It's been a while since the last post, but I think we're finally back to a stabilized condition for a while. We spent the holidays in the Rocky Mountains. We are firmly back in the islands at the moment. And I can confirm that Providenciales and Boulder are two completely different universes in late December. We didn't see any sunrises like this up a mile above sea level, for example:
We did get some good ones over the Rockies, but I well know y'all come here for the tropical images, and so meanwhile, back at the ranch.. er, Caicos Bank:
A different kind of 'rockies' entirely. Happy New Year. We have an excellent view of about a dozen good fireworks displays above the resorts across the narrow island. The places on Grace Bay seem to compete with each other every year for fireworks. Club Med refuses to observe Daylight Savings Time and launch their fireworks an hour before everyone else. That's not uncommon here, by the way. Pine Cay also has stood with one time over the years. And now the word being reported in the local newspapers is that the entire country is going to permanent DST next November. They're setting the clocks to the Caribbean Time Zone during the usual Spring Forward in March, and leaving it there. This means that during the busy season in coming years, the Turks and Caicos will be an hour ahead of New York, Miami, and the entire eastern US. This has the potential to be fun to watch. I'm basing this partially upon personal observations of the nations only four way stop sign intersection. And please remember anything I say is filtered through an accused but un-convicted curmudgeon.
We were out cruising around the Blue Hills area of Providenciales recently as we do from time to time. We noticed that another restaurant has opened on the island. This happens frequently in a tourism driven place like this. This one is right on the beach in Blue Hills, on a very nice spot of beautiful beach that was previously occupied by an establishment known as Horse Eyed Jacks. The name of the new place is Kalooki's. We're always happy to try out fresh beach grub options so we boogied on over one afternoon to check it out for lunch. I also figured you guys might like to see something in this blog other than aerial photos of marinas and our old DIY sailboat projects. So here's a little description of our trip to Kalooki's. And if you landed on this website by mistake while trying to find a restaurant review I can save you some time by just stating up front that we really enjoyed the place and the food was terrific. Our recommendation is that you Go. Enjoy.
We had been to this same Blue Hills location at least a dozen times in its previous incarnation. It's a stupendous location for a beach restaurant, located in a nice grove of Casuarinas trees right on the sand. And this is one of the nicest little beaches on Provo for a leisurely meal while contemplating the sky, the reef, and the deep blue sea. I think one of the real challenges in running a restaurant here is the competition. Da Conch Shack is literally right next door. Getting here is as easy as heading out for Blue Hills and looking for that Kalooki's sign. There's also an old panga style conch boat hull sitting out front. The last restaurant here had a pickup truck sitting out front. For a while. Pickup trucks don't tend to sit near the beach here for very long, in the geologic time scale of things. I realize it's meant to be decorative, but it's actually not in all that bad of a shape, compared to some of the boats running around here. I'm surprised this thing doesn't have an outboard and two conch divers on it.
I always get a kick out of these sign posts that show me how far we're standing from a bunch of places where we'd rather not be. I'll be the first to admit that we're most likely biased against cities after after living on a small tropical island for ten years. And that's probably why I consider this one grump's version of a list of good places to be from.
We met the owners of Kalooki's on this visit. This is Tory and Mal Williams, the justifiably proud owners of Kalooki's, They're standing next to their very distinctive logo. That's going to look great on t-shirts and hats.
Their logo looked vaguely familiar to me when I first saw it, this whimsical figure playing a conch trumpet. It took a while until I realized that it's a tropical version of the Hopi and Pueblo Indian's Kokopelli, the mythical flute player in the US desert southwest. Playing the native music. I like it. This should be a great spot to hear some Rake and Scrape. We'll have to come back at night and check it out.
The restaurant has been repainted in a very attractive and colorful tropical style. It's good to see something other than the usual whitewash. I'm probably pretty picky about these things, but I was also glad to see that it had all been repainted top to bottom. That's because it means it was probably also cleaned from top to bottom first. I'd say this is a good sign in a new restaurant.
We enjoyed the laid back atmosphere and decor. I don't know if it was the relaxing colors, the quiet afternoon, or the lulling sound of the ocean just a few short steps away, but the place has that same quiet beach quality that lends itself well to thoughts of palm trees and hammocks. It blends in well. The thatched roof doesn't hurt the ambiance, either.
I think it looks like the kind of place that could use a couple of parrots in a cage behind the bar. A war canoe. You get the drift. Corona could easily use this place in a promotional video.
And the beach here is one of the prettiest on the island. On most days the prevailing trade winds will be blowing from the island out toward the reef. With the strength of the winds down here, this means you don't typically get sand blasted or salted during a meal. Not too shabby.
(The owner) told us that they have plans for a t-shirt and souvenir shop in the restaurant eventually. They've already started with a small display on the beach.
I hadn't intended for this post to turn into an ad for Kalooki's, and we have absolutely no stake in the place whatsoever, but we know that some people are going to stumble across this blog post when they start Googling Kalooki's on vacation, and we may as well show y'all what our early lunch experience was like.
Those bamboo mats are menus. I hope you can read these selections. Some good ones. If you can't read them here, there's a menu on their website.
We noticed that the place is off to a rousing start in the local beach restaurant business. And here, beach restaurant is what people come to the islands for. Kalooki's has been winning first place awards in the local competitions already. Something tells me that this ain't their first fish fry.
We were on a committed schedule that day and had to have an early lunch. This had some benefits. We were the first customers of the day and got to choose our table. You might have predicted that we'd go for a shady table under a coconut palm with a nice view of the beach, the ocean, and the reef. Right?
There was a fair bit of cloud cover that day, so the photos don't look as sunny as yours will, but on an average day here we'd actually need the shade.
We met one of the servers at Kalooki's named Aysha. We were discussing the restaurant and the art they had displayed on the beach when she told us that she's an artist, and some of the paintings here are hers. We asked her to email us some examples of her work. She did, and here are a couple that fit right in with this post. This scene is looking very familiar, come to think of it.
Devon is visiting from Canada. We met online because he saw a photo of our boat next to his in storage at the marina. We've been corresponding for over a year, and finally we met. He's got a completely equipped steel monohull sailboat here in the yard, for sale if anyone reading this is interested. It would be a great project for someone who likes to weld. Devon's taking a break from sailing to raise a young family for a while. There's a photo of S/V Sea Munchkin in this blog post, the second from the last photo.
And thats the artist Aysha with the big smile and her eyes closed and she's not going to like this photograph. We'll have to go back and get another one.
La Gringa Suprema started out with a bowl of the award winning lemon grass flavoured seafood chowder. This stuff looked pretty good from the start. Even back when that cherry had a couple inches depth under it.
This photo is going to look upside down but that's only because La Gringa was taking these and she just leaned over and snapped a photo of Devon's first course. He tried the conch ceviche. He also said it was absolutely delicious.
Here's another view of those appetizers, along with some colorful tropical drinks, of course. I mean, what's a beach restaurant experience without some tropical drinks. It was too late in the morning for breakfast beer, right? We attempted to hit this place like we were on serious vacation, by the way. Notice that one has a lime in it. Don't try this at home. Not if you have to go back to work, anyhow.
La Gringa was in love with this place by the second spoonful. There are seafood chowders, and then there are Seafood Chowders. This one hit all the wickets.
I disappeared that piece of garlic bread about ten seconds after taking that photo. Oh man. Do you like garlic bread? I bet you'd like this.
Then we got the main courses. No kidding. I was glad I'd skipped the first one, but that was because I went for the cracked conch. Yes, battered and fried and accompanied by a heaping pile of fried potatoes. I mean, this is my own personal gold standard when it comes to local seafood. How tender and flavorful is the cracked conch. I used to be the same way about Key Lime Pie. I had a standard set in 1986 in Key Largo, and compared hundreds of key lime pie samples to that original benchmark for many years. Nowdays I compare cracked conch. It's a staple when it comes to judging competitive dishes here in the islands.
This was some of the best cracked conch I've had in a long time. It's easily competing with the best I've had on this island. And you know what a grump I am about these things. No complaints here whatsoever.
Devon went for the jerk chicken, another award winner. This is some seriously good stuff, too. There was hot sauce on the table. I noticed he didn't reach for it.
La Gringa thought she was going to end up with a light lunch by ordering a fish taco after the chowder. This turned out to be a substantial lunch in itself, and just as tasty as everything else the three of us tasted. This is the only photo I have of the fish taco plate, there on the right. And she'd already been scarfing on it before the photo was taken. I'm going to blame that green stuff.
Okay, that's enough about Kalooki's. Except to say that there were so many interesting looking things on the menu that we plan to go back and try quite a few more. This is a nice place. We're sure glad to see another good option here.
Back in our little mundane day to day world we've gotten back to work on the sailboat after the holidays. We launched her and have put the sails back on. Here's Dooley the Demented watching us do all the work.
La Gringa met a cruiser named June on her way south, and they discovered that they're both members of the same women's sailing group. We do love the mountains, but it's sure good to be back at sea level, too.
I guess this is a good spot for the DIY notification. The rest of this post is pretty much about some of the stuff we've been doing to the boat recently.
We discovered that we had a huge leak in our freshwater storage system. We also had a leak in our raw ocean water compressor cooling system but that's another story. This is already a fairly long post, and so I'll just concentrate on one little DIY here. For now.
What was happening was that when we filled up our fresh water tanks, we started noticing that the left hand hull was needing to be pumped out more than usual. We isolated the culprit to this old stainless tank under the deck in the galley. Or under the floor in the kitchen if you prefer cowboy terms.
The source of the leak was pretty obvious once we could look at the underside of the tank. The welded edge under the inlet pipe was covered in epoxy, which had let go of the steel, and the water was leaking out and dripping around the edges of the old fiberglass. There wasn't much cloth in the repair and I think it was polyester resin. Hey, finding the problem was the first step forward here. And after removing that rotten old holding tank last year, this was a walk in the park. This thing has only ever had fresh water in it. Whew.
Of course my first inclination was to replace the entire thing with a plastic tank. Then I priced that out with two different plastic tank companies. $850 per tank. We have four of these. Then shipping and custom, and well, you've read it all before if you follow this blog. The high price is because these are custom fitted to the hulls. See where it's triangular? We could go with stock, rectangular tanks for a third that cost, but we'd lose over half our storage capacity.
So of course you know what happened. Being somewhat of a parsimonious bent, I decided to try to patch this up and see how it works. It's not like I really had much option. I thought about trying to weld the stainless, but it's already brittle and I'm lousy at fine welding. I could stick half inch plate together pretty good but trying to weld thin steel takes more of a touch than I have yet developed. And better equipment. And it would be adding another alloy to welds already gone brittle. I figured it was as good a time as ever to reacquaint myself with fiberglass. This should be a handy skill going forward, on a fiberglass boat.
For you fellow leaky tank fixers out there, I first sanded the old goop down to shiny steel. Then I molded in JB Weld's marine steel expoxy putty. I used this to fill and level every suspicious looking crevice I could find. On the tank, I mean.
After running strips of cloth along all seams, doubled on the bottom and tripled around the fittings, and glassing it, we did a little water test.
It was nice to see it holding water for a couple of hours, and that it only drained where it was supposed to drain when I pulled the stopper out.
I think it looks a whole lot better than it did when we drug it out of the boat several photos back. Now we'll re-install it and keep an eye on how it holds up. If that last patch job went ten years.... we're good to go on this one. With three more tanks the same age still in the boat. My total out of pocket costs to repair this will be something like $ 50. And I'm feeling a lot better about taking on some glass and gelcoat fixes on the boat now. I hadn't done any fiberglass seam work since building surfboards in the '60's. And who the heck remembers the 60's?
Some components of a boat can be repaired, and there are some that are likely frozen in a state of destruction forever. That prop makes my measly fifty bucks worth of fiberglass seem pretty silly, doesn't it. That thing probably cost more than our car. And I'm pretty sure that no amount of JB Weld and fiberglass is going to help it.
I'm going to clean out a few other DIY photos here, and I'll try to keep it brief. Like, for example, while hooking up the LPG solenoid for the boat's stove I discovered that the corkscrew on a Swiss Army Knife is good for cleaning Teflon tape out of pipe threads. See? Useful and brief.
And I wanted to say a word of gratitude to Brenton and Randy at the Benjamin Moore paint store here. I went looking for them and found out that they had moved locations, and expanded into new quarters. These guys consistently stock the best quality tools and paint and supplies that I can find on this island. And when I want an experts advice on paint or prep, they know their stuff. Here's their new place.
Life in the marina is starting to show the seasonal flow. We're seeing cruisers coming through, staying a few days and moving on. Recently Bob re-furbished and installed some fresh channel markers at the entrance to the marina.
Okay, I can't stand it. One more little DIY project for the boat. I figure the only people who have read this far are interested in this stuff anyhow and the others are long gone by now. Anyhow, this DIY has some historical significance to this blog.
Remember that sheet of Starboard we salvaged on West Caicos several years ago? This week I finally used the last major bits of it. Nothing left now but scraps. What happened was that I needed to come up with some way of mounting our light fixtures to bare fiberglass. They were screwed to thin sheets of plywood before we ripped all that out of the boat. The plywood was a spacer, and the wires ran behind it. Now I had to space the lights out away from the inside of the boat until we figure out what we really want to do here. So I cut some spacers from the remaining piece of Starboard.
I used a circle cutting attachment with a heavy duty rotary cutter. This is like a Dremel on steroids. After cutting circles to match the diameters of the light fixtures, I cut the inside out with a Forstner bit on the drill press.
These actually look pretty cool in the boat. The light shines through the plastic, and there's a glowing ring around the base of the fixture. I'll try to get a photo for you.
Well, that's it for this post. We've been trying to put a very hectic holiday season behind us and get back in harness here, and finally we're making progress. This photo was taken two days ago. This is progress.
I'll save the rest of the first sail of the year photos for another time. We all leave our little tracks across this earth, some of them bigger than others. We're glad you like to read about our own little trails through life. We keep thinking that it's about to get a bit more interesting now that the boat is imported and functional again. I was thinking about that when I drug out this old photo taken on Pine Cay some time back. It's been a real struggle to get to this point, but maybe, just maybe..he who tracks last tracks best.
We should have some new sailing and tropical ocean photos any day now. In the meantime, keep smiling. Winter's temporary. And there are places like this to escape to.