Monday, April 25, 2011

2nd half of the Underwhelming Post.

I'm still playing catch-up here with yet another minuscule and underachieving post. I've had to leave out a lot of stuff due to the photos lost in the great computer crash of '11. But I do want you to understand that we haven't been just sitting around sipping Pina Coladas down here. Rum, yes definitely, but there's no coconut juice or paper umbrellas in it. Sheesh. We're serious RESIDENTS here by golly. Not vacationers out for a good time.

Kinda scary to realize that this little bitty island is the only place on earth where we are not the tourists now. I better mind my manners.

We haven't had any more of those spectacular sunrises in the past couple of days. Not that I'm complaining about ANY sunrise I am fortunate enough to witness. This one reminded me of something...

I couldn't figure out what. I looked around the yard and saw one of the diabolical Agave family sneering at me. Now, this might be a bit of a stretch, but perhaps this cactus was what was on my mind when I saw that sunrise.

They're not really diabolical. Well, unless you are bending over to pull some weeds and happen to forget that the tips of these leaves are easily sharp enough to sew leather with. And the backs of my legs are no where near as tough as leather, appearances to the contrary. These things will make you bleed. No fooling. You would NOT want to fall out of a tree into one. Good thing we ain't got any trees to speak of. Or it's a pretty safe bet that sooner or later I would fall out of one.

I got a little off topic there. I've got Agave and Aloe Vera on the brain lately. I've been reading about all the good stuff Aloe does, and it grows wild here. And I already knew a lot about Agave. They make the best tequila out of it, for example. It grows wild here, too. More on agave later.

Back to ocean stuff now. Last week I posted some photos of the first half of our second trip in the new skiff. I have now managed to locate the rest of the photos from that trip. This photo mislocation is somehow tied in with me scrambling my hard drive. But we're working through it.

When we left Dellis Cay we came back to Leeward over the Caicos Bank route. What a lot of people here call going 'inside' as opposed to going out between the islands and the near reef on the 'outside'. There are trade-offs to each route between the island of Providenciales and Pine Cay, Parrot Cay, Dellis Cay, and North Caicos. The deciding factor as to which way to go is usually the wind and waves. It's nice to have a choice with a small boat. Boats that draw more than about four feet of water have no choice, they have to go the outside route.

On the way back from Dellis we went by a long time "aid to navigation". This post, or one it replaced, has been here a long time. I think the dark spots in the water are the remnants of other 'markers' that have been here. A few feet on the other side of that post the water depth goes to about a foot. You can see a channel past the light colored shallow water.

When we got back into Leeward-Going-Through we were not ready to stop yet. After months of pedaling and sailing kayaks, it's a real treat to just push the throttle and go. We decided to make a quick pass through the original Leeward Canals to see if anything had changed. You can see that it was near low tide. I thought someone did a nice job here using natural stone to shore up his slip.

Dooley the Dutiful keeps a sharp eye on the surrounding shoreline. He well knows that the leading cause of boat problems is not water, but land.

At least I think he's given up on that canine haiku stuff he was spouting earlier.

These canals haven't changed much since we first came through here six or seven years ago. Some more homes have been completed, but in general there seem to be fewer large boats here than I remember. And I am noticing more local boats being kept in the canal than the seasonal boats with Florida registrations. Like the rest of the world, the Turks and Caicos economy is still slow to dig out of the financial upheavals of the past few years. Speaking of local boats, this is one of the typical local 'conch boats':

I am beginning to pay more attention to the benefits of simplicity in things. Mechanical things, especially. I point out this local boat, of which there are a couple hundred at least, because of the way boats have evolved here. This boat has a small console, motor, and steering. That's about it. Our own recent choice of a skiff has a lot in common with this design. Oh, the hulls are different shapes and we have a couple gadgets on the back, but basically, the concepts are similar. Small, light, shallow draft, simple systems to maintain. That seems to be what works for a lot of life long, experienced sons of sons of boatmen here. Must be some reasons.

Not that we don't like technology. In fact, I have long admired this kind of setup. It's not nearly as common here as it is up in the USA. There are probably reasons for that, too. But I think it sure looks slick:

Back to simplicity and local boats, this is the Beluga. She's a Wharram design catamaran, and from what we have observed this boat has logged more sailing hours than probably any other commercially operated sailboat in the Turks and Caicos. She's a wooden boat, with an outboard that lowers in the middle as auxiliary power. One of the cool things about these boats is that the cross braces are typically attached to the hulls (amas, remember?) with a flexible joint. This allows the two hulls to move over the waves somewhat independently of each other. Watching them from alongside, you can sometimes see them flexing as one hull rides over a swell and then another. I think it's a good idea. Some of the most common failures on rigid fiberglass catamarans are where the hulls attach to the bridgedeck. (The bridgedeck is the flat floor that connects everything.) Making the attachment flexible removes a lot of stresses.

Leaving the canal we immediately decided we had to scoot over and take a look at this beauty. For the record, this is not simplicity in mechanical design. I don't know if you can read the name in the photo, but it's the Perle Noire out of Georgetown, Caymans. That takes boating to a whole nuther level. Especially with diesel fuel presently at just under $ 6 a US gallon here at the moment.

We putt-putted over to the other side of the floating docks here in Leeward to get another view of the 'Black Pearl'. I was reminded of how under-utilized this entire complex has been since day one. It's all tied up in court now, as people figure out who did what with whom, but in the meantime this fantastic marina sits idle day after day. The Perle Noire was the only boat here.

Personally, I would like to see the government of the Turks and Caicos Islands take this marina over and open it to everyone. There are never going to be enough high end pleasure yachts here to fill all these floating obstructions. We could cut the size of the docks in half, open up the waterway, and still be able to accommodate the few big boats that want to come in. But that's just my 2 cents worth. Nobody ever listens to the...

....guy who lost three wheels off his boat trailer on a recent excursion. It's true. I admit it. I screwed up. Again.

Having admitted that, I thought this would be a good time to just enjoy a little zen moment, and unclench my teeth and watch one of La Gringa's short, relaxing videos. Something mellow, like a little jellyfish she spotted at the dock while we were moving the Contender:

(music is “Swept Away” by Armik)

I know I alluded to a rough day launching the Contender in the previous post. Well, this wheel bearing thing was just a part of that day. Pulling that boat with our little Land Rover has always been a white knuckle experience. Not nearly as much fun as it might sound. We had to hitch up and pull the boat down the driveway one more time, to get it over to the marina. We got down our hill without breaking anything. I was relaxing a bit, and we were just about a half mile from the house when La Gringa said "what's that horrible squealing noise?" Well, I couldn't hear it (too many years of diving, gunfire, and rock and roll music) but I figured out from her description that it was probably a wheel bearing about to go. At this point we were down the hill, and I didn't want to unhook, re-hook to the front of the truck, and shove two tons of boat back up the hill. Especially with wheels coming off. So I decided to just go on down to the ramp. Slowly.

Bad move. When we got to the ramp we noticed that our six wheels had turned to five. While at the ramp, five turned to four. We managed to launch the boat, and with the weight off the trailer we managed to get it home on three wheels. The third one fell off as I got it to the house. We found all the wheels, and over the next few days I replaced 12 wheel bearings. I don't want to dwell on this any more.

This is what we saw when we got to the ramp:

I had greased the hubs before parking the trailer some months back, but anything made of steel that sits still here for a few months is pretty much open game for corrosion. As I keep finding out. Oh well. Now I know a lot more about tapered spindles and wheel bearings than I knew a week ago.

Oops, I slipped into the DIY section without the usual warning. So for those who don't care about this aspect of life on a small island, be warned. Most of the rest of this post is about one of the recent little projects that have kept me away from the computer.

I mentioned some time back that I hacksawed the tongue off our brand new boat trailer. That's totally true:

We were leaving for Texas, and I wanted to store it inside the garage. There is a device called a Fulton swinging hitch that very slickly allows one to fold a trailer tongue over and make it all shorter. I tried for about a week to find someone who would ship me a Fulton Hinge, but ran into problems. So I decided to say 'to heck with it!' (gasp!) and make something happen. I ran out of time, anyhow. So I cut the tongue off, closed the garage door, and left it to deal with when we got back.

This is the section I cut off. It's pretty easy to see that either putting a pipe inside it, or another section of square tubing outside it, would sleeve it pretty well. One would think so, right? It wasn't that simple.

The closest to the right sized piece of square tubing I could find was 4x4", and it was about a half an inch too loose in both directions when I slid it over this piece of 3x3". I couldn't use it as it was. It was too 'sloppy' of a fit. Things would have gotten ugly towing a trailer like that. So, I decided to see if I could make it fit. I cut the piece of tubing in half lengthwise with my grinder.

Then I ground down the edges and made them straight. I chamfered the edges because a welding website I found online said to. I clamped them together and welded them. My welds may be ugly, but they are hideously strong. Well, strong enough, in this case. And I found out it's a whole lot easier to weld thicker steel after learning on really thin stuff.

You can see how this is going to work. I ground off my messy welds until they were smooth, it was starting to fit. I made the other two cuts and ground down those edges, too.

And then by careful application of an intensely precise and complicated system of splints and clamps, I got it all to hang together long enough for me to burn up several welding rods. A shirt. Some arm hair. Part of a Croc. The top of a toe, and a small patch of the underbrush. And no, I didn't document any of that. It gets real busy around here when sparks start flying.

I had figured it would have cost me about $300 to get the hinge I wanted down here and cleared in through customs. I have less than $40 into this one. And I suspect this splice is a lot stronger than the original tubing.

You know my assistant usually has some input on these projects. Dooley the Deep isn't much use on the mechanical side of things but he keeps a constant watch for things he thinks I might be interested in. Lizards, for example. And he's good at trying to translate what distant dogs are barking about. He especially likes the ocean breeze that blows through the garage when the doors are open. His nose starts wrinkling like crazy, and the wind lifts his ears as he faces into it. He gets this far away look in his eyes and sometimes I wonder how that furry little mind of his processes all those exotic smells that the trade winds must waft to that sensitive nose..

Oh, I got the little boat jack loosely installed, and the tire, and just about this time discovered that the winch handle hit the spare tire. This would never do. Winch handles need to be able to go all the way around to work right. I realized that it had all been set up for a driver getting out of his tow vehicle on the left side, and walking back to the cranking handles. I suspect most winches in the USA are like this when delivered. I had already figured out that it made more sense for me to put the jack on the right side here, since that's the driver's side in British countries. I never thought about the winch.

But now, after just a few hours of enriching the vocabulary of a certain small dog, I know a lot more about boat winches, too. All the hardware is reversible on this one. You just remove those three shafts and all that hardware and then try to remember what piece goes where after you turn it all around. There are more little pieces there than it appears. I've discovered that a handful of galvanized parts all look similar. If I ever do this again, I am going to remove and reverse the shafts one at a time.

Here's the completed sleeve, with the jack and spare mounted to the heavy wall tubing. It's stronger than before. And it's not difficult to make the change over. The manufacturer sets up the clamps to fit on either 3" or 4" tubing. I just had to buy some longer bolts.

That worked out fairly well. Now I can park the boat in the garage, remove one bolt, remove the tongue and close the garage door.

Next I plan to find a way to lift the Hobie kayak on its trailer, dangle it from the ceiling, and park the skiff underneath it. Then I want to lower the Hobie onto the skiff. I will build a couple of wooden cradles to distribute the weight. It's not much. About 300 lbs. So far I have come up with this simple approach:

This is self supporting wooden beams, so I don't have to make too many ugly holes in the concrete. It uses a standard boat winch and two pulleys. I have recently completed an associate degree in boat winch. I know I'm going to have some balancing issues with that hanging frame arrangement. The four hooks are for the ends of two crossbars on the Hobie trailer. You get the idea. Suggestions are welcome.

This will let me put both boats in one stall of the garage, and still have the workshop area and room for a vehicle on the other half. You know, just in case we ever get another hurricane. Do you think Hurricanes Hanna and Ike made me paranoid? Well, yes ma'am. A little bit, sure.

It looks different around here with the little skiff parked where the Contender has been for all those months. If I turned 90 degrees to my right, I could see the Contender sitting on it's trailer right next to a boat ramp. Things are getting better. This is allowing us to get back to boating as opposed to boat repairing.

Oh, you might notice there are several more of those sharp agaves growing here, too. We're actually encouraging them. They think it's because they grow well in these conditions and are a nice low maintenance plant. They don't yet realize that on this recent trip to the USA I discovered that they are good for something besides low maintenance yard decoration. Yep...... you can eat 'em.

That's going to be it for this catch-up post. Things should start getting a little more colorful again with the next one. Friday night we went to dinner at the (excellent) Las Brisas restaurant over on Chalk Sound. It reminded us that we never really finished our exploration of that area with the inflatable kayak. So on Saturday we spent the day sailing around Chalk sound and got some decent photos. And Sunday we took the skiff out to check out Taylor Bay and a section of Providenciales coastline that we had never seen before. Some more nice photos.

And we may have some interesting news (to us, at least) about one of our neighbors here that I want to verify before passing it on. It's a real hoot, if it's true. And finally, there are a bunch of cruising sailboats in town this week and I suspect that at some point we might be back down at the marina saying hello. Please, stay tuned. We're almost up-to-date.


ConchyJoe said...

Hey guys and gals! ConchyJoe here. I also highly recommend folks take a look at TripAdvisor. You can find Provo info at: and simply type "Providenciales" in the search field. Lot's of user reviews, and info on every spot on the island. Including the fact the the Pub on Grace Bay is now smoke free!

Anonymous said...

Yes, we watch TripAdvisor too. I've found that I have to take those reviews by individuals for what they are worth, and consider the source. A few years back I saw a horrible review of Grace Bay because the shopping was, in her estimation, terrible.

Someone else trashed a review of a nice hotel because they must have had an altercation with a waiter.

Well, anyone who comes to the Turks and Caicos Islands for the shopping hasn't done their homework. This place is all about beaches and the ocean and reef. Mall Rats will not be happy here.

That's kinda why we hooked up with locals who know what they are talking about.

I've seen Trip Advisor reviews that were totally opposite experiences, when they were talking about the same place!

If you can keep that in mind, it's a great resource. Just like movie or book reviews, you just need to find like minded people.

Doesn't hurt to check with the locals, either. Doesn't cost you any extra.

Anonymous said...

Breaking news:
I mentioned a rumor I wanted to confirm. Well, it just got confirmed. The singer, Prince, just bought the house that you see in so many of La Gringa's sunsets.

This might become an interesting neighborhood.

Anonymous said...

I wonder what I did before I got a welder. I find all kinds of little projects to do. I really like your making a 3x3 out of a 4x4. My neighbors ask if I can help them and it turns out they want me to use the wire welder on lawn mower decks, boat trailers, etc. It almost as useful as an air compressor.

Anonymous said...

Great post! Man, that gave me a 30 year flashback. Completely forgotten. An Uncle had the same issue. He simply cut a slot in the garage door so it would go over the tongue and close. Just pictured that.

Can't really tell from the pics but if you lifted or removed the jockey wheel and set the tongue down on the ground and simply cut a 3x3 slot and closed the door over it, would that have worked, or would the winch stand still get in the way?

For the boat hoist, this is an old jeep hardtop issue. Tons of creative DIY as well as commercial hoists, have a look for some setup ideas and tips:

jeeperman said...

Okay, I will take the bait for suggestions for your hoist.
Don't forget clearing the garage doors and hardware!
I might try making the self supporting gantry with inverted tee legs. And that slippery white plastic cutting board material on the bottom.
Which might allow you to nudge the loaded contraption into the ideal position. Might make storage of the gantry easier when not needed too.
And you already have a winch you could borrow from the new boat.

Anonymous said...

Greetings once again from sunny downtown Newman, Western Australia! Still love your sunrise/sunset pics and the reports on what you are up to. Oh and La Gringa's mini movies too!
I feel like I know you people...and this is just from reading your blog!
Cheers from Jan O
PS I have developed a bit of a liking for Prince music....and I can imagine it will be rather interesting having him as a neighbor....

Anonymous said...

Fabricate a couple car ramps:

Raise the skiff enough so that you can slide the hobie's trailer under it. The hobies 150 lbs, 75 lbs each person, hand lift it onto the skiff.

Or if you can raise the skiff even further to allow the hobie on its trailer to fit under. Don't know how you'd maneuver that with the LR.

Or just the hobie on top of the skiff, and flip the trailer sideways and lean it against the wall.

Can the skiff on its trailer on land take an extra 300 lbs load for an extended period?

Anonymous said...

Great suggestions, thanks! Those jeep top photos are pretty much what I had in mind, even to the boat winch. I could use the existing winch, but I think I prefer to have a dedicated winch. Boat winches are cheap. I have plans to play around with the jackplate setup on the XO, and it would be great to be able to lift the Suzuki 90 and suspend it while I play shallow water fine tuning games with the transom. I think the outboard weighs about 350 lbs.

I wouldn't dare cut a hole in these aluminum garage doors. If anything, I am looking for ways to strengthen them for hurricane season. And you're right about the winch stand etc. getting in the way anyhow.

The ramp idea is interesting, but I am not sure what I would do with the trailer jack if the wheels were up in the air. It's still on the floor and the suzuki is now in the rafters... I think I prefer to lift the much lighter Hobie.

I'm pretty sure the boat can handle the weight of the Hobie. Heck, we had over 350 lbs on it just last Sunday...

Seriously, I've been thinking about the cradles to hold the Hobie weight and I think as long as I make some 'big feet' to rest on the deck it will be fine. This boat is solid foam under the deck with some seriously thick stringers. No bilge. No pumps. hallelujah. ( I wouldn't keep a foamed-in boat in the water full time, but this one lives on a trailer.)

hey, Jeeperman, interesting idea about making the 'gallows' frames movable. Not sure the white plastic would survive, but no reason I couldn't put four swiveling coaster wheels on the ends of your two inverted "t" feet idea. Ultimate mobility, but...

I'm concerned about that ten foot span of unsupported wood across the top, where the weight will be suspended from the middle. Not sure what I need there to hold say, 500 lbs. to be safe. I might build some brackets, or maybe build it all out of 'laminated' 2x4's for more strength. Before your movable fram idea, I was planning on pinning the whole thing to the concrete walls. I really don't have a storage problem with it. It's out of the way as designed. I'm okay as a carpenter. MUCH better than as a welder.....but I'm working on that.

NatGeoWannaBe said...

Not sure if your lift for the kayak needs to "spin" around the center axis, but my dad installed a similar lift using 2 smallish block/tackles on the ends (rather than the 1 pulley in the center you show). It keeps the kayak aligned/straight so balance isn't as much of an issue and also reduces the amount of force needed to lift (so he doesn't need the winch).

Anonymous said...

I know what you are saying and I would MUCH rather use a couple block and tackle setups. The problems with that for this application are that they need a lot of vertical room, which I don't have because of the beam that runs across the center of the garage. If you notice in my drawing, I can attach the wooden crossbeam up above the concrete and give myself enough room so that the eyebolt and pulley are above the lowest level of the beam. I need that room to pull the kayak right up against the ceiling beam. Thats also why there is no bridle on the lifting cage thingamajig. Vertical space is at a premium this time around. I also have to be able to lift the kayak/trailer up and still operate the doors. A central lift accomplishes this, and also lets me lift other heavy things from time to time. I've been known to rebuild engines, for example.

I think I am going to have to play some weight games to get the kayak to hang level from the central point, but if I do it right, it could be as simple as a sandbag that I place as needed to balance. Like the sliding weight on a doctors scale.

Eventually we hope to replace the overhead garage doors with rollup doors. This is going to give me all kinds of overhead room. But that beam is still going to be the limiting factor for now. The bottom of it is 9 ft. off the floor, with a 10 ft. ceiling. All concrete.

Anonymous said...

ah I see what the main issue is, attaching it to ceiling. Now I get the picture clearly. Building a brace across the entire ceiling and walls to hold the pulley?

How about attacking it from the side instead?

Perfect example:

I imagine for max 350 lbs you could fashion it out of wood even. And I keep seeing some nice grocery cart wheels down at the IGA that would come in quite handy. while no one is looking of course :-)

Probably find some old moving cart, or even a ball bearing mat or recessed skateboard wheels, something to move it

Alternatively, and rather fitting. Davits. Dingy davits attached to the wall by the side of the boat. Same deal as the engine hoist even, standalone but unmoveable. etc.

Anonymous said...

Oh, I like the dinghy davits idea. I'm not real anxious to drill big holes into the concrete, though. which is why I've been dragging feet. thinking of alternatives. But I keep coming back to this wooden gallows frame thing.

Another thing it has going for it is that it wouldn't be in the way of anything else. I don't have to move or store it. If I painted it white it would look like part of the garage design. And pressure treated wood is pretty stable as framing. I'm working on that drawing.

Elissa said...

Just found your blog and love it !!! My husband and I are coming to Provo in Feb 2012. Would love to go on a great snorkeling trip. We have never been !!!!!

Anonymous said...

That may be the best. At first it seemed like a lot of wood for one bolt and pulley. However thinking it through, you can of course sink eye hooks all along the top, attach slings, attach a hammock etc. etc. Can never have enough storage and hanging space. Even along the wall. Little shelves or whatever.

Be interested how it will be held in place if not bolted into the wall and ceiling at some point? Massive feet at each end on the bottom?

Do they have single cuts of lumber that long 9 up and I assume longer across the ceiling?

jeeperman said...

Now I am thinking: how deep is the concrete beam that your dealing with? I am thinking you are not wanting to attach anything to that beam as it is supporting the garage roof?
I am thinking maybe have a 2x10 or 12 bolted on each side of 4x4 verticals. Then you could have the pully shaft mounted on top of the 2x10's via pillow blocks for the shaft. You could make them out of wood. This could put the cable or strap right up against your ceiling. The 3.5" space between the 2x10's would accommodate the hook and some of the lifting bar when in the full lift position. So then the lifting bar could come up all the way to the underside of the 2x10's. You could get fancier and mount the pillow blocks on angle irons and then you could have pins running thru the horizontal legs and thru the upper edge of the 2x10. Making the lift point laterally adjustable.
Or ditch the pillow blocks entirely and just bore the shaft holes right at the upper most edge of the 2x10's (or 2x12's).
Your pullys could be pieces of 3.5"long pvc over the shaft if using a strap winch.

Anonymous said...

last idea/thoughts for now. Not bad, for a post entitled 'the underwhelming post' generating nearly 20 comments :-)

Big question.

If you load the Hobie and trailer onto the skiff outside. Can you then put
the total package inside the garage? Does the Hobie and its trailer on or
inside the skiff clear the garage door? Even with the Hobie loaded into the
skiff first, then the trailer on top of them both? Trailer on one side of
the console, Hobie the other.

Outside you got tons options. 2 pieces of wood, 1 angled metal rod etc.
Check bumper cranes on google for simple lifting attached to a truck. The LR
is a receiver hitch? Just an angle bar jammed in there up and out, with the
pulley at the end to lift and lower into the skiff, even simpler a piano
lift. Above the garage is there a walk out with a concrete wall (on the
roof), clamp a wood beam on/over it and out, lift Hobie drive skiff under
it, lower and into the garage.

p.s. if it's off by an inch or two, oldest trick in the book, instead of
dismantling the garage door, simply let the air out of the tires of the

Just came across this homemade crane. Can't imagine anything cooler than
having your own crane. $100 and 3 hours labor it seems.

hmmm..come to think of it, you're half way there. Use the Land Rover as the
base with it's receiver hitch. Drive it as close as you can to the garage
door. All you need is an angled crane arm with a wing arm at the top. Looks
like a giant Z one end into the LR, through and into the garage and up,
swing to the right to lift the Hobie, swing to the left over the skiff and
lower. Interests me for the future, quickly made a sketch of the idea. Make
it expandable for many outdoor uses as well:

Anonymous said...

I liked the two 2x10's. I needed to move the lifting point a few inches in that direction, anyhow. I've got that sketch changed now, and I think it's pretty close. I'll post it in the next set of photos. I plan to put short pieces of angle iron on the tops of the 2x10's to take the wear and spread the load. Two 3/4" stainless bolts, 7" long, with 3/4" pvc sleeves. I would be amazed if there were a set of small pillow blocks around here in stock. I like the simpler approach, anyhow.

I don't know what the weight capability of this design will be but I am pretty sure it's way above the 400 lbs I need.