Throwback Thursday: A Day of Firsts

Now that we’re sitting in Indiantown Marina and it’s obvious that we’re going to be here for quite a long time while we fix up Daze Off to sail, I don’t want to bore you with stories that are only related to boat work (but don’t worry, they’re still coming).   I know that’s what some of you crave, but if you’re like me, you also need a little fun in there.  A little travel and a little adventure.

So for the foreseeable future while we are doing nothing much more than boat work I will be adding a Throwback Thursday post in every week as well.  Cataloging our trip so far, giving you that needed sense of travel and adventure, and for those of you that haven’t started with us from the beginning, catch you up on some of the most important or memorable parts of our travels.

Here we had spend five weeks in the Rio Dulce of Guatemala and settled into a nice groove and daily routine.  Most of the cruisers had left their boats there for the season to do land traveling and Matt and I had a good group going with the few remaining members.  Our friends Luki and Elmari were still around as well as Luis that we’d run off to El Estor with, and we’d added a new member, Anna Bianca from Brazil.  The six of us were inseparable and would usually gather together every night for dinner or sometimes an interesting collectivo ride to the neighboring town of Morales where we fit 28 people in a van meant for 12.

To throw a twist in to our activities, over dinner one night we thought it would be fun to take Luis’ boat to the Bay Islands of Honduras for a week, a little get away that went terribly wrong before we could even leave, a hurricane in the Caribbean Sea changing direction and sending 30 ft waves rolling through our path.  When that didn’t work out Anna Bianca and I thought some land based travel to Antigua was a much safer bet.  All of the guys bowed out due to impeding boat work so her and I decided to turn it into a girl’s weekend.

I was treated to a wonderful few days in a beautiful city as well as a few firsts in my life.  All in all, another weekend I wouldn’t mind living over and over and over again.

You can find the original post here. Also, check out this post to see Picturesque Antigua Guatemala.

Saturday August 3, 2013

Antigua skyline

Our dorm room was pitch black, it was like a cave inside. There was a small frosted window that was illuminated by a fluorescent light outside, one kept on for 24 hours a day, so I had no idea what time it was. When our roommate silently slipped out of his bunk and out the door, I figured it had to be around 6 am since he had been in bed for so long. I closed my eyes again, even though I was fully awake, until Ana Bianca peered her head down to my bunk, apparently awake as long as I had been, and informed me that it was close to 8 am. Well crap. With the full day ahead we had planned, sleeping in was not one of them. Trading my sweatpants for jeans, I tiptoed barefoot out the door and to the bar area to see what was being served for breakfast. Besides a few other early risers, all on their smartphones or laptops, the area was quiet and empty. Sitting alone for a few minutes, I decided to quickly run back to the room to grab my laptop and then settled myself at one of the larger tables that was just vacated by a group of young girls that had just been picked up by a bus. Since a two day trip had my bag crammed full and I still have no idea what I’ll fit in there to last me six weeks through Michigan and South America, I was tempted to ask them, “How did you pack for this trip? What is in your backpacks?!”, as they were walking out the door, but I’m sure a conversation such as that between girls would have taken much longer than the 15 seconds of time they had on their hands. Instead, I waited for Ana to join me, where we browsed the extensive breakfast menu and were soon served large plates of food that rivaled any cafe back home. The reviews were not lying when they said it was worth coming to this place for it’s breakfast alone.

breakfast at Black Cat

Black Cat Hostel

Changing out of the rest of my pajamas and packing up my new messenger bag, the two of us hit the streets for a little sightseeing before our 11:00 massage. Every building in the town was beautiful, but it dawned on me even more how commercial this city is, and having a boutique or upscale restaurant or jewelry store on every doorstep made the place lose some of it’s Guatemalan authenticity. It was definitely a town that catered to tourist, and it showed. That’s not to say that Guatemala isn’t entitled to it’s own European like upscale towns, but in my mind, the facades reminded me too much of Trinidad in Cuba, which I preferred, but the vibes of these two towns were so vastly different. 

One of the upscale shops we went into was a Mayan Jade store.  Jade carvings were everywhere as well as all different kinds of jewelry.  My first mistake was picking up any of the items, and my second mistake was trying them on in front of the mirror.  The rings, the necklaces, they were all so beautiful and the words girls weekend kept popping in my head.  I deserved to treat myself to a little something, right?  I’ve been so good for so long, not having asked for anything since the $2 root bracelet I bought on our waterfall day back in Jamaica.  I went through a stack of rings, trying every single one on, and then finally deciding on one, when I went in a back room to see where Ana Bianca had strayed off to.  Inside was a tower of necklaces and key chains, each with a symbol on the front and a word on the back.

Speaking to a man that worked there, we found out that they were the Mayan symbols for your birthday, and kind of like astrology, had something to say about you based on when you were born.  Flipping through book to find my own (based on the month, date, and year of your birth), I found out I was Aq’ab’al, or the bat.  The salesman picked up a necklace with my symbol and handed it to me along with a card describing that symbol.  Just as soon as I had decided I could part with a few dollars for a ring with a small jade bead on it, I was now in love with a necklace that bore my Mayan symbol for about three times more money.  Damn.  Oh well, at least it will be personal and have meaning.  I can’t say I love what the card had to say about me though.  ‘Early riser’?  I think not.  ‘They tend to get ill, to get mugged, or be pursued’.  Thanks for the vote of confidence of good things to come.

Mayan jade symbols

Mayan astrology symbol

Jade Maya figures

After prettying myself up with some jewelry, it was time for us to make our massage appointment.  Now it was very beneficial I had Ana Bianca as my translator, because even though just about every other shop in this town spoke English, this one did not.  Even though we signed up for a couples massage I guess I didn’t expect that they’d follow through on the ‘couples’ part of it, but we were lead into a room that had two massage tables side by side.  Ana Bianca was instructed, and then relayed to me, that we were supposed to strip down and then lay face down on the table with the towels covering our behinds.  On her way out, allowing us time to undress, the woman turned down the light and put on romantic music.  Ana Bianca and I kind of eyed each other and then burst out laughing, half expecting Marvin Gaye’s ‘Let’s Get It On’ to start playing.

After we were each situated on our tables the women came back and asked of we were ready, explaining to each of us what they’d do.  Ana Bianca was getting the deep tissue, but I was getting the hot stone, and I just nodded to everything the woman said in Spanish, pretending I understood what was going on.  Since this was my first massage ever I didn’t know exactly what to expect, but I had a feeling that due to my slight frame the massuse would be go too easy on me for fear of accidentally breaking or bruising something, so I had asked just before she came in how to say ‘stronger’ in Spanish.  And true to my premonition, although the massage felt excellent, it was lighter than I could handle. But with my face buried in a towel it never felt like the right time to roll over and say anything, so I went with the flow and enjoyed the oils and hot stones.  It was one of the most enjoyable and relaxing hours of my life, and I may have to start requesting more of these now.

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Like my new necklace?

couple's massage

“There’s nothing wrong with me…lovin you…”

 

Another great thing about our girls weekend to Antigua is that Nacho and Annica were coming over from Guatemala City to see us.  After we’d gone back to the hostel and washed the oily residues off our skin, we went back out to the city square to meet our friends.  Upon seeing them we were greeted with hugs and quickly ushered ourselves into a cafe to warm ourselves up from the drizzles that were springing up outside.  They asked what we’d been up to with our time there and we filled them in with the things we’d done, along with the fact that we’d just grabbed lunch at a popular place up the road with giant nacho’s called Monoloco’s (thanks for the recommendation, Nate!).  Nacho replied that he was friends with the owner, Jean-Louis, and that we were actually scheduled to visit his home in Antigua in just a little bit to enjoy some cheese and wine.  What are the odds…

Antigua Guatemala

Antigua arch 1

Antigua arch 2

Before we stopped by there though, Nacho and Annica wanted to take us on a tour through a very old monastery.  The Capuchin Convent was completed in 1736 and today is partially complete and partially in ruins.  We didn’t have long, but we roamed through the grounds with Nacho giving a narrative on the parts he knew.  We saw the very small and sparse living quarters for those residing there and appreciated the architecture that was still standing after the Santa Marta earthquakes in 1773.

Jessica in Capuchin Convent living quarters at Capuchin Convent Capuchin Convent

With not much daylight left on our hands now, we one of the winding roads up to Jean-Louise’s home.  Even though he had never met Ana Bianca or myself before, he eagerly welcomed us into his home, and an avid sailor himself, wanted to know all about our lifestyles, our boats, and our passages.  While Ana Bianca, who knows much more about boats than I do, went in depth about her boat and how it handles, I took a few moments to look around his beautiful home that was perched up in the hills of one of the volcanoes that towered over the town.  It was a mix of modern and African safari, had a great balcony with gorgeous views, and I instantly fell in love with it.  Opening up a bottle of wine while Nacho made more croquettes in the kitchen while the rest of us sat at the table, sampling cheeses and talking about travels.

Jean-Louise was quite a character, and quite a traveler as well.  As one bottle of wine turned into another and another, he shared stories of his past travels and Nacho would jump in at points on trips they took together.  We were all having such a good time that we almost didn’t realize it was time to leave for our eight o’clock dinner reservation in town.  All of us piled into Nacho’s SUV and wound down the roads back to town and the conversation continued in Spanish, surprisingly with me having an understanding of 40% of what was going on.  Or at least, I knew it was about politics and social economics.  Thanks Michel Thomas for interjecting those words in my studies!  Apparently, they did come in handy.

Jean-Louis' patio

Ana Bianca, Annica, and Dan.

view to Jean-Louis' patio

Jean-Louis' living room

view from Jean-Louis' patio

The five of us had a wonderful dinner together in town at a restaurant that was famous for it’s onion soup, and it did not disappoint.  It was actually so filling that I could not even order an entree, although the did have steak on the menu, and a tender medium-rare piece of meat was sounding very good at that moment.  But between the nacho’s at Jean-Louis’ restaurant, the cheese and croquettes from Nacho, and now the soup, I did not have the ability to take another bite of anything.  That was, until I saw the dessert menu with a Nutella crepe listed on there.  I know this sounds kind of silly, but just about every travel blog I’ve ever read has it’s travelers going worldwide and yet each of them has found Nutella crepes at one place or another and has raved about them.  On our own little trip, I’d only spied them once before, at a roadside stand in Utila.  The first time we passed by we had no cash, but I made Matt promise that we’d visit again.  That never happened.  So when I saw them again on this dessert menu in Antigua, Nacho must have seen my face light up like a Christmas tree because he was quickly asking if I wanted one.  I shyly nodded yes while mentioning that I’d never had one before and always wanted to try it, but what I wanted to scream was “Oh my god yes, I can’t live without it!”.  When it was placed down at the table with five other forks I did my best to take slow bites and offer it to everyone else around the table as well.  But who was I kidding.  They knew just as well as I did that this was a dream dessert for me, so after each taking a bite just to sample, they let me devour the rest on my own.  It was heaven.

Nutella crepe

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Picturesque Siesta Beach

Wednesday September 2, 2015

Trail head Siesta Beach

Although Matt and I did take our 3 mile walk around Siesta Beach yesterday afternoon, it wasn’t enough for me.  Not enough beach time, and not nearly enough camera time.  Mostly because, due to my own oversight, I had stuffed my camera in my purse next to an ice cold can of Pepsi, so when I broke it out to snap a few photos the lens was completely fogged up and I was able to shoot a whole lotta nadda.  Plus, there are only so many times I can say to Matt, “Hold up a second, I want to get a photo”.

That’s why when all of our daily activity had tuckered Matt out and he needed a nap in the afternoon, I decided to take the five minute walk back with my camera, and no cold sodas to ruin my shots this time.  The day was still overcast and gusty with large waves rolling into the shore.  Normally this beach looks to be quite calm (from all the photos I researched online) with almost Bahamian pristine waters, but hurricane Erika was doing her best to stir them up a little.

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t sometimes love this kind of weather though.  With all the sun and heat we’ve been enduring back at the boat yard it was nice to get a little shade and a fresh breeze.  Plus I was just hoping that the sky would grow black at any moment and I could watch a thunderstorm roll in over the water.  No such luck though.  What I did end up with was a wonderful 20 minute stroll through the sand, and five minutes of waiting for one of my flip flops to wash up back to me on shore after I neglected to keep an eye on them from waves as I strolled down one of the sandbars barefoot.  And since I’m on my last pair of Havaianas, that would have been a real shame.

Trail to Siesta Beach

homes on Siesta Beach

Siesta Beach, Siesta Key

big waves on Siesta Beach

sand bar on Siesta Beach

Siesta Beach, Siesta Key Florida

overcast skies on Siesta Beach

Siesta Beach, Siesta Key Florida

birds on Siesta Beach

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Keeping Time with JORD Wooden Watches

Jord wooden watches  I don’t know about you, but I always have a terrible time shopping for any of the men in my life unless they tell me exactly what they want. Girls are so easy, for the majority of us we just love stuff, but guys can be a little trickier to decipher hobbies and random comments for actual wants

Which I thought was really cool when we were contacted by JORD Wooden watches about their wooden time pieces.  They’ve managed to combine an essential accessory with style, beauty, and a uniqueness to fit every personality.  Something everyone needs and after seeing theirs, will want as well.

All of their watches are made out of recycled sustainable materials which we love, and the beautiful woods are not coated in varnished but only rubbed down with tung oil to protect the wood.  Trust me, they are items of beauty. I’ve chosen their Zebrawood & Turquoise from the Cora series which features swarovski crystal markers and an automatic drive system, and Matt and sporting their Red Sandalwood & White Carbon from the Delmar Series and fortunately for him comes made with a scratch proof glass.

I think they’ll work great in our sailing/nomadic life as there are times I want to don something nicer than my sport/passage/glow-in-the-dark watch for outings into town, and it has the beneficial trifecta of being stunning, extremely light weight,  as well as splash proof (just remember, not waterproof). Plus, they just get us and our style of life.  With quotes like ‘We make our watches for people who don’t just have somewhere to be, they have somewhere to go’, and ‘Moments are bigger than minutes and your watch should tell more than time’, it’s like we’re soulmates of the company/consumer world.

Another great thing about JORD is they offer free shipping worldwide!  So before you get hung up on what to get your special someone for a birthday or the upcoming holidays, just click over to JORD Wooden Watches and find the perfect gift. Who knows, maybe you’ll be lucky enough to get one in return.

Jord Zebrawood

Jord turquoise and zebrawood

Jord turquoise and zebrawood

Jord Red Sandalwood

Jord men's Red Sandalwood

Jord men's Red Sandalwood
Wood Watches For Men

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Vacation Time at Siesta Key

Monday August 31, 2015

villa Sunnyside Properties Siesta Key
I’m sure I’ve said it before, but it needs to be repeated again.  I have the best blog followers ever.  You guys rule!, and because of you I’ve been having an amazing birthday week in Florida.

If you remember back to a few weeks before my birthday, I put a post up about my World Beer Tour and mentioned I was trying to grow my US portion if anyone wanted to send a bottle for my birthday.  It didn’t take long to start getting some amazing brews as well as gift cards with suggestions in the mail, and I was busy typing up thank you letters to those who had sent me something special to try. Getting an email back from one of the people who’d sent me three pairs of enticing drinks to try, they offered Matt and I even more than just beer and the best birthday present anyone could ask for (although I am reminded by my friend Ana Bianca that we did get a romantic couples massage for my birthday two years ago in Antigua).

Long story short, we found they owned a few condos through Sunnyside Properties on Siesta Key, just next to Sarasota, and since it was the low season, would we fancy a week stay in one of their available units as long as no one rented it last minute?  Ummmm…heck yes!!  Browsing through their 1, 2, & 3 bedroom units, we had originally chosen the 2 bedroom that sits right on the Gulf down on Turtle Beach, but it did happen to fill up with renters last minute so we settled on a 3 bedroom at Seaside Villa, only two blocks from Siesta Beach.  Like settling would really be the word for it. Instead of going for the 1 bedroom at the same location we asked for the multiple bedroom because we assumed someone would be able to join us between local friends or family members that had been talking about coming down for a visit.  Sadly everyone was booked up and we had to take on this huge villa ourselves.  With it’s large kitchen and jacuzzi in the master suite.  Such a shame we had to end up here….

Siesta Key condo front

Photo courtesy of Sunnyside Properties.

kitchen in villa, Siesta Key

After leaving Indiantown late yesterday morning during a torrential downpour, some kind of side effect from Hurricane Erika I’m sure, we arrived at the property around 3 in the afternoon, having made sure to hit up a Publix on our way to stock ourselves up on a few days of food. As well as a 6 pk of Lagunitas IPA, a World Tour beer gift that did not take us more than 20 minutes to break into once we arrived.

Matt drinking beer

Since it was later in the afternoon and we had not had a real day off of work since our friends Scott and Kim came to visit us, we were happy to just lounge around the villa our first day there.  A little tv watching and some time by the pool, which I totally would have been in had we wandered down there just a little earlier.  And yes, that is my computer in front of me, but I only had an hour before it was time to start dinner and that is in no way enough time to get into a really good book. At least I made the effort to put my swim suit on in the hopes of catching a few afternoon rays.

Jessica with wine

Matt watching tv

pool at Sunnyside Villa Siesta Key

Jessica on computer

For dinner our first night there I at last had access to a full kitchen again and used it accordingly.  Is it sad that part of the reason I wanted this villa was just so I could use it’s expansive kitchen space?  Don’t hate.  I’ve been cooking solely grilled meals for the past two and a half months now.  Having multiple burners at my disposal I whipped up one of mine and Matt’s favorite pastas which has chicken, bacon, broccoli, and onions in a garlic alfredo sauce.  So bad for you, but oh so tasty.  Then our first night was ended with a few glasses of wine, a soak in the jacuzzi, and a marathon of shows on the History Channel, watched comfortably from our bed.

cooking dinner

 Late this morning we walked the entire length of Siesta Beach, about a mile and a half down and then back up. Not something we were planning to do, but once we passed the main beach access we couldn’t find an exit to the main road and didn’t come up to one again until we were literally at the end of the beach and it dead ended into private property.  It seemed like everything was condos and private property and only had beach access for it’s guests.

We had wanted to take a nice stroll through town on our way back to get a feel for the island, but should have realized immediately that if condos were lining the beach front, that’s all that would be lining the road on the other side of them.  Plus, duh, we drove down that road the day before.  At least it was a good work out and a chance to wade our feet in the refreshing salt water for half the walk.  Looming thunderclouds kept us from coming back with all our gear after lunch, but it turns out the rain never came.

Tonight I also did an interview for a morning radio show in Sydney.  It’s on 96.1 The Edge with Mike E + Emma, and they spent about five minutes asking general questions about what made us leave our 9-5 life behind as well as the places we’ve visited.  Then before I knew it the interview was over and I was left with a dial tone on the other end of the line.  I have no idea when it’s supposed to air, but if I get any kind of link to it I’ll make sure to share it with you.

So, yup.  That’s been about it for us so far.  A little bit of beach time and a lot of relaxing on the couch.  I know that may be a little detrimental to actually visiting a new place, but we’ve definitely earned ourselves a little downtime.  Plus with a few more days here there’s still plenty of time left to explore.

And it has to be said again, Thank You SO MUCH Bill and Lindsay for this wonderful gift.  Your kindness goes further than you know, and we needed this break from the boat desperately before it did end up in a heap of ashes due to our frustration.  Your gift could not have come at a better time and we only wish we had some kind of way to repay you.

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Daze Off Is No Longer

Friday August 28, 2015

8.28.15

Daze Off, that is.  We didn’t like, lose her to a wind storm or sell her off because we can’t handle the boat work anymore.  And no, we did not burn her down, although it’s still our phrase of the moment, just like it was for a time on Serendipity. (“I am going to burn this effing boat down!!”)  I mean, burning down this boat would just be absurd.  It’s made of metal. (Although wouldn’t that be nice?)  She’s just nameless at the moment is all.

In our never ending search to find the best way to remove the paint from the hull, Matt took our grinder to the stern last week to see how that compared to a paint stripper we had tried a few times up by the bow.  He used an 80 grit flap disc, and the results came out pretty good.  Attached to our small vacuum we found out that Matt could sand a decent portion down in a small amount of time while barely making a mess.

The majority of this project won’t even start until November or so, once the interior is nearly finished, but it’s nice going through at the moment, testing spots here and there to see what one will save us the most time and money in the future.

There’s still the decision that needs to be made of should we go down to bare aluminum or put a new coat of paint on?  We love the idea of bare aluminum, but we don’t know if we’ll be able to get the finish we want on it. We know she won’t be incredibly shiny like the new aluminum currently being welded to our keel, but we’d still like something that looks decent. Painting would probably be the easier route to go, only stripping off the first layer of paint instead of all the way down, but it would also be more expensive.

So many decisions and only, oh, three months to figure them out.  I’m sure we’ll know what we want to do when the time comes, but it is also nice knowing all the options we have at hand.

Now that we’ve tried this little test run right where our identity was we’ll be nameless for a time, although we’ll keep referring to the boat as Daze Off before something new gets put on. We’re still debating on a few possibilities of names for this boat, and although we think we’re 95% sure, we won’t tell anyone until we do an unveiling ceremony sometime this fall or winter.  I hate to disappoint Matt’s family in telling you that it will not be called Yearz Off, as they keep suggesting.

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8.28.15 (2)

8.28.15 (3)

8.28.15 (4)

8.28.15 (5)

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Throwback Thursday: Running Away with Strangers

Now that we’re sitting in Indiantown Marina and it’s obvious that we’re going to be here for quite a long time while we fix up Daze Off to sail, I don’t want to bore you with stories that are only related to boat work (but don’t worry, they’re still coming).   I know that’s what some of you crave, but if you’re like me, you also need a little fun in there.  A little travel and a little adventure.

So for the foreseeable future while we are doing nothing much more than boat work I will be adding a Throwback Thursday post in every week as well.  Cataloging our trip so far, giving you that needed sense of travel and adventure, and for those of you that haven’t started with us from the beginning, catch you up on some of the most important or memorable parts of our travels.

When I last left you I was ready to throw the towel in on cruising.  Moving too fast through countries that all looked the same from the waterfront without ever getting the chance to fully experience them.  I’d had enough and needed a change.  Luckily the universe provided it for us in the form of our hurricane hole for the season, Rio Dulce Guatemala.  When we arrived we were able to slow down and settle in, as well as meet back up with our friends Luki and Elmarie of s/v Skebenga, whom were staying in the same marina as us.

For once there was no worry about what kind of weather was on it’s way, dreading an upcoming sleep deprived passage, or even making sure we were provisioned enough to last us until our next supermarket stop.  It was time to sit, take a deep breath, and enjoy.

It didn’t take us long to meet even more friends a few days after arriving, or for that matter, run away for a weekend with a person we’d just meet.  A circumstance which rekindled our love for this lifestyle and reaffirmed that what we’re doing is the right thing.  We don’t need to turn our tails and run as soon as the going gets hard.  Sometimes you just need to stop…throw away your plans of what you think you have to do..and just go with the flow.

You can find the original post here.

Thursday June 27, 2013

El Estor, Guatemala

A kind of unusual thing happened when the four of us returned from the market the other day. We were all walking down the docks with bags in hand, when Luki was stopped by an older Latin American man along the way. It took only a moment to find out that he had a boat here at the marina as well, and the two dove right into a conversation that they must have been having on and off for the past few weeks that Skebenga had already been there. Then it popped up in conversation that Luki and Elmarie must be going somewhere with this gentleman, and he asked them to come aboard his boat to have a look at what would be their cabin. Then turning to Matt and I to ask if we’d like a tour of the boat as well, we set our belongings on the dock to hop on and take a look. It took only a moment to find out that the gentleman we were talking to was named Luis, that he was originally from Cuba, and that he had been here on his 42ft motor vessel for the past two years. The four of us climbed on to his boat and were astounded at what kind of space a 42 foot motor vessel could afford you. It was a tri-level space, with a salon, galley, and navigation space on the main floor; a small berth, steering wheel, controls, and a large foredeck with a bench on the upper level; and a head plus two cabins on the lower level.

As we wandered from level to level, gasping with ooooohs and aaaaahs at all the livable space, Luis showed Luki and Elmarie their master cabin, and then as we passed to the guest cabin, turned to Matt and I, and with a smooth Cuban accent said, “You two must come as well, this will be your cabin, I insist.”. Who…Where…What?! Go where? For what? How long? And who are you? It turned out that a town called El Estor, situated on Lake Isabelle and about 20 miles west of us, was having a Regatta in a few days, hosting a celebration and inviting all the local yachts in the are to come participate. It would just be two days, leaving on Thursday morning with a dinner and celebration that night, anchoring out in the harbor to sleep, and then maybe spend some time sunning and swimming the next day before making our way back to the marina. Although we already have a list of boat projects the length of our arms piling up, we agreed. Two days was short enough to leave Georgie on the boat alone (with tons of food, water, and ventilation), and we needed a little fun. We we worried about hopping on a boat with a guy we just met? A little. But all we had to do was make sure we could out-run or out-swim one person on Skebenga.

So at 8:00 this morning, with one backpack stuffed full between the two of us, we climbed on m/v Hydromax once more and got ready to push off. We found out it was not just the five of traveling as we had originally assumed, we had picked up two more people. One was a local girl named Janita that was Luis’ twice a week house/boat-keeper, young sweet, about eight months pregnant, and also in need of some rest, relaxation, and fun. The 7th was another young girl, Nicole, who’s also originally from the States, and has been traveling south for the past few months, already hitting Mexico and Belize. The five of us boat-knowledgeable people as well as a few deck hands from the marina, prepared to push off and join the fleet already heading up the river. It didn’t take long for everyone to congregate around the wheel, sitting four across on the berth that lay behind, with a few people taking turns to get some fresh air on the bench on the foredeck. The day was sunny with just a little bit of haze, and the water was flat calm. It didn’t take long for drinks to start being served, and not even the alcoholic kind. Luis went to work making everyone a cup of espresso, deliciously sweet, and then we moved on to the cool refreshing bottles of soda stored in the freezer. Everyone was having a great time, enjoying the slow pace up the river and into the lake.

espresso on Hydromax

Luki at the helm

Lake Isabelle

Elmarie on deck

foredeck of Hydromax

Matt at the helm

A lot of the other boats making their way up the water with us had all of their flair out, flags running up and down all of their spreaders. The ride took about four hours, where the seven of us soaked up sun and fresh air, working our way from coffee, to Pepsi, and finally the cold Gallos (local beer) stocked in the freezer. Arriving at the town of El Estor, we wound our way through the other boats already sitting at anchor and dropped ours. Since the festivities were not starting until that evening, we took advantage of the extra free time to take a dip in the lake. At first it was just little jumps from the transom and the railing surrounding it, but then we got more daring and went to the upper deck, getting a running start and feeling the rush as we fell the fifteen or so feet into the water. Any previous apprehensions we had about getting in the water since we’d heard reports of alligator sightings on the way up, were quickly gone as we dove, swam, and played in the water until we were too tired to keep ourselves afloat anymore. Changing into street clothes, we called a lancha over to take all all in to town so we could do a little wandering before the big banquet dinner that was being held for all the boaters that night.

view of El Estor

dropping anchor

boat coming in to El Estor

The shores were lined with hundreds of locals, and just on the water front a band had been set up, playing Latin music as children ran around and vendors sold hot food. Making our way through the masses, we eventually fell out on one of the side streets. It was a little larger than Fronteras, but most of the shops looked the same, large street shacks with all of their goods stacked or hanging on display. We’d heard this was a large mining town run by Russians, and they were the ones putting the regatta on for the boaters. It turns out that although this town is beautifully situated on a large lake, no one uses the water other than for fishing. I guess they wanted more people to take advantage of it for recreational purposes (locals or cruisers, or both? I’m not sure) and they put on this big festival complete with a banquet including free food and drinks for anyone that came on their boat. I’m glad we found someone to come with, because after trying to back her in one time, I don’t think Matt wants to take Serendipity out of her slip until we leave for good. As we got further back into the streets of El Estor we found out that there was also a carnival set up. Along each side of the streets were games where you could win prizes, mostly cheap plastic Disney toys and coloring books that would be found in most dollar stores back in the states. We took a pass on those, and just slowly meandered through the streets, taking the whole scene in.

We were having so much fun getting to know a new culture that we almost forgot about the time and missed the parade of boats. Practically running back to the water, we watched as about 2/3rds of the boats that came, sail or motor around the bay.  Having come in a motor vessel, there wasn’t a big need to have participated ourselves, we had no flags or sails to show off, but we were more than happy to watch the show from shore. When it ended we slowly strolled up the dirt road to the boardwalk and sat down for some good people watching. This must have been a very big event for the residents of El Estor, and the cruisers were outnumbered by the locals at a rate of about 10 to 1. Long before we ever got to Guatemala, we kept hearing about how the women will wear very bright and colorful outfits, and even though it wasn’t every woman, many girls in the younger generation wore jeans and t-shirts, there was still a fair share of women in their traditional clothing.  There was a little boy that was coming around selling fried plantains, and each of us bought a bag for 1Q each, or $0.13.  I’m never leaving here.

streets of El Estor

fabric/clothing store in El Estor

fresh coconut water

carnival in El Estor

parade of boats on Lake Isabelle

Lake Isabelle

our group of misfits

fried plantains for sale

Dinner that night was in a large hall that was filled with about 80 cruisers.  True to their word, they wanted to keep us full with food and drinks.  I’m even guessing they over-purchased on the Stella Artois, since as soon as dinner was brought out to us, someone was right behind giving each person two bottles of beer, regardless of what they were drinking.  While we ate we enjoyed live music from a group of men playing instruments ranging from drums to cellos to xylophones.  Some of the songs they played were very traditional, but they even tried to appease their fellow visitors by playing things like ‘Thriller’ by Michael Jackson.  After the plates were cleared a few people got up and began to dance, but we were ready to head outside and see what the town had to offer after dark.  On the waterfront there was a large stage set up with another band playing more American instruments, but no one was out dancing.  Nicole, Luis, and I decided to change that and, after about 3 Stellas, had no problem shaking our money makers all by ourselves.  It was enough to bring just a couple other people out to dance, but mostly only other cruisers.  The locals seemed content just to sit to the side and tap their feet to the beat.  There was one local guy though, that took me hostage, and after three dances in a row, Luis had to come rescue me from his grasp.  The guy wasn’t being vulgar in any kind of way, he was just very excited to dance and didn’t get the hints (or Spanglish) I was throwing his way that I was tired and needed a break.

Our whole group was exhausted from the fun filled day though, and at the late hour of 8:30 pm, we hopped a launcha to go back to Hydromax for the night.  It wasn’t quite bedtime yet, so the five of us boaters brought a bottle of wine to the top deck to enjoy some conversation and a lightning storm off in the distance.  We were all taken by surprise when a fireworks show began at 9:00, and we sat there in awe as the bright colors exploded before our eyes.  It was a special thing for us cruisers, yet I could help but feel grateful that everyone in El Estor was able to enjoy the show as well.  I’m guessing this is the first fireworks display the town has ever had, and even though it was meant to be a treat for us gringos that came for the regatta, that people who had made their way down from their mountain villages were able to experience it too.  It was such a perfect day and I feel so lucky that we were invited.  We’ve only been in this country for a few days, and it has been so good to us.  I can’t believe that just a few days ago I wanted out of this lifestyle  What was I thinking?

banquet for regatta

dancing in El Estor

 

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