Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Catching up...

We haven't posted in a couple days and the bottom line on that is that we actually haven't done much to write about or photograph lately. The weather has been off and on, which is okay when we are in synch with it. But throw in an international revolving door with visitors arriving and departing, and we get caught up doing things visitor-related on days when we would normally grab a couple fishing rods and hop on the boat. We did manage to get out to the house yesterday. That's always good for some pleasant thoughts. La Gringa strolled around with the camera while I was measuring every aspect of the garage interior (more on that later). This is the view, again, from outside the second bathroom:

I know we take a lot of photos of the clear blue water, and the sunsets. Even after almost three years, we still stop for a moment to just absorb it. I hope we never get to the point where we ignore it, or take it for granted. It really is simply beautiful.

I mentioned that first photo was from outside the guest bathroom door. That's not meant to be confusing, we planned an outside door on the second bathroom. That way, if people are outside on the deck or patio and need to use the facilities, they can go right in without traipsing through the house to get there. Seemed like a good idea.

Here's a view from inside looking out that door:

The tile guys ( Mr. Gardiner's crew) are almost finished. They put the bathroom tiles on this week. This outside door thing should make it easier to clean, too. Sandy feet? Dripping bathing suit? No problem. Keep it out of the house.

Our own bathroom is a bit different. We opted for a glass block enclosed shower. This is the view of the inside one:

And we also used glass blocks for the outside shower:

There is a utility sink just inside that door to the left. Inside the laundry room. La Gringa has informed me that we will now have a utility sink in my workshop. An outside shower before even coming into the house. And another sink inside the door.....so basically I don't have any excuse for coming into the house dirty, dusty, or even clothed, for that matter. Now THERE's a scary thought. I am not going to even go down that mental path..

The cabinet guys ( Felix's crew) have been working, and have most of the kitchen cabinet bases in. These are a free-standing counter top, with a breakfast bar.

The counter tops are not on yet, obviously. They are a granite-looking Corian knock-off. We didn't take a photo of the kitchen cabinets along the wall, but you can see from the floor space its plenty big enough for us. We designed the kitchen with three entrances to the cooking area. So no matter what's going on, there should always be a way to get to the fridge or find a glass or snack without crowding each other. We are looking forward to getting out of this series of one and "two-butt" kitchens we have been using the past couple years.

A view from across the kitchen, and you can see where the built-in oven, glass cooktop, and microwave are going. And more cabinets. Lots of cabinets:

There's a whole nuther wall of countertop and cabinets running along the wall, to the right out ouf that photo, as well. It goes around a corner and into the utility/laundry room. Should be plenty.

If not, well, we're putting cabinets over the washer and dryer, too. And a broom closet. And a pantry. And three little attics with access. We noticed when we first came down here that a lot of houses are not designed with much in the way of storage. Very few of them have an attic, and of course none of them have a basement. We tried to address this in our own design.

One cool thing (to us, at least) that has happened is that at least one American Kestrel has found the house, and likes to perch on the wall around the sunset deck. You can just make it out sitting on the corner of the deck in this photo:

He (she?) gets a great view of the salina and surrounding hillsides. Yesterday he (I am going to call it "he", although from what we have seen they usually travel in pairs) was swooping down and grabbing these big green bugs. He brings them back to the house and devours them. La Gringa managed to get pretty close, considering this is a wild bird and is not yet used to our presence:

You can see some of the ridge development going on in Provo in the background. Thats a good long way from our new home. With nothing but wildness between us.

We have looked at the idea of naming the house ( we still need a name for it) with something Kestrel related. But up until yesterday, we were not absolutely certain that there were Kestrels in the neighborhood. Now we know. These birds used to be called "Sparrow Hawks", which is misleading. There is an European Sparrowhawk, but this is different. This is the smallest falcon in North America.

And NO, it's not going to be named "Falcon Crest".

I mentioned that while La Gringa was taking these photos, I was measuring the garage. I have put the dimensions on Google SketchUp, and am in the process of figuring out how I am going to build my workshop. I have three versions already going on, and so far this is the basic one. It's got a single workbench running the entire length of the wall:

Of course I have a lot of thought left to put into it. I will want the areas in front of the windows to be working bench, with the space between them either shelves, or possibly something like pegboard. But whatever shelves I put on the bench, I want to be able to clear it off for long lengths of material. A mast, or boom, for example.

I am not happy with the bench legs, yet. This is sturdy and simple, but its ugly where the shelf supports are.

I am thinking I will turn the vertical 2x4's so that they are flat to the wall. That way I can really attach them well to the concrete, and they will hide the two horizontal shelf supports. Something to think about. I put the entire house on SketchUp when we first started. Took me about a month. It sure came in handy when construction started, though. I was able to spot mistakes before they became issues. There are always mistakes...but this program makes you get all the measurements exactly right. No fudge factor.

So, you can see we have just been caught up in mundane day to day here. Yesterday we had to pay bills, for example. so it was "bill-paying day". Now, in the USA, you get a bill in the mail, you write a check, put it in an envelope and put a stamp on it. All done. Pay all the utilities in fifteen minutes, tops, right? Well.....Not Here. For starters, we don't get bills in the mail. Some of the utility bills get hung on the doorknob, but not all of them. Here, the procedure is for you to drive down to the provider once a month, stand in line, then tell them your name or reference number. They then look up how much you owe, and you write them a check. No mail involved. So, what would take fifteen minutes in NJ, will take about three hours here. Electric and water, telephone and internet, cable TV, storage, marina....all in different places. To pay the monthly storage for all our belongings, for example, I go to the local machine shop. No kidding. Has nothing to do with the storage company, but that's where I pay it. So to take care of all of them basically shoots half the day. But we do get to meet a lot of people standing in line. Some of them we haven't seen since the bills were due last month, when we were all standing in line together. Very social thing, this bill paying.

This morning I replaced the tongue jack on the boat trailer. The one that came with it is broken already. It's been used five times in a year, and it's busted. So I bought a new one and just finished putting it on. The shiny one is the new one:

Notice it's bigger and stronger than the original. We are learning some things here. If steel is involved, use more than you need. If moving parts are an option, get rid of them. The old jack is a swivelling model, lots of moving parts to rattle, bend, rust, and basically....fail.

It didn't even fail in this part, it was the crank itself. And the wheel. But it would fail here eventually.

The new one is an entire weight rating higher, and has as few moving parts as we could arrange:

Light and complicated.....bad... Strong and simple.....good. I wanted the trailer in good shape to haul the boat out next week. It's been in the water a year now, and I need to power wash the hull and just fix a few things. Sounds like the story of my life here. I figure on average, something of ours breaks about every 48 hours.

So, you see why we haven't posted much the past couple days. We are getting totally immersed in finishing the house, and will be back out there again this afternoon. So you might want to skip this blog for a couple weeks until we get back to normal mode after moving in. We are also looking for ideas for something to put at the end of the pergola. We are thinking a wrought-iron gate or something. Any ideas?

(you just knew I was going to stick a pergola photo in here, didn't ya..)

Also, we have ended up with this "bonus room" space under the walkway between the house main floor and the roof of the garage. Excuse me, I meant to say "Sunset Deck". It's the roof of the garage. But we have this cool little open area between two rows of arches. If we can't think of something else, it may be relegated to people who want a quiet place to stretch out in a hammock in the shade, and read while the sea breeze blows through....

In this direction, there will be sunsets. Centered in the arch:

And in this direction, there will be sunrises:

I guess there are worse things.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Some boat time.....finally

Someone vacationing in the TCI last week sent us an aerial photograph he took of our neighborhood through an airplane window as they left Provo. This is where we hope to be living very soon:

That's a really nice shot, shows the whole area including our new house. You can probably see why we would dearly love to see that marina completed. That would be such a great place to keep the boat. We could probably even see it from the house.
Thanks for the photos, Ronbo!

The past couple of days have been pretty busy. La Gringa's brother was staying with us, and we were showing him around. We took him out to the new house site on Thursday, but made a slight miscalculation on the way. We went to Horse-Eye Jacks for lunch. La Gringa and Bro-in-law tried something from the drink menu called a "Horse Eye Jacktini". They said it tasted like bananas and pear nectar. I suspect it must have had something else in it, to make the back of a Land Rover look comfy and inviting:

Maybe it was the peaceful quiet and gentle warm breezes....the sound of the waves lapping on the shore...but I wouldn't discount the banana and pear nectar, either.

He did tour the house before his nap. He did not want to go fishing for the afternoon. It didn't seem to affect La Gringa, and she had these "Jacktini" things right along with her brother.. I guess a certain amount of tropical conditioning is required to function normally around here.

Here's another one of Ronbo's aerial shots of the house:

I can see that was taken the week before the driveway was graded.

So, that's our neighborhood, as it currently stands. The roads to the top right and bottom left in the photo are dead-ends. And there are only these six homes here so far. I think ours is the smallest. It's also the only one of the six without a swimming pool. Oh well, maybe next year.

Then, finally, on Friday we were able to take the boat out for the latter half of the morning. Bro-in-law had to catch an mid afternoon flight back to the frozen north country, but we were able to take him fishing for a while first. The fishing was slow. He managed to hook into a small barracuda in the first half hour. Now there's a evil, wicked grin if ever I saw one:

Take your pick on the grin..

We put the barracuda in the livewell and turned the pump on. This kept him alive until we could find someone who would want it. It also keeps the dog occupied with a live barracuda on board. We trolled for about another hour without any luck whatsoever, and then started back to Leeward so that Bro-in-law could head to the airport. Then we got a really nice, hard strike on one of the lures. I graciously offered the rod to our guest, but he told me to go ahead and take this one. Couldn't have had anything to do with how fast the line was coming off that reel...
Anyhow, I cranked a decent little wahoo in on that one.

We don't have a scale of any kind, but I would estimate this one to be about 25 lbs. I think I have a pretty good feel for it, after watching the weigh-in at the wahoo tournament last week in the Tiki Hut.

Now, see, this is the difference between a nice friendly smile, and that evil grin..

When we were on the way back into Leeward, La Gringa called Preacher on the cell phone to see if he wanted the barracuda. This was right at lunch time. By the time we got to the marina and our boat slip, Preacher was waiting on the dock. It's always fun to hand people live barracuda. Preacher didn't bat an eye, he just hooked his thumb and finger through the gills and headed out with it. I think he's done this before.

I barely had time to snap a photo of him with the fish, he was already on the way to his car.

He said he had to go...he had rice already steaming on the stove, and that the barracuda had him by the lip. This fish was still very alive, you understand...the one with the teeth in the other photo...

La Gringa got her brother to his flight back to 5 degree weather (ha ha) and we needed to fuel up the boat because we volunteered to run some arriving family members out to Pine Cay around dark. So we went back to the marina for our second boat trip of the day. We love boat trips.

I maneuvered the boat up to a side of the fuel dock I hadn't used before. I carefully eased it up into the lee of the dock, threw the lines to La Gringa, and then looked up to see Preacher was standing there watching.

Very unusual, in that just about every time I do a sloppy job docking the boat, someone I know will be watching. I think this is part of the unwritten law of the sea. If you do some brilliant boat handling, nobody knows it. But screw up something, and there are half a dozen witnesses...but this time it went smoothly, even though several other experienced boat guys were there to critique and ready to laugh...

So, since Preacher is still standing after lunch,I guess the barracuda was good, no ciguatera in the fish, for about the hundredth time now...we need to stop testing them on our friends and eat one for ourselves. We have probably given away over a hundred by now. Nobody has gotten sick from one, and we would have heard about it if they had.

Duran is the man, when it comes to fueling operations at Sherlock's Marina:

Let's see....30 gallons of gasoline, at $ 5.10 a gallon...(ouch!)

Then we just basically hung out around the marina waiting for Big John and his guest to arrive by taxi from the airport. Dooley the Demented gets a lot of attention from the younger set:

And the older set, too, come to think of it. There are a lot of dog lovers out there. Some of them just don't know it yet. As in...

"Watch, he's gonna bite her!!"

Fortunately for us, the weather held pretty good for the trip to Pine Cay and back in the boat last night. It was a clear night. The wind and chop did pick up a bit after dark but La Gringa and I made it back to the marina without incident. This was how late afternoon looked, before we left:

Well, not exactly without incident.....I ran the boat up onto a sand bar getting into Leeward. It is extremely shallow on the north side of the channel, and, well, in the dark...while distracted, punching at GPS buttons, I, uh...cleaned part of the hull. Good thing the sand is soft as talcum powder down here. Coral and limestone sand is so much more forgiving than quartz sand. And then...getting into the slip took me two tries. At least, there weren't too many witnesses. This was our first time coming into Sherlock's in the dark, and the quartz halogen lights in the parking lot are blinding from the water. But we'll get the hang of it.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Getting obsessed with finishing house...

We have gotten the word that we might be able to move into the new house as early as the end of next week. This makes us very happy. But it's also consuming a lot of our time, since we have been driving out to the site at least once a day. Each visit shoots the bottom out of an hour, at the very least. But there are a lot of important processes going on and there's no other way to stay on top of it.

The excavation man has managed to turn ten truckloads of fill into a pretty big driveway that for the first time in history meets up with the floor of the garage:

The slope is a little steeper than I would have liked, but such is life when building on hills, I suppose. Especially little bitty hills. From the road, it really helped break up the silhouette of the garage:

But we worry about erosion. We have already been talking to a landscaper about what to plant on that slope to stabilize it. The timing is good, we have another five or six months before "rainy season", with its awesome summer electrical storms and torrents of cistern-filling rain. So we have time to stabilize it all a bit using drip irrigation.

There were plenty people working on the house yesterday. Tiling the bathrooms, preparing the garage floor for finishing, painting trim, and these guys were a pleasant surprise. They were getting ready to pour some concrete steps to make it easy to exit the patio. That wasn't in the drawing, so its a nice extra touch.

We were especially happy to see the tin roof team finishing up there in the background, as well.

I tried to do a little two-picture mosaic of the top of the garage. I suppose I should use the term "Sunset Deck", since that's what it's more or less been called on the plans.

I am still struggling with putting together these shots and not getting the 'fisheye' distortion. That far wall really is straight, and the horizon really does not show the curvature of the earth. This is the area where we think we want some kind of tiki-bar, or similar. We have been thinking of building something out of massive driftwood logs. I have also wondered about something Tex-Mex, with adobe arches, beams for a ceiling, something that looked like it was designed in Santa Fe or Taos. Or more of a Pacific Mexico kind of look. Just a thought.

You know, some nice place to sit at the end of the day with friends, break out some ice cubes and a charcoal grill, and watch these sunset things:

Later in the year the sun moves further north, and sets in the water among the small islands to the right of where it is right now. Still, now ain't bad.

So, anyway, please bear with us if house-related photos seem to be in preponderence over the next few posts. Its the biggest thing going on with us right now. We do have a couple boat trips to make over the next few days, too. Those are usually good for some fresh tropical-looking photos.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Something for Her

Gringo has graciously allowed me to share a recent experience I had at the Thalasso Spa at Point Grace. So, this is La Gringa posting for the women...

But before all of you guys tune out and move on - let me assure you that a woman could spend as much time being pampered in this unique and beautiful place as it would take for you to have a very fine afternoon of offshore or bonefishing. Or maybe you'd both like to stop in for a massage after a "tough" day in the tropics! Either way it is definitely a treat - bookmark and send this one to your sweethearts!

I'd received a gift certificate for the spa and was quite excited to have a deep tissue massage for my back as well as another nicety or two. (After all, being compared to a bat or a sloth is not exactly the "look" I was going for!)

The entrance to the spa is an unassuming wooden structure. I couldn't even find a sign that said "Thalasso Spa" and wasn't sure I was in the right place...

Once inside, I was immediately struck by the whitewashed walls and wooden floors. Everywhere we go the structures are concrete - this was like a step back in time to an older Caribbean-style cottage.

Beyond the main "shack" is a small courtyard and two more smaller outbuildings:

I was greeted by Myrna and she led me to one of the little cottages overlooking the ocean:

They only service one appointment at a time. If you come with a friend or spouse, you can share the appointment and the two cottages. If you come alone, you have the spa to yourself.

You are set back far enough from the beach that when the doors are left open you still have complete privacy. It was a rare treat to listen to the ocean and feel the warm tropical breezes while the kinks and knots were worked out of my back, shoulders and neck. Myrna was wonderful and considerate of my injury and how that affected other parts of my body. I'm not a 100% yet, but I'm feeling quite a bit better.

Later she set me up in that chair to the left where I could gaze out on the picturesque ocean, watch the boats and the pelicans while I had a pedicure. I couldn't have asked for more beautiful day. I'd brought a book to read but after the massage I was quite content to enjoy the quiet and natural beauty of this place.

The rest of the details are between Myrna and me. :-)

The Thalasso Spa was truly magical and not too outrageously expensive. Cheaper than an afternoon of fishing, guys!

'Dis an' 'dat...

This is my book report on our Saturday, Jan 19th. A fairly typical day, actually.

I have been putting an hour or so into sorting out the wiring mess on our boat, when I get the chance. I can only spend about an hour at a time on it, starting in a position that looks like this:

I guess this is my version of an inversion table. Or conversion fable... As I usually end up with both feet in the air jammed way up into the console to the point of claustrophobia. My old bald head is showing some scars from it, too.

Isn't it funny how easy it is to wriggle your way into a situation until you get to the point where you suddenly want OUT and it's not so easy to suddenly reverse all the moves you went through for the past 30 minutes?

The wiring, well, its actually getting better. I don't have a wide angle lens to get it all in one photo, but this is about a fourth of the mess:

If I put three more similar photos together into a mosaic, well, you might have an idea how we got this boat back. The black gummy stuff on the white wires is still tape residue. It's a real sore spot with me.

As for sorting it all out..you tell me which one is the float switch, the trim tabs, the jack plate, the lights, livewell, washdown, and bilge pumps....tilt motors, etc. There are no labels. No manuals. It's a real handy thing I had a career that prepared me for this life of leisure in the Land of Makedoo. I still need to learn how to weld aluminum and mild steel, though.

I never realized such a simple little boat could have so many wires in it. And the boatyard left them in an almost indescipherable tangle. But I am working my way through it, tracing circuits, untangling, unplugging, securing, bundling...all in all a really fun way to spend some quality time with one's boat. I think La Gringa calls it "bonding". It's actually starting to make some sense. But I can only bend this fat, old, crippled body in these contortions for a limited time. Then I need a break.

So after quitting on the boat for the day, we made a run out to the house site to see how much the crew got done on the driveway(s). Ten truckloads of fill have been ordered, and it looks like a fair amount of it has been delivered. The slope to the garage now looks like this:

That spot on the roof of the garage is where we are considering a Tiki Bar, by the way. There is some massive driftwood around, and I am starting to think of some creative joinery techniques to make a solid, whimsical but appropriate structure up there. Whatever we do, it will be very very visible. And it will have a killer view of the sunsets.

The crew typically knocks off at noon on Saturdays, so that's going to be it for progress until Monday. La Gringa is taking a friend out today to show her the house, so if there is anything new she will take some photos. About all I can think of would be if the cabinet man decided to put some time in. He actually delivered several of the base pieces already. They generally look like this:

Of course they still need to be installed, and a Corian-copy granite looking top attached.

We were quite happy to see that the huge pile of rubble and building materials blocking the driveway at the top have been hauled away. We are beginning to see what we will have to deal with after the preliminary construction phase is done:

The property line runs about another 20 to 30 feet to the right of that vertical cut. As you can see, the hill top is pretty much solid rock. I assume it will look a lot better once the portable toilet is gone, too.

On the other side of the garage, where the ten foot wide door is located:

Completing this driveway is a "Phase II" sort of deal, but we need enough fill at the doorway so that someone doesn't fall out of there and break their neck. Before the building inspector comes by, anyhow.

Eventually this will be a way to drive straight through the garage from either side. Wide enough on this end to pull a boat trailer inside, should someone somehow someday need to work on a boat trailer in their garage. Hey, stranger things have happened.

After my morning buried in a boat console, and a long dusty trip out to the house and back, La Gringa, her kid Curly, and I decided to check out what was happening at the Tiki Hut, since we knew there was a small wahoo fishing tournament on today. We timed a late lunch so that we would be there during the 3:00 weigh-in. The weather was rough, and the fishing has been slow lately. There still were about a dozen wahoo entered at the weigh-in:

It might have been more than that, as I can see five of them in this photo alone:

Actually, looking at the photo, the second one from the left on the ground is the dolphin.

A number of fishermen with catches walked up to look at what was already entered, and didn't bother bringing their fish up to be weighed since they knew they were not bigger than what was already there.

But there seemed to be a pretty happy bunch of contestants, win or lose. Some of the team boats ( Team Donzi, Fountain, etc.) were manned by some pretty cheerful people:

And they made it back to the Tiki Hut in plenty of time for happy hour:

(and NO the blurred photo is NOT due to the daily specials. It was the flash on the camera being turned off. Honest)

And if you think the Team Fountain guys were pretty colorful, you might appreciate some of the winning team members' photo. They did not have the bright matching t-shirts, but brought their own brand of color to the contest:

And the winning wahoo was this 55.7 pound entry. It's the one with the open mouth in the foreground:

He wasn't as long as some of the others, but was a very thick fish. I kept wondering.....If I picked him up and shook him, would some diving weights fall out?

I am joking, of course. They won fair and square. Second place was a little over 50 lbs. There did not appear to be any tuna caught, but there was one bull dolphin in the contest. That was good for a cash prize as well.