Tuesday, November 23, 2010


Joy just pointed out to me that it's been a month since the last post. Wow. I guess it crept up on us. Life just got mundane and busy. We had to make yet another trip up to the USA We were gone for another week and things stack up here when this happens. Something as simple as driving the truck through mud puddles on the way to the airport and then letting it sit unmoving for a week can cause problems. Things freeze up. Thin rusty spots get thinner. Electrons run unrestrained back and forth between different metals. And you should see what the weeds here can do with an uninterrupted week. This was our sixth trip to the US since July. It's kinda caught up with us. But first, to break up this initial rush of type with a graphic....an average sunrise on a calm winter day:

We continue to do the same sort of things for the most part. You guys have seen dozens of photos (hundreds?) of the back of La Gringa's head and t-shirt... so I hesitate to even mention more of the kayak trips. But there have been more.

For example, last week we took Dooley the De-hydranted for a quick trip. As always he got nervous looking at the clouds ahead of us:

And as is common this kind of year, there were squalls behind us as well:

So we decided not to push our luck and get too far from shelter. We took advantage of the clear skies between squalls and moved in to the beach. Dooley the Determined had that look he gets when he's thinking of things like fire hydrants, telephone poles, fence posts. He gets real serious about it:

And finally, with just a little bit of encouragement, he will abandon ship and head directly for the nearest tree:

Other than the odd kayak trip it's been pretty quiet. We did get a late season scare a couple weeks ago with Hurricane Tomas. The initial predictions were a little scary:

And eventually Tomas went directly over the top of East Caicos. Well, it was way weaker than expected and East Caicos is uninhabited. So basically it did little or no damage at all.

This was a very active hurricane season as most people who follow these things know. We were lucky here. We also know that this luck can't hold out forever.

While on the subject of weather, we do get some exciting special effects from time to time. Usually when a strong front moves through. A couple weeks ago I walked out onto the patio just in time to see a huge waterspout just over the Long Bay area, a half mile from us. By the time I ran inside and grabbed a camera it had moved over land and once the spout is cut off from the water source, it drys up pretty quickly and collapses. La Gringa managed to snap this one before it collapsed entirely:

When I first spotted it, maybe a minute earlier, it was still offshore and stretched from those clouds all the way down to the surface of the sea. There was a big cloud of spray around where it was picking up the water.

Since I knew La Gringa was taking still photos, I tried to get a mini-movie. But alas, most of the exciting part was already over.

We know it's just a matter of time before one of these comes right to us. Hope we have a camera ready.

And we have had a fair bit of good weather, too. As we move from the summer/hurricane season into the winter/tourist season we are seeing more and more strange boats coming through.

This one (below) caught our attention just last week. We first heard the Captain calling on the VHF radio, coordinating a tow with the tug. The name of the boat is "Treasure Hunter" or "Treasure Seeker", something like that. I forget.

We are not sure what kind of boat it is, but our best guess is that it's some kind of cocktail barge or floating restaurant. Something similar to the "Willie T's" down in the BVI's, perhaps. We'll find out.

And on the subject of boats.... (notice how I smoothly moved this post from my laziness and excuses into kayaking, weather, and now boats? Are you diverted yet?)

Preacher gave us a call last week to see if we wanted to go hang out on North Caicos for the day on Saturday. We did.

He rolled his boat "Cay Lime" down the ramp at the Leeward Marina:

And we took off across the flats keeping an eye on the weather as usual. That, and the fact that we were doing about 40 mph in maybe 10" of water.

I did play with the movie function a little, to give you an idea of what this looks like:

And of course we took Dooley the Dreamer along. He knows this boat really well and I suspect he prefers it among all of the boats he gets to ride on. He fell right asleep, never even noticing that Preacher has been using the bilge hatch cover as a cutting board for chopping bait and cleaning fish.

In fact, there are a couple of his surgical instruments right there in the photo;

This time we tied up at the old Bellefield Landing on North Caicos. This protected dock is a short distance away from where we usually tie up. It's the first time we have been into this little marina and it's a bit tricky to get into at all:

We found out that this landing is the old, original boat ramp for the area from back before the new Bellefield Landing and Sandy Point marinas were built.

It has an almost new wooden dock and is apparently little used, even on a nice Saturday:

Dooley the Delighted immediately spotted his friend J.R. , or "Froggy" as he is known on North Caicos. Froggy was waiting for us with his van this time. This meant I didn't get to ride in the back of a pickup truck on this trip. But I wasn't complaining. The weather was rainy off and on all day.

Another view of the dock, this from the shore side. You can see how it's tucked in among inlets and mangrove swamps. I suspect it's a good place to be tied up when the wind is howling from any direction.

We spotted an old Quonset hut sitting in an overgrown thicket of trees. Preacher and Froggy told us that it was the old clearing house for the sponge industry in years gone by.

I wanted to check it out a little better, and get some photos of the inside of it, but I only got about halfway to the door before I found myself attached to a native plant. And I don't mean just lightly held, I mean stuck! And bleeding from several places on my ankles.

As I was trying to figure out the best way out of this mess and into the next one, our local tour guides decided to inform me that this particular plant is called "Cats Claw". And Froggy offered the helpful information that I should back away and not try to get through it going in the same direction, or it would rip me and make me bleed. Now, that would have been some good information to have had about two minutes earlier.

Anyhow, it doesn't look that dangerous, does it?:

So when I got home, I looked this stuff up on the internet. I found out the claws are actually little bitty curved things down at the bases of the branches. They were not visually apparent. But man, once you walk into them, you are hooked but good. And will bleed if you don't stop immediately. I also found out there are all sorts of medicinal uses for Cat's Claw.

Good thing, I suppose. I mean, if it's going to rip you open it's kinda nice that it's good for you when it does that. Like a mugger who leaves you with Band-Aids and aspirin.

Obviously, it does absolutely nothing for logic or mental acuity. Because I continued to move a few more feet in the direction of the hut... before Froggy shared the next bit of local intelligence with me..... the hut is full of wasps. He said this in a rising tone of voice that got my attention. It was something like "watch out for the WASPS!!!"

Not nearly as casual as the Cat's Claw conversation.

The word 'wasps' brought me to a halt. I have had some experience with this local wasp tribe. I find myself among them on a regular basis at our house especially when I am out fighting weeds to the death. They (the wasps, not the weeds) generally adopt a live-and-let-live approach unless you break one of their little rules. If you don't swing at them they remain calm. Inquisitive, but non-aggressive. You just have to get accustomed to having wasps flying circles around your head from time to time. If you actually lose your cool and smash or crush one of them, within a very short time there will be three or four more buzzing around you doing the wasp version of a murder investigation. It's best to have put some distance between yourself and the scene of the crime at this point. And of course there is one cardinal rule transgression that they cannot forgive under any circumstances. If you seriously threaten their nest in any way (other than verbal) they attack. The wasp stings I have had here, two years ago, were the most painful I have ever had. And I still have a scar from one of them. Of course I retaliated, and a fierce little turf war ensued. Nobody ever really wins these things, do they.

So, the local wasps and I have somewhat of an uneasy truce going on. I don't thump their nest, and they don't sting me. (I don't swat any of them in front of witnesses, and I carry insecticides to the garage in a plain brown paper bag, too.)

So, respecting the potential seriousness of Froggy's warning, this is as close as I got:

Seems pretty benign in that photo, but at the time it seemed that this little hut had suddenly changed from a tropical curiosity into the opening chapter of a Stephen King novel.

By this time we were ready to head on out to look around the little settlement of Kew for a change. Dooley the Drenched waited until the last moment to jump in the ocean. He wanted to make sure we all got the full benefit of a dose of wet dog immediately after the Cat's Claw experience. Bless his furry little heart.

Okay, this is a chance to test your imagination. Any ideas what this is?:

(I'll post the answer at the end)

Froggy drove us to the little settlement of Kew on North Caicos. This part of the island is known for the number of small farms and vegetable gardens it supports. We turned in to a small parking lot behind the beautiful Grace Temple church:

And entered a path taking us into the fields of a local farm. Preacher led us in:

It has a sort of jungle feeling compared to the rest of these islands. Here Froggy and Preacher are looking for the proprietor. The structures are part of the irrigation system.

Finally we found the owner, the Rev. Courtney Misick....

In addition to the church and the farm, Reverend Misick is very involved with national politics here. He is on the Turks and Caicos Human Rights Committee, as well as serving on the Governor's Agriculture, Fisheries and Food Processing sub-committee.

We got a little bit of a walking tour of the farm. Rev. Misick grows a combination of ornamental and landscaping plants..

as well as sugar cane:


and tall trees full of papayas:

There is a fresh water pond on the property (rare here) and the rubber boots should have prepared us for what was next..

...which was the perfect example of a pig sty. Complete with all the textures, odors and sounds that make pig stys what they are. It started raining harder and we needed to head back to the banana forest for some cover. But before we left La Gringa did snap a photo of someone's future ham sandwich:

Down by the small lake there are several flocks of ducks:

and before we left we chewed up some sweet sugar cane....

The afternoon was starting to stretch out and the wind was picking up as Froggy drove us by Horse Stable Beach. The place was deserted and the few photos we took were all taken from within the public shelter there. Out on the beach the wind had picked up to the point where stinging grains of wind blown sand made it too uncomfortable to explore. And the clouds were getting thicker and slowing down only enough to make a nervous wreck out of the dog.

So knowing we had a few miles to boat before being back on our home island, we loaded back up in Froggy's van and headed back to Bellefield Landing.

Oh, did you figure out what was in that photo I showed you earlier? Here's a huge hint:

Froggy did it.

When we got back to the landing, the tide was so low that we had about eight inches of water under us leaving the mangroves. Preacher did his usual thing, tilting the motor up and doing huge S-curves to keep the hull rolled over to a side. This gains a couple of inches clearance by raising the outboard slightly. Preacher is a master at it. It probably would have been hair-raising.... if I had any hair.

All in all, not a bad way to spend a day.

I know I mentioned the unusually high number of DIY jobs I have been taking on lately. I won't bore you with all of the little ones. But maybe those of you involved with auto mechanics will appreciate how stuck this universal joint was on one of the trucks. It was totally frozen up in one axis. My task (after taking a couple of hours to get the prop shaft out of the vehicle) was to get that ugly rusty thing on the left out and that nice new shiny thing on the right installed.

I tapped on it. I squirted oil on it. I heated it with a butane torch. I put a socket up against it and wailed on it with a three pound sledge hammer. Repeatedly. I threatened it, and made rude comments about it's ancestry. It would not budge.

So I put a cutting wheel on an electric grinder, and finally managed to actually cut the thing into two pieces while it was still in the driveshaft (Sorry, old bean, I meant 'propshaft') yoke. Finally I was able to drive it out with a hammer.

And while I was concentrating on cutting through this near solid hunk of steel without breaking the high speed wheel or damaging the drive shaft.... I smelled smoke. Well, there were a lot of sparks flying from the grinder. Then I felt heat. And then I looked down and realized I had set my clothes on fire. Right through a t-shirt, and starting on my shorts:

I may have reacted slowly to being on fire, but I quickly made up for that with enthusiasm. I started by dropping the grinder and slapping on my own ribs with two greasy hands, while hopping around the garage and shrieking. Overkill, perhaps? By the time the fire was out, Dooley the Disconcerted had dramatically demonstrated his determination to duck, divert, dodge and distance himself from it all. He skedaddled on me, but to be fair I probably looked fairly frightening to a small animal that has recurring nightmares about thunderstorms from years ago.

Well, that's pretty much some of what's been going on around here. Things are looking up, photo-wise. The annual Conch Festival is this coming weekend, and we usually get a few pix from that. We have a new, improved kayak headed this way and should be able to extend our range a bit on some of the explorations we have wanted to make. We still plan to snorkel and photograph the Coral Gardens dive spot for people who like the idea of viewing the reefs but don't want to charter a dive boat. And this is the busy part of the year visitor-wise. We have no plans to leave the TCI in the next few months, so I am hoping we can generate some blog posts on a regular, and more frequent basis.

We also continue to add experiences among the local merchants, and I am thinking there must be some good material showcasing local businesses that might be of some interest. We actually do interact with local professional quite often. I think perhaps we forget that what has become common and everyday for us might still be of some interest to someone else. For example, I recently had to have some slack taken out of a sports coat I hadn't worn in over five years. We didn't think it newsworthy at the time to document the whole experienc. But in retrospect, it WAS an experience. To give you an idea, this is what you see approaching the tailor shop:

Looks just like the tailor shops in your neighborhood, right? Well, I was in and out of there in five minutes, got my jacket back later the same afternoon, and they did a good job at a fair price. Would I use them again? heck yeah.

( I have no information about the electric stove out front. 'Cooking the books'? Creating hot new fashions? )

And I just realized we don't have any real recent sunset photos, so I am hoping I can sneak in another one of La Gringa's sunrises instead.


D said...

I have enjoyed your blog since you started it. Even when you first started on the forum site couple years ago.
thanks for keeping it going.

also, here's the link of the boat that was being towed. I just read about wedsday and here it is on you blog. Small sea:)

thanks again, look forward to your next story.


Unknown said...

Since this is Thanksgiving weekend in the States, I just wanted to let you know that I am thankful for your posts. I love your pictures and descriptions of every day life on the island.

Although I don't know you, I was starting to get concerned. You had not posted in over a month. Glad to see that everything is OK.

Please keep the beautiful pictures coming.

Bill said...

Good post, looking forward to seeing pictures and reading stories from your new kayak! Those Hobie Adventure Island yaks look cool, is that what you are getting?

Jim Ashworth said...

Another great entry. The pictures of the area brings back many memories.

I just returned from the orient and I guess just in time. Bombings in S. Korea started a few days after I returned from Seoul. This would have been great reading on the trip. My boat (Lil Provo) is at the boatyard for repairs and hope to have it done in a couple months. (No rush!)

Keep up the great blog I look forward to the next entry all the time.

I'm waiting for the dive to the remains of the sphere at the NW point. Thanks!
Jim Ashworth
New Jersey
(Lil Provo)

Anonymous said...

Thank you very much for the kind thoughts. We are doing fine. I realize I have said this before, but things really do start to pick up yearly around now. There's a small surge of activity between Thanksgiving and Christmas, then a lull during the holidays.Then things get busiest here between the first of the year and Easter. We hope to have a thicker stream of photos to post as we get into the "season". And we are expecting a new and improved little sailing kayak trimaran to arrive in about a week. We've taken the inflatable one as far as West Caicos and back, so who knows what we can explore once we get something a bit more substantial. And faster.

We've got plans at least. And that's usually a pretty decent beginning. It all starts with the desire to get out there and DO something.

Joy said...

WELL, I don't know if I should feel honored or embarrassed to be mentioned by name as the nag who got you to write a new post! ; )

I just love those pictures where the sky is gray and the water looks more turquoise than ever. (in the second picture)

And that church on North Caicos is so pretty. It seems so big for an island with such a small population. And it's really surprising how lush and green Rev. Misick's farm is. I bet he has to work very hard to make it that way. I'd heard that North Caicos was the 'bread basket' of the TCI, but still surprising to see how green. Hopefully we can visit North and Middle on our next trip.

So, it seems like you've had a lot of experience with different u/w cameras. There are two that I've been looking at recently, and wondering if you have any experience with either of them: the Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS1 (or TS2), or the Canon PowerShot D10. Any insight into either of these? I'm looking for one that isn't too bulky, and is reasonably quick. That the Panasonic shoots HD video is definitely appealing.

Anyway, thanks, as always, for sharing your experiences with us. Look forward to hearing what your impression of Coral Gardens is. We snorkeled there a few times on our trip. There is bleaching (especially really close to the shore) but still a lot to see. I'm sure you won't believe how many people will be all over it!

By the way, do you guys visit many restaurants on the island? I think you've mentioned Conch Shack, but do you guys have any other favorites? Some of our favorites when we visited were Las Brisas, Saltmills Cafe (great breakfast, great coffee, esp the iced lattes) and it was fun for our daughter (okay, and for us grown-ups, too, who am I kidding?) to see the sharks at Shark Bite in the evening.

Anonymous said...

Another great post. Look forward to them every month! What type of camera are you using? The pix are so sharp and crisp. Thanks for the blog.

Anonymous said...

We do go to restaurants from time to time. We used to go down to the Tiki Hut on Turtle Cove a lot, but they changed the menu and dropped the best salad on the island, which was their Caribbean Cobb salad. We have been going to Mango Reef a lot, but they just moved this month and we haven't been to the new place yet. It's at the Alexandra now, Its former home is now the Pelican something. When we first moved here we liked the Caicos Cafe a lot, but recently we tend to go to Coco Bistro. I would have to say that's our current favorite. We've been to a lot of the others over the years, but they change with owners and kitchen personnel. La Gringa likes Bay Bistro a lot for lunch. This island has changed so much in just the five years we've lived here, that we find ourselves repeatedly realizing that we have a new favorite. All it takes is for a good cook to get a new job.

Pizza Pizza continues to be be excellent ha ha.