Saturday, July 11, 2015

Voluntary Vagabonds

There's been a  lot going on in the Gringo household these past few months. I have a bunch of photos about it, but it's not very tropical looking.  It is about our life here, and since that's supposed to be the theme of this blog  I think I'll try for two quick posts in succession.  This one will be mostly about what we've been doing, and then I'll put up another one that could be the second half of this one.  Except that it would make this one entirely too long by half.   But first I need something colorful here so that the casual visitors who got here by mistake will get a feel for this place.
I won't have many of these sunrise-from-the-patio shots to kick around much anymore.

To describe what's going on, in a nutshell - we're trying to sell the house and move onto the boat.  We had planned to keep the house as a base of operations in the TCI while we sailed out on various adventures and panic stricken disasters.  The hard cold facts, however, are that some things we expected to happen by now haven't happened and we have to cut expenses.  In a contest between sitting on a hillside looking at the ocean or being out on the ocean looking at the  hillside, well we choose the boat.

Moving out of the house after eight years was quite an experience.  Not all bad, but certainly not all good.  Not very much good at all, come to think of it.   I guess the liberating feeling of decluttering our lives again was the biggest positive in all this.  We had to look at everything we owned and figure out where it was going.  Either onto the boat, or into a small travel trailer, or into paid storage in the US.   You know there's not much room in catamarans or small travel trailers. Small storage facilities either, for that matter.  All the furniture had to go.  We advertised it locally, and found that quality furniture is in demand.  It sold quickly. 

Watching strangers loading up our possessions and driving away with them caused us some mixed feelings. 

Down the road they went, and the antique Haitian chairs and living room furniture have now left our lives for good. 

The sheer amount of work to be done, tasks to be performed, and worries to be worried led me to a rare acquiescence  to  hiring people to do some repairs. Carlos and his crew removed all the storm windows and replaced all the little rollers that the salt had been happily digesting.  They did a lot of other work as well.   It was strange to see all the shutters laid out on the patio.  But they all open and close without swear words now.

We hadn't realized what would be involved in removing, sanding and sealing all of our cypress wood window shutters.  We had gotten accustomed to sleeping with the sound of the sea coming through the windows, but sleeping with no windows whatsoever really added another layer to that whole experience. 

We were amazed to find that during the three weeks that the house was open to the outside, neither one of us got a single mosquito bite.  I guess timing is everything.  Even when it's totally accidental.

We had more work than one contractor could handle in the time frame so we called our friend Chester Delancy for some of the challenging parts. Chester is one of the few contractors here that we would recommend as competent, fair and honest.   We also have our list of crooks, thieves, and just basically incompetent people  here we wouldn't recommend under any circumstances.   Chester is one of the good ones.

Here's Chester and La Gringa discussing what we need done at the house.   We were planning to ship the absolutely indisposable parts of our apparently priceless possessions to a storage facility in the US. We asked Chester to build us some good crates.  

Remember the blue and green office 'furniture' I built out of pressure treated wood?  There it is, soon to be a memory.

Carlo's crew loaded it all on a truck headed for the town dump.  I think.  But I didn't ask.  I didn't really want to know. We sure spent a lot of hours staring at that stuff.  And I sure spent a lot of hours building it.  It was sturdy.  It lasted.  It's gone.

Chester and his son Kirby were back the next day with the crates we had asked for.  When we looked at the materials section of his invoice, I was struck by the irony of paying import prices for plywood shipped down from Miami.  That's because we're just basically cutting it up and shipping it back to the US.   This plywood is really racking up some sea miles.  
Over the course of the next couple of weeks we loaded the crates up with all the stuff we decided to ship into storage.   And there was plenty of space in the garage after selling the Hobie and all of my power tools.  If this  display was paper, you'd be looking at tear stains.

Finally the day came when we needed to either ship or get off the pot.   La Gringa found a local subcontractor and an incredibly useful fork lift showed up at the house on a big blue flat bed truck.  There was some question of them backing it up the driveway, but they made it.  They didn't have to do the two 90 degree turns uphill that I had to master with the Contender.

We managed to get all four crates moved over to where the fork lift could reach them, and suddenly the garage was getting even emptier.

 I think I learned a few new words in Creole, too.  Short ones spoken sharply, with exclamation points.   You know the type.

When the lifting was done, the fork truck plugs itself back into the truck for transport.   You know how I enjoy mechanical toys, and this one is pretty nifty.

At least this time when we watched the truck pull away we had some hopes of seeing this stuff again. 
Not much stuff left after ten years here, is it.  Ah, but you didn't see how much we sold and gave away.

And there it goes.  Next stop, Tropical Shipping.  Then onto a boat to Miami. Where it clears US customs.   Then onto a truck to Colorado.   Hope we see it again.  We've already committed to the storage.

Making decisions on what to keep and what to sell and what to throw away was agonizing in some cases.  My 3D printer, for example.  After two years of steady use, it was starting to show the effects of corrosion.  Despite my best efforts.  This wouldn't go well on the boat.  Nor in a travel trailer.  And I  honestly didn't know anyone on Provo that I thought would use it.  Or I would have happily given it away.   As it is, it sat there on that crate for two weeks while I tried to come up with another option. 

In the end, I threw it into a dumpster bin at the town dump.  This was an emotional moment, seeing my 3D printer lying down there in a dumpster surrounded by common trash.  I almost climbed down to retrieve it and apologize.   But finally, I had to let it go.

On one of our dump trips we threw five defunct laptop computers and a milk crate basket full of other electronics into the trash here.  Hey, at least this dump is miles ahead of where it was back in 2005.  It used to look like the out takes from a Mad Max movie.   Now it's all cleaned up and organized.

We found a home for the weather station at South Side Marina.  I dismantled the masts and took the sensor package and VHF antenna down.   I had the unique experience of cleaning raptor poop out of the rainwater collection funnel.  Gee thanks, Kestrels. I guess I should just be glad they don't eat fish.

This whole moving-out exercise meant that I had to climb up into attics and remove things that we'd packed away for safe storage in the house, or so we thought.   For example, this is a fairly high end underwater metal detector.   We planned to take it on the boat with us, and finally get some use out of it.  This Excalibur 1000 had been in the salt water twice, for a total of maybe 45 minutes.  Then it was rinsed off in fresh water and after it dried it was stored in it's case.  Which was in our attic.  Away from the sea, and away from the sun.   And when I opened it up to see how it fared, the urethane coating on the exposed cables fell apart in my hands.  
See the bare wires?  There aren't supposed to be any of those.    I've written three emails to Minelab asking what to do about this.  Asking if they'll sell me replacement parts.   So far, no replies.  Guess I won't be buying any more Minelab products.
The effects of corrosion here are widespread.  Especially for items not intended for the equivalent of a marine environment.  Here's an image of the base of a stainless steel floor lamp, after about four years inside the house.   At one time I would see the word 'stainless' and judge an item by that one word.   Now I look for the word 'steel'.   That means a lot more in the long term.  There's just no way for steel to hide down here, stainless or not.

Some of you may remember that one of my experiments was to build a floor lamp out of local materials that don't rust.  I put one together from rock, bamboo, and beach found mahogany three and a half years ago.  Guess what.   It still looks like it did when I built it.  Nothing to corrode.

We had similar issues with the steel curtain rods we bought at the local Do-It Center.  Those lasted about a year.  At most.

The ones I built to replace them used hunks of oak from Gilley's Restaurant and Bar and more bamboo.   Yes, they work just fine and show absolutely no signs of rust or corrosion four years later.

Those were to set up this next series of photos.   We've learned that things made from elastic material such as gum rubber or vinyl just don't survive here.   Rubber bands, slingshot surgical tubing, the waist band of underwear..... they are very, very temporary.   Heck, I've had underwear fall off for some of the strangest reasons, but never before because of spastic elastic. 

Let me show you what I mean about vinyl.   If you've read much of this blog from the early days you may remember that we tried to get some aerial photos using a six foot diameter helium balloon.  Those photos were mostly on Pine Cay, back in 2008. After determining that spherical balloons were not a good choice for these winds I packed them away to store them for better times.  While we were packing up, I found the balloons right where I had put them.

They were inside this sealed plastic tub, which was inside the house.  Couldn't be safer, right?

Not only were the balloons inside a sealed container, they were double bagged inside thick plastic garbage bags inside the sealed container.

And inside those double garbage bags, inside that sealed container, inside a dark room inside the house, was about $800 worth of vinyl confetti. This is what was left of the two balloons.  Totally self shredded.
And all the kings horse's, and all the king's men....
One thing that caught my attention was the green garbage bags.  These are intended to take rubbish to landfills, and to biodegrade over time.   Yet, the garbage bags seem to survive this environment just fine while the vinyl balloons fell apart faster than Charlie Manson's hopes of a new career with the police department.  Maybe one day they'll make garbage bags out of vinyl.  That will disappear in a lovely fashion with very little encouragement.   Ideal material for tropical trash bags.
While I'm whining about all the things that got eaten by Providenciales I should also mention stuff that I did not build that has worked out well here. This patio furniture came down with us from the USA ten years ago.  It was several years old when we got here.  La Gringo bought it at one of the big box stores.  Maybe Costco.  And it's been sitting exposed to the sun, the salt, the wind and us for all these years.  Without a fault.  It still looks new.   Not a spot of corrosion.  No broken welds.

After all of my complaining about substandard stuff I thought it only fair to look up who makes this furniture so I could recommend it to you.  This is basically welded, powder coated aluminum with heavy PVC strapping.   I looked all over it for the name of the manufacturer, but all I could find was this one label.   You know how it hurts me to admit this, but this is some quality stuff.

 If you're out shopping for patio furniture and see this white aluminum set for sale, it's probably well worth whatever they're charging for it these days.  And believe me, I wouldn't praise it if it didn't deserve it.

So, without running on forever with  hundreds of similar  photos , this is what we've been doing.  We were making weighty decisions and packing  while two crews worked on the house.  We had all the windows repaired and sanded and re-sealed.  This was no small feat.   Here's a before and an after photo of my workshop benches.  This is while Carlo's crew were working on the windows.  My ladder, drill press, compressors, clamps, chop saw, band saw, table saw,  all in a glorious jumble.

And Oh, didn't I just love strangers putting their feet in the middle of my tool collections.   Oh well.
I sold that red compressor on the left to the guy in the hat.  And the rest is now scattered across the island.  I kept a few hand tools for the boat.  The rest is gone.

Here's what it looked like after I managed to get it partially  cleared out and repainted    The remaining stuff in this photo is mostly gone now, too.    I left the benches for the people who buy the house.

Painting over the evidence of a hundred different DIY projects was another bittersweet experience for me.   Every little gouge on that workbench was a memory.  I have to admit, painting over all those mutual scars  left me feeling a little blue.

This also reminds me that paint brushes are one of those little things in life that reliably seem to cause me issues.  Along with Delete keys and distilled alcohol.

La Gringa and I were not the only ones finding ourselves overwhelmed by all the changes we've self inflicted here.  Dooley the Distraught told me that some days he just feels like staying on the floorboards until the scenery changes.  

 I think I know exactly how he feels. 
So now, finally, I can report that we are moved completely out of the house.  We've signed an agreement with a realtor and it will be on the market shortly. 
 We've pulled the catamaran out of the water, closed it up and strapped it down for a few months while we're off in the USA taking care of other business.

I do have one more post from Providenciales to finish before we let Dooley try his paw at writing from the mountains.  We moved out of the empty house a week before our flight to the US.  This week was another first for us, because we actually stayed in a villa on the island.  We had never rented a room on Provo since the day we got here.  Pine Cay, Middle Caicos, Salt Cay, sure.  But never Provo.

Well, now we have.   We stayed for over a week at the Harbour Club Villas, and it was such a nice experience that I'm going to post up photos I took last week of Marta and Barry's establishment just down the road.
 It is too a sunset photo.  Look again.


jschieff said...

WOW, so much happening! Good luck with the mountains, good luck with the boat. Good memories (mostly) from Turks & Caicos.

Unknown said...

Good luck, Gringos, Gringas! I've been happily following your adventures for 8 years. Some may ask, why leave Paradise after all the hard work? What would you say?


mhowell said...

Thank you for sharing your island life with us. We discovered your blog on our first trip to T&C in 2010. We spent two weeks there with our son and have been returning annually since. Provo has always felt a little bit like home; reading your experiences between visits undoubtedly helped contribute to that feeling. Selfishly, we will miss reading your experiences and seeing the places we know and love, but we wish you and your wife great success in your new adventure.

Bearcruzer said...

Dear B & P, So excited for you both. Mike and I sold Dancing Dolphin a few months ago . We are still in the USVI care taking Great St James Island. We understand the joy and dispair associated with purging and trying to decide what is really worth storing. We did the same thing when we began our adventure 6 years ago (has it really been that long?) In the end we were able to put what we couldn't part with into a 4 X 8 ft space under the stairs of one of our homes in Pagosa Springs, CO.. Do you know if you are headed north or south yet. We would love to see you and reconnect if you are headed our way. We even have a private mooring, custom made for a Catamaran set up here in Bare Ass Bay on GSJ island. Hope to see you, La Gringa, and Dooley soon. Fair Winds, Crystal, Mike, (& Dede, a larger version of Dooley)

Anonymous said...

We just renewed our TCI resident permits in November for three more years and we've imported the boat to the TCI. So we're not exactly leaving although we are moving out of the house and onto Twisted Sheets. WE think our lives got boring for the past couple of years, and we plan to kick it up a notch. We hope to be living aboard at our favorite South Side Marina hangout a lot of the time, as well as living 'on the hook' in various other spots in the islands. There are still places in the Turks and Caicos Islands we want to explore before branching out on some longer trips. Remote, largely undocumented places that we just couldn't get to and back during daylight hours without an overnight capability. Now we have that. We think this blog will be getting better with new material. Much better. As for where we head first, well, that will depend upon which way the wind is blowing at the time.

ThePirateDoc said...

Fair winds and following seas, Gringos! Like mhowell above I found your blog while digging around for info prior to a TCI trip years ago. I recall pointing out your house to my wife as we headed to West Caicos for diving/snorkeling, forgetting that I had not shared my Gringos blog experiences with her - oops! We're braving hurricane season and coming back your way in a few weeks ... thanks for sharing your adventures, and occasional misadventures, and I look forward to whatever comes next.

Didier Dufresne said...

Bon voyage, Gringa, Gringo et Dooley... Nous allons manquer de lecture ! C'était agréable de vous voir vivre là-bas au soleil... Mais l'être humain est tel qu'il veut sans cesse du nouveau. Alors bon vent pour vos nouvelles aventures... Et pensez à nous envoyer un petit mot sur le web de temps en temps !
Amitiés de France. Didier

Unknown said...

I was getting worried because you had not posted for the past few Monday's - now I now why! Best of luck living aboard Twisted Sheets; I look forward to more posts from a different vantage point, although I do hope that you get up to the old homestead from time-to-time to catch a sunrise photo.

Abe said...

You have an old post from 2008 with a picture of a boat with an inscription "God is in this boat."
That boat was actually part of the film Turks & Caicos (2014). It's in the very last scene. It's a few years older, and due to the wear and tear I couldn't clearly make out the inscription.
So I Googled it (using the words: turks and caicos "god is in this") and I found your picture!