Sunday, December 21, 2008

Winter Solstice

Today's the shortest day of the year. Uh, I mean north of the equator, it's the least amount of daylight in the Northern Hemisphere. Sometimes I tend to not think through the fact that we have people reading this in New Zealand and South Africa... couple people check in from time to time in Australia, Brasil...I gotta start thinking more globally. Again.

Anyhow, we've been pretty busy. We have at least four of our five sons planning to be here over the holidays. Two of them arrived Friday night from Cape Cod. And I got a pleasant surprise. They brought me a memento of years gone by. If you take a look at the swim fins in this photo:

You might notice that they are a bit longer than the average fins in use these days. A lot longer. They are also a heavy, industrial strength rubber. Like pro divers equipment. Well, the story behind these is that I was spearfishing in Brazil in '85 with some friends. A really neat place south of Rio de Janeiro called Angra dos Reis. We were free-diving down about thirty feet. And these guys were getting down much faster than I was. And we were using rocks to take us to the bottom but that's another story. Anyhow after all the kidding I took, we figured out the difference was these long, Brazilian made flippers they were using. So I borrowed a pair and once I got used to the different kick they worked great. Instead of a flutter kick, these work best with a big, slow scissor kick. And good luck walking the next morning. A whole new set of leg muscles come into play. When I left Brazil a month later they made a farewell present of a new pair of the flippers. These are actually a little shorter than the ones I was using, but those wouldn't fit in a suitcase. I carried them home and over the years I totally forgot about them. Never used them again. I had other flippers. That was many flippers ago.

I was telling my sons about us losing about 75% of our snorkelling gear collection when Cay Lime got trashed. We had enough masks, snorkels, and flippers to equip about six or seven people. One of my boys remembered seeing these packed away in their basement. So he brought them down with him on Friday. I can't wait to try them out again and see if they still work as well as I remembered them from the last time I used them... twenty three years ago.

Things here have settled down since our return from Mexico. Things continue to fall apart, of course, as they seem to do in the tropics. Sometimes I wonder that the noise of all the stuff rusting away doesn't keep the dog awake at night. The worry sure messes with my own sleep from time to time. The latest was a few days ago when I noticed that there was a puddle of oil under the front of the Land Rover. "Ah Oh" thinks I. "This can't be good.." Finding the culprit only took a few minutes, luckily. A rock had bounced up and knocked a hole in the oil filter. Whew. It was about time to change it, anyhow.

I did manage to get back to woodworking a little bit. One of our neighbors is an artist, and she works in a variety materials. She made a small mosaic for our house, and thought it would look good in a black frame. The theme is the two scorpions La Gringa keeps on her desk, and there are rocks, bark, natural pieces. It's got a lot of relief, so won't fit well behind glass.

Well, being the unconventional artist type, she didn't make it one of them there standard sort of run-of-the-mill sizes. I can understand that. But this means the only way to get a frame for it was to either go to a custom frame shop to fit it, or of course, for me to just make one. A quick check through the telephone directory did not reveal any custom frame shops within a day's it looks like it's gonna be Oh boy, another DIY project!

Back when Gilley's restaurant in Leeward closed and was being demolished last year we managed to snag a few pieces of the bar before it all got hauled away. We ended up with eleven of these frames, or bezels, or whatever they are called:

These were decorative frames attached to the front of the oak bar at Gilley's, about knee level to someone still able to sit on a bar stool. Eyebrow level for those at least able to manage the floor in a sitting get the idea. If they could only talk....

They have been sitting around for over a year, and I didn't know what to do with them. (Heck, we are still trying to come up with an idea of what to do with them.) They're solid red oak, so I definitely wasn't going to throw them out. No self respecting pack rat throws out good hardwood in a place like this, even if he doesn't have a clue what to do with it. I doubt I could find red oak here to work with even if I tried, and it's one of my favorite woods. An obvious choice for a picture frame, but too heavy for this particular one. So I knocked one apart, did some mitre cuts on the corners, and ran the pieces through the table saw and made it look like this:

Had to chisel out the grooves the table saw blade left in. Note to self...I need a router.

I drilled the corners and pounded in some glued dowell rods to hold them together:

Sanded it all down and slapped some black paint on it, and there we have it:

What do you think? Not too bad? (that's the artist herself on the patio talking to La Gringa) Now I need to come up with some more similar sized 'pieces' to 'visually balance' out the other columns ...I just love this artistic talk. What it boils down to is more DIY projects with wood. That, I do understand.

I finally managed to get the boat registered as a fishing vessel here on Thursday, so we are legal to fish again. Finally!! There was no longer an excuse not to rig up and install the outriggers. I didn't wanted to drive around with obvious fishing gear sticking out of the boat when we were not supposed to be fishing. Of course not. Wouldn't be right. Nor legal. My sons were keen to see the new boat, so we loaded up the outrigger poles in the back of the Land Rover and drove down to the marina.

Getting them onto the boat and rigged up only took about a half an hour. It would have taken even less time if we had known what we were doing, but we got it done.

Nice to have willing hands to do the physical labor while I gesticulate and make suggestions.

(photo by Jacob)

Probably should have done some of this before installing the pole. Thank goodness for tall kids.

(photo by Jacob)

Once it was all rigged up it made sense to take the boat out for a little shake down cruise. Besides, if you can't go boating in t-shirts and shorts on the shortest day of the year, first day of winter, what's the use of living in a place like this? Here's the new view of t-top with outriggers installed in the travel position:

(photo by Jacob)

We crusised by the house, and I called La Gringa and asked her to step out on the patio and snap a few photos as we went by.

I gotta say, this boat scoots along pretty well.

And after a few passes....with appropriate warm ocean spray and "yee-haaaas!" all around,

we headed on back to the marina.

You may notice that the quality of those photos is on the crummy side. It was not until I got home and hooked the camera up to the laptop that I saw they were grainy and out of focus. It was my fault. I had set the camera up in 'macro' mode for some closeups the last time I used it, and La Gringa did not notice it. So while we were zooming around about 300 yards away, the camera was set up for three inches away. Oh well. We will just have to take the boat back out and try again.

Hardship. It's hardship in this brutal winter weather, I tell ya.

Dooley is getting used to the new boat. He has picked out his favorite cruising spot:

(photo by Jacob)

And I don't know what got into him when he stayed in the kennel while we were in Mexico. It's almost like he has been taking assertiveness training or something. Now, as soon as the sun goes down he starts bugging me for his dinner. First he will follow me around, or take up a position near where I am typing on the computer and just try a little subtle pressure with the two brown laser eye thing:

When I continue to ignore him, he eventually gets between my feet and starts just generally harassing me to get up and feed him:

When that doesn't get the results he wants, he starts getting more aggressive and will jump up and jam his rough little paws against me. Repeatedly.

Usually at this point I yell at him and lately, he's been yelling back! He will stand there, and start yowling, mumbling, and whining. He calls me names in whatever furry brained language he uses. He really gets worked up, and gets so loud and vocal it's hard to concentrate on ignoring him. He will hook his nose under my wrist and disrupt my typing. Or he will just stand there and tell me to get up, right now, and feed him. Like he was doing here:

And he will escalate this until I just can't stand it any more and get up and go for the dog food. It's the only thing that shuts him up. Well, actually a vigorous head pat or tummy scratch will distract him for a few minutes until he figures out what I am doing. Then I get a baleful stare and he goes right back to talking about my ancestry. Ingrate.

But he's still a good watch dog. He probably needs glasses for his eyesight, because he has been known to bark at sea buoys, abstract shapes, and memories. But his hearing is better than excellent. He can, for example, hear the sound a piece of cheddar cheese makes when it knows it's about to be grated. Phenomenal.

And if he doesn't work out as a watchdog...we will threaten to replace him with a watch goat...

He tells me it can't be done....but I've seen it.


Anonymous said...

Great to see you have family coming in for the holiday. Sounds like a nice way to wrap up a very trying year. The boat looks great..the frame is perfect for that beautiful artwork your neighbor made for you and Dooley is absolutely precious! He is so SMART!!!

Heather is COLD here in HOUSTON!!!
Tell La Gringa hello!

MrPat said...

Merry Christmas guys! Put your boys on some fish during the Holidays.


Anonymous said...

... the sound of a piece of cheese about to be grated. Too funny! Merry Christmas Gringos, enjoy your time with family.

Anonymous said...

Thanks guys. One just got in from Denver this it's getting real busy right now.

Hope you all have a great Christmas, too, wherever in the world you may be.

Anonymous said...

Love the art...does the artist have a website??


Anonymous said...

She doesn't have a website,but she has given us several different arrangements and pieces she put together. In fact,a couple days ago she and LaGringa went to some art showing here on the island, and took a few photos of some local art. If people are interested, I would be happy to post a few photos of local artsy stuff.