Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Blue Haven Marina

We thought this photo of the water was a little different.  Something about the various horizons  interested me.  There's the dark silhouette  of the land.   The wind is rippling the near  shore water, but just a few hundred meters out it transitions to a  smooth glossy surface, out to almost flat.  That continued out as far as the eye could see. 

And then it transitioned to a low lying cloud layer sitting on the real horizon, then some cumulus clouds and on to the clear blue of the Caribbean sky south of us.   Anyhow, it's slightly different from the usual sunrise shot.

If you actually like the usual sunrise stuff instead, how about a little 20 second time lapse video?

This post is about the newest marina on Providenciales, the Blue Haven Marina and Resort.   We recently decided that we'd treat ourselves to a late lunch after yet another day struggling with the Immigration Department here.  We'd just forced ourselves to be nice and patient and polite to a number of people who were not trying to be any of those things themselves.  It took us three trips to the police, one trip to the post office, two trips to a computer supply store, one trip to a passport photographer, one trip to the bank, one trip to the Treasury, and three trips so far to the actual Immigration department...... to renew a permit we've had for 8 years.  The process took up some part of every day for a week.   It was a very frustrating experience, again, for someone who appreciates logic and efficiency. This should have been one trip to Immigration.  Check the boxes, sign the form, write the check.  Five minutes, tops.   That's not the way it works here. And it seems to get even more frustrating every time we do it. More people, less common sense.  Well, since we were somewhere near the end of the process, and in that area between grateful to just be done with it again and wanting to strangle someone, we figured a relaxing lunch was in order.

La Gringa had  heard about a new lunch spot and bar opening near the site of the Leeward marina area.   This is part of the complex that used to be called Nikki Beach.  After several years of aimless drifting through the lumpy financial seas that surround this little country, the operation of the marina in the middle of the Leeward channel is under new management.   We decided to go check it out.

If you'll look, for a moment, at the lower channel in that Google Earth image above, you should see the floating docks at the recently renamed Blue Haven Marina.   To be honest, we've actively avoided the place.   We're members in good standing of the old expat retro-grouch community who really did not want to see  the old Leeward Marina torn down.  I know we wrote about it all here on the blog.  We've been ignoring the new marina, and figuratively holding our breath until we turned blue. It doesn't work any better now than it did when I was four years old, either. The new marina is here to stay.  

And a nice one it is, too.  Easily the most modern and well built marina in this country.   If you're interested in all the details, you can find most of those at the Blue Haven Marina website.   I know I've posted dozens of photos of the floating concrete docks here.   We pass by them every time we boat from Leeward out to the north west. They take up three quarters of the former Leeward Going Through Channel.

We figured it was time for us to take a closer look at the marina from the land side.   Look at it as a possible resource, for a change.

The Blue Haven marina office and the new Salt Bar and Grill are in what used to be called the Johnston Construction Company building at Leeward.  Everything has been upgraded and modernized.  It all looks and feels brand new.

We had a late lunch at the Salt Grill. It was a decent lunch.  My cheeseburger was ho hum, but La Gringa's chicken wrap thingy was delicious.  We probably picked a bad time to be there, at 2:30 in the afternoon on a week day.  Oh, it was a good time to be there for the construction crew who set up a power saw a few feet away, but not so good for a quiet lunch.  I'm sure that any other day, or during peak serving times (like, for example, noon) it would be a great place for a quiet lunch.  The outdoor dining area is certainly located in a nice place.  I could see whiling away a bit of afternoon here watching the boats go by.

The grounds have been completely upgraded and landscaped. I took a walk around to see what had happened to the old parking lot where we used to park while we were keeping a boat in the water here between 2005 and 2007.   There's very little left of what was here before.

In addition to the landscaping, the marina has brought in sand, and built a really nice beach volleyball court. This should be a great way to attract some attention if they can convince some of the pro volleyball groups to  bring a tournament here.

I'm probably going to whine a little bit more about the old days before getting on with my life and accepting that this is a world class marina with excellent facilities and great plans for the future.  As the last of the nostalgia trickled away, I walked out to a spot I estimated would have been where the old Gilley's Restaurant stood. See that far traffic cone in this photo, below?

That traffic cone is just about where I was sitting in this photo of the old Gilley's restaurant and the Leeward dock, back in the day. That's me in the middle of the photo, on the deck next to the window. Facing the photographer. Whom I married.

To compare the changes, this is a Google Earth image of the area back before it was 'improved'.   You can see that it was a much smaller operation than what you see in the first GE image up above.

While I was mumbling to myself about the good old days and grumpily kicking rocks around on the new pavement, La Gringa managed to find an old friend of ours.  She showed up in a golf cart driven by Duran.  He worked here at the original fuel dock back when it existed.  Then he worked at Walkin's marina down at the other end of the channel for the past several years.  And now, Doran is the dock master here at Blue Haven marina. Here's a photo of La Gringa and Doran the dock master:

And here's a photo of Doran and La Gringa, taken at almost the exact same spot on the earth, back in  2007.  A lot has changed in seven years.  Duran can no longer fit all of his hair under a ball cap, for example.

I have to wonder how long she's going to nurse that rum punch, though.

We had the rest of the day to look around so Doran took us on a guided tour of the  marina.    As you can see, the docks are extremely well built and so far, drastically underutilized.  We've never yet seen them filled with boats. But to be fair, the place has been in and out of legal limbo for quite a while.

Our interest in this as a marina isn't entirely academic, either. We are very much interested in any options as places for us to keep a 40 foot catamaran with  electrical and water hookups.   We were interested enough to go into the marina office and talk to the staff there about monthly rates.   We were happy to hear that island residents even get a slight discount compared to transients.   Hey, this could work.  I mean, we're very happy with Twisted Sheets being at South Side Marina, but it's good to have options.  After talking to Doran for a while, we seriously began to consider this a pretty good place to tie up a boat for a while.

See what I mean about Doran's hair?  He's got it all Rasta'd up here. Hope I didn't offend anyone, I don't know the right term for when a guy's dreadlocks are all bundled up in a knit hat.  Hey, you've all seen my image here often enough.  I obviously am clueless regarding men's hair styles.  Not having one, myself.

Doran gave us a great tour of the floating dock facility.  The more I looked around, the easier it was  to picture us here in Twisted Sheets. That's not a bad view, compared to some marinas we've been in.  I know I'd trade Riviera Beach, Florida for this any day.

I  noticed that the dock power and water stations were equipped with the big four prong connectors the mega-yachts would need to get shore power.  That wouldn't work for us.   I mentioned to Doran that we only needed 30 amps and I didn't have an adapter to get to the kilowatt connectors the big boys use.   "No problem" he told me, and unlocked one of the swinging covers.  Yep, that's the connector I need there on the left.   The dock also has internet at the slips.   This place is sounding better and better.

Doran mentioned that the marina also now runs a facility in the canal over behind what was once called the Nikki Beach resort.   That's the  building in the distance here in the next photo.  It's all now part of the new Blue Haven Marina....... and Resort.   We took him up on his offer of a tour of that  area, too.  I mean, we still had the afternoon, a guide with a golf cart, and most of a rum punch left.

Before I grow up and move on, I had one more photo of the "old days" to show you.  This is a pano shot showing the Leeward area after the Nikki Beach was built, but before the old marina and Gilley's was torn down. I'll post this, and then shut up about what was then. Time to take advantage of what is now. The current photo (above) was taken from about where the Catch the Wave office was back in 2007.

We had to stop and get a photo of this chess set at the resort.  What a fun idea.   You can have an intellectually stimulating game of chess and some upper body exercise at the same time. I bet those two-up-and-one-over knight moves are a clean-and-jerk workout.

And a full board, diagonal bishop sweep might require a few minutes in which to recover.

These are Blue Haven's  protected marina and fuel docks located on the canal immediately behind the resort.  Nice facility for a power boat up to maybe 30 feet or so.  Not big enough for the sailboat we're thinking about.  These slips are not wide enough for us.

We've been recently reading about the upcoming attempt of a group to kite board across the Atlantic ocean. It's called the Atlantic Kite Challenge, and the Blue Haven Marina has been selected as the destination spot on this side of the ocean. That's happening next month. You can read about that in this press release.  

I've got to admit that the place looks pretty good. You know I'm softening up when I start spending money there. I did pay for lunch, although La Gringa got the rum punch on the house as compensation for the table saw background music.  I think I've now gotten over my seven year snit about the destruction of Gilley's and the old Leeward.  This is better from a cruising standpoint.  We are planning to bring Twisted Sheets over here at some point to determine if this is a good place to base the boat when sailing out to the north and east.   Who knows... maybe Johnny Depp will tie up his boat here again..  That would be worth a blog post, for sure.

Okay, for a complete change of direction, this next part of this post is about the other stuff we've been up to lately.  You know, the non-glamorous day-to-day mundane stuff it takes to live here.  And the challenges are everywhere.  I don't know exactly what it is about this tropical environment, but it seems to change just about everything it touches in some way. I know we've changed. The other people we meet here have changed.  And these rubber gloves from my sandblasting cabinet.... they've changed, too. Ya think?

These are the long gloves you slip your hands into when you are working with a sand blaster.  I unpacked mine from where it's been stored for the past two years since the last time I used it. These gloves were attached to it. They were actually inside a clean, dark ABS plastic cabinet.  It was stored under a blanket, on a shelf, under a workbench, inside a garage. They have never had any kind of solvent on them.  They have never been exposed to direct sunlight, even for five minutes.  So..... what ate them?

And what's it doing to La Gringa and ME???   

I can see what's happening to the dog, of course.  That's easily observable.  He hides from dark clouds and weather forecasts that he doesn't agree with.  He sits inside the house for hours trying to establish some kind of mental telepathy with the local lizard population.   The lizards, of course, are cautious enough not to buy into anything Black Jack Russell the pirate dog tries to tell them.

We've been putting a LOT of time in on the sailboat.   It's back in the water on a Cruising Permit and located just down the road at South Side Marina again.  The location makes it real handy to work on and the Cruising Permit allows us to import repair parts and supplies duty free as long as they're destined for the boat.  South Side Marina is a peaceful place to work on one's boat, too.  This is looking in the direction from which most of the weather approaches.  Nice and protected here, tucked down behind this ridge.  That notch is the spot where we've been putting the kite up for some aerial photos of the area.

We've got a long list of jobs to do to get the boat ready for some cruising this winter.  I've been rearranging the lazarettes.  We have lots of storage room on this boat. This is one of the starboard hull's lazarettes, showing the steering linkage and the top of the rudder post. I took this shot to help me design something to attach the small outboard dinghy motor to.   I think this would be an excellent place to store it. 

We've been  stripping the vinyl wall covering off the inside of the boat.  In the process, we are uncovering numerous small water leaks that have not been repaired in recent times. Or apparently in recent memory.  

For example, we have two of these hatches over the forward part of the main accommodation cabins in the boat.  Notice that the hatch was installed flush with the deck?  In a good installation, the hatch would be raised somewhat off the surface that would be awash in sea water or rain during a storm. Many boats have places for the hatches raised up in the mold so there is a higher , flat place to install the hatch.  This installation tells me the hatch maybe was added later.  Perhaps when the boat left the North Sea and made it's way down to the tropics.  The hatches work great for ventilation flow through the boat.  But they leaked.

I cut two  thick "gaskets" out of the plastic Starboard we found over on West Caicos.  Man, I have sure gotten some mileage from that little salvage operation

I re-installed and re-bedded the hatches with these gaskets under them.  Now, they're well sealed and raised up off the deck.

It's a slight change, but one that can make a lot of difference when the deck has a quarter inch deep layer of water from a wave or squall on it.   We just want to make that water go around us on it's return to mother ocean.   Instead of taking shortcuts through the boat.

You can see the gasket/spacers under the forward hatches here:

We've got a boat load of these little projects.  I hope you don't mind them, because I'm very likely to be consumed with Twisted Sheets fixes and upgrades for some months to come.  The boat has a long way to go, but is looking a little better now...

... than she did when we first bought her, a thousand miles north of here. Either the boat is getting better or we're getting used to its appearance. We're presently looking for a US based aluminum window manufacturer who can help us either fix or replace most of those windows. There are 21 windows, and 13 hatches on this boat. Welcome to the world of old sailboats.

We figure we've now removed over two thousand pounds of excess weight from the boat.  She's floating almost four inches higher these days, too. Some heavy stuff has come off, like the microwave, a large flat-screen television, a dockside-only refrigerator, a washing machine. And we are replacing and upgrading wherever we see the need.

A typical small job was the wooden anchor pad that was attached to the hull of the boat when we got it.   You can just barely see it here.  It's the rectangular piece of wood that is the only thing between that sharp metal anchor tip, and our fragile plastic hull.

I just noticed the nice reflections on the underside of the bridge deck.  That photo is from back when the boat was in the yard, about to be hauled out of the water.

This is what's left of that wooden board after I took the screws out of it.  The anchor had worn a hole almost all the way through it, and it was cracked.   I had to use a little bit of leverage to get it off the boat.  The glue was some good stuff.

And of course after I got that piece off, I replaced it with a bigger, wider, thicker piece of.......
Starboard! Ta Daaaaaaa!   

A brief word about wood.  We no longer use it to replace anything of any structural importance here.  We have now learned a lot more than we ever wanted to know about termites. We do still use wood of course, but only where we can easily see it, and inspect it, and replace it.  And it has to be coated with something termites won't eat.   The past year has been an expensive introduction to Termite 101 for us.

Speaking of ugly things... I was so flushed with my victory over the hatches that I decided to take on the marine toilets on the boat.  We have these heads - and by "head" I mean the seagoing term for a toilet on a boat and not a new agricultural entrepreneur from Colorado -  that are as old as the boat, and to put it simply, they were getting a little bit ugly. I promised La Gringa I would see if I could fix them. I started by taking them apart to see if perhaps a fifty cent o-ring might be all that I needed.  An o-ring, a full body scrub down with solvents, and a lifetime supply of anti-bacterial soap...  Those stains are just rust, by the way. In case you were wondering.

At least, that's what I kept telling myself.

Well, an o-ring wouldn't do it.  Oh no. I kept taking things apart until the entire toilet was in pieces back in my workshop.  The inside of the pump housing was chewed up.  I don't want to know what was flushed into this that would do that.  I really, really don't. BUT I knew how to fix it.  I bought a cylinder hone from the local auto parts store and polished it up well enough that new seals would seat well.  I  knocked the loose paint off and discovered the whole thing is bronze.

And then I looked into ordering parts for this toilet.  I found out that this is called a "Baby Blake".   A set of rubber gaskets for it and a few bits of hardware would cost over $200.  A seat hinge is $70.  A new pump for it is $1300.   I found out we could take a completely new approach, and for less than a pump to repair a 30 year old toilet, I could buy a complete new, composting toilet. This has some advantages for us. We can get rid of a bunch of hoses, pumps, and a 30 gallon holding tank on the boat. This makes the boat lighter. We also get rid of spare hoses, clamps, pump rebuild kits, and the weight of holding tank contents and chemicals.  It means I can close up some holes in the hull.  There are some other advantages. Cost, for a big one.  We decided to go for it, and last week we ordered a brand new, never used as a reading chair by anyone else... Nature's Head.    In preparation for its arrival, we spent this last weekend removing everything associated with this old toilet from the boat.  My nose hair turned gray overnight. I am not going to post those photos here. So you can relax. I know I will.  Eventually.  Maybe some short-term memory loss can be a useful thing under some circumstances.

Spending a lot of time working on the boat has meant that some of my traditional house and yard duties have fallen a little behind.   A person has to keep an eye on that stuff in a place like this, too.   As a quick example, yesterday I noticed that in the past two weeks the weeds have staged another coup attempt and invaded the patio. Again.

I went to grab my handy home-made patio weed tool and caught the crafty foliage attempting to hide it. They camouflaged it as a bush. This makes me wonder what the bugs have been up to while we've been spending all our time on the boat.

I just realized that this post has gotten a lot longer than I intended.  It's a good thing I stopped myself before continuing your education into the world of old British toilet innards.  Did you ever find yourself suddenly knowing things you really wish you'd just remained ignorant about for the rest of your life? It's  going to take me a few days to get over this one.

Maybe a half dozen Happy Hour sunsets at the South Side Marina will do it.  I was scrambling to get this photo before that boat coming in from the left wrecked my mirror.


kristine barr said...

Beautiful photos again. The google shots are different though. The water looks like some alien legs attacking the land. Love it when you post.

Unknown said...

Duran could be Rayon's twin brother in the without the hair picture.

Anonymous said...

I remember the Gilley's at Leeward! We ate there in January 1991...the view was incredibly gorgeous esp at noon! -Chris

Anonymous said...

... or capturing the queen at center-field? No; let's see if I'm still a champ at give-away chess!

Another great post Gringo. Keep it up.


Unknown said...

Great Pictures & very well written about the new Blue Haven Marina.

We checked it out on our last trip in late October as a buddy of ours has his boat docked there, and you actually got a picture of it in the last shot.

If you run into Jay Higgs down at the Marina tell him his buddy Matt says hello!

Headed back for our semi-annual trip in May, can't come soon enough!

Unknown said...

Hi i have been following ur blog for some time now ,and love it.
I envy ur live stile,..maybe one day..
The little Gringo is top dog.

Anonymous said...

Long time, no post! Going through withdrawals! Hope you are well and enjoying your holidays!

Unknown said...

Hope you're making lots of memories that you're going to share in a blog post really soon.