Wednesday, 30 July 2008


Well we are slowly making our re-entry to the world of the Rio and cruising! I cannot believe how much STUFF we managed to haul back from our visit to Florida... I mean how could I ever have thought that I could not live without a Tinkerbell wand and head dress??

You know sometimes I do question my sanity, no lets be honest I question it many times a day.

We were successful in our`search for all kinds of boat parts including a new arm for the anemometer, a steal TBH tells me at $600 + . I think I would rather not know what speed the wind is blowing at with that price tag attached. After all when it gets that windy what difference does knowing the speed make.

So many different moments in our trip that I am having trouble deciding which to write about. Last time we visited Disney, some 10 years ago, I was REALLY scared on lots of the rides and spent most of my time with my eyes firmly shut. This time I LOVED them all, no nausea, no fear, no leaping stomach. After some nasty ocean moments it all seemed rather tame!

But TBH didn't fare so well... he refused my offer of another spin on The Men In Black ride as he felt so sick and passed on The Mummy too! Ah these men just can't take the pace can they!

TBH, with 2 guns, and me (back row). Please note that I scored 4x as many with my ONE weapon as he did with two-yah!

So bear with me as my time is spent clearing out the old 'stuff' to make space for the new generation... should all be stowed away soon and normal service will be resumed.

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Cruiser's vacation...

So where do we go for a change of scene?

After all our lives are spent in Jungle settings, on glamorous isolated tropical islands and in busy port gateways in far flung corners of the world... You may recall that earlier this year one of our videos won the 'Cruising World' magazine prize of $500. It has given us many sleepless nights as we pondered what to do with the American Express gift voucher that we received. Only negotiable in the U.S. that meant either virtual shopping or a trip to the country.

It was tough! However the final decision was to combine real live shopping with a trip to Florida and best of all a tour of the Theme Parks. Bet that surprised you! I am a late convert to the world of Walt Disney-and I just love it. The Electric Light parade can reduce me to a sniveling wreck as the first bars of the music strike up...

Well it's great to be back- thank you Cruising World.We had a magnificent day yesterday. Of course 'Pirates of the Caribbean' was our first stop. How could it not be! The ride and then anorgy of shopping. In true cruiser fashion we will be returning with spares and goodies galore!

TBH had to be restrained from trampling small children as Woody(from Toy Story) strolled down the center of Frontierland and I was truly grateful NOT to be pushing a stroller containing a couple of kids!

Strange though how I no longer find the rides scary, after experiencing real life storms and big waves it has totally changed my perception of fear!We are having a wonderful time and it's a real change from our usual lifestyle...

No time for a longer post we are off to Universal Studios today, Spiderman and The Simpsons call...

Thursday, 17 July 2008

Don't worry... be happy!

Life is all about choices isn't it?

I often feel that we can choose whether to be happy or sad. One of TBH's favourite phrases is 'the difference between winners and loser's is that loser's blame other's whilst winner's take responsibility for their own actions'.

It's often been a difficult philosophy for me to swallow, but I have to admit that he is right. (Darn it I hate those admissions!)

What has bought on this bout of introspection I hear you ask. Well I was comparing the tales of Jeanne Socrates, who lost her boat last month 100 miles from completing a circumnavigation, and 'Captain' Heather, who managed to get 100 miles in her much trumpeted solo-circumnavigation, before calling it quits 'cos her phone ran out of minutes and she hurt her thumb.

Okay thats a bit of a generalized synopsis but it does illustrate a huge difference in mindset. Jeanne, who lost her boat, at the end of a round the world trip has just posted a note on her website talking about regrouping herself, getting back on the water and buying a new boat. Captain Heather wrote reams on her experience and how horrid people had been to her and put the boat up for sale. Mmn ,wonder what that tells us about their characters!

Sometimes I think that its just a simple choice of whether to be happy or not. TBH says its not that simple, he believes that some people are born happy whilst there is no pleasing others. I tell him at frequent intervals how fortunate he is to have me as I fall in to the 'happy' category...well most of the time!

What I do observe is how some days though I need to make the decision to 'be happy'...and do you know I find that it works. Simply by affirming out loud to somebody that I am happy that morning can be enough to turn the day around! Of course I do have a lot to be happy about... but it wasn't always like this and I was still fundamentally a happy person. So maybe its in the genes after all.

Yesterday morning we met an interesting couple in the hotel lobby. They were Canadians running a scheme to help set up schools in remote areas of central and Southern America. They told us of their experiences in Guatemala as they were assisting an isolated village to develop an educational facility and how that was affecting all areas of the life of the community.It's an interesting observation that after a year here I am initially extremely sceptical when talking to people that I perceive as 'aid workers'. It's a difficult one for me. I can totally understand why they want to help a country such as this that seems to lack so much to our Western eyes but underneath I wonder just what we are doing to the recipients of our largesse.

Don't get me wrong I believe there are some extremely worthwhile initiatives here but equally, and I am thinking of the grasping missionary Brent Borthwick here, there are charlatans and misguided projects a-plenty everywhere you look.

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

From The Eden Project to the Jungle.

Yesterday we made the long journey from the Marina to Guatemala City. As this entailed a 4am start I was not in my best functioning mindset as we headed across the Rio in the lancha (boat) just after 4.30 am.

Thankfully it had stopped raining, for the first time in what seems like days, and the water was as smooth as glass. There were five of us going to the city, all heading for the airport and different destinations. Mentally checking that we had left the boat in good condition to cope with our absence, not to mention the rising waters, I almost missed the grey object that hurtled out of the dark towards my head, maybe it was a bird? As we arrived at the dock Jim commented on the fish that missed me by inches, him by even less and landed at the feet of Inez the fortunate driver who was able to return home with breakfast! It was a sizable fish too...

It's a long drive to the city, around 4 hours, and I must say traveling at such speeds is exhausting! Remember that a good speed on the boat is 6mph... that puts it into perspective. So we took it easy yesterday. A good breakfast after we checked in and then I settled down to watch the BBC news channel on the TV. Well you could have blown me down with a feather when the first item flashed up to show the beach that my parents live on in Cornwall, down in the West of England!

There I am curled up on the bed in a hotel in Guatemala City watching scenes from my family life on the box! As the scene panned from the nearby town of Padstow, to the surfing bay that my kids love and on to the tourist attraction of the Eden Project I thought about how far we have travelled in the last decade from our former lives!
The Eden Project was the vision of one man, Tim Smit, to recreate a biodome in an old disused quarry that would illustrate the bio diversity of the different climate zones throughout the world. TBH and I made a visit shortly after it opened and I was fascinated by the Tropical rainforest section.

We climbed a mountain of stairs that ran beside a tumbling stream to view the canopy of the newly planted rainforest exhibit. It was a bit sparse in those days but fascinating 'cos I had never seen anything like it. And now here we are living pretty much in the rainforest! Surrounded by the lush greens of the jungle. Watching hummingbirds collecting nectar amongst the boughs of the mimosa tree. Eying up the bananas as they ripen on the branch. Listening to the howler monkeys as their raucous cries greet the dawn.

Like all things, familiarity really does bred contempt, and I guess I have become a little blase after 3 years in these latitudes. I should not! ! I could not have imagined when we gazed at the Eden Project that one day I would be living in this part of the world.

Mind you The Eden Project doesn't give the whole experience by a long chalk.. no mosquitoes, no biting flies, no snakes, no floods! Still can't have everything I guess...

Saturday, 12 July 2008

A life on the ocean's wave...

...or not, as the case may be!

There is a wide variety of people who would describe themselves as 'liveaboard's'. From the world girdling circumnavigator to the part time snowbird who migrates to follow the sun as the Northern latitudes suffer uncomfortably cold seasonal changes. The likes of us who cruise gently around the ocean to the one's who have put their anchor firmly into the dock.

This idea from the Swedish company Bopahavet certainly is an interesting concept.We meet a fair few sailors, who having done their share of sailing, still want the sense of living on the water but have no intention of really voyaging again. This houseboat idea would be a perfect solution, mobile enough to change the view from time to time but still satisfying the desire to live ON the water.

Not too sure about the design of this particular model though...

Still the company appear to have a few more traditional looking vessels too!

It's Swopmeet Saturday and although trade on the Rio is a little slow, I noticed a large ice-maker on one of the table's this morning. I have written at length about refrigeration and those of you who have followed the blog will remember my great excitement when we made our technological breakthrough of finally purchasing some vertical ice trays for our refrigerator. We can produce a daily total of TWELVE large cubes, unimagined luxury.(It only took us eight years to break the back of this challenge.) TBH came back to the boat a moment ago and suggested if we bought the icemaker we would not have to run the engine to cool our mechanical refrigerator every day whilst we are at the dock. I was really surprised by that idea. TBH is usually the first to veto any complication of our simple lifestyle, could he be softening???Although tempted we have decided not to! We do not intend to stay tied up so long this season...

And finally.. Whilst surfing the Yachting World website I came across this new film that has just been released about Eric Taberly, one of the greatest sailors of recent years. We had the privilege of being rafted up with one of his boats some years ago whilst in Tangier, Morocco. The film looks great.

Friday, 11 July 2008

Lobster story...

Yeah, sorry, I know it's another video... But I have an excuse today. Hangover...forgetting that I'm not 21 anymore. Oh lordy!

George, that dammed Aussie who has arrived in the marina is leading us astray. Not only has he encouraged me to reprieve my repertoire of sheep-shagging jokes, seduced TBH with home made rice pudding but now he has debauched us with groups of young people having a good time..

So it was dark glasses at breakfast and a VERY gentle day for me. Even laughing at this was almost too much.

Normal service MAY be resumed shortly!

NB. We did have a lot of fun though...

Thursday, 10 July 2008

Looks familiar....

This made me laugh, looks like Mario's at a good swop meet!

...and this one has some idea's for the fishermen amongst us!

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

Sad finale to the circumnavigation of Jeanne Socrates.

Catching up on my internet surfing I was so sad to read that Jeanne Socrates has run her boat aground just 100 miles short of completing her solo-circumnavigation.Her auto-pilot failed as she was taking a short nap. What an absolutely awful experience for such a capable and motivated lady, our thoughts are with her as she tries to salvage her beloved boat Nereida off the Pacific Mexican coast.

I simply cannot imagine how she is feeling, although thankfully she escaped with no serious physical injuries.

The sad & painful fact is that "Nereida" is a sorry sight, grounded on a very isolated beach, Playa Michigan, in the state of Guerrero, between Acapulco and Zihuatanejo....

I'm still half with "Nereida" - and remembering so many good people who helped me:

Xavier and Isaiah, the two local fishermen on the beach after daybreak, who went to such efforts to help with my anchors, digging holes to bed them in the sand to try to prevent them from being dragged as "Nereida" was pulled over by the surge on the surf-ridden beach, while we tried to stop her from moving so she could be saved with a tow off....

The two students from Mexico City, who spent most of the first day with me translating to everyone I needed to communicate with, despite this being part of only a very short camping holiday for them. They had excellent English and were a great support at a difficult time for me....

The Captain of the Marines who tried his best to help - taking me to the town via his base camp to make phone calls and posting guards over "Nereida" for several days in an attempt to stop stealing from her while I was away from her overnight.....

The family of Jose Maria Marquez in Acapulco who cared for me and tried to find people to help me in different ways... and their neighbours who also welcomed me and tried to cheer me up when one of them celebrated his birthday with a big party on the Saturday night....

Several families would come over during the daytime from the nearest village of Tenexpa to serve food in the beach 'palapas' (shelters) and insisted on giving me food and drink in between my frantic efforts to save what possessions I could as poor "Nereida" got more
damaged, took on more and more sand and water and sank lower and lower into the beach just below the high water mark... so very sad for me ...
The photo shows the lovely lagoon (Laguna Tenexpa) full of birds and waterlife behind Nereida's beach (on Playa Michigan) with the 'palapas' catering for occasional campers and day visitors to the reserve area where she lies - her mast is visible above the palapas.

Lagoon behind Nereida's beach

Cuba to the USA, by boat -

There is an awful lot of urban myth surrounding the situation regarding non-USA registered boats sailing directly from Cuba to mainland USA.

Many opinions are voiced here in the marina and the general belief amongst the American sailors is that any boat, regardless of flag, can and will be fined by U.S. officials if they sail directly from a Cuban port in to the US.

Well we spoke to a number of European boats doing just that whilst in Cuba and they have been told by the Treasury department of the US that it is perfectly legitimate to move from Cuba to America and that no fines will be levied. The practice only applies to U.S. flagged vessels.

S/v Hannah had some problems recently though and it seems that not all the officials that should know about the legislation are up to speed with their own regulation's!You can read all about their experiences on their website.

This was the statement they received from The Treasury department:

No, the regulations do not apply to foreign nationals and foreign flagged vessels and no if we wished to cruise TO Cuba from the US we couldn’t be stopped and it was our prerogative.

So there you have it, from the horses' mouth, so to speak!

Tuesday, 8 July 2008

Why do some of us last longer!

The Internet is still giving serious problems here at Mario's. As one of the boaters put it, "It's like a flickering light bulb". Well right now the whole bloody thing has gone down again and I am having a hard job staying calm.

Yes, I know. We are out here cruising and I am acting like a spoilt bitch... Except we stay out cruising by earning a living and that means we need the Internet and that's the main reason that we sailed back here this season. I try to remain philosophical and understand that Guatemala is not London but every so often it overwhelms me. As for TBH it is trying his patience. Say no more!

One of the things that my guru, Lynne Pardey, talks about is the need for a focus of some kind as you cruise. In her view unless you have a task, ie need to earn money, or a goal, there swiftly comes the time when the endless round of beaches and parties begins to pall.

And I think she has a point. When Cruiser's set off on their long planned dream the first couple of years are similar to a honeymoon. The joy of attaining the desired coupled with the shock of facing a, sometimes, unexpected reality. That's the juxtaposition of the wonderful sunsets against the horrible storms to you and me! As the time passes and skills are honed it can become a challenge to maintain the dream that started you off on this adventure. Indeed it seems to me that around year four many cruiser's decide to throw in the towel and head off on another quest... The common denominator of those that go beyond the four year limit seems to be work. Anything from writing to woodwork fits the bill.

I have been wondering why that should make the duration of an adventure longer. I guess I can only answer that from a personal perspective. For us, the fact that we still need to make a living adds to the value of the experience from each place that we visit. Each culture gives us another perspective that we can directly assimilate into the ideas and motivations that we use to earn a crust. We have friends who write for sailing magazines, ones who develop software, those who paint or design and each of them says the same thing. They use the stimulation of travel to feed the creativity that is important to the work that they do.

TBH says that the freedom of having time to think, to read and explore his thoughts and ideas more fully is priceless. An old friend of his, a lecturer at MIT, said enviously recently how she wished she had time to think! I know what she means. When you are busy holding down a conventional full time job, swamped in the minutiae of formal procedures somehow there is never the space to hear what is going on in your brain. It becomes increasingly difficult to sort the wheat from the chaff and make your own, unaided decisions.

A couple of books that we have read recently encapsulate my current feelings,Saddled with Darwin – A journey through South America on Horseback by Toby Green is another travel book par excellence.
He makes some interesting philosophical points, stimulated by his experiences as he travels. It's beautifully written and well worth reading.

The other book is A Short Course in Intellectual Self-Defence, find your inner Chomsky by Normand Baillargeon. This book provides it's readers with the tools to see through every day spin and jargon, from politics to advertising, from mysticism to news reporting. Get hold of a copy and read it!

So the Internet is a vital tool for us, keeping us connected with current thought, new technology and added to the more immediate stimulation of the folk that we find around us, both cruiser's and locals begins to give us the raw materials that we use to earn a living to buy more time to cruise some more...!

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Monday, 7 July 2008


The 4th July found us nervously joining in the Independence Day celebrations with our fellow cruisers. Having ascertained that they 'missed' being British(!) we settled in to enjoy the fun and games and of course the food.

The Marina had bought a pig from the local village that was to form the centre piece of the feast, roasted in a pit and served with all the traditional goodies that we are told go with a great Independence day meal. The hot dogs browned on the grill along with the chicken legs and hamburgers. Corn cobs glistened with melted butter. Mountains of potato salad, lakes of mayonnaise and tomato ketchup. Cindy asked me to help carve the pig and together we met in the kitchen armed with sharp knives and a cleaver...

It was reminiscent of a scene from Sweeney Todd! As the heat rose, the cleaver flashed, pork fat dripped and I sweated like a pig!I have never laid eyes on such a fat porker... not a great pig but in the end we managed to glean enough meat to satisfy the ravening hoardes. The few pieces of video and photographs of the pair of us in action are truly terrifying and not for publication on a family orientated blog like this... at least thats my excuse and I am sticking to it.

After the excess of eating the music struck up in the form of fellow cruisers Mike and Linda and the serious partying began. Snapshots of memories exist in my head ( I forgot the camera) . TBH enjoying his first ever lap dance, although he looked somewhat like a rabbit caught in the headlights! Tables of friends laughing in the lowered lights.

But the prime memory is watching a group of cruisers dancing the night away. Lost in their own world and memories a dozen of the female cruisers took to the floor and boogied down in their own glorious worlds. In the face and movements of each of them were the echoes of their youth. We may all be aging on the outside but down in the mind, stimulated by the lyrics and tunes of younger days every woman on that dance floor was 18 again. Energetic, sexy, vibrant. Good on you girls!

It was a great night. everything cruising can be. Assorted company, Brits, Yanks, Frogs, Aussies and more mixing with locals having fun...

And the rain goes on...

Sunday, 6 July 2008

Back in the Rio.

Well it's been a mixed bag the last couple of weeks. After a week anchored on the Rio we came back in to Mario's, the first time we have returned to the same place since we have been cruising! And ever since it has rained, and I mean really rained. Much more than we had this time last year here. The water is within a foot or so of the top of the dock and as we have been rising by up to 8 inches in one 24 hour period things could get a little interesting.

Life here is the same, only different if you get my meaning! Well I know what I mean! Different set of boats, new people, new activities, same setting...

We have been busy preparing TBH's book for the printer which has been quite a struggle with the internet lines not at all reliable. The wire was stolen for the second time last week and has just been repaired again today, hence the blog! Apparently with the rise in copper prices this wire theft is a worldwide phenomenon so at least we don't feel it's personal. So fingers crossed that we will have a longer run this time...

I have been going through the boat and listing the jobs to do, TBH has been doing the same topsides. Next season will involve a long sail to windward, again, aaggh. We are committed to the Heineken Regatta in St Martens so a lot of work on sails and canvas to get through in the next couple of months. The UV strip on the staysail is starting to fail and i want to restitch the sail in a few places. We also need to do some repairs to the batten pockets on the main so thats another job.

The family underwater!