Monday, November 9, 2009

Weathered in

I feel like I owe some of you an explanation. Which is meant to be slightly different from an excuse. Even though I do have both. I had said that we were going to take the boat to Pine Cay this weekend and that we anticipated some nice blue water/tropicalish (is that a word?) type photos. Well....this is what actually happened....

The weather was looking pretty good Thursday when I wrote about our boating/fishing plans for the weekend. When we woke up Friday morning, it was still looking pretty good:

And even later in the afternoon on Friday the ocean was flat calm. The clouds were starting to roll in, yeah, but that's not unusual this time of year. We get a lot of afternoon thundershowers. Goes with the package. But the ocean looked absolutely great and we made plans:

And Saturday morning we DID arise before dawn and saddle up the motorboat. Or maybe we saddled the dog. In any case, we decided to go. We had the best of intentions. I grabbed five fishing poles, some lures that have produced in the past, and I dumped about 12 gallons of fresh-from-the-pump automobile grade gasoline into the boat. The boat is picky about what it eats as you probably remember. By the time we left the ramp we knew we were in for a less than pristine photo op. Big time. This was what Wind Guru had to say about it:

Now, Wind Guru is pretty good generally. I would say that from our experience here they tend to hit the forecast right on the money about 95% of the time, and for weather forecasting that is actually pretty phenomenal. When the weather gets complicated like it is right now, their accuracy suffers a little. And it's complicated right now because we are between the late season hurricane "Ida" and a strong weather front in the Atlantic. We took off thinking we could handle six foot waves okay. That's nothing to this boat, actually. We loaded up and fought our way up into the wind and chop on the Caicos Bank, and watched as the clouds rolled in and the wind kept picking up. This is what it looked like coming our way right after we made the turn (near the old wrecked freighter just visible in the background) toward Leeward-Going-Through:

This is on the protected side. No more flat calm ocean here, so we knew what we were in for.

Then we got through the channel and outside on the reef side and things went from ugly to borderline hideous. Having made the commitment we were determined to see if we could catch a fish, so I managed to get three of our lines in the water between getting bashed against the gunwales and soaked by salt spray, but the fun just wasn't in it. We were seeing solid six foot, nothing less. But what we had not expected was that just about every half dozen or so waves we were getting seven and eight feet with a 20+ mph wind blowing another foot or two of chop on the top of them. Six foot waves are no biggie. A cumulative steep 10 foot starts to become a little more serious. Still photos never do the waves justice, we have found, but that's immaterial here. Neither one of us even thought of the camera. We were too busy holding on to the boat. And wiping the ocean out of our faces. It was miserable. Nobody was in danger of dozing off. The rain didn't help.

Oh, we managed to troll up outside the reef as far as the cut to Pine Cay. This is pretty much the path we took:

We started at the bottom left there in the Google Earth image, went outside the shoals, then through Leeward and the reef, and trolled to the Northeast. That's deep ocean, open water. When we finally gave up on fishing and turned in toward Pine Cay (there at the top center of that photo) I had to turn the boat broadside to the waves and keep a real close eye on them. Let's just say it was interesting.

We made the shelter of the cut between Pine Cay and Ft. George Cay and decided to take a break and dry off. We knew some longtime friends of ours were down here in their vacation home on Pine Cay so we walked over to their house to say hello and dry out. Again, it was such a lousy day we really didn't think to take much in the way of photos. Oh, I snapped this one as we strolled along the boulevard..

It felt good to be out of the wind for a while. Even though Pine Cay doesn't have much in the way of sheltering terrain we were protected by the vegetation. Squishing along in our soggy wet clothes, I snapped one other photo of some young seagrapes along the path.

We should be used to it by now but it still gets our attention to see plants bearing ripening fruit in November. These grapes should be about ripe just around Christmas or New Year's. It's a long way from scraping ice off of car windows and shovelling snow off the driveway. Oh yeah.

By the time we said goodbye to our visiting friends on Pine Cay and started back the wind had picked up even more and the waves offshore were looking even uglier. So we decided to try something we had not done yet in this boat. We took it back over the Caicos Bank instead of going out to the deep water. We ran this way all the time with our previous boat but had not risked it with this one because it draws a foot and a half more water than the panga. BUT this week, in my ever-expanding DIY mode, I had discovered that the trim tabs on the boat had not been working properly since we got it. I won't go into all that now, but let's just say that I found a problem and fixed it, and now with working trim tabs the whole thing changes dramatically. We were able to crank the tabs down, and the motor forward, and scooted over sandy shallows that we would not have dreamed of trying in this boat a month ago. Of course, it wasn't running worth diddly a month ago anyway, but heck, you know all that already.

For those who have been following the saga of the Yamaha situation, that trip was about 42 miles total before we were back at the ramp. And the motor never missed a beat. Yahoo. Yippee. Finally. Oh, I still have to rebuild the water pump, but after the other issues that's easy beans.

SO anyhow, that's our story. We tried for some nice tropical blue water ocean photos. Really we did. And we will try again when this weather clears up.

And with the weather still crummy, we have essentially spent the last two days inside getting caught up on things. I am in the final phases of finishing up La Gringa Suprema's computer desk. It's just waiting for another sanding and a coat of paint.

Still haven't figured out how we are going to carry this ten foot long, 200 lb. sucker up the hill and into her office, but we'll figure it out. Might have to invite some friends over and ply them with alcohol.

And that's it for now. I don't have a fresh sunset photo to end this post with, but I thought I might put in one of what that sunrise Friday looked like a half hour after the photo I started this with. Of course the weekend wend steadily downhill from this point, but as sunrises go this one is not too bad, eh?

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Scratching for a post

I know, I know... I haven't posted anything new since mid October. And it's already well into November. A number of people have been kind enough to point this out to me. I plead guilty as charged. I am hearing that people up north would like to see something warm and tropical. Would a sunrise do, for now?

November is typically the rainiest month here in the TCI. While we have not had a lot of rain yet this month, we have been getting almost daily showers and of course that means a lot of clouds, and hence some colorful sunrises. Here's another one:

Lately it seems that almost every morning the dawn is worth getting up and grabbing the camera. With sunrise coming later in the day this time of year, we are always up before dawn. Usually have our first cup of coffee about then, walking out on the patio. Dooley is typically quite enthusiastic to get out and do his morning inspection of the property, paying especially close attention to a couple of his favorite shrubs. He'll hop up on the little wall around the patio and survey what he considers "His" kingdom, too:

Until one of us whispers "hey Dooley, I thought I saw a CAT!"

There. Did I milk enough mileage out of sunrise photos, yet? ( I am having to stretch to fill a post here, you realize..) Okay, maybe one more:

And now back to the rest of the day. The situation is that we have not been doing much of anything really 'photo-worthy' the last couple of weeks. And we have some boating stuff planned for this coming weekend, and I had just kind of planned to wait until we had some nice ocean photos, maybe a fish, and then put up a new post when I had something worth looking at. That's called procrastination, or at least I think that's what it's called. I meant to look up that word, procrastination, but I keep putting it off.

Oh the DIY stuff never stops. In addition to my little projects that I like doing I constantly seem to be getting hit with not-so-little projects that I have to do. Work has continued on the outboard motor, until I fixed it. Finally. Turns out there were three different issues going on simultaneously and with me being totally untrained in outboard engine repair in general and this Yamaha HPDI motor in particular, it took me about ten times as long as it would have taken a real mechanic to find and exorcise all these little gremlins. Of course it doesn't help at all that the local Yamaha people don't sell, fix, or even stock parts for this particular motor. All my support has been via the internet, and all my parts ordered from the USA. Takes time.

I am finally down to the last bit, a worn out impeller in the water pump. See the black rubber fan shaped thing in the photo here?:

Well, those curved arms are not supposed to be curved. They are supposed to stick straight out. This is the doodad that pumps cooling water through the motor. With the impeller warped like this it doesn't pump efficiently and if we run the motor wide open it overheats. So we can still run it, but have to keep the RPMs down. Until I get a new impeller installed. It's on order.

And while working on the motor, other stuff breaks. And usually when something else decides to break it also jumps to the top of my priority list. Last week, for example, the 'transmission brake' on one of the Land Rovers froze up. This happens after salt water gets splashed up into the brake drum around the 'propshaft', as the Brits call it. This is the second time I have been through this, so it didn't take nearly as much time as the first one. Still, it had to be fixed. It's a dirty, greasy, ugly, mechanical job. In other words, one of mine.

And I didn't bother taking any photos of me lying on the floor under yet another Land Rover.

Water filters get clogged. Bug invasions have to be dealt with. I wish I had kept a journal of all the things that have been fixed. We figure we average one a day, year round. When we go through two or three days with nothing breaking we get nervous. We know a slew of issues is about to land on us. Usually on weekends, for some reason.

And I neglected to take any photos of clogged filters and bugs. Well, most bugs.

In between the emergency repairs and self-assertive maintenance issues I get to play with stuff I actually want to work on. I have been building some furniture for La Gringa's office. It's really solid stuff, and big. So big that I have had to build it in three different pieces. It's not what you would call fine woodworking. It's more what I would term 'rustic', which I think is a word meaning clunky stuff overbuilt to make up for lack of craftsmanship.

I am finally down to constructing the final piece which is a ten foot long x three foot wide computer desk. This is going to go between two combination tables and bookshelves I have already finished. Step one is to get the new desk from the lumberyard to the house. Six 2x8x10 foot pressure treated boards as straight as I could find locally. The 'straight' part was not easy, but the transportation home was easy enough:

Yep, lashed to the top of a Land Rover. As so much of what we do seems to be, these days.

So, skipping a lot of boring stuff, I trued and squared up the wood as best I could without a jointer and dowelled and glued it together.

(This thing is heavy. Notice how the legs of that plastic saw-horse are about to let go? I wish I had noticed it at the time...)

I rounded the end off and sanded it flat:

One end of this monster will be supported by the two bookcases already built and installed but I needed some kind of legs for the other end. I just happened to have a broken piece of 4x4 (that had once been a realtor's signpost) lying around and decided to use that. It's been a long long time since I cut mortise and tenon joints by hand with a chisel and Japanese-style saw:

And the legs needed a cross brace, so I decided to go ahead and cut those pieces, too.

It all came together okay, a set of legs without any screws or nails holding it together. Just tight fit and glue:

You might notice that the legs of the plastic sawhorses are now reinforced with wood strips in this photo. You see, adding pieces of 4x4 to an already overstressed sawhorse adds weight. And things can get really exciting when one is quietly immersed in carefully cutting a mortise joint, oblivious to the outside world, listening to blues and lost in thought when a couple hundred pounds of wood suddenly heads to the floor with a get the picture. It gets especially busy and exciting when one is barefoot.

Now it's all done, and we are applying the paint. To be accurate La Gringa is applying the paint. Paintbrushes are one of the things I am not allowed to play with. Long story.

We have reversed the colors of the other pieces that go with this. The base coat is blue, and the outside coat will be green. And worn through on the edges so the blue shows through. This is the bottom of the table. The top is a lot smoother.

The holes are so that I can run all the computer, power, printer and phone cables underneath the desk and up through it. We won't have any cable clutter from power cords, etc. All hidden.

(and you thought I was milking the sunrises for content!)

Other than stuff like this our life in the tropics has been slowly churning along. Mostly waiting for me to get the boat fixed. We feel totally at home in the TCI now. Things that used to amaze us now seem commonplace. It is second nature now, for example, to keep an eye on where we put our big white bare feet when walking around. This is a tough place for bare feet. The rocks will do a job on toenails. And scorpions and centipedes don't take kindly to being stepped on, either. And we do have some of those around.

This was just a baby one, only three and a half to four inches long when he decided to hang out by the garage door:

Sadly, this one is no longer with us. We have adopted a zero tolerance policy for sneaky, cranky, poisonous things that want to move into the house with us. Call us wimps.. We don't care. Let them go build their own house somewhere out of sight. We'll stay out of it.

Until this week our boating has basically been limited to 'sea trials' and 'test runs' to check out the boat after I adjusted or replaced something. Not much exciting to report. We launch in one of the canals here. We have noticed lately that a boat some of you are familiar with is presently docked in the canals. We spotted it the first time as we were returned from another 'test run', late in the afternoon right before dark. We recognized this sportfisherman from the side:

It's the "Gwendolyn", a long time local sportfishing day charter boat out of Turtle Cove. I know that a few of you have chartered this boat in the past. I don't know who presently owns it, or what they have planned for it, but I can tell you that they have ripped out just about all of the interior of it and piled the wood on the nearby shore:

Maybe she's going through a major refit. Could be a good thing for this upcoming charter season.

We still carry a camera around with us just about everywhere we go. In fact we are running low on cameras at the moment. Two of the tried and true Sony's have finally succumbed to the environment and gave up the ghost over the past two weeks. I still have the pocket 'point and shoot' Olympus, but that's about it. We have been discussing picking up a better camera with enough lens to get some of the distant sights over the water. And with enough bells and whistles to let me try for some of the low-light waterspout and nighttime lightning display photos. Right now, we are thinking one of those Canon Rebel EOS digital SLRs might do it. Any thoughts on good camera choices gratefully accepted.

We just haven't seen much lately that grabs our attention. Is it that things are slow? Or is it that our attention isn't so easy to grab after becoming jaded to sights that once seemed exotic and now are commonplace? Who knows.

Many times we will grab a photo just for the heck of it, and never do anything with it. Eventually delete it. For example, driving to the grocery store (the big white building on the ridge) we passed by a local soccer game. I was thinking "wow, if you go down on THIS field it's going to leave a mark". I am used to sports fields with grass on them. This one is basically broken up limestone.

Or sitting in the doctor's office I was somewhat amused by this little scene in the waiting room:

I don't know about you, but a wheelchair and four full length novels for reading material in a waiting room doesn't exactly give me a great feeling about how long the wait might be.

(That's misleading, as the wait is rarely longer than a few minutes, but the photo was there so I took it)

And this is the kind of stuff that we have been going through lately. I am sure you can see that it's just not exciting, adventuresome, photogenic material. And that's why I haven't posted in two weeks. honest. I'll try to do better now that the boat is fixed and we are moving into the beginning of the 'season' here. Visitors from the North and fishing.

And in the meantime, if I see some halfway decent sunsets I'll try to grab an image or two. This one started out with me taking a photo of the still growing papaya tree in the foreground:

We get tons of papayas, by the way, but they taste terrible compared to the one the seeds came from. I need to look into that.

Anyhow, taking the photo I realized "Hey forget the tree, look at the sunset". Sundown happens quickly here, so I only had to wait and watch as things developed. Guess you could also say we have some 'colorful' neighbors around here:

(We do, actually, but that's a whole nuther story)

I gave that all a few minutes to progress and changed position a bit, and it came out okay I think:

I'll try to do better on the photos and posts, really, I will. Should be picking up a lot starting this very weekend. We hope.