Monday, July 25, 2016

Adios Big South

This post includes the blog equivalent of leftover images of our car trip on South Caicos and some views of old buildings from various places. And some final thoughts on the place. This was also Dooley's last trip with us so it's also kind of a nostalgic thing. It still squeezes my heart a tiny bit to think of us carrying on without the little booger.

After our self-guided and extended tour of the bipolar military base we took a different route back to town. We saw the advertising signs for the Sailrock development again.  We'd been reading press releases about this place for a couple of years and decided to take a side trip over to check it out.  

 Everything is pretty much a short jaunt on South Caicos.  It's not a very large island.  In this case the jaunt runs up over a ridge and onto a stretch of high ground.  It's facing into the Trade Winds and has a great view of the water between the beach and and the reef.  The reef here is only a half a mile from the shore.

The water gets seriously deep not far outside those slow and distant line-dancing waves. This was a rare day with calm winds. I'd like to see this with 20+ knots from the northeast.  I bet it's nautically scenic. With a lot more white in the scene.

We were ready for lunch.  A shady seat in a cool breeze. A drink with a lot of ice and maybe even an umbrella.  We turned around after this photo showing some of the completed houses. There are three, all well set back from the shoreline. There may be more around that point, this is as far as we got in that direction.

So we left  the dusty trail in search of some comforts. We found just the place.

And it was the casual restaurant at the new, modern East Bay Resort.   Very laid back lunch.   There were a few people at the pool.  Another half dozen drifting around or racked out on the beach under umbrellas.

I got the impression this resort would work well for  people who want the amenities of modern life, but don't care for the t-shirt shops, traffic, and coffee shop competition of Provo.  You have to put a little more effort into getting  off the beaten path sometimes.

We walked down to the beach after lunch. Nice spots to sit and read or nap.

We saw some of the usual collection of resort water toys, all shiny and new. They had tandem kayaks and stand up paddleboards for guest use.

We didn't take a lot of photos of the resort itself but there are some more here if you're interested in places like this. This is the view looking to the south.  Now that's my kind of beach crowd. 

Those interesting Casuarinas  trees, and the dock and hovercraft in the distance got our attention. We kicked our flip flops off and took a barefoot stroll on down to check it out.  I still had some fish and chips to work off, anyway.

I thought these trees were just about custom made for a nice hammock spot. I wonder how many have been used here over the years.

The tread marks are from the machine the resort uses to clean up the beach.  I think.  We didn't see it.

We'd seen this hovercraft come in from the west a few days earlier.  My sum total experience in driving  hovercraft was in a much smaller open version long ago and far away, on a little place called Waquoit Bay. They're great for going over shallow water.  This one might well be powerful enough to muscle through some wind. A handsome craft, in any case.

By this point our batteries were beginning to flag and we turned and headed back up to the resort.   Here's the view looking north up the beach past those aforementioned hammock-begging Casuarinas trees.

We drove across the old salina area on our way back to the harbor.  We saw a few more unimpressed donkeys.  We also saw some bird life that we hadn't noticed on Providenciales. This guy seemed to be expecting some high water eventually.  He's certainly equipped for some serious wading.

There was a sort of rhythm  to what  I initially took to be a haphazard stagger. Like the bird had been hitting a fermented cactus or something. Tequila Mockingbird?  But then realized it was all a part of his naturally syncopated gait. If one but knew what to watch for.

Maybe it's too early to rule out the tequila after all.

South Caicos got pulled into the salt evaporation business at a bad time in US History. That war made a mess of the shipping and import business into the USA with various  naval blockades.  Bullets flying.  Death. That sort of thing. This is the second salt production facility to shut down here around 1860.  Remember the one we looked at on West Caicos?

The old sluiceways and canals here are still in place and they still look functional. Even after being here for over 160 years in some cases.  There's just nobody extracting sea salt this way any more.  At least not here.

These channels connect to a place called the Boiling Hole. That's not an uncommon thing in the islands. It's a vent over an underground series of crevices that allows sea water to bubble up into this big low spot on the island at high tide.  Then people divert that water into shallow pens to dry in the sun.

We were driving around the salina like it was an island version of the Bonneville Salt Flats, but we were finding the odd hazards like broken rum bottles, sharp rocks and shells, and interesting little bridges like this one:

The hole in the exposed plastic culvert is wider than the tires on the rental car.  The whole thing flexed when we drove over it.  Actually, La Gringa drove while I directed. We decided to skip the rest of the salina driving experience and headed back to town.  We were pressed for time and pressing our luck.

We stopped by the  hotel bar at at the South Caicos and Beach Resort.  We'd heard told that we could buy wine there.  It was pretty quiet.   Those sunglasses  overlooking the bar are actually perched on the top of the bartender's head.  La Gringa had to wake her up to ask about buying wine.   As I said, it was pretty slow.

There are some nice views of the local scenery from up on this bluff. Here's Dove Cay, which you've seen in this blog a time or three already.  But this view is different, at least. One of Dooley's favorite roadside  stops.

This is a view of the often-photographed old District Commissioners house. There's actually a more professional photo of it on the Visit TCI site.

This is the old original lighthouse marking the harbor. Looks like it's been quite a while since that was in actual use. I haven't been able to find out much about this old structure.  I wanted to know what produced the light.  It had to be a fire, I suppose. It was unclear to me in this snippet I found stating that it was built in 1890. Built with a simplicity a Quaker would have appreciated.

There are a number of old abandoned buildings scattered around. The primary activities in this little community bounced around the pursuits of fishing, salt production, smuggling, and more fishing over the past few centuries. There are remnants of all of these scattered around the settlement.

I don't know what many of these buildings are. TCI history for sure.  We saw them on just about every corner in town. Old structures well built long ago. Long enough to still be standing after dozens of hurricanes in many cases.  I suppose this is how ancient ruins look while they're in the process of becoming ancient ruins.  I'm thinking it's a lot closer to continuing its career as a ruin than it is to becoming a department store. But I could be wrong. Especially here.

Most of the really old stuff must have been built back in the days when South Caicos was the center of commerce for the Caicos side of the TCI. This must have been quite an impressive place back in the day.

We'd left Dooley the Dramatic out on the boat alone for several hours. We needed to zip back out there and pick him up to take him ashore before he decided that he was quite far enough ashore already, if you know what I mean.

These guys had come in and dropped anchor so close to us that we could hear their conversations. We pulled our own hook and reset it in a spot with more elbow room. We were anchored in three different spots before the trip was over.

We  had to depart South Caicos and head back to Providenciales at this point. We would have happily extended our stay another week. Or two. Or three, even. But we  had been contacted by a gentleman who was flying into Provo to take a  look at the skiff we had for sale. A commitment.

We took a few more dinghy rides with Dooley the Desperate before leaving. He had to go ashore several times a day. Sometimes we went riding just for the heck of it, whether the dog was doing the dance or not. We would visit Dove Cay or Girls Bay and let Dooley check out the beach life. Then we'd idle the boat back along the shoreline looking at the town from that angle. I wonder how many hurricanes these walls have withstood.

Dooley showed an intense interest any time we got close enough to shore that an excursion became a possibility. After living on a boat for six months, he no longer took trees for granted.

And his personal definition of the term "fire hydrant"  was becoming broader by the moment.  After hours on the boat he'd settle for a three point stance anywhere above the high tide mark.

Some of the young islanders of Cockburn Harbour.  These kids were just hanging out on the end of the dock.  They got a kick out of seeing Dooley the Debonair in his bright orange life jacket.

Some of the old buildings lining the shore here are still in use.   We never did go for the local tour, so cannot identify them by original uses.

We did recognize the dock and buildings presently being used by the School for Field Studies.  We saw their boats actively visiting several snorkeling spots around the area while we were here.

The town was relatively quiet while we were here. Other than the loud reggae and ripsaw music broadcast from one of the local bars into the wee hours of the morning.  We understand that the quiet peaceful nature of the place changes dramatically during the South Caicos Regatta, when the harbor is full of boats that have raced here from Providenciales.  Full of people who like to celebrate before they race back. We were just a few weeks too early to be here for the regatta this time. Maybe next year.

We had a few things to do while in town. We topped up our gasoline supply at the local gasoline station...

 ...which is an integral part of the local boating support system here. The building on the left is the grocery store and a center of island commerce.  The building on the right is the marina, although it was never open while we were there.

 I think this organization exhibits  many of the earmarks of closely integrated supply chain optimization operating with minimal personnel capable of addressing multiple maritime and fishery functions as constantly fluctuating requirements dictate. There.  How'd that sound? No. Don't tell me. I know how it sounds. I won't do it again.

Just across the street from the provisioning/marina/refueling complex there is a nice little restaurant called the Sun Set Cafe Bar and Grill.  

That's what the sign on the wall says, anyhow.  And it's one of the most active places on South Caicos on a Saturday night.

We never did actually go and sit at the restaurant and have a meal on the premises. We did order take-out cracked conch dinners several times, though.  And took them back to Twisted Sheets to consume.

We wandered around the dock area a bit more while we were waiting for our takeout orders to be cooked. I was looking at this old cable spool, noticing all the knife marks. You reckon a few fish have been cut up here over the years?

Those metal washers, bolts and nuts must wreak havoc on a knife blade.  Makes me cringe to think of it.  I'm somewhat of a knife sharpness fanatic. Looking at cut marks into steel washers makes my teeth hurt.

These names scratched into the concrete dock made me wonder;   When does graffitti age enough to change from defacing public property to becoming historical documentation? I am reminded of the Roman graffitti scratched into the rocks at Stonehenge.   Vandalism turns priceless with age?

I was impressed by the solid workmanship of some of the hand built wooden boats here. Most of the "conch boats", like the red and white one in this photo, are fiberglass hulls. Many of them are direct copies from a mold taken from a production boat hull. But there are still a few handbuilt wooden boats around, too.  Like the one in the foreground.

The bow does look like it's kissed a few too many rocks to be totally seaworthy until after some repairs.   Which will no doubt be fiberglass.  Practicality trumps authenticity here every time.

Some of the boats in the dinghy dock area here are not going anywhere any time soon, either.  Over the years we've noticed that boats that sink here quite often get left right where they are until time and the environment make them disappear. There are no provisions or equipment  nor the inclination for removing such debris from the water. Hazards to navigation are not uncommon. Some of them are even marked.

We were keeping an eye on the fuel dock area, as we were planning to take on some diesel before leaving South Caicos and heading back across the Caicos Bank to Providenciales. I think that this is the weekly supply boat tied up at the town dock. This is the equivalent of the "mail boats" in the Bahamas.  A regularly scheduled freight stop to deliver large items such as automobiles and construction equipment and bulk supplies to the island's population.  

Finally, after two great weeks living at anchor and exploring the area, we were out of time.  For we had promises to keep, and miles to sail out on the deep. I got that wrong, didn't I.

We  brought Twisted Sheets alongside the fuel dock before heading back to Provo early the next morning.  The wind had kicked up, and we were facing into the incoming tide. It meant we had to pay attention when tying our fiberglass boat to that concrete dock. Thankfully, our thick fenders extend out further from the hull than our paddleboards do.  But just slightly.

We were lucky.  The stiff breeze blowing over the island was helping to hold the boat off that plastic-gobbling concrete  It wasn't the kind of tie-up that we could walk away from for an extended breakfast in town, however. That's a high damage potential situation right there, I tell ya.

We also topped up our water supply while here. but not from shore.    We imported one of the new Rainman gasoline powered reverse osmosis systems.  This is a portable two piece system, consisting of a Honda engine and high pressure pump in one enclosure and a pair of deferentially permeable membranes in the other.  A stout old man can carry the entire system around if need be.

The clear hose is drawing sea water up into the high pressure pump, which pushes it hard against  membranes. Some of the water is forced through but the salt is blocked out.  So we get fresh water out of one tube, and slightly saltier water out of the other. The brine goes back into the ocean through that green tube in this photo, and the fresh water goes into our tanks. It makes over 30 gallons of fresh water an hour, burning very little fuel. No electricity needed. Portable. Makes a nice pressure washer, too.

We were not anxious to leave South Caicos. We'd been here long enough that the local conch fishermen were making it a point to wave at us morning and evening on their daily commutes.

We quite enjoyed watching the slow pace of the island and harbor. We'd seen a number of other boats come in for a night or two, clear customs and immigration, and rest up from their journey before moving on.

And we'd found ourselves falling into some of the easier rhythms of daily life in the tropics without the hustle and bustle of larger towns. Life runs a little slower here.  It's a life lived very close to nature, and most specifically, the nature of the sea. This is not a farming community.

We finally had to head back to Provo. We had a fairly interesting little trip south down the east side of Long Cay when leaving. It was blowing hard from the north east with 6-8 ft. waves from the east. And raining. So we rattled and rolled for the first few miles, until we were able to turn to the northwest. The trip got smooth with the wind pushing us along the way we wanted to go. We made it back to our home island without further incident.

We'll never forget our visit to Big South. This little island is what the Turks and Caicos Islands were all about for much of their existence. We hope to be back, maybe later in the year after hurricane season. We've already got some unforgettable memories of this special place. And room for more.

I know we have several more recent South Caicos sunsets since this was taken. But for some silly reason I'm still liking this one.


Betz said...

Beautifully eloquent, informative, as well as feeling that I was "in the moment". Fantastic commentary!

Unknown said...

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Anonymous said...

What's happened to Dooley

Naumachos said...

Dooley walked the rainbow bridge,but he is still here,in our hearts.
Wrote from an italian long time reader.

Anonymous said...

Servus Gringo,

thank you so much for this post! Was hard waiting for.
Looks like now I have to wait quite a while for the next?

Looking Forward for the stories to come!

All the best


Anonymous said...

We're actually back up in the mountains for a while during hurricane season. But I have more than enough photos to put together another island post.

Of course what we're looking at right now are mountains with snow on the top. Big change from Provo. Last year we posted photos of this area with thoughts on Dooley's possible perspective. This year, I just don't think it would be as entertaining without him.

Anonymous said...

Lovely to hear from you & to see Dooley in his usual spot :'( Thank you for sharing his experiences with us.

- Chris

Jen H said...

We will miss Dooley's comments - but still love the blog. Please keep it going.

Anonymous said...

Please keep the blog going.
We love to read it.
Ralph and Doris
Bambarra Middle Caicos ( the sandy it is known locally!)

John G said...

So sorry to read about Dooley. He was certainly one lucky little guy to have lead the life of adventure that he did, and to be able to experience daily all sorts of exciting and fun things. And of course to be so obviously loved and cared for as he was.

Tourist In Paradise said...

Hey gringos,

Awesome blog. It really wants us to go to the Caicos Islands. I mean, who doesn't love to explore the Caribbean? If you ever think of going a bit further south I would recommend sailing to Bequia.

Thanks again for a great blog!

Victor said...



jschieff said...

Would love to get an update! How were the mountains, are you back in T&C? How is the restoration of Twisted Sheets? Planning any cruising?
John Schieffelin

Anonymous said...

Sorry to have to tell you that my beloved wife and best friend Polly (La Gringa Suprema) passed away October 28. Dooley died back in May of 2016. I sold Twisted Sheets. And the house, and the car. We have no investment in the TCI at the moment. So right now it's just one old beat up Gringo, and he's sitting in Colorado alone scratching his head wondering what to do next.

Maybe writing another blog would be therapeutic. Polly always encouraged me to keep writing.

I wouldn't rule out getting a smaller boat that one old guy could single hand for a season or two. Anyone know much about the Nunsuch 30?

Unknown said...

This news truly breaks my heart. I can't imagine what you are going through. You folks shared such a wonderful, colorful, adventure filled existence. Your post enriched my life by sharing yours. Your adventures and your witty blogs are damn good. Polly knew what she was talking about. You are a gifted writer. Thank you so much for sharing your adventures. If you're ever near Grapevine, Texas, know you have a Texan friend to to call on.

Anonymous said...

Thanks. We actually spent a lot of time in Fort Worth. Polly’s father and stepmother her sons and their families all live in the DFW area. I’m considering buying a house in Texas right now. Combing Zillow for a place in the hill country. I’ve been advised not to make any big decisions for a year but I rarely follow good advice. It was going to be Colorado but Polly had ties to Colorado. I ‘ll be living alone and I have a lot more friends and family in Texas. So I may be finally going home after a lifetime of travel.

Unknown said...

Years and years of following you guys. RIP Polly and my condolences to you Gringo and family. Peace from Panama City, Panama.

Unknown said...

I found your blog a few months ago and have been reading it with extreme pleasure. Thank you for ALL your effort in putting together. It takes a lot of time. So very sorry to hear about La Gringa!!! You two seemed to be very well suited to each other. How fortunate to find someone like that for so many years!
PLEASE keep writing!!! About anything! Your style is impeccable and entertaining. I love your sense of humor. There are many of us who enjoy a quirky blog. I would buy it if it were a book, subscribe to it if were a magazine, watch it if it were a show-please keep it up. And include La Gringa. Her influence will always be felt.
Thank you again!

Momcat said...

I come here to re-read the blogs and look at your pictures and honestly was sad for me that you left Provo. I enjoyed learning through the posts.
I never usually read the comments but for some reason looked today.
I am shocked to read and am so sorry for the loss of your Polly. I can't imagine your sorrow. It seems you had a great life of venturing together and I hope that gives you some comfort.
You do have a gift of gab and I would hate to see it go to waste. Please let us know where to find you if you do write. Blessings and Peace to you, Gringo.

timwilking said...

Oh no! So sorry for your loss!

As other have stated, your writing is awesome and brought many smiles to my face. I have lived vicariously through your blog posts, enjoyed your adventures with La Gringa and Dooley (the...) and your blog even inspired my wife and I to sneak away from the kids for a few days to visit TCI a few years ago.

I wish you nothing but the best as you move forward into the next adventures of your life and encourage you to continue blogging.

Unknown said...

Suggestions for further blogs:
Any leftover pictures from TCI
Your house-buying procedure
Memorable events from La Gringa's illness
Your adventures in the Rockies
Current boat-related issues
Anything else you want to comment on.

Your writing style is so enjoyable to read. And all of us that have read the TCI blog feel like we know you to a certain extent and are interested in your life. My wife has not read any of the TCI blog yet, but when I told her about La Gringa, she said, "Oh, no!!! He will be so lonely!"

You could also do a "Best of the TCI", the 10 best pics, your 4 favorite beaches, the 7 most irritating things about living in the TCI, The 25 funniest things that happened to you, etc.

All the best!

Anonymous said...

Hello Robert,
Thanks for writing. It still amazes me that people look at this two and a half years after my last post.

Thank you, also, for your suggestions. All of those are possible. I was also trying to repair some of the early busted links to what's already been published. And I have thousands of photos, since Polly and I were both avid amateur photographers. But so far, I can't access the early ones. They are on a separate hard drive. The problem is that after her cancer metastasized into her head, we didn't realize how fast it was affecting her cognitive and memory functions. Bottom line, she forgot all of her account logins and passwords. So while I could write more content, I wouldn't have many early photos. Polly's son has the hard drive and is supposedly going to try to find someone who can retrieve the data.

I am presently in an apartment in Colorado, trying to figure out what to do with myself going forward. Being a "caregiver" for the past two and a half years seriously impacted our outdoor activities, although we did do a lot of hiking in Colorado and Montana, until the past few months. I could write a blog post about our summer housesitting a flyfishing lodge in Montana, but I think that would be a bit confusing for people clicking on a link expecting the tropics.

And 'lonely' doesn't begin to cover it.

Mike said...

Maybe you could make the name of a new blog " El triste gringo" and include a pic and short bio of Polly right there in the sidebar. Her smilin' face..

Please think about continuing, man.

Unknown said...

I am sorry for your loss. I was wondering what the gap in time was. I lost my wife 17 years ago and miss her everyday but have a guardian angel. Where in CO are you? I am also. I am a landlocked ocean lover. As my mother always told me, life is a journey. My mom passed away in 2005 and I still hear her little words of wisdom.

Unknown said...

Hello Gringo - I came across your blog while researching things to do in TCI. I was very touched by your wonderful photos and stories, and sad to see the date of your last post. I'm quietly saying a prayer for you and all you've been through, hoping you find peace in your new chapter of life. I would be thrilled to read about how you learned to live with your grief and started your next phase of life. I will think of you as we explore Providenciales in a few weeks - thanks for all the great advice!

Bill said...

Oh sorry to read about Polly. I read your blog for years starting around 2008 and always enjoyed seeing what you were up to in the TCI! Was looking forward to your continued adventures aboard 'Twisted Sheets'.
I've kept checking back in from time to time but feared the worst. I hope you are dealing ok and take comfort in knowing that by sharing your lives in the tropics you inspired and gave enjoyment to many others.

Anonymous said...

Hi Bill,
I am still in
Colorado. It's been a year since I have been to the TCI. I intend to go back for a visit someday. I just bought a house in Colorado so this is going to be my home base for now,

I sold Twisted Sheets. I think the new name is Metta. It's still in Provo, with the new owner planning to refurb and live aboard full time.

I started another blog post, about my life now. but I sort of ran out of steam. Being a widower changes a lot of things. I hope to get through this period and pick up my life again, but of course it will be a different life.

Thanks to everyone for all the kind wishes and words.

Oh, by the way I don't use the same email as before. I still have it, just don't use it. So if you want to reach me for some reason, try .

Jahaley said...

So sorry to read about Dooley and Polly. You have exceptional writing skills and we've always enjoyed reading your blog and living the island life vicariously thru you. Hope you find a way to enjoy new adventures as hard as that may be without your 2 sidekicks

Linda said...

What sad news. I used to love reading your blog, dreaming about visiting the Caribbean one day, but haven't checked back in a long time.
Today I suddenly decided to check if I'd missed anything, and saw your news. What a loss for you, I'm sorry and I hope by now, the worst and the rawest pain has subsided a bit.
Best wishes from Norway!

misu said...

Oh, Gringo... I haven't been to your blog in quite some time it turns out, by reading the latest comments here, but here I am again. I hope you're picking up the pieces and moving on. Wishing you all the best there can be. Just wanted you to know that people that you inspired and helped with sharing all your information and lifestyle postings along the years are still thinking of you fondly.

Kevin said...

Hi Gringo ... so sorry to hear about our loss. I do hope you are getting along OK. I echo so many of the comments above when I say you and Gringa inspired so many of us in all of these years. We're returning to for our 5th trip to TCI in 2 years this fall ... its harder to come back to the mainland every time .. one of these days we won't.

Unknown said...

omg I am so sorry to read about Polly and Dooley. I used to read every single one of your posts. I randomly decided to come back to check your blog today and read the news :(

Tim said...

I still come back to this site from time to time to look through your wonderful blog posts and enjoy the pictures you have taken. You really capture the feel of T&C, so much better than the myriad of tacky youtube videos etc.

Despite the challenges of 2020 and the heartbreak from previous years, I hope you are staying strong.

Unknown said...

Hi Byron,
I was privileged to have met you and Polly during her cancer treatments and one visit we got into your travels. You gave me your card that I had pinned to a corkboard in my office, and while I knew Polly had passed away, I thought I would still see if you're amazing blog existed. I am so happy to see it isn't gone. Your love for each other was so beautiful to witness and I thank you for that. I am so sorry for your loss. She was an amazing woman with so much grit and beauty. Your devotion and presence to Polly was never unnoticed.
Blessings to you and your family.
Sandi (Rad Onc nurse)

hjslaw said...

I came back to the blog today after a long time, wondering what news there are. So sorry to read about the sad events. I hope you are going strong. Best wishes from Germany.