Saturday, December 25, 2010

New Toy

The crew and I decided to try to get another post together before Christmas. I seem to maybe remember that I might have sort of partially established an arbitrarily flexible and pseudo-imaginary goal of approaching the idea of an honest attempt to possibly try for some new photos every week. Or so. Roughly. (And they call me commitmentally challenged. Hah!)

But we ran pretty thin on the tropical photo-ops this week. Most of the pre-Christmas stuff we got caught up in just wasn't all that photogenic. Four trips to the airport, for example. Last minute Christmas shopping with very limited choices. We haven't gotten any great sunrise photos this week either but we did get some nice relaxing beachside lunch time in over at Blue Hills.

How's this for a typical winter scene?:

You should be able to just make out the little conch pens where the local restaurant keeps them until someone orders them from the menu. Then someone wades out and loads up that little boat there on the beach.

Here's a better view. The two square structures are the pens. And they are surrounded by heaps of conch shells to keep them in place. The fishermen just unload their catch directly into the pens where the conch live out the remainder of their time in the Turks and Caicos Islands.

The heaps of conch shells act like a small artificial reef, with the waves breaking over them at low tide:

There are a whole lot of conch fritter memories represented around here. All good ones, we hope.

Speaking of "heaps of conch shells", you get used to seeing them everywhere in these islands. Conch has been a major part of the diet here for as long as people have been here. They are easy to catch and very nutritious. We see conch shell jewelry, implements, fences, ornaments. And piles of shells, everywhere.

Since the last time we were at this restaurant someone has started using conch shells in an 'architectural' manner, building a barrier between the Conch Shack and Horse Eyed Jacks next door. Robert Frost wrote that "Good fences make good neighbors". Since there was formerly a foot path between these two restaurants, perhaps this new development signifies someones effort to become a better neighbor...?

It just occurred to me that in lieu of one of La Gringa's sunrise photos we could offer you one of these little time lapse things I have been experimenting with. I finally got around to reading the manual for the Pentax W80 I've been carrying around for a year. I discovered it has some great interval timer options.

This is six hours of watching the Caicos Bank condensed into 30 seconds. La Gringa chose the sound track, by the way. She's good at that stuff.

(I like the part where the raindrop dries up on the lens after the little shower blew through.)

Okay, back on the home front and the main subject of this post is our new toy. We have a new kayak.

Our Hobie "Tandem Island" and its trailer showed up finally. It was delivered in six packages.

We launched right into shredding cardboard and ignoring assembly manuals, as usual. The boat itself is fairly straightforward. But then, we know most of the parts of a boat by sight. Sailboat parts are pretty much self explanatory even if you don't know all the nautical terms.

The trailer, however.... is a bit more complicated. We spent most of the first day putting it together. It's this strange little design all based upon a single spar of extruded aluminum, and special t-slot bolts. The assembly manual, alas, is on a CD. I don't quite understand that. Maybe somebody somewhere builds boat trailers in their office.

This boat trailer assembly was the perfect opportunity to introduce La Gringa Suprema to the joy of pneumatic tools. She's now experienced with the air ratchet:

These days I find myself reaching for the air tools more and more. I suspect this trend will continue as my electric power tools bite the salty dust. I haven't been able to find the compressor powered version of a table saw yet, though.

By the middle of day two, we had the boat assembled on the new trailer and our trailer hitch modified and were finally ready for a shakedown cruise.

Backing this down the local boat ramp is quite a different experience than backing the Contender. In fact, if we don't get this one lined up perfectly the first time, it's easy to just unhook the trailer from the truck and walk it down the ramp by hand. Boat and trailer together only weigh around 300 lbs.

So here is our new toy floating for the first time, waiting only for us to figure out how to fold the amas out. "Amas" are the standard Polynesian-based term for the two outrigger floats. The arms that hold them to the boat are called "akas".

And with everything secured, cooler attached and Dooley the Decadent claiming the trampolines.... we pedalled our new boat down the canal for the first time:

The dog took to it immediately. And having him out of the hull and out from underfoot made this a much nicer experience for La Gringa and me as well.

We came out through Southside Marina and were quickly out into the open water. Our first trip was on a perfect day. Sunny with light winds and calm seas. Ideal conditions to get the boat all rigged up and to figure out which widget thingy works what. Me..... well, I was just miserable. Miserable, I tell you...

We got the rudder and the amas and the trampolines all figured out before we tried the sail. One thing we noticed was that this boat is a lot faster than our inflatable kayak. In just a few minutes we were out where the breeze was.

And Dooley the Deck Dog figured out that he could switch sides, and face any way he wanted:

This boat has a carbon fiber mast and a boomless sail. This design lets it function without the hassle of side stays. It also has roller furling. That means that we can pull a rope and roll the entire sail up around the mast in just a few seconds. And we can loosen that and pull it back out just as quickly:

I wondered if the much larger, flapping sail would bother the dog. But nope. He took to sailing on this boat in less time than it takes to write it. The inherent stability of the trimaran design helps, too. You can stand up on these kayaks if you want to. It would take a whole lot of effort to put one upside down.

With the sail out, and the centerboard down, we are able to just relax and scoot along. Both the sail and the rudder can be controlled from either seat and this is another enormous improvement over the inflatable. La Gringa can take over and sail from the front. This frees me up to concentrate on muttering imprecations at the GPS and blaming the camera for missed photo opportunities.

Within the first few miles Dooley the Dozing was hooked. He has decided he wants to be a sailor.

Finally, a kayak where he doesn't have to slack off on his napping habit. He does pay attention anytime we get near land, though. On our first day we sailed up to the shore near where we live, and La Gringa and Dooley the Dehydrated went ashore to make us lunch.

While they were at the house building sandwiches, I had the chance to see how the kayak does being pedalled from the rear. It handles great, a huge improvement. It would be very easy to sail single handedly, although I haven't done this yet. Basically I was just too lazy to crawl up and release the furling line.

We were doing around 5 kts of ground speed in about a 9 kt wind. We were very happy with that. We also normally have a lot more wind than that.

Dooley the Deadweight quickly figured out that if he moved to the windward ama, he could fly above the waves and stay a whole lot drier.

We were able to sail about 12 miles that first afternoon. We were pretty impressed at how well it worked in light wind.

We made a few changes in the rigging of the boat and trailer, and then took it back out on Sunday for another trip. We started out by sailing near one of our neighbors' home, just to say hello:

And on this trip we decided to head for a small island we had not been on before. This one is off of the Five Cays area and is called "Bay Cay". We approached it from the ocean side of the cay. And you can see there are freighters in the distance, anchored and waiting to get into South Dock. That is the only commercial wharf area on the entire island and all sea freight that enters the TCI via Providenciales clears customs at that dock.

We might sail down to South Dock on another trip but for today we wanted to see what beaching the kayak would be like on small cays.

This one is fairly typical on the windward side, steep rocks and sea caves in the limestone:

We sailed around the cay, and found a small stretch of beach on the lee side. This is also very typical of the cays here and in the Bahamas. The sand builds up on the protected side, out of the wind. Makes for a great place to beach a small boat that can handle shallow water. Of course this is one of the main things we plan to do with this kayak. We want to explore all the little cays we can reach.

I suspect there will be a lot of photos along these lines in our future:

We spotted some movement in the bush even before we stepped ashore. La Gringa snapped some photos of a large rock iguana sunning himself on his previously peaceful and undisturbed little island

I realized it might take some time to spot him in that photo, so I took the liberty of making it obvious which part of that foliage is reptilian:

Bay Cay is just a narrow strip of exposed limestone with not much on it except scrub brush and iguanas. Here is the view looking out to the south east at the water we sailed through to get here:

It's obvious that someone has taken advantage of some natural cover to build a small shelter here on the cay.

This is just a few feet from the small sandy beach where we left the boat. It would be a great place for someone in an open boat to wait out some passing squalls. The beach is protected from the wind and a good place to anchor a small boat. And people could keep warm and dry under this overhanging rock:

Speaking of shelter, we returned to the boat to find out that Dooley the Drenched was more than ready to head home after a day at sea:

This boat is incredibly easy to get around in. We used the paddles to get us out into water deep enough to put the Mirage Drives down. It's pretty easy to see what's under you with them out, too.

The dog dropped off into another intense series of snoozes as soon as we put the sail up. He's extremely serious at power napping, and practices at every opportunity.

I think Hobie should sign him up as a mascot. He sure does love their boats.

A few miles later and we were back at the entrance to the Southside Marina. I told Dooley the Determined not to get too attached to that bow position. I plan to be installing a jib there as soon as Hobie makes one available as an option. Maybe even before.

So that was what we did for that weekend. Two local trips totalling about 21 miles of sailing according to our little handheld GPS. We can already tell that this boat is going to open up a lot more places for us.

Looking back through what I just posted, what leaps out at me is that Dooley the Dangerous seems to be in every photo. I think that's just the natural view from where I sit in the back of the kayak. I'll try to start working on angles that don't make this look like the "Dooley the Dog Show" around here.

Since this blog is meant to be about what it's like to live here, I thought I'd throw in another typical day-to-day type DIY job. These little fix-it moments happen every day here. Some of them are minor, like this one, and some are pretty big deals involving major subassemblies and entire new vocabularies. But a normal DIY would be like noticing that one of the mud flaps on one of the Land Rovers is suddenly no longer attached to the vehicle on one side:

So I pull up my trusty milk crate modified as a seat for an old guy with bad knees...a nd take a look.

Ignoring the ever present dried mud we have to live with, it appears that this should just involve re-installing a bolt and washer.

But looking up underneath the edge of the body panel, I find out that it's not that simple. Nope. Rarely is, in fact.

What we have here is just one more example of what dissimilar metals do here in contact with each other in a high salt environment. The brace and bolt are steel. The Land Rover body panel is aluminum. It's kinda like that old 'rock, scissors, paper' game except aluminum always loses.

Not only is the mud flap bracket completely loose, but the body brace behind the tire is broken, too. Oh well. Not going to be able to fix this one with a bigger round washer. Better to make an aluminum one.

Luckily, I have kept the remnants of the aluminum satellite dish that Hurricane Hanna so thoughtfully destroyed. I built a shop stool and a kayak rack out of some of the parts. And now I will use some of the aluminum dish sheet to fix this Land Rover. Not exactly rocket science to cut a strip the right width:

And I doubled it over and drilled a hole in it:

And this kind of thing happens all the time. I never thought of these kinds of things when we first planned our move here. I am sure this bracket would last twenty or thirty years in most places. Probably for the entire life of the truck. This one is six years old.

So, now one of these Land Rovers has Hobie spare parts in it and the other one has pieces of a destroyed satellite dish.

Other than playing with our new toy boat and fixing things as they fail, we've been getting ready for Christmas here. Four of our five sons have flown down from the frozen north (and I DO mean frozen). Christmas here is somewhat different than it is up in the land of ice and snow but people here get into the spirit of the holiday in a big way. There are not a lot of huge light displays but various groups do manage to decorate in their own way. This is the entrance to the Seven Stars in Grace Bay:

The local telecom company has decorated one of the roundabouts with a big mystery Christmas package:

And we spotted some tinsel at the La Brisas dock over on Chalk Sound:

Back at our house we have this developing tradition of using dead drift wood as a Christmas tree. Or as we refer to it, our "Christmas stump". This year we let the boys take care of putting it together. They took a new approach. Instead of spending hours looking for that perfect 'stump', they picked up four pieces of driftwood and built one to fit. They were finishing it last night just at sunset:

And shortly thereafter it had undergone its magic transformation from driftwood to...

Christmas Stump!!

(No evergreens were harmed in the making of this holiday)


Tom said...

Merry Christmas Gringa, Gringo, Dooley!
As always, I appreciate your posts and the warmth the photos bring.

That Hobie looks like a lot of fun. Keep the pictures and stories coming - as you can of course. DIY included.

Unknown said...

Merry Christmas! Love the new Hobie and love the pics of Dooley

Unknown said...

Merry Christmas! Love the new Hobie and love the pics of Dooley

Anonymous said...

We love the Hobie. Are chomping at the bit to get it out again, after the holiday hubub dies down a bit and we can get away. We were at Chalk Sound a few days ago, and are planning a trip there in the Hobie. We also just watched the Treasure Seeker leave Provo (finally!) and got an email from the "Star of the Sea" yesterday, along with some preliminary photos of the orphanage in Haiti.

So, we already have enough "stuff" for another post. Whew.

And we wish all of you guys a Merry Christmas, and a Happy and Prosperous New Year.

ThePirateDoc said...

Merry Christmas, Gringos! It's 37 and raining sideways here in ENC ... I'd rather be Hobie sailing ... sigh ... at least I have a Dual Dachshund warming blanket in my lap.

Best wishes for a Happy 2011!


Didier Dufresne said...

Merry Christmas, with sun and wind for the new toy and a T-rex bone for Dooley the sailor !!!

Amitiés de France
(-10°C and cloudy !)


RumShopRyan said...

Love the new boat guys!

Is a Mirage Drive some type of motor that you put in the hole?


Joy said...

Wow, that kayak is rad. I think I want one! And Dooley lounging on the trampolines- that is too cute.
What a cool effect with the time elapse. You're right, nice music choice, too.
And a beautiful Christmas stump. Thanks for sharing!

(and those posts that are coming soon sound very interesting; I'm looking forward to them.)

Unknown said...

I like the new blow boat Gringo. I hope you and La Gringa had a good Christmas.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, we had a great christmas.

Ryan, the Mirage Drives are the pedal powered flippers Hobie has patented. Let you move a kayak for hour after after hour, mile after mile, without your arms getting tired. Lots faster than paddles, too.

Göran C said...

I have a yellow Hobie TI like you. But I live in Sweden where it is right now ten degrees below zero. I'll have to put skating rails on the TI. Or wait for spring. We have lovely waters around here but summers are fairly short so I'm quite jealous at you!

Bill said...

Everything okay down in the TCI? I hope your new year is going well and I look forward to hearing of your adventures on the new tri-maran!

Anonymous said...

hello Bill,
Thanks for writing. Your question about whether we were okay prompted us to look into the 'feed' that sends out the emails when there's a new post. Sure enough, that had not happened for the latest two installments.

I am happy to report that we are doing fine, are recovered from the holidays, and things are moving right along.

Hopefully you'll be getting email notifications ( if you're suscribed to the blog) on the latest.

And I hope to have another bunch of photos up over the next couple of days.

Bill said...

Hi Gringo,

I got the two most recent posts sent to Google Reader on the 20th, so it seems like it was just the glitch.

I've been subscribed here for about two years, ever since the hurricane that wrecked Cay Lime. Yours is one of my favorite blogs, I really enjoy every time a new post pops up in my feed reader.

In fact, I couldn't stand looking at your pictures of the tropics anymore so I left New York and recently moved to Key Largo, it's a bit better here :)