Friday, December 10, 2010


Once again I'm amazed at how good December is at ambush. Year after year the crafty old booger does this to me and gets clean away with it. I should expect it by now. I mean... this is not my first trip around this old track. November tried to warn me as it always does. It threw a few birthdays and an anniversary past me then finally flung a big holiday right at my head to get my attention. Yet once again I ignored all the warnings and got startled when December kicked the door open and dumped all its baggage right in the middle of the floor for me to deal with. No other month manages this with any degree of consistency. Oh, sometimes September manages to sneak a quick rabbit punch in, but not like December. December is good at it.

Well it's done it again. We've been suddenly blindsided by winter, tourist season, house guests, holiday madness and the realization that we have come to the sudden end of the only 2010 that any of us will ever have.

Enough of that. Because this post is mostly about good weather and fair winds and not much more. La Gringa is still stalking the sunrises and doing a pretty good job of it:

The first third of the month has been fairly typical weather for the islands. Sunny and breezy are the norm in the TCI. I think I recall reading claims of '350 days of sunshine a year'. I don't believe that although I would believe 325. . And when it rains, it's rarely a light drizzle and it refuses to come straight down. It's not uncommon for raindrops to come in one window of the truck and fly straight out the other side if one's face doesn't get in the way to stop it. We don't seem to get the dog-rattling thunderstorms this time of year.

And then from time to time, we get one of those perfectly still days when the wind is light and variable, and the ceiling of the ocean turns into a gently lumpy mirror. This week we had some of those days. The long haul cruising sailors don't much care for it, I suspect. They and their pocketbooks like a little wind. Especially with fuel running $ 4.60 USD per gallon.

But it's perfect for the divers. We could calibrate our calendars (we ignore the Mayan one) by the weekly appearance of the "Turks and Caicos Explorer". They anchor just off the Boatyard every Friday morning and await the confluence of both high tide and space at the fuel dock:

Ah, the old familiar sight (for me at least) of wetsuits drying and airing in the sun with no danger of being blown overboard to be mistaken for lunch by some large carnivore. Those scenes remind me of the simile Samual T. Coleridge wrote in "Rime of the Ancient Mariner":

"Day after day, day after day,
We stuck, nor breath nor motion;
As idle as a painted ship
Upon a painted ocean."

Of course the next lines of that poem have to do with water all over the place and nothing to drink. I want to assure any potential visitors to the Turks and Caicos Islands..... we've never seen this place run out of stuff to drink. Not even close.

So with a really nice day going on, we finally managed to get the old inflatable kayak out by mid afternoon. Sunsets come early this time of year but we did grab a few peaceful hours. We launched in the canals near the South Side Marina which is only a few miles away and a good choice when time is short. Paddling out of the canal we pass Flamingo Divers's dive center and get a good view of the boats presently enjoying some stability at South Side:

The three masted schooner is the "Star of the Sea" and I will be talking more about that in one of the next few posts. I am waiting for them to get to Haiti and send me some photos, hopefully within the week.

We had to share the channel with one of the Caicos Adventure catamarans that was just getting home with a load of weary divers. The sight of our little inflatable kayak with Dooley the Demented usually elicits some attention from other boats. Or more likely they are thinking "WHAT are those idiots doing in a rubber boat around these waters?"

We didn't have a huge amount of time before sunset so we didn't get very far. But this wasn't about getting anywhere. It was just about enjoying a nice day. We just nipped around the corner to the first uninhabited beach we saw. It was low tide so we saw the perfect opportunity to do a little beachcombing. Please notice that I actually managed to get a quick photo of the beach unmarked by any footprints whatsoever:

Off in the distance you can just barely see some old timbers sticking up out of the sand. We decided to stroll up and check it out. And as soon as Dooley the Defiler figured out which way we were going, he scooted on ahead to scout it out. Now you can already see a set of Dooley's doggie dents in the formerly pristine sand I was hoping to have in the photo. No chance with this little blighter on the prowl:

The timbers are what's left of another wooden boat. The shoreline along this side of the island is populated with such remains. Usually Haitian sloops that made one trip full of refugees and got abandoned to the sea. That was a nice length of stainless rigging cable in the sand. I tried to pull it up but it was secured at one end. I need to come back with a small shovel or e-tool. I could use that. I don't exactly know what I could use it for, yet. But it'll come to me.

We walked back in the other direction, and this is a view of the masts over at the marina. We literally were just around the corner.

I wanted to get some photos of various caves,with smooth sand floors. But of course the minute I point a camera at something, Dooley the Drawn is on it.

Or in this case, in it. He made three trips in and out of that little cave before the camera power came on.

With Dooley's sudden interest in spelunking, I thought I would crawl down to his level and check out the views. And yeah, that's his hairy little head in the way.

At this point he decided it was all great fun, this exploring togetherness thing. It got bad. Almost impossible for me to get a photo of anything along that rocky shore that did not have the sudden guest appearance of a certain dog in the middle of it. See a nice potential spot for driftwood? Guess what:

Spotted some examples of Sea Sage growing wild in a pile of flotsam, and tried to get a photo....and once again I get dog flank.


What? Who? ME??

"No rats in here boss.We're safe. I took care of it. Let's move on."

I wanted to get a couple photos of how the ocean undercuts the limestone all along the shoreline here. These undercuts are typically submerged at high tide, and are good spots for neat 'stuff' to wash up and get trapped.

Sigh. At least I can use the Danged Dooley the Determined for scale. Dagnabbit:

Eventually these overhangs do break off and fall. Then there is a jumble of rock that protects the new shoreward cliffs. For a while. Eventually the wave action breaks up the rock into finer and finer particles And that's where we get our nice limestone sand beaches. These are different from quartz-based sand. Those are tiny crystals. This is soft sand. Like talcum powder with no sharp edges.

I can't believe I managed to get a photo of a jumble of stuff without Dooley in the middle of it.

Even the rock seemed astonished:

Or maybe it was trying to count the groupings of galloping little footprints running up and down a previously pristine beach. You reckon he covered enough territory?

It was getting late at that point, and the wind had dropped even further. In the protected water of the canal system we floated by the Caicos Adventure facility where their catamarans were snugged up and secured for the night. From a photography point of view, I thought the reflections were kinda neat.

Especially this one. Now thats a paint job! I don't think I've ever seen pink outboards before. That's one colorful dive boat.

No matter how you look at it:

Well not every day is as perfect as that one. On the 23rd we woke up to an outside air temperature of 71 degrees F. We were unprepared. La Gringa was looking for socks to put on. I was cranking some of the windows closed. When we took a look at the weather station we knew winter was at last upon us.

At least it had warmed up to 77 inside. We are uncomfortable at much below 80 deg. these days. I guess we're acclimated.

We had taken one other kayak trip leaving from Leeward the week before. I had planned to take a bunch of photos along Grace Bay to post here. It didn't work out that way but I did get a few images recorded. We started out, as usual, at the Leeward Marina. This pile of plastic bags caught my attention and we went over to see what was going on. Never did find out. But reading the body language of the people here, sure looks to me like something was not quite hunky dory.

As long as we were wandering around the marina, I snapped a few other photos just to have some pictures in case the trip didn't work out. These are local boats using the common method of mooring here in an island nation where actual dock facilities are few and far between. I know up in the USA all the boaters have been convinced that four stroke outboards are the new standard. Well, that's not true once you get out from under the EPA's control. Yamaha and Evinrude 2 strokes are still in the majority here.

This is the dock where we had kept our own panga, "Cay Lime", up until the day Hurricane Hanna came through in September of '08. This is the last spot we saw her still in pristine condition. From what we have been told, there were twelve boats from this dock alone lost in that storm. Some of those have never been recovered.

We launched our kayak and headed out and almost immediately ran into a semi-serious problem. I had replaced part of our two Hobie Mirage Drives with upgrades just the week before. And while I got the first one right, I installed the two flippers and drive sockets backwards on the other one. Hey, it's easier to do than you might think. Doesn't matter much when you are sailing but when you need the drive to work, it's gotta be right.

So with that background information, perhaps you can guess what the fat old bald-headed dude on the beach is doing in this photo:

(these might possibly be our last inflatable kayak photos)

Yep, dismantling a Mirage Drive with a pocket multi-tool. And no, I was not stabbing myself in frustration. I was opening the tool one-handed, so to speak.

There we are, one final tweak and it's all back together right.

While on the subject of DIY....I wanted to mention that the last round of repairs to the Land Rover were not the end of that. Oh not at all. That was the universal joint replacement, as I recall. It's hard to keep track. There have been so many.

Well, while in the process of trying to drive the Land Rover with one propshaft removed, I discovered that the differential lock linkage was frozen solid. This is a classic case of 'use it or lose it'. So next project was to get that fixed.

Looking down through the now open floor of the Defender (the thing removed to get to this point is called a 'transmission tunnel' in LandySpeak) you can see where the transfer case shifter is gone:

Because it was sitting on my bench. The linkage was rusted completely worthless. Crummy photo, but with greasy hands I wasn't taking many and this is the only one I have of the assembly removed.

Found some major problems when they fell apart in my hands. I think the rust was actually holding some of it together. I replaced the broken linkage bolt with a rigged up stainless bolt and two lock nuts:

And then drilled two ends of a connecting linkage rod so I could use stainless cotter pins to replace the two steel clips that were rusted to pieces. The stock press-on clips are the flat things on the bench:

Pretty bad, huh? Fortunately for me, I was able to take the two stainless cotter pins from a modification kit supplied by..... Hobie! Wow. So now our Land Rover has Hobie kayak parts in the transfer case. Cool.

And speaking of Hobie Kayaks.... (see how slickly I segued from greasy car parts into kayaks?) Guess what finally arrived on Wednesday, day before yesterday???

These six packages contain a new Hobie Adventure Island Tandem kayak and an aluminum trailer. The dog footprints were not part of the original order:

La Gringa and I launched into assembly immediately. And by the end of the first day this is how far we had gotten:

Since then we have managed to get the trailer completed and the entire kayak is sitting on top of it ready for me to figure out how to modify a trailer hitch to tow it. Hopefully we will have some good sailing photos after this weekend.

I know you guys are anxious to see some long overdue sailing kayak photos.... ha ha.

But this one is better! It has fishing rod holders. It should be fast enough to troll with under sail. It's stable enough to dive from. There is plenty of room for Dooley the Dangerous to walk around without getting underfoot. And best of all, it's not susceptible to being punctured by fish hooks or gaffs.

And it should be faster, and seaworthy enough to give us some greater range, which will translate into expanded exploring. If the weather forecast is right, we should be having our "shakedown" cruise tomorrow. Oh boy! A whole new boat full of new stuff to fix!


Anonymous said...

In that picture of "the fat old bald-headed dude on the beach" it looks like Dooley's wearin' a cowboy hat! "Dooley the Drover" just doesn't sound right though...

Truth be told, this one's my kind of post: the pleasures, perils and DIY of island life told in both prosaic and pictorial color. Keep 'em comin', y'all.

Can't wait to see the new boat in action, and read about its first repair.


ASKAI said...

Great photos and amusing prose as always. While we thought Jaws would be finished and South to TCI this winter, repairs in the job jar runnithed over. Hunkered down for a long dark Vermont winter with you guys to thank for keeping the dream alive. See you next year I hope.

literacylady said...

Love love love the first two graphs! Time to start writing that novel. Seriously.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, all, for the feedback. Sorry to hear about Jaws and the delay. we SO understand that, though.

And about writing a book, what do y'all think about maybe the life story of Preacher growing up on Provo? The man has some pretty amazing stories to tell, having witnessed the first vehicle here. First outboard motor when they sailed from island to island. Sunken treasure. Crooked politicians. The drug years. I bet he'd be willing to tell it, if I could write it down. Maybe put in some old, historic photos mixed with modern photos of the same places. Huge changes here, since Preacher was born on an island with no roads and maybe 300 inhabitants. It could be both Preacher's life story, and the story of the development of Providenciales over 50 years.

Would that idea work? Means I wouldn't have to come up with a plot or cast of characters. Just tell the story. Maybe I could do that. Never tried.

Joy said...

Yes yes yes! DO it! And don't forget to tell us in the book how he got his nickname.

Anonymous said...

You guys haven't had the chance to check out the Conch Bar Caves over on Middle? Pretty neat, something like 15 miles of underground caves to explore....

Anonymous said...

YEAH!!!! I second that.....reserve a copy of this book for me please!!! As always, a fascinating read is your weblog. I have read it in "installments" to make it last until the next one. Good luck with it and just do it!!!
Cheers from Western Aus.- Jan O

Didier Dufresne said...

See, Dooley and dust... Interesting post, as I like them. But my english is sometime "short" to understand all of your jokes.
Waiting now for historical old pictures of TCI...

AmitiĆ©s de France (The country where tempĆ©ratures are now 5 under 0°C... You know ?)


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the feedback. It's really good to know people are still reading and enjoying the photos.

About the Conch Bar caves, heck yeah we were last there in May of '09. ( )

You can't just roam around any more. You have a guide with you from the National Trust or whatever it is. The government charges a small fee, but it's not much. It's a good idea, judging from some of the stupid graffitti we saw. People had scratched obscenities into the smoke colored rock. This thin layer is all that's left from the fires of a people long gone. It's annoying that visitors kept disrespecting a thin legacy, treating it like another just fresh coat of paint to defile.

I just read that Dr. Don Keith and crew are working to save what's left of the unprotected carvings on Sapodilla Hill, too. Hurray!
Thanks, Don.