Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Backroads and boat ramps

I usually try to start these posts with a sunrise. But I didn't want you to get the idea that every morning is perfect. Just for a change, here is a shot of one of those mornings when the sun just didn't quite make the pretty tropical photo because of squalls. We love squalls. Squalls mean rainwater in the cisterns. And rain also means the dust stays on the ground for a while.

At the end of the previous post I know I mentioned some planned festivities in Blue Hills. We got our wires crossed with Preacher. We showed up right after lunch where these things usually take place on the beach, only to find that the sloop races were over and nothing much else was going on. There was a tent awning set up, with a DJ playing extremely loud music with a lot of drum and rap vocals ('rap vocals' is kinda redundant, I realize) and a few people still hanging around. We don't typically spend even two minutes at festivities where sound levels push your eardrums together, so we were outta there. The next day we decided to go back to explore the rest of the inland areas around Frenchman's Creek. A mistake.

But we did take some photos of the day's outing and they are a little different than what we usually post here. I have written many times about some of the roads here, and how very 'basic' they are in many places. We have some photos for you.

The long road from the pavement back to Osprey Rock and the access to Frenchman's Creek is pretty typical of the roads in 'backcountry Provo':

We had noticed this little access area for the tidal waters around Frenchman's Creek on our last couple of trips out to Osprey Rock. Note the use of the term 'tidal' waters. This is important. I should have paid more attention to it.

This is like so many other out-of-the-way "boat ramps" in the TCI. Basically a place where the limestone slopes down to the water and it's possible to back a boat trailer. When we first moved here, I don't think we would have even considered anything that wasn't paved to be a boat ramp. Boat ramps have parking places. Signs. Trash cans. Some have docks to tie up to. Attendants. You know, BOAT RAMPS.

Our perceptions have changed. We now find ourselves backing our vehicles into places where we once would have feared to wade.

Well, except Dooley the Demented. He is not afraid to wade. Anywhere.

You can probably see the silt and muck he managed to stir up within thirty seconds of getting out of the truck. Great. Nothing like sharing a boat with a wet dog that smells like the bottom of a tidal area.

This is what the view from this particular boat ramp looks like. We are looking northwest, across the tidal areas that make up this waterway. At low tide.

If I had paid attention to the area where Dooley the Determined was exploring I would probably have seen signs of what this area is like at high tide. The mangroves are a pretty good indication of where the water would be.

Now, that little hill in the background is of some interest to us. We have learned that these little hills are prime locations for caves.

We were in shorts and boating clothes, which means that we were not about to go tramping around in the bush here. Even though the local flora looks like simple bushes, that is deceiving. These plants are tough, and the branches and roots will tear your clothing and skin if you are not really careful. I have dozens of new scars since coming here, with most of them from my inclination to go climbing around in bushy, rocky areas unprepared. This is long pants and lace up boot country.

We managed to get the kayak inflated and launched without punching any holes in it at the 'boat ramp'. Once we got out into deeper, cleaner water La Gringa announced that she had experienced quite enough of the aroma of Dooley the Dirty and she dunked him overboard like a squirming tea bag a few times to wash him off:

I was in the back fiddling with the camera, and caught part of that on video. Unfortunately, it was near the end of it, about the second or third dunking, and he was clean and resigned by that point.

We were able to kayak a couple hundred yards, and then we found ourselves aground at low tide. We tried heading in every different direction that we could find, and I had a handheld GPS with us so I knew where the channels were supposed to be. But we learned the hard way that this area needs to be boated at high tide, when we would have another foot and a half of water here. Finally, after an hour of frustration, I decided to just pull us back to the deeper water.

One solid step with the new knee..

and then step into a hole on the bad knee..

I was mumbling about sled dogs and harnesses at this point, I am sure. But Dooley claimed he was too short to be much help, and he stayed in the boat. A half hour or so of this and I had enough. We made our way back to the 'ramp' and packed up the boat. We figured this day was a washout kayak-wise, but that we might as well take a look around while we were here with all afternoon to kill. We started picking interesting looking roads and trails and just driving down them to see where they led. This is pretty typical:

and it wound its way round flats and marshes and eventually ended at a beach. When we got there, we could see just how exceptionally low the tide actually was on this day.

High tide would bring the water up close to the vegetation line. No wonder we were gettng stranded in the marshes.

There is another trail that heads for the base of Osprey Rock and we drove that one to the end. It does not go out onto the rock itself. There is a semi-path that you can walk. Although we were not dressed for hiking, we did manage to make it out onto the top of Osprey Rock for a short distance. We had hoped to find the top entrance to that cave and see what it was like to climb down the ladder from above. This is the end of the drivable part of the trail:

With a little altitude it is easy to see the beautiful water here:

And what would a summer day hiking through the bushes unprepared be without at least the threat of some afternoon thundersqualls?

Looking back at it, I am not sure this could really be called a hiking trail. It's walkable, at least. But if you plan to go I would strongly suggest some boots and a walking stick. It's pretty rugged.

After a half hour or so of slowly making our way over rocks and through bushes we would have welcomed a little of that distant rain. When we started back, La Gringa asked me "where's the dog?" We looked around, and finally found him, off taking a dip in the ocean. See that little dark blip in the water?

That's Dooley the Deserter taking a leisurely swim. He was rolling over in the shallows and quite enjoying himself, apparently. I know it's hard to see on this blow-up, but that's his foot sticking up in the air.

And I really DO need to figure out how I am going to import a spare wheel for this vehicle if we are going to continue to do this..

We spent most of the rest of that Sunday exploring the area just looking for new roads to drive down. Or to drive up, as the case may be.

We got onto a newer "road' that goes out onto a peninsula surrounded by acres and acres of dry, desolate flats.

It's really strange looking from ground level, just flat, hot, flats with nothing growing on for miles:

At several places off in the distance we could catch glimpses of extremely white, glistening areas. We were not sure whether they were sand deposits, or salt. It was difficult to get to them. We tried several times but would get a hundred yards out onto the flats and suddenly start breaking through into the muck. Walking, of course. Not driving. Eventually we found an area of white that looked like it was reachable. I headed out barefooted for this patch:

This is easily two hundred yards out onto the flats. I had to turn back halfway and go get my shoes. It was just too uncomfortably hot to walk on. And my feet are not exactly tender.

When I got up close of course I could see that the white, reflective areas were just deposits of accumulated sea salt:

These areas have a layer of salt and minerals that vary from a thin coating to about a half an inch thick.

Not very exciting, but at least now we know firsthand what these flats are like in the mid day sun. Hot. Dry. Alien.

Back near the truck we suddenly caught a whiff of some really nice odor. It was vaguely familiar, and I know it is a commercial scent I have smelled at some time in my life in something like incense, candles, or fragrance. We zigzagged back and forth working our way upwind (who says we can't learn something from dogs?) until we pinpointed the source of it. It's this bush with these flowers on it, growing right at the very edge of that seemingly inhospitable stretch of barren moonscape.

It smelled so good we stuck a handful in the ashtray of the Land Rover to offset the Eau de Doolance, the wet dog.

We followed several of these roads until they came to a dead end. It was a part of Providenciales that the brochures seem not to mention.

Maybe they don't want the rental cars ending up out here, a long way from the nearest tow truck. It does help to have the right vehicle for this, and maybe explains part of why we drive what we do. Speaking of driving, La Gringa is getting the hang of this rough road stuff. She did all the driving, while I "relaxed" and looked for things to take photos of. It was kinda like this:

And that would be with good reason. La Gringa was driving when she suddenly stopped and asked if I saw a hole in the road. It took a minute for me to spot what she was concerned about. I mean, the road looks okay to me, right?

But see that area right in the middle, past the bushes in front of us?

Yep, it's a hole. And as far as potholes go, I would give this one at least a B+ for depth, and an A for concealment. I thought Dooley would be interested in going down into it to check it out (it is that deep) but he said "Spelunker" doesn't start with a 'D'...hard to argue with that.

Hitting this at 30 mph could actually ruin a big part of your day, I suspect:

We continued to explore, but drove a little more carefully after finding that.

By the time we headed back toward town the tide was starting to come in, and flooding part of the plain.

So, we didn't get to do much boating on that Sunday. We did manage to turn it into an exploration day, anyhow, and saw a part of the island we had not seen before. And then it was Monday, and time to turn back to something productive.

I am now working on building the second piece of La Gringa's new office shelves. I found out that after removing the center seat of the Defender 110 to install that cubby, I can now stack 8 foot lumber inside the vehicle.

This might not seem like a big deal to you, but it's a major thing to us. Getting lumber home with the little D-90 has been a problem in the past. Part of the reason it presently does not have a canvas top on it, in fact.

While working on greasy vehicles and troublesome boats is a bit of an ongoing chore, working with wood is a genuine pleasure for me. It's simple, clean. I can understand how the Shakers appreciated it, as well as woodworkers everywhere. Rip the planks down to the right width:

drill them for dowells and edge glue them up to make wider pieces:

Clamp them, shape them..

It's pretty relaxing as a hobby. And it allows me to cheaply build some sturdy, basic furniture that will definitely survive this climate. The stuff you buy these days, well, let's just say pressboard and veneers have absolutely NO place in a climate like this. Neither do metal fasteners, so I tend not to use nails or screws whenever I can avoid it.

In addition to the furniture building, of course I have been heavily involved in trying to figure out what's wrong with our high tech outboard motor for the past several weeks. Last week was even more intense than the week before. Now I am down to the point of removing the fuel rails and injectors from the motor. Two of the injectors are stuck in the head and I have not been able to remove them....yet. The ones I took out are fairly clean looking:

And we have been driving the boat around spraying atomized gasoline into the air intakes to try to figure out where the problem is. Boy, you could have fun with a cigarette lighter and one of these portable flame throwers, I bet:

But last week we decided that this had just gone too far. If you notice those photos, all this work on the motor is with it on the back of the boat, on the ocean. The logistics of working like this were really annoying and with an hour's round trip drive to even get to the boat. I had to reassemble everything at the end of a troubleshooting session because I could not leave the boat sitting in the slip with the motor in pieces. But worst of all was probably that I kept dropping the odd tool or part over the side and having to dive down and retrieve it. I am down into the motor now to the point where these are some expensive parts I am unbolting. So, we decided to do something about this whole situation. After a frustrating Thursday working on the boat, I made a couple calls to a local excavation contractor, and Friday afternoon Mr. DelRoy Williams came out to discuss our project.

Saturday morning at 08:00 a bulldozer showed up at the house. He started cutting a new path from the road to the ten foot wide overhead garage door:

Dump trucks started showing up with fill, and the dozer kept working all day Saturday. By late afternoon, we had a brand new driveway well on the way!

Then Monday morning, two days ago as I write this and three days after contacting DelRoy, a grader, a water truck and a big roller showed up to finish it:

After a year and a half of an unobstructed view out my workshop/garage door it was a little disconcerting and yet exciting to see some serious machinery at work here.

The languages were Creole, Spanish, and English. So I resorted to an engineering basic that has worked for a long time....drawings with smiley faces:

By Monday afternoon, the driveway was finished and ready to use. And I have to say here how totally impressed we were with Mr. DelRoy Williams and his crew from E&V Equipment Ltd. They did better work than we expected, in less time, and came in 10% UNDER budget!! If anyone reading this is ever looking for this type of work in the TCI, we highly recommend these guys. This experience has been a rarity in our building trials and tribulations. If we ever build another house we already have a mental list of the contractors we would use next time around, and E&V are definitely on it.

Monday afternoon we decided to make a 'dry run' with the boat trailer to make sure I could back it uphill around those curves and corners. We managed to find our trailer in the marina's yard and get it out just a few minutes before they closed for the day. We got about a hundred yards down the road with it, and something wasn't right. Too much clanking and clunking going on. Then I remembered that the last time we used this vehicle to pull a boat trailer it was Cay Lime. That trailer uses a 2" hitch ball. This trailer uses a 2 5/16" ball. Big difference. Fortunately I had the right hitch still in the Land Rover. Unfortunately, all I had for usable tools was an adjustable wrench and a pair of channel lock pliers. And the hitch was rusted up, of course. After straining and stressing and getting frustrated for about a half an hour, I finally had to either leave the trailer where it was and go home for tools (one hour round trip, remember?) or come up with a fix. Well, we had a section of line in the truck we use for a dog leash, and I discovered that if you wrap it really really tight on the pliers, you end up with a home-made vise grip. And it worked! It kept the ball from turning while I hammered at the frozen nut.

After that, backing the trailer uphill was almost easy. Looks like the drawing, sort of..

Then, yesterday, it was time to bring the boat home for the first time since it's been in the TCI. I drove the boat around while La Gringa drove the D-90 with the trailer, and we met at a local 'boat ramp' that we liked. And yeah, we paid attention to the tide this time. We're learning.

Dooley elected to stay onboard..

And I hopped ashore and backed the trailer down into the cut in the limestone. La Gringa had managed to get it turned around and lined up perfectly, but she was nervous about backing it into the ocean. It's a big trailer, and a small ramp. That's a pretty tight fit:

And I know it's difficult to see in this photo, but none of the six tires in this photo are touching the bottom. The trailer floats! Dangedest thing. There is a good six inches or more of water under every one of those. I should have put the camera underwater for this one.

This ramp worked out very well, since it is protected from the wind and current. We didn't even have to use the motor to put the boat on. This is the first time we have put the boat on the trailer. Went like clockwork.

The last bit was to drive the two miles to the house, and the new driveway. Backing a 35 foot boat and trailer combo up hill, around two 90 degree turns, while steering with my right hand and peering back over my left shoulder (both totally opposite of how I learned to back boats) was a minor excitement, to say the least. I had to disable the surge brakes on the trailer. But by late afternoon, we had done it.

We now can fix everything on the boat, work on the motor, pressure wash and paint the hull, without having to drive all the way to the boatyard. We are going to try keeping it at home for a while, as opposed to in a slip at the boatyard. Especially during hurricane season. One less thing for me to worry about, and of course we save the expense of the monthly slip fees and that miserable trip to and from the boatyard.

We were pretty amazed at how fast this developed. I got fed up with working on the boat in the water on Thursday, and by Tuesday it was parked by my workshop having been backed up a driveway that didn't exist three days earlier. Wonderful.

That pretty much catches the blog up-to-date since the boat ramp photos were taken yesterday afternoon.

Oh, and I can finish with a sunset this time. We have been trying to get a photo of a good one. Dooley the Determined was keeping his eye on this one til the last moment, waiting for something spectacular. Or maybe just waiting to howl at the moon:

(truth is, he was looking for a lizard to harass)

This one wasn't much better, but the reflection in the salina had some possibilities, or so I thought at the time:


bradvo said...

That pothole looked deep enough to loose a R footed crock .

Anonymous said...

What a great couple of weeks you guys have had. I think that flower that smelled so good was Sweet Olive. It is my absolute favorite! It grows in the back of St. Louis Cathedral in NOLA..I never miss a chance to get a whiff when I walk by.
I can't get over that pothole! I was already thinking it was a doozie then I scrolled up and saw your croc...unreal size with the croc for size help! Glad LaGringa saw it! Definitely work on that spare!
New driveway looks great! Ya'll take care..

Unknown said...

Great Job on the 2nd driveway! I bet you are happy to be working on the boat motor in your own garage.

Beats the heck out of sitting in that hot marina hanging off of the back of the boat and wondering which one of those expensive little parts you would have to be diving for! (In previous posts, I had the thought that you were awfully brave to be doing that!)

Hope you get the yammie working soon!

Preston in Ft Worth

vanmartin said...

Nice one! Thanks for a great update!

Anonymous said...

God,I am hoping that ya'll are keeping an eye to the east with those storms building.

Anyway about backing your trailer in and floating. I have that same problem. What I do is just back it in just enought to get the bow on,then have thre wife back it in more as needed.

Anonymous said...

Very nice addition to your blog, I like the information you guys are giving about the Islands, sounds like fun to me !

I guess living in a relatively new place exploring is a big part of the adventure! If I had the resources I would love doing what you guys are experiencing !

Ouch, what a pothole, first thing I thought of when I saw it in the picture was, poor Doggie, I hope he never falls into one of those things! I know you guys look out for him, he is part of the family for sure !

I know you both know that things are heating up in the tropics as far as storms, may your home and the Islands escape this tropical season without incident ! Even living here on the Carolina coast we keep a weather eye cocked towards Africa this time of year !

The new driveway is very nice, what a great idea ! Working on the boat and motor at home is a big plus for you I am sure, good luck on getting it going again very soon now !

Keep the pictures and articles coming please, I keep checking back every few days hoping to see new pictures and another story filled with your adventures !

All the best your way, and good Kayaking and fishing to ya, if you have time to fish !

Anonymous said...

looks like salt cay...

Victor said...

Love to read about your life in Provo and looking at pictures. If it was me I would continue to use that ramp 2 miles from the house and save the money and hassle at the marina. Your boat would definitely get more attention and stay in better shape. I know from experience. Please keep us informed, we really enjoy it.


Anonymous said...

Great post!! The driveway turned out perfect!


Cordless Tools Batteries said...

Absolutely stunning photography and great to see a Land Rover being used for the purpose it was designed for

Anonymous said...

Gringo and LaGringa

I enjoyed the read and pics. I think you need to increase the height of the garage so the boat will fit.


Sea Plus said...


I was in Provo last week when Ana fell apart before passing over. Saw quite a few LandRovers like yours on the island - relatively easy to stay anonymous. Met some folks diving who were also familiar with your blog...keep up the good work.

Tim (SeaPlus)