I know, I know. As several people have been pointing out.... We haven't posted anything new here in over a month. It just seems that nothing really noteworthy happened for the last three weeks of May. I kept thinking "we need to go do something fun and maybe even interesting so we can take photos and post them on the blog". Really, I did think that. Several times in May. At least once in June, too. But as John Lennon said,"life is what happens to you while you are busy making other plans." And that's what's been happening to us lately. A lot, it seems. So, while I don't really have much really new stuff to talk about here I do have a lot of photos to choose from. Hopefully they will be of some interest. The problem is never that we don't have photos. With two of us being complete shutterbugs..we have a lot of photos. Just nothing really new. Same old stuff. Or at least it seems that way to us.
If you follow these sunrise photos from post to post I am sure you can see that the sun is coming up further to the north every day this time of year.
On June 21 I suppose we will once again see it get as far to the left as it's going to get this summer, before it starts sliding back to the south a bit more each day. I don't remember if it ever actually gets to the old freighter wreck you can see there from this angle. I suppose we could drive sticks in the ground or place rocks or something to mark how far north it gets every year. Hey, didn't a bunch of bored Druids do that in southern England once upon a time?
Our day-to-day activities seem to have gotten into somewhat of a rut lately. Oh, we still take our kayak out several times a week and I have tons of those photos. And we still get together with Preacher to play with the model sloops when we have the time and weather on the same day...
But we're getting progressively lazier. You can probably tell from the photo. We used to dash about madly chasing the boats until we collapsed and agreed that we were all too old for this. But lately, we just sit in the shallows drooling and getting caught up on what we have all been doing since the last time we got together. Usually the previous weekend.
At least Dooley the Diligent is getting some swimming exercise in:
Preacher's brother Joe seems to pretty much capture the mood of it all in this photo, I think.
One of our recent kayak trips might be of some slight interest. We had been thinking of trying the little inflatable out for a trip across some more open water than we usually brave in our coastal excursions. We got brave enough to think that with good weather we could scoot over to West Caicos and back in an afternoon. Well about two weeks ago we had some smooth weather and decided to go for it. We loaded up a cooler and the dog and launched from over by Osprey Rock. It's only about six miles over to West Caicos from there, but it would put us farther from land than we have ever been in the inflatable. This is the route we took, where the yellow line is drawn. The dots are some shoals and coral heads we had detoured to take a look at.
As luck would have it, about half way across we had a serious failure of one of the Hobie Mirage drives. Murphy's Law or something, but this thing totally broke at about the mid point of the trip over. This put us at 3 miles from the nearest land. One of the steel shafts that provides the propulsion had worked completely loose from where it was supposed to be. And while we did have a patch kit and a roll of duct tape with us, this thing needed some epoxy and an allen wrench. We had to limp the rest of the way to West Caicos using the sail and our one remaining drive. It seriously slowed us up. Those little blips of land Dooley the Disturbed is watching are parts of West Caicos appearing on the horizon:
La Gringa would use the remaining drive until she got tired, then pass it back to me and I would pedal for a while. Finally we made it to the nearest point of land on West Caicos. Dooley was paying a lot of attention to the rocks, while I was more or less thinking about what I might be able to do to repair the Mirage drive. You can see it lying uselessly across the kayak there where the animal has been sitting on it. That point of land on West Caicos is called Cove Point.
We tried heading around to the east of this rocky point first, looking for a beach to land and stretch our legs. And after six miles we needed some stretching. Dooley the Diuretic was looking for a fire hydrant, tree, or reasonable facsimile thereof. And I wanted to see if I couldn't come up with some way to tie a Mirage Drive back together. This strange rock formation is the closest part of West Caicos on the side toward Providenciales:
Dooley the Diligent kept staring at the water, and I thought it was because the rock looked like a giant iguana or something. Then as we changed course and boated around the rock, it became apparent that he had been looking at something else in the water. This other rock was just breaking the surface, and you can see it in the previous photos, just offshore of the funny looking rock. Yep, just the kind of thing that gives one a secure feeling when approaching an uninhabited island in an inflatable boat..
At high tide this rock would be just under the surface. Ouch.
We finally reached a small section of beach. We had lost so much time due to the boat being crippled that we didn't get to do all the exploring we had intended. Basically we just went looking for something to use to tie our Mirage Drive flippers back together. After picking up and then discarding various bits of fishing line and sun-rotted rope fragments, I found a running shoe with a pristine shoelace still attached! What a find. So I plopped down in the sand with my 'tool kit' (Swiss Army knife) and got to work. The stainless steel rod is supposed to be attached to the drive mechanism. This one had fallen completely out, and the other one was so loose we were about to lose it as well.
After peering at the problem from several angles, I figured out that the simplest approach probably had the best chance of working. We did have some duct tape in the boat, and I wrapped some of that around the shaft as a shim and hammered it back into the drive with a piece of driftwood. Then I just bored some holes in the rubber flipper parts to run the shoe lace through:
It actually worked amazingly well.
We not only made it back to Providenciales, the knots were still tight when I got the thing back in the workshop the next day to properly repair it. Thank goodness for duct tape, a good shoelace and a Swiss Army knife. This was one of those rare times when that was all that was needed.
The trip back was uneventful. Good weather and calm seas. And nothing else tried to fall off the boat. Well, except the dog. But he does that when we get close to shore.
And finally, about four hours after we started, we were coming back into what the charts call West Harbour, and seeing Osprey Rock from a different angle:
We were pretty glad to see dry land and no hidden kayak eating reefs at this end:
We all were happy to finally have the boat loaded up and ready to head home. For a while we had been concerned that we would be looking for this spot in the dark. And there are no lights on this stretch of shoreline. No houses, no businesses, no streets. Nothing. I bet it gets REAL dark here looking at it from the ocean.
Being in the truck at this point is not quite the same thing as being home yet. We still have seven miles of this road before we reached the nearest stretch of what passes for pavement hereabouts:
As I mentioned earlier, we take the little rubber boat out several times a week these days. Most times it's just for a couple hours of exercise and to look around. We never get tired of the water or the beaches here. Like this little unmarked section of Little Water Cay:
Or looking at spiny sea urchins clustered around a bridge footing:
You really notice how many sharp things there are living in the tropics when you spend a lot of time in a rubber boat. And some of the stuff here, like these coral heads within about five feet of the surface in 10 ft. of water, would give any boat some problems.
And of course there are huge areas of just smooth sand under clear water, too.
On one of our excursions last week, or maybe the week before, I was in the mood to take photos of rock formations. We spotted this arch on one of the many small little cays;
And we went ashore to do a little beach combing near there. I was looking for interesting rocks, and hoping to get some photos of untrammeled beach sand. So I was loafing down the beach, snapping away at rocks etc.
and peeking through some of the formations at the ocean..
and looking back up the beach at the boat and La Gringa going for a swim..
But no matter how hard I tried, it was nearly impossible to get a photo of sand without at least ONE set of footprints on it. Yep, you guessed it. Dooley the Destructive. Or sometimes Dooley the Digger. I started watching him and I figured out that he is watching me at the same time. The little booger cues on what I am looking at. If I see something that I think might be worth a photo, the instant that danged dog sees that I am interested he has to scoot over and get his nose into it before I have time to even blink.
For example, I was walking up toward this interesting looking hole eroded in part of the rock cliff here.
And the moment he sees that I am looking at something, with the camera up to my face.... there he is right in the middle of it. A furry little blur in the photo, whether I want it or not.
and of course he moves so fast it's hard to get a good photo of him. He never just walks anywhere. He has two speeds: enforced idle and full bore. Sometimes his tail is wagging so fast I wonder it doesn't fly right off and hit something.
We have now gotten well into our summer weather pattern. A few weeks ago we were calling up the water delivery people and buying two truckloads of water (5,000 gallons) just to keep going, and in the past week the rains have filled the 18,000 gallon cisterns and they are overflowing. One day last week, I was driving home from town and took this photo of what would normally be a view of the little hill we live on, with our house perched up gleaming in the sun. This is the view through the Land Rover windshield. I suppose that to be correct I guess I should say 'windscreen'. You know, that part with the glass in it, just aft of the bonnet:
Now that's some serious cloudburst right there. Lovely mess on a dirt road.
And little did I know that at about the same time I was approaching this squall line from one side, La Gringa was taking photos of the leading edge of it from the other side. "Why was La Gringa taking photos of a squall?", you might ask. And this is why:
Can you make out that thick thread shaped thing coming down from the clouds to the water surface? Here's another shot, zoomed in a bit:
She told me that there were at least four waterspouts forming and collapsing at one time as this squall line moved through. There was one huge one, but by the time she got her camera ready and booted up she had missed the big one, and caught the last of the little ones. Ain't that always the way?
And as I headed up our little hill, and the rain abated, I leaned out the window and took this shot of the water rushing down the dirt road that we live on.
Under that splashing water are ruts that are 8-10" deep into the road. And those ruts are running right across where I have to make a critical turn when pushing our power boat back up the driveway after an outing. It's a bit dicey to push the boat and trailer up that incline under the best of conditions, when the dirt is relatively smooth. My problem is that the boat weighs a little more than the Land Rover does. So we are essentially unable to take the Contender out until such time as whomever is in charge of this road decides to run the grader up it again. I could probably get the boat down the driveway without too much risk, but there is no way I could force the tires out of these grooves going up hill. I have done it with the ruts no where near this bad, and it was a white knuckle experience. Nobody will ride with me when I do that.
So, as we start into Hurricane Season, we are getting the rain, the lightning, and of course the thunder. We have had several nights this week where it was difficult to sleep due to constant flashes and rolling thunder. Dooley the Demented hides under the bed. A basket case.
But it's not all unsettled weather. Saturday we took the kayak (the Contender is stranded by ruts, remember) and a picnic lunch over to a beach on Water Cay. It was a great day, with a lot of people boating and enjoying the summer weather. I spent a bit of time watching this family of nine getting situated for a weekend trip to one of the other islands..
And I could not help but think of what kind of reaction this boatload would get in some places I could name. This is what the locals call a 'conch boat'. They are copies, made in a mold made from a long ago Boston Whaler. The boat headed out with the load of people has an identical hull as the boat facing you in the photo, on the left. I am sure that both hulls came out of the same mold. But of course they do not have the double hull, unsinkable floatation of the Whaler. They get used all week for fishing, lobster and conch diving. And on weekends, they get cleaned up enough to take the family between islands to see Grandma. The angle of the outboard pretty much says this boat is somehow tied to South Caicos. Those guys say that the boat 'porpoising' up and down is the most efficient way to trim it. No radio, no horn, no fire extinguisher, no flares, no life vests, no navigation... no registration..... no problem. Just an experienced boatman and probably at least 5 cell phones. Minimal government control at its finest. We love it.
Saturday as we were pedalling and sailing our way back into Leeward after our picnic we caught the attention of a familiar sight these days. We spotted the helicopter headed our way from a long way out. That's Dellis Cay in the distance centered and Pine Cay on the right.
The US Coast Guard is around here a lot lately. I think that the increased US presence in Haiti has resulted in more equipment and personnel throughout the region. But then most of these little countries need the help. Since we have installed a VHF radio at the house we have become more and more involved in the radio traffic going on around us here. Some of the local marina personnel have told us that we have the most widespread radio coverage on the entire island. We routinely can communicate with boats 40-50 miles away. In this sat image, I have drawn a line to Six Hill Cay:
We can talk on the VHF to boats within that radius of Provo, so you can see that we cover all of the Caicos Bank, most of the rest of the country, and can sometimes hear calls from Mayaguana and the Inaguas in the Bahamas. Great location for this kind of coverage.
We have offered our help to the local Marine Police and in fact we were talking with them just yesterday morning. We could hear someone speaking English with a foreign accent calling a "Mayday" faintly on the radio. From the weakness of the signal we could tell they were at about our maximum range. Of course with a 45 mile radius, there are a lot of places they could have been. We relayed the message that someone was broadcasting a Mayday and we tried to get the boat in trouble to tell us his location. But alas, while we could hear him, he apparently could not hear us. We are waiting, now, for word of what boat went missing yesterday and we are sad we could not get their location. The last "Mayday" we heard was at 10:50 yesterday morning, Monday June 8.
We are very much interested in adding a radar system to our house at some point. I have been keeping my eyes out for a used one, but there are not many boats equipped with them down here. This nation doesn't have any shore based radars, not even at the airport. With our location 60 ft. above the water, and our excellent radio range, we know we could be of some assistance to the Marine Patrols. We could be of help to boats in trouble, vectoring rescuers in their direction.
I had mentioned how cool a radar at the house would be in my last post, and someone out there emailed us and mentioned a used radar system that they had available. Unfortunately, before I could respond I lost all my incoming emails in a system crash. I don't know who sent the email. So if the nice man with the used radar system is still out there, we are still interested!!
On Saturday, the USCG just buzzed over us, no doubt taking a look at the rubber boat, the two Gringos, and the funny little dog waving from a secluded beach on a nice day.
And as we headed back into Leeward we saw a very familiar sight headed in toward the boat ramp.
Yep, it was two of the Stubbs Brothers, in our former boat "Cay Lime". They had been out fishing. I bet the Andros Boat Company would be interested to see how much power Preacher can crowd onto one of their boats. They rate it for a maximum of 150 horsepower. Preacher started with 225.
In those shorts, I am surprised Preacher caught anything. They are definitely loud enough to scare most fish. Maybe that's why they just caught the less fearful species. Maybe sharks and barracuda are color blind. But I also know that quite commonly, the most colorful things on the reef are also the most poisonous. Hey, I'm just saying.....
Preacher offered us a tow back to Heaving Down Rock but being the die hard kayak sailors we have become we decided to make it the rest of the way home on our own. My repaired Mirage Drives are working better than ever. We did discover a bit of a traffic jam where we put our boat in. We had to fit between the floating dock and the outboard motor there on the right. No problem.
That's pretty much a sampling of the kinds of things we have been up to. I have some short videos to post, one of a conch making a break for the water and another one of the changing refraction patterns on the seafloor. I am thinking this post is getting pretty long, and I still have a few little DIY things to post for the handymen among us.
(So for you readers who think DIY is totally boring, you can stop reading here, or skip to the sunset photo at the end.)
And the DIY is an ever present part of life here. I have long ago lost track of all the little projects I have had to take on in the five years we have been here. I suspect I do more small repairs in one year on Providenciales than I did in any ten year period living in the mainland USA. For example, two weeks ago the pvc pipe broke off the water pump, causing a massive flood . That took me a day to repair. I ended up improving on the original design a little, but it was an unwanted and unscheduled DIY distraction. Flat tires are a constant part of life here. I went down to the garage to patch a hole in the kayak yesterday, and ended up fixing a new flat on La Gringa's bike before getting back to the kayak. Well, I could go on. But you get the idea, I am sure.
Last week it was also the septic tank. I want to mention this one because of the money involved. Here we use these tanks that have air bubblers in them. There are no municipal sewer treatment plants. There are no leach field septic systems. There is very little ground water. So, when the compressor that puts the bubbles in the septic system fails, an alarm goes off. About a week ago, our alarm went off.
I managed to get the compressor off the tank and took it apart to see if it might be something simple I could fix. It wasn't simple. Both small diaphram pumps had totally disintegrated. Looked like this :
I won't bore you with all the things wrong with this pump. But for example, that black piece under the o-ring on the lower right.... it's not supposed to have a big hole in the center of it. You are not supposed to be able to see the workbench top through it. The diaphram that is still bolted to the shaft is supposed to be there in the middle of that black plastic housing. This sucker was broken.
So, seeing I could no way glue this thing together, I got the model number and got on the phone to find a replacement pump. Second place I called actually had one in stock! Wow, (I thought) this is my lucky day! So I asked the price.
One thousand, five hundred and eighty seven dollars..... and fifty cents. I had him repeat it to be sure I didn't miss a decimal by several places. I didn't.
Yep, $ 1,587.50. And that's for the part. Doesn't include the installation. Another few hundred for a house call, I imagine. Oh my!
Well, you know pretty much what I did next. After recovering from my jaw hitting the floor on that pump price. (And marking that particular supply company off all future lists as a potential supplier. I even x-ed them out of the yellow pages.) I decided to do some info digging. Comparison shopping, as it were. I made some more calls. I contacted the architect who designed our house and he remembered the name of the guy that our contractor bought the system from originally. I called this guy up and while he did not have a replacement pump in stock he said he could get one in a week or so for only $875. This was actually good news. Oh, not the $875 vs. $1,587.50 part. Nope. I mean, that did tell me that I was not going to have to pay anywhere near that first price for a pump but the important info there was that the septic system could survive for a week or so without a pump. I didn't know that. I had some time before things started to go really bad. Whew. This is my first experience with this kind of aerobic system. So I got on the internet.
And lo and behold, within a few minutes, I found a place that a.) had a pump in stock for $ 319, b.) was accustomed to shipping internationally on a credit card, c.) used UPS, and MOST importantly, d.) also had a pump rebuild kit for $110.
Yeehaaaw. From being a nervous wreck about a failed septic system and looking at sixteen hundred bucks for a new pump, within six hours I had a rebuild kit on the way for $ 110. Two days later, UPS called and even including freight and duty, my total cost to import the parts was about $230.
Strangely enough, by the way, UPS is typically faster getting stuff to us here than Fed Ex is. That is because Fed Ex ships stuff past us, down to Puerto Rico where it gets on a plane a day later and heads back up to us. UPS ships out of Miami, and it comes directly here without going over us and down to San Juan first. Several times now we have ordered something shipped UPS and had it here within 48 hours. Fed Ex will be three days, at the absolute earliest. This is the kind of stuff one learns to pay attention to when living in a country like this. Oh, UPS is cheaper too.
We like UPS. We just wish their initials did not look so much like USPS. IF we have something mailied via USPS (always by mistake), we will be lucky if we ever see it at all. For some reason, the US Postal Service sees the wordl "Turks" and ships stuff to Frankfurt Germany. We have envelopes here that were mailed from Miami to Providenciales, and they have Frankfurt Germany and Iceland post marks on them. If the US Postal Service gets their hands on it, it's almost certainly never going to get here. We estimate we might get 30% of our mail. I have tried, repeatedly, to tell the USPS via their website "Customer Service" link that they are misdirecting the mail to Germany. They just flat do not give a dang. No help at all.
Putting the pump all together took me about an hour. And this is what it looked like ready to re-install:
So this situation was very similar to some of my other experiences here. Being willing to take on a repair one knows nothing about translates into some huge cost savings. Thousands of dollars, when I look at Land Rover, Suzuki, appliances, hardware, electrical, plumbing, outboard motors... and now septic. But it never ends, either. It's become a part of every day. Yesterday, I took the latch mechanism of a sliding door apart and rebuilt it. Just part of the day. Tomorrow it will be something else. Great country for a handyman.
It's not all repairs, though. Some of you might have spotted the funky looking kayak rack sitting in the back of the small Land Rover in one of the earlier photos. This is a recent project using my new welding machine. After repairing an exhaust system, and then building a shop stool, I still had a small pile of metal bits left over from the hurricane-destroyed sat dish. And I wanted a way to transport the kayak without deflating it and folding it up. And I wanted a way to bring lumber home on the Land Rover. So, the obvious answer was to come up with something using the new arc-welding machine and my scraps.
I didn't have much of a plan, and none of the metal bits were straight. They came from the rim around an 8 ft. diameter dish. Every piece was curved, one way or another. I tack welded a few pieces together, and started with this:
I took two straight pieces of steel from the overhead garage door opener that never worked right, and made a little frame to fit in the back of the D90:
There are five curved pieces and two straight pieces in this contraption already at that point.
Well, once I got going, I kept going. welding up pieces to make them long enough to clear the canvas truck roof, and bracing them so that the finished rack would be good for some serious weight. There are something like 37 welds in this danged thing.
Here it is upside down on the floor:
The steel is only 3/32" thick, so of course being a total klutz with a welding rod, I kept blowing holes in it. I got pretty good at patching holes. I also got a lot of experience grinding welds down and going over them again. And again. Slag inclusions are driving me batty.
Well, almost finally. I still needed to add some things to hold the mast and paddles. But finally it's about ready to be painted. And it works!
The sight of this little Land Rover going down the road with that kayak on top gets a lot of attention. I am pretty sure people are not admiring the custom rack...but hey..it sure has made our life simpler. We can be loaded up and on the way to the water in something like five minutes now, and we only need another five minutes to launch the boat. Big improvement.
I know I mentioned that I built this thing so it could handle a couple hundred pounds of lumber as well as our 70 lb. inflatable boat. I have another thing in mind, though, and it's a new kayak we have our eye on. Hobie has come out with a new boat they call an AI2. This is a tandem version of their Adventure Island kayak. It's a small trimaran with over four times the sail area of our existing kayak. We have been thinking of an 'upgrade' one of these days.
Hobie Adventure Island Tandem kayak
Just right for 2.1 people and a cooler full of picnic.
It's a lot more rugged than our inflatable and of course a lot faster. That will allow us to range farther afield and still get home before dark. Uh... not that we always make it by dark but that's usually Plan A. Having examined some of the reefs and submerged rocks around here close up, we also like the idea of a boat that can't suffer a blow out.
And that's pretty much it for this post. I will TRY to post more often. I just wonder how many photos of the back of La Gringa's head and Dooley's rear end on a kayak anyone is really interested in seeing. Maybe if we get the new kayak...
I narrowed a few dozen of La Gringa's sunset photos down to two, of the same sunset. I couldn't decide which one I liked better so I am just going to post them both. Hope you like them: