Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The Marina, Pine Cay part 3

If you've navigated yourself  around in this blog very much you  know that we like to start out each post with a good sunrise image if we can.  It's not a sure thing that we'll even have a fresh one to show you when we publish a post.  Sometimes we get a string of overcast cloudy days, and that pretty much puts a damper on the sunrises.  And the opposite is true, as well.   Clear skies make for boring sunrises.  We need just the right combination of clouds.  And of course we have to be conscious at dawn, with a camera in hand.  Recently we've been experimenting with time lapse photography as a way of trying to liven this blog up a little. This is a recent one, taken before I got all of the kinks worked out on our new DIY camera slide:

I'm starting to think that I prefer my sunrises with the time lapse animation.  That was taken with a GoPro set to take a photo every five seconds.  I wanted to slip that in early, before I go back to my other latest obsession du jour, the aerial photos.   Please tell me if and when this starts feeling like being forced to watch old vacation movies. And now back to our story...

The time to leave finally arrived. We didn't want to trade Pine Cay for Providenciales.  We never do. No matter whether we stay for two days or two weeks, it always feels like we just need one more day.   And then we'll be ready to go. For some reason tomorrow always seems like the best day to leave Pine Cay.

We did accomplish most of what we intended to do on this trip. We spent some time at  Meridian Club catching up with long time friends on the staff.   We managed to get a little beach walking in, although one of us was tied to a kite for most of it. And we drove around in an electric cart looking for excuses to take photos. This visit was pretty kite intensive, and I guess that's to be expected. Our first outing with a new technique.  I know I was excited about finding another  way to improve this blog.   And now we've learned a lot about hanging cameras from kites. We plan to blend aerial images into the blog  from time to time. We don't intend for it to turn into something about kites.  So I guess I'm saying my immediate obsession with learning the technique has settled back down to a comfortable idle. Attention spans will wax and wane and toys will come and go.  Our photographs are just for laughs while finding things to know. Our cameras ride on air and tide, we seek new ways to do it. And with that bit of worthless...... wit, I think I'll get back to it.

I called this post "The Marina" but that's mostly because it sort of fits in with the previous two posts.  We took the kite from one end of this little 800 acre island to the other, literally. Did you know that New York City's Central Park is just slightly bigger than Pine Cay?  I don't think the views of the two locations have much in common, though.  Looking outward in any direction from Pine Cay will give you a view worthy of a photo. We were at the marina looking across to the north where you can  sneak a flats boat in at high tide. That's got to be an interesting  spot to anyone interested in going after bonefish.

We wanted to try to get some aerial photos of the little Pine Cay marina  and I was searching for a spot to put the kite up.  We're finding that there are different tricks involved in getting the images we want.  There's a lot of info on the internet if you search out KAP or Kite Aerial Photography.  And it does get a little more complicated than some other techniques.  Factors include the angle  and orientation of the camera on the pendulum rig (that's what the KAP people call it; a pendulum rig), the height of the kite, the wind direction, the cloud cover and the position of the sun.  Even the time of day has a bearing on how this all works.  I've seen some great images taken when the sun was low and accentuating the shadows of things like bicycles. For the kinds of images we were trying to get on Pine Cay we thought the mid day sun would be best. Still experimenting seems to be a recurring phrase in our life down here. I decided to try putting the kite up from the most upwind dock I could  get to.   There's really not a lot of choices out here, anyhow.  There are only two docks.  See that bracket in the corner holding the floating T-dock to the end?  I thought that intersection looked like a good spot.

This is what it looks like to the GoPro camera as I rig up the kite stuff. Notice the difference in color saturation?  The photo above is very close to the actual colors.  This next one is not nearly blue enough.  I typically don't take time to try to tune, twist or tweak the turquoise. Being somewhat chromatically challenged (color blind) I've learned not to mess around with colors.  What looks good to me can look pretty garish to an average viewer.  So usually I just crop  the photos around the subject and maybe see if the contrast and sharpness can be improved.  Sometimes I play with noise and jitter reducing settings, but if it doesn't make an appreciable difference I try to minimize how much processing gets applied.  I've found it to very much be camera specific.  And I've found that despite  some camera marketing hype, the number of megapixels in the sensor is not always the determining factor for the photo quality.  With the little ruggedized pocket point-and-shoot cameras we mostly use, it's all about lens size, quality, and available light.

As the angles change the camera does start picking the actual color up a little better. I haven't yet worked out why the colors on some GoPro images are truer than on others.   The cleats on this dock make for a very nice place to secure a kite line.  As you can see, it frees up both of my shadow's hands to work on the camera mount's shadow.  And before you make fun of my pedicure, I want to say that I'm doing pretty good here with toenails lately.  I've had a full set for most of the past year or so.  I was down to around 6.7 at one time.  Wearing shoes seems to help.

I tweaked the dangle to an angle that I thought might work. I pay out string and play this thing and watch it twist and jerk. The GoPro blinks and lets me think I've maybe got it right.  It's lots of fun, the camera runs while I just fly the kite.

La Gringa is under that straw hat in this next photo.  Dooley the Devious is in the shade of La Gringa and the straw hat. Clever. He's picked up a few tricks from talking to the local potcakes, I think. They live for shade. I'm  the guy with his back to end of the dock, at the very bottom of his string.  Sounds kinda ominous written like that, doesn't it?

If you looked at the photo of the kite above my shoulder in the previous post you could probably tell that this thing pulls almost straight up sometimes. You can see the shadow of it on the dock in this photo, too.  The wind was from my back, coming over the water.  I discovered that this boundary where it hits structures again makes it unstable.  I think the best way to get these aerials will  prove be from a boat a few hundred feet upwind.  We'll give that a try when we come back with the new camera.  Just when we thought we had it all figured out, we realized that some of the images we want can only be taken from a boat.  But that's okay.  We're going to have some fun with that.   Meanwhile, I'll show you some of what we got while still learning the ins and outs of rookie mistakes.

In this next one you can maybe see La Gringa over on the next dock, talking to Preacher before he took off in his boat, Cay Lime. I was busy letting string out and using the cleat to control it.

Every now and then the camera gets a lucky shot where the horizon bisects the lens horizontally and minimizes  the wide angle fisheye distortion.  I took one of those and corrected it to make the horizon flat.  I also tried my hand at letting the photo software choose the saturation for the colors.  How does that look?

This next one was taken a few seconds later.  You can still see Preacher's boat in the distance as he headed back to Providenciales.  This  one is uncorrected for either fish-eye effect or color saturation. 

This is just more of the same.  I'm uploading a few more of these images than I normally would have because we've heard from a number of people who are interested in the aerials.  This one gets a big more of a look at the shoreline.

With the camera taking another shot every five seconds, we ended up with hundreds of  photos like these. We brought the kite back down twice to change the angle of the camera.  I think we're finally starting to get the hang of it, yuk yuk.

Preacher came back to pick us up for the trip home.  Sometimes, the next best thing  to having a boat in the water is to have a friend with a boat in the water.  In some regards it might even be better. Preacher's usually up for a boat trip, too, which really works out well. The Meridian Club runs boats back and forth to Leeward several times a day, and we could have gotten a ride back with them.  But we'd rather ride with Preacher.  This way, if we happen to see something interesting along the way we know we can go over and take a look.   This is looking out toward Grouper Hole as we left the marina on the way back to Providenciales.  That open water to the right is the dangerous little illusion called Devil's Cut.

This is the same view, a little closer.   And without the back of Preacher's head in the way.  I stuck the camera under the canvas.

This is with the camera pointed directly at Devil's Cut.   I can see how someone might think they could zip right through that gap at high tide.   High tide hides the rocks from view until you get right up close.  We posted a pretty good photo taken right at Devil's Cut early in this blog. If you want to see what those rocks look like from close up, please check out the third photo in this post.

The safe way out of here is the path to the left, over what's called Grouper Hole.  It's a deep spot where the tidal current has scoured the sand right down to exposed rock.  We lost quite a bit of fishing tackle there until we finally smartened up and realized we could only fish it at slack tide. After clearing the small cay this is the view looking back at Devil's Cut and Pine Cay in the distance.  It was one of those times when we wanted to just turn the boat around and go back. There are more photos of this area and a mid winter cookout Preacher did for us at another post called Just One of Those Days.

Most of you probably already know this, but if you click on these photos you'll typically see a better version with more detail. And Esc returns to this version.  I hope.

I know that you've already read about the thrill of riding with Preacher when he's showing off what he can do in a boat. If this post is the first you've read you might not know about it.  I get these urges in my head to tell you Preacher stories.  He's accumulated a lot of them growing up here over the past 65 years.

He's quite well known for lots of things with driving boats the best one. For time and time again he's shown ability to test one. You already knew that's what this was about, right?  I'll not say anything more about it this time around. I know you can see the photo, tell who's driving, and fill in the rest of the narrative yourself by now.

While we were zipping along home I couldn't help but notice how much has changed with this boat since Hurricane Hanna remodeled it.  It's been simplified back to a boat's basic components.  Those holes used to be for the ignition key, microphone holder, jack plate switch, and trim tab control.  I thought we needed all that stuff.  Preacher doesn't seem to need any of it.  The boat does just fine without it.  The boat is hundreds of pounds lighter, and runs a lot faster and shallower.   Interesting things to think about, should we ever be tempted to load another boat up with a lot of gadgets.  For example, when we owned this boat we had a salt water washdown pump. With a hose, and nozzle, and valve.  And wiring, and a circuit breaker.  And shock mounts, and hose clamps.   Preacher?  He's got a plastic bucket with a piece of line on it..  Works just as well, and never fails.  The local guys here tend to put their money into the engine, and don't worry so much about things like extra electronics.   They don't need depth sounders and GPS chart plotters to know where they are....

Hey, did I ever tell you about using clouds to find islands?  Okay, let me explain it to you.....

Calm down, I'm kidding! But I did find a photo from this very trip that has the clouds, a small island, shallow water, and a squall all in one view.  And that's all I'm going to say about any of that.   In this post, anyhow. I bet you're thankful that I'm willing to accept the concept of  a picture being worth a thousand words right about now.

We scooted  into Leeward Going Through without much delay, and went past Sherlock Walkin's  marina at a distance.

This is another example of a business that has never completely recovered from the one-two storm punch of Hanna and Ike. It's moved on, but it's not the same as it was before September of '08.  Seems to be a common thread around here.

We noticed a nice little motor yacht tied up in Leeward.  I don't know if you can make out the name on the side, but it's the M/Y Milk and Honey.  Sweet looking boat. I looked it up and find that it's available for charter. That's a totally academic observation, by the way.  We couldn't pick up a day's fuel bill for this puppy.  Did you ever wonder what the inside of one of these boats looks like?  Check it out.

Preacher is now keeping Cay Lime tied up at Frederick's new place on the canal in Leeward.  This means we get a little tour of the canals every time we go for a ride with him.  I was wondering what  our old boat Twisted Sheets would look like snugged up to one of these docks.  On the way to Freddie's place we spotted a similar sized catamaran tied up in just such a situation.  Looks to me like Twisted Sheets would fit in here just fine. There are times when we wonder if we shouldn't have built on a canal instead of a hillside.  They each have definite advantages, and challenges.  And the water always looks bluer on the other side of the island..

We made it back to Freddie's without any complications.  We climbed off the bow onto the rocks, and after we unloaded all our  luggage, kites, dog, and stuff from the Pine Cay weekend, he tossed an anchor off the stern and left the boat in a Med mooring kind of setup. Easy to do with no current or wind trying to complicate life.

That photo is going to be the end of my report on our latest Pine Cay visit.  We felt that we needed a break, and it was a great opportunity to experiment with the kites and cameras. I learned enough about what works and what doesn't to make some changes in the aerial photo setup.  I've already built a new reel although we haven't had an opportunity to try it out yet.   The weather is going through this seasonal change thing it typically does this time of year.   We move from the dry windy part of the winter into the  spring and summer growing season. .   We start seeing a lot more birds, for example, as several species come to the islands to nest this time of year.  And we see a lot more clouds and thunderstorms moving through.  This should work well for our attempts at getting sunrise and sunset photos.  Clouds are a valuable ingredient for photogenic sunsets.

And  the warming ocean and unsettled weather typically generate some real humdingers when it comes to electrical storms. I haven't managed to get any great lightning photos yet, but we continue to look for opportunities.  It's been difficult to get the camera, the weather, and the light to all cooperate.   We were sitting outside having a meal just a few nights ago during another power outage.  We were treated to a great lightning storm practically overhead.   I wasn't able to get a useful photo of lightning.  By the time I see the flash and push the shutter button, it's too late.  Man, that stuff is fast, isn't it?

I tried for awhile, but finally gave up.  I did manage to get a photo of Dooley the Deranged, who was also out with us enjoying the electrical storm.   Although I don't know how much of it he actually saw from under La Gringa's chair.   He probably didn't even notice the lightning and thunder.

That dog takes on a whole new lack of personality when he hears thunder.  He'll even wake up shaking and shivering if I quietly read something about a storm. I'm not too sure I like him standing under the chair like that. What if he actually knows something??

We like to end these posts with a nice sunset photo when we have one.  I started this one out talking about sunrises and time lapse, and I mentioned this slide contraption I've been tinkering with.  And I think I finally got it working.  It has a six speed Tamiya gearbox, and I made a drive shaft with three different diameters to wind up a string at different speeds.  So I guess I can say it's set up more or less like an 18 speed bicycle.

We haven't been blessed with any really stupendous sunsets since I got it working smoothly.  And smoothly is the operative term here. I went through several prototypes. But I think it's finally there.   The sunsets I've tried it with haven't been all that colorful for the past two days, so I thought I'd substitute a sunrise time lapse with slide as the best result I've gotten so far. I think we're improving.

If you really, really wanted a sunset instead of a sunrise here at the end, there might be some way to play it backwards.   But I'll leave that to you application geeks to figure out.  I just do hardware.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

The Aquarium, Pine Cay Part 2

There's nothing I can say that will improve upon  the images we've been lucky enough to record here.  The trick is to know when to shut up and not try. Looks like I still can't do that, either.

This is the second part of our latest Pine Cay trip report.  We've done so many posts about Pine Cay that I hesitate to keep explaining the details.  If you're new to all this Turks and Caicos stuff, please look at the list of topics over in the right side column listing for older posts.   I'm going to try something new for this blog. Our new "kite-cam' capability  gives us a way to easily label some of these places where we're taking all these photos..  Please let me know what you think.  Does this help make sense of it all?

I can put little numbers on that aerial image and reference it all together.  It reminds me of  a science project with the rest of the class doing the grading. I guess the upside of that is being reminded of  what it was like to be 16 with homework assignments again.  If that's an upside.  La Gringa would probably tell you that I act like a juvenile most of the time, anyhow.  And I'd have to plead guilty, as charged.

"But it took years of effort to become the mess that you see." (John Fogarty, "Rattlesnake Highway")

It's a nice walk through the sandy bush trails of Pine Cay but  we took a golf cart over to the Aquarium. We had kites and spools of string and camera stuff to carry. None of it heavy, but all of it a bit awkward when not suspended as the wind  intended. That's sort of true of flying things in general, isn't it. They're graceful in their element, but mostly look pretty awkward when moving around on the ground.

This trail is obscured by trees in that photo from the kite, but I marked its location as [1]. We went to the end, and then came back and turned south to the little beach.   That white rectangle is the top of the golf cart. This is the drier, lee side of this island microclimate, and the vegetation reflects that.  It's not quite as tall or as lush as similar locations just a few miles upwind.  You can also see from the narrow  single cart trail that this is one of the less traveled "roads" around here.   We got two lane dirt roads elsewhere.

I just happily snapped away right to the end of this one at the water's edge.  This is also from location [1], looking  generally westward across at the uninhabited island of Water Cay.

We've been to the Aquarium many times. La Gringa tells me this is the 8th post that mentions it, in fact, so I am going to keep the scientific explanation out of this post in our never ending fight against redundancy, repetitiousness, and saying the same thing over and over.   As I keep telling you time and time again, I never repeat myself..... uh... please just forget I even said that.  While I'm thinking about it, though, I want to mention that Sara Kaufman did a nice write up on it in Caribbean Property magazine. There's a lot of good Pine Cay info in there. And her write up is much more concise than mine tend to be. I tend to ramble, in case you haven't noticed.

Back on topic, I wanted to mention that in all my visits to this very spot, I never really thought that much about the little humps of rock you can just barely see by the water in that photo (above).   This photo is in a sequence, but I wanted to point those rocks out for some more discussion later.

 I am going to use this image of the Aquarium from another one of our posts, since it's already uploaded with the Picasa image hosting service I use. This is my own mental laziness equivalent of the paperwork reduction act. Or just an excuse to entice you to read earlier posts, take your pick.   You can see that this was once an open, deep channel between the ocean and the Caicos Bank. 

I know the writing on there is confusing since it's out of context for this post. That's about a kayak trip from hell. If you do want to know what all those  frustrated words are about it's on this Mid-Winter Slog Blog post.  I don't even like thinking about that trip, but it did teach us some valuable lessons about getting caught on the flats at low tide.That image shows you the geology of the Aquarium and should also help with making sense of these photos.

This is a view of the little beach you can see in the aerial, and was taken from location [2].  Now it's all reminding me of an episode of CSI.  I'm not so sure about this numbering idea.  I'll wait for your feedback before doing it again.

We've often seen the water here so clear that you can easily watch big schools of snapper swimming back and forth ten or twenty feet down, over the edge of this underwater ledge. I almost used the phrase 'with the naked eye' there, but then I got to wondering what other kind of eyes there are.  Aren't they all naked?  I know mine have never been dressed.  At least, not while I was wearing them.  My eyes are nudists!  Oh my.  Do I have to register them or something?

  The water was still a bit stirred up from recent winds on this brief visit, and not as clear as we would have hoped.  You should be able to see the windrows, or  Langmuir streaks  as an indication that it was still blowing enough to affect the water. You can just make out the lighter colored ledge here.

And you can really see the ledge looking down from above up in that aerial photo with the numbers on it.  It's off to the left of  position [3]―I'll say no more about what that reminds me of― and you can see that the water gets pretty deep immediately there.  We've seen sharks, tarpon, and dolphins in here despite the shallow nature of all the water to the south. I wonder if there's still some genetic memory in these sea creatures of habit. Do they have a dim feeling that  great granpa said there should be  an opening to the sea right about here? One that must have existed for centuries before the 150 mph winds of Hurricane Donna closed this up just a few generations back in the grand scheme of things. Is Grand Scheme of Things supposed to be capitalized?  I was going to call it just the GST but find that this acronym has already been firmly taken.

While I was playing around with my new kite aka 'latest toy', La Gringa took the little pocket Nikon for a walk around on the big limestone outcropping.  She was impressed by this plant coming up through apparently solid rock although we know that can't really be the case. There has to be some dirt involved somewhere, doesn't there?  I meant dirt for plants, not for the blog! I'm saving all that dirt for the uncensored ebook version.

She tried to get some good images down into the water, but even with the sun overhead the turbidity had not settled out enough yet to show it at it's crystalline finest.  Needs another day or two, but it does eventually get almost as clear as you can imagine. Kind of like an aquarium, come to think of it.  Full of fish.

She got another view of our nominee for healthiest hardy plant of the day.  This includes the little cays off to the south.  And some of those treacherous shallows that have thoroughly schooled us on some of the realities of getting stranded at low tide around here.   That's potentially much more serious than it might sound.  This is all part of an education that has greatly affected our choices regarding boats.  And we don't travel without fresh water.

Okay, in my roundabout but semi-logical way we've gotten back around to the little piles of rocks I made such a big deal over earlier.  This is another view that we took as we traveled from the south end of the Aquarium up to the closed off end.  I wanted to find another spot to redeploy the kite.  See the line of rocks?  I still wasn't even thinking about them at this point.  They just happened to be in this photo.  It wasn't until I looked through the aerials that I even realized what I was seeing.

Then when I was going through those hundreds of images it suddenly became obvious. At some point in the past someone built a small boat ramp at the end of that road.   I'm not claiming some great archaeological discovery here, but offer it as an example of how a different perspective can quickly identify features and put together a story that wasn't so obvious at ground level.

This sure gives me some ideas about many of the places we've already written about here on this blog.  Now I want to go back and put the kite up and see what we can find out with this as another tool.  And you know how I am about new tools. One of the things that immediately comes to mind is the old pre Civil War era  sluice/canal ruins over on West Caicos.  I think we can take this setup back to a lot of places you're probably tired of looking at from ground level, and hopefully make it worth taking another fresh look at.   We'll see.

We went over to the ocean end of the former cut between Pine Cay and Water Cay.  This is a nice place for a beach picnic.  Quiet, peaceful, and generally deserted.  This is looking to the south, at the opening onto the Caicos Bank.  Once upon a time before 1960 we would have had to be on a boat to get this exact perspective.  Preacher tells us he remembers sailing through here on a sloop drawing seven feet when he was young.  It's pretty solid feeling sand these days.  I wonder how many people have looked at this over the past fifty three years and thought of running a front end loader or backhoe through here and opening it back up.  200 meters of trenching beach sand would do it.  And I'm sure there's a law against it, no matter the natural order of things.

What I mean about nice picnic spots?  There are plenty shady places under the trees.  You can see the little Casuarina groves in the first aerial, all up in the general area marked [4].

And the view is pretty much along the lines of what most people would probably consider a fairly nice beach.

We put the kite up into the air in the vicinity of that first aerial where it's marked with the Arabic numeral [5]. This is looking back at the Aquarium to the south, from the eastern edge of the historical cut.  The tidal currents must have really been ripping to cut the edges that clean.  The rocks on both sides are near vertical in places.

That's my white kite string on the left hand side of that photo. The camera is on a DIY pendulum mount about a hundred feet below the kite itself.  As it swings around it often includes the string in the photos.  It's not hard to crop it out in most cases.  I've read that black string is easier to 'photoshop' out. I guess it blends into backgrounds better and doesn't need so many pixels moved around.

Here's another view looking off toward a cloud bank. That sure looks to me like it might be forming over the nearest end of the island of Mayaguana in the Bahamas.  It's about 44 nautical miles in just that direction.  We anchored there for a few hours on our sailing trip home from Jacksonville with Twisted Sheets.  We didn't take any photos there, and I wish we had.  You can see the glow of the lights of Provo from there at night.  From here, you can only see the clouds that form over that island without the light pollution.  I think we got the better deal on views although it is nice to have a glow to steer by when you've been up for fifty hours, it's pitch dark, you're in a shipping lane doing 3 knots on one engine into the wind,rain, and seas, and your electronics are failing.  Yes, it is.  Light pollution can be your friend.

More nice picnic spots.  That's the far northwest point of Providenciales way off in the distance, about 12 nm to the west.

So far the camera swings and swoops through the air taking photos at a preset interval. I don't yet have a way of aiming it other than to plan the entire setup for orientation in a general direction.  That works surprisingly well, we're finding, as we gain some experience.  I'm hoping that you can already see the improvements in these photos over my first efforts.  Some new tricks take old dogs longer to learn. Possibly I just need a couple more cookies as incentive.  It works with Dooley. Sometimes. When he's  in the mood.

This is another view back up the beach to the east, where you can just barely make out the trees around the Meridian Club in the distance.  There's nothing but clean unbroken beach between here and there.

That's pretty much it for our latest set of Aquarium photos.  We also did some walking up and down the beaches experimenting with the kite.  I have to tell you, it's a bit of a nervous feeling putting a camera out over the ocean downwind at these distances.  We're getting accustomed to it, and have a list of things we want to change about the kite setup for future optimization.  This has been a real learning experience weekend so far.   Pretty easy to spot the three of us on the beach in this one.

We've gotten some questions about the kite stuff so I'll write a little bit about that.  Hopefully it won't be such a big deal once we start using it only from time to time as appropriate.  This weekend was all about the kite and learning how to get images with it.

This photo was taken by the GoPro as I attached it to the kite line.  You get a lot of out-take photos with this thing flopping around on the ground, too.  We might use one from time to time. In this example, you can see that I have the kite up  almost directly above me in stable air as I'm attaching the camera rig to the line.

My research into this taught me that tying a knot in the sting effectively reduces it's breaking strength by half.  So kite flyers look for ways to attach things without knots.  And it works.

I've found a cool idea online for rotating the camera using the pendulum motion to ratchet some simple gears, and I'm going to try to copy that design here.   It won't be any time soon, judging by present schedule and list of previous priorities.

The fisheye effect of the GoPro setup does have a little bit of a novel effect, I suppose, but I've also looked into removing that in post processing.   I've obviously decided that it's better not to try to correct for it.  I'll show you why.

Here's an image showing the whole Aquarium, with the horizon showing the fisheye distortion.  Notice that the resolution, such as it is, is fairly evenly distributed around the edges even though it's position is "wrong" visually.

I ran that through a photo editing program (Corel)  and corrected it so that the horizon is nice and level, as most normally adjusted people prefer their horizons to be when looking at the ocean.  Mountains are another matter entirely, of course, but we're talking flat here.

The trees along the right border of the photo show that the distortion of the horizon hasn't really been removed.  It's just been redistributed, in a manner of speaking. The trees are distorted and blurred along with the road, the rocks, everything around the edges. The top of the cart is no longer rectangular, and the little palupa roof is unsymmetrical as well.  This would make any measurements I tried to make inaccurate.  After looking at that, I've decided that I would rather have the information in the photo.  This is going away when the new camera gets here, I hope.

I've already mentioned issues with the kite reel.  We started with an open spool normally used for hand line fishing. It was a bit of a physical challenge. I had to keep a tight grip on this spool, wearing gloves to grab and control the line.  Reeling several hundred feet of dacron back onto the spool without twisting it was tedious and tiring. I can't just wrap it around, you have to rotate the spool like a little winch drum to get the flat line to lie straight. It's a braid that flattens. Here, this is a photo of the old spool. It's an old photo. Taken last week.

See the strain and concentration?  The trickle of sweat? The stupid open mouthed look of an idiot trying to remember "left hand, right hand, left hand ...don't let go of it, repeat"...  Just look at the knots in those mighty forearms.... well,okay, the actual knots are all in the forehead so please forget that part. Physical, mental, it's  a strain after a half an hour of this.  If this spool got away from me it would really change the pace of the afternoon.  Imagine chasing a $500 hat for three hundred yards in the wind over the beach just to watch it fly a half a mile offshore and sink.  I could follow the string to the bitter end, swim halfway out to the reef and it might make for a good blog post. but it wouldn't have any more aerial photos in it after some point of impact way down wind.

Now here's the  shiny new kite reel.  Just recently fabricated from scavenged materials in my very own home workshop.

It's not quite finished yet, but while I fine tune it I went ahead and loaded up 1000 ft. of 200# dacron string on it. This is lighter than the heavy white line we were using. Thinner, and black instead of white. I'm following directions I found on the internet, although I modified the brake setup on the reel.

I meant to take some photos of the construction of that reel for a DIY section here.  Had my camera sitting right on the work bench. I even managed to take a couple  shots before getting totally lost into it.  Put on the headphones, and then it was an afternoon piddling around with making things  with tools.  Lyle Lovett,  Paul Butterfield, Trombone Shorty, Rodrigo y Gabriela and Papa John Creech all explored the acoustics of the empty concert hall between my ears.  By the time I remembered the camera, I was just finishing up cutting the threads into the axle. I cut that from a piece of the standing rigging salvaged from a shipwrecked catamaran.

I've also discovered this photo technique of blending the cluttered shop into the dark background. The optical equivalent of sweeping the dirt under the rug, I suppose.  But hey, it works! I think that this is a cool photo for us DIY geeks. That's a 3/8-16 thread in what I think must be 316 or 316L stainless. It's harder than what I am used to, and shows no sign of oxidation after years in the ocean.

I used the salvaged standing rigging, some black locust driftwood, and pieces of our destroyed aluminum satellite dish in this.  The brake pads are scavenged starboard, and the fairlead is a bicycle spoke.   The winch drum is made from the center pieces of plywood left over from cutting the rings for the outside lights.

We haven't tried it out yet. I'm sure some modifications will be forthcoming.

Preacher Stubbs was involved in a lot of this before he left us and returned to Provo. He knows a thing or two about kites. He was impressed with how well this one flew, in fact. About five minutes after the GoPro snapped this photo of us he was on the phone to Froggy the master kite craftsman over at Bottle Creek.  I'm not sure if watching this one will affect J.R.'s own design, but it does fly pretty well.  I know he'll be interested.  Any competitive edge will get a lot of attention.

When I showed Preacher the jpeg images on the laptop, he was impressed and appreciative at what the overhead views were showing us. Seeing these islands fleetingly from an airplane at a thousand feet is different from this 100-200 ft. height perspective. He immediately thought of a few historical sites where this could be useful.  Think about those old plantation ruins, for example.  He and I still discuss putting together a book of the history of these islands from his perspective. The really big changes in the culture here have all happened during his life time. And he's got some great stories, if I but have the nerve to publish them.

I see that I have drifted well off the Aquarium theme a bit here.  So this is probably a good place to put in one of Dooley's favorite videos from this weekend.

He probably rousted three of these guys on the road to the Aquarium, but rest assured that no iguanas were harmed in the making of this blog post. Other than a briefly elevated heart rate and spirited scamper through the underbrush, their lives go on unimpacted by the experience.

I'll bring this one to a close after a brief and free advertisement anecdote for one of our favorite beach dives on Providenciales. We'd mutually decided that we needed a cracked conch fix one afternoon and headed over to 'da Conch Shack' in Blue Hills.  We were at one of the little tables out of the way on the beach side, shooting the breeze with friends, when Pete the manager came over. He said that a photographer was going to be wandering around taking photos for some magazine. He asked if we minded, as we might be in some of those photos.  Of course we didn't mind.  And we had our conch and forgot all about it.  And don't blame the conch for the forgetfulness. These tropical days all flow together after a while.

Then recently I was reading the BBC travel news and saw this article on the world's "best beach restaurants".  I looked at the photo and recognized some faces and realized that this is one of the photos taken that day. I'm sure this is a much better photo than the ones with us in them.

(photo lifted from BBC online article as credited in link above but this isn't being used for commercial purposes and it's free publicity for them anyway, so phtttt.)

Oh well.  Worldwide exposure is probably not all it's cracked up to be, from what I've seen. If Dooley had been there, we might have had a chance of making the cut.  But his behavior in restaurants is a tense situation at best.  He thinks it was all really meant for him, and he resents anyone who doesn't agree.

Our next post should be finishing up this trip with some marina and boating photos, unless something more interesting happens in the meantime.   We can only hope.  And try to be careful what we wish for.  That whole 'something interesting' aspect of life can really sneak up behind you if you're not careful.

I haven't been putting a lot of DIY stuff into the blog lately, comparitively speaking.  But rest assured it's still going on here. Big time. I don't bother with a lot of it because I just don't think you'd find it all that interesting.  I'm sure there are enough rusty metal photos on here to last all of us a lifetime.  Or maybe it just seems like a lifetime in my case.  Or perhaps I've just lost the novelty of having something break every day of our lives.  And of the DIY's that aren't about repairing the result of life under a salty sun, most of them just aren't 'blog-worthy', if you know what I mean.  I'll give you an example.

We've been having issues with our collection of kitchen cutting boards.  We needed a larger cutting board and a way to drain dishes that we'd hand washed. I used some of that big hunk of starboard we found washed up on a beach to make one. For you other tool freaks out there, I'm still finding that pneumatic tools seem to work fairly well and last a long time.   This 16"  air sander has outlasted two electric sanders, as one example. They are real simple devices.  Just be sure to put a couple drops of oil in them every time you use them.  And dry out your compressed air.  And it was cheaper than either one of those long gone electrics.  If you ignore the cost of the  compressor, which is a very useful thing to have anyway. 

The electric router is still workingtouch wood– so putting a drain groove around the edges was simple enough.  And there we have it.  A DIY that I normally wouldn't bother mentioning. And I only mentioned this one because I thought it might give someone an idea.  This custom cutting board fits a spot in the kitchen so exactly that it doesn't move when it's in place.  And it drains into the sink.    I guess I can file this under fun facts for flotsam.

And of course we continue to look for ways to showcase this beautiful little country for you with our images. I am sometimes reminded of that old cliche' about the difference between men and boys being the price of their toys.  

We're still essentially playing with crayons. A second childhood with technology added.  Sometimes the results are worth posting, many times it doesn't work out.   But it's sure a lot of fun trying to fill in the colors for your amusement.   How are we doing so far?