Tuesday, May 26, 2015

A Fresh Look At Pine Cay

We're going to do something completely different this week.  We've got some really nice photos of Pine Cay, and we didn't take any of them.   When I say nice photos, I really do mean nice ones.  Like a sunrise with stars behind a beach cottage, for example.

 Wil Claussen is a family friend and  photographer from Colorado. You've seen him in this blog before if you've read all of the posts.  He's been down to visit us here on Providenciales several times over the years.   Wil was just here earlier this month and he spent a week out on Pine Cay with his best friend, our Ben.   Did I mention Wil is a photographer?

Funny, he doesn't look like a photographer...

But then nobody looks much like what they look like at home when they come here.   Most of them get semi-naked right off the bat.  This beach will do that to you.

So this week  you get a break from my pocket camera photos of broken boat parts and views of South Side Marina at 6:45 compared to South Side Marina at 7:00.    I'm going to post a fistful of Wil's photos of Pine Cay, instead.  I think you'll like the photos.  There are almost three dozen of them here, so I'll try to keep the chatter to a minimum.   For me, that is.

Pine Cay is a special place  even when compared to a lot of other special places in this little island nation.   And without a doubt the best part of Pine Cay is the beach.

This is what we would consider a very typical day on Pine Cay. And a typical view of the beach.  This is looking northeas  toward the Meridian Club and the small island of Fort St. George Cay with it's ruins and bones and fading evidence of times long ago.  There are almost always clouds in the views to this direction.

And this view is to the southwest.  Providenciales is six or seven miles in that direction.   Not many signs of the "big city" from here.  Thankfully.

This beach has been pretty much just like this for over twenty  thousand years.  Or it will be as soon as the tide once again washes the footprints away.   I think this kind of easy solitude is pretty rare these days.

It's a fair hike from the beach house to the ocean.  I measured the turns and dips as well as I could from Google Earth and I think the total stroll from back door to wet sand is about 300 yards.    The dunes and ridges of limestone act as a buffer during storm surges.

Polly and I don't get out to Pine Cay much any more. We have our hands full three islands over.  Seeing these photos reminds me of that first summer we were here.   We spent months staying here in this cottage, rebuilding this walkway and that deck on the left.   I'm glad to see it's still standing.   One never knows in a place like this.  This land is hard on lumber.

If one takes the path off the end of the boardwalk, eventually they reach a small hut just on the sand dunes overlooking the beach.   Sometimes we carry beach chairs down.  And a cooler.  It's also a nice place to string up a hammock or two.

Of course that means it all has to be carried back again, at the end of the day.  Or not.  It'll still be there in the morning.  I think I once left a beach float under there for six months.

I mentioned son Ben earlier.  He and Wil have been best friends since they met in school almost a decade ago.  Here's the handsome devil himself on that same deck.

Oh, wait.  That's the wrong side of him.  Lets look at another view.  Ben sitting in the only form of transportation on Pine Cay with wheels.  Electric golf carts.
And he doesn't normally look like this.  He was making a face.  I hope.

No automobile traffic here.  I'm not sure the main highway would be able to handle much of it anyhow.   This is the route from the beach house to the Meridian Club.  Typical Pine Cay traffic jam.

And it's not going to stretch anyone's navigational capabilities to get to the club.  One drives one's cart along until one sees a small sign with an arrow pointing to the left and the cryptic letters spelling out "club".  Good clue.

We've posted a lot of photos of the Meridian Club elsewhere in the blog, and we don't have any fresh ones to put here.   Wil did take a photo of the anchor Polly and I found and hauled back to the island some years ago.   We donated it to the Meridian Club.  It's falling apart rapidly, as iron things from the ocean tend to do when put ashore.  Iron that has been submerged for hundreds of years needs to be carefully treated and conserved using a chemical bath and low electrical currents. Otherwise, it starts dissolving in the air.  And it doesn't matter how well you try to encapsulate.  To remove an old piece from a shipwreck and leave it in the open air is the kiss of death.

We learned the hard way, with this very anchor.  Now when we find something really special on the bottom of the ocean, we look at it and maybe photograph it, but we leave it in place.   And you may have noticed that we no longer talk about things we find underwater when on the internet.  The airplane wing full of lobsters taught me that one.  Some secrets stay best if kept secret.  

One of the reasons there aren't any photos of the Meridian Club restaurant and bar here is because Ben and Wil were roughing it while on the island.  That meant cooking for themselves, with provisions they brought and some they found.  

It's not difficult to find coconuts here.  It can be a bit more of an operation to open them up sometimes.     And it obviously can leave a bit of a mess.

The results are worth it, though.

Pine Cay is one of those places that makes  you just want to walk the beach.  Every day.    Here are some more of the images Wil recorded during the week they were living like Robinson Crusoe.  I hope you like sunsets.  This is quite a collection.

From up on the rock ledge at Water Cay.  And it's high tide.

You can walk for several miles down the beach at low tide, on the packed wet sand between the water and the weathered rock ledge.  But if you allow yourself to be caught by the tide, you suddenly find yourself running out of sand.  Then the path home gets a lot more complicated.  Especially if you're barefoot.

This is one of my favorites.

At first I wasn't sure why he took this photo, as it looks like just another ho-hum view of a near perfect beach on a nice day.

But then I spotted the two people walking about a half a mile down the sand.  Must have been the weekend crowd.     I think it's telling that after several days walking this beach, Wil thought the distant view of two other humans was worth a photo.   That might tell you something about this place.

Some people just have a good eye for composition, don't they.

These photos are cut way down to load easy and fit on this blog.  If you see any you especially like, just right click on the photo and it will take you to the Picasa page where these are stored.  Then you can zoom in and out all you like.

These guys must have gotten a good sunset every night they were on the island.  It's almost enough to make one jealous.

Here is another view of the rocks and cliffs of Water Cay at sunset.

That location is a nice long hike from the beach house.  But this is the kind of place where you really don't mind walking home in the dark.  In fact, some of us make a habit of it whenever we can arrange it.  My favorite night walks here are just in ankle deep water when the surf is down.  The phosphorescence around my ankles makes me smile.  Been that way since the 60's.

I probably shouldn't tell you this, but gold coins have been found on the beach here by people walking along in the shallows where things collect in the rocks. Not often,  but it has happened.  And may be happening yet for all we know.  If I found a coin here, for example, I don't think I'd divulge exactly where I found it to the world of the internet.   Would you?

Another view of the trip back to the beachy part at high tide.  Good thing these Colorado guys are all rock climbers.

We weren't with Ben and Wil for this trip, they had the place to themselves. So I can't say much about what they did every day while out there.   But from personal experience, and these photos I can pretty much imagine it.  I hope you can, too.

You can go there yourself, you know.  Contact the Meridian Club.  There aren't many places like this left.

At the end of the week, Ben and Wil took the Meridian Club boat back to Providenciales to spend a couple of days with us.  It's hard to leave here on a nice day.  It's easier when it's raining.    

Once back on Providenciales we took our guests down to South Side Marina to show them our sailboat, Twisted Sheets.    

 We told Wil that Bob's place was a good place to get sunset photos.   Well, you just know how he feels about tropical sunset photos.  He brought his camera.

We took them to a couple of our usual hangouts while they were here, of course.  But as is the case with tropical vacations, they all come to an end eventually.  Polly snapped this photo at the Providenciales airport on the way out.  Wil is headed back to Colorado.   He's been getting some spectacular photos of spring in the Rocky Mountains, by the way.  You can check them out at: http://www.wilclaussen.com/.    Ben was on his way to Europe, furthering his education in the fine art of leaping out of airplanes.  He gets some pretty good photos from 10,000 ft. too, come to think of it.

I know neither of those subjects are exactly aligned with the 2 Gringos in the Caribbean theme, but they might liven things up around here.

In the meantime, Wil took one last sunrise from our patio right before he left for the mountains.   It's at the end of the post instead of the beginning.  Oh well.  I like it.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Fixing the Stick

The boat on the right is the s/v CLV, which we have learned is short for C'est La Vie.  Cool.   In last weeks' post  this 10m boat had pulled into South Side Marina. with three Swedes and a busted  main halyard sheave  They had to pull the mast off the boat to fix it.   They asked Bob Pratt for help.

Bob Pratt is the guy in the blue and white shirt.  Bob owns South Side Marina and  although he'd never tried to pull a mast before, he figured out how to use the marina's crane to help these cruisers  fix their mast themselves. 

We had missed the excitement when they initally pulled the mast out.  But the descriptions we heard of it dangling, top heavy and suddenly free got our attention.  We heard tales of Emma leaping upon the base of the mast and clinging to it as a counterweight until Bob, Marten and Marcus could get it ashore and secured.   Emma is the one in the red ball cap, just on the other side of  Bob in the photo.    Anyhow we made sure that  we were there with cameras when they put the mast  back in.  There was nothing like the previous excitement with an overbalanced mast.  I think everyone must have learned something the first time around, because this time it went exceptionally smoothly, from where I sat.

And I had a ring side seat.

They timed the whole thing to happen at dead low tide, which gave them a vertically stable boat to work with for a half an hour.  It also  gave Bob maximum lift height with his fixed crane.   I noticed that the whole operation took just 35 minutes.  I bet some moments of that half hour seemed longer than others to the owners of the boat.   And the crane.

Here are the final moments of the scary part, lowering the mast into a moving boat and hoping no bozos zoom by  from the mouth of the canal throwing up a wake. Yes, we do have those kinds of bozos.  And a big wake right about here could be exceptionally annoying.  Imagine a slow sewing motion in which the needle stays still and the machine moves up and down.....

These photos reminded me of something I've neglected. I've mentioned that mangled propeller that you see in the foreground of those photos of the dock.  The five bladed, five digit alloy so new it still has the factory protective coating on it.  I remember telling you that I would find out what happened and report it here.  Well, I never did report it because it's complicated and I don't want to stick my oar into someone else's situation as a legal matter alone.  And it would be ungentlemanly and rude.    I will tell you some of it, though, to fulfill a promise. Just as soon as I've finished interrupting myself.

I  stuck a camera on our  boat and made a little time lapse video of the very first re-masting ever done in the history at South Side Marina.  Just so we could share the excitement with you.  

Hey, this is a sleepy tropical island, remember.  We have to find our excitement where we can.

Here's  the s/v CLV back in a normal slip tie up and looking like a sailboat again.  A local machinist at Caribbean Marine Diesel turned a new sheave for the boat.  This saved them from having to import parts, and saved days of waiting.

And by the next day, Emma was up the mast again, fine tuning the rigging and getting ready to depart the Americas.

On Sunday morning morning Emma, Marten and Marcus left on the rising tide, intending to sail from from here  directly to the Azores, possibly bypassing Bermuda, and then finally home to Sweden.    You can follow their blog if you'd like to see more .Here's a link to the s/v CLV blog about their trip.  They've been in the boat for quite a while, and still have quite a ways to go to get home to Stockholm.

Okay, see that nice boat docked on the other side of their little sloop?  This is the motor yacht Sea of Love.  It is to this boat that the mangled propeller belongs.  I have been told that there is another matching mangled propeller over at Turtle Cove that came from the other side of the same boat. The local story is that the boat hit the reef just east of West Caicos at about  25 knots.  The water there is only about four feet deep at low tide.  Shallow enough to stand upon.  The Sea of Love  is appropriately deeper than a shallow reef.  Unfortunately, it doesn't seem to be as permanent.

Here is an image of that area, lifted from Google Earth.  We've been told that there are owners, crew, and insurance companies involved in this matter now,  and I'm betting that includes lawyers and so I'll just metaphorically zip my lip as to whatever we've heard about all of this.    What I can do is label some features in the area where this occurred.

Speaking of boat problems  (wasn't that slick?) here's the third tank now ready to re-install. It's sitting in the driveway at the moment waiting for me to finish some  work in the hull before putting the tank back in.  Once this thing is back in the boat I have no access to the hull around it, so I'm cleaning it for the first time in 30 years. I want you to know I spared you those photos.   I'm also in the process of figuring out what kind of water gauge device to put on the tanks.  The swing arm resistor type sensors that were in these tanks rotted completely away. I don't want to just replace those. I'm thinking that a sight glass type setup might be the way to go. Simple, and I can get parts at any  hardware or plumbing store.

I don't want to get too much into the boat DIY stuff here as I'm sure it bores a lot of people silly.  I will   show you a couple more photos of some of the other parts going back in after that tank gets reinstalled.  But no more boring drill press photos.  Ha, I didn't even use the drill press for this, anyway.

Remember the old teak grating that spent years at sea, then was washed up onto West Caicos for  more years, and then  was picked up by us and turned into a table?   Well, now it's going to be a grating in a shower on our boat.

I've  fiberglassed the shower tub, and when it's all done  this grating will be sitting inside it.

I've done several other projects this week.  Organizing storage on board has been a priority and a challenge.  I needed some shelves in my workshop for example.  No big deal to make some shelves.  But fitting things onto boats takes a lot more work than fitting things into houses.   Things in houses tend to have square corners.  I am finding that this is not the case in boats.  Boats have curves.  I can cut a rectangular shelf in five minutes on a table saw.  Cutting and attaching the mahogany fiddle rail took another fifteen minutes.  But making two of these fit into a spot inside a fiberglass hull took took the remainder of the day.    Cutting and sanding notches and adjustments by hand.

I could keep going  about the  boatwork part of the week  but it would be even more boring than the stainless tank and fiddle rail story, believe me..  Meeting the Swedes was pretty much the high point.  This boat stuff is drudgery work and would be a lot  better handled by a crew of Type A personalities I think.  I'm more the plod-along-at-a-steady-pace type, moving back and forth between a half dozen projects going on at the same time. I don't think I'm a Type B, either. Maybe more of an AB negative.
What I need to be is an orangutan with  carpentry, diesel mechanic, electronics, plumbing, and boatworking experience.

The up side of our drudgery work is that we do have a fairly comfy place to do it.

I was just looking at that photo of yet another sunset from our house and noticed something else I probably could mention to you here.  Because this is something that does affect us.   It would be difficult for you to pick out what I am referring to in that photo above because it's dark, but there are two new houses going up right in the middle of that sweep of road.   I walked out on the garage a few minutes ago to get a daylight image  of the same area so you can see what I mean.

The house on the left is blocked up through the second floor, and the one on the right is ready to have the first concrete poured for the footings and cistern. Suddenly after several years of drifting stagnation, the building industry here is showing definite signs of life.   These are the first two new house starts in this neighborhood in something like five years.   And it's not just single family homes that are being built.

The long stalled Cooper Jack Marina project  may be alive again, for those of you who know the area.  For those who don't, this is a nice marina that was laid out years ago and never completed. It is very close to South Side Marina.  And  we've also read that there is a big resort planned for the undeveloped beach between Cooper Jack and South Side.  I hate to milk Google for yet another image, but I wanted to show you how close all this is to us:

The South Side Marina arrow is actually pointing right at our boat. And I threw the "dredging" in there because for the past several weeks there have been dredge operations going on in that area.   They are sucking the sand up off the bottom and building beach with it.  It's going to increase the clearance depth for South Side, but it's also going to put a lot of additional activity into what has been a real quiet area.    Should be interesting to watch.

 We've been going through our piles of stuff, on this little hilltop out in the scruff, and we've been making some real heartbreaking decisions.  We've made lists of all kinds of goodies like tools, plates, chairs and old Texas hoodies ,  cross things off the list but then  put them right back with revisions.  Some  goes to  storage, and some on the boat, and we're chucking  or selling the  things that won't float,   emotional moments with junk  that we surely don't need.  We've only been in this house seven years but  seem to have goodies piled up past our ears and no real idea when we got all consumed by our greed.

Looking back at the last couple of  photos I  also see that I uploaded a sunset photo to end the blog and then walked all over it with news of the construction industry. How very tacky of me.   It did give me an idea for the next blog post, though.  I'll get the kite back up and get some aerial photos of the area before it gets hacked into something unrecognizable.   We can compare the eventual resort to what it looked like just a short time ago.

And finally, I'll shut up and just post another photo of the same sunset and this time I won't use it against you.


Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Tropical Regression

I 'd like to take a half hour or so of your time  just to report all the fantastic fun stuff we did this week.  I really would.  But my nose would probably grow to the point where I'd run out of seat adjustment in the car if I did. Because it's been another week of working on the boat.  And if I listed all of the images that come to my mind when I think of refitting this old boat, fun is not really on the list.  Not on the first few pages of it, anyway.  Maybe it gets more fun later in the game.  I'll check back at half time.

There are other things going on around us, of course.  We had some shifting winds this week, clocking around all over the place.  When this happens after a weather system passes by we get strong winds from the south for a brief period.  A day or two. Several of the  northbound cruisers who  had been waiting for just such a weather window threw up the sash and dove through it when it finally opened.  A couple of nice fast Beneteau monohulls left first.

Then a few minutes later I stuck my head back up through the hatch when I heard the family in the heavily loaded catamaran leave.

And one of the other boats had set sail immediately outside the bouys. We don't often see cruisers hoist a sail so soon out of the marina.  It's tricky maneuvering through coral heads and shallow water. This captain's name is Mitch.  He does stuff like this.  All the time.   He ran aground on the way in.  I guess we all do, sooner or later.    We already have.  There, Mitch.  Feel better?

Then a big catamaran left, and a little while later the last small monohull cruiser in the marina pulled out, and left us in the middle of a string of empty slips.

For a half an hour.  Until the last cruiser discovered that their rudder was apparently not working correctly.  To the point that they needed help getting back to the dock.

A couple of the guys working on the dredging program outside Southside Marina brought their crippled monohull back in, by backing in.  All the way in.   Hey, it worked.   They got them safely back to the dock and I won't even elaborate on the little series of mishaps they went through on the way. The rescue by the guys in the motorboat was not instantaneous.

Those guys have been working on a big dredging project that's happening right outside the marina.  I've been meaning to tell you about what's going on out there, but waiting for some good photos.  It's an excuse to put a kite up, if the winds will drop down again.

In the meantime, I think they've stopped dredging for a while.  The reason I am thinking this is the case is in this photo we took at dusk a few days ago.

The light was doing that tropical latitude out of here with attitude thing it does, but I managed to get that photo.  What we're looking at is-starting from the right- a new big berm of sand enclosing what used to be a bushy little point extending out into the water.  The dark tube on it is the end of a dredge hose.  When the dredge is working, this is pumping a mix of seawater and sand into a pile inside that berm.

Now, the next thing in the photo is these dredge guys, in this boat.  There are typically three of them working.   We noticed immediately that they were still working.  At what was quickly becoming dark.  Wait a minute...we thought.  This is unusual.  These guys are always outta here by 5:00 PM.   Usually smoking cigarettes over at the fuel dock.   This was hours later.

So we started looking at what we were seeing for a change, and there it is.   The thing on the left side of the photo is their dredge boat, at the other end of that hose.  And there's something wrong with it.  It's sunk. Upside down.  With their dredge  and generator still on it.  This is going to need a washdown, I bet.

SO, it's been kinda quiet around here lately.  Oh, yesterday a boat came in with some issues.  We heard them getting directions on the VHF radio, but didn't pay much attention to it.  They had foreign accents on the radio.  But then, so do we. Nothing unusual here.
 Then today we went down to the marina and saw their boat docked sideways, with no mast.

We didn't have to look far for the mast, it was sitting on the dock next to the boat.  Bob had used the crane at South Side Marina to lift the mast off.  He's never done this before, but it apparently went very well.  He's surprising like that sometimes.  I'll try to get photos of it going back in.

We knew these guys were real sailors before we even met them.  The evidence was all around us.

And finally we did meet them.  Brand new doctors from Sweden on a wild and crazy post graduation cruise across the Atlantic and back.

We've only just met them today, but are already hearing some interesting stories.  I suspect there will be more information sometimes later tonight after the bar opens.

And except for watching other people's disasters, I just try to keep my head down and deal with my own.  Speaking of keeping my head down, I didn't realize what repetitive impact with fiberglass engine room edges will do to the top of a skull until I saw this photo.  That hurt.

But what really, really hurts is the next day when I hit my head on the same exact spot, on the same exact sharp fiberglass edge, on my brand new sore, bruised and tender bump.    I'm not saying that the repeated impacts have scrambled my brains, but I may try to blame it on that.

Heck, I can't even be sure  if I bought the worng type of LED strip or not.     And I hadn't planned on rating these guys.  Really. I hadn't.  

But now, if it turns out that I did buy the worng lights... I might just go for two stars and see what happens.  Me paying postage from the TCI to PRC is just definitely not  going to happen.

Oh, here's a good one for you other old-boaters out there.  While I was below wiring in the  battery bank end of the new fridge dc power cable in that photo up above,  I heard this ominous kerplunk noise outside the boat just about the time the level of natural light increased enormously in the engine room.   This is because the through-hull fitting for the freezer compressor broke off and fell into the ocean.  I had a spare, but it was a larger size.  I have a hole saw the right size, but it's at the house.  I have a drill with a spade bit here at the boat, but it's a cordless and the battery is dead.

I figured this was a good time to just sit on the dock and spend a leisurely half hour opening this hole up with a standard rat-tail file.

You're following all this, right?  I started out screwing a fuse holder to a bulkhead inside the engine room for a new fridge and somehow find myself sitting on the dock with a file making a hole in the boat bigger just inches above the waterline.  

And this is why it takes me three hours to run two wires and install an inline fuse.

Now I've got a little recycling story for you. I know you guys that follow our blog know that we like to find pieces of wood that interest us and try to make something useful out of them. Back in March of '12 we were out beachcombing on West Caicos.  Among all the other priceless treasures we dug out of the sandy muck that day and are now trying to get rid of, I picked up a piece of a broken teak grating.  This is a photo from that day:

I didn't have any great ideas of what to do with a bunch of busted up teak, but didn't want to throw it out. This is a psychological packrat thing I'm working through.  It's incompatible with cruising, but it comes naturally in a place like this.  Anyhow, I just built a frame out of mahogany pieces we also salvaged, and made a patio table.  It involved mixing and matching up all the various broken strips to make a whole rectangle.  Fun project.

And that table has sat on the patio for three years without any problem or complaints.  And now we are divesting ourselves completely from such things as furniture, of all kinds.  I didn't know what to do with a lot of the little things that I have made over the years.  Tables.  Lamps.  Can't really sell them, and they're well made and useful.  I'm still looking for ways to use some of it.  And then I realized that we need a grating in the shower tub in the boat.  I saw a way to recycle this teak grating and use it for the third time.   

I dismantled the table and sanded the top of it back to fresh wood.

And I think that by using a little round-over bit in the router, I can turn this into a decent little inside shower grating. We don't know how many years this wreckage might have sat above the high water line on West Caicos, before becoming a table.  Three year stint as a patio table, and it's back to sea with an inside job on a sailing catamaran. Nice bit of teak with a real history.

 I can see I'm really reaching when I resort to woodworking photos.  I guess it beats showing you another stainless steel water tank.   That'll be next week, by the way.  Should be some good mast stepping photos, and maybe some aerials, too.

No recent sunset photos.  But for the people who read these words and think that living here is just misery and work, I should clarify that this is not the case.  There are people actually out having fun, just a few feet away.    I've seen them with my own eyes.

 We're going back to the bar to find out what's going on with the Swedes.  They've  just come from Cuba, are headed back across to Sweden, bypassing Bermuda and sailing directly for the Azores.  In a 10 meter boat.  With rigging issues.   I'm in the mood for some good sea stories and I  suspect these guys have a few already.

I am  also extremely interested in Bob's discovery that he can easily pull a mast.  You can imagine where this might lead.  Well, maybe after we  also discover that Bob can easily reset the mast, too.  Don't you think the tide would make this kind of operation interesting?  I can't wait to find out.   I have a mast that needs work.

See you next week.   Hopefully.