Saturday, December 12, 2015

Jim Hill's Bush

I'm going to  write about something other than boat issues this time.  It's not easy to ignore them while living in the middle of them.  But we all need a break from time to time.  Me from whining about boat repairs and you from reading about my whining about boat repairs.  So we'll write about a couple of days when I actually managed to step away from boat projects.

 We took the dog for a walk over Jim Hill. Well, not exactly a walk, but a trot in his case.  He never walks anywhere. And the name is a bit confusing.  Not Dooley's name, of course.  But when I say we went for a walk and a trot over Jim Hill, it wasn't over someone named Jim, but over a hill named Jim.   Now I don't doubt for a moment that Dooley would walk all over someone named Jim if he had the chance. Whether the surname was Hill, or not. Wouldn't matter to Dooley. Especially if Jim had any food on him, but this really is about a hill and yes, that is the name of it. I think I'm giving myself a headache.  Rather than start over at this point I'll just move on.

This is a view looking to the east from the top of Jim the Hill.   If there was a hut here, we could call it Jabba the Hut.  By Juba Salina.  That could be an interesting description in a land where places are frequently named for what they are.    As in " Jabba near Juba and Jim"    Oh my.   Time for some aspirin.   Anyhow, there aren't too many huts here.  If you look at the prices in that link for Jim Hill, you'll see why.

You've already seen lots of photos of this hill in this blog. If you've read much of it.   I was   recently talking about how this hill shelters the marina from the prevailing winds while also blocking the sunrises.   Good place for late sleepers who don't like rocking boats. La Gringa and Dooley the Drooler have been strolling up to the crest and back on a daily basis lately.  She says she wants the exercise.  He says he likes the bushes. Variety is the spice of life.

During one of their recent hikes I was playing with a new pocket camera I bought on our last trip to the U.S. I picked up a little Nikon Coolpix S7000 on sale at a WalMart store in Texas.  Under $200.  I can see why it was on sale.  It's got three specific design issues that make it not a very good pocket camera. More issues than usual for a Nikon product. But it also has a 20x optical zoom and takes good photos.  And those are the main reasons I bought it.  I don't expect it to survive long here so I'm trying not to get too fond of it. 

Now back to our story.

We had heard great grinding noises for a couple of days in a row.  Scraping and rumbling and grinding. Oh My. Could feel the vibrations through the ground  on this side of the hill.  La Gringa and her twisted little hairy sidekick went up for a look and came back talking about the new construction going on up there . So to give you guys a break from  boat-marina-DIY-rinse-and-repeat, here's another aspect of life here. New construction every where we look these days.  Must be a sign of something.

The  road along the ridge over the top of the hill  isn't much different looking from the last half dozen photos of it that we've shown you.  This is the view to the east with the Caicos Bank to the south on the right.

And looking back through that road cut in the ridge is a view to the west showing the entrance to the marina and Discovery Bay canal system.   I know you've read plenty of my drivel about all that.  So I won't mention it again.  Not in this post, anyhow.   

But there is something new going on up here. There are five new high-end villas being built here.  That's the plan, at least.  According to the sign it's a community.  I'm a little fuzzy on that part, but I see where they're going with it.  I think they actually have to  build, sell,  and populate the villas before they become a community.  Otherwise, that empty unfinished mess on Dellis Cay could be called a community.   Hopefully this one will actually get built.

These luxury villas are going to extend from this new road down toward the water on this south east facing slope.  We have some ideas about that sort of thing ourselves.  I can't wait to see how they  build these.   We've learned that breaking ground and painting a sign is one thing.   Finishing the project to completion is quite another. Gansevoort has a pretty good track record here so far, though, so it will probably happen.

These large yellow metal things were making the noise and rattling the ground down at South Side Marina this week. Cutting a new road  extension through the limestone. So, is that construction, or is it destruction?   They look a lot alike in this case.  Can't ruin an omelet without breaking eggs, I guess.

We wanted to explore a bit, get some exercise.  Not that we don't get exercise on the boat.   I know that I get plenty of exercise.  Chasing my tail and jumping to conclusions, for  example.  I burn a lot of calories that way.

We saw a pathway that the developers have cleared into the property to help show it to potential customers. It's a nice path. Sort of a nature walk kind of thing.

A nice view of a nice view.  Great angle on that red house at the top of Jim Hill.   I wonder if that's where Jim lives?

But then we stumbled (literally) onto something that was totally new to us.  A thin little ungroomed trail that branched off from the one that the developers have made. This one wasn't so obvious.  We decided to check it out. Took the trail less traveled, so to speak.  Bad habit of ours.

La Gringa was first into the bushes here and I was amazed to see her walking into a miniature forest.  I had not realized that there were bushes here on the windward side of the island that are taller than we are.

While I stopped to take that photo I heard a mild exclamation of dismay mixed with a shot of trepidation.  She came right back out of the trail, and considerably faster than she went in.  She told me that she almost grabbed a branch that was connected to a big ugly thing that looked like a huge insect nest.    At first I thought she was describing a friend of ours, but no, she meant an actual nest of insects.  Knowing how irascible the wasps here can get toward trespassers she wasn't taking any chances with it. Smart. Not like me.

Of course by this time I was totally intrigued.  Not only with the description of this "huge" nest, but by the whole micro forest.  We waited a few moments to be sure there weren't any wasp squadrons on her trail, and then eased into the bushes to see what this was about.

And it is the largest termite nest that we've ever seen here.  I mean quite large.  That's the dog snuffling around there on the left  to give you an idea of scale.  The nest itself is nestled into the forks of a tree and it's easily three or four feet high and a meter in diameter.  It's the big dark blob here.   It actually does look like a friend of ours, now that I think about it.

We didn't disturb it.  It disturbed me, though.  Even Dooley the Destructive gave it a wide berth and he's usually all over these kinds of things.  I wonder what a few million termites must sound like to someone with his hearing. That's quite a biomass.  Do termites ever sleep?

The termite nest itself was amazing enough but we were also mildly astonished to see how far the sheltered area extended under this bush canopy.  Is mildly astonished an oxymoron? We had plenty of clearance to walk between the trunks of the trees.

 We  suddenly realized how so many Haitian refugees can wade ashore from a wrecked sloop and "disappear into the bush".  This is a term we've heard and read dozens of times here on the island.  I guess to be more accurate, the term is usually "escaped" into the bush.  That hadn't made much sense to us before.  Now it does.

It would be a simple matter to clear out a campsite here, with plenty of room to spread out unobserved by boats, aircraft, or even foot patrols.  It's extremely thick and well hidden. There is a dense canopy of treetop leaves overhead.  It's cool, and shaded and out of the wind.  And except for huge termite colonies and poisonwood trees, it's quite pleasant.

There's room for dozens of temporary campsites in this lump of brush alone. A hundred people could hide here. The path out of that lump  runs just to the left of the Dildo Cactus there in this photo.   And yes, that IS the name of it and  I don't even want to meet whoever named them that in the first place.  I don't think it was Jim describing  a thorny situation but I don't know that for sure.  Perhaps someone was referring to Jim when they named the cactii on his hill.

But you see what I mean about how hidden these places in this bush can be, right? Looking down from the top I started to get a whole new feel for how people can get ashore and quickly get out of sight. This lump of vegetation extends for hundreds of meters in each direction along this hill.  And this is just one of many hills.

I started wondering how this could grow so tall in an area that is blasted by the trade winds most days of the year.   I know we've shown you photos of stunted trees bent by the wind.  Well, here's my theory on this one.

There is a natural sill, or ledge along the edge of the hill.   A flattened out area between the steep rise from the ocean, and the second steep rise to the top of the ridge.  The wind gets deflected uphill and  its velocity increases. This keeps most vegetation from being able to grow upward.  But on this flat area the wind goes overhead from the lower rise on a direct path to the upper rise.  Does that make sense?

I sketched out a cross section of what I think is happening.   The flat spot allows the vegetation to grow upwards until it again contacts the wind.  The wind bends the tops over and makes a denser canopy overhead.   The flat spot also retains rain water longer than the steep rocky slopes, which also aids the vegetation.   All in all, it sort of looks like this:

And there we are.  A whole new perspective on how people can hide and survive in the bush here long enough to evade the Immigration officers.  Not nearly so visible as those dummies who run across the salina.

This is the view along the top of the hidden dwarf forest between the road and the ocean. It's extensive.   I think the correct term for the foliage here actually is 'dwarf tropical forest'.  I had read the term, I just never understood what it meant.  It's accurate.

Well, after that exciting excursion and revelations about termite habitat and hidden glades we decided it was time to head back to the boat.  We had been out a few hours longer than we'd planned.  On the way back by the machinery I couldn't help but notice that the back hoe was missing a bucket.   I looked around but couldn't find it.  The attachment pins were sitting there on the track, but no bucket.

We did find a bunch of broken bucket teeth in the bushes though.  I guess this limestone is a bit harder than it looks in places.

We've seen that before, too.  I found that some of the rock is soft and easily cut or broken while other parts of it are amazingly hard for marine limestone.  A layer of hard rock stopped construction of one local marina some years back because the machinery brought in to deepen it couldn't work through the hard layer.   It now looks like this isn't just the underwater rock, either.

Dooley didn't care much about it.  He was getting a bit thirsty at this point and happy just to find some cool shade. A "don't tread on me" moment?  Or maybe he was playing Mad Max.

So we headed back to the marina walking  west along the ridge road.

And looking out to sea here  reminded me of an unexpected factor I ran into when I brought the boat around from the Caicos Marina last month.  I crossed two sand bars where I had never seen sandbars here before. One of them is quite visible here.

Here's a closer look. When I crossed over this with Twisted Sheets I found myself in four feet of water in some places.  We've made this trip dozens of times and never noticed this sand bar, or the other one several hundred meters further out.  It's in the photo, but very faint.  A light colored smudge across the entire image.  This is going to surprise some returning seasonal boaters, I bet.  Surprised me.

Our friend Bob at South Side thinks that the recent storm, Hurricane Joachim, caused it.  I'm not so sure.  There's been dredging and construction on both ends of this sand bar.  I once got very involved in things called sediment transport studies.  And measuring long-shore currents. 

Heading back down the hill we get that nice view of the marina.  As you can see it's still early in the "cruising season" and there aren't many visiting boats here yet.  Two months from now all of these slips will be filled.

We had to take a break down at the water.  A certain little troublemaker insisted that he was overdue for a dip.   Or the little dip was overdue for some trouble.  I forget.   We had a lot of difficulty talking him into swimming in fresh water last summer when we were in the mountains.  That's not a problem here.   Back on the island the problem is keeping him out of the water.  It's not easy to do.  He paused to contemplate the deeper water in that little channel before making the plunge.   He didn't get to be 12 years old by being hasty about these things.  He well knows there are things in the ocean bigger than he is.  With teeth.

He's not afraid of them.  He just wants to know where they are.  He doesn't much like surprises.  Especially while swimming.

He managed to get a few small laps in.  He seems to like it when his back feet can still touch the soft sand.  And he was kicking up a bit of it.

Quite a bit of it. He was doing figure 8's for a while before we could get  him to come back out.  You can see him glaring at me there as I tried to bully him ashore.

I had to promise him some doggie treats before he deigned to follow orders. There's just something annoying about an insubordinate terrier.  He's an old man in dog years, but at twelve he still acts like a pre-teen in human years sometimes, too.  Or a canine curmudgeon in his own time.

We stopped by  Bob's old boat Valhalla on the way back to our own old boat.  She's still afloat and slowly being stripped of parts.

We watched the new owner lift the diesels out of it last week.  There's not much left of any value these days.  A few sail winches we'd like to have,  an anchor, but I'm sure they'll be sold for salvage.

Before we'd let Dooley the Destructive back on our own boat we needed to wash the salt and sand off of him.   This is not his favorite part of the trip.   I don't understand his aversion to fresh water.    Maybe it's the town RO (reverse osmosis) water that he doesn't like.  He doesn't say anything about it, but I can tell by his expression that he doesn't care for it.  His eyes go all Clint Eastwood on us.  And he mumbles things we can't quite make out.

One would think he'd feel great after a nice fresh water wash-down. I know I do. But he acts like it's a personal affront for us to hose him off in public.  Not sure what his problem is, really.   Everybody seems to get offended by anything these days.

And the minute we release him he goes charging off down the dock like a four legged  lunatic.  Dooley the Dervish.

And he will find the scrungiest smelliest spot on the dock and roll on it to get the fresh water off of him.  Fortunately, the spots on this dock are just long ago dried up whatevers.  He nose what they are, and I'm content not knowing.

I think he'd jump back in for another swim after his shower if we left him unattended for a few moments.

That's all I'm going to write about that trip.  Yes, I know it's fairly boring but you do have to admit it's a little different as far as drivel goes.  I'm sure I'll be back to Boat DIY soon enough for you.  I know I was back into it way too soon for me.

I'd mentioned earlier that I'd gotten off the boat several days in a row lately.  I wanted to show you a few photos of the other trip I was forced to make. Yes, I finally had to seek professional help with the automobile.  It was just too much for me to fix without my garage and tools. This is the parking area of Gust Motors over on Airport Road here in Providenciales.  This is a part of town we don't usually spent much time in. We usually drive through on the way to the airport and don't visit here much.

There's a story about why I took the car over to Gust Motors.  I had stopped by one of the flashier auto repair places on Leeward Highway.  I don't want to name any names here, but it's the one inside NAPA auto parts.   I walked up to the counter on Thursday morning, the day before these photos were taken.   I asked the pleasant seeming man at the counter if they could replace an exhaust system on a 2013 KIA Sportage.  Simple question, right?  I thought so.

I guess it wasn't so simple for him.  After a very unsatisfactory conversation I managed to get a price estimate from him.  $650 to replace the exhaust pipe.  I wasn't very happy about that. I told him I knew it was two hours work and three little pipe bends.  He told me it was a custom exhaust, and  quoted me $500 in labor (!?) and $150 in parts.  And I'd have to leave the car for a couple of days.   I'm skipping a lot of the conversation here, but my short answer to it all was "not likely". Actually my answer was a rough equivalent of  not likely and included a few other words and observations I won't repeat here.  I wondered if they were planning to fly a specialist in from Korea, at those rates.  I won't be going back to them for any more quotations.

I walked out of there and called Gust Motors and spoke to the owner on the phone. Gustavo told me it was about a two hour job. f  We were in agreement on that part before we even met. I was starting to like him already.   Here's the exhaust after it was removed from the car.   Rusted to pieces but you can see my aluminum can patches are still holding.  You can also see how incredibly complicated the bends are in this exhaust.  I'm being sarcastic here, if you hadn't noticed.  Does that look like a $650 job to  you?!

I took the car to Gust Motors on Friday morning.  Gustavo walked out to the car and the first thing he said was "Those brakes are terrible!" This was before he even looked at the exhaust. And he was right.  This is a photo of one of the brake rotors on a two year old KIA with about 17,000 km (11,000 miles) on it.  Tough neighborhood.

So I asked him if he could turn down the rotors on a lathe, and he said "of course".  And I asked him when he could get to it, expecting to have to make another appointment. Gustavo said he could have one of his guys remove and resurface the rotors and change the brake pads and fluid while another was working on the exhaust. Today. No overnight.  Done before the weekend.  Hooray.

I was positively giddy with excitement  realizing all this could be done while I waited.  So I went for broke and asked if they could also change the oil and filter. The answer was again, "of course".   I was really starting to like this guy.  So  I left the car in their hands and took my Kindle outside to find a shady spot to do some reading.

And a few minutes into the latest James Lee Burke I heard a huge KaBANG Whump Sprang Sprang tinkle screeching noise from directly in front of the shop.  It sounded like the mechanical equivalent of an early Mike Tyson fight.  Some people in a small car had apparently pulled out in front of a Ford SUV.  You can pretty much guess who lost this one.

A crowd quickly gathered.   I stayed back a bit and just watched. I was looking at how the rear wheel of the car got shoved violently sideways when they got impacted by the SUV.    I noticed the tall guy taking photos of something on the sidewalk on the other side of the car.

Up until  I zoomed the camera in  I hadn't noticed the feet sticking out behind the car.  Ah Oh.

We've read various stories about how long it takes the Police and Ambulance services to respond to calls here. Well, from first hand witness experience I can tell you there were patrol cars here within fifteen minutes.  And the ambulance arrived soon after.

Within minutes they had the lane blocked off and were interviewing witnesses and making measurements.  I wouldn't call it a heavy police presence, but there was enough to do the job.  The police here look a lot different than they do in the US these days.  No assault weapons.  No vests.  No helmets.   Just police officers out in the community without military backup, doing their job.

Things eventually quieted back down, and I found a nice shady chair to spend some time in with my book.   Wasn't much else going on here today, just people going about their business.  A lot of the people in this neighborhood are from the Dominican Republic, so I had plenty of Spanish music to listen to. 

This is a block of small apartments between Gust Motors and the Kishco complex in the  next block. I did exchange Buenos Dias'es with a number of friendly people.   I noticed the door knobs on these apartments have  all been replaced with deadbolts.   Completely replaced.  No knobs at all.  Hmm.   The knobless doors are between us and that white van, but all of the other doors in the area were the same way.  Must have been a sale on deadbolts.

So after a few hours the KIA was repaired and ready. As promised.   We had a new exhaust.  We had two newly turned and shiny rotors,  new brake pads and fluid, an oil change and filter.  And the total bill came to...... $460.     I had the car back by early afternoon the same day.  I think I'll go back to Gust Motors if I need more work done.  Thank you, Gustavo.  It was a pleasure.  And an experience.

Well I told you this post was going to be different.  I didn't realize it was going to be so long. I was looking for a sunset to end it with and of course all our sunsets lately are from the boat.

This started out as just another sunset photo when we heard a boat on the VHF radio requesting a slip at the marina.  It was already after business hours here, but Bob carries a little hand held VHF with him up to the bar.   There was a monohull sailboat trying to get in before dark.  It's in the little magnifying glass thing in the photo:

This is not the simplest marina approach if you don't know your way through it. For someone who's never been here before it would be best to come in at high tide during daylight hours.  Bright daylight.  The nearer mid day the better.  The sun shining down through the clear water makes it fairly easy for a bow lookout to spot coral heads, rocks, ledges, and pesky sandbars.  When the light goes, so does visual navigation. These guys were pushing it a little. 

As you can tell from the angle of that mast, they were rolling  back and forth in the trough from the east wind.  We watched, in case they needed advice or in a rare instance, some assistance. This is what we do sometimes for entertainment.  Like hanging around a small town airport watching student touch-and-goes.

These guys aren't students, however, and they navigated the turns around the buoys nicely.  Of course Bob was up at the bar watching them and telling them where to turn over the VHF radio.   Me, I was just standing by with a camera hoping for some good photos.

They're basically home free at this point.  All they have to do is motor gently straight ahead into the slip next to the fuel dock.  While there is still some light to see by.

Oh, yeah, the sunset.   I almost forgot.   

The reason I was standing out in the cockpit in the first place. 


kristine barr said...

Any signs of trespassers in the micro forest? Good post!

Mindfly Web Development and Design said...

I still think you should have gone with the Jeep, but the KIA seems to be hanging in there!

Yay Gus!

Can you buy the winches?

Love the blog... Keep up the great work! I know it takes a lot of time.

misu said...

Always something interesting to read in here...

You've said it repeatedly before how viciously corrosive the environment is... but these images are so compelling. Isn't there a coating that they can apply underneath the car to protect it? Just the way they do it up here in Canada to protect from the salty roads in the winter? I hope your brake lines are in better shape, because when they rust away, you'll be in for a more expensive repair. I just threw away my beloved old car for that reason...

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the comments. First, we didn't see any obvious fresh signs of use on that trail. Since that day I've been paying more attention as we drive around, and I've seen a number of other trails in similar places. I think they were there, I just didn't notice them. And I wonder if people who hide in the bush might be experienced enough not to let garbage accumulate on their doorstep.

On the KIA, we did have it undercoated at a local car dealer before we even drove it on the road. Unfortunately, the exhaust components and some other stuff doesn't get coated. The sheet metal is still in really good shape. Tires and exhaust systems are pretty much consumables here. I know they are, everywhere, but I suspect most people get more than two years out of them.

Capt. Bob said...

Did Bob just give up on the restoration of Valhalla or was she too far gone to bring back? What will the new owner do with the hull? I'll be bringing a boat down to Clarence Town in a couple weeks but not any further south. Did your house ever sell? Star of the Sea completed her first trip under the new owner to the orphanage on Cat Island last month with another trip to transport new hurricane windows and doors that were donated by the boca rotary. It made me happy to see her working again! Hi to Polly and Dooley!

Anonymous said...

Hello Capt. Bob

Good to hear from you!

The Valhalla saga continues, although I think she's getting near the end. Bob Pratt sold the boat to Chris, a local Australian who works for one of the dive charters here. Chris worked on that boat seven days a week for months. And finally gave up. Termites had eaten into the hull and it was just more work than he could do. Refitting a boat here seems to be a lifetime project. So someone else bought the hull for salvage, and has removed the engine and some other parts. Not sure what the plan is for the rest of it and we don't know then latest owner.

The house has not sold yet, we just dropped the price a lot. We need the money!!

Polly has kept in contact with Sharky from Cat Island sporadically while he's in Cuba.

Great to hear about Star of the Sea. That boat has quite a history and is still going.

misu said...

Still waiting for your January post :) ... Meanwhile, I've been in Provo end of December for vacation, visited a lot of places that I knew about from just reading or Google Earth, to see how my imagination fit reality... Not far, but still mixed feelings, beautiful island overall. One of the places I've been to, Jim Hill, gave me exactly the feelings I've got from reading your last post. Will be back sometime this year to get a better feel of the islands.

Kind of hard to believe how termites would render so much work useless in a place where this hazard is well known. I've seen a lot of woodwork on the island, so there must be ways to protect...

Anonymous said...

Well, we've been hanging out at the marina working on the boat for the most part. I didn't realize it when we started on this project, but the truth is that boat refits never end. It's constant.

So we don't have a lot of new subject matter these days, other than perhaps a few days we just spent out on another island lounging on the beach. I could put those photos up if anyone is interested in tropical beaches this time of year.