Monday, February 23, 2009

A new toy.

The previous blog post here ended with this photo of the arrival at the house of our new toy.

No, not the Land Rover.. That's now an old toy...the new toy is in the cardboard box. We waited two weeks for a kayak we ordered from a Hobie dealer in Florida.  Nautical Ventures, if you're looking for a really good Hobie dealer.  The kayak finally arrived late Monday on an ocean freighter. I was able to get it cleared through Customs in only about three hours total effort, involving two trips into Providenciales. The way this works is that we get a call from the freight company that our freight has arrived. They ask if we want them to clear it and deliver it. For $ 250. I decided that for about a half day's effort I could just save the money.

So, after the call that the freight is in, and the decision to clear it myself because I'm frugal, the first step is to drive to the freight office and pick up the paperwork, invoice, bill of lading, etc.  This is a sheaf of papers. Then I drive to the Customs House, and buy an "entrance form" for seventy five cents. This is the 'fun' part, filling out the entrance form. It has a lot of mysterious terms and acronyms to work through but fortunately the TCI Customs people are very helpful. They help with terms like 'C.P.C., Exporter Codes, Declarant Codes, Tariff Codes, Duty Bases', etc etc. Then I leave the form with them, along with all the paperwork from the freight company and exporter. If I get this all done before 11:00 AM I can pick up the clearance after 3:00 the same day. If I submit it after 11:00 I can pick it up the next day.  Or the next business day.  You can probably tell I have some experience at this.  Not much of it good.   I made the deadline, so  went to run some other errands while my paperwork worked through the system.

At 3:00 PM I returned to Customs, wait in line again, and then comes the part where they try to find the paperwork. This can take, in my experience, anything from five minutes to  an hour. Eventually they always seem to locate it sitting in one unfiled pile or another. This form tells   how much import duty is owed, and in the case of boats here in 2009, that works out to about 11% of the boat price. After this I go stand in another line to pay the duty, and then sit around the waiting area watching television.  For about a half an hour this time.  Not real busy.  Thenl an agent calls me over.  Interrupting Oprah. The agent strips out all the copies of the various forms they need, and leaves me with the receipt verifying that I paid the duty. I am now done with customs, and can drive back to the freight company. I pay them their freight charges,which is a totally different thing entirely from the customs duty.  After I have a receipt from their front office verifying that I have paid the freight charges, I take that and my customs duty receipt and wander into their warehouse and they then start the process of looking for my shipment. This can take from five minutes, to (in this case) about half an hour or so. The package was loaded in the Land Rover, and I was home with it by late afternoon.

Out of the box it's all buckled up in it's own rolling travel case. Neat.

Assembled and inflated, and yes, it was dark by this time. I get kinda carried away with assembling new toys.

These things have a zillion little pieces and parts. I guess that's what happens when you take a simple design like a kayak and turn enough engineers loose on it for long enough. Fortunately, I happen to like mechanical doodads. For example, this is one of the two Hobie "Mirage Drives" that came with the kayak:

The inventor of this contraption got the idea from watching how penguins use their flipper-like wings underwater. Of coure we have already removed the stock flippers and put longer "turbo" models on it. Before we even got it wet.

The next morning I grabbed my coffee and sat down to read some instruction manuals and out of the corner of my eye I saw this thing in the slanted morning sunlight:

Man, did that ever make me do a double take. While I am sure I didn't move or scream or any of that stuff, it got my attention I hesitate to tell you what I thought it was, but a big ugly bug was high on the list.  I could see it's evil little eyes.  Big ferocious fangs.  And some kind of scary looking stinging device dripping venom from it's tail.  I swear I could see all this with just this one glance. After I snuck up on it like a creaky old Ninja wannabe with a flip flop shoe  to smash it with, I realized what it was. A small scrap of cardboard box I had cut while opening the kayak accessories package in the house the night before had fallen to the floor and the sunlight was shining exactly through the corrugated parts...

Sure got MY heart thumping... between the venomous centipedes, free roaming scorpions, and wasps as mean as they come , we have seen some serious bugs here. I was happy not to have discovered some new species this morning.

Okay, back to the topic...New it snugged up to the top of the Defender and went looking for someplace to launch it and start fine tuning all the little adjustments it needs.

So here we are, first time in an inflatable kayak with Mirage drives assembled, installed, and adjusted. They work!

We went pedalling out past the Little Five Cays, and found a moderate chop running. No problems, the inflatable is really solid.

One of the Little Five  Cays, near our house. Great snorkeling there.

We travelled about two and a half miles the first day, pedal drive power alone. We even went into a new marina here under construction and took a look at a little cottage being completed by one of our future neighbors. This is all one property:

A shame to have to settle for a hovel of a beach house like that, in this day and age.  I sure hope their full time homes have some room in them.  That place looks cramped.   This is sarcasm. Or my version of it.

Our legs were pretty tired after the first kayak outing, but we already knew we liked the boat. All boats are compromises, to some extent. Our panga, for example, was a calculated compromise for these waters from the very start. We were looking for a good all around boat that would handle moderate swells and handle moderately shallow water. It did both of those, but wasn't as good offshore as the Contender is, nor was it able to go as shallow as a flats boat. A compromise.

But now we have a different approach. The Contender is a far superior ocean boat than the panga. We have found ourselves in ten foot seas a couple of times now, and are constantly amazed at well it handles bigger waves and chop. But in gaining this superior ocean boat, we did have to give up the shallow water exploring. So our hopes with the kayak is to open up the shallow water stuff again, and be able to have a separate boat for each scenario. In fact one of the things we like about the inflatable is that we will be able to put this kayak on the Contender and take them both anywhere in the TCI.

We did feel guilty when we got home after that first days kayaking. Dooley the Disheartened took one look at our wet clothes and the sand stuck to our feet and got really miffed. He just KNEW we had been to a beach or boating without him. He retreated to his room and was humming along with "Hound Dog Blues" for a while. Sad.

The next day was a bit calmer, and we thought we would try the sail kit that we got with the kayak. A mistake.

There were still too many things that needed adjusting and the sail just complicated things to the point where we decided that until we get a feel for the rest of the boat we are going to leave the sail at home. We still managed to boat about 3 and a half miles in the ocean on our second day with the kayak.

We have gotten our method down for getting it on and off the Defender.

(I just knew that aluminum plate I put on the 'bonnet' would come in handy sooner or later)

This time when we got home Dooley the Disrespected was really in a funk. He was moping around the house grumbling and listening to Chris Isaak music. Two days in a row we went boating without him. Unforgiveable. We figured that on the next trip we would take him along and see if he was going to be able to adapt to the change from the Contender to a rubber kayak.

Finally, yesterday we felt comfortable enough with the boat to actually go explore someplace new. We picked Chalk Sound for our first little excursion. It was La Gringa' idea and since we were having 20 mph winds out of the East the protected water seemed like a good idea.

Chalk Sound is a National Park in the TCI. We had seen it many times, of course, and knew that no power boats are allowed there, and that it has dozens of small cays in it. This is a Google Earth image showing Chalk Sound. The line in the lower left is one mile, for scale:

You can just make out all the little islands in the sound, many of them not much more than rocks. We loaded up the rubber duckie and the dog this time, and headed over. We launched the boat in an area protected from the wind. La Gringa took some photos, including this view of Chalk Sound from the Eastern shore:

The water is a light turquoise, and very clear. When it isn't being stirred up by the wind. Didn't look too gnarly to us, so away we went:

"Hey, this is easy!" we thought, as we headed directly downwind toward the first set of islands. You can tell the wind direction by the line of foam (called spindrift) running straight in front of us.

Dooley the Drenched (he had been swimming) was not too crazy about being told he had to stay on the back of the kayak. He kept trying to re-negotiate a seat up in First Class. But letting him wander in and out of those two sets of moving pedals was not a good idea. His tail is short enough as it is.

You can hopefully get an idea of what the water there is like. The photos really don't do it justice. It is almost iridescent. (Whoa! I just noticed from that photo that SOMEbody is overdue for a whisker trim. And it ain't Dooley.)

By the time we got about a mile out away from the protection of the shore the choppy waves were getting up there a bit. This is us approaching the near end of that first string of little cays.

Going this way was easy. But imagine coming back into those waves in that little boat later.
We were surprised to see quite a bit of vegetation on the cays. There is no source of fresh water here.

We got to the end of that first string of rocks and it was turning out to be a very pleasant trip running downwind. At this point we were deciding whether to go even further or to make our way over to the slightly protected shoreline to the North. Knowing we would be fighting the wind and waves all the way back we opted to keep this first excursion kinda short and come back on a calmer day to explore the rest of it in a more leisurely fashion.

All of these limestone cays have the typical undercut rock edges that are so common here. Still, we saw plenty of what looked like nice private picnic spots.

Chalk Sound is just off the approach end of Provo's International Airport. We just happened to be there when the US Air flight bringing down La Gringa' brother and sister-in-law was landing. We gave them a big wave, but I doubt they noticed the two people and little dog in a kayak below:

This is what happens when the wind and waves eventually dissolve the rock enough that it can no longer support the overhanging edge. It collapses into the water.

Not far from that last rock we spotted what looked like a piece of some kind of metal wreckage. At first we thought it must be a sunken boat, but it wasn't rusty, really. Just grungy. So it wasn't steel. We were asking ourselves if maybe it was an aluminum boat of some kind.

But after a closer look we discovered that it is what's left of the instrument panel, cowling, and firewall of a small airplane. I guess if you are not going to make the runway, ditching in the sound's shallow warm water would be a good option. Sure beats going down in the solid rock hills all around us. You might be able to walk away from this one.

Dooley still wasn't all that crazy about being forced to ride in the back, but after we told him it was actually Business Class he put up with it. He's easy to distract if you tell him to keep an eye out for monster barracuda.

After cruising down the shoreline, we decided we had better cut the trip short and start back. We had no idea how an inflatable kayak would handle going into the wind, which was actually picking up a bit at this point. You can see the path it was taking in this opening between cays:

Before leaving the shelter of the line of rocks out in the middle of the sound, we decided to stop for a rest break in the lee of one of the little cays. Dooley said he had some fresh water to drop off for the plants, or something to that effect:

The boat is really stable. We were able to relax for a few minutes before heading back directly into the wind.

Our Shore Patrol hopped onto the little cay to check for undocumented lizards. Or whatever else he could find.

"Hey, an entire island with nothing already marked! I claim this land in the name of Dooley!"

It's not exactly the kind of shoreline that makes you comfortable about hauling an inflatable boat onto it. Or walking on it barefooted for that matter.

Nice water, though.

This is the rudder control on the kayak. Nice feature. You can pretty much just set it and not touch it again until you need to make a change:

The pedals don't go around and around like on a paddlewheel type system. They just go back and forth. Sort of like a recumbent stairmaster machine. The paddles clip to the sides. Nice touch.

You'll notice the boat was wet in that photo. So were we. I wish I had thought to take some video during the worst of it, but we were almost back in the clear by the time I remembered that I had the capability.

You can still hear the wind noise in the video. So, turn on your speakers and....

Just Push Play

We were very impressed with the Mirage Drives. Two of these let us power through the waves and into the wind without any real problems. Other than getting totally soaked going back.

(We were also very impressed with Nautical Ventures, out of Ft. Lauderdale. If you are looking for a boat and kayak dealer in that area we would highly recommend their help and service.)

Now all loaded up and ready to head home. Dooley the Dehydrated is already in the truck and ready to go. Heck, if he had the keys and could reach the pedals he would be gone already..

Still nice and calm water up at this end. Sure doesn't look like that out in the middle a mile and a half away.

A last view of Chalk Sound before heading home with plans to return on a calmer day and spend a lot more time exploring some of the larger rocks.

It will nice to be able to see what's on the bottom,too. Once the water clears up.

And finally back at the little house on the hill, another day comes to an end.


Anonymous said...

Hi - too funny you were so frightened by a piece of cardboard and its shadow! It really does look like a dragon-bug. It is no wonder your blog wins awards! And I just love Mr. Dooley the Dog, he has the best names. Thanks for writing this blog.

jschieff said...

That water is so beautiful! The kayak looks fun -- I'm amazed the foot-pedal power is so effective and the kayak slides so easily despite being an inflatable.

Anonymous said...

I was pretty surprised, myself. My past experiences with inflatables has been good with boats like Zodiac and Avon RIBs, with outboards, but not so good with inflatable kayaks.

But this one is different. The floor/keel is really stiff. It's very stable, and surpisingly fast.

The Mirage Drives are pure magic. You can basically go for as long as you would be able to ride a bike, for example. And they are fast.

We haven't even tried paddling and peddling at the same time yet. It's nice to have your hands free and not have to coordinate paddles.
The Drives are independent, one person can rest, or peddle at a different pace.

Anonymous said...

Wow, so many posts over the past couple weeks- you're going to spoil us!
Chalk Sound sure is a stunner. I keep a picture of it on my dresser (from our trip in August) where I can see it every day. On our next trip we hope to go out on the pontoon boat they have at Neptune Villas/Las Brisas. We've heard it's really fun. I wonder why that motorized boat is allowed on the Sound? (assuming it's legal)

Are there many fish/marine life in Chalk Sound? Are you allowed to fish there or is it protected?

Congrats on your new boat. As always, I love the Dooley anecdotes.

Anonymous said...

Cool Kayak and very good way to get a little exercise. My wife and I have a couple inexpensive ones aboard our boat that we break out quite often. I really like the idea of foot power , my shoulders are beginning to give me some problems and with a kayak like the Hobie I could switch off of the paddles.
I got some catching up to do on the blog I see. You two have a great retirement, thanks again for sharing.

La Gringa said...

Hey...!!! I am NOT retired..... yet!! ;-)

Anonymous said...

Bradvo, if you try one of these Mirage Drives, I am betting you won't go back to paddles. You just need to paddle to back up, and to move around in shallow water. These drives are faster than paddling, and you can go for hours.

Joy, the only marine life we saw were sea turtles, but the water was pretty cloudy from all the wind. We'll go back on a less windy day, when it's really photogenic. We will be able to see the bottom clearly after a couple calm days.

Anonymous said...

Wow, that thing really flies!

ninja said...

I once managed to break a 'still' kayak and a small wooden bridge we run into so I don't see myself in an inflated one.

Capt. Lee said...

Love the new little boat, I can see bigger adventures coming soon...

Matt Cook said...

we are axiously awaiting another update in Alabama!

Hope all is well in the TCI

Anonymous said...

Wel between other activities and rough weather we have not been spending much time offshore. What we HAVE done in the past couple of weeks is take the kayak around to most of the canals on Providenciales and explore those. It's a slightly different style of living here, one that we strongly considered ourselves. I certainly have a lot of canal photos if anyone is interested in that?

Anonymous said...

Canal photos sound good, especially when coupled with your and La Gringa's wit.

Did the personal submarine trials you mentioned in a previous post ever materialize?


Linda of the Island said...

Hi - thanks so much for this. We're considering a Hobie inflatable due to age-related back and shoulder issues. It was great to see your first sea trial and impressions in such detail. We're also thinking of investing in the electric motor designed by Torqeedo to fit in the Mirage drive well. I think that might be the ultimate backup system! Thanks again - hope you're still enjoying the Hobie.