Monday, April 16, 2012

Blog Rejects and Loose Ends

 I  confess to a having a compulsion to record photographic images and store them away by the thousands. In years past it was paper prints and fragile negatives, and now it's CDs and thumb drives, but the process is pretty much the same.  La Gringa has the same addiction and she didn't get it from me.   We were each into our own amateur photography habits long before we met.  We're shutterbugs.  No getting around it.  When we discovered this blog thing it finally gave us an actual excuse to take  photos.  Finally, we had a valid reason to do what we would have done anyway.   We really like it when people  make the effort to look at our photos. It's a bit like having visitors ask  you to show them your vacation movies, instead of bolting for the door yawning and making excuses about the time.

We typically come back from one of our  excursions with a couple of hundred images.  I try to keep individual blog posts  to somewhere around 30-40 images. Otherwise they  can take forever to load on slower computers.  So a lot of decent photos never get used.  Many are never seen again.

This post is to show you a few of those photos that got passed by during the past few weeks.  This sunrise, for example.

And the boat trips! It probably seems like we write a blog post for every time we step on a boat.  But that's not even close.  We write up maybe half of our boat trips.  Sometimes on the spur of the moment we'll decide we need a 'Sanity Sail', and half an hour later we're out on the Hobie.  We might spend two or three hours sailing and exploring, and never mention it here. I don't want him to read this, but sometimes we even go sailing without the dog. On real windy days we leave him at home and tell him we're going to the veterinarians office.  He's always happy to miss those trips.

Here's a good example of a Hobie trip from a month ago that included the dog.  We decided spur of the moment to go for an afternoon sail.  No destination in mind, no plan.   While we were sailing along we saw a nice stretch of beach, and Dooley the Drizzler was making those noises that I think mean that rocks are starting to look like trees and fire hydrants, so we pulled over for a rest stop.

We found a nice little stretch of beach, with a sheltered cove for the boat.

We'd seen these rocks before, but this time we had the new camera with us.  I decided to wander around and see if I could find any interesting subjects.  We saw this bit of orange colored material bobbing in the edge of the water and went over for a look.  I was hoping it was a fancy life vest with rolls of money secured in a pocket.  It wasn't.

I just bought this little hand-held mono-pod thing that lets me extend the camera up about a meter above my extended hand.  It doesn't take up much space, and it's stainless steel.  I was playing around with it, raising the camera up higher than the rock ledges with the 2 second shutter timer. It's a new perspective.   It's also a good way to get an angle down onto this sharp 'iron shore' rock around here, without having to climb up onto it barefooted.   This is not good barefoot material.

Almost all of the windward sides of these cays are like this.   The soft limestone is eroded by the wave action.  The tops are eroded jaggedly by the intermittent splashing water during rough weather, and the undersides near the sea surface are worn smoother by the steady, daily wave action.  Eventually, these ledges get severely undercut by the waves.   And they do break and fall off.

For some reason I have forgotten, Dooley the Delinquent was off exploring and unavailable for me to put in the photo as a scale.  I tried resting my hand on the overhanging ledge to give you an idea of the size.   This rock is about my eye level while standing in the water.   The cold, dark, murky miserable water.   You aren't buying that one, are you.

This ledge is amazing.  It's shaped like a suspended hook, or arm, barely attached to the main shore.  I was expecting it to fall off any moment.  But realistically it could be here for years to come. 

And it could break and fall off in the very next hurricane.  Which we hope is years to come.   Never would be good.

Like many marine limestone formations, these rocks have a number of small caves eroded into them.  They're everywhere, in fact.   I was experimenting with our new camera, and took this one with the flash on.

Many of these caves are plenty big enough to hide in, should someone be inclined to hide in a cave on a sunny day for some reason.  And if that someone were very quiet, and muzzled a certain dog, it might be difficult to see them inside the darkness if you were standing outside in the bright sunlight looking for them.

I also found out that just because it's possible to quietly sneak up behind someone looking for you, that doesn't also mean that it's a good idea to sneak up behind someone that's looking for you.   I've now heard it suggested that there may be some medical applications for such a waterproof camera. 

At least, that's what I think she was talking about. 

We decided to move on,  hoist the anchor, raise the mainsail, and see what's around the next bend.

 This is another of our little sailing trips you would never have read about.  It didn't merit a blog post on its own.  Another ho-hum day in paradise.

We spend a lot more time at South Side Marina than we report here, too.  It's only a few miles down the road and we get involved with the cruisers who come through there from time to time.  They have a couple of traditions that we appreciate.  Every day at sundown  the visiting sailors gather for drinks, and to watch the sunset.  We like to stop by and meet the people that belong to the voices we talk to on the radio.  These next few photos are not very good, because I had the camera set wrong.  I'm still learning about it.

I found out something useful about the software that Nikon ships with these cameras, too.  When I took this photo of the little shelter where the imbibing tidal tribe subsides, I had no thoughts of making a panoramic photo of it.  I was just taking a photo of La Gringa in conversation with Jo, from the sloop Xanadu (which is for sale should anyone here in the TCI be interested in a nice boat).  I also wanted a photo of the TCI Customs and Immigration Land Rover.  These guys come to the marina and clear your boat into the country. And out of the country. And around the country.  And money changes hands each time.  Every island nation does it. Two of the cruisers were in the South Side office with their paperwork clearing in through customs while we were there. I thought it was nice that they could enjoy a few beers ashore while waiting.  The Customs guys here are generally pretty mellow professionals as long as they don't get any grief or the feeling they're being mislead.    The job is part of the game.

Then, I took a couple of steps to the right and snapped this photo of the several visiting monohull sailboats presently visiting Providenciales on their cruise.  Again I had no intention of putting these shots together.  There are some things you do when  planning to combine images to make them fit well.  I didn't do any of those things.

And I didn't take more photos of the monohulls because, well, to us die-hard multihull aficionados, a monohull is sometimes referred to as 'half a boat'.   Of course this is all friendly rivalry.  The monohullers have their pet names for multihulls, too.  And no, I am not going to list them here.   I'm on the other team, remember.

Well, when I was looking at these photos of South Side while trying to make up my mind whether or not to even post them here, I saw these two and decided to try a program called "Panorama Maker 5" that came with the Nikon AWA100 camera.

In the past I had sometimes used a program called "Stitch Up" that will put up to three images together, but to be honest I haven't been that happy with the results.  You have to get everything just right.   I was curious as to whether this "Panorama Maker 5" stuff would work with two lousy photos like this.   I only had to load them up and pick three common points on both photos.  I picked that street light, the corner of Bob's gazebo, and the corner of the short concrete wall.  I didn't expect much, since the photos are admittedly pretty lousy, and the perspectives were different.  I was very surprised when the software munched it all together and spit this out:

That's pretty good results.  Notice the two people walking way down the sidewalk along the quay?  Their legs and postures are different in each photo of course, since they were walking while I was taking the photos. And they are in the area of the overlapping zone between the two photos.  It appears that the software is good enough to handle that without blurring them.  I'm impressed.

So, eventually I did read the manual for the camera and discovered that it has a totally automatic panorama mode that eclipses both this software and the earlier 'Stitch Up' program.  I've now deleted the old program from the computer.  This new stuff is way better.    Now, I just need to pay more attention to the images themselves.

Not all of the photos taken that day are totally bad.  Here comes another cruiser making their first stop since leaving the Bahamas.   They're just in time to clear customs, too, if they hurry.

We'd hoped for a good sunset image over the water, but as is often the case, the sun and clouds had other ideas.   I did try, and although the sunset was a flop this was an okay image of Bob-the-marina-owner's own boat.  It's been undergoing a complete retrofit for two eons now. I think it's one of those things when you have to have the time, materials, and money all at the same time.  That happen a lot where you live?  I didn't think so.  Here neither.  But his boat is looking good.  We'll try to remember to ask him about it. He's trying to get a restaurant finished here, too. There goes the time and money for the boat, right off the bat.  But we can usually count on some decent weather here.   And I guess any sunset you can walk away from is a good one.

Yes, alcohol is sometimes a factor in these sundown meetings.

And with a 'like mother, like son' segue, here's another of my stepsons, Ben, on his first scavenging trip to West Caicos.  Does it look to you like he enjoyed himself?

You really didn't think you'd get through a post without a mention of another West Caicos beach combing trip, did you?  Ben wanted to see the place, we don't need much of an excuse, and we didn't let the threat of some ugly weather scare us off.    I'll try to keep this one mercifully short.

We did the usual shopping for mahogany and teak and anything interesting.  I found this little beach arrangement and thought it worth a photo.   I liked the glass bottle and fishing net float theme.

And when nobody was watching, I confess I picked that bottle up and gave it a quick rub, just in case.  There was no flash of light, no smoke, and no genie.  But I'm not complaining.  I already have a lot of what I would have wished for, anyhow. (A big part of which is sitting at her desk studying Spanish with that "Rosetta Stone" software as I write this).

You've probably heard something along the lines of 'one man's trash is another man's treasure'.  They don't mention that a lot of one man's trash can also be a dog's happy hunting ground.

He's lucked out with a lot of his wishes too, come to think of it.  Should have named him Riley.

(note from the future,  October 2012, I just looked back at these photos on a new computer, and see that the right side of many of these photos is being cut off.  Dooley's thoughts above, for example.  If you are seeing the same thing , sorry about that.  If you ever want to be sure you are seeing the entire image, just click on it.)

I wanted to mention something unusual that happened while we were strolling the uninhabited beaches of West Caicos.   We heard, and then saw, a USCG helicopter coming north across the Caicos Bank headed back toward the airport on Providenciales.   This isn't unusual, we see the USCG here quite a bit.  They have a thing going on with the Turks and Caicos Islands and the Bahamas called "OPBAT", and I made that a link if you want to read up on the program.

What was unusual was when the helicopter suddenly slowed up and descended into a hover  just above the water.   They were in this hover for 15 minutes or more, and kicked a lot of mist into the air.  I hope they have their WD-40 ready when they get home....

We could not see any reason for their interest from where we were standing on the beach about a mile away.  Nothing  was protruding above the sea, and we didn't see any rescue swimmers or basket activity.  Just a long hover, over one specific spot.

I cropped that photo to give you a better look at the aircraft and the water they were kicking up.  I did take a compass bearing  (121 deg. mag) from us to that location, and when we left to head home we drove the skiff out on that heading hoping to see what had caught their interest.

Privately, I was pretty excited.  I figured that maybe rubbing the funny shaped bottle might have worked after a fashion, and my third wish was in the making.  I was all set for a shiny, waterproof briefcase full of money to float into my life.   I was wrong.    I kept the bottle though.  This is getting interesting.  Does anyone know if it's possible to rub a genie the wrong way?

Well, what's interesting to me is just another distraction to Dooley the Destructive.  He was off exploring a really nice big solid hunk of boat that had floated ashore.  That's an oxymoron, isn't it?  A solid hunk of boat?      No clue as to what he was thinking.

Right before we left for the ride home we spotted a sting ray I thought was snoozing  in the shallow water off the beach.  I saw this as a good opportunity to get a close up and personal photo of one of these with my new camera, and without having to frantically flipper faster and faster to finally focus in frustration.  So I boogied on over, camera at the ready.  Sneaking up from behind, again.

And once again I got a different reaction than the one anticipated.  This one actually stuck his tail stinger up out of the water, to show me what he thought about me startling him. He also wanted to show me that he was 'carrying', I guess.  I wasn't trying to harass him, mind you. I do have a healthy respect for these guys.  I remember what happened to Steve Irwin, and we've used the 'stingray shuffle' when we had to walk through murky water.   Which doesn't happen very often here.  We only have sandy water for about two days after a big storm.   The rest of the year it looks like these photos we've been posting right along.

We see various flavors of rays all the time around here, and it would be a rare day on the boat if we didn't.  Rays, barracuda, shark... it all becomes part of the neighborhood gang if you spend enough time in tropical waters.  And the Southern Sting Ray is one of the most common.

They're not exactly cute, and while I would admit they're a bit standoffish, I'd never had one actually pull a weapon on me before.   I decided that I would leave this guy alone with his switchblade. I guess stingrays are grumpy when they first wake up or something.  For all I know, he was hiding from the Coast Guard.  Probably has connections to organized slime.

This is another example of a boat trip that I wouldn't have even mentioned if I wasn't doing some photographic house cleaning here.  Some of these images are worth posting, don't you think?

I  put some of my  DIY projects on the blog, but not, by any means, all of them.  And I'm not going to turn this into a DIY post, either. I don't scurry around with a camera taking photos of every little project I get into.  I never mentioned it, for example, when I was re-sawing beat up old driftwood to make this box to hold our binoculars at the house:

A lot of the auto and boat repair stuff involves greases, paints, and chemicals and I don't want the camera anywhere near that stuff.  But we usually don't even make any mention of it here because there's so much of it.  I don't think a day goes by that I don't have to stop whatever I'm doing to fix something that just packed up.  Or fell off.  Or rusted shut.  Or rusted open.  You know how it gets when you're afraid to scrub the paint on something too hard?   I couldn't even estimate how many tires I have changed since we moved here.  It would be less than 100, but by how many I can't tell you.  And a lot of the little stuff just doesn't merit attention, as it's no longer something we'd consider to be unusual.

I just went looking for an example of what I'm talking about and noticed a recent project sitting right next to me. My favorite sunglasses broke a few weeks ago.  I like these polarized ones with a reading insert right in the lens. I'm only fuzzy from my fingertips to my brain.  Like almost everybody over 40.  It's maddening, but there it is.   I was down to my last pair, and they broke.  I went through all the usual reiterations of Krazy Glue and duct tape, but the time comes when things just won't fly any more.  One of the advantages of a shaven head is that it extends the possibilities for a DIY artist with duct tape.  But there are social costs with that. People refuse to be seen with you.  Strangers seem to always be crossing the street.  And themselves...

Backup shades  just won't do.  They feel like someone elses shoes.   So looking at my favorites in three pieces last week, I had an idea.  I salvaged some aluminum satellite dish that the hurricane ate, made staples from stainless bicycle spokes  and I think I've managed to get a few more months out of these.

Not pretty, but they're not very likely to get stolen, either.

Some of the photos that usually don't make it are the ones we take for no particular reasons.  Oh, they seem to have a reason at the time, but then later I look through them and ask myself why I bothered.  What was I thinking, for example, when I decided to take another photo of yet another stick we picked up, brought home, and varnished?  I spare you a lot of those, usually.

Or those photos of moments that seem triumphant at the time that feel pretty silly later on.  For example, I finally decided to try my hand at growing tomatoes here.  It's tricky, because the dirt here is essentially the same thing as the bags of lime some people have to dump on their lawns to combat acidity.  Here, we seek acid.  I've had good luck with coffee grounds as an acidic organic, believe it or not.  My new tomato plants and I enjoyed our morning coffees for the past couple of months.

Until we ate them.

This was our first attempt, and the result wasn't going to win any blue ribbons out behind the pig squealing competition, but these were the best tasting tomatoes we've had in six years.

I guess there's nothing like home grown.    I need to find another strain, though.  Or plant a whole lot more of them.  I grew these from seeds I took from a Kew, North Caicos, tomato.

Some photos, well, they just kind of made sense at the time, ya know?  Like last week when we had to truck in two 2600 gallon tanks of RO (Reverse Osmosis, i.e. desalinated sea water).  We were sitting in the house and noticed that it took the guy only about as half as long as usual to empty a truck load into the cisterns.  So I went out to see why.  We've found it a good idea to pay attention when proven procedures suddenly get different, and to ask why around here sometimes.  Well, in this case, I spotted the reason right away.  They have a new Honda pump on the truck.  Vast improvement over their old pump, which worked when it felt like it, and was really tricky to start.  Kind of like an old motorcycle I once owned.  If it didn't fire up on the third kick,  you had another shot at it around the seventh one.  If you had the choke, throttle and spark advance  just right.  And didn't flood it.    This new pump starts right up as Honda products usually do.  I was grinning, the water guy was grinning, we were both just so happy about his new pump.  So happy I went in the house and got the camera.

What was I thinking?

About how much faster he can deliver water, and how that will help him make another couple of deliveries a day, seven days a week.  He gets $115 a trip.  His life just got better. I guess I got caught up in the moment. And we have a lot of those kinds of photos that never make the cut.

Oh, and the experimental shots.  There are scads of those.  Especially when we get a new camera.

This is one of my first tries at a full moon (photographically speaking, of course) with the new camera.

I've since found out how to better set up the camera, and know I can do better.  OF course, I gotta wait a month to prove it, now.

I think the last category of photos we tend to relegate to the cyber-dusty shelves of a thumb drive somewhere are the cute Dooley shots.  I think I told you about one of his new tricks when he thinks it's meal time, and I'm not moving fast enough for him.  He'll squirm his sneaky way up and try to wedge himself between me and the computer.

Don't let this furry little face fool you.  His, I meant.  He's a conniving little con artist.
And we somehow find ourselves taking a lot of photos of him, as you well know.

I recently found out that the new camera will also do both slow and fast motion video.  My first tries at Dooley the Delighted catching a tennis ball in the air are encouraging.  Remember those National Geographic videos of the Great White Shark chomping down on a sea lion in extreme slow motion?
 It's kind of like that except that none of the fuzzy stuff in Dooley's video bleeds.

I probably should lump this one into the category with the water truck.  One of our friends down the road (the first M of the M&M family) called me up for some ideas on getting this hunk of 1/2" steel rebar out of the dirt road near his house.   No, please don't ask me how this got there, or why it was so well embedded there, or why no one else had removed it.  I can't answer any of that.

But remove it we did.  And I thought it was worth a photograph at the time.   

Now that the adrenaline rush of 4x4 and chain is over, I can see that it wasn't. See what I mean?

Well, I seem to have nattered on here until another blog post is big enough to get away with.  I'll leave you with a photo of our lucky bottle,  recently found in the sands of West Caicos.    I'm still waiting for that briefcase full of money.  We're in the boat-buying mood again. Maybe one more rub will do it.  I just missed the full moon, was that supposed to be connected?

Oh wait a minute.  Even with a completely non-standard blog post with no plot, story line, or coherence whatsoever, I can't end it like that. Ending things with a bottle can get dangerous.

So I'll end it with a bizarre sunset from just last week.   When I first saw this one, I thought maybe someone had swayed too close to a tiki torch during Happy Hour.  I flinched and waited for the sound and shock wave, but nah.  Just another sunset..

Sunday, April 8, 2012

A Lazy Pine Cay Weekend for Dooley and the Boys

I hope you guys are ready for a long post with a lot of photos. This will be a little different from our recent stuff. This one is not about a beach combing trip to West. Oh we've been back to our favorite shopping beach since the last post. And yes we took lots of photographs, as usual. And found some more neat stuff. But I'm not going to post those here today. I'm also not going to post photos of our little sailing Hobie Tandem Island, or of our skiff, or of Dooley the Delusional dangling dangerously during daily dalliances devoid of dubious distinction, direction, or duration, dang it. And we've got some of those images too. But nope. This post is all about a quiet weekend out on Pine Cay.

But first I want to start with one of La Gringa's sunrise photos from here at the house on Providenciales.  I didn't manage to get one on Pine Cay.  I think I slept through them.  It's easy to do out there.   But once again La Gringa saved my posterior.

You might also see some differences in the photos themselves, although I am trying to minimize that aspect of it. This is because I'm now using a completely different camera than the main one that I've using the past two years. My little Pentax Optio W-80 finally quit on me. I do want to point out that, unlike the two failed Olympus cameras, the Pentax didn't fail due to leakage. I sat on it in my pocket while hopping aboard the kayak, and flexed the display. They don't flex.  It's really not intuitive enough to work through all the menus and functions without a display.    I really liked that camera. I considered just buying another one. They're not hugely expensive, as pocket digital cameras go. But then I started reading about this new Nikon AW100, and decided to see what they've come up with for a ruggedized, waterproof, dust proof, shock resistant pocket digital. All of the photos in this post. except for La Gringa's sunrise above, were taken with the new camera. Before I read the operations manual. Of course. That's how us guys do it. If you're one of us guys, or know one of us guys, you know what us guys I'm referring to here. The ones that don't read manuals or ask for directions. I think it's genetic.

And the new camera is not the only change here. We just made another trip to the USA. We spent at least a day or more in Miami, New Jersey, Fort Worth, and a small town just north of Houston. On this trip my trusty laptop computer started behaving strangely. I guess it didn't like all the travel, as we walked miles through various airports and all over downtown Fort Worth, Texas. So, anticipating further problems and already witnessing a familiar downward spiral in the trusty old Dell, I bought a new laptop in the States. It made financial sense while we were in the land of the Big Box discounted electronics, computer, camera, and huge-aisles-of-candy-at-the-checkout-counter(WHY?) stores. We've been averaging about a computer a year since we moved to the Turks and Caicos. The Dell had almost three years on it. Half the audio was gone. I had to unplug the mouse to boot it up. The video board was getting amazingly hot.  I started to get the feeling that maybe it was feeling depressed and suicidal about falling apart and becoming obsolete. It was time to retire it.  It's in Fort Worth at the moment.

With a new camera and new computer, my whole little photograph taking, recording, processing, and posting world changed. The new laptop is an ASUS thing that is about as thick as poster board without fans or a hard drive motor and so light that I have to watch carefully to keep the wind from grabbing it when my back is turned. It's a joy to lug around airports in a backpack. But it's all different, and has a whole hat full of new tricks for an old dog to learn. In addition to the camera's greatly expanded capabilities I had to learn a new version of Windows, a new version of Corel Paintshop, Google Chrome, a different email program, word processor and a bunch of other stuff. This post took me twice as long to put together as they usually take. But I'm learning. Arf. 
(note: as we were about to publish this, we also found out Google has changed the Blogger interface again.  But La Gringa figured it out, or I would still be staring at it.  She gets the credit for figuring out the changes, but there's no way I'm going to compare her talents to anything including old dogs,
or tricks.)

Oh, and one more thing that generated this post about a lazy weekend is that I accidentally managed to punch a fairly respectable new hole in my leg with a piece of rusty iron. A fairly deep one.  One of those kind that makes you  suddenly light headed when you first look into it before the leakage fills it up.  After the doctor stitched it up and gave me a tetanus inoculation, I was told to keep the leg elevated and eat these huge antibiotic pills and small codeine pills and STAY OFF OF IT!. I am not even going to describe the look I got when I asked about swimming and boating.

So, on to the story itself.

Here's Dooley the Disgusted and I waiting at the Leeward Marina for the Meridian club boat to come take 4.1 of us out to Pine Cay for a long R&R weekend.

As you can see, Dooley used some of the down time to practice various dance steps and evasive maneuvers, until he ran out of space and rope. I guess idle paws are the devil's workshop.

We had an occasion to celebrate, as it was my eldest stepson's 25th birthday. It was also a good way to keep me out of the workshop and away from our boats for a few days. Oh, by the way, I am not going to put any DIY stuff in this post, either. I've got a bunch of it, of course, but when I uploaded all of these photos I realized that this was already a pretty big post, and I know it slows down the loading on some people's computers. So I had to do a lot of cutting, and the DIY got cut. For now. Kinda like my leg. And I also decided to spare you the photos of the actual puncture wound itself.( It's pretty ugly, but if anyone wants to see it drop us an email.)

And all excuses aside, we just wanted a nice weekend on Pine Cay. We stayed out there a lot during our first couple of years here in the islands. Since we finished (a relative term) the house four years ago, we just never seem to have the time to go out there. Weekends are always getting taken up with home maintenance and beach combing, sailing, etc.

Pine Cay is a magical place. It's almost impossible to explain it in still photographs. It's something that really needs to be experienced. And it takes people from cities at least 48 hours to just decompress to real Island Time the first couple of visits. We see that with newcomers all the time. They are all geared up with a list of activities, and it's all GO GO GO!! Do It All NOW! For a day or two. Then the place gradually winds you down, and wins you over. Shoes disappear. Wrist watches and computers and cell phones go next. Its a great thing to watch. People who stay on Pine Cay a week return to Provo in a different skin. It gets easier with practice.

So easy in fact that some people make the change to Island Time at 'warp speed' on the boat ride over.

This technique should be approached with some caution, however. People who adjust to time changes between islands at warp speed have also been known to explode into reggae on a ukulele.

Not as serious as a full-on spontaneous combustion, but startling just the same. In a pleasant way, of course.

I didn't bother posting all our photos of the boat trip over. I'm taking a break from boat trip photos. And one of the differences about Pine Cay is that there are no automobiles on the island. The only things with wheels there are electric golf carts (no gasoline motors) and bicycles. This is our limo for the next few days:

Of course as soon as someone invents an electric golf cart, someone else is going to come up with a fancier one. And there are a few of those scattered around the Cay, too. These are parked at the marina, waiting for their owners to arrive by boat, like we just did.

Those are Meridian Club/Pine Cay staff members, and friends of ours too, by the way. That's Raymond and J.R. (Froggy), who are two of the top dogs running the busy little marina and boat operations for homeowners and guests.

Maybe I should explain a little bit of how Pine Cay operates. The island is privately owned by a group of people ("homeowners") who have private vacation homes on the island. There is a yearly membership fee for being one of these homeowners, and it's substantial. There are about 35 of these homeowner families with houses here. The Homeowners got together many years ago and decided that they would like to have a restaurant, bar, swimming pool, commissary, etc. and staff to keep things up and operate the island. Rather than raise the already substantial membership dues even more, they decided to get into the mini resort business. Thus was born the Meridian Club. It's a nice little all-inclusive hotel setup, with a dozen nice rooms, a great restaurant, two bars (indoor and outdoor/poolside) and all kinds of vacation things for guests to do. There are bicycles, kayaks, tennis, snorkel trips, fishing trips.... and more stuff that I can't even remember right now. There is staff on the island full time. A marina, an airstrip, security, maid service, and it's for the use of paying hotel guests as well as the dues paying homeowners. This arrangement has been working for some time now. If you have more interest or questions about the Meridian Club, there's a link to it on the right side of this blog under Turks and Caicos links.  It's a small, quiet, romantic, all inclusive resort on a privately owned tropical island with one of the best beaches on earth.    And with one of the best staffs.

Okay, back to the story. I was talking about golf carts. And we see more variations on the basic electric golf cart every time we come out here. This is Ube (or Ubie, I'm not sure) who is in charge of the "buggy shop". He and his assistants are responsible for upkeep and repairs on the islands "motor pool". He stopped to talk to us one day, while he was taking one of the homeowners carts down to the shop for whatever it needed done. We didn't get into that. We were talking about more important things, as I recall. Judging from Ube's expression and gestures here, I think this was the part about fishing...

In addition to newer and fancier golf carts we noticed a number of other improvements on the Cay since the last time we spent a few days here. If you read this older posts, you'll eventually come across the little writeup I once did on the Volga hydrofoil boat that was left in the bushes at the marina for many years. That post is from July of 2007! Look in that post for the section on Russian Hydrofoils.

Well the battered old hydrofoil sure looks better in it's new setting at the marina. We're glad to see it.

The aluminum is in pretty marginal shape, but the stainless steel hydrofoils and bronze rudder are almost like new. This thing had a relatively small motor, and a V-drive transmission originally. Part of the v-drive is still in the boat.

We've also noticed a few new plaques and signs around the island. There are some new ones out at the "Aquarium" and here's one on the hydrofoil:

This had to have been some pretty exciting trips to South Caicos back in the day. Can you imagine zipping over coral heads at 60 mph in this, not daring to back off the throttle even for a moment to think or pick your path through them?

Now about this next photo, I have absolutely no idea what this canoe is about, who did this to it, or why they did it. But I have a feeling Bob Ballard hasn't found it yet.

Once we get clear of the marina we typically let Dooley the Delighted loose. He has a memory an elephant would admire. Even though he hasn't been here in maybe six months to a year, he knows that he can run the roads of Pine Cay ahead of the golf cart. And run them he does.

He's not quite what he was six years ago, and no longer runs from one end of this 800 acre island to the other, but he's still good for a  part of it. I think I remember an old saying that I once heard or read that might apply here. It goes 'I'm not ever going to be as good as I once was, but I'm as good once as I ever was'. When Dooley leaps off the cart and goes racing down the road like a pint-size greyhound on helium and steroids, I can only guess what kind of things are running through that smart little cranium. Deep  thoughts, no doubt...

When he was about three years old he would happily run ahead of the cart for hours. One day I took the golf cart and a GPS receiver and just drove around the island, letting Dooley run ahead of me until he finally got exhausted and climbed on the cart for a rest. I took the GPS data, and added about 30% to the distance. This was because while I was driving the cart straight down the roads, Dooley the Dervish was dashing demonically back and forth, with random excursions deep into the bushes in pursuit of unorganized organisms both real and imagined. 30% was probably very conservative but even with that I calculated that he had run roughly 16 miles that morning. No kidding. Then he took a nap, had lunch and a swim, and was ready for more. Day after day. He was an alert little bundle of muscle. He's still pretty alert...

For those who would like to fly their own aircraft to Pine Cay, or take one of the commercial charter services from the Provo airport, the club maintains a nice paved airstrip with pilot controlled lighting.

And it's nice to see the arrival and departure lounge is still in operation. If you can make out the wooden structure with two handles on it between the thatch palm tiki.. uh, arrival area, and the little shed, that's the movie screen for the Wednesday night outdoor movies shown. That's when the airport lounge becomes the Sand Dollar Cinema. Imagine sitting in your golf cart with snacks and drinks watching a movie under the tropical moon... not too shabby.

Dooley would like for me to tell you that he heartily endorses the beach here. It's one of the nicest beaches in the whole hemisphere. A lot like Grace Bay was thirty years ago, before someone started stacking bricks on it. Not that Grace Bay is bad, because it isn't. But notice that the only footprints on this one are Dooley's. It was like that for a half mile in each direction. Always is.

Once we get to the house, he's out on the wooden deck that La Gringa and I rebuilt back when we were newlyweds. Nice to see it's still standing. You might wonder what he's searching for so intently. More on that in a few minutes, if you haven't already guessed. If you follow Dooley's adventures you probably already know that look.

I was hoping for some good sunset photos from this trip, and it's usually a good bet to get them at Pine Cay. I was playing around with the settings on the new camera, but all I could come up with for our first night there was another average one.

That is not a photo quality I would be proud of, and I'm not. It's blurred and grainy. I did notice, however, that this little Nikon does a much better job in low light than either the Pentax or Olympus cameras we have been using. That image was taken hand held (no tripod), on max zoom, with very fading light. The other cameras would not have done this well. And now that I've surreptitiously read part of the operations manual, I realize this camera has a sunset mode and that I can also control ISO on it. I should be able to improve on this with some practice and familiarity.

If I didn't know that it was sunset outside, I still would have been informed that it was supper time. This is what the little booger has been doing lately when I am sitting at the computer and he wants to be fed. He wriggles and squirms and tells me the most outrageous dog starvation stories while trying to get between me and the keyboard.

Or as La Gringa points out, maybe he was trying to get to the rabbit.
The next morning as we were finishing up breakfast we noticed that Dooley the Distracted was paying an inordinate amount of attention to the front porch.

Well, that didn't take too long to figure out. If it was human, he'd be barking. If he's quiet, he's typically up to no good. Kind of like children in general. I guess he was rested up and ready to roll on another Pine Cay morning:

We don't let him chase the iguanas when we can prevent it. As fearsome as they might look, these big lizards are really gentle creatures, and totally unequipped to drag race a rested and re-fueled Jack Russell who's quicker than a stinging slap to begin with.

I snapped a photo of the old pre-1850 Admiralty anchor that La Gringa and I recovered from the briny deep a few years ago. The Pine Cay Homeowners Association asked us if we would consider letting them move it to the Club and putting it on display. We have agreed and are glad to see someone else with the resources to take care of it. In retrospect, we should have left it in the ocean. When we find iron artifacts these days, we do exactly that. I note the GPS location, and leave them in place. Iron that has been in the ocean falls apart quickly once it's exposed to oxygen. There is a whole procedure to preserve this kind of thing, and it requires a big tank, electrodes, and a lot of time. We're hoping that regular attention will preserve it for years to come.

This is the mast and wind vane in a little landscaped 'roundabout' in front of the Meridian Club. This is where the Pine Cay folks want to display the anchor. We're all for it.

Remember some pages back I said that there are a lot more signs around Pine Cay than there used to be? Here's one at that same roundabout, that I bet not many people in North America are accustomed to seeing as a driving direction.

Just on the other side of that stretch of road in front of the Meridian Club is an extreme rarity in this part of the world: a freshwater pond. This is one of several freshwater ponds on Pine Cay, and they lend some support to the local version of the Christopher Columbus story. People here are convinced that Columbus stopped at Pine Cay on his first voyage to the New World. This is one of the few islands north of Hispaniola where he could have stocked up on fresh water. Of course, without firm navigation records, and no witnesses other than a few Arawak or Taino Indians, there's no way to prove it unless someone drags up a ship's bell with "Nina" engraved on it. But who knows.... it might be out there. Some people thought the Molasses Reef wreck was the right stuff to support these stories, but again, so far nobody's been able to prove it.

We do know that Submarines sent crews ashore here during WWII to get water.

We decided to head over to the other end of the island to see if there was anything new going on down at the 'Aquarium'. This is the local name given to a spit of rock that sticks out into the water between Pine Cay and Water Cay. When the water is calm, it's easy to see fifteen or twenty feet down into the water and there are usually thousands of brightly colored fish swimming around. Hence the name.

On the way we stopped to look at a new house under construction on the Cay. This is a pretty big one by Pine Cay standards. We know nothing about who is building it, or who owns it. I'm sure we'll find out in the days and weeks to come, though.

I've mentioned that the Meridian Club maintains recreational sorts of things for guests to do here, if they get bored with the ocean. One of them is a nice tennis court. We stopped the cart for me to get out and take some photos. In the nine years that I've been visiting Pine Cay, this is the first time I've ever set foot on the tennis court. And probably the last. My knees don't do tennis. That's because they used to do football. And motorcycles. I don't do those any more, either. Sigh.   Good thing I can still grumble and moan, everyone needs a hobby.

While I was nosing around in the bushes behind the tennis court I saw this mound covered in the nicest, finest natural grass I have ever seen in these islands. I was half expecting a Leprechaun to leap out and make a break for it. But after I thought about it for a while, I've come up with a speculation. My thought is that this is the result of someone once trying to establish a natural grass tennis court here. And my suspicion is that somewhere on the seed packet, it stated that this grass likes partial to full shade. But of course I could be totally wrong. I frequently am.

For all I know it's full of Rastafarian Leprechauns.

We finally wandered down to the Aquarium. This is one of our favorite spots on Pine Cay. It's one of everyone's favorite spots here.   Some of the Meridian Club staff likes to come here  for fishing off the rocks. Since the days when we were spending a lot of time here, they've continued to improve this area for recreation. There are several club kayaks here now for use of the guests.

This is the stretch of water between Pine Cay and Water Cay. I once ran a small boat back and forth across this running a fathometer to get a little impromptu depth survey information. I found depths of 24 ft. in the middle. With another fresh water lake only a few hundred yards from this point, I have to believe that this spot has had a fair number of boat visits over the centuries. Would be fun to run a magnetometer across here a few times.

That white float is tied to a fish trap left on the bottom. Someone will be coming to check that from time to time. And Dooley went running out to the end to see what it was all about and almost fell into the water. I yelled at him to get away from the edge, before he fell in and had to swim to shore.

He acted insulted, like I didn't think he could swim or something.  Of course he obediantly pretended to listen to me until I got distracted and he could get back to exploring.   He was in the water shortly thereafter.

In addition to clearing out the underbrush, putting in the tiki hut for shade, and a nice bench on the little beach, someone has also built a nice bench to sit and watch the Caicos Banks to the south. This was one of the favorite spots of George Niponich, who is one of the original land owners here. There has long been a plaque here commemorating George's life, and now there is a new plaque that also mentions his wife Marou. We didn't know George, but we knew Marou fairly well. She had some great stories to tell about Pine Cay in the early days.   She's the one who told us the story about the Russian hydrofoil that I posted a link to up early on this page.

This is the view from the bench, looking out to the south. This would be a great spot to watch the sunrise. It's got some memories for us, of course.  Like the time I had to swim from that most distant point, to this point, towing a semi-submerged kayak. It was a sit-on-top style, and flooded between the hulls. No way to drain it without hauling it up on the beach. No way to paddle it against the wind and current with a kayak paddle. It was like trying to kayak a floating log.  This was during a storm that later became TS Rita, and then Hurricane Rita.

And La Gringa and I got stranded on the flats in an inflatable kayak at low tide one time. That was also memorable. You can just barely see the flats out there, where the sand is visible through the water. You do NOT want to be there at low tide.

And that was the same night we hauled the kayak over the beach here late in the day and had to paddle back to Provo on the ocean side in the pitch dark.   Something really big surfaced and made a noise close to us that night.  That's a curious experience, in an inflatable kayak, in the dark.  I'm sure I've told you all this stuff before.  I don't mean to keep repeating myself.  To being redundant.  To keep saying the same thing over and over......see?

We wandered over to see what these folks are doing with their boat slip construction when Dooley the Determined found something interesting in this big hunk of driftwood. I say driftwood, because this thing definitely did not grow to this size here.

That dog really gets into his work, doesn't he?

We needed a few things at the commissary, so we headed back up to the club before they closed the store. We took a walk on the beach there with the dog. The Hobies and kayaks are there for guests to use. There in the distance you can just see the upper floor of the Meridian Club. We were there later in the evening, and I'll post some photos from there later. Dooley the Digger was very interested in something someone had dropped in the sand here.   Good bet it originated in the kitchen.

This is the view from underneath that big Casuarinas tree you can see in the photo above:

We decided that this beach was just too crowded, and we moved on to a less populated stretch.

We were there for dinner to celebrate a birthday.  The staff did a great job of preparing an extremely memorable dinner for 'the birthday boy'..

This is "Bang-Bang' the bartender, doing his stuff in the upstairs bar at the Meridian Club.

Sitting outside on the upstairs veranda, there is a very pleasant view of the beach and ocean in front of the club:

I couldn't fit all this into one photograph, at the time. Since that night I have discovered that the little Nikon will automatically put together panoramic photos in either horizontal or vertical mode. But at this time, still new to it, I had to take another photo to show you the pool at night.

It's somewhat of a tradition here to meet at the upstairs veranda bar for 'sundowners'.  It's a great way to end the day, and start the evening.

The staff put out birthday balloons, and did a conga-line/junkanoo version of Happy Birthday that I sincerely wish I had filmed. But on the other hand, some things are better left undocumented.

The next day was our departure back to the hustle and bustle of the big city scene in Providenciales. You're laughing at me, aren't you. I knew it.   No sympathy in this crowd.  I bet you think tropical life is easy.  Hah.

Anyhow, on the way out we stopped to read the sign about the pine tree that gave Pine Cay its name. I thought you would like to see the creole translations on the right, for the Haitians among us.

We had had some email exchanges with the (then) new dog trainer and security officer on Pine Cay a couple of years ago. He ran across this blog while researching the Turks and Caicos, and wrote us with some questions. He also alerted us to some software problems with the blog he found. So on this trip, we finally got to meet John Patrick in person. I told him we'd put his photo on the blog.

I also have to get one of those t-shirts. On the back it says "Pirates of Pine Cay".

I said I wasn't going to put any boat photos on this post but I wanted to show you the boat that the Meridian Club normally uses to transport people and luggage back and forth to Provo. The "Miss Meridian II" is way ahead of the old "Miss Meridian" that we were accustomed to back when we first moved here. And with 500 horsepower on the back, it's a fun ride.

And that's' pretty much it for a too-short, long weekend. If you want more info on Pine Cay, and the Meridian Club, there are click-able links in the right column way back up near the top of this blog. There are also links to some of the other vacation resorts here in the TCI, if you think you might want to check them out.

So I'll close this post with a photo of a Pine Cay sunset from the upstairs bar. All in all, a pretty nice place to be, unless you need bright lights and a shopping mall to be happy.