Georgie on top of bathroom

Georgie of the Jungle

Wednesday October 9, 2013

Georgie on top of bathroom

When we first got to the marina here in Guatemala back in June, it took Georgie less than 5 days to realize that she could jump from the stern of the boat to the little plank leading to it, and then to dry land dock.  It took her less than 7 days to realize that she could jump from our boat to the neighbor’s.  For a few days after she found all this out we tried to keep her secure to the boat by putting on her Come With Me Kitty harness, and leashing her to one of the cleats or winches in the cockpit.  She was having none of it.  Eventually I talked Matt into letting her roam free.  For the most part, all she wanted was to curl up in a ball in the ranchito and sleep as a cool breeze washed over her.  Something she was not getting in the cockpit.

She began to enjoy her time off the boat so much, that it was hard to get her back on it.  We usually locked her below deck when the sun went down, and she would spend the next two hours sitting on the steps, whining and crying to get out again.  This happened every night.  She began despising her time on the boat so much that we weren’t even sure that going back to life on anchor, where she had free run of the whole boat all day, would make her happy again.  For a short period we even contemplated leaving her in Guatemala, entrusting her to a young girl that works at the marina whom has wanted a cat for a very long time, and has a large enclosed yard for her to wander through all day.

This was not an easy decision to come to, but we thought in the end it might be what’s best for Georgie.  I cried hard that night, thinking what a horrible person I was to adopt her, just to turn around and give her away.  Matt saw how hard this was hitting me and struck up a deal.  While we’d be gone for the boat for six weeks, Georgie was going to be staying at a bungalow with two guys we knew, their two cats, and the option to roam outside to her heart’s content.  If, when we came back to claim her, she went into her old routine of not wanting to be anywhere near the boat, we would give her up and let her live a life on land in Guatemala.  However, if she appeared to miss us and adjusted to life back on the boat, we’d keep her with us.

I had not been very hopeful, seeing how much she loved running about in the marina, and sure that she would forget us a day after we were gone.  Truth be told, a part of me wanted her to be able to forget about us right away because I also couldn’t bear the thought of her thinking that we’d abandoned her, wondering each day why we hadn’t come back to get her.  Those six weeks kind of felt like a lose/lose.  But on the day we arrived back to Guatemala and went to get her, she had nothing but love for us.  It was obvious that she remembered who we were, and instantly let herself fall back into the stage when we first got her and she would not leave our side.  Since we’ve been back on the boat now, she doesn’t whine at night and rarely strays out of our eyesight.  It looks as if her love for us is actually greater than her dislike of living on a boat.  Aawww, makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

That’s not to say that she still hasn’t also been loving her roaming at the marina.  I suspect her time in the wild at the bungalow turned her a little rogue though, and she’s becoming quite the hunter.  Before it wasn’t surprising to catch her at the ranchito chomping away on a moth or any other large flying insect that she’d caught, but now she’s starting to go bigger.  In the past week she has caught 2 bats, how she managed to get them I don’t even know, and then today she brought me this treat.

rain spider

 Don’t worry, it’s not alive here.  I actually had to steal it out of her batting paws and keep her away while I positioned it for a photo.  Then I instantly flung it in the water, fearful that it might be poisonous and that Georgie might try to eat it.  I found out later that it was a harmless rain spider.  Harmless as they may be, I still don’t want one anywhere near me when it’s alive and moving of it’s own accord.  (Ok, so I may have taken it post-mortem and stretched all of it’s legs out so you could see just how big it is in the photo.)

As for Georgie?  She seems to be finding a good balance between boat and land, and I am so happy and relieved that she’ll be staying with us now.  Our only next obstacle with her is finding out exactly what is necessary for a pet passport so we can get her into the Med next year.  Anyone have experience with this or tips they could give me?  I’d love to hear!

Georgie on top of bathroom 2

Georgie batting bugs at the ranchito.

georgie staring at fish in the ranchito

overlooking Rio Dulce, Guatemala

The Long Road Home to Guatemala

Thursday September 26, 2013

Bay in front of Tortugal, Rio Dulce Guatemala

I don’t know why, but I hadn’t really put any thought into what it would take to get us back home from South America to where Serendipity is sitting in Guatemala.  We had our plane tickets booked, we had already made it in once piece on the way out of Guatemala in the first place, how hard could it be?  Surprisingly, a little bit more than I had anticipated.  Or maybe that’s because I’m the kind of ‘Go with the flow, whatever happens, happens’ kind of girl, but the problem lies in that I’m married to an OCD ‘every minute detail must be planned all of the time’ kind of guy.

While wasting away in our hostel the day before we were supposed to leave he asked how we were getting to the airport.  “I dunno”, I responded, “Cab it, I suppose”.  That led to a search on how to get to the airport in Medellin where we found out that any regular taxi cab will charge you $50 to get there since it is about a 45 minute drive out of town. Ooops, should have looked into that one before.  Through a quick bit of online research I found a guy had written a blog post specifically on cheap ways to get to the airport, and read that by taking a yellow cab to a certain gas station in town we could then jump into a shared cab and split the cost with the other passengers.  Then there was the next question from Matt of how we were going to get from the airport in San Pedro Sula Honduras back to Rio Dulce Guatemala.  I knew what bus line we had been on before, but their website doesn’t work for crap, and I had had Ana Bianca walk to the office in Rio Dulce with me to translate when we bought our initial tickets out.

I’m not kidding when I say the rest of our afternoon was spent online researching websites and forums and sending very simple emails that Google Translate should have no problem with, just to try and find out when a bus was leaving from San Pedro to Rio Dulce.  This was all on Matt’s request though.  My solution would have been to show up to the bus depot and if we found out that we had missed the bus for the day, we just wait until the next day.  We’re not on any kind of schedule.  He was having none of that though.  We found out roughly from cruisers that wrote in a forum for Rio Dulce that they had made this trip before on a bus that departs at 5:30 am.  Our plane was scheduled to land at 1:00 am, there should be no problem getting there in time.

So here’s how our travels actually went.  We had packed up 90% of our things the night before and even though our flight wasn’t until 2:00 in the afternoon, got up early and left the hostel by 9 o’clock.  I had carefully written down directions where we needed to go, in Spanish, so that when a yellow cab picked us up all I had to do was point to the piece of paper, to which he gave me a wink and said “Ahhh, aeropuerto!”.  He dropped us off at the gas station just in time for us to jump into a shared taxi with two other men, and 30 minutes later we were at the airport for half the cost of a regular taxi and now with 3 hours on our hands to kill.  We spent our remaining 30,000 pesos on lunch at a little cafe, and then almost missed our flight when they changed gates on us and we didn’t know.  Good thing I had gotten up to use the bathroom and noticed a line of gringos (the flight was bound for Ft. Lauderdale) standing in line three gates over from where we had been sitting.

Landing in Ft. Lauderdale around 6:30 that evening we got through customs and immigration, with a little extra questioning since Matt apparently made it sound like we were in the drug dealing business.

“Where are you coming from?”

“Colombia.”

“Were you there for business or pleasure?”

“Travel.”

“What is your occupation?”

“I’m retired.”

“And how old are you sir?”

“I’m 31.  My wife and I, we’re traveling around the world on a sailboat.”

(Pause for a confused and suspicious look from the immigration agent)  “So, you’re 31, you don’t work, and you were doing what in Colombia?”

After a few more question, lots of curiosity and someone disbelief on behalf of the agent (really guy, you live in Ft. Lauderdale and you’ve never heard of cruisers?) we were finally able to go and I was finally able to turn on my cell phone.  Important, because I needed to contact another cruiser, another Jessica in fact, that we had landed.  See, when we knew we were headed back to the states due to our flights, we bought a s#*t ton of stuff for the boat that we needed but didn’t want to pay the exhorbitant shipping fees for, close to $900 for the package we wanted to send.  The smart thing to do would have been making Michigan our last stop so that we could collect our belongings and get straight back to the boat with them.  We did not do this.  So with a desperate cry on Facebook and a little help from my friend Brittany, she hooked me up with another cruiser living in the Ft. Lauderdale area that was nice enough to let us ship our belongings to her house, and even nicer, agree to bring them to us at the airport so we could check another bag for our flight and get all our new goodies back to the boat for a mere $25.

As soon as we connected to the wifi I put out a message which exclaimed “We’re here!!”, and waited for a response.  Then I waited some more, waited a little bit more, and then started to get worried.  It had been an hour and a half and I had not heard anything.  I started to think of other options because we needed to get this package before our flight left that night (luckily, not until 11 pm). I started messaging anyone I knew that I though might know Jessica, and either have them give me her #, or put a call into her themselves.  I tried Brittany, although I knew it was a long shot because I also knew that she was cruising between islands at that point, and then I tried a girl named Melody, whom I’d never met or even spoken to before, but was another cruiser that I was aware knew Jessica.

Another 30 minutes and no responses from anyone later, I knew I’d have to get myself to Jessica’s house if I wanted to be sure I’d have the package that night.  Leaving Matt at guest pick up with my phone, in case a message did come through, I hopped in the back of a Lincoln Towncar from a very nice gentleman who had watched us sitting outside for two hours, and agreed to give me a very good price on a round trip ride to and from the airport.  I had Jessica’s address in a little notebook I’d been carrying around with me everywhere which was probably my saving grace of that night.  As I pulled up in front of her house I knocked on the door and introduced myself “Hi, I’m Jessica, I had a package sent to you from Michigan”, but all she could do was look at me with shock and repeat “You’re here!  Oh my god, you’re here!!”.

Turns out she had gotten her days mixed up and thought I would be in the next day, and also hadn’t received my message (or the ones that Melody ended up sending as well) since she had just started a new job and forgot to turn on her phone after work.  Something that I would totally do myself (and usually did), so I couldn’t even be the least bit upset about.  She invited me to stay for a drink, which I wish I could have if I had more time on my hands, but I was only able to stay long enough to get a big hug from her and grab the package which had been sitting in the trunk of her car, ready to go for the next day.  I think both of us had been excited to meet and do some story swapping, so it is now my goal to try and get Serendipity to Ft. Lauderdale at some point to make that happen.

Back at the airport in a furry of box unwrapping, we transferred all the items over to our empty suitcase, including a new (to us) headsail which will be great for the heavy winds we’ve been experiencing in the Caribbean.  No more partially furled headsails for us in the future!  Matt was of course freaking out that because we still had to check in for our flight and get through security that we would undoubtedly miss our flight.  I had to remind him that 1.  We still had 2 hours, and 2.  It was after 9 pm.  Probably not rush hour inside the airport.  There ended up being 1 person ahead of us to check in, and 1 person ahead of us at security.  I’m so glad that we were rushed and I missed the opportunity to have a drink with and get to know another young cruiser (you can’t see it now, but I’m giving Matt the stink eye).  There was still plenty of time for us to sit around in the terminal and stuff our faces with $18 of airport priced hot dogs and sodas.  Although, luckily I used the bathroom again, I noticed that this flight was boarding 40 minutes early.  How nice of them to make the announcement.

Our time at the San Pedro Sula airport was mainly uneventful.  We had secured a taxi to take us to the bus depot at 4 am, and took turns trying to nap at the table we were sitting at in the food court.  We were dropped off at the bus depot a few hours later, which looked sketchy enough during the day, but at 4 in the morning, it looked downright perilous.  We walked inside with our belongings and found the ticket counter for our bus line, with a sign taped to the front saying the counter would be open for ticket purchasing between 4:30-5:30 am.  A confirmation by a few young bi-lingual men also waiting to buy tickets and any remaining fears about getting home were put to ease.  This was the last step, all we had to do was get on that bus and we could at least get ourselves back to Morales, the neighboring town to Rio Dulce.

We assumed they didn’t take credit cards and Matt was quickly off to find and ATM and came back with 500 limpera, or approximately $30.  We hoped this would be enough to pay for our tickets since that’s what it had cost us to make the ride before.  The window finally opened at 5:10 and we waited patiently to buy our tickets, somehow having ended up at the back of the line even though we were among the first people there.  Then as the guy in front of us was getting his ticket he turned back and said, “The bus is leaving, if you want to get on it, you must go now!”  I asked about getting a ticket, and he just replied that I could buy it while on the bus.  Throwing our bags on our shoulders, we chased after him as he darted around a corner and outside to where the bus was.

We still had no idea how much tickets costs or if we had enough in our pockets to pay the charge.  Plus now we’d be leaving any access to Honduran money behind.  Stepping onto the bus, it was already so crowded that we couldn’t find seats next to each other and had to sit a few rows apart.  As the sun broke the sky and we pulled out of the station, we still had not been asked about tickets and I wondered when this would come along.  What would they do if we were already miles away and we didn’t have enough to cover the ride?  Would they drop us off on the side of the road?  Now I was started to get a little worried.  Matt, was having a full on panic attack.  Even a few rows up I could hear him muttering and cursing about the lack of organization in these countries.

The answer to our question finally came about two and a half hours later as we were getting ready to cross the border into Guatemala.  As a guy came walking back to check the already purchased tickets of others, I told him I needed to buy two ‘Para mi y mi esposo’, as I pointed to Matt two rows up.  I handed him the 500 limpera as he wrote something down on a piece of paper and kept walking.  Matt whispered back to me “How much was it?”.  “I don’t know”, I responded, “He took the 500”.  I didn’t get any change back but I was also not asked for more money, so I left it at that.  Although after not getting any kind of receipt or ticket, we’re both pretty sure the guy pocketed the money for himself.  Whatever, at least we knew we were going to get to Guatemala.

Once we reached the neighboring town to Rio Dulce, we switched buses, paid for new tickets (In Guatemalan money which we had a little bit left of, thankfully) and were dropped off at our familiar main street at 11:30 am.  26 hours of traveling and about two hours of sleep, but we had made it back.  Getting to the marina we found Serendipity right where we left her and excitedly opened the companionway to see what we’d find after six weeks away.  Matt kept having fretful feelings that the bilge would have stopped working and we’d come home to a flooded boat, but everything was dry inside.  The only casualties of our absence was abundant mold on any teak that has not yet been varnished, as well as two pillows that were well past saving and had to be trashed.

As ready as I was to crawl into bed, sans pillow now, Matt put me to work cleaning up all the mold that had popped up.  Vinegar in hand, I worked for the next hour until I couldn’t spot any more mold in the galley, salon, or v-berth.  The aft cabin was quickly touched up, but I had nowhere near the energy to disassemble all of it to check for mold at that moment.  Luckily, that was the only work Matt insisted that get done right after our return, and the rest of the afternoon was open for leisure.  We picked up Georgie from being babysat, found out she had taken a trip to a vet in Guatemala City about the scabs on her neck that had apparently gotten worse (some kind of fungus I guess) and found out that she actually did miss us in our absence.  Quick side note, if you’re ever pet sitting for someone, when they come to retrieve their pet again, don’t make your first words to them “By the way, about your cat….”.

When the tree of us arrived back to the marina, we found out that Georgie had actually missed us so much that she was now acting like a dog that wouldn’t stray more than two feet from where we walked.  She even let us pick her up and put her in the hammock in the ranchito, where the three of us napped well into the afternoon.  Man it feels good to be home again.

lounge at Tortugal Marina, Guatemala

Georgie in a hammock

overlooking Rio Dulce, Guatemala

Georgie on Serendipity

Let’s Blow this Popsicle Stand!

Tuesday August 12, 2013

Georgie on Serendipity

It’s no surprise that I’m just a little bit excited to get out of this marina, because that means it’s time to leave for our backpacking trip through South America, and more importantly a stop home to see family and friends!  Our bags are mostly packed, and through the art of rolling everything up and then sliding it into a Ziploc bag where then every ounce of air is squeezed out, I was able to pack what I think will get me through six weeks in some very different climates.  We still have to live on the boat through the rest of the night, but on our way out tomorrow morning, all the cushions will be flipped up to allow for ventilation while we’re gone.  There will be a few other things to take care of as well, but right now it’s mostly just packing and cleaning.

The biggest project for the past few days?  Emptying out the chill box.  We decided that we didn’t want to leave it running during our absence, so now we must try and consume as much of what’s in there as possible.  For about four days in a row now, our afternoon snack has been cheese and crackers since we still had two blocks that we picked up in Cayman.  Once we realized we couldn’t eat everything still in there, we moved on to favorites, or things that sounded good and we needed to use them anyway.  Like the Amish apple butter we picked up way back in St. Augustine and I only wanted to use it on special occasions.  Which, when you’re living on a boat, could be anything or nothing, so I don’t know why I keep  waiting so long to use it.  Last nights dinner, and tonight’s most likely as well, homemade pancakes topped with apple butter and a side of eggs.  All the things we can’t finish in time (including my remaining apple butter  🙁   ) will be handed off to Luki since it’s better for someone else to have them than to see them go to waste.

Also on our list of things to do before departing tomorrow was to drop Georgie off at here babysitters.  Just around the corner from us is a young guy named Jonas, from Germany, who used to work at the marina here.  Him and his roommate, Rum, are working on fixing up their own boat to go cruising in a few years,  and in the meantime they’re living in a little bungalow here in the Rio with their two cats.  After being totally conflicted about what we might do with her during our vacancy, and even putting out a cat sitting request on the morning net, we got lots of responses from people here at the marina that we should ask Jonas.  So, after a conversation one night of “Hi, I don’t really know you that well, but people keep telling me that you might be able to watch my cat….”, we had a cat sitter in place for as long as we needed.  All that was left to do, was to bring her there with some food and belongings.  After having dumped Georgie on him already when we thought we were going to Honduras, we found out she’s not the biggest fan of dinghy rides.

If we’re still close enough to land or even another boat, she’ll try and jump out.  Once we’re far enough out in the water we can let her down and roam the dinghy, fairly certain she won’t try and go overboard.  At least we know by now that she can swim.  What she will do though, is let out pathetic meows until they go unanswered and will then turn them into weird growly moans.  I have no idea how to even describe the sound, but it’s nothing cat-like, I can assure you.  Luckily the dinghy ride was short and the pathetic noises gave way to curious stares as we turned into Jonas’ bay.  I’m pretty sure she recognized this place right away as ‘that spot I’m allowed to roam free and I don’t get in trouble for pooping in someone’s lancha’.  Yeah, she did that to Luis yesterday.  Fun, right?  As soon as Georgie was loaded off the dinghy she was busy running around like she owned the place.  Hopping on boats with disregard and scaring away the other two cats if they came near her.  We’re at least comforted in knowing that if there’s a cat fight while we’re away, ours will be the one left standing.  With tons of snuggles and kisses, we said good-bye to Georgie for the next six weeks.

So that’s about it.  Seacocks will be closed in the morning, all systems will be shut off except for the water maker, and all ports will be closed except for the forward hatch.  Luki will be keeping an eye on Serendipity while we’re away to make sure she doesn’t sink, and we’ll be keeping our fingers crossed that we don’t come back to any issues like a faulty bilge and a flooded cabin.  Time to get busy with some last minute cleaning and making sure that every electronic device, matching charger, and most importantly, passports get packed away.  Next time you hear from us, we’ll be Stateside again!

 

Georgie in Matt's lap 1

Georgie in Matt's lap 2

Georgie in Jessica's lap

Georgie in the dinghy

kayaking to the castillo

Kayaking to the Castillo

Friday August 9, 2013

kayaking to the castillo

Boat work on Serendipity has been steadily progressing, but we are still looking at a s&*t ton to do when we get back from our backpacking adventure.  I’ve already talked about how the port side deadlights can’t be done until we pick up more Dow 795, and although Matt has disassembled our dining table in the salon to reconfigure it in a way that will give us more space, many parts for that also have to be purchased in the states.  So one more project added to the back burner.  Our days have still been quite busy though, Matt’s slowly working his way through varnishing, and has completed both sides of the salon and the nav station.  He doesn’t want to begin on the galley with only a couple of days until we depart, since each area is averaging about five days to complete.  I’ll have a bunch of projects piling up as well for when we get back, jerrycan covers, shade covers for the cockpit, redoing the winch covers.  But until we leave my focus is on Spanish lessons, and I will continue to savor the days while rocking back and forth in the hammock with my laptop resting on my stomach for as long as I can.

Today I was finally able to convince Matt that not every day needs to be filled from morning to night with boat work, and that we should enjoy being in Guatemala and the Rio Dulce.  Every day we’d see backpackers come through the marina and take the kayaks out on the river, and each time we’d say ‘We really need to do that sometime’.  Since it’s so easy for ‘sometime’ to become later and later, I made sure today would be that day in case we get back in a few months and we’re so overloaded with projects that we didn’t get to enjoy this one pleasure.  Waiting for the sun to sink low enough that we’d enjoy the trip in the kayak instead of swimming along side it in the water since that might be more refreshing, we walked the path back to the line up of them and chose the sturdiest looking one.

None of the kayaks available were for one person only, and we coordinated our paddles to back out of the spot and work our way under the docks and out to the river.  I had momentary flashbacks at how terrible the two of us were at trying to synch up paddling while out in canoes, or even when we had our own kayaks, how I could never keep up with him.  But today, it was fluid.  Easy.  Turning right out of the bay, we pointed the bow towards the castillo and sliced through the water on our way there.  The Castillo de San Felipe was built in 1644  and used at the mouth of Lake Izabal to protect from frequent pirate attacks from the English.  It’s said that after nightfall, the passage along the river into the lake was blocked by a large chain that crossed from the fort to the far bank.  It was added to the UNESCO World Heritage Tentative list back in 2002, so should it ever get added, it will be one more we can check off our list on these travels.

It didn’t take us long to get to the castillo, and even though you can take tours of it, we neither had money nor clothes with us.  Instead, we let the current of the river push us almost into the reeds, and then slowly worked from one side out through the pass and into the lake to see the other.  Not quite ready to head back just yet though, we continued up the lake, keeping an eye out for a restaurant called Kangaroos that’s supposed to have the best burger in town.  (Hopefully, not made from kangaroo).  We paddled up the shore, spying on any property close to the water, but nothing caught our eye that might have been a restaurant.  Or if it was, it was literally someone’s home with a couple of picnic tables outback.  Which, since they were seating people, we almost beached ourselves to check out.  In the end we decided that the dinghy might be better for this kind of excursion and turned ourselves around for home, but not before taking a quick dip in the river in front of the castillo.

kayaks at Tortugal

Castillo de San Felipe

Castillo de San Felipe 2

Matt kayaking

Jessica swimming in front of Castillo

 

On a side note, I was walking to the backpackers bathroom a few days ago, and there was a commotion in the water so I looked down to see what it was.  I was not expecting what I saw, which was a large orange iguana, shooting from one side of water to the other.  It must have been about five feet long including it’s tail, and had long spikes running down it’s back.  I’m sure it was more scared to see me than I was to see it, but I think I might limit my swims out by the dock.

iguana

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Picturesque Antigua Guatemala

Sunday August 4, 2013

8.4.13

Today was our last day for our girls weekend in Antigua, and our bus was heading out of town in the late morning.  I felt like I hadn’t been able to appreciate all the sights I had originally wanted to, so I rolled myself out of bed bright and early and strolled around town with the camera.  Quite a different town when rarely anyone is up and about yet.

I’ve enjoyed a chance to travel over land and see sights that don’t involve a sea shore, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little excited to get back and see the boat.  Oh yeah, and my husband and cat too.

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Antigua skyline

A Day of Firsts

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 keychains, 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 Conventliving quarters at Capuchin ConventCapuchin 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

beauty salon, Antigua

A Girls Weekend to Antigua

Friday August 2, 2013

beauty salon, Antigua

Since our ill fated attempt at Honduras the other week didn’t work out, we had our backup plan to spend a weekend in Antigua.  But when it came down to buying the tickets for the 5 hour bus ride to get there, only the girls were able to pull themselves away from their boat work and say they still wanted to go.  Or in my case, Spanish lessons, since boat work is a blue job.  If that last comment disturbed you, don’t worry.  I had fluently Spanish speaking Ana Bianca by my side to still enforce some lessons on me.  So we decided to turn this trip into a girls weekend where it was ok to straighten hair and wear make-up and pack a dress, without any rolled eyes or comments of “Are you ready yet?”  It was to be some time away from the boat, anything related to the boat, and for a few days, and opportunity to forget I even owned a boat.  (Because after a year of living on a boat, it’s nice to get away from it for a couple days, just to keep your sanity).  Most importantly though, it was time to have some fun, instead of solely focusing on projects, which we’ve been doing for the past six weeks.

Matt took us into town on the dinghy and walked us to the bus station where I apparently couldn’t even cross the street in my Sperry’s without sliding and taking a tumble, scraping myself up as if I was back in grade school.  I am so utterly graceful sometimes.

so utterly graceful

 The bags were thrown below deck, and I gave Matt a big hug and kiss good-bye, as if I weren’t about to see him for another month.  The bus took off, and I realized immediately that leaving my coat inside my bag below was a horrible decision.  That bus turned out to be a refrigerator.  I tried to distract myself from the cold by watching the movies playing overhead, all in Spanish with no subtitles of course, but still followed along with the plots pretty well.  Paul Blart, Mall Cop, I already knew, and Hachiko had me wiping tears by the end.  Stupid endearing animal stories, they’re the only thing that can make me well up each time.  When The Blind Side came on, I couldn’t let myself watch it without fully appreciating it, so instead I turned my attention out the window.  By this time we were coming up on Guatemala City anyway, where we’d transfer buses, and it was fun to enjoy the sights of a big city again.  I had to hold in my excitement of asking the driver to stop when we passed by a McDonald’s.

bus in Guate City

 It was a mad dash to our next bus once we got there since our first one had been running behind, and Ana Bianca had just enough time to grab us a ham and ketchup sandwich from inside while I used the bathroom before we were off again.  This time though, instead of a large bus, we were in one of those 12 seat vans, just like the collectivo we took to Morales.  This one was only carrying five people instead of twenty-eight though, so the ride was much more comfortable.  It was a short 45 minute drive out of the city where we were dropped off at the main square in Antigua.  Three volcanoes surrounded us on each side, and the air was crisp and fresh as we stepped out into it.  With an altitude of 5,000 feet, the air was also much cooler than in the Rio Dulce, and the jeans I packed were suddenly very necessary as the temperature had dropped 15 degrees from what I was used to experiencing every day now.

city center of Antigua

 The first order of business was to find a hostel that night.  I’d researched a few online, but we wanted to see them in person before forking over our money.  The first place we stopped at would offer us a private room for about $30, but it didn’t seem to have much of an atmosphere and was a little far from the town center.  The second place looked more promising, but once we saw the beds in the dorm, it looked as if the mattresses were only 1/4″ thick.  Third time happened to be the charm, and even though the beds didn’t look quite as comfortable as one would hope, the price was right at $8/night, and it included a large breakfast in the morning.  We paid our money, locked up our bags, and went out to explore town.

streets of Antigua

Since this was a girls weekend, Ana Bianca and I had talked about getting massages while I was out there.  I thought we were just joking around about actually being ‘girly’, so when we passed by a salon with a massage parlor, I pointed it out to her.  Or more accurately, I pointed out the sign on the sidewalk that was offering couples massages at buy one, get one half off.  I looked at her and smirked, “We could pass for a couple, right?”.  To my surprise, she walked in to the counter to ask more questions and then handed me a flyer and asked if I’d prefer a hot stone massage or a deep tissue one.  I laughed that I was just kind of joking about the massage thing, and that Matt would probably kill me if he knew I was off on a girls weekend getting one, knowing that we’re supposed to be scrimping around the edges even more than normal to try and compensate for our South America trip coming up.  I told her that it was fine if she still wanted to get one, I could find something to keep myself busy for the hour or so she was being pampered.  She agreed and starting filling out an appointment card for the next day, and turned to ask when my last massage was anyway.  “Never”, I answered, and she went back to filling out the card.  Two minutes later she grabbed a receipt from the receptionist and turned to me “We’re booked for a couple’s massage tomorrow at 11.  It’s my birthday gift to you”.  I was baffled.  I seriously keep making friends with the best people ever.

beauty salon Antigua

 For the rest of the afternoon we wandered around the cobblestone streets and looked in the little shops.  There were so many beautiful things for sale, bags, shoes, blankets, bows, vases…I was pretty sure that I could take a blank home and decorate with items solely bought from this town.  Each item I’d come across, I’d pick up and admire, and then carefully place back down because I knew that even if I did have the money to spend on it, I wouldn’t have a place to put it.  I did allow myself once purchase though, something I’d seen back in Morales and I’d wanted one ever since then.  A messenger style bag made from a burlap material with a screen print on it.  By my logic, while we’re in South America, we’re going to need something to lug around the camera, and the guidebook, and the Spanish to English dictionary, and I don’t think either of us is going to want to use the backpack for that.  See, it wasn’t even an impulse buy, it was a necessity.

church in Antigua

Ana Bianca in craft store

The two of us had a quick dinner in a Burger King since I hadn’t eaten at one in almost two months, and spent a little time on the internet at the hostel before going back out again to see what the nightlife of Antigua had to offer.  Right across the street from our hostel seemed to be a raging club with a line that wrapped around the block.  We had no idea what could be so excited, but whatever it was, we thought it probably wasn’t worth waiting around an hour and a half for.  Instead we walked through a few more shops and markets before ending at a Mexican bar near the arch for a nitecap.  Although the place was thumping and there were plenty of young gringos that we could have hung around with (this town seems to be overrun with gringos, actually) we were still on boat time and pulled ourselves away after only one drink.  Deciding to call it a night we went back to our six bed dorm where we found out that our other three roommates were already asleep.  At 10:30.  Guess we’re not the old boring people after all.

view from Black Cat Hostel

The view from our hostel.

The Arch  Antigua 1

The Arch Antigua 2

bar in Antigua

 

7.30.13

I can See Clearly Now the Acrylic Plastic is Gone

Wednesday July 31, 2013

7.30.13

There has finally been a boat project (half) completed on Serndipity where we can actually see the results.  Not that our half varnished glossy interior isn’t an indication that things are getting done, but today we were able to complete something that Serendipity has been needing for a long, long time.

When we bought her, she came with deadlights (or non opening windows, in landlubber terms) made out of acrylic plastic, and the years had been taking a beating on them.  They were getting cracked, way beyond hazy, and no matter how many times we cleaned or polished or buffed them, it was only a matter of time before they went back to their previous state.  Perfect for when you’re in a marina where your neighbor can only see fuzzy outlines of what might be happening inside, but not very useful for the rest of the time you’re on the water and would actually like a clear picture of what is going on outside.  Which is, 90% of the time.

This is a project we had been back and forth about ever since we bought the boat, and almost took care of those months spent on the hard in St. Augustine, but due to the money we were hemorrhaging on other projects, we decided to hold off.  That is, until we were on Luis’ boat admiring his tempered glass.  They really were beautiful, custom made, and fit to perfection.  It was also then that we found out that he had actually had his glass replaced while in Guatemala, using a company based in Antigua.  The best part?  He mentioned that it was incredibly cheap.  We like incredibly cheap!

Long story short, he contacted this company on our behalf to get an estimate, we replied with measurements, and found out that we could replace all four of our deadlights for about $35.  Back in Florida, we were looking at close to $200.  Between a few phone calls, emails, one money order, and three weeks later, we were picking up our new windows from in town where they had been shipped to the local bus company.  Don’t ask me why, I do not know.  All I do know, is when we finally lugged the crate from town back to the docks, Matt was like a kid in a candy store while opening it up.  All in all, our new package included the two starboard side deadlights we had popped out and initially shipped in for a perfect match on sizing, four new deadlights, and three tubes of Dow Corning 795 to seal the new windows to the boat.

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 Now I don’t feel as bad when I misspell a foreign name.

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“Oooooh!  Gimme, gimme, gimme, gimme!”

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Oh my god, you can actually see through it.

 

Since our old glass was already out on the starboard side, we wanted to work as quickly as possible to get the new glass in.  The same afternoon we were picking up the package, we were able to position the new deadlights into place using a few screws on the outside of the boat (they didn’t go through the glass, but were placed below the glass for it to sit upon, and above to keep it in position).  Matt took a tube of the Dow 795 and ran it along the edge of where the glass met the inside of the boat, and as he ran back out on deck to keep it in place, I took a plastic blade, smoothing out the edge, and then cleaned up any smudges with mineral solvent.  Of which, there were plenty.

That part needed to set overnight (or approximately 12 hours) before we could do the outside, so we thought we’d wake up with the sun to finish the starboard side completely.  Typical reaction as the alarm clock went off at 6:00, we hit the snooze for another three hours of sleep.  When we did wake up, the sun was baking and we were not looking forward to sitting out in it, even for an hour.  Working as a team again, we had the plan that I would work the caulk gun, and before the sealant had any chance of hardening up in the heat of the day and become tacky, even in the two or three minutes it would take for me to go all the way around, Matt would be following right behind me with the plastic blade to smooth out the edges.  These did not have pretty frames to cover up imperfections like the interior, so the calk needed to be even and precise.

For the most part we did really well, I’d create a steady bead of sealant coming out, and Matt would be six inches behind with the blade, smoothing it down to perfection.  The first deadlight was a little iffy (editors note: we ended up ripping out and redoing that one), but the second one was as close to perfection as the two of us were going to get.  There was one ‘oh shit’ moment on the second window where we were cleaning up after a few smudges with the mineral solvent, and a finger indented the freshly laid caulk.  Luckily, another squirt of 750 and some magic finger work from me had it 95% smoothed out again.  As we always like to say to each other when something didn’t go exactly as we had wanted, “It’s good enough for who it’s for”.

Since we were only able to get three tubes of the Dow Corning 795, and we expect that we’ll need 4-5 to properly do all windows, the port side will be held off on until we can do some shopping in the States and pick up a few more tubes.

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 Old acrylic plastic.  Can’t. See. S#%t.

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 New tempered glass.  It’s like….looking through glass!

 

 

fender on Hydromax

Our ill Fated Attempt at Honduras

Friday  July 26, 2013

fender on Hydromax

You know how most great adventures start, right?  Usually over a drink, or at least good food, where one person ponders out loud, “You know what would be fun?”, as they go into detail about trying something off your beaten path or that hadn’t entered your mind.  And since you’re enjoying your drink or your favorable food, you cock your head and stare off into the distance and reply, “That does sound like a good idea.”.  And so began plans for our ill-fated trip to Honduras.  The dinner club was sitting on the top deck of Hydromax, basking in starlight with spaghetti and meatballs when Luis pondered, “You know what would be fun?  We should all take a trip to Honduras, to the Bay Islands, in my boat.  Be gone for a week or two.  It will be a good time”.

Even though there are huge amounts of boat projects for us to be working on (have I mentioned that Matt is sanding and varnishing the entire interior of Serendipity?), we agreed to this trip because we needed a welcome relief from these projects and it was a chance to visit Roatan without having to take our own boat there.  The next week was spent planning and provisioning, and even though all five of us had originally intended on going, Luki dropped out just a couple of days before, stating that even a week might be too long to take off from his projects, then leaving behind me, Matt, Ana Bianca, and Luis to make the trip.

Weather in the Gulf of Honduras was checked daily before our departure, and even though a tropical storm, Dorian, was forming in the Eastern Caribbean, things looked great for us to make the 175 miles out from Livingston, at the mouth of the Rio Dulce, to Roatan.  A bail out plan was put in place in case the storm did end up heading our way, but at the time of departure, Passageweather was showing our crossing to only have 5-10 knots of wind with 1-2 meter seas.  This was slightly disappoint to me since I had picked our departure date about 4 days earlier, based on glass calm seas and no wind anticipated for that day, perfect conditions for a motorboat.  I had wanted to re-create our perfect passage up to El Estor, but it turns out, the weather had other plans in mind.

On board with us for our departure was a Belgium family that had stayed in some of the land based accommodations at the marina and now needed a lift to Livingston.  Always wanting to be one to lend a hand where he can, Luis insisted they come that far with us. After a quick breakfast and a $7,000 fill at the fuel station, we were off.  The night before, a terrible storm had blown through, causing plenty of debris to wash into the river and us spending the first few miles trying to avoid it.  Once the river opened up into the golfete we were in the clear and even made a short stop to let our visitors go for a swim.  On our way once more, the three of us sailors (me, Ana Bianca and Matt) gathered on the top deck of the boat to discuss the week ahead that might be in store for us.  Matt had already been a little antsy about going, his OCD mind focusing on all the time he was going to miss on Serendipity, checking things off the to-do list before we leave for our backpacking adventure, and Ana Bianca was not quite enthusiastic about heading into the Caribbean Sea with a potential tropical storm heading our way.

I was slightly more indifferent, but all three of us knew that Luis was incredibly excited to be out for an adventure, and wouldn’t come back for a month if he had the option.   We talked in hushed voices about how we’d all be better off if instead of going to the Bay Islands of Honduras, avert to some islands off Belize and staying for only three to four days, fitting in with Matt’s timeline, and having a much quicker escape back to the Rio Dulce if need be, satisfying Ana Bianca’s unease.  We agreed that since Ana Bianca was the most knowledgeable about these islands, and the most forward with Luis, we’d let her bring it up to him when we arrived at Livingston.  But until then, we sat back and enjoyed the views as the golfete narrowed back into a river and the canyons around us grew higher.

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fishers on the Rio Dulce

Ana Bianca

There goes Ana Bianca, hogging the spotlight.  Literally.

granite in the Rio Dulce

canyons of Rio Dulceplants meshing together

I think we’ve just left Guatemala, and entered Jurassic Park.

 

As soon as the boat was anchored in front of Livingston and we had taken a lancha to shore, wishing the Belgium family well with their travels, the four of us set out to find internet and see what tropical storm Dorian felt like doing in the next few days.  The previous hour before this, Ana Bianca had been finessing Luis with our new idea, trying to get him to see the benefits of a few days in Belize versus a week in the Bay Islands.  I, on the other hand, was still torn and thought I’d let the weather do the deciding for me.  I should have known it was not going to be ideal out there, since even as we came up to Livingston and the bar, whitecaps were visible on the water just outside and the notoriously calm waters in front of Livingston were rocking and rolling as we sat at anchor.  If it was that bad here, I could only imagine what it would be a few miles out from shore.

Doing the regular checks of Passage Weather and NOAA, we saw that one of the potential paths for Dorian was to come west, over Cuba and further into the Caribbean Sea.  It confirmed Ana Bianca’s worries that 175 miles from safety might be just a little too far to toy with, and we’d be much better off in the islands off Belize.  We could tell Luis was disappointed, I’m sure he had a his heart set on making it to Roatan and Utila, and even more so, showing us all a good time while we were there.  I think he felt that switching to Belize was giving up.  Now that we had all decided on where to go though, the next step was to visit the customs and immigration agent, Raul, for our zarpe and to get stamped out of the country.  The entire conversation with Raul commenced in Spanish, with Luis and Ana Bianca talking to him, and me picking up on every 10th word.  I could tell the topic was switching to weather and it wasn’t long before Ana Bianca was standing behind Raul’s computer looking up buoy conditions stationed out in the Caribbean Sea.

It took another ten minutes of Spanish being fired back and forth before I was fully let in on what had transpired since we stepped into the office.  Apparently there was a captain of a fishing vessel that had been on his way out of the office, having just checked back in to Guatemala, as we were on our way in.  According to this man, he had just arrived that morning from the Bay Islands, and conditions out there were not good.  Away from shore, he was stating that the seas were hitting 10 meters.  10 METERS!!  For my non metric friends, that’s approximately 32 FEET!  And we were about to head out into it!  No wonder Ana Bianca was quick to get a little more weather info before we walked out of that office and back on to the boat.  Strange thing is, every site we checked showed just about the same thing we’d read before.  Winds at 10-15 knots and waves at 1-2 meters.

A quick group huddle came after this information was translated to everyone.  The chance of there actually being 10 meter waves out there when all our other information was stating otherwise was slim, but as Ana Bianca put it, even if they were half of that, it would still be a rougher ride than any of us would want to go out in.  Departure today was not going to happen.  The consensus was that we’d stay put in Guatemala that night and check again the next day.  As Matt and I already knew though, seas don’t calm down from that stature in one day.  If there was any truth to that fisherman’s statement (or even half of what he stated), we would be waiting at least three days for favorable sea conditions.

A now very discontented Luis led us all back to Hydromax where we made plans of what to do for the evening.  Livingston is not a good place for one to leave their boat overnight, with pretty good chances of theft, and the next safest option was about 8 miles up the river.  Weighing anchor we headed west into the sun and back into the jungle.  I’d be lying if I said that Matt and I weren’t slightly relieved at this weather predicament.  It meant that the whole trip may be put off.  Not that we hadn’t been entirely excited about the idea initially, but the timing just seemed off.  Not only was everyone (except Luis) in a hurry to get back to their boat to complete projects, ensuring that this vacation would not be as relaxing as if there was nothing but time on your hands, but the constant change in plans was making tensions run high aboard, and it almost felt as if continuing on would create a feeling of animosity between our group.  Maybe it was better to call the whole thing off and say, ‘At least we tried, maybe another time’.

The three of us who weren’t as upset about the non-departure that day left Luis with a little time on his own to sort his feelings.  I think after having been at the marina in Guatemala for the past two years and listening to conversations at dinner each night of all of his new friends recent adventures, he was ready to go have his own.  15 ft waves or less, he was willing to go, sacrificing 24 hours of comfort and strapping himself to the wheel if need be, so the next time we gathered at the ranchito he could join in our passage conversations with ‘Hey guys, remember those crazy seas on our trip to Honduras?’, and catalog it with the rest of his The Most Interesting Man in the World stories.  It is just speculation of course on why he wanted to get out there so badly, but the desire was definitely there.  We all kind of wished Luki was on board, a human sedative that relaxed and calmed, and put everything into perspective.  But since it was only us, we decided that time and space were the best current medicine, and we sat up on deck, trying to keep the mood light until our anchorage came into view.

Texan Bay

Matt & Jessica at Texan Bay

kisses, Matt & Jessica, Texan Bay

Some kisses will lighten the mood.

kisses, Ana Bianca, Texan Bay

Ana Bianca wants kisses too.

 

We motored into a gorgeous and quiet bay, and after the hook was set, made some coffee while sitting around the open transom to discuss the day and the possibilities for tomorrow.  There was the option of motoring back down to Livingston, but checking the weather online wouldn’t be enough.  Had we gone soley on weather reports from that, we still would have left today.  We needed real time updates from someone out on the water.  Which meant trying to hail down a ship on VHF and having them relay the current conditions to us.  But…what would it take for all of us to agree that conditions were good enough to go?  I think the three of us knew it as soon as we walked out of Raul’s office that afternoon.  This trip, was off.  Luckily, Ana Bianca and I had something up our sleeves.  Instead letting weather dictate our travels, why not do some land based traveling instead?  All of us had been wanting to get out to Antigua, why not try for that?  We’d go back to the marina the next morning, continue on projects throughout the next week, and leave in one week by bus to central Guatemala.

Matt was quick to agree, just happy not to have to face the prospect of rough seas, and once Luis realized it was that or nothing, he agreed as well.  Stating that Antigua didn’t hold much interest for him, but maybe he’d spend the weekend at Lake Atitlan.  With the knowledge that we wouldn’t have to brave any rough weather out on the water, I let out a huge sigh of relief.  That same uneasy feeling I had in my stomach just before we crashed in St. Augustine had been forming, and I was glad to avert a potential crisis before it happened.  Since we were all decided on the plan now, the only thing left to do was enjoy the rest of the evening and the beautiful sunset in front of us.  It may not have been where we’d envisioned ourselves to be that night, sitting at anchor instead of preparing to begin our sleep shifts, but to me it felt like exactly where we needed to be.

boats in Texan Bay

sunset at Texan Bay

 

Goodnight everyone!

Ana Bianca in a hammock

Annica, Ignacio, and Ana Bianca

A Saturday afternoon Sail

Saturday July 20, 2013

Annica, Ignacio, and Ana Bianca

As much as I hate to admit it, I am forever tied to the water.  Blame my parents for raising me in such close proximity to the wonderful shores of Lake Michigan, but I’ll never be able to escape my need to get back to the water, time and time again.  Sloshy and uncomfortable passages may not be my highlight, and might also produce nothing but complaints from me, but I could never leave the water for good.  We’re meant to be together.  Which is why I was so excited when Ana Bianca invited us out for a day sail on Lake Isabelle on her Beneteau this weekend.  After just arriving in Guatemala herself a few weeks ago, she made friends with a family that hails from Guatemala City but also has a weekend home on the river.  Fast friendships can translate from cruisers to landlubbers as well, so when the man, Ignacio, had a birthday coming up, his big wish was a sail out on the water in Ana Bianca’s boat.  She readily agreed, and even invited the rest of the dinner club along for the adventure as well.  It wasn’t to be anything too fancy, just a few hours enjoying the lake along with a couple of drinks and snacks.  I was assigned guacamole and chips and eagerly showed up with them in hand on Hydromax, our meeting point, before we were to shove off.

Dark clouds threatened in the distance, but we paid them no mind as we dinghied out to s/v Kajaya who was now sitting at anchor in our little bay.  Shortly after we arrived and stocked our goodies into the fridge, Ignacio appeared with his family, wife Annica and daughter Camilla, in their personal lancha and stepped aboard with their own cooler full of goodies.  If the rain held off it, looked like it was going to be a wonderful day, but again, one should never speak too soon.  Those dark rain clouds opened up on us just as we were weighing anchor, but as storms tend to do in this area, it was over almost as quickly as it began.

rain clouds threaten

rain pours while weighing anchor

 We weren’t even the one mile it takes to round the corner where the Castillo de San Felipe sits before the sun was out and shinning again.  As soon as we hit the entrance to the lake, we gauged the wind and opened the sails.  Our sail started us out on a nice downwind run and I was able to grab the wheel for a little while when everyone else scattered about.  Matt was in a very in depth conversation with Ignacio (or Nacho as he told us to call him) about everything sailing, including how the sails worked at different points into the wind to push us along.  Ana Bianca and Luis were down below so they could whip up a few of Luis’ famous margaritas, and while I was at the helm, Annica and Camilla would try to hand feed me chips and guacamole since I had surprisingly not eaten anything yet.  Once I had gotten some chips and guac down, I was able to enjoy the helm at my hands, the wind at my back, and the feeling of a weekend pleasure cruise.  It’s been so long since we’d been out on the water just because we felt like it, and it brought me right back to our weekends on Lake Michigan where there was no time frame, no destination, and the only concern was which point of sail felt best and if there was something cold to drink in the fridge.

Luis and Jessica

 (photo courtesy of Annica)

Castillo de San Felipe

Camilla, Annica, Nacho, and Matt

entering Lake Isabella

 Even though I had been happy to take over the helm and show off my amazing skills of how to stay on course (without autopilot!), there were others that wanted a shot as well and soon I was handing off my position to Ana Bianca who in turn showed Camilla how to steer the boat and keep a course.  This left me with nothing to occupy my time except stuffing my face, which I was happy to do.  Nacho had prepared some croquettes that were incredibly delicious, and with a topped off margarita in my other hand, it was really turning into a perfect Saturday afternoon.  We shared with Nacho and Annica our previous sailing adventures and our current plans to hopefully cross the Atlantic to the Mediterranean the following summer.  Nacho, ever the adventurist, jumped at the chance to be our third crew member for the crossing, stating that he’d always wanted to sail across an ocean.  The offer even came with the promise of him being our personal chef and bartender the whole journey.  While it was VERY tempting to agree to this, we told him that he’d probably want to go on a much bigger boat than ours, and that 34 feet could get very cramped after three weeks.  Which is probably why we won’t bring anyone with us on the crossing.  Having 7 people out for a pleasure cruise though?  Totally do-able.

ana and camilla

 (Photo courtesy of Annica)

Matt trimming sails

cheese spread

We had our nice relaxing time going down one side of the lake, but when it was time to turn around our new intended course right into the wind, which meant a lot more tacking.  Ana Bianca had the wheel under control, and Matt was in his element, adjusting sails each time we went back and forth.  At the beginning the tacks were few and far between, so the other five of us sat around without purpose except to keep enjoying ourselves.  Nacho broke out a tub of chilled wine him and Annica had brought, so I sat with a pinot grigio in one hand as I continued to talk sailing with them and watched the sun get lower in the sky.  It was also a little amusing knowing which way the boat would heel each time we tacked, and trying to explain to Nacho which way the tub of wine was going to slide right before it did.

The closer we got to the entrance of the river though, the more tacks we needed to make.  This meant that I was brought out of my seat while Matt and I worked together to trim the sails.  The sailors in the group wanted to make it as far as possible without turning the engine on, and as the lake narrowed this meant having to cut back and forth every few minutes.  Ana Bianca was still stationed behind the wheel and just as we’d start cutting through the wind she would shout out “Now”, and I’d unwind the line from the previous leeward side as Matt would begin winching it in on the new low side.  Then we’d switch spots and do it all over again.  Just as we were entering the river again we cut it so close that it deserved a congratulatory round of high fives among us that we didn’t end up beached.  It felt great being back on the water once again, and appreciating sailing for what it was once more.

Nacho pouring wine

matt and nacho

(Photo courtesy of Annica)

Matt cranking the winch

Ana Bianca's great captaining skills

overlooking Kajaya

sun setting on Lake Isabella

sailboat passing Guatemalan fisher 1

sailboat passing Guatemalan fisher 2

As if a great day out on the water wasn’t enough, we were invited to Nacho and Annica’s weekend home on the Rio Dulce for a nice home cooked meal later in the evening.   They own a gorgeous open air home, set high up on a hill overlooking the river.  Even though it was too dark by this time to see much outside, we settled comfortably into the relaxed and welcoming ambiance the interior had to offer.  Our dinner for the evening was a to die for Argentinian steak paired  with an equally intoxicating red wine, and as I sat there reflecting back on the day and how we’ve been instantly welcomed into all of our new friends’s lives,  I couldn’t help but appreciate how incredibly fortunate we are, not just to lead the life we do, but to keep meeting the welcoming and generous people we do.  I don’t know what we did to become this lucky.

Nacho & Annica's weekend home 1

Nacho & Annica's weekend home 2

Nacho & Annica's weekend home 3

dining room table

Argentinian steak

coffee & dessert