Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Back to Chalk Sound

We woke up to a fresh tropical mango colored dawn last Saturday. It could be called a papaya colored dawn too, I suppose. I'm not too good with some colors, but I definitely know a mango when I see one. And since our sister-in-law recently brought us a nifty new mango coring tool, we've been going through a few of them. Just shy of a number that would make the rain forest activists nervous.

The sky was clear, the wind was brisk and we decided the time had come to take the new kayak for a sail around Chalk Sound to do some more exploring.

The wind is usually calmest at dawn, with 'calmest' being a relative term. We'd been saving Chalk Sound for a day when the forecast was for more wind than we like on the open ocean. We've had the Hobie Tandem Island out in 22 kts of wind and it's a bit exhilarating to be zipping along at 10 knots with your hip pockets at sea level. Especially when the sea thinks your eyes should be at sea level. We like exhilarating, usually. But it helps to be in the mood for exhilarating. Unplanned exhilaration can be daunting. We like daunting, usually.... well... I need to get off this and on to the subject at hand. Sailing Chalk Sound in a kayak.

Chalk Sound is a shallow, protected and completely enclosed little bay on the south side of Providenciales. It's under the approach for the Provo airport and the planes coming in on short final are directly overhead. It's a great spot for small boats like sailboats and kayaks. There is very little power boat traffic and because of all the little islets and rocks, there is always a place to duck out of the wind and weather.

We had been at the Las Brisas restaurant on the shore of Chalk Sound for dinner the night before and that's when we decided to make our second kayak excursion. If you're ever on Provo looking for a good, out-of-the-mainstream restaurant and have transportation (important) we would highly recommend Las Brisas.

And for the cruisers who anchor in Sapodilla Bay, La Brisas is just a short walk from the beach you are looking at. Do it. You won't be sorry.

The water here in Chalk Sound is the most amazing shade of turquoise when the sun is high overhead. We were hoping for some startlingly good pictures. (Aren't we always? )Well, we didn't get them. We had a series of squalls blow through. Made for great sailing but not so good photography. But we did manage to get enough for a blog post.

Dooley the Diligent assumed his rightful position as master of the ship, waterways and life on this planet in general. And any particular place he happens to be specifically. Striking out for new lands, in unmarked waters teeming with treacherous shoals, uncharted islands,

and as we found out over two years ago when we last kayaked here, even some aircraft wreckage.

Dooley the Disturbed was really interested in that broken rock as we went downwind of it. Since this was primarily a 'checking things out' sort of cruise anyhow, we decided to sail over and take a look. Might have a stranded cat or something interesting. You probably wouldn't believe some of the stories we have heard of things that wash ashore on little islands. (We're planning a future blog post on a place we know as "Trash Beach". It's going to be a fun blog to do.)

Now back to last Saturday, we were in an enclosed sound. We managed to zig zag our way all the way across and back this time. The new Hobie Tandem Island sails circles around the inflatable.

To be fair, though, the Mirage inflatable kayak is probably easier to maneuver around and might be faster under pedal power alone. The Tandem Island shines under sail. The inflatable has its other good points, but sailing is marginal.

We ran by the rock Dooley the Disappointed was so interested in. We suspected it was some odor he found interesting. It may have even been that Little Blue Heron standing there just to the right of the bushes:

Dooley's eyesight is not always reliable. He really believes he can see thunder coming, for example. And he challenges buoys. But his senses of hearing and smell are remarkable. He can hear the crinkle of the cellophane on a block of cheese from over a mile away and his nose would certainly alert to any relative of the fried chicken family standing on a rock.

There are dozens of these cool little islands and rocks scattered in bands down the length of Chalk Sound. Many of them are just literally rocks with vegetation growing on them.

We'd hoped for sunny weather (makes the water so nice) and we got some of that. But we also had a string of squalls and strong gusts of wind blowing through . We took a sailing break behind some of the larger groups of islands to dry off a bit. We saw several islands that we thought would be great spots for a picnic or overnight camp. Lots of places where it would be easy to pull kayaks or kayaks into narrow protected micro-harbours between the islands.

We had a new toy to try out on this trip. We picked up one of the little GoPro Hero HD video/time lapse still cameras on our recent trip to Texas. Our experiences with "waterproof" (how does one make a quotation mark drip sarcasm?) point-and-shoot cameras has led us to the point where we are starting to think underwater housings with 0-ring seals are really the only way to keep a camera long enough to learn the menu structure. We expect some nice new videos from this one. I need to fabricate a mount for the top of the mast though. Three hours of the view from this position just wasn't very good. Like driving through a rain storm with a plastic shower curtain over your head.

And here's Dooley the Drenched after being deluged by yet another little squall that had passed a few minutes earlier. I know there are some kayak fans that check this blog from time to time. I had read of people having troubles with breaking rudders on the Tandem Islands. Hobie is coming out with a fix for that. Sailing home goes enormously more smoothly if you have something you can use to replace a broken rudder. The little kayak paddles Hobie supplies with the boat have curved, flexible blades. I replaced one of our paddles with an extensible pole that accepts various fittings on the end. A scrub brush, a gaff and a paddle. The paddle is a lot bigger than the standard Hobie kayak paddle. The blade is straight, meaning it will make a much better rudder in an emergency. And the blade doesn't bend. This is also a good thing.

The pole extends out to about 8 ft. I am hoping this will work as a boat hook to fend off rocks and docks (we have no easily accessible reverse gear) and also as a 'whisker pole' to hold the sail out when running downwind. This was not a day for leisurely downwind experimentation.

After a couple of hours of exploring around, we discovered that if we stayed in the lee of the small island groups the water was much smoother. We tended to use that to our advantage on the trip back to the boat ramp.

We saw even more great picnic spots. We were getting pressed for time, so we didn't go in and explore all of these. We would have had to fold the amas in tight to the boat to do it. We would have to pull the Mirage drives up and use the paddles to get through the shallow spots.

This little area was particularly attractive as a potential picnic site. It's in the group of islands nearest the launch area off of Five Cays Road, making it easy to get to. This area has some water depth, so we did poke our nose in a little to look around.

There's a nice protected cove here. Just right for tying up a boat out of the wind.

Access to the island is fairly easy from this side without much wave action to complicate things.

I was going to explain the name of this cactus, but then I thought it would make more sense to post a link to someone who knows what they are talking about: cactus expert.

If I told you what it's called you might not believe me. I've been known to be unreliable when it comes to humorous names.

Dooley the Distended has a different perspective on plants. Especially when it comes to small trees.

Here's another narrow passage between adjacent islands. The northern edge of Chalk Sound is in the distance:

We did investigate a few of these passages. They are typically shallow with some rocky areas scattered around the soft sand bottom:

If we had gone through far enough, we would see the shallow water deepen again and then turn back into the clear turquoise that the Sound is known for. I took this photo with the zoom cranked up, so it's a bit grainy. I was trying to show you the whitecaps of the breaking waves just a short distance out of the shelter of the rocks.

We heard a roar, and looked up to see the American Airlines flight from Dallas about to land. We know this flight. We were on it ourselves the previous Saturday. If you visit the Turks and Caicos Islands, chances are good that your flight will come right over Chalk Sound right after the wheels come down. It's easy to spot from the air.

Seeing the 2:40 flight landing reminded us that we were running low on time, and still needed to get back to the boat ramp. Dooley was more than happy to call it a day and head for home. So we pointed our little yellow boat east and put the cameras away for a while. We concentrated on sailing. And of course once we were officially done for the day the sun came out and the water was beautiful again.

Back at the ramp I waded ashore to back the trailer up while La Gringa Suprema and Dooley the Distracted kept the boat off the rocks. The ramp experiences are the most worrisome parts of this whole operation. The ramps here..... well.... they vary widely, to the point where some of them are unrecognizable as boat ramps, to the untrained eye. This one is actually pretty good except that its exposed to the wind. There is another more protected ramp just a few hundred feet away but it's a lot steeper, runs over submerged boulders and it was already being used when we returned.

In fact as we were loading our boat we heard a loud noise, and some shouting, and turned to look in time to see a little ramp incident here. Their boats had fallen off their trailer entirely.

There are some big smooth rocks under the water right where the ramp enters the water. That area was where we launched two years ago. It's also where the native sloop Ranger was kept year back. Ranger is the last photo in this post.

We've been really busy since the last post before this one. We've already got enough photos for another two posts at least with more stuff on the horizon. And if I tried to document all the DIY going on right now, that would be several full posts just in itself. So I decided to give everyone a break from the DIY stuff this week. La Gringa is looking into ways we could put the projects on a different site and let people who are interested in the nitty gritty realities of living here have a link. This would let us keep this blog site more uncluttered with photos of greasy axles, busted sat dishes and the never ending maintenance that goes with living in a tropical climate.

The Chalk Sound trip was Saturday. On Sunday we took the new skiff to explore some parts of Provo that we had never seen, including Taylor Bay and Turtle Rock. The weather was a little better and we got some decent photos. We'll most likely be posting that next unless something totally stupendous happens in the meantime.

And while we're in the meantime, here's another one of the La Gringa sunsets:


Golfdock said...

I love the new Hobie. I'm selling my 80' houseboat and getting one of those. Love the blog, keep them comming.

literacylady said...

I have the mango tool, too! Isn't it great? Now you need to get the watermelon slicing tool...looks similar, but bigger, with a round, rather than elongated oval center, and slicing spokes. I think the idea of mounting the camera on the mast and using a remote is a good one. No doubt photojojo has some gadget that will connect it all. Lovely photos, such interesting narrative, and best of all, I like your evaluations of what you see and do.

Anonymous said...

dildo cacti, omg, died laughing leave it to you, that made my day thanks, love ya pops -J-

WakeAndSno said...

You have amazing timing, Gringo!

I was planning to email you about Chalk Sound and Taylor Bay... On Friday night, my wife and I bought a week vacation (charity live auction for the American Lung Association) in a villa right between the two! I was really curious to get your input on the area.

So, we have a calendar year to use the vacation and would love a recommendation on the best time of year to get down there (for adventures, of course!).

Also, will contact you about recommendations for food (grocery and restaurants), equipment rental (Anyone rent the Mirage drive boats? or better yet, the Tandem Island?), and must see/do items!

Keep up the amazing and inspiring blog posts!! (where do I sign up for the DIY page?) :-)

All the best!

Joe C said...

I love the DIY stuff on your blog. I say keep it...it balances out all the cool and fun things ya"ll post on the blog. I love the satisfaction of finishing a project/repair...Of course when you finish, you can enjoy what your hardwork has enabled you to do.

Been reading since THT. Your blog is a top favorite of mine. Keep up the good work. BTW, love the skiff although its sad that youve parked the contender. I hope it doesnt turn into an out of sight out of mind deal with it being parked at a marina.

Anyways you guys are awesome. Keep up the good work.

Anonymous said...

Look forward to footage from the GoPro camera. Awesome quality in all elements. For water drops try RainX if they have it there, or just go old spit.

Don't forget a mount to attach it to Dooley, for his POV as he runs around one of the small islands. Maybe even attach it to the fender of the vehicle and give us a tour of Provo?

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the comments. It's great to find out that people are still reading this blog. The comments and emails are about the only way for us to judge whether to keep posting or not. I mean, how many photos of Dooley standing on a kayak does one blog need??

It's been real windy here this week, but we are hoping for a break in the next few days. Nice to have one boat for windy and another one for no-windy. One of the great things about little boats is that you can own more of them! Just kidding. Two's enough.

And we are still playing with the Hero camera. We've got a mount in the Land Rover, already, and have been thinking about strapping one to Dooley's life jacket.

Anonymous said...

Love your blog. I visit frequently. Please do keep the DIY stuff here, too. I think the combo is unique. Your perspective is very refreshing.
Thank you!

Best Caribbean Vacations said...

My wife and I are considering a trip to Provo in a couple months. Looks like a pretty small island though, much to do?

Anonymous said...

Well,that's a tough one. There's either tons of things to do, or nothing at all to do, depending upon your personal definition of things worth doing.

d_pattee said...

Stunning, absolutely stunning!!!

I can't get enough of your pics, wonderful writings, personal perspectives and DIY's. I'm also waiting for your next entry.
Thanks for sharing, Davedowneast.

Joy said...

@Best Caribbean Vacations: I'm tired so I'm just going to say what I think and not devote a lot of attention to censoring myself: Providenciales(the main tourism island in TCI) is a great vacation destination if you are seeking a gorgeous beach with gin-clear turquoise water, great (but not world-class) dining, NOT looking for nightlife other than some drinks and a little bit of low-key live music, and if you don't mind a less-than-beautiful landscape of the island itself (i.e. no lush rolling hills/mountains).
It's a slightly ritzy destination, though deals can be had off-season.
Also, it's got one of the largest reefs in the world with very good snorkeling and diving.
It's not a big, all-inclusive, spring-breaker destination with cheap overcrowded buffets, etc.
Like I said, just shooting from the hip, hope this info helps. : ) It's all about the white powder-y soft sand, super-clean and beautiful water, relaxation (some great spas, too) and not lots of riff-raff. Except Gringo. Who let him in? ; )

Anonymous said...


y'll make it seem like tranquil relax island life has you so busy working, banking, shuttling kids to school in the morning, football in the afternoon, cooking for a family at dinner time, then watching a few hours of tv, and collpasing in exhaustion.

Or is it all spent on chasing Dooley and getting him under control.


Anonymous said...

Hey, we do get busy from time to time, you know. I am writing this from Miami airport on the way back from Houston.

We'll post the next installment tomorrow. Sheesh.