Friday, 31 October 2008

Places, Pinatas and Pickles.

It's flippin' cold here this morning. Temperature in the boat is 75 degrees F. That's 20 degrees lower than a couple of weeks ago! These cold fronts have a lot to answer for.

There is frantic work going on around the marina as a new floor in the Cayuco Club goes down in preparation for the big Halloween party this evening. Cruiser's are huddled below decks as they put the final adjustments to their costumes, it looks like being a vintage year! There are a number of children around so this evening there will be a 'pinata' for them to beat hell out of and enjoy the candy shower that will be released...

This is the first time in our cruising career that we will be in the same place for a second season. It is quite a strange feeling. We always knew that after a few years of self-indulgence it would be necessary to halt for a while to complete the work that TBH started out doing. We had no idea when we left Europe that this is where we would end up! Even now I have to do a double take regularly as I look around me. This is about as far from our previous lives as I could have imagined. I had thought we would possibly be stopping in Australia or the USA but look how wrong I was!

The tomatoes continue to thrive but the cold weather has slowed down ripening. I only have 2 beginning to change colour alough there are 90 in total on the plants. I have looked out a recipe for green tomato pickle so looks like next week the boat will be reeking of boiling vinegar. Not my favourite scent!

Thursday, 30 October 2008

Tribes and temperature.

Although the hurricane season officially comes to a close at the end of next month many cruisers seem to be aiming to head out at the end of THIS month. Perhaps like me they were under the impression that the season ended tomorrow(!). Thanks to 'ranting sailor' for pointing out my mistake...wonder where I got that idea from, or have they changed the date when I wasn't looking!Also as we aren't moving anywhere just yet I wasn't really paying attention- well that's my excuse anyway!

But as Mother Nature is never that confident on dates we will continue to keep a close watch on the weather forecasts. A fellow cruiser reminded me yesterday of the excellent weather site This is an extremely easy to use, and in our experience, accurate weather forecasting site for sailors. Highly recommended.

So there are levels of frustration in the Marina as those who consider the season a prison sentence or find that they dislike the place they have chosen to hole up, champ at the bit to get going. The weather here isn't co-operating right now. There is a particularly nasty 'Norther' blowing down from mainland USA. Apparently temperatures in Texas were as low as 30 degrees Fahrenheit yesterday. That enables the strong winds and inclement weather to make it as far down the Caribbean as Guatemala. It is noticeably chilly here and the temperature over in the restaurant at coffee this morning was a cold 74 degrees F!

We,as usual, have a lot of other things to be thinking about! I was happy to receive a delivery from Amazon yesterday. It seems to work very well sending stuff from the USA to Guatemala so long as you use normal surface mail - not one of the DHL style services. They always tend to get hung up at Customs in the city.

Amongst the books we received was Tribes by Seth Godin. A fascinating new publication that talks about the changing world that we live in and chronicles the effect that the internet, blogging and the like are having on the social interaction of us all. It is a good read and contains some thoughtful messages.

I particularly like his description of the groups of people that he describes as 'sheepwalkers'! Wish I had coined that word...

'A sheepwalker-someone who fights to protect the status quo at all costs, never asking if obedience is doing you any good. Sheepwalkers don't do very well these days'.

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Conception,complexity to completion!

What an amazing world we live in!

TBH has developed and written his new book and software, 'Yala-how to manage complex relationships' as we have sailed the oceans enjoying the cruising lifestyle.The whole process from conception to completion has taken place in a virtual world.

In the real world whilst all this marvellous creativity has been going on we have been sailing across oceans seeing no land for days at a time, sometimes we have been anchored off remote desert islands, and sometimes tied to docks in the deepest jungle settings. Who ever thought it would be possible to do all this whilst indulging our love of sailing and passion for the sea.What extremely lucky people we are!

The book is printed in Canada, can be bought via Paypal from anywhere in the world, the money is transferred automatically to a bank account,the book is then dispatched from the UK and we never physically touch a thing. Wow!

We have kept up with the latest world developments via the internet, we have used other cruisers as proofreaders and sounding boards(thank's guys!).

Reviewers across the world contact us via email, skype, blackberry. We can even send the whole book electronically if necessary. The software and the licence to use it are distributed by email.

So its exciting days for us as the orders begin to arrive and the virtual 'kerching' of the cash register finally echoes in our boat! So far response has been very positive and I am delighted for TBH. It has been a long task distilling so much thought and information into an easily digestible form. I am very proud of him

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Man or Sheep?

Some years ago I was active in the local political scene where I lived in the UK. One of the first activities that I took part in was knocking on doors to canvas votes for my party.

It was an illuminating experience. I was given a number of streets in a very upmarket part of the constituency. Here houses were valued at maybe a $1,000,000 or more, remember this was over 15 years ago... Sitting cheek by jowl these identical Georgian style homes were occupied by high wage earners, business owners, professionals. The success stories in the community. As I walked up and down the streets I was struck by the uniformity of everything and I was shocked. In each driveway sat a similar make of car, in most cases a BMW or Mercedes. Most were black or dark blue, the then fashionable colour. Each porch was filled with a planted urn or hanging basket with similar flowers blooming magnificently.

Knocking on the substantial hardwood doors the view as they were swung open was scarily similar. A pastel fitted carpet, brass and glass furnishings.I ended the day in a thoughtful frame of mind as I pondered why these 'achievers' were so pack like in their desire for conformity. After all if judged on a material level these were the success stories of my community and yet there was a barren sterility in their display of wealth. Why?

It made me think about the 'flock like' mentality of being a human being.You are no doubt familiar with the scenario of group think, it happens everywhere from the nursery upwards and we are faced with the consequences of subscribing to the popular view, or not, at every turn of our lives. There is no doubt it is far easier to run with the crowd, few repercussions, a sense of comfort and identity but what happens in the long term?

The results of incrementalism are well documented, the rise of Nazism, the bigotry of discrimination, the persecution of those with different beliefs. And yet everywhere in our daily lives we see these events and remain silent. What is it that we are so scared of? Do we fear 'being different', standing out?

As the world melts down around us, economically, politically, socially, blame is being thrown around in every conceivable direction. Is that just? Don't we all share part of the blame? The rise of the bland group think, the desire for social acceptability has gone beyond the pall. What happened to the days of acceptable differences?

I see more and more groups of people who simply cannot cope if your vision is different to theirs. The"either you are with us or against us" attitude of George Bush, the fear of speaking out against obvious violations of human rights. Where does it end I wonder? If we don't have the courage as ordinary human beings to think as individuals, to comment on events and viewpoints what will happen to society? Will we turn around one day and see that by our dereliction we have been the architects of our own demise.

There is a real fear amongst many people we meet to articulate their true feelings. I find that difficult to understand, as you are no doubt aware its not a problem that I have! Or do I? There are many occasions when I do not commit my thoughts to paper as I fear they will be just too radical and uncomfortable for those around me. Time to change!

We are a gregarious animal and too easily processed. We need to create a place where it is safe to exchange dissimilar views. TBH has made this subject his life's work. And sometimes it can be quite difficult to live with for us more ordinary mortals!

To speak out and raise an uncomfortable or unpopular truth is wearing. To stand up against drugs, even though many see cannabis smoking as a pretty vice not a crime, to find old men exploiting young women unacceptable, to say openly that one disagrees with the populist view.....

But the truth is always defined socially. It is the group dynamic that dictates what is acceptable. If nobody ever questions then we have no discourse, no focus for thought, we become mindless.

Our future as a human race must depend on the development of a much greater collective Mindfulness of what we say and what we do.

Saturday, 25 October 2008

Hugo Boss.

Can you imagine having to effect repairs of this magnitude just weeks before setting off on a race around the world? Makes me feel cold just thinking about it, but good luck to them.

HUGO BOSS Damage Report

It has been a week since the incident involving a French fishing vessel and HUGO BOSS. The team at Alex Thomson Racing have been working around the clock to manage the repair to the boat. HUGO BOSS was moved from her temporary home in the commercial docks of Les Sables d'Olonne to a local boat yard called 'Feeling' owned by Alliaura Marine on Tuesday. The 25 strong build and operational team is now in place and work on HUGO BOSS is underway.


The build team set about cutting a section of the damaged hull yesterday (23/10/08). The damaged area, approximately 3.5m x 2m, has been removed and prepared for the new single skin to be fitted. The section which has been cut, is larger than the damaged area itself, this is needed in order to create a structurally sound section when it is re-built. The single skin, (made from carbon fibre), has been manufactured from the mould of another Open 60; Generali. A team from Multiplast in Vannes, France have been producing this new section. It is expected to be delivered to HUGO BOSS later this afternoon (24/10/08) and the team will begin work fitting the new skin on Saturday morning. Southern Spars New Zealand, have produced the new section of mast which will be delivered to Les Sables d'Olonne on Sunday evening. The team headed up by David Barnaby from Southern Spars have already begun preparing the damaged sections of the existing mast, and the sleeve repair process should begin on Monday (27/10/08).

Other suppliers such Future Fibres are hard at work to deliver components to the team on the ground. For Future Fibres this requires replacing all the rigging to the boat in time for the race start. "Hugo Boss is an extremely important customer for Future Fibres. The moment we heard about the incident we began to prepare the for an emergency set of rigging around an already full production schedule. Once the call came from Alex giving the go ahead we started work immediately. The complete set of rigging will be dispatched within six working days. Future Fibres CEO, Ewan Mclellan, owner Tom Hutchinson and myself will be in Les Sable for to ensure there are no last minute problems. Everyone at Future Fibres wish Alex and his team the very best of luck with the repairs to the boat and look forward to seeing him on the startline!" Miles Amin, Technical Sales, Future Fibres.


The priority for the team on the ground right now is to manage a strong repair, but also a fast one. This will be a difficult to balance, but crucial to the team's goal of making the start line. Once the structural repair has been completed the boat will need to be lifted back into the water and the mast stepped. It is crucial to the preparation for the Vendée Globe that the team at Alex Thomson Racing has the opportunity to test the boat on the water before the start of the race on November 9th.

"We have a team working around the clock to get the job done. There are a huge amount of logistics involved, not only in getting all the parts here, but making sure they are here on time. If the repair goes as planned, we hope to have a small window in which to test sail the boat and make sure the systems are in working order. This will be crucial in making sure the repair has been a success," Harry McGougan: Operations Director.

Friday, 24 October 2008


It is what we would call in Ireland, a soft day, here on the Rio. That's raining to you and me!

As the water continues to rise we are in danger of having the power on the dock switched off, the cables are very nearly submerged.

So feeling rather lazy we decided to watch a new DVD that TBH was given for his birthday. Sharkwater is an extraordinary documentary produced by a passionate young cinematographer/shark enthusiast called Rob Stewart.

He chronicles the appalling slaughter of the worlds population of sharks and uncovers a massive illegal shark fin racket based in Costa Rica. It is well worth watching. The photography is stunning and the message disturbing.

Thursday, 23 October 2008

Rumble in the Jungle...

Well a bit of a gurgle at least! Yesterday was TBH's birthday, and this year it was a big one. No less than 60 years old. A bit of a shocker that as I still believe he is firmly stuck in his late teens, I know the body is a bit older and worn but his mind is amazing! Always learning and engaged he remains an enormous challenge to live with(!).

So what were we to do to celebrate such a momentous occasion? No question one of TBH's favourite pastimes is sampling good food so with the collusion of Jim and Marco here at Mario's Marina we plotted to throw a superb dinner amidst the jungle setting.

Weeks before the event shopping expeditions were orchestrated to Guatemala City as ingredients were sourced for all TBH's favourite dishes. The catering staff entered in to the spirit as they talked about how to bring the whole thing in to being...

And what a triumph! Thank you so much to everyone. To recreate a world class meal down here was amazing. Mario's found ice buckets and candles, tablecloths and decorations. I was simply delighted with the effort that they put in to making the night such fun.

TBH had no idea that we were going to be joined by a group of friends and was stunned when he saw the magnificent spread that we had prepared for him.

So we began with garlic infused jumbo shrimps, delivered to the marina early that morning fresh from the ocean. These are one of the regular dishes here and absolutely wonderful. Alongside that we enjoyed platters of smoked salmon with freshly baked brown bread.

Our main course was fillet of Nicaraguan beef, seasoned and grilled whole then served in steaks, accompanied by jacket potatoes with sour cream and a selection of fresh local vegetables.

On to Mario's signature dish of Key Lime Pie. if you have never tasted this confection then you haven't lived. The knowledgeable Guatemalans who visit the Rio often drop in with an order for a whole pie when they are here, they know a good thing when they taste it! To help that slide down we accompanied it with Sarita's vanilla ice cream (TBH's favourite).

A short pause and on to a selection of cheeses and fresh ripe local melon. And finally to the birthday cake. A wonderful 'tres leches' cake that is traditional at Guatemalan celebrations.

All with the excellent wines that Mario's now stocks and a toast in the champagne that Jim and Marco sourced in the city.

...we made a bit of a mess with the 'pistole de confetti' that shot wads of sparkly stuff across the table and in to uncovered wine glasses, and a great time was had by everyone, most especially the Birthday Boy, who it was all for.

Happy Birthday!

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Sense and senseless.

As we continue to watch the financial dramas unfold across the world it is interesting to listen to the varying views around the marina. From the well informed to the uninformed there seem to be as many interpretations of the causes and fixes as there are boats on the Rio!

TBH found that with the encouragement of MIT ( Massachusetts Institute of Technology) a site,, has been setup where the professors, alumni etc are trying to bring clear, informed information to any interested parties, I recommend it.It tells you ALL about the global crisis.

As the presidential election in the USA grinds ever onwards, the mud slinging and innuendo continues. What an ignominious sight for the rest of the world to watch. Can't be too much fun for the participants either I would guess.

It's a funny old world!

Monday, 20 October 2008

Tomatoes everywhere!

Wow! Seventy tomatoes and counting...and they are still popping out all over the place. Seriously compromising access to the forward deck, I almost need a machete to get through these days. This is not a crop to be grown at sea I fear! However they have added a degree of interest to a long 'dock-bound' hurricane season.

The fruit are plumping up nicely, and so far, showing little sign of splitting or disease. Three have a strange black mark at the base and one plant is pushing out roots from all along its stems. I am being careful to keep those away from the teak deck or we may have a rather unusual problem to deal with!

The plants themselves are looking extremely healthy. A good dark green with plenty of foliage and strong growth. Interestingly the one that I staked is not producing as prolifically as the one I have allowed to grow 'au naturel'. Could be that they are marketed as a bush plant and that suits it better. Now we have to see what size they will get to and whether they will turn red without splitting. Fingers crossed...

The weather continues to be grey and drizzly and a lot cooler. Nearly lost the starboard plant this morning when a boat passing on the Rio created so much wash we went into a massive roll. I scrambled on deck to hold the plant in place and have now wedged it behind the 'granny bars' at the mast in the hope that if I am not around nothing will fly overboard!

Saturday, 18 October 2008

Hugo Boss damaged...

Terrible news as Alex prepares for his attempt at this years vendee Globe race. We really believe that he has, or had, a good chance of winning this year and know that he and the team must be gutted at this turn of events. Fingers crossed that repairs will be possible in the short time frame although the damage to the mast does not sound good.

HUGO BOSS suffers severe damage after being struck by a fishing vessel.

At 2.30am this morning Alex Thomson and his crew onboard the Open 60 yacht HUGO BOSS were struck by a 60 foot fishing vessel. HUGO BOSS was 2 miles outside the harbour of les Sables d'Olonne when the incident happened. HUGO BOSS was waiting to transfer some of the technical team onboard at daylight having just crossed the channel from their homeport of Gosport, UK ready for the start of the Vendée Globe.

HUGO BOSS was stationary with only its mainsail up when the fishing vessel struck. The race boat was visible with its navigation lights, trim lights and a strobe light on. Its radar and AIS systems were also activated and working.

The fishing vessel, registered in France, struck HUGO BOSS forward of the cap shroud on the starboard side, severely holing HUGO BOSS and bringing the mast down. The mast and sails were cut away from the boat before they motored into les Sables d'Olonne to have the damage assessed. Also onboard at the time of the incident with Alex was Boat Captain, Ross Daniel and Rigger, Giles Waterhouse. No-one onboard was injured.

"I'm devastated, but I'm glad everyone is ok" Alex Thomson, skipper HUGO BOSS.
Damage to HUGO BOSS is currently being assessed.

Friday, 17 October 2008

Wet and Wild!

It has been a wet and chilly couple of days on the Rio. Fortunately the Tropical Depression that has been heading toward us made landfall out in Honduras but its legacy has been a phenomenal amount of rain. The river rose by about 12 inches yesterday and has risen further this morning although it hasn't reached the top of the docks yet which means that we still have shore power on board!

The swollen, muddy waters are causing the local fisherman a great deal of grief. We watched as one pair in their dug out canoe struggled to free their nets early this morning. They had 'caught' a massive tree that was floating down river in the fast current. They finally got it clear but it was a couple of hours of wet and no doubt chilly work. With no fish at the end too....

The local village has heavy water flow coming through some of the properties and the road from Fronteras to the next town is flooded and impassable in places due to mud slides. All in all a really unpleasant time for the land dwellers.

For us though it has been a welcome change. Yesterday we battened down the hatches. Cooked a good meal. Settled down snug and safe with a book and thought about our forthcoming adventures. The sound of some good live flute music filtered below decks. There was a recital taking place in the bar and with the noise of the rain beating down on our suncover(!) it made a pleasant background...

The much chillier temperatures have set me to thinking about the return to higher latitude sailing and the different challenges that we will face. I am reading a book about Kamchatka, the region in Russia that is to be one of the destinations that we hope to include in our next voyage. It's a fascinating country. Part of the Pacific rim of 'ice and fire'.Roughly comparable in size to Japan, another of our intended destinations, it has over 300 volcanoes, 29 of which are active today!

Closed to outsiders until the late 1990's, now there is a small but growing tourist industry. The opening of Russia has allowed a few intrepid travelers to experience the complete wildness of the countryside. The worlds largest population of brown bears and previously unfished lakes and rivers... There is only one 'road' in the whole region and most access is limited to helicopters! I am making plans to visit the reindeer herders, stay in a yurt, visit the geysers and catch a salmon (or two)! All way in the future for now but great to think about.

Three indigenous tribes share the place with a Russian population brought in to service the Defence industry, most of which live in the one major town of Petropvlovsk. A typical ugly Soviet centre of featureless block buildings and unkempt surroundings from what I can see so far. The countryside is another story. Thousands of acres of World heritage Sites. Extra-ordinary geological features, glaciers, lakes of acid, boiling mud, marshes and mountains.

TBH's book is in its final stages and we are very excited about the upcoming roll out of the new venture.The current world financial crisis is just what we need to encourage the adoption of new and radical ideas. And that is just what he has created, clever chap! We are struggling with the very limited internet access here as we begin the next task of targeting potential reviewers and customers. The new limit of 30M a day downloads per computer is difficult to deal with. As we reconnect with our old world it is interesting to see who is doing what! Who has aged, and who hasn't! Mostly that seems to come down to how recently they have updated their photograph on their company profile websites!

So we are keeping busy here in the Jungle.

Monday, 13 October 2008

Truly Scrumptious!

We have had a great weekend.

The weather appears to have taken a cooler turn and although the rainfall is markedly increased the relief from the relentless heat is wonderful.

Its not just us humans who are appreciating it, the tomatoes are positively blooming. To be honest I was about to throw them overboard and chalk the whole thing up to experience when they suddenly put on an enormous spurt,throwing out new shoots, blossoms, and, wait for it, whole trusses of tiny tomatoes! As I was watering them this morning I quickly counted over 40 new young fruit! Wow! Mine are now definitely bigger than Bob's!!The one large fruit that we had split and turned red a week ago. We did eat it but it wasn't exceptional. I have much higher hopes for the new additions. At the very least I should be able to make a batch of green tomato chutney.

Marco managed to find quite a lot of the items that I requested from the city and yesterday we shared the bounty with some of our mates here on the Rio. We haven't entertained on the boat for some time. It's just been too hot to sit below and eat a meal and the space in the cockpit is limited. Yesterday however was perfect.

Seven of us gathered for drinks and chat and then repaired below to eat the most magnificent leg of lamb. I do enjoy cooking for friends and it is such a pleasure when everything comes together.

We began with fresh asparagus, simply steamed and served with cold butter and salt. With such good fresh ingredients I like to prepare something as simply as possible to enjoy the uniqueness of the flavour.

The lamb was prepared with garlic inserted under the skin, coated in wild borage honey and a rub of ground ginger, cracked black pepper and Mediterranean sea salt. A glass or two of Sauvignon Blanc in the bottom of the pan and set to roast slowly in the oven.

I roasted the potatoes in goose fat. This is the only sure way to get the potatoes that we buy here to really crisp up. The kids always bring me out cans of goose fat when they visit and I jealously guard my diminishing supplies. When they finally give out I use a mixture of olive and vegetable oil but can not get such a good result, although its acceptable(!)

We had julienne carrots, fresh green peas and beans with broccoli and a jar of Marks and Spencer's fresh mint sauce. All served with a thick brown gravy flavoured with just a hint of mint. It was scrumptious.

I passed on making a dessert and we picked through a selection of cheeses, one American, one Dutch and a nice french goat cheese that can be bought in the City. We even managed to find a bottle of Port to accompany the feast.

Good friends, good wine, good food and great conversation.

Friday, 10 October 2008

Taste of home.

Excitement is mounting on our boat! Marco has called from the big city to tell us that he managed to find a leg of lamb for me and it will be returning to the marina with him sometime later today...

Those of you who have lived overseas for any length of time will perhaps identify with the sometimes overwhelming desire for a flavour that reminds you of home/childhood or past special events!Lamb is almost a national dish in the UK, narrowly beaten by roast beef with Yorkshire puddings in some households. For TBH and I though its lamb every time.

Slowly roasted in a honey and ginger glaze, served with crispy roasted potatoes, succulent carrots and tender baby peas. A dish of fresh mint sauce on the side and glossy brown gravy poured over the top, mmnnn...

Thursday, 9 October 2008

Beyond belief

What do you do when the object of your satire is beyond parody? You use their own words. Here is the latest Saturday Night Live with Tina Fey as Sarah Palin.What a remarkable thing it is when a whole segment of such satire simply uses the original statement,beyond belief!

And here is a fascinating comment on an earlier blog which I want to share with you.

Hi Jerry - I loved your story on being a food pundit.

(I just discovered your blog yesterday ... as you know, from my dearth of emails, I do not spend much time on the computer, but as I was enjoying your blog, my fingers were sparked to action by this post on Sarah Palin, as, to put it mildly, I am in quite the uproar about her. SO, I was spurred to comment .... never having been on a blog before or commented, I am unsure of the exact procedure but I see my comments must be approved, so I rest assured I won't, at least, publicly be way out of line) ...

I, on the other hand, have absolutely no sympathy for Sarah Palin. Living in Alaska, I have seen her at work, and it is not a pretty sight (no touch-ups here). By virtue of our geographic location, we are (unlike Sarah Palin with respect to foreign affairs ... sorry, I couldn't resist this) privy to alot of local news regarding her decisions, points of view, beliefs, actions, etc., and frankly, it is absolutely terrifying to think of her as a heart beat away from the presidency. Equally terrifying is her belief that she is perfectly capable. She is against sex education, birth control, the pro-choice platform, environmental protection, alternative energy development, freedom of speech, gun control, the separation of church and state,and polar bears.

Her style of government consists of simply not talking to those that disagree with her, and firing those she dislikes. She believes herself to be above the law and has abused the powers of office. I think particularly telling are the following: (a) the residents of Wasilla, the thriving metropolis of 7,000 of which she was mayor, absolutely hate her; (b) many Alaskans, and certainly all that I know, responded to the announcement of her VP nomination with utter shock, disbelief, and a "you have absolutely got to be f...'ing kidding me"?! I could go on and on, but I will spare you. In Alaska, we are also currently particularly pleased to have the McCAin camp running our state government.

So, Gerry, there you have it. My "rage" at American politics did inspire me to write you in a fashion. That's rather sad, and I do apologize for my "news blackout". Perhaps that's because I have had to impose a news blackout on myself here ... it is simply not healthy for me to follow the news too closely.

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Disillusion and rationalization.

Rather unfortunately a number of disillusioned cruisers have posted unhelpful comments about the Rio on major cruising websites, like appears that this post on was removed sometime after I wrote the blog.) Merely stating that "the Rio sucks" is not a very useful or valuable observation. But it is quite understandable. The Rio is what the Rio is. It's a frontier; the town is called Fronteras!

It is not like a Floridian or Texan boat park. You can get excellent canvas work done here but the local guy is slow. You can buy practically anything from the West Marine catalogue but it's expensive and takes time to get here.

What is excessive about the disillusion probably reflects the unreality of expectations in the first place. The cruising life is not one long succession of golden beaches and parties, it's not an extended charter holiday. There are hurricanes. You have to hole up or take your chances.

There's a remarkable number of cruisers in the marina at the moment who are talking about giving up and going back to the States and the bitterness of their mindset is directly related to the extent to which they fell for the idealistic nonsense pedaled by boat builders and the yachting comics.

The truth is that the Rio is a fabulous place. The marina here is not an immaculate Disneyland park. The bar is getting a tad shabby but sometimes in the early mornings the view downriver is heartstoppingly beautiful. The hummingbirds on the mimosa in the sunlight is something I never tire of.

Later in the day the sun reflects from the water under the tin roof of the restaurant and gives it a charm that you won't find in well-groomed concrete marina complexes.

There are different places to sit and congregate and on a Sunday afternoon the place is alive with people from up and down the river playing games together.

Locals drop in for a drink and even the tropical thunder storms add a frisson to the whole experience.

Many aspects of life on the Rio are deeply disturbing. The paedophilia, the sex trade, the drugs, the washed out ex patriots... But what an opportunity to watch and learn and see our own cultures from the outside.

I found this interesting quote on another cruisers website. (Jen and Ulf were forced back to the working world when their boat was struck by lightening in the San Blas Islands. They are busy working to gather a cruising kitty together again)

“ … by getting to know [other cultures] better, we are enabled to detach ourselves from our own society. Not that our own society is peculiarly or absolutely bad. But it is the only one from which we have a duty to free ourselves… to elucidate principles of social life that we can apply in reforming our own customs and not those of foreign societies… the society we belong to is the only society we are in a position to transform without any risk of destroying it….
quoted from Claude Lévi-Strauss, Tristes Tropiques.

Perhaps its human nature to overreact to something that we can't do anymore in order to justify the act of rejection to ourselves? It says a lot more about the inadequacies of the individuals than about the Rio.

This evening there will no doubt be a big crowd to watch the Obama/McCain debate, though personally I am finding the mud slinging singularly unedifying.

And we'll all be thinking of the long term repercussions of the current economic decline on our chosen lifestyles. I for one will be giving thanks that I had the good fortune to leave that world and enjoy this cruising life. It's certain that I have no desire to return to the Rat Race.

Friday, 3 October 2008

Vice President's debate.

Last night we joined the crowd in the bar again to listen to the prospective Vice Presidents of the USA debate.

This much anticipated event drew a big crowd and we settled down to watch the contenders. Expectations were high, would Palin revisit her cringe making TV interview gaffs? Would Biden let his 'motormouth' run wild?

I am very interested to watch the machinations of the US political machine. And to be currently in a community that is principally made up of US citizens gives us a unique opportunity to try and understand the intricacies of another nations most intimate workings.

The debate surprised me on a number of levels. I certainly thought that Palin acquitted herself far better than I had predicted, my sense was that she had worked extremely hard to stick to her real experiences and try and deflect the discussion from territory on which she was uncomfortable. To a certain extent it worked.

I know little of Biden but I was impressed at his grasp of the mechanics of politics, his poise and sensitivity to the issues and his refusal to be deflected from them.

I must say that none of the four players comes out smelling of roses for me. Its a tough and important decision for the USA.

On balance last night I would give the debate to Biden. I particularly liked his response to how he saw his role as VP when he said that Obama wanted him there as somebody who would not be afraid to disagree with the Presidents views and be able to offer an alternative, experienced viewpoint.

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

No more dollars?

The U.S. financial crisis is making itself felt in different ways across the world.
Here in Guatemala it has been announced by a Guatemalan bank that they will no longer immediately credit U.S. cheques in to Local accounts but place them in a ring fenced account for 30 days to ensure the funds are available to cover them.

It seems the days of the ubiquitous 'green back' are quickly coming to an end. We were in Margarita, Venezuela when the government there announced that US dollars were no longer to be accepted as legal tender in stores and businesses and in Cuba now any transaction in U.S. dollars immediately attracts a 10% surcharge....

We find ourselves increasingly using PayPal to pay accounts, the advantage being that we can choose, at source, which currency we wish to nominate for payment. It makes life much easier as we travel around.