Friday, May 22, 2009

Home Again...

We've been home from our US trip for a week now, and our lives are slowly moving back toward what we think is normal. Normal for us, I guess I should say. We were curious about how we would feel about returning to these little islands after spending weeks in a big US city. Would we become spoiled by all the smooth concrete pavement, fast food restaurants, shopping malls and consumer goods outlets on every corner? Would we become re-addicted to living in a place with over 1,400 Mexican Restaurants alone listed in the local Yellow Pages ? (you think I am kidding? Check it out: Mexican-Restaurants) This is quite a change from living in a place that lists a total of 71 restaurants of any kind in the entire nation.

The answer is definitely 'no'. We did not decide we would rather live in the USA. I fear we are forever ruined for the big city lifestyle. We've become island lovers. And while we enjoy visiting the bright lights from time to time, we literally cannot wait to step off that airplane back on Provo. We are even starting to look forward to seeing the customs and immigration people again!

After picking up Dooley the Devious at the kennel, we opened up the house, and then stopped by the marina to check on our boat. Everything was good there, and Dooley got re-acquainted with his old buddy Bernard and his dog Lucy:

I started the boat up and everything seems to have survived without us just fine. I wanted to take it out for a spin, but the wind was blowing like heck, and my new knee is still pretty tender. I elected to be cautious for now and content with just running it and charging the batteries.

We had only been home a couple of days when we got a call from our friend Preacher. He welcomed us back and said he was putting together a small cookout on a beach in Provo on Sunday. I am still a bit 'gimpy' with this new knee, but this was a beach we had never seen, and we did not even have to use the boat to get there. Perfect opportunity for some fresh photos.

This little beach is at the end of miles of dirt road. It's a bit off the beaten path, even for Provo. I mapped out the driving route on Google Earth, and was surprised to see the distance from our house to Osprey Rock is just over sixteen miles:

That's quite a bit of a trip when you consider the entire island is only about seventeen miles long from one end to the other. And most of this trip was on unpaved roads.

Parking at the end of that dead end and walking down through the bushes you come out to a wonderful little uncrowded stretch of sand and rock:

Other than the dozen or so people hanging out with Preacher waiting for him to cook lunch, the entire beach was deserted. Not too bad for a Sunday in late Springtime.

Preacher's nephew Tyreese and some of his friends were swimming in the water, and a few people were casting bait out to see if any fish were biting.

Here's another GE view of this area, and you can see the road and the rocky little beach where these photos were taken:

Basically we were all just hanging out, enjoying a laid back island day, and waiting for Preacher to do his cooking thing on the campfire. That's Preacher in the middle, and one of his brothers (Joe, aka "Hammerhead" ) talking to La Gringa on the left:

The day was going very, very smoothly. Especially when compared to the hectic three weeks we had just gone through up north in Texas. We did have a little bit of excitement, Provo style. Mrs. Lightbourn caught a fish, and those of us who were not busy, lazy, or crippled, ran over to check it out:

I was both lazy and crippled, so I just used the zoom. That's Osprey Rock in the background, by the way. There is a trail up to it, and that cliff is called West Harbor Bluff.

Of course the minute someone hooked a fish, Dooley the Destroyer felt a responsiblity to run over and take charge of the situation. His firm and unshakable opinion is that every fresh caught fish, and I do mean EVERY fish, needs to be immediately bitten. No exceptions.

Well, since this wasn't our fish to bite, I needed to secure the dog in a timely manner. I had forgotten to bring a leash rope from the truck with me, but I did manage to snag him by the collar with my cane as he zipped by on his way to disrupt the fishing expedition:

Mr. Lightbourn and his grand-daughters did bring the fish over to show us:

And a handsome creature it was, too:

I think this is some kind of boxfish, but I didn't think to ask what the local name was for it. I know we see them all the time when we are snorkelling. It doesn't look to me like something I would eat, but I suspect that the locals and at least one Jack Russell Terrierist would disagree with me.

As mentioned, this part of Provo is the closest point to West Caicos. We were having some afternoon thunderstorms at this point in the day so the photography sort of went downhill . This is looking toward West Caicos, some six miles away:

With a little zoom, you can see the buildings of the Ritz-Carleton development out on West Caicos.

I am thinking that six miles across might just be a good kayak trip one of these calm summer days.

As far as we know, this development is one of several major resort projects that have been put on indefinite hold due to the present economic situation with the banks who were providing the funding. Lehman Brothers was involved in the West Caicos project, for example. Some of the other projects scattered around the TCI have also been slowed down by the current political changes going on in the islands. A lot of projects and permits are undergoing government review. We try to stay out of that whole political situation entirely. We consider ourselves guests here, and we just hope it all gets resolved so that a lot of these good people can get back to their full time jobs soon, before they suffer too much more financial hardships. Things are slow here, just like everywhere else.

I spotted a strange rock formation while we were here at the beach. It's a circular section of different composition from the surrounding limestone:

I am curous as to what kind of structure might have formed this. My best guess, so far, is that it is some kind of fossilized sponge that got covered over with sediment many years ago, and became part of the rock itself. I am certainly open to other interpretations, though. Here's another view, looking down on it:

That structure is about two feet in diameter and as hard as the rock around it.

Well, that pretty much sums up our first mini-excursion back at home. The weather has not been cooperating for boating and beach activities. We have had rain five out of the last seven days since these photos were taken. We ain't complaining, mind you. The cisterns are full for the first time since the hurricanes last September. And I can use some time to recover full use of my leg and my new knee. I would probably be frustrated if the weather was perfect and I was unable to take advantage of it. This enforced recovery time is probably a good thing.

I came home to the usual bunch of little maintenance jobs to start taking care of. One of my early priorities is going to be to do something about the soft top on one of the Land Rovers. This top is only four years old, and yet the sun and wind has just about destroyed it already:

I am in the process of trying to find a Land Rover supply house in the UK who is experienced at exporting parts to little countries like this. I'm a bit dismayed and somewhat surprised at how difficult it has proven to be. I want to buy a new top for this vehicle, for example, and some parts for the other one as well. Since we now have a vehicle with the means to seat people comfortably I am hoping to turn this one into something a little sportier. I am thinking I want this kind of top on it instead of the full canvas:

That should look pretty good, I think. And it's practical. And I plan to find someone locally to help me fabricate a combination roll cage and kayak rack for it. The shipping costs to send one from England are astronomical. It would cost me more to ship a roll bar from the UK than it would cost to buy the roll bar. In fact, this project might just justify me buying a small arc welder and learning how to build my own.

Another thing that has been a bit frustrating in trying to buy parts for the Land Rovers is the terminology difference between American English and Land Rover English. I kid you not.

Americans and Brits are all familiar with some of the common differences in automotive terms. We know that what we call a 'hood' is called a 'bonnet', and what we call a 'trunk', the Brits call a 'boot'. Those are easy. Wanna hear some more trickier ones? I am trying to buy a 'soft-top" or 'convertible top' for my Land Rover. Okay. That's not what the Brits call it. They call it a 'hood'. Not to be confused with our 'hood' or their 'bonnet'. To further complicate things, they also sometimes call it a 'tilt'. I have no clue where that one comes from. The frame that I need to hold the 'tilt' up is called 'hood sticks'.

Speaking of which, here is a photo of the inside of that soft top I need to replace:

Can you believe this happened to it in only four years? It's harsh here, I tell you. The problem is that we want to leave it open to get the ventilation, but then the dust blows in with it's salt load. Hopefully, the new small top ( if I can ever get one imported) will take care of this.

Oh, the list of confusing terms goes on and on. For example, this little side light needs replacing on the other Land Rover:

That's not a side light, or a blinker light or a directional signal light. Nope. It's a "side repeater". Where I come from a 'repeater' is a rifle. Oh well. I guess this difference in nomenclature has been a subject for amusement for a long time now. I think it was Playwright George Bernard Shaw who claimed that "England and America are two countries divided by a common language". Sounds to me like Mr. Shaw just might have been trying to order Land Rover parts on the internet.

(And that black plastic thing over the wheel is called an 'eyebrow arch'. That's all I am going to say about that.)

I am hopeful that within the next few weeks I will have a new top to replace the one destroyed by the harsh climate here. Oh, while on that subject, I wanted to do my little bit of public service for other people who struggle with corrosive environments. I know I have been known to harp and complain about the constant struggle with keeping tools and metals from oxidizing here. I have been using all types of different oils and sprays to try to control rust. Well, I think I might have found something that seems to be working far better than anything else I have tried to date. The product is called "Corrosion X" and it is made by a company in Dallas.

I first used this stuff to protect our little diving compressor hookah, and was impressed at how well it prevented rust. After getting frustrated by trying to use WD-40 and other products here, I imported several cans of this stuff through a local friend who runs a paint and supply shop here on Provo (thanks Brenton). So far, I am thinking this just might be one of the best products I have seen yet for protecting metal and loosening frozen parts. It's expensive, but it might just be worth it.

While I am passing on good information, I also wanted to tell you we have found a product that is deadly on ants. We don't have a huge ant problem here, but they do swarm around from time to time. I had tried spraying insecticides and putting out ant traps, with the usual results. Now, I have been using this inexpensive, simple concoction that uses Boric Acid as its active ingredient.

You put a couple drops of this stuff where the ants are crawling, and they go nuts over it. They will pile up over each other to eat this stuff. No kidding.

And then they run away and never come back. Fantastic. No poisons to spray, no obnoxious fumes, gloves, sprayers, etc.

I just realized that I am ending this post with a photo of a bunch of ants eating poison instead of a sunset. This is not a trend, don't worry. It's just that it has been cloudy and raining for the past several days and I don't have any fresh sunset photos. I will get some as soon as the weather clears. In the meantime, dealing with rust and bugs is definitely a part of life in the tropics.

Ok, okay. I can't end the post with a photo of a bunch of soon-to-be ex-ants. SO I went back into the photos we took on the way to Osprey Rock and found something else. (No, it's not a sunset. I don't HAVE any fresh sunsets. Not yet. Hang on a bit, til the weather clears.)

We were driving down that long dirt road toward the beach, La Gringa at the wheel because my new knee won't bend far enough to work a clutch yet. Suddenly she says "What's that? Is that cotton?" And I took a quick look and we were passing by this:

(That's part of Chalk Sound in the background.) And anyhow, she was right. It IS cotton, growing wild here alongside the road. I had written in a previous post, a year or so back, a little about the history of Provo, and the cotton plantations back in the early days, and how the soil played out and the slaves got left to fend for themselves. (see Chesire Hall Plantation )

We were kinda amazed, and actually slid to a stop in a cloud of dust, scraped Dooley off the bulkhead, and backed up to take a look. I even hobbled out with the camera. Actually I was wondering if it was really live cotton, or if someone had exploded a mattress or something.

And yep, it's real live cotton plants still suriviving after all those years. I pulled a boll off, and it was doing just fine, filled with cottonseeds. Well, it was doing fine until I pulled it off, I guess.

So, although it's not a pretty sunset or even a sunrise, it's gotta beat a pile of dead bugs as a way to end a post.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Spring Cleaning post.

I realize that the posts here have probably seemed a bit lame lately. And now I can tell you why. I was stretching out the photos we took in April to get as much mileage out of them as we could. This was because we just spent three weeks in Texas while I underwent a total knee replacement. The post prior to this was actually sent from a hotel room in Houston with my knee elevated and iced. Man do I hate hospitals and surgery. I had taken enough photos in April to be sure that I could make a couple more "tropical" posts here on the blog if I got held up in the hospital for longer than anticipated.

But that's behind us now, and we will shortly be taking fresh photos. In the meantime, I wanted to post the rest of the photos I have been 'hanging on to' in case I got tied up for medical reasons and couldn't take any fresh ones.

We are now back where we can really appreciate the sunsets again.

I didn't really think much about them until we were in the city for a few weeks without one. Man oh man, are we glad to be back. We had made that trip to Middle Caicos right before we left for the US, and I have already used most of those photos in my previous two posts. We did manage to fit in one more trip on the boat in before we packed up to go. La Gringa, Dooley, and I went out onto the Caicos Bank on a nice day in late April just for the heck of it. We weren't expecting to catch much in the way of fish, but it was an excuse to get out and play. We caught a couple of small yellowtails, a small mutton snapper, and the smallest fish yet, this little grouper:

Normally we wouldn't even keep something this small. It's not because they don't taste good, because they absolutely DO taste good. I am convinced that the small fish taste better than the large ones. And for fish species where the risk of ciguatera might be an issue (like grouper), the smaller fish have much, much less chance of having accumulated enough of the toxin to be a problem. And the teeth on the small fish, while impressive, are not dangerous at all:

(Awww...ain't they cute when they're young?)

No, the real reason we don't keep small fish is because Gringo is squeamish about fish bones. Yes, it's true. I admit it. Biting into a fish bone just ruins the whole experience for me. I know it's not macho. La Gringa doesn't mind picking bones. Preacher prefers small fish and laughs at my squeamishness. But there it is. I like big fish. I like to slice a fillet off the side of them and never worry about a single bone. And the bones I might have to deal with on a big fish are typically the size of a small nail and easy to spot. I don't know why I have this strong aversion to biting into a fish bone, I must have been traumatized as a youngster or something. But there it is.

When we were headed back to the marina on this near-perfect day we spotted a large dark blob moving around in the distance. We slowed down and boated over to check it out, thinking it might be one of the big stingrays we see out here from time to time. We couldn't tell exactly what it was at first:

We slowed down to keep pace with it, and kept trying to get over the top of it to see if we could get a better photo if we were looking straight down. But no matter what we did, it managed to keep away from us. We kept snapping photos hoping one of them would be useful.

We almost got over the top of it on this pass, and by now we could tell it was a shark.

Passing alongside I was guessing that it was just about half the length of the inside of our boat, which would make it around 10-12 feet long. That's a pretty respectably-sized fish. Certainly worth a little more effort. The weather was beautiful and the water was perfect (as you can see ) and we knew this was likely to be our last boat trip for a month or two, so we kept messing around trying to get some better photos.

Finally, La Gringa took the wheel and I leaned over the side of the boat to see if I could get a better image by holding the camera underwater. After some trial and error we finally managed to get a couple of clearer images. We found out that we just about had to stop the boat or the force of the water would almost rip the camera out of my hand. This made it kinda tricky as the shark was not holding still for his portrait. La Gringa managed to get close enough for me to just barely get it in this photo:

La Gringa figured out how to coordinate her boat driving with the shark's motion, and she could reverse the motor at the last second so that we slowed down enough for me to hold the camera steady underwater. We must have taken twenty or thirty photos, and while we were not happy with any of them, at least this one turned out well enough to see the whole fish :

Those little dark 'squiggles' on the underside of the waves are small reflections of the fish distorted by the uneven wave surface. Not exactly photo-documentary stuff, here, but it was fun at least. And it shows you yet again just how beautiful the water is here.

This lazy-man's way of holding the camera over the side and just snapping away produces mixed results. I took a few more photos in the area where we caught the small grouper, which had more bottom 'structure' than the smooth sand where we saw the shark.

This, for example, looks like good conch habitat. They like to 'graze' for algae where this kind of vegetation grows:

And we caught the small grouper and a little mutton snapper in a rockier area where I also tried just holding the camera over the side and pushing the button. Not much to look at here, either. One of our thousands of coral heads lurking just below the surface waiting for inattentive boaters:

We weren't in any hurry for the day to end. We were leaving for the USA and not sure when we would be back offshore to take some more pictures. We were even looking for photos to take in the marinas. We found this small monohull that someone brought all the way from New Zealand!

Now THAT's a boat trip!

It's late springtime now, and the ospreys are back nesting near our house. We saw this one sitting on a piece of driftwood alonside the channel leading into our home marina.

We had a few things to do before we could pack up and leave. We wanted to "top up" the cisterns to be sure the irrigation system had enough water in it so that it wouldn't run dry while we were not here to monitor it. Our buddy Lincoln brought us a couple of truck loads:

Lincoln's truck holds about 2,600 gallons, less what leaks out of the numerous holes and bad hoses. We pay a little over six cents a gallon to have it delivered like this. Well, six cents a gallon plus the now-traditional cold bottle of beer we always hand him when he's finished.

We had a number of errands to run in various parts of town before we left. We had heard that a new grocery store had opened up over in the Grace Bay area of the island. That is the part of Providenciales where most of the hotels and resorts are located, and a store there is an excellent idea. Not only to supply the visitors and vacationers who are in the area, but also to take some pressure off of the island's main store on Leeward Highway. The new store carries a nice selection of basics, has a good produce section, a good deli, and sells liquor as well. Inside, it looks a lot like a modern grocery store anywhere in the world:

So now people visiting the TCI who are staying in one of the Grace Bay resorts or condos can stock up on supplies without having to drive to the busier part of the island. Since most of our visitors are from either the US or Canada, I think it's going to be a good thing that they don't have to drive so far on the "wrong" side of the road. Maybe this will cut down on the traffic accidents.

While driving around I noticed that small trees and other vegetation are starting to grow up through the "Do-It Center" sign that got blown completely flat by the hurricanes back in September.

(You can tell I was really reaching for photos by this point)

Oh, here's some news: We got a 'new' truck! We have been driving a soft-top Land Rover Defender 90 for a couple of years now, supplemented by a little Suzuki Samurai. We love the little 4x4s, but they do have some drawbacks. Both of them only have adequate seating for two people, and the sun has pretty much rotted the canvas tops to the point where they provide some shade, but not much in protection from blowing rain or dust. When we took one of our vehicles to the airport to pick up visitors and their luggage, it was always a little bit TOO much adventure piling everyone in the back for the trip home. We knew we were going to have to get something with more seating and more protection from the elements someday.

Then we found out that one of the local construction firms was selling off some of their company vehicles due to the downturn in the building industry. While we were not actively looking for another vehicle at the moment, opportunities like this don't come along very often. This is a small island, and there are only so many used vehicles around. To be able to find the same model year, same basic engine and transmission as our existing Land Rover in a larger version was a real stroke of luck for us. So, we now own TWO 2005 Model Land Rovers, our beloved Defender 90, and now a Defender 110:

Of course I am pretty happy to have two vehicles with all the same systems in them. This means I only have to learn to fix one model of vehicle now, at least for the next few years. I already know a lot about the hydraulic clutches, for example. Makes my life a whole lot easier when it comes time for repairs. I can get one repair manual, buy oil in bulk, etc. Nice.

The 110 has seating for ten people! Granted, they would have to be ten very cozy and gregarious people, but the seats are there. We are going to be changing that slightly, by taking out the middle section of the front seat and replacing it with a console. The 110 also has air conditioning and a working radio. (We have been unable to keep a radio working in the Defender 90. The salty dust has now destroyed two of them. )

So, for our visiting family and friends who have experienced that exciting ride from the airport and going out to restaurants riding in the back of the little truck, now you can look forward to a much more comfortable and secure ride in a vehicle meant to carry more people. You no longer have to be treated like cargo.

An added benefit to the longer Land Rover is that we immediately noticed it has a much more comfortable ride on the rough road out to where we live. La Gringa quickly determined that it is her vehicle of choice. The little short wheel-base 90 is fun to drive, but it's a very rough ride by any standards. Now that we have something a little more suitable for passengers and carrying groceries out of the weather, I plan to do some upgrades on the short one. For starters, it needs a new top. And I have been thinking it would look good with a roll bar and some offroad lights.

And now that we don't need to carry passengers in it any more, I was able to take the spare tire off the quickly rotting steel swing-away carrier I imported and installed less than two years ago. This battle with corrosion is never ending, and even something as tough as the Land Rovers falls susceptible to it eventually. It seems like just a few months back I put this thing on the Defender 90. Now, it's oxidized almost to the point of being junk:

So I removed it. Chalked up the cost to part of the price we pay to live in a place like this. And the spare is back inside the small truck again, out of the elements but taking up a considerable amount of room in the back.

You might notice that there is a spare tire carrier on the rear gate of the "new" Land Rover, but that there is no spare on it, either. I asked the guy we bought it from why they took their spares off the factory mounts. He told me that they were tired of the mounting bolts ripping out through the aluminum doors when driving on the rough roads of Provo. I am thinking that before I put a spare back on there, I will learn from our previous experiences and figure out some way to toughen up that mount. Maybe by installing some backing plates on the inside of the door. It sure doesn't make much sense to be driving around this place without a spare.

While on the subject of corrosion, I wanted to show you one more example. We will be putting the little Suzuki up for sale shortly, as we certainly don't need three vehicles. I took the license plate off of the Suzuki to put on the new Land Rover (thats the system here) and I was a little surprised to see what had happened to the aluminum license plate. I had attached it to the steel mounting bracket on the Suzuki and used stainless steel bolts to secure it. I should know better by now, but I seem to keep re-learning the same lessons. When you have dissimilar metals in contact with each other in a high-salt environment like this, they start exchanging electrons. And in every case, one of the metals will lose electrons. In this case, the aluminum plate was the looser, and you can see what was happening to the metal around the mounting holes where the stainless bolts had secured it:

That top hole started out life exactly the same size as the bottom hole. There was no stress on it. Nothing trying to rip it apart. That is pure corrosion, and is a good example of what we are fighting down here on a day to day basis.

Well, this pretty much clears out the photos I had taken prior to leaving. Oh, there were a few others, but it was mostly just me driving around looking for things to take pictures of. For example, this is a visitor to the Harbor Club Villa hotel near where we live:

This is a place where you literally can walk out of your room, cross the "street" and be fly casting for bonefish right outside your motel. I know I have mentioned that before, but wanted to show you that it's true.

Another image that caught my attention was when I was in the local clinic getting some lab work done prior to my trip up north. Notice the label on the container?

I am guessing that most of the places I have lived before moving here did not have doctors removing so many embedded fish hooks that they needed to stock bolt cutters for the larger ones.

And finally we got down to our last night on the island before headed up to the big crowded cities of the USA.

We hate leaving here, and are always anxious to return. This time we had no idea how long we would be gone. We knew it could conceivably be as long as two months, depending on how the surgery went. As it worked out we were only gone three weeks, but it felt like three months to us.

And now we are back, and should be able to get back on track with the boating, diving, and fishing just as soon as we get caught up with all the little things that one has to get caught up with after being away from home.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

More Middle Caicos

The sun has finally moved far enough North to get it and the old freighter wreck into the same photo again.

I remember taking pictures of the sun rising right through the old wreck last summer. That must be when it is about at it's peak in the Northern Hemisphere.

This photo was taken from our patio, but really has nothing to do with the rest of this post. I'm going to put up some pictures we took while my friend Keith was visiting us from Texas. We took him over to Middle Caicos to check out what the TCI is like once you get away from the "bright lights, big city" aspects of Providenciales. Well, it's a city to us. And it's beginning to show some city problems, lately. But Middle Caicos, ahh...that's a nice place.

Keith had tried a few casts the afternoon we arrived but didn't hook into any bonefish. He wanted to give it another try the next morning so we hired Dolphus to run us over to Windward Going Through in one of his boats. We met up with Dolphus near Bambarra beach. This is an area where several of the Middle Caicos inhabitants keep their boats either on anchor or pulled up on the beach. I thought it was kinda neat to see traditional, hand built wooden Caicos Sloops alongside roto-molded plastic Hobie Cats. A two hundred year old design and a modern plastic marvel.

On the boat trip from Bambarra down to Windward-Going-Through we passed by Joe Grant Cay. This little island has been approved for development of one of the next big resorts here in the TCI. Or at least, development was approved by the government that was in power until recently. That may not be the case any longer, with the British taking a closer look at all of these development projects. If you look at the top of the small hill, you can see the ruins of what Dolphus told us was Joe Grant's home here.

I have tried to find some history on who Joe Grant was, and why an island is named after him, but so far I have not found anything. I do know we buy fuel from a gasoline/diesel station named "Grant's" on Provo, and think there might be something in common there, but I don't know for sure.

We pulled up into some protected water between Middle Caicos and the big, uninhabited island of East Caicos. It's kind of ironic that at this point we were very close to the ruins of "Jacksonville" on East Caicos. This is a place I have wanted to explore for four years now. Well, we couldn't do it on this trip. But at least now I know how to get to it by boat.

We dropped Keith off with his fly rod to experience the totally isolated nature of this part of the TCI.

He is going to be totally on his own here for the next two hours. And I do mean totally. No other boats. No other people. No airplanes. No traffic. No people. Just him, his fly rod, and his thoughts. It's about to get really really quiet for him, as we slowly back the boat away into deeper water...

We didn't even leave him a cell phone.

While Keith was trying to hook up with a bonefish, La Gringa, Ben, Dooley the Damaged, and I boated around the corner with Dolphus to try our hand at some bait fishing. First, we needed to get some bait. We had come woefully unprepared to spend the morning fishing, but what the heck. We were on vacation. Dolphus and I waded around for a while, and eventually I found a couple of conch. Dolphus baited a couple of hooks and within a few minutes La Gringa pulled in a small Mutton Snapper. Not long after that, Ben caught a small yellow tail. Of course none of us bothered to take any photos. Dolphus got a laugh when we tied Dooley the Demented up while we were fishing.

Dolphus didn't understand why we would be concerned about such a small dog while we were just peacefully sitting at anchor and fishing. So, to explain it to him, we untied Dooley to show him what was going to happen.

This is Dooley demonstrating to Dolphus just why the litte booger has to be restrained. Dolphus thought it was pretty funny to watch Dooley the Dangerous go after his fish in the splashwell of his boat. What he didn't realize is that Dooley is dead serious when it comes to fish. At the end of this little video clip Dolphus suddenly understands that the dog is not kidding around, and he grabs Dooley before he destroys what was planned to be dinner.

Next time, I bet he won't have to ask why we always tie him up.

We had only hired the boat until noon, and it was an hour's run back to Bambarra, so we had to cut the fishing short and start the return. It's an interesting trip, dodging coral heads and rocks the entire way. I left my portable GPS unit turned on the whole way so I now have a "dotted line" to follow through all the dangerous spots when we return on our own boat.

Coming back into the little dock at Bambarra, our resident lookout dog Dooley the Diligent let us know that we were approaching landfall. He's usually the first one on the boat. The first one in the water. And after a day offshore he is definitely planning to be the first one in the trees.

That little dog has the bladder of a St. Bernard.

We still had a few hours to kill before heading back to Provo, so we decided to check out the Conch Bar Caves on Middle Caicos. La Gringa had taken the tour a couple years before. I had not been there, as I usually opt out of any long walking trips over uneven terrain. My knees are just not up to it. This time, however, I deceided to trail along to see these limestone caves. And I am glad I did. I had a mental picture of basically a big hollow spot in the hillside. This cave runs back almost a mile, though. It was difficult to get good photos, but in general it looks like a variation of this:

There are plenty of stalactites, and stalagmites, and all that cave talk stuff to look at.

For people who enjoy caves. I am not one of those people, typically, but did make an exception this time since my old buddy was visiting.

This is a small root from a tree or something that comes down to the floor of the cave and water runs down it and slowly builds up the carbonate stuff over thousands of years.

There have been ancient artifacts found in the cave, from when the Lucayan Indians used it back in pre-Columbian times. For people interested in more about it all, you can find a little bit more at: Middle Caicos and can probably find some other web sites with Conch Bar info.

And before anyone complains about defacing national parks, let me say I had absolutely NOTHING to do with this:

We had an uneventful trip back to Provo after our overnight stay on Middle Caicos. We still had some time before Keith flew back to the USA, so we showed him around Provo a bit. We even took him to one of Preacher's favorite local restaurants for a meal of bonefish. This was a first for us as well. We had often heard that bonefish were too boney to eat. This is not so. Boney, yeah, I guess so. But also delicious! A mild tasting white fleshed fish. A plate of it looks amazingly like this:

Mr. Walkin, the owner of the cafe, told us that he sometimes gets bonefish fillets without any bones in them. Hmm. I never heard of a boneless bonefish, but fully intend to come back to check it out at some later date.

We had a nice weather day while our visitor was still in town, so we loaded up a couple of fishing poles and took the Contender out to see if anything worth keeping was biting offshore. Keith tied into a couple of decent sized barracuda, which gave him plenty of fight. Dooley had some menu suggestions for this small one:

and for the bigger one, too.

One of the things we really appreciate about this boat is that the gunwales are high enough that we can handle decent fish without the dog being able to get his teeth into them. Of course once we bring them on board, it's another matter. It's just a matter of time before one of the fish gets a tooth into the dog. Maybe he will change his wicked ways, then. But I doubt it.

We spotted some late season visitors in what looks like a new Lagoon catamaran just outside of Provo on the way back in:

In another month it will be rare for us to see large cruising sailboats here. They tend to either head north to the US or much further south before the start of hurricane season.

Here's a photo of Keith and I before he took off back to the US.

We have been friends for 43 years now, although we do tend to lose touch from time to time. Somehow we always seem to pick right back up where we left off. Looking at this photo, what strikes me the most is not the gray hair or wrinkles we have gathered in our different paths through life. What strikes me is that when we were young we were practically the same height, and I did not have bowed legs! I may have to do something about these knees before I end up in an all terrain wheel chair. (And it really chaps my posterior that Keith is now taller than I am. Grrr..)

So this post ends the short story of my oldest best friend's first visit to the TCI. I already have enough photos for the next post since we have been pretty busy lately. We have done some more fishing, and have a new acquisition in the vehicle department.

So, please stay tuned. And please keep the emails and comments coming. We really do enjoy hearing from people.