"Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans."
Here's the first La Gringa sunrise photo of the new year. She took some that are better technically, but I liked the way the reversed reflection of the sun makes a kind of "smiley face" superimposed over the water. The Year of the Smiling Sun?
I realize that it's been over a month since our last post. Sorry about that. We've had some external factors messing around with our life style lately. We were out of the TCI ("off island" is the local phrase) for big parts of October, November, and December. I had a new knee installed in November. I wanted to fit it in while the sailboat is out of the water for repairs. La Gringa also wore a few sutures home from our Oklahoma trip. We're all recovering together. I'm pushing my own recovery about as fast as I can, but it still takes some time. I figure six weeks to get back to normal activity, 12 weeks to feel completely healed. So basically, what I'm using as an excuse here for my laziness is that we've both been a little bit hobbled through December. We've also had house guests for the past few weeks. Yeah I know... Whine whine whine. Excuses. The truth is that we love having our boys around for a few weeks. It gets lively here.
But we have managed to pick up a few photos along the way, and I'll try to keep my descriptions and the captions brief so that we can get this blog moving again. I think we have enough for two posts. In order to get this one out as soon as I can, I'll try to limit my typing to just describing the photos. That should shorten things up a bit, if I can control myself and keep my fingers quiet. We'll see how it goes.
So, Happy New Year from the south shore of Providenciales.
We returned from our sixth and last 2012 trip to the USA in mid December. We had our first house guests arriving two days later, the house was a mess, we had Christmas shopping to do, the yard was overgrown, the fridge was empty, the bugs had taken over, my knee hurt like the dickens (whatever that means) and well, I was feeling like the whole holiday season thing was really starting to get my goat...
I'm kidding (nyuk nyuk, kidding, get it?) because that's not my goat. My goat looks exactly like an obnoxious little Jack Russell Terrierest. That goat in the photo is a permanent resident of the Pampered Paws kennel here in Provo. There are also cats and chickens in addition to the dogs and the goat.. It's a real comprehensive kind of boarding kennel. We feel Dooley is getting a rounded and multicultural experience here while we're back in the Fatherland. At least that's what we tell him. Did I ever tell you that he knows the sound of the Land Rover coming up the driveway fifty yards before we get to the kennel? Even after we've been gone for three weeks, he recognizes the sound of that little diesel when we 'finally show up to bail him out' (his words). By the time we get out of the vehicle, warily locate and then circumnavigate the goat, get up the walkway, and open the fence gate, he's worked himself up into a fine little lather. I shot a short video of him and his big dog buddies when we picked him up this last time. Do you think he was glad to see us? I swear, one of these days that tail is going to go flying right off of his butt.
'Excitable boy, they all said'. Donna is the owner of Pampered Paws (which Dooley the Delinquent refers to as "D Block") and she knows the little booger well after keeping him a few times over the past seven years. Donna tells us that he has a pretty active social life while he's there. What she actually said was that "he runs the place". We wouldn't ever expect him to admit it to us that he has a good time there. He gets too much mileage out of the happy-reunion/huggy-body/licky-face routine. We do feel better knowing he's safe and happy while we're away. I've been referring to the kennel as BSU. The SU is for Sniff University.
Jacob has been doing a lot of beach combing while he's been here. That's his arrangement of rocks, shells, and flip flops in the "2013" photo up at the beginning of this post. This is a pretty good area for finding interesting stuff washed ashore, although it's not nearly as productive as West Caicos. Flotsam gets channeled into little nooks and crannies in the rocks. There are a few small beaches along the shoreline, too. I thought this shipwrecked find would have made a better companion to Tom Hanks than "Wilson" did, in his Castaway movie. Certainly a lot more cheerful. Supportive. Portable. Easy to talk to.
There. That's better.
Doesn't it make you want to boogie away the New Year on a beach somewhere? Us, too.
And the boys went through with our unintended but now traditional tradition here of rounding up a "Christmas Stump". We've managed to come up with a new one every year, without feeling responsible for killing a live tree on a lot somewhere in Canada. They found one within walking distance of the house this year. Sure made that little adventure quick and easy, and it saved me the pounding that a long ride in a small skiff does to tender knees. It still had some trimming to be done at this point. It's amazing how nice it all looks once it's festooned with lights and tinsel, and ornaments, and viewed through the rim of a suitable cocktail glass.
Can't you just feel those blustery December winds whistling through the thatch palms? It IS winter here, you know.
Dooley the Devious absolutely loves it when the boys visit, of course. He gets in a lot of ball playing, lap time, and is very much aware of his vastly increased probabilities regarding untended edibles. Here he is staking a claim on Ben:
There might be a bit of time passing before we see young Ben again. He's waiting for his NZ visa, and will be spending most of the next year on the South Island of New Zealand in skydiving school. If I were his age, I'd be going with him.
Our Christmas was pretty good. We had a full house, with grown offspring coming from Colorado, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts. We all had lots of cool presents to open. Some of them will hopefully improve this blog a little. La Gringa got a new camera tripod included in her loot. It's light years ahead of the ones we'd been using. Now she can use her maximum telephoto lenses without worrying about the wind shaking the camera. We hope. This should translate into clearer long-distance photos. I got another Go-Pro camera in my stocking with the coal and sticks, and this one has a remote control. I can attach it to the mast and turn it on and off to save battery life. I can change modes without taking the mast down. Now we can put cameras on a boat and the dog at the same time. I also bet we'll have Go-Pro mounts stuck all over the S/V Twisted Sheets eventually. Hope you guys like the videos. There may be more of them. Please write us and let us know what you think.
We haven't been spending a huge amount of time on the boats yet this winter but we have managed to get out and look around town a little. We've been to two new restaurants in the past week (Bugaloo's and the Beach House) and we're going to check out another one next week. And that reminds me... recently one of our readers wrote and asked the status of Bob Pratt's new restaurant down at South Side Marina. We've been anxiously awaiting his opening ourselves, as we'd love to have a place to go in the neighborhood. So we decided to head on down there to take a look. Bob was kind enough to give us the tour.
As you might remember from previous photos here, the new bar/restaurant is built up on top of the hill overlooking the marina.
It's primarily set up as a long bar at this point. It's open on three sides, with heavy shutters that secure the bar. They lift up to form shade when it's open. This is what they look like when closed and locked.
And this is a view from the end looking back toward the two long sides of the bar. It will be all open air with the other shutters up. I think I like this arrangement. It controls the wind, and can be used to block it when it gets obnoxious. And it does. Most people at the bar will have a view across the bar to the people and activities going on, and to the ocean in the background. As you can tell, the plumbing and refrigeration fixtures were not yet installed when we stopped by right before the holidays.
See those two vertical steel poles supporting the middle of the roof? Those are solid steel propeller shafts donated by 'Crazy George' of Turtle Cove. This place strikes me as perfect for a world class collection of beach combing goodies. I'll ask Bob if he's interested in my plastic buoy collection. I can see this also serving as an excuse to go check out West Caicos on a regular basis with an eye for good beach bar paraphernalia. Gives our inter island excursions some purpose. Not that we needed another excuse.
Bob went to a lot of trouble with the construction and details of his new place. Solid beams bolted together, and the life lines are stainless steel. I recognize the practical design of someone who's been living here a while.
Every place in the restaurant has a view of the marina, the canal, and the Caicos Bank in the background.
Bob showed us the bar chairs he had specially built in the Dominican Republic. They're sitting in storage at the moment, waiting opening day.
I don't know just when to tell you that he'll be officially open for business. There are obviously still some fixtures to be installed. Shelving to hold glassware. Refrigerators and ice makers. And as of these photos, Bob was still waiting for the local government to complete their review and approval of his restaurant and alcohol licenses. These things take time.
The clay light fixtures on the tops of the columns should make for some interesting patterns at night when the lights are on.
As I said, solid construction and stainless steel hardware. We DO get some wind storms here from time to time. It's a good idea to keep that in mind when planning construction. This looks pretty solid to me. Solid, simple, nothing there to corrode. Easy to replace the major components. I love it.
This is a view up toward the Harbour Club Villas, which is next door to South Side Marina. It also shows you the three basic levels of Bob's place. There is room for a lot of tables, chairs, and people throughout.
We asked him what the official name was going to be, and as of this writing.....he still didn't know. He's been playing around with different ideas for a name. I don't think any of them have settled in as THE name yet, though. If any of you guys out there have any good ideas for a name, please let us know! We're still calling it Bob's Place, until further notice.
This will be a really great place for visiting cruisers to relax and keep an eye on their boats. We had Twisted Sheets right there in the slip to the left of that palm tree for several months last fall. The gazebo, and site of many Thursday night potluck cookouts, is the small roof next to that palm tree. I don't know for sure, but wouldn't be surprised if the cookouts got moved up the hill once it's open.
While I suspect that a large percentage of the clientele will be from visiting boats, Bob was also thinking ahead for guests arriving by car from elsewhere on the island. He's put in a huge parking lot. And that nice strip of packed dirt there between us and the fence in this photo is a boccie ball court. The last (and only) time I ever tried my hand at boccie ball was at Jimbo's Place on Virginia Key about ten years ago. I wasn't any match for the regulars there. Maybe this is an opportunity to be one of the locals!! I've never actually felt like I was a local in any of the places I've lived. Well, except Austin and San Diego, But this is a pretty small little expat community here. . It has possibilities. They haven't thrown us out, yet. Maybe I should Amazon up a Kindle edition of Colorful Characters for Dummies. I'm talking too much again, aren't I.
This is just another view down the Boccie Ball court, for you hard core boccieballers out there.
We took a lot more photos of Bob's Place, but I think I'll wait until I have some good ones of the place up and running. Full of happy faces and cold bottles. It's still a bit sterile at the moment. I bet that changes in one weekend. We'll let you know when he's fully open. Any day now....
We've been walking a lot as part of the self guided physical therapy thing. So be prepared for some walking type photos over the next few months. For example, this little opening is between us and the entrance to the Caicos Marina and Boatyard or is it Shipyard? I forget. Anyhow, the water flows in and out of here with the tides. This water fills Juba Salina, as well as flows through Flamingo Lake, Turtle Lake and into the Discovery Bay canal system. This is the eastern outlet for this large Salinas system. The western outlet is the canal that runs into South Side Marina. See how it all fits together?
We take Dooley the Dip along with us, sometimes. And as soon as we are close enough to sea water for him to get wet while keeping an eye on us at the same time, he's in. Right up to his furry little neck.
I'm still finding it difficult to catch the dynamic motion of water in a still photograph. In that photo ( above) it looks like there is some light chop at the entrance to the salina. But it's more than that. The tide is rushing out at several knots, and the wind is driving the waves into the tide. That's what makes those little waves so steep. Here's a little video to show you what I mean. Watch the water:
And yeah, this is one of the places Dooley likes to go swimming. The water runs out of here at a pretty good clip. We'll probably get a collect phone call from him in Haiti one of these days wanting us to come pick him up. If something doesn't eat him on the trip over..
In addition to walking as therapy, we've brought the inflatable kayak out of storage to help in the knee rehab. It worked very well the first time around three years ago. I had a lot of issues with glue letting go while it was being stored. I got things stuck together and the boat made three trips before springing a major leak. I am SO glad we didn't strike out for West Caicos in it, again. We would have sunk about a mile offshore. Whatever were we thinking? I confess that I might be changing my mind about inflatable boats in the tropics.
One of the good things about inflatable kayaks is that it exercises all the major muscle groups. Lifting it into the truck and out, pumping it up, and then kicking those Mirage Drive pedals for several hours. I generously shared the excellent upper arm workout with La Gringa this time while I took photos, being the thoughtful kind of guy that I am.
On the boat's third trip, something came unglued somewhere inside the hull where the inflatable keel is located. Jacob and I were about a mile or so up the canal when it happened. We made it back to the truck by pedaling like something from a Lance Armstrong nightmare for forty or fifty yards, then pulling over to the edge of the canal. Jacob would gasp for breath and hang on to a shrub or rock while I turned around in my seat and frantically pumped in another fifty shots of air. Then we did it again for another fifty yards. So at the time of this writing, the inflatable kayak is awaiting surgery of its own. I'm waiting for advice from Hobie, before I start cutting. And I have a new appreciation of the cliche' about being up a certain creek without the proper means of locomotion.
But before the blow-out, we did get a couple of good trips in. We followed the coast line, and again I was reminded of several places I've long wanted to explore. This ledge is hard to access from land, but we can get to it easily in a boat. There are several interesting caves along here, and I'd like to take a closer look to see how deep they go into the hillside, and if they are connected. We don't tend to get this close to the rocks when sailing the Tandem Island. The inflatable is perfect for this. Except when it's leaking air as fast as I can pump it back.
We noticed that some small Casuarinas trees are taking hold along the edges of the long unfinished Cooper Jack marina. The word we get is that someone considers them an "invasive species" and thinks they should be wiped out. Well now, just..... wait a minute. These islands were formed on the bottom of the ocean, and then the water level fell exposing them to the atmosphere. Every single plant, animal, and structure on Providenciales is part of an "invasive species". Coconut palms are invasive. So are all the other plants here. Yet we don't hear about any crusades to get rid of coconut palms, or bougainvillea.
Speaking for ourselves, we LIKE the Casuarinas trees. They grow anywhere, don't need a lot of care, and provide great shade. They make a nice sound when the wind blows. They're great for picnics. The wood burns hot and clean and is absolutely great for cooking. I'm thinking it's about time we planted a few of them, in fact. But when I looked around to buy some good Casuarinas seedlings, I discovered that one of the local plant nurseries not only doesn't sell them, but is the prime force behind the effort to eradicate them. Seems they sell OTHER types of shade trees, whereas Casuarinas are essentially free for the taking. Hmmm. Aren't ornamental things imported to the island and sold in nurseries invasive by definition?
Here's a photo taken back when I was still obsessed with using the kayak to rehab the knee. It works, too.
And here's a brief video of Jacob and I on the inflatable's first trip out in two years. Everything was working fine, at this point. We even had Dooley the Drooler riding shotgun with us:
So, now the kayak is sidelined, awaiting repairs. This is probably going to end up being some kind of DIY post on here, I bet. But in the meantime we're still taking our long walks. And walking on this road isn't exactly the same as a stroll down a nice flat bike path or a paved sidewalk. This is one of those roads where you can easily turn an ankle in a groove in the rock right in the middle of your lane. These grooves were made by those big steel underbite 'teeth' that stick out of the front of bulldozer blades. I would have thought they would have smoothed this out after the rough cut, but no. Things don't always get the finishing touches in a place like this. Functionality is as far as it gets, usually. I have no idea how many years this road has been like this, but my guess is that it's been since it was first built. We first saw it when we bought the property in 2005.
The upside for us is that this tends to keep the casual visitors from civilized places with pavement away from our neighborhood. At least those who have read the fine print on their car rental contracts. We all drive Jeeps or Land Rovers out here. No wonder, eh?
Don't you know the car rental people just LOVE to rent the small cars to people who drive them out here? You know, the automobiles they rent here with those little bitty 13" wheels? We broke two of those cars when we first moved here. It wasn't pretty. Avis is still mad at me.
It actually makes the most sense to drive an SUV or better around here. Most of our neighbors drive things with all wheel drive and rugged suspensions. With tall tires. We tend to think about things like fording depths and suspension travel. Our neighbors all seem to trade cars in about every two years. We've kept our two Land Rover Defenders going for a lot longer than that, but we see the end of those days coming, too. The road, and salt, have taken their toll, even on the mighty Defenders. We're going to do it differently next time. There might be a Jeep in our future. Right now, it's looking like a Jeep Wrangler Unlimited. In white, with black top. I should say, a black HARD top. We're done with ragtops here. Except for boats. We're going to miss the inherent sense of adventure we get when we see that ball of black smoke every time we fire up the diesel Defenders. But we think we can get by with a Jeep. And I can get parts in two days from Miami. This is a pretty big deal.
Even where we don't have ruts cut into the rock by bulldozers we have severe issues here with water erosion. This is right down the middle of the road near our home. Try running one of Avis or Hertz's little Daihatsu Charades over this at 40 mph. You can break those little cars on this road. Trust me. Did I mention, this is a great section of road to search for loose automotive parts? We've found entire wheel assemblies in the bushes near by.
Some of the erosion is from the torrential rains we get from time to time in late summer. Others are from the sea. In this next photo, you can see the high tide mark on the concrete bulkhead of the Turtle Tail marina. You can also see where exceptionally high tides and storm surge go over the wall and start washing the surrounding dirt away. This causes some problems.
That new arroyo continues right across the road after a storm. The good folk that actually own this road have been doing a much better job of maintaining it recently. They have been bringing in truck loads of fill, and have raised the level of the road for a long stretch that always flooded during times of high water and high stress. Which seem to go hand in hand around here.
I really don't have much to say about this next photo. The Bight at low tide. It was intended to be a view of the Five Little Cays with the sun glinting off the water. The glint, I got. This is one of our turning around spots for our rehab walks.
I just realized that this last series of photos made the place look pretty bleak. And I can remember back when I first visited the Turks and Caicos, when I thought it looked pretty bleak, myself. I fell in love with the ocean here primarily. This is a wonderful place for someone who love tropical seas and all their trappings. It took a while for me to start appreciating the land, too. It's fairly rugged. Harsh if you're low on water. Bad news on bare feet away from the beaches. Of course the beaches are fantastic. Now when I look at the rocks, I see that there is life everywhere around here. Below the ocean. Above the ocean. In the water, in the air. And the life here doesn't exactly have it easy by most standards. There's no topsoil to speak of. The limestone and dirt itself has about the same salt content as the ocean. There's no natural source of fresh water other than sporadic rainfall. And yet, stuff lives. And thrives. One just has to look a little closer. We have trees growing directly out of holes in bare rock. No kidding.
When the ants need to cross a road out here, it must be the scale equivalent of a month's hike in the Kalahari. But these ant's don't expose themselves for that long. They tunnel under it.
Yes, you're right. I 've been out walking in the hot sun too much lately, when I start taking photos of rocks and ants. Be warned that as we continue hiking around with a camera in had, there may be more of this kind of stuff. But be calm. It's most likely a phase I'm going through. This too shall come to pass.
Oh, I had mentioned the new camera stuff. I haven't done much with the new GoPro Hero 3 yet. I've done a couple of time lapse experiments, and a two hour movie. Nothing worth posting here, by the way. If it was any good, you'd see it, believe me. The thing is that I've run into the same problem with the Hero 3 that was essentially what stopped us with our original GoPro. Remember, this is the camera we'd rigged up for the Dooley Cam (put your speakers on and watch that video) and the mast camera on the Tandem Island sailing kayak.
The problem is condensation inside the waterproof housing. I'd bought several packets of the GoPro brand of little desiccant strips, and they failed to do much of anything useful with the original GoPro. I was hoping the new Hero3, being smaller and lighter, would have some different characteristics. But nope. After about 45 minutes of shooting video, it was fogged up. Looked like this:
And the lens area was REALLY fogged, almost to the point of being unusable. The videos I got from this were basically useless. Oh well. Another problem to solve.
You KNEW there was going to be a DIY in here somewhere, didn't you? After a month's layoff? Hey, just be thankful I am keeping it short and simple this time. I'm not even going to mention the other DIY stuff. Yet.
What I've done is to buy one of GoPro's accessories. It's an extended battery pack that piggybacks onto the original battery and gives you twice the life. And while that sounds interesting and useful for future considerations, what I REALLY wanted out of that kit was the extra deep rear housing piece that comes with the extended battery pack. I took a piece of that same Starboard that I've been making so many things out of lately, and I cut it to the same dimensions as the extra battery pack. Then I hollowed it out, and drilled some ventilation holes in it. I didn't bother taking the workshop photos this time. I figured the finished prototype was pretty self explanatory. In this photo, on the left is the new, extended battery GoPro housing piece, with my little spacer, and a handful of better desiccants than GoPro sells.
I just got this completed a few days before the Holiday Invasion, so haven't really had a chance to try it out yet. But I have great hopes for this solution. The extended battery pack housing has plenty of room for four of the reusable desiccant packs. I need to do some repairs to Dooley's camera mount (the boy is hard on equipment) but that won't take long. Hopefully, this time I've got it fixed.
And of course we've now got four hours of battery should we come up with an idea in which that would be useful. I think it's going to have to be something where I can use the ventilated case, such as a really long time lapse. We'll see. The first order of business is of course to get the danged thing working as advertised. I should say that yes, I did contact GoPro, and they did respond. I can report that their customer service people are very nice and polite. Not much help in this case so far, but nice to talk to. That's worth something.
I've now realized that I've got more than enough photos for two posts. With more on the way. So I'm going to end this one so that we can get it out there while it's still early in January. In our next one, I want to show you some photos of a new restaurant that's opened up on Provo.
And I can end this with a 'traditional' one of La Gringa's sunset photos. This is another opportunity to show you how we attempt ( we strive, I tell you!) to improve our product here.
La Gringa got her camera set up in about a 20 kt. wind, but this time using her new tripod with a 20 lb camera rating. She used a common enough theme for us this time of year: the sun going down over the house that belongs to the artist who was once before and is now again known as Prince. This isn't her best shot, as she was still waiting for the sun, but it's a good one to show you the improvement she got with a sturdier tripod. I know you can't blow these up to the original size, as Google shrinks them down and they lose a lot of resolution.
We were losing light pretty quickly at this point, and the wind was howling. When I was examining her photos trying to pick out the clear ones, I immediately noticed that these were definitely crisper than previous photos under similar conditions, on another tripod. If you were able to look closely just to the left of the palm tree on the left hand side of the house, you could see this ship that was anchored off the South Dock area of Providenciales. That boat is six miles from the camera. You can see the motion blur from the wind in the palm tree leaves, but there's no shake in the camera at all. I think this is going to work out well.
Okay, y'all. That's the first post for 2013. We're back on the island, with plans for some upcoming blog subjects we hope you'll like. And I'll end this one with one of La Gringa's better sunset photos on that day.