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.


kristine barr said...

Cool blog entry as usual. Disappointed that the sunsets aren't more colorful. Oh well, probably doesn't happen every day.

Anonymous said...

That's exactly right. It all depends on the atmospheric conditions.

Part of it with the time lapses so far seems to be a color saturation issue with the GoPro cameras. I've got a new Pentax that does a much better job, but has a limitation on how many frames I can record. I'm working on it.

Eric said...

It seems as though your FARTS are coming out better. I've heard that getting more air seems to improve production of the system....I couldn't help it.

dmmbruce said...

Great again thanks, and fascinating.

Please don't keep on apologising for showing things you have shown before. I (we) still like them, don't get bored by them and anyway I don't have perfect recall. Show things again as much as you like.

So, new versions for old shots, show where you are sometime, I can't guess from your comments and the google map and the relative geography is confusing.

I shall not touch Facebook having suffered from them in the past. But please keep posting here. Your efforts are much appreciated.



Anonymous said...

Hi Mike.
Thanks for the input. It's really great to get any kind of feedback when we do these things. We put a post together, upload it, and then wonder how people are reacting to it. It's a bit like sticking an application in an envelope and mailing it off, back in a previous century. We'd love to know what readers favor. More videos? Fewer? More island? More boat? Diving? Aerials? Any places that people would like to see us go photograph? Keep the dog? Sell him? Buy him a cat?
Requests can be accommodated in many instances. We're always on the lookout for fresh content.
Not the cat, though.

Anonymous said...

I love your Island stuff, especially when you explore, down quiet sandy roads, beach combing, Island hopping & all things Dooley of course. This may be too personal...but what is La Gringa's goal with flying? I also love any water photos! Thanks so much. Chris

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Chris. We were just out driving around yesterday and got some great island shots.

La Gringa surprised me. She announced at Christmas that next, she wanted to learn to fly. Similar, I suppose, to trying life in a small island nation, learning to sail, and to dive. She doesn't have any goals other than learning to fly. As you might imagine, I am as supportive as I can be, in all of it. We have a lot of these things in common.

"Life is either a great adventure or nothing." (Helen Keller)

Anonymous said...

whats up with Twisted Sheets? Is she still hauled? Been almost a year since you got her and its been rather quiet. Just curious......

Anonymous said...

Been in dry storage since last Sept. Needs a little more work.

Anonymous said...

Just finished reading all your posts that you've written over the years.. A sincere thank you for all the useful info. I borrowed my wife's FB page (I don't have one of my own) so I could send you a message to ask about useful boats specific to TCI. When you get a moment I'd really like to ask you a handful of questions. I left an email address in the Face Book message. Look forward to hearing from you.