Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Sun, sailboats, an iguana, and stuff like that.

It actually looks like we will be able to fit another blog installment or two into this month. And I just noticed that this is the 223rd post ! Gosh, if I had started out to write a book instead of being talked into doing a blog, I would have been done a long time ago. (hmmm.... anyone know any desperate publishers?)

I do still feel a bit guilty about recent long lapses between posts. Pure laziness. Procrastination. I promised to try to do a little better. I justified my laziness by assuming that most people were probably not that interested in looking at tropical photos online during their own summer activities. I mean, why look at photos of this place when you have your own sunny places?. But some of the comments and emails we've gotten say that at least some of you still do like the pix of the water here. Even when it is high summer in your own back yard. So, since we are snapping photos just about everywhere we go anyhow, it's not a lot of trouble to upload some here. The positive feedback keeps us going.

We haven't been up to any of the fun and exciting stuff I keep promising, yet. There is a series of things that need to happen in order and it takes time. But in the meantime we haven't been totally idle, either.

For example, on Saturday we stopped by the beach to check out what was going on at the 2010 "Fools Regatta" here on Providenciales. This year was the 20th one of these regattas. It was originally just a few local multihull sailors racing for rum and t-shirts on April Fool's Day. And that's where the name came from. (And as is very typical of island style developments, a race originally started in early April now takes place in late June. If you are interested in the background of this event, I found a good writeup on it and here's a link to Fool's Regatta.)

This day of sun and fun is now a yearly tradition here, and the windy weather we have been experiencing here for the last week was absolutely perfect for sailing on Saturday. I'll try not to get too wordy on this, and let the photos and colorful boats, people and water photos stand on their own. If I can restrain myself.

This was the scene coming over the boardwalk at Childrens' Park in the Bight section of Grace Bay:

The weather was just about perfect, and people were setting up with coolers and umbrellas and sunscreen and kids all set to make a day of watching boats race and enjoying the beach.

There were several concessions selling food and beverages and the smell of smoked ribs grabbed us as soon as we stepped on the sand.

These local race events are geared mostly for the people here, not so much an event to attract tourism. Since a lot of work goes into organizing anything of this nature and most vacationers are only here for a week.... well... as I said this is more of a local event than a Chamber of Commerce style attraction. It is for a good cause, as all proceeds from the event go to benefit the TCIFA program. Or as they spell it here, 'programme'. (Sounds the same either way. A two syllable word.)

There are several classes of boats entered in different races. Some of them are probably stretching the definition of 'boats', and there were some colorful examples in what might be called the 'wide open' end of things. Admittedly, at the lower end...

There were oil drums, water jugs, styrofoam blocks... just about anything that would float and hold together in these local 'Plastiki' entries.

I'm no expert on these things, but some of them looked a little bit more seaworthy than others.

And there was obviously a lot of love and effort put into some of the entries:

Handmade paddles, signed by the artists!

We only spent a couple of hours at the Regatta and we were in the middle of the afternoon so we missed some of the earlier events. But with tents set up cooking barbecue, selling drinks, t-shirts and plenty of boats to look at everyone seemed to be having a pretty good time.

The Marine Police were there patrolling in one of their pangas:

There were traditional Caicos sloops there and even a few multihulls. The trimaran was built by its owner and is probably one of the fastest sailboats in the country. The Corsair 28R I posted a photo of some time back would probably give it a good run but the Corsair wasn't there that day:

The start of the big boat races was fun to watch as the crews scrambled to get their canvas up and filled after the starting horn blew:

And it didn't take them long to get going, either.

The Hobie catamaran classes are some of the most popular races here since these boats are accessible to a lot more people than the bigger sloops with their own crews.

The beach cats, appropriately enough, start from the beach. This was the scene as the Hobie sailors got their course briefing before their event:

And this was the mad scramble to start once the horn blew:

These were all Hobie "Bravo"s, with three crew per boat, and the performance in 20+ knot winds was pretty lively:

(how am I doing on keeping the word count down?)

As with just about everything on this polyglot island, different nationalities were here to enjoy the races. We had Turks Islanders, Americans, Canadians, Haitians, Dominican Republicans (Republicans?), a lot of Brits of course. I spotted a few Australians, a couple Kiwi's, heard some French... South Africans, and that's just the ones I picked up on while I was there for a couple hours. We know many of the expats from living here, of course. Spending time in a place like this sure exposes one to a lot of different cultures all mixed together in one little batch of islands. These guys from the Philippines were really into cheering the Hobie contestants on:

And the minute they noticed La Gringa was snapping photos, a bunch of them piled on the boat and hammed it up for her:

Now, I am only going to put this photo in to illustrate one of the things we really appreciate about this little country; it's extremely informal and laissez-faire attitude. For example, a lot of boaters in the USA well know how their local marine police would react if they saw them with a beer in their hand, riding in a boat, at an event like this at a public park. You'd be showing identification and get a lecture as a minimum. More than that in many places.

Here, as long as you don't create problems you can pretty much enjoy yourself to your heart's content. There is still a large reliance on personal responsibility here, as opposed to government control. The police here would not give you a hard time about enjoying a cold beverage on a sunny day. In fact, if you were out of said beverage, they might even be able to spare one for you.

Yes, the man with the beer is a police officer, but I hope you also notice that he is not driving. Ya gotta love this place. A nation that does not even own a breathalyzer machine. The 40 mph speed limit is probably a good thing.

This country constantly amazes us. It's still a small island attitude and many things are still done in traditional ways. But the country embraces modern conveniences and technology as well. It's a good mix. Speaking of technology, we had to snap a photo of one of the new fire trucks here. It was nice to have these guys standing by at the beach, just in case.

(I mean, there WAS beer, rum, charcoal starter, and propane all on a public beach at the same time. And both the Marine Police and the Fire and Rescue Department were well represented.)

Other than the Fool's Regatta it was a fairly quiet week. La Gringa, Dooley the Disturbed, and I took our little kayak out several times. We were just getting some sunshine, exercise, and enjoying the ocean. And the Mirage Drives are still a fantastic way to rehab an artificial knee. I know, I know...some people thing I get plenty of exercise by jumping to conclusions, chasing my tail, and skating on thin ice. Oh well.

On a glossy, sunny day, I stuck our little Pentax waterproof point-and-shoot under the surface and got what we think is a really cool video of the refraction of the sunlight filtering down and drawing patterns on the sand.

Now we don't normally push the videos very much here. We know most people probably don't even bother to watch them. But if you like to meditate, or could use about a half a minute of some real peaceful scenery, turn your sound on and check this out. And tell us what you think, please. Should we do more of this kind of stuff? We have some ideas for more of these :

(Now is that mellow, or what? Makes me wanna stop typing and go snorkelling.)

We sailed the rubber boat over to a nice spot in a grove of Casuarinas trees and took a break in the shade:

Great spot not far from Providenciales, no crowds, a nice beach. Just the sound of the waves, and the breeze sighing through the shady branches. Not another soul in sight....

As I am sure you can see, this is a pretty good spot to take a break from the bright tropical sun.

And then we were surprised when one of the local denizens strolled up to us looking for a handout. Can you see the iguana there, just this side of the little campfire site?

This guy strolled right up like he knew us. Well, he obviously knows very little about Jack Russell Terriers.

And we were astonished that Dooley the Disruptor was totally unaware of the iguana for several minutes. I was leaning over, making sure I had a grip on Dooley's collar and trying to get a photo of the moment when he first noticed the iguana. The reasons for collaring the little booger will be apparent in a moment. Trust me.

I know a lot of people think that we call him Dooley the Demented as a term of endearment. I think the following videos are going to change your mind. After watching these maybe you will agree that the little dervish has earned the sobriquet. He doesn't just need a life jacket. This dog needs a canvas jacket with long buckles on the end of the sleeves, if you know what I mean.

First, before he lost his mind, Here's the steely-eyed boat dog, fresh ashore from a harrowing sea voyage, keeping a keen watch on his newly claimed, uninhabited island...

Nothing gets by Capt. Doolance, right?

Did you spot what's standing just about 8 feet on the other side of him? Yep, it's Iggy:

Then the iguana moved a few steps, and SOMEone spotted the motion out of the corner of his vision. The head swivelled, the ears perked up.... I don't think he could believe his eyes:

Yep, it moved again, and this photo was taken about one millisecond before the dog went into complete meltdown:

Now, still photos of the next few minutes would not convey what happens to this dog when he thinks something needs to be run down and bitten repeatedly. In a rare moment of klutz-lucky, I managed to switch the camera to movie mode. First, Dooley tried complaining and escaping and twisting and turning, attacking anything in reach. He started by shredding a piece of innocent sea fan lying under the table. No, the sea fan did not annoy him in any way. It was a nice piece of sea fan. Innocent bystander. Inert.

It just happened to be in the wrong shade at the wrong time.

Of course the iguana was clueless. Maybe he thought Dooley was going to share lunch with him. Dooley had other ideas about lunch.

Since he could not seem to get loose by twisting, cajoling, begging or threatening... he decided to see if perhaps he could drag the iguana over to him kinda like someone chained to a table would pull a rug toward them to get to a goodie on the other end. Or maybe he felt confined and remembered something he had once read about tunnelling. Or maybe it was just his breeding kicking in, as these dogs were originally designed to ferret out foxes from burrows. They think nothing of taking on animals bigger than they are.

Did you notice him making a complete 360 degree turn trying to get his collar loose from my grip? He's never even come close to biting me but boy I bet the thought crossed his furry little mind a couple times.

He tried, oh how he tried, to talk me into letting him go.
Finally, in total frustration, he went into some anti-Zen psychopathic state that we could only describe as mental. All he knew was that SOMEthing was gonna get bitten here, one way or another.

I think this was his 'Great White Shark' imitation. His eyes were glazing over and his front feet were actually coming completely off the ground. It was a bit scary, actually. This is the Dooley version of the 'Thousand Yard Stare'. And now I think you can better understand why we refer to him as Dooley the Demented.

The iguana? He might have realized that this dog was restrained, but somehow I don't think so. I don't think the iguanas are mentally equipped to deal with a dog like this. He seemed clueless, and possibly deaf. Dooley would have shredded him if I had let him go. We have had similar encounters in the past, and if the iguana is close to the bush he can get away. But this guy had no close cover, and he would have lost his tail. (Did we tell you how they shed their tails? It's an escape mechanism, I hope. It's bizarre to watch, that's for sure.)

Well, that's basically it for the iguana photos. I had to carry Dooley back to the kayak so the lizard could make a clean getaway. If I had a sedative I would have given it to him. And the next time we go to picnic at this spot I am taking a leash along for the dog. Maybe 2" braided dacron would do it. And maybe I should force him to watch the peaceful video of the sea bottom drifting by....mellow him out a bit. Nah. He'd just look for a crab to bite.

Back at the house things have been pretty quiet. We are still waiting for the powers-in-charge to get our road graded so that we can get the Contender out of the driveway. "Ruts?" you might ask?

Yep, ruts. I should have put something in this photo for scale, but these ruts are deep, and filled with loose rocks. That section of gray PVC carries the securely buried electric and phone lines for the homes on this road. Great. No wonder our internet is out for days at a time after some of these storms.

I am obviously not going to be able to push the 4,000 lb. Contender up and over this stuff. It's as bad as it's ever been, even after the hurricanes of 2008.

And we have had a lot of internet issues after rain storms like this. We have our routines down. La Gringa can take her laptop down to the closest spot with a public WiFi setup at the South Side Marina. How's this for a temporary office setup, until the internet at the house gets up and running?

It's hardship, for sure. But I also bet some would prefer it to a cubicle in NJ. I know La Gringa never had the experience of waking up to find a live gecko strolling across her laptop in New Jersey..

And no, that's not software. The computer is turned off. Is 2010 the Year of the Lizard or something?

Speaking of hurricanes (or maybe I was just thinking of hurricanes...) we just added a weather station to the house so we should be able to get some data from some of the storms that go through this year. This is made by a company called Davis and we had wanted to have some local weather info for some time now.

This gives us all kinds of info, not only on the wind speed and direction, but a barometer (very important), inside and outside temperature, dew point, phases of the moon, how much rain is falling... all kinds of neat info. One of the things I really liked about it is that it's wireless. We can read it anywhere within (supposedly) about 300 meters from the sensor package. Makes the installation incredibly easy. And the sensor package is up on the roof about 60-70 ft above sea level. Oh, and the sensor package is solar powered making it ideal for this place.

I will be strengthening up that mount shortly. Right now it's just 1.25" aluminum tubing. The specs say I should use galvanized steel pipe. But I have discovered that 3/4" PVC pipe fits inside the aluminum tubing nicely and I am thinking that driving PVC inside the tubing should make it stiff, strong, and not-corroding. I'll let you know how it works. Of course if we get another 150 mph wind here like we did with Hurricane Ike in 2008 I suspect we won't see this sensor package again.

That's it for this post. We have plans to put the Contender back in a slip for the summer, finally! The convenience of having it on the trailer at the house has been overcome by the inconvenience of having it on the trailer at the house. So we plan to move it back to the Caicos Marina and Boatyard. And we will just run our typical frantic fire drill to get it back on the trailer and secured every time a storm threatens. Yes, this should result in some photo ops. Keystone Kops Kontender?

Oh, you might have noticed we didn't start this post with a sunrise. This is unusual for us. And La Gringa has been watching for a good sunrise, camera at the ready. It just seems that we haven't had a particularly memorable one lately. She is still snapping away, though. For example, a few days ago she was looking at the Fountain Grass that is growing all over the yard now. And while waiting and hoping for a colorful sunset she caught the color of the seeds in the fading light:

And in going through her photos from that day, I find we DO have a La Gringa sunset photo to close the post with, after all...

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Trying to get caught up..

I know, I know. As several people have been pointing out.... We haven't posted anything new here in over a month. It just seems that nothing really noteworthy happened for the last three weeks of May. I kept thinking "we need to go do something fun and maybe even interesting so we can take photos and post them on the blog". Really, I did think that. Several times in May. At least once in June, too. But as John Lennon said,"life is what happens to you while you are busy making other plans." And that's what's been happening to us lately. A lot, it seems. So, while I don't really have much really new stuff to talk about here I do have a lot of photos to choose from. Hopefully they will be of some interest. The problem is never that we don't have photos. With two of us being complete shutterbugs..we have a lot of photos. Just nothing really new. Same old stuff. Or at least it seems that way to us.

If you follow these sunrise photos from post to post I am sure you can see that the sun is coming up further to the north every day this time of year.

On June 21 I suppose we will once again see it get as far to the left as it's going to get this summer, before it starts sliding back to the south a bit more each day. I don't remember if it ever actually gets to the old freighter wreck you can see there from this angle. I suppose we could drive sticks in the ground or place rocks or something to mark how far north it gets every year. Hey, didn't a bunch of bored Druids do that in southern England once upon a time?

Our day-to-day activities seem to have gotten into somewhat of a rut lately. Oh, we still take our kayak out several times a week and I have tons of those photos. And we still get together with Preacher to play with the model sloops when we have the time and weather on the same day...

But we're getting progressively lazier. You can probably tell from the photo. We used to dash about madly chasing the boats until we collapsed and agreed that we were all too old for this. But lately, we just sit in the shallows drooling and getting caught up on what we have all been doing since the last time we got together. Usually the previous weekend.

At least Dooley the Diligent is getting some swimming exercise in:

Preacher's brother Joe seems to pretty much capture the mood of it all in this photo, I think.

One of our recent kayak trips might be of some slight interest. We had been thinking of trying the little inflatable out for a trip across some more open water than we usually brave in our coastal excursions. We got brave enough to think that with good weather we could scoot over to West Caicos and back in an afternoon. Well about two weeks ago we had some smooth weather and decided to go for it. We loaded up a cooler and the dog and launched from over by Osprey Rock. It's only about six miles over to West Caicos from there, but it would put us farther from land than we have ever been in the inflatable. This is the route we took, where the yellow line is drawn. The dots are some shoals and coral heads we had detoured to take a look at.

As luck would have it, about half way across we had a serious failure of one of the Hobie Mirage drives. Murphy's Law or something, but this thing totally broke at about the mid point of the trip over. This put us at 3 miles from the nearest land. One of the steel shafts that provides the propulsion had worked completely loose from where it was supposed to be. And while we did have a patch kit and a roll of duct tape with us, this thing needed some epoxy and an allen wrench. We had to limp the rest of the way to West Caicos using the sail and our one remaining drive. It seriously slowed us up. Those little blips of land Dooley the Disturbed is watching are parts of West Caicos appearing on the horizon:

La Gringa would use the remaining drive until she got tired, then pass it back to me and I would pedal for a while. Finally we made it to the nearest point of land on West Caicos. Dooley was paying a lot of attention to the rocks, while I was more or less thinking about what I might be able to do to repair the Mirage drive. You can see it lying uselessly across the kayak there where the animal has been sitting on it. That point of land on West Caicos is called Cove Point.

We tried heading around to the east of this rocky point first, looking for a beach to land and stretch our legs. And after six miles we needed some stretching. Dooley the Diuretic was looking for a fire hydrant, tree, or reasonable facsimile thereof. And I wanted to see if I couldn't come up with some way to tie a Mirage Drive back together. This strange rock formation is the closest part of West Caicos on the side toward Providenciales:

Dooley the Diligent kept staring at the water, and I thought it was because the rock looked like a giant iguana or something. Then as we changed course and boated around the rock, it became apparent that he had been looking at something else in the water. This other rock was just breaking the surface, and you can see it in the previous photos, just offshore of the funny looking rock. Yep, just the kind of thing that gives one a secure feeling when approaching an uninhabited island in an inflatable boat..

At high tide this rock would be just under the surface. Ouch.

We finally reached a small section of beach. We had lost so much time due to the boat being crippled that we didn't get to do all the exploring we had intended. Basically we just went looking for something to use to tie our Mirage Drive flippers back together. After picking up and then discarding various bits of fishing line and sun-rotted rope fragments, I found a running shoe with a pristine shoelace still attached! What a find. So I plopped down in the sand with my 'tool kit' (Swiss Army knife) and got to work. The stainless steel rod is supposed to be attached to the drive mechanism. This one had fallen completely out, and the other one was so loose we were about to lose it as well.

After peering at the problem from several angles, I figured out that the simplest approach probably had the best chance of working. We did have some duct tape in the boat, and I wrapped some of that around the shaft as a shim and hammered it back into the drive with a piece of driftwood. Then I just bored some holes in the rubber flipper parts to run the shoe lace through:

It actually worked amazingly well.

We not only made it back to Providenciales, the knots were still tight when I got the thing back in the workshop the next day to properly repair it. Thank goodness for duct tape, a good shoelace and a Swiss Army knife. This was one of those rare times when that was all that was needed.

The trip back was uneventful. Good weather and calm seas. And nothing else tried to fall off the boat. Well, except the dog. But he does that when we get close to shore.

And finally, about four hours after we started, we were coming back into what the charts call West Harbour, and seeing Osprey Rock from a different angle:

We were pretty glad to see dry land and no hidden kayak eating reefs at this end:

We all were happy to finally have the boat loaded up and ready to head home. For a while we had been concerned that we would be looking for this spot in the dark. And there are no lights on this stretch of shoreline. No houses, no businesses, no streets. Nothing. I bet it gets REAL dark here looking at it from the ocean.

Being in the truck at this point is not quite the same thing as being home yet. We still have seven miles of this road before we reached the nearest stretch of what passes for pavement hereabouts:

As I mentioned earlier, we take the little rubber boat out several times a week these days. Most times it's just for a couple hours of exercise and to look around. We never get tired of the water or the beaches here. Like this little unmarked section of Little Water Cay:

Or looking at spiny sea urchins clustered around a bridge footing:

You really notice how many sharp things there are living in the tropics when you spend a lot of time in a rubber boat. And some of the stuff here, like these coral heads within about five feet of the surface in 10 ft. of water, would give any boat some problems.

And of course there are huge areas of just smooth sand under clear water, too.

On one of our excursions last week, or maybe the week before, I was in the mood to take photos of rock formations. We spotted this arch on one of the many small little cays;

And we went ashore to do a little beach combing near there. I was looking for interesting rocks, and hoping to get some photos of untrammeled beach sand. So I was loafing down the beach, snapping away at rocks etc.

and peeking through some of the formations at the ocean..

and looking back up the beach at the boat and La Gringa going for a swim..

But no matter how hard I tried, it was nearly impossible to get a photo of sand without at least ONE set of footprints on it. Yep, you guessed it. Dooley the Destructive. Or sometimes Dooley the Digger. I started watching him and I figured out that he is watching me at the same time. The little booger cues on what I am looking at. If I see something that I think might be worth a photo, the instant that danged dog sees that I am interested he has to scoot over and get his nose into it before I have time to even blink.

For example, I was walking up toward this interesting looking hole eroded in part of the rock cliff here.

And the moment he sees that I am looking at something, with the camera up to my face.... there he is right in the middle of it. A furry little blur in the photo, whether I want it or not.

and of course he moves so fast it's hard to get a good photo of him. He never just walks anywhere. He has two speeds: enforced idle and full bore. Sometimes his tail is wagging so fast I wonder it doesn't fly right off and hit something.

We have now gotten well into our summer weather pattern. A few weeks ago we were calling up the water delivery people and buying two truckloads of water (5,000 gallons) just to keep going, and in the past week the rains have filled the 18,000 gallon cisterns and they are overflowing. One day last week, I was driving home from town and took this photo of what would normally be a view of the little hill we live on, with our house perched up gleaming in the sun. This is the view through the Land Rover windshield. I suppose that to be correct I guess I should say 'windscreen'. You know, that part with the glass in it, just aft of the bonnet:

Now that's some serious cloudburst right there. Lovely mess on a dirt road.

And little did I know that at about the same time I was approaching this squall line from one side, La Gringa was taking photos of the leading edge of it from the other side. "Why was La Gringa taking photos of a squall?", you might ask. And this is why:

Can you make out that thick thread shaped thing coming down from the clouds to the water surface? Here's another shot, zoomed in a bit:

She told me that there were at least four waterspouts forming and collapsing at one time as this squall line moved through. There was one huge one, but by the time she got her camera ready and booted up she had missed the big one, and caught the last of the little ones. Ain't that always the way?

And as I headed up our little hill, and the rain abated, I leaned out the window and took this shot of the water rushing down the dirt road that we live on.

Under that splashing water are ruts that are 8-10" deep into the road. And those ruts are running right across where I have to make a critical turn when pushing our power boat back up the driveway after an outing. It's a bit dicey to push the boat and trailer up that incline under the best of conditions, when the dirt is relatively smooth. My problem is that the boat weighs a little more than the Land Rover does. So we are essentially unable to take the Contender out until such time as whomever is in charge of this road decides to run the grader up it again. I could probably get the boat down the driveway without too much risk, but there is no way I could force the tires out of these grooves going up hill. I have done it with the ruts no where near this bad, and it was a white knuckle experience. Nobody will ride with me when I do that.

So, as we start into Hurricane Season, we are getting the rain, the lightning, and of course the thunder. We have had several nights this week where it was difficult to sleep due to constant flashes and rolling thunder. Dooley the Demented hides under the bed. A basket case.

But it's not all unsettled weather. Saturday we took the kayak (the Contender is stranded by ruts, remember) and a picnic lunch over to a beach on Water Cay. It was a great day, with a lot of people boating and enjoying the summer weather. I spent a bit of time watching this family of nine getting situated for a weekend trip to one of the other islands..

And I could not help but think of what kind of reaction this boatload would get in some places I could name. This is what the locals call a 'conch boat'. They are copies, made in a mold made from a long ago Boston Whaler. The boat headed out with the load of people has an identical hull as the boat facing you in the photo, on the left. I am sure that both hulls came out of the same mold. But of course they do not have the double hull, unsinkable floatation of the Whaler. They get used all week for fishing, lobster and conch diving. And on weekends, they get cleaned up enough to take the family between islands to see Grandma. The angle of the outboard pretty much says this boat is somehow tied to South Caicos. Those guys say that the boat 'porpoising' up and down is the most efficient way to trim it. No radio, no horn, no fire extinguisher, no flares, no life vests, no navigation... no registration..... no problem. Just an experienced boatman and probably at least 5 cell phones. Minimal government control at its finest. We love it.

Saturday as we were pedalling and sailing our way back into Leeward after our picnic we caught the attention of a familiar sight these days. We spotted the helicopter headed our way from a long way out. That's Dellis Cay in the distance centered and Pine Cay on the right.

The US Coast Guard is around here a lot lately. I think that the increased US presence in Haiti has resulted in more equipment and personnel throughout the region. But then most of these little countries need the help. Since we have installed a VHF radio at the house we have become more and more involved in the radio traffic going on around us here. Some of the local marina personnel have told us that we have the most widespread radio coverage on the entire island. We routinely can communicate with boats 40-50 miles away. In this sat image, I have drawn a line to Six Hill Cay:

We can talk on the VHF to boats within that radius of Provo, so you can see that we cover all of the Caicos Bank, most of the rest of the country, and can sometimes hear calls from Mayaguana and the Inaguas in the Bahamas. Great location for this kind of coverage.

We have offered our help to the local Marine Police and in fact we were talking with them just yesterday morning. We could hear someone speaking English with a foreign accent calling a "Mayday" faintly on the radio. From the weakness of the signal we could tell they were at about our maximum range. Of course with a 45 mile radius, there are a lot of places they could have been. We relayed the message that someone was broadcasting a Mayday and we tried to get the boat in trouble to tell us his location. But alas, while we could hear him, he apparently could not hear us. We are waiting, now, for word of what boat went missing yesterday and we are sad we could not get their location. The last "Mayday" we heard was at 10:50 yesterday morning, Monday June 8.

We are very much interested in adding a radar system to our house at some point. I have been keeping my eyes out for a used one, but there are not many boats equipped with them down here. This nation doesn't have any shore based radars, not even at the airport. With our location 60 ft. above the water, and our excellent radio range, we know we could be of some assistance to the Marine Patrols. We could be of help to boats in trouble, vectoring rescuers in their direction.

I had mentioned how cool a radar at the house would be in my last post, and someone out there emailed us and mentioned a used radar system that they had available. Unfortunately, before I could respond I lost all my incoming emails in a system crash. I don't know who sent the email. So if the nice man with the used radar system is still out there, we are still interested!!

On Saturday, the USCG just buzzed over us, no doubt taking a look at the rubber boat, the two Gringos, and the funny little dog waving from a secluded beach on a nice day.

And as we headed back into Leeward we saw a very familiar sight headed in toward the boat ramp.

Yep, it was two of the Stubbs Brothers, in our former boat "Cay Lime". They had been out fishing. I bet the Andros Boat Company would be interested to see how much power Preacher can crowd onto one of their boats. They rate it for a maximum of 150 horsepower. Preacher started with 225.

In those shorts, I am surprised Preacher caught anything. They are definitely loud enough to scare most fish. Maybe that's why they just caught the less fearful species. Maybe sharks and barracuda are color blind. But I also know that quite commonly, the most colorful things on the reef are also the most poisonous. Hey, I'm just saying.....

Preacher offered us a tow back to Heaving Down Rock but being the die hard kayak sailors we have become we decided to make it the rest of the way home on our own. My repaired Mirage Drives are working better than ever. We did discover a bit of a traffic jam where we put our boat in. We had to fit between the floating dock and the outboard motor there on the right. No problem.

That's pretty much a sampling of the kinds of things we have been up to. I have some short videos to post, one of a conch making a break for the water and another one of the changing refraction patterns on the seafloor. I am thinking this post is getting pretty long, and I still have a few little DIY things to post for the handymen among us.

(So for you readers who think DIY is totally boring, you can stop reading here, or skip to the sunset photo at the end.)

And the DIY is an ever present part of life here. I have long ago lost track of all the little projects I have had to take on in the five years we have been here. I suspect I do more small repairs in one year on Providenciales than I did in any ten year period living in the mainland USA. For example, two weeks ago the pvc pipe broke off the water pump, causing a massive flood . That took me a day to repair. I ended up improving on the original design a little, but it was an unwanted and unscheduled DIY distraction. Flat tires are a constant part of life here. I went down to the garage to patch a hole in the kayak yesterday, and ended up fixing a new flat on La Gringa's bike before getting back to the kayak. Well, I could go on. But you get the idea, I am sure.

Last week it was also the septic tank. I want to mention this one because of the money involved. Here we use these tanks that have air bubblers in them. There are no municipal sewer treatment plants. There are no leach field septic systems. There is very little ground water. So, when the compressor that puts the bubbles in the septic system fails, an alarm goes off. About a week ago, our alarm went off.

I managed to get the compressor off the tank and took it apart to see if it might be something simple I could fix. It wasn't simple. Both small diaphram pumps had totally disintegrated. Looked like this :

I won't bore you with all the things wrong with this pump. But for example, that black piece under the o-ring on the lower right.... it's not supposed to have a big hole in the center of it. You are not supposed to be able to see the workbench top through it. The diaphram that is still bolted to the shaft is supposed to be there in the middle of that black plastic housing. This sucker was broken.

So, seeing I could no way glue this thing together, I got the model number and got on the phone to find a replacement pump. Second place I called actually had one in stock! Wow, (I thought) this is my lucky day! So I asked the price.

One thousand, five hundred and eighty seven dollars..... and fifty cents. I had him repeat it to be sure I didn't miss a decimal by several places. I didn't.

Yep, $ 1,587.50. And that's for the part. Doesn't include the installation. Another few hundred for a house call, I imagine. Oh my!

Well, you know pretty much what I did next. After recovering from my jaw hitting the floor on that pump price. (And marking that particular supply company off all future lists as a potential supplier. I even x-ed them out of the yellow pages.) I decided to do some info digging. Comparison shopping, as it were. I made some more calls. I contacted the architect who designed our house and he remembered the name of the guy that our contractor bought the system from originally. I called this guy up and while he did not have a replacement pump in stock he said he could get one in a week or so for only $875. This was actually good news. Oh, not the $875 vs. $1,587.50 part. Nope. I mean, that did tell me that I was not going to have to pay anywhere near that first price for a pump but the important info there was that the septic system could survive for a week or so without a pump. I didn't know that. I had some time before things started to go really bad. Whew. This is my first experience with this kind of aerobic system. So I got on the internet.

And lo and behold, within a few minutes, I found a place that a.) had a pump in stock for $ 319, b.) was accustomed to shipping internationally on a credit card, c.) used UPS, and MOST importantly, d.) also had a pump rebuild kit for $110.

Yeehaaaw. From being a nervous wreck about a failed septic system and looking at sixteen hundred bucks for a new pump, within six hours I had a rebuild kit on the way for $ 110. Two days later, UPS called and even including freight and duty, my total cost to import the parts was about $230.

Strangely enough, by the way, UPS is typically faster getting stuff to us here than Fed Ex is. That is because Fed Ex ships stuff past us, down to Puerto Rico where it gets on a plane a day later and heads back up to us. UPS ships out of Miami, and it comes directly here without going over us and down to San Juan first. Several times now we have ordered something shipped UPS and had it here within 48 hours. Fed Ex will be three days, at the absolute earliest. This is the kind of stuff one learns to pay attention to when living in a country like this. Oh, UPS is cheaper too.

We like UPS. We just wish their initials did not look so much like USPS. IF we have something mailied via USPS (always by mistake), we will be lucky if we ever see it at all. For some reason, the US Postal Service sees the wordl "Turks" and ships stuff to Frankfurt Germany. We have envelopes here that were mailed from Miami to Providenciales, and they have Frankfurt Germany and Iceland post marks on them. If the US Postal Service gets their hands on it, it's almost certainly never going to get here. We estimate we might get 30% of our mail. I have tried, repeatedly, to tell the USPS via their website "Customer Service" link that they are misdirecting the mail to Germany. They just flat do not give a dang. No help at all.

Putting the pump all together took me about an hour. And this is what it looked like ready to re-install:

So this situation was very similar to some of my other experiences here. Being willing to take on a repair one knows nothing about translates into some huge cost savings. Thousands of dollars, when I look at Land Rover, Suzuki, appliances, hardware, electrical, plumbing, outboard motors... and now septic. But it never ends, either. It's become a part of every day. Yesterday, I took the latch mechanism of a sliding door apart and rebuilt it. Just part of the day. Tomorrow it will be something else. Great country for a handyman.

It's not all repairs, though. Some of you might have spotted the funky looking kayak rack sitting in the back of the small Land Rover in one of the earlier photos. This is a recent project using my new welding machine. After repairing an exhaust system, and then building a shop stool, I still had a small pile of metal bits left over from the hurricane-destroyed sat dish. And I wanted a way to transport the kayak without deflating it and folding it up. And I wanted a way to bring lumber home on the Land Rover. So, the obvious answer was to come up with something using the new arc-welding machine and my scraps.

I didn't have much of a plan, and none of the metal bits were straight. They came from the rim around an 8 ft. diameter dish. Every piece was curved, one way or another. I tack welded a few pieces together, and started with this:

I took two straight pieces of steel from the overhead garage door opener that never worked right, and made a little frame to fit in the back of the D90:

There are five curved pieces and two straight pieces in this contraption already at that point.

Well, once I got going, I kept going. welding up pieces to make them long enough to clear the canvas truck roof, and bracing them so that the finished rack would be good for some serious weight. There are something like 37 welds in this danged thing.

Here it is upside down on the floor:

The steel is only 3/32" thick, so of course being a total klutz with a welding rod, I kept blowing holes in it. I got pretty good at patching holes. I also got a lot of experience grinding welds down and going over them again. And again. Slag inclusions are driving me batty.


Well, almost finally. I still needed to add some things to hold the mast and paddles. But finally it's about ready to be painted. And it works!

The sight of this little Land Rover going down the road with that kayak on top gets a lot of attention. I am pretty sure people are not admiring the custom rack...but hey..it sure has made our life simpler. We can be loaded up and on the way to the water in something like five minutes now, and we only need another five minutes to launch the boat. Big improvement.

I know I mentioned that I built this thing so it could handle a couple hundred pounds of lumber as well as our 70 lb. inflatable boat. I have another thing in mind, though, and it's a new kayak we have our eye on. Hobie has come out with a new boat they call an AI2. This is a tandem version of their Adventure Island kayak. It's a small trimaran with over four times the sail area of our existing kayak. We have been thinking of an 'upgrade' one of these days.

Hobie Adventure Island Tandem kayak

Just right for 2.1 people and a cooler full of picnic.

It's a lot more rugged than our inflatable and of course a lot faster. That will allow us to range farther afield and still get home before dark. Uh... not that we always make it by dark but that's usually Plan A. Having examined some of the reefs and submerged rocks around here close up, we also like the idea of a boat that can't suffer a blow out.

And that's pretty much it for this post. I will TRY to post more often. I just wonder how many photos of the back of La Gringa's head and Dooley's rear end on a kayak anyone is really interested in seeing. Maybe if we get the new kayak...

I narrowed a few dozen of La Gringa's sunset photos down to two, of the same sunset. I couldn't decide which one I liked better so I am just going to post them both. Hope you like them: