Friday, March 23, 2012

Oh No, Not Another West Caicos Beach Post!!

Yep. It is.. I wrote in the last post that we'd be going back to try to pick up some more useful pieces of battered, waterlogged junk. Well, we went back, and we did pick up some more good "stuff". But before I get into the details of another scavenger run, I wanted to show you this rainbow La Gringa spotted last week. It ended right about exactly where our center console boat is parked at the marina.  Are rainbows bi-directional by any chance?  I mean, does this represent gold coming in.......or going out?

I realize that we seem to be fixated on this one stretch of West Caicos.  We have reasons for that. That beach is on an uninhabited island. When we're on this beach, we're almost certain that we'll get through the entire day without seeing another person. We like that. And it's not a classic, beautiful beach by any means. It's rocky, and covered with years of debris. We like that, too. It's an interesting beach to us. And the only way to get there is by boat.

You might ask why this dog has a concerned look on his face. It's not because of the GoPro "Dooley-Cam" strapped to his back. That little camera is visible just over his right ear in the photo. Barely. He's pretty tough on wearable camera mounts. Especially when he's storming a beach like Audie Murphy in four wheel drive. But he's accustomed to the Dooley Cam by now. Or maybe he's just become accustomed to me using him as a Guinea Pig. To the the point where wearing a camera doesn't even faze him anymore.  When La Gringa took this photo he was making up his furry little mind on whether he should swim out to where I was maneuvering a large sheet of 'Starboard' marine plastic toward the skiff.

For those who don't commonly spend a lot of time around boats, 'Starboard' is the trade name for a  plastic product that's used to construct things on boats. This stuff is dense and can be cut, drilled, and tapped like heavy plywood. I've been wanting to get my hands on some of this for a long time now, but could only find a few small pieces in sporadic stock here on the island. Sporadic stock means that in six years I saw a few pieces for sale,once. So I was pretty happy when we found almost an entire sheet of it on the rocks this afternoon.

While Dooley the Distracted had been off in the bushes chasing rats or lizards or whatever his harassment-du-jour agenda called for, I'd wrestled this thing down to the water to float it. It's a lot easier to float than it is to carry. A 48 x 84 inch sheet of 0.5 inch Starboard weighs 70 lbs. I looked it up when I got back to a computer. I was surprised. I thought it felt more like 600 lbs. at the time.   And this is 3/4".   It's tapered, though.  I think it might have been the surface for a fish cleaning table on a commercial boat.

But discussions of weight aside, the important thing for me is that it turns just slightly positive in water. Kind of like me, I guess.

This was good news.  Meant I could float it out to the boat.  I sure would have been bummed if it sank.

So while La Gringa was waiting in the skiff to help me get this thing aboard, she was taking photos of my little salvage operation. As she often does. And that reminds me, I want to apologize up front for there being so many photos of me in this post. You might recall that my pocket camera bit the bucket, and kicked the dust, and mixed it's last metaphors recently. So most of these photos were taken by La Gringa. And it's really difficult to find any that don't have me in the frame. I've tried to minimize the damage, and cropped myself out when I can. I guess it's not the worst way to be framed. Or cropped. Now, back to our story....

I know, I know. Last weekend it was a stainless steel tank and some wood. This time it's a big sheet of plastic. "But this is good stuff, honey! I can make something useful out of this." Yeah, sure, she's heard that one a few times.  I would say I deserve the title Pack Rat, but I wouldn't say it too loudly.
You know how Dooley feels about rats.   He wants for there not to be any.   Anywhere. Anymore.  Ever.

Anyhow, after figuring out that I must have invented some kind of new floating toy out there, Dooley the Decisive decided he'd take a break from scaring the pellets out of rats and swim out to investigate it for himself. Dooley's awed by my mechanical skills, but then he's impressed by anyone who can operate a can opener. If JRTs ever develop opposable thumbs, we're in trouble. It would be like inventing a raccoon with a Type A personality and a measurable IQ.

I don't really ever know for sure what's he's thinking. He has his own way of looking at things. As far as he was concerned, he was swimming from the island to a boat. Looked like a nice place to rest. Maybe he thought that I had built him another surfboard, since someone threw away his last one.

I tried to tell him what was going to happen,but he doesn't listen to reason once he's decided upon a course of action. Sometimes he's right. But then we could say the same thing about a broken clock.

He scrambled up onto the floating plastic fairly easily, but then things started going south in a hurry. Remember when I said earlier that this stuff is slightly positive in water? I meant just barely positive. It floats as long as nothing gets added to it. Such as a miscalculating dog without even your average hamster's grasp of elementary physics.  I said he was smart.   I didn't say brilliant.

I think this must be the moment when he realized that he wasn'tt going to be able to stretch out in the sun on this new "raft" and catch up on his reading. In fact, the fickle little booger immediately turned to La Gringa in the real boat. This is his "Help me!" look. I think he must have majored in beseeching with a minor in pitiful,helpless,and starving.   His eyes get all squinty and he really tries to make one feel sorry for him.   But look at this photo.  Does this look stressful to you?  It's safer than a YMCA swimming pool at the moment.

We didn't have as much time as we'd hoped for, and had to leave the serious beach combing for another trip. This time around my main purpose was to try to determine what was left of this catamaran under the sand. The 'seagull striker' was still sticking up just off the beach in the shallow water. I suspect it will remain until at least the next major storm.

I tried to move it. I really did. I grabbed it and pulled. I braced my back against it and pushed. I spoke to it nicely. I tried threatening it. Nada. I couldn't budge it at all. I dug a number of holes in the sand and discovered that it's still attached to both the front crossbeam and the little walkway that divides the trampoline down the middle on many catamarans. I don't want to get too far into unfamiliar terminology here, but the result is that there is a substantial structure still buried here. The entire front frame of a large multihull. That little glob to the left is some marine plant life growing on some steel cable still attached to it all.

I had seen what I hoped was something useful a little further out from the beach when we first came into shore in the boat. I waded out to where it was and recovered it.

Hey, one man's discarded length of PVC pipe is another man's.... uh.... excuse to go beach combing? More good stuff! I'm sure I can use this somewhere, someday, somehow. It's really good when guys like me have understanding wives. It's also a good argument for a separate garage.  Beats separate beds.

La Gringa and Dooley the Disappointed decided to walk down the beach, and leave me to explore this wreck on my own.   They took my camera with them.

She found hunks of the fiberglass hulls all up and down the beach. She was hoping to find something with the name of the boat, or the manufacturer.

Dooley the Destroyer made sure there were no evil rodents hiding inside the wreckage. No well-meaning but misguided rodents either, for that matter. He's an equal-opportunity terrierist.

I want to point out that the Dooley-Cam is preventing him from crawling inside the hull in that photo. This is both a good thing, and a not so good thing. It caused some problems a little later on in the day. Especially when we were packing up to leave and head home. we couldn't find the dog. We called and called to him. We shouted both veiled and overt threats. We hinted at promises we never intended to keep regarding mountains of cheese. We whistled, and used every trick we've come up with over the years to get him to listen to us. I even started the outboard motor and shouted out that we were going to leave him overnight with no food, water, or access to the Animal Channel. And then I used the ultimate in Dooley psychology tools, I yelled that the updated forecast was for severe thunderstorms. That should have done it. But the only reply was the sound of the waves, and the wind. At this point we started getting nervous.

We turned the boat off, waded back ashore and started searching. We were worried that he'd gotten into something harmful.  I think the little beggar would eat straight strychnine if he thought it had a chicken bone in it.

After a half an hour of searching, La Gringa found him entangled in a thick bush. He'd tried to crawl under some low limbs and gotten the GoPro camera and straps all tangled up to the point where he couldn't get out. We ran the video later, and had a laugh over the early parts before he got tangled and his batteries all ran out. But I confess it had me worried and in the future I'll remove the life jacket if he's going to be crawling through the underbrush. And he will be.  Like men, a dog will just naturally like to do those things that he does best.

Overall the new version of the Dooley-Cam worked okay. The early stuff was all floppy and I won't show you that. But then  we did a little  Archie Bell tighten-up thing with his rigging and turned him loose again.

La Gringa made a video of the good part when he was using his nose to prospect for whatever it is he prospects for.  And I'm not sure I really want to know what all that is.  He'd run for a while then stop and pop up to check on our location. Here's what one minute of Dooley's idea of beach combing looks like from his perspective:

While Dooley and I were playing in the big sandbox, each absorbed in our  prospective searches for respective treasures, La Gringa took the time to look around and take some nice photos. Like this:

That was a very intricate wood grain she found there. We left this particular piece alone but found other more workable lengths of this same wood. I have some of it at the house now, and wish I knew how to find out what it is.   Could it be black locust? I'll clean up a piece and polish it and maybe if I post it someone reading this will recognize it. I strongly suspect it's one of the main components in the Haitian sloops, but when I look up the native trees of Haiti it's a long list. How do you classify wood if you don't have the bark and leaves to look at?

I realize that when we say Dooley is off annoying various rodents, it might seem odd to think of them on a deserted beach. But we've seen several to confirm what he was telling us all along. And there are plenty of places for them to get shelter here.   I haven't found a source of fresh water, but somehow, they sure survive and even thrive here.

I can just imaging Dooley the Daunted thinking "So many caves to hide in, so little time..".

This is the root of a large bamboo. There are thousands of these floated up on the beaches here, and bamboo this big doesn't grow naturally on these islands. I imagine they wash down rivers in Africa and South America and get washed up this way. There are a lot of fanciful shapes in these bamboo roots. I wish I could think of a use for them.

I'm not much of a 'plant guy'. In fact I usually only pay attention to those you can eat or build something with, but La Gringa found this little thing in full bloom. We've been paying more attention to the local flora lately. Eventually we'd like to replace all the imported and troublesome stuff our original landscape contractor sold us with local plants that are happy with ambient conditions and don't need constant attention. I'm willing to bet that this one is now on La Gringa's mental list. The sea sage is another one we like.

Now please remember that I had nothing to do with these next photos. I suspect that La Gringa Suprema saw me all hunched over digging in the sand like a slobbering two year old with a soggy diaper and wandered over to make sure I wasn't trying to domesticate a sting ray or something.

I was working away at trying to find where the standing rigging of that catamaran terminated. If you look at the part protruding from the sand and imagine that the main shrouds attached there where I am digging, you can get an idea of the size of the boat. I would have been sitting approximately in the middle of the boat. If it hadn't been smashed to smithereens, that is.

I have absolutely no idea why she took this photo. When I asked her, she just grinned at me and shook her head. I could almost call it a giggle. Which really baffles me......

.......because all I was doing was trying to figure out what this stuff was attached to. When I found that frayed section of cable, I stopped digging with my hands. That stuff will shred you in a heartbeat.

I'd remembered to bring a saw with me on this trip, so I was able to at least go home with about a five meter length of the stainless steel rod rigging. And the Starboard, and several buoys, and some pieces of mystery wood. And some glass fishing net floats. And a great funnel. We even wrestled a nice stump on board, for some reason I forget at the moment. But it made sense at the time. This is truly living up to the nickname Preacher gave it : Flea Market Beach.

I've had this fantasy for some time about finding an aluminium case floating along, or washed up on a beach, and just stuffed full of banded currencies in large denominations. Every time we go beach hunting these days I tell La Gringa and Dooley to "keep an eye out for my briefcase".   This is my own version of Mel Fisher's "Today's the day". We were on our way back across the fifteen miles toward home when I noticed Dooley the Diligent on alert staring at something off in the distance. I looked in the direction he was staring and by golly if I didn't see the flash of sunlight on a shiny surface, floating on the water. "Oh boy!" (I thought to my greedy self) "Dooley done found my briefcase!" I was thinking about how much sailboat we'd be able to buy as I headed over to check it out.

Until I realized that it was just a Mylar balloon that had lost its helium. Imagine my disappointment.

This is part of my growing collection of lumber we've brought home from the beaches around here. The longest piece here is about 9 ft. long. Some of it is teak, there's a fair bit of mahogany, and of course several planks of the mystery wood in various thicknesses.   And the useless stump.  Must not forget the useless stump.   I hope this stuff works out to be useful to build with.

I guess at this point it would be reasonable for you to ask "What the heck does he DO with all that old gray wood, anyhow?" So here are a few examples. Basically, I make stuff that we can use around the house. You've already seen the tortilla press I made for La Gringa in an earlier post (the latter part of this one) and the outside lights. Well here's some more.

We needed someplace to keep the binox we keep handy for scanning the ocean with our steely gazes. Or in my case, iron oxide gazes. I remembered all the mahogany binocular boxes I have seen in the wheelhouses of a lot of boats in my life, so I made one for the house:

On one of our recent scavenging trips we found several pieces of a teak swim platform, or perhaps it was a grating of some kind. I couldn't tell what it was, exactly, as it was broken into several pieces. I wish that I'd taken a photo before taking it apart and reassembling it. This is what the little pile of parts I have left looks like:

So, since we are in need of some outside patio tables, I decided to see if I could make one out of this teak grating. This is the top of it, so far:

I used mahogany frame pieces that still have the worm holes eaten into it during it's years at sea. The teak will get really dark when I rub tung oil into it. I'll show you another photo when it's' completed if anyone is interested in this kind of stuff.

I decided that all the outdoor furniture I build will be with the same philosophy of not using anything that will rust or corrode. So since I can't use screws or nails, I have to resort to some of the old ways of holding furniture together. I found out that a conch bruiser (that piece of yellowish wood ) works really well as a mallet for chisels. It's made from a local tree called lignum vitae and it's a very hard wood. If it were a mineral it would be diamond. This method of putting wood together is called 'joinery'.

Slowly, the frame for another table takes place, joint by joint.

There will be four legs joined at the top aprons, and down near the bottom at this spreader.

Sometimes we come across a hunk of wood that we just like for its own sake. There are several examples of this around the house now. Recently La Gringa found this root washed up, and neither one of us really know what kind of wood it is. It's very dense, like teak, but almost black in color, like ebony. All I've done to it so far was to clean it up, and smoth off the sharp edges. Then I rubbed a few coats of tung oil into it. I think we'll just keep it around to look at, hoping one of us comes up with a good idea about what to do with it. This thing is about 18 inches long. So heavy, I doubt it would even float. it must have come ashore as part of a bigger bush that did float.

I just realized that this post is getting excessively long with all my ramblings, so I'll cut it off here and save some photos for next time.

Oh wait, one more. We didn't want you to think life here is all beaches and woodworking. I still have my hands full with repairs and maintenance on the house, vehicles, and boats. For example, just this week one of the mirrors on the Defender fell off. I looked up what it's called and what it costs, and once again find that the shipping and import duties on a replacement "wing mirror head" from England will cost more than the mirror itself.

I thought it appropriate that along with using old methods of joinery to build furniture, I would resort to the old methods of securing things eaten up by salt.

Yep. I'm using that maritime classic: gray duct tape.

Duct tape is a very temporary fix here though. It's not like back in east Texas where a good duct tape job by an experienced red neck outlives the automobile itself. The sun's UV will eat that stuff in a matter of days here in the tropics. I still have to either fix or replace the wing mirror.

I was fortunate in that La Gringa stepped out the door as I was writing this, and snapped a fresh sunset photo for me. This is as fresh as they come.

I'll try to find something other than West Caicos to write about next time. We've got some new stuff planned.

Monday, March 5, 2012

West Caicos Revisited, again.

I think we may be close to making the transition from casual beachcombers to outright scavengers. Well maybe that's a little too strong. We're not aggressive about it. We haven't resorted to lighting fires on the beach at night to try to divert ships onto the reef. So perhaps foragers is a better word. That's better than pack rats anyhow. In either case, we've graduated to the next level of whatever term applies to those who leave home with an empty boat and return with it filled up with junk from a deserted beach.

Recent DIY projects used up all of the recyclable wood that we had on hand. I wanted to try to find some more. We've been keeping a weather eye out for a good day to return and last weekend we lucked out. We got a break from the seasonally strong winter trade winds and were blessed with a few days of light southerly breezes. The meteorological equivalent of a soft drawl to small boat operators. And perfect conditions for a trip back to one of our favorite beaches for some mahogany and teak shopping.

The whole idea of making things from salvaged shipwreck wood appeals to us. This stuff has been tested by the worst that the world can throw at it short of actual destruction. From the condition of some of the iron fasteners that we see, most of the stuff we are picking up has been drifting for many years. Twenty years? Fifty? A hundred perhaps? I don't presently know of any way to tell how old it is. It's what a decorator might called distressed. This stuff has some character. New and untested wood seems so.... shallow, by comparison.

On our way to West Caicos we spotted a set of three tall masts at Sapodilla Bay. Single masted sloops are most common here, and we do see the double masts of a yawl or ketch from time to time. Three masted boats are unusual. The only other three masted schooner we have seen in a while is the Star of the Sea. Sapodilla was a little out of our direct path to West Caicos, but we had a full tank of fuel and an entire afternoon to goof off , so we detoured over to check it out.

La Gringa took her DSLR camera with her on this trip because my beloved little Pentax finally went crazy after two years in my pocket. That's a record for us here. Since moving to Providenciales, I've watched three Sony's, 2 Olympus, 1 Kodak, 1 Reefmaster, and now the Pentax fail. Electronics and salt do not play well together. We still have an Olympus and La Gringa's Pentax Kx DSLR. As for my pocket camera, I tried taking some some of these shots with the Optio, as it still functions to a limited degree, but with no display. I thought that perhaps I knew it well enough to use it, but after uploading some of my pix here I discovered that the resolution has also gone even further south than I have. Sorry to see you go, Pentax, it's been fun.

I've been reading about this new little Nikon CoolPix AW100 waterproof lately. I might give that a try next, but in the meantime I wanted to explain why some of the photos on this blog post are grainy and not even up to our usual standards, as low as those are. When you set the bar on the ground and still fail to clear it.... something needs to change.

As we motored the skiff closer to the schooner, we could read the name on the bow. This is the Juliet.

We could see racks of SCUBA tanks secured to the railings on deck, and a substantial boarding ladder mounted to the hull. So we pretty much knew this was some kind of dive boat deal. When we got back to internet land later that night I Googled it up and found a website for the boat. It's a three masted, 104 ft. Australian-built steel schooner being used as a liveaboard dive boat out of the Bahamas. You can check that all out by clicking here.

La Gringa's telephoto lens did a nice job on the stern of the boat, where one of the crew was gazing down into the clear warm waters of Providenciales. Check out that helm seat, though. Man, that is one magnificent place to sit if you've got to be in the sun all day driving a boat. I bet there are some big floppy hats on board.

I almost expected to see some big bald headed guy with a whip hanging from his belt, beating a drum to keep the rowing tempo. I might even volunteer for that job myself.

After checking the Juliet out we zoomed on over to West Caicos for our free wood shopping spree. Dooley the Digger didn't delay deploying or even wait for us to get his new life jacket off before he was investigating all the interesting scents and scurrying noises beneath the piles of ocean debris that line this shore. He loves it here. There is a good supply of sand crabs, lizards, and random rats for him to terrierize.

Dooley was here for the fauna, but I was here looking for mahogany driftwood. And as those Latin American futbol announcers are so fond of screaming into an amplifier.... "SCORE!"

While Dooley the Disruptive gleefully panicked every small animal within reach and I searched for goodies to take back to the shop, La Gringa strolled around taking some photos. And yep, here's the first shoe of the day:

And she was having fun with the colorful tangles of fishing nets and various ropes and lines that are everywhere on this and every other cluttered beach that we have found here.

I was looking through these photos, and it struck me that on this one small beach alone there must be tons of polypropylene fiber wasting away in the sun. This is plastic. Made from petroleum. Think of how much of this stuff is floating in the ocean, along with millions of tons of recyclable water bottles, shoes, and other plastic products. I thought, "wow, wouldn't it be great if I could scoop up a boat load of this stuff, sort it into the different colors and characteristics, melt it and extrude it into the 5mm plastic rod that the 3-D printer I have on order would use to make new things?

So, I looked up 'extruders' on the internet, and found out that these are simple machines. They are a worm gear in a heated tube. There are photos and diagrams and even You Tube videos of these things on the internet. If you're interested in this extruder topic, click here for a good place to start. This stuff is really pretty clean already. It's been washed by the ocean and really only needs a fresh water rinse to be totally clean of salt and contaminants. I envision an extruder with different temperature settings for melting ABS, PET, HDPE, with a variety of extrusion nozzles for different requirements.

We've ordered one of the new Printrbot 3-D printers from Kickstarter's new start up company. One of their stated goals is to get a 3-D printer into every classroom. I personally think this is an enormously stupendous idea. Think of what it could mean if everyone with a new idea could design and create a working prototype almost instantly. This (and graphene, I'm also buzzed on graphene) are some world changing technologies And I think of all the millions of tons of plastic clogging the beaches and oceans of the world. And then I think of people buying 5mm plastic rod by the pound, and all the petroleum that would be used to supply this new requirement. Wouldn't it be great if classrooms had this perfect excuse to go clean up a littered beach, sort the various plastics into their different colors, and remelt and reuse them? People with boats could scoop this stuff out of the Pacific Gyre and the oncoming Japanese tsunami mess, and recycle it. Save oil and all the transportation costs of conventional recycling. And wouldn't parents and school administrators like to have the printers without buying all that new plastic by the pound?

I think the new 3-D printer world could use a "Consumer Model" plastic extruder. It's a natural fit. If I had the resources, I'd build one. But I don't have the resources where I live. I wrote Brook Dunn, the man behind the Printrbot and asked him if he thought this was a good idea. No reply yet. Maybe one of you guys know someone in the invention business. This is a good opportunity and if someone will build a consumer level recycle/extruder, I'll buy one.

Meanwhile, off my environmental soapbox (that's a recycled box!) and back on West Caicos...

Dooley the Devious and I beachcombed while La Gringa shutterbugged. Clean clear blue ocean and bright sunny weather. Light winds and calm water, it couldn't be better. Wading in water with nothing that stings.. These are a few of my favorite things. (Ouch.. sorry bout that. And my apologies to Julie Andrews.)

And here's another flip flop next to plastic bottles and a mahogany board in a debris pile. Now I'm seeing recyclable supplies everywhere I look. I suspect this could develop into something even more consuming than the battered wood fetish.

Some things would be almost a shame to melt. There must be some use left in this old toy flying disc for example. Heck, I didn't know that pirates even had ultimate Frisbee games.

It's not all reusable stuff here, though. La Gringa found a dead puffer fish and took some interesting photos. I've cropped this photo to show you just the skin of this fish.

I cropped it because I found the image of the empty face of this animal to be somewhat haunting, and I don't want to give anyone nightmares. But the inflatable skin is interesting. These guys swell up like this to make it difficult for predators to swallow them. I guess it worked, this guy didn't get swallowed. He probably shouldn't have ridden that last wave all the way to the beach, though.

If you look way up the beach in this next photo, you might be able to make out a small object sticking up out of the water just off the shoreline. We were making our way up there to see what it was when I spotted this piece of boat up at the extreme high water mark. This is obviously (to me, at least) one of the bow sections of a multihull boat.

I spent quite a bit of time examining this, because one of the aspects of modern catamaran construction that interests us is the hull layup method. Old boats were made with heavy, solid fiberglass hulls. They are rugged, but slow. Modern techniques often involve sandwiching a core material such as a honeycomb matrix, or even balsa wood, between two thin layers of fiberglass. This saves material cost and weight. It makes the boats lighter and faster. But like all choices in life, there are some trade offs. These trade offs are a subject of some discussion in the Gringo household these days. I also wanted to explain that that photo (above) is one of the shots I tried to take with the now defunct Pentax. Without a display, I didn't know the quality was that bad until later. Sorry about that. And there are a few more of those in this post.

We reached the semi-submerged object of interest on the beach and immediately recognized it, as will anyone familiar with large sailing catamarans. I waded out with my crippled point-and-shoot, and pointed and shot. Maybe this one needs to be renamed a 'point and pray'. horrible horrible.

This is commonly called a "Seagull Striker" in the sailing community. It doesn't really have anything to do with birds, though.

The contraption is a way of handling the forces on the front part of a sailboat caused by the jib sail lifting upwards on the crossbar. Some boats have a different version of this that extend from the front trampoline crossbar down to the hulls, and since those were right at the waterline they have long had the nautical nickname of 'dolphin striker' because that's the area in front of a moving boat where dolphins like to play in the bow wave. When marine architects moved the rigging up over the trampoline and bows, people could no longer really call them 'dolphin strikers', so they started calling them 'seagull strikers'. What this all really means is that there is a substantial portion of a large sailing catamaran buried in the sand here. Imagine, if you can, my excitement. Dooley must have thought I found a fun rat, the way I was dancing around in excitement.

After finding one of the bows of the boat on the beach, and the rigging here in the sand, we started looking around more carefully. Almost immediately I saw something else shiny on the bottom. Let me tell you, living in a place like this, shiny stuff on the bottom gets our immediate attention, anyway. Yeah, sure, gold and silver would be nice, but after six years living on Provo, stainless steel has been added to the list of precious metals around our house.

This is a section of what is called rod rigging. It's used typically on racing boats instead of the standard twisted cable such as is seen in that second photo of the seagull striker up above.

I didn't have any tools with me to cut this stuff, or I would have taken this with me right then and there. I don't exactly know at the moment what I would use twenty feet of stainless rod for, but I'm sure something will come to me eventually. The fact that it's still shiny in this situation is all I need to see. I can use this. I did try to dig it out of the sand, but the end is still secured to the chainplate or shackle buried deeper in the sand that I could dig with my hands. And blindly digging with your hands around stuff like this is asking for some injuries and cuts. Yes, I have injuries and cuts. I didn't say I follow my own advice. At least, not the first time around.

While thinking about how much good stuff must be scattered around here, we continued on down the beach keeping an eye out for other debris from this shipwreck. Almost immediately we spotted a stainless tank up where I could get at it. This would have been for either water or fuel on the boat. The fittings are gone, so I couldn't tell exactly which.

I spent most of the next hour getting this thing dug up and emptied of packed sand. I'll spare you the details, but the result is that I now have this tank in my little shop. There has been several times that I wished I had some good stainless steel to make various straps and brackets. I'll cut this up and flatten it into sheets and store it under my workbench along with the flattened aluminum from our ruined sat dish. I couldn't buy this here. But I can sure use it. Nice.

We found one of the concrete splats used for property survey markers here on the beach. We've become accustomed to the local convention of slapping a shovel full of wet cement on the ground and inscribing the survey numbers in it before it dries. As you can see, it's a pretty lousy method of marking boundary lines. You can pretty much move these markers to where you want them. I'm sure it's great business for the local surveyors. They can pretty much guarantee that they will be called out to resurvey these points at the next real estate transaction.

And the catamaran we found today, and the sloop "Patience" we photographed earlier are not the only boats to come to grief on this shore. Oh no. Not even the smallest ones are safe here.

That's another piece of plastic, isn't it. I gotta stop thinking about this recycling idea. It's driving me nuts. Kinda like the obsession we've seen Dooley the Determined show a used Cheetos bag. He's always obsessing over that last little bit of odor from the hard to reach corners and seams.

Not everything we find here is trash, either. La Gringa spotted a Norwegian buoy in the rocks. It's in great shape, with the added benefit of a nice big stainless steel anchor shackle attached to it. We'll probably use this as a fender for the skiff. And I would estimate, without looking, that to buy a buoy and shackle like this would cost something around $100-150 here. Treasure! Loot! And I would also add Booty!, but I don't dare. I'll leave that one to you to figure out.

While strolling down the assorted wood scrap aisle here at Flea Market Beach, I noticed several examples of this tree species lying about. I don't know what it's called, and it's too light for structural work so I didn't bring any of it home with us. But I thought it was interesting the way the center pitch is hollow and segmented. I suspect this would make great raft wood. I wonder if Bear Gryll's knows about this stuff?

As is the case with anything on the beach that I start to show an interest in, Dooley the Detrimental ran over to stick his nose into it. Usually he gives something a quick sniff, and moves on. He and I have completely different priorities and ideas of what constitutes 'interesting' stuff. We agree on cheddar cheese, for example, but differ widely on the use of white mice as pets. Dooley's views on rodent husbandry closely parallel those of boa constrictors, cats, and owls. He thinks everyone should raise a few rats. I suppose that if he gives me any more flack about it, I could tell him I have photographic evidence of him snorting crack....

I took a few more photos of the beach that day, but the quality is just too poor to post here. I don't want first time visitors to this blog to look at our photos and hold their nose. Appreciation for the photos is pretty much what the blog is all about, so I junked them. But rest assured, the presence of that catamaran wreckage and stainless rigging pretty much guarantees that we will be back to this beach very shortly. With tools. And maybe a new camera.

Other than the shopping trip our recent activities have been pretty much what we commonly do in our spare time on weekends around here. Weekdays typically get taken up with the mundane activities of living here and maintaining a house, two vehicles, and a couple of boats. We've made several excursions in both the Hobie Tandem Island and the skiff. We find ourselves spending more time around the south side of the island these days, and South Side Marina has become a very familiar site. That beautiful big power catamaran in the next photo is registered in Helsinki, Finland, by the way. I keep intending to talk to the crew the next time I see them. I made three trips to Finland in an earlier life.

When we got back to the house from this trip, I took a photo of the boat with our newly found loot. Sticks, floats, mahogany, Norwegian buoy, shackle, stainless tank. It was a pretty good haul. And we've found that this little skiff is a really good seagoing pickup truck of a boat. It actually rides a little better with some added weight forward of the console.

That little black looking root to the right of the radio antenna is an interesting piece of wood that La Gringa picked up. I don't know exactly what kind of wood it is, but it's very dark and very dense. It reminds me a lot of ebony, and I know some of that comes from western Africa. But I didn't think it would float, so how did it end up here? Must be something else.

We've also made some sailing trips when we had the wind. Another picnic on Bay Cay:

I recently changed the anchor line on the Hobie Tandem Island from this nylon stuff that always got tangled, to common black nylon paracord. It looks very light, but that stuff is rated to over 500 lbs breaking strength. It saves some space on the little boat, and should be up to the task of the limited anchoring we do with it. I'm not worried about the thin line. Besides, I've got Dooley the Diligent keeping an eye on the boat for me.

I was looking at that photo and realized that we are still using his old partially destroyed life jacket on the kayak, because his good one is on the other boat. La Gringa wants me to resurrect the old "Dooley Cam" and perhaps I can dedicate this beat up jacket to that purpose.

The label originally said "Outward Hound". I'm not sure how he managed to change that to something to do with war and North Dakota. Or why.

We discovered something new recently at the house. I was skittering down the 'driveway' one night to close up the workshop when I spotted a snake there in the dark. I almost stepped on the poor thing.

I know that you guys already recognized this, but yes, it's a great example of one of the few local snakes here in the islands. This is the first live one that we've seen here in six years. They are shy, and nocturnal animals, and that's probably one of the reasons we haven't seen any until now. The other reason, which I suspect is the main one, is that they prey on small rodents. And guess what.... we don't have many small rodents in the vicinity of Dooley's house for some mysterious reason.

I happen to like snakes, and had a pet Red Tail boa for many years, so I had to take a good look at this one. It's called a Rainbow Boa, or Bahamas Cat Boa.

Cute little booger, ain't it? Was squeezing my hand as hard as he could in that photo, and would have bitten me if given the chance. Of course I let it go, hoping it lives a long and full life scarfing up rodents. It needs to learn to stay out of sight when Dooley's around though. He thinks anything his size or smaller is in season. And he thinks his size is that of a big tough 150 lb. dog.

We also had an opportunity to visit the new hospital on Providenciales. We were impressed with the relatively new facility at Cheshire Hall.

While we were sitting in the Outpatient Waiting Room to see a doctor, I snapped this photo of other people in the waiting room. What I found interesting about it is that between the people here in this photo there was a total of at least five cell phones, and conversations going on in four languages.

Our friends Sharon and Jim Shafer (former owners of Windmills Plantation on Salt Cay) recently left the Caicos Marina in their new catamaran, Pirate Boat. We were trying to get a good photo of their boat as they left, but they were too far away by the time we noticed which boat was leaving. They are the vague black blob on the right side of this photo. I'm including it here because I think it's a nice early morning scene on a cloudy winter's day.

On another DIY tack, we've managed to get some tomatoes to grow here. The trick seems to be neutralizing this highly alkaline soil, and adding some organic material. So far, so good:

And what would a Gringo blog post be without mentioning some DIY stuff in the workshop. I am still making these outdoor lamp fixtures that I've ranted about for the last three blog installments (starting with this one and the one after it) and have a few more photos for those who have written with a specific interest in them. So far I've replaced eight of the damaged light fixtures with these home made ones, and so far they are working great.

Some people have emailed me about the rings I glue together to hold the wine bottle. This is a photo of a 4" diameter hole saw cutting the plywood circles out of a 4" strip of 3/4" treated CDX plywood.

Yes, it would all look completely different if I had a lathe. This is the best I could come up with using what I have on hand. Drill presses are pretty handy tools to have around. I'm somewhat amazed at how well it's working so far. I need to come up with a way to test these for hurricane winds. Without another hurricane, hopefully.

The next step is to change to a 3" diameter hole saw to cut the middle portion out and make the ring. In this photo I was still using clamps to secure it, but later I discovered that using a simple rubber strapping wrench to hold the 4" disc worked better and was faster. I'm pretty sure that's not OSHA approved. Oh well. It works.

For the first couple of prototypes I had used yet another hole saw to cut a circular piece of aluminum to mount the lamp socket. I've changed to just cutting and crossing two strips of the metal.

Making them longer than the diameter of the post lets me bend them up and this jams them into the fixture securely. It also makes it easy to take them out should that be needed.

So we've got another scavenger trip over to West Caicos planned for as soon as we can fit it in, and in the meantime I am going to try to get another camera to use out in the wild. And I am going to see if I can't dust off the old Dooley Cam and fit it onto his life jacket again. I promise.

We didn't get another great sunset to close this post with, but I've got another nice sunrise instead. Hope that's good enough for now.