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


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


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.


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, 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
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.