While I’m normally thrilled to receive an email from our friends Luki and Elmari on s/v Skebenga, now that they’ve been gone from the Rio for a few weeks and have made their way all the way up to Isla Mujeres Mexico to meet family, I received an email today from Elmari that made my heart sink. Skebenga is going up for sale.
We knew their cruising adventures were coming to a close, that this summer’s crossing of the Atlantic would be their last big hop as they prepared to re-start their lives on land in South Africa. Their original intent had been to bring Skebenga to the Mediterranean and keep her in a marina in Greece, working during Africa’s summer months and then sailing during the Med’s. This made us very excited as we’re headed off to the Med and really wanted to cruise the ground with them, not only because of their intense knowledge of the area, but because they’re great people and we love spending time with them. But after some discussion on their part, they decided the best thing for them right now is to leave the cruising life behind. This makes us very, very sad. It is, however, very good news for you.
No offense to all the other boating friends we’ve met along our travels, but s/v Skebenga is the best cruising boat we’ve come across so far. And now, she’s up for grabs.
Skebenga is a 45′ steel hulled cutter rig designed by Dudley Dix and built by Luki himself, with the hull registered in 1998 and launched in 2006. The engine is a Yanmar 75 hp diesel that has been kept in immaculate condition. She also comes equipped with solar panels, 600 aH gel battery bank, SSB, and a HRO Watermaker. Other extras include a windvane and an asymmetrical spinnaker. Listed at $180,000, trust me, this fully equipped cruising boat is a STEAL.
If you or anyone you know might be interested in a new cruising boat, definitely make sure to check into this more, I don’t think you’d be disappointed. Skebenga is currently en route to Florida with an arrival date in Mid February, but make sure to check out full specs and photos on their link on Yacht World.
*While I would not feel comfortable giving out Luki and Elmari’s contact information on behalf of them, I would be MORE than happy to pass your information on to them for anyone who is interested.
You know how our Thanksgiving was spent? Sitting in the boat. Wait, no. We went to the Dispensa to buy Pepsi and evaporated milk so that I could make pie. While we were wandering through the streets in town and ducking around the masses of people on the streets and cluttering the grocery aisles Matt commented, “Wow, there’s still a lot of people out and a lot of business open for it being a holiday”. When I reminded him that this was not an area that celebrated buckled shoe’d pilgrims sitting down with feather headdressed native americans, he just kind of cocked his head to the side and muttered “Oh yeah…”. Not that it’s hard to see why he’d think that though, every holiday that we’d normally celebrate back at home has at least one marina or more celebrating it here on the Rio.
It’s not that we didn’t have invitations to go out, a few of the marinas were hosting dinners, and a few friends had invited us out to these, it’s just that….we didn’t really want to. We were content to sit around Serendipity and do nothing. Each day we’ve had a few friends from the marina swing by in their dinghies as we’re enjoying ourselves in the cockpit, reading books and generally relaxing, wanting to know when we’ll be leaving or if the weather has changed at all. This time we think we might actually have an out, coming up on Monday, the 2nd. Wow, I still can’t even believe that we’ll be here into December. I remember when we weren’t even sure if we’d be around for Halloween because we wanted to get on the move again as soon as possible. Things here are just so easy and familiar that it makes it hard to leave. I can see how people get sucked in and stay for years. With a little more convincing from friends in the area, it probably wouldn’t take much to turn us into those people either.
For our big Thanksgiving feast tonight we’ll be enjoying leftover chili from a recipe that Elmari emailed to me and hopefully finishing it with some pumpkin pie. Of which I’ve actually had a tin of the filling since last year’s Canadian Thanksgiving, so I hope there’s no surprises when I open it. All of this enjoyed with a few episodes of How I Met Your Mother, and I’ll be a happy girl. It may not be the crazy boat crawl we had last year with our four boat armada in St. Mary’s Georgia, but I think my liver will really thank me for this easy going night tomorrow. Last year we were not on the best of terms on Black Friday. Those folks on Hideaway, they know how to make a mean cocktail. (Yes Ryan, I’m talking about you and your Painkillers. I miss them!!)
A lunch of Not Top Ramen. No, this was Bottom Ramen.
There hasn’t been much going on here on the ‘Dip since we’ve been on anchor. Ever since our trip on Lago Izabal on Sunday, we’ve just been hanging around the boat and enjoying the fact that we’re at anchor again, falling back into a relaxed pace of life. All projects have basically stopped and we’ve been filling our days with reading and evenings with a cold beer in hand as we watch spectacular sunsets. Ok, maybe that last part is just me. I still can never get Matt to enjoy a beer, but he sits there all the same, enjoying the views with a Pepsi in his hand instead.
The only semi-interesting thing that’s been going on here is that ever since our watermaker went through it’s flush cycle after our first night at anchor, I’ve gone into complete water conservation mode. Matt says we shouldn’t run the watermaker while in the river since the water here is contaminated enough that it would clog the filter and cause too many chances to destroy the membrane. Since our forecast has now changed and we truly have no idea when we’ll get back out into the great big blue, I’ve been trying to preserve every necessary drop.
Before, we had the luxury to take full showers in the cockpit, using the water for pre, mid, and final rinse. Now, I’m enforcing a decree that all bathing must be done with river water, and yes you can use fresh water for a final rinse, but by god it better take less than 20 seconds. Before, all dishes were done in the sink where a hefty amount of water was applied to the pre-rise, getting all those sticky or dried on bits of food removed from the plate. (We no longer have a hot water heater, read back to this post to find out why) Now, all dishes, utensils, and anything else that needs a cleaning is dragged out on deck where I drag one of our 10 gallon buckets through the water and do a pre-wash with last week’s sponge. Then I can bring the dishes back to the sink, suds them up, and give them a few dribbles of fresh water.
Even with all this water hoarding, I was afraid we’d run out before we could get back into the Gulf of Honduras to replenish ourselves. So whenever it’s possible now, we’ve turned to catching rain water. We honestly have no kind of fancy set up for this. We just wait for the rain to start pouring down, open one of our deck based tank filling areas, and set up a dam just behind it with a towel so that water can no longer rush from the bow to the stern, but instead builds up flows into the opening. I don’t think we’ve been catching enough to sustain ourselves, but it’s enough that I don’t feel bad about sneaking a few cups of water a day for coffee.
It’s funny, back in the Bahamas I used to chuckle at my friend Stephanie for the way she would conserve water, doing all the steps I’ve listed above, and even a few more, since there’s not a water maker onboard their boat and they don’t enjoy constantly lugging water. Now, I can completely relate. I feel you Steph, it is not easy trying to manage a boat without a constant water supply coming in!
So that has been our week thus far. Time for me to sign out though, the sun is just starting to go down, and I think a Bravah and a seat in the cockpit are calling my name.
Remember how last month I tried to start a new segment on the blog called Stories From Other Cruisers? Well it turns out there were a few other people that had amusing tales to tell, didn’t mind sharing them with me, and even better, didn’t mind me sharing them with you! This month’s segment comes from my friend Rebecca on Summertime Rolls. One morning her and her husband Brian went about doing some pretty regular boat chores and found out that sometimes the mundane can turn downright dirty. Read on as Rebecca shares her story. (Content taken directly from Rebecca’s post on Summertime Rolls.)
We woke up a little later than usual after a great night’s sleep at Harbour Towne Marina, and were thrilled that we could just take our time that morning. As we’d be at anchor for at least two weeks, there were a few boat tasks we had to get taken care of, namely, pumping out our holding tanks.
We didn’t think they were too full, as when we’d sailed down from Palm Beach, we emptied them out once past the three nautical mile line. However, we’re a little suspicious about our port aft head and if it is properly draining out when we open the tanks, and a good freshwater rinse of all the tanks would be a good thing. Normally, I’m on Poop Patrol – I do the pump outs (we’ve found that most marinas will only give you the hose but you have to control it, not a big deal in my mind as I think I’ve got it down now), but I was down the dock getting the hose out when the dock hand gave Brian the pump out hose. As I’m walking back, I hear a yelp, followed by expletives and see Brian rushing into the cabin. As I get closer, I see lovely brown stinky splatter all over the deck. Something, clearly, went haywire.
“Well, he doesn’t normally do it, he must have done something wrong”, I think, so I pick up the hose, insert the fitting into the tank opening, and turn the valve to Open. Suddenly the hose jumps out of my hand and I, too, am completely covered in a fine misting of poopy water.
I’m guessing this probably hasn’t happened to you. If you asked me a year ago if I thought it would happen to me, I’d say, um, no. However, after living aboard for 9 months now, I figured it was only a matter of time before we’d have a pump out disaster. Therefore, although I was totally grossed out about having poop on my face and body, I was surprisingly calm about it. I stood there hollering for Brian (I couldn’t really open my eyes, you see, so I knew I’d need him to bring me a paper towel at least). Finally he emerged and saw his beautiful wife covered in poop, and, of course, started cackling…”happened to you too?”
At this point the dock hand came back and was absolutely mortified. “You closed the valve? No, you should have just left it open!” I’m sure he told Brian this, and even if I’d been receiving the instructions, since closing the valve to build up pressure then reopening is the trick to get the last dregs out of the tanks in every other pump out environment, I’d probably have forgotten what he said too. So neither of us place any of the blame on him – it resides squarely on our shoulders for not paying attention.
Want to know how little poop fazes me anymore? Once I was able to wipe off my face so I could see, I immediately took care of the other two holding tanks (following instructions this time!), and jumped into action and pulled out the deck brush, boat soap, and bucket and got started scrubbing down the deck. There was brown spray everywhere, and I knew the longer it sat, the harder it would be to wash off. After about 5 minutes, Brian basically ripped the brush out of my hands and told me to go get cleaned up. “Um, sweetie, it’s, um…like still all over your face and arms…” And once I looked in the mirror I saw he was right. Eww! Massive amounts of soap later, I felt moderately clean and came back up to see that my sweet husband had finished the job of getting the deck nice and white again.
So, we were reminded of one of life’s most important rules…always follow instructions or you’ll find yourself knee deep in sh*t.
*If you would like to submit a story to be published in Stories From Other Cruisers, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or message us on Facebook at MJ Sailing, with the subject titles Stories From Other Cruisers. Please include your name, boat name, story, and a photo of your boat and/or the crew. Please do not send any lewd or profane stories as they will not be published.
If you thought that we had broken away from the Rio and were now smoothly sailing up the Gulf of Honduras towards Belize, sadly, you would be wrong. Checking into the weather forecast we found out there’s some strong northers on their way out their mid week. While there would still be enough time for us to leave tomorrow and get to an anchorage by Tuesday, we haven’t found one that looks like it has good enough shelter for what’s about to blow though, and we don’t want to chance it. I’m sure there’s things closer to the mainland, I’ve heard Placencia is good, but we’re trying to get through Belize by only skirting through the outer islands. The winds look like they’re going to be on and off for a few days, so most likely we’ll be stuck in the Rio for another week. We’ve got a pretty good set-up here though, and I could think of worse places to be.
Just because we’re still in the Rio doesn’t mean we can’t do any sailing. We have been able to break away from the constraints of a med-mooring, one of the reasons we never really wanted to take the boat in and out of the slip before. And what happens to be just around the corner from us? Gorgeous Lago Izabal. Miles and miles of a freshwater lake surrounded by rolling green hills and mountains. We’ve taken the dinghy out here a few times before just to tool around, but never the big boat. When we woke up this morning the sun was out, winds were blowing around 5-10 knots down the river, and we figured why not? Winds are usually 5-10 knots higher on the lake than on the river, so it should have been a perfect day for a sail. Plus honestly, after a five month hiatus from raising sails and handling lines, I could probably use a little refresher.
Trying to be the bad-asses we were back in the Bahamas last year, we raised the main at anchor and I caught enough wind while tacking back and forth that we were able to raise the anchor under sail power along. Ok, and the help of a windlass. Turning the bow towards the Castillo de San Felipe, a large fort that guards the entrance to the lake, we sailed along at a breakneck 1 knot. At first it was fine. This was a pleasure cruise after all, no need to hurry. It didn’t become so fun 10 minutes later when the wind shifted to fall pretty much on our nose and we came to a standstill. In fact, I think the current from the river was actually starting to push us backwards. So much for a non engine day. We threw that bad boy on and motored our way into the lake.
We had barely gotten inside, and sure enough, the wind jumped up from a frail 5 knots up to 13. The covers were plucked off the winches in the cockpit and we prepared to let out the headsail. Everything smoothly came back to me and I was actually able to succeed in a few area that Matt failed; “No, the other clockwise”. Together we made a few other mistakes that a person who hasn’t been on the water for months might experience. We forgot to clear everything off the deck and lost one of our dock lines overboard when we heeled over too far, which wasn’t retrievable, and our extendable scrub brush, which was. And guess who performed the man overboard maneuvering to get it back? Moi. It’s almost like we’ve switched bodies and I’m acting as Matt normally would, and he’s acting as me. Kind of scary.
Once all was situated again we put the autopilot on and just sat back to relax. There was one other sailboat on the water, they had entered about 20 minutes before us, and we seemed to be right on their tail, tacking at all the points they tacked at, seemingly chasing them down to the average observer. Finally at one point we stayed on a tack longer than they did, almost running over a few mooring balls placed in front of what I assume was a resort, and won the race. Since honestly, when is it not a race if there are two boats on the water. The other boat seemed to take it as a cue to concede to their defeat and turn around to head back toward the entrance to the river.
“You said we never had to do this again!!”
Now that we weren’t busy trying to retrieve items from the water or show up other boats on the lake, we decided that this would be the perfect time to try out the new headsail we’d purchased online and brought back to Guatemala from the States. This new sail is the equivalent of a 60 or 65 in size and is rigged to hank on to an inner forestay that Matt has rigged out of Amsteel. We purchased it since we seem to run into nothing but 25-30 knot winds on all of our passages here in the Caribbean (even though we never leave with a Passage Weather forecast of over 20), and we’re sick of the improper sail trim we get from a partially furled headsail. Again, this is not something I want to try out for the first time in choppy seas or building winds, so a quiet little sail on the lago was an ideal place for a jab at it.
My job was to pull the lines for the current headsail out of all the cars and blocks, and then run them forward to Matt so he could bundle them and tie them out of the way. Then I brought out a separate set of lines we keep in one of our lazaretts to have Matt attach them to the clew of the sail where I could then run them through the cars and blocks, and back to the cockpit. Once that part was finished I asked if he needed help hanking the new sail on and raising it from a halyard on the foredeck, but I was just told to handle the lines in the cockpit, sheeting it in once it was raised. The whole process went off without a hitch and I was quite proud of us. Not that this could have gone very wrong in the mostly glass calm lake we were in, but at least we didn’t eff up any of the simple steps like forgetting to run the lines through the blocks.
Content with ourselves, but also realizing the winter sun was already making it’s decent in the sky, we turned Serendipity back towards the entrance of the Rio. By this point all wind had just about died out and even though we were now sailing downwind, our speed was back to a dismal 1.5 knots. Since we weren’t moving along very quickly we thought it would be a great opportunity to squeeze in our showers/baths for the day. Admittedly, these would be our first boat showers since crossing to Rio Dulce from Utila Honduras. Matt splashed in the water first, and I scolded that he’d better still hang onto the ladder dangling off the back, since 1.5 knots was still probably faster than he could swim and I didn’t feel like going back for him. He bobbed around for a few minutes, soaped up, washed off, and then it was my turn to go.
Jumping in the water, I quickly made the lunge forward to grab the ladder, and let myself trail behind the boat for a moment, letting my hair fully absorb the fresh water. Submerging my head all the way under the water for a few seconds, I went to pull myself forward to the ladder so I could get out and shampoo, but used too much strength and smashed my nose right into one of the wooden steps. The pain seared, and for a moment I thought I had broken it. Not exactly a thought I was relishing, even if it was only for reasons of vanity. Stepping up the ladder I made Matt check my nose to make sure it wasn’t bleeding from the inside, but it seemed to be clear. Whew. Mini catastrophe avoided. After taking a minute to suds up my hair though, Matt pointed out I did have a nice little gash going near the bridge of my nose. That I could live with.
The rest of our ride back down the lake was uneventful, although for a few minutes Matt had seemed to have disappeared into thin air, and I finally looked up and saw him perched on one of the spreaders. He’s had a thing lately of randomly scaling up there, I just prefer when he tells me first, especially if we’re underway. Before we could get to the entrance of the river we went through the process of taking the new headsail down, perfectly rolling it back up on deck (score!), and running the lines for the original headsail back to the cockpit once more. Coming up to the castillo we turned the engine on once more and motored back to our spot just in front of the marina. It was a very uneventful day out on the water for us, but I think that is exactly what I needed before facing the Caribbean Sea again.
Window. An opening for the admission of air or light, commonly fitted with a frame containing panes of glass.
For this weeks challenge on the Daily Press we’re focusing on windows. This was a shot taken while wandering down the streets of Trinidad, Cuba. Even though nothing in this town was new, there was amazing beauty at every surrounding. Even this closed off door with it’s painted over windows was enough to make me stop in my tracks and spend a few moments staring. Even though it was in no way new, it was simple, elegant, charming, and I could not take my eyes off it.
As I mentioned in our last post, we are so happy to be out at anchor again, but not all of it is because of fresh breezes and better views of the sunset. Nope, there’s one more reason I’d left out. We’re both quite happy not to have to see a certain neighbor at the marina any longer, someone we haven’t been on good terms with for awhile. But to get to this point, first I have to go back and start at the beginning.
When Matt and I first arrived at our marina in late June, we were placed in one of the last slips (I mean, I guess we did hang out in the Caribbean about three weeks into hurricane season), but thankfully still in a primo place right in front of the ranchito, a favorite hang out place of ours equipped with shade, picnic tables, with a couple of good conservatory heaters (conservatory heater reviews on www.konservatory.co.uk are helpful) and a hammock, as well as being snuggled between two boats who’s owners had left for the season. It was quiet and peaceful, and we liked it that way.
While being given a quick rundown on how everything worked our first or second day there, one of the marina employees showed us the power boxes that each coupling of boats shares, each boat has their own side, and each power box sits above two water spickets, one for fresh drinking water, and one for river water to do washdowns. The two boats next to each other share these spickets, but it wasn’t a problem for us to constantly attach or detach our hose since we were the only ones there at the time. It was also mentioned to us, for reasons that we couldn’t remember for a long time, that the power outlets were switched between ourselves and our neighbor. He needed to use our side, and if we needed power we should use his. All the billing would be figured out at the end of each month. Sure, no problem. For the first five weeks we spent at the marina before leaving for some land travels through South America, life at the marina was p-e-r-f-e-c-t. All of that changed as soon as we got back.
Getting back to the marina after our six week leave, we found that the boat that had originally been next to us, our power box buddy, was gone and there was a new boat in it’s place. To protect this person (or possibly just ourselves) I’ve changed his name and boat name. Let’s call him…Lon, and we’ll call his boat…Infinity. We first met Lon our second day back at the marina and desperately needed to fill our water tanks after having left them empty during our absence. His hose was attached to the fresh water spicket and we wanted to get his permission, or at least give him a heads up, before we unattached his hose to put our own on. After knocking on the hull he came out of his boat, immediately talkative, and immediately friendly. He explained that he had a Y attachment which would allow both of us to keep our hoses connected to the fresh water at all times. Before we could even go about filling our tank he ran into his boat to grab this and attached it right away so there would be no worries in the future. How nice, right?
Over our next week and a half back we saw plenty of Lon. He was usually in the ranchito, as we were, talking to the marina employees as they went about caring for the boats, and keeping them refreshed with cold 2 liters of Coke that he kept out in a cooler for them. The days were spent with him telling us all about his previous travels, and showing us photos of his grandchildren, as well as going into lengthy conversations about his family. After a few days though, we started trying to avoid him a bit. Sure, he seemed nice enough, but there were two things we noticed about him and his conversations. One was that they never ended. I’m all for sharing a friendly talk with other people that are around, but there’s a time and a place, and all day every day is not it. It became hard to get any work done outside of the boat because this man would talk and talk, even when you ended the conversation and tried to concentrate on what you were doing. Forget trying to write blog posts out there too, one of my favorite pastimes our first few weeks there.
The second thing is that most of his conversations were beginning to fall on the bitter side. Although he’d done a few nice actions that we’d seen, everything out of his mouth was a complaint of something another person had done. His food wasn’t prepared properly at the restaurant, he felt he was getting charged too much for work he was getting done (Seriously? Labor in Guatemala is dirt cheap.), ect. After a week and a half of this, when Lon had to leave for a two week stay in Guate City for (planned) medical reasons, we were actually kind of relieved. We could go back to the peace and quiet, and personal space, that we’d sorely been missing.
The day that Lon came back from the city, it was a rainy and surprisingly chilly day, and Matt and I were sitting in the ranchito catching up with our friends Luki and Elmari. Lon came walking up the dock from his boat and up to Matt and I, and let us know that while he was away, our cat Georgie had um, used his boat as a litter box. We were mortified. I quickly ran over to his boat with him, apologizing profusely. Leading me into his cockpit he displayed a rug on the floor where, sure enough, there were about three different spots of cat poop slowly drying into the fibers. Wanting to right this, I grabbed the rug and made my way back to the docks to give it a thorough cleaning. As I was stepping off his boat he made an offhand comment of “I know it wasn’t my cat, because my cat is trained”. We think the reason Georgie may have gone to the bathroom is because there is another cat living aboard there and the smells attracted her, which is in no way an excuse, the incident was still all our fault, but it seemed like a weird thing for him to say. After an hour of really good scrubbing to his desicrated rug, I couldn’t find him around, so I left it in the ranchito to dry.
We didn’t see Lon for a day or two after that, not that we were trying to avoid him, although I think the whole ‘cat pooing in his cockpit’ was the start to some bad vibes between all of us. Then one night, just as the sun was going down and the two of us had retired to the safety of our salon for the evening to avoid the ever present mosquitos, we heard Lon calling our name. Or Matt’s name actually since he never preferred to address me on his own. No reason to have woman handle anything when there’s a man around. Below deck I was only able to catch Matt’s part of the conversation, but what I found out a few moments later was that Lon was trying to start an argument about our power cord. Remember how I mentioned earlier that when we got to the marina they told us we needed to switch sides with our neighbor? Well, not that we use shore power, we don’t even have the cord or capabilities of that anymore, but sometimes when we’re running low and we happen to have the option avialiable to us, we hook an extension cord up and run it into the boat to charge things like our computers or the tv. Which, we had been doing for the past few weeks since the precious shade from our ranchito was also now shading our solar panels.
Apparently Lon didn’t get the memo about the switched sides. All he saw was that we were using ‘his’ side to charge our boat, and assumed that we were being sneaky little thieves that were trying to have him charged for our power. So not the case. Matt tried to calmly and politely tell Lon this, although Lon was not having any of it. He continued to call us thieves and said that we were trying to rip him off, making sure that he was being charged the hundreds of dollars of power we must be using in his name. After a couple more times of trying to politely explain the situation, Matt couldn’t handle the name calling anymore. He kind of exploded and went on to tell Lon that we were only doing what we were told, and went on to tell Lon that he was was a lousy neighbor, playing his music on high volume all the time, loud enough for the half of the marina to hear. And this, is where the war started.
Being a non-confrontational person myself, my first thoughts were to ignore Lon at all costs for the next few days until the whole thing blew over. When I walked onto the docks the next morning to use the restroom, I did not look at him and did not say anything as I saw him fiddling around by our shared power box. When I came back a few minutes later, I saw that the Y hose valve which he so graciously had put on a few weeks before was gone, and the end of our hose was now floating in the river. Not cool. Still, I didn’t make a big deal of it. I strode back onto our boat, picked up the end of the hose out of the water, and coiled it back on board. If he wanted to play dirty, fine. We’d take the high road by ignoring it and not succumbing to his childish passive aggressive behavior. Apparently he wasn’t done with us though. No, he wanted us to know just how pissed off he was, and that we’d never get away with ‘stealing power’ from him again.
A day or two after the hose incident, I kept myself busy in the cabin from that point on on, with less chance of running into Lon, while Matt continued boat projects which kept him constantly running on and off of Serendipity. And one of the times he was passing by Infinity to get to the marina’s workshop, who was basically blocking his path on the dock?, but Lon, oiling his shotgun and staring Matt down. Yes, you read that right. This guy had an illegal weapon in the country, and was now using it to terrorize us. Matt tried not to give Lon a second look as he continuously passed by him, showing him that these scare tactics were not going to work on us.
For a few more days after this we all went back to a routine of completely ignoring each other, which suited me just fine. I’d be out on the docks doing bucket laundry, and not feel the need to look up and smile and wave at Lon as he passed by. I became braver and began taking my computer out to one of the picnic tables at the ranchito when I knew Lon would be out there, knowing most likely that he would not say anything to me. In a way it was kind of nice. We finally had our peace and quiet back. I though the issue was somewhat resolved, and we could all coexist among each other while pretending the other did not exist. This lasted until we needed to fill our fresh water tank. Remember now that Lon had taken a monopoly on the fresh water spicket, keeping his hose constantly attached.
Taking our hose out of the cockpit once more, we wound it around wooden pylons and out to the dock until we had enough slack that it could reach the spicket. The plan was for Matt to use a set of channel locks to undo Lon’s hose (they had to be super tight, otherwise the hoses leaked), and then I would hold Lon’s hose out of the water while Matt attached ours and we went about filling our water tanks. We weren’t trying to be dirty or underhanded about it in anyway, our only hope was to do it quietly and without confrontation. Unfortunately, that was not the case. We set out to do this project after we saw Lon leave his boat, on his way to the showers. Just about as he had gotten far enough down the dock to be out of our sight, he turned around and saw us. From 300 hundred feet away we could hear his yells. “Don’t your dare touch my things, you dirty little thieves!!”. Matt, already extremely perturbed by Lon’s behavior but definitley not acting in his best form yelled back, “Quit being such an asshole, Lon!”. Ohhhh boy. If this man could have exploded at the sound of someone calling him an asshole, he would have.
Running down the dock toward us he continued yelling at top volume to anyone within ear range. “Did you hear him? He just called me an asshole! This guy called me an asshole!” Trying to step in and be a little assertive myself I replied, “Lon, you’re not being fair”. “Fair?”, he cried back, “Fair? Don’t even talk to me about fair, you thieves!!” Getting right up in our faces now, he rammed into Matt, causing Matt to drop Lon’s now un-attched hose into the water. He yelled at us, again, for stealing his power, and now claimed that we were stealing his water. From a shared spicket. We tried to explain that, hello, this is shared water, but he wasn’t even listening by this time. He only wanted to hear the sound of his own voice. At this point we were beyond trying to deal with him, and went about ignoring him as we finished attaching our hose and climbed on Serendipity to finish the task of filling her water tanks.
After we had been our our boat for a minute or two and not responding to any of his calls or insults he ended up storming off. When our water tanks were filled up we un-attached our hose from the spicket, and would have put Lon’s back on, except now it was sitting in the river. Because of Lon. About 30 minutes later we heard someone outside our boat calling our name, so we went on deck to check it out. Two of the marina employees were standing there, apparently Lon had made such a stink at the front desk that they were sent out to handle it. Going through the whole story, we explained how the issues started and how we’d gotten to the point that we were now at. Of course, the power source came into question. When we tried to explain that we had been told upon arrival to use the outlet on the opposite side of our box, we couldn’t remember the exact reason why, only that we were told to do so. Matt thought it was because our side was not working and since the owner of the original boat on the other side was not there, we could then use theirs. I was under the impression that both sides just generally switched, but couldn’t remember why. We also couldn’t remember who had told us this, it being our first day here, and now five months ago.
The marina employees we were now talking to had no recollection of us being told to switch, and since we couldn’t tell them who had told us to do it in the first place, there was no one for them to outright question on the situation. Trying to get the whole thing settled once and for all, we said that we’d gladly pay anything that Lon was charged because of us. In fact, we’d pay double if it made him happy. The marina agreed to this (only what we used, not double) and said they’d reset the boxes and from now on we should stick to our own side. They also said they could bring out a Y valve that belonged to the marina to fix the water spicket issue. We were completely fine with this and also apologized profusely to them for having to get involved at all. How sad was it that three grownups could not resolve it on their own?
From that point on, now that all issues with Lon should have been fully settled (oh, and the marina informed us that our 110 volt charge we used on his side for three weeks came to 40 Q, or about $5.10), I found no reason to act like he even existed. My conscience was now clear. Before, if he approached me, I might have felt obliged to try and be civil to him so we could work out the above issues. Now if there was any reason he might feel the need to get my attention, I would have had no qualms with not making any kind of contact back. He was dead to me, and you can’t very well have a conversation with a ghosts. Friends of ours that were privy to the whole situation (that had also never met Lon, lucky for them) said we should take the high road, bake him a cake, and try to start fresh or at least put all this unpleasantness behind us, but I just couldn’t do that. Not with him. Because in his mind this would have made him victorious. He would not have seen it as us taking the higher road, he would have seen it as us trying to make up for a guilty conscience. Of which I did not have.
Luckily we knew our remaining time at the marina was limited, and both parties gladly stayed out of each other’s way. Then something spectacular happened our last week at the marina. Lon was moved back to his old spot, and the boat that was originally there when we first arrived was placed back. That owner was coming back and needed that spot for it’s easy access onto one of the few finger docks. We were happy just to have even more space put between us and Lon, but after this new boat arrived back, something even better happened. Our new (old) neighbor came by to introduce himself and ask us a little favor. The shore power doesn’t work on his side for some unique connection he had, and if it’s not too much trouble, would we mind switching sides on the power box since our side was compatible? Yup, we had been right on target about that little issue all along. Turns out someone just didn’t want to listen to us. I have to admit, I felt a great triumph when Lon walked by a few days later and noticed our neighbor plugged into our side of the power box, absolutely proving him wrong.
I’m pretty sure he expected us to fill our water tanks with river water, the other side was his.
So much trouble, from one little power outlet.
Now this is how cruising is supposed to be. Don’t like your neighbor? Pack up and leave.
We are finally at anchor again, and it feels SOOOO good. We may not have made it far, just a few hundred feet. If fact, we’re anchored in that pretty little bay that you may have seen from photos of our dock. Just a small little area between the marina and another house.
We think we have a weather window to leave on Monday to begin our way up to Belize and eventually Mexico. You might be asking why we’ve kicked ourselves out of the marina four days before our departure, but part of the reason is that we still need to make it 20 miles down the river before we get to Livingston where we’ll be checking out of the country. Since we want to be there first thing in the morning to allow plenty of time for these check our procedures and hopefully still catch high tide just around noon to get past the (sand) bar leading to the bay, we’re going to take one day getting down to a little spot just 7 miles up from Livingston called Texan Bay. We’re still debating if we want to leave for there tomorrow and spend the weekend there, or continue to hang out just across from the marina where we have easy access to town (Texan Bay is in the middle of nowhere) and…a wifi signal that we can still pick up from the marina. I think that might settle the case right there. I kind of love having internet access. Plus, I’m not ready to end my internet dates with my good friends Jackie and Ron just yet.
This morning we filled our water tanks one last time, gave the ‘Dip a quick washdown, and scouted the area to make sure we weren’t leaving anything behind. Like Georgie, although I’m sure she’d love to permanently set up shop in the ranchito. Just after lunch we had a few of the marina employees help us with the lines that are attached to shared posts with our neighbors, and just like that, we were out after five months of sitting still.
As soon as the anchor was down, there was a whole new feeling on the boat. With the hatches open, light breezes washed through the cabin. The afternoon sun danced across the teak in the salon as we gently swayed side to side. Things just felt….right again. Like living on a boat is supposed to feel. After dragging our cushions on deck for some fresh air and sun (because they still haven’t fully dried yet), we just relaxed. Sat on deck, soaked in the views, and enjoyed the day. I don’t even know the last time we’ve done that. I didn’t even know how much I missed it. Let me just tell you though, it’ is a fantastic feeling.
Well, off to sneak back in and take our last hot showers until who knows when.
I think Georgie’s enjoying the freedom that being at anchor brings as well.
As I’ve mentioned, Matt has a million different projects going on right now to spruce up Serendipity and get her ready for cruising. Most of them have been for more along the lines of comfort features while at anchor, a sliding board that covers the stove for more counter space; reconfiguring our dining table to give more room to move around the salon; things like that. But after doing much research online, we’ve taken on a new project that will improve the actual performance of Serendipity. Or, possibly save us from disaster. However you want to look at it.
Our plans this coming summer are to take the ‘Dip from St. Martin in the Eastern Caribbean over to the Mediterranean, which includes crossing approximately 3,200 nautical miles of the Atlantic Ocean. We’re hoping that this will be a very uneventful crossing for us, but you know what they say, ‘Hope for the best, plan for the worst’.
As you’ve probably been able to guess, Matt has spent many a night here in the Rio while we have internet access, scouring to see what are the biggest issues boats run into on ocean crossings, and making sure that we can do our best to prevent them. What he ended up finding, is that the most common cause for distress while passaging is rudder failure. For my non-nautical friends, the rudder is a vertically hinged plate of metal, fiberglass, or wood, placed at the stern of the ship and is used to steer the boat through the water. Now I don’t know about you, but I consider steering a pretty frickin’ important necessity to get from Point A to Point B, and that is probably one of the last things I want to fail on me out in the middle of an ocean.
Throughout the summer and into the fall we toyed with the idea of building an emergency rudder, considered the condition of our current rudder, and what options we would have if it did fail on us out at sea without having a backup. Don’t get me wrong, there are still little things you can do to control steering a little bit without a rudder, such as trailing a drogue on one side of the boat to get it to turn that direction, or attaching boards to a spinnaker pole and using that as a replacement rudder. It’s actually part of the reason we bought ours (with the added bonus that it could be used as an emergency mast should we ever be de-masted). We were very back and forth on the issue if we wanted to put in the time and money, and take away precious storage space, to build and have mountings for a second, albeit, smaller rudder. As if we were waiting for a sign to be sent to us, Matt came across this article of a relatively new Beneteau Oceanis 50 that was traveling between islands in the Eastern Caribbean this summer when their rudder sheared right off. They ended up putting in a distress call and were towed through 6-8 ft seas for nearly 30 hours until they arrived on the island of Martinique. If it could happen to them, it could happen to anyone. That cemented our decision. We wanted an emergency rudder. We’d both be much happier having it and hopefully never having to use it, than falling into a situation where we needed it and were only able to rely on the other backups listed above.
Since we’ve made this decision, we’ve been in talks with an American named Thomas that runs a welding shop in the Rio. With his help, and some very detailed instructions from Matt, he’s spent the past few weeks making the mountings for the rudder and was able to bring all the pieces over this afternoon to install them. The parts we had Thomas make/weld for us are: three stainless steel mounts to be attached to the transom; a rudder mount, and a gudgeon. Here’s a rough sketch Matt made of how it will all fit on the boat.
We’ve set it up so that the three transom mounts will be permanent and always visible, but the rudder mount, gudgeon, and rudder will be stored away. Should our current rudder ever shear off (let’s hope not), we’d assemble the rudder mount to the transom mounts, slip in the the new rudder, and hopefully be able to maintain decent steerage. Not enough to be a permanent fix if the original rudder was gone, but enough to get us to land and someplace we can do repairs.
After Thomas brought all of the pieces over, all we can say is that we are thrilled with his work and we’re so happy that we were able to find him here in the Rio. Thanks for introducing us to him Luis! Just yet another advantage of our little dinner club.
This is a two part project for us, Matt and I will be making the rudder ourselves once we get to a place where we can get the supplies necessary, probably Mexico or the US. The rudder will be 48″ long, 12″ wide, and made from foam, fiberglass, and epoxy. Consider phase one checked off the list though!
Lining up and installing the transom mounts.
Placing it all together.
Phase one complete.
The gudgeon, which will eventually be attached to the emergency rudder.
Just before we get geared up to start cruising again after nearly five months now of sitting out hurricane season in Guatemala, I figured it would be a perfect time for a little question and answer time about our lives since there hasn’t been much other boating excitement going on lately. But this isn’t any ‘ol interview, it’s being done in connection with Newly Salted, a companion site to Interview with a Cruiser, who’s purpose is to ‘Record some of the wisdom of the masses of cruisers who are out there on the water, for the dreamers and planners still at their desks, using a focused interview format’.
First time visiting us? Here’s a little background. We are Matt and Jessica, and have been cruising for 15 months, starting in our home port of Muskegon, Michigan, on the east coast of Lake Michigan. Working our way through the Erie Canal and East Coast, our remaining time before hurricane season was making a jump from the Eastern Caribbean to the Western Caribbean, visiting places like the Bahamas, Cuba, Jamaica and Cayman Island before settling in Guatemala, where we currently sit, until cruising season is once more upon us. All of our adventures are cataloged on our website, www.mjsailing.com and on our Facebook page at MJ Sailing.
Leaving Muskegon for the last time, officially cruisers now!
What is something you read or heard about cruising, that you found to be particularly accurate?:
That a cruisers plans are written in sand at low tide. We were naive, or maybe just determined and stubborn, but when we left Lake Michigan we had a very well laid out plan and we thought we could stick to it. That plan was for a circumnavigation in the span of four years. As soon as Hurricane Sandy came along our plans began to deteriorate as we fell behind schedule. We still tried to rush down the east coast, and even after spending a few months in Florida, we thought we could rush through the Bahamas in time to still jump over to Panama for a canal crossing this year. Going from Lake Worth Florida to George Town Bahamas in just ten days, we realized we didn’t want that kind of fast paced travel that a circumnavigation would press on us, and we’d rather slow down and take quality over quantity. We’d heard this many times before we left, but it took 7 months of cruising for it to actually sink in.
Our first anchorage of the trip, South Manitou Island, Michigan.
What do you find most exciting about the cruising lifestyle?:
That there is always something new to see. Some places you get really attached to and others you don’t mind departing after a day’s visit. But the great thing about the cruising lifestyle is if you don’t like it, you can always pick up and leave until you find something that suits you better. We also love meeting other cruisers that have been out there and doing it for awhile, learning the ins and outs of certain places, and then getting excited to visit there ourselves.
Cruising past the Detroit City skyline.
What is the biggest obstacle you’ve had to overcome as a cruiser?:
For me, Jessica, it has been seasickness. It plagues me almost every time we travel and I’ve begun to dread any passage that lasts longer than sunrise to sunset. For those I can sit in the cockpit and stare off into the horizon, comforted by the fact that at least I’ll be at a calm anchorage that night and will have the ability to move around the boat again. Anything longer than that to me is a jail sentence, being confined completely to the cockpit where my symptoms are minimized, but I can’t even pass the time by reading a book. I can only sit there and stare. And stare, then a little more, and then some more after that. I’ve used just about every remedy there is, scopolamine patches, pressure point wristbands, and Dramamine. I’ve heard that seasickness will fade on long passages, after you’ve been out for 3-4 days, but our longest passage has only been three days, so I haven’t been able to find out yet if that holds true.
For Matt, the biggest obstacle is not being as productive on the boat as he was on land. Every day he got up with a purpose, went to work, enjoyed doing it, and felt good about it at the end of the day. Now that we don’t have schedules or the same kind of responsibilities, he used to feel useless while sitting around the boat and converting most of his time to relaxing. He’s found a remedy for this by keeping himself busy with the boat, or planning projects for the boat. Which, while we’re sitting at the marina with easy land and electricity access, he’s got about six projects going at once. And keeps planning more…
Is there something you wish you had bought or installed before starting out?:
Now that we’ve been out for awhile, we can both agree that an invaluable tool for us right now would be a backup generator for our solar panels. There’s currently three solar panels on Serendipity, one that’s 205 watts, and two that are 135 watts, for a total of 475 watts, which is actually pretty good. And when there’s sun out we’re bringing in power like crazy. The only issue is we assumed that being in tropical climates, we’d have sun 90% of the time. Which we’re starting to find out is not the case. When it’s just one or two cloudy days, the power we’ve saved up can usually tide us over until we see the sun again, but anything after that and we go into complete power lockdown, keeping the inverter off and even turning off the chill box at night (our biggest power consumer). Running the engine is an option, but we don’t want to have to rely on that. We enjoy our electronic toys like laptops, tv, e-readers, and playing the stereo, and don’t want to have to give them up because the sun is being an unsocial sonnofa b.
Cementing our friendship with our first buddy boat, in Annapolis.
What piece(s) of gear would you leave at the dock next time? Why?:
Because Matt is fairly obsessed with researching any new hobby that takes his interest, he spent hours of each day before we left pouring over websites and forums and question and answer sites (like IWAC) to see what other people carried on their boats or wish they had. He then translated it to our boat, our cruising needs, and our personalities and lifestyle. We were pretty stumped for this question because we kind of love everything we have on this boat, I think he did a great job of figuring that out for us (although I was hounded relentlessly for my opinion as well). If we had to pick one thing though, I think we’d go with davits. Surprised? I know, that’s usually on every cruisers ‘must have list’, even before things like solar panels or a water maker. The reason we might leave them behind next time is that they are only used at night to get the boat out of the water (for security and cleanliness reasons). Anytime we’re on passage we’re not sure if the davits can handle the brutal strain and we’ve already had two* incidents of breakage when we’ve left the dinghy up on passage, so we haul it up an secure it on the foredeck anyway. Every.Passage. I do love them for at night when we pull the dinghy up, but as Matt reminds me, that can also be done with a halyard on the foredeck.
As you started cruising, what transitions did you find most difficult?:
This one kind of makes me laugh because one of my most difficult transitions is so far off from what most people would expect. There are plenty of things that can drive a cruiser bonkers, things like cockpit showers (we disassembled the shower in our head), rough passages, and sleeping two people to a bed that should really only comfortably fit one. I let all of these nuisances roll off because I was expecting them. I was dreading them before we left, and they turned out not to be as bad as I imagined. The thing that surprisingly did get me, was cooking in our galley. The lack of good space there is what drove me crazy. There’s very little counter space, and a good portion of it is the top to our chill box. I’d be busy preparing dinner on the ‘counter’ and realize I needed something from the chillbox, so I’d have to move all my items away to lift up the top. As if that wasn’t bad enough, I’d then spend the next five minutes digging through the chill box and placing all of it’s contents on the companionway stairs until I found what I needed, because that was the only open space I had to lay them down. I’ve since become more accustomed to it, but for awhile, that nightly routine could almost drive me to tears.
Exploring the Exumas, Bahamas.
What is the thing that has surprised you most about your cruising lifestyle?:
That we’ve begun to crave friends and buddy boats. For the most part, both of us enjoy our solitude and spending time solely with one another. At least, this is how we were back on land. Spending all day surrounded by people at work, we looked forward to our quiet time together at night. When we left we told ourselves we’d never get sucked into the world of buddy boating and living on someone else’s schedule, where they wanted to go or what they wanted to do. Nope, it was going to be just the two of us, making our own decisions and relying on no one else. But somewhere along the way we did find a buddy boat and realized we enjoyed it immensely. Other people to share in your highs and your lows, someone to force you out of your lazy habits to try new things, and even just the novelty of having someone different to talk to. Don’t get me wrong, we still love our solitude from time to time, but once you have that for too long, things can get a little lonely in this life.
Enjoying the waterfalls in Jamaica with a large group of buddy boats.
(Photo courtesy of Jason Windebank)
Is there anything you would like to say to the readers of this interview?:
Yes! Please get involved with the crew of Serendipity! E-mail us, comment on our website, and on our Facebook posts. We’d love to hear anything you have to say! As I said, this can be a lonely lifestyle sometimes, but just knowing there are people out there following along makes us feel much less isolated, and any sign that you’re out there is an instant mood lifter.
Strolling the streets of Cuba.
And now, a few questions our readers want to know about us and our cruising lifestyle**:
How hard is it to get food and supplies along the way?
It depends on if you’re trying to fully provision your boat or just get through the next few days to make meals, ect, as well as your taste in food, and what you’re willing to pay for it. Once we got out of the States and into the Bahamas we had a fully stocked boat from Florida. We know that the Bahamas are quite expensive and didn’t want to spend money on non perishables that we could bring with us. The Bahamas didn’t happen to be great for fresh produce, but hey, our meals usually consisted of Pop Tarts and Ramen Noodles, so it wasn’t an issue for us. Other than that, you could find what you needed, but at a price. Every place else we’ve been so far we’ve been able to find decently stocked markets and stores within a mile or two walk, although Cuba was quite hard for provisioning as well. I wouldn’t planning getting much more than produce or meat there.
How have you found fellow sailors as you’ve traveled?
There’s been two main ways we’ve found other sailors on the water. One is actually this website, which has brought me in touch with some of my now best friends Jackie and Ronback in Michigan, and other cruisers like Ryan and Tashaon s/v Hideaway, and Frank and Yuon s/v Moitessier. All other times we’ve found other cruisers by approaching or being approached at anchor, or run-ins on land. It’s pretty easy to spot other cruisers, and even easier to strike up conversations. Which always lead to sundowners on someone’s boat or in a local bar. It’s just that easy, and it works every time. (I will admit, we can be a little shy sometimes, so we’re usually the ones getting approached at anchor. It’s how we met our now great friends on s/v Skebenga, and I’m so happy they came over to say hi!!)
Would you do it again?
For those of you who are new to the site or haven’t been following along for long, you might not know that both Matt and I just about had a complete meltdown back in June and wanted out of the cruising lifestyle. One year in and somehow the lows felt more frequent than the highs and we were tired of constantly caring for a boat that is always in need of maintenance (as all cruising boats are, unfortunately), or visiting an island that looked pretty much like the one we just left. I am still thankful that Guatemala, with it’s high peaks and lush green forests, was our next landfall after this breakdown, or you might have seen Serendipity for sale on Yacht World. Luckily some time at a marina, a visit home, and experiencing traveling via backpacking, gave us a new perspective on cruising. We felt refreshed and invigorated, excited to get going again. Over this time we realized what we like about cruising, what we don’t, and we think we’ve redefined our future plans to make it work out for us. Just ask us another year into cruising though, hopefully Serendipity is still on our possession and we’re still out on the water.
*Our first accident with the davits was when we were traveling 10 miles in Lake Michigan, and had the dinghy up on the davits along with our 9.9 hp outboard. Beating into some waves, the strain was so much that the arms literally bent in half. We had them replaced with larger stronger davits, but we always made sure to take the large outboard off after that. Our second accident was in the Exumas in the Bahamas, when the bracket that mounts the davits to the pushpit snapped, and we had to do some quick and fancy work with ratchet straps until we could find a welder to fix the bracket.
**If you asked a question on our Facebook page and I haven’t responded, don’t worry, I’m not ignoring you. I’m planning on doing a second question and interview post where I include them. Anyone else have a question for us? We’d be happy to answer it!