I assured you that I'd try to avoid these long drawn-out blog posts. And I try. Honest, I really do. The long posts are time consuming. I much prefer the short ones I can knock off as quick as I can process the photos and write a few captions. And then time goes by and we get caught up in the stuff that we seem to keep getting tangled up in. And then eventually some kind soul will write and ask if we're okay because they haven't seen any news from us since the last entanglement. This has now happened again. My father used to tell us that when we left the television on and went to bed, when we got up in the morning the room would be full of pictures because there was nobody there to look at them. I'd sneak into the living room early in the morning to see this marvel. But no matter how quietly I slipped up on the room, or how quickly I opened the door, the room was not full of pictures. His answer to that was that they all leaked out when he had to get up in the middle of the night to go in to turn the TV off. He was trying to get us to conserve electricity, of course. But now I wonder if he was being prophetic. Because with no blog posts for anyone to look at for the past several weeks my hard drive has, indeed, filled up with photos.
We're back in the Turks and Caicos Islands. We spent a week and a half with our friends Marta and Barry at the Harbour Club Villas while we sorted out some of the things that desperately needed sorting after being ignored for four months. Sadly we've found that sorting things sometimes gives them a new look without actually solving them. We woke up that first morning with the tropical dawn shining in through the windows and could tell by the very texture of the morning that we were definitely back at sea level. I think our blood thickened up at altitude this summer and we're now awash in humid sea level oxygen. Or maybe it's the rum. Similar effect. We wandered out to look around the marina on our first morning back to see what's changed in our absence.. And quite a bit has changed. One of the more obvious changes was our first view of the fishing vessel "Five Cays". Maybe I should amend that to former fishing vessel.
We had heard how hard Hurricane Joachim had affected Providenciales. Friends on the island were sending us photos. We watch the weather constantly whether we're here or not. But it wasn't until we saw this boat smashed to bits and ashore that it hit home. No pun intended. This destroyed a business in one day.
I recall telling you in a earlier post that my impressions of the TCI are largely the color blue. With a lot of white and turquoise trim. Editing these photos I was again struck by the photogenic quality of the ocean here. The palm trees are a big part of it, of course, but I'm red/green color blind and palm trees don't grab my attention like the blue does. Neither do red lights, but that's a different story. I don't do well with red things, but I do know a bit about blues.
Speaking of palm trees (sneaky little segue, eh wot?) These trees at the Miami airport were the first palm trees we'd seen in four months.
We were outside the airport for about an hour, as one of our party was dancing on all four legs when we got off the connecting flight. He was threatening to christen a newspaper machine at the gate if we didn't get him outside. And I'm not talking about breaking a bottle of champagne on it, either. I guess after several hours in a carry on bag a dog sees everything as a fire hydrant. Miami does have pet relief stations scattered around the airport. We found one for Dooley but were a bit nervous once we saw the actual facility itself. I mean, the grass was nice and green and it was as clean as such places can be expected to be. But WHAT kind of animals come through here that need bags this size for their owners to clean up after them???
We got out of there before we found out. And we're not sure we even want to know, but do people fly through Miami with water buffalo, perhaps? I wonder how they fit them under the seat in front of them. Dooley himself just about fills the space. His veterinarian prescribed him some "doggie valium" for nerves and we have to trick him into his carry on bag just to get him on the flight. He's okay once we're settled in and I feed him treats from my trail mix stash. But you know what a hard headed little booger he is. He got off the plane in Miami, and did not want to hear that there was still another flight down to Providenciales. None of us like sitting in airports.
But we made it. He's recovered from the ordeal and is happily revisiting the places that define the only home he's ever really known. Providenciales.
And we're definitely back in the land of boats. This is all about the boats without the mountain goats. We spent a big part of our first morning back just looking around. We noticed how much of the shrubbery had been blasted by hurricane driven salt water. A lot of brown leaves around here. They recover fast, but the fact that they are still brown shows how recent the storm was. One month ago.
We were comfortably installed in the Harbour Club Villa # 5. I managed to get a couple of better photos of the interior this time. I had told you before that it had a nice little kitchen setup but I didn't have any substantiating graphic evidence. This is a view of the two sitting areas and kitchenette, taken from the dining area:
The air conditioned bedroom is through that archway and then on the left, with the bathroom and tiled shower on the right.
That big bag on the floor under the ukulele contains our main sail. We have another larger roll on duffle bag that contains our genoa. There's a little story with that. We had the sails repaired by the High Performance Parachute Rigging company in Golden, Colorado. When I asked Federal Express in Houston how much it would cost for them to ship a sail back for us, they weighed it at 45 lbs. and came up with the astonishing sum of $550 dollars to ship it back. One sail. And we had two of them. Ouch.
Didn't take us long to figure out that we could buy a brand new rolling duffle bag for a hundred dollars. And even if we use the bag once and then throw it away we come away from it all about a thousand dollars ahead. So that's what we did. Two sails checked as baggage on American Airlines. I'm not going to bore you with tales of horsing two sails, our normal luggage and a recalcitrant canine through the airport. We all made it home, finally, and that's about all I can say positive about the flying part of this adventure.
Here's another view of the kitchen setup at the villas. That television screen under the bar faces the sitting area. It all works out very well.
It's got a full size fridge, double sink, microwave, coffee maker, blender, stove top, full set of utensils and kitchenware. It only takes about an hour to feel like home. And we save enough money cooking our own meals to essentially pay for the room when compared to Providenciales restaurant prices. No kidding.
Now back to the tangled up part, we were very much saddened to see what happened to the "Five Cays". We've posted photos of the boat and its owner here over the years. We've since learned that he's not quite the friend we had thought he was, but we still wouldn't wish this kind of bad luck on another boater. He told us a chilling story of being aboard as the storm smashed it repeatedly against the rocks until it holed, and sank. With him aboard. He said there was nothing he could do. The boat did not break up like this while in the water. It fell to pieces after a crane lifted it after the storm had blown through. It was in one piece, for the most part, until the day after they set it down. This intrigued me. We wanted to know what happened to make it fall apart if it was intact when they lifted it.
This boat is pretty well toasted. Now it's somewhat of a blight on the landscape. We don't know who will be responsible for cleaning this mess up, either. Should be interesting. The TCI government has disposed of a lot of wrecked Haitian sloops over the years, but this heap belongs to a citizen.
Dooley the Demented and I took a close look at it. Trying to imagine what it was like to be in the boat, unable to get ashore without risking life and limb. It must have been terrifying, wondering could this truly be the end? To be stuck inside of "Five Cays" with the Caicos blues again.... (sorry, couldn't help myself. It's related to the post title)
This hull is in so many pieces that massive fracturing is the only thing I can come up with. A combination of brittle fiberglass and a balsa cored hull. I think you've read my cored hull rants. We've posted photos of broken up cored hull pieces here in the past. And here's another one.
I think the primary advantage of balsa cored hulls is a much lighter hull. Which is faster, with more load carrying capability, and needing less power to move. But putting something that expands when wet between two layers of non-expanding fiberglass has some risks associated with it. And wood expands when wet. I think some boats were not meant to be made lighter. That would include work boats or those that people tie alongside rocks during storms. Oh, and add our boat to the list. Our hulls are solid fiberglass.
Most of the rest of the marina seems to have weathered Joachim fairly well. Pun intended. Bob's former sailboat, S/V Valhalla, has changed ownership and the hull has been moved to the other side of the marina while slowly being stripped for salvage. It's become somewhat of a floating dock for the fishing fleet, it seems. We notice it made it though the storm, though. Now that's a tough old hull. Still floating after all it's been through. We're sad to see it slowly disappearing from view, but that day comes for all boats. And everything else including us, come to think of it. I'm betting this boat has some tales it could tell in the 40 years since it came down to the islands with a young Bob Pratt at the helm.
And speaking of Bob Pratt.. (I gotta find another way to do this segue thing) for those of our readers who know Bob from cruising through South Side Marina, we're happy to report he's healthy and doing quite well. With some big plans for the marina.
I was playing with my new telephoto equipped pocket camera just yesterday, and I was watching Bob explaining in some detail exactly what he had expected a couple of workers to have accomplished. I thought it was a good subject test for the new camera.
In addition to being partially color challenged, I'm about 50% deaf. Too many years of unprotected gunfire noise, long hours of diving, and rock and roll music I guess. Not all at the same time, of course. One of the upsides of being half deaf is that I've gotten pretty good at reading lips. And there's big chunks of this conversation I am not going to repeat here. I'll let your imagination supply the script sections that I won't.
Bob expressing dismay in work that did not meet expectations that he had considered largely self explanatory:
Bob explaining what he actually wanted to be accomplished, with thoughts on reasons for repeated substandard performance:
And finally, Bob walking back to his office exhibiting his disappointment that he even had to have this conversation in the first place:
I would have taken a video of this exchange but it occurred to me that there might be some others out there who are also good at lip reading and this is a PG rated blog, after all. And of course I could have gotten it all wrong. They could have been discussing what a nice day it was to be working outside at the marina. Or it could all have been in Creole and I don't lip read a word of that. Nah. He was miffed.
Those photos were taken with the little Nikon pocket camera I bought after being disappointed in the distant photos I tried to take in the mountains a few weeks back. These were taken with me standing on the stern of Twisted Sheets about 150 feet away. And I wasn't using the full 20X zoom. A shame this little Nikon isn't water proof, but we'll get what we can from it during what we anticipate to be a truncated life span in this environment.
Elsewhere the marina survived. Bob says that the four days of that storm took a year off the life of the floating docks. They are fully functional but battered and worn and he'll be replacing them within the year. When we got back two weeks ago the marina was mostly empty where cruisers usually tie up. Everything to the left of the big boat is where visiting boats dock. The boats to the right are mostly dive boats working daily charter business.
That big boat in the middle is the M/V "Sea of Love" and Bob now owns it. There's a story about why it's here, and another story about his plans for it. I'm hoping to get inside the boat in the near future to take some photos, and I'll do another blog post about it once I get the full story from Bob and his permission to talk about it.
We've noticed some changes in the bottom topography around here while we were gone. There has been dredging going on for a new development planned for the beach here. That little jetty thing sticking out beyond the original jetty here at the entrance to the marina is new. We've heard that the plan is to keep dredging sand into the space between them to build a point. We're glad to hear it's not pointless, I guess.
When we saw that there was some roof damage to the dive center across the marina from the storm winds we started getting nervous about our house out at the end of the road. We had left it closed up during our absence, and left the keys with the Realtor in charge.
We needed to get our car out of the garage where we'd left it for the duration of our US trip. We well understand that oxidation is an insomniac. We knew the car would be showing some rust issues in the parts that were not undercoated. Before we left I had backed it into the garage and sprayed all four disc brake assemblies liberally with a rust protectant. We were hoping the wheels would still turn after sixteen weeks. Well, they did turn, but not easily. I wish I had thought to take some photos of the little Kia before we moved it. It had two flat tires on one side, and all four disc brake rotors were frozen up despite two cans of CRC's best rust goop. I can at least show you the marks where it groaned its way out of the garage. That floor was clean when I parked it there in June. The rust streaks came from the disc brakes. The tear stains are mine.
And having two flat tires was a problem for us. I have one new spare, but I couldn't get either flat wheel off the car. So I borrowed a compressor from Barry, and borrowed Barry's car to get it to the house. Uh... then Barry's car went flat, too. In the three miles between Harbour Club Villas and our place. So we now had a total of three flats to deal with. Insert big sigh here. This was NOT how I wanted to spend my first day back. I seem to spend an inordinate amount of my life lying in a dusty road somewhere with rust falling into my eyes while skinning my knuckles on yet another automotive issue.
We used Barry's compressor to pump up all three flat tires with the idea that they were slow leaks and we could drive both vehicles down to the tire store and get the holes plugged before they went flat again. If we hauled butt. And that plan worked for the most part.
The part that didn't work was when I pumped up the last tire to 30 psi. There was a small impact and hissing noise as I was hit in the chest by a flying valve stem. That's the part sitting next to the now open valve.
I had a spare, but could NOT manage to get this wheel off the car. All my tools are long gone from this garage. We could have called a towing or tire repair service, but our experiences with such things here make us pretty much consider that the last resort. Or next to last. Right before torching the car.
I did manage to come up with an idea that I had never tried before. I saw that the hole in the middle of the metal stem is really pretty small. A small fraction of an inch. And 30 pounds per square inch divided by maybe a 20th of a square inch means that this little piece was not seeing anywhere near the forces that keep the tire inflated. I found a short piece of electrical wire and stripped the insulation off. I roughed up the parts to increase the friction by using a small piece of limestone. There's plenty of that around. Then I put the stem back in the hole and wrapped the wire around it. I did have a pair of pliers in the car, and used those to wind it up pretty tight. Like this:
(can you believe those alloy wheels are only two years old?)
I pumped it back up to about 35 psi and we drove the two vehicles to a tire place on Leeward Highway, down five miles of bad dirt road and another two miles of pavement. I was expecting another catastrophic flat any moment. When the repairman there measured the pressure in this tire it was still 35 psi. So, if this ever happens to you maybe you can use this. It worked great as a temporary fix. Just remove the goopy gluey stuff from the stem first. You want to increase the friction between the metal tube and the rubber part.
And yeah, I have slipped into DIY mode again. Sorry for not warning you. It comes up suddenly here, just about every day. We are back in the Land of MakeDo.
You should have heard the noise when I started that Kia up and drove it out of the garage with four frozen wheels and a totally gone exhaust pipe.
After we got the three flats fixed (Thanks Barry!) I turned to the subject of the now totally disconnected muffler. When I scooted under the car in a convenient parking lot I remembered that I had "temporarily patched" a hole in the pipe before we had left. It had slipped my mind. Well, as you can see, I had another muffler hole to deal with. Ever try to cut an aluminum can when your entire took kit is a pliers?
Other than the Kia issues the house was in good shape. And to be fair I should add that the Kia started right up after sixteen weeks. Two flat tires. Four frozen brake rotors. A collapsed exhaust system, and the windscreen was covered in salt spray....inside the garage. But it started up instantly like I had just driven it just the night before. We'd buy another Kia in a heartbeat. One tough little AWD.
The hurricane shutters at the house were all secure and we opened it up. We're really hoping the realtor can find a new owner for this place and we wanted it opened for viewing despite another month of hurricane season to go. Now that we're back on the island we can close it up pretty quickly under threat.
The views from the property continue to impress us, even after all these years. We missed this. We're water people, after all. We love the mountains, too, but this feels a lot more like home. Maybe we just needed a break. We've heard that this happens to expats here. The island fever version of the seven year itch. Time will tell.
But we still have to sell the house and live on the boat if we want to stay in the tropics. Our financial plans have been impacted by forces out of our control and we can no longer afford to keep both the house and the sailboat. Hey, it was fun while it lasted.
And we know we're really going to miss this view every morning, but life does move on. And we're ready for some new adventures on this old planet. This will be a good home for the next owners, if their pockets are slightly deeper than ours.
As soon as we had the car moving again we headed for the boatyard where Twisted Sheets has been sitting. I've posted lots of haulout and launch photos here before so I won't add that to the visual burden of this interminable post. This is where the boat rode out the storm, strapped down and tucked in between someone's Dream and the Ocean Devotion.
We'd had some paint touch up work done while we were gone, and had all the corroded sacrificial zincs replaced. Or so we thought.
We launched the boat and once again La Gringa drove back to South Side Marina while I brought the boat around alone. I just simply have got to stop doing that. She was anxiously looking for me after an hour. She drove to the top of Jim Hill here and spotted me bobbing merrily along out on the big blue ocean. Well, 'merrily' might not be all that accurate. I had my hands full. That speck under the arrow is Twisted Sheets. I was an even smaller and somewhat worried speck on that other small speck.
I don't make much of a speck, do I. The ocean has a way of making large human things look pretty insignificant. Oh well. I had my hands full. I heard a new funny noise amidst a cacophony of funny noises. The sound of running water on a boat can be a good thing, if it's intentional. This was not intentional. I opened up the port engine hatch and discovered that a hose clamp on one of the raw water hoses had given up the ghost. Gee, thanks, former boat owner. Glad you saved a few bucks on cheap hose clamps. I had to drift while I fixed it. That's why the boat was so far out this time. I needed plenty of safe bottom around me so I could go into the engine compartment and work on the problem without hitting a coral head, shoal, rock, or island. You know, those hard non-water things that are so troublesome to boats.
I got the leak repaired with three nylon cable ties and some blue vocabulary. See, there's that color blue tie-in again. I had just settled back into the helm seat and started toward South Side Marina again when the port engine stopped. I took my elevated blood pressure back below to bleed the injectors and it ran again for a while. Then it started misbehaving to the point that I shut it down and re-primed it and made the rest of the trip on the starboard engine alone. I waited until I had to start maneuvering into the marina before I started it again. Right about when this photo was taken. There are some tricks to driving a catamaran on one engine. I guess it's a good thing I have some experience at it.
I managed to make the dock without further ado, and that's the only "do" I'm going to talk about here.
We still had a lot of work to do to get the boat livable. The freezer didn't work. The air conditioner didn't work. I had to install a shower, a wash basin, fix this, replace that, etc. etc. I didn't take photos of it all. I'm not fully back in blog mode yet. We finally moved out of the villa and onto the boat on Sunday, November 15. These days we wake up to new neighbors. A French Canadian monohull on the port side:
And another Canadian monohull on the starboard side:
That two person crew just did seven days sailing from NC to Provo. They plan to leave here headed for Panama, the Pacific, and then the rest of the world in a three year circumnavigation. We're meeting some pretty interesting people these days. I would call them like-minded souls.
Oh, before I forget, we managed to get our mainsail back up before the winds picked up the past couple of days. It's tricky to do in a cross wind in the marina. The repair job that Amy did for us is outstanding. And here's a photo of the wine carrier she made for us from sail material scraps. Walt and Amy are great people to work with. If you have any reason to have any parachute or sail repair work done in Golden CO, we cannot recommend them highly enough. We'll get some photos of the newly repaired sails up and filled at the first opportunity.
The wine, alas, is already gone. But take a look at that bag. Complete with its own little UV strip, like we just had replaced on both sails.
So we're now living aboard our boat. We're telling people we've left the earth. We're back in the land of ocean people. Boaters. Sailors. Divers. These are the folks we're most comfortable with.
And the DIY jobs are back in my face in force. I didn't realize how easy I had it living in that travel trailer this summer. Remember my comment about the zincs? Well, while I was swimming under the boat to dig the leaves out of the raw water strainers I discovered that the boatyard had not, in fact, replaced all the hull zincs as I was told.
This is a photo of the spot where one of them was supposed to be. Underwater. Notice there is a stainless steel bolt sticking out of the hull. This is not supposed to happen. If I had hit something hard like a floating log while coming over here, and it had impacted that exposed stud, it would likely have torn a hole in the bottom of the boat. This was my first time replacing a zinc anode myself with the boat in the water.
La Gringa might tell you that I'll take any excuse to jump overboard with a faceplate and flippers. I'm not sure I would argue that, either. I've been in the water every day since we moved aboard.
Other little projects are taking up most of my days now. I managed to cut a new piece of countertop to mount a new basin in one of the heads. With all my power tools gone I'm getting real reacquainted with hand tools. And blisters.
We've got an issue with these old hatches staying open. We've been propping them up with wooden sticks. I contacted a Lewmar dealer and have been told that they stopped making these hatches in 1987, they don't make or stock parts for the hinges, and their best advice to me is to just buy about $4,000 worth of new hatches from them. Can I say ouch here? That's not the first four letter word that came to mind, but it's one I can print.
By the time we imported ten new hatches the cost would be a bit more than $4K. I think my answer is going to be that if I have to buy new hatches, I'd sure be a fool to buy them from Lewmar. I'll have to see if I can't figure out a way to hold these up in the meantime. It's just not a $4,000 aggravation at the moment. It looks to me like these have some kind of shim pushing a rubber friction bushing upwards. Do any of you other ancient mariners recognize these old "Super Hatches" from the early '80's?
On a hopefully happier note we've bought a desalination system. We'd been thinking about it for a long time. Finally we made the plunge and DHL delivered it from Australia this week. Here's the DHL carrier sitting under the gazebo at South Side marina. I just wanted to use this photo because it shows Twisted Sheets back at home.
This is a better photo of the DHL truck. Cute little van. He got it stuck in our driveway once, and we almost had to push him out. Or lift it and carry it out.
There's another view of the delivery van, with our new toys inside.
Now we should be able to make all the fresh water we want from sea
water. This one is a little bit different from the usual RO (Reverse
Osmosis) systems. This one is portable, and uses a Honda 50 cc gasoline engine to power it. It's rated to make 30 gallons of water an hour. I had to take it apart enough to see how it all works, of course.
Everything looks good on it, and is pretty much self explanatory. This system differs from the usual yachtie RO system in that it doesn't get installed on the boat. It's totally self contained. It has a pickup tube dropped in the ocean and will make fresh water anywhere. We thought long and hard about it before buying this. If anyone wants to explore our thought processes on it, please email us and we'll be glad to discuss it. We haven't used it yet, we've had too much other stuff going on lately. But it sure is a pretty blue, isn't it?
Okay, just about done here. I wanted to show you one more thing that we've discovered that's changed in our absence. The wednesday night potluck cookouts at Bob's Bar have been upgraded a bit. There is now live music, courtesy of a variety of local expats who also play music. And the place is definitely lively on Wednesday evenings. I snapped this quickly last night and intended to take more photos but I got caught up in an intense conversation about boats, if you can imagine it. We'll elaborate on this new development along with Bob's plans for the "Sea of Love" in the next post. I owe Doug, David, Jeff and Bob a better shot than that.
So finally, I'd say "see you next week, good Lord willing and the creeks don't
rise". But if you look at the previous post you might understand why I
use that term carefully these days.
Let's just end this one with another sunset photo from our new home on the water. Whew. This has taken a long time to get to this point. In many more ways than one.
Thursday, November 19, 2015
Tuesday, November 3, 2015
The Third and Final Chapter
in the Saga of Dooley's Summer
Anyone who's been paying much attention to us knows that the previous two blog posts have been from the possible perspective of Dooley the Demented. I don't quite understand how he learned to type, but he's always been a little bit... different. If you know what I mean. Definitely odd are another couple of words that would work here.
Some of the good news from the dog's perspective is that we've been heading south for some time now. We started in Northern Colorado near the Wyoming state line. Some would call it a border. Especially those to the north of it. Anyhow that's where we spent most of the summer. But October came around again as October is wont to do. And it got cold. And we left. And the photos in this post were mostly taken in the extreme southern part of Colorado, near a couple of mountains known as the Spanish Peaks. There are a few taken in Northern Colorado, and a few taken in Texas, and I've lumped them all together here in one massive post to clear them out of the system so we can get back to tropical mode again. I apologize for the huge mob of over 60 photos. I figured those who just want a couple of photos can easily just look at a couple photos. And those who like to keep up with Dooley and his travels will have a lot more to work with here. Don't worry, this will not be the new standard for blog post size. I hope you like mountains.
We've been exploring the Rocky Mountains quite a bit this year, electing to spend just about all of Hurricane Season off island. I realize that these past few posts might be a bit confusing to people who first find this blog based upon search terms like "Caribbean" and" Reef". Not too many people would do a search for tropical scenes by typing in "aspen grove". Yet, this is where we have found ourselves a lot lately.
This post is also a little disjointed due to rushing at the end to get it all together and "out the door". It was basically put together while traveling through four states, too. That would be Colorado, New Mexico, Texas, and Confusion. All in the Procrastination.
This is the kind of stuff Dooley and I have had to write about for the past four months.
That's changing pretty quickly. These will be the last images from the USA for a while. We'll try to get it all out of the way and clear the decks for some tropical scenery. But in the meantime, this is what we have to work with.
We let Dooley do his thing because he had a lot to say about it all. Not all of it good, either. He's an opinionated little quadruped, for sure. I know we've all often heard how it can be 'best to let sleeping dogs lie'..... but what's the conventional wisdom about blogging dogs with a loose grasp of reality??
We've done everything we know of to make the little critter feel comfy in the USA. But he's an island dog. He moved to Providenciales when he was knee high to a cat and has spent his entire life at temperatures above 70 degrees F. Life much above 7,000 ft. elevation doesn't really seem to agree with him. We took him up to the tree line at around 11,000 ft, and he said he'd rather have the rustiest fire hydrant on Provo than all the trees in Colorado. That shows you what he knows about it. There are no fire hydrants on Providenciales. Rusty or otherwise.
We've driven him to some real pretty places up in the hills, too. Roads up near the Continental Divide, places with sweeping vistas of distant mountains. He was consistently unimpressed.
We thought maybe he'd enjoy the trip more if he was able to go for a swim. I made a special effort to find places with water. We found plenty of beautiful, crystal clear mountain trout streams high in pristine alpine meadows and forests.
He sneered at it all. And a sneering Jack Russell Terrieriest with an attitude is an ugly thing to live with. I sure could have used even a small barracuda right about here to cheer him up. Even a little baby barracuda would do it. Anything dangerous with teeth. But nope. Nothing like that here. He was disgusted when I told him the fish up here eat bugs. Guess we can forget the Trout Almondine Alpo.
La Gringa is a geographer and my early background is in geology. So the two of us are fascinated by what we see in the mountains. I am particularly interested in these igneous, intrusive rock 'dikes' that are spread throughout this entire region around Silver Mountain and the Spanish Peaks. There's one of them in the center of this photo. It looks like a corroded vertical rock wall. Huge thin ridges running along the backbones of these mountains.
We stopped along the road to try to get a better shot of one of them, but I apparently triggered the digital zoom feature of the camera. So I got the photo, and it looked okay on the little viewfinder LCD on the camera. But when I finally uploaded it I realized that it's pixelated and blocky. This is why I never use digital zooms. Normally. In this case I guess I could blame it on the altitude. Lack of oxygen. Stupidity. Some combination thereof. I do want to mention that after seeing this shot I bought another camera with a 20x optical zoom. Too late for this post, though.
Anyhow, here's a distant dike.
When I look at that I start thinking of what it would be like to have a property on the south side of one of these. The dike would block the cold northern winds and the sun would warm it from the south.
We just had to get closer to one of these. And fortunately that's not hard to do. This is the Ashipapa Arch. Cut right through one of the Spanish Peak dikes. The dog peering out the window is NOT driving the truck. He does like to pretend that he is.
This next one is an arch of a different type. A log railroad trestle. I liked the scene for some reason. So we stopped for a photo and to read the sign. We wondered what it would be like to be under a log bridge with a freight train full of coal doing seventy miles an hour a few feet over head.
We wondered, yes. But we didn't hang around to find out.
We've loved seeing some of the beautiful mountain streams in the Rockies, and in the Sangre de Christo range. Crystal clear, babbling brooks and rushing creeks. There's nothing like this in the Turks and Caicos Islands, of course. But then, Colorado has no beaches to match even the worst of Providenciales.
We've noticed something about Dooley. He's almost totally uninterested in swimming in fresh water. I'd even say he's exhibited a mild aversion to it. We've exposed him to a number of rivers, creeks, brooks, lakes, and ponds. He typically takes a few sniffs, looks around a little bit and then wants to move on. This is a beautiful little lake high in the mountains. He wouldn't even stumble down to the edge to take a sniff. He would rather bemoan the scarcity of lizards to chase.
This is the same babbling trout brook we tried to get him interested in earlier.
This is a larger lake at Trinidad State Park, which is much lower, "down" around 7500 ft. He wouldn't even consider it.
I threw a stick in the water, hoping Dooley would fetch it. He looked at me like I was crazy. He just wanted to head back to camp.
So we essentially gave up on the swimming idea. The water was way too cold for us, anyhow. We've got stuff in our refrigerator that's warmer than this.
We decided to drive the truck up into a few mountain passes just to get a fresh look. We managed to get into a lot of places that neither of us had ever seen before. A totally different experience from the islands.
Every time I saw a good view of one of the dikes we had to stop so I could try to get a good photo. . The dike in this photo forms the ridge of this entire mountain. These bony granite backbones give this entire area a character we haven't seen further north.
The view south into New Mexico from up near the tree line in the Spanish Peaks:
We're looking down into Billy the Kid territory from here. Kit Carson wandered these hills. Jim Bridger. I know some of you will know what I'm talking about. Bent's Fort is a couple days ride east of here.
Dooley showed less and less enthusiasm for running around at this altitude. I think he'd rather admire himself in the side mirror. Guess I'd better start calling these wing mirrors again before we return to the Turks and Caicos.
We saw a lot of really interesting places. Many old homesteads along the way, with quite a few that are sad ruins of lives and dreams that must have once flourished in the crisp mountain air. Now deserted and dilapidated.
Time after time we've seen that while the timbers dry out and rot away the stone work remains. A tribute to the mason, and perhaps some lessons for those of us who would follow. I know it's probably impossible, but when I see things like this I think there's still hope for this place if someone wanted to save it badly enough. This location is on good bottom land, with a pasture and stream running just a few hundred meters away. All the reasons that someone built this a hundred years ago are still valid. I wonder what happened. People get old, and children grow up and move away to their own lives I suppose. Maybe we're sailing next to them in the Caribbean. Who knows.
Old ranches are everywhere, evidence of dreams that just didn't quite pan out in the long run. I bet it was fun while it lasted, though.
Have you noticed how many arches we've driven under in this post? That doesn't happen much in the islands. This whole experience was hugely different for all three of us. I can't think of an arch to drive under on Providenciales. And not many bridges to go over, either.
This foundation was a thriving home, in a wonderful spot up high in the mountains. It just needs a few hundred thousand dollars in lumber. Or logs. And someone who doesn't much mind being trapped by heavy snowfall for ten months of the year, I suppose. This is starting to sound like the background for a Stephen King novel.
It's autumn in the northern hemisphere and we were in the mountains just as the trees started to show their fall colors.
So cold that there was still snow on the ground from a small storm that blew through three days earlier.
One of us couldn't wait to get back to the trailer/caravan. He insisted on wearing his sweater and warming up before any further expeditions. The wimp.
We spent almost a month of the summer "boondocking" on private land in northern Colorado. Boondocking refers to camping without any water, electric, or septic connections. Living totally off the grid. We liked it quite a bit. We did have some challenges obtaining fresh water and we had to come up with electricity on our own but it was all manageable. We took a shovel and a pickaxe and chopped out our own level camping spot, modifying the terrain as needed.
We spent a lot of time this summer just hiking around. Exploring the rocky terrain around our little camp. When we started looking closely around the base of this large boulder things started getting interesting.
There was a lot of organic debris scattered around the area near this rock. Bits and pieces of small animals that had been killed and consumed. Large animals, in some cases. Skulls of domestic cats in others. One of us was extremely interested in this area. He didn't care much about history, or geology or sweeping vistas, but bones are something he can really get his teeth into, so to speak.
I had mentioned earlier that we spotted a large mountain lion (cougar) on this property one evening right at dusk. I mean, a really big cat. And now we think we know where it lives. Right at the base of that big rock. In this cave.
We had thought that Dooley would do his usual yapping and acting the certified fool around this cave, but he did not. He was quite cautious. He wanted to explore it, but he was sniffing the area and moving really carefully. He's smart enough to recognize big cat odor mixed with the blood of several other species. It wasn't hard to convince him to head back to camp and spend the afternoon watching a squirrel through a closed window. Did I mention he's a wimp?
I might be a little wimpy myself when thinking about what's out there watching me while I'm stumbling around in the dark. Cats can see a whole lot better than I can. And this is a big cat that obviously likes meat. It's bringing down hundred pound antelopes without much trouble. We haven't been able to get a photo of "our" cougar yet, but while I was getting a flat tire repaired I saw a similar one that had been stuffed and mounted to the wall of the tire garage. This mount looks just about exactly like the one we saw streaking toward these rocks one evening. Except ours was bigger, faster, and meaner. Ours is better fed, and smart enough not to have gotten shot.
We were still thinking that there was a slight chance that what we saw streaking through the bushes that night could have been a coyote. We heard them almost every night. But after seeing this dead couger we realized that it was in fact almost exactly what we saw. The furry puff at the end of the tail, the shape of the head. And the basic fact that it's really not that hard to tell the difference between a running feline and a running canine. And seeing this pretty much confirms that the local habitat is right. We have no further doubts about what we're dealing with, here.
Dooley seemed to lose some of his enthusiasm for rock climbing after seeing the carnage around that cave. Did I mention we found two other caves with similar conditions? We decided to limit our nighttime excursions until we looked into this a little more. We figure Dooley forgot all about it, anyhow.
We found him some nice, calm, safe animals to watch for a change. No threat here. These don't even have horns. Or more importantly from a small dog's aspect, fangs and claws.
He soon settled back into his normal routine in any case. Lap dog/nap dog without a care in the world.
I've mentioned we were camping off-grid here. That leads to some interesting DIY stuff. (Just when you'd thought I was free of the DIY). We use a 200 watt solar panel and a 2KW Honda generator for power when we need it. And we do need it. For example, see this tailgate workshop below. Not quite the same as my former workshop in the garage, is it?
This little project was to use the generator:
To power the soldering iron:
To extend the power wires:
To a small 12 volt compressor:
So that I could connect the compressor to the two big batteries at the front of the trailer and still reach the leaking tires in the middle. Another morning project. Finally got that tire fixed about a month later. You know, at the shop with the mountain lion on the wall.
You will probably have noticed the small portable fire pit we've been using in the mountains. We intend to build a more permanent installation once we figure out the best spot but for now the portable one is working out well. We have it in a jumble of glacial till sitting just downslope from the campsite. Dooley has already claimed it. He plays games on the rocks. Steely eyed mountain dog. Yeah, right.
Here's a better photo of the little area where we've been spending our evenings while boondocking. Dooley has some strong opinions about this setup, but basically he loves the heat of the fire on a cool evening. Or at least that's what I think he was talking about. Who knows, with this dog.
We took our sails to Colorado with us. No kidding. We had about a three foot tear in our main sail. We had tried to get it repaired on the island, taking it to a local upholstery shop. And they tried to fix it. Really, they did. But upholstery shops are not really all that tuned into sail repairs. We would not have tried to use the sail with their patch on it. So we took it to someone in Boulder Colorado to fix. No kidding. A parachute repair facility. And they did an incredible job on the repairs. We also had them remove the maroon colored sun screens on the sails and install new blue ones. The S/V Twisted Sheets will have a new look when we get the sails back on her. A new blue to match the blue bottom paint. We both dislike the color maroon.
We picked the sails up right before leaving Colorado. We hauled them to Texas with us, still working out the best way to ship them back to the islands. Two full sized sails made things a little crowded until later when I eventuallty managed to make some room for them in the back of the pickup truck. One if us in particular was a bit nervous riding around on a stack of slippery sail cloth Dacron.
You know, I've read that after a while pets start to resemble their owners. Oh Lord, I hope this isn't happening here.
Next he's going to want boots. I might go for a hat, but I'm drawing the line at boots for him. I told him boots are useless on a sailboat. He can buy his own boots. The little freeloader.
He had his chance, too. We took him shopping in Texas at a big store that had just about everything a ranch dog should want. The little wimp refused to even get out of the cart. Said his feet hurt. It's impossible to buy boots for a dog that refuses to even try them on. Oh well. Back to flip flops on the beach, I suppose.
And we did swing down through Texas for a couple of weeks before leaving the USA. We spent a week at Mineral Wells State Park, for example. Wonderful trails there. We plan to go back someday when we have more time. How many times have you said that in your life?
That could be the subject of another blog entirely, but since we're supposed to be getting back to the tropics I'm not going into details of it all here. I will post a few images to give you an idea of the sensory overload this poor dog has had to deal with. And with Texas, it's not just the sights and sounds. It's the entire culture.
For example, La Gringa took this photo in downtown Fort Worth on a very recent Saturday morning:
Dooley promptly threw away his antler collection, and says he's going to upgrade. While I applaud his newfound respect for the Longhorn (said while standing with hat over heart) I don't have a clue where he plans to store them. Or just who he expects to carry them around for him. We might possibly have room for one set on the pickup truck. If he wants more than that we might need to buy either a fireplace with a mantle, or a Cadillac.
We visited a nice farm while we were visiting family in the Dallas area. This caused us some issues when it became time to leave. I'll show you just a few of those images and then we'll be all done with Dooley's Summer Holiday.
This is a view from the farmhouse, looking out toward the gate and a small bridge over a stream. Please remember this view for later reference.
Dooley was in love with the place immediately, of course. He was on a leash most of the time in Colorado. The leash was off here. I thought he was going to dislocate his nose from investigating all the new odors on a farm.
People reading this years from now won't know what I'm talking about, but people reading it now might remember the torrential rains that central Texas got after the massive hurricane Patricia came apart over Mexico. This area received almost 10" of rain overnight. We were there for that overnight, and supposed to head down to Houston the next morning. We were delayed.
Remember the nice little driveway and small bridge over a little creek? That wasn't the case the next morning. The bridge had disappeared underwater. And it was still rising at this point.
We placed a rock at the edge of the water, and by noon we could see that it had receded a bit. We knew we had plenty of ground clearance with the F-250 Ford, but the water was murky and we couldn't see the edges of the small concrete bridge. We did not want to deal with the complications that would arise if we drove off that bridge into deeper water. So we decided the prudent thing would be for me to wade out ahead and feel for the bridge with my bare feet while La Gringa and Dooley drove the truck behind me. Of course the dog was concerned, as he always is when one of us is in the water without him.
It really wasn't all that complicated. Wade along until my toes were on the edge of the concrete. The dog continued to whine and come up with reasons to go back to the bunkhouse for a snack and let the flood water recede further. But we had a time crunch. The forecast was for more rain.
I just stood in the middle of the bridge and La Gringa aimed the truck right at me. Lined me up with the road behind me. Slowly, of course. Maybe aimed is the wrong word here. But it worked just fine.
Can you tell that by that third photo of me in the water it was starting to rain again? We had to get out now or stay another day. We left.
Dooley might have been a bit panicky, but it was nothing much for the rest of us. Couldn't have gone smoother.
We had a hair raising drive down to Houston, about five hours of blowing rain and people accustomed to driving 80 miles per hour. We're not accustomed to 80 mph. And after that trip, I'm not sure I'll ever be accustomed to 80 mph again. At least not in anything without wings and a propeller on it.
We had a few days in the Houston area to visit with family and take care of some last minute business. Walt Green had folded our sails up for us after he fixed them in Boulder, but he's primarily a parachute guy and we like to 'flake' them a certain way. And since we decided to carry them back to Provo in the airplane with us we needed them to fit into some rolling duffel bags.
We found a good spot in a nice sheltered back yard. And this, oh my readers, is how we flake a sail. What do you think of the blue replacing the old maroon? There is a photo of the maroon in this post from last February. It's the second image in the post, if you're interested. We much prefer the blue.
Unfortunately La Gringa discovered one of the minor aggravations to life on the Gulf Coast. They have these really annoying little things called Fire Ants. One of them isn't really much of a problem. The real problem is that there are millions of them. They build little homes like this:
And they build fast. That anthill was constructed within hours of when the rain stopped. La Gringa stepped on several of these anthills, not knowing any better. And these ants greatly resent that. Medication was required. Tequila may intensify the effect. That's one of the reasons why it's so popular in Texas, I suppose. The tequila, I meant. The ants themselves are not really all that popular.
Well, that's pretty much it for this post. I realize that it's uncommonly long, but we covered a lot of territory since the last one. We haven't done much with sunrises or sunsets lately. I think that's largely because the best moments of those are obscured by mountains or trees. We did keep an eye out for interesting meteorological moments, though. Like this low level rainbow hugging the horizon off towards Cheyenne, Wyoming.
And this is a sunrise while we were up at our remote camp:
And I know that some of you other tropics-lovers (and you know who you are) will be happy to know that this is where we posted this blog from:
Yep. We're back on the island of Providenciales, staying at our favorite local resort Harbour Club Villas. There have been a few changes here since we left in late June. Notice the salt blasted shrubbery, for example.
So the next post should be back to the tropics. If it isn't, there's something amiss. We're getting ready to launch the boat. And the sails made it back okay. We've got them under guard here at the Villa. He's become attached to them. I hope he'll let us put them back on the boat.
Please stay tuned. More to follow.