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.


Wakey said...

I was wondering where yall were!

Welcome back and good luck with the rehab.

You know I've only caught one mutton snapper in my life and bonefish, forget it, I've only seen them on TV!

Looking forward to more installments :)

Rabbitfish said...

Glad you're back! How is the outlook for the knee surgery? Full recovery I hope!! Are the prices posted in the store in US dollars or other currency?
Keep up the excellent posts! Even if you think we may not be interested, it is usually what we would look for ourselves. Thanks again for sharing,


Anonymous said...

Yep, those prices are in US Dollars. We were astounded by the difference in pricing when we were in grocery stores in the US recently. Little things add up. But to keep it in perspective, we don't pay an additional sales tax. Or property tax. TCI income tax, school tax, none of that. We figure we pay about 25-30% higher prices for most things. BUT we don't pay that income tax up front, so it works out not as bad as it looks. If there were NO witholding taxes from your paycheck, you wouldn't mind paying a slightly higher price at the store, either, I bet.

On the knee, well, I didn't want to turn this into a whining Gringo's knee symposium so didn't make a big deal out of it. Oh, of course La Gringa is tired of hearing me moan and whine about it, I am sure. But we kept it off the blog. I have all kinds of photos and x-rays etc. I only mentioned it to explain why we got scarce for a while, and of course to let anyone who is contemplating similar issues know that they can ask if they have any questions.

Jamie said...

Gringo, I got a laugh at the "Bolt Cutters for Fish Hooks" at the clinic. We ran into the same type of thing on a visit to the Emergency Room at the hospital near our lake cottage. They had a HUGE bulletin board with a display of all the lures they had cut out of not-so-happy vacationers at Lake of the Ozarks. Some were real doozies. They all had dates and names of the lucky fisherpeople too. Boy, that's one board I NEVER want to make....Jamie

literacylady said...

Glad to hear your surgery went well and that you are back home in Paradise! O always enjoy reading your blogs, even ones like this where you say you are scrambling for topics, because I always learn so many new things I didn't know. The corrosion issue really is a big problem, one we also battle on the west coast of Florida. because it is silent until uncovered. Good to read (and see) that there's another grocery store, although I'm partial to the Pine Cay Commissary, myself. Get well soon!

Anonymous said...

We have just imported several cans of this stuff called "Corrosion X" and have high hopes for it. I first found it when the Brownie's Third Lung people sent me a small can of it to keep our hookah compressor from rusting away. And it seemed to work very well. So I am going to try it around the house,vehicles, and boat now. I can tell really soon if it's any good, I will just coat my little drill press with it, and if it's not covered in rust again in two weeks, then this stuff beats WD-40, Slick 50, and 3-In-1 oil hands down. None of them seem to be able to handle this environment.

Surfsister said...

If you ever need to vent about your knee, feel free to come over to my blog. Since I can't surf, I'm now focusing on my knee and the recovery from the surgery.

Jennifer said...

Beautiful photos!

I just voted for you in Blogger's Choice '09! Good luck! :)

And I don't mean to spam you, but if you get a chance, my blog is up for Best Parenting Blog and I'd love your vote!

Christine said...

Glad you're back in paradise!! Looking forward to more Gringo, La Gringa, Dooley adventures!

Anonymous said...

Stay off that knee as much as possible. If you give it time it will be like new. I've followed you since the beginning @ Hull Truth. I feel bad knowing you were in the hospital. I was needing my island fix, and wondering if you jumped ship. Here I am in my office with the window facing the fence with vines and mold, surrounded by warm glowing dual monitors. hope you get better soon, and I hope you are being the best patient you can be.
Pensacola fl

Kristin said...

Hope your recovery is going well. Those pictures of the water clarity with the shark are amazing!!! Looks like a swimming pool. I look at these as the Boston news is giving out frost advisory's for tomorrow morning.

Any progress on naming the house?


Anonymous said...

Well, I sure hate that you guys had to go through all that (LaGringa too ;). The knee is a tough one. Hope you at least enjoyed the warmer weather here this time..and got your fill of Tex-Mex. That is always a plus in Houston. Hope the rest of your recovery is speedy...stay out of the kayak for a while!! Glad your water is so clear. Not so much in the BVI's. The algae has been terrible but it is slowly leaving..hope it is gone by next month.
Where did Mr. Dooley stay while y'all were gone? I bet he missed you two...tons!

Take care and we missed y'all!!

Anonymous said...

Glad to hear that the knee is fixed & you'll be blogging once again. I've gotten accustomed to reading about corrision and diy around TCI. From the looks of the new vehicle, you're getting ready to go on a safari. Hope you soon have some stories and pictures of the big ones that didn't get away.