Monday, April 27, 2015

Tanks, But No Tanks.

This blog-a-week schedule has  caught up with me.  And left me in the dust. The sun popped up into clear skies this morning and woke me with a tropical slap to the old optic nerves. I think I prefer cloudy dawns to the solar icepick-from-the-cosmos alarm clock   But  I suddenly realized that today is Monday and that we did absolutely nothing of any interest whatsoever this week.  We had no new adventures. We did not go anyplace exciting.   We even had a hard time going to anyplace old and boring. We spent the week between the house and the boat working on both.  I have  absolutely nothing at all to write about here.   

 I could tell you about the bonefishermen.  I caught a movement out of the corner of my eye a couple days ago. 

I stopped and cast an eye through the bushes to see what was going on in the salina.  There were a couple of people out there fly fishing.  I stopped to watch for a moment.  And had the camera in my pocket. Good thing, too.

Otherwise I wouldn't have diddly squat for this post.  It's been that boring.

I've mentioned the bonefishing here before.  And we see people  in the salina quite often this time of year.   This whole country is a great spot for a quick fishing trip.  And one of the really nice things about bonefishing the salina  is that you don't need a boat to get here.  A  rental car will do nicely.  Or if you were staying at the Harbour Club Villas just down the road, you could walk to it.
Wouldn't even need to rent a car.

I think that fly fishing done correctly is approaching art.  There is a graceful symmetry to it.  A simplicity of motion with a singular purpose.   Watching people who know how to do it right is relaxing.  And watching people who don't know what they're doing can be humorous, but these guys knew their stuff.

We haven't taken this sport up, and it's almost a pity.  We live here literally across the road from free, decent bonefishing.  I could be standing where those guys are within two minutes, if I wanted.  Every day of the year.   This would be a great property for someone who likes to salt water fly fish, that's for sure. Every tide.

We haven't taken this sport up,  as we were always meat fishermen, but we've learned a lot about bonefish just by living here among them.  For one thing, we found out a few years back that bonefish are not particularly bony fish.  No more than any other fish.   The reason bonefish are called  bonefish is because they have a hard palate bone in their mouth.  This helps them to feed on bottom mollusks with shells that need crushing.  It also makes a barbed hook almost  useless, since the barb won't penetrate the shell crushing bone in their mouth.   So to keep one of these guys on the hook takes some finesse and knowledge.  Fun to watch.   It also makes it easy to release them unharmed in most cases.

Speaking of fishing (another of my amazingly suave segues, you'll notice) we've noticed that this recent spate of calm weather has got the local commercial fishermen going out on the Caicos Bank a lot.   We were watching a boat coming in with a load of fish and traps just Thursday afternoon.

I know when most people look at that photo they'll see the fishing boat.  But when I look at it, I see the terrible job someone did of cutting a hole in the plywood hard top to facilitate the back stay. I think that's going to be something like "Boat Project # 687, paragraphs 8 through 43, replace entire hard top, solar panels, and dingy davits with something designed intelligently from the beginning."  Unfortunately, this isn't a particularly good place to get this done, so I'm probably going to be grousing about that lousy plywood for a while yet.

I probably should have just shown you the fishing boat and kept my thoughts about the hard top to myself.   That would have looked like this:

There.  That's better.

But you already know I can't get away from the subject of S/V Twisted Sheets if I'm going to talk about what we did this past week.  I am sparing you most of it. I've replaced fuses, wiring, sockets and fixtures this week.  I cut a new piece of cabinet top for a vanity, and we bought a stainless sink. I opened up the compartment where the air conditioner is located so that we can get a service man in to get that checked out and repaired. I painted the inside of  lockers.  I ripped up the floor of the port head, and pulled out #3 of the four big stainless steel water tanks on board.  It was very difficult to get this tank out.  And it's a mess.   While the tank is out, I have work to do in the  bilge under it.  That probably hasn't seen daylight in 30 years.  I'll spare you that photo.  Trust me on this one.

We brought the tank back to the house so I could work on it.  The first thing I noticed was this big blob of hardened epoxy putty on the very bottom edge of the tank.   The pointy side goes down into the hull. You can see the blob of putty there in the photo.  With all kinds of dried mineral deposits around it.  I'm no chemist, but I'm pretty sure that's indicating a leak.  For a long, long time.

Of course the first thing I did was grab a hammer and chisel and knock away the putty.  Sadly, it wasn't very hard to knock away.   In fact I wish it had been tenacious and difficult to dislodge.  Alas, it was loose and crumbly.  This is what it looked like under the blob:

As is the case with so many other little things on this old boat, we've once again found the remains of some long ago emergency repair.  Working on this boat is like some kind of forensic marine archaeology.   I'd bet that by now I could tell you which of the three previous owners did any given repair on this vessel.  I've come to know their handiwork that well.   I could cheat on this one, as his hand print was preserved in the glob of epoxy.  I've probably watched too much CSI on television.

In this case, the previous McGeezer-du-jour put a screw into a leaking hole and slapped an entire fist full of epoxy putty on top of it.  It's obvious that this has been another source of the constant moisture issues we've had with the port hull. I've got my fingers crossed that cleaning this one up will pretty much take care of the last little bit of that.

This is what that area looks like after I ran a sanding disk over it all.  The corrosion of the stainless steel along the side of the welded seam is worrisome.  There is pitting and small holes developing the entire length of the bottom of the tank.  Horse feathers. Excuse my French. Which that wasn't. But I want you to excuse it anyway.  I don't often stoop to strong language like that.

I do sometimes stoop to strong language, but not like that.  I inadvertently blurted out "Fiddsticks" one day last week for example.  At least I think it was fiddlesticks.  It started with a F, anyhow.  That much I remember.

I'll be leaving those sanding marks in the steel.  In fact I'll be making more. LOTS more. One of the reasons that antediluvian blob of epoxy let go early in life was the smoothness of the stock stainless steel.   The guy (and I will assume this was a guy) who put the screw in didn't take the time to prepare the surface of the steel so that the epoxy could get a good grip on it.  I'm sure it was smooth steel, that had been in place for fifteen years at that point, covered with a film of everything that can stick to the steel in a bilge on a sailboat.  Under a marine toilet. Let's don't even go there.  Well, it's too late for me personally, but you don't have to go there.

Lets just say that I'll be running sandpaper over this entire tank.   We don't want this top layer of molecules in the boat with us.  I've already done it, in fact.  I had started on it immediately, even before I remembered that I had the camera in my pocket.  This might give you an idea of the surface of the steel, before I cleaned the blob and that bit in the middle.   Lets play Guess the Stains!

I'm pretty sure you can see why slapping a handful of epoxy putty onto that dirty surface was pretty much a temporary repair.  Which got closed up back into the bilge, and got covered over, and which has been quietly sitting there dripping water into the boat for a million years.  Well, not a million, but you get the idea.  A whole lot of drips.

I can look down the length of the bottom of the tank and see a lot of patching stretching out before me.  I have to fix this tank up to get us through the next few years.  But I think I have a system that will work.  I've used it on two other tanks already.

This is a macro shot closeup (yes, that was redundant) of the pitting.  I will use a product called JB Weld that is a marine epoxy with steel in the mix.  I have repeatedly found this to be real good stuff.    I'll fill all of these holes  all over the tank with JB Weld. Then I will fiberglass the entire bottom of the tank.  This should buy us some time. I'm hoping my repairs will last at least as long as the last guy's.

See the little scratches caused by the sanding disk I used to clean this up?   That's what I'm counting on to make my epoxy kluge better than his epoxy kluge.  Ha.

I'll tell you one more little issue with this tank, and then I'll leave you in peace for another week.  Okay?   Bear with me for a bit.   This is all part of our education in what happens while refitting an old boat in a remote location.

 What I'm concentrating on here is the other fitting. The one on the left.  Can you see that I ended up cutting the tubing off because I couldn't get the hose clamp undone?

This was  at an arrm's length underneath me when I was doing it, and it wasn't until I got the tank out into the light of day that I realized that someone had covered the entire fitting, hose, and the hose clamp with the same epoxy.  Ah oh, thought I.  

So I demolished the hose clamp et al and got to the outlet pipe underneath the glob.  Oh my.  This thing looks like a corroded piece of Swiss cheese.  And the interior of it is all caked up with sediment from the tank.   This is the fitting through which all the water from the port tanks flows into a pump which then pushes it throughout the boat's plumbing. I haven't even showed this to La Gringa yet, but I'm pretty sure what her reaction is going to be.   I have to come up with some way to fix this.   I suddenly starting to think the plastic through-hull fitting approach is not all that bad an idea.  Plastic on stainless, with no welds.  A low pressure application, where some flex would be beneficial.  Hmmm.

But this?    This ain't going back in the boat, either.

My present plan is that the ultimate solution to this is to replace all four stainless tanks with smaller plastic tanks, and a really good water maker.   But this will have to wait until we can afford it. We'll be selling stuff right and left over the next couple of months, so who knows. Meantime, I'm fixing this as though it needs to last me ten years.

Okay that's enough about grungy old water tanks. This blog is supposed to be about how our life here is going, and days of slogging through this stuff is exactly how it's going right now.  What we see is what you get, I suppose.

And it's not all drudgery.  Sometimes I will be in the boat, covered in sweat, dirt, sanding debris, and have to come up for a break.  I'll look around, and for a moment realize that I'm working on a boat, floating in a nice marina, on a tropical island.... and suddenly it just doesn't seem all so bad, ya know?   Sometimes these warm lucky feelings last for several seconds.

We still often finish up the day by stopping by Bob's Bar to check out the sunset.  It's become a tradition among some of us.   We never stay late, but we like to see who's around and check up on the news of the day. A couple of nights ago I  sat the camera on the bar top and snapped a lackadaisical sunset with no ambition whatsoever.  Neither me nor the sunset. Notice the limp flag on the MOB buoy (Man Over Board) that Bob has stuck down at the end of the bocce court.

Limp flag means no wind.  No wind at sunset here means bugs.  In fact  La Gringa and I refer to this time of day as 'bug-thirty'.  So while there were a few patrons down at the open end of the bar watching the sunset....

Some of us old timers were sitting upwind and near the insect repellent.

And that's about it for this week.   We do have a lot going on, but it's not photogenic.  We're having to look at everything we own here, and make some real hard decisions.  Each item will either be taken on the sailboat with us, or shipped to storage in the USA, or disposed of here on the island.    There's not much room on the boat or in the storage, so long time possessions are being looked at very critically.  We're disposing of things we've carried around with us for forty years in some cases.     It's not that easy sometimes.    I try to remember what my grandfather used to tell me.  He said ".. you don't own stuff, son.  Stuff owns you."

La Gringa just decided that her china and crystal is going to be sold here, for example.   There's a place for this on the Russian billionaires boat...but it wouldn't see much use with us.  We're more the plastic cup kind of crowd.

Oh, and a house.  As soon as we feel the boat is ready enough to live on full time, this house will be listed with the local realtors as available for sale.  We built it, and have been living in it for seven years now, and we hate to sell it.

But we cannot afford to keep a house this size and sail around for six to eight months a year at the same time. We thought long and hard about turning it into an island rental property, and it's already permitted for a swimming pool.  But in the end we decided that we just cannot keep that going here when we're out of touch a thousand miles away on a sail boat.  So be it.  Wanna buy a really cool house with some great views?

Kinda like this one.

We could include a car, a skiff and the furniture.  And a Hobie sailing kayak and workshop full of tools.   We're going to keep the dog, though.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Waiting for Jonas

We've been seeing a lot of Jonas lately.   Jonas is our local Federal Express delivery man.   Two or three times a week we get to see Jonas' smiling face as he brings us another totally necessary and vital widget.  Or gadget. Or gasket, switch, bulb, relay, pump, cable, fuse, headquarters  to find out where we're going to be located. For the past year he's been delivering to the house for the most part.  But that's been changing lately.  

We've been using a courier consolidation service in Florida.  We have all these little bits and pieces shipped to them.  Rather than to us.  We're international, and you wouldn't believe how much that scares certain small minded vendors. But we use this consolidation and forwarding service, and they open the incoming shipments, mix them around, lose a few pieces, mislabel others, mess up the paperwork, screw up the packaging, and then put them all into one box and ship them.  This saves us money supposedly.  One shipment to deal with and clear through Customs instead of a half dozen small ones..  It also causes us quite a lot of annoyance.  But none of this is Fed Ex's fault.  They just keep on delivering boxes of exciting things like   connectors and fluid transfer pumps. How very thrilling it is to get a fresh shipment of butt connectors.   

And if you're familiar with those connectors in the photo, you already know that it's a total waste of time to buy the cheap ones sold at Do-It Center, Lowes, or Home Depot.  Oh, they might be okay for the doghouse at home.  But not for a boat.  Get the good stuff.  It pays in the long run.  I've had to relearn this several times over lately.  But I think I have finally learned that life is just too short for cheap butt connectors.     And that's all I'm going to say about that.

And we've discovered  that Jonas would much rather deliver to the boat at South Side Marina.  He likes to walk out on the dock to Twisted Sheets for a quick pick-me-up of fresh air.  Then he hands us our goodies, we hand him a cheque for the import duty and shipping fees, and then we say something to the equivalent of " See you Thursday".   And we  probably will see him again on Thursday.  In fact, I think Twisted Sheets' new washing machine should be arriving right around Thursday. Yes, we're putting a washing machine on board.  We're serious about this, I tell you. We ain't messing around here.  We're going sailing.

Maybe I should get another photo when he delivers the washing machine.  Not to get your hopes up for some spectacular washing machine photos,  I should mention that it's a very small washing machine.   

That mottled looking life ring in the boat photo of Jonas is not yet part of the boat equipment, by the way.  We found this commercial grade life ring washed high onto the rocky shore at West Caicos.  It has no name or identification on it.  It had been painted yellow at some point, and repainted many times judging from the thickness of that paint.    We thought it would be cool to repaint it and put it on board Twisted Sheets.  In order to do that I am going to have to fabricate some kind of mounting bracket.  Not good to have loose things on the deck of a boat.  Especially loose things that can roll and fall overboard.  Which I suspect this particular bouy is famous for in its own little world.  Considering how we found it.  I think I will keep it yellow, too.  I find that much easier to see at sea than International Orange.  Especially in low light.

This post is going to be mostly about the boat.  There's really just no avoiding it.  This is what we do almost every day now.  We work on the boat.  I don't even bother to take photos of the majority of it.  Unexciting. Drudge work. Scrubbing the inside of hulls. Sanding old paint. Gluing hull liner.  Ripping up old stuff, buying new stuff.  Waiting for Jonas.

 We've gotten past most of the lows involved in this refit, and we're starting to put the shiny new and improved stuff back on board.  This is the fun part.  It's also getting close to the point where the boat is feeling almost habitable. So for the next few weeks at least, this is still going to be mostly about   the boat.  It's what's consuming us at the moment.

Oh, we manage to fit a few fun moments in from time to time.  La Gringa is getting pretty good on a ukulele.  I've momentarily put the fiddle aside and have been concentrating on mandolin.  They're a lot alike, as some of you know.  Just don't need the elbow room with the mando.

And the quadcopter continues to live.  It had failed after an intense week of charge battery, fly, crash and repeat until dog hides.  Then I finally got to that one gruesome landing that it didn't walk away from.  Well, I guess technically it did walk away, but it was more of a looping stumble. I eventually discovered that one of the motors had gone belly up.  I replaced it, resoldered two small wires, and it was good to go, again.   But now I have to keep an eye on Dooley.  He realizes that it can be sabotaged.  And he's up for that.

The problem is that I've been trying to fly this little thing up above the house.  It's the size of my hand, and it really cannot handle much wind at all.  I've managed to find the exact spot where the flow of air over the ocean goes up the hillside, over the top of the house, and develops a shear just downwind of the roof.  I can fly the little multi-rotor up in the lee of the hill, and just when I see it start to wobble from the unstable boundary layer I can get a few frames like this still shot from the video:

And right about at this point, or perhaps a half a meter above this point, the wind hits the little contraption and sends it spinning madly out of control to the ground.  Where I trudge through underbrush looking for it, and Dooley does his little version of a victory dance.

Now this thing is a very inexpensive camera and it takes really, really terrible video.  The stills I pulled from the video look bad enough in this size, so I'm not even going to zoom in on them and make them look even grainier.  This is not to impress you with our new quadcopter.  This is to show you that we are moving in that direction.  This is still my 'training-wheels' camera platform.  It won't handle a Go-Pro size camera.  

The little quadcopter won't handle much wind, and we have wind almost constantly.  The end result is that I have been spending a lot of time flying it near the ground, looking for places sheltered from the wind but still outside.  I've gotten to the point where I can fly it without crashing every time.  And I've found that the dog is a great camera subject.  He refers to it as 'target' for some reason. It catches him in some great moments, too.  Here he is showing some fancy footwork as the camera crashes into the dirt at this feet. 

I know he's having a good time with this.   Well, maybe.  At least I hope he is.  He's losing weight and twitching a lot, lately.   I mean, who wouldn't love an annoying, buzzing little thing flying around spying on you at inopportune moments?

I was going through several videos trying to find some good shots of Dooley the Distraught to show you, and I've discovered something that I hadn't realized before.   This dog seems to be spending an inordinate amount of time hiding under structures lately.  I'm not sure why this is the case, but much of the aerial video I have of him lately show him in situations like this one, hiding under a chair.

Or this one, where he briefly stepped out into the open.  All three of us and the little flying beastie are in this photo, by the way.  The quad and I are in the reflection.

I tried to coax him out into the open for a quick game of  'grab-the-tennis-ball-and-run-for-your-life!!' but he was still acting all paranoid and keeping his head down.   I wonder what he's going to think when I fire up a much bigger version of this and fly it around.

That gave me an idea.  I started looking to see if someone makes a quadcopter that could lift, oh, say something on the order of six kilos of small dog....with a camera. I tried discussing the whole flying dog idea with Dooley, and I have to admit it was disappointing.  His level of enthusiasm for this adventure is truly something marvelous, by the way..  It's that small.

Okay, that's pretty much it for the fun stuff.  Sad, isn't it?   We live in this tropical island nation environment and we spend our days taking Fed Ex handoffs, working on the boat, and terrorizing the terrier with a drone.  What a boring life.  

Well, I'm sad to have to tell you that it's about to get more boring.  Yes, this is the Boat DIY section.  The subject matter is going downhill, while the quality of the photos improves slightly.   Good thing I'm not trying to sell this, isn't it?

This one is for you other boaters and RV people out there who use the Nicro solar vents.   I've discovered a few things that might help you eventually.   These vents are pretty well known in the boating world.  They have a small solar panel that charges a battery and drives a fan motor.  The whole idea is that they independently ventilate the boat without impacting the charging or energy system.  They're supposed to be stand-alone.  And they are.  For a while.

We've put six of the Nicro solar vents on Twisted Sheets in the past year.  One of them stopped working, and two others are starting to show signs of intermittance. These things are $200 apiece, and I cannot afford to buy new ones every year or two, so I looking into the one that stopped working entirely. With the mounting screws out and the solar cell popped off, it looks like this:

There's really not much to it.  I don't see where they can justify the $ 200 price tag, but I guess the total package is where the value is.  At least I hope so.  I have six of these.  Some value would be nice.   These are the parts.

The first thing I checked was the battery.  I had just taken this entire assembly out of the tropical sun, and I could feel that the battery was still warm from being charged.  I didn't see any obvious signs of damage in the case.  It's a 1.2 volt NiMH type.

I put a DVM on the battery, and no load it showed a 1.38 volts.  So I figured the problem was not the solar panel, battery, or the wiring between them.  Had to look closer.

Many years ago when I was working in the offshore underwater acoustics business I had to fix a lot of things on boats.  I came up with some basic rules, or truisms, that I found to work in many cases.  My most common and repeatable one goes like this:

"Rule #1:  It's always connections."

And it didn't take long to see a line of corrosion where the battery contacts the positive terminal for the motor and solar cell.   This is a bad connection.  I cleaned it up with very fine #500 grit wet/dry sandpaper. 

While I had the motor apart I took a look at the spots where the little brushes ride on the motors commutator.  And again, I found  corrosion on both surfaces.  Cleaning these up was a delicate job but I used the same abrasive polishing cloth to shine up the contacts.

I  sprayed a small amount of electrically neutral lubricant and put the vent back together and re-installed it.  Not only does it work, it works better than any of the other five vents.  And better than it did new.  This is an easy fix.

There's a lot of other drudge work going on with the boat right now, not nearly as exciting as fixing a busted solar fan.  If you can believe that. And I mean some incredibly exciting stuff.  I have discovered that if you buy the wrong fiberglass epoxy hardener, for example, it can take hours for the resin to set up.  Instead of minutes.  I've been fiber-glassing a few things that should have been sealed up before, in my estimation.  Like the bottom of the shower tub.   This is the ugly side.

Seeing that photo reminded me of something I learned from you guys, too.  Remember me mixing fiberglass resin up in an aluminum can because I had no other way to measure it?  Well, several readers wrote to tell me about inexpensive food scales.  And while 'inexpensive' is no longer a word I would ever associate with the Turks and Caicos Islands or boats in general, I did buy a scale for the fiberglass work.  Thanks, guys.

This is just another small example of why this boat project is taking so long.  We had a small leak in the starboard head, under the sink in the vanity.  I figured  I'd just have a look, figure out what needed tightening, grab the proper tool and fix it.  

I was wrong.

It ALL needed tightening.  and there are no tools to use for this.  I started this little chore thinking I'd have it all tightened up in ten minutes.  Three hours later, I removed the entire basin.   This is original equipment that came with the boat thirty years ago.  It was never meant to have that big hunk missing from its cranium. It appears that along the way someone dropped something in the basin that broke a piece out of it.  From the inside.

So they apparently removed the entire thing and bashed the outside shell off,so that they could get to the pieces of the broken basin on the inside.  They managed to glue it back together, and finish the voyage. My problem is that this voyage was a long time ago, and nobody ever bothered to replace the damaged basin. They left it for me. How sweet of them. Gee. Thanks.

Maybe it was worth something at some time, I suppose.  It has all this official looking  china stuff baked into the ceramic.

This came from England, has made three trips across the Atlantic and  is now going to spend the rest of its days in a landfill in a British Overseas Territory.   I suppose that's fitting.   It probably reads better than the truth, which is that I am going to replace it with a stainless steel sink.  Made in the U.S.A. Or possibly it's Hecho en Mexico.  I'll have to take a look.   

And the new one doesn't fit the hole the old one left.  So I have to buy some wood, and laminate, and redo the entire vanity top.  And this started out as a five minute leak tighten job.    

See what I mean?  A five minute job turned into a three day job, which will not be done with any of my first choices in materials.  Unless I want to wait another week to ship them in, at three times their value.  This is not a good place to refit a boat.  It is a slow, frustrating, and expensive place to refit a boat. I don't think I would take this job on again.  In a million years.

That's it for this Monday.  Another week of slaving away on an old boat in a tropical climate.  Doesn't sound that much fun when I put it that way, does it.

But we know the fun parts will come later.  After we've patched, painted, fixed, cursed, blessed, kicked and kissed this old catamaran into a home.   And that day is nearly upon us.

I was looking at that sunset photo and thinking I must have something better than that lying around, even out of the past six or seven days.  So I asked La Gringa if she had any better sunset photos.  She told me she took some of that same one in the photo above, except she took it through the glass blocks of the wall of our bathroom shower.  I thought hers looked better.  So I'm going to use that one instead.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Still Hanging Around

You'll see where I got that post title in a  moment.  It's more toward the DIY side of our life here and I like to  at least start these posts off with some colorful tropical photo.  Sunrises meet all those criteria and I fall back on those out of habit, mostly.  I mean we get so many good ones it makes it easy, but it doesn't always have to be about a sunrise.  Let's try something both typical, and atypical at the same time.   The view from da Conch Shack is pretty typical.  Looking across at Grace Bay on a choppy day with an east wind.   But that boat is not typical.

I took this photo specifically to show you that boat in the middle of it.  When I realized that the  anchorage  on that side of the reef is almost five nautical miles from here, I also realized how impressive it must be.  And I suppose that boat is  the wrong term  for that.  It's a yacht by any standard. We had to look into this one a little just out of curiosity.  Wouldn't you be interested in finding out the story about a private yacht a hundred meters long sitting in  the middle of your neighborhood?  That you could see from five miles away?  We were.

We weren't on that beach because of this interesting vessel, though.  We'd gone to da Conch Shack over in Blue Hills to meet some friends for lunch.    We saw some changes in the place and realized that we hadn't been here since last November.  So out came the camera.

It wasn't until I cropped that Conch Shack sign photo that I noticed the flying whatever it is just off the end of the post with the light on it.   I'm sure it's a commercial airplane. I hope.

The guys with the sunglasses up are Frederick and Phillip. Brothers from Belgium who are building a vacation home here on the island. They are doing it themselves, for the most part.  Freddie is a skilled carpenter and craftsman in New York for most of the year. And Phillip comes over from Belgium to meet up here for a working yearly holiday. They manage to fit several weeks of fun in with days of construction under the tropical sun.  The guy with the shades down is Preacher... well, him you already know about if you've been reading this blog for long.

All of us here are friends of Preacher's, come to think of it.  That was the first thing we had in common.  We all have met through Preacher.

I was somewhat remiss in my photo taking that day.  I'm not a very good photographer when it comes to people.  I let La Gringa handle that aspect of life in general, come to think of it. So of course I neglected to get a photo of all of us.  La Gringa would have gotten a photo of all of us. Best I can do at this point is to show you Beatrix and La Gringa, from a unique perspective.

I mentioned some changes since our last visit prior to this one.  Almost six months ago.  One of them is this new Free Library box.  What a great idea.  Now we know what to do with books we no longer want to store.

I have a hard time throwing books away.  Even now that I'm on my third Kindle.

Some things don't change much from visit to visit, while others do.  The clientele is a seasonal variable.   We could easily tell that this is a Spring Break week for some people, for example, here with children out of school. There's a local guy in the middle of that cluster, showing them  how to clean conch.

The whole restaurant was busy for a late afternoon lunch.  And it looked clean and colorful as usual.  I especially like the wall of conch shells out near the road.

I remember listening to a talk by a long-time Providenciales expat resident some years ago.  He had some 35mm color slide transparancies from the time when this was the first road on Providenciales with a man made surface. Photographs of  native island women sitting in the shade of tall trees bent in the tropical breeze.  It reminded me of old photos of my grandmother in Texas, who would have been a contemporary of those ladies.   And the sight of them sitting and talking as they worked evoked a feeling of what I imagine the social comfort of quilting bees must have been for my grandmother.  Except in these photos the women were each holding a hammer in one hand.  One of those masonry hammers with a chisel edge on one side.    And in their other hands these ladies had hunks of limestone.  The largest about the size of a cantaloupe melon.  And at their feet were piles of gravel.  This is somewhat different than quilting scraps, but you see what I mean.  This road was built by hand before being paved over.

Isn't it annoying when I drift off topic like that?  Drives La Gringa nuts sometimes. The original subject was that boat I started this all with.  We wanted to look it up, and we know that most modern yachts have what's known as an Automatic Information System transponder on board.  We used an AIS tracking service  to see which boats were in these waters.   La Gringa had already identified this yacht before we saw it, but after getting that photo I wanted to show it to you, too.

It was a couple of days after our lunch at da Conch Shack before I asked her to give me a screen shot of the yacht's position.  By then it had moved back to the other side of the island.  Right now, this yacht is anchored  near the luxury resort of Amanyara.   The AIS display looks like this:

If you can squint your eyes close enough you should be able to see there are two boat locations marked there near Malcolms Road Beach.  One we know well, the T&C Aggressor is a local liveaboard dive charter and underway.   The other boat is the one in our photo up above, and the name of that one is "A".

If we click on the boat symbol for the "A" we get this popup:

And if I blow up the portion of my own photo from da Conch Shack, I think we can pretty much figure out  whose boat this is.

Of course we had to Google up the "A" .  It's a fascinating yacht, and we found out that the name is derived from the initials of its owner Andrey MelnichenkoАндрэй Мельнічэнкаand his wife Aleksandra.

And while searching, I found that one of the local newspapers has also taken notice of the Russian yacht in the Turks and Caicos Islands.

Boy, you just never know what you're going to see in a place like this.  Almost makes me look forward to going out to lunch more often.

A little thought about it all and obviously we shouldn't be surprised that Russian billionaires are interested in this area.  We know that there are investors involved in the on and off again West Caicos development.  And with the present situation in Cuba who knows what kind of development deals may be in the works in the realm of those with seriously deep pockets.

Whatever else Mr. Melnichenko has going on, the man certainly appreciates a fine motor vessel.  And I'll be happy to tell him so, the next time I see him.
Okay that's enough about my admittedly unhealthy obsession with boats.  Speaking of which...

Guess what this is.

That's no fair, I already told you it's about boats. I was just wondering if you could figure out what it is specifically, and the post title is a clue. But notice that this thing is attached by means of not only three pop rivets, but two nuts and washers on what apparently are sawn off bolts. And guess where I found this? 

You're getting tired of this game. I can tell. Okay, okay. It's the mount for the radar that got fried when the lightning hit us just north of Chub Cay on our delivery trip down here with the boat.

I climbed back up to see what would be involved in removing this radar antenna.   I didn't have the tools I needed, because I wasn't prepared for dealing with rivets.  I'll have to drill or grind those out.   We don't have the resources to replace the radar at the moment, so I've got an idea what to put here until we do.  If we do.  Radars are expensive. In the meantime, I have other things on the mast that need repair or replacement.

The masthead/steaming light and  the overhead deck light have not worked since the lightning strike either.   This is the first time I've crawled "up the stick" to take a close look at them.

The steaming light is that black one, that is supposed to show forward in a total arc of 225 degrees when a sailboat is motoring at night.     The deck light is the white one, that is supposed to illuminate the foredeck of the boat when we need it at night.  That could include watching out for coral heads, or anchoring.   The rectangular mark on the deck is from where I removed an unused but out of inspection date six man life raft.   

Climbing the mast is not my favorite chore, but it goes with the territory. At least there's a pretty nice view from up over the spreader.  This is looking over the slips where the Molassas Cat I and II used to tie up. That ended when the West Caicos development project turned off again.  Which is because the Russian money is at a low value right now.  It still feels different here with them gone.  We were very accustomed to seeing them every day.  It also occurs to us that we live in a place where the local economy is very much tied to the rest of the world.  Putin flexes in the Ukraine, and South African and Haitian friends lose jobs in the Turks and Caicos Islands which is a British Overseas Territory near Cuba where the resident population is 58% immigrants.  
Speaking as American expats, I don't think we're in Kansas anymore, Dooley.

AND speaking of  different ways of looking at things (don't you just love groan quality seques?)  here's Bob's Bar from a level view landward.   Nice view of the new stairs, too.

Our nearest neighbor, for this week only, was the S/V Leela.  I'm mentioning them because we first heard from the crew of Leela via this blog.  They wrote us an email and let us know they were coming through, and staying at South Side Marina.    It's amazing how many great people we've met as a result of these posts.

During our early conversations with Graham and Janiki at Bob's Bar we found out that Graham and I both have backgrounds in the ROV tracking business and actually knew several people in common.    Like minded people, it seems.  We may be seeing them again someday, if our respective plans go anything near according to respective plans.   This is a better photo of the malfunctioning lights, and I noticed my feet had a pretty good grip on the old mast.

Who am I kidding?  You couldn't have stuck a tack in my butt with a three pound mallet.  I was some kind of relieved to climb back down from there.  This was my second trip up.  The first time I went up to reach the underside of the spreaders.  This time I was over the spreaders.  I'm working my way up to the climb all the way to the top.  I have a lot of work to do there.    I'd like to think that this is just me facing my fears, but the truth is  probably that I'm too cheap and proud to hire someone else to do it.   I get a lot of learning experiences that way.   I did think to take the camera up, and got a photo of my line tender keeping an eye on me.

This is going to be the end of this post.  I didn't get a good sunset photo this week, but I decided to make you one from scrap materials.   Kinda like back in Kindergarten when we stuck things to refrigerators with magnets.

Can you see a sunset in this?  Maybe if you lay on your left shoulder and squinted into the morning sun...

I guess it might be asking a little too much to see a sunset there, now that I look at it.  It might look familiar to someone accustomed to watching sunrises over curbstones.  I think I just found the opening line for my action novel... " Watching the sunrise over a curbstone is an astonishingly bad way of starting your morning..."   or something along those lines.

So here's the real sunset photo I took last night.  I was just  messing  with you about that conch wall thing.

Hey,  hope you weren't  expecting a Van Go from a TooLoose LaTrek...

Ooohhhh.   That was bad.  Even for me.  Sorry.
Check back on Monday.  There's always hope for improvement.