Friday, June 21, 2013

Looking Down on Malcolm

We took the KAP setup over to Malcolm Beach. We wanted some aerial views  to solve our long standing curiosity about what's  between the beach and the reef.  We've never been snorkeling in this area, and I'm not even sure why not.  Perhaps because from our usual beach view out over the water at ground level it looks somewhat foreboding for barefooted swimmers.   Or perhaps it was just poor planning on my part. That's always a distinct possibility that I've learned not to dismiss out of hand.   Is this one of those things that supposedly comes with age? I've always known that humans make mistakes, of course.  I've  complained about that for years. The new part that's been unsettling me lately is having to finally admit that I'm human. Thankfully, I haven't graduated to only human, yet.

Our last visit here was just three months ago.  We took a lot of conventional photos.  And I think they're  pretty good  beach photos in their limited scope.  But I've now been spoiled by what we can see from a couple hundred feet up. Not sure yet if I want to explore the obvious birdbrain comparison components of all this. But I do admit to liking that view.  I think it must be psycho logical.

 The view here doesn't really change much from year to year.  Different clouds.  Different boats.  Seeing that  big  liveaboard dive boat out on the reef typically means that this isn't Friday.    That boat spends Fridays at the Caicos Marina and Shipyard. The little Hobie catamaran zipping back and forth between us and the edge of the reef tells us there might be some splashing going on later.  We didn't think these guys were very experienced, just making a random judgement based solely on observation.

We  decided to walk down the beach a ways.  Or was it, perhaps,  up the beach?   I just spent 10 minutes online trying to find a clear definition of  which direction on a beach is 'up' and which is 'down', but no luck.  I did find out a lot about swash zones, longshore currents,  and beach drift, in the process of not finding the answer to my question. I read that destructive waves move sand down the beach, and constructive waves move sand up the beach.  This tells me you can't use the wave direction or sand motion to tell which is which. Could be either. There's still something puzzling about it all.  I guess this just proves that after all these years, I  still  don't know which way is up. On a beach, I mean. This is nothing new. It gets me down when I get sideways trying to look up what I'm trying to get over. Okay. I'm through.  

We walked over a nice beach, both up and down.  I guess that covers it.  Just enough sand to play in, and enough rock to make it interesting.   Those long, wide, smooth sand beaches like Grace Bay are nice to look at for a while.  But some of us think that they get boring eventually.  Like standing in the middle of the Kalahari with a sand pail and shovel.  Some of us need things to pick up and mess around with.  Things to kick over and look under.  Totally smooth beaches probably fulfill some  people's needs to run and throw footballs, but  I like the  natural clutter here better.   Without the football, baseball, and Frisbee players.  Dooley would be okay with a single tree for shade and relaxation, but he operates comfortably in the dimension of smell and is rarely bored in a windy place.  This beach has all the components, though.  Trees, rocks, sand, and hardly ever any other people.   And we can drive to it.

I found some  more interesting beach info on the internet while struggling with the 'up the beach' and 'down the beach' concept.  Did you know there are beaches that are more than 100 miles long?  Lots of them. 

Whoops on the Hobie. I bet these guys are glad they're not 50 miles from either end of the beach.  We pretty much saw this one coming.  Knew it was a matter of time.   Being the old experienced sailors that we are.  Our bet is that this particular catamaran belongs to the nearby Amanyara resort.  Because these guys were beating it like a rented mule.

I thought this urchin looked like a Lilliputian version of an old contact-fuse style sea mine.  I have a bit of a history with those things, so I'm somewhat preprogrammed to see explosive threats in my imagination.  It probably looks totally innocent to the rest of you, while I know some EOD people who will  be thinking of ways to slip a firecracker up next to this and....neutralize it.    But don't worry. The urchin was long gone to that big swash zone in the sky, anyhow.  That's just a hollow exoskeleton. And we don't have any firecrackers. 

We've been working at making this kite thing easier.   I built a heavy duty reel for the string.    I'd learned very quickly what a gust of wind can do to a 9 ft. kite, so I wear gloves now.  String burns are painful.   And on days like this we're learning to just pick a spot and relax for a while and let the camera do it's thing.   I think kite flying can be quite a relaxing hobby, once the details and stress are all factored out of the equation.  I guess that could be said about most activities. I mean, train wrecks could be a relaxing hobby if you took the details and stress out of it.

Here's my kite reel  See the Starboard brake pads?  

I was just looking at that photo and realized that if that wing nut unscrews, I'm screwed.  I think I better drill a hole in the  ends of that piece of shipwrecked rigging I used for an axle, and safety wire it. 

It took some doing to get the kite launched.  There is a shifting mixture of disturbed wind burbles and eddys and swirls as it comes over the land and trees and reunites with the flat ocean.  Once again, we learned something.  We have to quickly get the kite up above the turbulence level and into 'clean' air and stabilized before attaching the camera rig. Or there's a possibility of the camera discovering the old phrase... "pounding sand".  This is not good for cameras. The kite steadies with some altitude.  I've found that flying off a hill top can be tricky too, for the same reasons. Living here has turned us into students of wind dynamics.

The  summer sun here is strong enough to blister a bald head and boil a covered one, but we did have a cooler full of iced drinks with us.  Dooley hasn't yet found a hat he's comfortable with, but he uses that to his advantage.  It's his excuse for dashing out into the ocean for a cooling dip at every opportunity.  Then he runs back to do his doggy shake thing, sharing the salt water with the rest of us.  How considerate.

So, here we are, the three of us ensconced in our little temporary camp for the next half an hour.  I've gotten the kite up about 75 ft, and just attached the camera as I let the Dacron line out.   The camera that just took this photo was casting it's shadow on my toes.

After our earlier experiences I added a piece of nylon webbing to this reel thing.  And when we have steady winds over about 12 knots, the kite generates more than enough pull to lift itself, the camera, and even this relatively heavy wooden reel weighted with 1000 ft. of Dacron.  To the point where I can almost relax and let it fly itself, hands off.   If I were on some low friction surface like the water or wheels, it definitely has enough pull to move me. I'd mention ice as another low friction surface, but the chance of me sitting on a sheet of ice doing this.... well..... that's even more remote than this beach.

That piece of webbing started its tropical career as one of the rear seat belts in a Land Rover Defender 90.  Being the incorrigible and inveterate packrat that I've proven to be, I rolled it up and kept it for the past couple of years  after we truncated the canvas top of the Land Rover and removed the rear seats.  I just knew I'd find a use for this, eventually. I mean, if you consider the concept of eternity, it's all going to be useful... some day.  Right?  Just need a place to store it forever.  Such a simple concept, and yet such a hard sell to significant others.

Unfortunately, the down side of this is that in the five years we've been living in this house, I've managed to basically half fill a garage with bits of things I just can't bear to part with. I still pick up pieces of shiny stainless steel hardware when I see them winking at me seductively from the packed dirt of a parking lot. I've developed a respectable collection of stainless steel bolts, and nuts, and washers over the years. I never seem to stop to ask myself... 'if they were doing such a good job, why'd they fall off?' Doesn't matter.  If it's shiny I go into crow mode.  I want it.  It'll be good for something... someday.

As I let string out, the camera just soars up into the blue, snapping away every five seconds. 
The same wind that gave me fits in the turbulence behind the trees now does me a favor.  It's lifting the kite straight away from the beach and out over the water.  And so, here's why the offshore area looks so rocky from the beach.   It's because it IS rocky. 

I liked this last  photo of the camera's shadow before it crossed  over the wet sand and got lost in the ocean.    The shadow, I mean.  Not the camera.  The camera has a string on it.  It might get wet. It won't get lost. It managed to catch that breaking wave from above, just as it happened to break.

The nature of the bottom immediately became as clear as Caicos water to us once we saw these photos.  This is definitely not the kind of place to splash around barefooted. If we wanted to swim from the beach here, the best technique would be to get floating as soon as possible, and not touch the bottom at all. Or to wear some of those neoprene beach bootie things. Those work pretty well.  We had a couple pairs of really nice ones that we used when climbing up onto little islands from the boat.  Unfortunately, our beach booties were packed in Cay Lime with our diving gear when the storm took it, and them, out of our lives. We lost a lot of stuff in that storm.  But you know something?  We gained a few things, too.

This is another view up, or down, the beach stretching out toward the sands of Amanyara Resort.   That's the group of buildings off in the distance.  And you can see, the near shore swimming isn't all that inviting until you get to the resort.  That's probably why they chose that spot for it.

We were surprised to see how many pockets of sand there are out between the rocky parts and the reef.

One of those rare, undistorted views in the other direction, to the north, reveals a nice little gem of a spot for snorkeling. This is relatively undistorted because the line of the horizon just happened to bisect the camera view.  We still have a wide angle barrel distortion radially around the middle of the image, but it's just so much less obvious when the camera points straight at the horizon.
But what I'm excited about is the collection of connected sand patches that extends out from the beach through the rocky areas all the way to the reef.

This image reveals that there are several areas where a swimmer could wade from the beach out to clear sand bottom without stepping on anything unpleasant or carnivorous.  Now we know we have no excuses not to come back and actually get into the water here.  Drat.  Another excuse for a day at the beach.   I better bring the underwater camera and diving gear next time we head this way.  Are you guys tired of Malcolm Beach yet?  Are you interested in seeing what those ledges look like underwater?  And the dark patches.  What's all that about?   I don't know about you, but I gotta  find out.

We've got a lot more photos, of course.  But I am really, really giving this new approach to blogging a fair try.  The older, long posts would have 30-40 photos in them, and take a week to read. IF I can restrain myself to a dozen photos at a time, it's looking entirely reasonable to get one of these posts out every week.  If I could somehow limit the words.  I think I must be subconsciously trying to compensate for shorter posts with more words.  I think I can get this verbosity under control if I can accept that the posts are now shorter on purpose.  Of course, people can always just look at the pictures and ignore the words. That's what I do.

As we find ourselves with a new vehicle to tow boat trailers with, and with our old sailboat Twisted Sheets about to go back into the water, we expect things to actually pick up a bit around here blogwise. And we are very much looking forward to that.  We're tired of being land locked.  Or island locked, to be more accurate.

On top of our other whiny little setbacks, the weather has not been very cooperative for photography this last week.  We're pretty flexible as far as wind goes, but we absolutely require good light to make the pretty pictures.  We've been in this strong flow of moisture associated with tropical depression #2  that is over messing with the Mexicans right now, even as I write.  So no good sunrise/sunset stuff this week.  And I have to tell you, having two storms form around us already this season makes us nervous. We'll be staying within a day's sail of safety for the next few months of hurricane season.  Then we'll venture out a week from safety again. Just kidding, mom.

In lieu of a good sunset, I bet some of you might wonder what a 42 knot rain squall in the face looks like, right?   Yes? Well, I hope so.  Cause that's what we got here.  You can see the waves react to the sudden increase in wind velocity.  I was SO glad we were not ten miles  out there in a small boat, this time.  We must be learning.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Sunday Drive through Blue Hills

There's a  lumpy little two lane road running like an old crooked backbone through the communities of Blue Hills and Wheeland here.  It continues on along the north shore of Providenciales before  reconnecting with the dirt road that goes out toward NW point.  I wonder how many people know that the Blue Hills road was originally built by hand, without any machinery at all.   I've seen an old faded photo of  a few TCIslander ladies sitting in a shady spot in Blue Hills.  It was evident that they had dressed for the photographer, even in the cracked, creased, and faded sepia shades typical of ancient black and white film.  On the ground was a waist high pile of limestone rocks that were each about the size of a large coconut. No bigger. A size that could be hefted in one strong hand.   The ladies each had a  rock in one hand and a mason's hammer in the other. There was a pile of much smaller stone chips around their feet. They were chipping gravel  piece by piece by hand to turn the Blue Hills foot path into the Blue Hills Road.  One hammer blow at a time.  This place has come a long way in sixty years, but some scenes are almost timeless.   This one, for example.  A couple of Caicos Sloops sitting near a shady picnic table, seen from the Blue Hill Road in a place that has been used to build wooden sloops before the small population here had ever seen a paved road.    Or indeed, anything resembling a road at all.

There was no need for paved roads here for many generations of Islanders.  There was nothing here to drive that was wider than a wheelbarrow.   Preacher Stubbs has told us about the various footpaths he remembers as a boy.  He remembers seeing the first bicycle careening along, with people  leaping out of the path in astonishment as the island's first cyclists went clattering by on two-wheeled metal contraptions that had just been offloaded off the mail boat from the Bahamas.  This was before the airstrip, too. Everything came by boat, and was unloaded at Heaving Down Rock in Leeward Going Through. I have to smile thinking about full grown men  careening down hills without training, or training wheels, on the first bicycle rides of their lives.  This was in the 1960's when many of  us were still being amazed by the  Beatles on Ed Sullivan's television show, or considering what Sputnik meant to mankind.  On Providenciales, the new technology was a one speed bicycle rolling out of control down an old path worn smooth by the soles of feet that had never worn shoes.  Those must have been some exciting times here. Ten miles per hour must have seemed pretty fast compared to the 6 or so miles per hour sailing speed of a wooden sloop.  The sloops haven't changed  very much over the years.  The road has changed.  And every time we ride down it I think of those small stone chips underneath us, buried beneath layers of pavement.  Chips that were each made by hand.

We've been trying to rack up a quick 1200 driving miles on an island fifteen miles long and a mile and a half wide.   Thirty eight square miles. 1200 miles on the clock is the manufacturer's break-in specification on our new vehicle before we hook a boat trailer to it.   We were only averaging 4,000 miles a year with the Land Rovers.   That's less than 80 miles a week. So at our normal pace, it would take us almost four months to reach the number that the KIA manual says we need before we tow anything.   That's probably not going to work for us.  No no no no no.  We've been  unable to use our boats for three months already, and waiting four more months to put one of our trailered boats in the water is not part of the plan.  I'm waiting for some boat trailer wheel bearings to arrive from up north, because mine froze up from sitting immobile for 90 days.  That happens here. Often.  If something's not moving, it's rusting. In the meantime, we've been riding around the island trying to rack up some miles, and taking photos.   This past weekend we cruised out the Blue Hills road past da Conch Shack, and kept going.  It's not a long trip.  In fact, it's way  too short of a trip for someone with a thousand miles yet to go.  We're running out of places to drive to.

In 2005 and '06 I was hanging out with some of the guys who were building and sailing these native craft.  Up  until the early 70s', boats like this were the main form of transportation in the islands.  Preacher Stubbs tells us he remembers seeing the first outboard motor on Providenciales when he was a teenager, too. That would also probably have been in the late 60's.

We didn't really have a destination in mind on this trip.  We were just 'Sunday driving'.   We've seen all of these sights so often that we may be getting a bit jaded about it.  I try to remember that there are plenty of people out there who would consider this somewhat exotic.  We try to look at it through fresh eyes.  We ask ourselves "Which of these views would people be interested in?"  or "If we were here on vacation, what would we want to photograph to show our friends back home what this island looks like?"   Hopefully we  are picking some good stuff for you.  Blue Hills is good for local color, and we always seem to find something here more interesting than another multi-story condominium complex.

Unlike the  restaurants and  bars spackling the verandas around the resorts on Grace Bay, restaurants in the Blue  Hills and Wheeland neighborhoods tend to lean more toward  local ownership, and local tastes.    We  love the colors and hand painted 'graphics' of the  Lee Bay Side Restaurant and Bar.  We had already consumed a large Sunday breakfast, so we didn't stop for the Conch Fritters or Fry Chicken they advertised.   Despite the whining from a certain small dog in the back seat.  I do admit that we were tempted after seeing the colorful  decor.  We weren't sure if the restaurant was even open....

Until we spotted one of the neighborhood  residents pulling out of the trot-through with a take-out order.   He made a left turn without signaling, upshifted and cruised on back up the road before we could ask him anything about the cuisine.  He seemed to be on a schedule, or perhaps late for an appointment.  Or he heard Dooley.

Dooley the Desirous went ballistic when he saw this.  He was ready to bail out the window for an order of whatever was in that plastic bag.  We tried to talk him out of it.  "That dog right there is a  certified, practicing Potcake," we told him  "raised on fried chicken and conch.  He's probably never even had a meal with a  smiling dog's photo on the label. YOU, on the other hand, are an imported American dog that needs the balanced vitamins and minerals and fiber and all that good stuff listed in that expensive canned dog food from the supermarket.  You need sterile dog food with expiration dates." He wasn't going for it. We tried telling him that a steady diet of fried food would be unhealthy for him.  We even drove him by a few places  to make him think about the long-term ramifications of  suddenly going to a grease and bone diet at his age.

And just when he finally started nodding his head and chanting the new mantras I taught him (Kibbles and Bits won't give me the fits. Alpo don't hurt and won't cause a squirt.) we  passed downwind of another conch restaurant and he suffered a momentary relapse. This one wasn't yet open for business, so we were able to keep going without much too disruption. Dooley calmed down and admitted he wasn't really all that much of a conch salad fan, anyhow. He doesn't like the habanero peppers, either coming or going.  Remember the mantra.

By the time we reached  the Lucayan Indian Village Burger Kids' place, his stomach was growling like a 61 Monza in Ralph Nader's nightmares. It didn't help the situation that they have both Haitian Food and Kids Burgers on the take-out menu.  

Driving past all these restaurants was causing us a lot of grief with the hungry dog situation. And we can't use those words in his presence, by the way.  He knows exactly what the phrase Hungry Dog means.    We've taken to referring to the Hotel Delta, but I think he's starting to catch on to that, too. Of course he's been listening to La Gringa's airplane radio transmissions a lot lately. 

We did offer to run him into the B&J Sport Bar for a Salty Dog, but he didn't see the humor in that.  I wouldn't mind coming back some day to check this one out myself.  I do love a tropical paint job and any bar that highlights the stairs for the patrons gets a plus for good management in my book.

Finally, we were almost out of town and past the stretch of restaurants with their overly enticing odors.   We passed the last gasoline station  at this end of the island,  which is GrantsTexaco in the village of Wheeland.    You can get gasoline here, I think.  Although we've never had to stop and try. We've been running on diesel for five years.  And  obviously, you can get Cold Drinks.   Just don't expect much of a response if you ask for credit.   

I think if I was out of fuel and they wouldn't take my credit card, we'd be in trouble.  That would really get my goat to be stranded out here. But I don't think we'd be alone. These guys didn't have any petrol or cold drinks, either. I can't tell you if they did or did not have gas. I wonder if they have baaaaad credit...

We continued on to the road called the Millennium Highway.  I'm not 100% certain whether that that refers  to the year it was started, or the year it was completed.   And now that I think about it, I don't think any road here is really what we'd consider completed.  Pavement seems to be one of those things that the tropical environment seems delighted to devour.  We did make it out toward NW Point as far as the divided highway before turning around and headed back to town.

I know I keep saying I'm going to try making shorter posts more often.  This one is as close as I've gotten, yet.   It's short, and less than a week after the last one. And we've got more than enough material for the next few installments of our tropical island life here. 

I suppose I should head off any questions about our hungry dog.  We headed home for a late lunch. Here he is in his position on the kitchen floor, just under where I stand when making sandwiches.  He's patient.  He knows he'll get a tidbit or two. A fleck of cheddar as a minimum. But it's still a bit un-nerving to suspect that man's best friend is fervently praying for me to fail at this, again..

Not only is that particular section of rug HIS spot, he's also got HIS own chair underneath the desk in our  office. After lunch he retired to his chair for his traditional mid afternoon nap before supper. The last thing we heard him whisper before his eyes rolled back into his head sounded something like..... 'cabrito'.  Then he started snoring, and he feet twitched as he licked his lips in dreams. This is a contented dog.

I've now installed a trailer towing hitch on the rear of the new little KIA, and will (hopefully) be replacing four frozen wheel bearings on the Hobie boat trailer.  We are very much looking forward to getting back on the water again, this time with our kites and cameras. There are a lot of places we want to return to for some aerial photos to flesh out earlier descriptions.  And the idea of the nine foot kite tied to a small boat is somewhat interesting in itself.  I'm curious as to whether the kite will pull the kayak to a speed where the relative wind  drops, causing a similar reaction from the kite. Oh well.  It's all water proof.  It  has to be if it's going to survive with us.

We've seen how useful an aerial photo of the approach to a marina can be. We're thinking of documenting  more those where we can. The entrance to Turtle Cove, for example, would be of a lot of interest to us.   And all the little cays and islets around here should be fun to view from above.

We're also still playing around with time lapse.  This sunset was taken on an afternoon when some of our more sociable neighbors were having a party.   At the very end, we caught two of the guests leaving in their automobiles.  It was after dark when the lights of Provo were on in the background, after a fairly colorful sunset. The different speeds of the two vehicles is obvious. See if you can figure out which one is accustomed to driving this road in the dark.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Bird's Eye Views of South Side Marina. And some other stuff, too.

We've been experiencing another aspect of tropical island life that we had not anticipated, which has definitely affected this blog. We ordered a new Jeep in December. Five months ago. We've been leasing a vehicle for the last three of those months.  It's not equipped to tow anything so we haven't been out in one of our own boats for three months now.  And that's why we're getting a bit stir crazy.

We fret, we wait, anticipate, while slowly going nuts.  The summer's haze creates this craze here in this boatless rut.  But hey, enough of my whining. We do have a plan to overcome this.  Happy days are on the way.  In the meantime, here's another one of our early, flawed, sunrise time lapse sequences.   You can pretty much spot what happened with this one on your own, I think.  My DIY slider got wobbly.  Then it ran out of rail before running out of time so it sits there at the end for a bit.  This whole DIY slide setup  is still a work in progress.
And I've learned to pay more attention to the stability of the rocks I stick under it for support.

 Another term for what I was describing up there is 'island fever', which sounds a little tropical,  or 'rock fever', which reminds me more of Alcatraz, but it's all basically the same thing as cabin fever.  A growing frustration at limited mobility.  Only being immobile surrounded by water is taking the place of being immobile surrounded by walls.  I think I'd rather have island fever than cabin fever, depending on the size of the island, of course.  A square meter of island could get pretty bleak. 

Boats cure island fever, by the way. I suspect they might cure cabin fever, too, come to think of it. Boats make all the horizons flexible again.   Boats turn the ocean into a gigantic open freeway in every direction, with no speed limits.  Boats, like airplanes, can be tools to take you and your imagination out of one place and into the next one.

And the places we like best have always been the one's we haven't seen yet.

While we were drumming our metaphorical fingers to bloody metaphorical stubs waiting for something with a metaphorical towing capability to show up on island,  we tried to make the best of the waiting. That basically means we drive around looking for something interesting that we haven't already beaten to death in this blog. We've been out to da Conch Shack several times since our last trip to Boogaloos Conch Crawl. and the consensus  is that we like both places about equally.  This is a photo of the Conch Shack's dining area with almost nobody in it.  Rare this time of year.   I figure I owe them some equal time  since we went on at some length about how great Boogaloo's is. La Gringa craves the coconut cracked conch at Boogaloo's, and Conch Shack doesn't have that on the menu. Yet. Ah, but da Conch Shack rocks with their Conch Salad, Curried Conch, and their Mac and Cheese is unsurpassed.  According to my local expert expat Mac and Cheese connoisseur.
Right now we tend to check the wind direction before making a dining decision. One of these restaurants is always in the lee of the island. Sometimes you feel like a breeze, some times you don't.  I guess that depends upon how much sand and water is in that breeze.  Competition is good, it increases the quality at both ends. And it sure is nice to have the choice of great little beach restaurants specializing in conch.  Why don't you try them both and tell us what you think.

We took this photo after noticing that several new palm trees have been added to the grove here at da Conch Shack.  Nice.  This is a pretty place to have a relaxing lunch.  We've never been here after dark, but that's only because we're lazy and the Tiki Hut is a lot closer.

If  you read this blog with any regularity you'll already know about our new camera toys.  We've had very spotty weather lately for the kite.  It always seems to be either blowing 20 knots or 5 knots.  The kite needs at least 8 knots of relative wind in order to lift the Go-Pro camera.  20 is too much, and it won't even fly at 5. Last week we had a couple of breezy days. We gathered up an armload of what I've overheard described as "his latest gadgets" and headed over to South Side Marina. 

It's nearby and we wanted to see what it looks like from a little altitude. She whipped the wheel to the left, grabbed the hand brake to lock up the rear wheels, and La Gringa Andretti hot slid that little rental Fiat up next to Bob's bocce court in a cloud of dust and screeching rubber like a Dukes of Hazard driving stunt. Just kidding. We wouldn't do that to a rental car and put it in writing...

It was a breeze to deploy our new Forward Area Rapid Topographic Survey system.  That's just a kite, a string, and a Go-Pro camera set to a 5 second interval. You couldn't leave the acronym alone, could you. Guess I better go back to "Kite-Cam" or something more unimaginative. At a five second shutter interval, we ended up with hundreds of photos along these lines:

That's our little rented Fiat alone in the upper parking lot. After the dust blew away and the motor stopped making those funny little thermal popping sounds. It's difficult to tell from this angle that the parking lot by the bar/restaurant is about 20 feet higher up than the three automobiles in the lower lot next to the boat slips. I left the kite string in the photos. This way, if anyone's interested in where we were standing relative to the kite, all they have to do is follow the string down, and  there we are.    

That photo illustrates the narrow nature of this strip of land that we  live on. We have salt water on both sides and the phrase storm surge makes us all nervous and jittery. It doesn't take much of it to start isolating parts of this island even further than they already are.  That photo also shows all of South Side's new bar from the top.  Would that be a good name for it, Over the Top?

I continued to let out string  until  I thought that the camera was high enough to image the entire marina.  Judging this by eye from the ground is one of the things we're learning. This  shot includes South Side Marina, part of the Harbour Club Villas and the beginning of the Discovery Bay canal system. You can see Flamingo Divers' training pool. It all looks a little different from up here where the  birds are. Something about it makes me want to eat a bunch of berries and go dive bomb some statuary.

This one shows another angle after I walked my string over to the lower left corner of the parking lot.  More  Kite Technique 101. This also shows you the entrance into this marina.   There's a hard turn to the right at the very end of the dredged channel.   It's just so much more apparent from up here than it is from sea level.  Anyone leaving here who continues straight ahead and doesn't make that hard right between the buoys is almost certain to run aground.  The water is barely knee deep at that  rocky little point at low tide.  We don't even run the Hobie Tandem Island through there.

There's an empty piece of bare land directly across the marina.  I'm talking about the one that looks like a big empty parking lot, with one fishing boat snugged up in the nearest corner. We wanted to try to get some photos from another angle, so we drove around to that area next.

We figured that there wasn't much for Dooley the Disaster to get into out there in the middle of a big empty lot.  Wrong.  He decided that there absolutely must be something of interest living around here. He was definitely on the hunt.  I had my hands full with the kite, but  noticed that he seemed to search every conceivable place that a rodent might hide.  There is a pile of big rubber hoses there that are used to suction dredge the marina entrance. He really got into that.  Literally.

After sniffing out the inside of the dredge hoses, he went strolling along the tops of them searching the underbrush.  I like to watch him when he goes on these excursions.  He gets a very concentrated look on his hairy little face.   He goes into this mode where he ignores just about everything that might be an outside distraction.  A trance.  He must be thinking about rats to the exclusion of anything else.

He searched the bushes, the hoses, rocks, and debris.   He got onto the trail of something small and fast at one point and leapt up into a pile of loose brush like he's pretending to have some genetic memory of being some kind of wild African dog on the hunt, or something. I don't know where he gets that imagination. He's just a little lap dog. Who sometimes leaps off a moving boat in the ocean trying to bite carnivorous fish much bigger than he is. 

After he thoroughly terrorized the local equivalent of B'rer Rabbit in the brush pile, he decided to go cool off with a swim in the large rainwater puddles  in the middle of that lot.  He seemed to have a purpose.  He kept on a course all the way across the water, for some reason.  Usually he sticks by us fairly closely.

Perhaps  he got a whiff of something of interest to him.  Otherwise, I'm left with the long running version of why did the dog cross the puddle, when there was no chicken in sight?  I can only imagine what's going on in that head of his.  He seemed lost in his own little  world there for a while.

We weren't just following the dog around with a camera like some low-rent private investigator, you know. While we were walking along with La Gringa taking Dooley photos,  I had the kite tied to me.  I wanted to get at least one decent image of the ocean side of the marina from this perspective.  

I really don't have much of a narrative to go along with these.  Anyone who's wasted much time looking through our earlier posts will already recognize most of these features.  We've come through this aquatic intersection quite a few times over the past five years. We often launch our small boats at a rough rocky ramp a short distance up that canal to the left. We've posted zillions of photos of this area.  Just none from a kite until now. We walked on out to the point to try to get more of the area in view.  Please keep in mind that we have no idea, as of yet, what the camera is getting. We're working on that, but at the moment, it's still a point and pray kind of operation.  The bushes and water where Dooley was harassing the local wildlife is there to the right.

This is about the southernmost extent of our stroll this time.   We're still fine tuning techniques with this rig.  Positioning the camera on the pendulum, and then the pendulum on the string, and then the kite relative to the subject of the photo takes more effort than we had anticipated.  It's not particularly difficult, just time consuming and somewhat physical with a stiff wind yanking on the kite. We want to have all the angles figured out pretty well before we take it out on the boat. Is the term: "anticipating surprises" an oxymoron?

That image shows you that there is a sharp little ledge between the channel and the shallow sand to  the left of it.  That's typically where sailors get into trouble, trying to cut the corner.  The good news is that it's very soft sand over there, and not rock.

We'll try not to turn this into a kite blog, but we do plan to revisit some areas where we think an aerial perspective will match up nicely with some of the other photos we've taken.  But eventually I would expect to see one or two of these in a typical blog post, and not a dozen or two. It's still somewhat of a new toy at this point, along with the camera slider. At least it's a break from the photos of the yellow Hobie Adventure Island sailing along with me trying to keep Dooley's butt  out of  the view finder. Hey, it's not easy on a small boat.  He seems to be very good at getting between me and anything I consider interesting. Except meteorological events, of course.  Weather phenomenon is something he could live without.

This photo is from the corner diagonally across the marina from where we started.  I think these would have come out a little bit better if I had angled the camera at a slightly shallower angle. We learn something every time we do this. I guess that's part of what makes it fun. And if you want to try it, too, drop us an email.  I'll be happy to share sources and what we've learned.

While looking through these kite photos I was reminded of some of the panoramas I've been taking, trying to achieve similar results.   A wide angle view of an area from a different perspective.  I went back through some images from earlier this year. I realized that this post was a little thin, and saw no reason not to share some of these other photos with you. Even though they were taken a month or so ago.  There are so many good photos that just never make it into Uploadland.  

This is a panorama taken with the Pano function of a Nikon AW 100 of the Five Little Cays area.  At the time this was about the best I could come up with to try to get these little islands from a more vertical perspective.

I think it's going to be a lot more interesting when we can plug in an aerial photo taken from right over the top of one of them.  We've sure got a lot of places that need revisiting.  I've been thinking about trying to launch that 9 ft. kite while sitting in the kayak.  I can forsee some complications, especially with the mast.  And then controlling the boat with the considerable pull this kite can generate with some wind under it.  Should be interesting.

I  wanted to make a comment about these distorted photos we got back when we last strapped the camera to the back of Dooley the Debauched. It didn't appear that he was doing anything unusual at the time, but almost all of the photos taken from that setup were a little bit strange. Maybe more than a little bit. For example, this one:

Then this week  I was reading an article about rats. And running rats, specifically. Please don't think this is some kind of specific interest of mine. I know that I would righteously regret regular and repeated readings of royal  reams of rubbish regarding running rats research, but  the kind of people that study that stuff have discovered that they swivel their eyes in different directions when they're running across open spaces. The rats swivel their eyes, I meant. Not the researchers.  I'm not even sure the researchers were running across open spaces. Check out this link to Red Orbit, and see if you can figure out what things must look like to a rat when he's swiveling his little red eyeballs all over the place while scampering across the bad lands. I'm starting to get a real appreciation for what I think Dooley the Director is trying to do with this camera. He's involved in this rat study!! I'm impressed. 

Along with the things I've already mentioned, of course I've gotten involved in some more little DIY projects. This whole thing of new camera angles and perspectives has gotten a hold on my imagination lately.  I've been doing stuff like making wheels to see what it looks like to drive a camera around.  I have that big hunk of Starboard I found, or most of it, and that's good easy stuff to work with.  A hole saw makes a decent round piece.

I made some thicker versions of those, so that I could screw them to the rims of these hobby shop wheels we picked up on our last trip up to Boulder.  We don't have any hobby shops here.   I used the drill press as a lathe, using a wood chisel to turn some squared grooves in the plastic.  See my home made drive pulleys made from Starboard?

I also picked up a small electric motor with a gearbox on our last trip to the USA, and I came up with this little off-road camera dolly aka "his latest contraption".  The axles on that, by the way, are pieces of the stainless rigging  we dug up over on West  Caicos, on the same trip when we found the big hunk of Starboard.  That was a good beach combing day by my standards.  I've been making toys out of that stuff for six months now.

I know the long drive belts look funny, but there's a good reason for that.   I could not find the big o-rings that I really wanted for this project.  I did find a replacement belt for a vaccum cleaner.   And I split that in half lengthwise to make two equal drive belts.   That's why the little kamera kart looks strange.

And it didn't work out well at all. It did okay as a slider, on a flat surface, but unlike a slider you can't leave it unattended for long.  And the time lapse stuff I did on the ground with it would give you a headache to watch.  It really needs a smooth, steady, constant motion in the same plane.  Up and down over sand dunes... nope.  No good.  So it was back to the drawing board. I decided to concentrate on the motorized slider.  My first attempt at that was using this little hanging motor made for decorative plants and mobiles. Wind chime, and that kind of thing. The black wheel is an empty fishing line leader spool.  I only had one of those so I had to make the other one out of Starboard.  This setup was working well, but the side load on the motor shaft was quickly wearing out the little plastic gears.   It was never designed for driving anything to the side. So, after shelving the Kart, I'll call this failure #2.  Ah but I was learning.

This next one is prototype #2 of the motorized slider and it worked great. You've seen some of the results already in other posts. And it doesn't look exactly like this anymore. I had to change the carriage for the camera, obviously, because that one kept falling off.  I'm on Prototype Rev 3 now and just about ready to build the next one, using what I learned on these early models. I'm thinking of a two piece slider, with the motor separate from the rails. This should allow me to isolate the motor and gear noise from the camera a little. And I haven't totally given up on the little cart. Now I'm thinking of a simple cart that gets pulled by a string being wound up by a little winch unit up someplace safe away from the ocean. I'm thinking of a video along the water's edge, with the cart moving much faster than a typical slide. If the results are good, I'll show them to you. I might even show you the bad ones, if they're funny enough. Hey, I showed you all the Dooley the Distorted photos, didn't I?  No shame here. We're having too much fun. The joy of being an amateur.

This is the one I likened to an 18 speed bicycle.  Six speeds in the gearbox, and three different diameters on the wind-up  shaft give me a lot of control on how fast it pulls the camera. 

La Gringa has continued with her flying lessons. Dooley and I go out to the airport and sit in the car while she's up flying around with her instructor. I have an air band VHF radio left over from our last aircraft, and I listen to the communications between Piper 23766 and the tower. Dooley snoozes until she taxis back up next to where we're parked. He thinks it's her..... he hopes it's her.... it might be her.... he waits... he needs some kind of confirmation.   A voice.  A familiar smell.

Once he's confirmed that this is, indeed, the other third of our little family he gets pretty excited.   Watching him straining to recognize La G. when he heard her voice reminded me a little of that old RCA Victor advertising campaign.  Remember that one?

I still marvel when I see that stubby little tail of his wagging like that.  I don't know why it doesn't just fly off his butt entirely sometimes.

And speaking of that, we had to edit the first bit of this little video out. Until I smartened up and raised the camera slightly at the beginning to crop it just at his tail, it was going to look a little like he was taking your photo.  

There are two more things I want to mention and then I'll shut up and put this one to bed. The first thing is that we've now created a Facebook page for the blog.  You can find the Like button there on the sidebar below Dooley Demented's button if you're into Facebook.   It's under construction, but if the readers like it we're happy to go whole hog on it.

The second thing is that this week is Dooley the Demented's 10th birthday. What a life he's lucked into.  He thinks all dogs live in places like this. He was in a grumpy mood in this shot. We were at the airport early in the morning while La Gringa was up flying around. It annoys him when I point a camera at his face.  He worries about flashes.  He says it blinds him.  And Blind starts with B, and that rhymes with T, and that stands for Thunder.  Lately, he's been thinking sarcastic remarks when I tell  him that old dogs like us need to take it easy.


And to finish this up, I wish I had a good time lapse to show you. But in the randomly fickle ways of the cosmos, this entire week has been either all cloudy, or totally unremarkable vis a vis that whole sunset thing. How about a photo of the beach in late afternoon, instead?

On second thought, I may as well show you another one of the time lapses for a sunset. My problem with this one included the wind moving the slide. I had the tripods extended all the way up and the gusts were moving it all  over the place. 

We do one of these videos, and then make our changes to improve it, and then we have to wait for another opportunity with good weather and cloud conditions to see if the changes worked as planned.   Me, I could watch just the clouds for quite a while.  They really do move in different directions down here on the water compared to up in the sky where the island has no effect.   This is a sunset.  I bet you figured that out already, said Captain Obvious.