Sunday, May 29, 2011

Miscellaneous stuff and a big hunk of wood.

I have no clue how many sunrise and sunset images we've taken in the Turks and Caicos Islands, but I know it's a bunch. Pockets full of sunsets. A veritable shirtload. Then we pick one we think is representative of what it looked like to us on that day, and we post it. And then I delete almost all of the ones we don't use. Saving sunset and sunrise photos seems almost pointless. They're old news within minutes. The prettiest of sunsets existed for only the exact instant the shutter opened on the camera. It would have existed longer if I had not deleted the files... and.. oh, well... before I drift off into quantum physics.. Here's a recent sunrise on a nice, almost cloudless day here on the Caicos Bank:

Sometimes I wonder if this entire blog is just an excuse for us to take photos. We've both been 'shutterbugs' for a long time. No real explanation for it, is there? It's a pure hobby. Ongoing attempts to capture images for the fun of it and the pleasure when one comes out like we'd hoped it would. Then, when we have one just nearly right, we look at them, say "oh, nice picture!', and in most cases, never ever look at them again.

This blog lets us do one more thing with the images that we were determined to make anyway. It lets us share them with other people. It's kinda neat for other people to say "nice photo!", and it totally justifies our addiction. So thanks for looking at them, by the way. I guess that's what I was trying to say.

Lately most of our posts have been about specific trips or events. Usually a boating trip. That's probably predictable. I mean, this little country is all about the beaches, water, and reefs. And boats are a huge part of it. When we want to get away and do something fun, 90% of the time here, it involves a boat. At least as far as we're concerned. Now, if you're into golf, Providenciales has a really nice golf course. I've been told by people who are semi-fanatical about these matters that the Provo Golf and Country Club is first rate and has been getting better.

But we don't play golf, so boats it is. Mixed in with some diving, and soon again, fishing. But we also realize that most people who visit a little country like this for a short vacation don't have ready access to small boats while they're here. So I need to talk about something other than boats on this blog. And DIY. The DIY is part of living here, but it's not part of visiting here.

So in this post I thought I would just reach back into the previous couple of weeks and pick out some random images that we recorded that are NOT so much boat-related. These are photos taken between the boat trips, for the most part. These are just some scenes that would not have otherwise been posted here, as they were not part of a specific trip. These are more part of the journey between the destinations. And they are things you can do here without a boat.

On that nice sunny morning briefly immortalized (is that an oxymoron?) in the photo above La Gringa decided to take her camera and the dog and go for a walk down along the local shoreline. She got some nice photos on her little beach walk.

One of the first things to happen when Dooley the Dry and Dusty gets near the ocean is that he jumps into it. The nearest water on this trip was one of the small local marinas. I don't know what he thought he saw across the water. Probably hoping it was something he could chase, or at least bark at. I know it wasn't something he smelled, because that wind drift across the water , and the waves, pretty much tell us that the wind was coming from the left.

Maybe he heard something. I'm convinced that his eyesight isn't that great. Oh but his hearing is outrageously good. I swear, I would believe it if someone told me that dog can hear cheese being packaged at the dairy in Wisconsin.

And like most dogs his sense of smell is also excellent. Terriers are alert little beasties. He's always paying attention to something. And we don't have to worry about a "three second rule" for quality assurance if we drop a morsel on the floor here. It's history before the first bounce.

A little west of the marina there's an area of soft beach. I know I've already expounded the difference between quartz sand and limestone / coral sand, so I won't go back into that. This is soft powdery sand, right in the tidal zone and there are plenty of plants here who find that environment just dandy.

There are also quite a number of animals who happily get through their day while alternating between hours of baking sun and being a foot underwater. These, for example, seem as happy as a clam.....

Or maybe they were just chilling out after flexing their mussels.

This place is a wonderland for people who like to look at sea shells. Or just beach combing in general. We can spend hours on a stretch of beach, just looking at all the interesting stuff that washes ashore from the rest of the world. Here on Providenciales the easily accessible beaches get walked fairly often, but the tide does refresh them a few times a day. And you don't have to go far to get to a beach that might not have been visited in weeks. Months in some cases on the other islands. That reminds me that we want to make a boat trip out to a beach facing the Atlantic on North Caicos and take some photos of the things that wash ashore from the open ocean. It's always interesting stuff. The last time we were there I recognized bits of oceanographic and ASW equipment from at least three manufacturers in the New England area. I'm sure we can get at least one good blog post out of beach combing that one section.

On this stretch of beach on this day, La Gringa was also experimenting with her camera. Trying out the macro functions on a nice unbroken shell, for example:

There is a lot of sea life that can be observed without a boat around here. The marinas are great places to look down into the water. And the water is typically so clear that you can see to the bottom in most places. You might not always see big fish, but you are almost certain to see a lot of little ones. And jelly fish. And crabs.

Looking to the south southeast, those little islands are called the " Little Five Cays". It's easy to get a little confused when you first hear of them. That's because there is another entire area of Providenciales called Five Cays. And those Five Cays are different from the   Little Five Cays. And all the cays have names. Some of the names include the word 'rock'. I am not quite sure yet what the difference between islets, rocks, and cays are. I think it might have something to do with vegetation. Or maybe islets are permanently attached to the earth, and rocks are not? No.... that's not it, either. Sugar Loaf in Rio is a rock. So are Gibralter and Ayer's. I think those are attached pretty well. I've seen islets equated to cays, and to rocks, but we all know Cays and Keys that are bigger than a lot of islands. Hmm. This bears some research.  I guess cays are good for unlocking minds.

This is a good spot for kite boarding when the wind is right. And kite boarding is another thing you can do on vacation here without a boat.  You can rent the gear, and lessons are available. The water here  is very shallow out for several hundred yards offshore. If you watched your footing, you could easily walk out to these little cays. It might be prudent to do the 'sting ray shuffle'. Shoes would be a very good idea to wear on the rocks, anyhow. Trust us on this one.

And remember what I told you about this dog of ours? Well, given that he hadn't been in the ocean for probably ten minutes at this point, he took this opportunity to once again go for a swim:

This dog swims for the pure joy of it. Notice nobody else is in the water but him. Normal behaviour for a Portuguese Water Dog or a Labrador Retriever, but this is a JRT.

Or, at leat he claims to be.  I've also heard him claiming to be a lawyer from New Jersey.

He'll happily paddle back and forth, trying to figure out what we are looking at with the camera. It's difficult to get a beach photo without him in it. And if we yell at him, to 'get out of the picture DOOLEY!!'.... he's likely to just come straight into it.

And his whole attitude about being yelled at is: "You rang? I heard shouting. Something fun going on over here I should know about?"

Well, at least that moved him out of the viewfinder long enough for her to get another angle looking further to the south, without the imposition of a wet dog wedged between you and the mangroves:

La Gringa spotted a large hunk of wood washed up into the bush at the extreme edge of the high tide zone. Of course the moment she started paying attention to it, Dooley the Detrimental had to hop right into the middle of the investigation. As he is wont to do..

It's not easy to tell from these angles, but that appears to be a hunk of very hard wood. It is square on three sides, and I think it was the first piece to be ripped off a hardwood trunk at a lumber mill someplace that has large, hard trees. Once this first cut was made, subsequent passes through the saw would produce boards flat on both sides.

So this is basically a big slice down the side of a tree, that shaved off a big knot. It's got some interesting grain to it. She knows I like that kind of stuff.

This thing was way too cumbersome and heavy to lug back by foot, so it was left on the beach until we could come back with a truck and take a closer look at it.

On the following Saturday morning we were listening to the local "Cruisers Net" on the marine VHF radio when we heard about a 'flea market' being held at Turtle Cove Marina that weekend. We like going to Turtle Cove. That's where a few nice outdoor restaurants are located, and usually the creme of the local boat crop shows up there on their way through. Yes, I know I said I wouldn't talk about our boats in this post. These are not our boats. And this is something to do that doesn't require a boat.   You can do it while vacationing here.   So I'm covered.

I also imagine it gets a little confusing when I jump back and forth talking about different marinas here. I will try to explain myself better, realizing that not everyone reading this knows the island all that well.

Turtle Cove marina is on the north side of Providenciales, protected from the open ocean by the reef that is only around 0.8 miles (1,400 meters) off the beach at this point.

I have talked about it here before. Probably most recently when we posted the snorkeling photos we took while splashing around on Smith's Reef. In fact, this would be a good map for people wanting to go snorkel Smith's Reef.

That line you see snaking between the little patch reefs is the only safe way into Turtle Cove from outside the reef. If you think it looks complicated for that little section above, take a look at the whole route:

The other line coming in from the right side and ending there in an anchorage off the beach is showing how you come down along the beach from Grace Bay to get to this spot. Interesting that there isn't a direct route marked out from Sellar's Cut to the beach anchorage. Might be a classic case of "you can't get there from here". And if you don't know these waters really well, or don't have a nice sunny day with calm seas and clear water, you don't even want to try. The chances of damage are high.

Here's the "latest" Google Earth image of Turtle Cove, showing the island in the middle. I believe the smaller, undeveloped island to the left is called "Little Diddle" Cay. I can't tell you why it's called that, other than to maybe point out that many of the place names here are descriptive. For whatever that's worth to your imagination.

I wrote "latest" Google Earth image, because if you'll notice down in the left hand corner of that photo you can read that this imagery date is 2004. The Google Earth images of most of Providenciales are that old. And this place has changed a lot in seven years. Streets have been paved. There are sidewalks and street lights where there were mud holes in 2005 when we got here. It will be interesting to see the differences whenever Google gets around to updating their satellite images. I guess the good news from our standpoint is that nothing of global interest is happening here to make the world look at these islands too closely. I would hazard a guess that most people have never heard of them.

So, that Saturday morning we headed down to Turtle Cove to the island in the middle, to check out the flea market. We were there fairly early, and the crowd was already arriving.

I very quickly reach my low tolerance for crowds so we decided to take a walk along the dock to see the nice shiny boats that were in the cove that weekend. It wasn't as crowded as some popular weekends during holidays or fishing tournaments, but there were still some fairly serious toys in town:

I think it's another level of boating entirely when the dinghy has a 150 horse outboard.

Or when the stainless steel in the anchoring system is worth more than someone else's entire fleet...

It's humbling.

We love seeing stuff like this. It stokes our imaginations to know that there are people living on boats quite comfortably with a constantly changing world just outside their windows. There's a whole set of sub cultures of motor yacht cruisers that we don't typically get involved with because our interests are more into sail. It's the stuff of dreams, of course. And from a practical standpoint we don't even want to know what the fuel bill is on dream boats like these. I think our own personal ceiling on boating would be well before the point where we would need to consider adding staff.

The big motor yachts are not the only boats that come into Turtle Cove, of course. Plenty of large sailboats come in here. It's not the only protected marina on Providenciales, but it does have the deepest draft. I think you can get a boat that draws 8 ft. into Turtle Cove. Both marinas on the south side near us are limited to between six and seven feet and only at the highest tides.

While strolling around the marina admiring the yachts we noticed Mike Robertson's Osprey Marine Services truck, backed up with the welding cables stretched out.

Osprey was on the job, repairing a visiting catamaran's broken dinghy davit. Welding barefooted, as usual. I've never yet seen him in shoes.   That should tell us something.   I think one has to be pretty good at this to do it barefooted.    For years.     Heck, anyone can weld barefooted for  a few seconds.   But Mike NEVER wears shoes.

Mike specializes in stainless steel and aluminum welding, along with rigging in general. He's a real resource on the island, and is often called out to one of the marinas to fix or fabricate something for a boat passing through. I took this opportunity to ask him about making us a combination grab rail/windscreen frame for our little skiff console. I guess I had better "Sketchup" what I want, unless I can find one already made online to buy or copy.

At home we continue to watch the sea every day. It's always there in the background no matter what we're doing. And it's an ever changing canvas. Besides the sunrises, and sunsets, and the squalls, and waterspouts, and electrical and tropical storms, we get to watch a variety of boats going by every day. We have come to recognize most of the local boats now. For example, recently we spotted this trimaran approaching the boatyard under mainsail alone:

The fact that it was under sail in that location pretty much told us it was a local before it ever got close enough to see the details of the boat. Most visitors would be going slowly here, under power, feeling their way into the channel, on the radio with Bernard or Donovan at Caicos Marina. Only the locals blast along in whitecaps like they know where they're going. We could also tell it was a multi hull rather than a single hulled sailboat by the upright angle of the mast.

Well, before they turned onto a broad reach into the boatyard we knew the boat was the Minx.

And sailing right into the boatyard, and up to the dock, is pretty indicative of someone who knows his boat, and this water, and the wind.

The Minx is a fiberglass trimaran that is probably one of, if not the, fastest cruising sailboat in this area. It was hand built by Mike Robertson, the barefooted welder, and the Robertsons sail it often. We know they took it up to Bermuda and back just a couple years ago. That's a nice little 2800 mile jaunt, before you add in the squiggles and changes in direction.

Now on another day we'll look out and spot a boat like this one:

And we would likely assume that he's probably not local, or if he is he doesn't come to this part of the country often. He probably needed fuel, and draws more than six feet in that monohull. Otherwise, it wouldn't have made sense to travel past Southside marina to get to the Caicos Marina unless they also needed repairs that Southside couldn't handle. They're sailing along downwind on a light air day with a partially furled headsail. So we figure they are being real prudently tentative about our cornucopia of coral, but they like to sail rather than run the motor. It's also possible that this is a boat normally stored at the boatyard and it has just been launched and we never saw that sail before.

See what a fun game we have built into living on this spot here? "Guess the Boat" and no batteries required.

Oh, before I forget, I wanted to ask for opinions on this hunk of wood La Gringa (and Dooley the Detective) found on the beach. After she told me about it, we went down in the small Defender and picked it up. I don't know what kind of wood it is. It's very dense, but obviously it floats or it wouldn't be here.

I was thinking of bolting it to the wall above the door and just using it as a shelf. Or I could run it through a saw and end up with some interesting grained planks to work with.

That's pretty much cleaned our my little stash of un-associated photos from the past few weeks. I tried to keep our boating out of this post, just to give y'all a break from the same old 'wet-dog-gazing-at-thunderstorm photos.

But before we close out this post, there is one little video that was taken from our boat. We were headed over to Pine Cay one day recently in the skiff when we spotted a large group of 8 Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphin cruising around in relatively shallow water inside the sand bars at the mouth of Pine Cay cut. We have seen a very definite interaction between the dog and dolphin before. He acts completely differently around dolphin than he does for cold blooded fish. When Dooley sees a fish, he just wants to bite it. Without exception, and no matter how big the fish is. He'll bite a Barracuda just as quickly as he will a Pilchard (that's like a sardine except not in a can surrounded in olive oil or tomato sauce).

But when we encounter Dolphin, Dooley always seems to get into some kind of discussion with them. His ears perk up, and the Dolphin usually head right over to the boat. In this case, the big group of Dolphin we initially spotted broke into two groups of four. . One group held back while the younger crowd came right over to the boat and were obviously very interested in the dog. I didn't think to start the camera until well into it, but they were still talking to Dooley when I started this. One of them was rolling belly up, and I was (excitedly forgetting my self) pointing at it in the video. Maybe he just wanted a scratch. Who knows what Dooley told him?

We had drifted almost over the sand bar, and I had the boat in reverse to pull us back into deeper water. After we were back in deeper water, the dog kept whining and the four dolphin came back yet again. This was the third time they approached the boat. Finally, when the first four dolphin moved off for the final time, the the second, standoffish group came over to see what we were doing, with one of them swimming under the boat. Then they joined the first group. The second group seemed more interested in just checking us out and then moving on. They didn't pay much attention to Dooley, but of course they had probably heard all of the original conversations. Or maybe they were just 'cat people'.

(music is “Stairway to Heaven” by Rodrigo y Gabriela)

That's pretty much the end of this post. I just need a sunset to close it up. I was out washing the boat off one afternoon when I looked up and was convinced we had the makings for a great sunset from that angle. So I got my camera all ready.... and blah. Nothing colorful at all. It looks more like a morning-after photo or something. But I put so much time in to waiting for this to turn into a good sunset I am going to post it anyhow. Another photo never to be seen again:

And that clears the old buffer out and lets me finish with one of La Gringa's nicer sunsets. As usual. Same view, different day:

And please, friends and neighbors, keep those emails and comments coming. It's good to know that someone out there is reading some of this. Otherwise, we would stop doing it.

Hey did you notice not one word about DIY in this post? Awwww.... I just went and ruined that. Okay, then, not two words about it...


Anonymous said...

I appreciate every blog post! Love TCI, love reading about your life and doings on my favourite island.

JAS said...

Loved the dolphin story.

Emily said...

Great post, great photos, but...I can't see the dolphin video (using Chrome). Just a white space where it should be. I'm crying! :-(

Jan O said...

Hi Gringo and La Gringa...greetings from Newman Western Australia again. As usual your posts are something to be looked forward to and each time I get the email alert I head immediately to read the latest adventures. Not dissapointed this time ...the dolphin movie was great and I would give my left whatsit to have seen Dooley the Dolphin watcher in action!!! I too love mysterious bits of wood..I reckon you SHOULD cut it to see the grain...might make a neat wall hanging or part of a great table...the centre piece...can you imagine the talking point...explaining where it came from or inviting speculation as to its' origins? Keep up the great posts, Regards, Jan O

Kate said...

I think I've been reading since before we lived (the life) in St. Thomas for 9 months, and now that we're stuck in pittsburgh for a bit, you're posts remind me of what we left and what i have to work on convincing my husband to return to someday. lots of the world left to see until then, though! keep the posts coming, please!
ps. the dolphin video = amazing!

Laura said...

Im always reading and always looking fwd to the new photos.....I SO love the clear blue water.......and adored the dolphin video. I have always felt somehow "spirtual" when I've seen them in person........


Joy said...

I, too, appreciate and enjoy every post- including DIY. This was a great post, too- so many beautiful pictures. Those big motor yachts are neat to look at, but I'm with you- would love a nice sailboat.
And that's interesting that Dooley can distinguish between a fish and a mammal. Dolphins are cool creatures (as is Dooley!).
We're flying in tomorrow, do you think we should be worrying about the weather? We don't usually... but hoping this rain doesn't keep up!

Anonymous said...

Wow- the dolphins are just amazing. I can't wait till we are down there too. Only a few more short months until we invade for good!! Hope I have a close encounter of the dolphin kind when we get there. Thanks for making life more interesting in the meantime!!!

sevenfreckles said...

I love your blog !!!!! We are coming to Provo in Feb 2012. Every time I read your blog and see the pictures I get so excited !!!!! Thanks for the pictures and keep up this amazing blog !!!! Thank you !!!!

sevenfreckles said...

I love your blog so much !!!! We are coming to Provo Feb 2012 and we can't wait. We love reading your blog and looking at all the pictures !!!! Thank you so much !!! Keep up the good work :) !!!

Anonymous said...

Thank you all for the great comments. It really helps to know people are actually out there reading this stuff. We would take the photos anyhow, but without an audience, I doubt we would upload them.

The weather has been really rainy these past few days. That happens from time to time this season of the year. We can get some pretty dramatic weather. In fact, we got some on Saturday. And we were right out in the middle of it. I'll post some photos in the next day or so.

Anonymous said...

Wonderful post, as always. The dolphin video was really fun; would have loved to hear Dooley the Dolphin-whisperer communicating with them.

BTW, keep the blog coming...we've been loyal fans for years. I always skim the DIY stuff but my husband enjoys that, so it's all good.

That drift wood? I'd get some air plants and put them in then hang it over your entrance.


Anonymous said...

Please don't stop posting! I check on you all often and it is always an enjoyable read! Even the diy.
Thanks for sharing!!

Robin said...

It's always a great day when I get to work and see a notification that you have a new blog entry. I found your blog after our visit to Provo in October and I've been reading it ever since. I'm a huge Dooley fan and I love seeing all your photos.

Anonymous said...

Another fan who appreciates the photo and stories.

NatGeoWannaBe said...

Love the TCI. Wife and I went there for our honeymoon in October of 2005. Club Med was nice (beat the heck out of a rainy week in Maine) - but your blog gives me even better ideas for getting a "real" taste of TCI when we return.

satbeachbill said...

Keep it coming. I look forward to every entry and love the pictures.

Joe C said...

'chillin flexing their mussels'!!

Hysterical! Ya cant get that on an internet forum!

Keep up the awesome work. I check every day to see if I am lucky enough to read one of yer posts. Been reading since day 1. I would love to travel to TCI one day.

'2 gringos' is the best blog on the web. BTW, the pics are fascinating. Keep it up, faithfull reader here in JAX

lwhit01 said...

Y'all make me laugh...and feed my obsession of one day living on "the islands". I have never been but feel like I'm there when I look at your pics. Thank you for sharing.