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...


Anonymous said...

It's great to see you back so soon! You're right: your summertime vacation-land photos beat the dickens out of my summertime backyard view, any time.

And yes, that was a mellow light show. (Who's the artist playing the music?)


La Gringa said...

The artist is Andreas Vollenweider and the song is 'Drown in Pale Light'.... appropriate I think! ;-)

Anonymous said...

Always looking forward to your posts. We are Islanders, but not on an Island now, and your writings and pics bring back good memories. Keep up the good work and enjoy the good life.


Bill said...

Glad to have another post so soon! I was really happy to see the pictures of the Hobie Bravo race, those were the first type of boat I ever sailed on and its how I got the sailing "bug".

The video of the light refractions is gorgeous, very relaxing. I also really enjoyed La Gringa's sunset photo with the fountain grass, simply beautiful.

Didier Dufresne said...

It's always a pleasure to discover a new post.

AmitiƩs de France !

Joy said...

Yes, this was a pleasant surprise to find a new post so soon! I love the video. It does make me want to snorkel! I find snorkeling extremely meditative, almost hypnotic. And the Dooley videos were funny; my three-year-old loved them, though she was more concerned about the dog than the iguana.

And as pretty as I think SE Pennsylvania is at this time of year, your landscape still beats the heck out of it!

Thank you for another enjoyable post.

Anonymous said...

Hello, from Western Australia again. thanks for your great posts AND the madcap Dooley video! Love it! Keep up the lovely photos please, and no, you can NEVER have too many words in your posts.
Regards, Jan O

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the kind words. Heck, if more kayak/picnic photos were of interest we could probably do at least a post a week. We did another kayak picnic to a rocky part of Water Cay on Sunday. If anyone is interested, I could certainly post those photos. Would be a short post.

We are going to put the Contender back in a slip in the water as soon as this road gets graded smooth enough to get it out of the driveway safely. Hopefully within a week.

Unknown said...

As always a great read Gringo. LaGringa the mellow music in the virst video clip made me think I was in Yoga class doing some stretches. I hope it won't be a bad hurricane year. Just out of curiousity are you finding the water temp about the same as the last few years this time or warmer than usual. I have noticed off our house the water temp has gotten to late july and August levels by mid June. Just wondering if you had noticed much difference down there.

Take care,


Joy said...

Gringo, just saw in your comment your offer to post more photos from another kayaking trip- I know I'd love to see them! And you said something about trying to keep your "captions" to a minimum as if we don't like reading your words, and I know I do. I'm sure others do, too. Post away, we'll take you as often as we can get you! I check here every day, sometimes 2 x a day.
Pining for Provo...
Joy : )