Thursday, July 22, 2010

Mid Summertime

Yes we do realize that it's the second half of July and that we have sadly done absolutely nothing noteworthy in almost a month. Well, not noteworthy in terms of posting photos of new and exciting things. But since several people have pointed out that we are overdue for another update we will just soldier along here with the photos we do have. La Gringa continues to keep her eye out for colorful sunrises to photograph:

We managed to get in a much-needed trip up North to the USA for the first half of July. From our perspective, the July 4th celebrations down here in the British West Indies are a bit more subdued than they are in someplace like Texas where fireworks and ammunition are available to the general flag-waving citizenry. While the small American groups here in the TCI do quietly celebrate the US Independence Day, this year we opted for the full blown Texas approach. I think we had a great time. Reports are still filtering in.

Then after we visited most of the Texas family, we shopped til we maxed out our duty free allowance on goodies to bring home. I tripled my own wardrobe for about $ 150. (That's a good thing about living in the tropics: shorts, flip-flops, and t-shirts are cheap) I bought yet another underwater camera setup to bring back along with a small spotting scope for long distance shots. We are trying to find ways to get more interesting photos for the blog, of course. Then we flew back to the TCI all fired up to hop on the boat and go take some new photos... and ever since we got back the weather has been very windy and the ocean has become very lumpy.

Erosion from passing tropical downpours has turned the road we live on into a scale model of the Grand Canyon. So while wondering if we dared put the boat in the water knowing we cannot push it back up the driveway again, we just got hit with our first Tropical Depression yesterday. And this morning I see that it has now become Tropical Storm Bonnie.

Those of you who have read our blog posts from September 2008 will understand why we are a little shy of having the boat in the water when tropical storms are going by. One of them turned into Hurricane Hanna while we were not watching and whose storm surge stranded us for four days without power or communications. It also smashed our favorite boat. We survived all of that okay but we've been real leery of "tropical storms" since then. We know firsthand how quickly they can turn mean.

But all excuses aside, we do have some newer tropical photos if you don't mind some of the same old subject matter.

In late June we decided to pack up the dog and cooler and kayak over to find some cool place to have another picnic. We started this trip at Heaving Down Rock as we do so many of them. Our boat was launched and I was just about to park the truck out of the way when I stopped to take a photo of one of the crew of a local tugboat. He was taking advantage of the falling tide to paint the hull of his beached landing craft.

But notice in the photo the blue "conch boat' that is full of water with the gas can floating around the deck. This is one of the boats that was made with a fiberglass mold taken from a Boston Whaler hull. They are very, very common here. I suspect this one got tied up over a steeply sloped bottom and got swamped by waves and boat wakes as the falling tide left it sitting at a steep angle. Or not. Could be a hole in it. Or someone left out a plug. See what this tropical life has done to me? I could stare at this boat for half an hour and speculate about what happened. Maybe talk about it with other observers all afternoon.

But in this case, the owner drove up while we were still there and he got quite excited. He tried to bail the boat out with a coffee can but the waves were coming back in and filling it up faster than he could bail. We stuck around to see what happened.

First he got two guys from a tugboat to help him pull on the bow line. The boat didn't move. I would guess the total weight with motor and several hundred gallons of water would be around two tons. Don't let the looks fool you, this is no real Boston Whaler. They are unsinkable. This one is obviously not. So, anyhow, we had this truck and volunteered to help.

He tied his heaviest line from the boat to the rear of the Defender:

We only wanted to pull it high enough so that he could bail it out, without pulling the bow out if it. Of course that little 4x4 in low gear could have pulled up a telephone pole if it could get traction.

We left the 'FauxTauk' captain happily bailing away and headed out through Leeward channel until we cleared Little Water Cay where we turned right to find a picnic spot. It was a nice day to be on the water, and a lot of people were out boating. This is a group making a rendezvous offshore to throw a beach party involving all these boats..... and more:

We inadvertently got into a near collision with the Wharram design catamaran when they decided to dash from the rendezvous spot to the beach. Which was basically directly on the other side of where we were at the time. We were not sure that they saw us directly ahead of them, as they made no signs of seeing us and did not alter their course to keep from running down the little inflatable kayak. In the sudden sharp moves we made to avoid being run over, our mast sprung loose from the boat and both it and the sail landed in the water. It was an exciting few minutes. The good people in the yellow sportfishing boat saw the whole thing and came over to make sure we were okay.

After re-rigging the mast and sail, we decided to grab the first spot that looked good, preferably with some shade and no neighbors.

Fortunately for us, around here that kind of spot is relatively easy to find. This place is a beach lover's dream.

The nearest other beach visitors are about a mile in that direction:

Dooley the Dangerous is always up for some fresh beach exploring. Look at all that clean sand that needs to be investigated.

And the little limestone cliffs are full of potential hiding places and ledges:

And we found a nice little spot out of the sun to set up for a little lunch.

No picnic table or iguanas on this beach, but all in all, not a bad little spot:

Nothing in this direction, either:

The little seaside cliffs here are full of small caves. We know several species of birds, such as the Tropic Birds, nest in these caves in the spring time.

Of course this guy feels like he has to personally inspect every one of them:

And he carefully inspects the higher ledges that he can't easily reach from ground level:

I'm not sure what he would do if he spotted something worth chasing. And I'm not sure I want to know.

After storms this area is ripe for beach combing. On this day the beach was pretty clean. We did find a piece of seemingly ancient rudder post jammed hard into a crevice. This has a solid iron post surrounded by what I believe was a wooden rudder.

After lunch we went for a swim. Dooley the Desultory was left on the shore watching us swim away...

But not for long.....

Of course he loves to swim. He has turned into an excellent dog to have in a place like this. (Don't tell him I told you that, he'll never let me forget it.) He could swim for hours:

Before we left to head home I spotted an Osprey sitting on a rock down the beach a short distance. It's in this photo although you probably won't be able to see it yet.

I am just sticking these photos in mainly because they are nicely blue and I thought people in places without clear water might like to see that. I continued to ease my way up along the beach closer to the sea eagle Osprey. Maybe you can see it in this photo. It's sitting on top of the flat ledge exactly in the middle of the photo:

At this point I was really moving along quite slowly, keeping behind rocks where I could, making no sudden moves....freeze for a few minutes...then creep up a foot or two. Just hoping to get a photo of it from a few yards away..

And then this thundering set of little feet came barrelling by me on the left, headed straight for where the bird was sitting, and totally ruined all my careful sneaking. I managed to snap this photo right as the dog blasted blithely by and before the Osprey took off.

I was curious as to whether or not I would get some award winning photo of an Osprey flying away with a Jack Russell Terrieriest clutched in its talons and trying to climb its leg.. But no. They only eat fish and show very little interest in being in close proximity to obnoxious little yapping dogs. Obviously intelligent birds. Next time I'll smear the little booger with tuna and see what happens.

Well after Dooley the Delinquent ruined my Osprey photo, we packed up and headed back to Leeward.

We do look for photo ops, still, when we are out. For example we cruised by Children's Park down on the edge of Grace Bay and when we first came over the wooden boardwalk we thought we had a disaster on our hands..

But as it turns out this was the Provo Sailing Club teaching young sailors how to right an overturned Hobie catamaran. Did manage to pick up some of the different colors of the ocean around here, but that's not all of them. There is a gin clear color that looks like no water at all, and an iridescent blue in Chalk Sound. The water over the reef is different again yet, and it's out where the line of breakers are in that photo. It was a good test photo for the new Olympus Tough 8010 camera, too.

Some shoes maker it further than others...

But only the newest of seasonal arrivals wears them on the beach for long.

And Dooley the Delighted was glad to have someone to chase HIM for a change.

The new Children's Park is very nice. They even have a shower just the exact right height for someone of Dooley's stature. He acts like he hates it, but he doesn't fight too hard to get away:

We have been experimenting with a spotting scope and digital camera setup. The optics are okay, but the camera is noisy. I guess it gives some photos like this a different quality, if that's the right word for crummy photo..

That makes me think of the kind of scene the sailors up standing lookout on Sapodilla Hill would have waited weeks to see. They had plenty of time to carve rocks.

By the best of my SWAG ability (Scientific Wild Ass-uming Guess?) I figure that boat to be about 6.2 miles away. I know where it left from, where it was going and the bearing to it when I took the photo. Can you imagine what a naval encounter on the high seas must have been like when boats this size were maneuvering at the speed of a brisk walk, could see each other miles away, and were each trying to get within cannon range without getting blasted? Or what it must have been like sailing on dark nights, neither knowing where the other one would be, exactly, at first light...

Anyone who reads much of this blog will know that we are very much into boats. We like them. Old, new, big, small, power and sail. And where we have built our home gives us a great view of the approaches to the marinas on this side of the island. Almost every day we get to see something new out on the water. A few weeks back we were treated to the sight of this beauty at the fuel dock of the nearby Caicos Marina and Boatyard:

This 130 ft. beauty dwarfed all the other boats in the marina, and underlined how small the scale is here. I am sure this boat would blend in just fine in Ft. Lauderdale or Nassau, but here on Provo they needed a pilot boat to lead them out to water deep enough to navigate safely:

We love being able to watch this stuff from the patio, and listen to it all over the VHF radio. La Gringa gave this captain a call and complimented them on the beautiful boat. It was nice to talk to them and to see a dream like this.

The fantastic water of the TCI makes just about any boat photo look like something from a sales brochure, doesn't it?:

Okay, now for a very brief DIY section. (This is also part of living on a tropical island. I would be remiss if I represented it all as one long Corona beer commercial) Not long after we got home from our USA trip we once again heard a hissing noise coming from under the bonnet of the Defender 110. La Gringa had heard it before but it stopped before we could identify the origin. This time we found it.

The arrow on the left is where the upper coolant hose of the D-110 rubs slightly on a metal bracket used to hold a heater hose off of a spinning pulley.

I removed that hose and lo and behold, a hole has been rubbed into it by the corner of that bracket.

I checked the other hoses, and found that the pulley itself rubs on the underside of that heater hose where the arrow on the right is pointed. I checked the other Defender, and the smaller hose is almost worn through. So, I need one of those, too.

I headed on down to NAPA, which is the best source for auto parts in this little nation. And ran into a problem. NAPA doesn't stock parts for THIS model Land Rover. Does not even cross reference it. Oh, they carry parts for the LRs sold in the USA but not the trusty old classic model. Well, I was in a kind of McGyver mode and asked the guy if he had any hoses that looked close. He got into the spirit of the thing and disappeared back into their warehouse area. I shopped around for a while, pinching my fingers in the Vise Grips (Mole grips in the UK), reading the fine print on the road flares... and then he came back with the closest hoses he could find to the ones I need to replace.

I will have to see if I can cut suitable pieces out of these two if I want the hoses any time soon. And by any time soon, I mean within the next month. The big one has to be replaced immediately. I have a few days to fix the smaller one. As I was picking up my 'close-enough' radiator and heater hoses I asked the man at NAPA what vehicles they were intended for. He told me that he thought they were for a Ford and a Nissan. Well, maybe so. But they are destined to be part of a Land Rover now.

We have found that we do not take quite the same laissez-faire attitude that we had before the hurricanes. Oh we don't freak out and lay in 200 cases of D-cell batteries and truck loads of military ration MRE's or anything like that. But we do pay attention to the vehicles running well, that we have fuel for the generator, some canned goods - things like that. The boat is strapped down to chains I buried in the ground.

I mean, one aspect of living on a small island is that you realize after a couple of these storms that you really don't have many places to run to. And that there is really no one outside your circle of nearby friends that you can call on for help. And by nearby, I mean within walking distance.

As we were driving home late yesterday afternoon we noticed that the tidal water of the salina is lapping up over the edge of the road, much higher than usual.

We knew we were still over an hour from high tide, and that this tropical storm would be blowing by us. But it still brought back memories of how Tropical Storm Hanna's change to hurricane status started the same way, with the water rising over the road.

A 'silver lining' aspect to tropical storms is that the cisterns are filled to maximum capacity.

Now we should have a few days of reasonably good weather, and hopefully can get out and enjoy the ocean for a change.

I mentioned earlier that we recently went up to the USA for a visit. We were not anywhere near the ocean and in fact were several hundred miles inland near Austin. I would guess the nearest salt water was probably underground. (That might not make much sense to people who didn't grow up around the 'oil patch', I suppose) But even there, in the middle of the Lone Star State, driving along enjoying the rural countryside... we were never far from thoughts of shallow draft, trailerable, coastal cruising catamarans. You know, a boat that we could use to explore inside the reefs and something the three of us could sleep on for a few days here and there. We even found one for sale:

Hey, I told ya we like boats.

But alas, the rental car did not have a trailer hitch. It's a little bit too far to sail this home, and I am sure American Airlines would have a problem with it as checked baggage. We will have to just keep looking.

Okay, I am about out of fresh photos for now, unless I upload all the Texas pictures. Now that we are back we plan to start using our new underwater camera setup and the spotting scope/camera combination to see if we cannot continue to find tropical images for your internet enjoyment. We hope.

This blog is meant to be about life in a small tropical island nation. It is not meant to be about our other travels or our families, so I try to refrain from getting too far away from the tropical topic too often. But I am going to make one more brief exception just to illustrate another aspect of this life: the commonplace things we do without. One of the many things we have traded for our life here is the variety of things that just do not exist within easy reach in a place like the TCI. Now, we easily learned to do without McDonalds, Wendy's, Burger King and the like. But I confess I do miss easy access to some of the food that one takes for granted in Texas. And good barbeque and Tex-Mex cooking are two of our favorite foods. And you cannot just easily get either one here. We looked into importing beef brisket to make our own barbeque, but it's just too much trouble. A three week wait for the brisket, for starters. And once you order it, you own it whether you like what gets shipped, or not. And while there are some mexican "style" items on a few menus around Providenciales, it's not Tex-Mex. I have nothing against the big Mexican food chains, and love their food when we are in the US, but those are not Tex-Mex either. Real Tex-Mex is more family style cooking. It does not involve a lot of lettuce, sour cream, or black olives, although that style of Mexican cooking is great, too. No, you have to find Tex-Mex where it lives, and these smiles from La Gringa and one of her stepsons should verify that we did indeed find something authentic in Marquez, Texas, just a few miles from my family's homestead.

In the meantime, back at our little island hilltop home we notice that the sun is rising and setting a little bit further to the south every day now. Amazing how much attention one pays to the weather living exposed like this. A few more months of Hurricane Season and we will be able to relax again.