Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmas Stump 08

Merry Christmas to everyone from the Gringos on Providenciales! With our sincere wishes for a Happy and prosperous New Year. We had a bumpy 2008, ourselves, and are hoping 2009 smooths out a bit.

Our winter has definitely arrived. One night last week the air temperature dropped to 73 degrees. At least it was only for a few hours, then it warmed back up. We've been having windy days lately. REAL windy days, 25 mph winds and offshore wave heights of 10+ feet. It's limited our boating somewhat, although we do keep our eye out for 'weather windows'. The mornings usually start out pretty calm around sunrise:

A typical December morning, clear skies and a light chop on the Caicos Banks. But the wind picks up shortly after dawn, and by mid morning it's blowing hard. Watching the "WindGuru" forecast for the week, we realized two days before Christmas that we needed to go find our now-traditional "Christmas Stump" before it got worse. Our Christmas Stump is 'traditional' only in that this is the third Christmas we've done this. We could of course buy a cut evergreen Christmas tree. The local supermarket has a couple container loads of them shipped down every year, and they sell fast. But we decided three years ago that putting up a Canadian evergreen here just somehow didn't seem appropriate to us. This is by no means a typical North American winter scene here. The imported Christmas trees are expensive, and let's face it, they have been dead a while by the time they get here.

So, we just find what we consider a suitable piece of driftwood, or a dead tree, and so far it's worked for us. And we don't have any needles or branches to sweep up.

Three of us took the boat up to the north side of Water Cay. The water inside the reef was choppy, but nothing to worry about. I anchored the boat in about six feet of water and our Christmas Stump Commandos had to swim for the beach:

(Hey, guys, "think Snow!" )

Yes, there was a little bit of a 'wave face slap' factor involved in this. Along with about a seventy five yard swim. I would have joined them, but the boat was pulling the anchor free and I decided to stay with the boat to make sure it didn't go off exploring on its own.

Well, now that I think about it...they probably had to swim a little bit more than 75 yards. Probably more like a hundred or a hundred and that I look at the photos without the zoom lens. That's my two sons, Jacob and Jon...the specs on the beach shopping for a Christmas Stump:

Okay, so they will have to swim a little further than they would have liked. Good training for young boatmen. Besides, the water is 77 deg. and they are young.

Of course they had the wind and waves behind them..going ashore. I guess swimming back to the boat it probably seemed a lot further to them. Especially swimming against the wind, with a forty pound tree and a saw in hand. The outboard bracket on this boat seems to be a good way to climb back in from the water. We were wondering about that, and specifically if I was going to have to find a swim ladder and install it. This was a good opportunity for me to find out whether or not we needed one, without my getting wet. It worked just fine:

Hey Jacob, you gotta admit it beats the heck out of shovelling snow. Besides, there's cold beer back at the house.

I didn't have any trouble at all climbing back aboard. (Of course, I didn't get in the water, either. That's what kids are for.)

Once we got this potential Christmas Stump on board, I realized that it had a few drawbacks. One of them was that I was not sure how we would get it from the marina to the house in the Land Rover. And we would have to build a stand to hold it up. So the decision was made to go check out some other areas and see if we could find a more transportable stump.

Since my crew was not keen on the idea of another open water swim, I found a spot sheltered from the wind and waves this time:

You can probably see that the waves were breaking out on the reef in the distance, and that the little spit of rock made a nice sheltered area to anchor this time.

I like this spot. I think it's a good place for taking photos. It's also a nice sheltered cove for the boat.

It didn't take Jon long to find Christmas Stump candidate #2, and this time no digging or sawing required:

It was not as beefy or gnarly as Stump #1 was, but it would require another swim to the boat for my shore party.

Not nearly as physically challenging as the first one was, since I was able to anchor a lot closer to the beach this time.

Jacob is securing the final Christmas Stump in the bow for the trip back to the marina.

We managed to get this one lashed into the little Land Rover and back to the house without any incidents. In our version of 'trimming the tree', actual power tools get involved:

We managed to get it into the house, standing upright, and 'the boys' got enough Christmas lights and ornaments on it to qualify it as a Christmas Stump:

Of course, rather than sit around admiring their handiwork, they would rather play computer games:

I bet that's the same everywhere these days.

So today is the day after Christmas, which is a holiday here called "Boxing Day". So we have a house full of visiting kids to deal with. The wind is still blowing, the ocean is rough and the water too stirred up for good diving visibility. So water sports are not on the agenda at the moment. We have discovered that one can, in fact, fit six full grown humans into a Defender 90 without too much trouble:

Well, I know this is not a grand adventure kind of a post. But I wanted to get something up to show you that although we live on a tropical island we do still manage to put together a Christmas. We are missing one of our five sons who stayed in Colorado for the holidays but the other four are keeping us busy. We are assembling some photos of the local art scene here, and I can post those in the next few days if anyone is interested. If the wind and waves will subside just a bit we will be back on the boat and we want to try to get some fishing in while our guests are here. We are keeping an eye on the forecast, and we still use WindGuru as one of the most reliable indicators of what the wind and seas will be. For the next few days it looks a bit harsh for offshore fishing in a 25 foot boat:

26 mph winds right now, and nine foot seas. Thats just too uncomfortable in a 25 foot boat.
When the WindGuru people give stars, it's good for their sport, and bad for ours. We do realize that if we someday add a sailboat, then we will be able to go boating no matter which way the wind blows.

It's looking like things will improve late Monday, and stay calm for two or three days. We sure hope so. We have more family arriving in the islands this coming weekend who need a ride out to Pine Cay, and that will be good for a boat trip whether it's blowing or not. THIS time we will try to get some better rough water photos.

And as always we are keeping our eyes out for some nice sunrises and sunset images.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Winter Solstice

Today's the shortest day of the year. Uh, I mean north of the equator, it's the least amount of daylight in the Northern Hemisphere. Sometimes I tend to not think through the fact that we have people reading this in New Zealand and South Africa... couple people check in from time to time in Australia, Brasil...I gotta start thinking more globally. Again.

Anyhow, we've been pretty busy. We have at least four of our five sons planning to be here over the holidays. Two of them arrived Friday night from Cape Cod. And I got a pleasant surprise. They brought me a memento of years gone by. If you take a look at the swim fins in this photo:

You might notice that they are a bit longer than the average fins in use these days. A lot longer. They are also a heavy, industrial strength rubber. Like pro divers equipment. Well, the story behind these is that I was spearfishing in Brazil in '85 with some friends. A really neat place south of Rio de Janeiro called Angra dos Reis. We were free-diving down about thirty feet. And these guys were getting down much faster than I was. And we were using rocks to take us to the bottom but that's another story. Anyhow after all the kidding I took, we figured out the difference was these long, Brazilian made flippers they were using. So I borrowed a pair and once I got used to the different kick they worked great. Instead of a flutter kick, these work best with a big, slow scissor kick. And good luck walking the next morning. A whole new set of leg muscles come into play. When I left Brazil a month later they made a farewell present of a new pair of the flippers. These are actually a little shorter than the ones I was using, but those wouldn't fit in a suitcase. I carried them home and over the years I totally forgot about them. Never used them again. I had other flippers. That was many flippers ago.

I was telling my sons about us losing about 75% of our snorkelling gear collection when Cay Lime got trashed. We had enough masks, snorkels, and flippers to equip about six or seven people. One of my boys remembered seeing these packed away in their basement. So he brought them down with him on Friday. I can't wait to try them out again and see if they still work as well as I remembered them from the last time I used them... twenty three years ago.

Things here have settled down since our return from Mexico. Things continue to fall apart, of course, as they seem to do in the tropics. Sometimes I wonder that the noise of all the stuff rusting away doesn't keep the dog awake at night. The worry sure messes with my own sleep from time to time. The latest was a few days ago when I noticed that there was a puddle of oil under the front of the Land Rover. "Ah Oh" thinks I. "This can't be good.." Finding the culprit only took a few minutes, luckily. A rock had bounced up and knocked a hole in the oil filter. Whew. It was about time to change it, anyhow.

I did manage to get back to woodworking a little bit. One of our neighbors is an artist, and she works in a variety materials. She made a small mosaic for our house, and thought it would look good in a black frame. The theme is the two scorpions La Gringa keeps on her desk, and there are rocks, bark, natural pieces. It's got a lot of relief, so won't fit well behind glass.

Well, being the unconventional artist type, she didn't make it one of them there standard sort of run-of-the-mill sizes. I can understand that. But this means the only way to get a frame for it was to either go to a custom frame shop to fit it, or of course, for me to just make one. A quick check through the telephone directory did not reveal any custom frame shops within a day's it looks like it's gonna be Oh boy, another DIY project!

Back when Gilley's restaurant in Leeward closed and was being demolished last year we managed to snag a few pieces of the bar before it all got hauled away. We ended up with eleven of these frames, or bezels, or whatever they are called:

These were decorative frames attached to the front of the oak bar at Gilley's, about knee level to someone still able to sit on a bar stool. Eyebrow level for those at least able to manage the floor in a sitting get the idea. If they could only talk....

They have been sitting around for over a year, and I didn't know what to do with them. (Heck, we are still trying to come up with an idea of what to do with them.) They're solid red oak, so I definitely wasn't going to throw them out. No self respecting pack rat throws out good hardwood in a place like this, even if he doesn't have a clue what to do with it. I doubt I could find red oak here to work with even if I tried, and it's one of my favorite woods. An obvious choice for a picture frame, but too heavy for this particular one. So I knocked one apart, did some mitre cuts on the corners, and ran the pieces through the table saw and made it look like this:

Had to chisel out the grooves the table saw blade left in. Note to self...I need a router.

I drilled the corners and pounded in some glued dowell rods to hold them together:

Sanded it all down and slapped some black paint on it, and there we have it:

What do you think? Not too bad? (that's the artist herself on the patio talking to La Gringa) Now I need to come up with some more similar sized 'pieces' to 'visually balance' out the other columns ...I just love this artistic talk. What it boils down to is more DIY projects with wood. That, I do understand.

I finally managed to get the boat registered as a fishing vessel here on Thursday, so we are legal to fish again. Finally!! There was no longer an excuse not to rig up and install the outriggers. I didn't wanted to drive around with obvious fishing gear sticking out of the boat when we were not supposed to be fishing. Of course not. Wouldn't be right. Nor legal. My sons were keen to see the new boat, so we loaded up the outrigger poles in the back of the Land Rover and drove down to the marina.

Getting them onto the boat and rigged up only took about a half an hour. It would have taken even less time if we had known what we were doing, but we got it done.

Nice to have willing hands to do the physical labor while I gesticulate and make suggestions.

(photo by Jacob)

Probably should have done some of this before installing the pole. Thank goodness for tall kids.

(photo by Jacob)

Once it was all rigged up it made sense to take the boat out for a little shake down cruise. Besides, if you can't go boating in t-shirts and shorts on the shortest day of the year, first day of winter, what's the use of living in a place like this? Here's the new view of t-top with outriggers installed in the travel position:

(photo by Jacob)

We crusised by the house, and I called La Gringa and asked her to step out on the patio and snap a few photos as we went by.

I gotta say, this boat scoots along pretty well.

And after a few passes....with appropriate warm ocean spray and "yee-haaaas!" all around,

we headed on back to the marina.

You may notice that the quality of those photos is on the crummy side. It was not until I got home and hooked the camera up to the laptop that I saw they were grainy and out of focus. It was my fault. I had set the camera up in 'macro' mode for some closeups the last time I used it, and La Gringa did not notice it. So while we were zooming around about 300 yards away, the camera was set up for three inches away. Oh well. We will just have to take the boat back out and try again.

Hardship. It's hardship in this brutal winter weather, I tell ya.

Dooley is getting used to the new boat. He has picked out his favorite cruising spot:

(photo by Jacob)

And I don't know what got into him when he stayed in the kennel while we were in Mexico. It's almost like he has been taking assertiveness training or something. Now, as soon as the sun goes down he starts bugging me for his dinner. First he will follow me around, or take up a position near where I am typing on the computer and just try a little subtle pressure with the two brown laser eye thing:

When I continue to ignore him, he eventually gets between my feet and starts just generally harassing me to get up and feed him:

When that doesn't get the results he wants, he starts getting more aggressive and will jump up and jam his rough little paws against me. Repeatedly.

Usually at this point I yell at him and lately, he's been yelling back! He will stand there, and start yowling, mumbling, and whining. He calls me names in whatever furry brained language he uses. He really gets worked up, and gets so loud and vocal it's hard to concentrate on ignoring him. He will hook his nose under my wrist and disrupt my typing. Or he will just stand there and tell me to get up, right now, and feed him. Like he was doing here:

And he will escalate this until I just can't stand it any more and get up and go for the dog food. It's the only thing that shuts him up. Well, actually a vigorous head pat or tummy scratch will distract him for a few minutes until he figures out what I am doing. Then I get a baleful stare and he goes right back to talking about my ancestry. Ingrate.

But he's still a good watch dog. He probably needs glasses for his eyesight, because he has been known to bark at sea buoys, abstract shapes, and memories. But his hearing is better than excellent. He can, for example, hear the sound a piece of cheddar cheese makes when it knows it's about to be grated. Phenomenal.

And if he doesn't work out as a watchdog...we will threaten to replace him with a watch goat...

He tells me it can't be done....but I've seen it.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Checking out Middle Caicos

We've been back from Mexico a week now and our life is returning to what passes for normal these days. We got a phone call from our friend Preacher around mid-week. He told us that he'd been working on getting "Cay Lime" back into float mode since we gave him the boat several weeks ago. And he was ready to launch it and fire it up for a test run. So we grabbed the dog and ran the Land Rover back down to the very scene of the Great Cay Lime Disaster of '08.....yes, the ramp at Leeward. And there we beheld.....

Yep. Preacher has had the major holes in the hull patched up, has replaced all the electrical wiring, and bought an Evinrude 200 horsepower outboard. He has forced the console back into roughly its original shape and screwed it to the deck. More or less. He has engine controls and basic gauges installed.He pulled the seat frame from another wrecked boat and bolted it down. It's not exactly what we would call 'pretty', but by golly it's a functional boat again!!

I won't go into the list of things that don't work on the boat. It's a whole lot shorter to just say what does work: The outboard, and, uh...well, it floats. See? Short list. But all the basics are covered. The steering does work, and the starter works. Most of the time.

Preacher asked if I wanted to go for a little cruise to check it out, and who could turn that down? I had thought I might never see this boat on the water again. There are driveways, back yards, and clearings in the bushes all over this island that are the final resting places for damaged boats . They're everywhere. Some houses have two or three busted up boats sitting there. And most of them will never be finished. The weeds grow up around them. So, to see that Preacher had put so much effort into "Cay Lime" so quickly was really a big lift. And oh yeah, I wanted to go for a ride.

That rock on the shoreline just where the boats are tied up is the exact spot where the old "Cay Lime" came to rest, capsized and battered for four days during and after Hurricane Hannah. And here she backed out right past it under her own power again. We thought that was pretty cool.
I am pretty sure I was floating over some of our former possessions that came out of the anchor locker, console, and seat when Cay Lime went over this same spot upside down back in September.

The boat still had some issues, of course, but man does it fly! Fifty horsepower more than we had on it new, and we had the maximum that the manufacturer would recommend. And with probably two hundred pounds less weight than it had new with all its equipment on board. There is also less wind resistance with no windshield or T-top. Preacher told us he was planning an excursion on Saturday to South Caicos, and another trip on Sunday to Middle Caicos. I think he likes the boat. And we are so glad we made the decision to give it to someone we thought would appreciate it and use it. Preacher definitely fits that description.

There seems (to us, anyway) to be some kind of balance in all this. Marlinsix ordered a new boat and gave us his old boat, and we appreciated his old boat and gave our wrecked boat to someone else. We definitely benefited from Marlinsix's generosity, La Gringa and I, and downstream from that Preacher benefitted as well. It's like we gained a boat upgrade for the cost of the shipping and import duties. Preacher gained an entire boat for the cost of some repairs and a new motor.

Could this hurricane somehow have been a good thing in some small ways? We have heard people here say that if the islands had not been clobbered mildly by Hannah, the damage from Ike's massive hit a week later would have caused a whole lot more damage. Hannah got everyone's attention, and things were buttoned up pretty well when Ike hit. Well, it was not much fun while it was happening. It got a little nervous out, if you know what I mean. But life goes on. I think that is my attempt to find a silver lining in that whole mess.

Oh, Preacher also invited us to ride along on Sunday on the Middle Caicos trip. More about that later. I am getting ahead of myself again.

Things back on our little hilltop are settling back down into the mundane day-to-day stuff. La Gringa and I had a lot of correspondence to catch up on, things that had gone on stand-by while we were incommunicado in Mexico. Dooley had hundreds of bushes to sniff and refresh as required by whatever little quality control standards he has established. I bet he drank three gallons of water last week. Re-establishing a neglected perimeter is thirsty work for a small dog.

He decided to start taking his naps in the bottom of my little BassPro Boat Bag that I use as a travelling suitcase:

Guess that's one way to make sure we don't leave without him knowing about it. Or even unpacking without him knowing about it. It's a habit of his. Sometimes he sleeps with his head on my foot so that I can't move without him knowing about it. Doggie logic, I guess. But it works.

And of course no return to the TCI would be complete without some kind of DIY project grabbing my priorities right off the bat. This time, it was another issue with the Land Rover drive train. I had crawled all under it literally the day before we left for Mexico trying to find the source of a new, rumbling noise. I was greasing universal joints, worried about wheel bearings, etc. Finally found out the front differential was low on oil, and topping that up fixed the noise. But in the process I was reminded of something we discovered when we were launching the Contender. The transfer case shifter was frozen in place. I could not budge it from within the Defender. It was permanently stuck in 4-wheel high range. No low range, no way to lock the differential. Knowing that I might need it if we have to haul the boat out of the water, I tackled that little job. It wasn't so little, and took up most of Saturday.

I started by crawling underneath and spraying WD-40 solvent all over the parts of the linkage that I could reach. That didn't do it. Basically I just ended up with an oily bunch of machinery that still didn't work, and a face covered with WD-40. And another t-shirt bites the dust. So I decided to see if I could just remove the rubber boots around the shift levers to see the problem. The short answer to that is 'no, one cannot just remove the rubber boots to look at the linkage'. Before it was all over, I had removed the floor mats, and the entire cover over the transmission, transfer case, and linkage:

Under that floor is some of the most complicated 4x4 linkage I have ever seen for a manual gearbox. And I have owned a number of 4x4's over the years. I decided to spare you the rest of the greasy photos, but at least I found the problem. My old nemesis: Corrosion. It always seems to be corrosion here in the tropics. Everything corrodes, oxidizes, falls apart. Salt and UV damage. At least the UV damage takes a break at nightfall and is easily cured by paint, covers, or shade. But as we all know....rust never sleeps. So I spent several hours with a wire brush and various lubricating oils. Used a big screwdriver as a pry bar. Tapped judiciously on various pieces with a hammer. Enriched Dooley's vocabulary. But I got it working again. Got it all buttoned back up in the dark. And even had some extra screws left over!

I haven't kept any kind of a log of vehicle repairs I have done here. But in just three years, I can think of a few. We had to replace the steel brake lines on a Ford. And the starter motor. And I had to sort out all the electric window motors and door locks several times. So far on the Suzuki I have mostly replaced rotten tires, but have also had to replace a shift spacer in the transfer case, fix the starter solenoid, and presently have a job on the list to fix the horn and windshield wipers. On the Land Rover, so far, I have replaced a leaking injector fuel line, replaced a clutch master cylinder, tracked down funny noises in the front differential, and unstuck the transfer case linkage. I don't know what you think, but to me that seems like a lot to do on three different vehicles in only three years. It's mostly corrosion-related.

And right now the Suzuki's windshield wipers and horn don't work, and one of the side mirrors rusted through and just fell off the door onto the driveway, while it was just sitting there. Oboy. More projects. sigh.

Okay, enough whining. Back to the adventure part of our program this morning...

So, Sunday we took a trip with Preacher to Middle Caicos. There is a place between that island and the northern edge of East Caicos that La Gringa and I have been interested in for a while now. Back in the late 1700's the area was the site of a settlement called Jacksonville. I can see the ruins of the old stone buildings on Google Earth, and have long wanted to go look at the area. Preacher knew about this, because I have asked him a lot of questions about it. Like, what kind of ruins are on Joe Grant Cay? Can you still see the old 1800's railroad remains? Can I get a boat between the islands, etc.

As we found out, Preacher owns a small piece of property not too far from the "town" of Lorimers on Middle Caicos. "Town" is a pretty small word, but it's still too big a word for Lorimers. It's a small settlement, on an island of 48 square miles that has a total population of around 300 people. I mean the entire island has 300 people, not just Lorimers. So the chance to go see that section of the TCI again has been on our list, and we lept at the chance to take a look. La Gringa had been to Lorimers before, but I had not been south of Bambarra. New experience for me, anyway. We figured it would be a good way to spend a Sunday. Get out of the house. Go for a boat ride. We did all that.

This trip was only 128 miles total from our home to our destination and back. Doesn't sound like much, does it? What is that under normal driving conditions...maybe two hours total? Make it three hours if you stop to look around at the destination and for a bite to eat. Ok. Three hours. Here's the route:

Well, this trip of 128 miles took about seven hours. Here's how that breaks down...the first 11 miles in the Land Rover from the house to Leeward. Then 12 miles by sea on "Cay Lime" from Leeward to Bellefield Landing on North Caicos. Then the big chunk, 41 miles riding in the bed of a Chevy pickup truck from Bellefield Landing, down North Caicos, over the storm damaged causeway to Middle Caicos, and then out to the end of a spit of beach near the settlement of Lorimers. 64 hard miles to get there, and another 64 harder miles back (same miles, just bruised and getting rained on during the return makes it seem a lot longer.) Long day. Great trip!

We met Preacher and one of his friends at the Leeward fuel dock, and La Gringa, Dooley, and I were once again aboard "Cay Lime". This is pulling into Bellefield Landing on North Caicos:

For some strange reason, Dooley the Determined Dog seemed completely at home riding on Preacher's new boat. He settled right in like he owned the place or something.

I didn't take a lot of photos of Bellefield Landing. Our friend JR was waiting there with his pickup truck, and we had a full day of travelling yet to do. After Preacher got his new boat "Cay Lime" (gosh it still feels weird to write that) tied up next to some other storm-battered but still useful boats...

with an anchor off the stern and a line ashore, we clambered into the bed of JR's Chevy truck and headed out.

Stopped briefly to check out a recent addition to the roadside attractions on North Caicos..

Ouch. Two lane road, late at night...who knows what happened. It did not look good, though. At least for the truck. Sadly, this is not an uncommon sight on the roads here. JR says the guy actually walked away from this one. I bet it was a pretty wobbly walk, for one reason or another.
The main road down North Caicos to the new causeway and bridge connecting Middle Caicos is actually pretty good, for the most part. I wouldn't exactly call the trip comfy with all these old bones bouncing around in the bed of a pickup truck. Somehow I seem to remember riding in the back of a pickup truck as being a lot less bruising. Maybe that's because I was probably twelve years old at the time, I guess.

Anyhow, these days we felt every bounce. Every pothole, every loose hunk of rock or rough stretch of pavement. Until the pavement ended. Which it did, off and on. Then we felt another fourteen miles of rutted dirt and limestone road. But I gotta admit, there was also something of a feeling of freedom riding in the back of a pickup truck again. No seats, no seatbelts. No airbags. No problems. Don't try this at home. You'll get a traffic citation. You might get arrested and your vehicle towed. But that doesn't happen here. This is one of the things we love about this country. Small freedoms add up. We think that's better than watching small freedoms disappear. But that's purely our opinion.

The TCI built a causeway connecting North and Middle Caicos about a year ago. For the first time since time began people can drive from one island to the other. This is a moderately big deal for the people living on those islands. Especially the people living on Middle Caicos. We were sad to hear that September's back-to-back hurricanes had severely damaged this causeway before we even got to see it completed. Well, it's still damaged pretty seriously, but it's passable again. Some of the quickly repaired sections:

The pavement was completely washed out in several places. It was intermittent pavement for the entire section across the low country between the islands. This is the single small bridge in the entire causeway. It was wiped out by the storm, and the new concrete is obvious.

See the three street lights and pole for one more in the distance? There used to be more. And they were functional, before. Not now. There are piles of smashed and destroyed street light poles lying beside the roadway. So this must be a pretty dark two lane road through here at night with no moon. Would be a fun trip on a motorcycle.

More damaged causeway, which was paved and lined on both sides with the concrete bulkheads. Only a few of those are left, and they are mostly damaged. There is broken concrete and rusty rebar steel all over the place.

The former road surface pavement is literally washed off to the side of the roadbed in sheets of asphalt paving. The pieces that came loose from all the water rushing under them are so big that the painted center stripe is still visible.

Pretty much messed up. It must have been a great new road when it was first finished. It's a shame it only lasted a year. Who knows if or when the money will ever be available to return it to what it was? It's functional for now. And down here, that often has to be the final deciding criteria. The next dollars available will be somewhere else, on some other project. And those dollars are scarce in these new financial times we find ourselves in.

We stopped by the terminal at the Middle Caicos airstrip, just to see if it had changed much since we flew into here a couple years ago. It hasn't changed, thankfully. The storms seem to have left it undamaged.

A trip like this makes me wish I was current as a pilot and flying a small plane around down here. Most of the major islands have airstrips. It would be a great way to get around. Maybe someday.

Dooley the Delusional Dog adapted well to riding in the back of a truck, but then what dog doesn't love that? He would doze off from time to time with the hum of the tires and the whine of the transmission pump when we were going down smooth pavement, but the moment the wheels ran off the smooth stuff and onto the dirt he was up to see if we were "there" yet..

After turning off the pavement at Lorimers, we rode 14 miles on this road. I took the photo on the return, when the weather was getting ugly. La Gringa, Dooley, and I were in the back of the truck. Those in the back of the truck got severely rained on. Are we having fun yet? Good thing the temperature was probably in the high 70's.

On a sunny day I am sure it's a lot prettier.

When we got to the end of the road (and I do mean the end of the road) we only had a short hike through a grove of shady Casuarinas trees and we were on a totally untouched beach. Photographically speaking it's a bit of a shame that the weather was turning squally on us. It's really a beautiful spot.

The water is clear, and the reef is just over a half mile out. Since it faces the open Atlantic on this side, the waves crashing onto the reef are pretty spectacular. I did not have the camera to get an image of that from a mile away. Maybe next time (and there will be a next time, probably by boat).

There was no sign of human habitation up or down the beach as far as we could see. Well, not exactly true in one sense. This area is a beachcomber's dream. There are layers of neat stuff washed up all along it from the storms. In the photo above, you can maybe make out a speck of something white in front of the distant tree down the beach. We decided to take a walk to check it out.

It's the left rear corner of a sailing catamaran:

I don't know what "BPO.." means. It's nothing familiar to me, and I could not find any other identifying marks on this section of hull.

It got washed up onto the rocks pretty far, after obviously going over the reef offshore.

This is looking north along the beach, and once again the only footprints are the ones we made. I didn't notice it when I was taking the photo, but when I was cropping it to post it here I saw that bright spot of light off the beach several miles north of us.

I tried blowing up that section of the photo to see if I could make out what kind of aircraft that might be, because it surely wasn't looking like something I would expect to see there. In fact, I couldn't tell what it was. It looks pretty strange if I expand that portion of the photo:

I have convinced myself that it must be the top wing surface of a high-wing aircraft like a Cessna, making a 90 degree bank. Now, that doesn't entirely fit, as I would expect to see the tail and body and engine of the plane, too. And I don't.

And the sun was not shining from the right direction for that to be reflected sunlight. Oh well. Guess I will never figure that one out entirely.

I thought I would get one more photo of the catamaran's remains, and then move on. Now that's shipwrecked pretty good right there, by just about anybody's definition. I wonder if this boat is still considered missing from some other island, somewhere.

After we left the beach we wandered back through the trees and helped Preacher searching for some survey markers to try to figure out just where the bounaries of his property are:

Nah, we didn't find them. He is going to get me the lat and longs for it and I will plot it out on one of the sat images.

This is about where Preacher is thinking he would build, if he decided to build here. With a view like this from ground level, I can just imagine how nice it would be from an elevated porch, looking over the trees and out to the reef. Nice.

And secluded? Oh man, this place is secluded. Very, very quiet. The only sounds are the waves and the breeze blowing through the Casurinas trees. Very nice.

When we got back to the truck we found out that JR had built a fire and was roasting ears of native corn in the husk. That sure made a great snack before the trip by Chevy, Cay Lime, and Land Rover back to Provo. But we loaded up and headed home. After all the excitement of trying to sniff every piece of driftwood on the beach, Dooley found out that he can nap quite comfortably in the back of a pickup truck :

Or at least he can sleep comfortably as long as he has his people to sleep on. And yes, we are wearing shorts in mid December. Its a big part of the reason we moved here in the first place. We'll still be dressed like this in February,too.

A view back along some of the paved road between rain squalls:

Notice the congestion? The traffic? The grid lock, strip malls, fast food and muffler repair shops? Nope. Us neither.

So finally we made it back to Bellefield Landing on North Caicos. JR dropped us off and headed home in his truck, and the rest of us wearily loaded onto Cay Lime for the water portion of the return leg of the trip.

This one is without potholes, or (hopefully) rocks. We could use a smooth ride about now.

Headed out toward the reef, we could see that we would be cutting just to the south of a pretty decent developing squall..

I wasn't concerned. Preacher wasn't concerned. La Gringa wasn't concerned....

But Dooley, yeah, Dooley was concerned.

I wonder how his hairy little mind works..."When in doubt, stay with the big guy. The lightning will hit him first, he's the tallest thing in the boat. Crocs are insulators. I bet I can work this hatch cover...."

That actually was a pretty decent example of a storm going on. We just had to scoot under that section right below the sun to clear it.

No problems. We didn't even get wet, even though for us pickup truck passengers it would have been the third or fourth time that day if we had. And despite the blessing of having slick, calm water to boat over, these conditions are actually a bit nerve wracking in a small boat around here. The reflection of the sun in your eyes makes it really hard to see what's under the water. And here you can be in five or six feet of water and be surrounded by coral heads and rock outcroppings that come to within a couple feet of the surface. Aids to navigation are very rare down here, too, so knowing the route and being able to read the water are very important.

By the way, Preacher told us that on his first major excursion to South Caicos on Saturday, his new propellor fell off. He somehow managed to find another prop that would fit......but it was the opposite pitch of what he needed. In other words, when he put the outboard in forward gear, it pulled the boat backwards. So, Preacher just put the outboard in reverse which made the boat go forward, and he drove it all the way back to Provo like that...

Just thought I would stick that in here.

See? No sweat. And La Gringa is wearing her winter jacket, I noticed. That's a long sleeved denim shirt. Seems to get her through the cold snaps.

The rest of the trip back was pretty uneventful. This was all familiar territory. We know this water very well. And we were on a very familiar boat. Well, it was familiar in some ways, but different in others. It was pretty quiet on the ocean yesterday afternoon, without much boat traffic. I suspect the spotty squalls blowing through had a lot to do with that. We did run across one solo sailor braving the sudden wind gusts that these things bring, working his way back into Leeward during a calm period. It wasn't until we were blasting past him at about 40 mph (hence the blurred photo) that we realized that it was the architect that designed our house for us.

So that was our Sunday outing to Middle Caicos. It was nice to get out of the "city" of Providenciales and out to where things are a whole lot more basic, even by TCI standards. It was also nice to get back home, to the land of rum and aspirin and upholstery.

We are already planning our next trip back to that same area. We were very close to the ruins we want to explore but there is no way to get there by automobile. So we are just going to have to work out how to do it by boat. That should be good for some more photos. Hopefully we can find some good weather stretches this winter. I think it would have to be be a calm seas kind of trip if we come in through the reef.

And meanwhile we are keeping our eye out for decent sunsets.