La Gringa has gotten back into taking sunrise and sunset photos. This is the wet season and we have a lot more clouds this time of year. Clouds make for some dramatic celestial scenery. I was just looking through a bunch of photos she took on a recent morning. I was noticing how much the scene changes as the morning light develops. This was just before the sun broke through a cloud bank on the horizon one recent morning:
There's a lot of atmosphere going on in that photo.
And this next photo was taken on the same day as that first one, just a short time after the sun had risen above the clouds.
We didn't do anything special for our 300th blog post. We had already planned to take the skiff over to West Caicos on the next calm day, and this turned out to be that day. They all get here eventually, don't they. We launched it with the KIA instead of the Land Rover for the first time, and that was a little different. Backing a boat down a ramp while sitting on the left side of the automobile and peering over my right shoulder seemed easier after these past several years of backing boats with a right hand drive Defender. I guess by now we're backidextrious. And the little KIA handled the light skiff just fine. I'm pretty sure I'd never hook up the Contender to it, though. Oh, I don't doubt that it would pull it. Just not very fast. Nor very far. And not for too many times.
By the time we got the boat into the water the wind had picked up a little bit and the ocean was not as smooth as it had been at dawn. This little boat is okay in some slight chop, so we headed over to West Caicos as planned. It's not hard to recognize the water over here. It's got a look of it's own:
We were heading for a specific spot this time. Back in October of last year we ran across this old sluice way over on West Caicos. I noodled around on the internet and found out that it's probably the ruins of a salt exporting plan that was ongoing back in the 1850's. We took photos and wrote about what I had found in a post called " Local Histories Little Mysteries" almost a year ago. I also planned to come back someday when I had the ability to take some aerial photos of this place.
Dooley the Delighted was way happy to be boating over to West Caicos again. He likes this place. It's a beach lover's paradise, and Dooley likes to explore beaches.
I won't go into the details of what we've been doing with the kite cameras lately. All of the fiddling around that I do with those things would be a blog post all of its own. This rig is the one that rotates clockwise as the kite string jiggles it. I'll post a few of the images that I consider as most representative of what we got. One thing we're learning is that we only need to put the camera up for a few minutes. Leaving it up while the camera goes around and around doesn't gain much. All the good stuff is in the first dozen images and after that it just keeps repeating the same general scenes. Unless you're moving. The wind varied between about 6 to 9 knots this trip. It was good for boating, but borderline for the kite we had with us. At one point it dipped so low that the camera went underwater. I think La Gringa put some of those photos on the Face book page. I'm not going to post them here. Too embarrassing.
This is looking down at the old sluice way, and shows most of the masonry and rock structure that extends out from the shore. I call it a sluice way because I haven't yet come up with the correct name for it. I'm pretty sure it was a ditch to get fresh ocean water into the interior lake of West Caicos so that it could be evaporated for sea salt. I'm puzzled at all the effort with the stone work, though. This had to be a tough job.
Here's a photo with the boat in it to give you an idea of the scale. And we are getting a much better view of the structure we had noticed directly offshore when we were here a year ago. The rectangular shape of it immediately becomes apparent when viewed from above.
This is just more of the same scene. I'll upload a few of these so you can get a good idea of what this stretch of coastline looks like.
This is another view of that structure offshore. It could be my imagination, but I am wondering if I am seeing similar sized blobs equally spaced out in the same vicinity. Possibly this was part of some planned structure to protect the sluice inlet from storms and waves. Maybe it was an offshore loading platform. Perhaps it's the remains of an old barge or other vessel. The problem with all of this in my mind is that the water here is only a meter deep. It gets three meters deep out where it turns blue, but this thing is in waist deep water. Too shallow for a boat of any size. It would be easier to bring a boat up to the island on the opposite side, in the lee protected from the wind, and where deep water goes right up to the shoreline.
This next one is another shot of where we dropped the anchor near the ruins of the sluice way. . We actually don't know for sure what this all was about. You can see how straight the stones were laid, and how they're still holding together in places. Keep in mind that this is on a sand beach, in the surf zone, in the hurricane belt, below the tide line, after 160 years of exposure on the windward side of this cay. I'd love to know how they mixed that mortar. That's some good stuff right there.
At one point we noticed two guys on PWCs zooming down the coast of the island. As you can tell from the photos, there was absolutely nothing other than our kite photography going on. We were the only people in sight. They zoomed over to see what we were up to, and the kite camera caught some images.
This is the point when they changed course to pass well out away from us. When we got a look at them, we got the impression that they might be associated with the resort development that's been in limbo here on the island. The word in the newspapers is that the whole Molasses Reef resort is starting up construction again. We think these guys might be security for the new contractors.
There are roads still in place from back before the development plans halted, some five years ago. I marked each end of the remains of the old sluice way that we're investigating. You can see the old causeway that crosses the pond here, and how the roads still follow the ones originally laid out back in the 1800's or earlier. The man made waterway is filled in with sand and vegetation, but is still clearly visible from the air.
I posted this one because it shows all the pieces in one photo. And where the roads are.
This is looking almost directly down onto the remaining parts of the submerged portion of the structure. You can see that the finished, straight sides of the stones were all facing inward. And very carefully laid out. I wouldn't have thought that precise control of the width of that structure would be very important if all it did was carry water. Yet, obviously, someone took a lot of care with it.
I was winding the camera and kite in during that photo. This one was taken just a few minutes later from that same position. This is what those rocks (above) look like from beach level. Getting the bird's eye view has spoiled me. The shadow is the camera's self-portrait as I was unclipping it from the kite string.
And this shadow, hanging around my feet being a nuisance, is Dooley the Dehydrated telling me he's had enough fun and sun for one day. I also notice that the camera was beginning to fog up around the edges in these photos. We have yet to solve the humidity issues with sealed up water proof cameras in the sun.
So that's basically what this post is about. We had wanted to go back to take another look at those old ruins, and having the kite setup was the perfect excuse. We still have some more exploring to do, now that we know the limited extent of the ancient water way. We'll have to bring some decent hiking shoes out with us. I also want to dig around a little in that offshore structure. If I find the remains of wood and iron out there, it was a boat. If it's all rock, that will tell us something else.
We wouldn't want to solve all the West Caicos mysteries at once, of course. We like having excuses to keep going back. I don't know what it is about this stretch of water, but it's become one of my favorite beach combing places. And the undocumented history is fascinating to me. We have plans for getting more images from the kites on the rest of this island. Heck, we'd come back just to look at the water alone.
I had originally thought I'd end this post with a couple sunrise photos that could pass for sunset photos if one didn't know better. But these were definitely taken at dawn. I had just poured my first cup of coffee, looked out across the Caicos Bank, and thought "well, that looks like some potential for a decent sunrise. I'll go grab my camera". And so I did. And walked out into the calm morning and took this image:
And slapped at the clouds of bugs that were zeroing in on the fact that my dawn coffee stroll put me immediately in the middle of their menu. No wind means mucho mosquitoes. So....here's what a nice sunrise looks like through a hastily slammed screen door...
Not wanting to end this with a screen door sunrise photo, I'll upload a few more and then angle in for a better ending. We just put our old sailboat, Twisted Sheets, back into the boatyard for some additional work. I brought the boat around from South Side Marina to the Caicos Marina and Shipyard. If you read this blog much, you know both places pretty well by now.
La Gringa was on the patio with her telephoto lens when I came around the bend. Still photos don't show the motion very well, but you can tell that there was a little bit of chop.
I had already had to shut down the starboard engine at this point. It had an overheat alarm blaring and we don't ignore those. I had also had to climb down into the port side engine room to be sure that the low oil pressure reading was not critical. This stuff gets interesting on a bumpy day when you're the only one on the boat.
All this while remembering to keep an eye on the rocks.
Until finally I was able to turn into the mouth of the marina. I was still running on just the port engine. I guess it's a good thing we have so much experience getting this boat to a dock on one engine, because it seems to be a required skill. And yes, we realize that thousands of sailboats do perfectly well on one engine. But things get a little trickier when it's a catamaran. Getting these engines right before we take off on another long sail is one of the reasons it's going back into the yard.
And now after that distraction, I can get back to a proper 2 Gringos blog post ending. With some of La Gringa's' photo stuff. She took this one looking out over the salina just before sunset.
I thought that was good enough, myself. But then she noticed a disturbance in the water there in the foreground. The bone fish were starting to feed. There were some larger fish streaking in from the edges, no doubt headed for the same bait the bone fish were chasing.
A few minutes of patience and she caught the sun breaking through the clouds for a sunset and the bone fish breaking the surface of the salina at the same time. The sun reflected off the ripples caused by the fish, on the otherwise still and glassy surface.
And that makes for a pretty good blog-post finishing-up photo.