Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Pine Cay, Root canal

Well, we were planning to pack up and hop on the boat and go out to Pine Cay today. I got jigging rods to rig, and stereos to install, new lures to troll...a new camera to play with... However, Dr. Donald Keith is on the island, and has asked if we could get together with him, and also meet the new Director of the Turks and Caicos Museum. Dr. Keith is the guy who found the Molasses Reef wreck, which is still the oldest wreck ever found in the New World. We met him last year, and have stayed in contact. Also, I have been talking with my brother in Houston ( who works for an aerial magnetic survey company) about whether it would be feasible to turn a small aircraft into, essentially, a "flying metal detector". We could cover a whole lot of ocean if we could do it from the air instead of from a boat. I just got a quotation for a Cesium vapor magnetometer from the manufacturer. (anybody got $ 23K they want to donate to a good cause? ha ha...yeah, I thought so... so you WONT be on the list when I find those pieces-of-eight..)

We really do want to get off Provo ( ain't cut out for this 'big city' life ) and back on the boat, but this is a good opportunity to meet with Dr. Keith and the new Director. They are planning a new museum on Provo, and I am hoping that they might be convinced that we could be a good resource for them here, since we are here full time and are interested in marine archaeology, and I have a whole bunch of experience in finding things on the seafloor. Plus, we own a boat, diving hookah setup, etc. Seems like a good match up, might be some adventure in it, and it might let us do something good for the islands. Why not?

Heck, we are already finding old shipwrecks on our own....might as well do the right thing. After we strip them of all the treasure and cannon, of course. Well, not all of it. Not all the cannon anyhow. Well, maybe none of the cannon...

We finally got away from the dock in Provo yesterday afternoon. Fueled up the boat in Leeward. We spoke with some of the guys working at the fuel dock there. Everybody is pretty bummed out about what developers are doing to the area. A lot of people are going to lose their jobs the end of this month. It's an ugly thing. This is something new to them, having their livelihood taken away.

But they still have their sense of humor. They kidded me about my eyebrows, said they've only seen eyebrows like mine "in the movies". Black guys don't have bushy blond eyebrows that stick over the top rims of their sunglasses. I had never considered it, but yeah, they're absolutely right. My eyebrows would seem remarkable to them. I am glad they feel they can kid me about them, actually. Its a real comfortable feeling. Especially for a guy like me, who was raised by a pack of wild rednecks.

Today was half work, half play. We decided to run the boat out for a few hours, try our new jigging stuff. Went out through the cut in the reef, and on out to a few hundred feet of water. On my very first cast, I picked up a small yellow tail snapper:

These are good eating. Not what we normally fish for, but hey, it was a start.

In the next half hour, we both had good strong hits, but didn't get anything else on the jigs. Then it got really slow. Couple hours of jigging, but nada. So, we took the jigs off and put a couple lures on, tried trolling our way back. Followed a flock of birds for a half hour, but no hookups. We were getting sporadic bottom returns, but enough to see we were out in 3200 ft. of water. Right after we headed in, I got a hit from something that ripped the skirt right off the lure, and there are fresh teeth marks in the fluro leader about five inches in front of the lure. Must have been a good 'un. Ten minutes later, La Gringa got a similar hit, but she didn't hook it either.

The dog kept an eye out for anything we should know about. He's good that way:

I'm sure you can tell he's totally comfortable on boats. Actually, I think he was contemplating a swim. Two miles offshore. He absolutely hates it when we throw a fish back. We have had to fish him out of the drink on more than one occasion. He WILL go after them.

The water was incredibly clear today. We could see the bottom pretty well out to about 100 ft. depth from on the surface. We didn't dive today, but I am sure underwater the viz would have been 150 ft. plus. Just for grins, when we were jigging in 60 ft. of water, I stuck the new camera over the side and snapped a couple shots to see what it would do. Not a great shot, but talk to anyone who does U/W photography....getting anything back from sixty feet away is pretty dang clear water by any standards.

Here's another after we drifted a little closer to the reef. More sea life here. I looked at the fat ho and the depth was 55 ft. here. Again, I just stuck my arm in the water and pushed the shutter button, no flash. lot of air bubbles from the surface. These fish are about 45-50 ft. away. Its gonna get better when I get down amongst them I think:

We've been working on this butterfly jigging thing. If we can make it productive, it'll save money not only in bait, but also in not running the outboard all the time trolling when gasoline here is $ 5/gallon. The wind has been a problem. The panga wind vanes very fast, and because of the shallow draft the wind pushes it pretty well. Its not practical to anchor in these depths, so we have been using a sea drogue. its just a parachute thingum, tied to the bow cleat. Really makes a difference, slows the boat drift enormously. It also keeps her pointed into the wind and seas. Most of you hardcore fishing guys already know about these things, but for anyone who goes offshore who doesn't have one,...I would say its a real good thing to have on the boat. It would really make it easier to work on an engine or prop problem, for example, by holding the bow into the waves.

We gave up on the fishing after a few hours, headed back to the island. We did manage to snag a small barracuda on the way. Our fish inspector cleared it.

We knew we would find someone who would want it, so we threw it in the cooler with our one small yellow tail.

these are some rocks on the way into the channel at Pine Cay, just me playing with the camera. You might be able to see how clear the water is here, too. And this is in a channel. Its better on the reef.

On the way back to our slip, we passed a whaler full of local people on their way to Provo (hey, its Friday night). They gave us the universal shrug, like "Well, wheres the fish?". I held up two fingers and pointed at the cooler, so they did a quick u-turn and came alongside. They knew we would have kept anything they might want. These are all friends of ours.

(See the looks of anticipation on some of those smiling faces?) Left to right, this is Ube ( pronounced "Ubie"), Scrape, Kim on her cell phone, JR driving, Sara in the red, and Carnetta.

I missed the shot of La Gringa handing them the fish, dang it. But we did make the "transfer at sea". We gave em both fish. Kim is at least off her cell phone, to look at the barracuda behind her.

You wouldn't believe the impact cell phones have had here. This country went essentially from marine VHF radio ( the taxis still have them) to cell phones. They skipped land lines totally. Now, everywhere you look, someone is on their cell phone. Some people carry two or three of them. They'll grab a new pre-paid ones when there's a promotion going on, and still have minutes on their last one...its hilarious sometimes. A phone will go off and someone will have to search through their pockets to see which one is ringing.

So, we came home empty handed. But hey, an afternoon on the boat is a good thing, right? Nothing exciting or historical to report today. Really, just a pretty typical Friday afternoon for us.

JR ( the guy driving the whaler in the photo) did tell us he's going fishing on the Banks tomorrow, and he asked us if we wanted to go. I suspect we will, weather permitting. We don't miss a chance to watch the locals. There's a lot to be learned.

(Since I read the topic on eating barracuda to the dog, he has repeatedly suggested that we are in a position to feed some to the neighbor's cat as a test for ciguatera. I never would have thought him to be a proponent of animal testing, but he says that, in this case, he is reluctantly willing to risk the cat's health in his capacity as "man's best friend". What a dog.)

We didn't go fishing with JR this morning. Discovered bright and early that we had left some stuff over in Provo that we need, so decided to grab the rods and troll over. Didn't catch any fish, but something bit a new lure right clean off. I still have the 200# fluorocarbon leader, bitten through. We have been getting a lot of bites on these particular lures lately. Two yesterday, one today. I am going to re-rig a couple of them with wire and go see whats up with that. I suspect wahoo. Hot dang. Also saw a YFT leap right out of the water after flying fish this morning. But other than what ate my new lure, not a bite.

We talked to Ed, owner of Catch the Wave charters. He told us its been real slow fishing this week, he was out with a charter yesterday and didn't catch anything. That made me feel better, I mean, he's a professional who's been doing this all his life in these waters. If Edward got skunked, we are in good company. Not our fault!. I feel better because even though I didn't catch anything either, I didn't pay someone $ 800 for the experience. He yelled something about what's causing the fishing to be slow, but I didn't hear it over the outboard. He was running one of the local mechanics out to his 'party barge' to look at the Hondas.

This is another friend, "Pump", getting in some early morning fishing as we were leaving the dock. He'll probably hand line up a mutton snapper for breakfast. Nice clear skies, no wind..:

We lashed La Gringa Suprema's bike on the boat. Plan was for her to ride it over to the house when we got to Provo.

That didn't happen. Our friend Preacher was at the dock, and he gave her a ride to the house while Dooley and I hung with the boat, shooting the breeze with people at Leeward.

Ed ran one of the local mechanics, Derek, out to his boat. An outboard mechanic who makes house calls.... Actually, that's usually how its done here. Its very rare to see a boat on a trailer. I think the problem here was a lower seal, or maybe impeller problem, from what Derek was looking at there on the work bench:

Notice the sky turning ugly? It started getting REAL ugly a little while later;

Our route back, we need to zip around the bow of the trimaran on the left, out through the cut, then about seven miles back to just under where the right side of this photo is. Squalls all the way:

Noticed "Captain Ron" left some windows open and laundry on the line. Guess a little fresh water won't hurt anything:

The squalls almost enclosed us by this time. We rarely run the boat WOT. It'll do about 47 mph or so, but its usually too choppy to be comfortable. Or it will launch off a swell and that's kind of jarring, too. But man, when you are cutting between squalls, its nice to have the reserve horses.

We dodged all the squalls and made it back dry. I thought this was a potentially interesting development, this dark twisty thing coming down from this cloud. The picture is blurred because we were doing about 40 mph at this point, trying to stay dry between squalls.

So that was our Saturday morning. Not that different from our Friday, in retrospect. Except the weather is getting a bit funky. Of course there's a tropical storm out in the Atlantic, and we expect some sea state increase from that.

While I was waiting for Preacher and La Gringa to get back, I did another one of my attempts at a pano series from where I was tied up at the end of the dock in Leeward. That multi-colored monstrosity on the left is new. Its going to be a resort, and they are kicking all of the local businesses out of Leeward. They are filling the channel here with slips for "yachts from 65 to 200 feet". That's not us. That's not anybody who lives here. Guess Leeward's gone Hollywood, like Parrot Cay and soon, Dellis Cay.

That means everything from the new resort, all the way across this photo, to the right hand edge is going to be demolished, starting Oct. 1. Its going to change a lot of people's lives here, plus its going to change the character of this place enormously. I know progress is inevitable, and I am grateful to have gotten to spend a couple years hanging around here and getting to know people. Still, its a little sad, in some ways.

We're going to miss this place. I doubt very much we will be hanging out in Leeward after the end of the month. We'll find a new place, and that's got some adventure potential. We're ALWAYS up for some new stuff. Life does go on. So, if you come to the TCI after the next two weeks, don't look for Gilley's Restaurant or Catch the Wave or Sail Provo at the Leeward Marina. They will be moving on, too.

But we'll know where they are....that's the good news.

And yes, I am very much aware of the fact that we are part of the problem, dozing off the top of that hill over on the South side to build our house on. So, I got no room to gripe. As they say down here..."It's all good."

As I am writing this, the storms have surrounded us, and its raining and blowing with lightning and thunder. This fearless Jack Russell Terrierist, who will jump overboard in a thousand feet of water after a barracuda without batting an eye, who will take on any three dogs five times his size and run them off most of the time, who once killed six large rats in a hiding under my chair shivering and shaking and asking just why the hell the big guy just doesn't make that mean old scary thunder GO AWAY!?!?!

I am pretty impressed with the little Olympus so far. There's obviously a learning curve, coming from a series of Sonys. Only aspects of it not totally positive is that there's a lot of button pushing to do, and It just doesn't have the glass for good low-light shots if its handheld. But its so versatile, and so easy to carry around, it makes up for it. Its already starting to get some scuff marks, and I wonder about the little waterproof door latches over the batt/memory and the I/O connectors...could I accidentally open one of those underwater if I snagged one on something like a watch band, etc. However, I have seen something advertised called "skins" for it, its like a form-fitted silicone case for them, for something like $ 15. In the online photos of them, it looks kinda like one of those fitted keyboard covers, it only exposes the lens and LCD, and you push the buttons through the 'skin'. Its not clear from the online photos if it covers the 'hatches', but maybe it does.

No chance of me finding one here, of course, but I plan to try to pick one up next time I am in the US. So far, though, for boaters and beach go-ers I highly recommend the camera for its ruggedness. Its got good specs for low temps, too, so I think it would be a good choice for skiers. Take some knocks ( if you ski like I did) and not mind being dropped in the snow.

Its now Sunday morning, and I thought I would stick up some photos for those who have gotten the impression that our life here is all blue water and fishing every day. This is about how I spent my Sunday morning in the tropics. This is gonna get ugly before it gets warned.. But there's some clear water pix, here, too. These were all taken in sequence this morning.

One of the showers in the house we are staying in has been slowly clogging up. It still drained, but slower and slower. The showers here drain outside, and the water is for the plants around the house. Everything else goes into a septic tank. I tried taking the shower drain cover off and running a small plumbing snake through, but no luck. There's a 90 deg. bend under the shower stall floor and the snake wouldn't get around it. So I took a look outside, and lo and behold, at some point in the past someone had damaged the PVC drain pipe. Probably a gardener or something, will never know. Anyhow, they had dented the PVC, and put a small hole in it. Now, what happened was a root fiber made its way up, following the drip of moisture, until it came out of the ground and grew into the hole in the PVC. No kidding. It wasn't obvious, until I started looking closely:

Now, at this point, having found what I suspect to be the problem, (MAYBE the problem, I don't know at this point, I mean, its a little bitty root and the hole in the pipe is smaller than a pencil, just a crack, really) back in the States I might have waited til Monday and called a plumber. But here...well...for starters, I would have to find a plumber who could dedicate an entire day to my little problem. If he's a good plumber, he's busy. What plumber can schedule an entire day to one little project? Well, the answer is we would have to wait probably weeks, and then of course ....the cost.

Figure at least an 8 hour day, at (conservatively) $50 an hour. So, I am into it for $ 400. up front. Then figure two round trips to Provo in the boat to pick him up, bring him here, take him back, and return. That's 30 miles, figure maybe 12 gallons of gas, at these prices another $ 60 in fuel, and two hours transportation time. So up to near $ 500. And is he going to have what he needs to do this when he gets here, some weeks from now? Probably not. Could easily turn into two days of plumber. This is no joke, by the way. Get a plumber here to evaluate the problem, that shoots a day. Get the plumber back to fix the problem, shoots another day. I am looking at $500-$1,000 to fix this danged drain if I hire someone.

So, bottom line, its worth it to me to bungle through, once again. I tried several saws, before finding one that I could cut around the pipe with. Know what finally worked? The little saw blade on a Swiss Army knife. (Thanks, McGyver.) So, I cut it:

The photo isnt that good, but I could tell the root went way up. I couldnt pull it out, and didnt want to pull too hard. I came up with a plan, but I needed something to slide up inside the pipe to separate the root fibers from the inside wall. Here, that meant heading out on a scrounging mission. Me and the dog took off down the "road" to check the local dumpster, nice break from 20 minutes of sawing with a pocketknife, though:

The dumpster was no good, nothing useful. I was looking for something I could scrape up inside the pipe, do a 'root canal' without jamming up the root or breaking it off. I didn't know just what it would be, figured I would recognize something useful if I found it. We ended up at the marina, and the dog immediately hopped in the water for a dip:

hey, I don't blame him. This is hot and sweaty work, ya know. Have to give my assistant a break from time to time.

It was quiet down at the marina. Only thing going on was Harry G. He had been out this morning diving for conch, and he did pretty well. He was sitting on his boat cleaning his catch. Thats a pile of cleaned conch in the foreground on the dock, some still in the shells behind the bucket.

He offered me a couple, but I told him I was planning to go get some myself later in the week. It takes Harry about 45 seconds to clean a conch. It takes me five minutes. But, I figure thats the only way to learn.

Harry is from North Caicos, and he tends to stay out here away from the "big city". I think the only time he goes to Provo is when he absolutely has to, like for medical attention if a bush doctor can't fix it. He has had us pick up prescriptions for him several times and bring them back out with us. Harry speaks a vanishing dialect of North Caicos English thats really hard for me to understand. Its really fast, and uses idioms you dont hear anywhere else, even here in these islands its unique. I think I knew him for a year before we were able to start conversing. He fishes a lot, and he's well up into his 60's. Last year he was out in his boat diving for lobster, and while he was in the water a couple of Jamaicans came up in a boat next to him with a shotgun and robbed him. They took his weekly pay($300), his watch, his cell phone, and his spare gasoline. Piracy is alive and well in the TCI. When lobster season opened in August, Harry told us he was pulling up 300 lbs of spineys a day. He probably gets $ 5 a lb for them. Nice. keeps him in gasoline, anyhow.

While at the dock, I grabbed the two remaining lures I have similar to what's been getting bit off this week. I told Harry where we were fishing, and what was happening, and he grinned and said "Dat's big wa-HOO, mon). That's what I thought, too, but its good to have a second opinion from an expert. So we discussed what I am gonna do, which is replace the flurocarbon leader with wire, and go back out.

Water is still really clear, typical summer visibility. This is off the end of the dock, and this water is near six feet deep here.

Then, rumaging in the bushes next to the old Russian hydrofoil, I found the perfect root canal tool. A seven foot piece of thin wall aluminum tubing just exactly the right diameter to fit inside the pvc. Man, how lucky can you get? Sometimes, the gods still smile on me.
I took the tubing back to the house, and drove it up inside the PVC, around the root:

(What, you thought I was gonna hang around the marina shooting the breeze with Harry all morning?)

Pulled the aluminum back out, and man, it worked just like I knew what I was doing or something. The root came out in one piece, cored right out in the aluminum. How often does THAT happen??
This sucker was about six feet long, and dense little roots that just about totally clogged the pipe. I am SO glad I didnt just tie a piece of line to it and pull.

Hard to believe this all grew through a hole maybe a quarter inch or less in the pvc. But it did.

So, that was my Sunday morning. Saved a bunch of money, and got the drain working just fine. Patching a new piece of pvc in is a piece of cake. But now, more squalls have moved in, and the dog is shivering and shaking under the sofa doing his best to imitate floor wax. Oh well....I got a Penn 113H reel with a totally stuck drag that needs taking apart. So I will just load up Lyle Lovett's "Road to Ensenada" CD and see if I can figure out something complicated for a change. Oh, and re-rig them lures. I just know somewhere out there is a wahoo with my name on it, laughing at me. The squalls will pass. The sun will shine. The dog will breathe again.

This is turning into a parody of Peter Mayle's book "A Year in Provence" isnt it? Not his writing, for sure. But I got more photos.

I like Southern France, but I think I will stick with this place for a while. Besides, Harry is easier to understand than the French.
twentynine, you mean like to spin the aluminum pipe back and forth?? I turned it with one hand and tapped it with a hammer lightly and it wasnt too bad, but if I understand what you are saying, string woulda been a good idea. Hey, go easy on me, I aint no plumber and it was my first time...

Now, anyone know if I really need all this many funny looking cloth washers, and is it worth while trying to figure out which way those three little springs went?

(just kidding, it all made sense, even though a manual woulda been nice. Was so much fun, I did em both. And I even got stuff left over...)


Anonymous said...

just found your blog,awesome job.sorry to see whats happening down at leeward marina, was always one of my favorite places on provo. Just felt comfortable with the "no airs, no attitude" atmosphere, reminds me of the harbor and fishing dock area where I grew up in Montauk NY-no blue blazers and white slacks, just good people with a passion for boats and fishing! keep up the great work!

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