Saturday, July 20, 2013

This and That and a Couple of Those

We've been out  flying kites from a kayak. I've been wanting to try this for years. From way back before we started hanging cameras from  kites.  I've wondered about using big kites for back-up emergency propulsion on small boats. I'm sure I must have mentioned it on this blog over the years.   Probably more than once. In an uncharacteristically altruistic gesture, I'll spare you any further details of my thoughts along those lines. This time.

We're planning to use the kite to get some new images looking down on the little cays and rocks  scattered among these islands.   We had a "low" wind day and decided to try it with the Hobie Tandem Island, first. We sailed the boat up to a nice little picnic spot in the Dick Penn Cays.
 We already knew that trying to handle the kite with the mast up would be problematic.   So we took the mast and sail down. This is the only photo I have of the Hobie with the mast down and lashed to the hull.  I had just fired up the GoPro camera after launching the kite.

With the boat still tied off to the nearest Mangrove bush and me standing on the little Cay, it was easy to imagine how well this was going to go.  Note the word imagine. We did manage to get a few decent photos of the rock we were standing on at the time.

And once again we were able to get more information from the aerial view than we have had in 8 years of sailing this Little Five Cays area.  We could see that these cays are all part of a limestone ridge that runs along this side of the island.

In this next photo, we've jumped over a few dozen taken after we climbed into the kayak and pedaled our way up between the last rock and the main island.  For the first time, we're seeing the remnants of the ancient shoreline that once existed here.   See the little yellow boat in the bottom right?  That's us.

The detail we get from this perspective sure makes short work of determining what the tops of these little cays look like.  This is also very useful information from a boating standpoint.  You can see how very shallow the water gets on the lee side.

I'm not going to go into tedious detail about our experiences handling the kite from the kayak.  I won't document every zig and zag and expletive or facsimile thereof.  I will say that it was impossible to work our way downwind for very long at a time. The moment we turned in that direction the relative wind at the kite dropped, and so did the kite. We tried working our way back and forth across the wind, but had basically the same results. Any downwind movement of the boat and the camera started toward the water.  It went underwater at one point while we were retrieving it. This made me take a good hard look at my camera rig design. If it weighed half as much, perhaps we could have made this work. We had to maintain position to fly the kite, and the only way we could move and keep it flying was into the wind.  So we found ourselves slowly pedaling the kayak further into the wind, and further offshore. Finally we realized that this approach was not going to work for us. We needed to be able to skirt the shoreline to get the images we wanted. We needed more control. We couldn't just keep working to windward.  The next land in that direction was Middle Caicos, about twenty three miles upwind.   And it's not the part of Middle Caicos we want to visit.

It might have worked better if we had stronger winds to work with.  If we started out in 15 knots, we could let the kite pull us up to 4 or 5 knots, and still have 10 knots of relative wind at the kite.  I suspect the force from the kite is not directly proportional to wind speed, so 4 knots is probably optimistic. This does bear further experimentation. We have not given up on the idea.  But the downside of this is that when we have 20 knots of wind, the shallows near the beaches get stirred up, and the visibility looking down into the water isn't so good .  We'll just have to get back out there on another sunny, windier day and try again. It's a brutal little hobby, but it sure beats some of my previous ones. Another day on the water sailing with kites and cameras?   Please don't throw me into that brier patch.

This is after the camera 'splashdown' when we pulled everything back on board and headed back over to the Little Five Cays to put our mast and sail back up. This was primarily a sailing trip, after all.  That ridge looks completely different from water level, doesn't it?   These low level aerials have really piqued my interest.  Now, I want to see everything from a bird's eye view.

After this somewhat exasperating experience I'm thinking that what we need here is the skiff, and not the kayak.  We need to be able to control the boat and the relative wind.  The skiff can race downwind faster than the breeze, or hold position into the wind creeping forward, or drop the anchor and hold the boat and kite stationary.  I can stand up to handle the kite.   It was surprising how difficult that was while seated flat and unable to turn around. This kind of control just isn't there when trying to pedal and steer the kayak. We're still learning. 

This little kayak/kite adventure was the only chance we had in the last week to get out on the water. That doesn't mean that we don't constantly get to see other boats out on the water.   We get a lot of information  from  the marine VHF radio  and watching the boat traffic in and out of the Caicos Marina and Shipyard. For example, when we hear several large outboards suddenly ramp up to top RPM, we might look up and see one of the Marine Police boats flying out onto the Caicos Bank.

They almost always turn westward and then over toward some matter needing the attention of the Marine Police. Quite often in the South Dock area.

We're not bird watchers in the way that I tend to think of bird watchers. Not really. Not the hard core type who carry binoculars and a notebook with them every where they go. But we do like to observe the birds this time of year.  The end of nesting season,  I suppose.  Which means there are a lot of rookie pilots fluttering around out there. We noticed that this bold little American Kestrel didn't seem too worried about me stopping and pointing a camera at her from about 20 ft. away.

And I try to remember that having a raptor so accustomed to us that she no longer flies away when we walk by was once a novelty.  And might be of some interest to people living in a city who would probably never see such a bird in their yard.  This is the smallest falcon in the Americas.

Sometimes we'll see something unusual happening out on the water, and try to guess the story line.   For example one day last week La Gringa was out snapping photos and saw that one of the fishing boats was leaving the marina.

Then she noticed a small boat with three people in it as they came flying out of the marina in pursuit of the fishing boat.  We wondered what was going on with that.

Until we saw one of the three climb from the small boat onto the larger one.  I speculate that someone had literally 'missed the boat', and was able to just barely get back on board.   Some commutes are more interesting than others.

We watched the buddies that had gotten him to his boat waving to him as the captain of the larger boat continued on his way.  I realize you probably can't see the details of this little micro drama in these photos.   The boats were just too far away for good images.

I see that I have rambled on for a while now about boats, and birds. How about a photo of birds on boats for a change?

We were at a restaurant, Sailing Paradise, over in the Blue Hills/Wheeland area of Providenciales when we saw those two. The pelican would fly off and dive on a school of small fish, and the Laughing Gull would stay with him the whole time.  I think the gull was scavenging the fish that the pelican was dropping when he scooped up a mouthful.   Taking advantage of the bigger bird's sloppy eating habits. The pelican didn't seem to mind.  I guess he enjoyed the company.  Or maybe it's just the Laughing Gull's reported sense of humor.

I really don't have any story to go with this next photo.  It was while we were at Sailing Paradise when La Gringa spotted potcakes of a different color relaxing in the shade of a table.  She was convinced that this was three generations of potcake.  We don't normally see black ones, but obviously there was some Labrador Retriever involved in the gene pool here.   It was a hot summer day, and I could imagine how cool that limestone must have felt to an overheated dog.  It almost made me want to plop my own bare belly down for a good afternoon snooze in the shade.  Almost. All the good spots were already taken.

But I have other ways to cool off.  Some of them actually accomplish something useful in the process.   Fighting corrosion, for example.   This is an array of four fan-shaped pressure washer nozzles arranged on an inverted 'water broom' type manifold.  Hooking this up to a 4,000 psi pressure washer gives me a way to knock a lot of salty mud off the bottoms of things.

We've had some emails asking what we're doing to try to protect this latest  victim, er, automobile from the corrosion issues that destroy everything that we drive out here.  In addition to picking a vehicle with a good corrosion resistant reputation, we had it thoroughly undercoated by the local Chevy dealer, Butterfield Motors. We didn't buy the KIA from them, but had them apply a hard, two-part protective coat recommended by Randy over at TCI Paint and Supply.  Those guys stock some good stuff.  I did a fair bit of internet research over the different types of undercoating available and finally settled on the hardest stuff I could find applied to a new, unrusted frame.  

I use this presssure washer arrangement to blast upward under the vehicle in an overlapping spray pattern.  It only takes a few minutes to run it back and forth under the little SUV.   I don't know if you can see it in this photo, but the water spraying out from behind that rear bumper is loaded with dirt.  And salt.

It would be a lot easier on a paved driveway.  I'm thinking of putting bigger wheels on it in the meantime. Offroad tires. On the pressure wand, I mean.  Not the car.

We were somewhat saddened earlier this month when our favorite bartender told us that he was leaving the Turks and Caicos Islands. We got a last photo of us with  our friend Senor Jose' Manuel Gomez Peralta before he returned to his home and family in Puerto Plata in the Dominican Republic.  

We'll miss our informal Thursday night Spanish lessons. But trying to look on the bright side,  we now have a great excuse to sail Twisted Sheets down to the D.R. There's a fairly fancy new marina in Puerto Plata called Ocean World, and Jose' says his home is just a few blocks away.   Nice to have local friends who know their way around these places.  We're hoping to get Jose' to show us around, one of these days.  If he doesn't mind hanging out with Gringos.

I'm also doing some re-wiring on the skiff, and we hope to get that out onto the water with the kite and camera the next day we have both time and weather coordinated in our favor. In the meantime, we'll continue to observe life in the suburbs of Providenciales.  The mundane, day to day world where the garbage truck sometimes fails to make it up the hill. And La Gringa catches a photo of the crew relaxing in the shade.  Actually, sleeping in the shade. I guess a little clean dirt on the old t-shirt isn't that big a deal considering the other stuff they deal with all day. We wondered who they were waiting for. We figured that they'd be calling a mechanic who would show up with a pickup truck full of parts and tools.   Or perhaps a tow truck large enough to pull one of these things loaded with trash.

Nope.  They sent another garbage truck. Obviously, however, they had the parts and expertise needed to get both trucks moving again. I probably forgot to mention that these were sitting upwind of us during this little local micro drama.   

Not that anybody around here actually noticed all that delicious smelling garbage.

I was all ready to upload this post and just needed for La Gringa to go through it and take out a few hundred of the extra commas I always seem to strew liberally throughout whatever I write.  We were discussing the differences in getting a short post out every week on whatever we have,  as opposed to waiting until we actually  have something interesting.  And she made an observation.   She says that the DIY stuff seems to have fallen by the blogging wayside. And looking back at the last few posts I can see that she's right, as she annoyingly often seems to  be. So even though it's going to delay getting this uploaded I thought I'd better throw some DIY stuff in here.

One of the things about the kite-based aerials  is that you have to make most of your own equipment.  I love this stuff. I get to tinker with little bits of metal and strings and to look for new ways to do things. In  building our first pendulum style  camera rig I just looked up what other people had been  posting on the internet. I used bits and pieces of stuff I already had on hand. I found myself  modifying and adding as the perceived needs arose. This is what the first pendulum rig evolved to before I decided to start over with what we'd learned building this one.

I used PVC tubing for the main part because it was handy.   The camera mount is made from pieces of the  aluminum HD television satellite dish that was sacrificed to the spirits of the wind. The thing through the top of the black piece of  fuel line is a stainless bicycle spoke. The folding wind vane was made out of a piece of broken fishing pole I'd saved for years despite spates of criticism and ridicule. There's a clear plastic tail vane cut from some bubble pack packaging.   That clear plastic stuff is pretty tough.  There's a lot of recycling going on here since it's all scraps and pieces that were originally intended for something  else. Something specifically other than kite aerial photography, that's for sure.

This thing attaches to a kite line by wrapping the line several times around the bent bicycle spoke.  The flexible fuel line lets the rig hang vertically as the angle of the string changes.

You can see that the wind vane setup got a little complicated.   I got carried away with the sheer joy of excessive mechanical complexity. I wanted to be able to swivel it upwards for transportation and storage.  I also wanted to be able to set it at different angles to control the field of view.  The entire pan and tilt bracket swivels around and I can pin it to one of five different holes.  This lets me control which general direction the camera is pointing, because the vane is always going to be trailing down wind.  And the experiments using   wind to stabilize the camera went very well.   Our early attempts at Pine Cay  didn't have this, and the camera was swinging all over the sky.

You can also see that this mount has a rudimentary tilt mechanism built in.  I drilled several holes in  this so that I can attach different cameras to it.   And it's worked fairly well.  You've seen some of the results.

But, it got more complicated, and heavier. There comes a time when you look at a contraption like this and say "wait a minute.  What was I originally trying to do here?"  And it becomes time to stop and redefine the mission.  So now we've learned what works, and what doesn't, and things have changed and we're now ready to try out our second prototype.

I think the best approach to this is  standardize on small POV ( Point of View) cameras like the GoPro.  For now.   This lets  me get rid of the ability to mount several different types of cameras.  I can move back toward simplicity and light weight. I also discovered that the tapered carbon fiber fishing pole piece I used for the first wind vane was lighter and stronger than PVC, with tapered for less wind resistance.  So I went with carbon fiber fishing pole all the way for the next one.  Here are the first and second prototypes side by side for comparison:

I eliminated the pan and tilt and wind stabilized mount that had six pieces of aluminum, four pop rivets, four heavy little sets of nuts and bolts, and a separate pin for the wind vane. The new one  has two pieces of aluminum, and a little wire pin (yep, bicycle spoke) that secures the mount in the carbon tube andt doubles as a place to tie a safety line from the camera.  I cut out a lot of hardware, and the new version weighs about a third as much as the old one.  Weight is important with wind borne things. Sailboats, airplanes, or kite rigs.  Managing mass matters.

The second generation is the one on the left.   They both have their wind vanes folded upward. The vane did such a good job keeping the camera oriented in one direction that I think  I can get rid of the bicycle spoke,  fuel line, and associated hardware at the top of the first proto. That bike spoke was meant to keep the rig aligned with the kite string, which is pretty much aligned with the wind.   The vane does a better job, right at the camera, and seems to help a little in isolating the string motion.  This is helpful when the string is bouncing all over the sky.  Needs testing.

With the new one, I can take a ring of some kind and put a Larks Head hitch around it.  Then I  snap the fishing swivel onto the ring. This is a lot faster than winding line around the bent bike spoke. Makes  the camera more secure, too. The wire fishing tackle swivel  secures the Lark's Head on the ring, and lets the rig  rotate with any torque forces. I put a little more effort into keeppng the top part lighter, and to concentrate the  bulk of the weight at the lower end. You know, the old bit about mass and inertia, a body at rest and all that old high school physics stuff. Who woulda thunk I'd ever actually USE any of that?

The little wind vane arrow swings down into position into a short section of   channel.  I was turning it away from the wind while it was hanging here in the garage door, and the moment I let it go it swings instantly back to the same spot. I can position the camera throughout the hemisphere of its viewing angles by just using the standard GoPro mounting hardware.

Dooley is accustomed to  me tinkering around with stuff, screaming my own rough equivalent of "Eureka!"  and then heading out for some testing.  He doesn't much like being tied up, though. He says I treat him like a dog sometimes. In that photo, he was ready to be done with the tinkering and off for the testing.

Oh, one other thing that's  been on my bench for this project is a thing to let me walk the kite line down easily. This is the fastest way to access the camera.  La  Gringa holds the winding bobbin end, and I just hang onto the kite string and walk all the way to the end.  It pulls the rig down quickly.   But it's got its pitfalls, especially on windy days. The string burns are really painful. And it will even cut through a glove eventually from the friction. So I made a little hand pulley from some other scraps.  I have a lot of scraps in my life lately.

The wheel was cut with a rotary hole saw from a piece of driftwood Starboard that we salvaged over on West Caicos. I used a drill press as a lathe in order to get the groove. That plastic is really slippery stuff.  I plan to use some for drawer slides on the sailboat.  The axles were cut from an aluminum pole spear  that won't even notice being a few inches shorter.   Those two stops in the handle keep it from falling out, and also provide just enough clearance to slide it to the side far enough to slip it over the kite string.    Did you notice that all of this kite stuff is made from non-rusting aluminum, stainless steel, and synthetics? We're learning.

There's a lot more of this kind of stuff going on,  I just don't bother to take photos of it all anymore.  It's going on almost every day. And I think this is enough for one post so I'll stop with this for now.  We have plans to go over to Middle Caicos tomorrow, and of course I'm taking one of the kites along.  Hopefully we should have some nice new photos from a different perspective to show you shortly.

Every sunrise comes packed full of new possibilities.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Loose Stuff of Absolutely No Consequence Whatsoever

We have a functioning tow hitch again. Whew.  This is very important to us. We've  attached that magic tow hitch to an automobile and started pulling the Hobie Tandem Island around to various boat ramps. Last weekend we sailed from Leeward to the Pine Cay marina and back. I think the new hitch has come just in the nick of time. This blog is way overdue for some fresh material. We're hoping that adding the kites to the boats for a bunch of new aerial photos will do the trick.  The recent weather pattern here has been seasonally typical for the beginning of the rainy season. It has been what I would call photoantagonistic.    The calm days are unphotogenically overcast and the  clear and cloudless days are clear and cloudless because a stinging wind blew all the moisture over to smash up against the hapless hills of Haiti.  We've been having a tough time getting the weather and the weekends aligned.  Check this out.  A sunrise that actually got darker as it progressed:

That's not a reversed video, it really happened like that and yes, that meant rain and clouds were on the way.   For a change, I think I'll post up a hodge podge of images without a coherent theme.  So Incoherent will do as the operative adjective here.

I installed the new hitch and this is how it looks while pushing the car and pulling the kayak along behind it.

We didn't specifically decide to downsize this setup. It wasn't a  part of any plan.  It does seem to have been a side effect. We've stayed within the same definition of a little AWD and a boat small enough to trailer.  But we've gone from three hundred  horsepower to one jackass, along with La Gringa and a funny looking little dog.  And Dooley contributes to boat propulsion efforts about as much as a wet bag of jumping beans. Let's just say his vectors are omnidirectional and nonlinear. Is a dog still considered dead weight for those moments  that he's momentarily lost contact with the boat? Anyhow, if you compare that photo above, taken last week, with this one from three years ago, I think some of the differences will be obvious.  We've gone from twelve tires to seven, counting the spares.  That's got to have positively affected our carbon tireprint.

We have many fond memories of using that Land Rover to move the Contender around - and not all of  them heart-stopping or dry-mouthed. But it's time for us to move on. We've found good homes for the Defender 90 and the Contender 25.  

And speaking of that beautiful Contender, you might remember that the previous owner wanted to see photos of it cruising around the clear blue water down here.  Well, we can literally hear that 300 HP a mile away, so we know when it's leaving the marina.  It's getting quite a workout  during its third life. We recently spotted it towing a disabled sailboat back into the Caicos Marina and Shipyard. It's often out happily  fishing and family cruising on weekends, and now it's even earning its keep as a local "Sea Tow" equivalent.

The white caps in that photo should give you an idea of our typical weather lately, too.  Those  long deep V hulled boats can handle it just fine, but  our little 18 footers would be getting bounced around pretty well.  We could do it, but we wouldn't enjoy it much.

Thinking about it, I just realized that our previous boats here are all still out there running and making their owners happy.  

I mentioned that we had sailed the kayak over to Pine Cay last week.  This is the first time we've taken it up as far as the marina there. That's about a 13.4 nautical mile round trip, measuring straight line distances. Our GPS says we sailed 21.4 nm. We had to zig zag a lot to get east in the narrow places with the  wind and current against us. 8 miles of zig zagging.  But we did over 8 knots sailing back. I thought I'd better post a photo to prove we were there.  I want to document this in case we ever get into a discussion of who sailed the first Hobie Tandem Island kayak into the Pine Cay marina.  You know these kinds of things sometimes come up after sundown when sailors are standing around bars in places like the Meridian Club, or the South Side Marina, right?  Documentation can be worth a round of drinks.  Sorry for the water spots.  It was a fairly wet trip.  

We took a break while at Pine Cay. The GPS says for 53 minutes. We needed a break. We were ready to get out of the sun for a while. I know that La Gringa would agree that I was  at least half baked. We'd stopped at the Graceway IGA  on the way to the Leeward marina boat ramp and picked up a couple of store-bought sandwiches for lunch. Once on 'the Cay', we wandered up the path to a bench in the shade of a native tree, and ate a leisurely lunch on the cool sand. Very relaxing.

La Gringa mentioned that I anthropomorphize Dooley a bit too much, but she hasn't been dogging me about it.

So, we're finally getting back to sailing. And we've got some pretty substantial sailing plans going forward.  Much more than just the Hobie between  the islands here in the Turks and Caicos. We're within a week or so of re-launching Twisted Sheets, too.  Oh yeah.

We've also continued to work on our aerial photo capabilities.  I know it looks simple... 'just strap a camera to a kite'.  Easy, right?   That's what I thought, too.  Well, go try it.  And then go try it in a place where the wind blows 15 knots most of the time.  Still, it's been fun so far. We've started adding to our collection of  'bird's eye view' images from around the Turks and Caicos.  And we've  added another camera to the mix.   Right away, the differences between a conventional point-and-shoot and the wide angle of the GoPro are apparent. I'll show you a couple of examples of what we're seeing, and some of the tradeoffs.

This photo was taken with a little point-and-shoot waterproof Pentax.  This is the Caicos Marina and Boatyard.  Notice, the resolution is better than our earlier aerials, and there's no fisheye distortion.  That's what we thought we wanted.   I remember telling you that very same thing. I may be changing my mind back in favor of the GoPro though. We still have some experimentation to do.

After taking a few hundred photos with the Pentax we pulled the kite down and strapped the GoPro to it. This next image is from basically the same position as  in the above photo.  It was the same day, same conditions, with the same amount of string out.  Its very hard to get a kite back up into the same position, but we got it as close as we could at the time. By eyeball. I labeled the position of our catamaran in the boatyard for those of you who wonder about such things.

See what I'm talking about here with the cameras? That wide angle fisheye lens gets a lot more information than the narrower field of view of the better camera. This narrow field of view becomes a bit of an issue when trying to get a specific photo. Control of the camera position is almost impossible without getting involved with pan and tilt, batteries, transmitters, etc.  All the complications that I am trying to avoid. What works fine in a ball field in the USA on a calm morning just doesn't cut it in this environment.  We had about 18  knots of wind on that day.  A "standard" KAP setup, with pan and tilt and video telemetry would have been shaken like a rat in Dooley's favorite doggy dream. We've come home from some of these photo trips with bruises from kite flogging.  And the kite wasn't the one getting flogged.  I don't think complicated arrangements of strings and pulleys and batteries and fragile assemblies is the answer here.

As another example, here's a cropped GoPro 5mp photo showing "Sea Weed" and "Sweet Charlotte" beached there in the little scooped out area.  I've been consistently complaining about the resolution of these little cameras for some time now.   Maybe I've been unfair.  That looks pretty crisp to me.

 Because this is the same area, cropped about the same, from an image taken with the 16 mega pixel Pentax. 

I'm not seeing it as being that much better.   They obviously handle the white balance differently, but I think that's adjustable. And the GoPro is a whole lot easier to use.     Oh, if  you were wondering what I meant by "Sea Weed" and "Sweet Charlotte", that's the name of the old landing craft  and the fishing boat in the foreground there.  Or here's a close up from ground level:

And this one shows a little more of "Sweet Charlotte":

We're pretty determined to have this KAP thing figured out  before we take off sailing on Twisted Sheets, so I think we'll continue to experiment. The photos we posted a few weeks back of the South Side Marina from the air got some positive attention from other people interested in that area. We ran into Marta and Barry from the Harbour Club Villas a few nights ago.   We were all at the Tiki Hut over at Turtle Cove. They are interested in more images of their half of the marina. We've promised to put the new camera up at the next opportunity.  The wind coming over that hill to their east makes launching the kite pretty tricky. I need wind for the kite to work, to a point.  I'm just not into flagellation.  I think the answer here is to get the kite up in the air somewhere  in clean air  downwind, then walk it over to where we want it. Another lesson.

This is one of the best images we have so far of the Harbour Club Villa end of the marina. It is somewhat of an unintentional shot, as we were really trying to get South Side at the time. We can do better if we plan it out right. I'm starting to consider adding a better quality GoPro to the mix.  Their next level up is 11 mega pixels. Two levels up is 12 mp, and a sharper lens. This kite hobby is starting to get expensive.

I'm going to stop before I get off onto another of my aerial photo rants. It's still the passion-du-jour, but it's not all we've been up to. We've been out driving around the island quite a bit, and almost always take a camera along. The operator's manual for the new car wants us to log 3000 km before towing anything with it. We don't think the little kayak counts as towing, really, since it's only about 300 lbs trailer and all. But we want  to be able to haul the skiff and it's right at the 2,000 lb. limit of the car.  Theoretically.  Maybe I should say 'published limit' of the car.   And it's not easy to quickly build up 1200 miles of driving on a small island.

We were out aimlessly racking up some mileage a few days back and got these images late in the day.  This one is of the unofficial but much used boat ramp at Heaving Down Rock in Leeward.  In a rare quiet moment.

We also were cruising by Chalk Sound and stopped long enough to snap a few photos.  There are a couple of hand built Caicos Sloops anchored there.

I don't know exactly why I took this next one.  We were zipping along on one of the back roads of Providenciales testing the AWD function and independent suspension setup of the KIA when we saw this project sitting in someone's yard. Something about this car made me smile. I am very familiar with  the concept of a car "sitting up on blocks". But this one is sitting up on rocks. Would you crawl under that and start removing parts with a large wrench? You know, one of those long ratchets that shake the whole car with leverage when you brace your feet and yank on it with both hands?  How about in a high wind?

Well, I guess I'm not quite done with the aerials just yet in this post.   I  was looking through the photos of the last week or so, and found some more I want to show you.  Last Sunday we took one of the kites for a walk along the beach at Leeward, starting up at the very tip of the island at the entrance to Leeward channel. We were experimenting with the new camera again, and it's a good excuse to go to the beach, anyway.  This is looking back across Leeward-Going-Through at Little Water Cay. Which some people refer to as "Iguana Island".

Someone has outlined a large heart shape on the beach near here with shells.  I'm guessing they wanted to be able to spot it from the window of the airplane taking them home.  Or perhaps it was a message to someone on that airplane from someone still on the ground here.  But of course that's pure speculation on my part.

 Or maybe it was just a family of  Peruvians on holiday and homesick for Nazca. Stranger things have happened. Both here and certainly in Nazca.

I'm continuously  impressed by the information the bird's eye view gives us.  We've walked by this pile of rocks on the beach a dozen times.  We even took a few photos of this area from some years back. We'd noticed the loose jumble of rocks on the beach .  You have to pick your way through or around them. We didn't really think much about it.   Then, with the aerials, we see that same scene from a couple hundred feet up.  And I think it tells a little more of the story.

I think that the contractor who built that rock groin on the left dumped a big pile of material there on the right.  It sure looks to me like the scattered rocks on the beach itself were dropped while moving rocks from one pile to another.   Does that make sense?  I never would have realized that without the aerial.  Not that it makes a bit of difference in anything in our lives.  Other than the desire to know things.

This is just a photo of a nice arrangement of beach chairs.  No other reason to post it.

Okay, two more aerials and then I'll stop. I was looking through the several hundred that we took in a three hour stroll down the beach, and this one caught my eye.  Again, it shows so much more that we would ever see standing on the beach.

We knew that the field of view was going to be a limiting factor with this camera after looking at the Boatyard images.  I thought that perhaps one way to improve things would be to just get the camera up higher.  So I let out another long bit of string to see if that helped.  And it did, to some extent.   We can see a lot more real estate with the camera higher.

Of course with greater distance we lose some of the advantage of the higher resolution.   The GoPro would have captured the entire neighborhood from this height.   Perhaps the answer is to put both cameras up at the same time.   I'll be thinking about that as I redesign the mount this week.  I'm trying a new approach. I'm going to try using the wind to stabilize and orient the camera by putting a vane on it.

Okay, this is getting to be too long to be called a short post.  I'll finish it up shortly after posting a joke photo.  What are these two guys watching so intently?

The unusual sight of La Gringa inspecting an internal combustion engine!! She knows how to check the oil and the belt and other related airborne gadgets that make that propeller spin.   It amazes me, actually.  I never thought that I'd see the day when she'd be the one opening up the cowling on an airplane.  But she does.

This is part of the pre-flight inspection she has to do before firing up that little Piper. I'm wondering how she might feel about taking up the time honored occupation of shade-tree mechanics and four wheel drive repairs. I think she's got the makings of a true grease monkey.

 But I'm not going to be the one to suggest that. Nossir. I didn't get to be this old by being that stupid.

And just as we get the tow hitch sorted out, the wheel bearings replaced, the outboard running again, the kite setup ready to test offshore,  a momentarily good forecast for the upcoming weekend.. we wake up to news like this:

Oh yeah.  It's that season, again.  Tropical Storm Chantal, aiming  for our general vicinity.   It's starting to seem like we get these things coming through here just about this time every year.  I'm starting to detect a pattern.  We should be gone by now, headed either far to the north, or far to the south.  Either one would work.  Come back in October.  That seems to be what a lot of the sensible people do.  I guess we don't qualify for that designation.    Not just yet, anyhow.

Got another time lapse of another sunset.  You can see the lights of Provo coming on in the distance.  And one of the neighbors driving home in the dark. Sounds like he hit a rock....  I'm having fun with this stuff.  Sure hope you are, too.