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.


Cassie said...

Sounds like your birthdays/anniversary this year will really be tough to beat in the future! What a day!

Inoma said...

Just wanted to let you know that I read your blog every time you post and always enjoy it. The pictures are always beautiful as well. Reading your blog is like a vacation! Please keep posting for the sake of those of us who have to live with snow and no beach!

Anonymous said...

Everyone smiling here. A big thank you goes to all invoved.

Anonymous said...

WoooHOooo!!! A sweet ride ya got there. Im soo happy for ya guys. Congrats! (Ive been reading ya'lls blog since THT days). Keep up the good work

Anonymous said...

That boat looks great with Dooley...He'll get used to it...

Mickey :)

Don said...

Great news Gringo, glad you'all are back on the water!!!

MrPat said...

What a great way to celebrate your B-days. The boat looks great. Keep on posting because we are sharing the joy with you.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for all the good wishes. We are still getting accustomed to the very different way this boat handles, but it won't take long.

I had to back up twice to get into the slip, this boat is about seven feet longer and at least a foot wider than Cay Lime. But it's actually easier to drive once I get used to the bigger footprint.

Being an older boat there are a few little gizmos and gadgets that need adjusting or tightening and I will be working on those over the next few days. Nothing that affects using the boat at all, it's all non critical stuff like hinges and latches.

The photos on this blog should see a marked improvement now!

Anonymous said...

WOW, what a gift for your birthdays and to be able to get back out on the water has to put a huge grin on all your faces. Always a pleasure reading your stories.

Anonymous said...

Great to see Gringos. Happy Birthdays from Downunder and what a great looking new boat.

Anonymous said...

Gringo Good to see the boat made it and all 3 of you guys out on the water again. Your post helped me smile since I awoke to snow covering our boat this morning. It will be a shorter winter for us with your blog not being land locked anymore. Brian

Existentialist said...

Congratulations, that is fantastic news. My thanks goes to the person that provided your new Contender. I'm a diver/fisherman/island lover trapped in the balmy 50 degree water of the Great Northwest that lives vicariously through your island adventures so I'm looking forward to the coming adventures you'll have and blog about on your new boat.

Anonymous said...

Yea! So happy to see your beautiful boat. Happy Birthday and anniversary, and many more.
And if I may put in a request- my favorite posts are when you explore the little uninhabited islands- so when you guys have time, please go exploring, take pictures and tell us about it!

Anonymous said...

"We did't do that." and "Because once again, we are water people." Thank you for taking the time to keep a blog. Keeps other water people dreaming the dream. Kick ass dog with a cool name.