Monday, 27 April 2009

Placencia time.

Our guests are onboard and apart from a small hiccup of losing a bag all is well. The missing kit turned up this morning, thank goodness as it contained the replacement cable for the engine control...

Excursions have been booked, goodies unpacked and exclaimed over and family relationships re-established. The girls have befriended the crew from a large motor yacht here in the bay and are aiming to go diving with them later in the week, ah sweet youth!

The wind is still blowing steadily which on one hand mean we have oodles of power whilst on the other necessitates us waiting for a little calmer wind so not as to scare the guests too much! There is a large Moorings base here and the eager punters hoist all sail and career off through the anchorage for the first day of their hols, approx half a mile out the boat screeches to a halt , comes upright again and you can almost hear the indignant screams of reluctant spouses declaring that "unless this thing comes upright I'm going back to land. NOW!"

Placencia is delightful, everyone so friendly. The stores are well stocked with identifiable meat cuts, long lusted for European delicacies, although it's pretty pricey.

One bad moment as we discovered that we have taken aboard some contaminated water, hopefully only in our deck jugs which are a very nasty shade of green. First time that's happened to us! Still I have them soaking in Bleach and hopefully we have got away without contaminating any of the main tanks. I am paranoid about keeping the water onboard potable and was shocked to see our recently filled cans in such a state.

So busy catching up on the sailing comics, new books, organising meals and preparing to head of to some of the delightful cays that we have heard so much about...

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Thursday, 23 April 2009


..So here we sit, and wait...

The weather forecast has been a little unpleasant for the direction that we need to go so we have decided to let Charlotte and Jess fly down from Belize City to join us here on Sunday. Although we always warn visitors that they may have to make late adjustments to their travel plans, what with the vagaries of the weather and all, this is actually the first time we have put the plan into action.

Twenty plus knots on the nose with 6 feet swells is NOT my idea of fun. Then with the chance we may be unable to leave the marina in Belize City it seems better to have them come here. Placencia is a laid back, seaside Caribbean resort. Francis Ford Coppola's resort lights up the night sky and there are a myriad of bars, restaurants and excursion organizers. Not that we've seen much of it yet, TBH is currently off in town trying to track down some Sikaflex. The leak in the aft cabin is still giving trouble... there is a 'Moorings' charter base here so he's hopeful that there may be some to be found.

Actually it seems pretty quiet here, hardly any boats moving around. Of course there are always the ones who come and anchor right on top of you as soon as you get settled. I try and remain laid back about it but it does annoy me. There is loads of room here so why the heck they have to get so close goodness only knows... Did i mention the French yet????!

I have bread rising in the cockpit, a chocolate cake on the side and Chinese fried rice ready for supper. You forget what hard work self-sufficiency is!

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Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Entering Belize

Well finally on Sunday we upped anchor and motored down the remaining length of the Rio Dulce to anchor just off the town of Livingstone, our exit port. The weather was a little blowy so there was a bit of swell running, doesn't make for the most comfortable night, but no worries.

Bright and early TBH launched the dinghy to head in search of Raoul, an agent who manages the paperwork need to leave Guatemala. We had tried to email him a day before but no joy, all the addresses we had bounced back. Including the one in the latest pilot book. AAgh! Having been told that Raoul had 'a bit of a night' and wouldn't be in his office very early we resigned ourselves to a late start. Fortunately we only draw 4' 6" so can cross the bar, mean depth 5' at low water but if we hadn't we would have not been too pleased.

Raoul managed to empty our pockets of 540Q to leave, a massive increase from last year, we were also told it was now 900Q to re-enter for 3 months. TBH told Raoul he wouldn't be getting our business again, we would do it ourselves next time. The American in the queue in front said the same thing. Not that it seems to make much difference. Cruisers are so often seen as cash cows to be milked. Perhaps as the recession bites deeper and we become rarer beasts there may be some more power behind our words.

we finally got going just in time to cross the bar at the river mouth at the lowest point of the tide, great I thought! For every boat and every guide there are any number of routes promoted as 'The One'. I decided to follow my nose and watched the shrimp fleet the day before. They hung well to the South of the sea buoy but apart from that were pretty spread out. It's always traumatic as the depth gauge shows less than 18" under the keel but lining myself up on the southern bank of the gorge and the sea buoy off we went. A steady 2-3 knots and calmish waters and I only sensed the bottom once. Hows that!!

We had a marvelous sail to Punta Gorda, about 20 miles and the entrance port to Belize. Calmish seas and 12 knots of wind had us skimming across the sparkling waters. Both us and the boat delighted to be at sea again. The Monitor self-steering gear leaving us free to admire the scenery and play at trimming the sails. Utter bliss. Mind you the wind got up as we made our approach, always the way! Punta Gorda is only to be attempted in settled conditions as its a wide open roadstead and pretty shallow, 8 feet. Gently i followed TBH's navigation and we anchored safely in 1.7 metres in lovely thick mud. It's a wonderful feeling when you sense the anchor really bite into the seabed. Sadly our nights rest wasn't so great as the rolly conditions confined us to our sea berths for most of the night. Checking in was a delight. The officials welcoming and helpful. All for $25 Belize for a month, made Guatemala seem even more expensive.

Early Tuesday we set off again in flat calm seas with no wind. We had a 45 mile passage to Placencia nd were keen to arrive well before dark. What can I say, we motored all the way into a 15-20 knot headwind with a small short sea that disappeared into a big hole every now and again slowing our speed almost to a halt before allowing us to build up again to 4 knots! Speedy it wasn't. But not too uncomfortable. Nothing broke, stowage held up and so did the crew. Nine hours is a long trip after 9 months at the dock!

We arrived to be greeted by Mike and Cindy who whisked us off to 'Happy Hour' and fried chicken. It's great to be back out here folks!

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Saturday, 18 April 2009


It's a difficult thing to leave this river! We stopped for the night down in Gringo Bay only to realise that now our KISS wind generator wasn't working. It's happened before and been a loose connection. This time we decided to change the rectifier. We carry a couple of spares and after 10 years sterling service felt that our dear old KISS deserved a bit of a treat. So she's spinning again and producing lots of lovely power for us. It was nice and breezy yesterday (we are anchored outside the enclosed bay) and it was a delight to see the battery power come back up.

It's a delight being back at anchor. Swimming every day. The peace and quiet here are wonderful. Maybe we are being too quiet as an outbreak of bird nesting has broken out... A pair of swallows have taken over the roller furling on the Yankee and even stranger a pair of Kiskadee's have made a nest right at the top of the mast! Rather them than me... The dropped twigs and small fish over the deck are a bit of a pain and they are in for one hell of a shock when we up anchor shortly!

And some sad news. TBH's mother died a couple of days ago. She was 96 and had a full and happy life, dying in her own home. You can't ask for much more than that. It has been a treat to have a few days of quiet contemplation to remember a great mum and mother-in-law. We will miss you Alice.

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Sunday, 12 April 2009

The bungee cord bites!

I know that you just aren't going to believe this...but we are still at Mario's. The famous, nay infamous, bungee cord has us firmly between it's teeth, encircled in it's rubbery grip.

Everything was stowed, tanks full, paperwork in order,fond farewells said. TBH manned the lines as I eased the engine in to reverse...NOT! Nothing, nada, no movement from the gear stick. Unbelievable. Quick instructions to our helpers on the dock and we tied back up again.

After pausing for breathe TBH stripped down the steering pedestal and we found that the cable had seized. Bad marks for us. We have been so good at 'exercising'the gear on board during our lengthy stay in this humid enviroment but this was one we just didn't think about...a learning experience TBH says. Bloody irritating I say!

It's not a 'show stopper' for one we ARE a sailing boat and for two we can change the shift manually at the engine. Still we will try and source a part here on Monday, when the stores reopen after Easter. If we have no joy, it's off anyway and we'll get the daughter to bring a spare out to Belize with her later this month.

Friday, 10 April 2009

So long.

Our timing is impeccable(!), as usual...

With the rio taking on the appearance of an extremely agitated washing machine we are about to slip our lines and head out to sea. The last few days have gone a long way to recovering my sea legs and ensuring that the stowage on board is up to par. One or two rattley plates have been cushioned by another tea towel and we are ready for the off.

Final loads are in the washing machine at the laundry and we have to fill with water and fuel in the morning then we hope to make a short hop to Belize. It will be strange to be away from the dock but lovely to be back in the boats natural element. We have taken this week to finish the jobs that are so much easier at the dock. Varnishing, sewing, cleaning. Didn't finish everything but hey what would we have to worry about if we did!

James' crew have returned from Japan to join the collecting YouTube orchestra in New York so they will be able to take over the website again. Sad that we won't be there for the concert on the 15th. We feel that we have got to know some of the musicians over the past few weeks and are really excited for them to be playing at Carnegie Hall. The atmosphere in the hotel that everyone is staying at, just by Central Park, must be simply amazing. All those people coming together for a few days to do what they love best, make music. Still I look forward to the documentary: Harmony, the road to Carnegie Hall. Coming to a screen near you soon....

So farewell from Guatemala, postings will be back via Sailmail and the ssb radio, I do hope that I can remember how everything works!

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Rock n' Roll.

It's Semana Santa, holy week, here on the Rio and the usually placid waters of the river are being whipped into their annual maelstrom by the 'visiting' powerboats.

A lot of the boats only appear once a year and their captains have pretty much the level of skill associated with that degree of experience! The sight of a large high powered motor cruiser neither up on the plain on flat on the water would have the grand Old Duke of York reaching for the whisky bottle!

Many times a day the waters are churned into massive wakes that not only make the boats in the marina rock like the worst kind of beam sea but cause devastation along the river bank. We need tsunami warnings! You have to empathize with the local residents who regularly see their docks destroyed and their cayucos swamped.

For us it's a case of keeping everything below well secured, not too bad right now as we are already in 'sea-going' mode anticipating our departure early next week.

As the heat drops a little, the early mornings and evenings here are just beautiful. Spectacular blood red sunsets and sunrises give a pink and turquoise tint to the waters. The humming birds in their emerald green plumage feast on the bright pink and white mimosa flowers and the only sound to break the spell is the splash as a fisherman casts his circular net into the waters.

Then the powerboats start and the tabanid flies begin to bite.....

Saturday, 4 April 2009

Staying connected.

We all go cruising for different reasons. For some it's the dream of travel, some the sailing of oceans, some long for endless parties and others are running away from unsatisfactory land based lives. I am certain there are countless other reasons too!

Sitting in a marina, watching the world pass by has been instructive in the vagaries of human nature. So many cruisers are intensely social. That interests me as I had always imagined that the folks I would meet from time to time would, by my view of sailing, tend toward the loner. Not of course that I would expect to find too many of them actually inhabiting a marina berth...

So over time I am reappraising my view of the world that I have chosen to inhabit. And I find that we are very rare beasts.

Far from shunning connection with the outside world we revel in it. Still intensely interested in the politics, economics and technologies that drive society we thoroughly enjoy access to TV, the internet and recent publications. Indeed far from running away from the world we find it vital to our emotional wellbeing to maintain that connectivity.

What I am beginning to understand is that we are not running away from a lifestyle but embracing the variety of being able to drop in and out of the modern world that our boat gives us.

In any day we may varnish, write a press release, mend a piece of electronic equipment, cook a meal , comment on an economic policy and share a drink with friends. No day is EVER predictable, and they are not all fun! But the variety and the stimulation cannot be beaten.

I look forward to our time at anchor, away from the news, and just as much I enjoy the times of connectivity to the other worlds that surround us.

Many cruisers seek to exclude themselves from that, not for me though! This is my ideal life, aren't I a lucky creature.

Friday, 3 April 2009

Hot, Hot, Hot.

And I really mean hot. The last two days have seen the temperature reaching over 100 degrees F. That has been pretty stressful. On top of that the internet at the Marina has not been working for the past three days. Plus we are working very hard to complete our projects before getting out of here.

Yes I know, whine, whine, whinge but it doesn't happen too often that I feel really seriously wound up by things.

The YouTube project is coming along magnificently. I find music very emotionally stimulating and the quality of the films coming in to the boat continues to astound and amaze with their talents and qualities.

As we have been working at nights, to minimize the heat factor and to try and get a better internet connection, TBH has decided to revarnish the cockpit during the early mornings before we collapse in a heap during the heat of the day. Unbelievably it's over a year since we last did this part of the boat and the uv damage is significant. At least it's an easily accessible part of the boat, I am grateful for small mercies!

So Paradise is a little less than perfect today...