Sunday, February 14, 2010

A winter break

We've now made it through our fifth yearly Valentine's Day weekend in the TCI. For those who follow our little mini-adventures here, this means another model sloop regatta on Middle Caicos. That was yesterday, and we're recuperating today. Good thing it's a cloudy Sunday and I don't feel too guilty being lazy.

First, here's our now traditional sunrise photo, which was taken a couple days ago:

And I didn't take a photo yesterday morning, the day of the regatta. The sky was clear for starters, which makes for a really nice day but doesn't do much for the atmospheric drama.

Also, we hadda get out of here pretty early. We loaded up Dooley the Disgruntled and headed down to Leeward-Going-Through. Our friend Preacher decided to take his boat "Cay Lime" over to North Caicos and we were invited for the ride.

A morning run with Preacher over the flats will wake you up faster than a double espresso straight up. We had a small group of seven on a 22 ft. boat doing around 50mph in about 12 inches of water. Oh, and Dooley. Make that 7.1 people.

Now that photo's a little bit misleading. And that's because it's a still photo. There are several degrees of motion going on there that just don't show up in a still shot. But look, if you will for a moment, at the hands and stances. Notice, please, that every hand you see is holding on to something. And these are not what would be termed 'lightly held' grips. Even the hand visible just under Preacher's elbow is full of fiberglass and I guarantee you his other hand is holding on as well. We wuz mooooovin'!

And you can see what a fantastic day was shaping up. Not bad for mid-February.

Near as I can estimate by observation we were travelling at a continuous Hail Mary above the seabottom and around 600 heatbeats per second and we did make it through about 12 miles of Preacher's boat handling without even blinking. Come to think of it, we still didn't blink for some time after we got off the boat, . All of us were glad to be on North Caicos and it seemed everyone worked up an appetite on the way. Riding with Preacher at the helm burns calories. We stopped at the new cafe at the marina there at Sandy Point for breakfast.

and yes, on these occasions Heineken is considered a breakfast food. Something like a Hydraulic McMuffin.

We stopped at a little roadside area at the beginning of the causeway from North to Middle Caicos. We usually get out here to stretch our legs and let Dooley commune with nature. We were riding in JR's pickup truck once again and La Gringa got behind the driver's seat at this point to give JR a break. I picked up a half of a coconut husk and stuck a piece of driftwood down into it. It floated quite nicely:

When Preacher saw it he yelled at me to grab it and we would enter it in the model sailboat races. He figured it would be worth at least an honorable mention. But the wind grabbed it before I could and the last time I saw it that coconut husk was headed roughly East, even without a sail. I think sailors call that 'under bare poles'..

There goes my chance to establish a new racing class I guess.

When we got to Bambarra Beach there was already a nice crowd gathered with more arriving all the time. People were setting out blankets, opening coolers, and fine tweaking their boats.

Dooley the Devious likes the opening-of-the-cooler celebration the most. (In his hairy little kingdom,these are only slightly less holy than the-grating-of-the-cheese or the dropping-of-the-chili-dog ceremonies. There were more contestants this year and three classes of boats. I think they called them Class C, B, and A. For the rest of us, let's say small, medium, and large. I don't know the details of the classes, I think it is boat length. This is a class A boat, for example, one of the large ones:

We spread our blanket out in a nice shady spot under a Casuarinas tree, where the breeze hit us directly and we had a clear view of the beach. The beach was very clean, for the most part. We did notice the carapace of a Caribbean Spiny Lobster nearby.

I picked it up to get a better shot of it. Of course Dooley the Diligent immediately came over to see if this thing was still kicking or not:

That photo should give it some scale. This Caribbean Spiny Lobster had a body about the size of a Jack Russell Terrierist's head. But not nearly as hard.

Eventually, the races started. The Class C, or smallest boats, went first. The long awaited start of this once-a-year race was a thrilling event....

...for the contestants, I'm sure.

The excitement built as the race progressed and the speed of these boats had to be experienced to be understood... words just fail me at this point. It was something akin to exhilarating..... distantly akin admittedly, but in the same general family of emotions.

Some contestants calculated, some threatened..

Some followed the old sailor's safety adage..."one hand for you, one hand for the boat". In this case, it was a brand new hat on one hand, and a wet boat on the other.

These classes are purely based on the size of the boats and not the age of the contestants. Anyone can enter. In this class for example, there was at least a couple years difference in age between this kid who took first place...

And the justifiably proud young sailor who grabbed Second:

After a while, the Class B boats raced and they had to go a bit further offshore.

Another of the Class A boats, almost as tall as its owner:

Nice job on the sail graphics.

The Class A boats got blown further down the beach before making landfall, due to their larger sails and increased windage.

The sailors are allowed to adjust their sails and rudders during the race but they are not allowed to 'push' the boat forward. Too much. I noticed that the boats just don't seem to sail as well as I thought they would even though some of the builders are well-established and experienced local sailors with big boats here. For example, in this photo we have a well-respected local doctor, one of the island's computer experts, one of the best aluminum and stainless steel fabrication men in the country, and probably the best cabinetmaker.

Full scale sailors, every one of them, and yet these little boats seem too skittish by half. There's room here for some more competition.

I talked to Preacher about it, and he says he remembers building boats when he was a kid that sailed straight and true once things were in balance. I am trying to get him to teach me how to make such a boat. I would like to come back next year and compete for all this fame and glory. But then, Preacher and I had the exact same conversation a year ago. Maybe next year? I'll try nagging him before the day of the race this time. I shoulda brought the coconut.

Most of the boats are built to a general plan. They are sloop rigged for the most part with a leeboard/weatherboard. This was one exception, with some meticulous attention to the rigging:

By mid afternoon the races are over and the lengthening shadows fall across a field of drying sloops and the few people still playing in the ever present ocean that surrounds and infuses all our lives in a small island nation. When you live in a place like this, the ocean just always is.

The white lines on the horizons of these photos are the offshore swells breaking on the reef that protects this part of the island. It was pretty gnarly out there. Those swells are about 8 ft. today.

Most of the people here had distances to travel to get home, just like we did. Middle Caicos has a full time population of around 300 people. That probably doubles this one day of the year. I think it's pretty exciting for a lot of people. But we had miles to go in the truck, and then another boat ride back to Providenciales. We loaded the celebrants into the vehicle, and headed out.

I was in the back seat, and when we stopped for refreshments along the way I thought Dooley the Decommissioned was intently observing some bug or lizard on the floor. TOO intently. He doesn't usually hold still for that long.

But when I took a closer look at the little booger I realized that wasn't the case at all. He was snoring.

I got that shot off before the flash woke him up, but for a while there, I guess it was just a case of dog gone. He did have a very busy day.

We stopped at a small bar/restaurant on North Caicos, and I thought the sign was interesting on this little outside food stand behind the store:

I don't know what language, exactly, that is over the English words. It's could be Creole, I suppose, for the Haitians. Many of them don't speak English, but they don't have many Haitians on these thinly populated islands. There just isn't enough paying work to support many immigrants. If there is work to be done, the people living here do it themselves. They don't hire labor much. It could well be Tagalog, which is what I think the Filipinos speak, and there were a few of them staying here when the Dellis Cay development was going full speed. But there were also some Yugoslavians here. So I don't know what it is, but now at least I know that "Pa MANdE'M Kredi!" means not to ask for credit. I still don't know how to say 'thank you' in that language.

Refreshed by his nap, Dooley the Dehydrated took on some provisions:

(remember that blue plastic cup, okay? That's really why I'm showing you this photo)

On the boat ride back Preacher was up to his usual shenanigans, which are just about impossible to catch with a hand held camera from inside the boat. That is because one is hanging on during the more interesting maneuvers and not letting go to hold a camera up.

But again, I ask you to notice the grips, and the shirts billowing despite no apparent windy conditions. This is due to boat speed. The nervous grin kinda gives it away too, I think.

I did at least try to get some video footage. I could only do this when we were running flat and level for a while. I didn't dare try it when Preacher was maneuvering over sand bars and around coral heads. And the quality isn't very good because this little camera isn't happy with low light and fast motion. And everything on this boat was in motion. But you can get an idea what the tamer parts of the trip were like. And pay no attention to La Gringa showing Hammer where we got stuck on the flats last week.

The quality of the video is bad, so I want to explain that in the section where the camera is pointing at the water beside the boat those dark objects flashing by are rocks and things on the bottom. The water is gin clear, and maybe 12" deep. Preacher "S-turns" and tilts and side slides the boat when he goes over shallower places. On a previous trip La Gringa's favorite baseball cap blew off while we were sliding sideways over a sand bar, and we could not go back to get it. The water was too shallow to stop the boat. I could write a whole post on watching that man handle a small boat. He's an artist. If Andros Boatworks could see drive one of their boats they would hire him to film commercials for them.

By the way, Hammer told us some great stories about various things on this trip. For example, he has a story about the exact spot on the flats where we got stuck last week in the kayak. Of course the locals know these flats like they know their mother's touch. They have been boating on them all their lives. Hammer was telling us about a time back in the '70s when a young singer/songwriter named Jimmy Buffet got stranded by the same tide in the same spot . Hammer says he had a guitar with him, and he ended up sitting there playing and waiting until the tide came back in and raised him up so he could move on. Which it does on a regular basis on the Caicos Banks,and even from time to time in the careers of young singers and songwriters. When we got back to Leeward La Gringa decided another successful flats run with Preacher called for something to settle the nerves..

When we got back to Leeward a nice woman walked up and asked if this was Dooley coming off the boat. And of course, since it obviously was Dooley the Devious, we met the Coffin family from Nantucket. Sheila recognized our dog from this blog! They were waiting for a water taxi to take them over to North Caicos for their annual vacation in the TCI. We had corresponded with them a few times over the years. Nice people and we would have liked to talk to them more but they were heading in one direction, and we were headed in the other after a long day.

This has only happened a few times, so it's always a totally unexpected surprise to us when someone walks up to us and asks if we are the Gringos or if this is Dooley. I think it's only happened like a half a dozen times in two years, but it's always the strangest feeling for the first few minutes. Naturally, people who read the blog know a lot about us in terms of the kinds of things we like to do. We do try to keep this more about the TCI and the tropical life than about us as individuals but some of it has to come through from time to time. What we ask people to understand, though, is while they feel that they know us pretty well,we have never seen their photos and know nothing about them or their lives. But we really do enjoy meeting people after the shock wears off. Honest.

Back to the story, I didn't say it was an unhappy day, just that it was a long one... and by all reports a good one.

(think we should tell him about whose blue plastic cup he's using? Aw heck, let's not. It's sterilized, anyway. There's no Coke in that one.)

So, anyhow, that was pretty much how our Saturday, February the 13th went. We see all the snow hitting the USA when we watch the news at night and we hope some tropical photos are a little change of scenery for those that like this kind of stuff. We'll try to keep it up. I have a bunch more photos taken this week... a kayak trip and some other nice people we met through this blog who came down to Provo for a vacation. I intended to put it all here but then this one post would be more like a short story instead of a blog post. And that's something different.

I didn't get any snazzy sunsets this week. It just seems we were usually busy when that time of day came around. Besides, after seeing what La Gringa and her camera get out of the sunsets here, the ones I take are pitiful by comparison.

So, I'll just use another sunrise, instead. It's a new decade, it's still a new year, and tomorrow is a whole new day.

And we hope you enjoy it.


Anonymous said...

I'll enjoy the new day even more now. Thanks for another great post.

By the way, it looks like La Gringa's doing a fair bit of gigglin' while she's pointing out that spot. Maybe "never, ever" is going to end sooner than we thought...


Anonymous said...

I could see where it could feel awkward running into people like that who read the blog. I really do feel like I know ya'll since I have I have been following the blog since day one. But you don't know me except from the few comments I've posted over the years.

Great update BTW, get to work on that sloop so it will be ready for next year. Even if it is just a coconut shell and a stick. HAHAHA


Anonymous said...

Thoroughly enjoy your blog posts, I look forward to every update! And I LOVE the warm, sunny pictures, especially with all the snow and cold temps we're surrounded by here in Virginia! Keep it up and thank you for your posts and pics! PS- A big Hi! to Dooley, he is so cute!

RumShopRyan said...

Blown away by the photo as always. Thanks for sharing you life. I'm going to share this on my RumShopRyan fan page on face book.


Mara H. Redden said...

LOVE the PICTURES and your story as usual !!!!
Love ya

Anonymous said...

I have a complaint: Dooley apparently is using his spare time to chat with my dog Tripp. ( I've found evidence that they are chatting online and conspiring to rule the world. How they do this without opposable thumbs is beyond me.
Seriously LOVE your blog. Thanks so very much for sharing all of it!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for all the supportive comments. We do love hearing from people, it lets us know that this is not a total waste of time. This is looking to be a pretty busy year coming up, and hopefully we can come up with somre more variety in the photos at some point. We have underwater stuff and sailing stuff planned. And Dooley has a new life jacket, brought down to him by Todd from Texas. He's ready for some blue water.

gonesail said...

canibul enjoy seeing and hearing of your adventures in paradise. sounds like dooley is a lucky dog to have you guys around. take care.

Heather said...

We followed you into the airport and parked next to you July 2008. I didn't say anything because I didn't want to bother you.

Caitlyn said...

My guess is Creole, given the similarity to French and the 'M thing, which is common in Creole.

Pa= Pas = no/negative
mande('m)= demande= ask
kredi= credit (written the same way, but pronounced "kray-DEE", or kreDI

Anthropology nerd moment: pidgin languages, such as creole, always take the lexicon of the conquering language, but retain the syntax of the conquered language.

Or in plainer terms, the words themselves will come from the conquering language, but the grammer will have the form of the original language. It he case of creole the words closely resemble french, but the grammar follows the form of the original african language.