Monday, July 20, 2009

Playing with sharks

Summer continues. Even in the tropics, we have summer. Our summer days are shorter than those up in New England for example. The sun is still pretty far north of us. Even at dawn.

We've had at least two days so far in July when the temperature hit 90 degrees. It doesn't feel like it's that warm with the almost constant wind, but it does happen a few times a year.

The weather in general has been pretty good. A little rain here and there, always welcome in reasonable and well-timed quantities. And it's been like that. Every few days a squall blows through, we get some gusty winds and rain, and then it leaves. Sometimes it leaves rainbows.

The good news on that one is that I finally got a good fix on the leprechuans' pot of gold location...

And as soon as the outboard parts arrive we are going to go out and dive on it. I figure with this photo I can line up the boat and go straight to that spot!! Heck it's only about nine feet deep there, I am surprised someone hasn't found that gold by now.

While we are indeed waiting for our outboard parts (they actually tried to mail them, the fools!) our boating has been limited to our little kayak, "Low Cay". Fortunately we've become really fond of this little rubber boat. It lets us get into places we could never get to with an outboard motor. It's quiet, economical to run. And of course it's great exercise for the new knee. Are they supposed to make those clicking noises?

Yesterday we decided to go explore someplace new rather than just tour the same canals again. There is a large part of this island that is not developed or even accessible except by boat. So we decided it was time to go take a look at some of it.

This is a sat view of the area we kayaked Saturday. We had seen one little piece of it a few months back, but most of it is totally new to us.

We started at the spot marked "Boat ramp", went south to Osprey Rock (marked "cave") and then turned around and went north past the "fishermen", up into that inlet north of where I have labelled "chasing sharks". I guess these descriptions kind of synopsize what this part of the post is about. (Except for the DIY. I've got some DIY at the end, of course. Don't I always? It's what my life is about down here on a day to day basis. Gotta have my DIY. A day without DIY is like a day without...DIY. sigh.) We did about six miles or so. I forgot to take the little GPS with me, again.

Okay back to the travelogue. We drove all the way to the end of that dirt road you can see in the sat image. Like most of the other roads on this island, we don't know if it has an official name or not. Most of the roads here do not have official names. There are no street signs, for example. No house numbers. No mail delivery (are you listening this time, Yamaha parts people in Florida???) And nothing on the maps. It's about six and a half miles from the pavement to the boat ramp. Bad road all the way, too. That's another version of the story of our lives. Bad road. Bad, bad road! Anyhow, I will mention this road again later.

At the end of the road there are a couple of places where one can park their vehicle and easily access the water. We chose this spot as a good place to launch "Low Cay".

Nice little secluded, protected cove with a small sandy beach and shallow, calm water. Perfect. Absolutely perfect. They could shoot a Corona beer commercial here, easy.

And you can see Osprey Rock in the distance in that photo. It's the rock split from the cliff face off in the distance. The round looking one. That was our first intended stop in the kayak, until we got distracted.

Now this is actually the spot I am calling "boat ramp", although you probably won't understand why until later. This is looking north from where we put in.

Does that look like a "boat ramp" to you? Nope. Me neither. More on this later, too. Same old ugly, clear blue water, too. Do we miss muddy, brown ocean? No. Not ever. Never.

Okay, first thing we did was zing right up to take a close look at Osprey Rock. It was blowing pretty good offshore so we hugged the coastline, staying in the lee of the low rocky hills. Our intention was to go grab a couple close up photos of Osprey Rock and then head back toward Frenchman's Creek. This was about 3:00 in the afternoon and we didn't have a lot of time to waste. Or so we thought at the time. That was Plan A anyhow.

Well, first diversion was when we were headed out across what is called "West Harbour" toward the Rock at the end. We saw this indentation in the little cliffs...

And we just had to go check that out. And as we got closer, we were surprised to find a series of small caves, complete with a great little protected anchorage for a small boat. With the prevailing NE winds here this place would be protected just about all of the time. I am sure that wasn't lost on early visitors.

We pedalled up to the shore, and could see that people use the center cave as a camping spot. It looked like fires had been built in the other caves, too, but I didn't go check those out. Yet. We could see holes in the top of the cave, and someone has even installed a wooden ladder to be able to climb up through one of them. It's difficult to see much from the ocean here:

So La Gringa dropped me off, and I climbed up the rocks to take a look. It wasn't until I actually got up into the mouth of the cave and looked back that I realized what a truly nice spot this is:

Inside, there was easily room to sleep a dozen people on sleeping bags in just the main cave alone. There was a great place for a fire, and the cave provides a natural chimney to let the smoke out.

Nearby there is a smaller round hole in the roof, and this is where someone has secured a ladder...

I was about to climb it to see what the top of the the ridge was like, but first needed to go back to the boat to get my shoes. I had gotten this far barefooted, and there are some seriously sharp rocks in this country.

Well, when I started back to the boat I noticed La Gringa has it pinned in place with some kind of three-point mooring technique she had obviously developed while I was in the cave..

And the dog was getting big time antsy. Once he's in the bushes and on the trail of a lizard there's no telling how long a delay will be involved. Realizing that we had miles to go and it was late afternoon, we saved further exploration of the caves for another trip. Half an hour into this expedition and we already have a whole 'nuther thing planned to come back and investigate. We pedalled onward..

To the original objective at this end, Osprey Rock:

We decided not to go check out the other side. It's tough to see in this photo, but just a short distance out from behind this rock the wind has the water worked up into a good two to three foot chop. No biggie for the Contender, but it's major face splash in "Low Cay". And we have to keep rescuing the dog.

You can get a better idea by peering between the rocks at the ocean on their windward side:

We elected to explore smoother water today.

We hung around here for a few minutes, looking at rocks, waves, taking photos. Yelling at the dog to stay in the boat. Then we did a 180 and headed back toward Frenchman's Creek. This was our original objective, we reminded ourselves. To make up for the time we spent lollygagging around Osprey Rock because I wanted to look in the cave, we headed straight to the little point of land I labelled "Fishermen". But the correct name for that is Bonefish Point. As we approached it from the south, we noticed some activity in the distance:

We were not sure whether or not we had come upon some daytime ceremony we might just want to miss, so we cautiously moved up to between those two rocks until we could see what was going on.

"Low Cay" is a fantastic sneaky boat. With the silent Mirage drives, and the soft sides that don't make clunking noises, we have found we can creep up on birds, fish, and even fishermen:

I figure these four guys must have walked several miles to get to this spot. There is no road close by. Or I guess it's possible they launched a boat up the creek and have it tied up on the other side of this little cay. Looking at the sat image, it seems plausible.

Friendly guys, with coolers and hand lines, enjoying a really nice Saturday afternoon without another soul in sight, Well, except for these two bizarre white people with a funny looking little dog in a rubber boat that came by...

We never did figure out the deal with the umbrella on top of the palm tree. I am sure it makes perfect sense to someone. Or it did at one time.

We continued North, hugging the shore here where the water was smoother. We passed a lot of un-inhabited beach. Saw some birds, but no more people. We went over to see what this dark thing in the water was.

I had wondered how mangrove plants started in an area, whether they gradually moved out from shore by extending shoots. Well, this one is starting all by itself in about four or five feet of water. It's a long way from the nearest other mangrove.

I mentioned birds, like this laughing gull that kept buzzing us.

I don't know if he thought we would have fish or if he had just never seen a Jack Russell Terrier on a kayak before. He lined up several perfect bombing runs, but never released any bombs. Maybe that's why they call them laughing gulls. They like practical jokes?

We got into a shallow area along the shoreline and La Gringa spotted this dark shape moving just offshore from us. So we angled over to see what it was. Remember the last time we did this it was about a 14 foot tiger shark.

When we got close enough we could see that it was only about a six foot Nurse Shark. We started out just trying to get closer to see if I could get a good photo but the shark kept zipping this way and that and staying right out of range. So we ended up chasing the thing all over the place, until it decided to move up into the real shallows right next to the beach. I think it was exhausted and just wanted to take a break from all the fun and games with kayaks. This was too shallow for us to use the Mirage Drives, so we had to unlimber the paddles and move like a conventional kayak.

This did let us get right up close to it and I was snapping away with the camera.

I think it was at about this point that Dooley the Disbelieving noticed that there was this big thing moving around just underwater and that it looked amazingly like a fish.

He normally doesn't assign much weight to what he sees. If he hears something, or smells it, then he is all over it. He knows he heard something or caught a whiff of something. Those are his primary senses. I don't know about his vision. He might need glasses or something, but he doesn't trust his eyes anywhere near as much as he does his other senses. (I am also convinced that he has absolutely no sense of taste either.) ( Great sense of humor, though. For a dog.)

I guess we had tired this poor old shark out by chasing it around, or maybe they are just naturally lazy and laid back. But in any case we found out that you can get quite close to them if you want:

After seeing me grab the fish and getting a good sniff at it Dooley the Delighted realized that THIS is what those dark shapes under the water were all about. From then on he examined every single shadow he could find in the ocean. And La Gringa had to start restraining him. Again. He paid a lot of attention to the ones he saw swimming in the shallows:

Then he got pretty good at spotting them at a distance:

The problem is that NOW he wants to stop and investigate every single dark splotch he sees on the bottom. Getting home could take days if we let him look at every rock in the ocean.

Eventually we got to the entrance to the interior water that you can see on the sat image. It was now almost six o'clock in the evening, and we still had to get all the way back, pedalling into the wind and current. So we did not get to do all the exploring we intended. We will save that for another day, too. This trip provided a lot of ideas for new places to explore. And we really appreciated this area. We saw miles of beaches without a single human footprint on them.

By this time it was approaching 6:00 and time for us to turn around and start back. We managed to get a few hundred yards into the entrance to that creek, but knowing that we had several miles of pedalling back against the wind, waves, and current we decided to turn around.

I snapped a few photos of the beaches from a distance as we slowly made our way back. This area is composed of small cays and there is no sign of human habitation. No power line, condos, resorts, marinas, docks, or footprints. It basically looks the same way it looked a thousand years ago, I imagine.

Except for the stuff that floats ashore of course. off to the right of where this photo was taken we spotted a huge piece of bamboo washed ashore.

I think it might be the biggest single piece of bamboo I have ever seen. Now I am wishing we had tied a line to it and towed it home with us. To add to my growing bamboo collection, of course. I am not sure why I have starting picking up big pieces of bamboo. I just know there is something useful about it if I can just figure out what. I have a small but growing pile of it at the house already.

All along this coast there are these nice little spots that make us want to pack a picnic lunch and just hang out for the day. Dozens of them. With nobody around.

Perfect places to play 'castaway' for a day.

Finally we made it back to the spot where we had originally launched "Low Cay". Before we even made it ashore, a gentleman appeared on the beach and waved us over. He asked if it might be possible for us to take a photo of him and his wife in our boat. At least that's what I thought he asked.

We said 'sure, why not?', and he waved to his family. Which proceeded to filter out of the bushes and climb into the boat, with some help and direction from La Gringa and myself. We loaded a very pregnant woman into the front, a naked boy (hiding behind the front seat with his, uh, posterior sticking out) another lady in the back, and the gentleman who started this all gently carried a newborn infant out to place with the woman in the rear whom I assume was the Missus.

Dooley the Demanding was back and forth, not sure what was going on here. But he knows he does not like other people in HIS boat.

Once they were all settled in place, La Gringa took some photos with their camera and the water in the background while I photographed the scene from another angle.

So finally, with that out of the way and our new friends disappeared back up the shoreline we were able to beach "Low Cay" at the same spot where we had launched some three hours earlier.

We were a bit surprised to see that someone else had used this spot to launch a boat, and a bigger boat than ours.

We had seen three guys out in about a 21-22 ft. skiff fishing earlier, and assume this is where they started out. Now, some things about this rig caught my eye. You might notice in that photo above, and in this one...

...that the boat trailer front, or tongue, is at an unusually high angle. Well upon closer inspection it's not hard to figure out why. Someone has mounted a trailer tow ball hitch to the swing away tire carrier on a Nissan SUV. I am not kidding:

This setup illustrates one of the very basic differences between the TCI and say, Sparta NJ, or Falmouth MA. In either one of those fine little boating community towns, I can easily imagine the reaction of the very first police officer to see something like this tooling down main street on the way to a boat ramp. A traffic stop of this nature might make the local newspaper in the States. Here, if it works, it's okay. If it fails, you are in trouble, but up until that point it's more of a 'no harm, no foul" attitude. We kinda like it, actually. Doesn't mean I would follow this guy too closely on the highway. With freedom comes some responsibility.

"Trailer lights and turn signals? Yeah, we got a wire for that"

"Safety chains? That's what we cut up that expensive nylon winch strap for!"

"This trailer has brakes, right there in that box. And we even tied the thin steel tubing spare tire carrier to the bumper with a new piece of yellow polypropylene rope!" If the bumper holds, they are good to go. And they obviously made it.

I guess nobody is going to complain that there's no license plate on the trailer at this point...

Thinking about all this, I realized that they not only got through town with this setup, and launched their boat, but they made it down that 6.5 miles of bad, bad, rough and rutted road I talked about earlier.

And that's why I am referring to this spot as the Boat Ramp, and the next time I hear someone complaining about the condition of a boat ramp someplace, I am going to show them this photo:

And I have a whole new respect for the way Nissan builds their spare tire carriers.

As for "Low Cay", our job is simple. Deflate it and roll it up and all 14 ft. of it fits in the back of the truck:

We are really appreciating the versatility of a small inflatable boat around here. Somehow, I just cannot see us ever backing the Contender up to this ramp on a boat trailer... Maybe if I put a trailer hitch on the spare tire reckon they are rated for 4,000 lbs or so?

So that was Saturday's kayak trip. Other than that we have been keeping busy with the usual stuff. We have one son down with us at the moment who is now officially 'into' kite boarding. La Gringa and I have done a little beach combing locally. She discovered a small mother lode of "Sea Hearts" and filled a bucket with them. These go well with our casuarinas wood and bamboo collections, I might add. The "Sea Hearts" look like this on the beach:

Or like this in perspective:

We have heard of these seed pods being referred to as "Cuban Hearts", too, but in looking them up online I discovered that's not accurate. They drifted here from Africa, if I am reading this right: Sea Hearts

I made a momentous discovery on this trip, too. I found a complete pair of matching flip flops washed ashore!

We find shoes all the time. Thousands and thousands of shoes washed up on the beaches. But never two of the same pair, until now. And they are even my size!

And in the shadow, you can see I have also scored yet another length of bamboo that La Gringa had found and told me about..

Oh, now here comes the dreaded DIY section. Those not interested in rusty steel can leave now. But I have to be interested in it. You see, it seems to be interested in ME. It follows me everywhere I go these days. Even into my dreams.

Here we have the current fleet of land vehicles, each of which needs immediate work on something that is corroding away.

The Suzuki is up for sale, so I am not putting much effort into that these days. The D-90 (with the bamboo sticking out the back) is waiting for me to fix the canvas top that rotted in the sun. Lately I have been concentrating on the D-110 since we use that the most.

I have ordered an air compressor, a small sand-blasting cabinet, and a paint spray gun. I am hoping that these will better arm me to deal with stuff like....THIS:

Yes, the 110 has five rusty steps. They were once folding steps. They no longer fold, because they are encased in a nice layer of rust. I have been experimenting with a method of preliminary rust removal that is working so far. From a tip I got on an online fishing/boating forum, I took a bucket of water and added some baking soda to it. I then bolted a piece of wire coat hanger to one of these rusty steps, and immersed it into the bucket of conductive water. I attached the negative lead of a small battery charger to the coat hanger, and then attached the positive lead to a piece of scrap metal. This also goes into the water, not touching the rusty part. I won't go into how it works here, but it does. I left the first rusty step in this solution bubbling away overnight, and the next morning there was an ugly blob of floating iron oxide and hydrogen and oxygen foam on the top of the water:

(it is TOO rusty foam!) and the water itself was totally opaque.

Here is the step that sat in the underwater electric chair overnight compared to the next victim:

The black residue wipes off easily. And although it's not quite ready to paint, this sure took a lot of effort and the cost and mess of wire wheels and sandpaper out of it. This takes no effort at all. I am thinking that the sand blaster will leave this ready for a primer coat. After I get it apart.

I didn't do this on my own, of course. I had constant advice and supervision from my shop manager, Dooley DeRusto. he doesn't get his paws dirty if he can help it, but he's a good supervisor. And he grins at my jokes.

So I guess we can say this method has now been "Dooley Authorized"...

And that's basically the end of this post. We have lots more, but this one has gotten long enough already. A few nights ago we were out front to snap yet another sunset photo to close the blog post with, when I looked down at our papaya tree. I had thrown all the seeds from a papaya we bought at the grocery store down by the driveway to see if they would grow. And they did. It's that dark green tree with the big leaves:

So, I got sidetracked and made my way down to check on the status of things in what has now become a papaya thicket. And we have about thirty of them in there, so far:

And once in there trying to take the photo, I realized that the light was failing, so I scrambled back out just to barely make it in time for the sunset photo that I started out to take. Once again, I almost missed it by getting sidetracked.

And finally, we can end this, with that:


Anonymous said...

Wow!!! My jaw hit the floor when I watched the shark video..that is just unreal! I can't wait to see what you find at the top of the wooden stairs at the caves. Looks very interesting around there.

Had to laugh out loud at the Dooley man. He looks like he is foaming at the mouth while examining the dark spots under the surface. He is so like my Bella.

Looks like another great day in the life of the Gringos! Thanks for sharing! :0)


MrPat said...

Just a great day, another one....

Christine said...

Another great post from the Gringos and Dooley! Looks like some great exploring ahead.

jschieff said...

Awesome spot. So unreal to see pristine, uninhabited beaches and coastline from someone who lives in an area where every square inch of shoreline is coveted and fought over.

Indomitable Dooley appears to have no fear of nasty fish at all. One of those sharks might find Dooley to be a rather tasty morsel if he gets too inquisitive.

As always I enjoy seeing your creative ways to cope with the relentless degradation of all things metal. I wonder sometimes what less resourceful visitors end up doing when they realize spare parts are impossible to find, and shipping in new items is incredibly expensive and subject to importation hassles.

Love the sunsets and sunrises!

Anonymous said...

Whew!! For a minute there, I was thinkin' the video was gonna end with Dooley's eulogy. Sure am glad that didn't happen.

Thanks for passing on the rust trick, too.


Anonymous said...

The rust trick is working great. The important things are to put something in solution in the water so that it conducts well. I used baking soda. I read that if you use Draino, it also cuts grease. Will try that next.

The water was clear and streams of bubbles coming off both pieces when I started. It was totally black by the next day.

And you need to put the negative terminal on the piece you want to save, and the positive on the other one. I think the more surface area on the sacraficial cathode the better. It gets eaten up. I am thinking a smashed flat coffee can might work well.

And it's basically 'line of sight', in that the current goes straight between them. It's good to move them around relative to each other a few times, so that different parts of the rusty piece are facing the cathode.

I am thinking of all the tools I can salvage with this method. You can take them out of the solution, blast the black gunk off with a pressure washer, and then lightly oil them.

I am determined to really look into this whole corrosion thing here. It's a challenge. I'm learning a lot.

But then I have the perfect lab conditions.

Anonymous said...

Hi - love your blog! Brings back memories of our trips to Provo. And the fabulous photos. Speaking of the sixth picture (closer up of the entrance to the cave) the rock formation looks like a profile of the head of a shark with its mouth open! I read your blog on a regular basis and it always makes my day; thanks!

La Gringa said...

Hey Anonymous...!!! ;-)

You're absolutely right - that cave on the left looks EXACTLY like a shark with its mouth open - how appropos for our day of chasing sharks! Ha!

Anonymous said...

That area of provo looks amazing! That cave looks like a great place for a picninc lunch. I am going to have to make it out there on one of my next trips. I have a 2wd 4cyl sportage down there. Do you think it will have any trouble making it through those roads?