Saturday, August 1, 2009

Catching Up

Once again I find myself sitting here on a miserable late afternoon writing about another kayak trip. Here, doesn't this look miserable?

I had really, really, really hoped to be writing about more fishing and diving trips by now. Honestly, I would. But problems with the outboard motor continue to plague us, and once again we find our boating excursions limited to those powered soley by "shank's mare" (Noun, England, circa 1795 "one's own legs when used for transportation" - and this concludes the educational part of our program today)

Yep, the Kayak again. Now I shouldn't give the wrong impression. It's not that I don't like the kayak, because that is definitely not the case. We adore the kayak. Now that we have started deflating it and loading it into the back of the Land Rover, it's even easier to transport. We don't have to lift it up onto a roof and tie it down. Looking at it from an environmentally responsible standpoint, Al Gore has NOTHING on us. It doesn't suck down expensive fuel and belch out noxious gases (I am leaving Dooley the Destroyer out of this equation for the moment, as he does not begin to compare with Mr. Gore's private jet). And the kayak is a nice, quiet, leisurely way to travel. It gets us into places we could never go with the Contender's 18' draft. And for physical exercise and artificial knee rehab it's hard to beat. It's a different kind of fun than blasting over the waves at 50 mph with the roar of a fuel-injected two stroke behind you. Oh well, on with it.

We have been systematically exploring the canals of Providenciales. The kayak is perfect for this. Yesterday we decided to check out the canal that runs alongside the Juba Salina and defines the western edge of the Long Bay Hills area:

This canal is that dark squiggly line running from the marina in the bottom center of the photo up about two miles to the north. We checked out every inch of it yesterday.

We found that this canal has a slightly different feel than the other canals on Provo. Whereas the Leeward canal areas are definitely upscale, and the Discovery Bay canals are more mainstream, I would say the Long Bay canal is slanted more toward the Bohemian style. For starters, it's not that easy to get to. We are accustomed to that adventuresome road from Leeward Highway to the marina as we make the trip every time we visit our boat. It is getting a little easier lately. The government (I assume) is improving the road by scooping up big truckloads of wet sand and piling it on top of the existing roads in the low spots...

nothing like a little salt-water mud for the old undercarriage...

They then grade it flat and compact it. They do one lane at a time, of course, which makes it tricky when you meet oncoming traffic. But it's an improvement.

Hey, we get to drive on the right side of the road, which of course is the wrong side of the road down here. Never mind. La Gringa spotted this modified Suzuki yesterday and being somewhat of a fan of these little trucks I had to take a photo of the new, five passenger version:

I bet that modification wouldn't fly far in the USA.

We launched the kayak at the marina and headed out for a peaceful four mile trip up and back. Immediately we could sense a totally different 'flavor' to the average homeowners along this stretch of navigable water. For example, how often do you see pyramids as an architectural style?

We didn't get close enough to see what was inside. Presumably, cases of razor blades slowly being mysteriously sharpened by pyramid power. Or probably not. A razor blade exposed to the air down here wouldn't last long enough to sharpen itself. Trust me.

The parcels here are two to four times larger than those on the other canals. This means that the houses here are somewhat isolated, and there is plenty of room between them. The area is sparsely populated, and very quiet. We loved it.

Every so often along the canal there is a dock area scooped out of the shore. These are, for the most part, carved into the limestone. Some of them belong to residents who have built a home along with the boat slips...

And some people obviously build the slips first and add a house later.

Some of the docks are quite nice, sort of a private marina like the two above photos. And some are just big enough for one boat to be tucked away out of the stream.

As you can see from those last two boats, the canal is deep enough to handle several feet of draft. The blue boat is probably the largest one we spotted on this trip..

I imagine the owners have to watch the tides pretty carefully to get in and out of here.

I have to admit that some of the boats here made me feel a little better about my temporary Yamaha problems. It could be worse. This guy is gonna need more than a compression check:

Some of these boats must have a heck of a story associated with them. For example, the "Pilgrim" here hails from Cleveland, Ohio.

And the container next to it has an outside shower.....I'm just saying...

I don't know that I have seen many more perfect locations for a boat ramp than this one:

Even I could back a boat down that baby without too much trouble. Plenty of room to straighten the wheels.

The entire west side of the canal runs along the edge of Juba Salina, which is the same huge salina we see from our front door. It's a big area of undisturbed, natural marsh, rocks, and mangrove swamps. We were on the canal at high tide yesterday, and it seemed almost like one could take a small boat out of the canal and strike off across the salina.

Since we were spotting various interesting looking bits of boats and wreckage off in the distance from time to time, it was a temptation to go explore the salina. But high tide makes it look better than it is for boats. The area is filled with a moonscape of jagged sharp limestone.

And the canal is man-made, meaning it is cut down into the rock. And the edges of that cut are unforgiving. No sandy bottoms here to beach a boat on:

So all the homes and construction are on the eastern side. Some of them have obviously been here for a long time.

This is a very relaxed area of the island, which is saying quite a bit. I almost with we had explored a lot on this canal a bit more when we were shopping for land to build on. I think I could get into this.

Of course Dooley the Diligent started out the trip on full alert for high adventure, never knowing what the next few minutes might bring...

But after awhile with nothing resembling what he would call excitement, drifting along silently on a warm summer day he began to lose a little of his concentration and I noticed he was having some problems keeping his eyes open..

Until eventually he decided that he could probably fit the odd nap into the program without any major issues, but not while standing up...

"Hey DOOLEY!!!"

"Huh? What? Where? What did I miss?"

By the time we finally made our way back to the marina almost two hours later our resident security system was well rested and ready for some shore leave...

That pretty much was the end of yesterday's exploration. We did manage to snag a couple valuable artifacts while cruising the canal. I picked up a nice five gallon plastic bucket, and we found this washed up on the rocks:

No, no...not the truck. The life ring. I guess it probably has some tales to tell, too. I thought it looked good there where our spare should be. Oh, we don't have a spare. I have given up trying to obtain one locally. The Land Rovers use 16" rims, and I cannot find one on the island. I tried the local Land Rover dealer. In fact, over the course of about six weeks I contacted them no less than three times, begging for a price and delivery on one steel Land Rover Defender wheel. No luck. No response. Nothing. I keep meaning to find someone in the USA and have one sent down UPS. A shame, and expensive, but hey, there you are. Life in de islands, mon.

Now when we are not out looking for adventure on high seas or Low Cay, life seems to go on at its usual pace here. We have had a lot of wind this summer, more than usual. For example it's been blowing around 20 mph now for days. That's one of the reasons we put the kayak in the canals on those days, because they are protected. We had a few days of winds approaching 30-35 mph just a couple weeks back, and that gets pretty gnarly even here on the normally placid Caicos Bank. We wouldn't have gone out diving or fishing on these days even if the Yamaha DID run worth a dang:

And it doesn't. Over the past month I have been into that motor way more than I ever wanted to on three occasions already. Once to find the broken water valve problem (which I have already detailed here), once two weeks later to replace the broken parts..

And the third time to find a loose connector that prevented the electric fuel pump from working after I replaced the broken parts and put it all back together. Now, I don't mind getting into these modern outboards to this level:

(the wire is a clip lead I made to allow me to monitor fuel pump voltage while turning the ignition key on. Yes, I had to make my own cable.)

But I really start getting nervous when I have to dig into these things to the point where I am removing the computers and electronics to get at them. The disconnected connector was about two inches further in, and under the "X" in this photo:

With a lot of help and advice from online buddies in the US I did manage to get it together and running again. But it's running lousy. Here's the short version of that:

Throttle all the way to the wall, and maximum RPMs of 3200:

I SHOULD be seeing around 5500 RPM at full throttle, give or take a couple hundred.

And it's fun going out on lumpy days and running around trying to figure out what's wrong. We were out yesterday morning, in about 2-3 ft. of chop doing this. We have to remind ourselves to pay attention to the water, not because there are a lot of other boats because there aren't. But because of things like that coral head just visible to the left there off the bow..

General consensus on the outboard is that the broken water valve cover allowed water to splash around inside the cowling and get into the cylinders, and now I have some kind of damage. Several people have also told me that the motor is mounted several inches too low on the boat, and that water has probably been splashing around inside the cover anyhow, and the increased amount of water from the busted cover just pushed it over the edge. Well, the boat was rigged like this for quite while before we got it, without any issues, so I don't know what all the causes are. It IS mounted pretty low and does get wet ..

And we will be raising it up, just as soon as I figure out how to fix it. Next step is a compression check. That will have to wait until I can find a compression meter. Meanwhile, no boat.

We continue to be totally immersed in island life. We watch the Marine Police come and go on a daily basis, doing things like hauling in a confiscated boat full of lobster traps..

It's not good to be fishing lobster out of season, you know. They take that really seriously here. A $ 50,000. fine, and you lose the boat.

And this week we had another Haitian sloop tragedy. Two hundred people on a small one that broke up on a reef just off West Caicos. Something around 80 people did not make it. The Marine Police and USCG were very busy on that rescue, and they did manage to save the majority of them. We listened to the search and rescue efforts on the marine VHF radio I installed at the house. This latest tragedy happened right where we posted photos last February 19 ( see blog post Into Every Life). The sloop hit the small reef to the SE of West Caicos, visible in this sat image:

It's amazing how much you can learn on the radio in an island nation. The rescuers were picking people off the reef who were standing in waist deep water getting battered by the waves. The coordinates were from a USCG helicopter that was picking up drowned victims that had drifted toward the island. And next week, as one of the Marine Police told us yesterday, there will be another boat load of them trying again. With some of the same people who survived this one. Scary.

And in our own little neighborhood we have the scaled down dramas of daily life. Thing like someone seriously missing one of the curves on the road to our house:

And the crime here has been increasing, no matter what the tourism people tell you. Hard economic times means more theft. That simple. Preacher's brother had a boat stolen this week. We know of several home break-ins over the past few months, and some robberies in town. It's pretty scary stuff for a place that essentially was crime free for many years, but it's still very low level crime compared to other islands and certainly compared to any average town of 35,000 people in the USA.

On the home front, I managed to finally finish and install the first piece of furniture I am building for La Gringa's office. It was a three star booger to get this up the sherpa path that we call a driveway using this little two wheel dolly and some rope. But with La Gringa's help we did it.

How do you like that color? That should 'tropical up' the place a little. Now I have to build one more identical to that, and then a desk surface to go between them. And I would dearly love to get to it, if other stuff would just stop breaking faster than I can fix it.

I am working on the maintenance aspects of all this, having had some time to really experience it now. I have ordered a compressor and small sandblasting cabinet to help me clean up rusty metal parts. The compressor will help me spray primer and good paint on steel and aluminum auto parts, etc. and prolong the life of them. I am planning to look into replacing my electric tools with air-powered tools as the originals fail. I don't really know much about air tools, but can learn.

I think next I will be looking for some welding equipment, probably gas instead of arc, and learning to use a cutting torch and to gas weld and braze. Any advice on all this greatly appreciated. Fun stuff, huh?

Things have been pretty quiet at the house. Oh, we do get the odd scorpion from time to time. Or a land crab decides to climb up the screen under the window louvers and drive the dog bonkers..

All part of a life on a tropical island, I suppose.

After waiting for weeks, we finally received a new "cubby" I ordered from one of the major Land Rover parts houses in the UK. I removed the useless little middle seat in the front of the latest Land Rover and installed this little console.

I have to admit that after all the anticipation I was a little disgruntled to take a close look at the construction of this fairly expensive piece of automotive engineering. Where else do you see steel staples and framing lumber used in modern automobiles?

I ripped off the UK lumber and replaced it with beefier strips of pressure treated wood. Can't have termites taking up residence in the family car, now can we. I also junked their mounting hardware and went to stainless steel for that. I realize the staples will go away shortly in this climate, but I have some time to come up with a replacement for those. I am sure Arrow or someone makes some non-corroding staples. But frankly, I expected more from the supplier. They charge top dollar, or pounds sterling as the case may be. I'm just thankful that I didn't order the replacement convertible top from them, as well.

Well that's it for this post. I wanted to get some of this out for our family and friends who follow our life down here, because our buddy Preacher called me last night and told us there is some festival going on at Blue Hills this weekend. We plan to head down there with a camera and get some material for a nice island life post next.

I don't even know what the festival is about yet, but I bet it includes something to do with the ocean. Everything here does, you know. Even the sunsets:


wpns said...

Random thoughts:

I had the impression that the "quarry" that they are putting on the roads is from the dredging they are doing to or behind the shipyard, we passed a dump truck on our way to the shipyard the other day...

After the flooding last year, raising the roadbed has got to be A Good Thing.

Good luck with the engine, a competent outboard mechanic could really clean up down here. 8*)

We've got some Monel staples for an Arrow T-50 at Beyond Hope if you want some. I can have Romeo drop them off, or stop by if you are in the neighborhood in the next week or so.

That's not pressboard on the base of that cubby, is it?

Keep the posts coming!


Anonymous said...

The fill they are dumping on Long Bay road IS from the canal, about two or three hundred yards up from the old iron former-drawbridge by the boatyard ramp. they have widened the canal at that point, but we do not know what is planned for that spot. Hopefully, some more slips. It's a real booger of a tidal current through there at flood and ebb, though.

Thanks for reminding me of the Monel staples. I think I can find those locally. And yeah, that expensive Exmoor Trim Land Rover cubby has a pressboard bottom. I guess I should trace a pattern from it before it's too late.

I have plans to make a metal one after I take up welding. It is my understanding that gas welding aluminum is not the hassle these days that it once was..

I guess once it goes into a Land Rover it becomes "aluminium". That extra "i" makes all the difference in the alloy, I suspect.

Anonymous said...

Gringo and La Gringa,
Greetings from Ft Worth! I "stumbled" onto your blog trying to find out some info on my Yammie 150 / Pathfinder 22ft. Can't remember just exactly HOW I came across your blog last week, but I have been diligently reading forward on your old posts to catch up! Just wanted to let you guys know you have a new reader here living vicariously thru your posts! Please Keep up the good work & excellent pix!! Hope you have fun this weekend . . .

Anonymous said...

Keep the articles coming, looks like some serious fun you folks are having in the Kayak !

Good luck on your outboard repairs ! My wife and I live near the Ocean and we can relate also on how hard the environment is on vehicles and other things made of metal !

Cheers ....

Wakey said...

Thanks for the update, looking forward to hearing about the festival.

And Dooley makes for a nice hood ornament on your kayak. Always on point, reminds me of my German Shepherd.

Anonymous said...

Sir Reel writes:
After considering your comments regarding the materials used in the console you aquired, something came to mind. With all the abandoned boats and assorted parts and pieces thereof...wouldn't there be a source of starboard type materials and fiberglass that could be used to replace wooden items like the bottom of the "cubby". Another possible "fix" you might consider would be to remove the staples and fashion two strips of fiberglass strips to be placed on each side with stainless screws to hold down the vinyl edges...I'm sure you can probably come up with a more creative and interesting fix but you jogged some shade tree brain cells in me. I hope the compression checks when your able to accomplish them prove that you have no problems in that area. You've paid your dues!! It's time for some return on your investment. Good luck.

Victor said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Victor said...

Hi. Reading and looking at the pictures is like reading a good book. Very informative and relaxing. Thanks for sharing and keeping us Island lovers up to date.


Anonymous said...

For welding steel up to 1/4" thick a 110v wire feed welder works well. I use the flux core wire that doesn't require the use of a shielding gas. The welds aren't as pretty but they do work. If you use a gas shielded machine with the right attachments you can weld steel, aluminum, and stainless steel. The steel wire will have to be protected from the elements as it will rust.

Memphis said...

Oh my God, you have the most beautiful photos on your blog!

Bendernz said...

Hiya Gringos. The latest shipwreck of Haitians even made the news in New Zealand.