Friday, 29 August 2008

Looking forward...

Regular readers will recall that one of the spares we bought back from our trip to Florida was a new wind speed instrument for the top of the mast. The last one had given up the ghost after spending 17 year perched high above our decks, survived 9 Atlantic crossings, a couple of near hurricanes and 4 tropical rainy seasons. Can't really complain can we!

So finally a couple of days ago TBH and I got up early, to beat the heat of the day, he donned the required bosun's chair and I slowly but steadily hauled him up the mast carrying the new part. No luxury of electric winches on our boat so its a mix of grunt and girl power!

Eight minutes later he is in position and horrified to find that the entire fitting has corroded to such a degree that it looks as though we will need to step the mast in order to install the new part. Bloody typical isn't it, nothing is ever straight forward on a boat. After a quick fix to ensure the top of the mast is weatherproof he was resigned as he descended and we chatted about where and when we would next be able to lower the mast. We decided to wait until we reach St Marten's, where we already plan some pretty major updating. Then in the middle of the night he sat bolt upright and announced he had worked out how to mend it in situ... wonderful, I just need to haul him up again...!

Anyway it has served to begin focusing our thoughts on what we need to do to prepare the boat and ourselves for the next stage of our journey. We need to renew the upholstery in the saloon , the current leather is now 17 years old and well, to put it bluntly, past its prime. We want to install heating ready for some cold weather sailing and there is the usual long list of repairs to deal with. Still the excitement of looking at sailing routes and destinations is making up for all that! So little time, so many places to see...

I feel excitement mixed with a deal of trepidation as the planning begins again. Still we will be here for a while yet so no great hurry is there!

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Improving the quality of the dialogue

I appreciate it's uncomfortable to contemplate the issues I raise.

TBH writes this in his forthcoming book Yala: How to Manage Complex Relationships…

Know thyself ("Gnothi se auton") were the words inscribed over the entrance of the Oracle's temple at Delphi. The trouble with listening is that you might learn things about yourself that you don't like and, even more worrying, that this knowledge might change you.

As you begin to listen you are forced to conclude that other people's views are not only the products of different beliefs, but are also just as passionately held as yours. As you begin to reflect on the limiting assumptions in their background, you are forced to ponder the limiting assumptions in yours. This creates a problem: should you fight for your convictions or embrace theirs? Would seeking peace be selling out? Eventually you may even find that you are both small parts in a much broader system, and that your differences in views depend on each other. Truth may not reside in your dogmatism or their skepticism, or vice versa, but in the tension between the two. You both need the other's perspective.

And that is why I welcome comments on my blog, especially the frank expression of views that differ from mine. And why I value the dialogue that is emerging on the Rio.

On a somewhat lighter note, I have my first baby tomato! Bob's is still bigger than mine but we share a concern that pollination is not happening at a good enough rate... so if you see us creeping around with paintbrushes in hand we are just giving Mother Nature a bit of help. I am also playing romantic piano concerto's to Tommy and having meaningful chats at sunset every evening! Still if that one baby tomato ends up weighing 1.5lbs I won't be too disappointed.

Monday, 25 August 2008

No Country for Old Men

Yesterday I eventually caught up with the Coen Brothers' film No Country for Old Men. Nominated for seven Oscars, it won four including best film, best screenplay and best director. RottenTomatoes, a movie review site, gives it 94%, describing it as…

Another triumph for the Coen Brothers, 'No Country' has the perfect mixture of suspense, humor, and desperately compelling performances. The seemingly simple story hides a more complex narrative, and high tension is maintained throughout.

But I was warned by the cruiser who lent us the DVD that the film was exceedingly violent and lacked a satisfying ending, a verdict echoed by someone else who didn't like the film.

I must say I think it is one of the best films I have ever seen. But I can see why these guys found the film puzzling and lacking in closure... because it's a film about incomprehension. Throughout the film, the local sheriff Ed Tom Bell (played by Tommy Lee Jones) reflects on the senselessness of these changing times. The film starts with his voiceover reminiscing about the old days when some sheriffs never wore guns; it ends with him describing himself as "outmatched".

Art is deliberately opaque. We go back to Leonardo's Mona Lisa for the questions it raises not for the answers it supplies. Great art forces us to think.

One reviewer put it this way…

Every scene is riveting because you never know which way it's going to go. That includes the ending, which at first glance may feel disappointing. Something about it stuck in my craw -- yet I could tell that the problem was with me, not with McCarthy [the author] or the Coens. I was missing something. Seeing the film a second time, I caught subtleties I had missed at first, and everything fell into place. It's a mistake to take the film for a simple crime thriller. You look at it that way and you'll surely be let down by the conclusion. Look at it instead as a story about the capriciousness of fate, about how lives can be changed in the blink of an eye in ways that are unpredictable and unfair. One character even vocalizes the film's theme outright: "You can't stop what's comin'. It ain't all waitin' on you. That's vanity."

But, for me, No Country for Old Men is more than a film about thoughtlessness and futility. It's also a film about consequences (the violence that goes with lucrative illegal activity, obviously); about misplaced principles (the killer "keeps his promise" to kill the dead man's wife); and, about denial (asked if he's going to shoot a witness, "That depends. Have you seen me?" the murderer replies).

Excruciatingly violent, and not in the reassuringly jokey way of Kill Bill, no wonder some cruisers didn't like it. After all, it's set in Texas.

"He has seen the same things I have seen and it has certainly made an impression on me" observes the sheriff at one point.

Capriciousness, senselessness, consequences, misplaced principles, denial and above all incomprehension.

Could be talking about the Rio.

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

More dialogue.

'Don Gato' who posted the death threat on the Rio Dulce Chisme has made some intersting comments on my posts which I have published uncensored.

Intentionally, or otherwise, his comments are very revealing. Don said:

You asked to be removed from our Forum because no one agreed with your drivel.

First as a matter of fact I did not ask to be removed from Chisme because some people disagreed with me. I had made the mistake of putting my personal email address on the profile and my mailbox was clogged up with threatening and abusive messages.

Good to know that even though you don't have the cajones to post anymore, you still read our Forum, and our website, since the only correct information you published was nearly plagiarized from our site.

Yes, I read the Chisme. there are some good articles and informative pieces, and I hate to say it but some of the recipes are okay too! Far from plagiarizing, I have always acknowledged any reference to the Rio dulce Chisme that I have made on my blog. I take my information from local sources, Associated Press, Reuters, Al Jazeera, La Prensa Libra and other internet sites.

Gerry you need to chill out and smoke a joint. You can always say you didn't inhale.

By the way the "large quanity" of marijuana was found in the village not on the boat. They were the drug dealers, not the Drydens.

I never said anything about any quantity of marijuana being found on the boat. May I suggest that you reread the blog. My quote, which I acknowledge in my post as having taken from the Rio Dulce Chisme says:

According to information received from El Periodico in Guatemala City, Carlos Ernesto Lemus Hernandez, 19, and his brother Elfido Concepcion Lemus Hernandez, 33, both of the village of Esmeralda, near Mario's Marina, were taken in custody after a search of their home resulted in the discovery of an ice pick, binoculars believed to have been taken from the Dryden's sailboat, s/v Sunday's Child, as well as a quantity of marijuana.

You quote me:
"What comment can I possibly make about such a world when I come with my own baggage of cultural assumptions and bigotry? Best to just watch and learn."

Good advice! Why don't you take it.

Point taken. However there comes a time when we have to discuss the undiscussable. After we have watched and learnt, maybe we need to talk things through.

You misunderstood what I said Gerry. I was talking about the Local Cruisers who live at Mario's marina. It seems you are not real popular with your neighbors. Your not very popular with the other cruising blogs either.

...and? First you say I lack balls (true!) now you say I ought to be seeking to win some popularity contest. Make up your mind.

You misinterpreted my statement. I was speaking of your neighbors at Mario's. I've heard several comments from people who live there that you need to be put out of your misery.

Why don't you get a life and stop meddling in things which you obviously have no knowledge.

Thank you, Don, for relaying this death threat.

I can see the worried faces on the Rio at the moment and understand why.

More police raids are forecast, what would they find if they searched boats for drugs?

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Baby whale seeks Mum.

From time to time we hear stories of yachts and whales but this one from is a sad one..

Desperate attempts are under way to save a baby humpback whale which is trying to bond with yachts in Sydney harbour, after mistaking the boats for its mother.

The two week old calf, which has been abandoned by its real mother, was spotted nuzzling up to a whale-sized boat in the picturesque Pittwater waterway just north of Sydney on Monday.

Rescuers from the New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Service towed the yacht out to sea hoping to entice the calf to find other whales who would adopt it. Eventually the calf detached itself from the boat, although it remained swimming close to it.

However today the baby whale had returned to the Pittwater basin, where spotted swimming “rather energetically” around other yachts in the area.

The race is now on to save it, but wildlife experts are pessimistic about their chances.

The calf, which needs urgently to find a mother to suckle to, is in “grim danger” if it does not find a substitute,said John Dengate, a spokesman for the New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Service. The only option is for the calf to find another pod of whales with a mother who can adopt it.

“We’ve wracked our brains to think of some kind of captive approach we can do, by taking it in and rearing it ourselves, but it seems to be impossible in Australia, and possibly around the world,” Mr Dengate said.

Mr Dengate said at least one or two humpback whale calves usually wash ashore each year. Just last month one was found washed up at Ballina in northern NSW.

“There’s not much more time this little thing can survive without being fed,” Mr Dengate said. “It’s a grim situation.”

Monday, 18 August 2008

Death threats on Chisme.

Well they say that you know when you've got to the root of a problem because you start to hear the screams...

This comment has just been posted on the

"If she keeps running her mouth, "Local Justice" might shut her mouth permanently."
Super Senior River Rat

What can I say... a group of the self-styled 'locals' feel that school-yard name calls, bullying and threats of violence add to their credibility.

Dialogue on drugs.

Kathleen left an interesting comment on my blog,"Clean up or clear out", which I shall reproduce here...

I have, for the most part, enjoyed reading your blog since we first met at Mario’s last winter. I understand that life on the Rio since the recent murder of Dan Dryden is filled with uncertainty, anxiety and fear but with this post I think you’ve gone too far.

The term “jumping to conclusions” comes strongly to mind because you have certainly done that with your accusation, stated as a fact, that Dan was a confirmed “drug abuser”. I am stunned by your ability to write such a statement without any actual facts. Dan is barely in his grave and you have already decided that he was probably killed because he was a “drug abuser” and that their choice of anchorage that night was suspicious. Your statements are hurtful, inconsiderate and slanderous.

Your need to pass judgment from your insular cyber soapbox scares me and to suggest that Dan and Nancy were in some way responsible for their misfortune is stunning.
If you were truly the investigative journalist you’ve said you are, you would get your facts straight before publishing such malicious words. Have you ever actually spoken with any of the victims of your vituperousness? In cyberspace you don’t have to confront them personally and find out what is really true and what is not. There is only one side of the story ~ your side. There are many tabloids that would love to have you as a reporter. In my opinion you’ve certainly overstepped the boundaries of ethical journalism with this latest bit of nastiness.

I understand that by sending you this comment I open myself to your scorn and sharp tongued retort but I am willing to endure that in order to speak my mind. My deepest condolences go to Nancy and her children. She and Dan were lovely people and I feel fortunate to have met them.

Here is my response:

Dear Kathleen

Thank you for your comments on my blog. I understand your emotional response to the issue. However you seem to have missed the point. Smoking a joint is ILLEGAL. However you want to interpret my words, there is a clear statement on Dan's Memorial Blog that he smoked joints. That is an act that is as illegal in New York as it is in Guatemala. The fact that in the eyes of many American cruisers this is not a criminal act is irrelevant. It is against the law of this country, and yours.

You accuse me of telling only one side of the story, but actually I’m the only person suggesting that there may be more than one side to the story.

Yes, there is a chance that this may be the first murder of a gringo on the Rio that is unrelated to drug use. My belief is that there is sufficient doubt causes me to ask questions. Uncomfortable, yes. Emotionally challenging, yes. But, in my opinion, necessary.

In response to your questions:
1. Yes, I met the Dryden's.
2. There is evidence that Dan used drugs, read the link.

My remarks have nothing to do with being "nasty" to Dan and Nancy. It's the opposite. It's because we don't want more Dans and Nancys that we have to address this wretched subject.

You don’t like what I have said. I can understand that. Maybe you smoke the occasional joint or have other friends that do. Maybe you or they have been reassured by kindly local drug pushers that they get their supplies from the police, so it's OK - the authorities not only turn a blind eye they profit from it. It's the myth put about by drug peddlers all over the world; subtext: "don't even think about turning me in". Maybe the drug traffic has corrupted the judicial system, maybe not. See how insidiously the very act of patronising these crooks undermines the forces of law and order.

Sorry Kathleen, such actions are indefensible. It's for Dan's sake that this has to be said. As guests in Guatemala we have a responsibility to ensure that our actions do not compound this country’s already significant problems.

It is not easy for anyone to raise questions that challenge the predominant viewpoint.

Please do not see this reply as scornful. I just don’t agree with you and I am as entitled to my views as you are to yours. The fact that I don’t agree doesn’t mean that I don’t respect your right to your own opinion. What’s important is that we continue to talk about this so that we can better understand each other’s perspective.

Sunday, 17 August 2008

Facing the consequences.

I stand corrected by 'Emy', see her comment on my previous post, and have altered the statement that Sunday's Child was at Monkey Bay marina, when it appears they were in fact at El Relleno marina.

But what does Emy really find "sickening" here, that I may have got the name of the marina wrong, surely not?

Emy writes: "he is a drug abuser because he shared a joint in new york? i fail to see how this got him killed"

Thank you Emy, that precisely demonstrates my point: "Drug abuse has become so commonplace that people have forgotten it is illegal!"

Yes, Dan was a drug abuser because he shared a joint in New York. Illegal actions, which DO still include smoking a joint, have to colour our views of subsequent events. It is a fact of life that, much as we may want to deny it, drug use is the source of massive damage in our world.

Turn a blind eye if that makes you comfortable, pretend these actions have no consequences. I believe that they do and the more we refuse to question such groupthink then the sadder and more dangerous our world becomes.

Nobody is denying that this has been an awful time, both for those immediately connected with events and for those in the surrounding communities. But we do not do ourselves any favours by not facing reality. As I said in my previous post, it is doubtful whether we will ever know the true circumstances of this incident. However given the information that we do have it would be irresponsible not to take all these factors into consideration.

Yes, I could have kept my mouth shut in deference to the widow but she is a small part of a much bigger situation. And not speaking out is the way these lessons will not be learned. I know that in this emotional climate it may be deemed politically incorrect or socially distasteful to raise these issues. However if we don't discuss the root causes we will never deal with the consequences.

Saturday, 16 August 2008

Clean up or clear out.

I am incensed by the screams of injured innocence coming from many in the Rio Dulce's cruising community at the moment, drivel about the need for a safety and security net, protestations about what everyone else ought to be doing. People are highly judgmental about what is good or bad about Guatemala without pausing for a second to reflect on the consequences of their own actions.

Maybe nobody else has the balls to say it. But guess what you guys (and gals), it's time to get real. If you want the law enforced, you have to obey it too.

The latest news on the Rio is that there were two more deaths in a town next to Fronteras last night. Allegedly, more members of the gang that attacked Dan and Nancy Dryden. This brings the total to 4 dead and 3 arrested (excluding, of course, the murder victim and his wife who was stabbed but has survived). The prisoners have been taken to Guatemala City, a place known locally as “The Inferno”. But then again prisons are supposed to be a deterrent.

So Guatemala's response to the murder of an American citizen and the assault on his wife seems to have been clear and decisive. And those trigger-happy cruisers who have been flooding forums with talk of lynching and “packing heat” may feel vindicated and a bit safer. But this isn't the whole story, and they shouldn't be feeling too comfortable.

There are strange details about the actions of Dan and Nancy. Why did they leave their slip in the marina to anchor off at a spot that was known to be dangerous? The weak explanation on the grapevine is that they were new to the boat and were testing its ground tackle. And that they hadn't been forewarned . This sounds a bit odd for experienced sailors, a couple who had sailed the Pacific and crossed to Europe. How did the local assailants know their way around the boat, seizing immediately on the unusually-valuable binoculars and the jewelery chest?

Most cruisers hastily dismiss the possibility that the victims could have been buying drugs from the locals. Yet, as we have been stunned to discover, very many of the cruisers here smoke pot, or worse. So it's not impossible that the Drydens took drugs, too.

There is a conspiracy of silence. Because these people are American, white and in their sixties you must not suggest such things. Nevertheless a remark from the Memorial Blog of Daniel Dryden confirms that Dan was a drug abuser.
"I can't put into words the shock and horror I feel for Dan and all of you...

"I have such a vivid memory of sitting around the pool late a night and all of us were surounding Dan, almost like a tribal elder as he told of life in Alaska, recalling Daniel's premature birth, the great work Jessica and Brian are doing and your recent trip to Italy. He even was not above smoking a joint with us. "

Drug abuse has become so commonplace that people have forgotten it is illegal! These are not charmingly-aging hippies coolly indulging a harmless vice. It's those who buy illegal substances who fuel the criminal activity. So maybe the Drydens were not quite such innocent victims as the cries of indignation suggest.

There is a legitimate fear deep in many cruisers' hearts that as long as they continue to deal in illegal substances they might have it coming too. If you dance with the Devil you can get burnt. That is what is really behind all this hullabaloo.

Three weeks ago the mayor of a local town was shot dead - but there was no outcry. Life is cheap and, lets face it, he wasn't a gringo.

Possession of drugs, including marijuana, is illegal here. There can't be one law for the locals and another for the cruisers.

I tried to discuss this with somebody at the swap-meet this morning. She retorted "but don't you know the difference between crack and pot?". My answer is they are both illegal here in Guatemala. If you don't have users you don't need producers.

I can already predict the onslaught such home truths will elicit. I don't write them thoughtlessly or without some soul searching.

So don't anyone claim they weren't warned. The moral of Dan's death and Nancy's assault may well be that if you consume illegal substances anywhere in the world YOU are at risk.

So for heaven's sake let's not start by telling everyone else what they should be doing, let's start by clamping down on the law breakers in our own community.

We may never know for sure why Dan was brutally murdered but the fact that he was a drug abuser must colour perceptions of his premature death.

Clean up or clear out.

Friday, 15 August 2008

The shout that whispers

The woman shot the night before last was, allegedly, a drug dealer. She had just bought a flashy new pickup truck. Not much use to her now. The young man was believed to be a junkie. Such violence can happen anywhere. The Third World isn’t always a happy place. But, these days, where is?

Here is the report carried by the Rio Dulce Chisme,

According to information received from El Periodico in Guatemala City, Carlos Ernesto Lemus Hernandez, 19, and his brother Elfido Concepcion Lemus Hernandez, 33, both of the village of Esmeralda, near Mario's Marina, were taken in custody after a search of their home resulted in the discovery of an ice pick, binoculars believed to have been taken from the Dryden's sailboat, s/v Sunday's Child, as well as a quantity of marijuana.

One source who had seen the body of Dryden said the fatal wounds appeared not to have been caused by a machete, but would be consistent with those inflicted by an ice pick. INGUAT has also confirmed that the wounds were made by an ice pick, not by a machete.

At the time of this writing, seven other houses in Esmeralda are being searched by police, according to sources.

The two suspects were said to be under the protection of a woman nicknamed "Reyna del Sur" (Queen of the South) of Morales, believed involved in various illegal activities in the area, including drugs and stolen outboard motors.

Several local Guatemalan residents confirm that the woman, who with her 14-year-old son who were killed last night near the Backpackers Hotel gate was indeed nicknamed "Reyna del Sur".

And last night there were a lot of armed soldiers around. Some 50 police raided the local village and three arrests were made. We had a vaguely surreal conversation with one of the soldiers about what weapon he was carrying. No it wasn't an MK47 or a Kalashnikov but rather an Iraeli made 556.

For me there is a voyeuristic quality to these moments. We have a 'normal' bit of social chit-chat as yards away from us people are in real fear as their homes are being searched for murderers... I find it difficult to sort out my own feelings about these events.

On one hand there is a cold acceptance that this is the way of this world and on the other I have a deep empathy for the awful spectre of the past that must be in the minds of those locals who lived through the atrocities of 20 years ago.

One of the saddest thing about this rash of misfortunes on the Rio is the drivel now being spewed out on forums and web sites by wannabe sailors, desperate to prove they are saltier-than-thou.

Such puffery is coming close to Brent Borthwick’s bull sharks, dinghy fever and little-brown-children-who've-never-seen-a-white-man; not to mention Captain Heather’s I’ll-be-setting-two-world-records.

Deep inside all of us who sail probably have inflated images of ourselves as 'hairy-arsed' skippers or gentlemen adventurers surmounting horrendous dangers with ease and grace. But most of us are not stupid enough to let everyone know. Asked about our scariest moments, we tend to play them down. The whisper that shouts, and all that.

Heroes aren’t braggarts. They don’t feel any need to tell everyone how great they are. In my experience, it has been the quietest, least-likely individuals who have had the most interesting stories to tell, most useful wisdom to impart and greatest competence to support it.

What comment can I possibly make about such a world when I come with my own baggage of cultural assumptions and bigotry? Best to just watch and learn.

Thursday, 14 August 2008

More trouble on the Rio...

Well things aren't getting a whole lot better here.

This morning a large number of police are searching the village of Esmeralda, just behind the marina, in an effort to catch the men who attacked Sunday's Child.

There are reports of a double murder last night, a woman and her 14 year old son, being shot dead just behind the Backpacker's hotel near the bridge in Fronteras. They are reported to be local people.

That's quite a lot of incidents in a short space of time.

Last night, as we were sat in the cockpit of the boat, I saw a couple of camouflaged lancha's drifting off the marina. One had 6 people on board. Three in camouflage gear with black berets carrying rifles and three wearing civilian gear. They were there for some 20 minutes before joining the naval vessel that was patrolling and towing the second lancha.

Mario's has increased it's armed guards and we are keeping our eyes open as we go about our daily business.

Whilst I remain content to stay here I am concerned that the incidents are still happening despite a greatly increased security presence on the river.

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

More trouble on the Rio.

The river is crawling, and I mean that literally looking at the extremely slow speeds they do, with Naval vessels.Patrolling up and down outside the marinas. A show of support I guess.

Sadly they were not in the right place last night when a group of three boats were attacked downriver near to the Hot Springs. The report that was given over the Cruiser's VHF net this morning was a little confused.

One boat clearly described the fact that he was boarded by four machete wielding intruders who tried to gain access to below decks. Fortunately he was well secured and they left after stealing his on deck generator. It sounded as though one of the other boats was also robbed by the same group but that was not clear.

One of the boats in the group was MIMA, a boat bought from friends of ours in Panama last year. Apparently this boat was not boarded but the owners, Mark and Sue Wheeler and their children are badly shaken.

We were very quiet as we listened to the report over breakfast. A few of us were in the restaurant together and we exchanged concerned glances.

As I am typing this a report has just come over the radio of three outboard engines having been stolen last night just across the river. Not from cruisers this time but from locals. Mmn that's got my antennae up I can tell you! All this going on right under the noses of the authorities makes you ask yourself some fundamental questions.

Nancy, from Sundays Child is being flown from the hospital in Morales sometime today to Guatemala City. Her children are now with her and she will be evacuated to the USA for further treatment.

My feelings are somewhat mixed right now. As I keep saying this is a country that is only 10 years past a civil war. A land that is still divided, socially, culturally and economically.TBH and I have been talking about the situation and our sense is that this is not over yet. I will keep you in touch as the story unfolds.

Monday, 11 August 2008

Nancy Dryden talks to the press.

By JUAN CARLOS LLORCA,Associated Press Writer AP - Monday, August 11

GUATEMALA CITY - Robbers armed with machetes hacked a U.S. tourist to death and seriously wounded his wife in an attack aboard the couples sailboat in northeastern Guatemala, the woman told The Associated Press on Sunday.
In a telephone interview from her hospital bed, Nancy Dryden,67, said her husband, Daniel Perry Dryden, 66, was killed by four men who boarded their boat late Saturday while it was anchored in Lake Izabal.

"They poked us and stabbed us with the machetes, and they were asking for money, specifically dollars," said Dryden, who was listed in stable condition at a hospital in the lakeside town of Morales.

The thieves were apparently unhappy with the take. "We had a few quetzales (Guatemala's currency), but we had no dollars with us on the boat," Dryden recounted.

The Drydens, who are retired and live near Anchorage, Alaska, had bought the boat in February. They were equipping the vessel in preparation for a voyage into the Caribbean and eventually to the eastern coast of the United States.

Dryden said the four assailants may have reached the boat by swimming from shore and brandished long machetes that "seemed liked curved swords."

After assaulting the couple, the men demanded she hand over the keys to the vessel, which has an auxiliary motor. When she didn't _ she was unable to tell whether they wanted the keys to the boat, or a small dinghy the couple used to get to shore _ the men left, also apparently by swimming.

Dryden struggled over to the boat's radio and sent out a distress call. "I said we need help ... I said my husband was not moving," Dryden recalled.

She said she expects her children to arrive in Guatemala Monday and plans to be transferred to the United States for medical care.

Assistant Police Commissioner Luis Say said the attack is being investigated.

As you can imagine Saturday's atrocity continues to dominate life on the Rio. It is interesting reading different accounts of the event, and the comments from cruiser's vary considerably in their response to the tragedy.

From,'We should have been warned it's dangerous here' to 'I'm amazed it doesn't happen more often'.

IMHO those who visit these places have an obligation to themselves to make sure they are well informed about any area in which they chose to cruise. Cruising is about self-sufficiency and that encompasses all areas of life on board. Especially understanding the cultural and political situation of the area that you visit.

Sunday, 10 August 2008


Apparently the gunshots that I heard last night were fired by one of the locals alerted to the situation aboard Sunday's Child. Fired in frustration as he was searching the riverbank for the attackers.

The Guatemalan Government has indicated that it will be sending a representative from the Ministry of the Interior to the area in order to conduct a full investigation in to the events of last night.

The boat is believed to be under police guard in a nearby Marina, pending further investigations.

Death on the Rio Dulce.

I woke from a deep sleep to the sound of gunfire. It was sometime after 8pm but before 10. In my sleepy state I thought it sounded like between 6-8 shots from a handgun. Not too close but not that far away either. Not an uncommon sound on the river. Convincing myself that it was probably a fire cracker, after all it is Saturday night, I went back to sleep.

Just after 10pm we were awakened by a firm knocking on the hull. TBH opened the hatch to find an obviously shaken Cindy on the dock.

“There's been an incident at Monkey Bay ( across the river from us) Sunday's Child was anchored just off the marina . Dan is dead and Nancy has been taken to hospital in Morales. Hugo, the guard, has permission to fire his gun, you may want to lock your hatch tonight.”

What to say? What to think? Dan and Nancy came to Spanish lessons here at Mario's twice a week.

Guatemala is a young democracy. We locked the hatch. Went back to bed. Dan is dead.

It's 10am now. The mood on the Rio is muted. The facts are becoming public. Last night as Dan and Nancy sat down to dinner on their boat, which was anchored in a quiet spot close to Monkey Bay Marina, they heard a bump and Dan went up to see what it was. He was attacked by 3-4 people with machetes. Dan was killed, Nancy was stabbed. The men were demanding money.

We remember when they bought the boat, it was here at Mario's Marina, just a few months ago.

I understand that Dan and Nancy came from Alaska. They were down here getting to know their new purchase, a Southern Cross 39. The boat is now being held by the police as they, hopefully, begin the task of solving this case.

One of the guys from here at Mario's took Nancy to hospital last night in his truck. He told us that she had a large machete wound across her upper torso. She was in deep shock but able to tell some of what had happened. She has a punctured lung.

As you can imagine there have been many conversations already of what, if any, effect this will have on the Rio.You can't stop people talking after all. What I feel is important is to remember that this is a RARE event, sure there are thefts and robberies on the Rio. This is Central America. But a murder is not common amongst the 'gringo' population and certainly one with such a seemingly obvious lack of any motive.

My gut feel is that there is more to this than meets the eye. It's such a rare happening. For now we wait and hope that Nancy recovers from her wounds.

Friday, 8 August 2008

Coming to a Dock near you...


They are here.

They are green.

They are growing.

Be afraid, be very afraid!

Thursday, 7 August 2008

Where am I?

I got a new book,Stikky Night Skies, which cleverly explains how to navigate at night- in one hour, guaranteed. Now all I need is for the night skies to clear so that I can see the damn things!

With the Mayan calender due to end in 2012 I want to be ready when the GPS goes down...

Love it!

As seen in the Times newspaper this morning... And Bush is lecturing China about their human rights record!

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

Bob's is bigger than mine...

Tomato plant, that is. Yes gardening fever has broken out here at Mario's as a small core of us settle in for the hurricane season.

Along with putting up the sunshade on the boat and settling in to 'dockside' mode a new competitive pastime is vying to take over the mahjong school. Bob sowed some seeds, weeks ago, then offered them around the boats.

Now I'm not saying its cos he had first pick(much) or that he was better prepared but I had a two week repotting delay whilst we were away in Florida and I have been claiming this is the cause of 'Tommy's' slow start. I must admit that I had two plants to start with but to be honest 'Thomasina' just wasn't up to the challenge. So after a serious talk one daybreak I graciously helped her to commit really was the only way to go!

I have said that I am going for size here! It stated on the packet that these seeds would produce fruits of up to 1.5lbs and thats my aim... Let me tell you guys size really does matter!

I think Bob is in danger of peaking too soon, too much green growth. Confidentially though I am scared! I have taken to stroking Tommy's leaves in the mornings before I satisfy his thirst with lovely specially fertilized blue water to make him big and strong.

I believe in you Tommy! Together we can do this. Hmm maybe I need to read him passages from motivational works, play gentle music...

I am taking tips from this site, you really can find anything on the internet!


Tuesday, 5 August 2008

Books and bugs.

I have been laid low for the last few days with a nasty bug that TBH so generously shared with me..or maybe just the results of some international air travel. Who knows! But it has meant that my days, and nights, have been filled with book reading. There is always a silver lining!

I read very quickly, as a kid nobody believed that I was reading 'properly' as I just turned pages so fast. What I now realise is that I am one of those lucky people who speed read by instinct.Not seeing individual words but rather a whole page of print. I can happily read 2 books a day, which can be rather onerous on our ships library!Thank goodness for book swaps.

It is fascinating exchanging books with so many different people from around the world. I hadn't realised what a cultural bubble my reading was! I am greatly enjoying picking up literature that in the normal run of things I would never see...mind you there is a serious amount of crap out there. Some of the stuff is an insult to the reading public.

Last night I read ' Paradise in Ashes' by Beatriz Manz. She is an anthropologist who has spent 30 years studying one village in the highlands of Guatemala. Her writing is informative and lucid as it covers the period prior to, during and after the civil war. I recommend it as a base for beginning to understand the realities of what the Guatemalans have been through in the last 50 years. Depressing in many ways and yet honest and with some hope for the future.The human condition is a remarkable thing.

Monday, 4 August 2008

Hold up near Coban..

Teenage pupils held at gunpoint in Guatemala school trip robbery

A dozen teenage boys from a British grammar school have been robbed at gunpoint on a trip to Guatemala.

The boys, who are all aged 16, were travelling on a private bus in a remote mountain area when they were ambushed by a group of bandits who stole around £2,000 in money and valuables.


The pupils were on their way to Coban in Guatemala (pictured) when they were robbed at gunpoint

The teenagers, from the Skinners' School in Tunbridge Wells, Kent, were two-thirds of the way into a month-long trip organised by World Challenge Expeditions, where they were carrying out volunteer work in local schools.

They are now waiting to be flown back home, their head teacher said today.

Simon Everson said: "No one was hurt but they will be coming back as soon as flights can be arranged.

"We told the boys we would support them if they wanted to stay or if they wanted to come back and they said they wanted to come back."

Mr Everson said the teenagers were accompanied by two teachers as well as an experienced expedition leader from the organisation.

He added: "It's very rare for this sort of thing to happen I'm told, but all precautions had been taken and everyone, including the boys, had received appropriate training, which they put into practice as soon as it happened."

He said the incident occurred at around 9pm local time on Friday, when they on their way to the central city of Coban.

Just read this in the British newspaper 'The Daily Mail'. What a shame that they are cutting their trip short...

It amazes me that visitors to Guatemala are so 'shocked' when faced with the reality of travelling in this young democracy. The huge numbers of backpackers, the bus loads of tourists and the cruisers who simply have no idea about the part of the world that they are travelling to. Don't they do their homework?

Saturday, 2 August 2008

When the mountains tremble.

One of the many films that we bought back from the USA was a remastered version of the 1980's documentary about the Civil war here in Guatemala. Narrated by Rigoberta Menchu, 'When the mountains tremble', was filmed during the civil war and won many awards at festivals worldwide.

There are a couple of dramatized scenes but the majority of the footage was shot during actual events at the time of the war. It's interesting and sobering stuff. The filmmakers simply report on the events leading up to and surrounding what was happening here at that time.

...and remember this only ended in 1996. It bought home to me, once again, what a young democracy Guatemala is and what a privilege it is to be able to spend time in countries such as this as a cruiser.

Central America was never a place that either myself or TBH had thought about in terms of an extended stay. However the more we have seen the more we want to see and understand the role of this fascinating region in the politics of the current world order. It's a complicated and, often, emotional issue. One that I realise I have hardly begun to comprehend.

Friday, 1 August 2008

Trials and tribulations.

Poor TBH is most definitely under the weather. The perils of modern day air travel I suspect. He has a nasty head cold, temperature and all the associated symptoms...not at all pleasant in this tropical climate with temperatures in the mid 90's and humidity hovers around 90%. I am taking all the vitamin supplements I can find to try and avoid catching it too.

I was wondering what to write about this morning, my rate of blogging seems to have become a little erratic since we left for our cruise to Cuba. It's not so much that I am searching for a subject but rather that there have been so many ideas that my mind just seizes up when it comes to the decision making process. It was ever thus!

So I thought that maybe I could kick start the old writing muscle by just listing some of the, usually unconnected, thoughts that are spilling around my brain these days.

So I think I will start by getting some stuff off my chest...

Some months ago TBH helped a cruiser on a boat here in the marina, R-X-ta-Sea (!), do a running repair on his engine as the guy, Sterling Huff, was eager to get out sailing. TBH being the kind and thoughtful soul that he is, scrabbled around in the bowels of this guy's engine to replace the seals on his raw water pump. Getting the thing going although he did recommend that the engine looked in need of a service... Sterling then asked if we had another spare set of seals that he could borrow... TBH being the trusting and helpful sort(not at all like me) gave him another set, declining payment but asking that Mr Huff replaced them when he was next in the USA.

Well guess what,more than six months later and we are still waiting. Sterling has been back to the USA at least a couple of times in that period. God that makes me mad... It's not the cost of the parts but the principles involved. Out here, cruising, needing repairs made we all try and help one another along but when you get cretins like this guy it shakes your belief in the philosophy of mutual aid...

On a different note we were shopping in Pottery Barn, Orlando. One of my favourite home accessories stores and got in to conversation with the sales assistant as she packaged the new mattress topper we had just selected. On hearing that we were currently living in Guatemala on a boat she launched in to a tale of how some friend's of her's had adopted a Guatemalan infant 16 years ago. The lad was now furious at having been taken from what he saw as his homeland, his culture and inheritance. her friends are stunned and appalled that he is having such a reaction and have arranged for him to come here and work on a coffee plantation to see what his life would have been like if they hadn't invested all their time and money into raising him...

I didn't know what to say or how to react. Those of you who have read my previous rants will know that I have been pretty vocal in my condemnation of this kind of adoption. It was one of those moments when life becomes stranger than fiction. In truth I love them but sometimes it is difficult to react fast enough in the moment to take a god given opportunity for a valuable response. TBH and I exchanged looks above the cash register and told her to go read my blog.

But doesn't that just underline my view that this cultural dislocation has far reaching effects that are not explored deeply enough? Why should the kid feel grateful? It wasn't his decision. And who is to say that the materialistic culture of mainland USA is superior to life on the coffee farm in Guatemala. Is a fitted carpet intrinsically superior to a beaten earth floor? What price can be put on a sense of belonging?

As a side note we saw far fewer infants in the hotel in the city this visit. Just one or two as compared to the dozens last visit. I wonder if it's a seasonal thing or has the message finally got through that this is a disgusting trade in human life?

And finally we have power back at the marina. It's a relief but makes me feel that maybe I have begun to lose sight of the self-sufficiency aspect of my cruising lifestyle. I used to be proud of the savings of electricity and our ability to generate enough for our own needs. I seem to be back sliding into the consumer driven world again... It has to stop!