Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Catching up..

I was originally going to call this post "Rust never sleeps" but that phrase is so overused. I figured I should at least change the wording even if I didn't change the meaning. I'm sure you have also heard the cliche: "Cliches become cliche because they are so often true". And it's true about rust never sleeping.

And living in the tropics will teach one a few things about how serious corrosion can get, and how fast. I started doing a post here, and when I looked at all the fresh photos I have I realized that it's been weeks since I posted anything. I have enough new photos for two new posts.

I know not everyone is interested in the nuts and bolts aspect of this life, so I am thinking that maybe I need to just put all the DIY stuff in its own little rusty, gasoline and oil-smelling DIY post. So I'll try to do that and warn everyone that the post after this one is probably going to be about fighting rust and working on outboard motors. You know, that boring, manly, ToolGuy, McGyver greasy, gritty, ugly type stuff I keep getting flung back into kicking and screaming... no matter how hard I want to be off doing something fun instead.

But not this post. This one is about some of what we have been doing without use of the boat.

We still get up before dawn on most mornings.

I think this 'early-to-rise' is an island person kind of thing. We are certainly no wealthier or wiser. What happens is that when you live without air conditioning you tend to keep windows open in the rooms you are sleeping in. Houses here are designed to catch the breezes. And since curtains and drapes blow in the wind and get dirty etc it's easier to just not hang anything heavy over the windows. So, when the sky gets light, so does the bedroom, and there we are. Wide awake. Sleep-in mornings are rare for us. Of course, if you were here staying in a nice air-conditioned hotel room, that would be different. Or so we imagine.

Can you believe we have now been living here over four years, and we have not yet, once, spent a single night in a hotel room on Providenciales? So please, if you ask us for recommendations for hotels here, understand that we can give you our second hand impressions but that we have not personally stayed in a single one of them.

Speaking of running a hotel, we have had three of our five sons staying with us for different parts of the summer and the last one just left here a week ago headed back to Cape Cod. And winter time. Not this wimpy little winter we get here.

We did do a little bit of kayaking over the past few weeks, and even looked for some new spots to explore. Son, Jon, thought this looked interesting, and wanted to see if this was cut through to another canal:

I knew it wasn't. I could see the power lines. Gringo is wise in the way of subtle hints like this. Besides, I am a navigator by nature. (Yeah, yeah I admit that I had studied the sat views of the area while planning the trip but you see this is what navigators do! )

Plus, I am getting to know this island and these canals pretty well. But I hadn't been down this cut before, so what the hey, might as well check it out.

It then became "Hey dad, uh, how long is this boat?" (14 feet)

And after a few seconds of thoughtful silence I hear "How wide would you say this canal is, right here?" (about 8 or 9 feet, plus or minus)

Followed shortly by "How are we going to turn it around?" (we aren't)

Yep, a dead end. We had to back it all the way out. An inflatable boat in a barnacle encrusted hard rock channel. Well, now we know.

We did not take Dooley the Delinquent with us on this trip. And I regretted it when we set off someone's dog alarm. Dooley would have been right in his element with not one, not two, but FOUR dogs to howl at. So, in Dooley's honor, we decided to bark at them in a Dooley-like manner. I don't know what we said, but it worked. We shortly had all four of them howling at us. From a safe distance, of course.

I kept trying to come up with something musical to plug in here. I was looking at these dogs, and remembering the noise they made, and with the little high pitched one in the middle, and the tenor under the boards I was reminded of "Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young". Except I was thinking maybe this would be more like "Four Dog Night ". But I couldn't make the analogy work so I gave up on it.

I don't know if it's a seasonal thing that is causing this, but we saw a number of these interesting looking little jellyfish on this trip. We have seen one of these before. La Gringa found one on the beach on North Caicos on our Bottle Creek by Boat trip. They are not very big, but we have learned to treat all these sea creatures with some respect. The most innocuous looking things can sting. In fact, most of them do. Unless they bite. But you can count on them doing one or the other. These things...well, they seem to have a lot of parts.

Realizing that the little point-and-shoot camera is water resistant, Jon took it wading to see if he could get a better photo of the jellyfish. And he came up with this one:

Now, to me, that thing looks more like a steamed vegetable than an animal. A sort of "mushroom & broccoli monster" to hide under the bed and haunt a fussy eater's nightmares. In any case, we didn't touch it. Not on this particular outing, anyhow. We messed with a few of them a couple days later though. I'll put that in the next post, too. Think 'mixmaster'.

This time of year we tend to get a lot of clouds, which make for some pretty varied sunsets. This one wasn't particularly spectacular, but when I first saw it the pinkish cloud looked like some cherubic face peeking down on Providenciales.

Of course the way these things go, by the time I got the camera out and booted up, the shape I thought I saw had changed. But if you use your imagination, squint your eyes just right and mentally go back in time about five or ten minutes from when this was taken......maybe you can understand what it was I thought I saw.

I mean, this cloud had eyebrows and lips. Oh well, you had to be there.

On another kayak trip we decided to go check out "Two Fingers". This is the catamaran that our friend Jay Stubbs had moored inside a mangrove swamp last year to protect it from Hurricanes Hanna and Ike. I had posted a photo of it taken on another excursion a few months back. This is what Two Fingers looked like in March - six months ago:

This is a tried and true method of protecting boats with shallow draft from hurricanes. You put them in a thick area of mangroves, with lines running all directions. As bad as the storm gets, there's really no place for the boat to get blown to. Mangroves are springy. The bottom is soft and silty. And in water this shallow, it's not going to sink. But in this case, Hurricane Ike's 150 mph winds actually snapped the mast off the boat.

We noticed that "Two Fingers" is still sitting in the mangrove swamp a year after the storms, so we peddled and paddled in to take a closer look. The hulls seemed to still be in good shape, but the rigging is a mess:

It looks like most of the parts are there, and I know Jay would be interested in selling this boat if anyone feels like taking on a new project. I had considered it, but I just have too many other things going on right now to tackle something of this magnitude. Anyhow, if we get a sailboat, (WHEN we get a sailboat. I should try to keep positive about this.) it will most likely either be a fun beach cat like a Hobie that we can trailer or something big enough to live on for a week. Which we can't trailer.

The owner of "Two Fingers" also owns "Arielle", one of Sail Provo's day charter boats. "Arielle" has become a standard stop for us in the kayak. It's the only place around to get out of the sun for a few minutes.

And freshly sunburned visitors from the far North seem to really appreciate the cool breeze that blasts between the hulls at water level:

The clouds give us some nice sunrises and sunsets to take photos of but they also mean we get a fair number of afternoon thunderstorms and squalls this time of year. It helps to keep the cisterns full, but also tends to make scheduling outdoor stuff for the afternoons a chancy thing. We had planned to kayak on this day, for example, right about under where this weather was developing:

Typical summer weather, thunderstorms one minute, and then it clears and gets tropical-sun-HOT and humid. The Trade Winds make the sun seem less intense than it really is. The air temp rarely gets much above 90 degrees, but standing in the sun bareheaded for any amount of time can make you light-headed. Even the Haitian landscaping guys try to keep in the shade this time of year:

"Hey man, LOVE yer hat!"

(hat photos by La Gringa. I am terrible with people. She is not.)

One of the positive aspects of living on a small island is that heading to a beach to cool off, even on a cloudy muggy day, only takes a few minutes.

While I had strong young son here, I took advantage of the manpower to get the second piece of La Gringa's office finished and carted up the hill. These things are heavy.

It probably doesn't show in the photo, but in an effort to liven up this plain furniture we asked Brenton at the paint store to mix a bright green into the primer we used. We wanted a good 'stain-killer' sealant on this wood. And then the top coat is tinted blue. And we took some fine sandpaper and sanded through the blue on the edges so that the green shows through.

Kinda like wearing the blue paint thin on purpose. There must be a name for this, but I don't know what it is. The desired result is rustic furniture which I guess by definition is exactly what we have here. With some tropical colors, of course. I think I saw something similar once with an old piece done with what's called milk paint. More pastel, though. We are going for retinal shock here.

I had originally planned to stain and polyurethane this stuff in wood grain, but painting it made so much more sense and was easier. The first pass version had looked like this, on SketchUp "paper":

But that design had to change a little bit. There was not enough support in the center of it all. I had to be able to build this thing in pieces small enough to handle. Oh, and of course we decided to start using a lot more color. So, what actually has evolved looks more like this:

And now I only need to build the 12 foot long desk portion, and it will be green with the blue showing through for a change, and will fit between the two blue pieces and I can move my little laptop off the dining room table, and into the office. And then I can build a new dining room table. A colorful, simple one, of course. We plan to continue this solid, rustic, tropical furniture theme.

Oh, for sure we broke a sweat getting that thing up the Sherpa trail we call a driveway. And we turned La Gringa's office into a momentary shambles moving stuff out of the way to get it in:

I have cut holes in the shelves, etc. and eventually, all those cables and wires will be run through and under things. Out of sight. Nice and neat.

Well, realizing that this post has drifted dangerously close to some DIY stuff here, I am going to stop it at this point. I will cram all the latest DIY drivel into its own post. Get it all into one place where it will be concentrated and easy to ignore. But I don't want to leave it out entirely. DIY stuff is a very, very major part of living on a small, tropical island in another country.

But then, so are the sunsets.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

September Already???

Once again we find ourselves stupidly surprised to suddenly see that September sunrises have surreptitiously surrounded us once again.

Or maybe that photo just an example of the 'silver lining' cliche.

September is typically the warmest month of the summer here as the sun passes back overhead on its way to its winter stomping grounds down in the Tropic of Capricorn. We see the 'back-to-school' themes here and there in the advertising media and I got an email from a friend in Wisconsin who woke up to a 48 degree morning this week. And of course we are on maximum alert for storms. September is also historically the busiest time of hurricane season.

And this one is starting right out of the blocks with another named storm heading in our general direction:

We are watching this one even though it's forecast to be relatively small as it goes through here. So was what became Hurricane Hanna last year. And we are not likely to soon forget that little disturbance. We also see another tropical situation about a week behind this one and that too makes us feel like a replay of last years double whammy of Hanna and Ike. We are a little better prepared this year at least. Boat is out of the water and we have a generator for power outages. Not enough to run the whole house, but we should be able to keep food refrigerated and pump water for showers, etc.

I know this post is only a few days behind the last one but I thought I would put up some more photos anyhow. We have had a couple of our five sons visiting recently. One of them just left yesterday for his home on Cape Cod and on Monday he and I took a kayak trip around the Leeward area. I recently received an email from some good people who read this blog and who are planning to come down in October. They told me that one of the things they would like to do is rent a kayak and paddle around the Leeward area so I thought putting up a few more "kayaking Leeward" images might be timely. I also handed my camera to my son Jacob this time, and told him to just snap photos of anything he found interesting or photogenic. And these are Jacob's photographs. For the most part.

We left Heaving-Down-Rock and I thought I would shake him up a little by steering straight for a moored catamaran. By the time he figured out what I was up to and got the camera turned on we were already underneath the hull of the Sail Provo boat "Arielle"...

Of course I was chortling away back there having already given the boy a start..

We boated down past the Nikki Beach area with its seeming acres of floating docks. This is where we took photos of the actor Johnny Depp's boat a few months ago. Not much going on here this time of year. The big boats tend to stay out of this part of the world during the height of hurricane season. These floating concrete docks basically choke off most of Leeward-Going-Through. They changed the look, feel and community of Leeward in many ways when they ripped out what was here and put these things in. I will limit my comments to just that.

Gosh. How pretty.

Once you get past those floating hazards to navigation it's a pretty clear shot around the end of Mangrove Cay and out to the reef if you are going that way.

We were not headed offshore on this trip. The weather was definitely getting a bit spotty and with squalls and thunderstorms surrounding the area we decided to stay close to the islands.

Several times during the morning I would see him aiming the camera at the horizon and I asked him "WHAT are taking photos of?". He told me "Dad, this is some really nice water here in case you haven't noticed.." I couldn't argue with that. Guess I have gotten a little jaded.

Being more into boats and stuff, I steered us over toward a couple that have been anchored back in the sheltered water behind Mangrove Cay all summer. This one, the "Cyclura" has some lettering on the side that says "Zoological Society of San Diego" on it.

I just noticed for the first time that next to the name of the boat is a drawing of an iguana. Well, that makes some sense, actually. We are right off the beach of Little Water Cay, which is a national refuge for the iguanas here.

This is one of the other boats that is anchored back here. We have seen this one around for years, but have not met the owners. We did get a friendly wave as we pedalled past in our rubber boat. People show interest in the little Mirage kayak. These drive things are still unusual here I think. I need to get the name of the boat on the kayak. Not sure how to do that on an inflatable, but it needs to say "Low Cay" on it. Maybe a 'Magic Marker' pen would work. I don't think stick-on lettering would last.

We were talking about iguanas and I explained that the local ones swim really well. They inflate their stomachs with air, and use their long tails to swim from island to island. My son was interested and asked if there was a chance he could get some iguana photos. So, we started heading over toward Little Water Cay. Even though surrounded by 'iffy' weather, it was plenty clear enough to see some of the shallow areas we needed to avoid. Of course, son kept snapping photos.

"Hey, Jacob, what are you taking photos of now?" (the old man asks from the stern of the boat).

"It's the water, Dad. Look at the water."

Oh. Ok.

So, while paying attention to the water I spotted something moving on the distant beach and we boogied on over for a look. Sure enough, an iguana. It's not like they are particularly rare around here, but still it's neat to drift up close to one.

He was eating something on the beach when we interrupted him. I think it was seaweed.

Of course by now he had noticed us and he kept his beady eye on the two guys in the kayak after that. Maybe he was trying to tell us something...

Something like "Do you idiots realize you are about to run aground?"
Hey, it was nice to be the 'towee' for a change.

Well, now Jacob wanted some more iguana photos. We pedalled ourselves over to the little park headquarters. It was closed for the day, but he hopped out and wandered up to see if there might be any big lizards hanging around for a photo.

And there were.

While son waded ashore with camera for iguana photos I stayed with the boat. I had wanted to see how it steered and handled with just one person in the back, anyhow.

After leaving Little Water Cay we crossed back over Leeward-Going-Through and took a tour of the canals on the Provo side. This spot made me feel like grabbing a good book and taking a nap.

This spot did not quite do it for me, although I am sure the service is better.

Things like this tend to keep the larger boats off this part of the canal. Actually it was a nice spot to sit in the shade for a few moments.

We had been in the boat for several hours at this point, and needed to get back to the house because we had lunch plans. So we really didn't take a lot more photos after that. We did manage to drift up close to a pelican. The inflatable is really good for that, you can propel the boat without having to wave a paddle in the air and scaring the wildlife:

A morning on the boat and everyone was ready for some lunch. We headed over to the Blue Hills section of Provo for some conch fritters at 'da Conch Shack'

"& Rumbar"

Very nice place to spend an hour or two, and some of the best and freshest conch on the island.

Maybe a couple rum punches while waiting for the conch, and listening to tales of iguanas..

Maybe a third rumpunch and a pinch of salt for the brother's sea stories...

Out front of the Conch Shack is an old, small caicos sloop full of conch shells.

That was about it for a Monday. We have been having unsettled weather since Tuesday afternoon, and in fact, it has been raining off and on for two days now. The cisterns are full but it's been keeping me from working on the outboard motor so it's a mixed blessing.

The rain didn't stop a group of Filipino workers from coming by to take possession of our little Suzuki 4x4. With two Land Rovers we just really didn't need the Samurai any more. And sitting in the constant salt and sun was not doing it any good. Still, it started right up and they drove it home. I am sure we will be seeing it partially restored and becoming a menace on the streets of Provo very shortly.

I kinda hated to see it go, but it was becoming a whole new set of DIY issues that I really just don't have the time for.

And that's the end of this post. One son is still here visiting, and the other is back on Cape Cod. As I write this the dog is shivering against my feet from the constant thunder and rain as we watch another Tropical Storm headed our way.

Still, the cloudy days do make for a half decent sunset from time to time.