We had a short and unexpected trip to Massachusetts this past weekend. A three day visit. New England. Deep winter. Record blizzard.
Stepping outside the hotel in Boston felt like being dropped naked into ice water. And I can actually make this claim with some authority. I know what I am talking about. I have been dropped naked into ice water before. Several times. I found out that people in Finland cheerfully do this to visitors from North America, for example. It might be a national hobby. I don't know. I haven't been back.
Now that I think about it, that's pretty close to what actually happened when we stepped off that airplane at Logan airport. Except for the naked part. If that part had happened in Boston, you probably would have already read about it. It's not news when it happens in Finland.
I've been standing at a hotel window looking out at Cambridge Massachusetts. We arrived as the airport reopened after a blizzard, with another one scheduled already. Although I just posted fresh photos a few days ago, I'm thinking that maybe another post might go well with some folks in the northeastern USA right about now. If ever a place needed a few tropical scenes to break up this gray scale snow monotony.... this place does. I don't have much in the way of fresh material as it's only been a few days since I uploaded what I had and we've been traveling since then. But I do have some more photos taken during the past two weeks that I could put up for your viewing pleasure. Or your derision, if that lifts your spirits. So this is another photo fresh from just last week, on the southern shore of the island of Providenciales, in the Turks and Caicos Islands. I didn't want anyone to think I took these photos in Cambridge Massachusetts in February. Or anywhere in Finland at any time.
Jacob is one of those solid, compactly constructed guys with a phenomenal sense of balance who took to the SUP easily. He's been like that since he was kid. Skateboards, skis, inline skates, doesn't matter much. He'd be a good surfer if he wanted to be.
If I had booted up the camera a few minutes earlier that photo would have included Dooley the Demented standing on the board with Jacob. But Dooley had decided that whatever I was doing over on the beach looked more interesting than riding around on a surfboard. So he'd jump ship and was doing his Dooley doggie paddle over to where I was trying to get some artsy looking photos for this blog. He was just cruising around swimming in big circles, eyes half closed in some private reverie of his own. I never know what this dog is thinking. I'd be surprised if it's got anything to do with swimming, although, again, I just never know. What we do know is that he loves the water.
I was standing in that water near the spot where I took that little video that we posted in the previous blog post. If you click on the "older posts" button way down at the bottom right corner of this blog, it'll take you back to that one. If you want to see the video. Or if I weren't so lazy I'd post a link to it like this.
I was hoping to maybe get another video without an unplanned dog swim through it. He's got a habit of interrupting peace and quiet wherever he finds it. Unless it's during one of his quick lap power naps, of course.
I was at that same rock formation but this was at a different time of day than before. The tide was high and the rocks were underwater. La Gringa and Jacob were now well out on their trip around the little cay, so I just basically relaxed and explored the local ironshore. Found a cave. Crawled around with a camera looking for something worth recording.
If you look at the photos on the previous post you can easily see the difference between that low and this high tide. We have about a foot and a half, or roughly 50 cm of tide here, normally. If you look carefully at this photo you can see the rest of my immediate family on their paddleboards, heading for that little cay offshore. I think Dooley the Tropical Disturbance was on the paddleboard with La Gringa.
We have two paddleboards and three paddlers, along with a single non-contributing quadruped, so one of us (me) was marooned ashore while the other two were out exploring. The dog rode with them. I roamed around the beach looking for interesting stuff. This is not unusual behavior. Saw the usual collection of sand, shells, rocks, salt water. You know. This is probably the same type of stuff you see in New York or Montreal this time of year, too.
I really didn't have to look too far to find a nice shady spot on the beach to wait. This little Casuarinas tree made a really nice goof-off spot once I cleared out a couple of sticks and branches. Nice soft layer of leaves that look like pine needles, although they are not. If I had another one of these trees, and a hammock.... I could have tried for a Corona commercial.
This section looks like it could have been gouged out by a machine of some kind. Maybe a bulldozer with a comb on the bucket. I was surprised to see it, though. Would a contractor here really drive a machine that expensive on the edge of salt water? It doesn't make much sense, but apparently that's what happened. I'm not totally sure about it, as I couldn't find any of the heavy metal tread marks a bulldozer would have left. Makes for an interesting beach though. Traps stuff that get washed over the ridges into the ruts.
If you read much of this blog from the past you already know we hang out a lot at South Side Marina. Bob, the owner, has been making a lot of improvements to the marina recently. We stopped by a few days ago to check on the boat and saw yet another project underway. Men with jackhammers and shovels were hard at work carving a stairway into the rock. We took some photos.
We've noticed concrete and stone steps carved and poured into various slopes all over this island and I was interested in seeing how it's done. I've finally discovered that quite often the local methods end up being what I end up with after wasting a lot of time and effort arriving at the same conclusions someone else arrived at after going through the same processes. Duh.
I wonder how Einstein would have characterized that behavior. It's sounding scarily close to how he defined insanity.
They use a combination of techniques for these stairs. They carve the shape of the steps into the rock face with a combination of electric jackhammer and chisels, and use those carved, partial stairs to position the wood framing they use to form the concrete portions. They use mortar to position limestone blocks in the stairs, too.
Notice how the end of that bubble level is resting on a stair carved into the rock face in this next photo. This is how they get their rise and tread dimensions all correct and uniform. And that's one of the few things that is uniform around here.
I wasn't sure if this was some kind of ceremonial bug stomping hatchet dance for the stair gods, or maybe the guy just needed to use the bathroom. Good shot of the stairs, though. Some of us are undoubtedly impressed by the sartorial splendor of the TCI stair builders, and I admit... it IS impressive.
Looking at that photo might lead one to believe these guys are working in a harsh dusty environment, but that's just the stuff that these islands are constructed of. Limestone. They don't have to walk far when they need a refreshing drink. Grab a coconut off the tree with a rake, and chop it open with a machete. Sort of a tropical version of a vending machine.
When I start writing about construction techniques I know that I am dangerously close to falling back into DIY mode here. I'm going to shift the subject back to boats before that happens. Don't worry, I'll warn you non-DIY types beforehand.
This is essentially our second "season" of spending the majority of our spare time at the marina working on a boat instead of being out exploring. We're starting to see a pattern. We meet a lot of cruisers passing through on their way either north or south and now we're starting to recognize friends on their return north from their cruises. Last season we met Jorge and Kim as they headed south from Canada to the Caribbean on their long-planned, two year sabbatical Caribbean cruise. Last week they were here again, passing through this time on their way back home to Canada. Back to a life ashore in the frozen north. They spent the 2014 hurricane season down in Grenada. Jorge is from Argentina, and we found a mutual interest in things mechanical. Last season, Jorge and Kim and s/v CS'ta Time were at South Side Marina for a couple of weeks while Jorge completely rebuilt the V-drive transmission on his boat. This guy is the most meticulous mechanic I have ever met. He taps a roller bearing into place the way a Swiss watchmaker handles the tiny gears in a Rolex. You could safely serve salad inside one of his crankcase housings. It's that clean. This year, nothing on their boat was broken so it was a short visit. Too short. I briefly considered sabotaging his fuel line or something just so they'd stay a few days longer while Jorge repaired each individual molecule of the damage. It's a joy to watch, if you're patient. But of course I wouldn't do that to him. And they have a schedule to keep, friends to meet up with in Nassau.
I am very interested in the way the radar/solar panel arch is attached to CS'ta Time. It's attached to the toe rails, instead of being bolted to the fiberglass. We also have toe rails on s/v Twisted Sheets.
(I thought I'd give you non DIY readers and recovering Super Bowl fanatics a two minute warning.)
I was taking photos of Jorge's arch setup as he was fueling up for their departure from the marina. At least, that was my excuse for walking over to their boat again as they were warming up the diesel and getting ready to depart. They had to catch a weather window to Mayaguana. They have no plans to come this way again. We have no plans to ever be in Toronto. These kinds of good byes have some weight to them. Handshakes and hugs last just a second longer than they might have on another day. Emails and "boat cards" are exchanged. But we all know that's more for the scrapbook memories than it is for any real kind of future planning.
And then all too soon our part in their life's journey is behind them. Once again we've been honored to become part of someone else's cruising memories. We know their two years on the boat have been very exciting for them, and that they're also glad to be on the homeward leg now, with only the Bahamas and US to traverse.
Of course we all know that all good things must come to an end. This seems to be one of life's immutable lessons, and we are getting accustomed to saying goodbye to friends way before we're ready to say good bye to them..
I guess that could be a simplified analogy for life in general.
You know that mixed emotion, bittersweet kind of feeling you can sometimes get when you're both happy and sad at the same time?
Watching good friends sail away forever is kinda like that.
Goodbye, Jorge and Kim. It was a four star, blue ribbon, Olympic class pleasure to meet you guys. We wish you fair winds home on CS'ta Time.
Warning.BOAT DIY SECTIONNon technical and the otherwise bored can bail out right about here. There are no pretty tropical photos past this point.
Okay, now that the tropical scenery stuff is out of the way I can talk about the boat again. If the blog is supposed to be about our life here (and it is) then this has to be in it, because for the past couple of years this old bateau has been a big part of what we're focusing on.
First I want to explain my interest in Jorge's arch attachment points. We are looking at options for replacing the structure that came with the boat. This includes the hard top, solar panels, dinghy davits, and maybe the dinghy too. The design that I'm looking at includes a big radar arch like Jorge's, but ours would be connected to the cabin roof with a series of 2" OD schedule 80 aluminum tubing. In general, an outline of what I have in mind would look something similar to this:
If you look at some of the photos of the boat we've posted you can see that what's on the back of it now is pretty ugly. This new design should address a few of my objections to the previous owners' solutions.
This would be a big project for us. I've been looking at the pre-fab "arch in a box" concept that Atlantic Towers sells. Of course we've also considered having one custom built here, but suspect it would be cost prohibitive.
That project is on hold until we secure some more funding. Anyone want to buy a Hobie Tandem Island and a Mojito skiff? How about a nice, almost new three bedroom home on a hill overlooking the Caicos Bank? I'm serious. Meanwhile, we're actively working on a number of other projects that we can afford at the moment.
For example, notice that in this photo there is a big hole where a window is normally located. We continue to chase down leaks. We're getting pretty good at it, but sometimes we still have to pull the entire window and scrape out all previous attempts.
Makes a bit of a mess inside the boat when we do, too.
This is all area that was smothered under an inch or more of foam rubber and vinyl wall covering when we bought the boat. We haven't yet decided what we want to replace the vinyl/foam with, but in the meantime we wanted to make the boat more 'livable' by making the raw fiberglass cloth look a little softer inside.
Our thoughts are that someday we'll take the boat to someplace like Honduras or Columbia and have the entire interior remodeled in tropical wood. Meantime, we've been looking at scenes like this, except of course normally there are bolts in those holes around the window.
And don't get me started on these bolt holes. Because I am of the firm opinion that one should not be able to look out through holes in this type of installation. I think it's a horrible design, but then I'm probably biased against it because I've spent so many long hours dealing with it. But I'm operating on the basic premise that holes and hulls are at cross purposes when it comes to water management.
Great timing, eh? And yeah, we had some leaks. Some of them could have been named Niagara. Thank goodness for bilge pumps and sedatives.
Our friends at TCI Paint and Supply have mixed up some latex paint that matches the buttery color of our boat. This is a high quality latex from Benjamin Moore paints. We've used a variety of methods to prep the inside fiberglass, and are still having a lot of trouble getting the old glues off. We're using some Goo Gone type of citric solvents, but honestly, they are not working worth a tinker's damn. So we scrape by hand, dig into the weave with knife points to dig out little globules of glue, apply a wire brush in some spots, and we always finish up with sanding sponges to remove residue and to rough the surface enouth to give the paint some teeth. It's not a two part paint, but so far it seems to be pretty tough stuff. It sticks well and dries to a very durable coat. It fills some of the weave effect of the fiberglass cloth. We're seeing a lot of cosmetic improvement with the very first coat. And it's all getting at least two coats, or more. I'll use fiberglass body filler to fair the rougher sections prior to painting.
Well I think that's more than enough for this one. I could ramble on a bit more and I have tons of photos of various bits and bobs of boat boogers, but I've got this new plan to post something every week going forward, and if I'm going to get this posted on a Monday, well.... it's Monday.
See you next week.