Monday, 31 August 2009

Dengue Fever on the Rio Dulce.

There is a lot of talk about Dengue Fever on the Rio. A serious outbreak is underway in the Izabel region of Guatemala, that's where we are. A number of people are reported to have died from the infection and the Government are considering what action to take.It appears that of the four strains the one here is the most serious, the hemorrhagic strain. That's the one that causes internal bleeding, nasty.

Dengue is carried by a mosquito, much in the same way as malaria, but there is no treatment or preventative medication available.

This is the mosquito that you need to look out for, a unique 'spotted' appearance make it easily identifiable.

It's a really nasty disease, I know I had it three years ago when we were in Guanaja in the Bay Islands of Honduras. It's not called 'breakbone' fever for no reason! I can honestly say that childbirth was a doddle compared to the pain from this unpleasant illness. In fact I'd volunteer to have twins with no painkillers rather than another bout of Dengue!

There's a good article here about the whys and wherefores of Dengue. I recommend reading it if you want more information.

We are religious about keeping our mosquito screens in place throughout the boat, putting the screen up over the companionway and always using insect repellent if we are going to be about at sunrise or sunset. The dengue carrying mosquito is a daytime biter, unlike the malarial one, and it's peak time to feast is the two hours after sunrise and before sunset.

You have been warned!

Sunday, 30 August 2009

View from the helm.

We were up bright and early this morning to make the trip downriver before the sun got too hot.
By 7.30am breakfast was finished and we took the anchor up. Bit dirty after a week or so in the same place...

It's the third year that we have been here and the water is definitely a lot muckier than it was. The side of the boat has a nasty brown stain along it, one of this weeks tasks is to give it a good clean.

It was a magical trip, under engine as there was not a breath of wind, with the early morning sun sparking on the mirror like waters, the mist hanging over the tops of the mountains and butterflies lazily flapping their way across the lake. I could even ignore the steady drone of the motor as we made a stately 4 knots down the river.

Amazing that here some of the butterflies are bigger than the birds! Sort of confusing.

The fishermen were out in numbers dropping their nets from the tiny dugout canoes. What a hard way to feed a family. Whenever we see them pulling in the small net/pots they rarely seem to have caught anything at all.

Friday, 28 August 2009

Courgette and tomato bake.

There's a bit of a cooking fest going on here this week! Must be something to do with the damp weather but I have had great fun trying out some new recipes. Yesterday's creation was a masterpiece. Simple, quick and easy with a delicious result.

One of the challenges of living on a boat, often far from shopping opportunities, is making something tasty from the remnants of the fresh produce left languishing after 10 days or so...

I had one rather floppy courgette(zucchini), a bowl of tomatoes and three swiftly degenerating leaks.

So out came the recipe books and this is what I made.

Slice the courgette thinly and toss in 2 teaspoons of basil pesto. Slice the tomatoes and leeks.
Arrange in a single layer in an ovenproof dish.

Mix together 2 crushed cloves of garlic, 4tbsp breadcrumbs, 25g grated cheese and a pinch of pepper.

Spread on top of veggies. Drizzle with olive oil and bake in a hot oven for 30 mins.

We ate it with some baked pork loin and it was so tasty, one I will definitely be cooking again...soon!

Thursday, 27 August 2009

Mike Perham completes circumnavigation.

You may recall, those who have stuck with my musings for some time, that I cast doubts upon the proposed circumnavigation of 'Captain Heather' and her unrealistic expectations of sailing alone around the world with little/no experience, living on rice and beans. Well she didn't make it. Gave up after less than 100 miles from the start with an injured thumb, no minutes left on her satellite phone and scared stiff by 30 knot winds. I say no more.

Compare her tale of unprepared fantasy with the grit of young Mike Perham who has just made it back to the UK, alone, but some assistance along the way. Fifty foot waves, fear and a lot of determination coupled with the experience of an ocean crossing before he began this challenge saw him to a successful conclusion.

He got some stick at the start, left it too late in the season, too young etc but it was difficult to criticize his realism and preparations. Well done Mike. Dreams can become reality but they need a heavy dose of hard work and preparation to help them on their way!

This report comes from YBW.Com:

Mike Perham crosses finish line 17 year-old Mike Perham became the youngest person to sail single-handed around the world this morning. His 50ft yacht crossed the finish line at 09:47:30 local time. The teenager from Potters Bar was escorted across the line by Royal Navy guard ship HMS Mersey, a Royal Naval helicopter, and a flotilla of press boats that had been on standby overnight to record his finish. "I've made it, I've made my dream come true and it feels amazing," said Mike. "A BIG BIG thanks to my Dad, Mum, all the sponsors and every one who has helped me along the way. I can't believe that the Royal Navy has sent HMS Mersey and a helicopter to witness my crossing the line. I feel very honoured." Mike's Dad - Peter Perham - added: "Mike is a very special son, he has done incredibly well. He has shown that with determination, you can succeed even in the most adverse circumstances. He has shown the world that he is an extraordinary young man and an inspiration to us all." The First Sea Lord, Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope, KCB OBE ADC passed a message to Mike Perham as he sailed past Lizard point: "The Royal Navy offers its sincere congratulations to Michael Perham on his record breaking single-handed sailing circumnavigation. This is a remarkable and inspirational achievement in one so young, another impressive event in the rich Maritime history of this island nation and of the Perham family". "Michael's family have strong maritime connections, with his father having been a merchant naval officer, his grandfather having served with the Royal Navy during World War 2, and his great grandfather as a Royal Marine in the Crimean war." "Michael sets a fine example showing remarkable character, grit and self discipline in completing this historic record-breaking voyage and the Royal Navy is delighted to participate in welcoming him back home to the UK as an honoured and much respected fellow seafarer." After crossing the finish line, Mike was joined by his Dad as he continues towards Gunwharf Quay, where he is due on Saturday. To find out more, visit

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Dog days of summer.

The dog days of summer are upon us.

The mould is trying to take over the boat as the rainy season continues. The battle is easier this year now we are away from the dock. The boat swings in tune with the wind and the currents in the river allow the side decks to air more evenly in the patches of sunlight that intersperse the torrential downpours.

Below decks the fans are kept busy moving the damp air around the boat and drying out the bed linen, cushion covers and general atmosphere that soaks up the high humidity that we endure through this month.

I have never liked August. There is a phrase: 'August is a wicked month' that I remember from my youth,I don't know where it comes from but it sticks in the back of my mind to be recycled every time this month rolls around again.

It's twenty years ago this month that my last husband was killed in a car crash, leaving me widowed with three small kids aged 3,6 and 9. They were tough days. Twenty years! The time hardly bears thinking about.

Seems like a lifetime and a fleeting moment all in the same breath. fascinating how life throws you these googlies( curved ball), and just when you are right you end up wrong and vice versa.

His death was a tragedy, a young vital and exceedingly good man cheated of a full life.He would have been 54 today. And yet from all the tragedy came great joy and opportunity. Had he not died I would not have found the glorious TBH, would not have fulfilled a lifelong desire to sail the oceans. Would never have seen the world that I am seeing now.

So I remember the good times, savour the memories, but I no longer grieve.

Saturday, 22 August 2009

Mango Chutney.

Mango time has arrived here on the Rio, the stalls that line the streets in Fronteras were piled high with huge juicy mangoes when we were doing our shopping a couple of days ago.
At 4 for 10 Quetzals, that's about 1 euro.

I realised that the time had come to get out the chutney making kit once again.

One of my favourite dishes to cook on board is curry, using fish or chicken, pork or lamb. Well pretty much whatever we have including chickpeas when fresh supplies run low. And curry just isn't complete without a big spoonful of gloopy, tasty chutney!

I had resorted to buying some ready made stuff recently, boy that was expensive. When I costed out the batch I made yesterday I reckon that for around 25Q (2.5 Euros) I had produced an equivalent to 20 jars that I had been paying 20Q each for! Now that's what I call a saving.

So here's my recipe, gleaned from 'Australian Woman's Weekly' book on pickles and chutneys.

Mango and Port Chutney

4 large mangoes, peeled and coarsely chopped
3/4 cup port (I used red wine as we've run out of port)
2 large white onions, coarsely chopped
1 cup raisins
2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger, more to taste
2 fresh chillies, finely chopped. I used the local jalapeno.
2 cups sugar
3 cups malt vinegar
2 teaspoons mustard seeds

Put the whole lot in a heavy bottomed pan, bring slowly to the boil and simmer, uncovered for one to one and a half hours until the mixture is thick.
Pot in clean sterilized jars and seal whilst hot.

Lasts 6 months, if you can keep it that long! Last year I did use port but quite honestly I don't think it makes much difference to the finished product.

Thursday, 20 August 2009

Amazing Music!

I am emotionally drained and it's only 9.20am.

We have just had our viewing of the first edit of the YouTube film that we were so involved with a few months ago. Oh boy it's amazing! I cannot wait to see the finished product.

The concert was a huge success and getting to know the performers through the medium of the internet an exciting and highly personal aspect of the overall production. What an huge body of talent there is out there. These guys came from all over the world many lacking a common language apart from their music but boy does that speak for them...

I wonder how many lives it changed, how many paths have been altered, dreams realized or shattered by the exposure?

This is the intro video that uses many images from the forthcoming film, " Harmony, the Road to Carnegie Hall", enjoy!

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

My name is Gerry...

...and I am a Lakelandaholic.

Bet most of you wonder what on earth I am talking about! Let me explain. In the UK there is a wonderful company,Lakeland limited. They sell household bits and pieces. Yes I know that sounds very boring but trust me on this one. They have marvelous products, great ideas, items that work and staff that care. The arrival of their quarterly catalogue sends women all over the UK into a frenzy of ordering, it's known amongst many as 'the thinking woman's porn'!

I have masses of their stuff on the boat, from an old fashioned 'washing dolly', a sort of plunger that agitates the washing in a bucket, to the 'longlife green fruit and veg storage bags' that even Lynne Pardey raves about.

So you see I am not alone, there's a lovely article in todays Times about them. Go on visit their site too, it's a revelation!

Sunday, 16 August 2009

What a difference a day makes!

Well I was maybe right to be feeling a little nervous yesterday. Suddenly we have three areas of concern in the Caribbean, and Bill is projected to be a hurricane within 48 hours.. let the games begin!

Saturday, 15 August 2009

Here we go...

...with the first named storm of the season: ANNA.

Amazing that here we are well in to the season and it's only just started, makes me very nervous. I see that there is another disturbance coming up fast behind Anna that may become another storm. Just like a London bus, there is always another one coming!

Friday, 14 August 2009

I see no ships...

I have been following this story in the British Press. With security on our boats a current preoccupation amongst some sectors of the cruising community this one has made me smile wryly. It would appear that far from the 'lawless' areas of the Caribbean and the South China Sea piracy is alive and kicking.

Bit embarrassing though isn't it.After all it's a pretty big ship to lose and the English Channel is a small and crowded space...

A cargo ship which disappeared after sailing through the Channel amid fears of a pirate attack has been spotted in the middle of the Atlantic.

The Arctic Sea disappeared shortly after making contact with Dover coastguard as it entered the Channel on June 28.

The Russian-crewed vessel is reported to have been spotted 400 nautical miles off one of the Cape Verde islands, an archipelago that lies west of Senegal.

“The Arctic Sea is some 400 nautical miles off one of the islands of Cape Verde, therefore outside its territorial waters,” a Cape Verde coastguard official told the AFP news agency.

Thursday, 13 August 2009

Up's and Down's

It's a day of mixed fortunes here...

A Tropical Wave came over during the night which brings with it lovely freshwater to fill our tanks with. We were getting a little low so it was a welcome sound as the patter of raindrops splashed on the hatch covers. Dear TBH leapt from the warmth of our berth to open the tanks and allow the water to accumulate. Within 2 hours we had approximately 180 litres of clean, fresh, chemical free water stashed away. That's a nice feeling!

On the down side we decided to try out the small generator that we bought a few months ago. We are struggling to keep up with the power needs of two hungry computers in the wind less conditions that we have and thought we'd try it out in anger for the first time. Hah!
Bloody thing won't start, on closer inspection the spark plug is knackered so TBH changed that. Still no joy so he has retired in disgust and will try again tomorrow.

It is amazing to have an internet connection where we are. Way away on top of a hill, surrounded by jungle I can just see the transmitter standing proud above the treetops, that's when the cloudes don't shroud it. How did they get it there I wonder?

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Peace and Tranquillity.

After stocking the boat with fuel, gas and food we headed down river on Saturday. A break from the 'heaving' metropolis of Fronteras! It's all relative I know but compared to where we are currently anchored it's a zoo!

Our first night here and we re-aquainted ourselves with both the silence and the dark. No reflected light fom anywhere and once the clouds cover the stars it's hard to see your hand in front of your face, no it's actually impossible!

The ocassional call from an exotic bird or the croaking of the frogs are the only sounds across the mirror like waters. Bliss.

We rise with the sun(5.30am) and go to bed just after it sets(7.30pm). Days are filled with writing, reading, trying out new recipes, chatting. No radio to disrupt the solitude. And we can even connect to wifi internet if the boat is in the right direction and the weather gods allow!

Security has been a big issue on the Rio since we first came here so we take sensible precautions every night. The dinghy is hauled aboard, actually we haven't taken it down for days. The outboard securely padlocked, all the lazarettes locked. Nothing loose left on deck.
We have steel inserts for the companionway and hatches that we put in place at night. These allow us airflow but secure the boat well. We actually had them made years ago in Portugal and have been very grateful for them since we arrived in Central America.

This is an extra-ordinary place. To just arrive and leave your boat here for the hurricane season is to miss out on one of the natural paradises of the world. Miles of shallow,calm waters. Hidden bays and lagoons. Tributary rivers to explore. Floating islands of water hyacinths.

Have a great day where ever you are. May it be as calm as mine!

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Time Flies.

My goodness time is flying past, it's two weeks since we returned to the Rio. It's done nothing but rain since we got here, still it is the Tropics...

We have kept ourselves busy with a number of projects. The main one being sourcing and ordering the equipment needed to replace that damaged by the lighning strike. A painful but necessary expense.

TBH is busy updating his website and dealing with all the little problems that arise when you are out of touch for weeks on end, and I am cleaning lockers ready to reprovision for our next jaunt. Before we know it the hurricane season will be over and I will be moaning about all the jobs that I haven't completed.

Hard to believe that there have been no named storms yet this season, it's starting to make me nervous. Will it be a quiet time or is Mother Nature saving everything up for something REALLY nasty? Time will tell.

I leave you with one of TBH's favourite sayings:

Time flies like the wins,
and fruit flies like bananas!

I never said he was sane~