Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Ides of October, or thereabouts.

Wow, it's mid October already. I think we need to mentally catch up to the calendar. We seem to have missed a big chunk of September. It must have been the couple of weeks that it took for us to get re-calibrated to a changed life after back-to-back hurricanes. But that is gradually happening.

I thought I would look around and see if I couldn't find something different to post about. I have found a slightly off-beat subject but before I introduce you to our new 'house guest,' I have to start with the traditional sunrise photo, of course.

This has been our typical first cup of coffee view lately, with the winter sun well to the south of us. And since it doesn't come up until around 06:30ish we are usually up and around in plenty of time to enjoy it. Love those programmable coffee makers.

Here's another one:

And life here is slowly but surely stabilizing to the new normal. The constant views of hurricane damage that once seemed startling to us now just seem to be part of the landscape. Blue tarps no longer grab out attention. The news media have moved on, so we no longer see familar sites in Grand Turk (or even Galveston) on the nightly news. But we do identify with the people living in those places. It's a shared ordeal.

Very few of the roofs have been completely repaired yet, even here on mildly stricken Provo. Including ours. We have been told that the materials are now "on island" and "cleared". These are always good words to hear in a country where the 'standard' lapse between needing something and actually getting it runs around three weeks.

We still get some personal reminders of the hurricanes from time to time. Nice of life to freshen up our memories of all that. For example, on Sunday we got a call from our friend Preacher telling us that the guys working on the marina had hauled our wrecked boat's t-top out of the water. We skedaddled on down there to see if it was salvagable at all. In addition to the t-top itself, it was a platform for a nice deck light, a navigation light, a GPS antenna, and our VHF radio antenna. We were also sort of hoping that the zippered mesh bag attached to it was still there. That had our life jackets, and Dooley's doggie life vest in it. When we got to Leeward, our spirits fell, again. Ouch.

The GPS antenna and lights were still attached, but the VHF antenna and all the life jackets were gone. The T-top itself is missing about a third of the aluminum, and what's left is bent, broken, and bashed. This thing took a heck of a beating while the boat was upside down. Seeing this dashed a few more hopes, but we decided to haul it home and have a friend who welds aluminum to have a look at it. I couldn't just leave it there.

I started unlacing the shredded canvas and removing the hardware, while La Gringa backed up the Land Rover.

After trying several configurations of getting this thing into the Land Rover, we gave up on that. We decided to lash it to the outside of the Land Rover. Of course I had not thought to bring some rope with us, so I ended up cutting up the lashing that formerly held the canvas, and with a lot of help from La Gringa we got it precariously attached to the canvas roof. We were a bit nervous driving through town with this thing sticking up in the air. There are still sagging power lines across the roads in quite a few places.

And Dooley, who categorically resists any changes of any kind and consistently worries about my judgement, was not completely happy with sharing the back of "his" Land Rover with this thing. He clearly thought it was going to be a navigational hazard.

La Gringa drove it all the way home, and we didn't even get electrocuted once. So now we have another piece of wreckage in the driveway, courtesy of Hurricane Hanna.

The scrap aluminum collection around here is getting pretty impressive. Makes me wish I had the capability to weld aluminum. Between the sat dish and the T-top I could probably come up with some outdoor furniture. Or a hammock stand.

Now, for our new "pet".

A couple of weeks after Hurricane Ike blew through here, La Gringa was walking into her office when she saw a small scorpion in the middle of the floor. It was barely moving. We figure it came inside during the storm, and had been hiding under the rug. This one is about a third the size of the one that was in the shower with me about a month ago. Unthinkingly, I had turned the previous scorpion into paste, and had been feeling bad about that ever since. So we decided to see if we could keep this one alive. I scooped it up and put it into a leftover sandwich container. La Gringa added some sand,and rocks, and we started doing some research on these things.

I was surprised to find out that there are quite a few scorpion collectors around, with their own websites on the internet. Of course this means there is quite a bit of scorpion information available. I found out that this is a "Centruroides platnicki ". I also found out that they are bloodthirsty little predators, are members of the arachnids (spiders) and that they eat other bugs. Well, anything that eats bugs starts with a couple of points in its favor as far as we are concerned, no matter how ugly it is. (Well, within reason. I can't see us cozying up to some of these 8 inch centipedes) So I started putting different bugs in with it to find out what it likes. So far, we know it likes moths and flies.

I read that some scorpions like to eat spiders. So I picked up some long legged, wimpy looking spider and dropped it in to see if that could be lunch. It did not work out. The spider stayed up high where the scorpion could not reach it. And the scorpion did not seem interested in attacking the spider at all. It does go after moths. After two days, we noticed that not only was the spider unscathed, the thing had managed to run down to the sand and grab a discarded scorpion leg. (I think the scorpion must have molted it, or replaced a damaged one, because it still has eight.) Anyhow, this spider, this mangy misfit, managed to meticulously move the mangled leg up to a corner of the lair. And there it might have maniacally masticated it with its multiple mandibles before maliciously mounting it to its metaphorical mantle, merrily manufacturing silk as it went. The spider was comfortably establishing itself a home, and taking tropies. I thought that this did not bode well for the peace and tranquility of the scorpion. And we want it to be peacefully tranquil. So I got rid of the spider.

We found out that scorpions cannot jump (probably a good thing to know, keeps the clean shorts factor out of the equation) and that some of them can go months without eating. They just sort of shut down their metabolism to a hibernate mode.

Now, I have to admit that finding two scorpions, so far, in the house is not incredibly good news. We spend most of our time barefooted. And of course they are nocturnal, which means the most likely time to find one with a bare foot is when we are walking around in the dark. Great.

While La Gringa was reading up on the care and feeding of ugly, bloodthirsty, poisonous little arachnids, she read that scorpions glow in ultraviolet light. She mentioned this to me, and it rang a bell. Not about scorpions glowing, but about a pack rat and his junk collection. About seven years ago I was walking out of the TruValue hardware store in Mashpee, Massachusetts when I passed one of those bargain tables. You know the ones, anything on the table for five dollars. I can't resist those deals, and usually take a look to see what kind of goodies a hardware store has been unable to sell. In this instance, I saw a small, battery powered UV light. I bought it, just in case someday I might need a small UV light. (Hey, one never knows when one might run across an old Jimi Hendrix poster). Anyhow, it got thrown into a box and forgotten about. In seven years I have, surprisingly, had absolutely no need for an ultraviolet light. Go figure.

Since then it has gotten moved from Cape Cod to New Jersey, put into storage, then trucked to Florida, to being shipped to Providenciales, to being put back into storage, and then moved here still in the bottom of a box of miscellaneous junk.... So when LaGringa mentioned this supposed UV characteristic of scorpions, I remembered that I just might have a UV light. (This did not surprise her, strangely enough. She is totally accustomed to me pulling things like UV lights out of a tool box on a small tropical island. This is a good place for a pack rat.) So I went down to the garage and sure enough, after rummaging through various boxes of gadgets, tangled wire, and doo-dads, I found it. Still in the original packaging, and needing only a set of batteries.

The scorpion (which we are just calling "Sting" at the moment, not that it matters to it at all) was pale and translucent when we first found it. After a week or two of a steady supply of bugs and water, it has darkened up in appearance. Last night I decided to see if we could test this UV thing. This is what it looked like in a flash photo:

Not exactly the picture of "cuddly", is it.

Then I put the camera on a small tripod and managed to get some photos while holding the UV light over the scorpion. And yes, we can absolutely confirm that scorpions do, indeed, glow under ultraviolet light:

I moved the camera a little closer, but taking macros of live scorpions is something I want to put some thought into before going much further with this. Messing around with the focus ring on the lens puts fingers between camera and subject :

I realize some people might think this strange, but we are finding this bug fascinating. And La Gringa, especially, likes the idea that we could walk around in the dark with the UV light and 'sweep' the house from time to time. I am thinking we could also use the light outside and add to our scorpion collection. Of course that means I would have to build a terrarium, but this is do-able. For now, La Gringa has a live scorpion in its own little world on top of her desk.

And finally, to end this post, the now traditional sunset photo. It's not much of a tradition, as traditions go, but we work with what we have:

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Interim post

I noticed we have not posted anything since the first of the month, and thought I would put something up here. Just as a change of scenery if nothing else. The truth of the matter is that things have been relatively slow since the hurricanes of last month. These islands were all affected, some more than others. And repairing, rebuilding, and moving on takes time. We are still warily watching all our weather sites, keeping a suspicious eye on anything that looks swirly coming this way from Africa. We are hoping to make it through the rest this hurricane season with no further surprises.

This is the time of year for nice sunrises, and since we are usually up by dawn we tend to still snap photos from time to time. I am not sure why we have this fascination with sunrises. Maybe it's something to do with some subconscious realization that for each of us, one of these sunrises will be the last one and most people never know exactly which one that will be. Wow, that sounded depressing! In the meantime..there is also the drive to enjoy every one of them as though it were the last. We had a decent sunrise a few days back, and I took a number of photos as it developed:

I guess that one was a bit before dawn. Here it is a few minutes later with the actual sun in it:

And with the old zoom lens cranked up a bit it looks even more different:

I am not sure which one I like best. Doesn't really matter though, it will all be deleted shortly. And there will be another one any day now. Seems to be a trend. I, for one, would like to keep it going as long as possible.

I have been stripping stuff out of our boat, "Cay Lime". Most of the engine is now in pieces. I really did not need a few hundred little projects added to what had already been planned. Woodworking, for example, has taken a back seat to fixing things that broke. We don't know what to do with the boat. Some locals tell us it can be repaired. Others tell us to junk or sell it as is and cut our losses. Meanwhile, it is sitting in the driveway while we decide. And of course all this time we are 'boatless'. Some of these parts must be useful to someone, somewhere. Three carbs, for example, that I can honestly say were working perfectly the last time they were used. Only a month ago. Honest, they were.

I have removed most of the stuff out of what remains of the console. I never realized how many wires it takes to run that many electrical systems. Sadly, most of what survived the actual diaster is never going to work again. I still had to remove it in order to get the busted up console loose. The console was smashed beyond repair:

The hydraulic steering is still good. Not that I have any need at the moment for hydraulic steering, but I just cannot bring myself to throw it away. Not yet, anyhow.

That short section of aluminum tubing with the flanges is all we have left from a fairly expensive T-top. Maybe I should mount it over the fireplace. Oh, wait a minute. We don't have a fireplace.

I suppose I should look on the bright side. I no longer have to worry about my old nemisis, the inconsistent fuel guage. It's become extremely consistent these days:

Now, I am no expert, but I am pretty sure that thing has fooled me for the last time.

Driving around the island we notice that there are boats in various stages of damage sitting in a lot of driveways. There area lot of missing parts in these islands these days. This one is at our friend Preacher's house:

It spent a week sunk out at Pine Cay, with just the tip of the bow out of the water. All of the problems we have with our motor, this boat has times two.

And of course the damage from Hanna and Ike is not limited to the hundreds of damaged boats. People are still having issues with roof and structure damage to their homes and businesses. This block of small shops on Leeward Highway is conducting business under the soft glow of sunlight shining through blue tarps where there used to be a roof:

A month after the last storm, and there are still shortages of roofing materials. The guy we hope we have hired to repair our own roof recently reported that "the island is completely out of nails" for example.

We took a drive down to the marina Saturday. We have been interested in seeing what we might be able to find on the bottom when the water clears up to it's usual crystal clear. A lot of things fell out of our boat's storage compartments when it went over. Some of it, like the stainless steel gaff for example, should still be somewhere on the bottom. I figure the boat went over when all the boats were slammed into the concrete section of the fuel dock:

And where "Cay Lime" ended up on the rocks there near that small white SUV:

I think some of our tools and other parts are very likely on the bottom in that area just this side of the barge. I doubt we would find anything useful, but it's worth a shot. The water has not cleared up much here in Leeward Channel yet. It will take a week or so of calm weather before all the stirred up sand and silt settle out.

We did notice that the marina is re-installing the floating dock sections that broke away during the storm. This is where our slip was located:

I was not all that encouraged to see that they are re-installing the floating docks exactly as they were installed before. They broke loose before. They destroyed over a dozen boats. I am thinking that we will keep our next boat on a trailer until we have a better protected slip to keep it in. We never want to have to go through something like this again.

As for putting the same docks back in the same places, I suppose the thinking is that we should not see another storm like that for many years to come. It also occurs to me that, statistically, maybe we are just getting caught up for all the storms that missed us over the past 48 years...

While we were looking around the Leeward end of the island we stopped by the boatyard to take a look at "Phoenix" again. I was hoping for a better angle for better photos than I got before. But since we were there last the Beaches Resort's catamaran,"Kitty Katt" has pulled in and tied up.

That limited my angle for a good unobstructed photo of "Phoenix", but I did get this perspective:

I'd asked Preacher what the story was with "Phoenix". She went missing from Leeward during Hurricane Hannah, and then turned up here about three weeks later. Preacher told me that a US Coast Guard helicopter spotted it adrift about half way between Mayaguana and Great Inagua island up in the Bahamas. They got the name and country of resistration from the transom, and called the Marine Police here in the TCI. The Marine Police contacted Jay Stubbs (owner of Sail Provo, and Preacher's brother) and Jay somehow managed to go get the boat and bring it back. I have emailed Jay for the details, but he has not gotten back to me yet on that.

There seems to be a story about this boat from back even before it belonged to Sail Provo. Preacher told me that it was originally recovered up in the Bahamas, smashed up and abandoned some years ago. Jay bought the hull from the former owners, brought it to Providenciales, fixed it up and put it into his charter business. Hence the name, "Phoenix". Now the same boat has been smashed back to a floating derelict by another storm, and was blown back up to the Bahamas. And it will live again. If a boat ever lived up to it's name, "Phoenix" has. She was totally adrift throughout both Hanna and Ike, and yet did not sink. This boat seems to have some instinct for survival. Preacher figures she just wanted to go visit the Bahamas again.

This has nothing to do with the Phoenix:

I just thought it was a neat looking pile of chain that has rusted completely into a solid block. If I could figure out a way to get it home, I think it might look interesting sitting in the yard. I am not so sure La Gringa shares my opinions about what looks good in a yard, but it's worth a thought.

While we were looking around the boatyard we parked near this truck over by "Phoenix". I thought, while I was snapping photos, that I would show it to you as I am sure most of our blog readers in North America have not seen one like this:

So down here, if someone tells you to look for a "blue Toyota pickup truck" for example, you might have to broaden your mental definition a little from what you're used to in the USA. This is a blue Toyota truck.

Before I forget, I wanted to put this photo in for the owners of the S/V "Maja":

In the days right after Hurricane Ike, we were getting a number of emails from people who were concerned about their properties and boats down here. We drove around and took photos for people, and emailed them with the information we could find. We had been asked about "Maja", since it is stored at the boatyard and a lot of boats there were damaged. I no longer have the email address of the people who aked us about this boat, but if you are still reading the blog, here she is as of yesterday. Not a scratch on her, as near as I can tell.

This boat was in the local newspapers last week. Seems it was caught fishing illegally here in the TCI when it was supposed to be in the Dominican Republic.

The Marine Police confiscated the boat. They also arrested the captain and engineer on a number of charges, and deported 18 crew members back to the D.R. They also held a quick auction at the dock, and sold something like $ 19,000. worth of fish, lobster, crabs, and conch that were iced down in the hold. The government here is getting serious about fishing violations, finally. We are glad to see it.

I wonder if they would sell me one of those confiscated panga-style boats that are on board. There were at least four of them impounded along with the rest of it.

I have noticed that we are seeing a few more of these types of boats around these days. Boats that really don't fit in with what we have become used to seeing. With the devastation that Haiti and the D.R. experienced last month I would not be surprised to see the influx of desperate illegal immigrants on the rise. We are only about 130 miles from Hispainola. I think about that every time I look up and see a boat like this chugging by:

Should I call the police and mention it? There are no registration numbers on it. No home port on the stern. No radio antenna...are they fishing illegally? Do they belong here? Or should I just mind my own business and assume its just a local whose boat I am just not familiar with. I tend to err on the side of 'minding my own business' unless I see something that I know needs intervention.

So that's basically what's been going on with us. Picking up the pieces and counting our losses and moving on. Trying to figure out how and when we are going to get another boat, of course. We hope to have some really good news to report on that front in the near future, but I don't want to jinx the possibility by talking about it until it happens. Rest assured the whole tone of these photos will change for the better when we get back on the water.

In the meantime, while we think about another powerboat for fishing and transportation, we have been toying with the idea of something like a small sailing catamaran. Not the floating mini-RV we dream about having eventually (Gemini 105), but something more along the lines of a Hobie cat. It's a shame to not be taking advantage of the wind here.

I still have an 8 foot diameter piece of dented up aluminum taking up a lot of floor space in the garage:

It was a whole lot of fun getting that thing down the driveway and into the garage in a 40 mph wind. It wants to fly.

I stopped myself from cutting it up into pieces. I just know that a few days after I decide to make a pile of 2x2' squares out of it for convenient storage, I am going to suddenly and desperately need a 3 foot section. Meanwhile, here it sits awaiting a good idea of some kind.

And until that project manifests itself, we can take photos of sunrises..

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Goodbye September

We are glad to see October arrive. The weather gurus are saying the tropical Atlantic is quiet and the end of hurricane season is in sight. Almost. Of course I am still spot checking four different weather and satellite websites several times a day, but have tapered off from my peak of several times an hour. September '08 was definitely a month to remember.

The sun rises and sets further to the south now, and our morning views have it coming up out of the ocean again.

Life here is not back to what it was, and it never will be. These storms changed things. Everyone we talk to seems to have lost something. But life goes on. The plywood is being taken cautiously down from the store windows. But it's being kept close at hand.

And people are getting back into routines. The Red Cross is still very active, and our friends M&M have been volunteering their time transhipping supplies that arrive in Provo. They divide them up and get them on their way by boat and airplane to the people on Grand Turk and South Caicos.

M&M's own house is back to mostly normal, with some changes. For a while in the wee hours of that Sunday night when Hanna turned on us, a lot of us were worried about them. I enlarged this from a photo La Gringa found on the web. This is M&M's house Sunday afternoon late, just after we decided that we could not make it to them in the Land Rover.

The dark stripe across the water leading from the bushes on the right is the near edge of the salina, usually. The water between that line and their wall is the only road in and out of here, normally. And the sea stayed about 75 yards or so behind their house. Until Hanna. During the worst of the storm that night, the water rose to within six inches from the top of their wraparound porch. They had waves breaking onto it. The two cars in their yard were submerged to the windshields. And it was dark, and loud. Some would say downright scary. I know we were worried about them. Thank goodness for cell phones. The only things that still worked that night. Well, cell phones and prayer, apparently.

We were very lucky. The boat hurt, of course, but the house made it through mostly intact. Oh, we are still finding our own little 'storm victims' here and there.

Funny, those three wires were not twisted together at all when that light was installed. Looks like we have some more wall scar damage to patch. If anyone is interested, the Flectec coating held up beautifully. None of it peeled off the concrete through all of that. I can recommend this stuff without reservations so far.

It's bonded.

Looking out at the marina yesterday we noticed two of Sail Provo's day charter catamarans up on the shore for repairs. We were surprised to see that dismasted boat on the right, because it is the "Phoenix".

Four days after Hurricane Hanna, we were at Leeward Marina salvaging our boat "Cay Lime". We found out that "Phoenix" had completely blown away during the storm. Nobody knew where she was, and the owner of Sail Provo (Jay Stubbs) and friends had been out looking for her. I know there is a story associated with this, and I will try to find out where they finally found her. We drove over to take a look, as Jay is a friend of ours and we were very sad to hear that "Phoenix" was missing. We feared the worst.

Everything from the bridge deck up is gone.

It looks like they got the boom back, but the mast, sails, rigging, railings, helm...all ripped away by the storm. The paint is blasted off the hull right down to the fiberglass in most places. I wonder if she was blown ashore on a sandy beach, to do that. And I wonder whether Hurricane Ike moved her again before someone located her. That boat has some tales to tell.

All of the hatches are smashed.

I did not see any gaping holes in the hulls, but it will be a long time before this boat is once again taking visitors on sunset cruises through the islands. Sail Provo's other catamaran, "Arielle", is also out of the water next to "Phoenix". She does not look to be badly damaged, and should be back in operation much sooner. Hopefully in time for this season.

Jay also owns a trimaran, named "Savannah", and we noticed that he was on board today checking out the sails at the marina;

So he is in good shape to offer daysailing trips as the busy season begins, even before he gets "Arielle" back in the water.

I found an aerial photo of "Arielle" we took with our balloon setup a couple seasons ago. I know I have posted some of these before, but thought I would leave a better visual image of what she will look like again shortly:

And now, by way of incredibly stark contrast, this photo was taken Saturday:

Wow, that's a slap in the old visual kisser. No, that's not downtown Provo. La Gringa and I spent a long weekend on Manhattan Island. This is a totally different breed of island. I know it's hard to believe, but there were people and cars everywhere. I never saw the beach.

We wouldn't normally swap this island life for Manhattan Island life, but La Gringa's father got married to a wonderful lady on Saturday, and by gosh we were not gonna miss that. We got a whole new set of cool inlaws in the deal, as well.

We also stayed in an offbeat kind of hotel. They have a really interesting decor, with such things as a huge example of Damian Hirst's work with butterfly wings..

Lighting in the pool room by swordfish bills, with an Andy Warhol on the far wall..

We met some interesting people other than our new in-laws, among the people of NYC. And by Sunday the weather had improved enormously..

with only the tallest buildings obscured.

As interesting as the city was, we were quite happy to get back to this teeming island metropolis of twenty thousand people. I think I saw more taxi drivers and policemen than that in New York.

So back in the TCI, we are happy to see that most of our landscaping is crawling it's way back from what we now know were 150 mph winds during Hurricane Ike. That booger pretty much blasted all of the smaller branches off the plants. This was after it completed stripping the few remaining leaves that Hanna had left the week before. We did not have a lot of hope for the plants those first few days. But after a couple weeks of mild weather and water, the mahogany trees are growing new leaves and branches. They are right next to the trunk, this time. Good move. I think these guys are survivors.

The palms are putting out new leaves through what's left of the old ones. Those are like shredded paper, with frayed ends. We hope they adapt to the harsh conditions of their new home as well as the buttonwoods are. Those greenhouses in Florida have got to be distant memories by now. Like previous lives tend to be. It's all a part of our new normal.

The buttonwoods are all looking healthy again. They are much stouter plants now than they were just three weeks ago. The storms trimmed all the longer branches off. A little brutally, I thought. They used to be taller, and their leafy branches waved in the breeze. They waved 'bye-bye' in that last one, in fact. After she determined which of the remaining branches were headed for that great compost heap in the sky, La Gringa went from plant to plant snipping off and trimming the surviving branches. Over a hundred plants. Now they are tough little ruffians. With battle scars and healing limbs. What survived are the plant world's version of battle hardened veterans.

The fountain grass came back faster than anything else. It has grown since the storms, and shows no signs of damage. It has even re-seeded.

Well after I snapped that photo I decided to go around to the other side of the house because the light was better...

And I thought that would be a better photo. Then I noticed that the light was better because the sun was setting. So I took some photos of that as well. I like to put a sunset photo at the end of each post when I can. It's a good self-explanatory ending when I run out of words.

Just like this time: