Thursday, November 6, 2014

Time Out

We've just returned to the island  after two months of camping in the Rocky Mountains.  We had Dooley the Demented with us and it was quite the experience.  He's still talking about it, in fact. Now we're back and finding out that trying to pick up where one left off can be tricky in a place like this.   Things change quickly here without constant attention.  All four disc brake rotors on the car rusted themselves silly and immobile while parked inside the garage, for example. Rainy season erosion has run unchecked and the driveway looks like a quarter scale version of Palo Duro. The house electricity was turned off for ten days before we returned home.   I've thought of several phrases to try to describe the very organic experience of cleaning out a freezer full of rotting meat after a week and a half without refrigeration.  In the tropics. I think the kindest thing for me to do here is just to leave it at that and not to even mention the similarities to falling face down in bovine road kill.

One thing that quickly caught our attention was how much further south the sun is appearing and disappearing over the horizon, almost ten weeks after we last saw it.

The islands have almost made it to the end of another hurricane season.  And the lucky streak continues. There were  several credible threats, some winds and a lot of rain, but the strongest storms to blow through the islands this year stayed just shy of hurricane status.  And Tropical Storms are quite enough on their own, thanks.   Ten inches of rain doing fifty miles an hour may not be a hurricane, but it's enough to make you scrunch your eyes up  into little slits the thickness of paper when you're trying to walk face first into it. We were delayed two days on our flight out due to the presence of Tropical Storm Cristobal. It made quite the ugly annoyance out of itself.  The evening before our scheduled flight out we stopped by Bob's Bar one last time before our trip. It was all closed up against the raging storm, but we managed to all huddle into the lee for drinks and hor d'oeuvres.  I wish I had taken a photo of that.   I did manage to snap a photo of Nevarde and La Gringa inside the closed up bar area.   The party was on the other side of that wall behind them.  We opened that up once the immediate squall went looking for us downwind.

We continued to work on our old sailboat right up into the end of August. We experienced  Tropical Storms Arthur, Bertha, and then Cristobal, with some admittedly diminishing enthusiasm.  We  finally packed up and left while Cristobal was still blowing, in fact.  That's a story in itself.  I think I'll save that one for the paperback.

 We toyed with the idea of leaving the boat in the water and continuing to work on her unless a major storm threatened. We go through plenty of years here without major storms scoring a direct hit, although they whoosh by to the sides of us all season long. We've gone through three hurricanes of note since we moved here, but all three of those occurred in a two year window. The other seven years we've been living here we had no hurricanes at all. So we were considering taking the chance and hoping that if we needed to haul the boat that the good folks over at Caicos Marina and Shipyard would have room for us on short notice.  And of course that's a gamble in itself. A few weeks of this stuff takes a lot of the fun out of tropical living.   Here's a still image from one of the videos we took during a tropical storm.

Well, the season drug on. All the cruisers with any sense were long gone to someplace safe. Bob  had asked us several times what our plans for the boat were. We looked down the dock, and felt a bit strange to be the last cruiser still in the marina. Kind of like being the last to leave the party.

We'd already begun winding down our flow of supplies and equipment ordered from the US. We got to the point where the Fed Ex truck only stopped by the house three or four times a week. Yeah, we're on a first name basis with the Fed Ex delivery man.

In July we anxiously watched as what later became Hurricane Arthur approached. In early August we closed up and hunkered down while what became Bertha came lumbering across the Atlantic at us. Then in late August we had Cristobal shut us down for several days. And each time we worried about the boat. Should we haul it, or can we control our anxiety long enough to chance another storm? It's not much fun watching these things come right at you while trying to appear normal on a diet of caffeine, fingernails and cheek lining.  Besides, it was getting kind of lonely there at the marina with only a single ferry cat for the perpetually re-stalled West Caicos development, and a few local fishing boats for company.

We were still enjoying our evenings watching the sunset at Bob's Bar, but storm clouds were gathering, again. It is that season, after all.

We finally decided we'd had enough hurricane and uninsured boat anxiety for one season and we took the boat out of the water for a couple of months. We showed up early one late summer morning in August to untie the lines from South Side Marina for the last time in this '13-'14 yachting season. The little diesels awoke with their usual puff of white smoke drifting across the smooth morning water. The smoke is really just steam that fades as they warm up with a rattly little diesel rumble that smooths out about the same time the smoke disappears. The vibrations of the still cool engines shake the hulls like drum heads and cause ripples in the water next to them. You can see them here, in the water just under the blue fender. Bob, we need to talk about that last tie-up cleat.

La Gringa had things ashore to do, so I took the boat around to the boatyard without a crew. At least I think that's what she was referring to by calling me crewless. Or maybe it just sounded like crewless, my hearing isn't all that great. I know this is really a small catamaran as these things go, but it's still a strange feeling to be alone on it when I'm accustomed to someone else on board to help with lines and fenders and watching the water.   It just doesn't feel right not to have someone else to shout at and blame things on.   But we had delayed what we knew we should have already taken care of. We have absolutely no incentive to take chances with this boat, and the best place for it during hurricane season is strapped down to the dirt a few steps away from the ocean. I backed the boat out of the slip and turned her to the open water. Pretty easy in an empty marina.
It's also pretty easy backing out when both engines work. This twin engine capability has been a rarity in our history with this boat. 

The fishermen on board the other boats waved as I slowly motored past. They've watched us working on this boat for the past ten months. It's a pretty small community here. And our friend Stanley (aka Burleigh) lives on the last boat on the left as we leave the marina.
I've already bumped a hull off one shallow rock out here that surprised me, so I take it very slow and easy until I'm out in deeper water. Here's one of the outer buoys marking the entrance to South Side Marina. After I clear this one I turn hard to the left and head east for several miles through coral heads and rocks. You know, the usual.
I hadn't really thought my way through the logistics of taking the boat east early in the day. The sun was low and the reflection on the water essentially blinded me to what was directly ahead of the boat. I should know better. Especially without another pair of eyes to help me spot the coral heads. I was having a real hard time trying to discern what was under that glare.   And the way these things work, the glare was  continuously and directly hovering exactly where I was heading next.  Can you spot all the coral heads between me and that distant point of land?    No.  Me either.   And that's the problem.   

The next time I need to make this trip I hope I remember to schedule it for early afternoon, to give the sun time to rise higher before I leave the marina.

After about an hour of white knuckled squinting  I passed the mysterious rock figures on the little hill overlooking the entrance to Caicos Marina and Shipyard. Finally, I was able to turn so that I wasn't being blinded. I could stop munching on the top of my heart every time a dark mass of rocks slid by seemingly just millimeters from the hull. Finally, I could turn into the entrance to the boatyard. I had a 10:00 appointment to haul the boat. I was there at 09:58.
La Gringa was watching my hopefully unexciting progress from the house. I think she knew that I was being optimistic about my appointment at the shipyard. I also think that she was also a little hesitant to haul the boat out and stop our forward progress.  There's just something counter intuitive about putting your summer toys away in August. Especially in a place where a totally acceptable version of summer pretty much runs year round.
The boat did not get hauled as planned. Despite my three weeks on the calendar appointment, they slipped two other boats in front off me. Here's a photo of Twisted Sheets tied up over at the Shipyard, still waiting to be hauled in the late afternoon. Silly old me had made an appointment to have the boat hauled at 10:00 in the morning, and had actually been there waiting at 10:00. And I was still waiting six hours later, when they shut down for the evening. We had to leave the boat overnight, and go through it again the next day. Someone who didn't know me might have mistaken me for irate. It was actually worse than that. 
But hey, it's island life, mon. You get over these things. Eventually.  Even on something like this, the third time it's happened.

We were back at the yard the next morning, and this time we managed to get the boat hauled out. They have workers  on hand to haul the boat into the slip. We back it in because it fits in the travel lift better. The forestays rub against it if we go in forward. These guys have a lot of experience pulling boats around by their lines.
Finally the boat is centered in the slings under the travel lift.

I've already posted plenty of photos of Twisted Sheets being transported around the Caicos Marina & Shipyard, so won't' repeat that here.   Finally, about 26 hours after my appointment to have the boat hauled and blocked, she was hauled and blocked.  This should be a pretty good spot to ride out all but the roughest of seas over the next few months.

That was basically some of the last things we did before leaving for over two months.   We had a lot of things to do at the house, of course.  Almost as much trouble as the boat.   And they're both more trouble than a simple camping trailer. Lately I've noticed that most of our lifestyle choices seem to incorporate some difficulty in keeping a full set of appliances running.

We are about to put the boat back in the water, and we have a lot of plans for some totally new areas to explore over the next few months.  So the blog should be improving again shortly.

We haven't been back long enough to accumulate some good new sunset photos, so I'll have to make do with one taken right before we left.    Unless, of course, you want to see photos of northern Colorado instead of tropical sunsets.  

Nah, I didn't think so.


j. schieffelin said...

How was camping in the Rockies?

Devon the Lucky Troll said...

Good to see you are back and enjoying the island again. I will be flying down next month (12th). Many thanks for all the good advice about shipping and getting parts ashore. Looking forward to splashing soon!

Devon of the Sea Munchkin

Anonymous said...

Hello J. Schieffelin and Devon, and thank you for the comments. It's good to get back to the island and our boat. We had a great time in the mountains. As many sailors before us have discovered, the Rockies are a great place to spend hurricane season.

We were at the shipyard on Wednesday and noticed Sea Munchkin is still here. We're only about four boats away from her at the moment. We hope to be back in the water within the next week or two. We have a few things to accomplish while the boat is out of the water. Zincs, mostly.

Gary Cottam said...

It's great to see another post, this had to be one of my top 3 blogs, and I'm subscribed to most!

Anonymous said...

Thank you. It's good to get back to the islands, and taking photos, and writing the captions. We have some big plans for Twisted Sheets this season, and can hardly wait to get started.

kristine barr said...

Yay! you're back!

Bill said...

Glad to see the blog is updated again! Now that I'm back from my Bahamas excursion a ill need to live vicariously through you for the next little bit. Can't wait to see where Twisted Sheets brings you this winter.

satbeachbill said...

Welcome back.

Anonymous said...

Great to hear from you :) & glad to hear you've been on vacation on the mainland. Yup "Island Time" is something else...grrrr! -Chris

ttewks1 said...

missed you guys at Bob's Bar by a few days earlier this month. Really enjoyed the blog post. Keep 'em coming! ttewks1

Linda said...

Lovely photos.

Unknown said...

Hi, I know somewhere on your blog you commented on places to stay on the islands but I can't find it now I want to book up for Jan (my computer literacy isn't great that's for sure) can you please point me in the right direction as I need some sun now my 9m is laid up for the british winter.

Anonymous said...

We're not a first hand source for hotel info. We've never spent a single night in a hotel or resort here on Provo. But if you'll tell us what you're looking for we'll tell you what we know.

We did have an advertiser here for a while who specialized in property management. But we stopped the paid ads a long time ago. People kept wanting to commercialize our blog!!

Unknown said...

I found the blog re accom, it was regarding the meridian club back in 2007. Unfortunately it's now $1000+/night which is a very large tad over my budget, $1000/month is more me. Hey ho, having read through your excellent blogs it seemed like a good idea to come visit for a month or two but I guess your comments that the place wouldn't last 5 years were absolutely right.

Unknown said...

I found the blog re accom, it was regarding the meridian club back in 2007. Unfortunately it's now $1000+/night which is a very large tad over my budget, $1000/month is more me. Hey ho, having read through your excellent blogs it seemed like a good idea to come visit for a month or two but I guess your comments that the place wouldn't last 5 years were absolutely right.

Anonymous said...

There are plenty of places a lot less expensive than the all-inclusive resorts. I just did a search on Providenciales best hotel rates and am seeing a dozen places around $100 per night. But this is not, and does not pretend to be, an inexpensive vacation spot. Everything has to be brought in, here. EVERYthing. There are no native products, for practical purposes. Even the fish is shipped in.

What it's got going for it is absolutely stunning water, reefs, and beaches, and it's only an hours flight from Miami. And that's about it.