I'm still playing catch-up here with yet another minuscule and underachieving post. I've had to leave out a lot of stuff due to the photos lost in the great computer crash of '11. But I do want you to understand that we haven't been just sitting around sipping Pina Coladas down here. Rum, yes definitely, but there's no coconut juice or paper umbrellas in it. Sheesh. We're serious RESIDENTS here by golly. Not vacationers out for a good time.
Kinda scary to realize that this little bitty island is the only place on earth where we are not the tourists now. I better mind my manners.
We haven't had any more of those spectacular sunrises in the past couple of days. Not that I'm complaining about ANY sunrise I am fortunate enough to witness. This one reminded me of something...
I couldn't figure out what. I looked around the yard and saw one of the diabolical Agave family sneering at me. Now, this might be a bit of a stretch, but perhaps this cactus was what was on my mind when I saw that sunrise.
They're not really diabolical. Well, unless you are bending over to pull some weeds and happen to forget that the tips of these leaves are easily sharp enough to sew leather with. And the backs of my legs are no where near as tough as leather, appearances to the contrary. These things will make you bleed. No fooling. You would NOT want to fall out of a tree into one. Good thing we ain't got any trees to speak of. Or it's a pretty safe bet that sooner or later I would fall out of one.
I got a little off topic there. I've got Agave and Aloe Vera on the brain lately. I've been reading about all the good stuff Aloe does, and it grows wild here. And I already knew a lot about Agave. They make the best tequila out of it, for example. It grows wild here, too. More on agave later.
Back to ocean stuff now. Last week I posted some photos of the first half of our second trip in the new skiff. I have now managed to locate the rest of the photos from that trip. This photo mislocation is somehow tied in with me scrambling my hard drive. But we're working through it.
When we left Dellis Cay we came back to Leeward over the Caicos Bank route. What a lot of people here call going 'inside' as opposed to going out between the islands and the near reef on the 'outside'. There are trade-offs to each route between the island of Providenciales and Pine Cay, Parrot Cay, Dellis Cay, and North Caicos. The deciding factor as to which way to go is usually the wind and waves. It's nice to have a choice with a small boat. Boats that draw more than about four feet of water have no choice, they have to go the outside route.
On the way back from Dellis we went by a long time "aid to navigation". This post, or one it replaced, has been here a long time. I think the dark spots in the water are the remnants of other 'markers' that have been here. A few feet on the other side of that post the water depth goes to about a foot. You can see a channel past the light colored shallow water.
When we got back into Leeward-Going-Through we were not ready to stop yet. After months of pedaling and sailing kayaks, it's a real treat to just push the throttle and go. We decided to make a quick pass through the original Leeward Canals to see if anything had changed. You can see that it was near low tide. I thought someone did a nice job here using natural stone to shore up his slip.
Dooley the Dutiful keeps a sharp eye on the surrounding shoreline. He well knows that the leading cause of boat problems is not water, but land.
At least I think he's given up on that canine haiku stuff he was spouting earlier.
These canals haven't changed much since we first came through here six or seven years ago. Some more homes have been completed, but in general there seem to be fewer large boats here than I remember. And I am noticing more local boats being kept in the canal than the seasonal boats with Florida registrations. Like the rest of the world, the Turks and Caicos economy is still slow to dig out of the financial upheavals of the past few years. Speaking of local boats, this is one of the typical local 'conch boats':
I am beginning to pay more attention to the benefits of simplicity in things. Mechanical things, especially. I point out this local boat, of which there are a couple hundred at least, because of the way boats have evolved here. This boat has a small console, motor, and steering. That's about it. Our own recent choice of a skiff has a lot in common with this design. Oh, the hulls are different shapes and we have a couple gadgets on the back, but basically, the concepts are similar. Small, light, shallow draft, simple systems to maintain. That seems to be what works for a lot of life long, experienced sons of sons of boatmen here. Must be some reasons.
Not that we don't like technology. In fact, I have long admired this kind of setup. It's not nearly as common here as it is up in the USA. There are probably reasons for that, too. But I think it sure looks slick:
Back to simplicity and local boats, this is the Beluga. She's a Wharram design catamaran, and from what we have observed this boat has logged more sailing hours than probably any other commercially operated sailboat in the Turks and Caicos. She's a wooden boat, with an outboard that lowers in the middle as auxiliary power. One of the cool things about these boats is that the cross braces are typically attached to the hulls (amas, remember?) with a flexible joint. This allows the two hulls to move over the waves somewhat independently of each other. Watching them from alongside, you can sometimes see them flexing as one hull rides over a swell and then another. I think it's a good idea. Some of the most common failures on rigid fiberglass catamarans are where the hulls attach to the bridgedeck. (The bridgedeck is the flat floor that connects everything.) Making the attachment flexible removes a lot of stresses.
Leaving the canal we immediately decided we had to scoot over and take a look at this beauty. For the record, this is not simplicity in mechanical design. I don't know if you can read the name in the photo, but it's the Perle Noire out of Georgetown, Caymans. That takes boating to a whole nuther level. Especially with diesel fuel presently at just under $ 6 a US gallon here at the moment.
We putt-putted over to the other side of the floating docks here in Leeward to get another view of the 'Black Pearl'. I was reminded of how under-utilized this entire complex has been since day one. It's all tied up in court now, as people figure out who did what with whom, but in the meantime this fantastic marina sits idle day after day. The Perle Noire was the only boat here.
Personally, I would like to see the government of the Turks and Caicos Islands take this marina over and open it to everyone. There are never going to be enough high end pleasure yachts here to fill all these floating obstructions. We could cut the size of the docks in half, open up the waterway, and still be able to accommodate the few big boats that want to come in. But that's just my 2 cents worth. Nobody ever listens to the...
....guy who lost three wheels off his boat trailer on a recent excursion. It's true. I admit it. I screwed up. Again.
Having admitted that, I thought this would be a good time to just enjoy a little zen moment, and unclench my teeth and watch one of La Gringa's short, relaxing videos. Something mellow, like a little jellyfish she spotted at the dock while we were moving the Contender:
(music is “Swept Away” by Armik)
I know I alluded to a rough day launching the Contender in the previous post. Well, this wheel bearing thing was just a part of that day. Pulling that boat with our little Land Rover has always been a white knuckle experience. Not nearly as much fun as it might sound. We had to hitch up and pull the boat down the driveway one more time, to get it over to the marina. We got down our hill without breaking anything. I was relaxing a bit, and we were just about a half mile from the house when La Gringa said "what's that horrible squealing noise?" Well, I couldn't hear it (too many years of diving, gunfire, and rock and roll music) but I figured out from her description that it was probably a wheel bearing about to go. At this point we were down the hill, and I didn't want to unhook, re-hook to the front of the truck, and shove two tons of boat back up the hill. Especially with wheels coming off. So I decided to just go on down to the ramp. Slowly.
Bad move. When we got to the ramp we noticed that our six wheels had turned to five. While at the ramp, five turned to four. We managed to launch the boat, and with the weight off the trailer we managed to get it home on three wheels. The third one fell off as I got it to the house. We found all the wheels, and over the next few days I replaced 12 wheel bearings. I don't want to dwell on this any more.
This is what we saw when we got to the ramp:
I had greased the hubs before parking the trailer some months back, but anything made of steel that sits still here for a few months is pretty much open game for corrosion. As I keep finding out. Oh well. Now I know a lot more about tapered spindles and wheel bearings than I knew a week ago.
Oops, I slipped into the DIY section without the usual warning. So for those who don't care about this aspect of life on a small island, be warned. Most of the rest of this post is about one of the recent little projects that have kept me away from the computer.
I mentioned some time back that I hacksawed the tongue off our brand new boat trailer. That's totally true:
We were leaving for Texas, and I wanted to store it inside the garage. There is a device called a Fulton swinging hitch that very slickly allows one to fold a trailer tongue over and make it all shorter. I tried for about a week to find someone who would ship me a Fulton Hinge, but ran into problems. So I decided to say 'to heck with it!' (gasp!) and make something happen. I ran out of time, anyhow. So I cut the tongue off, closed the garage door, and left it to deal with when we got back.
This is the section I cut off. It's pretty easy to see that either putting a pipe inside it, or another section of square tubing outside it, would sleeve it pretty well. One would think so, right? It wasn't that simple.
The closest to the right sized piece of square tubing I could find was 4x4", and it was about a half an inch too loose in both directions when I slid it over this piece of 3x3". I couldn't use it as it was. It was too 'sloppy' of a fit. Things would have gotten ugly towing a trailer like that. So, I decided to see if I could make it fit. I cut the piece of tubing in half lengthwise with my grinder.
Then I ground down the edges and made them straight. I chamfered the edges because a welding website I found online said to. I clamped them together and welded them. My welds may be ugly, but they are hideously strong. Well, strong enough, in this case. And I found out it's a whole lot easier to weld thicker steel after learning on really thin stuff.
You can see how this is going to work. I ground off my messy welds until they were smooth, it was starting to fit. I made the other two cuts and ground down those edges, too.
And then by careful application of an intensely precise and complicated system of splints and clamps, I got it all to hang together long enough for me to burn up several welding rods. A shirt. Some arm hair. Part of a Croc. The top of a toe, and a small patch of the underbrush. And no, I didn't document any of that. It gets real busy around here when sparks start flying.
I had figured it would have cost me about $300 to get the hinge I wanted down here and cleared in through customs. I have less than $40 into this one. And I suspect this splice is a lot stronger than the original tubing.
You know my assistant usually has some input on these projects. Dooley the Deep isn't much use on the mechanical side of things but he keeps a constant watch for things he thinks I might be interested in. Lizards, for example. And he's good at trying to translate what distant dogs are barking about. He especially likes the ocean breeze that blows through the garage when the doors are open. His nose starts wrinkling like crazy, and the wind lifts his ears as he faces into it. He gets this far away look in his eyes and sometimes I wonder how that furry little mind of his processes all those exotic smells that the trade winds must waft to that sensitive nose..
Oh, I got the little boat jack loosely installed, and the tire, and just about this time discovered that the winch handle hit the spare tire. This would never do. Winch handles need to be able to go all the way around to work right. I realized that it had all been set up for a driver getting out of his tow vehicle on the left side, and walking back to the cranking handles. I suspect most winches in the USA are like this when delivered. I had already figured out that it made more sense for me to put the jack on the right side here, since that's the driver's side in British countries. I never thought about the winch.
But now, after just a few hours of enriching the vocabulary of a certain small dog, I know a lot more about boat winches, too. All the hardware is reversible on this one. You just remove those three shafts and all that hardware and then try to remember what piece goes where after you turn it all around. There are more little pieces there than it appears. I've discovered that a handful of galvanized parts all look similar. If I ever do this again, I am going to remove and reverse the shafts one at a time.
Here's the completed sleeve, with the jack and spare mounted to the heavy wall tubing. It's stronger than before. And it's not difficult to make the change over. The manufacturer sets up the clamps to fit on either 3" or 4" tubing. I just had to buy some longer bolts.
That worked out fairly well. Now I can park the boat in the garage, remove one bolt, remove the tongue and close the garage door.
Next I plan to find a way to lift the Hobie kayak on its trailer, dangle it from the ceiling, and park the skiff underneath it. Then I want to lower the Hobie onto the skiff. I will build a couple of wooden cradles to distribute the weight. It's not much. About 300 lbs. So far I have come up with this simple approach:
This is self supporting wooden beams, so I don't have to make too many ugly holes in the concrete. It uses a standard boat winch and two pulleys. I have recently completed an associate degree in boat winch. I know I'm going to have some balancing issues with that hanging frame arrangement. The four hooks are for the ends of two crossbars on the Hobie trailer. You get the idea. Suggestions are welcome.
This will let me put both boats in one stall of the garage, and still have the workshop area and room for a vehicle on the other half. You know, just in case we ever get another hurricane. Do you think Hurricanes Hanna and Ike made me paranoid? Well, yes ma'am. A little bit, sure.
It looks different around here with the little skiff parked where the Contender has been for all those months. If I turned 90 degrees to my right, I could see the Contender sitting on it's trailer right next to a boat ramp. Things are getting better. This is allowing us to get back to boating as opposed to boat repairing.
Oh, you might notice there are several more of those sharp agaves growing here, too. We're actually encouraging them. They think it's because they grow well in these conditions and are a nice low maintenance plant. They don't yet realize that on this recent trip to the USA I discovered that they are good for something besides low maintenance yard decoration. Yep...... you can eat 'em.
That's going to be it for this catch-up post. Things should start getting a little more colorful again with the next one. Friday night we went to dinner at the (excellent) Las Brisas restaurant over on Chalk Sound. It reminded us that we never really finished our exploration of that area with the inflatable kayak. So on Saturday we spent the day sailing around Chalk sound and got some decent photos. And Sunday we took the skiff out to check out Taylor Bay and a section of Providenciales coastline that we had never seen before. Some more nice photos.
And we may have some interesting news (to us, at least) about one of our neighbors here that I want to verify before passing it on. It's a real hoot, if it's true. And finally, there are a bunch of cruising sailboats in town this week and I suspect that at some point we might be back down at the marina saying hello. Please, stay tuned. We're almost up-to-date.