Monday, December 31, 2007

Horse Eyed Jack's

The Horse Eyed Jack is a common fish around here. It is also the name of one of the newer restaurants on Providenciales. We had stopped by there sometimes last winter to try it out for dinner, and it was relatively new then so it is probably about a year old now.

The restaurant is in Blue Hills, very close to where the road turns to run along the beach. Near the entrance to Blue Hills. It's easy to find, and they have plenty of off-road parking in a lot.

They have some cleaned up conch shells sitting on posts in the parking lot;

Of course there is absolutely no shortage of conch shells in the TCI, they are everywhere. In fact, in some places there are piles of them. They tend to get all chalky white looking if left in the sun, but they do look kinda pretty cleaned up.

The restaurant's logo is displayed on a vintage pickup truck by the main entrance nearest Blue Hills Road:

I am thinking that whoever decorated this place was not from the TCI. A truck left stationary this close to the ocean here won't last three years before it starts falling apart. Its true, you know.....rust never sleeps.

La Gringa, Curley and I had stopped here once before when we were on a quest for the best cheeseburger on Provo. The one we got at Horse Eyed Jack's was definitely in the top three contenders. Unfortunately, we got here right at dark that one time. All the seating is outside here, and while it would feel balmy in the winter for someone from up north, for people acclimated to this climate a nighttime temperature in the high 60's is downright freezing. We scarfed our burgers while we were shivering and got out of there. We had not been back since, although we drive by it all the time when we go to Blue Hills. Yesterday we decided to go during the middle of the day when it was sunny and comfortable.

Here is another entrance to the dining deck from the parking lot:

It's a pretty good walk along the beach, which I think must go all the way to the Turtle Cove entrance. We noticed a fair number of people walking up for lunch.

Yesterday we tried four different selections from the lunch menu. The two boys with us had cajun grouper sandwiches and chicken fingers, La Gringa had cracked lobster, and two rum punches to go with her pain killers, and I had curried conch. This is part of my ongoing attempt to conquer my curry demons as part of an overall self improvement campaign that keeps running out of steam. I ate curried chicken for dinner every night for three months in Pakistan, and then several times a week for another two and a half months in Guyana a few years ago. I swore I would never let curry anywhere near me for the rest of my life. I couldn't even stand the smell of it for something like ten or fifteen years. Well, then when I came down here to the TCI I decided to give it another try. I think the curry here is different. It's sweeter, and I am starting to like it again.

Everything we ate at this restaurant was absolutely delicious. The sandwiches came with fries, and the lobster and conch dishes came with "peas and rice" (which is actually beans and rice and I have no clue why they call them peas) and cole slaw. Horse Eyed Jack's is obviously targeting the vacation crowd, and I wouldn't expect that many locals to eat here when there are so many other good native-owned restaurants nearby, but the food here was definitely good by American tastes. The lunch specials were on a blackboard next to a display area where they have some souvenirs:

There is a large, protected outdoor bar under a tiki-hut style thatched roof. When we looked at the bar closely, we immediately recognized the handiwork of someone we know pretty well here:

Yep, the bar is the conch-slice polished concrete that Marty Mason custom makes here in Provo. Same guy who poured the pavers used in our new patio.

The outside dining area (and it's really all outside, just some is more sheltered) is right on the beach, with a great view all the way out to the reef.

(thats a pano of two photos stuck together. The ocean really doesnt dip like that on the horizon)
The area under the hut is completely shaded, and set up to block wind and rain if a squall comes by while you are eating. You can get out of the weather.

And pay no attention to that 'shady' character in the near corner...he's not right in the head.

So, if you find yourself vacationing on Provo in the TCI and looking for a nice place for lunch on a beautiful beach away from the Grace Bay Hotel crowd, we recommend you check this place out. The staff was friendly and efficient, the food was great, and the prices were not that bad all things considered. I think we averaged about $ 20 a head for plenty of good food with drinks.

If you need directions, email us. By the way, La Gringa added an email function to the blog down in the right hand column somewhere.

I also wanted to mention another of our favorite restaurants here, called Pizza Pizza. We became friends with the owner, Robin, not long after we first moved here. The way that happened, was La Gringa unintentionally bounced a check for $ 60 worth of pizzas one night. Clerical error. Anyhow, when she found out, she went down to straighten it out, and a pizza from Pizza Pizza has been a Friday night tradition ever since. This past spring, Robin opened another, larger version of his original restaurant in Grace Bay at the site of the old Carter's Cafe. That's close to where we are living, so we usually call ahead and just pick up our pizza about 30 minutes later.

Saturday night we ordered three pizzas. Robin told me, on the phone, that it would be about 45 minutes, cause they were really busy. Knowing his penchant for optimism...I gave it an extra fifteen minutes before driving over. The pizza wasn't ready! He was all apologetic, and was carrying on conversations in three languages, while explaining whatever it was he was explaining. So, just to up the pressure a bit, I pulled out the camera and told him I was gonna complain on the blog...

That's Robin, the owner of the Restaurant getting ready to apologize again while Olga is in the background tending the oven. In our opinion, Olga makes the best pizzas on Provo. Certainly the best we have had, consistently. She is from the DR.

Well, anyhow, I asked him why he was only using the top oven to cook everything, since he was so busy on a Saturday night, and he fessed up....he had an employee party planned and the lower oven was completely taken up with...


Okay, that explained it. He did send me on my way a few minutes later with three pizzas and a Cosmopolitan for La Gringa in a "go-cup". There's no open container law here.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Last Sunday '07

This morning was pretty much another "normal" Sunday for us, and yet somewhat atypical too. I have been in "fix-it" mode for days now, getting caught up on some of the never-ending repairs inherent living in the tropics while La Gringa has been trying to recoop from throwing her back out. Yesterday was find-the-leak and fix it in the (brand new) dishwasher. That was a heating element feed-thru. This morning I finally fixed a busted glove-box door on the Samurai. Just as I was finishing up with that, Preacher stopped by and asked for help with a boat trailer. He needed someone with a tow hitch, so I went over to Preacher's place. This is his backyard:

I thought you guys up in North America would appreciate this lousy weather, the day before New Years Eve. Oh, it was terrible, windy, with a tanning factor off the wouldn't like it.

I wanted to start with a nice photo before the Suzuki repair because those photos are pretty bland. But since this blog is about what it's like living here, it's appropriate. This kind of thing goes on all the time. Things need fixing. Constantly.

Here's this specific problem...the glove box door on my little 94 Samurai has been broken since we bought it. In the US, you would just go to a Suzuki dealer and buy a new one. Not here. No way. My choices are to find a junked one to cannibalize, or try to fix the one I have. It was a minor aggravation, so I have been living with it. That meant that hitting bumps offroad at high rates of speed the glove box door would fly off and everything in there would land in the passenger's lap, or worse. The hinge on it is broken. It's one of those flex-plastic designs that is supposed to last forever. Well, this one has seen its last flex.

Well, what started this was that I got this neat electric scissors from my father-in-law for Christmas. One of the first things I noticed was how friggen hard it was to open the package it came in. It's this hard, formed clear plastic. Looked kind of like this:

I was flexing this plastic back and forth repeatedly trying to rip it. I could NOT rip this stuff. I must have flexed it a hundred times before giving up and getting a knife. "Dang" I thought to myself, "Why couldn't Suzuki's glovebox hinges have been this tough........".and then it hit me...hey, why not?

So I removed the glove box door. Not very basically fell out if you looked at it harshly, anyhow. And what used to be a one-piece plastic door looked like this:

Then as my very first official project with my brand new electric scissors, I cut strips from the package the aforementioned electric scissors came in:

And they cut REAL good. I can see some future work already lining up for these babies. I wish I had them back when I chopped up the original canvas top for the Samurai and made a bikini-top out of it. That was a project.

So, I drilled out the door and pop-riveted these untearable strips of plastic packaging from the scissors to the glovebox door:

Pop rivets are another useful thing to have around, too.

Put the door back in with the three screws that originally held it, and finally, I got a glovebox door that doesn't come flying when we are offroad hitting bumps:

Works like a charm, now. I put this in here because, of course, I am patting myself on the back over what an unusually clever and resourceful SOB I am. No, actually, I thought this approach might be useful info to someone else with a similar problem. If this plastic will survive me flexing it for a hundred cycles without any sign of tearing, I figure it should outlast the Suzuki itself. Unless, of course, I keep finding ways of keeping it together. But thats all part of the fun of having one of these, you can band-aid them forever.

Plus the new hinge complements my Croc strap door handles...

Such is life in the Land of MakeDoo.. Or as Mick Jagger put it, you can't always get what you want. But if you try sometimes, you just might find, you get what you need.

Oh, after this was when I drove over to Preachers place to help with the boat trailer. Here's another photo of his backyard...he has a nice piece of land on a small, clear freshwater lake. Usually, there are flamingos and ducks on the water here. He promised to give me a call next time they showed up so I could come over for some photos for the bird lovers out there.

That's all solid limestone, and this lake is between two ridges. It would be well protected during a hurricane.

We hooked up the Land Rover to the trailer.

And yes, Preacher trots all over these rocks barefooted, all the time. Makes my feet hurt just to watch. And while I did not see any flamingos this trip, I did find another friend. While standing there talking to Preacher, this gecko lizard lept onto my shirt sleeve. I have not seen one do this the whole time we have been here. Usually, it's even difficult to catch one. Preacher said it was good luck.

Well, I hope he is right. This gecko stayed on my shoulder not only while I walked around Preacher's place, it stayed with me when I climbed into the Land Rover to drive away. It seemed perfectly content. Maybe it thought I would attract some flies or something. Strange.

While it's not really necessary to have a four wheel drive here most of the time, when you start messing around with the local boatramps and places like Preacher's driveway, they sure come in handy. There are some really rustic ramps around.

So I hauled the trailer over to The Bight where Preacher has been working on Fox's catamaran, trying to get it seaworthy again. It's been a long effort. The boat was never really the same after it got capsized in Leeward last year, and sitting on a trailer over the summer did it no good at all. But Preacher is getting it back together a piece at a time. Getting the trailer here was a big part of it.

Now we need to figure out how to get this boat onto this trailer...

And backing a boat trailer with a right-hand drive vehicle is another new experience in itself.

So, that was my Sunday morning, two days before 2008. Then, we went to lunch at one of the newer restaurants on Provo, and it turned out to be much nicer than we expected. We took a few photos, and unless something exciting happens in the meantime, that will probably be my next post here.

Friday, December 28, 2007

The old anchor

I know I have posted photos of our old anchor several times, but I don't think I have ever gone into much detail about it. Several people have asked about it, so here's some additional photos and the story behind it. Well, not really THE story behind it. Just our little microscopic part of that story.

La Gringa and I love diving and exploring. The TCI is one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen for underwater exploring. The water is always warm, and usually crystal clear. It's fun to look around the reef, and sometimes we find interesting things. Of course, the natural beauty of the reef itself is impressive enough:

But we have also found other things, including at least three sites of old shipwrecks. Not the rusting iron hull type of shipwrecks, although there are plenty of those around. We have found piles of stone ballast of European origin. There is really only one native rock here, and thats marine limestone. These ballast stones are granite, slate, and other rock. We have found pieces of hand-blown bottles, and both red and fire brick from ancient ships. We have found iron fittings.

One day we were boating over toward North Caicos in a 17 ft. Whaler. It was one of those crystal clear days when the water was as clear as water gets. The surface was a gently undulating mirror, the sky an indescribable blue. All in all, a nice day.

As we were motoring along, I was watching the bottom of the sea go by in about 15 ft. of water, out between the islands and the reef. We are accustomed to the normal limestone and coral features, but always keep an eye out. We spotted something out of the ordinary, and turned the boat around to take a look. It was clearly not a rock, but looked like some kind of structure from the surface. Something made of pipe or something. I grabbed a face mask and hopped over the side to take a look:

You can see how this stood out on the smooth sand bottom. A growth encrusted anchor, with one fluke stuck in the sand. The other fluke was sticking straight up. The ring at the top, and part of the stock were also buried. I knew it was old, just by looking at what I could see of it. I took off a flipper and fanned away some of the sand to see if it was intact, and if there was chain or anything attached to the eye. There wasn't. It was pretty exciting to find something this big just like that. Putting hands on it, I could not help but wonder who last touched it, and under what circumstances. A Royal Navy sailor, a long way from home? A pirate? Did it hold the ship in a storm? I will always wonder why they lost something this valuable, and in these waters back then, irreplaceable.

I put a line on it and used the bouyancy of the boat to pull it partially out of the sand. The dark iron is the part that was buried, in very compacted sand below the soft layer:

I had brief thoughts of the two of us trying to haul this thing up. NO way.

We were not sure what to do about it, so I took a bunch of photos, and we marked it on our little hand held GPS. I determined the position in which it was oriented, which way the ring was facing, in case there were more goodies about an anchor line distance away in that direction, and we continued on to the planned expedition of the day. But we couldnt stop talking about the anchor.

This is what it looked lying there after we managed to get it dislodged from the sand, except for the fluke that was still in pretty good.

Right where it's been for over two centuries. I wonder how many boats have passed right by it without seeing it. Conditions did have to be right. And you had to be in the right place. And you had to be looking.

All that night I thought of how we could lift it, with our very limited resources. Basically all we had was the little boat, and La Gringa and I. I came up with a plan. Figured if Plan A didnt work, we would go to Plan B. I still dont remember what Plan B was. I took several pieces of scrap 2x4 lumber from the Pine Cay dump and screwed them together. This made, essentially, a 4x4 about 8 feet long. I put a little block to use as a fulcrum about two feet from one end, and sawed a notch in the end to hold a line. I screwed a block of wood on the top of it to use as a cleat. It kinda looked like this:

We went out the next day with my makeshift wooden lever, some extra nylon line, and found the anchor again. I remember wondering if it would still be there... I went overboard and attached two lines to the anchor. One of the lines I ran back up through the notch in my lever, and took a wrap around the block. The other line we ran to a cleat on the boat. Then the work began. I could loosen my line, raise the lever, take a wrap on the block, and then push down the lever. I could get maybe six inches of throw on the line. It was nylon line. It stretches. It was like trying to lift a hunk of iron with two lengths of bungee cord. Anyhow, once I got the slack out, I would repeat this, and while I held the tension, La Gringa would tighten her line and hold it with the boat cleat. Then we would repeat it. It took a long time to break the anchor loose from the sand. Then I went back down to it and repositioned the lines so that it balanced better. It took all afternoon to perform. Late in the day, we had the anchor suspended from two lines hanging about 8 feet below the boat. We decided to move it. We motored in toward Pine Cay until the anchor hit the bottom suprisingly enough in 8 feet of water. We marked that position on the GPS, and called it a day.

The anchor sat there until we could mobilize some help. We got our friend Preacher, and another friend, Fox, who had a 22 ft. catamaran. They also had a cable hoist, or 'comealong' winch. We went back to the anchor with both boats, and with Preachers help in the water, were able to winch it up until it was hanging just under the surface below the bow cleats on Fox's catamaran. Then we took it right into shallow water just off the landing at Pine Cay. We took it in at high tide, and got it as close to the shore as we could. We waited until low tide the next morning so that we could get a vehicle close to it. This is the first day this iron has been in direct sunlight since those long-dead sailors cast it overboard the century before last:

We asked Duke of the Pine Cay staff for help, and he broughtover a front end loader, and I waded out and attached a heavy line. One end to the anchor:

(Closely supervised by Dooley the Demented Dog, of course. Hey, if there's an opportunity to get wet, he's all over it.)

And we attached the other end to the bucket:

Then it was just a matter of Duke backing up and lifting the bucket:

All I had to do was keep it from swinging while we got it to solid ground:

And set it down so we could get two lines on it. Originally we thought we would just transport it like that, but it was swinging too much. So we wrestled it into the bucket where it was secure. Then Duke simply drove it to the house. It looked like this coming down the road:

Duke dumped the anchor in front of the house and La Gringa and I started cleaning the growth off of it. It is in very good shape under the marine growth.

I started researching anchors on the internet, and found out this is what's called an Admiralty anchor, made in England. We also found out that the design of it helps us date it. The large ring was to attach a hemp anchor line to it. The English went to chain in the mid 1800s, so this is older than that. It also has a stock that could be pushed through the shank and secured alongside the shank for flat storage on the boat. We are guessing this dates from about the time of the War of 1812. This makes perfect sense, as the Loyalists had a fort on Ft. George Cay, and English ships would have been in the area around 1800.

The ring still has several wraps of tarred twine on it, which would have been chafing gear to keep the hemp anchor rope from getting worn through by the iron ring:

While this anchor started at a foundry in England some date prior to 1800, there's no real reason to claim it came to its final position on an English ship. It could well have been taken from an English boat by a pirate, and dropped in a hurry if someone needed to get underway for some reason. These anchors were in wide use during the 1700s. And the old bottle fragments we have found not too far from here (but a totally different site) are early 1700s.

The anchor partially cleaned, and starting to look more like it did when it was stowed on the deck of a wooden boat two centuries ago..

To try to keep it from rusting apart (as these things do when you take them out of the ocean and expose them to an oxygen rich environment) I found this stuff that turns rust into a hard plastic-like seems to have encapsulated it fairly well..

After we got it cleaned up and several coats of encapsulating stuff on it, Harry from Pine Cay and I moved it over a small wall to a better spot. I am guessing it weighs something around 300 lbs. or so. We were pretty proud of ourselves pulling this thing up with two ropes and a piece of wood in a 17 ft. boat.

The stock is bent, and split at one end. My thinking is that the split was done so that it would not be able to fall out of the hole in the shank. Kinda like a big cotter pin.

And the bend in the end is so that it could be folded up alongside the shank for storage. Pretty crafty, those old blacksmiths...

The other side of the stock has a shoulder that is larger than the hole in the shank, to keep it from coming loose in that direction.

So, for those who asked, that's most of the story behind the photo I originally just posted without much explanation, La Gringa the Anchor Wench!!:

La Gringa and I have discussed what to do with this. We talked about moving it to the new house. But we think we have a better idea. There have been plans announced to establish a new Maritime Museum on Providenciales, and I think I recall reading that land and some funding have already been allocated. It is our intention to offer this anchor to the museum as a donation if they want it.

(We just want a little plaque with our name on it as the people who found, recovered, and donated it. That would be pretty cool. We already have the fun part of it behind us.)

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Christmas Stump Expedition

We had three of our five kids fly in Sunday for the holidays. That pretty much shot Sunday. Monday one of them was under the weather, but La Gringa, Dooley and I took the other two out to find our Christmas Stump. It wasn’t intended for this to become a tradition, but it seems to be working out that way.

It was also a chance for us to take “Cay Lime” out for another ‘shakedown’ cruise after getting it back from the yard. This was our fourth shakedown cruise since it was repaired. It was so great to be back on our own boat. That was a Christmas gift in itself.

La Gringa pulled something in her back, and was stretched out across the stern. This kept her out of the howling ice storm and cold blizzard conditions, as well.

(See? No blizzard conditions there on the stern)

I had gotten the wiring working again, and all the 12 volt stuff is now functional, except for the bilge float switch. I replaced the actuator ring for the tilt indicator lever, and now that’s working. So figuring out what’s wrong with the (new) bilge float, and re-adjusting the throttle linkage are the two main things to finish. Then I can tackle getting rid of all the grungy, sticky black tape adhesive and securing the wiring harness correctly. Don't get me started on that rant.

We took a couple rods along in case there were any fish about. We heard a rumor about a school of dolphin outside the reef in about 150 ft. of water. We managed to find a large weed line out in about 200 ft of water, and we trolled up and down it, but no strikes. No birds. No bait fish...Guess the mahi took Christmas Eve off. Or they were partying somewhere else.

We trolled all the way up to Dellis Cay, but didn’t get a single strike. Somedays are like that. We did see a pretty decent little cabin cruiser anchored off of Pine Cay.

I felt kind of sorry for them, having to sit there on the hook inside the reef on that ugly sand bottom with an onshore breeze.

It’s a shame he draws so much water, or he could have gone into the cut. Gosh, too bad. It must be a real disappointment to be stuck on a little boat like that staying at anchor and having to run the rubber RIBs everywhere. Looks cramped, doesn’t it? And you could run around naked, play music as loud as you want, go for a swim, jet ski, dive.....and nobody to complain about it. Must be a miserable way to live......yeah...right.

We boated over to the general area where we got last year’s Christmas Stump. It's pretty shallow here, but thats not a problem for our boat. The first year we were here we bought a live Norfolk Pine for a Christmas tree. It was a pain, keeping it watered, and then transporting it and its tub of dirt out to Pine Cay to plant. SO last year we started the now highly popular Christmas Stump tradition. It works. It's fun, it's cheap. And its really environmentally responsible. Besides, we get a different "tree" every time. Instead of another cookie-cutter generic evergreen shipped in from Canada. When we are done with Christmas, we return the stump to someplace where it fits in entirely with the local scene. No disposal issues.

The area where we search for stumps is the far side of Ft. George Cay. A brutal and windswept winter scene, blizzard blowing in from the and snow...

Actually, driftwood and windblown dead trees are easy to find here. This is more about picking out the right one. We told our “crew” that they were going to have to leap into the bleak, frigid water, flounder their way through the ice floe, and find a tree if they wanted to something to stack gifts under. They were less than enthusiastic, but willing to give it a go. Here, they display their abject enthusiasm while La Gringa handles the anchor.

(their faces don't actually look like that, you realize. Teenage boys...ask them to smile for the camera, and I get Art Garfunkel and his orangatuan...)

I might have been kidding them about the water temp. It wasn’t that frigid, at just at 80 degrees F. Still, its cooled off 4 degrees since September. Brrrrr.!!!!

Dooley the dangerous, demented, diabolical dog showed them that the 80 degree water was, indeed, survivable. Of course he is prone to hop overboard as soon as I cut the motor and we drop the hook. Sometimes, he doesn’t even wait for that.

Come ON, you buncha wimps!!

And so, outfitted with winter survival gear, our intrepid shore party heads for the beach, with encouragement and directions cheerfully shouted from the boat.

Dooley kept an eye on them the whole time they were gone, in case they ran across something, somewhere, that needed biting.

You never know when something will need a good bite. Or at least a good barking at.
SOMEONE has to be in charge of biting and barking. It's natural.

The shore party moseyed (mosied?) up the beach, around the bend (literally) and out of sight for at least a half an hour. A half an hour is a significant amount of time to wait...when your clock runs on dog years..

So he watched...

and he paced the decks..

and he got concerned when they rounded the point out of sight for a while:

He well knows the dangers of two boys cast ashore on this deserted island...there might be sand spurs to step on, or maybe an unruly iguana...

Which of course would need biting in the worst way. And here he is stuck on the boat, helpless:

Ah HA! ( the lookout calls) or noises to that effect, I SEE them!

So after wandering aimlessly for what seemed like forever, they located two suitable stumps and drug them to the beach. We voted from afar, and they hauled the winner out to the boat:

Just in time, too. We had a volunteer already to send the dog sled out after them.

So all we needed to do at this point was to shop for some tree ornaments. We don't do that conventionally, either. I took the boat around to a little offshore sand bar where we have usually had luck finding sand dollars. The waves that were breaking out on the reef were breaking again here in the shallows:

and of course the threatening winter conditions only worsened.

Since she is a veteran at finding seashells and sand dollars, La Gringa braved the winter conditions to lead the way:

And in just a few minutes the crew had assembled three handfuls of sand dollars and other shells. I brought the boat up to the sand bar, and we loaded up for the trip back:

and judging by the clouds and squalls coming our way, just in time.

We still had to head out through the cut to get outside the reef. We could see a decent swell building and breaking offshore on the reef itself:

As we got closer we could see that these were actually pretty substantial swells coming in from the North and curling over as we motored past:

We really would not want to get caught broadside in this. There are some seriously sharp coral heads just a few feet down. Might scratch the boat...

Not to mention the occupants.

We trolled lures all the way back, and got a couple good strikes, but nothing hooked up.

When we got all this back to the house, we were finally able to put up this year's Christmas Stump. Some of the shells needed holes to put string through.

I shall call this composition..."La Gringa with rum, orange juice, and power tool"

(hey, she DID wear safety least..)

Of course the sand dollars don't need holes, coming pre-drilled from the factory:

And after it was all plugged in, there we had it...Christmas Stump of '07:

Well that's how we spent our Christmas Eve, probably pretty much like you spent yours. Hope you all had a good Christmas, have survived it, and are now heading into a happy, healthy, and prosperous New Year.