Thursday, February 18, 2010

Mid Winter Mundane

I realize it's only been a few days since the last post. And that was one of our favorite photo ops, the yearly Valentine's Day Regatta on Middle Caicos. But the thing is, that one day produced enough photos to justify putting them up here in their own post. And all the other unrelated photos taken last week didn't really fit in with the Middle Caicos ones so I didn't include them. But I do want to use them, somewhere. And here is the only place I have. I know from past experience that if I let them sit around for a week or two, they'll never get displayed. Not sure why, exactly, but I have this aversion to posting old photos. I like fresh photos. Unless there's a specific reason to reach back and get an old one to compare to a new one, or to make a point...they tend to fade away. Eventually they get taken off the computer and put on a CD and stuck in a drawer somewhere. Essentially gone. And we have thousands of those. So, here's a little potpourri of things that happened last week other than the Middle Caicos trip.

Having said all that, this sunrise photo is about seven hours old as I write this. Taken this morning.

As anyone who reads this blog well knows, we have an excellent view of the boatyard here, and all the boats that come in or go out. This sailboat has been sitting here for two days anchored right outside the boatyard. In the way, actually. Other boats have to go around it. We don't know why they are anchored there, with a nice, safe, comfy marina just a few hundred yards away. We hear them on the VHF radio, asking what time the boatyard closes in heavily accented English. No, no..I don't mean that the boatyard closes in heavily accented English...oh. Wait a minute. Come to think of it, they do. Never mind. I thought the picture worth taking.

I have here a fistful of nice-colored water photos. Or at least we think the water here is a nice color most of the time. Oh, it gets ugly when the sun is obscured by clouds, turns the same gray water turns everywhere under cloudy skies..

We don't really have that many cloudy days here. I read somewhere that we have 350 sunny days a year. I think that's optimistic, of course, but probably not that far off the mark. We've gotten spoiled though. We just expect each day to be clear. It might be windy, but it's usually clear. And when it isn't a nice day we tend to stay in. Whether we want to or not.

And lately we have really been aware that it's winter. Last night, for example, the air temperature plummeted down to 70 deg. F!! We were closing windows, shutting off ceiling fans, and huddling under extra blankets for warmth. Dooley is okay, of course, with that little fur jacket he wears all the time..

For some reason this photo reminds me of a song..
"I hear the train a comin'
It's rollin' 'round the bend..
And I ain't seen the sunshine,
Since, I don't know when..."

But usually, this is closer to the color of the water we get on this side of the island:

What happened was that we decided to take the little rubber kayak for a test run after I repaired one of the Hobie Mirage Drives. Again. If you look back on this blog a couple posts you will be able to figure out what happened to it. We got stranded on exposed mud flats at low tide and ended up trying to drag the kayak back to deep water. Somewhere between the unprintable and the expletives we broke another one of the "turbo fins". This is the third one we have broken in the year we have had 'Low Cay', the rubber kayak. And yes, I know naming the kayak was silly. I have recently been told by some smart alec on a plastic sailboat online forum that he considered it laughable that we actually named a rubber kayak. I don't know, though. I think leaving a boat that has never failed you nameless says a lot more about the soul of the captain than it does about the price of the boat. But that's just me.

So, anyhow, having repaired the Mirage Drive one more time (I am getting good at it) we put the boat in the water and cranked it around for a few hours to make sure everything was still holding together. And we took a few photos along the way.

The repaired flipper seemed to work just fine and we probably pedalled about four or five miles before this little trip was over. Mostly just looking for sea caves and peering up under the rocks to see if we could spot anything interesting that might have drifted ashore. We went by this old wreck once again, and noticed that it's been slowly falling to pieces in the four years since we first photographed it.

That's a ferro-cement hull. This means that the boat was made out of concrete. It was almost intact when we first saw it, but no more. I am sure that Hurricanes Hanna and Ike did a job on it, too.

Just a nice little private beach, no crowds, no parking lot, no hot dog vendors. Just the way we like them.

We see a lot of caves in the limestone ledges surrounding these islands. This one would be mostly underwater at high tide;

It does angle upward from the entrance, though. So I guess there would be a nice air pocket inside there even if the mouth of it was under water. Nice hideout.

Since we were just kayaking around for the fun of it, we went offshore a little ways to check out this little cay:

At this point we headed back to shore but I thought maybe the warm clear water images might be of some slight interest to someone looking out the window at a frozen lake or something. One last image of the other end of the little cay:

And by this time the wind was picking up as the sun was headed down.

La Gringa and I have gotten 'sailboat fever' since we went through the certification courses in the Virgin Islands in December. Hours have been spent perusing the internet, talking with boat owners, looking at what's out there. We pretty much know what kind of a boat we want for these waters. I won't go into all the reasons here, but we have been looking at used Gemini catamarans online. The most likely scenario would be for us to find a boat in Florida and sail it down through the Bahamas. We figure the trip should take us about two weeks or so. THAT should be some good photos for the blog. It would be better if we could find a boat for sale already in the Bahamas, or even southeast of here in the D.R., Puerto Rico, or the Virgin Islands. Easier sailing coming this way. Of course the ideal would be to find a boat already here, but we have pretty much given up on that idea. We did see one older model of the Gemini at the boatyard here. This is NOT the model we are looking at but is two or three models earlier.

And as you can see, this one needs quite a bit of work. But this should give you non-sailors an idea of the boat we think is about the right size for the 2.1 of us.

The model we want to find has an inboard diesel instead of an outboard, and the stern is totally different. But you get the idea.

While we were messing around the boatyard looking at boats we spotted a nice trimaran sitting at the dock next to a pile of tools. I just cannot resist a pile of tools next to a boat, so we went over to take a look and talk to the owner. Then I realized that this is an example of one of the boats we considered for ourselves, a Corsair F 28.

These boats are great sailors, faster than a surprise attack of Montezuma's Revenge, and they will fold up onto a trailer. But after looking at them carefully, they are just not as 'livable' as the Gemini, which is more like an RV with a sail. So we have decided to buy the camper van instead of the sports car. If we can find one we can afford, that is. We need room for diving gear, a compressor and an underwater metal detector. For example.

On the way back from the boatyard we ran across a strange sight for us, a mailbox!!

I know a mailbox won't seem odd at all to most of our readers. But this is the first one we have seen in five years. And the reason is simple: There is no mail delivery in the Turks and Caicos Islands. No house numbers. In most cases, no street names, or street addresses. There are no postal delivery vans, no mail carriers. We have been hearing that this is all changing and we have seen some streets in this neighborhood with names. But to actually see a real mailbox! Here! Wow. Almost makes me want to mail him something just to see what happens.

We met some nice new people here last week, too. I mentioned the Coffins we met on the dock at Leeward but we met some other people, too. Todd lives near Houston and somehow he ran across this blog on the internet. I guess I never did ask him exactly how, but that doesn't matter. He did. He wrote us some time ago that he and his fiancee were hoping to come down in February to get married here. Well, we hear that kind of thing a lot, so as usual we said "Great, give us a call when you get here." Between you and me it hardly ever happens. But this time it did. I got some emails from Todd about two weeks ago and he kindly asked if there was anything he could bring down for us from the US. At first we couldn't think of anything but then he mentioned that they are dog lovers with three of their own, and would be happy to drop by the pet shop an pick up anything Dooley the Disadvantaged might be missing. It suddenly occurred to me that Dooley has been without a doggie life jacket since his was lost on "Cay Lime" during Hurricane Hanna. I told Todd and he was good enough to not only pick up a better life jacket than Dooley had before, but also a new Harley Davidson collar and some squeaky play toys and rawhide chewies.

I bet he can't wait to jump overboard at some incredibly inopportune moment, now that he knows we have a new handle on him. This kinda makes up for all the Christmas gifts he didn't get this year. Thanks Todd!

By the time poor Todd and crew were ready to fly down, the list of goodies had expanded to include two pair of padded biking shorts and a mortar and pestle to grind up mint to make Mojitos....and this is all from the list of stuff we just cannot buy here. And that is a very big list indeed.

We used the excuse of having visitors from the US to squeeze in another lunch at the Conch Shack. This time we took Dooley along and of course he used the opportunity to tell our guests the most outlandish stories a Jack Russell ever came up with. I think this one was about why it was good luck for a JRT to sit on your lap in a Land Rover...

Man, that dog does love an audience.

When we dropped Todd and crew back at their condo we took the opportunity to see what the 'penthouse suite with water view' looks like. And sure enough, you can see the swells breaking on the reef from the patio:

People often ask us to recommend places to stay here and we are absolutely no good at it. This is probably because we have never stayed in a hotel room on Provo. Not once. All we have are the opinions of others who have visited. This is one of the reasons we took a look here when the opportunity presented itself. And the suite was fabulous. I didn't take a lot of inside photos, although I am sure Todd probably did. I did snap some outside images, like looking down at the pools.

And when I zoomed in on the Defender 110...looking totally out of place in the parking lot five floors below us..I spotted one of my next DIY projects coming up.

Yep, it's starting to look like spray painting aluminum is in my future. At least it doesn't rust. This doesn't worry me much, since I now have the compressor and a small touch up spray gun and even an airbrush. I will ask our friend Brenton at the paint store to mix us up the right automotive paint formula and will tackle this after I knock a few other things off the list.

And with that, I can segue into the DIY portion of our program today. Hey, don't complain, I have left the DIY stuff completely out of the last two posts.

I have been doing some painting, as always. Painting the same metal repeatedly has become a part of my life that I never anticipated when we moved to the tropics. The Land Rovers don't have a conventional rear bumper. They have this elaborate steel box section they call a cross member. It's full of holes and fittings for various options, and is welded to the chassis. And of course it rusts just as fast as it can manage. I have found that if I try to encapsulate the steel in enough paint to keep it from rusting it's a waste of time and effort. It doesn't work. I started out by cleaning rust down to bare metal, putting two coats of primer on, and then at least two top coats of rust resistant paint. No more. I have found that if the metal was ever exposed to the air here it will rust. And corrosion blisters don't care how much paint they push up. It's a little like grass growing through sidewalk cracks. If it's there sooner or later it will make its way through. And flying stone chips on the roads don't care if it's one coat of paint or four. They still chip it through and the rust starts before the ricochet rock even stops rolling . So now I am going to just try keeping up with battling rust as it develops. With what I have to work with here I am trying the following starting with this project.

First, I am cleaning the rust off using the pneumatic needle scaler to this level:

Then I am applying a solution of phosphoric acid to it, which turns the rust into another compound entirely, penetrates the crevices and cracks, and actually doesn't look too bad by itself:

(I say it doesn't look too bad, but I am comparing it to how this looked before I started. Which I do not have a photo of. I was too filthy to want to touch the camera at that point in the process.)

I use a pressure washer to knock loose paint and rust off things I can unbolt, like the folding rear step. And this thing has not been folded in years, until I took it apart to paint it.

I picked up an inexpensive little touchup spray gun for the compressor, which is working out nicely.

And after getting it all cleaned up, two coats of Rustoleum paint on it, and reassembled, I am hoping to get six months to a year out of it before I have to do it again.

And the reassembled, painted, greased, and re-riveted rear step folds again, and the newly painted bumper is already covered with corrosive dust without even leaving the yard yet!!

And I bet y'all are tired of looking at rusty bumper photos by now, huh? too. But there doesn't seem to be any way around it. Looking at the good side, I have learned how to use a spray gun. And since it looks like I am going to have to paint the aluminum Land Rover bodies too, this is a good thing to know.

Speaking of corrosion, I just found another example. La Gringa was going through some of the stuff we brought down with us, looking to throw unused junk away, and she found my old laptop computer case/briefcase that I carried for years back in a previous life. This case has been many, many thousands of miles with me, flying to jobs on boats all over the world. It held up fine. When we moved into the house here two years ago I put it inside a closed closet. It has never been exposed to the outside elements, or salt water since it came here. It's been inside. This is an anodized aluminum adjustment buckle on the strap, inside a closet for two years.

This aluminum is not even in contact with any dissimilar metals. This is what we have to deal with here, the temporary nature of anything metallic. You wouldn't believe what an uncoated printed circuit board with power on it can get up to. I'll get some photos for another time. It's ugly. The Land Rovers are on their third radios. In five years.

As if we don't have enough maintenance and corrosion fighting DIYs going on around here, I also want to do some small improvements to the property itself. Some of those we will hire out, but I also might try my hand at a couple as well. For example our primary driveway is a little rough and unfinished. It was basically hacked into the limestone hilltop by a bulldozer. And I have been looking at renting a jackhammer and squaring it up a bit. The x marks here are where I would have to cut into the rock to clean this up.

I would also like to take the surface of it down several inches and level it. And I have some ideas about what to do with the stone I would be cutting out.

Well, it's getting dark, and someone just crawled up on an ottoman next to me here at the laptop and is letting me know dinnertime is near...

So I better close this out and start thinking about dinner. I have one of La Gringa's increasingly excellent sunset photos to finish this one up with. This is an un-retouched (cropped only) sunset over some new construction in our neighborhood:

Well, I think it's excellent. But of course I am pretty biased where she's concerned.


Robert Sprayregen said...

Love the writing and the pic's! The Gringos and Dooley could write a book together. All of us up north are vicariously living through Gringos 2.1. My Dad ordered a leopard 47 power cat. We sailed the 46 and loved it. Looked like you had a great time in USVI's with the leopard. Thank you so much for sharing your wonderful experiences with all of us.

Robert Sprayregen
Vermont/ palm beach, FL

Unknown said...

Great read as usual Gringo. LaGringa's sunsed picture is beautiful. Miss hearing from you guys.

Take care,


Bill said...

Good post Gringo! I can't wait till you guys get a sailboat. For my own selfish pleasure I'm hoping you find one in Florida and sail it down through the Bahamas, I'd love those posts.

Notazebra said...

amazing pics, was just wondering were you got ur layout, so i can post large pictures???

Anonymous said...

Painting aluminum is different than painting steel. Your paint store guy should be able to get you going with acid etching primers, etc.

Natalie said...

We had a 1995 Suzuki (now on our second one) which we sold in 2005. We never experienced the rust or radio problems. I wonder why? It was stored under canvas cover when we were not on island. We do not live on Provo but visit very often.

Amy Gregor said...

Thanks a lot beat me to it! My boyfriend and I will be vacationing on Provo in August and would like to bring the next set of items from your list or Dooley's list. I happened across your blog one month after I returned from Provo in June 2008 and have been taking "mini trips" while eating lunch at my desk ever since. It's still cold and dreary in St. Louis and the blog is a great escape. Please let me know what we can bring as one suitcase flies more than half empty for bringing back fun purchases. You mentioned two blogs ago that the Conch Shack has fried plantains...I love them and can't wait to get there. Didn't get to go on my first trip. Only 6 months until departure! Thanks for sharing about your family gatherings and island adventures.

Willie Smith said...

Nice Sunset! Yay Gringa! Keep up the DIY posts, now you got me lusting after one of those needle scalers...


Steve said...

Picked up your blog to read about the Hobie Mirage drive, noticed your discussion on the Gemini. Maybe this posting could work:

Dillard said...

What time is sunrise/set there?

Anonymous said...

Thanks for all the great comments! We have had a bit of a 'photo lull' recently. La Gringa's new camera messed up, and we bought another camera for her while her original new Pentax is back in the USA for repairs.

So, as for all the questions in these comments..

a.) I would love to be able to write a book about all this. The problem is that I don't have a clue where to start. Don't you need something like a tweed jacket with leather patches on the elbows before you can write books? I don't even own a pair of socks anymore. I would think as a minimum I'd need a plot..? Or how about possibly a Dooley comic strip? But then I would have to be able to draw.

So, bottom line there, I think we're pretty much up to our max potential here, with nice photos of pretty water and a few captions.

b.) We haven't found the just-right sailboat yet. Still keeping our internet eyes peeled. We agree that sailing it down through the Bahamas should put some new life in the old blog.

c.)Blog layout came straight from Google. The photos are uploaded to Picasa, and then you just paste a link to the Picasa pic where you want it in the blog post. It sounds more complicated than it is.

d.) Thanks for the heads up on painting aluminum. I will ask Brenton the Benjamin Moore paint dealer about it. He'll know.

e.) About the Suzuki rust, I can see that only uncovering it when you were here would prolong the life enormously. Our Suzuki is still going strong, by the way. We see it in Provo all the time with a rear seat installed and from two to six Filipino's riding around town. I think they must have a body-work specialist in the family.

f.) Willie, the needle scaler works really well. It's almost doing a little 'shot-peening' type thing, with the impact knocking the loose scale off. It uses the same power unit as an air chisel, at least the Northern Tool version does.

So I hope I managed to address the questions in these comments. Please feel free to ask more.