Saturday, October 26, 2013

Fort Saint George Cay

This post is about a recent skiff trip over to Fort St. George Cay.  Most people here leave the "saint" part off and just call it Fort George.  I was surprised at how little information I could find about it.   And rather than  just regurgitating things I've read like I was coasting on someone else book report, I'll provide you with some Fort George history links and anyone interested can quickly find out what's available.  And those who are not interested can hopefully just enjoy some of the photos.

Last weekend we had a lucky break in a  period of intermittent squalls. We've been having periods of intense rain over the past couple of weeks.  We grabbed the chance to get out of the house and out on the water.

This is a Google Earth satellite image of our destination,  Fort St. George Cay.  This  image from 2004 so it's now almost ten years old.  There have been quite a few physical changes since 2004.  Mostly in the exposed shoreline to the north and west. 

The fort was on the northwest bulge of the cay. It apparently was there for at least a decade, and there were as many as 200 British troops stationed there. The houses on nearby Pine Cay give you an idea of scale.

I bet the tropical thrill of being stationed on this little island and away from England got real thin, real fast.  "What?  Fish stew, AGAIN??"  

I wonder if they knew about conch? And lobster.  They must have.  It would have been an excuse to get out of those wool uniforms.  Surely the locals clued them in.

Anyhow, we wanted some better aerial photos than this.  In fact, I couldn't find anything useful on the internet.  I know that local veterinarian and pilot Mark Woodring has published some aerial photos of these islands in a hard cover book, but I don't have a copy of it. Besides, this easily justifies going for a boat ride in these amazingly transparent waters with a beautiful woman for company, a deranged dog for amusement, a new kite to play with, and a great excuse to take photographs.  Sounded good to me.

This was the first time we've hauled the skiff down to Leeward with the little KIA.  If you've seen photos of our previous car and boat setup, you might get a chuckle out of how far we've downsized.

We got the boat down the hill, five bumpy miles to the nearest pavement, and then down to the boat ramp in Leeward without any trouble at all.  We've decided we like automatic transmissions for towing boats, by the way.  Sure makes life easier on slippery ramps.  Starting on hills, too.  We paid our $5 ramp  charge to Kilo at the marina, and took the boat up along Water Cay as we've done so many times before.  We've made this trip so many times now I think I could do it in my sleep.  We've certainly done it in the dark a few times.  So it's easy on a sunny day.  We snapped a few photos along the way, noticing recent changes in a landscape  constantly being remodeled by the sea.

This picnic spot is relatively new.  In a few years, or storms, whichever comes first, this will be another little sandy cove with a pile of broken rocks that were once an arch.  But for now, it's some nice shade.  If your name isn't Damocles, I suppose.

And this spot which was once a cliff now has become a cave.   We'll stop and take a closer look at this on an upcoming trip.   We thought seriously about it on this trip, but the afternoon weather was getting spotty on us, and we were already on a mission.   In the past, we've done well when we stuck to plan.  And we've had a few near disasters when we didn't.  Unprepared deviations can be problematic.

Did I mention the weather?  As we  approached Fort George we saw a series of squalls moving over the area.  We had packed a lunch, and decided to duck into the marina at Pine Cay to wait out this one. There was lightning involved.  We don't like lightning any more.  Dooley never did, and La Gringa and I have come around to his way of thinking.   It is a bit annoying to have to put up with a Jack Russell Terrier with an "I told you so" attitude.  And I am continuously surprised how  many attitudes will fit inside such a small dog.

Once ashore and under shelter, we didn't venture far from the marina.  We were just looking for some shady spot to eat our sandwiches and wait for the weather to clear over Fort George.   We sat in  a little hut that the Meridian Club uses for arriving and departing guests.

I bet you thought this next photo was just a bunch of palm fronds.   Not entirely.  Yes, they are palm fronds, but they are not just palm fronds.    These are replacement shingles for the hut we were enjoying.

The shingles were there, the ladder was there... I suggested maybe La Gringa might want to climb up there and learn how to make a palm roof. Her response was brief and to the point, and I don't think I need to repeat it here.  While colorful, let's just say it was, in general, negative about the roof idea.  We decided to just wait for the weather.

Things were pretty quiet at Pine Cay, in general.  It's still a bit early for their busy season, as it is for most islands in the Hurricane Belt.  We had plenty of choices of where to park the skiff.  There it is,  tied up with empty slips on either side.   Now I'm wondering if Twisted Sheets would fit between two of those floating docks.  It would be fun to bring the catamaran over and stay aboard while visiting here.

All of the Parker boats are Meridian Club boats.  They've been using them for some years now, and have standardized on the brand so I think they're pretty happy with them.  There were several in the water at the fuel dock.  Next to this suspicious looking golf cart.  I wonder if Fidel is on the island?

I thought the fishing pole holders and the trailer hitch were nice touches.

Golf carts are the only wheeled transportation on Pine Cay.  They get used for a lot of things.   Hauling the K9 security team around, for example.   Hey, I wonder if this had anything to do with the Cuban cart...

We watched the squall dump its water over the islands to our north.  Once it started changing over from lightning to lightening we resumed our trip over.  Dooley argued about the spelling for a while, but he was over ruled on this.  If he was calling the shots, we'd never leave the house with a squall like this anywhere in sight. Jumpy little boogers, these Jack Russells.

As usual we had to order Dooley the Delinquent  out of the water at the marina in order to continue to Fort George.  I think he has some theories  on being grounded during electrical storms.  He's been asking me a lot of questions about SCUBA lately.

We got him onto the boat and zoomed around the point to the little cay, where he promptly jumped overboard back into the water.   This is Dooley the Detachment, single pawedly storming the beach at the former British garrison at Fort St. George:

Looking at this next photo, one would be unlikely to realize that there is a small body of water located  just on the other side of that low spot. In reading up on the place, I saw that proximity to fresh water on both Fort St. George Cay and Pine Cay was one of the reasons the English chose this spot to built a small fort here over 200 years ago. I know, I know, I said I wouldn't go into all that.  BUT.... if you're interested, our friends from Ships of Discovery did a bit of a survey of this area just a few years ago.  Dr. Don Keith put together a team, and they produced an interesting blog about their adventures.  If you read that blog, please notice the underwater photo of the cannons.  More about this later.

Dooley the Devious didn't wait for the rest of us before swimming ashore. We were not planning to go ashore, just yet.  I wanted to try this new, light wind kite I picked upr recently. It's got more surface area than my other kites, and is supposed to be able to fly in 3 knots of wind.  That doesn't mean it will lift the weight of a camera in 3 knots of wind, but on this day we had  mild gusts of 5 or 6 knots and I was hopeful we could get something from it.  This was also the first time we tried flying the kite rig from the skiff.

Dooley eventually noticed that we were not following him in his mad charges into the underbrush, and he resignedly swam back out to the boat to see what we were up to.  I think he was worried about getting left on the island.

We had to explain to him that we were staying in the boat.  That he was included in the group who were to stay in the boat.  He didn't like it. The squalls were still in the area and he had a lot of unwanted advice on where we were the safest.  I don't think it's ever been unanimous in his mind as to who exactly is the alpha dog in this little pack of ours. 

The new  kite took off in the light air as hoped.   If you're interested in these kites, I've gotten three from a kite shop in Boulder called Into the Wind.  I now think I have the wind speed spectrum covered from about 5 knots up to over 20.  And I'm using woven Dacron fishing line for string. 

This is the view from the boat of that little area between the cut and the inland pond.  Nothing much in the way of clues here to indicate that there's a pond in there.

We managed to inch the kite up, pulling the weight of a GoPro camera and my little rotating rig up with it.  It took a while in the light wind. It was gain five feet, lose two.  Gain three, lose four.  But eventually we got it high enough to start getting some vertical perspective.  The water in the interior is easily visible.  And suddenly I can imagine that little garrison built out on the crowded end of the cay.  Picture 200 troops living on 8 acres.

Part of this little experiment was to see if there were any unexpected hassles in flying the kite from the skiff.  There were not.  We'd envisioned driving the boat slowly and pulling the kite behind it.  We quickly realized that in this one particular case that wouldn't gain us much.  In order to get good views looking down onto the shore using a kite, the land needs to be down wind from the boat.  Or it won't work very well.  Once we figured this out, we decided the best bet was to just jump off the boat and go walk the perimeter of the beach.   Of course this was Dooley the Discoverer's plan all along.   So we hopped out of the boat and waded ashore.

And there were plenty of things to see from the beach, too.  Some interesting debris here and there.

About a million squadrons of large dragonflies zipping to and fro, and fro and to.  And up and down and all around.   The sky above the bushes here in the lee of the very slight wind was literally humming with these flying mosquito hawks. And we like anything that eats mosquitoes. While I was busy trying to walk and fly a kite at the same time (how's that for a straight line?) La Gringa was snapping photos down at sea level.  She got a pretty good representation of the dragonfly density here.

Their business is mosquitoes, and business is good.

Continuing our little kite walk around the point, we got a good view of distant squalls over some of the jumbled ruins of this tiny military base.  I haven't been able, yet, to find a verbal description of Fort St. George.  It's probably a good assumption that they used the soft native limestone for most of it.  There's no lumber here to speak of.  Pine Cay has had a grove of small trees on it in the past, and it's entirely possible that they could have cut some rafters or the like from that.  But as for the native stone and with the way this stuff crumbles, I'd have little hope of being able to identify much in the surf zone from 200 years ago. Nothing made of limestone, anyhow.   But I bet the view to sea hasn't changed a bit in 200 years.

This is an aerial view of that very same stretch of shore.  Six or seven years ago we did find some sections of walls and foundations inside what's now a dense thicket of vegetation.  I see no evidence of those hand cut blocks in these images.  It's possible that the bluff I remember is now submerged in the rubble.  Anything left ashore here would be pretty well buried by the plant life, in any case.

We've learned to look for   unnatural formations or lines when we search for old sites and artifacts.  Straight lines, square corners, perfect circles or portions of any of these things are often indicative of the worksof people.   Nature rarely uses straight edges.  We weren't seeing much of that here.  It gets a little complicated in that the natural stone formations themselves are good at camouflaging loose rocks that may have once been part of a wall or gun emplacement.   Here in this next photo, for example.  We can tell that the curved bedrock is natural.  But what about that rectangular block sticking up in the middle of it?   I don't think that piece eroded to those angles in that location. 

Some evidence is, well, self evident.  This is a piece of iron wedged among the stones in shallow water.  The iron oxide catches the attention immediately.

While we were looking around for artifacts of the old fort, we couldn't ignore some of the more natural elements of the shore here.  Some of that included interesting marine life, like this little invertebrate monster.  This is called a chiton.

Here's a photo of another one.  Notice that  the  portion of this critter under cover  isn't nearly all of it. It's surrounded by some kind of foot or tentacle bed similar in appearance to an abalone.  That photo above makes it appear that these things are eating the limestone.    Not sure why, but that makes me nervous. Living on the limestone, and all.

I read in the Wikipedia article from the link that people in the Caribbean eat these things.  The foot is prepared similar to abalone.  Which basically means to beat the heck out of it until it's tender enough to chew and then boil or fry it.  I can't see me out rustling up a pot of these for dinner under present circumstances, but it's nice to know I could if I needed to.

Now this next one I do know.  This is a semi-fossilized conch shell, sticking half out of the rock.  It strikes me as somewhat odd that the shellfish are tougher than the rock here. 

And speaking of the rock here, this little cay sure has some interesting patterns.  We got so carried away exploring the little crevices and marine life that we almost forgot about those Englishmen walking all over this place back in the late 1700's.  But they did.

Remember up near the beginning of this post when I included the link to Dr. Keith's blog about the cannon?  I wanted to provide you with some background so you would understand what they look like from the air. There are two cannon distinctly exposed on the seabed here, in about four feet of water.  You can just barely make out exposed portions of at least one more to the right of the exposed ones.  The cannon are just to the right of the  middle of this photo. lying in the edge of the rubble  between you and that rain squall.  They're the dark objects that are pointing out to sea like, well, cannon. Tell you what, I'll send this photo to Dr. Keith and see what he says about it.

We went back and forth along the rocks.  Me with my kite, La Gringa with the pocket Nikon, and Dooley the Detached with whatever baggage he carries in that hairy little head of his. That Nikon Coolpix AW100 has worked out to be a great little camera, by the way.  If you're interested in those things.  We've been averaging a camera a year here. This is the best pocket point and shoot digital that we've had, by far.

We knew the Go Pro on the kite was most likely getting some aerial images, and so La Gringa continued to concentrate on the close up stuff.   Years of constant wave erosion have made for some interesting formations.  If someone told me this was an aerial drone photograph of some mid-eastern desert wadi in Kuwait, I would probably believe it.

But we know it isn't.  That photo is of the rock here, from an altitude of about one meter.   So is this next one.

Of course it's pretty obvious when we find one of nature's mortar and pestle setups.  This might make an interesting video at high tide, with the wave action grinding these rocks around and around and around.  Making sand.   Wonder what would happen if we dropped a few of those chitons in there.   Abalone paste?

As near as I can tell, this next aerial shot should include just about all of the area that was the ocean side fortifications of the old Fort St. George.  The land would have extended out much further back then than it does today.  But we know that the heavy iron cannon must have pretty much stayed at their original locations, which would have been some distance above the seabed back in  the day.  So I'd assume that the outer bulwarks and cannon ports were about that far out, before the sea reclaimed the property.  So much for the sanctity and permanence of Crown Land on a small tropical island.  The water eventually wins any disputes.

Speaking of water, I think I mentioned up top that we've had tons of it falling on us lately.  So much that it literally leaps over the gutters as the force of it bounces it off channels already level full.   Now that's some rain right there.

And as much as we need the fresh water, it also causes some issues here with we get this much of it at once.  This is a spot along the Leeward Highway where a man drowned in his car after running off the road  into  those trees on the right during a similar storm pattern the year we moved here, 2005.     That was in October, too, come to think of it.

And that's not the only spot that floods.  We could fill a post with nothing but flooded Providenciales photos after one of these storms.  Without trying to place any blame, let me just offer one uninformed opinion that the weather sometimes overwhelms the engineering here. There's no place for this water to run to.  The curbs trap it on the roads.   I look at the bright side.  It washes the salt off the undercarriage, momentarily.

That's pretty much it for this post.  We've got a lot of DIY stuff going on with our elderly sailboat Twisted Sheets presently back in the ocean undergoing more repairs. And being at the end of the growing season presents its own challenges here.  The plant life is all growing at a rapid clip.  The bugs are loving the fresh water puddles, as evidenced by a bumper crop of mosquitoes and termites.  And the dragonflies and lizard populations are growing in response to the food supply.  And I've just lately noticed how many of the plants around here are armed.    The agave cacti are obvious, of course, but until I moved here I never really realized that the bougainvillea are also thorny little bundles.  The flowers are colorful, for sure.

And up close, those branches look like this:

And I've found these  next things to be quite a nuisance, and very difficult to eradicate.  They're easy to spot, and to pull up, but they grow amazingly fast.  And even if I pull all them at one time, within two weeks we have more.   Sand spurs, stickers, whatever you call them, it hurts to step on them barefoot.   They come in on vehicle tires.  And they are prolific. 

Lately I've been trying some new types of herbicides on them.  I figure I spray an average of four gallons of chemicals on this hilltop a month.  Three of insecticides, and now another gallon of herbicides.   I was stocking up at the local grocery store last week, in fact.   When I got to the spot over by the light bulbs and dog food where I usually find my 'cides, I was surprised to see that   they're now  apparently stocking something new.  I don't even know what an 'intesecticide' is, but I started worrying when I realized that Aisle 9 is where they keep the pharmaceuticals.  Ah oh. This isn't looking good for the old digestive tract.  I hope they have it in vanilla, or strawberry.  Wonder if it works on weeds and bugs, too.

Okay, that's it for this blog post.   I don't have a recent sunset photo to show you, but this is what the full moon looked like over the water a few nights back. Well, that's not actually true.  It looked a lot better than this.  It reminded me of that Alfred Noyes poem about The Highwayman.  You know the one... 'the road was a ribbon of moonlight'.   In this case, the road was a glittering path to the south east.  To people like us, it says 'follow me down through the Caribbean'.   Some day.  Hopefully, sooner than one might think.

We haven't yet managed to get a really good full moon photo.  But we'll work on it.  It's on the list.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Heaving Down Rock

I've written about this time of year before. It's a transition zone between seasons. There's something almost magic about a lot of the days in late September and early October.  We get most of our rain this time of year with frequent  squalls blowing through. We also get periods when there's not much wind for several days in a row.  The ocean smooths out into slow, lazy, glassy swells.  And we get some spectacular, Dooley rattling squalls, too.   He slept in his 'thundershirt' last night.  Well, "slept" is not very accurate.  I doubt you could have closed his eyes with a three pound hammer.   So I'll correct myself.  Dooley hid under the bed shivering and shaking  in his thundershirt during an impressive electrical storm  last night.  All night. 

 And it took the power company until noon today to restore power.  Now that's a squall.   Why do these things always seem to happen at night, and on weekends?   Oh well.  Price of admission, I guess.

 Here's a recent sunrise from La Gringa..

  Rain is welcome here, within reason.  We heard parts of downtown were flooded this morning. These next couple of photos are from another morning rainstorm last week when I was trying to get a good photo of a sunrise through a local squall.  It didn't come out the way I hoped, but hey you never know unless you try, right?  Can you see the raindrops in the photo?   Little dark smears in the open part between the sun and the clouds.

You might just be able to see the line across the surface of the ocean where the edge of the squall is fingerpainting the top of it. The sheets of rain looked like transparent curtains drifting across the ocean. Of course I wasn't actually in the rain taking the photo.  Nah, I was up under the roof overhang with my morning coffee, fat dumb and happy. And dry.  My momma didn't raise no fools.   Well, maybe one.

That PVC pipe you see coming under the roof is part of our rainwater collection system.  The rain runs into the gutters, and then into these pipes, which connect to  two 9,000 gallon cisterns built into the house foundation.  We  usually get enough rain to cover almost all of our water needs throughout the year. We sized the roof with a four foot overhang all the way around.  This collects more rainwater and also provides shade when the sun is high.  We typically do have to buy about two water-truck loads of water a year, or 5,000 gallons, at six cents US per gallon.  US gallon.    And that usually happens early in the year, during the start of the 'dry' season.  Which also typically corresponds to when we have a number of house guests still left over from the holidays.  Once the guests go home, the rain alone is enough for the rest of the time. I should mention that this is also one of the last parts of Providenciales to get town water, so eventually we won't be relying on rain water.   I didn't say we won't use it,  because even with town water available.We prefer the soft rain water to the hard RO (reverse osmosis) desalinated water.  It's okay to mix it.

We went down to Leeward-Going-Through last Sunday to see if anything of interest was going on.    We miss hanging out at Leeward.  We were there quite often in our first two years here.  It was a different place in those days. It was quiet for a Sunday afternoon. This is typical for the season.  The overall population of Providenciales is at its lowest this time of year. A lot of local people take their yearly vacations during September and October.  Many of the people we know here are 'off island' right now.  And  the number of visitors from the USA, Canada, and the rest of the world is way down this time of year. They have their own autumns to enjoy, and kids  in school, and let's face it, this is the smack dab middle of hurricane season here. And I am not going to say anything else about that at this point because I'd have to go touch wood if I did.  I don't want to  jinx anything. We do get a lot of divers this time of year.   The diving and snorkeling is about as good as it gets. The calm water lets all the little particles of sand settle out, and the clarity is astonishing.  Some of the best underwater visibility on the planet, in my experience.  Thirty meters would be average, with more not uncommon.

This is a Google Earth satellite view of where we took our kite and camera setup last Sunday:

This is a photo looking down at a local point called Heaving Down Rock, which is at the tip of that big yellow arrow in the above photo. This is right at the very end of the Leeward Highway, with Leeward-Going-Through there between it and Mangrove Cay across the channel.  Don't you just love the names here? So descriptive.

Leeward-Going-Through is self descriptive, I think.  It's a channel that lets boats through between the islands. I sometimes tend to forget that not everyone who reads this blog is up on their nautical terms, so Heaving Down Rock might be a bit of a puzzle for some.  It's not the seasick sailor  kind of heaving.  Here's the simple definition from one of the online dictionaries:
heave down
(Transport / Nautical Terms) (intr, adverb) Nautical to turn a vessel on its side for cleaning.
We don't know  what this area looked like back in the "heaving down" days.   I think you can see how this area would have lent itself to pulling a wooden boat over on its side to clean the hull.   That's no longer done this way, here.  These days we pay for a travel lift to pick the boats up out of the water and they use pressure washers  to clean   hulls. I know my own imagination can easily erase the man made marina, and picture a wooden boat snugged up alongside the rocks here  200 years ago.
"Pressure Washer Rock" just doesn't have the same cachet, does it.

This area has a lot of significance for us.  Finally, for the first time, we can see the bottom over which our former boat Cay Lime got swept along with the floating docks that got torn away from their moorings during Hurricane Hanna in '08.  The boat was upside down right there where I am standing at the bottom end of  that kite string. By the way, the pickup truck in that photo contains two of the notorious Stubbs boys, Preacher and Joe. They had come over to say hello  after coming in from a fishing trip.  The back of that truck is half full of live conch.  And one barracuda.  These guys love barracuda.   And we've tasted it.  Not bad.   We've just got an irrational and ingrained worry about ciguatera.  It's irrational because we don't seem to mind eating grouper, and they eat the same small reef fishes the barracuda do. 

This is actually a better photo.  I had walked out onto the end of the rock itself.  This photo shows it all, Heaving Down Rock, Sherlock Walkin's Leeward Marina, and in the distance, the Conch Farm.  And that's Leeward Highway taking off to the right, up island.   Or is it down island? I'm still confused about which way is up when talking about islands and beaches.  Thought I had it almost figured out for a while, but then I gave up.  Or gave down, as the case may be.

That sandy spot between the floating dock and beached boats in the bottom right corner also serves as a local boat ramp for those who don't want to pay the $5 Mr. Walkin charges to use his boat ramp.  La Gringa thinks that this side of heaving down rock makes more sense as a place to  haul boats over.   There have been so many modifications over the years, I'm not seeing much evidence of where the original "marina" would have been 250 years ago.  I guess we need to mentally subtract all the man made stuff and try to visualize what the natural shoreline would have been.   I suspect the basin in front of today's marina has been dredged in modern times.

I find it interesting that such a simple thing as a well placed rock outcropping could have so much impact on the local history here.  I can't find much information from the early years.  I know there must be ships logs and personal journals somewhere.  Maybe in the museum on Grand Turk.   I'll have to look into that, because it interests me. For example, in modern times, this is where the very first motor vehicle on Providenciales was offloaded onto the island.  It was in 1966, and the vehicle was a jeep.   What an experience that must have been for the several hundred people then living on Provo.  That was the year I started driving in Texas. Legally.  There were sure a lot of cars on the roads in Houston back then. And one beat up jeep on Providenciales, with no roads at all. Cart and foot paths.

Discussing this with La Gringa, she had just recently read a story about that jeep, and how it influenced driving in the Turks and Caicos Islands.  We naturally assumed that we drive on the left here because this is a British territory.  I was somewhat surprised to find out that this isn't the case.    The 28,000 inhabitants of the Turks and Caicos islands drive on the left because of that first jeep.   No kidding.

According to a correspondent on the Turks and Caicos Islands Historical Society's Facebook page:

"The story behind why we started driving on the left. According to Mr. Bengt Soderqvist, the first vehicle which came here in 1966, which was a jeep had an accident, the tie-rod was bent and began to favour the left, hence the driver found it more comfortable to drive on the left, "and we started to drive left from that day". That puts paid to the belief of those who insist that driving on the left on the island is due to the fact that the traffic rules are patterned after the British."
So the driving laws in the Turks and Caicos Islands are based upon steering damage to a US built vehicle, and are totally unrelated to England.  Still doesn't explain why someone thought badly designed roundabouts would be a great idea at intersections, though. 

This next photo is not totally unrelated to England at all. The rather nice little home there in the middle of the photo is the former residence of the former Chief Minister of the Turks and Caicos Islands.  He's been on an extended vacation in Brazil awaiting extradition by the Brits for quite some time now.  Nice house.  But I bet he has some 'splaining to do.  Eventually.  This is going to be one of the most expensive Portuguese language courses in modern times.

This next one is another view more to the north west looking up Leeward Going Through.  We had noticed a "new' catamaran anchored out in the channel,which you can see in this photo.   We found out that another of the notorious Stubbs boys, Jay, had just bought that boat and sailed it down from Florida the week before.  We spoke for quite a while with Jay about his trip down. It took him a week.  He told us about some of the troubles he had, and why it took him an entire week.  We heard tales of having to wait a day for wind while anchored in the Exumas.   

That same trip took us 40 days.  Lack of wind was never an issue. I'm not going back into all that here. We all have our sea stories, don't we?  

As you can tell, the ratcheting camera-turning gear is still working fine on the kite setup.  We get photos in all directions just by tugging the kite string. This view is out over the Caicos Bank.   I  walked out to the end of the   remaining floating dock at the marina  for these next few images. Before Hanna in 08, there were three.

This is the view  looking back up the dock.

It's not  too difficult to take a look at the water on each side of that dock and tell which way the wind and current are running.

And I thought you'd appreciate what might be considered a somewhat rustic approach to ferry boats or water taxis. Yes, this started out as a home built conch boat. One of many here, of identical design, from the same pirated hull mold.  And now here it is a commercial ferry, tied up in the Pine Cay slip at Leeward Marina.  

A view from the end of the dock in x and y, with an additional z component of a couple hundred feet of altitude....

The camera just keeps rotating, so we get hundreds of photos to choose from on these excursions.  Don't worry, I'm not going to post hundreds of photos.  But I mention it because if anyone has any good use for an aerial image of anything in this area, there's a good chance we have it.

For example, I think this is a decent photo of the layout of the Conch Farm.   You can see the circular pens where the conch are allowed to grow until they are big enough change from looking for sea food to becoming it.  I know you probably won't be able to make it out, but on the horizon just to the right of center is a black dot.   That's the wreck of the old freighter La Familia Express.    You've sure seen plenty of images of that on this blog.

If you ever find yourself on Providenciales looking for something unusual to do, try taking the tour of the Conch Farm if you can. It's been going through some legal hassles lately, which is understandable. That's some prime real estate right there. Only a matter of time before someone figures out that a whole lot more money could be made than is justified by raising conch.  So, you might not want to put that tour off for too long.

Speaking of land issues, we just spent almost three weeks away from home during the growing season here. That creates issues of its own. I found a good use for the stainless tank we salvaged on West Caicos.  It makes a great little portable incinerator for sand spurs.  Or grass burrs.  Or stickers.  Whatever you call those things that puncture the bottom of bare feet and stick to your clothing if you let them get out of hand.  And  three weeks is definitely long enough for them to get out of hand.  I rip up the thorny little boogers and burn them.  Then I spray the area with herbicide.  Buys me about a month before I have to do it again.

And when I mixed up my herbicide, it necessitated another little DIY thing.  I discovered that particles in the stuff were clogging up the screen on my little hand pump sprayer.  So I balled up a piece of cotton fabric to use as a filter,  and siphoned the mix down through it. I can see four different projects going on at my work bench.  It doesn't always look this bad. The siphoning and filtering worked like a charm, by the way.  This is good info to have here.   Bugs and weeds grow year round, and the regular application of  'cides of various denominations has become a way of life for us. It's  definitely a case of better living through chemistry.

One more little DIY photo and then I'll end this. Several people have expressed an interest in the 3D printer.  I've continued to improve and tune it, and now have it printing surprisingly well for a home-built kit of plywood and cable ties.  It's to the point now where I can actually print projects taller than a few inches. The precision of the various carriages has to be pretty tight in order to stack this many layers and have it come out well. I've also learned more about printing things with  supporting
columns to hold up overhangs.  That all gets broken and cut away when the print is finished, leaving the supported part. It's still very much an old dog/new trick scenario with this thing, but I'm learning.

We're getting a fair bit of use from this Printrbot.  It's fascinating to watch it. I'm convinced that 3-D printing is going to be making some big changes in the world of manufacturing and home hobby projects. Do you remember that line in the movie "The Graduate" about plastics being the way of the future?  These days, I think it's 3-D printing.  And graphene, of course.  That's going to be even bigger.

Well, that's it for this post.  We should be able to get back out on the water in the  next few days as life gets back to normal after being away.     In the meantime..... keep smiling.