Friday, November 21, 2008

Friday afternoon jaunt...

The weather cooperated wonderfully for most of the week. Until we decided to go boating again. Then it turned surly on us. REAL surly. But I'm getting ahead of myself here. First, the sunrise photo-du-jour.

Most of last week was wonderful sea conditions. We were getting clear skies and calm seas with the air temperature hitting around 82-84 degreess F during the day, and dipping down into the high 70's at night. We're still waiting for the next batch of cool looking sunsets because they've not been all that out of the ordinary lately. Not that the ordinary down here is bad. In fact, by many standards the sunsets here are pretty good. I guess I've gotten spoiled by that run of really nice ones we had about a month or so back. The truth of the matter is that I'm just basically too lazy to get up and grab a camera unless they seem especially eye-catching.

We are still up before dawn every morning that doesn't follow an uncommonly late night, and we still think the sunrises are nice. It's one of our favorite times of the day. Even as we move into our fourth year as residents here, we cherish that first morning coffee watching the sun come up out of the ocean. I've been trying to remind myself to catch a photo as soon as there's enough light for the camera to work, before the star itself makes an appearance:

Then if we don't get all caught up in our day and forget to pay attention there's usually another decent shot about a half an hour or so later. Especially with a low cloud layer. Then we can get a view like this one, or better:

Admittedly not our best sunrise, but it'll do. Especially for late November. Once the sun clears the low clouds it gets real bright and that part of the day is over. With the way we brew our coffee, I'm probably vibrating too much to get another clear photo after the second cup anyway. We like to use the Cafe Bustelo when we can get it, or another local espresso ground and then we brew it as though it were normal coffee. But it's NOT normal coffee. The result is something that will get your attention. Our coffee could double as an emergency defibillator in a pinch. It's something you definitely do not want to leave unattended in contact with silverware. Or in plastic cups.

Now, back to the subject of the new boat. We've managed to rent a slip once again at the Caicos Marina. We had kept "Cay Lime" there for almost a year while the Leeward Going Through area was being razed and then "improved". You already know how we feel about the "improvements". Once there were slips available there it was just so much more convenient for us to keep the boat there. Most of our past boating has been North of Leeward, and that slip was about seven miles closer by boat to our usual fishing area and Pine Cay. Another Fifteen miles roundtrip extra from Caicos Marina added time to our boat trips, and of course at something between five and six bucks a gallon for gasoline, a few of those trips a week really added up.

However there are things we like about Caicos Marina. One of the major ones is that it is protected from wind and currents, and from through boat traffic. The hull doesn't grow the critters that seem to thrive so well downstream from the conch farm in Leeward. It's also nice that we can see our new slip from our patio. This is what it looks like with no magnification:

I realize that doesn't look like it's an advantage, but if you were standing there looking with the naked eye and reasonably good eyesight, and knew where to look, you could actually see our boat in that photo. I can easily see it. And with binoculars it's very easy to check on the boat .

I can't figure out a way to take a photo through the binoculars, but just using the telephoto mode on one of the Sony digital cameras brings it up close enough to give you an idea. I was on the boat checking the lines and batteries one morning this week, and La Gringa snapped this photo from the house:

Just to the right of center (circled) you can see a guy in a blue t-shirt with a cell phone up to his ear waving his other arm in the air. That's me standing on our boat's outboard bracket, with the Yamaha in front of me. It's not quite the same as having it tied up in a canal next to the house, but it's prettty good. That distance from the patio to the boat is about 900 yards as the Kestrel flies, if a Kestrel would fly straight. But here's the drawback to keeping the boat road that trip is 10.2 miles. Most of that road is pretty bad, too.

While I was there I was looking at one of the Beaches Resort boats which is now sitting on the ground inside the marina fence. We tried to find a 'before' photo of it, and the only thing we came up with was this image La Gringa lifted off of Beaches' online website. This shows the dive boat as it was just a few months ago:

We are talking about that go-fast boat on the left. A very nice vessel indeed, and very well suited for diving the reefs here. Well, as we get the story from our friends at the boatyard, it was anchored out overnight when a storm blew through around the end of October. Halloween, in fact. The boat broke loose from the mooring, was blown into the reef, which promptly flipped it over and smashed it to pieces on the coral. They did manage to bring the hull back to the island, and this is what it presently looks like:

Ouch. And that wasn't even a hurricane. I hate seeing a beautiful boat smashed up, but suppose I should not feel so bad that Hanna caught us flat-footed. These storms caught a lot of people here by surprise. Some of them locals and professionals. Things like this make us feel a whole lot better about having the boat in a protected harbor from now on. We will just have to get used to the extra travel time to get where we are going, and the extra fuel costs. I think that's more than offset by having the boat be where I can take a look at it every morning as soon as the sun comes up. And of course by knowing it's in protected water and surrounded by people we know. It probably doesn't hurt that there are usually at least five police boats in that marina at any given time, either.

With the extreme shortage of good, protected marina slips in this country, it would sure be good to see the developers back off the new condo construction for a while and put in a few well-placed and well-constructed marinas. Maybe with the current economic conditions, someone might notice that the boats already here need a good safe home a lot more than the islands need another pile of unsold condos. We can only hope.

Friday we decided to take the boat out for another bit of familiarization time, and because it just seemed like a good time to try it in a little rougher weather. Little did we know just what we were letting ourselves in for. First we boated up to Leeward, and there I noticed that the fuel gauge was telling me that it wouldn't be a bad idea to add a few gallons. We hate running out of fuel, having done it three times now. Makes one a little gun-shy when the fuel gauge starts making threats. Even though Sherlock has not completely gotten his marina (our former home) back in full operation, the fuel dock is working fine. We pulled in and were met by our friend Duran:

The observant might notice Duran is now sporting some growing dreadlocks. The even more observant might notice that Duran's dreadlocks are flying pretty well in the breeze, and that the clouds are blowing in. I am not always sure what's going on in Duran's head these days, but at least the outside of it is starting to make a pretty good wind speed indicator. (He just turned 21, by the way. Hey Duran, Happy Birthday!)

Well, we noticed all this, and still we decided to stick our nose outside the protection of the channel and see how rough it was out toward the reef. It was very rough. Waves were breaking all along the reef for as far as we could see in both directions. If we had been in our panga-hulled "Cay Lime" we would have carefully timed it and turned around between swells and either travelled the safer protected route over the Caicos Bank or just gone home and waited for another day. But since we were there and this was our first opportunity to try the deep-v hull in some more serious waves we decided to go a little farther and see how she rode.

To shorten up this story, we ended up making the entire trip on the Northern, windy side of the island. We were white knuckled and wide eyed the whole way. Dooley was a basket case. It was a roller coaster of a ride. No danger of dozing off. None at all.

When you are standing on the deck of a boat that is in the trough of a wave, and you know your eyes are roughly six and a half feet above water level, and the wave obscures your view of the beach and a foot or two of the island above the beach... that gives you an idea how high the waves are. I would have guessed 6-8 feet.

They were breaking all around us, and at several points I had to turn the boat into them or risk them breaking right on top of us. We would ride up over the crest and then the entire front three quarters of the boat would be sticking out into thin air, no water under it at all. Then that feeling you get in your stomach when the deck drops out from under you and the boat plummets down into the trough and up the front of the next wave. It was kinda exciting. It would have been great to have some photos of that, but to be honest both La Gringa and I had our hands pretty well-occupied hanging onto the boat. Neither one of us even thought to grab the camera to record it. Now that we know how the boat handles, we will go looking for another opportunity armed with some waterproof cameras. She is going to have to take the photos. I have one hand on the wheel and the other on the throttle, and no time to be composing snapshots.

When we got to Pine Cay we had to pick a line through the breaking surf and then just set the throttle so that the boat was travelling at the same speed as the waves. That let us ride a nice four foot swell right in over the sand bar, and then things suddenly got calm again. Except for the noise of me munching on the top of my heart, of course.

How did the boat handle it? Fantastically. We were mightily impressed with the way this Contender rode some fairly serious waves for a boat this small. Except for one small splash near the end as I made the turn into the channel, we didn't even get wet. We would not have attempted that trip in Cay Lime. Now that we know what the Contender is capable of, I think we could actually handle a bit more, if needed. We love this boat.

Once safely tied up on Pine Cay, we did a quick run down to the house there to see what damage was inflicted during the storms this autumn. Dooley the Dysfunctional Dog loves to hop off the golf cart and run the roads of Pine Cay. Since they are all sand, and there is no traffic to speak of, we let him do it:

We like to get behind him in the golf cart and yell out "I see a CAT!" That's always good incentive for him to kick in the afterburner and leave us behind, for awhile.

Now, I should explain about Dooley and cats. This dog LOVES cats. He thinks cats are absolutely great. He has no animosity whatsoever toward them. We brought him home when he was two months old, and from then until right before we moved to the TCI he was raised by a cat, who essentially adopted him. That cat would bat him around with her claws in, and then lick his face as he fell asleep. He spent the first year and a half of his life with a cat. So when he sees one, he hopes against hope that it wants to play. Since the cat always takes off running, Dooley just naturally assumes it's his turn to be the chaser first. He would not mind being the chasee, either. He would be perfectly happy to turn around and let the cat chase him for a while. He seems puzzled when cats don't want to play. On the rare occurances when one stops and lets him catch up with it,usually while it's making a stand and prepared for battle, he turns his hindquarters toward it and offers first sniff, while wagging his stubby little tail so hard that sometimes I wonder why it doesn't go flying off into the underbrush. Sometimes I think we need to get him a cat of his own, so he can have one as a friend again before it develops that attitude.

Just Dooley and the open road, with nary a speed trap or traffic cop in site:

When he was in shape he would run like this from one end of the island to the other and back. He can kick up a pretty good rooster tail when the sand is dry. With him not being able to run as much as he would like to this year (due to circumstances totally beyond his control) these days he's good for about a mile or so until he runs out of steam. Then we can pull up besides him and he will deign to accept a cart ride the rest of the way.

But we have to pass him first. His rules.

Not much else to report from Pine Cay. The docks are still not all repaired, and hurricane damage to homes there is slowly getting addressed. We did notice that the fuel tanks that were there have been pulled up and are sitting by the side of the road empty. They are painted with the words "Free" and "Please take", just in case someone wants a rusty gasoline tank and has some way of getting it home.

Of course this makes me want to write myself a note to pay attention when the next fuel dock opens up somewhere in the islands. I want to ask them where they got their tanks. I think contaminated fuel is a lot more common than people realize, here. I know we were pulling a half a liter of water out of Cay Lime's filtering system every few months.

When we left Pine Cay headed back to our new slip at the boatyard, we were really pressed for time and elected to try our first run in the new boat over the relatively protected Caicos Banks. This route is a mile or so shorter than the outside path we took through the breaking waves to get there. The reason we don't automatically take this route is because it is through unsurveyed areas full of sand bars, shallow rock outcroppings, and coral heads. It's easy to run aground on the falling tide. And spending the night aground in an open boat with this storm coming in is not a happy thing to anticipate.

The Contender draws more water than the panga, which also made us nervous about trying this. We started putt-putting out slowly, watching the depth and feeling our way. At this rate I was thinking we would probably be getting home after dark. And of course I had not checked the lights on the boat at all yet. We were losing daylight fast, and still had about 14 miles to go...mayhbe you can see some of the small islands in the photo. They are those low things just barely sticking out of the water on the left. Those are solid limestone. And sharp. Real hard on fiberglass.

Then, continuing our good luck for the day, our friend Roosie cam blasting by in his boat running his construction crew back to Provo.

These guys had spent the day doing carpentry repairs on Pine Cay and were trying to get back to Leeward before dark. Lucky break for us.

We had not expected to see him headed home this way because usually he will take the deeper, easier outside route that we also prefer. Then of course we remembered what the sea was like on that side, and it made sense. We just waved like we knew what we were doing, and had only stopped to take some photos. We know that Roosie knows the twists and turns of this path through the coral and sand as well as anybody, so I just goosed the Contender up onto plane and fell in behind his wake. We followed him until we were in deeper water. They turned off toward Leeward, and we had another seven miles to go on our own.

Half way down Long Bay beach, La Gringa spotted about a half dozen horses, with a few riders, enjoying the afternoon. We were losing the light, but she still managed to get a usable photo:

So for those of you who are considering a vacation in the TCI and looking for things to do, you might add horseback riding along the beach to the list. We haven't done it yet, ourselves, but it looks like a nice way to spend an afternoon.

When we finally made it back to our new slip (made it on the first pass again, ha ha) we were talking to some of the other boat owners there. People know we have a different boat now, and they ask about how we like it. And how it handles. You know, all that boat-lover type talk. When we mentioned that we had a pretty exciting trip out by the reef up to Pine Cay, one of the other boaters expressed his surprise. He told us that the reports from that afternoon were that the waves were ten feet. We laughed and said "well, that certainly would explain why we didn't see any other boats out there." It also explained why the locals were taking the 'back way' home.

So, for grins, when we got back to the house I booted up the computer and checked the conditions with WindGuru. In the three years we have been paying close attention to the wind, waves, and weather here, this site has consistently been the best and most reliable source of information on current and forecast wave height and direction data. I was a little surprised to see their version of the waves during our trip:

That's showing a 9 foot wave height average for Friday afternoon. That would mean the odd ten to twelve footer did come rolling through. I think we met a couple of them.

Sure makes us appreciate the design of that Contender. With both Defenders and Contenders, I think we are officially converts on both counts.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Sunday afternoon cruise

We decided to drive down to the marina yesterday to take a look at some hardware on the boat. The hull is fourteen years old, and has the odd hinge and doodad that needs replacing. Nothing critical, mostly cosmetic. Once we got there I decided to start her up. Just warm up the engine,so to speak. See if I can figure out this rough idle. I think I need to change the plugs. Well, it kinda made sense to just take her out of the slip and putt around a little...and one thing led to another, and before we knew it...we seem to have been blasting through the channel up at Leeward about seven miles away:

I know I mentioned earlier that our friend Roosie on Pine Cay had told us there were still some boats wrecked on the beach from Hurricane Hannah. Preacher's brother Joe had also been talking about all the people who lost their boats during that surprise hurricane. So, we thought that was a good excuse to run the new boat, get some experience with it. We ran through Leeward and hung a left down toward the Grace Bay area. Sure enough,only a few hundred yards from the cut we spotted this hull upside down, battered by the storm, more than half buried in the sand. A total loss:

We idled on down the beach, staying out a couple hundred yards, to see if we could find any more wrecks. Dooley has decided that the seat in front of the console is now his spot, and he was keeping an eye on the beach. I think he had heard us talking about a Hobie Cat we had been watching. While a little unclear on the Hobie concept, 'cat' is definitely a word in is vocabulary.

Another few hundred yards down the beach we saw yet another poor boat, once again, a total loss:

This is pretty depressing stuff for a boat owner. When people first started telling me we were lucky to have been able to retrieve 'Cay Lime', I didn't understand what they were talking about. Now, of course, I realize that a lot of the boats taken by hurricane Hanna were smashed beyond repair. And what I think would be even worse are all the boats that have not been seen again. And there are dozens. Just gone. No trace of them found at all.

I imagine those owners will always wonder if perhaps their boat survived, and is still floating or up on a remote beach. Maybe just around some corner, or hidden in some mangrove swamp, or even just drifting at sea. I think in that case, you would always be keeping an eye out for your boat. And every boat you saw that looked somewhat like yours would make you wonder, and want a closer look. I think it's better to know what happened to the boat, even if it's bad news. That way you can quit looking around like it might show up, and just get on with life.

We really did not get a lot of photos yesterday. La Gringa took a few of Dooley. And she took a bunch of photos of me driving the boat...but who wants to look at those. (Heck, I don't.) But I will post one that includes both Dooley and yours truly..

The thing without the sunglasses is actually a compass.

After looking at the wrecked boats on Grace Bay, we went back though Leeward headed home. We noticed a fairly nice little dingy tied up at the Nikki Beach dock:

We would have laughed and pointed fingers and made disparaging comments since that boat is obviously not set up very well for fishing...but we were in a hurry. So we spared them our ridicule....this time.

We have posted photos before of the old freighter that sits a couple miles out of Leeward on the Caicos Bank. Since the storms of September, I have looked at it several times through binoculars from the house because something looks different about it. It's been shifted by the storms, and that's obvious, but under certain light I could see something on the side of it. At one point I wondered if it had developed a crack or had been torn in two. But the silhouette was mostly unchanged, and I ruled that out. But, we were curious and since it was not that far out of our way headed home, we decided to run out there and check it out.

It definitely has changed it's heading since the last time we saw it up close. I am not sure whether it was the bow, or the stern that moved but it now points more to the west than it did before. I am surprised it's still in one piece, actually:

And the mystery of what I was seeing on the side of it from our house, some 4.3 miles away, became obvious now. Someone has draped some cargo netting over the side of the hull.

That would sure make it easy to climb aboard to scavenge some portholes. This is something I have been thinking of for some time. But I was not sure whether or not I should be taking anything off of it. There are all sorts of light fixtures and deck equipment there, plus whatever is still below decks and inside.

Well, I have discovered that I am not the only one who has thought about removing some of this junk before it rots away. And when we got home last night I found some photos of this derelict that we took back in 2005/06. And it's obvious that things are disappearing.

This photo was taken yesterday afternoon:

And this is from the winter of 2005, just three years ago:

While the angle is different, you can see that an entire deck crane is gone. Along with a number of antennas, and other equipment. So somebody has been busy. Hey, there are still plenty of portholes there, though. Most of them still have glass in them. Now if I could just figure out a use for them.

After that we decided to head on back to the marina. What started out as a quick trip to measure hardware on the boat ended up turning into a 25 mile journey. Well there are certainly worse ways to spend a Sunday afternoon.

We even managed to get a new angle on the sunset:

See that little opening there between the boats, where the sun is shining on the water? Thats the path we take to and from our new slip. It's a little tricky , yet, but I got into the slip on the first pass this second time coming in here with the new boat. La Gringa is pretty danged good at lassoing a dock cleat with a bow line, too. She's saved more than one missed approach where the Captain screwed it up.

And navigating that little path should become second nature to us as we get more experienced at it. We have fish to catch and islands still to explore. There are reefs to be photographed. There are shipwrecks in that direction that have been sitting undisturbed for several hundreds of years. A lot of small adventures will start with that path.

Oh yeah, we hope to get real familiar with that little stretch of water.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Finally Ungrounded

It has only been a day since our last post. But a whole lotta good stuff happened in that one little day. If you follow this blog, you'll know that Thursday afternoon we managed to bail our Contender 25 out of Customs. "Our Contender"...boy do ever like the sound of that. Picture me bopping around, snapping fingers, and stopping every few minutes just to grin. It was just that kind of a day. I realize that in the grand cosmic scheme of things it wasn't anything special by most people's standards, but boy howdy it was plenty good enough for some simple people like us. We like November 14. Its one of our very favorite dates. This one set a new standard.

We timed our trip to the Caicos Marina to catch the morning's high tide. You will see why the tide was important to us a few paragraphs from now. We boogied on down to where we left our newly liberated Contender for overnight safe keeping, and hooked up the Land Rover.
Here's a photo that gives you a pretty good idea of the scale of what we pulled through the main streets and down some ugly back roads of Provo on Thursdays:

The length of the boat and trailer is way out of proportion to that little four-banger diesel 4x4. Imagine driving around no fewer than seven, rotaries/roundabouts, when the wheels of the trailer you are towing are about three car-lengths behind you. Fun, fun, fun. People were honking at us. Not all of them were smiling, and not all the fingers were thumbs up.

The observant might notice some ominous clouds in the sky, and that the parking lot in that photo is dry. That dry part changed.

About an hour later, totally soaked, we had all the plastic off and were viewing our new boat for the very first time. It was definitely a wet t-shirt morning. Dooley stayed in the truck and watched the madness of two grown people whose judgement he once trusted . They maniacally cut and ripped yards of white vinyl in the pouring rain. I think the whoops and hollers made him wish he knew how to diall 911 on a cell phone. This was definitely the biggest birthday present the two of us have ever unwrapped.

Notice that the parking lot at the marina is no longer dry. We had what could euphemistically be termed some tropical downpours. They did not dampen our spirits. Well, except for Dooley. He elected to stay in the Land Rover for that part of it. He's leery of anything that looks like it might carry thunder.

The clouds never blew away yesterday, and we had rain squalls off and on with sunshine all day. We were NOT going to delay getting this boat in the water. To quote S. Nigel:
"Come, come, master, let us get afloat. ‥Time and tide wait for no man."

Well I don't know where Scott Nigel was launching HIS boat back in 1822 when he wrote that, but I do know that in the TCI rain doesn't wait on you, either.. So we loaded our mooring lines, fenders, and anchor into the boat while it was still on the trailer. I checked the fuel, oil, batteries, and that all important plug in the transom, and we were good to go.

Didn't check heartrate. Didn't need to. It was checking me.

With a lot of maneuvering that must have looked like a chubby dwarf pushing a big wheelbarrow, we got the boat turned around and lined up with the ramp. This wasn't the best of times to discover that I couldn't shift the Land Rover into low-range. We went through a little head scratching, realizing that the weight of the boat might possibly pull the Land Rover down the slippery rain slickened ramp once it was on the sloped concrete. This, of course, could precipitate what some might call an unmitigated disaster. We like to avoid things that could be compared to disasters whenever we have that option. But we also guesstimated that when the boat reached sufficient depth to float off the trailer, it would suddenly take the weight off the Land Rover, and it would stop sliding. We are happy to report that everything stopped just where we wanted with the "Little Land Rover that Could", and we grinned just as though we actually knew what we were doing. Sometimes you just gotta act like you knew it all along.

You can see in that photo why we wanted high tide to launch her. That little area at the bottom of the ramp is cut into the rock, and with enough water there is room to float the boat in that protected area. Just behind the boat, (aft, to be nautical) there is a channel where the current of the incoming and outgoing tide runs under a small drawbridge. Once out of that little limestone pocket, you are also suddenly subject to the wind. We learned this rather quickly a year and a half ago when we launched Cay Lime from this ramp during full flood tide. That's when it is really flowing fast on its way in. When it's running back out at full force it's called ebb tide. (I just thought y'all would like to know that. And to point out some of the kinds of things one tends to learn when playing a lot with boats around small rocky islands.) 'Rocky' is another notable term when talking about boats. Boats and rocky do not, as a rule, go well together. Unless you are the rock, I guess.

But yesterday , by golly, things went well. Smoothly, in fact. I waded out to the boat, clambered up the side and aboard like a fat wet hairless chimpanzee with bad knees, and fired that puppy up. (No, not Dooley, not yet. I meant the Yamaha 300.) And it did start right up. Instantly. We took this as a very good omen. La Gringa parked the now unburdened and presumably grateful Land Rover to the side for some much earned rest, and I backed the Contender out into the wind and current for the very first time.

She's launched! She works! And most importantly, she floats!! (this latter cannot be overemphasized in terms of priorites when you are talking about boats.)

The effects of the wind and current were minimized by our carefully astute, and nautically-laced planning. Oh yes, we learned from our past mistakes. That's a good way to learn ain't it? Not a fun way to learn, but it's generally pretty effective. This time no screaming, no crying, and nobody on the dock had their vocabularies enriched in negative directions. It went perfectly.

I performed my very first docking maneuver, and La Gringa and Dooley climbed aboard. I don't go far without the crew. We cast off thinking we would just move the boat to it's new slip and figure out what all we needed to figure out.. Shoot a few approaches, get the feel for the boat. And then while safely tied up we would check out the gauges, GPS, depth sounder, radio, etc. Rig the lines and fenders, get the boat ready to go. That would be enough for one day.

We didn't do that.

With me grinning like a mule with a mouthful of briars, we decided to take her out into some chop outside the marina, just a little test run to get the feel for the boat. Oh come one, you GOTTA do that with a new boat. Even if the engine quits and you have to call for help while desperately trying to remember where you stowed the anchor and where the radio gotta do it. Well, we do, anyhow.

The Contender handled the chop so well, we decided we would just run about six or seven miles up to our former marina (site of the Great and Fabled Cay Lime Diaster of '08) and check it out. That was a good opportunity to really test the boat in chop, going into a stiff breeze and scooting over some shallow places. Play with the trim tabs. Rev the engine up, get a feel for it. Really, it was all just an excuse to go boating. And we needed some boating. This was the first time in 9 weeks. It was so good to be on the water watching the land for a change. We'd had plenty of the converse.

We got to Leeward-Going-Through, and kept on going through. Found ourselves doing about 35 knots right out the other side, and we just naturally hung a right and headed for Pine Cay. We had not seen that little island since the day before Hurricane Hanna. The boat was running sweet, the water was lumpy but the Contender handled it beautifully. Besides, why not?

So we made our second docking of the morning, this time at the one repaired dock at Pine Cay. La Gringa spotted this little float thing, which I suspect someone put together from smashed boat parts and styrofoam.

At first I thought it might have been some kid's toy boat project, but thinking about it afterwards I suspect it was a buoy used to mark the position of something sunken during the storm. There were a number of boats lost at Pine Cay during Hanna, in addition to every dock but the concrete ones being blown away. They have repaired one of the docks so far, and it was full of boats yesterday. We managed to find enough room on the end of it to tie up the Contender.

There is still evidence everywhere of hurricane damage, although the Meridan Club staff have done a great job getting the resort ready for the season. We are so accustomed to seeing ripped up trees on Providenciales that we no longer notice them there. But seeing trees we have known personally for years ripped up on Pine Cay brought it all back to us again.

The golf cart we normally leave at the marina for transportation on the Cay had a flat tire, so we hitched a ride down to the club for a small ceremony heralding our return to the sea, and Pine Cay. Besides, it was our birthday, we had a new boat, and a couple rum punches seemed justified. La Gringa, Dooley, and I sat at the bar long enough for a couple of drinks, and then bummed a ride back to the marina..

That's Avianne and La Gringa having one of those deep philosophical discussions women have, which I couldn't hear and never understand anyway, while Dooley and I rode in the back of Pine Cay's version of a taxicab. Just quietly behaving ourselves.

As we have each been instructed to do so many times in the course of our lives.

When we got to the marina, we ran into another friend, JR. In the twenty-fours hours since I dropped off Cay Lime at Preacher's house, JR knew all about not only our new boat but also the fact that we'd given Cay Lime to Preacher. Between jungle drums and cell phones, news in this little community travels faster than a new Contender!

Back at the dock, the boat was floating fine. Our friends at the Meridian Club had given us three balloons, one for each birthday and one Happy Anniversary, and those survived the wind long enough for a photo.

Then they took off for an aerial tour of the islands on their own. If you look at that flag on the dock in the background, you can get an idea of what the wind was doing. It was straight out, snapping and popping in the breeze. This water is fairly protected, although it does have a wicked tidal current. The current was on the bow of the boat in the photo. And the wind was holding it against the dock. And I still put six lines out. I don't want this boat going anywhere without me. Nothing good ever seems to come of that.

On the subject of wayward boats, our friend Roosie told us yesterday that there are still at least three boats upside down, wrecked just outside the entrance to Leeward on the Grace Bay side. We thought about running over to look at them, but by this point we were running way behind schedule. We were just going to move the boat from the ramp to the slip, remember? And now somehow we find ourselves sitting at a bar with a Jack Russell Terrier three islands and fifteen miles away.

Sure beats trying to figure out one more thing to write about a sunset, I tell ya.

We told Dooley to 'hop on the boat', which is usually enough to have him skedaddling happily onboard. But this time he obviously didn't know which boat we were talking about. None of these boats look like Cay Lime. He hasn't quite figured it out yet, but after pointing out the Contender a few times, he eventually got the idea and settled in. He's actually pretty smart, as dogs go.

He's already managed to locate the one spot on this boat where he can sit and see what's going on around him. Without a nice soft cushion he gets terrible traction. Dog feet don't seem to make very good boat shoes. I'll have to attach some outdoor carpet, or get a cushion made for that spot. Can't have the old Doolster flying off to parts unknown when I have to make a sharp turn on the water.

We didn't stop to take any photos on the way back to the slip on Provo, as we were running late. We will save the investigation into boats still wrecked on the beach for another trip. Maybe Sunday. We made it back to the marina, and the boat fits perfectly into the new slip. Protected water, and police patrol boats tied up all around us. These days that just makes me grin. Nice safe neighborhood for a boat.

We can see the top of our boat and the outboard from our patio, just 900 yards away. I can see it right now, in fact, sitting here as I type this.

I have a few things to pick up at the boat-stuff store in town later today, and then will be back down at the boat this afternoon fine tuning the tie-up. At the first opportunity we will be out taking more photos now that the first trip is behind us and I am getting used to how the boat handles. It is completely different from Cay Lime. And between the ocean and the rain and a thirty mile maiden trip, it is truly well baptised now in the waters of our island home.

We finished off a perfectly great day last night by treating ourselves to dinner at Turtle Cove with our friends M&M. Of course we got totally soaked to the skin for the final time on our birthday/anniversary. Just before midnight on the way home yet another squall blew right through the open Land Rover. But I can honestly say we really didn't mind.

Because once again, we are water people.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Better Days

It's been a busy week here. We have had a lot of things going on since our last post. Most of it good. For example, the weather improved from the day-to-day gray. We are seeing a lot of the right kind of blues for a change.

We did keep a steady eye on Hurricane Paloma, but thankfully it lost its punch over Cuba, and all we got was a day or so of wind and a little rain. Now if we can just coast through the next month or so without another storm it will be totally okay with us.

On the subject of storms, we still see evidence of Hanna and Ike from time to time, but what once was eye-catching is now just part of the background noise. We don't notice the jumble of wrecked trees outside the post office on our once a month visit to see if by some strange cosmic phenomena, we actually received any mail:

And for the most part, we don't get mail. Oh, let me be clearer on that..we DO get mail from time to time. For example, just last month (October) we received a nice post card from my oldest stepson's ex-girlfriend's parents. It was sent while they were all visiting Peru. Back in MAY. That should give you a pretty good idea of what happens to mail sent to this little place. In the time it took a single, clearly addressed post card to travel what should have taken maybe a week, elsewhere in the world regimes changed. The stepson's relationship with that now ex-girlfriend, and presumably her parents, changed before we got that post card. Continental Drift would deliver mail almost as fast...

But nevermind. We don't use the mail for anything important. It's just that simple. Oh, it's pretty convenient for bill collectors and organizations seeking money to have the mailing address. Keeps their stuff in a Devil's Triangle Limbo for months at a time.

This is probably our main life line when we need something the same week:

And judging by the number of boxes stacked inside, outside, and presumably out back,we are not the only ones. It's expensive, but it works.

Not all the companies we rely upon are equally as reliable as Fed Ex. For example, we arranged for a small company in Florida to shrink wrap our new boat before shipping it down. The shrink-wrapper (NO that is NOT a performer with his boxers showing) accepted my offer of wiring him the money for the job. As soon as I knew the boat was wrapped, I trotted on down to the Western Union office to send him his $ 300. Well, the WU office was out of commission. I emailed him that this was very unusual, and promised to send him the money the next day. This went on for a week. I could sense that he was starting to suspect a deadbeat runaround. I know that if someone told ME that they could not send me the money they owed me because Western Union was not working, I would be suspicious. So finally I managed to find another money wire business that was functional. And to prove that I honestly was not jerking him around, I took this photo on my last trip to Western Union, to prove it:

Whew. The camera got me off the hook this time.

Back on the subject of hurricane damage, we were in the Five Cays area last week and noticed that the Haitian boat that got washed all the way ashore is now floating again:

I don't know what's holding that boat together. It must be either good intentions or clean living. It's definitely not the paint.

Elsewhere we saw some of the local conch boats are still where Hurricane Ike left them. Like this one that made it across a marsh, a street, and into someone's yard:

That one must have a hole in it or something, otherwise I don't know why it has not been re-launched yet.

This one, on the other hand, is a little bit harder to get to. It won't float there, and trees block it from the road. And the mud is too soft to drive or even walk in. This one would be an interesting salvage to watch:

Okay, on to a subject very close to our hearts: boats. We finally decided what to do with our beloved panga, "Cay Lime". It had been sitting in (and blocking) our driveway since the short lull between Hanna and Ike. When we knew for sure that we were going to be the beneficiaries of Marlinsix's extreme generousity, it inspired us to pass the good karma along. We made the decision to give our boat to someone who would appreciate it, and who would most likely be able to get it repaired and back on the water a lot sooner than we would. So, with a heavy heart that was lightening by the minute, I loaded all the bits and pieces into the boat. It still causes me twitches and twinges when I look at what happened to a formerly pristine boat. The engine cowling, for example, is showing quite a bit of wear for an outboard with only two hundred hours on it:

Ouch. Four days underwater upside down on the rocks didn't do it any good at all.

I managed to get it all loaded up, and hooked up "Cay Lime" for it's journey to a new home:

Gosh, doesn't look too bad from that angle, and a little distance. The holes in the hull are on the other side. The console is now as flexible as the shell of a hardboiled egg that's been dropped, and the engine parts are in a cardboard box. The water in the background is a nice distraction, too. This is a clever photographer's technique. Never mind the boat....but gosh just LOOK at that water...

Here is "Cay Lime" being eased into her new home for a while, next to another boat that was sunk by Hanna.

You can see some of the hull damage in that one.

The catamaran is in even worse shape that the panga, with two flooded engines, and the entire starboard side coming apart. "Cay Lime's" new owner is repairing the catamaran for the owners, who live in New Orleans. He did not have a boat of his own. But he does now. Some assembly required.

After dropping off 'our baby' at its new home, we headed down to South Dock to pick up our new boat. We got the word yesterday morning that it was cleared through Customs and ready for pickup. La Gringa and I endured the new security precautions at the dock, and we were checked with a hand held metal detector to make sure we were not smuggling whatever one might smuggle onto a dock here. They took my swiss army knife away, which of course prevented me from opening any cans or turning any phillips head screws while I was inside the compound.

We did not point out that they did not search La Gringa's handbag, or bother to look inside the Land Rover. Which could have been chock full of whatever it was they thought we might hide under t-shirts and shorts...Come to think of it, nobody had bothered to look under the shrinkwrap on the boat either. There could have been enough C4 in there to turn Providenciales into an atoll...

I assume keeping the Swiss Army knife would pretty much prevent us from loading up our AK-47s or wiring detonators...they did not search Dooley, either. Lord knows what kind of damage a Jack Russell Terrieriest could get up to, given a head start on a wharf full of rats.

But never mind...we got the boat!!!

Towing the Contender through town was a new experience. The trailer is 35 feet long, and the boat makes the total package about 38 feet. It weighs considerably more than the panga. Pulling that up South Dock road, down Leeward Highway, around no less than seven rotaries (roundabouts) that all seem like they were designed by different people, and then down three miles of really bad dirt road in first gear was a white knuckle trip in itself. But finally, just before closing time we reached the boatyard with everything intact, including the shrink wrap.

Yes, that's Dooley the Dynamic riding shotgun in the Land Rover. All the boat moving around stuff yesterday got him pretty excited. He doesn't quite understand everything that's going on, but he for sure knows that it includes boats. And he knows about boats. He was so excited last night, he had a hard time getting calmed down.

"Lap top, Lap dog, what's the difference? Get off my case..."

We parked the boat inside the fenced compound at the boatyard for the night. This morning we plan to unwrap it, just in time for our mutual birthday!! We should have it launched this morning at slack tide, and moved to its new slip. We will be able to watch it from the patio, just 900 yards away as the flamingo flies. Or ten miles by road.

And the sunsets suddenly seem brighter again.