Sunday, August 3, 2008

Dog Days of August

We are now into our favorite time of year here in the islands. The Trade Winds are not quite so strong in the summer. The water seems to be even clearer than usual. There are fewer rental cars on the wrong side of the road. We have not been seeing the brilliant sunsets we get so often in the winter, but the sunrises are still a great way to start the day:

That 'blob' in the sun is the old freighter wreck out on the bank. It lines up perfectly with the sunrise when viewed from our patio this time of year. We will get this angle on it for the next few weeks, and then the sunrise will be moving to the right as it transits the sky further and futher to the South.

Things at the house have settled down a bit as compared to the past six months. I am still looking for options on replacing the garage door that continues to have problems with the environment and suffers from initial installation errors.

It is looking like I will be building a 'barn' style door that slides to the side on rollers. Oh boy. Just what I needed; another major project. Right now the issue is finding stainless steel hardware for it. I am not going to waste the time and expense of putting anything less in. This place eats steel. At least the landscaping vegetation is starting to get established. It can't happen quick enough to suit us. Another few months and hopefully we can lose that 'construction site' look.

I finally did a site clean-up, and put together a couple vehicles full of junk to haul to the dump. Going to the dump these days has become quite an adventure. A lot of hard looking people who do not speak English come out of the bushes and start unloading your vehicle for you. Whether you want them to or not. They grabbed an old automobile battery and a bicycle seat from this load. It's a little bit of a nervous feeling, actually, to have people start rummaging through your trash while it is still in the vehicle. I don't go there totally unarmed anymore. I try not to go at all.

You can see that the mahogany and thatch palm trees on the windward side of the house are not doing as well as those in the lee. We are giving them some time to see if they recuperate. They went from a nice comfy nursery environment in Florida to life on a bleak, windy hillside overlooking the ocean. We added a whole lot of sun, salt, and wind to their lives. We keep upping the irrigation to them, and there's hope. New leaves forming and all that stuff. They are not dead, just battered.

We still spend a lot of time watching the entertainment of living near the ocean. In addition to the variety of sunrises:

We also get to watch a lot of boats. And we do enjoy watching boats. It's amazing how much you can learn about hull design, trim, and seamanship from observation. Even though we are in the middle of the official Hurricane Season, we still are seeing cruising sailors coming by:

And as has always been the case we keep thinking of what it would be like to have a decent sized sailboat to use to explore these and other islands. Something we could live on for a week or so at a time. With gasoline here at the marinas presently costing over $6 a gallon..wind power is looking better than ever.

But it's not just the sailboats that we watch. We see the Marine Police coming and going every day, along with the charter dive boats and a lot of private boats and local fishermen. Speaking of local fishermen, August 1 was the opening day of lobster season here. We knew that the TCI government was making efforts to step up their enforcement of laws to protect the local lobster fishery. We have seen an increase in the number of patrols they are running, and run into them in places where we had not normally seen any law enforcement on a regular basis.

I think most of the expatriots here who own boats, like ourselves, are pretty much accustomed to such things as boat registrations, safety equipment, and obtaining fishing licenses. A lot of the locals here, however, are having a hard time dealing with what must seem to them like new and unreasonable restrictions on their long-time fishing traditions. On opening day of lobster season I saw something I had never seen before; the Marine Police towing two local boats to the marina in custody:

Now I am making an assumption that they are in custody. They were being towed by the Police,and their outboards were in the up position. I guess it's possible that both of these boats had engine trouble and the police were helping them out. But I don't think so. The locals have no radios on their boats for the most part, and wouldn't call the police for a tow even if they did. Two outboards breaking down in the same area on the opening day of lobster season, with stronger enforcement being announced, well, it just seems like too much coincidence. I feel sorry for these guys. The fines are very harsh here, with each undersize or illegally caught lobster running thousands of dollars. And the worst part..the government confiscates the boat. OUCH! That's a man's livlihood here. And it's not all...two weeks ago four guys from the Dominican Republic who got caught taking lobster illegally here were arrested. They are now serving seven months in prison on Grand Turk. Then they get deported. Yep, I made sure our permits are all up to date. It would ruin my whole day to get arrested, get fined ten or twenty thousand dollars or go to jail, AND lose the boat.

We have been getting caught up with small projects around the house. And thinking ahead to some future projects. Last week La Gringa spotted a large Casurinas tree that had been cut down and was aging nicely. So we scooted over with a saw and I picked up some of the wood to play with on some future woodworking projects I have in mind:

The largest one of those is about a six inch diameter. That's the biggest size I can turn into 'lumber' using just a table saw. I am thinking of adding a bandsaw and a lathe to the shop. Then I could get into some serious sized projects, more than the little wooden box I made for LaGringa from the last casurinas branch we brought home.

We made a quick run out to Pine Cay yesterday to pick up our aerial photography 'stuff ' that we had left there back before we had a home to keep it in. Unlike Provo and the other islands here, Pine Cay doesn't really change all that much from year to year. I did notice that the pine trees that gave Pine Cay it's name seem to be making a comeback, finally:

The small pine forest that had been there for hundreds of years has been just blackened, dead stumps for the past few years. Some kind of infestation. But that seems to be over now.

I snapped a few photos of this and that while we were on our way back to the marina.
Like the tracks made by an iguana crossing the 'road':

The drag mark is made by the iguana's tail, and you can see the footprints on either side. Iguanas seem to be making a bit of a comeback on Pine Cay as well. Maybe they are coming over in response to all the development happening on other islands. Iguanas here can swim quite well, and cross between islands by inflating themselves with air and swimming across.

While I was wandering around looking for things to photograph, of course my 'driver' and 'bodyguard' were keeping an eye on me:

(note the dog hiding on the golf cart. Note the potential thunderstorms developing. I am sure you can put that together.)

The airport at Pine Cay now doubles as a cinema...and there's a new sign added to reflect the recent airport expansion:

The movie screen is two 4x8 foot sheets of plywood painted white. Makes one wonder "What next? An airport bar?" Probably not, since there are two bars at the Meridian Club just a few hundred yards away.

When we stopped off at the Meridian Club I managed to get a scanning electron microscope image of Dooley the Demented's brain during a thunderstorm. This is what it looks like with all his little synapses firing like the Fourth of July:

Just kidding..that's actually a large sponge someone dropped off as decoration in front of the club:

The local 'motor pool' seems to be in good shape:

and there must have been some rain since we were here last week. I noticed the bugs are out in force:

(Why does this make me start humming old "Iron Butterfly" songs?)

While we were on the little island we stopped by to see some old friends who have a vacation home there. They have been exploring these waters for about thirty years, and have picked up a pretty good collection of old stuff. They have a small 'rock garden' made from the ballast stones of an ancient wreck, and I wanted to show you what we are talking about when I mention our searches for them. This is what an old 'ballast pile' looks like underwater:

After several hundred undisturbed years on the bottom the stones pretty much blend into the background. They get cemented into lumps by marine growth. They get covered in silt and algae. They are not that easy to spot until you get the hang of what to look for.

Here is another view, different pile, from a different angle:

I had tied a rope with a float on it to the pile so I could get a GPS position for it on the surface.

Now, this is what the ballast stones look like after you clean them up:

You can probably tell that these are river rocks. Pieces of granite, some of slate.. but none of them the soft marine limestone that is the only native rock here. This is what the stones would have looked like when those sailors piled them into the hull of their ship in Europe back around 1650. I am guessing they realized that these stones were making a one-way trip to the tropics. And so were some of the sailors.

It's interesting what kinds of things get found in the ocean if you look for them in the right places:

I believe our friends the antique collectors just donated a huge part of their long time "treasure" to the local maritime museum. I'd give them our anchor, too, if they wanted it.

So that's the sort of stuff we have been up to over the past week since our guests went back to the Rocky Mountains. Just the same old stuff.


jg3 said...

Hey, I came across your blog as I'm preparing to take a honeymoon out to N Caicos. Your pictures are great, and the stories bring island life alive. I'm a little nervous about the weather in October, but it looks like I've picked a nice little corner of God's green earth for the occasion. I look forward to following along more...

Anonymous said...

If you feel like doing some fishing while on up Jay and Sandy Johnson at Bottlecreek Lodge.

Anonymous said...

Hello Gringos- Someone over on a Virgin Islands travel forum clued me into your Blog because I was curious about TCIs... I have enjoyed reading your blogentries and find it a fun journey when I have some free time to "escape".

Cheers from Greenville South Carolina!

Anonymous said...

Hello Sherban,
Glad you found something of interest. TCI is different from the VIs. Different geography, for sure. Not nearly as crowded, either. But you do give up some amenities here. Goes with the territory.

If you have any questions, ask away. We've been here full time for three years now...starting to get a feel for the place.

jg3 said...

Thanks for the tip, gringo. I was looking pretty seriously at staying at Bottle Creek Lodge, but I thought Whitby would be better for the beach. Still, I want to make it over there at least once for dinner - everything I've seen indicates they're great people... and serve great food.

I've seen some references to a bridge between North and Middle... is it true? I'd love to hop on some bikes and just ride all over. We'll see if my then-wife will be up for such a trip. :)

Dad said...

Hey Gringo et Gringa.

Saw this programme on the BBC last night. I know the location is not where you are, but since reading your blog, whenever I hear the words "underwater camera", "diving" or "wreck", I think of you both.

And the dog, of course.

Just in case the link is no good, Google "BBCiplayer" and look for the programme Pacific Abyss.

Hope you like it.

Anonymous said...

Hey Gringo, how'd the weather treat y'all? Hope things are still all together - and you can keep puttin' out beautiful pictures for us.


Anonymous said...

Hello "Dad",
I tried the link, and got this message:

"Currently BBC iPlayer TV programmes are available to play in the UK only."

But it sure looked like it would be interesting. Funny, Google things I am in the UK, and the UK thinks I am somewhere else. And we are in a British territory...go figure.

As for the weather, I just wrote up another post with some weather photos in it. It's a pretty bland post, but at least it's a change of scenery. It should be on the blog shortly.

Anonymous said...

Hi Gringo.
I am Denis Oudard. I am a Solar Water Heater specialist. Do not hesitate to contact me.
Putting a sheet on the collector when you work on the system is a very good idea.
There are several type of SWH, where you live you should be able to put one which does not require any electicity.

Also, insulate the pipes. In your area it is not because of the freeze, and not so much not to loose the heat, it's mainly to keep anyone from burning themselves on the pipes. Solar can produce extremely high temperatures.