Jacob had seen some photos of the cave over at West Harbour Bluff. He was interested in it so during a weather break he and Dooley the Disastrous and I took the skiff over for a look. I've posted so many photos of the trip in and out of the South Side Marina I'm going to skip all that and pick up the story as we rounded Osprey Rock headed for the cave.
Gazing up at this sizable hunk of limestone we noticed something unusual about the skyline. We slowed down for a look and saw what appears to be a wildlife photographer who was really determined to get some photos of nesting Ospreys. You can see him with an impressive looking lens on a camera and tripod up on the left side of this photo. Its a white colored lens, and I think that's a Canon. The Osprey is sitting in its nest on the rock pinnacle to the right.
We saw his vehicle parked about half of a very difficult mile away. He must have crept out along that tough little trail carrying all that photographic gear to get that close for his images. I have to admire his determination. That's not an easy hike. This guy is serious. I bet he got some great Osprey close ups, too. The bird seemed totally at ease.
We were somewhat surprised, however, at how animated these wildlife photographer guys can get about outboard motors and barking dogs. They squat down lower than the vegetation and use some funny kind of totally silent sign language that involves a lot of facial expressions and pointing. We responded by waving our arms right back at him and shouting Hello!! One would think those guys would get better results if they were sneaky and quiet..... and not so excitable. They seem to cry real easily, too.
Want to know why this goofy looking dog is standing on the bow of the boat and staring at me so intently?
He was waiting for give him permissioin to jump overboard. We anchored the skiff up close to the rocks right at the small cave we wanted to revisit. I told him to 'stay on the boat'. He doesn't like it, but he's getting better at it. Makes a nice hood ornament, doesn't he? Good balance. Nice to see a dog that understands trim.
This is the view as we drove up. It looks like something right out of the old "Gilligan's Island" television series, doesn't it?
The little Pentax camera seemed to be having some issues with light metering settings. I need to look into that. That harsh winter sunlight was washing out the dog. But that's okay. He probably needed washing out. He insisted upon it, actually.
Here's a closer view with Jacob in the photo for scale. You can see the wooden ladder that someone has built here. The cave itself has several 'rooms' to it, but it's not one of those deep cavern type of caves. This is an open, airy kind of place. Plenty of natural light. Homey. It's also very well placed as protection from the prevailing winds and weather, and this is a nice little place to anchor a boat. We've found that most of the old place names around here have some meaning to them. Many of them are very descriptive, in fact. And this place is called West Harbour, despite there being no harbor or marina facilities on the near shore here. There are not any houses or buildings of any kind out on this part of Providenciales. We like it.
I realize those last three photos look amazingly similar.They look a lot like the results of me twitching with a motordrive but that's not it. There is different information in each of them. Honestly. They were at least a minute apart. Uncluttered first photo: no people/no boat/no Dooley the Dolorous. Second photo: Anxious dog wanting to go swimming, play with Jacob, explore the cave for picnic-related fossils, and claim it all for Dooleyville all at the same time. The third photo gives you some scale and shows you the ladder and roof openings in the cave. You'll appreciate how cleverly I planned this and how it flows back into the narrative in a few minutes. Just remember ladder and roof opening.
It's a really nice place to take a break from the sun, and to do a little exploring. A small anchor and a line to a bush on the rock was more than enough to hold the skiff in place close to the cave. Notice the complete absence of Dooley on the boat. One smile from me and he was in the ocean. I guess a nod is as good as a wink to an anxious dog with poor eyesight.
This is essentially the same view from up in the main part of the little cave. It's quite a photogenic spot.
While I was watching the boat and dog, Jacob disappeared up that shaky, hand-made wooden ladder. We've been here several times but I had never climbed up through the top of the cave. We once made a wimpy attempt to find this opening from the trail up top side, but we gave up on it long before we got this far out the peninsula. It's a trail that makes one wish for more serious footwear than we typically wear on the boat. There are several of these openings in the ceiling of the cave. These holes in the roof would make natural chimneys to let smoke out if a lookout or someone sheltering here wanted to have a fire.
I was admiring the trip wire beauty of those huge spider webs glistening in the sun on the left side there and thinking that I probably didn't need to actually climb up myself... I mean Jacob was up there already and he had a camera with him, too. I'd get a report and see the photos. Heck he's a better photographer than I am, even. And I'm old and have bad knees and needed to keep an eye on the boat, and the dog, and well, I'm lazy.
He came back after a few minutes and told me that he had found some old inscriptions up on the hill, carved into the rocks. I said "how old ?" and he told he was seeing dates like 1790 and 1840. I think he finished his report with something like" Well, you gonna make it up here or not, old man?"
Heck yeah, you young whippersnapper. (I always wanted to use that word. Especially after that.) I climbed up through the hole and took a look around from the top of the bluff for the first time.
No that's not sweat. I'd just been in the water, remember. Tying up the boat and browbeating the dog. Browbeating a smart dog is tough work. They make a game out of it. At least this one does. Didn't some philosopher once warn about being careful when you gaze into the eyes of the browbeaten... ? I probably have that wrong.
Jacob had followed an old path to the highest part of the hill that was closest to the top entrance down into the cave. It turned out to be quite an 'old path', indeed. As in hundreds of years old.
Really nice view from up there, though.
Do you see what I mean about that photographer lugging all his camera stuff out to the very end to photograph that Osprey nest? This is not smooth hiking.
There are a number of inscriptions up here. From what we've seen over at Sapodilla Hill a few kilometers east , these carvings are by sailors keeping watch for approaching sails. They would sit here and carve on the rocks to pass the hours. There is no doubt this little sheltered anchorage and cave have been in use by sailors for a long, long time.
I got pretty interested in this one. I could tell that it had originally said (probably) "Ship St. Louis, Burnt at Sea, 1842." Wow, twenty years before the US Civil War (or the "War of Northern Aggression" if you're trying to start another fight).
Anyhow in my ongoing efforts to learn what I can about the very, very sketchy history of these islands I did some internet searching and found out that some of the research has been done by the folks over at the Turks and Caicos Islands Museum over on Grand Turk. They refer to this as the"Mystery on the Bluff".
I thought it interesting that the inscription about the St. Louis seems to have possibly been carved over something that was already inscribed into the rock by someone earlier. Does it look that way to you? Older scratches that look man made. The article I referenced in the TCI Museum piece says the oldest date found here is 1791, which is a 51 year lifetime before this 1842 guy sat here. I wonder if perhaps someone else sat here watching the sea horizon in the direction of Gt. Inagua, that didn't know about the date. Maybe someone who had no written words to scratch, who came here with the Arawaks. This cave is a natural place to be living in, and it would have been found by the earliest explorers that saw Osprey Rock and came to investigate. There were Tainos and Arawaks in these islands before Columbus. There are birds and iguanas and conch, lobster, and fish to eat. There are palm nuts and other native plants that are useful to a bush doctor. Aloe Vera, for example. Looking at a photo of Providenciales, I can see brackish surface water four miles away, and there are other small ponds on Provo, and some water lenses.
The view from within the cave covers a good part of the major approach from the Bahamas;
And of course if you climb up through the top of the cave to the bluff you have almost 360 degrees of elevated vision. It's a real good spot.
We might never find out who specifically carved these words 170 years ago. But we do know what view he had out to the west, to the natural path for sailing ships called the Sandborne Channel. Any boats heading back to Spain from Central America would most likely be in this direction. It is also the best way to approach Providenciales in rough conditions. A set of white sails on a tall mast would be visible from probably 20 miles away on a clear day from this height. With one of those old boats maybe making about four or five knots at best, that would give someone here five or six hours notice of an approaching ship. I wonder if there was some way for the lookout here to pass the information on to the next good sentry spot over on Sapodilla?
Nice little spot to anchor a longboat. Or a fiberglass skiff, come to think of it.
About this time we noticed a family approaching the cave in a large powerboat. Not being in the mood for getting between Dooley the Determined and a boatload of someone else's kids ("But I wanna pet the nice doggie!!!") we decided to pack up and head out for some more exploring. Don't get me wrong, Dooley gets along with kids just fine if they don't get too grabby. But he doesn't see children as playmates the same way he wistfully looks at cats. I think he sees human children as a good potential source of salvageable food products such as smeared chocolate fingers or cookie crumb crevices. He'll take that nose of his and frisk down a toddler faster than a Bugis Street Beanie Boy could find a drunken sailor's wallet. I'm going to leave you to do the research on that one yourself.
Dooley was getting tired of having to stand guard duty in the cave, anyhow.
Can you see the natural firepit I was referring to earlier? A sentry could comfortably sit there with a cooking fire and be invisible to an approaching boat from the northwest.
I can't believe that little ingrate was complaining that I didn't carry him up to the top with me, like I am going to lug a squirming wet dog along under my arm while I am climbing rickety ladders in a pair of wet Crocs. nah. He can just wait and look at the photos on the blog like everyone else.
This water is about a meter deep there where the starfish is sprinting across that rock at a blistering speed not immediately discernable to the untrained human eye. That's pretty clear sea water by any standards.. Unlike some of my metaphors.
We left West Harbour and worked our way slowly along the rocks on our way along the coast back toward South Side Marina. It was a beautiful mid-January winter day here. We were in no particular hurry to be anywhere else. yet. That usually doesn't happen until right before sunset when we realize we're miles from where we should be. We had gobs of daylight left at this point. I was looking for shipwrecks, old timbers, watertight briefcases full of cash and diamonds, UFO's full of secret technology.... you know, anything interesting that might have washed up. We did find several places where wooden beams and timbers have collected in the storms but from a distance it looked to me more like construction wood than the ship-grade hardwoods in which I am interested. We also checked out all the little caves we saw on the way by. I know you've seen these little sea-caves in many of the photos I've posted over the years. Most of them are difficult to get to, but I can show you one example of a shallow one here. It was difficult to see the inside of it from out on the water in the boat. The bright sunlight made the shaded little cave dark by comparison. We had to get close to really see any detail.
We took the skiff closer and once we were under the overhanging rock it was easy to see that it's just a shallow sea cave washed out by the waves and erosion. Jacob was taking a movie as I backed the boat out.
It appeared that the cave might circle around to the right a little, but we didn't get close enough for a good view. La Gringa and I will have to go back and check it out. There is a pile of timber near here I want to shop through, anyhow. Good excuse for a trip back.
We just basically choogled on down the coast line, looking for anything of interest and enjoying the day. Here we spotted something interesting that was drifting up against the rocks. It appeared to be some kind of water toy sort of thing. It was partially inflated, with some hard foam visible at times. You can just see it there on the right in that pool of sea foam.
You can also see three submerged rocks that come very near the surface that are between me and that interesting object. Three rocks and a worried looking dog, to be precise.
Normally, if it were La Gringa and I on the skiff one of us would mind the boat and the other one would swim over to check this thing out. But today I was running with a green crew unfamiliar with running this boat, and we decided to just leave this one alone. And move on. That was probably only an inflatable beach toy.
Not too far away we passed the entrance to Silly Creek and Chalk Sound. Chalk Sound is that beautiful iridescent turquoise water we have shown you a few times here. Silly Creek is an area adjacent to Chalk Sound. It was actually named after a guy named Silly. I'm not kidding. And I'm not trying to look Silly, either.
Just inside the entrance to the sound we spotted the remains of yet another Haitian sloop. broken up on the rocks. It's not like they are rare here.
I had seen photos of this house on Emerald Cay in the news recently, but had not been this close to it before this trip. I knew it was being advertised for $48,000,000. but I bet you could probably get it for forty million on a cash sale..... I wonder if that includes furnishings...
Nobody at Emerald Cay invited us ashore for a drink so we continued on down the coastline. Or up the coastline, I guess. We were headed generally in a north east direction. Is that up or down coast? I know it sure wasn't down east. This place has very little in common with down east, except for the up and down platform motion. (Down East is a local term some people in Maine use to refer to the old sailing directions on getting there: downwind and to the east)
As we approached the Taylor and Sapodilla Bay area we spotted what looked like an unusual shaped cave in the rocks. We motored over to take a closer look.
We were surprised to see this nice solid stairway someone has cut through the stone so that they can easily get to the water from the land above the rocks. What a great idea. I love this kind of stuff.
Well that was pretty much it for that day. We zipped on back past a few foreign fishing vessels anchored off of South Dock. At least I think they were fishing vessels, although I am not totally sure about it. I think I am safe in saying that I have very seldom seen that much lawn furniture stacked on a fishing boat before. I can't immediately recall ever seeing that many refrigerators on the deck of a boat before, either. Or mattresses. And I KNOW I've never before seen a small pickup truck with a cap on it sticking over the side of a fishing boat.
Were we just re-colonized and nobody noticed? Oh well. Perhaps the other boat in the background is a fishing boat. It doesn't have any gear on it at all. I have to wonder what's going on here. Why is all the stuff piled on the boat that is not designed to carry all the stuff, when the boat that IS designed to carry all the stuff is empty.... I think I will just forget about it. I'm sure someone somewhere knows what they are doing.
Jacob was about to head back north to his home on Cape Cod in a few days, and this looked to be our last chance for some father/son boating time so I let him drive the skiff around for a while.
He picked it up pretty quickly, of course. And watching him at the wheel I realized that this boat would fit me just fine if I was a normal sized person. But I am just barely tall enough that I have to stoop to stand up and drive most of the time. In the previous post there is a photo of me with a piece of plastic I picked up over on West Caicos. I have hopes of using that to raise this little console about an inch or two. That should help when I'm driving it standing up. And that's really the only way to drive it. Makes it fun, too.
That's the end of the sunny, tropical, adventuresome, scenic boat photograph portion of this blog post. Now I go to the true essence of living in the tropics full time.... DIY in the Land of Makedoo.
Anyone who has read much of this blog knows that Hurricane Hanna wiped out most of our outside light fixtures in '08. What Hanna didn't destroy outright, she loosened up enough so that Hurricane Ike finished most of them off with ease a week later. We had other priorities after those two storms and didn't immediately replace the fixtures. I think we have a total of 21 of them, in two different styles. Uh, since it's now been over three years, perhaps the phrase 'didn't immediately replace the fixtures' is close to qualifying as an understatement. Well, there are some reasons for this situation. First, though, here's a view of what the original light fixtures looked like:
This is one of the two remaining fixtures that still has all the major parts. You can probably tell from the photo that it's falling apart, too. And they started falling apart less than six months after they were installed. These fixtures were advertised and sold as outside light fixtures, suitable for a wet environment. But they were absolutely no match for the environment on this hillside facing into the trade winds. They are made out of painted aluminum. I'm sure they would last 20 years or more at a lakeside cabin in Kansas. But as we've learned, we're not in Kansas any more, en todo. I am going to shut up right now on that whole situation. It's over with. I need to start thinking seriously about replacing these. MOST of them look like something somewhere between that slightly damaged fixture in the above photo, and this more substantially damaged one right next to it.
Some of the 'sconce' style lights are gone entirely. I need to address this. It's been on my "to do" list for three years now. I think it slipped to page three at one point.
And we've looked at plenty of replacement light fixtures over the past three years. There are plenty to choose from, with similar specifications to these. "Bronze finish" it said. Ha. What we need are solid brass or bronze, or possibly cast metal fixtures that are hard coated with something that can handle this environment. Here is where we get into the problem. Fixtures slightly better than these but still not suitable for long term use in this environment would cost us an average of around $ 200. each, or more, for 21 fixtures. Fixtures that would actually have a good chance of surviving here would cost more than $ 300. each. Let me show you the numbers for something in the middle range.
$ 250. per fixture, times 21 fixtures = $ 5,250. But that's not the end of it. To ship that many fixtures down from the USA would probably cost us another $ 500 in transportation costs and shipping and clearance fees. And we would have to pay the 46% import duty presently crippling us here. That changes things a little. $ 250 per fixture x 21 fixtures x 1.46 ( customs duty) plus $ 500 in fees comes to around $ 8,200. Gulp. Does that give you an idea why we've been really dragging our feet for three years without replacing these yet?
I would really, really, really have to like a light fixture a whole lot in order to spend eight thousand dollars and change to be looking at a bunch of them. And the truth of the matter is that we haven't seen any we like much at all. Plastic is too, well, temporary and ugly. Cast bronze or brass is plenty tough enough, but still ugly and expensive. There are a few stainless steel fixtures around, but the ones we've seen would not fit in here very well at all. We don't want the patio to look like a wharf on the Hudson. (No offense.)
Recently while reading up on another project entirely (3D printers!) I saw instructions on how to cut the bottom out of a wine bottle. I was sitting here gazing at a broken 17th century bottom of a wine bottle we found on a wreck here, and suddenly I had an idea.
I made up a wine bottle cutting thingamajig from some scraps and a glass cutter:
I raided the neighbor's post-holiday garbage bins for all the empty wine bottles that I could find (no names but you KNOW who you are) and practiced until I could get a half decent cut in the glass. Then I bought some sockets and started rewiring one of the standard 3" posts that these lights were attached to. The posts are still in good shape, fortunately. We are still experimenting with various light sources, but the wiring is all 110 volt ac and for now it's easiest to just stay with that. There are plenty of low wattage lights to choose from these days. I can burn five of these using less energy than one of the 60 watt bulbs we used in the past.
My first working prototype was just a simple wine bottle with the bottom cut out. I cut four rings from a piece of mahogany ship wreckage we found on the beach, and I stacked and glued those together as a way of mounting the bottle to the post. It wasn't very elegant, but it worked. I was just trying to simplify as much as possible at this point. I had hopes of designing up some kind of bamboo lampshade that would attach to that bottle neck. But at this point, I just wanted to put something together to see if it even looked like this approach might work. Will it work okay? Can I make it strong enough to survive hurricane winds and tight enough to keep the blowing dust and salt out of it? Would wood work as a material? Would the glass handle whatever heat the bulb put out or do I need to think of more ventilation? I dunno. Well, actually I do know, now. But I didn't know diddly when I started breaking wine bottles. But you gotta start somewhere, and breaking a wine bottle to solve a problem has worked from time to time throughout history. Just not so much for illumination. Excepting Molotov cocktails, of course. Those are great for illumination. Just not very good for reading or entertaining.
So this is the Mark 1 McGeezer outside light fixture prototype. Pay no attention to the bamboo poles, those are part of a totally different project involving tomatos.
And did it work? Well dress me funny and call me Skippy but heck yeah it worked. I turned it on and let it burn all night. We even had some rain squalls blow through later in the evening. I even arranged to have it Dooley inspected:
I decided we didn't want the whole bottle neck look. It was the simplest thing to build for sure, but with a couple dozen of these sitting all over the walls the house would always look like a fraternity house on a Sunday morning during football season.
I also figured out that I would go through a lot of wood building these. I can't count on finding a steady supply of suitable driftwood. But I have lots of plywood lying around. So I cut some rings out of plywood and glued them together to make a base. That came out like this:
I was planning to prime and paint that with some highly reflective paint. I was thinking Rustoleum aluminum, in fact. Or white. Something to keep the UV rays from the wood. I like the stability of the plywood. All those grains glued across each other helps me with expansion and cracking issues, but I do have to keep it somewhat encapsulated from the elements here. This is also pressure treated to discourage termites. We like to discourage termites. In fact we'd like to discourage the cute little buggers right past their limits of survivability.
When I asked La Gringa Suprema Primera what color she thought I should paint this, she told me she liked the look of the wood. So for now, I am going to test these out in this natural look. I'll get some kind of good exterior grade sealer and preservative for it. I am sure there's something made for wooden decks and porches that's locally stocked on the island.
One other thing that lept out at us when we tested the prototype light at night was that we need to shield the side facing the patio. In the short term I thought I would make up some various shield designs and test them. As luck would have it, I quickly found a local, cheap, and plentiful source of precisely manufactured aluminium cylinders of just the right diameter and thickness. What a find, these things are everywhere! Usually not too far from a wine bottle, come to think of it.
I cut a few different louver shapes into the sides of the Coke can, to see which type did the best job directing the most light downward on one side while keeping it out of our eyes. After three cans full of holes I discovered that just punching crescent shaped holes in the can with a curved wood carving knife did the best job. At least with what I have on hand. I keep reminding myself to keep it as simple as possible. I have to manufacture a bunch of these things. I'm looking for tough, cheap, simple, and easily replaced. The electro-architectural equivalent of a rock.
And believe me, I also thought about boring out rocks for this application. I haven't ruled that out yet, either. It's just too complicated for me to do with what I have on hand. I need to be able to bore a 3" diameter hole about 5" into the rock. That would take me a lot of time to do by hand. I might do just one to see what's involved, though. We have plenty of rock. It seems to hold up well during hurricanes. It gets wet. It dries out with no ill effects. It doesn't move much in 140 mph winds. And remarkably, some rocks seem to carry on like this for centuries. I like the idea of building with elemental, natural stuff that will last for centuries. But for now, we are prototyping in wood. And every lamp utilized one discarded wine bottle, one empty Coke can, and some scrap plywood. That's gotta be a good thing, right?
This is what the McGeezer Mark II outside light fixture is looking like, at the moment:
The changes I am going to make to this one are to use an aluminum disc ( cut from our old sat tv dish pieces) to mount the lamp socket. This also allows me to attach the ground ( earth) wire to the socket correctly, and I can shorten the whole fixture by another inch or so. Making it shorter will increase it's ability to withstand wind.
There is also an aluminum can inside the wine bottle. The darkness of the glass makes it difficult to see it during the day, so that works out to our advantage. I don't know if you guys are familiar with 3D printers, but we've got a Printrbot on order. I'm sure I can design up something in the way of an internal shade for these, and print it in plastic. I already started playing around with this idea in Sketchup. This is some of my 'doodling':
As many plastic ideas as I have for the 3-D printer in a place like this, if I can use discarded Coke cans it sure fits in well with the overall goals here. This is a very environmentally responsible light fixture I am building here, ya know. So far, I've been able to use salvaged parts for everything but the light bulb socket. And I might be able to salvage some of the existing ones from the old fixtures. I could really use a wood lathe for something like this. It would open up the options quite a bit. But I don't have a lathe, and have never seen one for sale here. So I'm sticking with things I can manufacture from parts I can scrounge. "Scarcity. It's not just a design constraint, it's environmentally responsible!".
Maybe a better quote would be "Necessity is the mother of all invention". yeah, I think I like that one better.
And the best part of this is the cost. Remember that $8200 number? I have yet to design up the sconce version of these wine bottle lamps, but I am guessing our total costs for replacing the damaged lamps with these will be less than $ 200 total. The cost will be mostly in lamp sockets and protective wood preservative or paint. I am finding friends and family more than willing to help with the supply of empty wine bottles. I still have to figure out a way to use this same general design attached to a wall, but I have some ideas on that.
Well that pretty much ends this post. It's a thick one, with all those tropical photos and a marathon DIY going on. I tend to get carried away when I feel like I am actually being creative. And I think having to create working, hurricane resistant light fixtures from the neighbor's garbage has to meet some of the criteria for being creative. Or am I getting 'creative' mixed up with 'hobo'?? Possible.
I do have a nice sunset again this time. At least I think it's a nice one. It's one of a series of photos Jacob took before he left for the snowy north: