Preacher had his Bimini up for this trip. He should have rigged it up last week when we watched the ocean eat his favorite hat. No kidding.
This unexpected trip to North started mid week when Preacher called La Gringa's cell phone. He calls her number because he knows that I never carry mine. I never carry mine, because nobody ever calls me. Nobody ever calls me because they know I don't carry the phone. See how well this is working? Preacher wanted to know if we were up for a trip over to North Caicos on the weekend. J.R. Delancy (aka Froggy) over in Bottle Creek had called and mentioned that he was competing in a kite flying contest. We're very interested in kites for reasons that will become clear in the next month, and we saw a chance to check out the current state of kite building technology in Bottle Creek.
A day of flying kites on the beautiful, open, windswept beaches of North Caicos?(Have you seen these beaches?) A rare chance to step away from the polyglot microcity that Providenciales is fast becoming? A day with friends for a bit of culturally undiluted Turks and Caicos Islands country side life? An event not yet sponsored by the resorts and cell phone providers, with all that that entails? Oh heck yeah. Well, one of us leapt with no further preamble. The other two ambled along with his gambol.
And once again we were treated to the rare and exhilarating experience of Preacher Stubbs running that panga of his over water so skinny that birds wade in it. Small birds. With short legs. Sadly, it was a cloudy day with the atmosphere apparently not in the mood for good photography. We had intermittent rain all day. Rain makes for some interesting scenarios when kids are competing with home made paper kites. The good news is that it was windy. Or at least I think that's good news. Unless you're competing with a wet paper kite, I suppose.
I've explained before that Preacher likes to go fast over really shallow water. Real fast. Real shallow. If something blows out of the boat it's gone. While he could certainly turn the boat around and go back to that spot, he can't stop the boat to pick anything up. We'd be aground if he stopped and let the boat come off plane. Last year La Gringa lost her favorite and probably irreplaceable "Got Rum?" hat from Salt Cay while he was demonstrating an exciting boating technique of using only the humped thickness of a breaking wave to drive diagonally over a sandbar off of Fort George Cay that was covered with just enough ocean to soak a paper towel.
While thinking about Preacher's ballcapniverous boat ,I realized that we shot a lot of GoPro footage on these last few trips and have one of these situations on video. We haven't done anything with those videos because we continue to wrestle with image quality. We're learning that there are some tricks to making the videos look good. It's starting to look like our little laptops don't have the horsepower to do a lot of video work. I knew that I could probably pull some informative stills shots from this one, though. So these next couple images are actually from the previous trip when Preacher was cooking conch and grits for us on Pine Cay.
This next one should show you how shallow the water is. If you squint your eyes just right, you can see the little individual blades of eel grass on the bottom. This water is only about 8-10 inches deep. Which is about what the boat draws at rest. To that hull depth we have to add another few inches for the prop and skeg. We absolutely have to stay up planing on the top of the water. The image is blurry due to a combination of low light and platform motion. The platform was doing about 40 mph at the time.
And this.... this is that very moment in time when Preacher's fingers reacted to that sudden feeling of light headiness as they reached for the favorite brim that, alas, is no longer of this boat. A classic case of being a second too late. Sad to see the reflexes starting to go. (He's going to get me for that.)
It didn't seem that the hat blew away. It was more a case of the hat lifting up and staying there while Preacher's head kept going, and.. a nudder one bite 'de doost.
When I showed that frame to La Gringa, she said that we should at least post that little snippet of it for you. So, with apologies for the quality, here 'tis:
Watching that clip made me realize that I might have discovered small but positive effect of decades of gunfire, diving, and loud music. I seem to have become somewhat of a lip reader. And now I'm hoping that none of you guys are.
If you go back up to that photo taken this week, you can see the effect that the Bimini top is having. His head is in a bubble that kept his hat from blowing off. The temptation to play with words here is enormous, but I am not going to come out with any air headed comments. Bubble isn't the worst-headed thing I could think of. I was watching the tension on the straps that hold the top on. It surprised me to see how much lift that top produces at about 40 mph. I wonder if anyone has tried building a tube and canvas Bimini top with the cross section of a low speed, high lift wing. Would that provide enough lift to pick a small boat up for a ride right at the water surface at speed, leaving only the keel and propeller in the water? I've been reading about WIG boats but I think this is a different idea. I don't want a boat flying separate from the water, but a way to zip over shallows. It might be fun to try some experiments with that little skiff of ours.
We left the canal and motored through Leeward headed for the Caicos Bank. The wind was only blowing about 15 mph, and there were two meter waves crashing on the reef side. Did you notice how I mixed my measures there, miles and meters? Ah, this international living is starting to rub off. Or maybe it's the sand causing the blisters. Hard to tell sometimes. One of the nice things about islands is that you can always find a lee side with smoother water.
We had a fairly uneventful trip over. Nobody lost anything but a little time well spent.
Heading into the cut between Parrot Cay and North Caicos' Sandy Point marina we saw that the rough weather offshore wasn't hampering these ladies and their guide. That's a flats boat, normally used for bonefishing, but it looks to me like they're using spinning reels instead of fly rods. Could be fishing for a number of things.
We've never been to the resort on Parrot Cay, although I'll confess to trespassing on their more remote beaches a few times. It's technically not trespassing below the high water line from a legal standpoint. And in that spirit, we're likely to technically untrespass some more. There are no beaches on this side, however. It's rocky ledges and mangroves. This is a view of some of the buildings scattered around this end of the Cay.
For some reason this photo reminds me of some Cape Cod vistas that I'm familiar with. If someone told me that this was taken in Waquoit Bay Massachusetts, I'd believe it until I saw that water. You'd have to distill the New England coast all the way out to Nantucket to get the water that clear. And you know how they feel about things like that up there.
This next one, on the other hand, is definitely a local image. La Gringa wore her best hat for the trip. We pulled out all the stops, I tell ya! New hat, clean shirt, shoes.... we even discussed shampooing the dog. And we would have buffed that little booger up, too, except he overheard us discussing it and did his Jack (Russell) Kerouc number.
I've written enough about the scene at Sandy Point that I don't need to repeat it. Froggy was not there waiting for us this time and Preacher gave him a call. He was home and working on his kites but came out to pick us up at the marina. He took us back to his house in Bottle Creek. This is the first time we've been back since my embarrassing incident at J.R.'s birthday party a couple years back. And unfortunately for me nobody seems to have forgotten. I think I might have the record for the whitest butt ever spotted in Bottle Creek. I'm just lucky these people aren't whalers.
We immediately noticed that Froggy has been doing some home construction work since our last visit to his home. He built himself a Bottle Creek man cave, complete with a nice shady porch. This gave me some immediate ideas for our place on Provo. I have just the spot in mind.
He gave us a quick tour of the inside. It's filled with musical equipment. He's got a keyboard, guitars, amplifiers, mixers, CD's, and, oddly enough, a number of trophies for........ kites.
Those walls and shiny CDs make me think that there might be a mirrored ball and bright pencil beamed light around here somewhere, too. Preacher tells us that Froggy has been in a variety of local bands and he used to play at the Meridian Club on Pine Cay. He was kind enough to give us a copy of his oldy Goodies CD.
One of those songs I know, of course, and the rest are some original compositions by the artist himself. But I like MY photo of Froggy better than the one on the CD. Maybe because it’s got me and Preacher in it, too.
Now I'm wondering if he has a distorted view of us. Is that paranoia? And should THAT worry me, too?
J.R. was trying to be polite but also telling us he needs to finish this kite before the contest starts. He’s cutting the letters out of paper and gluing them to the kite. This ain’t no Magic Marker paint job here, bubba. He tossed us the keys to his truck and told us to take a hike. Or words to that effect. Take a hike. Fly a kite. Tossed us the keys. This reminds me of a seminar I once endured. This day is actually shaping up pretty well.
So we drove for a little tour around Bottle Creek to give Froggy time to finish the lettering on his kite. We wanted to stop by the Bottle Creek Lodge to see if the owner was around. He wasn’t but we took a quick look at the beach there. Quiet day on Bottle Creek.
Jay had a small dock here before the storms in ’08. That’s one of the aspects of big storms that people tend to not think much about unless they’re directly affected. The storms are big news while they’re happening, and then there’s a story in the aftermath. And then something else catches the world’s attention and the light and scrutiny of the media moves on to someplace else. An experience of such magnitude that it has changed you forever goes through a change of it's own. You coast along for a while before you realize that this intense portion of your life has made the transition from today’s news to last year’s history. For most of the world, these little local island tragedies becomes like someone else's memory. Insignificant in the grand scheme of things. I guess it's easier to see the big picture when it doesn't look like the middle of a bullseye surrounding you. The damage that Hanna and Ike did almost five years ago is far from healed across these little islands. And we had it mild compared to what happens almost yearly to Haiti. I'm knocking wood here. Excuse me, Mr. Wood Sprite.
Here's a small, but representative example of what I mean. There was once a nice little dock here. In a scenario repeated hundreds of times across the islands...it's gone.
I think that if it were my place, I’d probably put some kind of small floating dock in here next time around. Something that could be hauled ashore and pegged down solid. We worried about those clouds and their intentions in light of our purpose in being here. Was it Charlie Brown who had issues with a kite-eating tree?
Within a few minutes after we reached the beach Preacher’s phone rang and it was J.R. His kites were finished and it was time to head up to Horsestable Beach. He said kites,plural. He built three of them for this contest. The big one, Miss Pine Cay, is of course the heavy guns. He also brought along a mid size kite and a little one.
People continued to arrive throughout the rest of the morning. We walked around to the beach side of the pavilion. It was quiet out there. Too quiet. We've seen those stories, we went looking for the natives.
And we found them.
They were inside the big shelter working on their kites.
There was paper, and glue, and sticks. There was string, and stuff to make tails.
The competition was starting to show up.Outside in the parking lot, J.R. was setting up his kite bridles, pretty much perzactly. That’s the impression I got from watching the kite master at work, as a logical combination of precisely and exactly when hyperbole and redundancy are the goal.
Not everybody was interested in having the biggest kite. This was one of those times when size didn't matter because t here were also prizes to be awarded for the smallest kite. The prettiest kite. Best company kite. Most colorful kite. As many of you other old kite fliers can probably tell by looking, many of these small kites really didn’t have much chance of actually flying very well. Diamond kites typically need some bow, and a bridle, and a long tail is not uncommon for stability. But who was going to tell these kids their kites wouldn’t work? Not me. We told them how pretty they were. And what a good job they were doing.
We moved outside to watch the judging during a nice break in the clouds. And found that the three "kids" we came with were about to launch Miss Pine Cay.
J.R.’s pseudonymous mid-sized kite was flying perfectly. I held on to it for a while. Then we just tied it to an exposed water pipe and let it ride. An American Kestrel was checking it out. Yes, that's a real bird and not a kite. On the left, I meant. The free one with no strings attached.
And J.R. ‘s dreadnoughtess Miss Pine Cay wasn’t getting through unscathed. It’s a heavy kite. I asked him about the design, and he explained to me as sort of a flying W shape of his own design. It’s a rigid frame with no springy bamboo type things to absorb impacts. So what does absorb impacts is the frame. Fortunately Froggy came prepared with glue and paper and everything he needed to make repairs on the fly, as it were. Or maybe repairs between the flies would be more accurate.
Frederick picked it up pretty fast, and soon he was making repairs right along with J.R. Every little trim change that didn’t work right caused an impact with the ground. This, as you know, is probably one of the leading causes of damage to aircraft of all kinds. So it was re-trim, launch, crash, patch, re-trim, launch, crash…well you get the picture. I never realized that amateur paper kite flying required a pit crew.
While J.R., Freddie and Preacher were patching, crashing and bashing, La Gringa and I took a little side trip next door. This is the location of a small resort facility that was under construction when we first came here to Whitby several years ago, called the St. Charles. I don’t recall the exact nature of the advertising claims, but it looks like a condo development. And a nice one. And it apparently was completed. For the most part. It’s sad to see it abandoned and falling to ruin.
The main pool looks like it would be really nice if it was filled up with clear, clean water and surrounded by waiters carrying anything from the rum or tequila families. That’s not the case here.
The pool side bar wasn't open. And didn't appear to have been serving anyone for quite a while. Those in-water bar stools are looking pretty rough, too.
The design and even the workmanship of the outdoor pool area looked pretty good. I’m sure at least one of our readers here in the TCI will know what the story is on this development. Perhaps they’ll write and summarize the issues. I know I’m interested in what happened. This is a beautiful setup on a beautiful beach. It doesn't look too far gone to recover. What happened?
I asked Dooley the Disgusted if he wanted me to throw a stick in the pool so that he could use that as an excuse to jump in and fetch it. He didn’t show any of his traditional signs of enthusiasm when swimming is offered.
We didn’t try to look into the building at all, so can’t really say much about the interior state. We did see that plywood had been nailed over the lower, accessible sliding glass windows. We headed on back over to the kite contest next door where things were a lot more lively.
Froggy’s Bottle Creek team were still fine tuning the big kite. All they had to do was get it up into the air flying while the judges were witnessing it to qualify for biggest kite. It’s looking like Miss Pine Cay could also be known as Patches, for short. Check out that ball of twine.
You can also get a good view of J.R.s Flying W frame design there, in the photo above. If you’re a kite enthusiast interested in that kind of thing. It sort of reminds me of a Delta-Cornyne design, in some ways. You might interrupt me at this point to ask “WELL? Did it FLY?” Yes. It surely did.
We didn't think to ask their names, but these were the distinguished judges for this event. One of whom would have appreciated a bigger event t-shirt in his size. Being a judge and all.
I suppose he could use it as a bib. There was some delicious food being cooked up inside. We had conch fritters and cheeseburgers.
I don’t recall ever seeing a palm frond kite before. It flew, too, after a fashion.Perhaps anything can fly with enough wind and a properly designed tail.
We noticed that the judges seemed to be getting into the proper spirit of the event, being draftees and all. They took an interest in each kite in the cosmetic categories.
I would assume that they personally knew most if not all of the contestants. And would probably also be related to some of them. This is a pretty small community. Finally, the crowd gathered as the judges started compiling their decisions.
I was thinking about that, and it occurred to me how very delicate something as simple as judging a contest could be when you're related to all the players. These effects of extended family relationships permeate most facets of TCI life for the people born here.
Of one thing there was no doubt, Froggy won the trophy for biggest kite. The Miss Pine Cay lumbered into the air looking like the battle scarred veteran of a dozen aerial combats, but it was enough.
He also took second place for the smallest kite. I think they should have also had a category for best flying kite, too. He would have won that one with this mid size. It was rock solid all day long.
I think this photo La Gringa took of two old beach bums pretty much summarizes the weather. It was a bit stormy. But what a relaxing way to spend the day.
Except for Preacher's boat handling. Relaxing is not one of the words in that description. He zipped us back over to Provo via a circuitous route because it was low tide and the shortest route was blocked by water even too shallow for Mr. Stubbs and his magic carpet. We were passing some of the new sand bars dredged up when the Dellis Cay fiasco was being developed. I noticed that the very first substantial vegetation to stabilize the new land is Casuarinas trees.
These trees grow fast. It was a bit strange for me to see land and trees where I was accustomed to seeing open water just five years ago.
J.R.'s wife, Henny was kind enough to send us home with some island sweet potatoes to try. They looked like this.
They have a wonderful taste that reminded me of a cross between a small red potato and a full sized sweet potato. I wonder if such a hybrid has developed on North Caicos.
I wanted to post these photos before they were too dated. We've already got some plans for the next post, and some more DIY and camera experiments to show you. Dooley has been very supportive in letting me fit him with various video camera attachment ideas. I think I'm on the right track there. The dog must be supportive, he's been constantly underfoot in the shop lately.
I suspect part of the reason he was napping in the garage was that he got a special treat for lunch that day. I had a plastic peanut butter jar that I wanted to clean out. I needed to use it to store some small parts in the workshop. I was just about to drop it into the dishwasher when I saw the look in Dooley's eyes...so I though "why not?"..
So if you ever want to spend an hour watching free entertainment and clean out a peanut butter jar at the same time, I recommend giving it to your dog. It's amazing how far they can reach. Make that two hours.
I had a few more things planned for this post, including a pretty cool looking time lapse sequence sunrise. Plans get interrupted, however, and we were called away very suddenly due to a family emergency situation in the USA. Once again we got to experience an unexpected snow storm, with about 10" of snow falling on us in Boulder. We thrilled to the joy of scraping snow off a rental car while wearing sandals. We got out of Denver, and landed in Miami yesterday.... only to experience the biggest computer shutdown American Airlines ever had. We are still in Miami 24 hours later, and I am writing this in the Miami Airport. Rather than delay this any further I decided to go ahead and post it without any further embellishments.
But we do have some fun new stuff planned for the next one. You know we always come back from the USA with new camera toys.