Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Back to the Lionfish Den

Friday we were treated to another rare day for this time of year. The wind finally dropped down to something too mild for sand-blasting. And the ocean joined in by smoothing out all those lumpy waves for the day. Oh we do appreciate the breezy days we get, no mistake about that. Eight to ten knots or more usually means that the sailing will be good somewhere around the island. But when we are in the mood for some snorkeling a few miles offshore, calm days are the best. And we were overdue for one.

After loading up lunch and Dooley the Deranged, we fired up the outboard motor and choogled on out of the canal and through the Southside Marina. We try to keep our wake down until we are outside the marina entirely. Notice the buoy right behind us, just under the slanting dirt road in the photo below? This is a critical spot getting into and out of this marina. If we were going back in from this point, for example, we would go past that green buoy, staying just to the right of it and then make a hard left turn into the marina entrance. Coming out of the marina, a boat should get just past this green buoy and make a hard, ninety degree, right turn. As we had just done in that photo. AFTER the buoy. This is important. Doing anything other than what I have just poorly described would be a mistake in most boats.

This subject will come up again later in this post.

As an objective for this trip, we decided to head out to see what changes might have happened with the Lionfish population we last saw almost exactly seven months ago. Dooley the Diligent observed. He does offer advice from time to time.

I know his heart is in the right place, but between you and me, that dog is terrible at electronic navigation. All he knows is "Hunt into the wind. Hunt into the wind.." I think he learned that on a National Geographic program. If I followed his advice we'd end up in the Canary Islands.

We certainly don't need the GPS to navigate between land masses here. If we are just going for a sail with no particular destination in mind, we don't even take it along. We've run aground so many times that we're on a first name basis with most of the reefs, sand bars, rocks, and coral heads around here. But finding an island sticking up out of the water is a whole lot easier than finding a small spot underwater. It's real nice to have a navigation fix for a specific needle somewhere out in the middle of a big blue haystack:

It was an absolutely sterling day and we were in no particular hurry to get anywhere. That dark line just on the horizon is the island of Providenciales, the nearest land. That's about five miles away. I don't know why I think about things like this when we have a perfectly good boat under us, but I do think about them and I think that would be a pretty long swim. I also think that both La Gringa and I could make it, along with Dooley the Dogpaddler. Especially when he's dressed up in his life jacket like an Ewok playing the Great Pumpkin. I suspect that we'd be thinking about that 14 ft. Tigershark we saw out here for the entire swim, should it ever come to that. Dooley the Dedicated, on the other hand, would be thinking about food. Same as the shark. Leeward is under that white fluffy cloud on the right:

Being out this far with only one motor has gotten me thinking about experimenting with a kite as a backup propulsion system again. I know a small traction kite will exert a reasonable pull in any kind of wind at all. And they are somewhat steerable. I need a kite that I can launch from a boat to try this out, as I can't stretch lines out on the beach to do it. I'd planned to experiment with a kite back when we owned "Cay Lime", but Hurricane Hanna drastically upstaged all my intended wind experiments for a while.

And while we do appreciate a little wind, hurricanes seem to be a great example of ' too much of a good thing'. They could tone back the rain a little, too, as far as I am concerned. Maybe this time I will actually get around to doing some tests to see how this 'emergency kite' for small boats idea works.

I don't know how fast we were going when my hat blew off. Not hard to spot it floating on a day like this though. Looks like a Tilley commercial. Or Corona. I should probably put little ®s or ™s behind those names. And in Tilley's case, I can confirm that their hats do float as claimed. I cannot confirm anything about anything that could conceivably be referred to as a Corona float.

We managed to get back to the old wreck site without any problems. We anchored the skiff and fell over the side. And the hundreds of lobster we saw back in August are gone, for the most part. Oh, there is still plenty of marine life hanging around the wing. Sometimes the schools of flashing silver slivers of fish almost totally obscured the view of it:

And sad to say, there is no shortage of the invasive Lionfish. We saw more of them than we did before. And they are bigger than they were before.

There is one lobster and four Lionfish in this photo. The ratio has turned around since we were here last. I wouldn't blame all of that on the Lionfish, though. They didn't eat the big lobsters. They must have migrated to wherever they go if they escape being caught.

We also noticed some different behavior in the Lionfish than the last time we were here. The larger ones were all facing inward toward little crevices and holes in the wreckage, with all their fins and fans spread out. This is similar to the way they corral small fish they want to eat. They corner them into a spot and trap them. With prey, they spread out their fins to keep the small fish from escaping and then they just gulp them down. But on Friday they were not gulping. At first, we were wondering if perhaps they have offspring of their own tucked back up into these safe spots, and are guarding them.

But that didn't make sense. If they were guarding them, they would be facing outward. That is where threat comes from. These fish are not afraid of anything. I think it's more likely that they are waiting for the hatched juveniles of some other species to emerge, and intend to eat them all. Maybe lobster. Lionfish are not very popular. And the overall fishing has been noticeably worse the last couple of years. I doubt that anyone is studying the problem here, but I found some other info on how bad the Lionfish are for the local species. This is just some of the scientific press on the voracious Lionfish.

"It was not unusual to observe lionfish consuming prey up to 2/3 of its own length. Results of the experiment show that lionfish significantly reduce the net recruitment of coral reef fishes by an estimated 80%."

Beautiful to look at, but deadly to the entire ecosystem here.

Every so often we have to make sure to take a look at Dooley the Disenfranchised. He definitely does not like being left alone to guard the boat:

I don't know what he was complaining about. We put the bimini top up and left him plenty of shade to relax in. He even had ice water to drink. So don't listen to anything he might tell you about being marooned, ignored, or seriously inconvenienced. He keeps signing up for these cruises.

The weather and the sea were so nice for swimming that we explored the surrounding area a bit more, looking for other pieces of the old airplane wreck. We saw several assorted chunks of the old disaster, scattered over the area. I saw a glint of shiny out of the corner of my eye, which suddenly elevated my heart rate for some reason. A biological reflex, perhaps? Is sudden greed biological? That could explain a lot.

Anyhow I fanned away some sand and found what I think is an exhaust pipe buried at about the right place relative to an inverted wing. This was an emotional moment for me. You see, this stainless steel still looks shiny and new after fifty years underwater. In a highly oxygenated, high sodium zone with plenty of sunlight. This piece of airplane lasts half a century, so far, and I can't find a "stainless" door hinge that will last three years. Yeah, I got emotional.

We saw a lot of other fish around the various bits of wreckage, but the Lionfish seem to be concentrated back on the wing. Somewhere around here I think we have a video of coming in on a wing and a prey-er.....

(music is “Logos” by Rodrigo y Gabriela)

This wreckage didn't seem to attract the Lionfish:

If this guy had not blinked his eye at me, I am not sure I would have spotted him at all. Nice camo job, eh?:

I know a lot of you will be aware of what happened to the Australian Steve Irwin, and I decided to be a bit extra careful when I wanted to see if I could get this guy to move for some video. I looked around for a few minutes, and found a live conch. I swam it back to our cleverly disguised subject, and dropped it squarely on his head. I wasn't sure how he would respond. I think these guys eat conch. So this should have been like a Big Mac from heaven dropping down right in his lap at lunch time. Right? And live stuff doesn't fall fast underwater, so I know this didn't hurt him. Sheesh.

He didn't see it that way. I guess these guys don't appreciate conch dropping in unexpectedly.

(music is “Pyrrhic Victoria” by Joe Satriani)

If you watch closely early on, when he's still buried in the sand, you can see his eyes following me in the video. The motion of the eye is what alerted me to him in the first place.

After checking out the Lionfish, annoying the local stingray and scaring the bejabbers out of at least one local conch, we decided to motor over to another spot we had been wanting to check out. It's an area we were told is called the "Little Blue Hole". It's this spot out by itself, miles from the nearest deep water. All of the Caicos Bank for up to ten miles in every direction is between 6-10 ft. deep Then in the middle of a small rise in the sea floor, there is a depression that's about a couple hundred or sod feet wide and around 25 ft. deep. That's not much of a "Blue Hole" as Blue Holes go.. but it's unusual enough that we wanted to take a look at it. We let the boat drift for a while and just watched the bottom of the sea go by ten feet below us. Maybe after seeing a few photos like this, some readers will better understand our seeming obsession with shallow water boats. There's a reason for that. Several thousand of those reasons, come to think of it. One really doesn't want to hit one of these things with one's boat at any appreciable speed.

It's mesmerizing to just lazily drift along watching the ocean on a day like this. It was also a nice change to know that we were able to get back to harbor without having to plan for the wind and allow an hour for the sail, too. Outboard motors do have their uses. Especially on windless days when we wouldn't be sailing anyhow. Just another excuse to be on the water. Or maybe it's one less excuse not to be. I forget.

It's not too difficult to spend a few hours like this and on Friday we did exactly that. Four hours after leaving the boat ramp we were still out on the Caicos Banks just enjoying the sea, and the sun, and the day:

This is not as transparent as the water gets here but we judged it to be clearly acceptable. This was the first windless day after a week of rough weather kept the sand stirred up. It takes a couple days to settle out. These are La Gringa's feet hanging over the bow of the boat and the water is about ten feet deep starting ten inches from her toes:

Even Dooley the Distracted got into watching the undersea world drift by:

I don't know what would have happened if an inquisitive fish of some kind had come up next to us. If it were a fish, Dooley would likely have to be restrained.It would be interesting to see what would happen if one of the bottlenose dolphin were to come up to visit the dog again. This would be a close encounter of some kind.

By this time it was getting toward the end of the afternoon. La Gringa put her new 'rash shirt' on but then decided it wasn't worth getting wet again right before we zipped back ashore. That's a good way to get a chill. The swimming is great this time of year when the sun is high overhead. It can get a little less comfy as the day cools in the later hours. The rash shirt gives her some thermal insulation in addition to protection against jelly fish and coral stings. I don't typically need one. For some reason I seem to stay essentially numb most of the time.

Obviously I took that photo of La Gringa and Dooley from the water. We had seen a school of at least two dozen barracuda swimming around the area. This is an attempt to get a photo of them from the surface:

If you look carefully you can see several of the barracuda swimming along the edge of the hole. The rocks on the right side are in about 8 feet of water, but the sandy bottom on the left is over 20 ft. down. There are ledges around parts of the hole.

I wanted to try to get some underwater photos of the barracuda. I also wanted to take a look in this deep hole to try to figure out what caused it. My best guess so far is that it is an old sinkhole in the limestone bottom. I am curious, because most of the major caves on Middle Caicos are under mounds. And so is this sinkhole. And this was dry lowland back in the long ago, and way above sea level for a long time. My imagination was probably still ringing from that silver flash of stainless steel.

Well, I hopped over the side, swam down a few feet and then noticed some other critters down there, much deeper than the barracuda. Other big animals moving in the ocean can grab one's attention. I get this suddenly intense curiosity factor thing going on when I see another large thing swimming with me. I just need to know what it is, for some silly reason. It might need poking with a stick. Or bonking with a conch. Or I might.

I swam over and saw that there were at least two smallish sharks down in the deeper part of the hole. I would guess that they were no more than maybe 4 or 5 feet long. But they were acting strange. We have seen a lot of sharks while swimming here, and for the most part they are all pretty businesslike. Inquisitive, but respectful. The creepy thing about swimming with sharks (for me) is when they go by you, and then turn back toward you suddenly. And then they come close enough that you see that alien looking eye turning as they look you over. Wouldn't you just love to have real-time information on how this evaluation is going?

When I looked down into the Little Blue Hole, I saw these two sharks acting agitated. They were swimming rapidly around in circles, and rolling over so that I could see their eyes. They were making rapid changes in direction, and swimming much faster than we usually see them. There was a definite tension in their body language. I decided to exit the water. Fairly quickly, as a matter of fact. The water was getting chilly... it's still winter you know.

Since it was getting late in the day anyhow, and I didn't have time to study these agitated sharks in detail, I elected to climb back on the boat and call it a day. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Back on the skiff I tried to take a photo of the two sharks, but they were deep, and I was out of the water, and it didn't really show any detail. This is all I got of them on this trip:

I know they are hard to spot in that photo. Funny how much bigger they looked when I was in the water with them and they were about ten feet away. I stuck a 'magnifying lens' around them in this version:

Climbing back into the skiff is somewhat of an adventure without a boarding ladder. Notice where in the narrative I bring this subject up? Right after I did my Polaris missile imitation while two sharks were arguing over me about twenty feet away. La Gringa managed to gracefully get one foot on the anti-ventilation plate on the outboard and muscle her way aboard. Made it look easy. Me? I did my Shamu the Whale imitation. I start near the bottom with my flippers going like crazy and come flying out of the water gasping for air and land across the stern of the boat with a huge splash.... well.... not exactly. I do use the flipper power to get out and it's not pretty. At least we spared you those photos. I gotta find a boarding ladder.

We packed up and pulled our anchor and left the Little Blue Hole for another day's expedition. Some of the locals escorted us to the town limits:

Remember back early in this post when I mentioned the buoy behind us as we zoomed away from the entrance to Southside Marina? I believe I mentioned that this is a pretty tricky little spot if you don't know the waters here. Boats that draw up to six feet can get in through here at high tide. And the channel is clearly marked. And if you get outside of it, there are some shallow spots.

These guys were hung up but good on a shallow sand bar just to the west of the channel marker. Fortunately, it is sand and not coral or limestone. And they were also lucky in that this was the calmest day we've had here in weeks. We asked them if there was anything we could do to help. They said they had decided to just wait out the tide. It being Happy Hour and all, we figured that it could have been worse. We told them we would be monitoring Channel 16 on the VHF if they needed any help later. The tide was still falling at this point, but didn't have much further to go.

Makes for a nice picturesque photo, though, doesn't it? Sailboat heeled over in the evening breeze..... just missing the wind and sail.. and motion.

That's pretty much it for this post. We knew it would be a short one, as we have been kept near home recently except for this first shakedown cruise for the little skiff. We started back out to look at the Lionfish progress on that airplane wreck just a week or so ago, in the Hobie TI but the weather was getting lumpy that day. We ended up just ducking behind some shelter for a picnic lunch, instead.

This time, we actually made it back out to the wing. I think we are going to start doing something about these Lionfish. Technically, it's illegal to use a spear gun here in the Turks and Caicos Islands. But the Lionfish are taking over and devouring the local fish. They won't take bait or artificial lures, so catching them with a hook and fishing pole just doesn't work. Netting would be very difficult, and I don't know how the rest of you feel about this but I don't want to deal with a live, agitated, venomous fish at close quarters anyhow. A net wouldn't do anything to stop those 13 spines. The logical thing to do is to simply spear them. I can't keep them, which would be spearfishing, which I already admitted is illegal here. But maybe we can just modify the Lionfish slightly if I don't take them out of the water. I'm thinking of adding a small decorative puncture wound. Something like getting their ears pierced, for free. And then we'll just leave them with the lobsters and other local sea life to deal with. Turn about is fair play.

And that's not fishing, is it? This new 'spear and release' program I am thinking about? I am seeing it more as pest control.

We'll have to sleep on it. Tomorrow's another day. And I need one more cliche, such as this one for a great sunset:

Friday, March 4, 2011

Marching right along...

Yep, we've managed to survive yet another February here. And now the days are getting longer and once again the sun is rising a little further to the north every day.

In the week since the Middle Caicos post, we haven't had any really newsworthy things going on here. No recent festivals. No big events. We have taken every opportunity to get out on the water, as usual. And we continue to use the little Hobie Tandem Island kayak as a really fun way to travel between islands here.

We realize that it's been a few months since some of our readers have seen a warm sunny day on the water. And since we don't really have anything of importance to report, how about we just put up a double handful of kayaking photos? Good old kayaks. I can always find few nice clear-water kayak photos when I need some blog content.

Our first little excursion early last week didn't turn out like we planned. We thought it would be a great idea to sail out to the old airplane wing wreckage to see what's changed since our last visit. I knew the lobsters would be gone after posting the videos of them here before. Somebody was bound to see that and zip out there to clean them out. (This is why I never post anything about the really good lobster and shipwreck sites that we find... so don't even ask, ha ha)

Well, we thought we would go see how the Lionfish population was doing, six months after we took those videos in that earlier post. This was Plan A, at least. We knew it was a windy day, but having a Plan A got us up and out of the house to go enjoy it. To get that initial motion toward the boat going. That always seems to be the hardest part of these small boat excursions on windy days.

We launched our little boat at Leeward and headed out past the old freighter. This would be the first time we sailed out to that landmark without an outboard motor. The water was already lumpy when we started and the wind was picking up. But since we were already in the water we decided to give it a try.

I have found it's pretty difficult to get a good still photo of wave chop on the ocean here. I well remember us getting soaked on this trip and yet when I look back at the photos it looks calm. The only hint is that if you look closely at the distance you can see some white caps out where the waves are beginning to break. We were getting bounced around enough that we didn't take a lot of photos on the trip. Now that I look at this photo below, I realize that I had been trying to get an image of the ama lifting off a wave. But all I got was what was left of the splash. I'll happily blame 'shutter lag' if I can get away with it. ('Slow reflexes' seems so.... so... disturbingly appropriate, somehow.)

We sailed out past the old wreck, and then decided it would be a good time and place to stop for lunch. We thought we might be able to find some calmer water out of the wind if we snugged up behind the freighter's hull. Now we are looking at it from the other side, with Leeward off in the distance. Wow, we sailed this far out in these waves?

The very minute we swooped around the stern of the old boat and into its lee, things got smoother. Again, it's tough to show in a still photo but if you look closely I think you can see where the unprotected water begins, back where we just came from:

Now I know that you guys have already seen countless photos of this old wreck on this blog. And I am not going to go over it all again. But I did want to point out that using this spot as a shelter from the wind or squalls is something we haven't talked much about. If you compare the photos of it that we have taken over the years, you can also see where it is breaking down and disappearing. There are holes big enough to swim through in the submerged section of the hull now. Looking at the other end of the old freighter we quickly see where the unsheltered water off the bow is also pretty bumpy out in the wind:

Ah, but right here we find a spot where the bulk of the rusty old waypoint does a great job of sheltering our little boat from wind and waves:

We found a spot where our small anchor would hold and, once out of the wind, the ocean was delightful. Sitting here was a calm oasis in a moving blast of wind.

We had packed a lunch and refreshments and had left Dooley the Dangerous at home. Our plan was to be off the boat and diving and we knew the weather was going to be rough. He doesn't much care for staying on board the boat when it's rough and we both hop in the water. It must look to him like we are abandoning ship and leaving him behind. He hates that. Usually ends up in the water with us. It was bouncy enough on this day that we kept the trampolines rolled up and that's usually where Dooley hangs out anyhow. They add a scary element to sailing this little boat in winds much over about 18 kts. The upslope tramp catches the wind underneath it, and the lee tramp wants to dive into the waves. We find it better to sail with them rolled up on any day when we might also need to reef the sail.

We were sure glad to have a calm spot to rest, dry out, and have lunch.

After about an hour or so relaxing behind the old freighter, we debated whether to continue out to the airplane wing wreck site. Listening to the wind shrieking around the old rigging and noticing that the waves had gotten a little bigger...

We elected to make a nice downwind sail back to Provo. We decided to pick a calmer day to be snorkeling out on the airplane wing. One of those days when the waves don't keep clogging up one's snorkel.

Even though the strong winter trade winds continued to batter us from the north east, after a few days ashore we decided to pick our spot and to get back on the water. Looking at the charts, we determined that if we were to essentially hug the coast on the south side of Providenciales, we could still sail and stay out of the rougher ocean.

We had been over to look at Sapodilla Bay and South Dock from the land side a few times over the years. We decided to sail down to South Dock and see what Sapodilla Hill looked like from the sea. There were a couple places where we would have to be exposed to the wind a little (we told ourselves) but we could tuck in close to shore and use the shelter of the islands if needed. All we need is a plan and away we go.

Looking at that image I notice that the Google Earth data for here is still from 2003. There are going to be some amazing changes if and when this area gets updated. A lot has happened in eight years. There are resorts where there used to be just rocks and lizards. But don't worry, we still have plenty of rocks and lizards.

With the NE wind, we scooted on out of Southside Marina and were down at Sapodilla Bay within the hour. It was an exhilarating ride, to say the least. We were pretty much too busy hanging on and sailing the boat to take many photos. We did run aground once on a shallow section right where anyone with any sense would have expected a shallow section. The TI has a centerboard that kicks up if it strikes anything, and we had the Mirage Drives up, so we didn't damage anything. This time.

This is an interesting section of the Providenciales coast, in that it is almost entirely undeveloped for any hospitality or tourism purposes. Or even residential development. There are a lot of shipwrecks along this section, we noticed. This is another abandoned Haitian sloop:

These are commercial boats and tugs that are anchored in the relatively protected waters off of South Dock. I marked this anchorage area on the Google Earth image up above. (If I understand what I have read, this is the area where the old wrecked freighter "La Familia" was originally anchored when the storm moved it to its current position up at our new picnic spot.)

Once we turned the point and were at South Dock, we were back in protected water and able to take time for some photos. This is the dock where all commercial shipping comes into Providenciales. When we came by on this day, a small container ship for G&G Shipping was just backing out of the facility with a load of empty containers. Or I assume they are empty. I can't imagine what would be shipped out of here, other than household goods of people returning to North America after an assignment here. G&G is one of several companies who ship from Florida to the Turks and Caicos Islands. We have used their services three times in the past few months. Importing via ocean freight used to be a daunting exercise for us. Somehow, over the years it seems to have gotten a lot easier. Maybe it's just become another part of our lives now.

Making up the western side of the South Dock basin is Sapodilla Hill. We have often hiked up to the very top of this dusty, dry little hill and read the ancient graffitti carved into the stones there.

And now we know what the captains of those old ships would have seen if they were looking back at the hill from their deck to see where their lookouts were stationed.

Sapodilla Bay itself is not that spectacular. But it has a beautiful soft, safe sand bottom. It is protected from the wind. It's a really good spot for a sailboat to ride out the weather, assuming it's normal trade wind weather. On this day we counted nine sailboats anchored in Sapodilla:

We don't yet know the story behind this little structure on the point at Sapodilla. It sure looks like a great spot, though.

We knew we were going to be beating back into the wind after we turned around at Sapodilla, so we didn't waste much time there with sightseeing. On the way back by South Dock, we got a good view of the little facility after the container ship left. There is even an impounded Haitian sloop on the beach here. From what we've been told, these sloops are generally hacked up into manageable pieces and hauled to the dump. What a waste of decent timbers, in many cases.

A pile of scrap iron waiting to be exported to some country that can process scrap iron. And another boat well on it's way to becoming more scrap iron. At least it's in a good location for it:

This section of coast has a lot of wrecked boats on it. I suspect someone plans to repair and refloat this one.

Or maybe I should say that perhaps someone once planned to follow that course. It's amazing how fast planning and repair estimates seem to run out on you when the ocean is involved. It keeps its own time, and ignores the plans of those puny animals on its edges.

After we rounded that point and travelled out from behind the shelter of the last little cay on our way back, it got ugly. No matter which tack we choose we got battered and soaked. La Gringa got the worst of it sitting in the forward position. The water comes over the bow of the boat and every wave splashes the front passenger on this boat in rough weather. All of us got soaked. At one point I looked over at Dooley the Drenched and noticed that his two rear feet were lifting completely off the boat on some of the waves. By the time it occurred to me to take some video, we were almost across that large rough opening. We were getting closer to the sheltered area again and he was not being tossed up nearly as much. But still, if you imagine it being about 1.25 times this rough you can probably imagine it:

(“The Thrill is Gone” by the one and only, BB King)

You might notice that La Gringa was just basically ducking incoming waves at that point. And this was not the worst part, by far. yep. We need to get her some splash protection and a warmer shirt!

Well as you can imagine, after a trip like this, we just wanted to get out of the water and get home. That was two rough sails in a row.

Looking at the photos of the marina we took on the way through, it reminded me of something I promised myself to finish. Two of our readers had written in with questions about specific boats we mentioned in an earlier post about Southside Marina.

I had posted some photos and comments on the catamaran Kari Bela and someone had asked who manufactured it. Well, when we next stopped by the marina, the boat was gone. This week, she stopped back by and reprovisioned and I managed to get a photo of the bow before she left again. The Kari Bela is a Dean 440 catamaran, manufactured in South Africa. I spoke with Bob at the marina and he tells me that this boat has crossed the Atlantic at least 12 times now. I thought about that and I figure that if it started in South Africa and it's presently on this side of the Atlantic, it must have crossed it an uneven number of times. Wouldn't it?

But would you ever tell anyone you were on your 13th crossing? That might not be such a simple thing for a true sailor.

Anyhow, the strength of the rigging and the way the boat is equipped make it obvious that this is a serious sailor, indeed:

Our other question was about Simon's boat, the Lily May. I wanted to confirm that yes, she is still for sale and she is, indeed, a 46 ft. Island Trader. If you would like to see some details on Lily Mae, just click on that link.

It just occurred to me that for far less than the price of a crowded condo here, someone could buy this boat and just pay the monthly storage and maintenance costs and have a wonderful place to stay here in the Turks and Caicos Islands.

Now I just stuck this next photo in because I saw this boat at the marina and I thought a thousand horsepower was impressive in an outboard powered boat. I wouldn't want their fuel bill, though.

That boat with the four Yamahas might be impressive and I am sure it's a certified hoot to drive, but we've already played that bigger and faster motor-boat game. For our own purposes, we find that we continue to move in a different direction. We like our quiet, clean, low maintenance kayak as an alternate way to enjoy being on the water. Notice La Gringa has a new long sleeved 'rash shirt' after our last expedition? We were determined that she not freeze to death while sailing in the tropics if we could help it.

So, after finding a nice warm sailing shirt for my crew, the very next time we took the boat out we had a sunny day, with very little wind and we had to go looking for some way to get wet. Go figure.

On Tuesday we decided to see if we could sail to Pine Cay and back in an afternoon. The winds were down to less than 10 kts. and it was the first calm day we had seen in over a month. We grabbed the kayak and headed out.

That white spec in the distance is a dive boat anchored just outside the reef. Normally, there would be waves breaking on that reef all the way across this photo. Pretty calm, I would say:

This kind of lazy sailing is Dooley the Drowsy's favorite kind. He can relax on the trampolines and, with the calm seas, he usually starts dozing off in the sun.

Oh, he gets these serious, contemplative looks on his hairy little face from time to time but I don't think it signals too much other than contentment to be on a boat. I mean, it's not like he's composing doggie Haiku or something...

It was so calm that La Gringa decided to try standing up on the boat while we were sailing along. She found out that this is a nice new camera angle. Maybe now we will be able to show you guys some photos from the Hobie that don't include the same two views of the Hobie.

The water depth along this route varies but generally averages about 10-15 ft between the beach and the reef. Of course there are coral heads that come up to within six feet of the surface in some spots. And parts of the reef itself are exposed during extremely low tides. The water here is about 10 ft. deep:

Even with the distortion, we could clearly see live shellfish tracks moving over the sandy spots.

We sail over a lot of different underwater terrain. Smooth sand, rocks, coral, and grassy areas.

La Gringa was having a good time standing and trying different camera angles. This little video captures a lot of what we were seeing:

(music is “Fever Dream” by Iron & Wine)

This is just getting into an area of scattered rocks:

And that leads up to an area of rock outcroppings, and coral.

Do I think there might be a few lobster in this rock pile? Oh, yes.

At one point Dooley the Distended decided he needed to go ashore for a few minutes to check out the local plant life. At least, I think he said something about needing to see a tree. So we scooted into the beach and hung out in the shallows for a while. As soon as we were close enough for him to jump ship, Dooley the Distressed made tracks for the nearest break in the cliff line. You can see his tracks, in fact:

And he doesn't really need much of an excuse to hop in the ocean anyway. So we let him swim along for a while chasing the boat while it drifted.

We thought we might hang out on the shore and beach comb for a while but then we looked up the beach and could see another boat anchored about a half a mile up to the east...

And there were another couple of boats off in the other direction as well:

We tend not to hang around when the beach is crowded like that. There's no need to. There are plenty of beaches with nobody on them. Besides, Dooley the Distrustful was worried about something and obviously ready to head home.

So with the winds diminishing even further, we limped our way back to Leeward looking for ripples of wind where we could find them. We hopefully left Dooley's demons behind, as well.

We had to resort to our Mirage Drive pedals for several miles of the trip home.
It was smooth sailing for the most part. The only things that broke the near perfect glossiness of the ocean were the wakes of other boats. Here's what the wake of the local water taxi looks like from our perspective:

(music is “Point of Origin” by Yanni)

Notice that while someone with a camera was making movies, someone else was frantically trying to turn the boat into the wake...

Finally we made it back into Leeward-Going-Through. Before dark. Without mishap. Another great day on the water. I could tell that even Dooley the Delinquent was thinking of how nice the calm water and lush mangroves were at the end of a nice sail:

I really don't know what he's thinking. When I ask him, he goes all uncommunicative on me and changes the subject. On this trip, though, I did think I caught him tapping his forepaw to some inner beat...

(“Into the Groove” by Ziggy Marley)

So that's our last three kayak trips, all in one week. We had hoped to have some new boat news to post before today but we are still awaiting word on when we can get our hands on it. Hopefully, it should be through customs on Monday.

In the meantime, here's another one of La Gringa's sunsets. We're kinda glad to see that the sun is moving north again. A change of scenery is good, from time to time.