I’m going to divert from our normal sort of chronological order here and put some of today’s sunrise photos on a post about things that took place last year. Last week, in other words. I hope I don’t put a bump in the blog time space continuum or anything like that. I hate it when that happens. La Gringa snapped this one at sunrise this morning:
And apparently, while we were still outside admiring that bright, cheerful, chirpy start to the day, Jacob was on the other side of the house looking at a rainbow. He took a few photos of that as well.
I‘m hoping that it's a good omen to awaken in the middle of winter on a tropical island to a cheery sunrise , a dark cloud, and a great rainbow surrounding a world of blue, turquoise, and white. That sounds like the cosmic outline of a three act play that we could happily handle, I hope. The tricky part always seems to be separating the comedy from the tragedy, doesn't it? My opinion is that being partially deaf with a twisted sense of humor seems to help with some of that. It's a private universe of hysterical laughter, at some frequencies. La Gringa is going to be entitled to a derisive snort just right about there in the monologue. Not that she would stoop to taking it. Here's the view Jacob woke up to looking to the north over the island.
If one believed in the Leprechaun myth, it looks like someone got lucky over in Grace Bay this morning. My opinion on that is that it's entirely feasible.
I really did make a (weak) attempt to get this last 2011 post out before 2012. Honest. We've been taking a lot of photos, but most of them are family related and not so much of the tropical scenery. I’m not going to subject innocent bystanders to reams of silly photos of our offspring embarrassing themselves. They like to put those photos on their own websites, anyhow.
We've made a couple of boat trips. And then things got hectic around here about three weeks ago. I imagine this happens to a lot of people during the latter halves of Decembers. Those holidays just take over your life sometimes, don't they? . This South Side marina post idea came about when we were taking a recent sailing trip in the Hobie Tandem Island. We pedaled up through the canal for the first time in several weeks, and immediately saw that some widening of the marina basin has been going on:
That 90 degree inside corner in the shoreline directly ahead of us has been widened to the right since the last time we noticed it. We're all for it. If there is marina space for more boats here, that bodes well for our hopes to eventually need space in a marina. And we like this one. It's close to the house and is run by nice people.
This is the time of year when large numbers of cruising boats move through here on their way further south in the Caribbean. Or the Lesser Antilles, as some refer to that dancing spray of tropical islands flung like a friendly wave to Africa just across the sparkling Atlantic. Maybe too friendly of a wave. Africa sends us hurricanes in response. I've mentioned here before about the morning "Cruiser's Net" on marine VHF radio channel 72 at 07:30 local every day. We participate. Or at least, La Gringa does. I will in a pinch. Sometimes it takes more than a pinch. A kick will usually do it. For the cruisers making their way down from the Bahamas heading south to the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, the US and British Virgin Islands and beyond, there is a place here to spend a few days waiting for good weather for the crossing to Luperon. This is a Google Earth view of the South Side Marina.
I stuck the approximate location of the channel there on the image. Of course this sat image is nine years old. I found a chart on the area, and it's eight years old. I didn't bother posting that here. There are a lot of changes, but nothing that would much bother a boat coming in. The approach is the same.
The path into South Side has a couple turns in it, but it's well marked by buoys and a range marker over a benign sandy bottom for the most part. The water is clear, so the rocks are highly visible with good daylight. And it's a lot more forgiving than Turtle Cove on the other side of the island.
There's really only one "critical" turn, and it's that painfully obvious one to the left before you hit the island. I am thinking that anyone who can get this far in a sailboat can probably handle this part. Once you're inside the little approach dogleg, marina looks amazingly like this in late 2011:
I didn't mean Dooley the Dogleg, but as long as he's in the program he may as well be in the photo.
Being keenly interested in multihull boat design, we immediately spotted that big catamaran tied up in front of the little tiki where the cruiser-du-jours meet for Thursday night cookouts and every night happy hours.
I was particularly interested in the close spacing of the two outboards, not to mention the fact of two outboards as the main propulsion on a boat of this size.
La Gringa met up with the crew of the "Stars and Stripes" day charter catamaran at the local grocery store the morning after we took these photos. They're on their way south to set up a charter business with the boat in the Dominican Republic. Seems to be a lot of that going on, lately. Couldn't be anything to do with the government of this country driving business away with over taxation.
While we were just cruising around the marina we took a photo of Bob-the-owner's own motor sailor rehab project. We've been watching the Valhalla project for a couple of years now. It's been turning from the apparent shambles of early reconstruction back into the swan it's once again becoming.
I keep mentioning "Bob" like you know who I am talking about, so maybe I better show you who I'm talking about. This is Bob Pratt, the owner of South Side Marina and year round host for cruisers staying at the marina. We've also heard him on the radio giving advice and assistance to boats who are not staying at his marina. Often.
This is the entrance to the marina from the land side. If you take the Venetian Road turn south off the Leeward Highway, you'll find it.
South Side Marina and the Harbour Club Villas and Marina share the water here. And if you're coming in after a long passage on a small boat and would like to stretch out in comparative luxury in a nice big bed, crank up the AC, after a long soak in a hot shower....you might want to consider Harbour Club. Good bonefishing within walking distance, too. The entrance to the Harbour Club is just down the road before the bend in that photo above, By the way, we have links for South Side and the Harbour Club just over on the right side of this blog. Third pole on the right.
One of the features that catches the eye from the waterfront here these days is the construction site up on the hill adjacent to Bob's house.
We had seen the foundation going up some time ago, but thought it must be just an addition to the house. We were pretty sure Bob wasn't building a church. Recently we noticed signs of increased and recent activity. It started becoming obvious that this is more than an add-on game room. We asked, and received permission for a look around.
But before drifting up and over the hill I wanted to show you a few more photos of the facilities and crew you can expect to see should you dock your boat here. These are the diesel and gasoline (petrol) pumps at the fuel dock:
Fuel has been running between $5 and $6 USD for a US gallon here recently. Welcome to our world. (See why we like sails so much?)
And this is Simon Anderson. Simon takes care of a lot of the operations of the marina when he's here escaping the European winter. He has been spending summers on his barge living on the canals in France. If you tune into the Cruiser's radio net in the mornings between January and late spring, there is a good chance it will be Simon's voice you hear handling logistics and approach control.
Simon and his lovely wife Charlyn lived aboard their 46 ft. Island Trader in a slip here during the winters, until they sold the boat about a month ago.
And this is Julian. You will see him taking care of maintenance and marina operations at South Side. This is what you get when you suddenly whip out a camera and instruct Julian to 'smile'.
I should have taken a better photo of the lifting crane at the marina. It's braced by those blue steel girders in the photos. If anyone reading this is interested, drop us an email and I'll get you more info on it.
We didn't want to take photos of every little piece of the marina, but we have a real interest in the new bar/restaurant planned for the little hilltop. So, with Bob's kind permission, we traipsed ourselves up the hill to take a look. We were immediately impressed with the peeled logs they're using for the outside framing. This is giving us some ideas about ways we could add to our own place down the road. The building codes on Providenciales no longer allow wooden structures for primary dwelling and business walls, but I suspect outside tiki huts are exempt.
And this one is going to be a doozy. There are kitchen and bathroom facilities as well as indoor protected spaces in the steel reinforced concrete sections. But the real attraction here is going to be sitting in the open air, up in the breeze and in the shade of a thatch roof, watching the view.
We were asking Bob about the design. He says he wants a BIG thatch roof. A really TALL one. REALLY tall. Not sure where that's all coming from, but....
...this is a view from the top of Bob's driveway, of one of the nearest neighbors and their thatched roof tiki. By the way.
And this view from the new bar at South Side is going to be really, really nice, indeed. We are told that there are tentative hopes to be opening it next season. We hope so. We might be looking at our new favorite hangout here. The monohull on the left draws over six foot, of water. They had to wait for high tide to make it into the marina, but make it they did. That boat is called "Another Road to..."
Counting the Potcake sleeping in the shade, I guess there are five 'doglegs' in that image. It's also a better view of where the new embankment line has moved to on the other side of the basin. There is a lot more room to maneuver around in, not that it was unusually tight before.
You can also see the little gathering spot where the Happy Hours and Thursday Night Cookouts take place. There is another view of the crane for lifting heavy things on and off of boats. Or lifting small boats. This is a good place for cruisers.
Other than supporting our local business establishments, we have been engaged in some boating trips of our own. We had two of our sons arrive the week before the holidays here, and on a rare calm day we ran out for a quick skiff trip around the area. We had been telling them about Sapodilla Bay, where many sailboats first drop anchor in the Turks and Caicos Islands. We decided to boat over and show them first hand. We never seem to get enough boating in, anyhow. Any excuse will do.
This is the second time we have had four people in the skiff, and it handles it pretty well. In fact I think the boat runs a little better with some weight up in the bow. While the 90 horse Suzuki is a little overkill for the skiff normally, I really appreciated the power when we added some weight to the boat. Planing with four on board was no problem. 4.1 if I count Dooley the Dense. Now I am thinking about adding some kind of seating up forward . Maybe a small bench seat just behind where they're sitting. It would have to have some back support and cushioning. These guys were getting bounced pretty well, even on a calm day.
The down side of four in this boat with the present setup... the scuppers are under water at rest. It's best not to stop in place for long. Gurgle gurgle and all that.
We only had a brief window of calm seas that afternoon before the wind picked back up so we were limited in how much we could show them and still get home before dark. We cruised down past the South Dock area to Sapodilla Bay, same trip we've detailed here way too often. I need some new material.
Speaking of new material, there has been a boat that has turned turtle and sank here since the last time we came through. I don't know when this happened, but will ask around and see what I can find out about it.
I don't know what Dooley was looking at but suspect a lot of bushes and rocks look like fire hydrants from a few hundred yards.
Here's the latest shipwreck from another angle.
We circled around looking for a clue as to what happened, or even a name, but could find neither .
We did a quick tour around the ancient anchorage at Sapodilla Bay. There were a number of cruisers at anchor there. Mostly sailboats, but one nice motor yacht and a commercial fisherman were hanging on their hooks, as well.
I don't yet know what brand catamaran this is, but was impressed with what I could see of the design and rigging. Sure is a pretty boat. Looks strong, fast, and expen$ive.
We were interested in admiring another catamaran anchored inshore a little and were about to head over that way when we spotted this dark spot in the bay. We see lots of cool catamarans. That can wait. Dark spots need investigation. We've discovered that with few exceptions, dark spots deteriorate over time. With some work, catamarans do not.
We made several passes trying to figure it out. We did snap a few photos. This is the one that came out the best. And I still can't tell exactly what it is. It looks like it could well be the remnants of a fiberglass hull. The location right in the middle of a popular protected anchorage supports that. We'll go back some day with clear water and our face plates and take a look.
This is the first batch of photos from during the holidays. I've already got enough more for another two posts, at least. We made a trip out to West Caicos (of course!) and got all over that wrecked sloop. Some real nice photos. I'll start cropping those and should have some more blue water/white sand beach images in a few days.
Other than the never ending fun and hilarity associated with holidays, boats, and guests, I've been up to my ears in DIY and Land Rover repairs. I guess Land Rover repairs qualify as DIY, too. They are just not nearly as much fun as actually creating something.
Take brakes, for example. This salt, overnight rotor rust, and constant dust and mud wreak havoc on brakes. Both of us have gotten pretty good at driving the Defenders without even using the brakes. The most common problem with them to date has been the steel brake lines rusting through. What happens is that one is happily driving along one day without any indication of a problem at all, and then one steps on the brakes with some sudden and more than usual force due to the actions of another driver. Usually. The brake line that held the pressure suddenly splits open. All the fluid squirts out, and the pedal goes to the floor. This has happened to us so many times now that we take it in stride. Downshift. We've also gotten adept with non-functioning hydraulic clutches, but that's another subject. This one is brakes.
This is because up until this week the brakes made that horrible noise that metal on metal makes when all the pad lining is gone. I started out ordering parts from the US and England, planning to rebuild one caliper. I ended up replacing three calipers, two rotors, and pads all around. Oh, and two brake lines. Which Land Rover fanatics call brake pipes, by the way. So, while I am not going to bore you with the details of my first Defender brake job (and I do mean job), I thought I'd show you how I got the wheels off.
The wheels on Defenders are held on with one big 52mm hub nut. It's a big sucker, just a little bit over two inches. I don't have any sockets or wrenches that big. I ordered the correct sized thing from Europe (which you should refer to as a 'box spanner' if you ever try to buy one from England) but didn't want to wait to get started getting the frozen up parts off the truck. I went to every store on the island where I thought I might be able to find a 52mm box spanner or reasonable facsimile thereof. The nearest thing I could come up with is a cheaply made 2" wrench. Two inches is just under 51mm, so with my amazing math skills I quickly figured out that I should be able to grind out a millimeter all around, and that should be just enough to work. I wanted to get a good fit, as these hub nuts have some torque on them. I decided to make a template of the hub nut and use that to carefully, carefully grind out the wrench to fit. One must be careful when grinding metal away. It's like one of those subtractive arts like sculpture, only much more difficult to hide screw-ups. And just try to ungrind some metal if you go too far. Whew.
I wanted a template, so that I didn't have to run from the workbench back and forth to the wheel checking fit every ten minutes. I decided to use a plastic top off of a dried fruit can. I wanted to cut two circles, and experiment with some ideas I've had about using a drill press as a simple lathe. So I clamped a razor blade in a vise there in the middle. It worked pretty well, but I should have used thicker or stiffer plastic.
I fit the plastic piece over the axle and hub nut and tapped it robustly with a small hammer and a length of rebar, against the sharp square edges of the nut:
I used an X-Acto knife to trim the marked edges, and then shortly had a mock up of a 52mm hub nut to work with. Close enough for tropical work.
Then I used a Dremel tool and a file to work the box end of the wrench out until the 52mm dummy nut fit it perfectly. You might notice that I also had to grind out the facing edge of the wrench so that it would fit on that nut, at that angle. Took an afternoon. The right tool from England took a week.
And did it work, you might ask? Well, heck yeah. By the time the proper spanner had arrived, I had already removed the wheels with this modified cheapo wrench. I'm just not sure what to do with it now, though. Hang it on the wall? This is a big wrench.
Boy, there's just something nice about a brand new, shiny brake caliper and rotor after two days of lying on one's back in the dirt, rust, grease, and brake fluid. It's almost like..... like Christmas!
I think I could almost call myself a 'shade tree mechanic' after this one. If I had a shade tree, of course.
And wouldn't you know it, the moment I started taking proud father photos of the new brake components, Dooley the Degreased bopped over to stick his nose into it. I guess I can say that our new brakes were Dooley authorized.
To tell you the truth, what the little booger really likes to do is to wait until I am stretched out on the ground under the truck working on something that's got both arms snaked up into the vehicle and caked with grease to the elbows. Then he'll run under there with me and start licking the back of my sweaty bald head knowing I can't do anything about it with two greasy hands full of something important. I swear he plans it. THAT's the sneaky kind of dog we have here. He'll slap a wet one on you when you're helpless, and then giggle all the way to the house about it.
I wanted to show you yet another use I just found for stainless steel bicycle spokes. They make great cotter pins for brake pad retaining pins:
I just bent that over with a pair of Vise (Mole) Grips once it was in place. I had forgotten to order the retaining pin kit from Merry Olde England, and was not about to wait another week. I had to clean up and reuse the ones I had.
I have been glad that I thought to save all the spokes from a couple of bike wheels we threw out. I've found them extremely useful around the shop. Of course I'd probably say that about anything made out of high quality stainless steel these days. Lets face it, I just admired an unrusted brake rotor I had to import from England. And a rare glimpse of shiny, uncorroded carbon steel almost brings a tear to my eye. So rare, and fleeting as that glimpse might be here in the Land of MakeDo. Shiny, unpitted, unrusted, clean steel. It's just so.... so beautiful!
I miss it.
Anyhow, enough whining. It's into the New Year now and "no whining" always seems to find its way back onto my Resolution list. I've read that it was Benjamin Disraeli who once advised: "Never complain, never explain." I keep trying to remember that as an example of a winning attitude. Basically, not to waste my limited time here whining and making excuses.
Okay that's going to be it for this post. We've got more on the way. La Gringa has also been making some changes in the landscaping around here and taking photos. Some of those might find their way into the blog. Like this strangely striped little spider that seems to be practicing for a roadside sobriety test:
He had set up camp in one of the blue Agave cactus plants in the yard. Do spiders like tequila? Nah, probably not. They would never get the webs to line up that well if they were tapping the Agaves.
Oh, before I forget and while we're on the subject of plants, some of you have written asking about the yearly Christmas Stump thing. And yes, we did that again. Seventh one in a row.
I think we can safely say it's become a family tradition here for us. And no Canadian evergreen trees were harmed in the making of this holiday.
P.S. After I had written this post and was waiting for La Gringa to proof read and edit it (she typically takes out several hundred of my commas) I took a look back at the blog for January of last year. I swear, I was totally surprised to look at it. The post was about cruisers, and the South Side Marina, and me working on Land Rover brakes. I kid you not. I think we're in a rut. We need to get on a boat, and go do some serious exploring. I mean the kind where you don't plan to make it home before dark. Or even before June.