I'm mildly astonished but guess it's hard to refute. I don't know what happened to November. I didn't realize we were at the end until my own mother told me. She said something to the effect of "here it is the end of November and you haven't posted any new photos since November 9th..." Wow. Three weeks went by just like that. snap. Did I doze off or something?
Okay, well, here we go. An update on what we've been up to for those family and friends who keep up with this. First let me say I just went through all the photos La Gringa and I shot since the last blog and really didn't see all that many colorful sunrises. It seems it was either clear or overcast with not much in between. So this one, taken by La Gringa, will be the one we use to open this post:
And since I may as well clean out the photos from November that I will never use again...here's some more. This isn't colorful, but I thought it was kinda interesting in it's own way:
To me, that looks like a cold miserable November morning. But it wasn't. The weather here this time of year is still good by most standards. Our days are short like everybody else's north of the equator, but the daytime temp is up in the low to mid 80s F. It gets down into the mid 70s at night. We are absolutely freezing at 70 degrees. We put on shoes and close some of the windows.
That sunrise continued along those lines for a while as the sun rose:
We didn't get that much rain in November even though statistically it's the wettest month of the year here. It seemed to me that October had more rain. We were gone for almost a week in November and it might well have rained here every day while we were gone. That would have brought the total up. I'll have to ask Dooley the Demented about it. He stayed here while we were gone. He was not too happy about that, either.
"Hey, Dooley, you want to stay in a kennel for a few days while we go up North to shop and have fun without you?"
Nah. I didn't think so. At ease, Fang. You ain't scaring anybody.
We went up to the USA for a long weekend on "our" birthday. We visited some friends in Orlando and did some much needed shopping. As much as we love this little country, the limited selection of consumer goods available here is one of the things that eventually seems to drive everyone into making a shopping trip to Florida. We know people who fly up to Miami five or six times a year, buying everything from clothing and furniture to automobiles and boat parts to be shipped back down. We are not like that. Usually for us it's just an excuse to take a break. But every time we fly to the USA we carry almost empty luggage. It's not empty when we come back.
I won't bore you with our Universal Studio/"Islands of Adventure" photos here (yeah, we turned back into kids for a day and rode the roller coasters) as this blog is meant to be about living on a tropical island. But I did want to say how glad we were to get back home after even just a few days up there. Sometimes we get to feeling a little crowded here in Provo, and we complain a little between ourselves about how much like a city it's becoming.... and then we spend four days in Orlando.
Puts it back in perspective for us. That's a different place, for sure. I will post one photo taken in Orlando, which kinda sums it up for us:
When we saw this "No Swimming" sign right between the Hard Rock Hotel and Islands of Adventure... we looked at each other and said "this is meant to be humorous.......right?" Living where we do, I guess it seems inconceivable to us that something other than a snake would be the least bit interested in swimming in that water. We had no problem restraining ourselves from swimming here. Do the authorities actually have to keep people out of water like that? holy smokes.
We were glad to get home. We were especially glad to bail Dooley the Detained out of Doggie Camp. I tried to tell him he didn't miss anything but I don't think he believed me. When I dump my travelling clothes out of my luggage, he settles in for a good sniff of where I have been and what I have been up to. He doesn't listen to me, but he will believe his nose.
I was waiting for him to ask me something about Jimmy Buffett's Grumman amphibian...
But he didn't. I think he was more interested in the restaurants we went to. After getting caught up with what we had been doing, he went out to survey his kingdom...
and make sure nothing has changed during his incarceration. Ah, fresh air, sunshine, no cage...I know the feeling.
We lucked out after we got home and had a stretch of decent weather. Clear skies and calm seas, as you can see in the sunrise photos. We took the Contender out for another ride. I sure like this image of that Yamaha running sweet and clear for a change:
I am starting to relax and trust it again thinking that I have finally managed to locate and resolve the problems it was experiencing.
We cruised up through Leeward, our usual beat. Noticed the old freighter is still standing, after a fashion. It's being slowly stripped of parts, and is rusted through the hull in a dozen places. In one of these storms, it's just going to start collapsing. Should make for some interesting photos when it eventually happens.
Now THATs' some water you can swim in. I still can't get over that 'No Swimming' sign in Orlando. I have never seen a sign like that here.
The purpose (read 'excuse') for this trip was to try fishing again. We have not caught a decent fish the last three times we have been out. We didn't catch any this trip either. Sometimes it happens like that. We're not worried. We heard this weekend that the wahoo are biting now. That will probably generate another try later this week.
We usually go out through the Leeward cut, outside the reef and once we are outside the National Park we start trolling. We cross back and forth over the slope where the bottom drops away from the reef.
Here's a close up of the fathometer here and you can see the beach in the background about a mile away. We are in almost 1100 feet of water here, on the side of the slope.
And you can see how quickly the bottom drops from around 200 ft. outside the reef, on it's way down to 6,000 feet another half mile out:
It's like this all the way around this group of islands. We are never more than a few minutes from seriously deep water here on the outside perimeter of the country.
The drop-off outside the reef is about a mile to a mile and a half from the beach in most places. On the eastern edge of North, Middle, East and South Caicos the reef is very close to the beach and the deep water is only a few hundred yards out in places. We were about a mile and a half north of North Caicos here and that line of clouds is from the NE trade winds coming across the Atlantic and being deflected upwards over the islands.
We have a line of clouds over these islands just about every day of the year. It makes navigating fairly easy. We always know where those islands are just by looking up at the clouds. We can usually spot the cloud bank forming over Mayaguana about 50 miles North of us in the Bahamas too.
Not much to do while trolling along at about 8 kts. when the fish aren't biting. We tried pulling skirted cedar plugs, Gatlinjets in green and pink, Williamson skirted ballyhoo, all things that have proven themselves in the past. Nada. So we just enjoyed the day. For after all, a nice day on the water here is better than a lot of other things I can think of. Even fishing, we are wsill close enough to land for good cell phone coverage:
In fact a lot of the local guys carry their cell phones instead of spending the money on a VHF radio. Makes sense. We don't have SeaTow or the USCG here. Not many people monitor the VHF channels. So it makes sense to be able to actually call someone who can help you.
And the steady low hum of the motor at idle puts SOME people to sleep...
Or maybe he's conserving his energy in case we catch a big fish and he gets called upon to bite it. One never knows.
After a few hours of trolling along with no fish we finally gave up and headed back to Providenciales. It's about a 20 mile trip. Going back through Leeward we spotted one of Sail Provo's catamarans beached with a lot of people milling around.
After a few minutes we realized that someone chose this spot for their wedding. Of course we would think that is pretty cool since La Gringa and I got married on the beach in front of Sip Sip at Harbour Island in the Bahamas. This is nice too.
Once through Leeward we are back on the Caicos Bank, and now the water depth varies from zero to eventually about 9 or 12 feet deep. But getting out to the 9 foot deep part in our boat requires me to put the tabs down and pay close attention to the bottom. You don't dare come 'off plane' here because if you do the boat settles down into the water and if you are in the wrong place you might find yourself sitting on the sand if you are lucky. On rock or a coral head if you are not. The problem with all that is that it can be really tricky to get the boat 'unstuck' and moving again. It usually involves cranking the motor up, climbing overboard and pushing the boat to deeper water to get enough clearance for the prop to work. This is what it looks like doing about 35 mph over three feet of water in a boat that draws almost that much at rest:
Not a good time to doze. Or have engine problems.
Back on Provo, this past Saturday was the annual Conch Festival in Blue Hills. We wanted to go this year especially since we missed the festivities last year because we were in Mexico swimming with sea lions. The way this works is that a bunch of local restaurant chefs compete with their conch recipes. This year, there were 26 competitors. People pay $20, and get a voting sheet. This lets you wander around and sample, in this case, 26 different conch dishes. You vote on the one you think is best.
There were some REALLY good recipes this year. This is the third one of these we have attended and they just keep getting better with more competition. The competitors really try to outdo themselves and the other restaurants.
There are usually displays by groups other than the conch cookers. This year the Department of Environmental Stuff had a display on the invasive species, the Lionfish.
These fish originated in the Asia Pacific area but have somehow been brought to these waters and are thriving here. They have no natural enemies here, have poisonous spines, and are gobbling up the local fish when they are small and vulnerable. Here's a photo of a live one:
And a suggestion of what the government here would like for us to do about them:
The government is having a contest to induce people to hunt and kill the Lionfish. The first person to reach 3,000 dead lionfish wins a cash prize. I asked one of the environmental officers what the best bait was to catch them because I tried one of the cooked lionfish samples and they are pretty good. He told me that one has to net them or the best way is to shoot them with a spear. "Aha" (says I) " I would LOVE to be able to spear them but you guys have made it clear that possession of a spear here is illegal..." He then told me that they are considering changing that law enough to make taking lionfish with a Hawaiian Sling legal for licensed fishermen. I look forward to that. We are licensed fishermen and spearfishing is one of my favorite sports. Getting to harvest edible fish at the same time would be fun, and helping to control this invasive species even better.
While the Conch Festival uses the cooking competition as it's prime reason for existing there are other activities going on outside the tent as well. There was both a reggae and a marching band sharing the musical aspects of the day.
Not at the same time, of course.
We ran into our long time friend Trish, who is back as a Captain with "Catch the Wave" charters. She was showing us an interesting pair of boat shoes...
Trish has yelled at me in the past for posting photos of her on here so this time I am just showing her feet. Surely I can't get in trouble for that.
And there were a lot of people showing up throughout the day. This little guy seemingly couldn't believe his eyes. "Could it actually be....HIM???"
And yep, it's Crazy George The Santa-man his own self making an early tropical reconnoiter of who's been good and who still needs to work on their game or clean up their act...
No fake beards on THIS Mr. Claus.
Speaking of working on games and cleaning up acts...there was some of each going on here. There were both conch knocking and cleaning competitions, and a conch blowing competition. This is the 'games' portion. Prizes for the longest sustained note from a conch 'trumpet'...
and another prize for the liveliest, catchiest 'tune' on a conch instrument:
As for the 'cleaning up acts' admonition from Santa, I am not sure how well we were doing there. Both Bacardi and Bambarra Rum had booths set up offering free samples.
And La Gringa managed to do some quality assurance testing at the Bambarra booth. (she already knows Bacardi's line fairly well)
See that guy standing in the crowd just behind La Gringa's ponytail in that photo? That's the Hon. Galmo Williams, or Gilley, as he's known here. Two months ago he was the Chief Minister of this nation. Can you imagine former President Bush mingling with the crowd on a beach drinking rum? Naaaah.
You should be noticing an improvement in the quality of our photographs. One of the things we brought back from the USA with us is a much better camera. Up until now all these blog photos have been taking with little pocket cameras. 'Point and shoot' they call them. In my case, it's usually more a 'point and pray' thing but hey, I still manage to get some okay photos.
But this is changing. La Gringa now has a digital SLR with some interchangeable lenses and she is working to familiarize herself with all the buttons and controls. you know how it is with a new camera, you go looking for things to practice on. Many of the photos in this blog are her early efforts and the quality should just start getting better with this new capability. We went out a couple days ago, late afternoon, for her to try out a 55-300 mm zoom telephoto on some flamingos a distance away. I was taking photos while she was taking photos.
Dooley the Deprived took the opportunity to work on his own little Jack Russell version of Road Rage...
Sometimes I think he really believes that he's driving the truck. And I don't know what he was barking at. He says his hearing is so much better than mine he just doesn't feel like explaining it. My version of it is that this dog will bark at a memory if he needs an excuse.
Yeah, I think she's getting the hang of the new camera already. These guys were at least a hundred yards away:
And my little pocket digital would NEVER have caught this rainbow like La Gringa did with her new Pentax:
Back at the house, the DIY stuff continues endlessly. We still figure that on average one thing we own breaks or needs something done to it every day. This is becoming a common sight around here, one of the Defenders with the hatches open:
This time it was me trying to figure out how to make both the front and the rear windscreen washing motors work as they are supposed to. I actually gave up trying to fix what Land Rover designed, and am wiring a new switch in to simplify things. I am bypassing the colum mounted mess that came with the truck. It doesn't work anyhow. I did at least TRY to fix it, after taking the steering column controls apart.
Hmm, let me see....order a $ 123. part from England that will take three weeks and cost another $ 100 once it gets here, or a $ 16 switch from the auto parts store that I can get TODAY? easy choice. (I'm just gonna run 12vdc to a DPDT toggle and let the driver choose which pump to run it to.)
I know in the last post I had talked about the computer table thing I was building for La Gringa's office. We managed to carry that thing up the hill and install it. It's not fancy, but hey, it's strong, cheap, and functional. That whole setup was originally envisioned to look like this when I 'designed' it up on Google Sketchup:
La Gringa decided we had enough of the dark wood look. She wanted more tropical color, so the final version of that is shaping up to look more like this:
There are three holes in it to run power and signal cables down through, and I have installed three fused power strips underneath the table.
While I had intended to turn this section into a storage cabinet with doors, Dooley the Deranged has decided it makes a good thunder shelter for a small dog with all that heavy wood around it. We can try that for a while, see how it works:
My prediction is that he will be outta that chair and whimpering at the next thunderbolt, solid table hideout or not.
For you neatniks out there, rest assured that once we get everything on top of the table and up on the shelves where it all wants to finally go and all the wires run I will clean that mess up with staples and brackets to hold the little power supplies and all the cables up out of the way. It's gonna be a clean installation.
And that's it for this episode. And the sunset photo for this post is also by La Gringa, using a Pentax Kx DSLR that she's getting better with by the day. Happy birthday, honey.