Monday, March 30, 2009

Salt Cay's new Osprey Nesting Platforms

The osprey families of Salt Cay lost their home in 2008 because of Hurricane Hannah (August 30-September 1st, a Category 1 with rains that flooded the island) - followed a few days later by Hurricane Ike (Category 4+ on September 7th with winds clocked at 135+ mph that destroyed many homes).

In the past, opsrey have built their nests in the tops of the windmill frames in the salinas (picture on left from February 2008), on the tops of telephone poles with just a few supports in the North Beach area, and most lately on the ruined Cable & Wireless communications tower on the West side of the island (picture March 2009).

Osprey will use a nest over and over again... continuing to build and make it strong over the years. They are single family dwellings and osprey are territorial birds. One problem is that without a permanent place to build their homes they tend to spend a lot of time rebuilding every year. The nests on the Salinas and pole on North Beach lasted years and years. Eventually the communications tower will be taken down and the area will be cleaned up, but meanwhile that is the only suitable place for them to build.
Anther problem - without enough places to build, the osprey will move on. Salt Cay could easly sustain 3-4 osprey families but without the tall outlooks for them to build on, they will fly off to other places in search of accommodations.

Earlier this year while our friend Candy Herwin (owner, Pirates Hideaway) was over having a cup of morning coffee, she and Mike discussed building a few osprey nesting platforms to help relocate and provide adequate places for the island osprey to nest. The idea??? Use telephone poles that fell during the hurricane. With that idea in mind, the construction of osprey nesting platforms began. Keyroy (grandson of Ma Lucy, South District Salt Cay) began the project by removing the wood from the tops of the poles to use in constructing the actual platform.
(The photo on the left shows Arnie Scheller and Mike at the beginning of the first nesting platform erection).
Using the wood that carried the power and telephone lines, Mike built two platforms that fit onto the tops of the telephone poles. Assembling a team of volunteers from the winter resident population, the osprey nesting poles were ready to put in place.
The photo on right shows Mike James holding the platform while Mike Hawkins makes a few last minute adjustments to it before the erection of the first osprey nesting pole and platform. In the background, Don Shope and his backhoe are ready to lift everything in place.
This close up is Mike fitting the platform on the second pole. The osprey nesting platforms are located by the Creek (on the East side of the island.)
One platform is down the south side of the creek by the old bird watching station - the other is north on the Creek by the mangroves. I've been to a few different places on island since they were erected and you can see at least one of them from almost everywhere on island.
I've got a lot of pictures of the erection of the osprey nesting platform and have tried to pick the ones that show everything. The photo on the right is the first platform finished with the crew of (from left to right) Mike Hawkins, Don Shope, Arnie Scheller and Mike James. And although we're not in the picture, Sonia Scheller and I helped on the final stage of filling the backhoe bucket with rocks that were piled around the base of the pole for support.
The second opsrey nesting platform (down by the mangroves) was finally erected by about 3:00pm. Pictures are (from left to right) Mike Hawkins, Mike James, Mike DeNegris, Tim Connolley, Arnie Scheller, Ann Hawkins, Don Shope and Bob Robertson. Not pictured but present and taking pictures are Cindy Robertson and Sonia Scheller.
We're looking forward to the osprey moving into their new homes.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Salt Cay Beach Chair Company

Last year Mike started the Salt Cay Beach Chair Company... building at least forty beach chairs. No, he hasn't gone back to work! It was purely by accident. He made a couple for us and soon everyone wanted two, or three or twelve! It was quite a year for him. He was going to make more chairs this year but with all the hurricane recovery work and just general upkeep on the house he doesn't have any time.

Porter, Island Thyme Bistro owner, ordered a bunch of chairs and stained them with a teak finish - they look great! Here's a picture of Porter with his staff (from left - Lolli, Apol, Porter and JoJo) taking a couple of minutes to relax in the sun on the front deck of his restaurant and bar. In the evening when the bar is full, these chairs are always occupied too! Lots of fun to be had by all!!

Looking at the picture of Porter and crew, you'll see a foot stool in front of Porter. They make these chairs perfect for laying in the sun or just sitting under a beach umbrella with a book. I'm looking forward to getting a couple of stools for the chairs we have on our beach deck. And be sure to notice the nice curved back that makes these things so comfortable. Mike is responsible for many people living a stressless life because the Salt Cay beach chairs are so comfortable you just don't want to get up to do anything (well, except maybe go for another rum punch.)
Nothing better than a comfortable chair to sit it, a good book and beautiful sunsets!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Scuba Diving on Salt Cay

I don't dive, I snorkel. My friends on island and many guests on the island love to go diving with Salt Cay Divers. When Rose, my youngest daughter, was in high school she came down during one of her Spring breaks and had a great time getting certified and diving with Debbie and a couple of other younger divers who were getting certified at the same time. Carey, my oldest daughter, came down the next year and - not to be outdone by her younger sister - got her certification too. They had a great time. Debbie, Ollie and their staff always do such a fantastic job with new divers. I think the best part of diving here is that you aren't out there with a bazillion other divers. They have three (hmm, or is it four?) boats and with all the great dive sites you're usually only out with about 4-6 other people.

I've been out to snorkel Point Pleasant and see it from above - it was fantastic. I came face to face with a turtle one day - awesome! With luck it will be nice enough to get out there today, the Seas are finally starting to calm down. That's the problem with just snorkeling... I can only go out when it's nice. Divers have been out there listening to the humpback whales and having a great time swiming with the fish and through the coral while I sit on shore waiting for the days that are calm enough to snorkel.

It's been a couple of years since I've gone with Ollie (Salt Cay Divers) to swim with the sting rays - I
wish someone would come visit so that I'll have to go with them. I know, I know... I could go anyway but it's so much more fun to go with someone who's never been swimming with the rays before. I'll never forget my first trip - I will admit to "swimming" around the house pretending I was a spotted leopard ray for days. They are so beautiful and move so gracefully!!

I'll be getting in my kayak to paddle up to Point Pleasant and do a little snorkeling. It just doesn't get any better than this. :0)

Friday, March 27, 2009

Salt Cay's Bryan Sheedy

If you've read the Adventures of Captain Mike about the "Beachcomber" (aka Porpoise) you will have heard mention of Bryan Sheedy, the original owner of the boat. He used it for the first scuba dive operation on Salt Cay that was run out of Mt. Pleasant Guest House. We hope to reach as many people as possible to help him with rebuilding after Hurricane Ike. Pass the word along!
Salt Cay, Turks Islands, 5 March 2009.
OFFICIAL STATEMENT This Official Statement has been prepared for the purpose of offering two hundred Subscription Certificates at an offering price of one hundred United States dollars ($100) each, each to constitute evidence of one advance purchase of Squire Bryan Sheedy’s forthcoming memoirs recounting his experiences visiting the Turks and Caicos Islands in the 1970s and operating the Mount Pleasant Guest House on Salt Cay from 1988 to 2000.Proceeds of these Subscription Certificates will be applied to the completion of Bryan Sheedy’s house on the ridge, Grand Turk, which was completely destroyed by the tandem hurricanes Hanna and Ike in the Fall of 2009. The house is rebuilt and roofed, but needs to be finished. It is contemplated that Bryan’s memoirs will be completed by end of the year 2010. A publisher has not yet been chosen, however, prospective subscribers are apprised of the timeliness of the Macmillan Company’s just-issued History of the Turks and Caicos Islands, edited by Dr. Carleton Mills of Providenciales. A list of Subscribers will be published in the memoirs.In the unlikely event that no publisher agrees to publish the memoirs, Bryan Sheedy shall undertake to email to each holder of a Subscription Certificate one copy of his memoirs.Porter Williams of Island Thyme Bistro, Salt Cay, has agreed to serve as Subscription Certificate Agent, to record the name and address of each subscriber, to collect cheques from prospective subscribers and, upon receipt of cheques aggregating a minimum of fifteen thousand dollars, and not more than a maximum of twenty thousand dollars, to deposit same into the Bryan Sheedy Memoir Fund at Scotia Bank, Grand Turk, and to issue Subscription Certificates signed by Bryan Sheedy to each paid up Subscriber. As soon as the minimum quantity of Subscriber Certificate proceeds are received and Subscriber Certificates are signed and posted, Porter Williams shall transfer the contents of the Bryan Sheedy Memoir Fund to Bryan Sheedy. In the event that a minimum of 150 Certificates are not purchased, prospective Subscribers cheques will be returned. Cheques should be made out to the order of Bryan Sheedy Memoir Fund. Issuance of Subscriber Certificates may continue for six months after the minimum fifteen thousand dollars are received and paid out, but in no circumstances may more than 200 Subscriber Certificates be issued. There is no limit on Subscriber Certificates per Subscriber.Subcriber risks: Bryan Sheedy will celebrate his seventieth birthday on 16 June 2009. Although he undertakes to complete his memoirs in good faith, there is no provision for refunding Subscriber Certificates in the untimely event of his death. His health at present is good. Prepared by Josiah Marvel, who has committed to purchase one Subscription Certificate.
(Please email Josiah (Si) Marvel to arrange your subscription.)

Thursday, March 26, 2009

After Sunset

Sunset on Salt Cay is a time to stop whatever you're doing and celebrate the beauty of the world. Sometimes it looks like Michelangelo walked across the horizon painting the partly cloudy sky with color.... other times it's aglow with golds and blues. Any of the Turks and Caicos Islands have beautiful sunsets, but I think that watching the sunset on the very quiet island of Salt Cay is more special than sitting in a fancy resort. There's just the feeling of being one with nature that you can't get other places...

This picture was taken looking out the West "window" of the Coral Reef Bar & Grill at Deane's Dock. Deane's Dock is a small harbor where all the local boats are kept. Salt Cay Divers boats, local fishermen's boats and Mike's new old boat are there along with Shine's new community boat and the submerged old community boat.

The old community boat sank during the hurricane and no one has taken it out yet - the Seas are currently too rough to move it safely right now. There are a number of people ready to get the boat out of the harbor and make it into a dive site off the reef somewhere within the next week or so.

Once the sun has set, Coral Reef Bar & Grill is a favorite place to hang out. This picture was taken last year. If you look closely you can see me at the end of the bar and that's Mike sitting at the bar watching Levi sing. Karaoke on Saturday nights can be fun. There are some really great singers on island... and then there are the rest of us. I bring my kazoo along and have actually gotten quite good with it. There is actually a video on Youtube of one night with me playing the kazoo with a bunch of guys singing Dollar Wine. Pretty funny. :)

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Salt Cay Swimming Pool in the Sea

If you walk for about 5 minutes from my house you'll arrive at the "swimming pool". Left over from Salt Cay's salt industry days, this pool is a very popular place for kids to swim and play during the summer and many people enjoy going down to swim when the seas are too rough. I just saw plans for the development on Salt Cay and it looks like there is a possibility this will not be here eventually. But who know? No plans are certain yet and meanwhile we have this great place to play. It's always interesting to climb down into it - be sure to wear your water shoes. It's also a fun place to snorkel in and out of during calm seas. I've pulled in here on my kayak a couple of times to look at the fish and take a break.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Victoria Street, Salt Cay

Victoria Street, heading South. On the left are the Salinas, on the right the Sea... the buildings you see in this picture are the Brown House (now being called Sunnyside) and St. John's Angelican Church.

In the far distance you see the White House where the Harriott and Dunn families lived during the salt industry days. It is still owned by the Dunn family today. It lost parts of the roof and sustained extensive damage inside due to the hurricane, but the family is on island working to get it put back together.

Our house is just a short distance past the White House and was actually built at the same time as the White House (approximately 1830) using some of the Bermudian cut stone that was left over from the construction. Our house was originally home to the overseer of the Harriott family salt industry and eventually was bought by the Morgan family, another salt raking family. One of the links on the right eventually goes to pictures of the inside of our house... but this link (CLICK HERE) will take you immediately to pictures that I took in 2001. The inside of the house still looks the same. (Well, actually the walls probably need a new coat of paint but they're not bad). But any pictures of the garden are completely different. WOW - I'm so glad I took all those pictures so I have something to look back on - sure wish I had started doing that sooner!

Some of the other picture links go to things that are no longer here - they've either been taken away by the Hurricane Ike, just slowly deteriorated into nothing or just changed because every year is different on Salt Cay - things and people move on... There are still no paved roads on Salt Cay.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Winter Weather on Salt Cay

The coldest day on Salt Cay is still better than the warmest day in North America this time of year! I just got an email from one of my friends (Hi Gracie!) in Penn Yan to let me know that it is a "balmy" 20F there right now but warming up during the day. And another email from Danny (Mike's cousin) to report that he actually could go out without a hat (just gloves and warm coat). Brrrrrrrrr. I must report that we had to close all the shutters last night because it was only 70F, windy and "freezing." Isn't it funny what a person can get acclimated to!??

The Seas continue to be high but as the day is progressing the clouds are being blown away and it looks like it will be a fairly sunny (but windy) day. We have to remember that it's winter here too and if Pa Sammy were still alive he'd be sitting around in his winter coat with his hat pulled down around his ears! Me??? I feel lucky that I can still wear sandals and a sweatshirt to stay warm - oh, and just put a blanket over me at night.

See all the seaweed on the beach? I will end up raking it all into a pile, taking it off the beach and letting it sit for awhile to leech the salt out of it. And... I will probably find some really cool shells in it. I've got a pretty nice collection of shells (don't really go shelling that much lately) and my beach glass collection has really grown after the hurricane! Beachcombing at it's finest.

You should have seen me riding my bike North this morning! The wind is blowing 23 miles per hour and I was afraid if I stopped pedaling I would end up going backwards. Going home will be a breeze. :)

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Another Day in Paradise

Taken at dawn yesterday morning, it looked like we were going to be in for a stormy day! Believe it or not, the clouds went away and it was another fantastic day. "Another day in Paradise" was written about Salt Cay. The temperatures have been cool at night (low 70F) and the tradewinds have been keeping the island in the low 80F during the day. Incredible.

Personally, I love the cool, cloudy mornings... perfect for taking a bike ride around the island, coming home to make an omelet with juice and homemade bread, doing a little gardening and then biking down to connect to the internet to "take care of business." By the time I'm through with all of that, it's time to think about what to have for lunch. At least once a week I meet with another lady or two (sometimes as many as six) for an Anchovie Cheeseburger at Debbie's Coral Reef Bar and Grill. But I do enjoy my salads or leftovers at home too!

The seas have been rough to get in and do any kayaking. I was in one day - probably could have gone in a couple of other days but decided to snorkel intead. The snorkeling has been fantastic and I've been hearing great things about the diving too. Beachcombing has been great... lots of shells found down at Southwest Point. Amazingly there are now dirt roads that go to most places instead of crashing through the brush. It's nice, but just another sign of how much things are changing. Of course you can always just hike around the island and there are still a bazillion little places you can't get to any other way.
This picture was taken the day before yesterday... there have been some awesome sunsets. How great is it to sit and releax on the beach deck at the end of the day watching the waves and enjoying all the colors of nature.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

The Salt Cay Fix

If you've visited Salt Cay, you know that many people get around in buggies (aka golf carts and other golf utility vehicles). We brought a Kawazaki Mule down - hmmm, I think a little over 10 years ago. Mike has been incredible at keeping it maintained and running. We were not sure how much longer we could get away with some of the "Salt Cay fixes" to the buggy. Fortunately for us, someone else shipped down a Kawazaki Mule and we were able to buy it for a parts buggy. It wasn't the exact model of ours but close enough that Mike is able to take some of the parts off to help keep ours running. This picture is Mike attempting to get the bearings off the "parts buggy". He ended up putting it back together so that we can push it to a spot in the yard that is a little more out of the way (less trashy looking from the street) and then will proceed to take it apart again. Removing the bearings seems to be one of those jobs that will not be easy.

Our buggy has a solor panel on the roof to charge the battery, you will see the new stainless steel and gravity fed gas tank behind the driver's head. There are probably a few other unique features but I can't remember all of them right now. (Did you know that you can click on these photos to view them larger?)
I ride my bike (about 12-13 years old) almost everywhere but it sure is nice to have this buggy when we're "going out" or to gather beach reed or other adventures that are too much for the bikes!
My bike has also been through a great many "Salt Cay fixes" and is still going well!

Friday, March 20, 2009

The Further Adventures of Captain Mike or Another Boat on Salt Cay

I'm in the process of assembling the Further Adventures of Captain Mike or Another Boat on Salt Cay. Yes, it's true... he's resurrected another boat. This one is quite a bit smaller than the M/V Porpoise and came together a lot faster! The picture on the left is the earliest picture I have of the boat. It was found about six or seven years ago by our friend, Ed Wieszczek, after it drifted into South Creek. He used a backhoe to move the thing up to North Beach... and it sat there until March 2009 when Mike took the sand out of it and began to fix it up. I'll go into a bit more detail in the actual "story" that will be linked on this blog but that's enough to let you know what we've been doing.

We woke up early this morning when the rain started pouring down! As soon as it was light Mike rode his bicycle down to the harbor to start bailing out the boat. Oops - one of the joys of boat ownership. I stopped by the harbor on the way to Island Thyme to use the internet and he was still bailing. It took over 1/2 an hour to get all the water out of the boat. But hey, it was still afloat!

Here's a picture taken by Mike James (First Mate of the unnamed boat) on the maiden voyage from North Beach to Deane's Dock.

The clouds are moving away and the sun is coming out. All the cisterns got lots of water and we're finding out just how well the patched roofs are working. It will be another glorious day on Salt Cay.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Salt Cay Donkeys

This is a picture of Stormy that was taken in 2007 when he was a baby. There are not as many donkeys or cows on island after the hurricane but we still have a few "herds" roaming around.
Stormy survived the storm and is alive and well hanging out on the south end of the island!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Salt Cay, Humpback Whale Sightings

Yesterday was a fantastic whale watching day - no need to even get in a boat to watch the humpback whales heading South. Starting at about 7AM, whales (at least six different sightings) where spotted off the North West side of the island... more spotted about 9:30AM further South but still off the West side of the island and then in the afternoon... It was fantastic! A few boats where in the water getting up closer to the whales too.

Salt Cay, Turks and Caicos Islands is in the middle of the humpback whale’s annual migratory route to the Silver Banks, a humpback mating and nursery area, north of the Dominican Republic in the Caribbean Sea. It is a 75 square mile shallow coral reef area, an underwater plateau of limestone. It is believed that the whales choose this area for birthing and nursing because of the numerous coral heads which break the surface providing protection from ocean swells. Some estimates show 3,000-5,000 humpback whales passing through the waters of the Silver Banks between December and mid-April each year, making it the largest breeding and calving grounds, often called a nursery, in the world.Great Sand Cay, about 9 miles south of Salt Cay, has been the “emergency room” to many expecting humpback whales through the years. Humpback whales born in the waters around Great Sand Cay and their mothers as well as other humpback whales are often spotted both by passengers on boats and from the shores of Salt Cay.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Salinas Windmills on Salt Cay and other ramblings...

Remnants of Salt Cay's industry (the harvesting of salt) - the windmills - became home to osprey until Hurricane Ike brought them down. Mike is working with Keyroy, Candy and a couple of other guys to put up new homes for the osprey today (I'll be sure to post a picture of the new poles/homes once they're up.) This salt pond windmill was located down the road from our house, there was another one located directly in from of our house that actually worked when we first arrived on island 15+ years ago. This picture was taken in 2007.

With luck one day there will be funds available to restore at least one of the windmills as a historic site. We've got a number of pictures of how they worked and were built that Mike could refer to... But right now it's hard to get any building materials to the island and there are so many houses that need repair after the hurricane that the rebuilding of the windmills are the least of our concern!

Most of the houses have roofs on them now - there are still a few houses that Haitian workers live in that are covered with tarps and unfortunately the owners of those houses don't seem very interested in repairing them. I have no idea what will happen when the rains start in September and October. The funds that have been collected for hurricane repairs are slowly being used to fix the homes of the senior citizens on island. Volunteers and paid members of the community will be working together to be sure that the roofs don't leak and the inside of the homes are repaired (many ceilings fell in). Unfortunately those homes with rotten or termite infested beams will not be able to have those beams fixed... there just isn't enough money for that. Keep your fingers crossed that the new roofs don't blow off because they're attached to bad wood if another hurricane comes along!

Yesterday was a community clean-up day and there is still a lot of debris from the hurricanes laying about. But bags and bags were collected yesterday and the island is looking better every week! Yesterday was also a banner day for whale watching! Doug and Angela spotted six different whales while enjoying their morning tea on the beach by Coral Reef (Debbie's restaurant at the harbor) and later in the morning I was standing at Mike & Marilyn's and two different whales were sighted. Yesterday afternoon I was walking out to the beach deck and watched two whales right off the "Wall"... the whale watching was fantastic! I'll post a couple of pictures of the humpback whales tomorrow.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Flower Gardening on Salt Cay

This morning the sun came up bright and beautiful! A few small clouds floating through the sky but it looks like it will be another glorious day on Salt Cay. The view from the front door of my flower garden was just too special... I had to take a picture. The hibiscus are blooming better than they've ever bloomed before - the rain from the hurricanes has soaked the ground so well. The ground is sand - but over the years of planting stuff (and having plants die) there is a bit of organic matter. The bright yellow/orange/red flowers are gaillardia that I got from Ms Netty about 14 years ago. They come up willy-nilly wherever they want to. I've tried to plant them in specific places and that never seems to work.

It's taken so many years to have the front yard look like this... I really should look through my pictures and see if I can find a picture from the beginning of this adventure. We've probably planted at least 30 palm trees in the yard but the cows always managed to get in and eat them before they could grown. (That's the reason for the walls - to keep the cows out!)

The view out the front door is looking over the salt ponds. Until the 1960s salt was the main industry of Salt Cay, Turks and Caicos Islands. Today the Salinas are in disrepair but still a peaceful, beautiful sight to behold!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Beach Deck in Paradise

It's so fantastic to have the Beach Deck back! After collecting more beach reed, cutting it in half length-wise, we now have a great wind break so that we can sit out and enjoy whale watching, glorious sunsets and the sound of the Sea.

I found an old chandelier in the dump last week... after taking all the rusted, rotten electrical wires out of it, I'm ready to attach bits of beach glass, pottery shards and shells to it, string some little lights on it and hang it from the middle of the roof inside the Beach Deck. Thinking that a few small buoys might be kind of cool to hang from it too.

The Sea has been a kind of rough the past month but we have managed to get in a few times. With luck it will calm down today and we'll be able to put the floats in and enjoy a day out on the water.
<---Mike enjoying a quiet morning look at the Sea before starting his day.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Beach Deck

In September 2008, Hurricane Ike came through the Turks and Caicos Islands and Salt Cay with a vengence. The boat Mike built was on the beach deck and when the winds reached the island, they tossed the boat around enough to collapse the roof of the deck. The boat either drifted off or is in pieces at the bottom of the Sea.

We did find all the pieces to the roof of the beach deck though... and this week we collected beach reed (aka bamboo) and Mike spent endless hours going up and down the ladder to put the beach deck back together.

During the hurricane, the high seas caused about a foot of sand to be relocated (we now have a wider beach but it's a foot lower!) Note the "interesting" scaffolding arrangement -- that scared the heck out of me -- he devised to get to the front of the beach deck roof!

Here's another view of the lengths of bamboo being attached to the backside of the beach deck... as of today the back is completely done. Yesterday afternoon we went out to East Beach and picked up the final bits of beach read to go along the sides... picture to follow tomorrow after it's completely done.
It's so great to have our outside room back!