Sunday, May 2, 2010

Is it really May??

I just recently had it pointed out to me that we haven't posted any photos in almost a month. Whoops. To all you nice people who actually pay any attention to such things, I apologize. And it's not like we have been totally inert for over three weeks. Not at all. Well, not completely, anyhow. Okay, okay...we've been inert. Or close enough as to be almost indistinguishable from it. But forget all that. I have some new photos! Barely. But better than nothing.

And the weather has finally started moving slowly from winter winds to the random calm days.

Our little multi-year experiment in tropical lifestyle keeps on track. More or less. I'll just say that it keeps relatively near what passes for a track here. And we have a very loose definition of track. People who follow the news from this sunny little micro-country will know some of the turmoil it's been going through politically. It's been a tough year for a lot of people here with the results of widespread political corruption hitting in the same year as the full impact of the global economic troubles. A one-two punch. We still love the country and count many Turks and Caicos Islanders among the best friends we have ever had. We're not giving up on the place. Not even close. Especially as we move into the time of year that produces afternoons like this one, with calm oceans and barely a cloud in the sky:

La Gringa had a momentary setback when her new ruggedized Dell laptop had another hard drive failure. She lost a lot of her recent photos and some other irreplaceable files. Her new laptop is on its third hard drive in a year. Dell keeps sending us more stuff to replace the stuff that fails so I can't fault their customer service at all. It's the quality of this particular laptop I am having some issues with. We've had a lot of good Dell computers, and excellent customer service throughout. But we have to face the fact that this one is a lemon. I would call it a 'dog' but a certain family member would be offended.

But that's no excuse for not posting. La Gringa continues to take better and better photos. Check out this sunset from out among the neighbors houses just a few days ago:

I think we actually may have created a couple of 'monsters' since the last post. I am one of them. Preacher is the other. In my case I have gotten way immersed in teaching myself to arc weld. Also called 'stick' welding. But that's all DIY stuff, so more on that, later. I'll concentrate on the tropical photo section here first so that people who like to look at the ocean photos can get that out of the way without having to wade through "Gringo burns his feet off" and the "gosh ain't I clever" type stuff again.

And in Preacher's case, oh man. If you read this blog on any kind of recent regular basis you will know that I started goading him during the Middle Caicos Regatta model sloop races back in February. I gave him a razzing about us not having any sloops of our own in the race, especially since he had told me that he was a past master at the art of model sloop design. I didn't realize what I was starting. He built the first little sloop for us, and we sailed it. And it was fast. Faster than most of the other model sloops we have seen, just like Preacher remembered from his youth. And Preacher looked upon it, and smiled. And he saw that it was good. Then he went crazy on the danged things. He cut down an entire tree to get wood for more sloops.

And since then he has built two more sloops, and started a fourth. He has started talking up a Provo version of the races, and has challenged and insulted the reigning champ on Middle Caicos on my behalf. Gee, thanks.

Last weekend, he called us and told us to get our boat over to Stubbs Cove to see how it performed against his two newer, bigger boats. So of course we went.

We showed up to find a grown man playing with toy boats in the sand at the beach. No kidding.

While we got our boats trimmed up and ready to sail, Preacher's brother Joe "Hammer" showed up to captain the third one. I am not sure just why he was tying a piece of fishing line around his neck..I think it was to use to tie some fishing weights to the weatherboard of his sloop, or something like that. Knowing Joe, I am sure he had his reasons. I just don't have a clue what they were:

I think I have read somewhere something to the effect that if you give a man enough fishing line...

Well, it was that kind of a day. Eventually we got all three boats rigged up and ready to sail. Can you believe all these idiots are old enough to be grandfathers?

(not counting the kite boarder. I don't know how old he is.)

And sail they do! This photo is in the early part of the afternoon, when the old dudes were still relatively fresh, and striding along after these little sloops like a matched set of salt and pepper Sasquatches on a slow motion mission:

But lemme tell ya, after quick footing it back and forth across a hundred yards of knee deep water for an hour chasing these, I thought my heart was gonna attack me. This is WORK!

Between us sloopid sailors, the kite boarders, and normal Sunday afternoon beach goers, it got busy. Dooley the Destructive was such a pain running up and down the beach he had to be restrained.

We put him in charge of random barking and watching the cooler.

We managed to get all the boats running well. Hammer's in particular seemed to track straight and fast. He seemed to spend more time chasing his than either Preacher or I did, chasing our own little boats.

Until finally it got the bit between its teeth on a nice port tack and was headed for West Caicos and points beyond. There was NO way he was going to catch up with it this time. That's Joe on the left..

And his boat on the right.

That's my boat in the foreground coming in on a run with a loose boom. It outran me, too, but at least I had it pointed toward the shore. Hammer's boat is the one under the kite in the photo, booking along like it intended to make Haiti by dawn tomorrow.

And these were actually pretty rough conditions for these little boats. Waves were breaking over the decks by this time.

Fortunately for Hammer, one of the kite boarders spotted his runaway sloop and caught up with it.

In this picture the kite boarder has flipped Hammer's boat over to stop it from sailing away. As you can tell from Joe's double thumbs up, he was pretty happy about getting it back.

That boat was moving!

Well, after a couple of hours of chasing toy boats back and forth, with the frequent diving saves.. we were all ready to call this off for the day. We think we have some real contenders for the next Middle Caicos Regatta. That will be Valentine's Day weekend in February, if Preacher doesn't put together a Provo event before then. I can see an inter-island rivalry developing here. It should make for some fun and competition. And good blog posts!

We were not prepared for how exhausting this can be. We are a little perplexed, because Preacher well remembers chasing these boats all afternoon long, all summer, when he was only 12. He MUST have had shorter legs then, so it doesn't make sense to us. I guess the water must be stickier these days, with the global warming and all.

Other than grown men running and splashing while they played in the water like a bunch of grinning fools, life has been more or less sedate. This time of year is very busy for the cruisers who sail through here on their way south to the Dominican Republic and Caribbean, or north to the Bahamas and beyond. Being very interested in sailing and cruising ourselves, we pay a lot of attention to the boats we can see from the patio. Last week we were amazed when the largest catamaran we have ever seen cruised up and dropped anchor a few hundred yards from the house:

I decided to track this one down, and posted this photo on the Sailnet forum online. Within a day one of the forum members identified the boat as a "Yapulka 72" A little more internet digging and I found out this is a charter boat, available in season in the Caribbean or the Mediterranean. The name of the boat is the "Nahema IV". And it is one fine boat. It's available for only $45,000. US dollars a week, with a crew of two. Sleeps 8 guests in relative comfort (I would imagine), if anyone is interested in splitting a couple weeks or so, just to get some sailing in...

While on the subject of boats (and when am I not?) we have offered to assist the Marine Police as a radio call relay when we can. We have been watching these guys leave on patrol and return for over two years now.

We have a Marine VHF radio at the house. This is pretty common here. Until cellular phones came along, telephone service in the TCI was spotty at best, There were a few land lines on the main islands, but capacity was pretty well saturated, and nobody was stringing more wires. People communicated using VHF radios in their homes and other vehicles. The taxicabs here all had marine VHF radios in them, even just five years ago when we moved down. Of course when we moved down here there were two paved roads, no sidewalks, and no streetlights. Things have changed.

When our friends Crystal and Mike left in "Dancing Dolphin" we ran a little range experiment. Our antenna is about 65 feet above sea level, and this makes it one of the taller antenna in the islands. We wanted to see how far we could talk to "Dancing Dolphin" as they left the TCI headed south east for some new adventures. We were able to talk to them with our little unboosted radio until they were abeam of Six Hill Cay.

I plotted that out to be almost 42 miles range.

Now, where the Marine Police come in (remember them, before I started rambling on about radios?) is that we have been listening to a lot of what goes on offshore for quite a while now. We hear the US Coast Guard Miami group from time to time. We think we are hearing their aircraft, since VHF is line-of-sight. We can hear boats reporting that they are near Mayaguana in the Bahamas, which is about 45 miles north of us. We essentially have coverage for almost all of the Turks and Caicos when things are ideal. We have sometimes heard the Police base station attempting to call one of their boats out on patrol, with no response. We can sometimes hear the boat trying to call the base at the boatyard, with the same lack of results. We realized that the boats are sometimes out of range for them. We have offered to relay messages if they really need them to get through and the boat is also out of cell phone range.

The Marine Police seemed happy to know we could do that for them. They haven't taken us up on the offer yet. But we just made the offer last week when we ran into their Captain in the produce aisle at the super market. Maybe we can help. I don't normally get into police business if I can help it, but where these guys are concerned it could easily be serious. These are the guys who intercept the overloaded Haitian boats, and smugglers, and poachers. We'll give them all the help we can. Heck, I figure that if I ever run across a good deal on a used boat radar that I can salvage, I'd probably install one of those up here too, if it would help these guys.

In the meantime, we get stopped for a chat by the police now when we see them off duty shopping for groceries. These are the good kinds of police chats. Talking about big catamarans, and fishing, and the weather.

Okay, here's the warning for all you DIY indifferent people out there. You might want to skip to the sunset photo at the end now. This next part is only going to be interesting to other tool, gadget, and handyman geeks like me.

As previously mentioned, I bought a welding machine. I have no training or instruction, so have been beating my way through a learning curve. After sticking together every loose piece of steel in the garage and fixing an exhaust pipe and a wheelbarrow, I figured I was ready for a small project. I wanted to use junk stuff I had lying around, since I also was pretty sure I would mess it up.

Well, the problem with this is that most of what I have lying around are the cut up remnants of that 8 ft. diameter steel framed, aluminum dish sat antenna that Hurricane Hanna turned into a piece of modern art for us.

I also had the middle seat I removed from one of the Land Rovers and replaced with a 'cuddy'. (Their word. not mine. It's a Brit thing.) So anyhow, since I have been unable to find a decent shop stool for my little shop in over two years of looking, I thought I would see if I could build one. I mean, nobody but me is going to see it, so if it's ugly and rattles and falls down from time to time...who cares?

I didn't want to try to weld the frame of the seat to the other steel. I was pretty sure I would set it on fire as a minimum. Melt it all over my crocs and burn the shop down. That kind of thing. So I took one of the receiver support struts from the demolished sat dish..

and cut it into four pieces. I then went through a whole bunch of welding rods and sparks and came up with a frame that the Land Rover seat will fit:

and got it more or less square and stuck together pretty good.

Now, you experienced welders out there will groan and laugh, but please remember I just bought this thing last month, have no training, and the manual for the machine was written in China by people concerned with the on/off switch and not with welding. Not much help. It's not pretty. And I have a whole new respect for welders that can turn out consistently perfect works of art. It's not as easy as some guys make it look.

But back to my kindergarten attempt, I had a frame to bolt the seat to, but needed legs. tall ones. Because the counter tops in our home are 2" higher than 'standard'. Including my work benches. And all I had left to work with were these curved pieces of box stock that had been the oval frame around the sat dish antenna:

I had enough to make four of those, and went through all kinds of mental images of how to make stable legs out of them. The problem was that no matter which way I bowed them, they came back to either a very narrow, or exceptionally wide base on the floor. So I crossed them, and traced where they crossed..

and notched them out:

Brought out the handy but on-its-last-legs Dremel tool to cut the lateral ones:

See those sparks? That disk was turning about 6,000 RPM. I was amazed the little Pentax point and shoot camera got a photo that clear with a flash.

Anyhow, after making all those cuts the pieces looked like this:

and fit together, thusly:

(I always wanted to use that word! And "whilst" is still on my list, too.)

I made two of those 'X' shaped things and tack welded those to the seat frame:

You can see where I am going with this, can't you? And that was basically it. I welded it up and got plenty of practice patching holes I burned in this 3/32" wall steel. I figue if I can learn to weld this thin stuff, when I get to some real metal it should be a lot more forgiving.

I wanted to brace it in the other direction, and besides my feet just barely reached the floor at this height, so I made a foot rest to take care of all that. I put some flat pieces across the open bottoms, and some tabs on top for the seat frame:

And after some grinding, priming and painting I ended up with an adequate stool for the workshop, from satellite dish scraps and a useless Land Rover seat.

It's cushy, but doesn't swivel. I think it looks like it needs a pair of wings attached to it, doesn't it? Hey...there's an idea. Airplanes come in kits. I know they do.

Next project is underway now, and that is a kayak/lumber rack for the little Defender 90. Since I am down to the remainder of the sat dish pieces and they are all curved, this should get pretty strange looking, too. Even more weird than the shop stool. I am thinking I will use the straight T-shaped rail sections from the three electric garage door openers that have never been used in over two years.

Anyone know of anything useful to build from the motors and photo-cells? I've taken one to the dump already but still have two more to dismantle.

Oh, speaking of dismantling..(clever change of subject, eh wot?) I thought you might get a kick out of guessing what this is:

Yep, you got it! That's an Olympus Stylus 770$W and a Stylus 1030$W waterproof digital cameras, and a Kodak Easy$hare camera thown in for good measure. That was too easy.

I took them apart to see how they worked, where they failed, and also to save all the dozens of minerature screws. Those are impossible to buy here and when you need a little bitty screw, nothing else just seems to work.

Well I have other similar totally useless photos I could upload and talk about, but I better save those to plump out the next time I have a post that's thin on material. I'd say this has gone on quite long enough to qualify as a post by now, anyhow. We'll try to go find something fun to do for the next one.

And thanks to La Gringa, the photographer of the team, I have another pretty neat sunset to finish up with:


Anonymous said...

Long wait - but worth it. Those sunrise/sunset pics are just plain awesome, especially that three-level shot. And your ingenuity is per ax... er, par ex... aw shucks, what's that French phrase that means "ain't you almighty clever?"!


Anonymous said...

It's about time! Just kidding! That stool turned out GREAT, now you got to make one for Preacher. Thanks for the update.....


RumShopRyan said...

That sunset photo behind the house was amazing! Cheers!

Anonymous said...

Don't know if this will help at all, but often times hard drives fail due to poor handling by the delivery service (and poor delivery packaging) I have noticed a marked failure rate in hard drives delivered by UPS vs Fedex. (if you research it you can see that UPS is much rougher on their packages) For the next hard drive you replace see if they can package it as extremely fragile as well as use the best delivery service available to you... hope that helps.

DineDriveRealEstate said...

Love the stool. An obvious word of caution: if you start using junk vehicles as a source of scrap metal, be vary wary of the gas tank. Just a few drops of old fuel is enough to ruin your day.

Didier Dufresne said...

Ahhh ! The welding machine... This "modern art" seat must stay now in a museum, not in the Land Rover !!! Byron "the welder" is now ready to build the "Eiffel Tower" on Caicos Islands !!!
And thanks to "La Gringa" for her beautiful pictures...

AmitiƩs de France.

Anonymous said...

Don't worry, the welding project stool will stay in the workshop. Nobody will see it.

I have now completed project # 2, which is a frame that fits in the back of the little Land Rover, to carry the kayak, and to carry lumber, etc. I made a discovery by accident. I bought some new, different brand welding rods at a different store, and the quality of the welds improved immediately.

But I still have a lot to learn about it all. I have new respect for people who can make perfect welds all day long.

Joy said...

Thanks for all of your posts. I know it takes you some time and thought, and I appreciate it. I've been enjoying this blog for about two years now! (and of course read through from the beginning of your posts)

Joy said...

By the way, any estimates on how many people read your posts? Do you have a counter so you can keep track?

Mike M said...

Love your posts. Keep them coming!

Joy said...

Everything okay in Provo? The Gringos aren't usually quiet for so long. Hope all is well.

Unknown said...

Great read as always Gringo. Pretty impressive stool you built. I am surprised you didn't pait it that pretty blue like LaGringas desk.

And Polly, You seem to be adjusting to that new camera well. I enjoy the sunsets.

Hope ya'll are doing well.


Jenny said...

Hope ya'll OK. Seems so quiet for too long. Miss ya posts!