Friday, September 21, 2007

More house photos, running out of gas, Turtle Cove, fishing thoughts, underwater shots

Our Norwegian architect took these photos to email to me, since we are mostly out on Pine Cay this time of year ( when we are not busy running out of gas in the boat...more on that later) Not much new on the outside, although they were planning to start putting the metal roof on yesterday. We originally had an Ondura roof in the spec, its a corrugated fiberglass roofing, and it looks pretty good. Then our builder, Coralin ( pronounced "Curlin'") got us to thinking about a galvanized steel roof. His thinking was that putting a plastic roof on that house was like (quote) "wearing a two dollar necktie with a thousand dollar suit"...well...we hadn't looked at it QUITE in those terms before, but it got us to thinking. While I have proudly worn my share of two-dollar neckties, we saw his point.

Its not that this is a big fancy house. In fact, its pretty small by US standards. Our outside living areas are almost twice the size of the house interior. But the site makes the house look like more than it is, I think. A white metal roof does make more sense than a blue plastic one. Again, we listened to the locals in these things.

Well, truth be told, there's a little more to it than that. I am about as sensitive and nostalgic as a fence post, normally, but when Coralin was extolling the virtues of a metal roof..... I was tugged a little by a memory from long ago. My grandparents' lived in something called a 'dog run' cabin in the woods of East Texas when I was a little kid. It was hand hewn square logs, with plaster chinking between them. Two square, simple structures separated by an open breezeway, called a 'dog run'. They were covered by a common roof. One side was the kitchen and living area, the other side the bedrooms. The 'facilities' were down a path, and the 'bath' was a metal tub near the well. I remember the sound of a rainstorm beating down on the tin roof at night. I remember the sound of the thunder. Those are good memories. It made me realize, hey, I actually can maybe have a little of that, again. That just doesn't happen often in life, does it. So we went for it.

This is a far ride from a cabin in East Texas, but I'm looking forward to sleeping under a tin roof in the rain, again.

(The dog, of course, wants a bomb-shelter of a roof, steel-reinforced concrete with six inch armor plating. Something that would look at home in a WWII movie, But he's not paying for it, so his vote doesn't really count. I'll build him a storm shelter,or something. )

As of Wednesday,while waiting for the roof delivery, the crew was finishing up some concrete and plaster work on the outside:

This thing, called a 'pergola' is shaping up. I was a little sceptical about it at first, too many arches I was reportedly heard to grumble. Waste of money, etc.. But I admit, it's starting to grow on me. Its going to have 3x8 beams across the top, and lighting.

The end of it has a little roof over it. Looking this way, you see the island of Provo. If you turn around,its just the sea and the sky all the way to the horizon. Its going to be a private, sheltered place to sit, away from the house. Its going to be a good place to watch sunrises, and storms over the ocean. The inside is open to the patio. I been thinking it might be a good place for one of those hammock chairs built for two. People (including me) seem to like to take photos of it, its got some photogenic Escher-like quality, or something. Its peaceful. Serene. I think I like it.

Inside, our multinational crew is finishing up the drywall, what I used to call 'taping and floating'. Here they call it "mudding". This is looking across from the kitchen, which will have a little breakfast/bar thing on the right where the plumbing is:

That's the door to the little office on the left. It will have double French doors to keep the a/c in. It was designed so that we could knock out the interior walls pretty easy, and open up the living area more, if we ever build something else on the space above the garage. We tried to design this with a lot of add-on capabilities. The two guest bedrooms are through the far wall. Keeps sleep over visitors away from our bedroom completely.

And this is Mon. He is Coralin's partner, and took over the job after Coralin oversaw all the foundation and concrete work. Mon is the finish guy. This is looking back across the kitchen area, utility room, pantry,laundry room to the right, master bedroom through the door to the left. The pergola is outside our bedroom:

We just this week changed the appliances. They were going to be all white, but GE discontinued the refrigerator we want in white. Its a big one,48" wide and we wanted to stay with that, SO, we changed all the appliances to black, which meant we had to change the counter-tops as well. Basically, its all going to be this stuff:

(this is a photo from the GE website. That's NOT our floor. Our floor is intended to be coral stone slabs)
And our counter tops are going to be a darker color Corian knockoff with some kinda speckles in it that the architect tells me will 'pick up the coral in the floor', whatever that means. I trust him. I am the wrong guy to choose colors, and I have long admired people who can see them all. I am pretty good with blues, but I don't think I have seen 'coral' as a color since one weekend in the late 60's. The cabinet doors will also be clear cypress, same as the roof.

I hope to have some metal roof photos in the next week. Probably gonna cost me some more Heineken to get the architect to take them, but it saves us a 30 mile boat trip.

Know what this is?

Its one of the fishing/diving charter catamarans from Silver Deep dropping off a five gallon can of gasoline to a certain dumb ass Gringo who ran out between islands.

We spent about an hour watching boats, and Hawksbill turtles, and fish leaping out of the water. Digging the new sound system. Not a bad place to be stranded. We called Preacher on the cell phone. Did NOT want to get on Ch. 16 and say we were dead in the water. Preacher organized a little rescue, sent us some gas. When we got to the fuel dock, the usual crowd was waiting to give me a hard time. Dwayne ( Preacher's nephew) is the Dockmaster for Leeward. He knew we have two fuel gauges on the boat...and he asked me, "Well? How the heck did YOU run out of gas?". I told them, well, its a long story, but a pretty short answer....stupidity. They got a chuckle out of that. Actually, it was more like knee-slapping freakin' hilarious to them.

So, we bought Preacher breakfast at Gilley's, and turned it into a morning. Got some great running-out-of-gas stories. I liked the one where his tank leaked 40 gallons of fuel into the bilge before he figured it out. He even filled the tank again after it all ran into the bilge the first time.. I think he was trying to make me feel better.

Coming back ( with a full tank) we trolled a bit. Fishing is still lousy. I hooked a small barracuda, figured I would take it back to the dock and give it to Preacher for lunch. But something else in the water had its own ideas about lunch:

Then we had to dodge squalls and lightning, again. Typical afternoon this time of year. We are having some spectacular thunderstorms, though.

While we were hanging on the hook waiting for rescue, I asked La Gringa Suprema if she felt like crawling back into the bow locker so I could get some photos of how contorted she looked when she was completely down inside it putting the cleat hardware on. She had an immediate two-word response, and it wasn't "Why not?", nor "Yes, dear"....

There are not a lot of 35 ft. plus boats here, but there are definitely some. Turtle Cove Marina usually gets the majority of the liveaboards, because its the nicest marina on Provo. Shops and restaurants and bars right there at the Marina, close to "town". Decent hotels and condos a few steps away if you want to get off the boat for a couple days. In the busy season, which is basically November through April, there are usually several 42 ft. plus sailing catamarans in there, and some monohulls. A trimaran or two. For boats that size, it definitely does tend to be multihulls because of the skinny water. But we have seen quite a few luxury boats in the 150 ft. range here, too. Some of them are amazing. We get a number of mega-yachts here in season, but most of the really good ones anchor over here off Pine Cay and run their boats in to Parrot Cay or Provo for supplies. Bill Gate's was here a couple years ago. Arnold Schwarzenegger has been here. A good friend of ours works for Parrot Cay and he tells us stories of running Keith Richard's kids out fishing, when they stay at his place on Parrot Cay.

There was a fishing tournament in July, and the marina was filling up with sportfishers:

Getting into Turtle Cove or the boatyard for something drawing over six feet is not a straight shot. Its more like an instrument approach to a small airstrip. Turtle Cove will send a guy out in a small boat to lead you in, if you just call them on the VHF.

There are also sometimes liveaboards at the Caicos Marina and Boatyard, where we keep a slip. Usually, people are there for repairs, and like to move on to nicer areas when they can. Its isolated, and there are no stores, restaurants, etc. within walking distance. Unless you are Gandhi. Slip rates at the boatyard are a lot less than at Turtle Cove, though. One family of four has been living aboard Manx Cat, a sailing cat, for the two years that we have been here:

He works as a plumber, and she works as a teacher's aide. They bought some land over on South Caicos last year. We asked them if they were going to build on it, but no. They are happy on their boat ( at least HE is). They just bought the property as an investment.

The people who are totally raping Leeward-Going-Through to turn it into an upscale marina and development are advertising "Slips for Yachts 65-200 feet". So, I guess times are changing down here, too. Had to happen with all the billions going into development. With one bedroom condos on West Caicos and Dellis Cay going for over a million, its just a matter of a couple years til we have the big boats and funny hat crowd here.

Looking through my pix, I am surprised I don't have more photos of the mega-yachts. I guess either I am not one to snap photos of other peoples big boats, or perhaps I just didn't have a camera with me when I was near them. We are around boats almost every day, and sometimes just don't think to take photos. However, now I am carrying this little pocket digital around, and I will make an effort to get some nice bigger boat photos to post here, assuming this thread goes on that long.

For people interested in the TCI, I found a pretty good writeup. Although its mainly about the Amanyara resort on Provo, the first page is pretty good copy on the islands in general:

Its over a year old, but its got some good info and its better than anything I could write. I am not sure what's shut down the fishing lately, but the charter guys on this side are telling us the same story....SLOW recently. They go bottom fishing for grouper when its this slow. Just a few days ago we were getting all kinds of hits on the lures like that one in the photo of the bit-off barracuda just two posts back. Something was really going for them, bit a couple off. So, wondering if going to wire was scaring the fishies away, yesterday I put two identical lures out, except one was factory rigged with heavy mono and the other one I had re-rigged with vinyl coated 65# braided wire. The cuda hit the wire one. But that was it. We only trolled for about two hours, then had to grab a clear window between two squalls and scoot for the island. The guy we met with on Wednesday told us that his boat is still catching YFT, but I think they fish on the other side of the Caicos Bank. We are going to have to give that a shot. We plan to tie it in with the French Cay trip, after we move back to Provo.

Yeah, watching the house come together is pretty exciting. The builder is hoping to get us in there in time to celebrate Christmas in it. That would sure be nice, after living in borrowed places for the past couple years.
We troll with Penn 113H's on Star standup rods with roller guides, rated to 80# line. Its loaded up with 65# Power Pro. I dont know that the YFts here get all that big. I could be wrong, though. I have been going to sea my whole life, but I am new at this fishing stuff. I know that sounds funny, but its true.

Heck, we'd be more than happy with a few more of these:

Now, is that a YFT or a Bigeye? I don't know the difference, been reading about both.

I am not sure we could get a big one on the boat anyhow. Have to tow it in. And from what I have seen, they don't like being towed.

(and PS my son's face doesn't normally look like that. He was still recovering from a severe fistfight in that photo)

Well, I need to burn off some gasoline so I can work on the top of the gas tank this afternoon. Might be forced to go see if I can fool any fish. I don't think I can get much in the way of photos from that. And the rest is really just captions for the photos. Anything in specific you want to know more about?

I was looking at sat images this morning. I sure don't like those two big blobs of weather between here and Africa. I think the closest one is spinning the wrong way, it should be past us before it could get organized, but that one 1400 miles this side of the Azores worries me a little.
They don't even have to hit here to disrupt life on these little islands. In '05, after the series hit Florida, shipping was disrupted here for three weeks or more, for some things. Building materials for a lot longer than that. That's when we realized that we needed to design our own house, and make provisions to be as self sufficient as possible. Its a little different here than in the US. We have nowhere to run to.

We took the boat out this morning around 10:00, planning to run off a few gallons of gasoline so I could get the sender out this afternoon. That did not happen. We just got back at 4:00. We trolled up closer to that shipwreck on the reef, got some photos a little closer than before. From maybe 500 ft. We caught a couple barracuda, a Cero Mackerel, and a yellowtail snapper. We decided to hop in the water for some conch. I took about 40 underwater pix with the new camera. Then we came back to the dock and I cleaned the conch, with critique by Harry. Oh, and we gave the barracuda to Punch, that was funny. I had put them in the livewell, and they were still very much alive when I grabbed them. So, I got new pictures of the shipwreck, some underwater shots, and some barracuda exchange and conch cleaning pix that La Gringa took. Unfortunately, she tends to get me in the photos. But, anyone interested in seeing any of the above?
Well, we took 78 photos today. Some of them are junk, of course. Problem is that La Gringa Suprema took a lot of them, and its just about impossible to crop myself out of them. I am working on some of those. While we were in the water I took a good look at the bottom of the boat. Its been in salt water continuously since the day we launched it, last day of March. I was pretty happy to see not one gouge in the anti-fouling paint. Not one scuff mark after almost six months of running in these waters. The paint is coming off the aluminum trim tabs, but I guess its not formulated for that. Its still real clean, though. I forget who on THT recommended this paint to me for tropical waters, but whoever did, Thank you. Its good stuff.

Here's what the boat looks like floating from the stern view, with the tabs and jackplate down. I can raise the motor six inches from this position for shallow water and running over reefs:

The scuff marks on the skeg are from us hitting a nurse shark the first week ( no fooling) and then getting into Bottle Creek;

Hey, most of the outboards down here have skegs that look sandblasted. I know my time is coming, but being able to raise this outboard up until the ventilation plate is right at the surface sure helps get over the skinny water.

More to come. These were easy, though.

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