Sunday, September 14, 2008

High and dry, but colorful at least...

A week ago today we were 'hunkered down' waiting for a hurricane. Two weeks ago today we were 'hunkered down' waiting for a hurricane. I hope this 'hunkering' does not become a steady thing. I don't know how many more storms these little islands could absorb. And hurricanes are exciting but they are not much fun. Two in the same week is approaching the 'too much excitement' limits, I think.

I am going to post a few ruined outboard photos, and then some colorful-boats-aground pictures we took yesterday in the Five Cays part of town. (So if you don't like looking at motor parts, please just bear with me for a paragraph or so.)

I spent most of yesterday dismantling the engine on "Cay Lime". I did not intend to dismantle it when I started. I thought I would just take the spark plugs out and see if any water got into the cylinder heads. The engine had been sitting for over two weeks since it was bashed on the rocks by Hanna, and then submerged by the tides and waves for four days. Upside down. I was expecting some corrosion. And I got some. And more.

After I looked in the cylinders and saw sand and rust colored sea-water, I took the heads off. Ugh. Then I decided to take the carburators off, and more Ugh. They were caked with wet sand. So then I took the intake manifold off...

This is supposed to be a nice shiny set of reed valves without a speck of sand. I got more than a speck.

This exposed the crankcase and more bad news there..

No, there is not supposed to be sand in a crankcase. A few grains would ruin a motor. I have a small pail full.

Looking at the back of the engine,you can see there are rocks jammed under things.

The flywheel won't turn. All the iron parts are rusted and corroded. There is sand in everything. This does not look good. I am going to completely take it apart now. Perhaps some of the parts will be useful. Maybe I can trade them for something. The modern day equivalent of beads, axes, and trinkets?

I spent a depressing few hours dismantling layer after layer of engine parts. I would unbolt awhile, pry a while, cry for a little bit, and then start on another part. Gosh there are a lot of parts in these things. Late in the day we decided to take a drive down to the Five Cays area of Provo, with a swing through Blue Hills on the way. We saw a lot of damage in Blue Hills, with power lines down everywhere. I also noticed all the local conch boats that survived the storm by being beached and tied to trees:

These are rugged, simple little boats. And they seem to do just fine if they get beached secured and allowed to ride out the storm surge. There is a lot to be said for simple and rugged.

We did notice that the new Bugaloo conch restaurant is well under way:

Bugaloo was the local conch fisherman who started the restaurant now called Da Conch Shack. We are happy to see him building a place of his own, although it does put him in competition for his earlier restaurant down the road.

After leaving Blue Hills we drove over to the Five Cays Settlement part of the island. I wanted to see how bad the storm damage was at the island's only Yamaha shop. I had called them on Friday to find out they were still out of business. Flooded, damage, and no power. Gosh, and they are going to let a few little things like that stop them? A lot of the damage is being cleaned up, but there are missing roofs and downed powerlines all over the place. I did not think you needed to see any more of those photos, especially with the news full of what our buddy Ike did to the Texas coast, so we concentrated on boats. And there are plenty of boats to photograph.

If you follow this blog, you may notice the huge difference between the boats kept at the Caicos Marina, and the boats the natives use in their day to day lives. This is about the local's boats.

Except for this one:

Sitting high and dry on the beach at Five Cays is a steel hulled Haitian boat. Friends tell me it was just there after the storm. It was driven well up onto the sand, and is sitting there perfecty upright and largely undamaged.

When I saw that, my first thought was "how the heck did the Captain manage to keep that boat safe in those conditions?" And my second thought was how cool an apartment on the beach could be made out of it. Build a nice patio around it at deck level, paint it up nice, and run power and water to it..Never have to worry about another storm surge. Leave an anchor tied to the master bedroom..

From there we went to the yard where the Yamaha dealer is located. I suspect that the Yamaha people and I are going to get to know each other in the months to come. We already know some of them, of course. There we saw boats that had been floating in the clear calm water just the week before. Not anymore:

I didn't count how many of the local fishermen's boats we saw washed up onto the island by the storm. I would estimate there must be fifty to a hundred just in this area alone.

Judging by the position of these boats, I think that the storm surge from Hanna must have washed them all up onto the beach. And then with Ike coming at us even stronger just a few days later, the owners just left them on the beach and ran lines to anything they could find to secure them.

Of course none of them have trailers, but then they don't need them. These boats are tough enough to drag out of the water right up onto the sand with a truck. I think re-launching them can be as simple as getting a few sections of telephone pole or PVC pipe and rolling them back down to the water. It worked with the pyramids, and it still works today. Simple is good. I am repeatedly re-learning that.

We saw a lot of boats that floated around in the storm until they fetched up against a fence. And there they still sit:

Down at the end of Five Cays road there is a fish market. A lot of the local conch and lobster fishermen anchor their boats there. The storm picked them all up and washed them across the parking lot, until they came up against a chain link fence. And there they stopped.

Well, not all of them stopped at the fence. Some of them made it through the gate:

We saw another half dozen or so boats way out into the mangroves and bush. Getting these back is not going to be so simple. But I know the fishermen will figure it out. They are amazingly resilient.

This Boston Whaler belonged to another friend of ours named Junior. (We know a lot of "Juniors") We heard that he sold it not long ago. I bet he is happy about that.

And while most of these boats were tossed and floated into things, some of them were treated surprisingly well. Hanna backed this one up and parked it conveniently next to the Yamaha mechanics shop:

That should save time on a service call.
I have noticed two basic designs for the conch boats. One is the single keel, pointed bow design like the boat in the foreground here:

And the other design is popped out of a mold taken from a 17 foot Boston Whaler Montauk with the blunt bow and cathedral style hull. The interiors are almost identical. They all have a short deck, with a plywood spray dodger where a windshield would normally be, and a couple of short bulkheads in the hull to load up with conch, lobster, or fish. They all have a simple console and only the basic engine controls and steering.

Dooley the Dangerous Dog was on the prowl for careless rats. But I noticed he was also on the alert for chicken bones or parts of anything edible. The dog has no taste buds at all. I am convinced of it.

This says that "God is in this boat"

I wonder who was in the boat next to it.

And we thought We had hull damage:

Here's a photo of the two types of conch boat hulls. The red one is the pointy, single bow style, and the blue one is the Boston Whaler knock-off:

There are ten Yamaha outboards in that photo. And not one of any other brand. These guys make a living with their boats, and they need simplicity, ruggedness, and ease of repair. Good enough endorsement for me.

The religious theme is fairly common here. I can imagine being out at sea in one of these small boats when a squall blows up, with no life jackets, flares, or radio...might just foster some prayer from time to time.

("Dooley! Stop eating that!!")

This is the back of the Yamaha shop. And a common sight on Provo these days...a team of roofers trying to fix it up before the next tropical storm blows through.

They still did not have electricity here as of yesterday afternoon. I suspect I am going to get to know the parts department here fairly well over the next months, as well as the mechanics.

Things are slowly getting back to the 'new normal' at our house. Opening it up after the storm brought back some surrealistic memories. In the sunny tropical light of another normal day, memoirs of those storms pop up on a regular basis. It brings it all back. I had to untie the bits of Dooley's leash that I had frantically wrapped around the inside latches of the hurricane shutters during the height of Hanna. I have already described that experience in a previous post. It was a little scary, actually. Like an old Bogart movie scene.

During the 90 mph winds we were unable to get these shutters to close. The wind was shaking them too hard. We couldnt see what we were doing outside because of the stinging, driving rain. And the wind was trying to blow us off the patio. So I cut Dooley's rope leash into three pieces,and found some ty-wraps for the other shutters, and somehow this held them together. Oh sure, they work just fine, now.

And there was still one bloody palm print (mine) on the inside of one door, that the rain did not get to:

The cuts are healing, the memories will fade, and life will go on.

The house did okay, actually. All our problems were roof-related and we have those under control now. Oh, and all those outside light fixtures that had given me so much trouble are now no trouble at all. Out of 21 fixtures, all are heavily damaged and most of them are either in pieces or completely ripped from the house.

I am looking for suitable replacements, but this time we are not going to waste time and money on something that won't survive this environment. For example, we had seven of these:

Only four of the seven are still attached,and the first good wind will finish them. I am thinking of replacing them with something similar to this:

We had fourteen of these things:

and that is one of the only four still intact. And it's on it's last legs. I am looking on the internet for something like this, but that can be mounted with the bulb pointing upward:

I am sure there must be something suitable available somewhere. We are not exactly estatic over the looks of the cast brass lamps, but they should be able to handle the wind and corrosion. We will continue to look until we find something that is rugged and not too ugly.

The only other damage to the property (except the landscaping) was emotional. While we were staying in another location waiting for the power to come back, some kind soul came up into our yard and looted our pressure washer. Gee, nice guy.

It wasn't a top of the line pressure washer, but the thought of someone coming onto the property and stealing it made us very sad. That's the first crime that has affected us personally in over three years here.

But our faith in human kindness also got a shot in the arm this week. I don't want to talk about it until I know for sure, but we may be back on the water sooner than I had ever hoped due to the kindness of one of our blog readers.

And for the time being, the sunsets are back to "normal".

Or I guess I should say the new normal. Because going through a Category 4 hurricane on a small rock like this changes things. A lot of things.


Anonymous said...

Are you alluding to the idea of using Cay Lime as a mold? Also could you build a ramp to then get Cay Lime, Jr up to the house where you could secure it during a hurricane? Hanna provided our area with some much needed rain. Thanks for keeping up with the blog. It's been boring here with all the heat & humidity just inland from the coast of SC but we've just recently been informed that our community is being considered for a landfill. Time to put on the "thinking cap" again. Thanks again for the escape.


Anonymous said...

Gringo- Thanks for posting an update, glad to see you still have a sense of's good medicine.

Funny how tragedy &/or the unexpected can change perspectives in a NY minute.

Cheers from Greenville SC!