Friday, January 22, 2016

Beach Break

We're taking a break from  the string of Providenciales photos that have been posted here lately. For what seems like forever, actually.  I know that you find our tales of South Side Marina to be consistently fascinating.  And that the never ending tedium of grungy old boat work captures your rapt attention in exciting new ways that defy imagination.  We know you're anxiously awaiting yet another blog post with  even more sunset photos from various spots around Bob's Bar, mixed in with aerial shots of it all.  Well, this ain't going to be that post. We needed a change of cay.

We were invited out to one of the other islands for a visit this week.  It was a chance to get away from the increasingly busy marina, the never finished boat, and the island micro-city of Providenciales. To say we leaped at the opportunity would be uncharacteristically understated.    A couple languid days of beach time miles away from the boat was a real treat.   I put  my travelling shoes on specifically for the extreme pleasure of kicking them off again once we arrived on Pine Cay.  Shoes weren't really necessary for the trip over.  It was a symbolic thing.

 I know some of our readers caught up in the grip of winter probably don't want to hear this right now, but the weather was uncharacteristically warm.  Reminded me of June.  It was like summer  with air temperatures well up into the 80's.   Light winds.  No noise not created by nature's wind and waves, no crowds.  Just blissfully peaceful beach and the soothing murmurs of translucent blue tropical water lapping at the sand as a soundtrack.

We don't do much on these trips.  Dooley and I took a walk down the beach for a few hours one afternoon. "Walk" is probably not an accurate description of what Dooley does.  He only has a couple of speeds, and neither of them is really a walk.  He doesn't stop anywhere for long voluntarily.  Or unless he's pretty tired.   He's starting to get up there in dog years, so he's not exactly the same fireball he was ten years ago. But he still loves the ocean and the beach and this special little island in particular.   There are so very many things to look at and sniff, for those of us who are into that kind of thing.   He was so excited to have a beach day that he was frequently overrunning his nose. He had to circle  back to check out things he only caught a whiff of whilst running blithely by on his first pass.

It's a little frustrating for me to try to get photos without dog footprints in them, as I've bemoaned many times before.  The moment I point a camera at something he's all over it.   He wants to know what it is about whatever it is that might be interesting. Getting undisturbed photos with Dooley around takes a technique similar to spear fishing.  It's best to approach the target at an oblique angle, apparently ignoring it while heading toward something else  entirely.  The trick is keeping track of the subject in peripheral vision, disguising the interest, until at the last moment, I turn and quickly shoot the photo.  Before the dog can change direction and ruin it.  

See the doggie prints in that one?   He had already scooped me and was circling for another pass.   I took the photo anyhow.   I think I was seeing something similar to one of the mirror images we sometimes post here.  Except this one used shadows.
This desiccated and shattered approximation of a shaved head is what I always heard referred to as a "Norwegian buoy" back in my oceanographic career days.   We used a lot of these bright orange and blue inflatable buoys to mark sub-sea moorings.   They are popular because they are well designed and built very rugged.  I thought they were practically impervious to the elements. A walk along the beach here will put that notion to rest.  Even these tough ocean going floats eventually will succumb to ultraviolet radiation if exposed long enough.

Here's another one.  Same thing.  Totally destroyed by the sun.   It's enough to make one wear a hat down here.  Especially with a bald head that's not nearly as tough as these buoys once were.

Not all of the interesting sights on the beach are flotsam.   Dooley used to try to dig out sand crabs when he was younger. Then he ran into a few of the local land crabs that were the approximate diameter of a large dinner plate and a whole lot meaner.  The term armed and dangerous comes to mind. These days, the dog gives them a wide berth.

This is the home of a small one.  Complete with the trash from last night's dinner flung out for the tide to deal with.
I've given up yelling at the dog about destroying my photographic subject matter.  He's set in his hot 'n trot ways, I suppose.  At least his tracks make it easy to see where he's been, and what he's been up to.  And sometimes it's useful to know which way he was headed when he was last spotted.  He does get caught up in his own little world and disappears from time to time on some trail or other.   Not too hard to follow when his are the only tracks in sight.

 Another shot of untrammeled beach, taken while the dog was off being obnoxious somewhere else.

Which might have been his very purposeful and direct trip over to an upended and broken palm tree that had washed ashore.   He had to make a stop, in that time honored tradition and special relationship that dogs and trees seem to have enjoyed since the beginning.

The only other signs of humanity we saw while on our beach walk were the occasional boats passing by offshore. This is the North Caicos ferry, zipping passengers back and forth between Leeward and Sandy Point.  We've taken this very boat quite a few times ourselves.

As you can tell from the photos, for most of the time on this beach there are no boats passing by for long stretches of time.   It's truly a tropical island lovers version of primeval peace.

At one point I saw these blue bits of polypropylene line sticking out of the sand and went over to take a closer look.   There was something familiar about it.

Oh yeah, now I remember.  I am almost certain that this is a remaining remnant of a large section of fishing net that washed ashore here during a storm back in 2011.  I cut a piece of it out and took it home.  So this net has now been here for five years.  I didn't have the energy nor the time to dig it up and see how much of it is left.  I suspect the piece I cut out is the only attention anyone has given it since then.

I know that this is the same net as the one in that link I posted above.  The background of the photo is that same group of Casuarinas trees in both photos, 2011 and 2016.   We were actually headed for those trees in search of a  spot to take a break.  The sun was fierce and the idea of some cool shade was popular with both of us.

I let Dooley pick the shady spot.   He has his own criteria for these things.   I don't know what those are, but I've learned that sometimes it's just easier to go along with him. Besides, this spot under the trees on a soft bed of Australian Pine needles looked pretty good to me.

So we settled in for a while, to relax and just watch an afternoon at the beach develop.  As you can see, the excitement was minuscule.  The white thing in the middle of the photo on the horizon is a sail.   That's all we really needed for subject matter. Sailboats are good for a nice long observation.   They don't go anywhere very quickly.

It was a good excuse to run the zoom out on the new camera.   Same sailboat  at 20x, taken while I started to slump down into a more comfortable observation position, with my head comfortably against a log.  Judging by the changing angle of that sprig of beach grass.

Dooley got into the spirit of the idea, and he sacked out next to me. I can't be entirely sure, as time moves differently here, but I think we may have dozed off for a few minutes.  It's certainly a good place for it.  It actually might have been more than just a few minutes.  I had needle marks tattooing the backs of my legs and arms from the Casuarinas leaves.  I'm going to assume I must have remained fairly stationary for about an hour.   

And then when somebody's snoring woke me up... I looked around and quickly discovered that absolutely nothing had changed during my unplanned nap. The sun moved a little, the waves were still breaking out on the reef, as a distant murmur, and this could just as easily have been the year 1816. I'm guessing that this view hasn't changed.   This was a languid afternoon experience that I had not had in a very long time. I woke up refreshed and relaxed, and worries seemed to have all stayed behind back on Provo for a few minutes.  When was the last time you took a nap with your dog under a shady tree on a tropical beach? Hmm? Don't you think you're overdue?

Did I mention 1816?  Maybe the distant views on this day were not so different from those of two centuries before after all.  And no, I wasn't hallucinating.  Not this time.

That photo reminds me of another time, much more recent than 1816.  I'm thinking of that day back in 2010 when we caught a distant view of a schooner under sail.  I posted that photo, and several weeks later we got an email from the captain of that boat.   This lead to a meeting with Captain Bob Nichols, who was running supplies to orphanages in the Bahamas and Haiti on the "Star of the Sea".  We got involved in supporting a couple of their trips to Haiti, and this all led to a long term friendship with Bob.  He's no longer running that boat, but we do stay in touch. You might see his comments show up here from time to time.

Meanwhile, back on the island, the dog and I cut through the bushes and intersected one of the major highways on Pine Cay for our walk back. We'd had enough sunshine and knew we could find shady patches all up the island if we stuck to the roads.   As you can see, dodging traffic wasn't much of an issue.

I guess we'd missed the big parade when a large iguana cruised down the middle of the road, apparently without a care in the world. It's probably a good thing Dooley got there well after the iguana had taken his exit from the highway.  Dooley always seems to think those encounters are a lot more fun than the lizards do.  Anyhow, this is what an iguana's track looks like. The little sweeping marks are where the iguanas claws brushed the sand as it walked, and the long furrow is from its tail dragging.  Boy, don't we all know that feeling.

And it continued pretty much all the way up to that next rise in the road.  That's where you can just make out a little spotted dog with his nose to the ground, 50 yards ahead of me.  He's the speck up ahead in the wrong lane.

We didn't spend all our time on the beach.  We did go check out some of the Pine Cay things we hadn't seen in a while.   I think it was about a year ago that we'd seen this structure built as an observation platform overlooking the water in the Aquarium.   I could have told them that using steel post anchors was a bad idea.  These posts are now essentially untied from the concrete.  The galvanized lag bolts are a nice touch, but totally useless at their intended purpose with the anchors completely rusted back to elemental iron.

Speaking of structures, we managed to make a side trip over to Devil's Cut. I had posted photos of this bridge back when it was new.  We were curious as to whether or not it had survived Hurricane Joachim a couple months ago.

The bridge seems to have survived, and in fact has apparently been shored up a bit at each end from it's original position.   That makes me believe that it may have been repaired.

And if you're interested, we also have plenty of photos of this area before someone decided to make it more accessible.

We were there just a half hour after high tide  as the water on the Caicos Bank was starting to rush by on its shortest path back to mother ocean. We got our feet wet getting from the golf cart to the bridge on this side.  Dooley hated every minute of it.  So much so that he made a half dozen trips through the water just to remind himself of how awful it all was.

The side of the bridge on the little no-name cay now has a paved path over the rougher parts of the ironshore limestone.

We had nothing much to do and all day to do it, so we took a walk around the perimeter of the islet.  Just taking the dog and the cameras for a stroll.  

This is a little disappearing history here.  The black pointy things sticking up through the mangroves are old conch shells, discarded from years ago when conch were still plentiful this close to shore.   They break down slowly, but they do eventually return to the sea.

When we rounded a turn in the trail we could see that someone has put something out on the point of the cay nearest the cut through to the Banks.   We had to go take a look to see what's new out there, as well.   The "pirate" flag did catch our attention, rippling and flapping in the breeze as the easterly trade winds had their way with it.

When we got to the point we could see that there is now an umbrella stand cemented into the rocks,  a bamboo flag pole, and a marker of some kind.   And the pirate flag.   I confess I'm not much of a fan of the cute Disney version of piracy. I think this would be a great spot for the Pine Cay ensign,  but I don't get a vote with those folks.

Looking across the cut I noticed that there have been some changes over on that side, too.  Especially since our friend Preacher Stubbs showed us how he cooks conch, back on a New Year's trip seven years ago.

There is now another one of these marker signs hammered into the shore over on that side, too.


 The dining room table that was here in 2009 seems to have survived the years okay.  I didn't have a boat with me to go check it out,  and this isn't the kind of place I would swim across during full ebb.   At least, not on this day.  Once again the new camera let me get closer without getting wet.  You can see some of the tidal current ripping through here.   

We liked the pattern that the Oystercatchers make when they stroll around in the sandy spots here.    We didn't see any of them on this visit, but it's probably still a bit early in the season for the birds to be here in force. They start showing up in larger numbers later in the spring during nesting season.   There are obviously a few around now, and they've been here since the last high tide.

We walked around the rest of the little cay.   I don't remember if this section of shoreline had been intact when we were last here.  It illustrates what is slowly happening to all of these islands.  The waves undercut the shore line until the rock ledge breaks and falls into the ocean.   There is less island here every year, as the ocean grinds it very very slowly back to sand.

The broken ledges can form some attractive habit for small fish. I was expecting to see some pilchards here on this trip.  Must have spooked them stomping through the underbrush.   They're skittish things, with good reason.  They're the favorite entrĂ©e for many species of marine life.

All good things must come to an end, and we had to get back to our floating home at South Side Marina.  We had a wonderfully relaxing visit to Pine Cay.  I just realized that these were the first nights we'd spent off of the boat this year.
This is a little hut to shelter people from the elements while they wait for their ride at the Pine Cay marina.  I was just walking around snapping photos until the scheduled boat trip to Providenciales was ready.  

And I found a spot where the pilchards are hanging out.   If you look at the water between the dock and the shoreline you can see a large school of them.  This is a larger version of the type of environment  they like.  They seem to like some protection from the open water.  It's similar in layout from the broken rock ledges and the channels between them and the shore.

That's a whole bunch of very good bait right there.  Or one could put them in a can with olive oil and call them sardines, and be entirely accurate.

This is another good place to catch baitfish.   This is the fuel dock at Pine Cay.   It's also a boat ramp.

Or a swimming hole, if one relaxes their standards far enough.  Dooley ain't choosy.  Salt water is good enough.

And another half hour after that was taken we were back on a boat to Providenciales, and back to our hectic life refitting an old catamaran at South Side Marina.  With a wet dog on our laps.  And in the car. It's only a seven mile trip. 

We could have timed that  last part a little better.

We were only on Pine Cay for two nights, and didn't get photos of either one of those sunsets.  I guess we were too busy or something.   But hey, we have plenty of nice sunset photos from South Side Marina if we ever run short.

Like this one:

I know it might seem strange, but this old boat is starting to feel like home.   If you can imagine a home that moves almost constantly.   Complete with a  soft chorus of creaks and groans  every time the weather changes.   I wonder why that feels so familiar?