Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Canals of Provo

We are still in the windy part of the winter here. Day after day of eight to ten foot seas offshore, and when the wind direction is right (or wrong, as the case seems to be) that also translates into an ugly little two to four foot chop on the Caicos Banks. It's usually pretty calm around dawn:

But it picks up pretty early. We don't let it stop us from necessary boat trips, but it does tend to curtail the long leisurely days spent offshore fishing. It's not much fun if it's not leisurely. We know the weather will be changing soon. In the meantime, we still find ourselves busy. We discovered that pedalling the kayak is perfect for getting a little workout while touring the numerous canal systems on Providenciales. I have also had a continuous stream of DIY projects going on. More on that later, but one of them started when La Gringa asked me if I could come up with some way to organize the silverware drawer. It looked pretty well organized to me,

but hey, it's an excuse to play with wood and power tools. I figured I could come up with something, and would think about it while we were out exploring canals.

Over a period of about a week we made three or four trips to various canals on Provo. The first batch is an area known as Discovery Bay. These canals are visible in this Google Earth image:

We launched the boat just right of the center at the bottom edge of that image, near the Southside Marina. We found a great spot to launch, and Dooley the Determined was in the water before we could even get the boat off the truck:

He won't go anywhere near a fresh water lake, but get him close to saltwater and he's in. Literally.

Here's another view of that general area, showing the marina there:

That one is through the plexiglass window of a 737 as we left the island headed for Texas last weekend. You can see some of the canals I am talking about here.

We started out touring the marina. Boats look bigger from water level:

We even thought we might stick our nose outside the protected water and maybe scope out the shoreline for any new wrecked sloops. This is looking out toward the Banks:

Looked pretty calm in that photo, and we actually did get out far enough to check out the chop, before deciding to turn around and spend the day in the canals instead. It was getting a bit 'lumpy' outside this point:

So we headed back into the marina,

Hung a left at the Flamingo Diving Center, and started up the canals.

It's nice to have the small boat to use when the wind is blowing offshore. All the canals are very protected from the wind, so that's not really a factor. There is a tidal current as well.

We found out early on that we needed to stay in the channel. This is the edge of 'Flamingo Lake".

And it's easy to see that the water quickly goes from six or seven feet deep right up to exposed at low tide. Here's another look at that edge

I guess these would be what could be described as 'salt-tolerant' plants. I don't know what they are, although we did see a lot of buttonwoods. And mangrove, of course. That stuff is everywhere.

We are still seeing signs of hurricane damage to boats here and there. The boat in the water here had some obvious rigging issues that looked wind-related.

The boat on the shore is in pretty good shape.

We are also seeing some boats that, sadly, are not likely to ever sail again.

We're still in the 'training' phase with Dooley the Disillusioned. He thinks he should be able to ride up on the front of the boat. We don't agree with him, and therein lies the dispute.

He's learning. Actually I think he already has learned. Now we are fighting stubbornness laced with a liberal amount of pig-headed. The dog is being difficult, too.

He was spoiling for some excitement, and managed to get into a shouting match with a couple of local dogs defending their turf from loud-mouthed little pirates like Dooley:

Just Push Play

The water in the canals is clean and clear, like most of the seawater in this little country.

We didn't get very far the first day in the canals. We probably explored about three miles worth. We had to head home to beat sundown, and wanted to stop by our slip to check on our real boat. We check on it in person every few days when we are not taking it out, and of course I check it several times a day using binoculars from the house. I like to check the lines, start the motor, check that the automatic bilge pump is working. The Contender is quite happy:

Oh, and I did come up with an idea for organizing the kitchen drawer, and got onto that project next. Just cut up some scraps into quarter inch thick slats, and start dowelling them together. It's a little tricky with a hand held drill.

I did screw up a few pieces before I got the hang of it, but it started going together pretty fast:

I don't like using metal fasteners at all if I can help it, and it takes a bit longer to drill, dowel, glue and clamp. Would be easier with screws, I guess. But there's nothing in this method to rust. And it's more fun.

A couple of days later we again got the boating bug, and the wind was still blowing. This time we got past the low flats and actually got up into some nice neighborhoods in the Discovery Bay area. It's pretty easy to see why the vegetation here tends to be on the low, scrubby side. In addition to the lack of rain, there's just not much in the way of topsoil. A couple inches below the turf, it's limestone:

Dooley the Disingenuous is slowly getting used to the idea that he rides in back:

His feet are wet, and he's happy. Now if he could just get into a good shouting match...

We were approaching the house with the dogs that Dooley had gotten into a bark-fest with several days earlier. We had thoughts of sneaking silently past them without causing a ruckus. We were hoping that Dooley the Debater would not remember that they were there. We were out of luck. The dogs must have been waiting for us because they were barking before we even got around the corner. I think they were waiting for Dooley's return. Hopefully they got it out of their systems:

Just Push Play

This photo shows not only the nature of the island, once you cut into it, but also the tidal range in the canals. We were there just after low tide, and the marks on the sides show how much higher the water level gets during normal high tides:

There are a lot of nice homes in this area, and of course just about everyone who lives on the canals seems to either have a boat or two in the water, or in the yard. We were surprised at how big some of the boats are that use the canals. These must draw at least four feet of water, yet do not seem to be having any problems:

These are even bigger, and there are a number of them tied up to docks next to their owners homes:

These must draw near six feet, and I have no clue how they launch and retrieve them. I would dearly like to watch them do it, though.

I most especially would like to see the crew that puts this one back in the water:

That must be good call for a party and a half when that gets floating again. I have this mental picture involving rollers, trucks, ropes, and cases of beer...and a big splash at the end.

We tend to get absorbed in the kayaking, and once again notice that we will be racing the sun to get back to the truck before dark. Makes for some decent photo opportunities, though:

And we are still able to fit in the time to sand and paint the DIY stuff. I think this looks a little more organized, anyway:

Having pretty much seen most of the Discovery Bay canals, we decided to see if there was anything new going on in the Leeward Canal area. This image of that part of the island is at least four years old:

I don't know why the TCI images have not been updated in four years. Maybe it's because this sleepy little country is not deemed worth the intelligence community's attention. Or maybe, being a short hop from Cuba, it is. Either way, that image is misleading. That canal has been way more developed than it would appear from Google Earth, and in fact there are several more canals cut into the rock now that do not even show up there. The entire Nikki Beach resort has been built since this was taken. So, we set out to take a look.

Coming into the Southernmost canal entrance from Leeward Going Through, we pass right by the Chief Minister's home and his own mini-marina:

Imagine being able to boat right past a US President's house, without worrying about a bunch of guys with radios and guns doing body searches.

A little further along we pass our dentist's new home on the canal.

We were next door neighbors back when we both lived in condos while building our respective homes. I saw the owner of that house just today, and asked him how they fared during the hurricanes. He said they had water in their basement, but that the storm surge did not hurt them. That was one of the issues that prevented us from building on the canals here back when we were making decisions. There were other reasons as well, but concern about storm surge was high on the list.

The homes in Leeward tend to be a bit more upscale than the average house in Discovery Bay, but not by much. I think that's mostly due to the sudden rise in land prices over the past three years. Most of the homes here on this canal have substantial docks and boathouses. Very nice:

One of the very few bridges in the TCI:

Damn the toredos! Full speed ahead!

We noticed quite a bit of variation in the architecture along the canals. This home has a definite 'Moorish' influence, I think.

There doesn't seem to be much restriction in the style of home here as long as it meets the stringent new building codes. IF the contractor follows the building codes (and that is a big "If" sometimes) he will produce a home that should be able to withstand 140 mph winds. Ours was tested to 150 mph just last September.

The Leeward Canals are not very long, and we were still wanting some more boating exercise when we finished with them. So, we decided to scoot across Leeward Going Through and check out the other side, which is the South side of Mangrove Cay. We had to zip across the channel between boats, such as the "Amanyara" day charter:

Within a few minutes we were cruising along the mangroves:

These grow in large amounts all over the islands. They are essential to the ecosystem, being a place where fish, turtles, and conch can spawn and have their young survive with protection from predators until they are ready to strike out on their own. There are some tasty fish to be caught here, including a version of Gray or Mangrove Snapper.

We managed to drift right up to a young Osprey in the kayak. One of the nice things about the Mirage drives is that you can propel the boat very quietly with a minimum of motion, and keep your arms and upper body relatively still. We got within a few feet of this guy before he started squawking and took off. I even managed to get part of that on video:

Just Push Play

Here is another view of the Chief Minister's home, from across the channel. The entrance to the canal where we started is just to the right of the house:

We ventured into a small, natural channel that took us several hundred yards back into the mangroves. There we came upon another sad sight, another victim of Hurricane Ike. This catamaran belongs to a friend of ours, Preacher's brother, Jay. He owns Sail Provo and this boat "Two Fingers" is his personal catamaran:

He had tied it up to the mangroves for the storm, and normally that would be a good idea for a number of reasons. But the 150 mph winds of Ike tore down all of the mast and rigging, which is now lying half in the water on the other side of the boat. Hopefully, it will be not too expensive to get it repaired eventually.

This is where we launched and retrieved the kayak on Heaving Down Rock, just about forty yards from where Cay Lime got smashed during Hurricane Hanna. These landing craft look a whole lot bigger from sea level, too. Why is it that boats look so big when you are on the water looking up at them, and yet so small when you are standing on them when a squall hits?

So, that's been about it for boating over the past couple of weeks. I have some new projects going on, as is usally the case. There are ALWAYS projects going on, it seems. Some are planned, and some just happen to me. One of the planned ones is to build a desk and some bookshelves for La Gringa's office. This will be the largest DIY I have taken on inside the house so far. Not counting the house itself, of course, but that's a whole other story. I used Google's SketchUp to figure out a design that will custom fit her office:

The bookshelf bits are seven feet tall, and the desk part is twelve feet long. The idea is that both of us can set up our laptops on it, and still have room for monitors, printers, whatever else we come up with. I am making it out of 2x10's, and figured I would just start with the shelf sections. Get those in, and then make the desk surface to fit. Here's the first of four all glued and dowelled:

Will take some creative thinking to get this up the hill to the house when I add another piece like that plus the shelves. I figure the total installation will be something like 600 lbs.

And as an example of DIY projects that suddenly spring themselves upon me: the 'nut' on my guitar finally broke during the holidays. The 'nut' is the fret-like thing that holds the strings up off of the neck, and mine broke and I could not find a replacement for it here.

I asked Preacher for the hardest piece of wood he knew of, and he brought me a twig of Lignum Vitae.

And it is definitely hard wood. I had worked with it before in South America, and was telling La Gringa that this stuff is so dense it won't even float. Well, to prove I was not blowing something through my hat, I thought I would demonstrate by filling a bowl with water and dropping the wood into it. Sure enough, it sinks:

(Whew. It's always a relief when things behave as I swore they would.)

I now have a piece cut that fits the slot width exactly. I just have to finish shaping it and cut the little grooves for the strings.

I never had to make my own electric guitar parts before. A new experience every day.

I think that this pretty much brings us up to date. We plan to get offshore fishing as soon as the winds let the seas lay down a bit, and there will be more in the way of kayaking, and unfortunately, DIY projects. I hope nothing major crops up until I get the desk finished.

And so another winter day ends in the Tropic of Cancer, here in our little corner of the Bermuda Triangle.

We can hardly wait for summer now that we have a boat with some range that can handle bumpy water. There are a lot of islands we have yet to see.


Anonymous said...

I enjoy your blog. What a life to live in such a beautiful place.

Anonymous said...

Great post as always guys!!! Dooley is hilarious. I love the videos and am amazed at how quickly those Mirage drives push that kayak along ... time for a new toy?

Thanks always....

- Kevin
Just north of Boston, MA

Anonymous said...

Was going a bit nuts waiting for your next installment. Thanks for taking the time to share your experiences. I was really impressed with the speed of your kayak in the two videos. I never realized how fast one could be from foot power. Just to set the record straight (in case it needs it) I probably speak for others that even the mundane daily activities and DIY projects take on a special interest to those of us who are not living the dream. I know you may get tired of keeping this venue going but please be assured that I for one look forward to every one of your installments! Thanks. Sir Reel.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the helps me focus on what it's going to take for me to "live the dream". Ron
Grand Haven,Michigan

Anonymous said...

Thanks for all your work on the blog. Anxiously awaiting the next installment!

Anonymous said...

Hello! I have just discovered your great blog. Love reading about your life and of course Dooley the Dooer! He's a feisty little bugger hey!? Greetings from Kununurra Western Australia, and I hope to read many more of your posts.
From one traveller to another...cheers, Jan O

Anonymous said...

Great to see you three have been getting out. I was also surprised at the speed the kayak moves..I was anxiously watching to see if the barking dogs could make their way out to you guys!

The guitar nut fixing was cool to are a regular McGuyver! I'll have to share my Ike photos with you. I built a handy contraption out of an espresso can, pool vac hose, soup can, and yes..duct tape, to save our house from flooding in the back. :) Hubby was proud.

Hope the weather in Texas was good to you. It was 40 degrees here this morning..ugh.

Take care,

Anonymous said...

Thanks for all the great comments. We are still watching the wind howl on most days, although we do get out in the kayak now that we have a little boat that we can just chuk into the water and go. It was like this last March, too. Windy windy.

We managed to get out away from shore with it yesterday, so maybe the weather is getting calmer. Its plenty warm, getting up near 80 most days. Just rough. Oh, we got wet yesterday for sure, but that's just part of the game here. This is not a place for people who mind getting wet.

Heather we FROZE in Houston! It was in the 50's and rained that whole weekend. We had some great BBQ and TexMex food, but the weather was really miserable. Next time I am going to take some real shoes with me.