Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Christmas Stump Expedition

We had three of our five kids fly in Sunday for the holidays. That pretty much shot Sunday. Monday one of them was under the weather, but La Gringa, Dooley and I took the other two out to find our Christmas Stump. It wasn’t intended for this to become a tradition, but it seems to be working out that way.

It was also a chance for us to take “Cay Lime” out for another ‘shakedown’ cruise after getting it back from the yard. This was our fourth shakedown cruise since it was repaired. It was so great to be back on our own boat. That was a Christmas gift in itself.

La Gringa pulled something in her back, and was stretched out across the stern. This kept her out of the howling ice storm and cold blizzard conditions, as well.

(See? No blizzard conditions there on the stern)

I had gotten the wiring working again, and all the 12 volt stuff is now functional, except for the bilge float switch. I replaced the actuator ring for the tilt indicator lever, and now that’s working. So figuring out what’s wrong with the (new) bilge float, and re-adjusting the throttle linkage are the two main things to finish. Then I can tackle getting rid of all the grungy, sticky black tape adhesive and securing the wiring harness correctly. Don't get me started on that rant.

We took a couple rods along in case there were any fish about. We heard a rumor about a school of dolphin outside the reef in about 150 ft. of water. We managed to find a large weed line out in about 200 ft of water, and we trolled up and down it, but no strikes. No birds. No bait fish...Guess the mahi took Christmas Eve off. Or they were partying somewhere else.

We trolled all the way up to Dellis Cay, but didn’t get a single strike. Somedays are like that. We did see a pretty decent little cabin cruiser anchored off of Pine Cay.

I felt kind of sorry for them, having to sit there on the hook inside the reef on that ugly sand bottom with an onshore breeze.

It’s a shame he draws so much water, or he could have gone into the cut. Gosh, too bad. It must be a real disappointment to be stuck on a little boat like that staying at anchor and having to run the rubber RIBs everywhere. Looks cramped, doesn’t it? And you could run around naked, play music as loud as you want, go for a swim, jet ski, dive.....and nobody to complain about it. Must be a miserable way to live......yeah...right.

We boated over to the general area where we got last year’s Christmas Stump. It's pretty shallow here, but thats not a problem for our boat. The first year we were here we bought a live Norfolk Pine for a Christmas tree. It was a pain, keeping it watered, and then transporting it and its tub of dirt out to Pine Cay to plant. SO last year we started the now highly popular Christmas Stump tradition. It works. It's fun, it's cheap. And its really environmentally responsible. Besides, we get a different "tree" every time. Instead of another cookie-cutter generic evergreen shipped in from Canada. When we are done with Christmas, we return the stump to someplace where it fits in entirely with the local scene. No disposal issues.

The area where we search for stumps is the far side of Ft. George Cay. A brutal and windswept winter scene, blizzard blowing in from the and snow...

Actually, driftwood and windblown dead trees are easy to find here. This is more about picking out the right one. We told our “crew” that they were going to have to leap into the bleak, frigid water, flounder their way through the ice floe, and find a tree if they wanted to something to stack gifts under. They were less than enthusiastic, but willing to give it a go. Here, they display their abject enthusiasm while La Gringa handles the anchor.

(their faces don't actually look like that, you realize. Teenage boys...ask them to smile for the camera, and I get Art Garfunkel and his orangatuan...)

I might have been kidding them about the water temp. It wasn’t that frigid, at just at 80 degrees F. Still, its cooled off 4 degrees since September. Brrrrr.!!!!

Dooley the dangerous, demented, diabolical dog showed them that the 80 degree water was, indeed, survivable. Of course he is prone to hop overboard as soon as I cut the motor and we drop the hook. Sometimes, he doesn’t even wait for that.

Come ON, you buncha wimps!!

And so, outfitted with winter survival gear, our intrepid shore party heads for the beach, with encouragement and directions cheerfully shouted from the boat.

Dooley kept an eye on them the whole time they were gone, in case they ran across something, somewhere, that needed biting.

You never know when something will need a good bite. Or at least a good barking at.
SOMEONE has to be in charge of biting and barking. It's natural.

The shore party moseyed (mosied?) up the beach, around the bend (literally) and out of sight for at least a half an hour. A half an hour is a significant amount of time to wait...when your clock runs on dog years..

So he watched...

and he paced the decks..

and he got concerned when they rounded the point out of sight for a while:

He well knows the dangers of two boys cast ashore on this deserted island...there might be sand spurs to step on, or maybe an unruly iguana...

Which of course would need biting in the worst way. And here he is stuck on the boat, helpless:

Ah HA! ( the lookout calls) or noises to that effect, I SEE them!

So after wandering aimlessly for what seemed like forever, they located two suitable stumps and drug them to the beach. We voted from afar, and they hauled the winner out to the boat:

Just in time, too. We had a volunteer already to send the dog sled out after them.

So all we needed to do at this point was to shop for some tree ornaments. We don't do that conventionally, either. I took the boat around to a little offshore sand bar where we have usually had luck finding sand dollars. The waves that were breaking out on the reef were breaking again here in the shallows:

and of course the threatening winter conditions only worsened.

Since she is a veteran at finding seashells and sand dollars, La Gringa braved the winter conditions to lead the way:

And in just a few minutes the crew had assembled three handfuls of sand dollars and other shells. I brought the boat up to the sand bar, and we loaded up for the trip back:

and judging by the clouds and squalls coming our way, just in time.

We still had to head out through the cut to get outside the reef. We could see a decent swell building and breaking offshore on the reef itself:

As we got closer we could see that these were actually pretty substantial swells coming in from the North and curling over as we motored past:

We really would not want to get caught broadside in this. There are some seriously sharp coral heads just a few feet down. Might scratch the boat...

Not to mention the occupants.

We trolled lures all the way back, and got a couple good strikes, but nothing hooked up.

When we got all this back to the house, we were finally able to put up this year's Christmas Stump. Some of the shells needed holes to put string through.

I shall call this composition..."La Gringa with rum, orange juice, and power tool"

(hey, she DID wear safety least..)

Of course the sand dollars don't need holes, coming pre-drilled from the factory:

And after it was all plugged in, there we had it...Christmas Stump of '07:

Well that's how we spent our Christmas Eve, probably pretty much like you spent yours. Hope you all had a good Christmas, have survived it, and are now heading into a happy, healthy, and prosperous New Year.


Unknown said...

What a fantastic tradition! This is my first visit so I have a lot of catching up to do! I hope there is some info in here to help me convince my wife it's worth moving. We've got two young boys at home and I would love to raise them in our own paradise somewhere. Keep up the good posts!


Anonymous said...

Dave, about 50% of the reason we chose the TCI instead of the Bahamas was because we brought a 12year old with us. You can find decent schools in the Bahamas, but you gotta live in either Nassau or Freeport. We did not want that.

There are two very decent schools here. Ashcroft School for grades 1-7, and BWI Collegiate for through grade 12.

I don't remember if I said much about schooling here, since my stepson went to school in the US
this year. But I can say here that a year in the British school system did him a lot of good. Living and learning in a truely international and multicultural environment did him a lot of good as well. It was a great experience for him at a young age.

Thats not the kind of experience you can ship a younger kid off to have on his own. You have to live there with him. It worked out amazingly well, and he's a better student, a more tolerant person, and has had an experience he would never have gotten in the US. He became much more of a world citizen, with an awareness of other races, cultures, and customs.

Anonymous said...

How is accessibility there? My wife is disabled and although we find ways around it, we still need some level of accessibilty? Is this some place a frog could hop around? ribbit ribbit

Anonymous said...

Now that you mention it, I have not really been looking around specifically to evaluate accessibility. I have noticed some places have wheelchair ramps, but only because I happened to notice. I wasn't looking for them.

have two horrible knees. Walking down ramps is hard for me, as well as stairs. So I tend to avoid places with a lot of stairs unless they also have two good handrails. We designed our house without any stairs because of my bad knees.

I have noticed that the Do-it center and several other places do have wheelchair ramps. I cannot speak for the hotels on Provo, as we have never stayed in one. I am almost certain that all the multistory ones have elevators. There are lots of restaurants at ground level, and I know this because I avoid the ones with a lot of stairs. Actually, Come to think of it, MOST businesses in the TCI are at ground, or parking lot level. Other than the hotels ( max seven stories) there are not even very many two story buildings here.