the locals called the place. And it's got a lot of driftwood on it due to the currents there. On Providenciales, the intersection where the NAPA store is located is a rotary (roundabout in British), and it's called "Suzy's Turn". Why, you may ask? Cause back in the day, that's where you turned to go to Suzy's.

A normal Tuesday, Leeward fuel dock (and please notice all the buoys scattered around in the photos...more on this later):

I again noticed the vast preponderance of one specific brand of outboard in almost universal use here, so I did a little informal outboard survey. Don't want to cause no stink, so I will just post them the way they sit:

While we were eating lunch, we spotted a large dolphin hanging around out in the channel. Soon, others spotted him. In this photo, take a look at the two small blobs between us and the catamaran. Those are two 'visitors' (read "tourons") who decided it would be a great idea to jump off that small skiff with the two guys on it and swim with the dolphin. Now, there are many safe places to snorkel around here. Hundreds. Thousands. But in the middle of Leeward channel during ebb tide.....I dunno. We commonly see 8-9 ft. sharks going through here. A lot of the locals clean their conch and fish just up stream from this place. Its the busiest piece of water in the country, with charter boats, fishermen, locals, water-taxis, jet skis, zodiacs, etc., etc. People are zipping through here all the time. The catamaran is working its way to the fuel dock to unload. All those people at the fuel dock will be zipping out this way. The two guys in the boat motored around taking photos of the dolphin, while the two women in the water swam hard trying to head back toward where they jumped in the water, which is where the bow of the party boat is moored. This is as close as they got.

They swam for 15-20 minutes, hard, just to maintain position and they were losing ground. There are mooring buoys all over the place, and these women's heads looked a whole lot like just another couple air-filled marker floats....come to think of it, I think they WERE blondes... Nobody boating here expects to see people in the water. It's considered macho to firewall it leaving here so your buddies can see how fast your boat is. Quite often the guys doing their hole shots are looking back over their shoulders to see how many people see how cool they are. Beer is commonly involved. Maybe even usually involved. It's just not the place where people swim. Especially people who know the waters here. Eventually, the guys in the boat had to go get them. I don't know about you, but I think that's basically, well...for want of a better phrase... friggen stupid.

We swung by in the boat on the way back to the little island, thinking maybe they saw the Virgin Mary's face on a conch shell or something, but no..nothing that exciting

This is what they were all worked up about:

I don't know if we are getting jaded or something, but its really not that rare to see these guys cruising around down here. I certainly wouldn't jump into the boat channel here in a couple knots of current, with no dive flag, and with nobody watching over me to warn other boats away. But that's just me.

Those were Canadians, I think. Not kids, either. Certainly in their 40s if not 50s. Not as many Americans as I expected here. Only about 300 full time residents are US. We are definitely a minority behind Brits and Canadians. Lots of Commonwealth visitors. We get a lot of European tourists here in general. Will be even more next year when "Iron Mike" extends the runway to 10,000 ft. and opens the airport 24 hours so that we can get more direct flights from Europe. Especially now that the Euro is worth two dollars.

Trend we are starting to see lately is an increasing influx of Filipino workers. Gov't put a freeze on issuing work permits to Haitians. Harder for Filipinos to sneak a boatload of family members in to live with them, I guess.

I have seen the "Potcake" screen name on another forum...I think it might have been the Travel Advisor?? But I don't know if I know her. I might know her by her real name and not know she is "potcake".

Yesterday I was talking to my friend Preacher, and another friend, Raymond. I was telling them I was overdue to get the gear oil changed in the outboard. I was pondering whether I should wait til I haul the boat next weekend over at the boatyard. We are going to leave it on the trailer while we are up in the USA next week. Preacher grinned at me, and said "Hey mon. You are turning into an island man and we don't pay nobody at some boatyard when we need to work on our motors.." Then of course I heard more about life in the islands before boatyards, travel-lifts, fiberglass boats, etc. They like to kid me about my hi-tech approach to things.
But I love to hear their stories, and I learn so much from them.

So how do you turn down a friendly challenge like that? Especially when its wrapped in a slight compliment. I just now backed the boat up to the beach at high tide, and shoved a piece of PVC pipe under the hull. Threw the anchor on the beach, and now I am going back down with a shovel and a screwdriver to wait for the tide to fall.

I'll snap some photos if anyone is interested, but its probably pretty boring to everyone but the white guy with the new boat who wants to be an island mon...

Here's what it looks like at high tide, 11:00 today. My thinking is that as the tide tide runs out and the water level falls, the bow of the boat will move downwards and the pvc pipe under the hull will act as a fulcrum, thus lifting the transom a little...at least, that's the plan. (Heck, I never did it this way before)

and then I went and farted around with a dozen other little projects for six hours, and then Voila! as them franchmans say:

I was glad to see it did what I thought it would do, pivoting on the PVC, and actually raising the stern several inches off the beach. (I think its a good thing when boats do what you think they will do when you do whatever it is that you do to the boat when you do it.)

Still gotta dig a hole so you can put the motor vertical, but its way easy in soft sand. (Heck, I like to play in the sand, anyhow. Sometimes when nobody's looking, I still make little dams and forts and stuff on the beach,and cut canals and moats and let the waves knock them down, and...strike that. Forget I said that.)

Then you find some broken down old gringo who ain't afraid of getting dirty, drain out the old lube, pump in the new lube, and 'Bob's yer uncle' as them Brits sometimes say.

(Did you notice the "Tide" jug I used to drain it into? That's literally appropriate, or poetic justice, or it might even be iambic pentameter for all I know... yeah, like I planned it that way. haha

Now I wait til high tide tonight and float her off back to the dock. No biggie. Good for another hundred hours. That's the plan,anyhow...

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