Sunday, February 6, 2011

Sapodilla Bay Revisited

I'm going to try to write a short post today. It's hopefully 'short' because I'll try to do one without a single photo of our little yellow kayak in it. That's not so easy to do these days. We are on that little boat every chance we get lately, including yesterday. And if all goes according to plan, we'll be back out sailing again today. We have a specific mission in mind. But first here's a recent sunrise photo. Not too bad for the middle of a bleak, cold winter..

It's been around 80 degrees every day this week but I'm trying not to rub that in. Being the sensitive kind of guy that I am. And being cognizant of the blizzards going on a thousand miles north of us.

And the post will be 'today' because I just realized that it's been two weeks since I posted any new photos. Well to be accurate, it was La Gringa who pointed out that it's been two weeks. And it's not like we haven't been doing stuff. Oh, we have. We have. But most of what we've been doing that's fun and photogenic seems to be on the Hobie TI. Which we still haven't named yet. We're still thinking about it. We finally DO have an idea for a name for the house, though.

It seems that everything I have written lately revolves around that boat with photos of La Gringa's back or of Dooley the Drenched stretched out on a trampoline. So this post will be a brief break from that.

I knew that I'd written a bunch of stuff about Sapodilla Hill in the blog a couple years ago. Then we realized that the post was one of the early ones and like so many of those the photo links got corrupted by ImageShack and no longer work. That was the photo hosting service I used back then. These days we have been using Picasa and it's gone a lot smoother. But let me get back to Sapodilla...

On the south side of Providenciales there is a small hill overlooking a small bay and the place is called Sapodilla. That's sort of an unusual name so I looked up what a Sapodilla is. I think I had it mentally confused with 'sasporilla'. Well, the sapodilla wasn't mentally confused. No. It was me. As ususal. And a 'sapodilla' is a small fruit tree. I found out it was brought to the islands from Central America in ancient times. It's also called a 'chicoo'. Well that's beginning to make sense, now. Because this is not the kind of place the early visitors to these islands would have been able to have a 'sasparilla', which is an entirely different plant altogether.
Now you might see one reason I was confused. But that's just one reason of many.
And I was sorely tempted to write something like "Would Magilla Gorilla leave his villa for a vanilla sasparilla with Godzilla at Sapodilla?" Ouch. At least I didn't say it would be 'killa'. But just barely.

This is a Google Earth image of Sapodilla Bay:

This is one of the best natural anchorages for sailboats on the island of Providenciales. Yes, yes, I know it's not technically ON the island.... but you know what I mean. I bet people who come here on sailboats get to the island pretty quickly. They have to, anyway, if they want to clear Customs at South Dock.

It's a good anchorage for two reasons. The main one is that the predominant winds here are from the north east. Being the 'Trade Winds', they can usually be counted on to be from that direction day after day. It's pretty easy to see from that image above that the bay is very well protected from any winds coming from the right side of that image. The little hill (strangely enough called Sapodilla Hill) also helps block the winds. Sailors love places like this.

The other reason this is a great place for an anchorage is its proximity to the Sandborn Channel. This is the most direct and safest route into Providenciales on this protected south side. In fact if you look to the lower right hand corner of that GE image above, you will see the South Dock area of Provo. This is where all commercial shipping comes into the Caicos islands. Well, the legal commercial shipping does, anyway. That dock is where the Customs house is located. Any cars, boats, houseshold goods or container cargo that arrives here by ship first touch land here at this point. And so do a lot of apprehended Haitians but that's another story.

Now let me tell you about Sapodilla Hill, which is labelled on the GE image, too.

Sapodilla Hill is locally famous as a place where sailors in the old days often kept a lookout for approaching ships. Maybe they were keeping an eye out for a specific ship or maybe their ship was already anchored in the bay and they were keeping an eye out for pirates. And yes, this place was crawling with pirates. (Some people will tell you that it still is, to some extent!)

It's not much of a hill as geologic landmarks go. But when you are looking out to sea, you really don't need much altitude to expand your horizons. This is the view from the top of Sapodilla looking south west toward Hispaniola:

You can see that it's a scruffy little hill covered with various bushes and cactii and paths and rocks. And the rocks are the interesting part. If you visit Providenciales and walk to the top of the hill and look down at the ground, you will start noticing rocks like this:

For literally centuries the lookouts on the hill would sit and watch the sea for ships and to while away the hours, many of them would carve away at the limestone rocks. There are names of individuals, ships and dates scratched into rocks all over the top of this hill. Graffiti from 1812, for example, is common:

Of course this was a period of time around a war going on between England and the then 36 year old United States of America. This was then (and presently is again) an English territory and a number of families loyal to the King of England (Loyalists) established businesses here. I had written about some of that three years ago when we visited Cheshire Hall.

But the use of this anchorage is much, much older than the War of 1812. There are carvings from the previous century, too.

I went into all of this, along with some more detail about the specific families and names carved here in a much earlier post about the Sapodilla Hill carvings.

But, finally, I am getting to the point here. Which is that we really never took the time to take many photos of the bay itself except those views from the top of the hill. Last week while listening to the morning "Cruiser's Net" on the VHF radio at the house we heard that there were a dozen boats anchored at Sapodilla. Even now, almost three hundred years after some of those lookouts sat and carved on the rocks, sailors wanting a safe anchorage to rest up on their journey are 'dropping the hook' here. When we heard this, we thought "Wow, nothing has really changed, there, has it?" So although it was late in the day before we were able to get out there, we thought we'd snap some photos of what the bay looks like.

It's a beautiful little sandy beach. Being protected from the majority of the violent weather, the sand accumulation doesn't get washed away from the native rock. This is the view from about the middle of the beach looking to the south:

You can tell a couple things from those footprints. One is that this is a really nice beach and popular with the locals and people renting villas in the area. It's not near the Grace Bay resorts on the other side of the island and several miles away, so it takes some effort to get here. The little road that takes you to this end of the beach is tucked in behind the hill and is not obvious.

This is the view looking in the other direction showing the rest of the beach. Ignore the old gringo standing there with a camera... he's just taking photos of boats. (All the good pictures here were taken by his better half.)

Since we were here late in the day we thought we would hang around and get some sunset pictures. I mean, the clouds were not all that spectacular but I got caught up in the whole ancient vs. modern sailor train of thought and figured we might get a decent image of the sun going down. It was still too early at this point, but getting close:

If you ignore the modern homes and businesses in the area and just look out to sea, it's easy to image the small schooners and tall ships anchored here in the 1700's. I can almost see the sailors rowing their small boats ashore, and grounding on the soft sand of the beach. There may even have been the local fish trap in those days, as well:

And like almost all the water here, the ocean is crystal clear. And the sand bottom is perfect for beach goers and very safe for non swimmers. As it always was:

These days, of course, the small boats have outboard motors and tie up at floating docks. But if you use your imagination, I think you can see what I was dreaming about.

Hanging around waiting for sunset we found plenty of places where no one had set foot in the past few hours since the tide had started receding. La Gringa was taking some really nice photos:

And eventually the sun did disappear on us, as it often seems to do when we get carried away in these little explorations. This time we were in a Land Rover with headlights. Believe me, this is a whole lot less stressful than being offshore try to get home in an inflatable kayak with no light at all..

There were ten boats anchored at Sapodilla that evening. And we know from the radio net that they were all on their way south with the next customs clearance for most of them being either the Dominican Republic or Puerto Rico. But for this night, they had a safe, peaceful place to lay their rocking little heads:

A lot of those boats will clear customs here and then move into a slip at the Southside Marina or the Caicos Marina and Boatyard to re provision and stretch their legs. If they are still in town on Thursday, more than a few of them will be at the weekly potluck dinner at Southside Marina. We meet quite a few cruisers this way.

This boat, we happen to know, was unable to get into the marina because she draws almost seven feet of water. Unfortunately, it would take a very high tide indeed to be able to get into the marinas here for any boat much over six feet of draft. (This is one of the reasons shallow draft catamarans are so popular in the Bahamas, by the way. We share a common geology with that nation to our north.)

Sure makes a nice sunset photo, though, doesn't it?

Okay, I know I said this would be a short post. And it's already creeping up into a not-so-short post. So I will move it right along here and get straight to the DIY portion of our program. (Oh come on, you knew that was going to happen.)

I also mentioned that we have been keeping busy. In addition to getting in all the sailing we can fit into our schedule and exploring the trials and tribulations of fishing and conch diving from kayaks, I have been working on Land Rovers. Surprise surprise.

Latest thing to go belly up on us was the alternator in the Defender 110. After exhausting all local and USA sources, I finally broke down and ordered one from England. Oh man. I don't EVEN want to tell you what this thing cost by the time we got our hands on it a couple weeks later. Hundreds.

But we had to have it. I got tired of plugging a battery charger in every night so that we could start the truck the next day. Here's a real common sight around here, a Land Rover with the bonnet up, and a box of new parts:

The original alternator was a 65 amp thing. For a few shekels more I decided to upgrade it to the 100 amp option. I have nefarious thoughts of installing enough a couple of off road driving lights strong enough to perform laser eye surgery at 200 meters. Lets just say I get annoyed when certain people don't dim their headlamps at night on long dirt roads. It's dangerously blinding and I think I know a way to gently refine some bad driving habits. I really don't want to blind anyone, but we do need some high-beams with just a little more "authority". And I reckon 100 amps ought to be enough to do it. Now I need to find some lights. Here we go again. Hello Internet and Fed Ex.

This alternator was so pretty and new right out of the box that I almost hated to install it. I never get to see clean and shiny truck parts. Everything I deal with is corroded up and frozen with rust. I didn't even have to blast limestone mud off of this one! Sadly, it will never look like this again.

So I took a photo:

The little thingamabob on the right is a slave hydraulic cylinder for the clutch. Just thinking ahead, because I know the day is coming. I have already redone the hydraulics on the other truck and this one won't be far behind. One of the nice aspects of having two of the same vehicle in a place like this. You get to know the systems and what parts are likely to fail next. Sort of a sick familiarity thing. And installing the alternator was easy. Two bolts, a couple eletrical connectors and it was done. I don't think I even had to use any Spanish swear words this time. You know it's a simple fix when you don't exhaust all of your native imprecations. A really good DIY guy can probably swear in three or four languages, depending upon who's around that he doesn't want to overhear him.

Now, in my little DIY nightmare world down here in the Land of MakeDo.. one thing often leads to another. La Gringa had been telling me of a strange clanking noise she heard from time to time coming from the engine compartment. While I was installing the new alternator I found out that all four of the bobbin style shock mounts had sheared off on the air cleaner mounts. So one DIY led directly into another. Those two bolts are supposed to be connected by a piece of vibration-dampening rubber:

I was holding the two halves of one together so you can see what it is meant to look like here, and you can see all four broken ones. Yeah, this would cause some rattling noises, for sure.

I tried to find some of these bobbin mounts locally. And to no great surprise, I could not. We didn't want to pay the shipping and customs cost, nor wait a week, so I thought I would come up with something to last us until I can smuggle some down from the US of A on our next trip. While rummaging through my mental inventory, La Gringa said "hey, did'nt you make some shock mounts for a boat pump from Croc straps once?" and by golly, she was right. I had forgotten about that early episode back when I needed a shock mount for Cay Lime. Well, I still have a few Croc shoe straps lying around. Because they do come in handy sometimes.

It was pretty easy to cut little round pieces out of the Croc rubber. The original bolts were metric and I didn't have the same size 'in stock', so I just tapped those suckers out. They might have started life as something mm, but by golly they're quarter-twenty and stainless now.

And here's the formerly loose and rattling air cleaner housing, securely fastened in with four new "CrocShocks"..... patent not pending. Or patently unintended.

And yeah, the new air cleaner mounts are 'Genuine Parts'. They're just not LAND ROVER genuine parts. And before any LR purists get upset at me.... I fully intend to replace the originals eventually. Some day. Did you ever notice how often temporary solutions become permanent fixtures?

And to finish this 'short' post DIY section off, I wanted to mention that next weekend is the annual Valentine's Day model sloop regatta at Bambarra Beach over on Middle Caicos. Those who follow this blog will know that we try really hard to make it over there for that beach party every year. And THIS year, we plan to have an entry of our own. Our friend Preacher Stubbs built us a model boat to race, last year after the races were over (and you just gotta watch the video in that link). It's been sittin in the garage since its early sea trials, happily corroding away. The original rigging was all coat hanger wire and galvanized screw eyes. (We should know better by now, wouldn't you think???) Well, I have six days to get this boat painted and re-rigged. You'll notice that I have made a few slight changes, starting with a bowsprit...

I sure hope I don't mess it up, but there's more to follow on this whole subject. And if you are fortunate enough to be in the Turks and Caicos Islands next weekend, it would be a really fun day for you if you can make it over to Middle Caicos for the races.

That's it for blog posting on this glorious sunny Sunday morning in early February. It's 81 degrees F. outside right now with the 'trades' blowing at 12 knts out of the north east. We are about to load up the yellow kayak (that I did not post even ONE photo of today) and go explore some fishing nets that we spotted washed up on the beach at Water Cay during yesterday's sail. You see, I have this idea about replacing the trampolines with netting.... well.... you'll see.

And as usual, La Gringa's sunset photos are SO much better than mine:


Anonymous said...

Sooo good, miss you guys!


Bill said...

That's a neat find of all those carvings in the limestone on the hill. It's nice to have those connections to history.

Looking forward to the post on the model sloop races!

jeeperman said...

That vibration isolator mounting of the air cleaner is kinda odd. LR must have been trying to eliminate every possible amount of engine vibrations from entering the chassis.
In the future, you might want to use this site to see if there is another identical part used on another vehicle.
No point in paying LR prices for the same part that can be had for Chevy prices.
Those diesel Defenders were not a North American issue, were they?

Anonymous said...

Nope, the last year that Defenders of any configuration were imported into the USA was '97. They were called NAS for North American Specifications.

Uncle Sam decreed that all imported vehicles starting in 98 had to have front airbags. LR decided they did not sell enough NAS Defenders in the US market to justify the engineering. And they were planning to come out with some new model vehicles anyhow, that did conform to the US requirements.

So for the past fifteen years, you can buy Discovery's and Range Rovers, and Freelanders in North America, but not Defenders newer than 1997 NAS models.

Thanks for the parts link. What would really help me is some kind of cross reference from Land Rover parts to what NAPA carries. NAPA here in Provo cannot find a part from their USA data base without having the vehicle model. And the moment they type in Defender...they show nothing past '97.

Travis and Maggie said...

What a gorgeous sunset photo, and what a cool ride!