Thursday, July 12, 2007

More words, longer posts..hydrofoils and sloops

This is from Little Water Cay, looking out to the reef about a mile away.

The blur is water on the lens. I'll stop and re-take that view one of these days with a cleaner lens.

Another photos of the "Arielle" cruising along the beach at Pine Cay.

Well, development is going on big time on Provo. Seems to be a new hotel or condo complex breaking ground every month. Same along Leeward Highway...last week we went into a new Business Solutions store...and I swear it was just like being in a mini-Staples. The First Lady is financing a new four cinema complex...

There are resort developments going in on West Caicos, North Caicos, Big Ambergris, and we heard there are plans to put a resort/golf course on Salt Cay. Now, THAT is sad. Salt Cay should be left alone. Dellis Cay is being developed, and there's stuff happening on Water Cay. I think I heard something about a development in the thinking stages for South Caicos. They are completing a causeway bridging North and Middle Caicos.

Still, there are big areas totally untouched, and outside of Provo, you really don't see much. We checked out the new cruise ship terminal on Grand Turk a few months back. Complete with another Margaritaville.... But the ships anchor, the people run ashore, buy their made-in-Taiwan trinkets, eat a Cheeseburger in Paradise, and load back up on the big boat for the next stop. Doesn't really impact any of the other islands at all.

SO...its inevitable. Its also a great time to buy some property here, spend a few good years with it, and then sell it at a huge profit and move on. We are looking at some other islands ourselves, and our home isn't even finished yet.

As for crime, yeah, its tied to population growth so it has to increase. Its still not as bad as any town of 35,000 in the USA though. Not even close. And the govt. is taking a hard line on it. Last winter, four guys busted into a hotel room out at Amanyara Resort, roughed up a guest and his girlfriend, stole some jewelry. They caught them in days ( duh...its a small ISLAND you dummy crooks). Anyhow, they just got sentenced. They got life for that. Will serve at least 30 years for hitting the guy with a flashlight and making off with a few grand in diamond jewelry. That outta make the criminals re-think things a bit.

The crime is mostly crimes of opportunity. DON'T leave your valuables in a backpack on a busy beach while you are out swimming. DON'T leave your purse on the seat of your unlocked rental cars...its mostly small snatch and grab stuff.

Our friend Evan on a spearfishing trip to the reef.

Staghorn coral and other goodies.

Evan searching for grouper hiding under ledges.

Chalk sound. Still a nice place to have a house, although the roads really suck.

Aerial balloon shot looking down Pine Cay beach. That bump on the horizon is Provo's Blue Hills area.

The Russian hydrofoil story:

A Russian guy named George Neponich was one of the first people to establish a house on Pine Cay. A refugee from the Iron Curtain during the Cold War. He and his young bride from Paris moved to these islands, which were pretty bleak.

Back in the day, to get supplies they had to boat to South Caicos. Providenciales was just another mostly uninhabited island in those stores. South Caicos and Grand Turk were the only two places with food and fuel to buy. Sometimes they ran aground, and depending on where and how bad, could get stuck for at least a tidal cycle, but sometimes days!! Until another boat came by with enough people to pull the small sloop off the sand. Even if everything went well, the trip to South Caicos took them 4-5 hours each way, plus a night. So it worked out to usually be a two to three day round trip for supplies. The small wooden sloop could only carry enough for a few weeks.

The Russian company that did these hydrofoil boats had brought several over to an expo in Canada trying to sell them. They were not very successful. George found out they were attending one more trade show in Miami before shipping the unsold ones back to Russia. He went up and made them a low offer for one. They accepted, and he arranged to ship it down to the TCI.

They had a lot of success with it once they found out how to run it. You see, you have to start and stop in water deep enough for the hydrofoils to be submerged. That takes careful planning. Once up on the foils, the boat would haul butt over the shallows, and make the trip in less than an hour. His widow told us they shaved the tops of many a coral outcrop. It took the balls to keep it up on plane no matter what. If you chickened out over a shallow spot and let it sink back to hull float depth, you were good and truly screwed. She told us they once spent four days on the hydrofoil, stranded, living on raw conch and rainwater, until someone went and found the gear they needed to raise and support the boat until they could get it out to deeper water.

What finally happened to the boat is that George wanted to replace the zinc anodes on the hull, and had to leave on a trip. he left it with some friends to do while he was out of the country. They didn't think it through, and the zincs were bolted directly to the hull through holes with the nuts and washers on the inside. The guys unbolted and removed the anodes one afternoon, and then took off for the day. Next morning, it was sunk. The inboard was underwater. It sat like that for a couple weeks until George got back and they raised it and hauled it ashore.

Its still sitting here in the weeds. The engine is out of it, but the old V-drive is still in it. Its aluminum, with (I think) stainless hydrofoils. they could be bronze.

I found some photos of one in good shape doing a search online for Volga Vingen. There are something like a dozen still in operation, mostly in Sweden, etc. I thought they were pretty cool boats...

I toyed with the idea of making her an offer for it, and refurbing it. I always liked those classic old wooden Chris Crafts etc. and thought this would be a cool boat to have. She is selling her house here and moving to a condo in NY. She's quite old now. Great lady, with a lot of great stories to tell of a young french girl and her explorer, inventor husband living here with no modern conveniences. We became friends with her when we were thinking seriously about buying her house here...we backed out because we needed to be on an island with more of an infrastructure full time.

So, here sits the Russian made hydrofoil in the weeds. Its only about 100 ft. from where we dock when we are here:

The hull is pretty good. I would have to learn to weld aluminum. The engine compartment is big enough to set any kind of engine in, I was thinking maybe a Ford 302..the originals had around 90 Hp. But with the V-drive you could put anything in there..and there's a lot of woodwork, etc. I think a lot of the pieces are still in George's garage here.

Fort George Cay

This is the site of a Loyalist fort built to keep the nasty Americans away during the War of 1812. There are still some foundations in the trees, but most of the fort has crumbled into the sea.

another sunset

We got yer shallow water for sure on the Caicos Banks side. Miles of it. Panga country.

A sea fan waving in the tidal surge over a nice grouper hole.

(grew up listening to the Beach Boys...)

There's an abandoned town, ruins, over on East Caicos we want to go look at. There were 400 people there in the late 1800's, trying to grow cotton and sisal. Its one of the larger islands here, and totally uninhabited now. Its a real tricky passage from this side, and rough with treacherous coral on the outside, Atlantic side. We think we can do it using Google Earth and a chart, to pick way points and then use the GPS. The way through between East and Middle Caicos is named Windward-Going-Through. Its an old name, and I have found that the old names here mean something descriptive. I have not been able to find a local who knows the way, so we are going to be on our own. Will take enough fresh water and some food, in case we get stranded at low tide. I THINK the Andros can handle it, but we are going prepared to spend the night on the boat if we have to. Should be another mini-adventure. I will take photos of whats left of the town, called Jacksonville. If any of you guys know anything about it, please let me know. real sketchy info on the internet.

La Gringa on a 42 ft.catamaran.

Anne Bonney, Mary Read, and Capt. Jack Rackham hung out here. Parrots Cay ( two small islands over) is a change in the original name of Pirates Cay. The name "Turks" is popularly ( here at least) attributed to the "Turks Head Cactus". That's total BS. I have researched old charts, and several of them refer to these islands with the french " Turques'....and Turques were what the French called pirates. The Turks Head Cactus had not even been discovered and named in those days. There are an estimated 1000 shipwrecks in these waters, dating from the early 1500's. Only a few hundred have been found.... We plan to make a trip out to Molasses Reef, which is the site of the oldest shipwreck found in the Western Hemisphere. Some think it might be the Pinta, but they cannot prove it. Its from the right time. I am in contact with Dr. Don Keith, the Marine Archaeologist who discovered it. He comes down every summer looking for another specific wreck, the slave ship Trouvadore. Its from the survivors of that shipwreck that many of the current native inhabitants are descended.

This is what a six foot, 300 lb. Admiralty anchor from the early 1800s looks like when you first spot it on a sandy bottom.

This is the back end of a late 1700s early 1800s cannon, the whole thing is about 8 ft. long. There are two of them just off Ft. George Cay.

This is the anchor in the first photo, during the cleaning process. Pulling that free from the sand, raising raising it, and moving it with just a 17 ft. whaler, rope and a 2x4 is a story in itself. Good thing we got Preacher to help us.

We have a borrowed White's metal detector. We are planning to buy an underwater detector of our own. Its not hot and sweaty underwater. And there are fewer bugs.

Cooling off on a hot day.

H. Ross...personal friend and head of the Maritime Heritage Federation, local television celebrity, working on a traditional sloop

The braces are cut from "knees" cut from local trees.

The "Ranger" floating at anchor in Chalk Sound.

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