Friday, August 24, 2007

Writing from Martha's Vineyard

Well, We are still on Martha's Vineyard at the moment. Counting the days until I can get on a plane home. Sorry folks, but I'm just not wired right for  Massachusetts.   I lived here off and on for 20 years, and met a lot of great people, but I know I was designed for warm beaches and clear water. I am glad some people love New England.  It's a beautiful place. Both my sons live here on Cape Cod but it's not for me.  

I was searching through my frozen ice pix to find something suitable from my previous life in New England when I checked back on the forum and saw that y'all want to keep it tropical. That's okay with me. I do tropical lots better than I do frozen north. I DO have scads of pretty good photos of Alaska taken last August, with wolves, bears, sea otters, etc. But will keep them out of here.

Also, I am having some issues uploading pix to ImageShack, due to a crummy wireless connection. Takes three or four tries sometimes. Frustrating. But here's some news...if UPS comes through today I should have a little 7 mp pocket camera with some shock and water resistance that I can carry around with me when I get back to the TCI next week. I see a lot of images I want to record, and never seemed to have a camera with me. This new one looks like I can take it everywhere without worrying about it, including conch diving. That should result in some decent photos, I hope.

In the meantime, just to keep this thread limping along, here's a pic coming into the beach at Pine Cay to pick up La Gringa, stepson and dog:

Some comments sent to me via PMs have gotten me thinking more about what I could be doing with the aerial photos using the helium balloons. I am going to dust that setup off when we get back. I think people living in houses on the beach would be happy to see nice photos of their properties from that perspective. maybe I can make a buck at it, who knows.

Also we have some pretty good trips in the works. Taking the Andros over to Salt Cay, visiting French Cay, Big Ambergris, the Seal Cays, Big Sand Cay....this should all happen between now and November. Maybe I will have some warm photos just as you guys in the North are getting buttoned in for the winter.

I'll keep posting them as long as people tell me they want to see them.

Its not always sunny. When it rains, sometimes it REALLY rains. This is Leeward highway, the main, four lane (for the most part) road on the main island. One guy drowned in his car just about 50 yards from where this was taken:

This was what it looked like out the windscreen with the wipers on full speed.  It was really coming down.  Dangerous to even be driving in, but sometimes, well, you already know we might take the occasional risk.

But oh, if you like electrical storms, we have some magnificent ones. I hope to get some good lightning photos from the hilltop house.

Here's one for Randall and the other kayakers on's not too hard to get away from the "city" here.....a few hundred yards will do it:

This is one of our favorite spots on Pine Cay. Its known as "the aquarium'. The water around this rock jutting out into the water is clear, and its over 25 ft. deep just a few feet out. Its teeming with fish. We have seen porpoises, sharks, tarpon, barracuda, etc. all in the deep water surrounding this point:

There are tons of mutton snapper here, but they are really hard to catch. Drifting a hook with a strip of bait or a pilchard works, sometimes.

Hmm...there's another thought. there are not that many "high end" boats down here. But I could concentrate on ANY boat. I bet the local guys would be tickled pink if I ran them off a nice 8x10 of their boat from above. And this might be sounding strange, but I would rather use what I know and some technology and money to make one of these guys happy and excited than to show a small profit. The payback is actually better.

I hope y'all don't mind this, but I thought I would try it out to see how its received. I am still varying between my natural inclination to post a photo and keep my mouth shut, and La Gringa's suggestion that I add some words to explain it. To me, this goes over "adding some words". But y'all tell me, okay? I mean... almost thirty thousand viewings of this little thread? (and before you ask, no, my mother does not have a computer) That's powerful. Makes me want to see what else I can do along the lines that make you other boaters and dreamers keep coming back to see it again.

Okay, here comes more words and a few photos.

You thing I have noticed down here is that the older locals don't seem to have much use for charts. and you can forget GPS for the most part...that's a magic box nobody understands. If you ask a local to give you directions to an airplane wreck ten miles offshore on the Banks (which everybody here knows about) will drive you nuts. Now, you or I would just probably rattle off a set of GPS coords, or at the least, lat/long or a start point and a compass heading and distance, and leave the nav to the seeker. Not here. It involves a series of directions such as "past bird rock, then toward the BIG black rock,(not one of the little ten million little black rocks) then kinda south until the water changes, then around that sand to the west, then about ten minutes thataway". I am not kidding.. that's typical. On land? forget it. This nation has no mailing addresses, very few street names, no house numbers....try explaining that to a Brit who you are trying to get a quote from to deliver a tow hitch for a Land Rover....

But you know something? These guys can navigate themselves back to a specific crevice known for good lobster, or a small shoal full of conch, without GPS, or radar, or even a compass. They been doing it for generation after generation. Remember, the first grocery store here only happened in the last 20 years.

I have been paying attention to how I think they do it. Its tough, because they cant explain it.. I think natural born navigators always know about where they are and its relationship to where they want to be, but the nuts and bolts of how they do it speaks to me of a lot. I think they subconsciously use visual clues like running a certain direction until they lose sight of a specific key ( that's what, 8 miles at sea level?) So if you think about it...if they can pick a high point on the land such as a cliff or hill, and pick a discernible geographic feature half way down the hill, etc.....they are using that as an indication of range. Then they might use their relationship to the pattern of a line of afternoon cumulus clouds that almost always form over Middle and North Caicos due to the trade winds, and they now have an azimuth, and a windage, and dang if they cant put themselves back where they want to be ten times out of ten. With no more fancy electronics on their boats than the battery that starts their motor.

I know most of y'all know how this works. Certainly the lobstermen of Maine, the Bahamian fishermen, the people who have been doing it all their lives. But there might be some people here, of the Blackberry and GPS generations....who would be interested in some observations from someone who lives with people of the really, old school. On a daily basis.

For example.... This is looking East from Pine Cay. That line of cumulus clouds runs from South Caicos to North Caicos.. this photos is of the North Caicos end...and after a while, you can tell where the gaps between the islands are. Its the trade winds blowing across 4,000 miles of the Atlantic, then being forced upwards by the first islands they encounter. Adiabatic lapse rate and all that...

But what it IS is a visual indication at sea of where those islands are.

Then, this is a typical view looking south. I took the photo because the iguana was up next to Hammer's boat ( Hammer is Preacher's brother btw) but look at the clouds. No islands down there on the other side of the Caicos Bank...but there is a huge thermocline from when the deep blue runs up to the shallows...and that increases the thermal warming of the shallows, which makes an updraft,and then those winds sweeping across from Africa start moving upward and upward means they get cooler and cooler means they precipitate moisture....y'all know all that....and when the wind is right....the long time boatmen here have a reference line of clouds. An East/West reference to go with their North/South...

Lastly, the third part of the triangle solution to visual navigation. I am using a photo of the little hill where we are building a house.

If you are at sea, and you can see only half way up this hill....there's your indication of range. You are twelve miles offshore. But where it gets tricky is when you run out of visual sightings.... then.... I guess.... you look at the clouds...

dang, that got wordy. Sorry. I'll get back to mostly photos when we get back to the islands later this week...I honestly cant wait.

If you guys want to live in the tropics...and can swing the it. No fooling. don't wait. It wont always be there the way it still is. Its changing quickly. The whole world wants to be Orlando. Don't wait. Really. Come down for a visit, if nothing else. Your kids wont have the opportunity, and will rely upon grandpas description of how it used to be. I would normally say stay away...but I have come to realize that the truth is that there are darned few places like this left.

I spent last evening with several Hollywood people. They have turned their attention to the TCI as one of the last places where it still is what it is. That means its gonna be all over. Don't wait, really, guys. Five years from now...I wont want to live here.

If you gave one of these guys a chart, or a map, and asked them to put their finger on the location you were talking about.....they couldn't do it. They have no concept of the" bird's eye view". Most of them have never seen it. If you want to see what I am talking about, just TRY to find a chart of these islands online. The Southern Bahamas chip for the Garmin is the best I have found so far. If you can find one..look carefully at the areas where you would be boating. For the most part, its labelled "Unsurveyed". No depth info, no reef info. Whole new world for people used to having every single coral head and obstruction charted and marked.

Yeah, as near as I can tell that's the basic difference in the cameras. The 720 went to ten feet, the 770 to thirty three. I am just getting used to it, the controls are different from all the Sony's I been using. I snapped a buncha photos yesterday here in Edgartown, but wont post them here.

That freighter is only a couple miles south of Leeward. There are boarding ladders hanging from it, if you are adventuresome and want to climb aboard. I saw some photos online about a year ago, from someone who did go inside it, and it looked to be in pretty good condition inside, above the waterline. The hull is totally rusted through at the waterline, of course. There's no chance to refloat it. Its sitting in about six feet of water, and it normally draws nine.

If you understood the situation here, you would know there is no chance the government of the TCI is going to do anything with it. Really, why would they want to spend money to do anything with it? Its a convenient landmark. Its a good place to duck out of a squall, we've done it several times. And if they brought it ashore, what would they do with it, cut it up and pile it on a landfill? What would be the point of that? Nahh... Let it rot, and join the other 1,000 plus shipwrecks estimated to have happened here in the past 500 years.

Don't worry, that freighter will still be sitting here when you visit. I'll find you another photo of it...I know I got a bunch.

Ok, here's one. I am having a tough time with a WLAN here...took forever to upload this.

The anchor actually streams out from the bow AFT toward amidships, like the crew was trying to stop the forward movement of the boat. In this area, they have 9-12 ft. of water just a hundred yards behind them. Then it shoals up to around five feet for about a half mile or so, then as shallow as 2-3 ft. the rest of the way to shore. I have asked about the boat, and been told that it was driven onto the shoals here in a storm. I don't know how long ago.

If you look at that photo above, between the hull and the anchor chain, you can see the shore of Providenciales off on the horizon. I am guessing its something like three miles, roughly.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hello, I've been enjoying your blog very much since someone("hexahedron") on TripAdvisor recommended it. It's been very interesting. I especially like the "spooky" threads like these, and the one on Cottage Pond. I was curious if you have the link to the pictures of the interior of this wreck.
Thanks again for the great blog. I'm trying to work through it chronologically.
(The email I created specifically for planning our first trip to turks and caicos, in Aug '08)