American Holidays, Taking over Foreign Countries

Thursday July 4, 2013

Mario's Marina, Rio Dulce

So I know it’s kind of common for countries to steal another country’s holiday, it happens all over and we’re definitely guilty of it in the States.  St. Patrick’s Day, Cinco de Mayo.  They have nothing to do with us, yet we like to party for them like they were our own.  But I do have to say, I was slightly surprised when on the net, we kept hearing promotions for a 4th of July party at one of the marinas.  Yes, I get the fact that of the 15 or so marinas in the area, few to none are going to be housing boats of native Guatemalans.  What did surprise me, is that we haven’t found a lot of Americans in this area either.  I know that Americans bring their boats here, but they’re usually the first one to jump ship (no pun intended) and get back home to the States for the summer, or do any other kind of land travel.  In fact, of the 40 boats currently in our marina, only 5 have people staying with them.  Everyone else is gone.  Then, inside our little buddy group we’ve formed, we’re the only Americans.  So then why would a marina cater an American holiday to all the Canadians, Europeans, and others in the area?  Because We’re #1!  No, I’m kidding.  It’s probably just an excuse to get everyone together and drink.  If we’ve learned one thing about the cruising crowd, it’s that they love their drinking.

Calling in a last minute reservation for the five of us just the other morning, and snagging the last available seats I’m pretty sure, we made plans to have Luis shuttle us over in his lancha around 4 in the afternoon.  We’d heard that last year they’d run out of food for late arrivals, and we were not about to let that happen to us.  We did end up being some of the first to arrive, and picked a table in the back, I think the only one that had some kind of breeze forming over it.  Some cold drinks were purchased from the bar, and Luis and Elmarie were served margaritas that were just as big as our daiquiris in Honduras, but opposite of those, were full of liquor and little of much else.  Still being new to the area, we didn’t see too many familiar faces, but did have a nice chat with some other Americans from our marina (ok, so I guess there are a few), from Jasdip and Unplugged, the same people that joined us at Denny’s Beach.  Dinner was served shortly after, and although Matt and I were a little wary of having any local fare again, it didn’t take us long to dig into the fire roasted pig.  The potato salad however, was pushed to the side this time.

crowds at Mario's Marina

This place filled up fast, I’m glad we got seats.

margarita at Mario's

I’m pretty sure this thing could have knocked two grown men on their asses.

view from Mario's Marina

I don’t think I could ever get sick of these views.

 

 

It wouldn’t be a party without games, and while the dinner plates were still being cleared from our tables, they were ready to get into full swing.  It started out pretty innocent, and for the first few minutes, I didn’t even know what was going on.  A woman got on the microphone and asked who in the crowd liked rum or tequila.  That’s a silly question, of course I like rum and tequila.  My hand went right in the air.  At that point I was asked to come up front, along with about seven other men that had also risen their hands.  Wait, that question was leading to something?  I thought it was just a survey among cruisers.  I expected everyone’s hand to be up.  Tentatively I walked up with the other men and found that the question was going to lead to a spirited game of musical chairs.  Yes, that game which is normally reserved for small children and birthday parties.  Then the alcohol question began to make more sense.  ‘Oh’, I thought to myself, ‘When you end up without a chair, they must make you take a shot for losing, and send you back on your way.  Thank god you only have to do that once.’

The music began and we all kind of nervously giggled as we paraded around the chairs, feeling a little silly playing games that were meant for people 20 years our junior.  Or 50 in the case of most of my rivals.  But, as soon as that music stopped, it turned into a real competition.  We all sprinted and dove for any empty seat, and while I had tunnel vision and could not account for exactly what the others were doing, all I know is I landed in and empty chair.  ‘Ha!’, I thought.  ‘Too bad for that poor sucker that lost and is going to have to take a shot.’  I was still smirking when a shot glass was placed in my hand and I was asked “Rum or tequila?”.  Thoroughly shocked, I sputtered, “But I didn’t lose?!”.  “Oh no”, the woman laughed, “You take a shot each time you advance to the next round”.  It seemed like a cruel punishment for achieving, but I mumbled, “Either is fine”, and forced myself to choke down the straight liquor through three attempts.

I wasn’t so sure I wanted to ‘advance’ any further, but my competitive side got the better of me and I was determined to go to the end if I could.  The music began to play again, and all of us who remained started to relax a little, hopping, skipping, and making our jolly way around the chairs.  Twice more I dove into an empty seat when the music ended, and twice more I choked down shots of straight rum.  Which must have been going straight to my head, because on the fourth round my brain was distantly away as silence rang out and I was left without a chair.  I wouldn’t say I was quite upset about it.

drinking a tequila shot

This is the face of winning.

musical chairs

‘Round and ’round we go, where we stop, nobody knows..

losing at musical chairs

What?  I lost?  That’s it, I’m taking my beer and I’m going home.

 

I didn’t go far though.  I wanted to see how this turned out, so grabbing my camera from Matt, I stood front and center to catch the rest of the action.  Maybe the guys had just been playing nice when I was around, or now that there was one more chair out, they realized how serious this competition was getting.  The next time the music started to play, the remaining guys got a little….nonsensical.  Desperate to keep ‘their’ chair, they would do everything from keep one foot on it, to pick it up and continue in the circle with it, or in one guys case, start running around with it up in the air.  The women helping to run this game were not very happy, but it was all they could do to keep themselves from laughing as they tried to tell these gentleman with a serious face that they needed to play by the rules.  Two rounds and one remaining chair later, I started to worry, wondering what kind of antics might come out for the win, but it was the same as you’d get in any elementary school classroom.  Slowly shuffle your feet when you’re in front of the chair, and then race around the back to get front and center again.  When the music finally stopped, there was a little tug of war with the chair, but one guy was able to firmly plant his ass in it as the other tried to tip him over or drag him off.  Ahhh, kids.

nearing end of musical chairs

“This one’s mine!  I call dibs!”

dive for last chair

Silly boys.

 

There were a couple more games to follow, but none of them involved alcohol.  I sure know how to pick ’em, huh?  We stayed long enough for me to get dragged out on the floor one more time, a big dance circle for all the women attending while we sang along to ‘We are Family’ by Sister Sledge, and enjoyed another fireworks display.  Thousands of miles from home and anything resembling the good ‘ol US of A, I have to say, I’m glad they decided to steal borrow this holiday from us.   We may not have sat around listening to the national anthem or thinking of the day’s original meaning,  but bringing all of us cruisers together for one great night, I think it served it’s purpose.

One nation, of cruisers, indivisible                                                                                    With fair winds and rum drinks for all

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4th Of July Parade Of Boats

Wednesday July 4, 2012

Midweek holidays are a tricky thing because you con yourself into thinking the whole day will be spent completing projects that need to get done although once the day off is upon you it’s hard to do anything but take the time off from the daily grind to relax.  After spending the night and doing nothing productive except get the dinghy washed we woke up early the next morning to try and give the deck a good scrub down as well before my parents came out to see the boat and us for the last time before we all meet up again in Panama.  I should have started at the cockpit and worked my way forward because by the time the phone rang with ‘We’re here!!!‘ I had barely gotten half way and the cockpit was still a mess of smudges and other things I’d rather not find out what they other.  Nothing a sport-a-seat thrown over the top couldn’t fix though.

On their last Michigan trip my parents were able to enjoy 90 degree heat at 10:30 am on the deck without any shade from the bimini which still wasn’t up yet.  It was nice that we had been able to spend so much time with them while they were in town catching up on everything in life and this last visit was all about us and the trip.  Then came the farewells and a few tears from my mom.  We assured her that Panama was not that far away and after that would be New Zealand.  After tucking them into their rental car and waiving goodbye we went back to Serendip for a long three hour nap since low’s in the 80’s and a down blanked piled on top of you at night do not make for good sleeping weather and we were lagging.

Waking up in the mid afternoon with no finished projects to show for the day we pulled out the bars for the bimini again to make final measurements and cut.  Unfortunately the last part could’t be completed because the rivet gun was left at home.  By this time though the afternoon heat was becoming unbearable and a swim in the lake was necessary.  While wading in the water I started to see familiar race boats making their way out on the water.  Crawling back on deck and cracking open a beer I sat tucked under my towel and enjoyed the race from the spectators side.

Having spent most of the day napping or relaxing in the cockpit while watching a regatta we did not get a second wind of energy to do anything productive.  Eating potato chips and crackers for dinner we watched the sky begin to grow dark and the fireworks start to emerge.  Many people around the shore including the Muskegon Yacht Club had some small ones of their own but I was waiting for the big display.  Last year Matt had been out here himself and said there were multiple shows going on every direction you could look.  As the last bits of light were leaving the sky the larger fireworks began to come out.  Turning your head in every direction you’d see some from the country club up the hill from our mooring, others blazing over the dunes of the state park, and the municipal show being put on in town all the way at the other end of the lake.  Swiveling in multiple directions to try and get them all in I finally settled on the ones closest to me at the country club.  It was way after my bedtime by the time we left but completely worth staying since next Fourth of July we might be in the South Pacific.  Sparklers anyone?

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Big Anchor….Small Dinghy

Sunday July 3, 2011

Waking up in an area that wasn’t Muskegon was a nice change for once and the sun was nice enough to come back out after getting it’s rest too.  Spending some time lounging around and having a delicious breakfast of apple fritter and coke I was able to experience my first ‘getting ready to go to town’ without any help from land based facilities.  I had made sure to bath myself the night before in the lake using a new eco friendly shampoo I had found, but my now clean and naturally curly hair had turned into some kind of rats nest while I slept.  It was a perfect chance to pull out my wet to dry flatiron and see how it worked on the boat.  I was given a strict timeline from Matt as to not use up too much power, and while I rushed with combs, clips, and a spray bottle in the tiny space of the head he took watch at the nav station staring at the power use and making sure I didn’t bleed us dry.  Everything was successful on both sides and now I’m happy to know I won’t have to wear my hair up everyday for three years straight and will be able to keep a little bit of normalcy about my life.

Preparing ourselves to jet into town we decided we’d walk around for a bit, maybe have lunch, and come back to the boat for an afternoon nap.  Getting the dinghy down and ready for travel we pushed off and started our search for the area where we heard the public dinghy dock was.  Luckily after scouring the shore for what could be a public launch area we saw an spot with about five other dinghies hauled out on land and assumed we had the right place.  Pulling ours up alongside we figured the worst that could happen if we were wrong is we’d get a warning note that we were beaching in a private area.  Although not getting off from parking scot free the dinghy did leave traces of it’s blue rub rail all over my leg while I was dragging it to shore.  Slipping into the nearby public restroom I spent 10 minutes using a basically empty soap dispenser and recycled paper towel while hoisting my thigh up to the sink and trying to scrub it off.  For as easily as it came off the dink it did not want to make it’s way off my leg.  When I got out Matt stepped in to use it for it’s intended purpose and walked out rubbing his wet hands on his jeans since I had just used all the paper towel.

Trying to make our way into where we thought town was it only took one wrong turn before we were headed in the right direction.  We happened upon the main road which was lined with charming and well presented shops.  One of the first places we noticed after rounding the corner was a little marine store called Brass Anchor.  Not only was it filled with essential everyday items such as cleaning supplies and PDFs, but it was also filled with nautical themed trinkets and antiques.   You couldn’t move two feet without coming across antique lanterns, portholes, or even brass lamps.  It was interesting to see how the same brass we had on our boat would look if we left it alone for 20 years.  Now I have an excuse not to want to do any polishing.  As tempting as some of the purchases were we walked out empty handed and continued our way up the sidewalk.  While passing a few restaurants with outdoor seating my mouth began to water but seeing as it wasn’t even noon yet we kept walking but were sure to keep these places in mind.  Not knowing much  about the town at all we were happy to stumble upon an information center with a pamphlet on the events going on through the summer.  Opening the pamphlet we were delighted to see there was a pie eating contest happening that day in the nearby picnic grounds.  While looking over the other events including fireworks that night at the state park there was a gentleman sitting outside on the bench that must have worked at the information center.  I think he could tell we were from out of town and gave us extra inside happenings of the best times to do and see certain things.  He was also a sailor and we got into a lengthy  discussion with him on how we had got up there in our boat and he told us stories of his racing days.  This discussion was leading us closer and closer to lunchtime and before letting us go gave us suggestions on two great restaurants just a block up the road, Antler Bar and The Brown Bear.  Getting increasingly hungrier I told Matt that I was going to need food soon so we walked up to check both the restaurants out.  Both looked great from the outside, but we weren’t able to take a peak in since neither opened until noon and it was only 11:30 at this point.

We did find out that both restaurants were located next to the picnic grounds where the pie eating contest was and wandered down there to pass the time.  It was a perfect slice of Americana (no pun intended) where rows and rows of tables with white linens were lined with homemade pies ready for tasting and judging.  There were refreshment stands serving fresh squeezed lemonade and hot dogs.  A bouncy castle and inflatable slide had been set up for the kids and there was even a dunk tank sponsored by Farmers Insurance raising money for what I’m sure was a good cause although I didn’t know what it was.  All these sights and sounds were not helping my food craving, but the restaurants did have one thing going that the fair did not and that was ice cold beer.  So we took our spot on a bench in front of The Antler realizing they had a back patio overlooking the fair.  Joining us in waiting was a man and his son that were also in town just for the weekend.  Once the doors opened all four of us headed straight upstairs to the patio and ordered the cold beers that I apparently was not the only one craving.  I mean, having a Lieinenkugel Summer Shandy with a lemon wedge while sitting outside in beautiful weather on a holiday weekend.  Does life really get much better than that?  Talking to the two guys they mentioned their wives were busy shopping at the ‘Bitchin Kitchen’ and doing other girly things so they were doing guy things like drinking beer  (which I would much prefer to shopping for kitchen items).  After finding out the patio didn’t serve food the two of us made our way back inside after finishing our beers to check out a menu.  I had taken information guy’s advise and ordered a cup of soup which that day was a creamy chicken and asparagus combination that was absolutely delicious.  They also had a Sunday special of $0.50 wings that we were more than happy to take advantage of.

 

Heading back to the grassy knoll on full stomachs we watched as tables were set up for the pie eating contest.  There were going to be 3 different rounds, one for kids under 10, another for kids 10-17, and lastly one for the adults.  For the under 18 crowd each kid was given a Little Debbie pie, hands were placed behind the back and the whistle was blown.  The first round was very cute to watch as little kids as small as 3 or 4 would take little nibbles off the end while the larger kids were in it to win it.  The second round was also very competitive and was over in less than 90 seconds.  By the time the adults took over the table the crowds to watch were multiplying and we lost any good view of what was going on.  Since we didn’t know anyone in the contest we didn’t want to be pushy to try and make our way toward the front so we went back to roaming the streets and the little shops.       We even found ourselves in the Bitchin Kitchen which I have to say I was extremely  impressed by.  A very upscale place with anything you could imagine and could easily make you go broke by the time you left from the amount of tempting things to buy.  While walking around we found they were selling a certain brand of knives which looked very familiar because we had the same ones on the boat.  Another gift left to us by Serendipity’s previous owner.  Thanks again Dean, we really do appreciate all of the goodies you’ve left behind!

 

Making our way back towards the water and the dinghy to spend a few hours relaxing and planning out the rest of our evening.  We enjoyed a nice Sunday afternoon nap that was only shortly interrupted by a poorly steered sailing dinghy that kept bumping into our bow.  There was also lying in the sun, reading and just enjoying the face we didn’t have to pack up and be home that night.  While heating up leftovers for dinner we talked about going to view the fireworks that night being held just outside the channel on the Lake Michigan shore.  The initial thought was to take the boat out and drop anchor while we watched from the comfort of our cockpit but that led to thoughts of having to re-anchor in our cove in the dark and neither of us wanted that.  We then thought of taking the dinghy out and beaching it on the shore while we sat on a blanket in the sand.  Well that would have been fine except for the no alcohol allowed and I wouldn’t have been able to sip on a fruity cocktailish drink while enjoying the sunset.  I threw out the idea of anchoring the dinghy out just in front of the beach and that way we’d have the best of both worlds.  Matt laughed for a minute but was quickly on board.

Once the sun was starting to make it’s descent in the sky we threw on jeans and jackets and filled our backpack with towels (for blankets) and Dailys pre-made margaritas and strawberry daiquiris.  There wasn’t much other boat traffic on the smaller inland lake or the big lake once we got out there, although there were large crowds starting to form on the beach.  Motoring to about 10 feet of water and just a few hundred feet from where the buoys to mark off the swim area were located Matt cut the engine and grabbed our  anchor meant to hold a 36 ft boat in place and dropped in into the shallow water below us.  We had to laugh a little at the fact that we’d be using a larger anchor than most of the other powerboats and sailboats that would be joining us that night, and all for a 9 ft 100 lb dinghy.  Once we ‘made sure the anchor was set’ and that we wouldn’t drag into nearby boats and cause catastrophic damage we made ourselves comfortable by putting the required life vests under us for cushions and kicked our feet up.  Taking full advantage of the situation we took out our Daily’s cocktails and tried to figure out the best way to drink them directly from the pouch since normally they get poured directly into a glass.  Tying out different combinations of pinching one end to create a spout out of the other and take sips without it pouring into our laps.  I’m sure we were quite a site to see and in no way resembled the people who sit on couches in their front yard drinking 40 oz bottles of malt liquor.

 

 

From the water we could still do a decent amount of people watching as more people kept coming to the beach and out in boats.  There was the group of young sport fishers right next to us who were blasting country music out of their speakers while their girlfriends drank and complained, the group of parents whose teenage daughters were going for a late evening swim among the now crowding anchorage, and best of all a two story party pontoon boat who came out of the channel blasting a John Philip Sousa march followed by advertisements for some store or another.  After the county sheriff looked like he was about to chase them down they thankfully turned it to the Black Eyed Peas and began a dance party on their roof top deck.  As the sun sank lower and lower into the sky you could see people on the pier getting all the fireworks ready to launch and we kept repositioning ourselved in the dinghy because it would do 180 degree rotations and keep changing our view.

 

 

 

 

 

Once the last bit of light was leaving the sky the first firework was shot off and we snuggled against eachother to enjoy the show.  It was quite an impressive display and we watched the colors explode in the air with no other objects around to block out or distract from the view.  At that moment I was happy we weren’t out in the large boat as the smaller space forced you to get closer and it felt like there was nothing else in the world but us, the water, and a shower of colors raining down from the sky.  The array lasted for about 10-15 minutes and finished with the kind of big finale that leaves you almost deaf and blind but just as excited to see the popping and explosions as when you were a kid.

Thinking we could outrun most of the boat traffic by getting out of there as soon as possible we upped the anchor and started the motor as soon as the last firework fizzled from the sky.  We were a little worried since we didn’t have running lights and were afraid others wouldn’t see us in the dark.  Matt handed me a LED flashlight and told me to hold it above my head with my other hand covering it about a foot above to give us a little reflection and make ourselves seen.  Normally I don’t care about making a fool of myself but on this night I felt like such a dope posing like the Statue of Liberty and was sure all eyes were on me.  We were able to cut through to the channel pretty quickly, but once there everyone besides us felt the need to disregard the no wake rule and started zipping by at much quicker speeds.  And when they thought that maybe they saw something in the water ahead of them they took out thier giant spotlights to glare down on us. Every. 60. Seconds.  This dinghy ride could not end quick enough.  Once everyone funnled out of the channel and spread out the spotlight on us became much less frequent although the sheriff that had been making it’s way toward the party boat early now looked like they had their sights set on us.  Matt kept telling me to hold the light higher or aim it in the direction of the sheriff so they could tell that we were trying to be seen.  And legally we did have everything we needed, it’s just that neither of us felt like dealing with the hassle that night.  Matt thought he remembered our spotlight flashlight being in the backpack so I quick pulled that out and lit up the night sky.  That was enough to make them change direction to a drunken boat of people that could have used the attention of law enforcement.

We were happy to find that Serendipity was exactly where we had left her, and even though it wasn’t even 11:00 yet I was ready to crash in bed.  I have no idea how one can be so tired after not doing much all day and still getting a nap in the afternoon.  I’m slightly worried for my future.

The next morning we awoke to another beautiful sunny day.  After spending a little time getting ourselves and the boat clean we raised the dinghy and anchor and set out for home.  The water on Lake Michigan started out a turquoise green that graduated to a royal blue as we gained distance and depth.  The wind was still in hiding ever since the fog rolled off Saturday and we were forced to use the motor.  It was a relaxing journey home of just reading, sunbathing and listening to music.  I read a few chapters of boat book to appease Matt and even learned a few things along the way.  By the time we pulled up to our mooring early that evening I was a bit bronzer, slightly smarter, and not at all looking forward to going back to work the next day.  I was however going to be heading home alone since Matt had still decided to keep one of the two weeks off work to get all the boat projects done that he hadn’t finished over the spring.  As I was getting ready for bed that night I had a message from him on my phone telling me Muskegon was having an even better fireworks display that night and he had just seen one of a heart with an arrow going through it so he needed to call me and tell me about it.  Awwww.  I should have stayed out there with him.  Who needs work anyway?

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