Friday, September 27, 2013

300th Post

I find it surprising that this blog has continued for 300 posts.  That must be the equivalent of a book or two. I  thought of several  cliche'-sounding things to write about that. But after my maximum sustained effort of three or four seconds of unusually deep thought, I decided it just means that we must be reaching people with dreams and interests similar to our own. And that's the whole point.  As long as people keep reading it, we'll keep posting it.
La Gringa  has gotten back into taking sunrise and sunset photos.  This is the wet season and we have a lot more clouds this time of year.  Clouds make for some dramatic celestial scenery. I was just looking through a bunch of photos she took on a recent morning. I was noticing how much the scene changes as the morning light develops.  This was just before the sun broke through a cloud bank on the horizon one recent morning:

There's a lot of atmosphere going on in that photo. 

It was one of those calm, clear days when the water looked like a big lake more than it did an ocean.  It's quite common for us to get thunderstorms and squalls  in the afternoon on late summer  days that start out like this.  But they're great days to get the skiff in the water if we do it early.

And this next photo was taken on the same day as that first one, just a short time  after the sun had risen above the clouds.  

We didn't do anything special for our 300th blog post.  We had already planned to take the skiff over to West Caicos on the next calm day, and this turned out to be that day.   They all get here eventually, don't they. We launched it with the KIA instead of the Land Rover for the first time, and that was a little different. Backing a boat down a ramp while sitting on the left side of the automobile and peering over my right shoulder seemed easier after these  past several years of backing boats with a right hand drive Defender. I guess by now we're backidextrious. And the little KIA handled the light skiff just fine.  I'm pretty sure I'd never hook up the Contender to it, though. Oh, I don't doubt that it would pull it. Just not very fast. Nor very far. And not for too many times.

By the time we got the boat into the water the wind had picked up a little bit and the ocean was not as smooth as it had been at dawn.  This little boat is okay in some slight chop, so we headed over to West Caicos as planned.   It's not hard to recognize the water over here.  It's got a look of it's own:

We were heading for a specific spot this time. Back in October of last year we ran across this old sluice way over on West Caicos.   I noodled around on the internet and found out that it's probably the ruins of a salt exporting plan that was ongoing back in the 1850's.  We took photos and wrote about what I had found in a post called " Local Histories Little Mysteries" almost a year ago.  I also planned to come back someday when I had the ability to take some aerial photos of this place.

Dooley the Delighted was way happy to be boating over to West Caicos again.  He likes this place.   It's a beach lover's paradise, and Dooley likes to explore beaches.

I won't go into the details of what we've been doing with the kite cameras lately. All of the fiddling around that I do with those things would be a blog post all of its own. This rig is the one that rotates clockwise as the kite string jiggles it.   I'll post a few of the images that I consider as most representative of what we got.   One thing we're learning is that we only need to put the camera up for a few minutes.  Leaving it up while the camera goes around and around doesn't gain much. All the good stuff is in the first dozen images and after that it just keeps repeating the same general scenes.  Unless you're moving.  The wind varied between about 6 to 9 knots this trip.  It was good for boating, but  borderline for the kite we had with us.  At one point it dipped so low that the camera went underwater. I think La Gringa put some of those photos on the Face book page. I'm not going to post them here. Too embarrassing.

This is looking down at the old sluice way, and shows most of the  masonry and rock structure that extends out from the shore.   I call it a sluice way because I haven't yet come up with the correct name for it.  I'm pretty sure it was a ditch to get fresh ocean water into the interior lake of West Caicos so that it could be evaporated for sea salt.   I'm puzzled at all the effort with the stone work, though.   This had to be a tough job.

Here's a photo with the boat in it to give you an idea of the scale.  And we are getting a much better view of the structure we had noticed directly offshore when we were here a year ago.   The rectangular shape of it immediately becomes apparent when viewed from above.

This is just more of the same scene.  I'll upload a few of these so you can get a good idea of what this stretch of coastline looks like.   

This is another view of that structure offshore.  It could be my imagination, but I am wondering if I am seeing similar sized blobs equally spaced out in the same vicinity. Possibly this was part of some planned structure to protect the sluice inlet from storms and waves.  Maybe it was an offshore loading platform. Perhaps it's the remains of an old barge or other vessel. The problem with all of this in my mind is that the water here is only a meter deep.  It gets three meters deep out where it turns blue, but this thing is in waist deep water.  Too shallow for a boat of any size.  It would be easier to bring a boat up to the island on the opposite side, in the lee protected from the wind, and where deep water goes right up to the shoreline.

This  next one is another shot of where we dropped the anchor near the ruins of the sluice way.   .  We actually don't know for sure what this all was about. You can see how straight the stones were laid, and how they're still holding together in places. Keep in mind that this is on a sand beach, in the surf zone, in the hurricane belt, below the tide line, after 160 years of exposure on the windward side of this cay. I'd love to know how they  mixed that mortar. That's some good stuff right there.

At one point we noticed two guys on PWCs zooming down the coast of the island. As you can tell from the photos, there was absolutely nothing other than our kite photography going on.  We were the only people in sight. They zoomed over to see what we were up to, and the kite camera caught some images.

This is the point when they changed course to pass well out away from us. When we got a look at them, we got the impression that they might be associated with the resort development that's been in limbo here on the island. The word in the newspapers is that the whole Molasses Reef resort is starting up construction again.  We think these guys might be security for the new contractors.

There are roads still in place from back before the development plans halted, some five years ago.   I marked each end of the remains of the old sluice way that we're investigating. You can see the old causeway that crosses the pond here, and how the roads still follow the ones originally laid out back in the 1800's or earlier.  The man made waterway is filled in with sand and vegetation, but is still clearly visible from the air.           

I posted this one because it shows all the pieces in one photo.   And where the roads are.

This is looking almost directly down onto the remaining parts of the submerged portion of the structure.   You can see that the finished, straight sides of the stones were all facing inward. And very carefully laid out. I wouldn't have thought that precise control of the width of that structure would be very important if all it did was carry water.  Yet, obviously, someone took a lot of care with it.

I was winding the camera and kite in during that photo. This one was taken just a few minutes later from that same position.  This is what those rocks (above) look like from beach level.   Getting the bird's eye view has spoiled me. The shadow is  the camera's self-portrait as I was unclipping it from the kite string.

And this shadow, hanging around my feet being a nuisance, is Dooley the Dehydrated telling me he's had enough fun and sun for one day. I also notice that the camera was beginning to fog up around the edges in these photos.  We have yet to solve the humidity issues with sealed up water proof cameras in the sun.

So that's basically what this post is about.  We had wanted to go back to take another look at those old ruins, and having the kite setup was the perfect excuse.   We still have some more exploring to do, now that we know the limited extent of the ancient water way.   We'll have to bring some decent hiking shoes out with us.  I also want to dig around a little in that offshore structure.  If I find the remains of wood and iron out there, it was a boat.  If it's all rock, that will tell us something else.

We wouldn't want to solve all the West Caicos mysteries at once, of course. We like having excuses to keep going back. I don't know what it is about this stretch of water, but it's become one of my favorite beach combing places. And the undocumented history is fascinating to me.  We have  plans for  getting more images from the kites on the rest of this island.  Heck, we'd come back just to look at the water alone.

I had originally thought I'd end this post with a couple sunrise photos  that could pass for sunset photos if one didn't know better. But these were definitely taken at dawn. I had just poured my first cup of coffee, looked out across the Caicos Bank, and thought "well, that looks like some potential for a decent sunrise. I'll go grab my camera".    And so I did.  And walked out into the calm morning and took this image:

And slapped at the clouds of bugs that  were zeroing in on the fact that my dawn coffee stroll put me immediately in the middle of their menu.  No wind means mucho mosquitoes.'s what a nice sunrise looks like through a hastily slammed screen door...

Not wanting to end this with a screen door sunrise photo, I'll upload a few more and then angle in for a better ending. We just put our old sailboat, Twisted Sheets, back into the boatyard for some additional work. I brought the boat around from South Side Marina to the Caicos Marina and Shipyard.  If you read this blog much, you know both places pretty well by now.

La Gringa was on the patio with her telephoto lens when I came around the bend.   Still photos don't show the motion very well, but you can tell that there was a little bit of chop.

I had already had to shut down the starboard engine at this point.  It had an overheat alarm blaring and we don't ignore those. I had also had to climb down into the port side engine room to be sure that the low oil pressure  reading was not critical.  This stuff gets interesting on a bumpy day when you're the only one on the boat.    

All this while remembering to keep an eye on the rocks.

Until finally I was able to turn into the mouth of the marina.  I was still running on just the port engine.  I guess it's a good thing we have so much experience getting this boat to a dock on one engine, because it seems to be a required skill.   And yes, we realize that thousands of sailboats do perfectly well on one engine. But things get a little trickier when it's a catamaran. Getting these engines right before we take off on another long sail is one of the reasons it's going back into the yard.

And now after that distraction, I can get back to a proper 2 Gringos blog post ending.  With some of La Gringa's' photo stuff. She took this one looking out over the salina just before sunset.

I thought that was good enough, myself.   But then she noticed a disturbance in the water there in the foreground.    The bone fish were starting to feed.  There were some larger fish streaking in from the edges, no doubt headed for the same bait the bone fish were chasing.

A few minutes of patience and she caught the sun breaking through the clouds for a sunset and the bone fish breaking the surface of the salina at the same time.   The sun reflected off the ripples caused by the fish,  on the otherwise still and glassy surface.

 And that makes for a pretty good blog-post finishing-up photo.


Rebecca @ It's Not Easy Eating Green said...

Happy 300th! You always keep me reading, and drooling over the pics.

Anonymous said...

You cld easily sell a book! :) I look forward to reading 300 more posts! -Chris

kristine barr said...

Great photos as usual. Are you sure there are no peoples journals during the time that sluice was built that may describe what it was for? Is there a library on the Caicos? If so they may have some history of the thing.

Reinergirl said...

Congrats on your 300th post! Love reading your blog and I have a fondness for Dooley :)

Anonymous said...

Is there enough room in the camera enclosure for a gauze bag with an ounce, or two, of rice?

It looks to me like there's a too-straight line just outside the plant growth at the mouth of the sluice, (photos 9, 12 and 13). Could that be the remnants of a dam, and the stones in the water the remains of a pump-house?

Darn, Gringo, it's too early in the mornin' to be thinkin' like this; I'm just here to enjoy the photos and writing, doggoneit!!


Anonymous said...

The only historical source I know of is the museum on Grand Turk. We were there a few years ago, on our way home from Salt Cay. We're overdue for a trip back over to GT. I know a lot more about what questions to ask these days.

dmmbruce said...

Congratulations on making it to 300. You look younger than that, I think :-)

At the end of the sluice, there is the line of stones pointing out to the platform(?) off shore. What I see as well is the line of similar, but less well defined, stones that seem to point directly toward the next platform(?) a short distance down the coast. You haven't commented on this, but it seems clear from your new photos.

Any ideas?


Jack in Denver said...

the sluice you guys are investigating is, by far, my favorite of all of your adventures. mind-boggling the amount of work that went into that cut. i want to know more!!

seasons up in Denver are changing fast--first snow in Winter Park this week.

also, i know you guys are Mark Knofler fans. his new album Privateering is phenomenal. This song in particular really fit the mood of this post..thinking about the work that went into what is now ruins.

Anonymous said...

hello Jack, When I saw you had posted a comment I thought you might have spotted us yesterday walking around up at Red Rocks. It was a beautiful Sunday and there were a lot of people up there. We've been staying in a Hyatt in Englewood for the past few days. We're headed back to Providenciales today.

Hey, your youtube link is to a CU promotional video. Which Mark Knopfler video did you intend to reference? Thanks for the heads up, we'll get the music.

Mike, I was totally unaware of that pattern of dark spots out there until I saw these aerials. You don't see all of that from the water. We want to go back and put the kite cam up from the boat and try to get a better idea of the layout and geometry. I hear the weather in Provo has been really calm lately. Hopefully it will hold long enough for us to get some more exploring in. Typical calm glassy days are common this time of year.

Jack Hamlin said...

man..i told you email me next run through Denver!! honestly, the wife and I would love to take you guys out for a beer and some vittles.

I was up at red rocks running on Saturday am., very close to my house.

the song is "dream of the drowned submariner". haunting tune that has been stuck in my head for 3 weeks straight....your blog post made it the perfect soundtrack.

BD said...

It is a good finishing up post photo. Now I have a question for you. It doesn't seem like there is a whole lot to do there. Do you ever get bored?

Anonymous said...

Jack, Thanks. We were actually up in Ft.C. for most of the time. Came down to visit stepson in Highlands Ranch for the weekend. Were booked up pretty solid for that portion.

Everyone running around all excited because we're going to be grandparents. Well, step grandparent in my case.
Don't worry, we'll be back. December, in fact.

BD, you're right. By many standards there isn't much to do here. It's really all about the ocean. This would not be a good place for someone not totally into an ocean related lifestyle. Fishing, sailing, beach combing, diving, snorkeling, swimming, boating, sea kayaking, wind surfing, kite boarding....

these.....we got.

Anonymous said...

well as a result of all the posts and pictures recently I made it down to Provo today. Damn is it hot. Pleasantly surprised the wind is down or at least today, weather shows 14-15 mph +. Surprised how hot and humid it is, last time I was here 3 years ago in November it was incredible, dry hot clear, warm breeze. Where or what exactly does TCI share its weather system with, this feels like regular Miami soaking sweat heat deal. What's interesting to me is even though this may be the 5th time here, this time after a long break, the place seems to shrink incredibly i.e. driving from the airport to the hotels, the size of the roads etc. etc. Saw a Mango Tango JKU on the road and thought it might be gringo, then I remembered.

First time I have come in on a weekend, holy mackerel first and last!

Place is nice. Always has been but only fully appreciated once you leave. And then return some time later.

Anonymous said...

Oh yeah, it's pretty humid. We just got back from Colorado on Monday and it was like a slap across the face with a wet t-shirt.

Forecast is for even less wind after tomorrow. A whole lot of people leave here during August, September and October. That's the real summer here. And storm season.

And the best time to fly in or out is Tuesday-Thursday.

Anonymous said...

well today (sunday) is what it is all about. Indescribable to any not in the know. There is no place finer on this planet as evidenced by today. Holy heck, water temp, sky, sand sea. Impossible to explain in words! Wow just wow. It's so weird first you got to convince people that its not Turkey! and nothing to do with Europe. Then try to explain the water and the sand and the sea. There is absolutely no where else on this planet that compares and I have been pretty much everywhere. To stay in the water for 3 hours straight pretty much says it all. Absolute heaven on earth!

Anonymous said...

Yes, it was one of those days. We had a bit of a Stubbs day. We took one of the kites and a camera down to Leeward to get some photos of the marina, and hung out with Preacher and his brother Joe. Also spent a lot of time talking to Jay, owner of Sail Provo. He just sailed a 38 ft. catamaran down from Miami last week.
He's going to call a diesel mechanic for me. Maybe finally get them both running right. If I could put a photo here in the comments I would. Guess I'll just post them up here in a day or so.
Glad you're having a good vacation. This time of year can get muggy and buggy, yes, for sure.

Ah, but when the water's right, there's nothing else like it.

Anonymous said...

been on of those days now 3 days straight! I know which month come here that is for sure. It's insane. I mean any other time is certainly nice, but right now is utterly insane. I recall coming in November where it would be breezy and choppy to the point the high tide mark in the mornings would reach on the dunes on Grace Bay. Maybe out of two weeks 1 or 2 days would be like it has been the past 3 days. Been chatting to the local about that, what they tell me makes sense. It valid Gringo or what we have right now is an anomaly? What they tell me is all the crap storms etc. are in the Caribbean sea - which makes sense because that's quite active. And as a result on the other side of the Island right now (Long Bay) would be experiencing disturbances from that end - choppy breezy etc. This side (GB) right now sees nothing in October, but come November forward, the crap in North America, storms winter weather etc, affect this side which is the higher tides, choppy waters, breeze / winds etc. Seems October is smack in the middle of the transition from weather systems in the Caribbean sea / Pacific and beyond that side, to North America approaching winter which then affects this side. Historically in all the years you guys are here, is that about right, give or take whatever? because I'll surely make a point to come every October and drag everyone with me. This is utter perfection.

Anonymous said...

Congrats on 300 posts! Always a pleasure to read your blog.

It's interesting how you are exploring some of the history of the islands with the kite photo set up. Keep it up!

Best, Bill