Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Sunset Cabana

I went to the Sunset Cabana tonight to wish Gavin and Justin goodbye. I hope my blogs make Grand Turk seem like a paradise of fun, which certainly is my intention. But I also have tried to share how hard it is to live here.

This afternoon I received a text message from Gavin. He and Louise have split up, and he is leaving on a plane tomorrow to go back to London. Thats how it happens. Just like that. Everything is great. Then you are gone.

You probably don't know Gavin, but he has been behind organizing the free Flowrider events. He has been around. But this is a quick life change.

Grand Turk is a microcosm of life. It is also an incubator of reality. The presure of the small island strips the release valve of abundance that keeps things on an even keel in the US. This pressure brings the reality of relationships, selfishness, trust, and value to the surface.

It is an incubator of truth. Within that incubator, some rise to find themselves. Some find love. Some find happiness. Others do not. But if it is unhappiness that you find, don't blame Grand Turk. It is not Grand Turk that makes you unhappy. You were already unhappy. It is just that all the stuff that abundance brings you masks the reality of who you are and what you feel.

Here, your path crosses with a cross section of those who are in between life or looking for adventure. Some have found this life suits them and have stayed for years and years. Justin has been here since August 15. He has done his year and is moving on. Of all the people I have seen come and go, I will miss Justin. What do you do with people who come and go through your life. Do you drink with them? Do you pray with them? In one way it is he right of passage to be here and be gone. But in another way you are spending the last night with someone whose world is crashing around them and who you will never see again.

On Thursday I leave to go back to the states and get my family. By the next time I write a blog I will have been here for a year. We will see what time will tell.

I finished the kitchen this week. It is the nicest kitchen money could bye in 1974.

I have one more day to get the house cleaned. I don't know if it will happen.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

The Iron Duke and the Harold

Deneen, Martin, and Lucas,

Justin and I kayaked out and snorkeled on the Harold today. This is his last week on the island. He is heading back to the states.

The Harold is the shipwreck we can see from our beach. We took Ben and Caroline's kayak and left from their house. It took about 20 minutes to reach the edge of the reef where the wreck is. The ocean looked like glass and the first half of the trip was fine. When we moved past the lee of the island, however, the wind picked up and it was surprisingly rough.

The Harold sits on top of the reef in about 4 to 6 feet of water. The bow of the ship is clearly visible where it jambed into the reef. This is the large piece we see sticking out of the water. Evidently the ship folded in half during the wreck, or thereafter. The stern is in front of the bow and has a single propeller of about 6 fix in length. The reef is littered with debris from the ship breaking apart.

I told you that when I talked about snorkeling here people told me they always see sharks. This was no lie. Twice a large nurse shark came from behind and swam underneath me while I was snorkeling. They come fast and silently. I had no idea it was even in the area until I saw it swimming away. They look magnificent swimming effortlessly through the water. It was super cool. Justin saw two additional nurse sharks and a reef shark.

We swam the reef from 2:30 to 4:45. I found another wreck somewhat in front of the Harold. This wreck included two propeller shafts attached to diesel engines. It appears to have been a wooden hulled vessel, because all that is left is the engines, shafts, propellers, and a bunch of tie pins.

When we came up out of the water the wind had picked up and the waves started getting strong again. We paddled in safely with no problems, but it was getting freaky. The Harold was a fantastic site, but the conditions change too quickly.

Tonight I attended a reception on the Iron Duke, a type 23 frigate that is docked at the cruise port. I took Justin as my guest. It was very nice and well attended. I spoke to Mr. Lewis (high school principal) and told him you were excited about returning to school.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Dave Has Left the Building

This has been a pretty good week. Dave Horn was my first true visitor. He had come to Grand Turk for one day on a cruise on October 23. Things worked out for him to come stay for the last 6 days.

Dave and I have been great friends for 25 years. That seems hard to believe, but true. We would have had a good time just hanging out and talking and watching the Olympics. But this morning we talked about how fast the week has gone. Dave was trying to remember all we had done. I will break it down.

In the last six days Dave spent 11 1/2 hours swimming or paddling in the water. He had fresh fish (caught in the last three to five hours) three evenings: grilled grouper, broiled grouper, fried chub, and snapper rissoto. He had dinner at Big Daddies at White Sands, ate BBQ ribs and fresh caught grilled lobster at the Ospey, al fresco dinner at Chineese Joan's, and cokes at the SandBar. He heard two local bands. He had meals with a diver named Eric, Justin, David and Katja, Alessio and Jackie, Joan, and tangigally with Monica, Donna, and Mario, and Chris and the SandBar gang. He kayaked with the Governor and swam with the stingrays. The back of his neck and the top of his head are about as tan as my feet. None of this includes the day and a half he installed AV equipment at the museum. I told him this morning that this week was about a month of activities for me.

Tomorrow I head back to work alone. I am probably going to miss my two BioRock dives because I have to take the Children's Club on a tour of the Royal Navy ship that docks in the morning, in the afternoon I have to complete a snorkel survey of the Harlod wreck site, and I have to attend a Governor's reception in the evening.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Not Doing Enough, Are You Crazy

Before last evening, I thought maybe Dave was not having enough fun or adventure during his week here. That changed yesterday.

On Tuesday night I called my friend Justin to ask if there was any way he would open the kayak excursion for Dave and I. He said that he was going to take Ben from the Governor's office and a few of Ben's friends on a kayak trip on Wednesday at 5:00pm. I asked if Dave and I could tag along.

So Wednesday evening Dave and I kayaked up South Creek with Ben's friends, who also happened to be the new Governor, the Governor's family, and all of the staff from the Governor's office.

We kayaked up the creek. We kayaked down the canal. We kayaked through the South Creek pond. We finished up at 7:30, took quick showers, and hustled off to Chinese Joan's for dinner at 8:00.

August 20 was my 20 year wedding anniversary. Deneen is 2000 miles away, so for our anniversary I had dinner with Dave and Justin. Just as we sat down David and Katja showed up so we had them sit with us as well. Dinner is always the entire evening on Grand Turk. Tonight was no exception. We finished sometime around 11:00.

This afternoon, we met up with Justin again. He invited us to Kayak over to Gibbs Cay to swim with the stingrays. So for this adventure, at 3:00pm four of us kayaked approximately 2 miles over the bank to the outlying island of Gibbs Cay. After traversing the waves and wind for 40 minutes, we banked the kayaks just as an excursion of 30 people arrived to the cay from the cruise ship that was in today.

Justin had brought $5 worth of conch to feed the stingrays. For lunch I showed Dave how to eat raw conch sashimi style; wash it in the ocean, bite off the head, eat it down to the claw, spit out the skin.

We left the beach and walked around the back side of the Cay. We snorkeled off the south end for a while. After the excursion people began to load back onto their boat, we snorkeled with the stingrays.

I have seen a stingray three different times snorkeling here. They have all been fairly small, abou tone foot in diameter. I though this is what we would find,a bunch of small stingrays. Instead, we were surrounded by a half dozen four to five foot wide stingrays wanting food and attention. The stingrays swim right up to you in a way that is at first freaky and off putting. With all the stories we have heard in the US in the last couple of years stingrays don't seem to be docile creatures. You can not help thinking about this as they whip their tales around your legs asking for food. They look menacing and quite frankly scary, but 100 people a day have been swimming withthe stingrays for a few years now, so when in Roam...

A stingray is a blubbery, slimy, ugly creature. They feel like a rotten peach. A rotten six foot peach with two beady eyes set close together and a whip-like tail with a small barb on the end. Four stingrays continued to swim at us from all directions for several minutes. This was very cool.

After this, we paddled further out to Round Cay, where Dave took some pictures and I snorkeled around the outlying reefs. At 6:00 we headed back in towards Grand Turk, fighting a current that was stronger than I expected. I thought we would be going with he wind so the trip would be easier. This was not so. The current kept pulling the kayak to the north. After a few minutes we figured out how to compensate for this and were more or less able to steer a straight course. After 45 minutes we arrived back at South Creek.

Tonight we ate dinner with Alessio and Jackie. We had a wonderful meal of rissoto with snapper and a main dish of pheasant. We spent the evening talking US politics. For the most part I think Dave had to bite his lips. We have just arrived back home. It is midnight.

I think we will go to breakfast in the morning at the Turks Head. This is one of the last places I wanted Dave to see. Then at noon he will leave. It has been a good visit.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Dave's Day Two

Dave had to pay his rent today. We spent the entire day installing a ceiling mounted LCD projector in the museum classroom. This turned out great.

Dave wanted to have one evening where we bought and cooked fresh fish, so we stopped at the fish market this afternoon and bought $20 worth of Grouper. This was Grouper for about 6 people. We grilled it, broiled it, and tried to fry it but I did not have any flour in the house at all. We have been eating Grouper for the last two hours. I also grabbed a conch out of the ocean and made a small fresh conch salad which was fantastic.

Now we are too full to move. But we get to talk about politics so it all works.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Adventure Swim

Dave Horn arrived last night. He has come to spend the week with me while Deneen and the boys are away. I did not want his first day to be all cleaning the house, so after attending church we went up to the light house to check out the beaches there. The light house is at the northern tip of Grand Turk. Deneen would refer to this area as having "unsafe conditions." I call it adventure swimming.

Anyway, I thought I should let Dave tell the story since it is his first day.

Here is Dave's blog:

"See that point? Just on the other side is a really cool beach. That's where we're going." That's not so far, I thought. I figured that once we trudged through the water to the beach that we'd spend an hour or so snorkeling, lie around on the beach, and come back. I should have known better.

As it turns out, we did swim for about an hour, looking at coral, sea urchins, fish of various types, and more. I turned to look and was surprised to see Neal swimming toward the beach. I thought to myself, "That was nothing. All I hear about is how much he swims and how Deneen thinks he is stupid for taking risks in the water. Here we are, already finished."

I rinsed my feet off, put the snorkel and fins back in the bag, and as I prepared to enjoy a few minutes on the beach, I hear a voice saying, "See that point? Just on the other side is Smuggler's Cove. I've been there once, and I'd like to see it again. Let's go."

We swam, we walked, and I tried to keep our only towel dry on the way to what Neal thought was Smuggler's Cove. The towel, as it would turn out, was nothing more than a wet hindrance, on the way to another point near which a couple guys were fishing.

We talked to them briefly, tried to climb and walk around what should have been the last point. It quickly became apparent that our walking path would end and that if Smuggler's Cove was around the third point that we'd have to get back into the water.

I haven't yet mentioned that there are many shipwrecks around the North Point of Grand Turk due to the way the water moves in and around two reefs. The water comes in quickly, is a strange mix of icey cold and sun-warmed, moves out in unpredictable ways, and is a little bit rough. But hey, Smuggler's Cove was just on the other side, right?

This time, Neal was correct. Smuggler's Cove was around the corner, but after swimming for an hour, it was still almost half a mile away. After dodging waves and sharp coral to get this far, I wasn't about to turn back, but I was still dragging a fin bag full of wet towel, Keen sandals, and sunscreen. I was tired.

Along the way around the last point we passed a local man fishing. As I swam, I wondered about what he thought of us. 30 minutes later, as the water become too shallow to swim, I looked over at Neal and said, "I'm walking the rest of the way. I'm tired."

Neal looks back to me and says, "How cool is that? We swam around the North Point of Grand Turk and kicked its ass." I laughed. "You remember that local guy back there? I guarantee you that he thought we were insane. Local people don't swim the North Point, and that's one of those swims that Deneen thinks is stupid."

Along the way, we saw an underwater military junkyard in addition to fairly typical sea life. The North Point was a submarine refueling and observation station for the US Navy. Today, it's abandoned and it's apparent that when the Navy left, that equipment was "buried at sea" (pushed off the dock and sunk where very few would ever see it). We did.

I don't know whether we "kicked" anything or not, but I was pretty spent by the time we got to Smuggler's Cove. I was happy to walk back to the truck (as opposed to swim), and if Neal would have really known where to go, it would have been much easier to walk to Smuggler's Cove, but then we wouldn't have a story to tell to make our mothers, sisters, and Deneen think that we're stupid.

I guarantee you that probably tomorrow I'll hear "See that point? Just on the other side is..." and whatever it is won't be anywhere close to wherever we are.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Hide from the Storm Upcoming

We have been preparing today for the arrival of Faye tonight. This is just a small tropical storm that I dont think was even named this morning.

I got a call this morning from a friend who heard people were begin to move boats into protective areas. Another friend told me that people had been buying lanterns today as well.

It now looks like the storm will track to the south of us, but we are expecting a deluge of rain overnight.

This will be great, as we have not had significant rainfall since late February. Like many people, we rely on water catchment for our household plumbing. I am hoping that our water tank will fill before Deneen and the boys come back in a couple of weeks. So I am thrilled about an early season storm.

This afternoon we had two or three bouts of rain, right now it is absolutely beautiful outside so who knows. We will see.

Thursday, August 14, 2008


Last night I was awakened by a huge crashing sound. A cow was on the porch and had knocked over the weight bench. The two hundred pounds of weights fell into the stacks of wall tiles, which crashed all over the concrete floor.

I told the cow to get out of my yard and went back to sleep.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Turtles and Stingrays

I was 105 feet underwater today. If this does not sound crazy to you. Please go to the nearest building about 8 stories high, climb to the roof, and swim back down to the street.

I am sorry my blogs have been about this lately, but with Deneen and the boys gone I have been working at the house and trying to get twenty dives completed. Thats about all I am doing.

Today, I dove with Andre and Joe, who are writing a book on diving the reefs of Grand Turk. We dove in two areas that are not dive sites yet. The first site will possibly be called Turtle Paradise, because there are always turtles on the reef. We saw six Green Sea Turtles.
I explained already about breathing control, right? This dive was 55 minutes at an average depth between 60 and 80 feet. When we came back on boat I had 1200 pounds of air left. I was with four other very experienced divers and did well enough that for the second dive they decided to try one of the more extreme dives they have discussed in the book.

We dove between two mooring sites. We swam down the wall at 60 feet, and then into a crevice where we went down under a coral head and came out at the base of the wall, at 105 feet. We swam back to an area they called "the cut" and went back up to the top of the reef. We swam back to the boat at about 25 feet to gas off the nitrogen that collects in your blood when you dive deep. This was a 70 minute dive. I returned with 800 pounds of air.

Here is a picture of the kitchen. I tried to work today, but I am exhausted from swimming.