Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Last half of The Latest South Side Marina Post

Now we're back to continue our story about updated aerial photos of the South Side Marina on the pleasant and continuously oxiding little island of Providenciales. The blog post just prior to this one is a bunch of photos we took while walking around the marina with a camera hanging underneath a kite. We tend to do a lot of that kind of stuff by the way. In case you are just joining us for the first time. The last part of the previous post was this photo, with a little point of land circled as our destination for the next post. Which is now THIS post.

We walked from that point of land in the circle back along the coast around the little hill there on the left. We wanted to get some aerial photos of the entrance to this marina and canal system. And we did.

We packed up our kite, string, camera, drinks, and one small obnoxious dog and trekked on out to that distant spur and this is what that very exact point of land looks like from just a short distance above it.

Well that's not entirely accurate. It normally doesn't have two people and a small dog on it. I'm the one at the end of the kite string. That's easy. But can you find La Gringa and Dooley the Demented? They're both there.
Reading the water here can be pretty tricky coming in on a boat. From sea level the water around this point looks deceptively safe on calm days. It's a sandy bottom, nice and smooth for the most part. The few rocks are easy to spot when the sun's up. And almost nobody boats around here at night. The issues with the areas around the approach to South Side is that it's all extremely shallow. You can see that shallow water there in the light colored parts. The next darker band is about a meter deep, with slightly deeper blue at 2 meters and the darkest stuff out on the horizon is 3 to 4 meters deep for the most part. We've bumped a rock that came up out of two meters of water to within three feet of the surface not far from on of Bob's buoys-Bob is the owner of South Side Marina, if you're just joining us-and there are thousands of unsurveyed coral heads out there just waiting for another boat to snag. They have endless patience.

This next photo is one of the reasons we thought it would be worth the trek out to this point to get an aerial image of the marina and canal entrance. The water in the foreground of this photo is about waist deep or less. The darker water is two to three meters deep. But you can see that getting from the banks into that safe channel could be nerve wracking if the captain wasn't familiar with this area. He will be heading straight at a rocky shore until the last moment, when he has to swing almost 90 degrees to the left. Fun entrance. We like to sit up at Bob's Bar and watch people coming in for the first time. Most of the people who run aground here hit the inside of the turn. This is good. That side is soft sand. The outside of the turn is made of much sterner stuff. Rock, in fact. With a thin veneer of sand that serves more as a disguise than it does as a cushion.

Bob maintains a number of buoys to help boaters identify the safe path into the marina. The two distant ones that I've marked are both red. Boaters should know that this means to keep those buoys on their starboard, or right side as they're heading into port ( "Red Right Return" is one way to remember it). So in a typical scenario with any boat that draws more than about two or three feet, the procedure is to swing around those two distant bouys, and then head straight between the near ones. Then turn hard left immediately after the boat passes the third red marker. Then exhale, and relax. There will be someone there to help you tie up the boat, and call Customs and Immigration for you, and the bar opens at 5:00.

The two near buoys marking the beginning of the deeper water are red and green. Here's a view of those from ground level. If a captain doesn't pay attention here, it's easy to get all the way across this little channel before one knows one is about to scratch one's paint job. The tide is also a factor for slow moving single screw sailboats. The bad news is that there's not much room for error and boats are aground quickly. The good news is that this is not a particularly scary example of a punishing bottom. Plenty of boats have waited out a low tide agrond right near that green buoy with nothing worse than scuffed paint damage.
The nice clear water between the channel and the shore is indeed just about belly deep to a small dog. I think he was standing on his tiptoes, though. He's funny like that.
Of course the dog was going to get into the photos sooner or later. It's gotten increasingly difficult to get an image that doesn't include him. He was a pain in the patoot before, but since he's been on Facebook he's become insufferable. As soon as one of us starts showing any interest in something we think might make a good photo, Dooley the Destroyer boogies over and plants himself in the middle of it all. I'm not kidding.
For example, La Gringa was trying to take a photo of another piece of discarded Haitian sloop wreckage. And ta-daaaaaa......Dooley Drops In.
Did you notice that the bow section he's standing on is just a log with a groove hand cut into it to hold the boards? This is how the Haitian boats are built. Designed for a one way trip of 150 miles. Expendable boats. One shots. And nobody knows how many of them never make it, disappearing at sea with about a hundred souls on board. I think the number would be pretty depressing, if we knew what it was. But nobody does.
I know I probably mention the Haitian situation here way too often to be entertaining. Probably because we see some of the results of the ongoing plight of that island on an ongoing basis. Here's a recent photo of a boat built just like the one Dooley is standing on. These guys are lucky. It's a US Coast Guard photo.
What's not apparent in that photo is that the cracks between the boards in the hull are caulked with strips of torn sheets driven in with a hammer, relying upon the wood swelling up when wet. There are no life jackets. No radio. No first aid kit. No food. No bathroom. No shelter. And there are an equal number of people jammed below decks, with no windows. We find pieces of these boats all around the south and western ends of the country. If a boat like this leaves Haiti and never arrives at another island, in most cases nothing can be done. And they do disappear. By the boatload.
Here's another example of Dooley the Photo Hog. When La Gringa tried to get close to get some photos inside a small cave out on the point, Dooley scooted up and ran inside. Can you see his legs there on the left, up inside the cave?

Yep, Little Mister You-Know-Who springs right smack dab into the middle of the action yet again:

Or let her call out "Hey, come take a look at all this bright yellow polypro embedded in a big hunk of concrete" and before I can get there, that last unobstructed view has already been claimed and soaked up by our furry little busybody. And he always gets this "who, me?" look thing going.

We were pretty much at the end of our rope at that point. Yuk yuk. We'd run out of ideas and were running out of daylight too. We thought this view of the submerged rocks off the point was of some interest. We think the patterns are caused by the overhanging edges of the shoreline breaking off over the centuries. But what do we know. Maybe they're a secret code for aliens.

While we were walking back down the road from the bluff to return to the marina, we noticed how lonely the S/V Twisted Sheets looks sitting in her slip with no other masts nearby. We're planning to have her hauled out of the water at the next threatened storm. We never know which one will be THE one, and two little ones have come by here already. Quiet time is a good time to get some hull work done, too.

We were back at the marina the next day, and noticed that another boat had pulled in since we took these photos. We still had the kite and camera in the car with us, so we flew it up over the lower parking lot for a slightly different perspective from directly overhead. Nothing new, other than we were curious as to who would be this far from home during storm season. They only stayed for a day or so, and then took off. I think they were headed south.
I'm starting to get the hang of writing and editing on an iPad. And it's a real pain for an old PC head like me. The main positive thing about it so far is the portability of the iPad. As far as being useful for creating anything more complex than basic mental finger painting, iPad is not so good. I think it's more of a tool for looking at what other people have done, and staying in touch. But since portability is what I'm interested in, I shall attempt to persevere. I'm also a cheap SOB and don't particularly want to spend another kilobuck on yet another laptop computer to feed to the elements here. sacrifice to Poseidon's breath here in the gentle yet insistent little nibbling teeth of the Trade Winds. Two computers dead so far this year. It's true what they say about electrons and salt. I've had two laptop computers fail so far this year. It's getting expensive.
That's pretty much it for this post. Things are wound down a bit in the islands for the next month or so. It's a good time to visit if you like calm clear water and don't like crowds. It's definitely the best time for diving and the resorts are typically offering some incentive deals. Sure, there's always a chance of a storm this time of year but they tend to blow through pretty quickly and the weather afterwards is usually perfect. Makes for good beachcombing, and great stories. I'm not sure who said it first, but I'd agree with the concept that sometimes the only difference between an ordeal and an adventure is one's attitude about it all.
I don't have a good recent sunset to end this with, but how about a summer sunrise over a calm and tranquil ocean. Sunsets are a lot about the day that's ended, with the hope of another one to come. A good sunrise says we've been granted another day here.
And we each get to decide what we're going to do with it.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Earliest Part of the Latest South Side Marina Post

I don't think that most people consider hurricane season to be a 'quiet time'. And hurricanes are indeed very noisy things while they're happening. It's difficult to sleep through one, for example. And we've tried. But the storms don't happen continuously and there are long stretches of calm weather between their exciting little visits. Most of the cruising crowd have been hunkered down wherever they planned to spend storm season. Daily life takes on a different pace here in Hurricane Alley for the next few months. For many of the small marinas throughout the Caribbean this is a type of temporary quiet time. Boat hulls are being repainted. Docks are being rebuilt. And we all keep a weather eye to the east.
Quiet Time sounds so much mellower than Storm or Hurricane Season, doesn't it? Maybe we could coin a new phrase, and call it Caribbean Quiet Time, or CQT. That could make a nifty t-shirt. CQT pronounced "Sea Cutie". I'm confident that somewhere in the world, and probably in the Gulf of Mexico, there's a sportfishing boat with that name already on the transom. I have the same faith that every conceivable combination of English using the word "Reel" in a logical sequence has also been painted or glued on fiberglass somewhere.
We've been spending a lot of quality time at South Side Marina this season. That's pretty logical since we keep our boat there. And it's especially logical since Bob opened his Bar. Come to think of it, we'd probably be spending a lot of time there even if we didn't keep a boat at the marina. We've got a bar three miles from the house on the same dead end dirt road that we live on. How fortuitous is that? We were walking around recently, taking photos and looking for a blog post subject that did not include sailboat DIY stuff, when we noticed that Bob had a new roof installed. I guess this must have happened while we were focused on the boat. Further investigations revealed that there have been, in fact, numerous improvements and changes since our South Side Marina post over a year ago. We've decided to do another post about our local hangout.
Bob's marked the entrance to the parking lot with a new sign and it's fairly easy to spot. It's the only surfboard in the entire neighborhood sunk upright in a white concrete dinghy by the side of the road. I think Bob should paint those rocks blue, right under the concrete dinghy. With some white wave froth trim.
It also has a sign on it that says "Bob's Bar" and states that the hours are from 5 until 9. We'd agree that the bar doesn't open until 5, normally. But that 9:00 closing time is completely arbitrary. It all depends upon who's at the party, Bob's mood and who's asking.
You can see that there are new lights delineating the parking area. And there are wooden railings between the lights in addition to the new stone and paving work that Dooley is suspiciously examining for his own purposes in the above photo. I'm sure you know that dogs have their own species specific cultural christening rituals, which are apparently independent of human opinions and convention. I think Dooley accepts a level of responsibility in maintaining the integrity of his cultural heritage. We don't have fire hydrants here, and well, a new post is a new post. He's going to have to learn to pace himself, and ration his water.
Speaking of water, Bob's been working on ideas for collecting some of the fresh water that runs off of this parking lot during rain storms. And we do get rain this time of year. Tropical Storm Cristobal recently dumped 17 inches of rain on Providenciales in 36 hours. Bob's already calculated how many thousands of gallons of rain water will be running down his new driveways. He's designed in some of the plumbing for collecting it already. The dark slash across the concrete is a steel grate over a PVC gutter.
The next step is to decide the best place for a large cistern to store all of that water instead of letting it all just run back into the sea. That's the tidal salt water of Juba Salina in the background of this photo, and of course once all that lovely fresh rain water reaches the ocean, the game's over and it's pretty much useless for irrigation. Unless one is growing seaweed, I suppose. I don't think Bob's interested in seaweed. In fact I don't know why he wants to collect and store hundreds of thousands of gallons of rainwater. Knowing Bob, he has a reason.  I'll ask him.
We found ourselves traipsing all around snapping photos in the mid day sun, and I think it was about at this point that we realized that it was a perfect day to put up a kite for some aerial photos. The kite was already on the boat here at the marina. And it's hard to beat weather like this. Mostly clear skies, light winds, and very quiet these days at South Side Marina. CQT.
It didn't take long to grab the kite and Go Pro camera. Another benefit of this kite aerial photography simplicity is quick mobilization. I had one battery to worry about in the camera, but the kite, string, and wind are still independent of AA or LiPO cells. I've been looking for an excuse to go fly a kite again, and Bob's new roof sounded good enough. Yes, you know things are pretty slow when a new roof is sufficient justification for a photo safari. CQT.
We started in the parking lot, and obviously the osprey eye view photos do a much better job of describing the improvements than I was doing verbally. I guess that's one of the reasons we like these low level aerial photos. We managed to get the sign, driveway, drain, lights and railings all in one. I'll mutilate a well known phrase and say something about a picture being worth a thousand keystrokes, backspaces, reformats and corrections.
Can you spot Dooley the Delinquent in this photo? No, he's not driving.
It's easy to see that the marina itself is sparsely populated as compared to mid-winter's busy time. There are normally four to six masts sticking up in the air here, instead of the single little short one on Twisted Sheets and the two on Bob's boat Valhalla. The dive boat operators are still working, with the summer bringing some of the best diving of the year. That's why they're not in these photos. They were out diving at this particular time on this particular afternoon on this not particularly particular little island. This is a pretty good shot of South Side Marina from the western edge, too. I think we managed to get the whole kit and kaboodle on that one.
Here's just one of many views we got of Bob's New Roof. I thought I should post at least one photo of it, since it served as our excuse for flying the kite in the first place. It's a nice roof, too. He went from asphalt shingles to a standing ridge aluminum design. He says the house was immediately several degrees cooler inside.
These images were taken with a GoPro Hero + Black Edition. It's supposed to have better resolution than the previous versions. I notice that I can make out the individual Bocce balls at the near end of the court. That's pretty good. We're still waiting on delivery of our Pocket Drone, by the way. Soon, we hope.
We strolled around the marina for a while tied to the kite and letting the camera snap a few hundred photos. We decided to see if we could get a better photo of the entrance to the marina and canal system. That point of land I circled in this next photo was our destination. It was a nice day for a little hike. Just La Gringa, Dooley, me and an armful of kite, string and camera.
And on that note, I think I will end this post and get it published. I know it's been a long time since our last one and I'm trying something new. I'm using Blogsy to write on an iPad tablet instead of a PC. I lost two computers this year and I'm looking for alternatives. I love the portability of the iPad, and the availability of waterproof housings for it. As we start spending more and more time on the boat this coming winter I think the ability to grab a few photos and jot off a blog update will be nice. Yeah, I know. How many times have I said that already? But I have hopes for that approach now. I just have to make the changeover from PC to iPad. Then, hopefully, this blog will morph into something a little more fluid.
I'll end this one with a sunset photo, and a promise to get busy on the second half of this post any minute now. The next part will have pretty water photos in it. And I'll get right on it. Well, any day now. I promise.