Thursday, February 18, 2016

More Messing Around

This is about the remainder of our little bouncy rubber boatie trip out to Turtle Rock and back last week.   We got beat up in squall chop. There might be a blues song in there somewhere.  Makes me want to grab my fiddle...

 "I got beat up by squall chop, mama.
My rear end's wet and my back is sore..
All whacked up by that squall chop,baby,
This dog don't wanna ride it no more"

It was a lumpy trip back to the east.  Lumpy enough that we needed to pull over to someplace smooth and calm at the first opportunity.   This place looked good.  It was tucked up in the lee of the  island.  The terrain was effectively blocking the freshening north wind that had bedeviled us since leaving Turtle Rock.   I  angled into the first beach, cut the engine as we approached and let the little boat slow down and drift gently up against the soft shallow sand bottom on its own.  The sudden silence after the clattering cacophony of the little two stroke outboard was like a back rub for the inside of our ears.   As the echos of internal combustion died away the only things we could hear were the sounds of the waves lapping up against the shoreline.  Oh yes, this little spot will  work just fine.

 The sky was darkening as the wind picked up out where we had just been.  We headed back from Turtle Rock at a good time.  Sooner would have been even better but we were out from under the leading edge of the squall line that was coming from the north.   It would not be long before  the sunshine stopped sparkling on the wavelets here.   But for the moment we had a private beach all to ourselves, and what is life but a series of moments anyway.   Great place for us to stretch our legs.  All eight of them in total.  To be accurate, Dooley the Deluge was a tripod there for a while after he got ashore.  He gets selfishly interested in water management  after a few hours on a boat.

This part of the island  has a series of these small secluded beaches tucked back into the limestone shoreline.  These are nice places to take a break, and a boat is the best way to get to them.  They're sheltered from the wind in three directions and usually deserted.  I   managed to snap a photo of this one before Dooley the  Determined tracked up the unblemished sand.   I think that must be a hobby of his.  Dog detests a blank canvas.

Dooley the Delighted was extremely happy about the opportunity to go ashore and do a little exploring and beach combing.  I think he was hoping to find a fire hydrant washed up somewhere.  If you can read dog face, you can probably tell that he was grinning from ear to floppy ear here.  He'd be laughing joyously if he could figure out how.

 We walked the beach for a while, working our way around the rocks, relaxing and looking for anything interesting.  Are rocks interesting?  I think some of them are.   I liked this view enough to take a photo, anyway.   I'm guessing that somewhere in upstate New York, or perhaps Montreal or Bergen or Moscow or London, someone is looking at this and thinking, "oh yeah. I want to go there." And you should.  Life's too short to miss out on places like this.  

Dooley the Delinquent was keeping himself busy.  He was looking for some kind of animal life to harass.   I don't think he found anything moving in the rocks.   I was  hoping he'd back a crab into a corner.  That's always good for some laughs.  The crabs here can get feisty and they don't seem to worry themselves much about small yippy little dogs.  They're armed.  But the beach scene today was quiet, and no crustaceans were harmed in the making of this blog post.

We kept an eye on the weather just to the  immediate west of us.  We knew we had a limited amount of time before the gathering overcast turned this into another windy gray scale afternoon.  But for the moment we still had sunny patches of cerulean sky and clear warm water.  La Gringa walked the boat down the beach to keep up with Dooley and me.  We were beach combing.  She was just chilling.  And enjoying not getting beaten up by the boat.  Do you recognize that hill in the background?  We're just outside the entrance to South Side Marina. We could swim home from here.

We hadn't revisited this little beach since last year and I noticed that the slow processes that turn these islands back into sand are making their small inevitable adjustments and changes in the terrain.   I don't recall this little cave as being this large before, for example.  And I pay attention to sea caves.  This one is big enough for a couple of people  to get out of a rain storm for a while. For example.   There might even be room in there for a dog, too.  Unless the dog was wet, of course.  Wet dogs are suddenly just too big for small caves.  Medium sized caves, too.

Our resident four paw drive was up and down the rocks and all over the beach.  I think he probably trots about a mile for every ten meters I walk. I get tired just watching him. He never likes to get too far out of sight of La Gringa or me.   Preferably both of us.   He's appointed himself as our guardian.  He thinks pretty highly of himself.   He loves this place.  He thinks it's one of His greatest creations.

Sometimes when the overhanging ledges crack and fall over onto the sand they create nice protected paths between the sea and the island.  It makes for a nice place to walk, and some good scenery typical of the south side of Providenciales.   There are about a half dozen or so masts right in the center of this photo.  And our little floating home is in the center of those masts.  Nice neighborhood.

I found another sinkhole down through the limestone ledge that I had not noticed on previous visits.  I tried to entice the dog to  go down through the hole and come out underneath for a good photo.  He was having none of it.  I think he was suspicious of my motives, which is understandable since I've been messing with his head his entire life.  So when I tried to convince him to crawl under the ledge and pop out of the top so I could get a cute Jack in the box photo, he declined.  Nope.   He wasn't going for it.  So I just stuck the camera down through the hole and snapped a random photo.   See all the little dog claw scrabble marks next to my foot?  He really didn't want to go down into that hole.        

After I thought about it for a while I realized that wearing the life jacket was probably making him leery about climbing into tight spaces.  He normally loves digging into burrows and going into caves, it's what he was bred to do.  But he's also had some scary times alone when a camera I attached to his life jacket got him caught up in bushes, unable to escape.  It took us a long time to find him.  Well, it was probably only about a half an hour that he was trapped, but a half hour to us is the equivalent of a weekend in jail in dog years.    When he realized I was trying to trick him into a cave for a photo, he moved off and kept his distance until I got distracted by something else.

See, caves and overhangs are perfectly fine with him, as long as HE gets to choose them.    I told him that these overhangs eventually get undercut to the point where the next pounding storm surf vibrate them loose and they fall.   He wasn't listening to a word I said.  And he wasn't getting within my reach, either.

So I went looking for something else to photograph and found some conglomerates in the sedimentary rock. Whoo whoo... big deal.  I think maybe this is the result of a long ago subsea landslide in which broken rubble got covered over with the calcium carbonate detritus of the sea that eventually formed these rocks.  I called Dooley over to take a look, telling him I needed his opinion, but he was totally uninterested.   He only cares about consumable conglomerates.   Bacon bits in beans would get his interest.  Cheetos mixed in his dog food would rate highly.  Rocks?  Not so much.

I mentioned the pounding waves that hit these shores when we have strong winds from the south.  It's those pounding waves that eventually break the ledges off, chipping away at the perimeter of the islands.   Here's a section of someones dock sitting up almost three meters above sea level.  That should give you an idea of how high the waves do get here during storms. 

And the collapsing ledges make for some interesting places for little dogs to explore.   This is where he retreated to when I told him he needed to get back on the boat.  Suddenly he was acting all helpless and tired, wanting me to carry him.  I just turned and headed for the RIB.    We know how to handle this miscreant.  Lots of experience at it.

We only hung around  here for about a half an hour, just long enough to stretch our legs and work out some kinks.   I figured out later that we had traveled about 14 or 15 miles in the RIB this day.  The first half of the trip we were heading west, with the wind behind us.   That makes for a comfortable ride in a small boat.  But when we turned around to head home back to the east we were facing the oncoming waves and wind.  Sitting in the same position for five miles of that had left me feeling like I was permanently twisted to the left to operate the outboard motor.   This is not a hands-off kind of boat.

When we were ready to leave the beach we had a hard time convincing the dog that it was time to go.  He wanted to spend the rest of the day there.   Finally La Gringa and I walked out to the boat and I started the engine.   Dooley knows that the sound of the motor means the boat's leaving and he knew his only ride back to dinner was about to depart.   That did it.   He paddled his way out to where we were waiting.  Suddenly Mr. Helpless Dog was cruising along at a couple of knots just fine.

I think it was about at this point he realized he couldn't climb back on the boat without help.  He gets this real pitiful look on his face.  It's a familiar look when he wants to look helpless and needy.  I think of it as his "POD" look, for Poor Old Dog.    And he's gotten pretty good at it.   He practices in front of a mirror when he thinks nobody is looking at him.

La Gringa hoisted the dripping POD over the side of the boat so we could head back to the marina.  The handle on his life jacket is perfect for hoisting the little blighter aboard.  It's also convenient to snag it with a boat hook at times.

I think he was planning to ride up on the top of the side tube, which is where we usually sit ourselves, but of course that idea went south as soon as I twisted the throttle handle and the boat started moving.  He was down in the hull in short order.  A safe place to ride under my feet.  I didn't get any photos of that as I had already put the camera back in my pocket.  But you're not missing much.  The trip back into South Side Marina was anti-climatic.

I hope these photos gave some of you snow-bound sailors, beach lovers and island dreamers a small break from the brutally cold weather we've been reading about lately.

 I like to end these posts with a sunset photo, but this time I didn't really have a current one. 
But then I remembered that I had another photo that might work as a sunset photo with a bit of a story.

A few afternoons ago we were working in our boat doing whatever kind of boaty work things we were doing at the time (there are plenty) when we heard these deep, throaty sounding engines coming into the marina.   Like Harleys with hulls.   We didn't recognize them.

So we went out to take a look, and pulling up to Bob's fuel dock were two of the sexiest launches we'd seen in quite a while.   One of these boats was a really tricked out Nautica RIB with dual engines, teak trim, and a uniformed captain.   The other boat was a larger, fiberglass launch and it was also very unusual looking.  Lush seating for a dozen people.  The boat had the name "Yalla" on the transom.  There's a big clue there.

Right at dusk, three black SUV limos with darkened windows pulled into South Side Marina, and about a half dozen people exited  and immediately climbed into the larger of the two launches.  Some of these guys were obviously security.   The boats had been warming up for about an hour, and left immediately in the gathering dark.  This, too, is unusual here.  These are dangerous waters in the dark unless you know them, or have a local guide.  Then we saw their police escort and they did have a local guide, just to show them the way out.  We were intrigued, as you may imagine.        I went inside and Googled up the "Motor Yacht Yalla", and man, did I get an eyeful.  Check out that website.

The  M/Y Yalla belongs to the wealthiest family in Egypt.  Here's one photo I lifted from the website I linked to above.  I wanted to show you this one especially so you could see the fancy launch that I was talking bout.  It's the boat tied up alongside there in this photo:

The weather was rough, and we figured that there was a chance this boat wasn't too far away if they were running important family members back and forth in the launches.  So the next morning we walked up Jim Hill to see if we could spot the yacht.  And we did.   She was anchored off of South Dock, about 4.5 NM (8 km) away.

The wind was howling, I had only my pocket camera, and no tripod, but I did try to take some photos of Yalla using the little Nikon's zoom.   I braced the camera on a wobbly, disintegrating realtor's sign and did my best to get an image or two we could use.   La Gringa thought it was funny.

And here, at four and a half miles, is the M/Y Yalla.

I  turned on the digital zoom feature, and cranked it up to  maximum and got a couple more photos.  Enough to identify the boat, anyhow. Of course the quality of the photo gets pretty bad at 40X. 

There's really no doubt what boat this is, though, even at that distance.   The boat was angled away from us.  This makes it look foreshortened with the stacking effect of the zoom.  Here's another shot from bow on.

I recognized the name of the owner, Naguib Sawir,  from news I'd been reading recently.  This is the guy who offered to buy an island to house the Syrian refugees.   Sounds like a decent enough sort of person.  I guess he was too busy to stop by our boat and say hello.  This is becoming a trend. The Russian billionaire didn't say anything to us, either, when he was in town.  Maybe I need to bathe more often.

This little blog side trip was all about me not having a sunset photo, remember?  Well here's the one with the procession heading out at dusk for the Yalla.   The first boat is the Marine Police, the second one is a local boat run by a friend of ours hired as a  guide to get them safely back, and then the launch with the tail lights is the one with the rich guys on it.  I'm not sure why they needed the inflatable too.  A spare boat for their spare boat I suppose.  It did have some people in it who looked like they knew some things.

Billionaire's boats at Bob's.  How's that for a change? 

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Messing Around

 "Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing—absolute nothing—half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats."
(from "The Wind in the Willows" by Kenneth Grahame)
I've used that old quote in an early blog post back in '08.  But it still fit when we decided to go messing around in a small boat again this past week.  I'm pretty sure this isn't going to surprise anyone.   We've been messing around in boats of one sort of another for quite a while now.  A lifetime, really.  We actually did have a purpose in taking the RIB (Rigid Inflatable Boat) out for a ride.  I've been doing some work on this old outboard motor and wanted to give it a good workout. To get an idea of how reliable it is.  I wanted to run it for several hours simply to see if it will run for several hours. This is a good thing to know about a boat. One treats boats that will run happily for hours differently than one does those little monsters that stop running when they feel like it. The ones that turn on you viciously.  We needed to know which type ours might be. That's the excuse for the trip in any case.

We don't really need a purpose to go for a boat ride. If you've read much of this blog you already know we're pretty well inclined to hop on a boat at the slightest excuse.  We'll even accept flimsy excuses.  Sometimes we'll  even accept flimsy boats.   What we do not want to end up with is a flimsy excuse for a boat.   Two flimsies together at the same time is bad juju.

We've zipped around locally in this RIB a few times. Mostly we stayed within rowing distance of the marina. Short rowing distance, because these things row like badly designed air mattresses to begin with.  Well, maybe not quite that bad, but bad enough that rowing one is a last resort.  So this time we thought we were due to see just how reliable the old Mercury two stroke might be.  

We set out from South Side Marina without much of a destination in mind. If the engine sounded strong I thought we might make it all the way to Bay Cay, or perhaps even South Dock. We actually made it a lot further than that. We took it out to Turtle Rock.  Here's the approximate path we took marked by a light blue broken line.  I forgot to mark the location of the old wreck in the Cooper Jack Bight.  But you can see the squiggle where we diverted from a direct path across.

We didn't start taking photos until we were out by the old wreck where we had sailed the Hobie Tandem Island a few years ago. We swooshed by it to see how the steel had fared during Hurricane Joachim a few months ago. We could tell immediately that a lot more of it has collapsed since we were last here.

I'll apologize for the photo quality right up front here. I didn't bring the better camera because the better camera is not waterproof. We also were dealing with one of those days with varying light quality as there were storms passing by and some of the clouds really darkened things up. But if you want to compare this old wreck with what it looked like just a couple years back, here are some other photos from  a previous post. The wreck is the third one in that post.

The engine was running fairly well, and we continued onward.  We headed over to see how the old wreck of the M/V Serenade was faring. You can find plenty of previous photos of this wreck in the same post I linked to in the previous paragraph. At this point we were pretty much following the same path as before.

We didn't go into the beach to look at the wreck this time. One reason is that it was low tide, and the rocks between these little islets are sharp and treacherous.  We're in a rubber boat, remember. Without a patch kit, or even a roll of duct tape.  And we were on a mission.  And we were concerned about the weather. And two of us didn't feel like it.

The cloud cover was intermittent, and we did get some nice periods of sun.   I think you can tell by the water color whether we were under cloud or not.   When not, it looks more like this:

We zoomed out away from the shoreline to go around those islands.   A lot of the water between them and the beach is dangerous for boats.  Shallow and rocky in places.    The  motor was still running well and we decided to just push on a bit further. 

We did skirt along the southern edge of the several small cays here. We decided to just take a lot of photos for no discernible reason other than to show you. We've gotten a few emails lately from people up in the northern USA and Canada and the feeling we get from them is that some people like to look at the water and islands here in February. We do, for example.  One of the reasons we live here in the first place, come to think of it.

Anyhow, we just cruised along snapping photos.  I think we must have a couple hundred of them from this trip in total. I've selected a few dozen of them, and have broken them up into two blog posts  so you don't have to wade through all of them at once. Stretch it out a bit.  Doing what we can for the snow-bound tropical daydreamers. We well know the feeling.

That little rock in the foreground is the reason we don't scoot along at full speed closer to these islands.  There are a lot of those around, and they'll rip a boat up pretty well if you  hit them at 20 mph.

Just another winter day south of Providenciales.

This is the Turks and Caicos Government's radar installation. That tower in the photo has a fairly new radar system at the top, and people man the display and the radios there 24 hours a day. Their primary function is immigration control. They try to spot illegal boats approaching Providenciales.  When they see a boat they try to contact it on VHF radio.  If they can satisfy themselves that the radar target is a legitimate vessel, they allow it to continue to approach the  island.   If the boat doesn't answer the VHF calls and looks suspicious they will vector one of the Marine Police boats over to take a look.  

Quite often the radar target is another one of these Haitian sloops, like this one recently intercepted out on the Caicos Bank. This one has been lifted up onto the shore at South Dock. This is the major port of entry for commercial vessels and shipped goods entering the country.

This is not a shipwreck.  Yes, I realize that it might appear to be a derelict to the untrained eye, but the truth is that it just needs a decent coat of fresh paint. We didn't notice a lot of activity on board, so it might be awaiting some kind of government action.  I know there have been several instances of lobster poachers from the Dominican Republic getting caught in TCI waters lately. I'm not saying that this is one of them, but this is where they would be brought if they were. We tend to hear the names of the most common commercial boats in the area on our radio, as we have it on 24 hours a day. We don't remember the "Randy B".

Now the thing on the beach in the left side of this photo is a wreck. No doubt about it. Sitting on the beach open and rusting is a pretty good giveaway. This is also within the South Dock Customs and Immigration complex. It's not a marina for pleasure boaters to tie up in to sip Mai Tai's or Rum Punches.  

When we spotted those two other RIBs pulled up on the beach in this photo we knew there was a high likelihood that there were cruisers anchored around the next point in Sapodilla Bay. It's common to bring the dinghy in to South Dock to clear Customs and Immigration.   So we decided to continue our trip further westward to find out what kinds of boats were on the hook in the Sapodilla Bay anchorage.

This is not one of them. "I'll bet you figured that out already, didn't you?", says Captain Obvious.

This wreck has been here for some years now, and isn't really falling apart yet. Well built steel hulls tend to mess up the scenery for years before slowly falling apart and slipping underwater to become hazards to navigation.  Sadly, this little country just doesn't have the resources to clean these messes up. So they become local landmarks, artificial reefs, and the subjects of many photographs.  Like these.  We went between the old wreck and the shore to get some more pretty-water photos for you.

This is what that upside down wreck looks like from shore.

And this is pretty much what the shore looks like from near the upside down wreck.

After rounding the point we quickly saw the anchored cruisers who had sent their dinghy's to South Dock for Customs and Immigration clearance. There were two monohulls and a motor yacht on the hook in the outer, deeper part of the anchorage. This kind of sailboat typically needs 4-6 ft. of water under the keel to be safe.

You might not be able to make it out in this photo, but the tip of another cruiser's mast is just visible over the left side of the rocks here.

That little gazebo is a nice looking place for someone to watch sunrises, sunsets, stars, boats, waves, clouds, birds.... whatever one might want to watch.  We snapped a couple more photos as we rounded that point.
I know I'm probably pushing it, but hey, I figure there's someone out there somewhere who will like the tropical scenery, and won't mind seeing it from different angles.  Or not.    Personally, I think it's scenic.
We continued onwards around the point into Sapodilla Bay. We already knew that if there was another sailboat in the anchorage that far in, that it was probably a multihull.    Catamarans typically draw less water than deep-keeled monohulls.   They can anchor closer to the beach, in more protected water.

Kind of like this one, the third sailboat at the Sapodilla Bay anchorage that day.  A Lagoon catamaran riding comfortably on the hook in about 4-5 feet of  protected water.

We weren't really doing much in the way of sightseeing, much to the dog's disgust. The outboard was running sweet and clear and we wanted to push on. There were cloud banks approaching from the distant north and we knew we might have to cut the trip short at some point to seek shelter. 

This is looking across towards the western edge of Sapodilla.   This is actually from a spot where we may be anchoring our sailboat sometimes in the near future as we head out on some new adventures.  Soon.

 We continued on along the beach of Sapodilla, and rounded another point. This one has one of La Gringa's favorite beach houses on it. Except, well, there's no beach here. And 'shore house' just doesn't sound right for some reason. Nice place, though.

Rounding that point brought us into Taylor Bay. This is a smaller and less crowded version of Sapodilla. Many of the houses and villas along these beaches are available for holiday rentals, and these are some of the nicest, safest beaches on the island. These are great places for families with small children, or really anyone that doesn't want to get slapped around by waves. These are gentle, sand beaches that stay shallow well out into the bay.   That power boat anchored there is in water just slightly over knee deep.  We saw people walking around it.

See the line of clouds approaching from the north in that photo of Taylor Bay?  We figured we might have another hour or so in this general vicinity before the clouds and possibly squalls arrived.  We had no real reasons to hang around Taylor Bay, for we had promises to keep...
This is the western sidee of Taylor Bay. Not much development on this part of it.  Makes for a really nice protected beach, too.
   I could tell that Dooley the Demented had beachcombing on his little mind.  Or something.
We looked out toward West Caicos to the Southwest and could just see the speck of Turtle Rock out there. We decided to make a run out to it before turning around and heading back home to South Side Marina. Turtle Rock is the little speck just to the left of middle in this photo.

And a few minutes a full throttle brought it all more into focus.

We came out here in our skiff some years back. It was August of 2011 and the weather was perfect and the photos came out much nicer.   Here's a post with better photos of Turtle Rock.

Seeing this cave half way up the face of this rock reminded me of my intention to come out here some day, climb up the 3 meter rock face and see what's inside. I still plan to do that.  It will have to be another time, though, as I didn't bring the shoes I would want to wear to climb this rock.

This was the westward extent of our little RIB trip, so we circled the rock to get a few photos before heading back. I don't know if you will be able to see the underwater ridge that extends from near the rock almost back to where we were sitting with the camera, but several spots between here and the rock have obstructions within a hand's width of the surface. The darker patches are the broken off rock ledge.

I stuck a little arrow on this one, to show you one particularly dangerous little bit of limestone.

Well I don't know that 'little' is accurate there. The whole piece of rock is the size of a small RV.  It sticks up to within six inches of the surface. I'm sure more than one boat has collected a scar from this one over the years.

This is the west end of Turtle Rock, where we anchored and swam on our previous visit four and a half years ago. I am astonished that it's been that long. We need to get out more.

Well, this is it for this first batch of photos. I have a couple dozen more we took on the way back to South Side Marina. We stopped and let the dog run up and down the beach for an hour or so. I'll go ahead and post these now, and then upload the rest of them in the next few days.
Things are picking up at the marina. It's full for the first time this season. The bad weather in the Bahamas has taken a break, and the more adventurous cruisers are starting to show up on their way south. Life is getting a little more interesting. More to follow.