Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Christmas exploits.

Well it's over. The boat is eerily tidy and still!

We had a great Christmas. Lucy and Alex finally arrived.

We spent a couple of days at Monkey Bay Marina so they could recover from their long trip and after curing the engine problems set off downstream towards the sea.

We cleared out of Livingstone with ease and enjoyed a three hour sail across the bay to a sheltered anchorage for the night. All looked promising for our passage the following day. It wasn't! The wind blew on the nose all the way, the seas did their wonderful impersonation of a washing machine on hot was! But we got there.


After 32 hours Fantasy Island loomed in the pouring rain, grey and dismal. We wondered what we had done!

But all was well, the sun came out, the waters went blue.

We had turkey, wine, cruiser's potluck. Alex and Lucy dived and snorkelled. TBH and I read our new books.



Fantasy Island lived up to it's name for our guests( we got ripped off a bit but that's another story).




The trip back provided NO wind but flat seas, dolphins aplenty even a fish!






They went yesterday.It rained as they left. We miss them a lot...

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Smoke and heat!

It's been a few days of extraordinary ups and downs, not a lot new there then...
The engine continued to smoke and the strange rattley noise defied all attempts to quieten it. But despite these problems we decided that we had to cast off the lines and start to make tracks for the open sea.

We have had a great stay at Monkey bay marina, everything that we wanted after all. Quiet, chilled, unpressured. Lovely places to sit and a big freezer for the cruiser's use. Bliss! We loaded our ice blocks aboard, moved all the frozen meat into our chill box. Topped off the water, paid the bill and with as much grace as I could muster eased gently backwards out of our slip. Big cloud of white smoke but the prop did it's thing and propelled us out into the main body of the river.

Having been reading Nigel Calder again, it's a sort of boater's hyponcondria bible, I was convinced that either we had trouble with the injectors in the engine of the head gasket was/had gone. If it was a terminal condition we might as well find out sooner rather than later and with heart in mouth I eased the throttle forward and off we went. Lots of smoke but that could be from the injector cleaner that we added to the diesel, or it could be from the diesel bug cleaner that we also added. I kept an eagle eye on the temperature gauge as we floated slowly down river toward the Golfete.

Up sprung a nice breeze, oh come on lets sail, its not far and it'll be fun. Out came the main, the yankee, off with the engine and we tacked up the lake. The boat went beautifully and after a few false starts we got the tacking going...oh it was nice to feel the boat doing her thing in the water...

As we approached the anchorage on went the motor for the final approach. Oh dear also on went the temperature alarm as rapid overheating started. Off went the engine and we coasted in to drop the anchor which held firmly first time round.

My heart sank.This is it. The engine is knackered. Lucy and Alex's holiday scuppered...

We ate, went to bed and lay awake worrying all night.

Yesterday TBH set to. First checking all through the raw water system. No blockage on the intake, oil levels ok then EUREKA! a mangled impeller. Oh joy unbounded a simple straight forward mechanical failure.

After a horrific viewing of a totally disintigrated rubber impeller, a rodding out of the heat exchanger tubes and refixing a leaking pipe we were away. The engine fired first time, water expelled in quantity from the exhaust pipe. Alex and I looked at each other both realising that the rattle had gone, the temperature nice an cool.

We looked over the stern, NO SMOKE! Unbelievable. we must have been running for weeks with a damaged impeller without sussing it.

We are slow learners but we get there in the end!

So a quiet day, finishing off jobs, charging computers, planning our route, watching the weather. Fingers crossed we'll be over the bar tomorrow then an overnight anchorage whilst the next cold front blows through and we will be away!

Monday, 14 December 2009

They are here!

Finally they are here! Late saturday night a crackly transmission over the VHF and John, the manager at Monkey Bay, set off in the lancha to collect Lucy and Alex. They were tired after a long trip but it was lovely to finally have them onboard.

Mind you I very nearly sent them back again when they admitted that they had forgotten to pack the coffee grinder...ah well I guess that you can't have everything. Something to look forward to on the next visit.

So we've stayed in the marina another couple of days for them to recuperate from the long trip, plus there's a big swell running out at sea. We hope to cast off the lines tomorrow and head towards the ocean ready for a bar crossing on thurs /friday.We are all stowed, laundry done, provisioning complete, water tanks full. just a final wash down of the top of the boat and we're off.....

Saturday, 12 December 2009

It's nearly here...

...Christmas!

Lucy and Alex went to Antigua yesterday instead of getting the Litigua bus to Rio Dulce! Still gave us an extra 24 hours which we badly needed!

So provisions in, stockings shopped for, engine hoses fixed and batteries charged. Fingers crossed we are nearly ready!

Thursday, 10 December 2009

More trials and tribulations.

You would not believe the mess this boat is in.
I don't believe the mess this boat is in!
Alex and Lucy arrive in around 24 hours....

Their cabin is uninhabitable. Today TBH removed the watermaker, isolation transformer and floor boards. He threaded the wire for the fishfinder up past the exhaust pipe, around and over the fuel tank. Then we had to empty the lazarette to get said wire through to the wheel pedestal. When doing that he inspected the exhaust hose and could find no problems there so the hole is probably under the fuel tank, sigh.

We started up the motor whilst everything was exposed so I could try and locate the sound that is bothering me, it's definitely not in the engine. But just as I had the engine compartment open the fitting from the raw water intake split and gallons of river water spewed everywhere.

"Stop the engine" I screamed. TBH, fortunately mostly obedient(!) did just that and we surveyed the latest problem, or should I say challenge. Hysterical laughter from me and a wry comment from TBH that we now had a chance to use the spare that we had flown out to Trinidad from the Uk at great expense some 3 years ago...

So the saloon is piled with boxes from the aft cabin, I am cooking in the middle of a toolbox and the battery compartment lid is off so we can monitor the state of those little darlings...

I could be bald by tomorrow as I am sure to be tearing my hair out shortly!

Oh and I forgot to add that TBH drew some fuel of the tank whilst it was exposed and found a quantity of water in there along with the beginnings of one of those horrid diesel bugs. So another little job to deal with. But at least it could explain the white smoke from the engine...

I am off to bed now it looks like tomorrow will be a looong day..

Saturday, 5 December 2009

Monkey Bay Sliders.

With the boat still in uproar and the offspring due in less than a week I had the perfect excuse yesterday for a little cooking therapy! Just the thing to quiet my nerves was an invite to our next-door-boat birthday celebration last night. With the request to bring along something to eat I set to and decided on 'sliders' the mini-burger latest fashion accessory for hungry boaters...

I found a good recipe from Jaimie Oliver and adapted it a little. They sound fiddly but with a bit of organization on my work surfaces the whole lot was prepared from start to finish in under 40 minutes, not bad!

  • Olive oil
  • 2 medium onions, peeled and finely chopped
  • 6 Jacob's crackers or 4 slices of bread, crusts removed
  • 500g (1lb 2oz) good-quality lean minced beef
  • 1tsp sea salt
  • 1 heaped tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 large egg, preferably free-range or organic, beaten
  • A handful of freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  1. You can make these burgers or sliders in an oven at full whack, on the barbecue or in a hot pan. If you're using the oven or barbecue, preheat it now. Put a splash of olive oil into a large frying pan on a low heat and add your chopped onions. Fry for 10 minutes or until the onions have softened, then put to one side to cool completely.
  2. Blitz your crackers or bread in a food processor until you get a fine consistency. Oil a clean baking tray and put aside. Put the cooled onions into a large bowl with the rest of the burger ingredients. Use clean hands to scrunch the mixture together really well, then divide into 6 equal balls for burgers and 18 equal balls for sliders. Wet your hands and roll the balls into burger-shaped patties about 2cm thick.
  3. Place your burgers or sliders on the oiled baking tray and pat with a little olive oil. Cover them with clingfilm and put the tray into the fridge for at least an hour, or until the patties firm up..

I finished them off with a piece of lettuce, slice of tomato, dollop of ketchup, piece of cheese(melted on the burger) and a piece of crispy bacon.

I had to use the picture from Jaimie's article as all mine were eaten before I got the camera out! And yes they did look just the same...well apart from no pickles and no sesame seeds but what's that between friends!

I really like miniature 'real food' canapes, sort of wicked but not too filling. You can always eat a lot of them, well we can!

Friday, 4 December 2009

Sinkings,groundings and rescues.

Well our problems fade into insignificance after the bout of sailing news from the region this week!

British yacht Kersti sunk on it's way to Cartagena from the San Blas Islands. Owners Jeff and Ruth Morris took to their liferaft and were quickly rescued by other cruisers.

Yacht Columbine was hard aground off the West coast of Cuba awaiting the arrival of the US Coastguard, last news was that they had been there for 24 hours and had 6 to go before the 'cavalry' were due to arrive. So far they hadn't been holed.

Motor vessel Great Escape is aground in the Sapodilla's, Belize. Hard on a reef with significant damage and taking on water.


Makes our battery issues seem a whole lot more manageable.

Since we have been in this part of the Caribbean every season seems to contain enough dramatic incidents to make you ask yourself a lot of questions! Personally reef sailing scares the shit out of me, shallow water, sharp coral and inadequate charts. Yuck, just not my idea of fun. After our experiences in Belize last season I am in no hurry to return to that cruising ground. Give me the open ocean and a bottom that is so deep the fishfinder can't read it!

I am constantly amazed by the casual attitude of many sailors to navigation in these waters, their reliance on waypoints and the calm way in which they recount 'hitting the reef'. Personally the slightest scrape on my bottom leaves me appalled at my stupidity and carelessness.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Proud Mum.

My three gorgeous children at my sister and brother-in-laws 50th birthday party last weekend. Goodness I do miss them!

Muffins,engines and wifi

Goodness me! 1st December already and I am being chastised for not starting my Christmas blogging...I think it's because I am waiting for Lucy and Alex to arrive before I get in the mood.

Lucy and Alex open their new restaurant, Koh(in Bournemouth) sometime this week so they are really busy. I just hope she has time to get the last minute shopping list that I have sent. It has such vital things as Christmas Pudding and muffin cases on it! Could seriously compromise my Yule celebrations if they don't arrive.

Quick up date on the repairs; looks like we have reclaimed one of the batteries(we only charge 2 at a time) two of the others are coming on nicely but number 4 may well be f.....ed.

Really hope we are successful as the cost here is horrendous, Q1700 each that's 170 euros and they are not even the one's we want... Keep your fingers crossed for us.

Engine fuel leak is fixed although we are still getting some smoke from the exhaust. My theory is that we have another hole in the exhaust pipe further back. When TBH gets to the stage of running the final cable for the fishfinder we will unearth that part of the boat. Yet more mess. Sigh!

So cooking therapy is high on my daily 'to do' list. Yesterday I made another batch of pate and  baked some delicious cherry and walnut muffins. Sadly they just seem to evaporate as soon as they come out of the oven. TBH says its nothing to do with him and the crumbs on his shirt are just 'dirt'! Hum...

Monkey Bay Marina continues to charm. One thing I must mention is how John, the manager, came to our boat and set the wifi connection up for us. In other marinas you are often left to struggle alone to connect and given no guidance to using the system. Not here. John, who appears very computer literate, comes to the boat, actually sets the connection up on your computer and carefully explains just how much surfing the system here will take. What a refreshing and intelligent way to ensure a happy experience.

Sunday, 29 November 2009

Things are looking up!

Well it had to improve at some point!
And finally it has....

The fantastic TBH has slogged away with grim determination, in the face of a whining wife, technical hitches and limited access.

We acquired a tuner unit,(for the ssb radio) it's fitted and once again we are connected to the airwaves. I cannot tell you what a relief that is. I heard the NW cruisers net this morning, an achievment in itself as we are so far inland! They couldn't hear me but that wasn't a surprise!It was nice to hear all the boats that we know so well chatting away... Makes me eager to get back out there.

We have downloaded the weather fax via Sailmail and are so pleased that the Pactor unit does not need replacing, that would have been another $1000!

Slowly it looks like we are reviving our sick batteries, it took a while to remember just how our 'smart-charger' worked when all you need to do is get the current in there but TBH kept at it and they are humming away as I type this.

You shudder to think how boats with little practical expertise survive these kinds of breakdown. It's almost impossible to find reliable, capable technical labour here so the only choice is to do it yourself.

Friday, 27 November 2009

Monkey Bay Marina

Well it's been all change this week. On Sunday we had another run in with the rogue jetskiers, this time they dumped water all down the galley hatch, a mess but nothing was damaged. Boy was I mad... I got on the VHF to ask other boaters to look out for these bastards and then watched carefully myself to see where they were headed.
The manager of Monkey Bay Marina very kindly called the Navy patrol for us and within minutes they were alongside.

I had seen where the skis went and with a broken Spanish conversation the Naval guys invited me into their lancha and off we went in hot pursuit, AK47's bristling!

After one false sighting we found the jetski's, no people of course. A large motorboat that was hanging around said they were theirs but they hadn't been used that day and there was only the two of them at the property. Hum 3 jetskis and a large boat out for the use of two people. Well what do I know? I got a bit suspicious when the boat owner told me to be careful as I wouldn't always be surrounded by men with guns! Ah the joys of Central America!

The 'lads' took me back to the boat and we filled in a little paperwork, they were delightful throughout and told us they would keep an eye on the boat whilst we were at anchor.

Needless to say we immediately left the front of Mario's Marina, evidently not a very safe place to be...

So back to Shell Bay and the realisation that our batteries were in appalling shape. We are loathe to buy new ones as the kind we like are not sold here. We needed to get to some mains power and run a long recharge programme, that's if the smart charger still worked after the lightning strike.

We discussed which marina to go into. Mario's has declined rapidly in our opinion so we didn't want to return there. We decided on Monkey Bay, if they had room, it has a good reputation and I had been impressed at the response of the manager, John, during the jetski incident. TBH hopped in the dinghy and went to have a chat...

So up came the anchor again and we headed the short distance downstream to come into Monkey Bay Marina. It is a narrow slip with a small dock and pilings at the rear of the boat. Like the well oiled machine that we have become(!) we glided in with minimum fuss and made off the lines. I must say it's a relief to be sorting some of our problems out whilst alongside. I hate the feeling of vulnerability at anchor when bits of the boat aren't working.

So here we are, slowly and painfully restoring the batteries, we hope, to a better state. The boat is a tip, stuff everywhere.

But the marina is charming, friendly, clean and private. A bit like being a guest in somebodies garden...

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Bastards.

It's taking me a while to calm down from a really shitty end to a bad week.

We have been working our way through the current round of boat problems/breakdowns. Some we've solved, some we haven't and some we haven't begun yet. So Friday afternoon all was quiet below, I was indulging in some cooking therapy. Carefully dicing veggies for a guacamole to accompany the evening meal of chicken fajitas, TBH was working on the computer when an almighty amount of water covered the boat.

I shot onto the deck to see a jetski zooming off into the distance. The bastards had slewed up to our boat, on purpose and maliciously. They had generated a massive spray of water which covered the front two thirds of the boat. Probably 10-20 gallons came straight down the forward hatch totally soaking our bed, all the sheets, pillows,cushions etc. They also drowned our little portable generator on the side deck.He is now running at 15% less efficiency than before, water has obviously got into his vital parts.

So their little 'prank' has damaged our almost new generator, created massive amounts of washing and ensured that I will go out of my way to alienate every jetski rider that it is ever my misfortune to meet. Well done you pair of morons, bet you're really proud.

What can you say? What sort of cretinous morons think that maliciously damaging somebodies property is fun? I have cursed them from here to eternity and if I EVER come face to face with them(I got a good look) I truly hope they will end the encounter ruing the day that their paths ever crossed mine.


I have a very blown-up picture of the bastards,they were slowing down to admire their handiwork on the far side of the river, it's not very clear but maybe it will help identify the ***!!!.

In all the time we have been on the boat this is the first time anyone has maliciously gone out of their way to damage us. It's not a nice feeling.

Friday, 20 November 2009

Dylan Winter

I discovered Dylan Winter and his wonderful video's of a trip around Britain in a VERY small boat. What a wonderful video log, inspiring pictures, excellent commentary. Go to YouTube and waste a few hours vicariously living alongside Dylan! You'll need to subscribe to his channel but it's easy, follow the instructions...


Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Dreams.

It has been a difficult few days. By nature I am very optimistic, sometimes overly so! This week has tried that aspect of my nature somewhat...

It's never just one thing is it? Since the lightning strike back in June we have been steadily working our way through the list of equipment that failed. It's not just having to buy the stuff, it's how you get it down here in deepest Guatemala. Friends have helped out by ferrying in large pieces of kit, but there is only so much you can ask them to do and still remain friends!

Well the new SSB is in place and now we find the tuner unit is also knackered. Not a complete surprise but you hope, don't you, that the Gods are with you just some of the time, not on this boat this week.Then the engine started running warmer than usual, not enough to panic but enough to raise a flag. It also started spewing out white smoke and making a rattling sound somewhere in the exhaust system.

And to cap it all last night I threw a full glass of white wine all over my computer. That was it....tears, wailing and a gnashing of teeth swiftly followed.

TBH is wonderful, he stroked me gently and quietly reminded me of all that is right with our lives. We are happy together, we are living  our dream. We have our health, wonderful children and a magnificent sailing boat. I was pretty ashamed of my outburst I can tell you.



Once I had calmed down we settled to watch the final edit of 'Harmony; the road to Carnegie Hall'. And there I was sobbing again! All that talent, those hopes and dreams. It's a wonderful slice of life, do watch it when it reaches a TV station near you.

The guy from Mexico, an enormously talented violinist, who makes a living playing in jazz bars and at parties, humbled me when he said " Twenty years ago I dreamed, maybe of Carnegie Hall, then I forgot to dream anymore. Dreams do come true."

So right, sometimes, somewhere along the line I forget to dream. Big mistake!

And this morning TBH set about finding solutions in his own patient, intelligent fashion. It's now 9am and so far he's discovered a partially clogged raw water intake, which would account for the temperature rise, a damaged piece of exhaust hose which would account for the rattle. Not bad huh!

Time to resurrect those dreams...

Saturday, 14 November 2009

Casa Guatemala

Twice a week Casa Guatemala, the orphanage here on the Rio, visit the marinas on their boat. They sell meat and dairy produce to the boaters as one way of raising funds for their organization.
Over the months they have come to recognize our boat and will stop by wherever we are anchored and I usually stock up with their products.

Pork, beef, chicken, all good quality and reasonably priced. They make their own sausages which are excellent, sort of like an oversized Cumberland sausage but with peppers and spices too. We really enjoy these with mashed potato and onion gravy, excellent comfort food.

From time to time they have chicken livers which I always buy, great for pate.

This morning they had a couple of volunteers with them beginning to collect toys for Christmas(!). They organize celebrations for 250 kids and times are pretty hard at the moment. I searched through our toy cupboard and came up with a few bits and TBH generously donated a six foot wing span glider that he had been saving for a rainy day. Now all I have to do is persuade him to part with the radio controlled airplane that takes up valuable space on my side of our berth.....!

We stocked up with goodies, filled the fridge and indulged in a couple of treats, fruit yoghurt all for the grand sum of 204Q, around 20 euros, not bad!

Friday, 13 November 2009

Unite The Kingdom.


An interesting new site,Unite the Kingdom, which is just starting to try and formulate thoughts and ideas about the future of Britain.

It has no political agenda, no celebrity funding and no 'top down control'. It's in it's early days, but if you want to maybe have a say in the future of Britain this just could be a route into that conversation...

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Julie, Julia and Gunkholing!

It's been a busy weekend. After a trip to town on Saturday morning, to top up on supplies we headed off down river for a spot of 'gunkholing'. The weather was calm and not too hot, ideal conditions for nosing around some of the bays and islands in the Rio.

The silence once you get away from the busy part of the Rio is profound. The type that rings in your ears. We nosed our way, tentatively, watching the fishfinder, behind a small island and into a bay. There was nothing there, no houses to be seen, no canoes, no people. You knew that just back from the waters edge there must be small homes but they were invisible. As the water shoaled up to around 8 feet we put the anchor down. It bit straight away and after a good pull back, to set it, we turned the engine off. Wow!


I sat myself up in the cockpit and just let the atmosphere invade me. A 360 degree view that incorporated no signs of habitation, no houses, no telecoms masts,no outboard engines. The loudest noise was the gentle waves slapping on the bottom of the dinghy that was tethered at the rear of the boat. We got that aboard so that nothing would contaminate the special place we had found.

A long white egret flew by so close to me that I could hear his wings beating in a lazy rhythm. A bunch of vultures were circling over a rise in the land, maybe eying up their next meal?

As the afternoon turned into evening the wraith of wood smoke could be seen rising from a few places along the shore, the cry of a small child, a single dog barked. So there were people here!

We slept like babies with not a breath of wind to even rock the boat.

Yesterday back up river to try another view, this time beyond the large bridge that crosses the river. Not so peaceful but a nice vista that included the renovated fort that guards the entrance to Lake Izabal.

We watched 'Julie and Julia', the new Meryl Streep movie that looks at the life of the American Cookery Icon Julia Child and the efforts of a 21st century blogger, Julie Powell, to cook her way through Julia's masterpiece 'Mastering the art of French Cooking'. It was a lovely film, totally foodie which pleased me, and made TBH hungry!

 


So inspired this morning I started off by making some chicken liver pate....the week looks set fair for a good start!

Chicken Liver Pate (Elizabeth David's recipe)

Take 1lb chicken livers. Clean well and saute in butter for 3-4 minutes.
remove the livers and to the butter in the pan add a small glass of sherry and one of brandy.
Mash the livers to a fine paste, they should be pink inside, with plenty of salt, black pepper, a clove of garlic,2oz butter, pinch of ground basil, marjoram and thyme.
Add the liquid from the pan.

I then sieve the mixture for a smooth pate.
Put into a small bowl and chill well.

Yum

Friday, 6 November 2009

A sting in the tail?



Well they said it was all over...wrong.

Just as the boats are queing up to leave the river Mother Nature sends a warning shot in our direction. Tropical depression Ida(made it to Hurricane Ida briefly) is cutrrently making her way across land, expected to emerge back into the Caribbean tomorrow. Although the forecasters are predicting a lessening in intensity she looks set to pick up again once over the water. I'm staying put!

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Get your own Guru here!

 I first met TBH at a concert in London, at the Albert hall. We were mutual guests of his sister and sat next to each other through a tedious concert of Bruckner 's 9th conducted by Alfred Brendle. Sure it's heroic stuff but I think I classified it to TBH as an 'old mans music to die to!' I just knew I had impressed him!

At dinner after the event TBH held me enthralled as he espoused his views of Taoism, The Tao, Eastern Philosophy. I was agog. Ever a sucker for a bit of deep philosophy he had me hooked. And that as they say was that...

So ever since I have tried to get to grips with some of the vast numbers of Great Thinkers that we have access to. It's daunting and my mind goes into spasms as I attempt to understand a few of the profound gurus of history. I can always turn to TBH, who had read most of the great philosophy tracts by the age of 9!!

But when I come across one of the modern, fast track routes to understanding I am more than willing to follow it!

I am a fan of The School of Life a marvelous organisation of philosophers et al who aim to bring meaning to everyday existence. Along with a fair dose of humour.

On their recent blog they have a link to www.markvernon.com, where by answering a short questionnaire you can find which of the ancient Greek philosophers is most suited to your personality type! I did it.

Guess who my own guru came out as??



Epicurus! Pretty good huh!

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Late night shenanigans.

A few days ago another boat came into the bay where we have been anchored for the last week. I didn't hear them arrive, the sound of the generator running masks most things!

When I looked out he seemed a bit close. OK let's call a spade a spade he was snuggle up, in my space, pass me tea in bed close. You get my drift! Had I seen him come in I would, perhaps, have used my world famous 'aggressive hip stance' you know the one where you stand on the bow,rigidly upright, hands on hips, gently shaking your head to indicate another boat has violated your space. I remember holding this position for two hours once to get a boat to move-it worked!

Currently I am in a 'calm and pleasant' phase,which means I am cultivating a peaceful and balanced positive mind set. Yeah I know that's not at all like me but there you go, sometimes you gotta try! So I said nothing just looked and went below.

Where we are anchored has a few odd currents, being just off the main 'stream' of the Rio and there is no definitive direction in which the boats settle.

Well who am I to ponder as to the reason some sailors like to get so close, even though there are wide open spaces all around.. Maybe they weren't breastfed as babies....Maybe it's our magnetic personalities....

After a day or so of coming together and moving apart. I kinda got used to knowing whenever they used their loo, with the sound of bubbles emerging from under their boat. I could hear the cat on board miaowing and even purring( that really is an exaggeration). Still the weather is calm, I can stay calm (breathes deeply and hums OMMMM)

Of course that all changed last night around 11pm. Up gets the wind, down pours the rain and my cabin is lit up by their anchor light. I bound on deck, throwing on clothes as I move(I forgot to do that once and the poor cruiser I surprised is still in therapy). By now the gusts have faded but their boat is less than one boat length from us. Both of us rotating in opposite directions. Ho Hum. I call TBH for an opinion.

'We won't touch but it'll be close'

By this time their cat is making moves to come aboard my boat!

I sat quietly under the light of the full moon and watched. As the moonlight faded I could see a nasty black line of clouds gathering over "monkey mountain' Not so good.One of us was going to have to move and by now they were over my anchor...

The boat in question had a German ensign. I scrabbled in the murky recesses of my brain for the schoolgirl phrases that I had learned so long ago. If I confide that my teacher, a wizened little German national formally addressed as Frau Doktor Apt, told me on more than one occasion that she had no idea what I was doing in her class as I had the least linguistic ability she had ever had the misfortune to come across, you'll understand what a mammoth effort this was!

Long forgotten words clambered out of the muddy waters of teenage years;
Wo is der zimmer? Where's the room?
Ich wohne im London. I live in London.
Mein Hund is schwarz. My dog is black.

Not going to be a lot of good!

AHOY ???###.

One thing I do have is a VERY penetrating voice, all those years of calling the cows in for milking. Two cries and the crew were on deck, also most of the surrounding villagers and boaters too I suspect...

'I think you are a little close'  an understatement but polite. As they started up their engine and moved away Frau Doktor Apt would have been proud and amazed by the 'Danke schon' that I called across the dark waters at their fast receding stern!

Monday, 2 November 2009

Pirates off Nicaraguan Banks.

Just picked this up from Noonsite . A bit closer to where we are than the Chandlers, but not a good sign.

This is a report from s/v Blu Interlude, a 47' sailing vessel.
At 0700 on Monday 26 October, 2009, we were under way along the Nicaraguan Banks, about 16 miles off Cabo Gracias A Dios (GPS position Lat: 15 4.7' N / Long: 82 55.1 W).
We were flagged down by a green panga approximately 25' with 4 men on board. Some of the Pirates were wearing para military clothing. We slowed the boat down and then the pirates pulled shotguns and pistols and boarded us.
At gun point they tied all three of us up and then took cameras, money, dinghy outboard, watches, sun glasses, hand held GPS and VHF radios and cell phones. They were on board for about 45 minutes searching the boat for valuables.
The attack was reported to the Coast Guard at San Andreas Island, Columbia on Tuesday October 27, 2009.
Juan Pablo Del Solar Goldsmith
Captain
SV Blu Interlude

It's raining, it's pouring...

...and the boat erupts into a malestrom of activity.
Like the well oiled machine that we have evolved into,NOT, bodies fly around the boat.
Shut the hatches.
Take down the windscoop.
Plug the deck drains.
Open the water tank fillers.
Put the hose into the water cans.

YES!!! Running on almost empty yesterday's cloudburst was a well timed opportunity to fill our water tanks after a few weeks of dry weather.

But of course the excitement continues, mustn't waste a drop of this precious liquid. As soon as the tanks get near full I frantically run off buckets of the stuff down in the galley and begin to launder everything in sight. Yesterday there was a lot of it!

Armed with my trusty 'washing dolly' from Lakeland I plunge gleefully up and down amongst the dirty clothes, scrubbing and rinsing and wringing. The sweat pours off me in the high humidity of the tropical weather but I don't care. Not me! later I can have a LONG luxurious shower in the sweetest softest rainwater. Ah bliss.

By the time the tanks were full all the laundry was in buckets waiting to be hung out to dry I was clean and sweet smelling, just like the laundry.

Saturday, 31 October 2009

I wish I'd written this.

This piece in the Times,written by Janice Turner says everything that I don't have the skill to pen about the Chandlers and their current plight.It's not often that another writer completely captures your own thoughts on a subject but Janice eloquently describes my immediate thought on hearing the pirates statement that they had captured 'two old people'.

Who are they calling old was an immediate response in my head too! We are similar ages to the Chandlers, as are the majority of cruisers we meet. Choosing to leave the security of our previous lives in order to grasp the time we have on this planet by the throat and LIVE.

Her piece highlights that cultural mismatch that we rarely addressed on land. One that taxes me on a daily basis. It's so hard to put yourself in to somebody else's shoes.In a culture that is totally alien to where, certainly I, come from.

TBH always quotes Nietzsche, who said we should live our life at the top of a hill or mountain where we can enjoy a broad horizon. And not just any old mountain, a volcano that could erupt at any moment and so makes every second special and precious, amidst the spewing rocks and lava of life.

Initially I thought;what were they doing sailing in those waters they are dangerous! But of course that's how many people view the Rio. We've had hostages taken, murders, thefts here. It's a calculated risk. We take the precautions we can as no doubt the Chandlers did. Sometimes fate plays a duff card. It could be our story and maybe yours too...

The film Up, that deeply affecting study on mortality masquerading as a kids’ cartoon, tells of a couple who from childhood share a dream of adventure. They fill a jar with spare change, saving for their big trip to Paradise Falls. But the roof leaks, bills need paying: life keeps emptying the jar, until one day death smashes it for good.

What had me — and, I guess every adult in the cinema — snivelling behind our 3-D specs, was the aching contrast between youthful hopes and old-age unfulfilment. Fate mostly doesn’t reward honourable, careful folk — instead, with random injustice, it squelches them flat.

It takes guts in uncertain mid-life to unscrew the jar, trouser the pennies, rent out the house, flout family expectations and Money Box Live and the risk of I-told-you-so’s from envious Steady Eddies; to do like Paul and Rachel Chandler and road-test your dream.

Thirty years ago it would be inconceivable outside a sitcom, that two grey-heads in prudent professions — a quantity surveyor and an economist — would desert quintessentially square Tunbridge Wells for a life on the open sea.

But the Chandlers, aged 59 and 54, are part of the luckiest generation who lived, beneficiaries of property bubbles, enduring health, a global sensibility and a flinty me-generation selfishness. (And unlike those of us behind, they got out before the great final-salary scheme massacre or the Government tagging more working years to our life sentence.) Rather than die in discontent these lucky oldsters preferred to face risks, whether pension-sapping currency dips or pirates. So they colonise northern France or southern Spain, you see them wearing well-cut linen in the world’s most chi-chi boutique hotels, ticking off Machu Picchu or Kilimanjaro with the hunger for experience of those acutely aware of a ticking clock.

Reading the Chandler’s blog of their three-year voyage, it is thrilling to realise what happiness might lie ahead when one is untethered from work, family or nation. Mr Chandler’s face as he fiddles with his engine bears the beam of a man truly alive. Unlike the moany expats who hole up in remote châteaux and Brookside villas, stewing their boredom in all-day vino, looking out alone, unvisited, unbefriended, upon their perfect view, the Chandler’s grabbed the globe and spun it with glee.

Instead of soul-deadening idleness, they chose a life of perpetual challenges, both major (crossing treacherous waters) and minor (how to sleep during a monsoon). They celebrate their self-sufficiency and resourcefulness, their route calculations, new friends and small triumphs; Rachel pens a cheery photo-story of how she scrubbed and dried their dirty sails. They step ashore with curiosity and boundless amusement. As Bruce Chatwin observed in The Songlines, Man, a nomadic beast, is never more content than when in motion.

So I wonder how, once they are free, this apparently wry and understated pair, will look at their Somalian kidnappers’ declaration: “We have captured two old British [people], a man and a woman.”

Old? Who are these damn pirates calling old? And yet there, in one sentence, is the ultimate culture clash. “Old” has no universal meaning. In Britain the Chandlers might expect 20 years more life; in Somalia they would have died, most likely, a decade ago. In Somalia — life expectancy of 48 years — there are few we would call old: only 2 per cent of its population is over 65, compared with 16 per cent in Britain.

There is no cruder inequality than how many years you are permitted on the planet. The very concept of retirement, that elderly people should enjoy well-earned repose, is the mark of a benign and civilised society.

We should perhaps remember that the next time we beat ourselves up at how we in the West dispatch our ancients to urine-stinking nursing homes, whereas Asia (or, more precisely, the women of Asia) cares for them at home.

In Hanoi this year, I observed a tiny, frail woman, probably in her seventies, sitting outside her family business at 11pm, barely awake, selling bottled water to tourists. What is a preferable old age? Toiling exhaustedly yet being respected and useful or being allowed to put your slippered feet up for ever in a too-hot TV lounge, an isolated irrelevance? It is a tough call.

How bemused the Somalians must be at these “old” people, who abandoned their own families. How peculiar the notion of taking to the sea for pleasure must be for those who do so because there is no living to be made on land.

Like the Mafia emerging from the Italian American ghettos, the Somalian pirates are a metastasised form of high capitalism. When their failed state was unable to protect its coastline, allowing European and Chinese factory boats to hoover up their fish stocks and destroy their livelihood, while foreign companies paid warlords a pittance to dump toxic and nuclear waste in their seas, the coastal people moved into a new and more lucrative trade: ships and hostages for cash. Who cares if the vessels contain aid supplies bound for Somalia’s starving?

In their extreme youth, ruthlessness and amorality — the disconnection between their gain and the terrible consequences for others lower down — they resemble our own reckless bankers. “They [the pirates] have money; they have power and they’re getting stronger by the day,” one Somalian said. “They wed the most beautiful girls; they are building big houses; they have new cars.”

Unlike the City bonus boys, they justify their greed and undeserved windfalls by saying that a whole economy — the fishing villages where they spend their ransom cash — is sustained by their largesse.

Let us hope the pirates are sophisticated enough students of economics to believe the Chandlers’ relatives when they insist that they have no money — “it’s all in the boat”.

Because the concept of being asset-rich yet cash-poor must be unfathomable in a nation where assets are snatched at gunpoint and million-dollar cash ransoms fall out of helicopters in waterproof sacks.

But we need the Chandlers back safely — not least because it helps to know that some ordinary adventurers do get to Paradise Falls.


And she gets the anomie of today's world. The fact that it's Somalia today and where tomorrow? Take what you can, beggar the consequences. Just like the West's politicians and bankers.

Maybe it is a salutatory lesson about where our societies could end up if we don't address the problems in our own backyards?

Friday, 30 October 2009

Lynn Rival Update

Update on the kidnapping in the Indian Ocean here states that a $7 million ransom has been demanded.

Seems the Somali pirates don't know many liveaboard cruisers or they'd realise that sum is way out of the range of almost everyone out on the ocean onboard a 38 foot boat.
Far from a glamorous superyacht lifestyle most people I know have sacrificed a good income in favour of a priceless way of life.Why does the world at large, and the media in particular continue to portray us as champagne swilling socialites? I guess 'cos it's easy and they don't get contradicted very often. It seems that the crew of Lynn Rival could be paying a great price for such misapprehensions.

Pirate boarding.


Every morning on channel 69 we get the local cruisers net here on the Rio. It starts with calls for emergency and priority messages. The other day an American voice announced in a concerned way that a British boat had gone missing off the SAY SHELLES.

He appeared to have heard the message on CNN and I have a sneaky feeling didn't know where these islands were!

Not quite what we were expecting for that segment of the net which usually deals with the theft of dinghy motors! Still at least he tried.

I started watching the story after an announcement on some sailing forums that their epirb had been activated a week ago and did anyone have any knowledge of the boat. Isn't it extra-ordinary how quickly information can be disseminated by 'tribes' of people interested in the same subject?

Within hours the sailing community were listening out for news of Lynn Rival, the boat that was missing.

Lynn Rival is a similar boat to ours and we learnt to sail on that make and model of boat

They were sailing in some of the most hazardous waters for pirate activity in the world and the immediate consensus was that they had probably been boarded. Sadly this proves to have been correct and we now await the outcome of their families efforts to get them released.

This piece of video contains a phone conversation with the kidnapped couple, I must say they sound pretty together so fingers crossed for a happy outcome.


Thursday, 29 October 2009

Night thoughts.

You awake?

mmnn.

Talk to me.

mmnnn.

I need to chat.

Brain still asleep.

Well grunt then.


Lately I am wide awake around 11pm and want to talk to my beloved. I don't know why but the brain has started to stimulate random thoughts deep in the night. Not convenient.

First I lay there quietly. Listening to the sounds of the river. A rhythmic quiet splashing as a canoe paddles by.What's he doing out this late?

Frogs croaking over on the bank. Howling dogs building toward a crescendo of sound and then sudden silence. Wonder what disturbed them? A snake? Bitch on heat....

The boat creaks from time to time. I try and identify where the noise is coming from. Must be contracting metal after the heat of the day. The nights are much cooler now.

I wonder what the meaning of life is. Will Lucy's new restaurant be a success. Did I shut the companionway hatch. Is it locked. When are we going sailing again. I want a long shower. And a bacon sandwich.

Scratch my back. Right, left, up, that's it! mmmnnn.................

Then TBH is awake, intelligent conversation begins. Last night we covered the anomie of society in this chaos driven crisis world. The break down of society as we know it. Obama. Gordon brown.limitations of the medical profession....

Yawn.

You awake? (TBH asking now)

MMMnnn

Damn now you've woken me up and I'll have to write down what's going on in my mind. Blast you!

MMnnn....segue to gentle snoring!

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

What a lovely sight!


Finally after a sweaty few days our delightful bank manager, Graca, has sorted our problem. Thank you. Rarely have I been so pleased to see a banknote!

Seems there was some kind of computer glitch but after many emails and telephone calls all is well. A relief that we won't be on short rations after all.


A big thank you too for all our lovely cruising friends who offered to tide us over, it wasn't needed but we were grateful for the thoughts!

Monday, 26 October 2009

The Bank Card Two-step.


That's what we have been doing for the past few days!One step forward and two back.

One of the most difficult things about cruising is money, no, not just the need for it, but how to get at it!

I guess we have been pretty fortunate but this is the first time we have had a serious hiccup in our financial arrangements. It is just one of those nasty combination's of events that sometimes cause a big problem

Our new cards did not arrive at our UK address before the old ones expired.So I re-ordered them just in time to get caught up in the current British Postal Strike-sigh!

Not to worry we had another card and that surfices. Oh no it doesn't...for some bizarre reason the ATM in town decided it no longer liked our piece of plastic. Quick email to the bank."Oh yes you probably need a new pin number I'll send one"

Well to cut a long story short TWO arrive in identical envelopes,well apart from a few numbers on the outside, the information is conveyed via our son. Neither of them worked and THEN the whole card got locked down so no access to cash or services.The local bank in town proved totally unhelpful,they claimed to have run out of vouchers to do a manual transaction, oh yeah.

Oh Dear!

Our lovely bank manager has sent another that she assures me 'is agonna work manana!"(She's not British!)

Fingers crossed that she's right or we could be on short rations until Lucy and Alex arrive.

Oh I do love technology, sigh!

Saturday, 24 October 2009

Caframo price rise.


Bit of a shock last night as I was surfing to buy some new fans for the boat.

I've been a 'fan'(sorry) of caframo for years. In the Tropics they are a vital bit of kit to ensure a comfortable existence below decks. Low on power use, quiet and efficient they answer all my needs. But of course as they are in almost constant use we get through one or two a year. The bearings finally fail with a nasty whooshing sound and another one bites the dust.

Well at around 25.00 pounds each I can live with that. So there I was ready to order a couple for the stores. What! the price has risen to 55.00 EACH!!!?? What the f....... Is this the result of a devalued pound??

I surfed all the sites suggested by Google and finally found them at 34.95, ordered a couple swiftly before they sold out.

Somebody explain to me what caused a 100% price rise in under 12 months??? Last ones we purchased were 24.95 pounds, nine months ago.....

Friday, 23 October 2009

It Breaks...

...it's a boat!

Well after a reasonable run of NO breakages of course it had to happen.

As we moved anchorage the other day TBH called out 'Anchor aweigh!'. That's my cue to move the boat into gear and head on out.

Ah Ah! No way was that gear lever going to move into forward, or backward for that matter.

It's happened a few times before, once(horribly) in Cartagena which caused a few heart stopping moments as we navigated a crowded anchorage.

This time I knew the routine. TBH went below, opened up the engine compartment, disconnected the control cable and moved the lever at the mounting. Crude but effective.

So a few days later we have got to grips with the failed knob! Taken all to pieces it still refuse to release the 'neutral' button. Surfing the web we found the manufacturers(teleflex) help line. They were super, said after 18 years we probably need a new one but in the meantime use a bit of brute force and ignorance. Obviously a technician after my own heart!

With TBH in muscle man mode it was released and a cheer resounded around the boat.

...of course being a boat that's not the end of the story. To reattatch the cable from the pedestal to the engine involves a great set of body contortions, much grunting and liberal use of expletives###!!

Finally it's done. We have transmission.

But just to be certain I've ordered a new part to come out with the next visitor. I'm not taking any chances!

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Birthday celebrations.


Today is TBH's birthday. He is definitely heading back down the scale now!
The day started with prezzies, well one actually. A scale cobra sportscar, he had a real one in a previous life. We found one in the local supermarket toy section. Needless to say he was thrilled and has been going 'brmm-brmm' up and down the saloon table ever since. Worrying or what!

All the offspring and relatives called with best wishes and he is currently wearing a face-splitting grin.

He chose the menu for this evenings dinner a deux.

Chicken liver pate.
Pork tenderloin with poached plums in a wine sauce
Bread and butter pudding


I must say the aroma through the boat as the plums cooked in their spicy sauce was amazing...very dribble making. It's such a good dish that I have written out the recipe for anyone who wants to give it a go, highly recommended.

• 6 sweet firm red or black plums, quartered, pitted
• 2 cups white wine
• 1 cup dry red wine
• 2 whole star anise
• cinnamon stick
• 1/4 cup plus 1 1/4 teaspoons sugar, divided(I used honey 1tbsp and 1tsp)
• 2 cups chicken broth
• 5 fresh thyme sprigs plus 1 teaspoon finely chopped thyme, divided
• 2 tablespoons chopped shallot
• 1 1/4-pound pork tenderloin
• 3 tablespoons olive oil
• 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme(I used dried)
• 2 garlic cloves, minced


For Plums:
Combine first 5 ingredients and 1tbsp honey in heavy large saucepan; bring to boil, stirring until honey dissolves. Reduce heat; simmer until plums are tender, about 20 minutes. Transfer plums to platter. Strain wine mixture.
Return strained liquid to same saucepan. Add broth, thyme sprigs, and shallot. Boil until mixture is reduced to 1 cup, about 25 minutes. Strain sauce; stir in 1 teaspoons honey and chopped thyme. Season with salt and pepper.

For Pork:
Preheat oven to 400°F. Brush pork with 1 tablespoon oil; sprinkle with thyme, garlic, salt, and pepper. Heat remaining 2 tablespoons oil in large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Add pork and cook until brown on all sides, turning often, about 5 minutes. Transfer skillet to oven, and roast pork about 20 minutes. Remove skillet from oven and let pork stand 10 minutes. Cut pork crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Serve with poached plums and sauce.

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

We can make a change.

Whether you are a dirt or water dweller some things are affecting us all right now. I am talking economic crisis here.

I know that lots of people don't want to even think about it and are closing their eyes to the reality of the dire situation but thank god there are increasing numbers of ordinary folk who are getting organised and demanding change from their governments.

People power should never be underestimated. You, me, we can make a difference BUT we have to get off our butts to do it. Those in power would like us to believe that the 'little people' hold no sway but they are wrong.

Look at this site showdowninchicago.org and this one anewwayforward.org they are fighting to make a difference, orchestrating actions that need to happen.They make the point that change has not come from the top.

So get involved, make your voice heard, if you don't the price you will pay will be unthinkable.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Innovation

Innovation is a word that figures largely in our current conversations. We have a rather unusual double life, living on a boat, enjoying the freedom of movement that allows whilst on the other hand developing a business at the cutting edge of innovative thought and technology. Sometimes it's hard work!

As we explain many times a day, the idea behind TBH's new web application didn't just materialize fully formed.It developed over a lifetime of work, interest in philosophy, technology, applied social psychology and business. It is challenging to explain something that exists nowhere else on earth.

"But what's it like?" is the most asked question.
"Is it like Facebook?" No.
"Is it a project management tool?" No.
Actually at it's heart it's a rewiring of the collective mind. A superbrain if you like....

Change is hard. As human beings we hate to change, usually only succumbing when there is no other choice or it is just too painful to stay where we are. Sailing has bought this message home to me in some very practical lessons.

The need to act in the moment; be it repairing a broken part, changing the sails, altering travel plans to accommodate a weather change. Every day it seems that we are faced with the requirement to change and adapt our lives. At times it can be overwhelming.

I have a theory that is the main stimulant for those who find cruising is not for them. It is tiring to constantly be changing and for some people, the challenge just becomes too great.

Dreams are sold on the idyllic sailing lifestyle, the endless parties, beaches, friends. The reality is more often writhing in the bowels of the bilges with a spanner in your hand, mouth drying fear at unexpected weather systems...I could go on!

The payoff though is the satisfaction as you master the new challenge, overcome the obstacle, succeed.

Our 'enery(the generator) has been playing up again, TBH took him totally to pieces and has rebuilt him. Mastered the technology. He feels great about that!

Innovation, change, learning. All challenging environments. But if we don't learn, change,adapt and grow what is there? Decay and stagnation.

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Do it.


We met 'Do It' in Panama, anchored side by side at the Flats in Colon. They were preparing to transit the canal and we shared a couple of evenings, some hot tips and a mutual fascination with the TV series 'Desperate Housewives'- don't even go there!

They have gone on to explore the South Pacific and I highly recommend their site particularly if you are headed that way yourself.

Friday, 16 October 2009

One minute to save the World.

Plastic Soup from Lara Leslie on Vimeo.



One minute to save the World is a competition to highlight the problem of climate change across the globe.The above short film is one entry that focus's on the bane of sailors lives, plastic. It never rots, floats and gets caught in many a prop. Never mind the damage to sea-life.

Take a look at their site and vote for your favourite film...

Thursday, 15 October 2009

TED turns me on!

Do you know about TED?

TED has become an important part of my life...no it's OK I haven't gone off the rails and TBH is not worried. Let me share TED with you.

TED is a small nonprofit devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading. It started out (in 1984) as a conference bringing together people from three worlds: Technology, Entertainment, Design. Since then its scope has become ever broader. Along with the annual TED Conference in Long Beach, California, and the TEDGlobal conference in Oxford UK, TED includes the award-winning TEDTalks video site, the Open Translation Program, the new TEDx community program, this year's TEDIndia Conference and the annual TED Prize.



I really love TED, it has a fantastic varied selection of informing, inspiring, quirky and fascinating speakers. From the well known to the downright eccentric. But each has something to say that often stimulates your own thinking.

Today I stumbled on this extra-ordinary musician,Imogen Heap. Her recent recording touched me deeply. I hope you enjoy it too.



..and how about this talk by Rebecca Saxe on how the brain handles moral judgement? Wow! Imagine making a discovery like this when an undergraduate!

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Cutural Imperialism.

A couple of weeks ago there was a tapping on the hull. I went up to see who it was, it was a young local lad in his cayuco. In broken English/Spanish we ascertained that he was looking for work on the boat.

Normally we make it a practice not to use itinerant labour, certainly without a reference from another yachtie but we told him we were leaving that anchorage shortly, he could come in a couple of weeks and we'd give him a job.

So we returned here and Ricardo found us a couple of days ago. TBH set him to cleaning the hull. A test of anyone's stamina. We agreed a price, less than he asked for but with the promise of extra if he did a good job...

Ricardo set to with a willing attitude, it was an extremely hot day and he was feeling the heat. That was a bit consoling to us as we sometimes feel a bit feeble in our intolerance of the high temperatures here. We chatted a bit, so far as the languages allowed. He said he taught reading and writing at Casa Guatemala and it was the holidays so he needed more work. Come lunchtime he disappeared, to get a meal we assumed. Time passed and he failed to return. Ah well we thought, we haven't paid him so maybe he's unwell.

Next morning up he pops, his eight week old daughter was 'malo' (ill) and he had stayed with her. Fair enough we thought and again he set to. Did a magnificent job on the hull, she looks as good as new!

By mid afternoon the heat was fierce and we paid him for the work he'd done, and indicated that was enough for the day, he could come back early in the morning before it got too hot.

So yesterday he arrives at 7.30am. Apologizing for something that frankly I couldn't understand. He says he's hungry would I feed him, he would pay...

It's difficult walking the tightrope of cultural differences I find. On one hand I try to remain uncynical, despite a couple of unpleasant rip-offs in past, and yet on the other hand nobody wants to be taken for a ride. I cannot imagine what his life is like. I believe he paddles for at least an hour to reach us, has dreams of becoming an engineer or computer operator, a wife, a small sick child.

There is a huge desire to help him BUT I have seen too much cultural imperialism to be comfortable with that. My decision is to pay a realistic wage for a good job, I hope that way to help him maintain his own esteem and dignity and not to see the 'rico' gringos as an easy touch. That does neither of us any favours.

As TBH so accurately predicted, damn him, travel is, at its finest, an unsettling experience. An opening of doors in your own mind that in many ways are so much more comfortable left shut. Yet once walked through there is no return.

So I wrestle with my thoughts, confused between my head and heart, touched by the culture.

I have been reading a book,; The White Man's Burden by William Easterly. It talks about why the West's efforts to aid the rest have done so much ill and so little good. It's a difficult read but sobering in it's condemnation of the arrogance that has in so many ways sentenced large populations to continued struggling in poverty and misery. He comes up with no answers but certainly stimulates his readers to ask many more questions.

Sunday, 11 October 2009

Tsunami aftermath.

We have a number of friends who are cruising in the South Pacific and have been watching with concern to ascertain their whereabouts after the recent Tsunami in Samoa. Fortunately all our immediate friends are safe and well but there have been some terrible stories and reports from the worse affected area, even loss of life.

I think one of the biggest surprises to me has been to read of the ignorance of many cruisers of the potential after effects of an earthquake, you can read on this site how many cruisers joked about a 'big wave ' coming ...

We had a fairly substantial quake when in Belize earlier this year. My first thought was tsunami.
Although we were well behind a reef and a land spit I insisted that we close all the hatches, securing both the boat and ourselves. At the time I felt a bit daft, sitting sweltering below but in the light of what I have been reading over the past week it wasn't at all stupid.

I am constantly amazed at how ill informed cruisers are about the effects of 'Mother Nature' in the raw. Casualness cost lives. As TBH says the only word to describe the sea is 'treacherous'.

This photograph from Cruising World accompanies an informative piece on the devastation amongst the cruising community in the Pacific.

Saturday, 10 October 2009

Blazing Sea Berths.

We'll get to the title in a minute...

Yesterday I decided to cook one of my few vegetarian dishes. The ones that we resort to once the fresh produce has run out, usually after about 10 days. That's pretty much the longest I can keep stuff as we have no Freezer.

Well I must say this one is delicious, in fact I think I prefer it to the meat version, tastier.

So Lentil Shepherd's Pie is one of our favourites;

2 cups lentils, puy or green variety
1 onion chopped
2 cloves garlic crushed
1 can chopped tomatoes
3tbsp tomato puree
grated cheese
mashed potatoes, I used dried

Brown onions and garlic, add the tomatoes, tomato puree, lentils and 1/2 cup water or stock. Simmer for 30mins stirring from time to time.
Put in ovenproof dish. Top with mashed potatoes, grated cheese(generous amount).
Bake at top of oven until golden and crunchy.

Now back to the title, how can I put this delicately? Wind, lots of it! Not being compulsive pulse eaters it can affect the tum in an audible manner. The confined space of the v berth may test your matrimonial compatibility in more ways than you ever wanted to experience....

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Sleeping Beauty.

Goodness we are both feeling a bit weary this afternoon. After a busy day yesterday and a late night we were up at 5am for an online conference with the UK. Man that was hard work to come alive.

You know how some mornings your bed is just the best place in the whole world..the sheets are smooth, the mattress holds you in just the right position, no lumps in the pillows and a cooling breeze caressing your face..

Well this morning was one of those and I really, really didn't want to leave it.

I did though.

So by 9am the conference was over and I had baked a tray of cherry and walnut muffins, scrumptious. Made a panacotta and a delicious plum sauce to go with it. Gave the sauce a dash of cinnamon and a glug of brandy and the whole boat started to smell of Christmas. Which is fast approaching!

We have Lucy and Alex coming to stay this year so I am getting excited and planning!

Found a wonderful website with all sorts of nautical goodies, I particularly like the fat Mermaid Christmas tree decorations!

The countdown begins!

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Passion for food.

I'm going to tell you a secret, OK its not a very well kept secret! I Love Food. Everything about it. From producing it, to shopping for it, cooking it, eating it, sharing it, reading about it, everything.
I expect some of you think that's pretty sad, but I don't.

As TBH believes that mathematics is a languague. I believe that food is a language, one of love. OO er I hear you cry. Yes I freely admit that I am writing this with a large glass of chilled Sauvignon Blanc in one hand and a plate of prunes wrapped in bacon just out of the oven strategically placed by the laptop. Let me tell you it doesn't get much better than this!

One of my earliest memories is shopping with my Mum, we would take a list to the grocers in town and , magically, sometime the next day a van would appear loaded with goodies. Bit like internet shopping really!

My special treat was an entire block of chocolate mousse from Sainsbury's. Oh the decadence! I would scurry off to my own hideyhole and indulge in a sensuous indulgence. Now I realise it was full of preservatives and nothing like the one I learned to make in later years but boy did it answer a young teenager's need for sensuality!

My dad, would collect me from my Saturday job in the pharmacy of Boots the Chemists and whisk me off to the towns best restaurant. this would be in the early 70's. The height of sophistication was a chicken kiev served with plain boiled rice and half a tinned peach. The excitement! The daring of eating tinned fruit with meat! The excitement of a Steak Diane flambe at the table...be still my beating heart!

My mum would order snails! Yuck. Once I built up the courage to try them at a special evening event. My best friend, Julia, aged ten and three quarters said, just as I was about to pop it in my mouth;"Ooh just think of those wiggly tentacles and slimy trails!' That was it- I've never tried one since, what a missed opportunity.

Funnily enough it has been sailing that opened my eyed to the real expression of food. The way it transcends language and borders. As we entertain friends from around the world it doesn't matter that we don't speak each others language. Through the medium of sharing a meal together we overcome the boundaries of culture and inhibition. One of the greatest evenings we ever had was in Portugal. Way up a river in a tiny hamlet. One of the cruiser, Irish, was having an affair with another, French(they were both single handlers and of opposite sexes I hasten to point out).

He organized a surprise party for her in the only spot in town, the workers co-operative. We were all invited, two Brit boats, one German, a Norwegian couple, a Dutch family and the local Portuguese inhabitants. What a night!

We ate everything you can imagine, beautifully prepared by the caretaker of the club and his wife. I clearly remember, before the alcohol took control, a conversation that began in English and progressed through French, German, Spanish and a great deal of sign language. But it was the food that united us, the tastes, the expressions of pleasure, or distaste, that transcended the problems of a common tongue.

Magic.

Alchemy.

If you want to see a magnificent example of what I am talking about you must watch Babettes Feast a great film that shows the uniting, extraordinary effect that food, prepared with love, can have on a group of people.It's a danish film, gentle and sensuous but you have to see it...

Bon Appetit!





Enjoy!

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Our 'Enery..

Henry, our little red generator, came in for a bit of an overhaul this morning. The dear little beast was losing some oil from his exhaust(nasty that). So we rooted around under the bed and found some 'liquid gasket'. Actually we found three different types of liquid gasket. It's great hiding things away on a boat, every search is accompanied by a new and wonderful discovery. Maybe its my age, I often forget what we have on board. TBH says they are CRAFT moments, Can't RememberA Fucking Thing. Bless him, such a way with words...


So the galley worktop was prepared for surgery, 'Enery made comfy and the surgeon began. There were a few 'sticky' moments but he pulled through fine and is now back on deck chugging along charging, and running, our two laptops. What a soldier!

'Enery is a basic model, just about the cheapest generator here in Guatemala, all Q1100 of him(about 110 euros) but he's just perfect. We spend a lot of time thinking about sustainable living and appropriate technology and he really fits the bill. Made for the local population he comes with NO fancy electronic processors, add ons or need for specialist equipment. What he does come with is a wonderful little toolkit, all that you need to keep him in fine fettle.

Access is a little tight in spots...

...but all things are possible. He runs for about 5 hours on 4.2 litres of petrol and chugs his little 2 stroke heart out producing 6.7 amps an hour. That takes the pressure off the boat batteries as far as the computers are concerned.

Sunday, 4 October 2009

Dame Ellen, eco-warrior.


Dame Ellen, she of the single handed sailing records, is hanging up her lifejacket. Announcing that a recent visit to the islands of South Georgia was a life changing experience that has persuaded her to concentrate her energies on saving the planet.

This piece in this mornings Sunday Times tells the story.

Her new priority in life is sustainable living. Ironically, it was also looking back at her last voyage round the world which has made her think of what is precious and what we waste.

“When you sail on a boat you take with you the minimum of resources. You don’t waste anything. You don’t leave the light on; you don’t leave a computer screen on. And I realised that on land we take what we want.

“You’d never do that on a boat. If you need some kitchen roll, you tear off a corner, not a whole square. But someone somewhere thought that a perforated line was what everyone needs.”

I must say that I agree with her statement that being on a boat makes you very aware of the amount of power that we consume in our everyday lives. How much 'stuff' people waste. As we spend far more time at anchor we too count every sheet of the kitchen roll, switch off all power use asap and watch every bit of consumption. It becomes a way of life.

It does make you wonder about the newer boats on the market though. The ones that advertise their greatest assets as being TWO flat screen tv's etc...

Me? I'm happy with my form of sustainable living, mostly!

For the first time we have had to resort to running a generator for 2-3 hours when we are both working on computers. I think there are a couple of reasons for this. Firstly there is little to no sustained wind here in the Rio Dulce so our wind generator is contributing almost nothing to the batteries, and secondly, we are doing far more work electronically with the development of Yala World. Perhaps we should be investing in some solar cells but to date I haven't found a panel that is flexible enough for our boat. I hate those oversized metal arches that decorate so many vessels and I want a panel that we can stow away when not in use. No doubt I'll find one eventually.

Even though we are using a generator our fuel consumption is still tiny compared to the energy requirements of running our previous landbased lives. Particularly if you were to factor in running a car as well.

So yes I am happy, but not complacent. As my teachers always used to write at the end of a termly report; there is scope for improvement!