Sunday, October 2, 2011

Looking for Maravedi

In Which Two Point One Five Expats Sail Their
Plastic Boat Around in Splendid Weather.
A Quick Visual Survey of Some of The Far Side of West Caicos.
Some Fabled Coves are Located. A Small Dog Is Lightly Punctured.

La Gringa managed to spot a couple of early rising conch fishermen headed into the morning sun.

We seem to be spending a lot of time over at West Caicos this summer. There are some perfectly good reasons for that. The island is essentially uninhabited. It's miles of peaceful, quiet beach. We have the whole thing to ourselves, or it feels that way. We have very rarely seen anyone else on the beach there. And this big deserted beach, to a pack rat like me, is the equivalent of a shoe store to Imelda Marcos. It's high tide line is rich in a variety of interesting objects. There are things on this beach that have drifted across the Atlantic Ocean, and up from the Caribbean, and over from the Gulf of Mexico. When we once mentioned to our friend Preacher where we had been exploring, he referred to it as "Flea Market Beach". Good name. I like it better than "Trash Beach".

West Caicos is also fairly close to us. At it's nearest point to Providenciales it's only about six miles across open water to get there. Now, for us to get to that nearest point on Providenciales is a mini-expedition in itself, as we've shown you a number of times. Now that we have the little skiff, when the winds and seas are right we can launch it from the canal near the Southside Marina and it's an easy 15 mile trip over.

We need a light or westerly wind for a comfortable round trip by skiff. When we have our normal easterly trade wind situation, it's a bit bumpy coming back in a small power boat but the same winds that make the skiff ride uncomfortable make for great kayak sailing. And that's what this post is about.

Launching the boat from the, uh.... let's call it "unimproved" boat ramp over near Osprey Rock. I found it only moderately strenuous and relatively simple to just unhitch the boat and trailer and roll it down to the water by hand. I didn't have to back the trailer around that bush to the right, and I like to avoid getting the truck wheels near the ocean. Besides it's an easy push when it's downhill.

I've been thinking about getting some wider tires for this trailer. This is a far shot from the paved freeways of the USA. I think golf cart tires are too squared off but I'm sure there are some balloon tires for 8 x 3.75" wheels some place.

We put the GoPro Hero camera up on the top of the Hobie Tandem Island mast again. This time I had the open back cover on the case for it, and we used it in time lapse mode. This let us get through about two hours of images without fogging up. It's all in a video at the end of the post. I have pulled a few images out to use as still shots, too. While the photo quality is not as good, the view from the top of the 18 ft. mast adds some perspective.

I am not even going to show you yet more photos of Osprey Rock. Anyone who reads us on a regular basis knows all about it. The sail over was great, with wind and waves cooperating for once. When I remember our only previous sail to West Caicos in the inflatable kayak two years ago, there is no comparison to this boat.

You can see from the video that it wasn't exactly smooth water, although it was moving in our favor. La Gringa spliced a second video onto this that shows the change in the water as we approach the island. You can also see Dooley exercising his nose as we suddenly sail into the collection of scents blowing from the island. Getting downwind of a new place is like opening a travel brochure to him. Complete with a menu.

We didn't hit the beach on the trip over. I had a specific destination in mind and wanted to be sure we got at least that far before we had to turn around to start home. We knew that we would have a slower trip into the wind and waves to get back home.

The spot I was looking for is a place I have wanted to see since first reading about the Maravedi coin some years ago on a visit to the Turks and Caicos. In a nutshell, over 20 years ago a diver was relaxing in a small pool next to a cove on the far side of West Caicos when he picked up a bit of metal that was in the bottom of the little pool. It turned out to be a coin that might well have been sitting there on that rock for hundreds of years. Imagine some pirate relaxing by that pool, maybe taking this opportunity to wash some clothes in a fresh rain water pool, and go for a swim... and losing a small coin. Or imagine a confrontation at a secluded rendezvous, and somehow money getting spilled in the process. I mean, it's not very likely that a tourist, conch fisherman, or diver left a coin from the early 16th century here. Of course my imagination runs wild with it, as some imaginations are fain to do.

If you'd like to read part of that story, one version is at the Turks and Caicos Museum site.

On the way over we pretty much steered for the easily seen structures of the former Ritz-Carleton Molasses Reef Resort. They're good as a landmark. (And I want you to notice I spared you the 'clouds over the islands' dissertation this time around.)

It's difficult to see much of the condition of the condo section from this far out. I would imagine that someone, somewhere is paying to keep some security and basic maintenance going on over here. Until such time as the future of this big money development becomes clear.

I found a brochure online, to give you an idea of what this was intended to be. It's a Molasses Reef resort newsletter from just six years ago.

We could see that the buildings are standing, and the roofs appear to still be sound.

We know that there is a boat bringing some workers over every morning from Southside Marina these days, so perhaps there is some good news for the people who initially invested in this project. The last financing was secured through Lehman Brothers Holdings, if that tells you anything. But it looks to me like someone could pretty much pick up where they left off on the construction, after cleaning this place up. Of course there should be some damage somewhere. Three hurricanes have been through here since then. And these were probably the closest structures to the middle of Hurricane Irene when it came by in August.

We continued on up the little channel alongside the island to the site of the marina that was built for the resort. It's nice to see that the buoys are still in place after the storms. Here we pass one red buoy to the right and you can see the next one off in the distance ahead:

We scooted on up to the series of coves right past the entrance to the marina. It's not hard to see that these are likely spots for the Maravedi Cove story.

I haven't been able to find out much more about the Maravedi, beyond what Dr. Don Keith wrote in the article I linked to earlier. We know Don, and I'll ask him about it at the next opportunity. But I am pretty sure it was one of these coves, and that it's been checked out pretty thoroughly since it was realized that Mike Spillar found a coin here. It seems to me that the Turks and Caicos Islands have rarely had a shortage of either pirates or treasure hunters.

There are some fun looking caves to explore with snorkeling equipment.

This is one of the coves with a slight cave or overhang at the far end of it.

We followed the coastline in and out of several of the coves. I didn't take a huge number of still photos because I was assuming that the mast mounted GoPro camera was getting a lot of it from a better height.

One has to have faith in a GoPro type camera, left alone eighteen feet in the air all day. There's really not a good way to make sure it's working until it can be hooked up to a display. I pulled one of the still images off of the GoPro to show you what this part of the shore looks like 'from the air'. Well, maybe a 'seagull's eye view' would be more accurate.

I'm sure that somewhere in all these two hundred and fifty plus posts in this blog I have mentioned coral heads. What, a dozen times? And I am sure I have mentioned that we've learned to watch the brightly colored ones the most. Here's an example of a shallow coral head with bright colors on it. These colors are from organisms that like the sunlight and do best within a few feet of the water surface. The brightly colored coral heads are the one's that will really get ya.

Another place to mentally file under 'spots I would love to come back to and spend hours exploring but probably never will':

We were sailing closer to the beach on the way back. We knew we would be picking up the chop on our nose when we cleared the end of the island so we maximized the time spent cruising in the calm water up close to the beach.

As we came back by the resort much closer than before we did spot some signs of storm damage:

This is the view from the mouth of the marina looking into it. No boats to be seen. We did not see any people, either, but would assume that there are some security guards as a minimum.

That could be a peaceful job for a while, couldn't it. Boat to work in the morning, or at dusk. Spend a shift alone on a deserted island, with nothing around but sea birds, iguanas, and marine life.

I don't know the layout of the resort but would assume this is the main entrance to the clubhouse or condo central section. It looked to me to be open to the weather. That's not always a good thing around here. This climate looks easy and benign the way hydrocloric acid looks like clear water.

This photo didn't come out very well because it was hurried and the boat was moving and then I am officially out of lousy photo excuses. I meant to show you a big flock of birds. They were following a school of bait fish.

What I failed to capture there was that the bait fish must have been following the edge of the shadow on the water from the cloud overhead. I say this because the birds were staying over the quickly moving fish, and their white wings were flashing in and out of the sunlight and shadow of the cloud. It was visually eye catching. Unfortunately, it wasn't photographically eye catching. Oh well. It's a picture of some birds. If we had been in a power boat and set up for fishing, we would have been all over that.

We all wanted to stretch our legs a bit before heading back across to Providenciales. We knew it could take us up to two hours. We had already been sitting in the Hobie for over two hours at this point. This was a mid-trip rest stop, more or less. I had seen some things washed up on the beach and Dooley was in search of a fire hydrant or the functional equivalent. His standards had been dropping by the minute and I wanted to let him off the boat before he started looking at the mast with evil intentions.

If any of you are Tom Hanks fans, you might appreciate the laughs we got when I found an inflated ball on the beach. One of these by the same manufacturer became the character "Wilson" in the movie "Castaway".

There. That's more like it.

Please notice Dooley the Delinquent scurrying around the vegetation in some of these photos. You might also notice we tend to stay on the sand. There's a reason for this. I'll get to that in a minute.

Of course this beach, like just about any beach on earth now, has it's share of plastic water bottles and yes, shoes. Always, there are shoes.

We had stopped at what looks like a small cove on the charts and satellite images of West Caicos. This is the same place we stopped on our only other sailing trip when I had to find some shoe laces to repair the Mirage Drives. This was the maximum extent of our earlier trip.

I was looking at the beach between this rocky little outcropping (above) and where the rock ledge came back to the water's edge just past where the boat is anchored here:

I have an idea that this area might, at some time, have been a good sized cove. I pulled some of the still photos from the GoPro to give you an idea of what I am thinking. I drew a dotted line of where the little limestone ledge comes down to the sand.

This is from the top of the mast of the sailboat in the photo up above. You can tell that there is a different, more permanent type of vegetation above the rock line. And the ledge extends all the way around in a curve to that rocky outcropping in another of the above photos.

Here's a closer shot from the mast-cam taken as we were sailing in, before we anchored:

Anyhow, that's neither here nor there, but makes me wonder about how the moving sands around here affect the accuracy of some of the charts, and even Google Earth images that are online. I mention it, because the actual shape of this spot where we anchored looks nothing like that satellite image from 2004.

And I had mentioned Dooley and his cavorting around the vegetation. Well, now I can tell you the price he paid. After about thirty seconds of chasing lizards through the edge of the plant life, we had a whimpering, limping, Dooley the Debilitated doing his best to look like a pitiful dog in need. So I got to sit down with him and pick aproximately twenty 'sand spurs' out of him. He gets the easy ones out of his feet by himself, but runs into problems with the ones under his armpits or anywhere else he can't reach. La Gringa grabbed the camera just as I was finishing up, dropping the nature's caltrops I extracted into the current going away from us.

Now that I think about it, this is the exact same spot I was sitting in to drill holes in the Mirage Drives to limp home on two years ago. The camera was in time to catch one of the last ones.

Thank goodness his sticker-proof vest caught that one.

The sail back was about what we expected. Much longer trip on a close reach. The wind was okay and the chop wasn't too bad. Just enough to keep a certain grass burr magnet from his afternoon nap:

Getting back is easy, and fun if you like sailing. Hauling the boat back up the 'boat ramp' is a little tougher than letting it roll down to launch it. We rolled the trailer down into the water, over the rocks, by hand, got the boat onto it, and then pulled it up the beach as far as we could. I backed the Defender up to the hookkup and away we went. Sounds simple doesn't it.

At least one of us was more than ready for a restful ride in the cool shade.

And I've saved the best for last. This is another of La Gringa's time lapse video compilations of all the still shots from the GoPro camera. This catches most of the trip, from the initial launch all the way to the coves and back to the last point of land before we left West Caicos on the way back. The camera ran out of battery at that point. But what we have is pretty good, in its way. It's a much better view than we got from the water. She sped things up a lot when we were sailing over the big stretch of open water, but I think it gets interesting to watch the bottom conditions change as we tack back and forth up the side of the island. Let us know what you think. This seems to be a good use for the GoPro.

By the way, any time you want to stop that video and look at a specific frame, you should be able to do it with the normal pause control.

And that's going to be it for this post. Our interest in West Caicos continues. There is a fair bit of history there, and a lot of it is still relatively undisturbed. There is a hundred year old abandoned steam engine I want to see. So far I figure we have explored maybe ten percent of the beach. And there has to be a 'fresh shipment' of flotsam since the hurricane.

I've also been reading that West Caicos has some unusual geology for the area, and that the south west side has an exposed fossil reef. To us that's all worth investigating. The hurricane season is also the time of year when we get these calm seas for days at a time. It's the best time of year to anchor off a lee shore like "Flea Market Beach". In a few months it will be continuously rough water there.

I think I want to make a few more 'shopping trips' with the family wagon (skiff) while the weather is good.

In the meantime, I think this is one of the most interesting sunset photos La Gringa Suprema has taken lately:

and the sun is creeping further to the south every day again. Won't be long until cruiser season is upon us. "Oh great" I hear you saying... "More boats. Somebody stop him."


laki said...

thanks for another great post! i found your blog when i was researching the TI a while back. i bought myself one about a month ago (it's a great boat tho i'm still getting the hang of sailing). i'm in sydney, australia, so quite a different kayaking/sailing environment down here!

Jan O said...

Oh that time lapse video is sooo cool! Thanks again for a great read...I have been unable to go online for a month and had withdrawals!! Cheers from Newman WA

Caitlyn said...

Oh great! More boats!! (You can never have enough boats) & I love when you do time lapse stuff. So neat to see.

Do you think you could post some video with the natural sounds left in, at some point? (i.e. no music) I love the sound of the water on a saiboat, or the sound of the waves etc...

In other news, keep your fingers crossed for us. TCInvest is reviewing our business license application this week, and we're hoping for good news. We had wanted to be there by now already, but no such luck. We could use any good vibes you can spare us!

Anonymous said...

Polly has been wanting to do the same thing: get some waves lapping on the shore sounds on a video. We've found that in almost every case the raw audio is pretty useless because of wind noise. The little mics on the point and shoot cameras are not that good in the wind. So she started adding the music, since it was better than silence and LOTS better than a minute of wind noise. And the wind noise is usually pretty high on the boats, too.

We just recently sailed around the tip of Little Water Cay in a very light wind, and she tried again to get some wave noise video as we got really close to the rock ledges there. We haven't even looked at the videos yet, but maybe there's some sea noise. Another way to get it would be to set the camera on a tripod at the water's edge in a quiet spot.

The cameras are also set up not to record audio, normally. I found out that by turning the audio, flash, and instant review functions off I could extend battery life a lot further into the day. We take a lot more photos than we use here. I try to self-curtail and coast to a stop when a blog post gets up over a couple dozen photos.

We could probably post a hundred photos. We had three cameras on this trip, for example. But we don't go into every little detail of these excursions. We might spend fifteen minutes taking photos of rusty driftwood nails, or a bottle, shell, bug...that we don't put in the blog.
If we put it all in, it would take even longer to load.

It's about moderation. self restraint. Altruism.

Anonymous said...

I forgot to mention, we did drive over to look at what I think is your friends house. on concrete pilings along the salina. We really appreciate that design. If you look across the salina there is a larger version of it over there, and another on the Long Bay canal. If we were to build another house here, it would probably be a larger version of that. With some modifications I have in mind.
I took a photo of the house. Maybe I should do a post with bits and pieces of all these photos we take and never use because they are not part of a story.

Bunny said...

It's Elizabeth, again. We met at the Tiki Hut. My husband, Larry was with me. Please contact me on my email, if you could,

Anonymous said...

Man..West is really pretty...
Looks like a great spot for a day trip like you took...

If Mollases Reef comes back to life maybe they'll do it the right way...You know that line from the Eagles song 'call some place beautiful & kiss it good-by'......

Really liked the videos, especially the firsy one & the 'tunage' that went with it.
Good stuff as always / thanks.

Anonymous said...

Hello NC,
We've already made a skiff trip back to West since the Hobie trip. We found there is an apparently almost intact Haitian sloop sitting on the beach. We plan to go back on the next calm day and get some close up photos of it.

Hi Bunny,
Happy to email you. And by the way, anyone who wants to email us instead of having comments appear here: there is a link about six lines of text up from the very bottom of the blog, Right under the "Older Posts" link, where it says:

RumShopRyan said...

Another great post guys! Thanks for taking us on your adventures.


Anonymous said...

So look foward to all your posts. we'll be back to north in 137 days...not that we're counting or anything.....

Bud Toole said...

Hello 2-Gringos, Enjoy your explorations as usual.Alot to see/sea and learn about this beautiful setting, Bud

Anonymous said...

Thanks for all the nice comments. We're glad you liked the photos.

lipadier said...

Wow, stumbled over your blog while googling for catamaran pics. I started at the beginning and have been reading your entire blog during the last week. I now know the TCI like my backyeard, and I never heard of them before.

This was like a good book.

lipadier, Switzerland

Anonymous said...

Hello Lipadier,
Thank you for the nice comment. I think you might be our first reader from Switzerland.

We're glad you liked the blog. I can't imagine reading all of it from one end to the other. I haven't even read them all myself!

If you have any questions about catamarans that we could help you with, we've been investigating them for some years now.