Friday, 29 May 2009

Earthquake news...

We heard on the net this morning that the Shell dock in Placencia sustained serious damage in the earthquake the other day. It will be unable to deliver fuel for some time apparently, there is also no water in the town...That means that we will have to be careful with our water usage over the next few weeks, especially if it stays as calm as it is now.

Five houses collapsed in Monkey River Town and Mango Creek lost their water tower. Makes you realise what a fragile existence we live balanced on the crust of the earth.

We are keeping busy with a major varnishing project. The interior of the boat has not been touched since she was built so it's time to start touching her up! The first foray has begun with the companionway and the cabin sole. Small pieces at a time and TBH is doing a fantastic job of keeping the disruption to a minimum. We are using gloss varnish this time round and it looks stunning, that of course means that we will also have to renew the upholstery and soft furnishings to achieve the classic boat feel that we are hoping for.... a long job.

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Thursday, 28 May 2009

Earthquake in Belize..

Earthquake Gerry - wake up! That was my rude awakening at 2.27am local time this morning. My beloved is prodding me awake as the boat shakes as though it is balanced on a particularly wobbly jelly. Almost as I woke it was over but too late, we were awake by then.

It's a strange feeling lying in our cocoon discussing what to do in case of a tsunami! My view is that there are two reefs between us and the open sea as well as a mangrove edge to this lagoon, and there is a nice muddy bottom if all the water gets sucked out, pleasant thoughts eh! We are in 8 feet of water and had a lot(!) over 120 feet of chain out so I should be relaxed.

Except I just downloaded the emails from the kids who tell me it was 7.1 on the Richter scale, centred 39 miles NE of Roatan, that's about 140 miles from here and that Belize is on a tsunami watch, Gulp!

So having a very overactive imagination, I have insisted that we shut the hatches for the next few hours and am making a nice cup of tea!

It used to be so simple when the earth moved in the UK, we just went back to sleep!

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Friday, 22 May 2009

...the livin' is easy!

I think you could fairly say that we have 'done' Placencia!

After mooching along the shelves of the assorted supermarkets, downing ice cold smoothie's at the beach bar and patronizing the laundry we were more than ready to leave. It's a nice place but sad in it's current emptiness. A place that has been developed to make the most of a high spending tourist trade it now has the appearance of becoming a little down at heel and desperate. Maybe it's just the end of the season but the folks we spoke to said the trade was dead and swine fever had stopped things totally. Must say I wouldn't want to have an investment here right now.

We decided to hang around another couple of days to renew our visas. Boy that was more expensive that we had thought. BZ$50 each for the passports, added to the water taxi ride to reach the port and a taxi to the customs office it was a pretty expensive morning out. We also found that we have to pay a US$45 charge to leave the country when we finally leave..bit steep that, more than they charge by plane. And there was me thinking that my carbon footprint must count for something.

So we have sailed north a little ways. Anchoring off some of the islands and playing Russian Roulette with the wind direction. There is nothing worse than going to bed and waking in the middle of the night to find that the wind has reversed and you are now on a lee shore anchored within feet of a coral reef. Man I hate that moment, sleep disappears and I spend the whole night maniacally watching the figures on the GPS changing and leaping up the companionway to assess our position.

The weather is somewhat strange here, we seem to be sandwiched between two competing weather systems, to the North and the South, so the forecasts have an air of unreality about them.

Should be blowing from the S/SE today but it's actually coming from the N....

So this morning we upped anchor and came over to a lovely spot on the mainland. A lagoon totally sheltered from everything. There is nobody here save us, a few pelicans and some magnificent mountains in the distance. The water is flat calm although the wind generator is busy pumping the amps into the batteries. we will take the opportunity to do some maintenance work whilst the weather sorts itself out and enjoy a few nights uninterrupted sleep.

..and finally, to the man who makes incomparable 'Rope Stripper'. I LOVE YOU! For the fourth time in eight years this marvelous bit of kit has extricated us from a potentially nasty moment out here on the ocean. Yesterday as we began to motor through some light winds the engine started to overheat there was a big bang and I woke TBH, switched the engine off and felt sick. Had we seized the engine? Must get the sail out. Where should we make for in amongst the reef to anchor safely? It became apparent that our marvelous rope cutter had once again done the business and cut it's way through a substantial line/and net. A few minutes checking everything and we were underway again released from the tentacles of the deep.

I will never again moan about the cost of the service kit that we have sent out from the UK, it's worth every penny.

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Thursday, 14 May 2009

Repairs, Relaxation and Reading.

It is a month since we left the dock. Finally I have time to think and cogitate on the changes that that space has wrought in my mind.
We have been kept busy in those 30 days. Repairing parts that had seized up during our long period of idleness, getting to grips with living at anchor again, entertaining visitors(very welcome ones!), and getting used to being alone with TBH again!

The boat is holding up well and we have sorted a number of small but irritating problems. After a couple of attempts at curing the leak in the aft cabin we had a eureka moment! "What's that small hole" said TBH. Yup there in the teak planking a tiny, perfectly round hole had appeared just above where the leak was making itself apparent. It seems that at some point, somebody(!) had drilled a small deep hole through the dexk, changed their mind and plugged it. As the decking has thinned the plug has worn and there is the offending hole...It turned out to be over 2" deep and has been well and truly filled with TBH's magic gloopy stuff. It will be replugged with teak once the gloop has dried.

The broken fresh water pump spigot, and the saltwater one, have been replaced with magnificent brass numbers that put the galley mixer tap to shame. have to do something about that.

After the departure of our guests we have been working to 'reclaim' the boat. To once again create that strange but tangible relationship that exists between a sailor and their vessel. She is so much more than an inanimate object. She creaks and groans as she moves through the ocean. The sounds of her moods as familiar to me as the gurglings of TBH's belly and the sound of my own breathing. I had forgotten whilst we were at the dock how alive sailing makes me feel. how the pulse quickens and the mind clears. Not just the adrenaline rushes of mouth drying moments but the quiet contemplative state as you move unconsciously to the pitch of the sea. Anticipating the little rolls and twists without conscious thought.

TBH was ashore the other morning when a big squall blew up here in the anchorage. Within minutes the wind was howling at 35 knots, the anchor chain fully extended, salt spray flying from the top of the waves that had grown magically to nasty pointy goblins in the blink of an eye. Being alone I realised that fear was ridiculous with nobody to see it! I was surprised at the calm and logical thoughts that I experienced. Second anchor ready to go if needed, yes. All stowed safely below, yes. radio on channel 16, yes. Any boats close enough to cause me a problem, maybe. So I stood in the shelter of the sprayhood, assured TBH via radio that all was well and watched the mini- malestrom play itself out. One boat(French) dragged across the anchorage. Far enough away for me to be unconcerned, finally stopping when its anchor twisted around another boat. It's owners surprised when they returned from their trip ashore to see the boat gone! no damage though. After 40 mins poof, stopped , finished, completed and all returns to normal. magic!

And now that the boat is ours again, and we are hers, time is spent reading. We have plowed through a stack of excellent books. Fugitive Pieces by Anne Michaels has been the best for me. A deep philosophical, yet straightforward story of life, love and death. I recommend it. TBH is catching up with Margaret Attwood's 'Robber Bride'. he's ina state of shock over the awfulness of the female psyche! We both liked the ripping fast moving detective novel, 'Broken Skin' by Stuart MacBride and were enthralled by 'The girl who played with fire' by Stieg Larrson. I enjoyed the sadness and evocative prose of 'Black Rock' by Amanda Smyth. Set in Trinidad and Tobago it was a wonderful reminder of those islands. And Mari Strachan's 'The earth hums in B flat' intrigued me with its naivety.
.and finally 'Catfish and Mandala' by Andrew X. Pham a story of a bike ride through Vietnam by a man who left as a boat refugee bought a tear to the eye with the great sadness that war and human frailty engender.

So it's given us time to think, and relax, and repair and contemplate our next move. For now we have got as far as looking at charts again and dreaming.

We are well and contented and happy.

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Sunday, 10 May 2009

Calm after the storm...

..well bit of a blow really! Most of the anchorage, ok then about 1/4, have spent today reanchoring after a squall went through last night. Winds gusting up to 30k and out of the South and West which made things a little disorientating for a while. Why, oh why, do they always seem to anchor closer to us? Is it some strange magnetic attraction? There is masses of space here and I just don't understand people's need to keep moving about... oh well.

It's flat calm again this morning although we are threatened with some more light shows tonight.

We have still not commissioned the watermaker after our extended stay at the dock so TBH is running the gauntlet of a particularly unpleasant manager at the Shell station that supplies water and fuel via their dock here in Placencia. Well that's the theory apparently. So far she refuses to turn on the tap as she would have to get up off her salubrious car seat couch. She's already charged us twice the going rate, compared to what the girls paid, and the fuel pump seems to be inaccurate by around 10%, in her favour of course!

Still she is only one bad egg in a town that seems mostly full of delightful and helpful people. I will not let her form the basis of my view of Belize!

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Friday, 8 May 2009

Alone again...

Yesterday our guests, Charlotte(eldest daughter) and her old University chum Jess, departed for The UK after spending a delightful couple of weeks with us.We had intended collecting them from Belize City but it turned out that they caught one of the Tropicair flights down to Placencia. At a cost of $75 US each for one way it seemed a little pricey compared to internal flights in panama but it certainly was convenient.

We enjoyed a couple of days anchored off the small centre at Placencia and the girls found the locals very friendly and helpful. we certainly reaped the benefits of having a couple of attractive young females aboard! Water dropped from $4 for 20 gallons to $2 and they were never charged the $5 fee for leaving rubbish ashore! I have been thinking of trying to disguise TBH but don't think anyone is going to be fooled!!

We then headed North up to Blue Ground Range and then North again to Blue fields. We enjoyed some excellent snorkelling on Rendezvous Quay and the two guys who look after the island offered to keep TBH hostage to ensure we returned the following day! Initially they demanded a $5 a head fee for landing but that was forgotten as the girls flashed their bikinis! Ageism or what...

We sailed slowly back to Placencia where a great social life was enjoyed. So a very successful time. It was a delight to have them on board.

So now we will stay in Placencia to regroup ourselves, the boat seems very quiet. Washing to be done, some minor repairs and a bit of reprovisioning and then off to a nice secluded anchorage for us. The weather is nye on perfect with a nice breeze to keep the batteries charged, little o no rain and just occasionally a small swell to remind us that we are at anchor.

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Sunday, 3 May 2009

Central Belize

We have been having a great time just being here in Belize! Once the seas finally calmed down we left Placencia and headed north to some of the islands. Of course the wind was blowing bang on the nose so our first day was spent motoring but we have made up for that since with some tremendous sails.

We have managed to deliver dolphins,fish catching and terrific snorkeling for our guests, it's always a relief when you can deliver the prerequisites for the perfect Caribbean holiday!

After losing a quantity of our water due to contamination we are a little low but no worries so far. having far too much fun to write so all for now!

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