Monday, December 31, 2018

Something Special for the Last Blog Post in 2018

Here we are at the end of another eventful year.  It has been difficult to blog for quite a few months because of our horrible internet access, but I think we have resolved that.  For the time being anyway.

I want to the end year on a high note.  One of the most exciting and special things that happened here in Englishtown was successful nesting of the very endangered Hawksbill Sea Turtle. The first clue that we had sea turtle activity on our property was seeing tracks from their exploratory crawls.  A female turtle will make numerous exploratory crawls in the weeks and days before she actually digs a nest hole and lays eggs.  She will also make several nests over the space of a single nest season.

Here is what a turtle crawl looks like.  She came out of the water to the left of the dock and crawled across our front yard.  Those tank tracks are hers.
Close inspection of the tracks showed that she crawled with alternating front flipper movement, indicating that she was a Hawksbill Turtle.  The other sea turtles in Belize (Loggerhead and Green) use their flippers in tandem like a breast stroke.
 Once she got to the lilies growing at the front of our cabana foundation, she turned north and crawled parallel to our cabana until she reached a soft spot for digging.  She made her nest under the lilies before crawling back to sea.
The crawl back to sea.  The flipper tips are about 3 and half feet apart.
And here is what a nest looks like.
The cabana foundation is along the left side of the photo.  I took the picture while on the front steps looking down onto the lilies.  All the darker colored sand is what she churned up while crawling and digging.  The nest hole itself is only about 10 or 12 inches in diameter and is located just below the 3 brown leaves just to the left of center at the top of the photo.
With the help of one of our Belizean workers, who is the son of a very experienced wildlife conservator, we confirmed that this was a real nest and not a blind dig.  We fenced off the area so we wouldn't walk on it while tending the grounds and also to keep the dogs away from it. Then we started the countdown to hatching in 60+ days.  What we didn't know was that there was an earlier nest at the north end of our property.
Another nest just this side of the jungle at the far end of our property.  
This property with a good sloped beach, open space with some vegetation, and very little nighttime light pollution is ideal for turtle nesting.  Turtles generally come back to their natal beach for nesting, so this activity is probably from turtles that hatched here up to 25 years ago.  We found the mostly empty nest after most of the turtle hatchlings had made their way to the sea.  There were 3 left, trapped at the bottom of the 18 inch deep nest hole.  We brought them to the surface to let them make their way to the sea.
Tiny turtle hatchling next to my size 7 (US) foot.  They are little things considering how big they get - 300+ pounds for the adults.
Turtle track in miniature, with alternating flipper action.
We realized that the hatchlings had probably been trapped in the nest overnight, so rather make them crawl on their own to sea, we carried them closer to the shore.
As soon as they hit the wet sand, they sped up. 
This one is not quite there yet.
Crawling over the washed up Sargassum seaweed for the final couple of feet.
 The waves were gentle and washed the turtles out to deeper water.
As soon as they got wet, they were off.
The three little turtles swam quite strongly away from shore, stopping now and again to poke their heads out of the water to breath and look around.  It will be at least 8 years before they reach maturity.
Bye bye.  See you again in about 8 years.
The nest in front of the cabana hatched out in due time with 78 live hatchlings.  The sea was very rough that day and the little ones kept getting tossed back on shore.  So we gathered them up in buckets and I carried them out past the breakers to let them swim off.  That kept me busy, so I didn't get any pictures of them.  Just like the others, though, they swam off sure and strong into the big sea.  We dug out the nest and found 60 nonviable eggs that did not hatch, probably because they had been submerged in water from the extremely cool and rainy weather in November.  A typical Hawksbill nest will have 130 to 180 eggs, so this one was on par.  Another nest was a complete loss, probably also due to flooded conditions.  In preparation for the next nesting season, we will build up their preferred areas with sand in hopes that the nest holes won't flood.  Turtle nesting activity tends to go in cycles of several years of activity followed by several years with little to no activity.  We sure hope to see more next year and to have improved conditions for them. 

Monday, September 17, 2018

More of Our Holiday - Bath Spa

I'm still sorting through photos (phone and new camera) from our UK holiday.  We left Cornwall to spend a few days in Bath Spa.  We stayed at Hill House, a lovely historical 6-room guesthouse in Bath Spa.
Hill House - unassuming from the outside, lovely on the inside.
My sister took photo below from the window of their room of the rest of us crossing the street below. 
That's me at the front followed by my brother, sister, some unknown interloper, and my brother-in-law.
Guest room 
Same room.  You can see all my stuff trashing up the place.
 We had a pub meal.
Brother-in-law, sister, brother.
And were joined by my nephew, his wife, and son who live in the nearby village of Bradford-on-Avon.
The whole crew, waiting for our various pies.
It was graduation week at the University of Bath, so the town was bustling with festivities, music, proud families, and happy graduates.
One of the many musicians playing in front of Bath Abbey.
Another view of Bath Abbey.
There was so much to see and learn about in Bath Spa.  Again, we could have stayed here for weeks and never run out of things to do.
One end of the Royal Crescent.
Hot air balloons tours are a thriving business here.  We saw them from the ground near the Royal Crescent.
There were at least 5 balloons aloft for this sunset.
We wandered along the River Avon to the Pulteney Weir and Bridge.  
The weir just downstream from the Pulteney Bridge in the golden evening light of midsummer.
 River craft have to go to the east of the bridge to avoid the weir.
The weir on the left and the boat channel on the right.
Many narrow boats, both moored and navigating, were on the river and canal.  The not-so-narrow tour boats and floating bars kept to the river.
Narrow boats moored along the river near the train station, not the most scenic spot, but it seemed that the best mooring spots were filled.
More to come on our stay in Bath Spa.

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Sea Buggy Hits the Water

We have been without a boat for about a year.  That means we have had to hire someone to take us in their boat to shop in Placencia and Independence, the nearest villages (14 miles away, a 30-45 minute trip each way) with grocery stores and fresh produce.  We also have to pay someone to bring the work crew over and back from Monkey River Village (1 mile away) five days a week, or take us to catch a bus or plane if we travel any farther.  All-in-all, that adds up to an amount that I don't even want to consider. 

We have 2 excellent engines; 100HP Yamahas.  We have a non-functional boat that since August 2017 is supposed to be being rebuilt.  We will get it finished, one way or another - but that is an incomplete story for another time.

In the meantime, we needed a work boat.  We found a used boat without an engine for sale for a good price in Independence.  It is a classic "high bow" work boat, also called a panga in other parts of the Caribbean.
The bow flares up in profile to cut through the waves.
The boat, built in 2005, was used as a fishing boat by a local fisherman until his health got too bad for him to continue to work.  It is a basic 25ft fiberglass boat with no floor, painted the ubiquitous mint green.
You can see the open bottom.  Local fishermen often just lay plywood cut to size across the bottom to make a  rough floor.  This boat didn't even have that.
We bought the boat from someone who had bought it from the fisherman when he had to pay his medical bills a few months earlier.  The person we bought it from hadn't actually done all the paperwork involved in buying and selling a boat, so technically, we bought it from the original owner and repaid the middle man, so to speak.  We got papers signed and notarized, money changed hands and  everyone was happy - the original owner, the middle man, us, and the Port Authority of Belize.

Our friend Jason helped us inspect the boat before we bought it and then used his boat to tow the new boat from Independence to Stafford's Boatyard in Placencia.  That was a short trip of not quite 4 miles across the Placencia Lagoon.

Unloading the boat off the trailer. 
Maybe you can see that the trailer is not a boat trailer but has 4 fixed sides.  That made it a little difficult to load and unload the boat. The guys had to lift the bow up and slide the boat across the rear side of the trailer.  It went well, all things considered.
Now it was time to tow the boat across the lagoon.
The lack of a good bow hook meant we had to tow the boat stern first.  Glad we didn't have far to go.
Keeping it steady as we go across the lagoon.
Stafford inspected the boat for us and in his opinion it needed to be stripped down to have new ribs installed to strengthen boat for our 100HP engine.  We looked at other boats in his boatyard for ideas for the layout of the benches and hatches and the placement of the steering console.
Stripping the boat down.
We settled on a design with a bench on either side, one cross bench near the bow, and, most importantly for us, a builtin floor that will make it much easier for us old folks to move around in the boat without twisting an ankle or knee.
Floor is in place and benches are taking shape.
Center console to the rear of the side benches.
Another change from the original boat design was to put in a center steering console since our engine is not a tiller engine like the one the first owner used.  We decided to include a gas tank in the console and a small seat to the front of the console.


Looking from stern to bow at the side benches with their cutouts for stowing gear and purchases.  You can see the seat in front of the console.
The nice thing about fiberglass is that you can make any shape you want.  We wanted the benches to have angled ends on this work boat.  That makes more room to haul long pieces of lumber across the diagonal of the floor space.
12ft lengths of wood can easily fit along the diagonal.
Just because it is a work boat doesn't mean it can't look sharp. We opted for a blue and dark red color scheme on the hull.
Stafford has a great eye for color and patterns.  Below the horizontal masking tape, the hull will be painted with dark grey with an anti-fouling paint
The interior, with the exception of the console and console seat, will be painted light grey with dark grey flicks.
Almost done.
And here she is, coming home to our landing on Black Creek!  No more mint green.
Captain Tiger brings Sea Buggy around to the landing on Black Creek at the west side of our place.
 The bimini was installed and now she is good to go.
The first trip with the bimini in place.  We need all the sun protection we can get - even the engine wears a T shirt!
 So much easier now with a boat again.
Off to do some shopping.
We are very pleased with the work Stafford did; a very professional job completed in a timely manner.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Cornwall, Part II - St. Micheal's Mount

We couldn't resist a trip to St. Michael's Mount; the weather was still gorgeous and even after hiking 10 miles the day before on our visit to Mousehole, we were ready for more.  But first, a few more family photos from Mousehole.
On the Coastal path to Mousehole in front of a whale tail marker. First row:  Sister, me, sister, brother.  Back row: Husband of first sister.  Photographer:  Husband of second sister. 
Ready for our meal at the Rock Pool Cafe.  Sister, brother, brother-in-law, sister, me.  Again the photographer is the other brother-in-law.
After meandering around town and window shopping, my brother and I decided to walk back to Newlyn by way of a small village along another public footpath.  We found the footpath,
Yep, this is it.
but it was too overgrown with nettles and other weeds to hike along.  So we returned to Newlyn via the Coastal Path and then had a wander around the upper reaches of Newlyn.

The next day was the trip to St. Michael's Mount.  We caught the bus from Newlyn to Penzance and then another bus to Marazion.  We had a nice lunch before taking a little boat over to St. Michael's Mount.
View of St. Michael's Mount.  The pedestrian causeway is submerged, but some folks are still walking on parts of it.  At low tide, the causeway is out of the water.  By the time we were ready to go over, the water was entirely too deep for walking.
The "mount" looks so innocent, but it was very steep and tall.  My Fitbit reported that we climbed up the equivalent of 71 flights of stairs on this day's adventure.
Looking back toward Marazion from partway up the mount with the causeway on right side of the photo.
Quite a few people were taking advantage of the fine weather, but the grounds and castle never seemed over-crowded.  We were able to linger over architectural details and displays and talk to docents about the history of St. Micheal's Mount.  I was particularly taken with the stained and painted glass windows.
A repaired parrot and some peonies.

Still life of fruit with dragonfly.

Passion fruit flower with tulip and roses.

Scary image of hell(?) a la Bosch?

Beautiful silver fish.  The display card says that it 19th century Italian silver wire work.
I saw this old thermometer outside in the shade.  Now maybe the stone is only 65F (18C), but the air temperature was much warmer that day!
Who knew that 55F was considered temperate?  Notice how the scale is compressed toward the colder temps as compared to the warmer.
Some of the grounds retained the landscaping from former years when the castle was a residence.
Dizzying view straight down onto a small ornamental garden far below.
I'll finish up the tour of the castle with images of stained glass windows from the chapel.  This was the only area that was crowded, so I couldn't get any close up views to show the intriguing details.  However I did get some nice shots of entire windows.  I think you will be able to click on them to make them bigger.