wheel of Hulaballo

Boating with our Besties

Saturday August 17, 2013

wheel of Hulaballo

If there were two people I could not be more excited to see on our trip back home, it would be our friends Jackie and Ron.  They’re a couple that we met last summer through our blog, and even though we only had a chance to hang out about four times before Matt and I left for our big adventure, we became fast friends and I now even consider them among my best friends.  As fellow boaters and soon to be cruisers themselves, they’re always excited to hear what we’ve been up to, and always there to lend an ear when I want to vent about any cruising or boat related problems.  When we had our accident in St. Augustine, they were the shoulder that I leaned on to cheer me up with constant funny and sarcastic remarks that always lifted my spirits, and even sent friends on secret spy missions to leave a bottle of rum at our doorstep while we were stuck on the hard.  Little surprises like these made the fact that due to our accident and we would no longer be able to make it to the Bahamas at the time they booked their plane tickets to visit us, a very hard pill to swallow.  These two have been such amazing friends to us that there was no way I was going to let an opportunity to see them, or their new cruising boat, slip by.

Having invited myself and Matt out to visit them and their boat as soon as our tickets to Michigan were booked, I didn’t even give them the chance to turn us down, although I doubt they would have.  What I did do though, was force them back a few days early from their two week cruise around Lake Michigan in which they wanted to make sure that all systems on their boat were in working order, and just to get a taste of the cruising life before they simply leave it all without ever thinking twice.  Like we did.  After having made a drive half way across the state earlier in the day to have lunch with my brother (I was going to get that visit in one way or another, damn it!) we made the drive out to our old familiar stomping grounds of Muskegon, even stopping at our old familiar West Marine on the way out just so we could get them a boat warming gift.  Wandering under the fluorescent lights we wondered ‘What would be most useful to a new cruiser?’ and decided that a fuel filter would be appropriate since lord knows how many times ours has come in handy since leaving the country.

There was one more stop on the way at the party store for libations.  Hard as I looked for Blue Moon or Land Shark in cans, some of Jackie’s favorites, they only had bottles and since I didn’t know what their glass policy on board was, so I went with Bud Light instead.  Completely similar to Blue Moon, right?  Parking our car at the marina and stepping out I that strange feeling where you know you’ve been gone from a place for a long time, yet you feel you were also just there.  It almost felt like we never left and that we’d still find Serendipity sitting out at her mooring.  Except, now that same mooring belongs to Jackie and Ron.  And as if their ears were burning as I though that, their dinghy came turning the corner into the channel.  Doing my best to sprint in flip flops and a dress, I quickly made my way around to the landing where Jackie jumped out and we gave each other a big bear hug that I’m pretty sure the guys thought they’d have to pry us apart from.

Torresen's Marina

Feels like we just left this yesterday.

 

After loading our bag, beer, and new gift into the dinghy, we were off to see Hullabaloo for the first time.  I was so excited when we got there that I absently left all our belongings up on deck as I scrambled below to take a tour.  It’s a beautiful and roomy boat and I think they’re going to love cruising it it.  I love my Serendipity, but I might have even been just a little bit jealous of their spacious layout.  No time for sitting around admiring cabinets and cushions though!  First orders first, we all (ok, maybe just me and Ron) grabbed cold beers out of the fridge, and then it was time to get the boat moving.  Too late in the day to actually go for a sail, unless we wanted to come back in the dark, we were only moving ourselves across the lake to anchor in front of the State Park and the dunes for the night.   It’s a calm and quiet spot which always produces great sunsets, and I can’t say that I haven’t missed being near the dunes of Michigan.  Ron ran up front to detach us from the mooring, and I fell into place behind the wheel, not even asking before I started to captain their boat.

drinks on Hullabaloo

Lexie

The evening was warm and the sun was still casting a few golden rays over the water, so we spent the last few hours of daylight lounging in the cockpit and catching up on what everyone has been up to.  Which surprisingly, was not much about us this time.  Since I talk to both of them on basically a daily basis when I have Internet, telling them about every passage, project, or even dinner out Matt and I have, it was us that needed to know what they were up to and how their trip around Lake Michigan had gone.  I’d already gotten a few tidbits here and there from what Jackie posted on their blog, but it was a nice change for once to be regaled in our friend’s cruising adventures instead of the other way around.

As interested as we were in their stories and as excited as we were to see them, we were still incredibly weary from all we’d done since we left Guatemala, and unfortunately, that sleepy feeling was setting in way too early.  Matt decided to cure this with a jump in the lake.  I….was not so brave.  You can’t just take someone from 82 degree water and plop them in 72 degree water, it’s not natural!

Matt diving in Muskegon Lake

 I did the next best thing instead and suggested that we eat.  Because we all know that food is the cure to waking someone up.  Wait, what?  You mean it’s the opposite?  It makes you even more sleepy?  Well s%*t!  Oh well, the burger and corn were damn good, and worth any extra drowsiness they may have caused. Even the dog can back me up on that one.

Lexie eating corn

 

After dinner was finished and Jackie would not let me touch the dishes, even though I told her it’s how the dinner club works: you cook, we clean; I was sent back into the cockpit to keep enjoying myself with a fresh beer in my hand.  I couldn’t force myself to sit still at the moment though, so I floated around the deck with my camera, catching the last bits of baby pink and blue in the sky.  The sunsets here are just as beautiful and serene as I remember them.  I swear, there is something truly special about Michigan in the summer.

Ron and Jackie

 Our wonderful hosts.  Aren’t those just the cutest faces you’ve ever seen?

sunset on Muskegon Lake 1

sunset on Muskegon Lake 2

sunset on Muskegon Lake 3

 Just as I had used up almost all remaining space on my memory card and made my way back to the cockpit, Ron decided it was his turn for a swim that night.  Once again, I was still to scared to jump into what would now seem like frigid waters.  I guess two beers wasn’t enough courage or motivation to make me just go for it.  Looking at the blackening waters I told myself, tomorrow.  When we’re in the clear and even more frigid waters of Lake Michigan.

Lexie watches Ron

Lexie watches Ron swim in front of the dunes.

 

Since it was now getting dark and there were just a few too many bugs to make sitting in the cockpit enjoyable, we moved our party down below where we broke out a game they kept on board called Farkle.  And at the time, trying to figure out the rules to this game were just as hard as trying to say the name out loud without breaking into grade school worthy snickers.  I’ll just blame it on the bottle of Shiraz that had just been opened.  Round the table we went, rolling our dice and trying trying not to Farkle.  I swear that after every person played I was leaning over the scorecard trying to add up how they got to their points since even after a dozen explanations I could not catch on to anything more than a 1 is worth 100 points, and a 5 is worth 50.  I just played along as best I could until a winner was declared.  All of us stayed up a little bit longer and had Ron show off his guitar skills that he’s been picking up over the past year.  Kind of a reminder that I need to get my butt into gear and learn to play before my guitar turns into firewood at the hands of Matt.

Ron playing guitar

 Having got about six hours of sleep since we unknowingly stayed up past 2, we all woke up this morning with groggy grunts as we stumbled up the stairs and into the dewy cockpit for some fresh air and sunlight.  Strong coffee was quickly made, and we sat around talking about what we wanted to do with the next few hours as Ron busied himself below making sausage and fresh blueberry pancakes for breakfast.

sunglasses on Hullabaloo

blueberry pancakes

 Even Lexie got her own pancake in the shape of a bone.  Too cute!

 

After figuring out that Matt and I still had about four hours on our hands before we needed to head back to town for yet more plans we have with friends, we figured there was enough time to still squeeze in a sail on the big lake for a few hours.  Upping the anchor we made a beeline for the channel and felt the wind kick up from nothing, to a stiff breeze as we passed the USS Silverside and the lighthouse that neither Matt or I expected to see for at least 4 years after we said good-bye to it last August.  Even though that breeze which was so strong it had me running to put on my fleece even though I was just sweating moments before, it was gone as quickly as it had come, leaving us with dead calm waters and no breath of air as soon as we’d exited the channel into Lake Michigan.  I knew I wanted a leisurely sail instead of the bouncy passages we’ve been subjected to, but I was hoping for at least some wind.  We hadn’t been planning on going far, but now it was looking like we weren’t going anywhere.

windless day on Lake Michigan

Jackie & Ron on Hullabaloo

 Bobbing around going nowhere for a good 10-15 minutes, I had finally decided to go below and change into my suit and at least catch some sun when just enough air hit us to get us going. True to my wish, the universe held up it’s end and gave me everything I had been asking for ever since I started planning this day over a month ago.  A beautiful sunny day.  Check.   A calm and leisurely sail on Lake Michigan.  Check.   Surrounded by friends that I had been counting down the days to see again ever since I left them last year.  Big Check.

chillin on Hullabaloo

relaxing on Hullabaloo

Electric Cheetah

Errand Running & Lunch at the Electric Cheetah

Thursday August 15, 2013

Electric Cheetah

It took 30 hours of traveling from Guatemala, but we finally arrived at Matt’s mom’s house in Michigan (where we’ll be staying our 10 days here) yesterday around 5 pm.  The journey started by leaving Serendipity an hour before our bus was scheduled to pick us up in Rio Dulce, and after sitting around waiting the 45 minutes we assumed we had if the bus to came on time at 10, we waited yet another 30 minutes since it was running late.  There was plenty of time on our hands to get to the airport in San Pedro Sula Honduras (current murder capital of the world!), so the 30 minute delay itself wasn’t anything to worry about.  What did freak me out though, is when our bus died as it was crossing the bridge out of town and I was afraid we might be SOL for getting to Honduras that day.  Do they even send back-up buses for breakdowns? Within 10 minutes though, we were back up and running.  Our bus line for the day (Fuente del Norte) wasn’t as fancy as the line that Ana Bianca and I took to Antigua, so there were no movies, and since I had a new Nook waiting for me in Michigan, I didn’t bring my old one to keep me busy for this leg of the journey.  We listened to music, slept on and off, and had a very straightforward border crossing.

We were dropped off at a very large bus terminal in San Pedro Sula at three in the afternoon, and still had ten hours until our plane departed.  Since we did happen to be in the murder capital of the world, we didn’t know what taxis we could trust and forked over $8/person (half of what it cost us to get from Guatemala to Honduras) to be able to take another bus from the terminal to the airport.  With departure from the bus terminal only four short hours after we bought our tickets.  We passed the time by having dinner at a Burger King (Matt was so excited), and watching movies in Spanish in the VIP lounge of the Hedman Atlas bus terminal.  Once we did get to the airport I realized we probably would have been better off staying at the bus terminal for as long as possible since there was no comfortable place to sit in the airport.  With nothing else to do, we grabbed some dinner from the lounge area before everything closed up for the night, went through security, and then sat on the floor in front of the restroom playing with our computers since that was the only place in the airport that seemed to offer electrical outlets.  Come 1:00 am, we were finally able to board our flight.

Next stop was a short layover in Ft. Lauderdale, which turned from two hours into four.  Not a big deal, except my brother was supposed to pick us up from the airport in Detroit, our next destination, but only had about an hour he could spend with us before having to go back to work.  Matt’s mom and step-dad were planning to take us the rest of the way back, and now we were feverishly trying to send them messages on our computers that we needed to be picked up from the airport instead of my brothers house.  There was no response when we boarded our next flight, and we didn’t even know if we were going to have anyone meeting us at the airport when we landed there.  All worrying was for naught though, and as we walked out of the terminal and toward baggage claim we saw there smiling faces and opening arms welcoming us back.  We gathered all our bags and made a quick stop for lunch before driving the three hours across state and back ‘home’.  In addition to both of us being ecstatic about the fact that we were back home, we also got to enjoy Christmas in August by opening all the packages we had shipped there, ready to bring things back to the boat when we head back to her.  Matt had his boat parts to fawn over, but I was more excited about things like my new Nook, Skittles, and Michigan Sweet Cherry Coffee.  I was also surprised with some more ‘foodie’ items from Matt’s mom, like a fridge stocked with Red Stripe and Lime-a-Ritas.  I love when people pick up hints I leave on the blog.  Pepsi and Skittles when I went to visit my parents, a case of Lo Carb Monster from Nate when he passaged with us, and now my favorite adult beverages from Matt’s mom.  Thanks for reading between the lines you guys!

flowers in garden

back deck

 Feels so good to be home again!

 

Today, between a whirlwind of errands, I was able to squeeze in lunch with my best friend Laura.  After having been up for more than 30 hours, I still dragged myself out of bed at a reasonable hour this morning so I could get my hair cut at one of those beauty schools where you still get the treatment of a massage, shampoo, cut, and style for less than $20.  What I thought would take an hour max turned into two, and I was racing my behind through the streets of Grand Rapids, trying to get there for my lunch date before she assumed I stood her up (no cell phone, so, no way to contact).  Luckily when I walked into the Electric Cheetah, a trendy hipster style sandwich shop, she was still waiting there for me with a glass of wine in hand.  Which after some shrieks and hugs, I was told to order one as well.  As usual when you spend time with someone you haven’t seen in so long, we were so busy catching up that our waiter (someone I used to serve with at a different restaurant five years ago, coincidentally) had to come back four times before we could force ourselves to take two minutes away from talking to look at the menu.  Although a number of things looked like they would have been fantastic, I went with the Yahtzee sandwich, partially because it looked so tempting with it’s swiss cheese and haystack onions sitting on top of a patty melt, and partially because it allowed me to play a round of Yahtzee to see if I could win my sandwich for free.  The five dice were brought out to me and through three rolls I had all but one matching.  Darn it!

Jessica and Laura

 BFFs for 19 years.

Yahtzee at Electric Cheetah

YAHTZEE!!…..Or not.

 

Even when our food came it was hard to stop and take a bite because we had so much catching up to do from the previous year.  At one point we kind of laughed and forced ourselves into a five minute silence so we could actually eat what was on our plates.  Which happened to be…a ton of food.  I knew that half of it was going to be going home in a box as soon as it was set down in front of me.

Yahtzee sandwich - Electric Cheetah

 Which didn’t stop us from ordering dessert though.  Laura was just as hell bent on tasting their monster cookies as I was on tasting one of their 40 different varieties of craft root beer.  In the end I boxed up half my sandwich and one of the cookies to take home with me.  Hope Matt’s still hungry when I get there.

monster cookies - Electric Cheetah

 Before I could leave the restaurant though, I had to sneak into the bathroom with my camera to capture how cool the walls in there were.  Every side, top to bottom, was covered in puzzles.  Not something you see everyday, so I figured it needed to be captured.

puzzle of Chicago

Cheetah puzzle

 After hugs and sad good-byes Laura and I finally parted ways, although we both could have stayed all afternoon and well into the night without running out of things to talk about.  As it was though, my day was still full of plans and I needed to get a move on.  Even though I could have caught the expressway on the outskirts of town, I needed a good view of my old city and took a drive through it’s center, taking in all the sights I’d been missing over the past year.

Grand Rapids, MI

 The Grand River & Blue Bridge

John Ball Park

 John Ball Park & Loch Ness Monster

 

Part of the reason I was taking the long road home was I also needed to make a stop in our old neighborhood to visit Sobie, our old butcher shop.  We have plans to grill steaks with friends in a few days, and if there has been one thing I’ve been missing from Michigan just as much as my family and friends, it’s the steaks they sell here doused in a delicious teriyaki glaze.  While they were being packaged up I couldn’t help but drool over all the other specials in their display case.  If only we had a month here instead of just over a week!

Sobie stuffed pork chop

 I want one of these…

Sobie bratwurst

 …and one of those, and those, and those…

 

By the time I got back home I’d already been gone for seven hours.  No rest for the weary though.  Tonight we’re going out to dinner to see Matt’s sister as well as his dad and grandpa.  Time to go get pretty.  Since, now I actually have the tools to do so.

Jessica on back deck

 Damn it feels good to be a girl again.

 

 

8.13.13

If I Knew Then What I Know Now: One Year In

Tuesday August 13, 2013

8.13.13

Now that we’re one year into our cruising on Serendipity, I can say I’m a bit more experienced than when we first left. Sure, we (Matt) read every book, forum, and the occasional blog on what to expect, but some things you just don’t know until you get out there.  We’ve learned a lot our first year out.  A lot about our boat, boat bits, and the lifestyle that is cruising.  What I’m about to share isn’t groundbreaking, earth shattering news, or possibly, even very helpful to some people, but here’s a few things I’ve learned along the way so far.

 

  • It is very hard to escape the elements. Until we had our little accident in St. Augustine that put us on the hard for three months, we were never in one spot for over two days. Which meant that we were always traveling. Out in the elements. Sun, wind, rain. We had it all. And putting yourself out in those elements hour after hour, day after day, it becomes very important to protect yourself from them. I could not imagine our trip without having our bimini and dodger, they have been lifesavers. Giving us shade from the sun, keeping us dry from the rain, and keeping those howling winds from chilling us to the bone.  And also making a barrier between us and those pesky waves that crash over the bow. It’s unfortunate that these items usually need to be custom made and don’t come cheap, our dodger is on it’s last leg with more repairs than I’d like to admit, but if it ever failed, it’s one of the items we would not hesitate for a moment to replace.

 

  • You will have a major meltdown at some point. And that’s ok. As much as many landlubbers would like to think this lifestyle is constant paradise, it’s not. It can be hard physically. It can be hard mentally. It takes a long time to get into the groove of moving your life into 400 sq feet and then taking away major conveniences. And once you get used to that, toss in things like seasickness, language barriers, and an ever dwindling bank account reminding you that you are on a budget and can’t do all the fun things that whatever place you’re at has to offer. Or, every other day, one thing or another on the boat breaks and needs repairing or replacing. Sometimes it can be too much, and once in awhile, you’ll curse your new lifestyle and wonder why you ever left in the first place. At least things were comfortable back home. But guess what? You always snap out of it. Sometimes it can take a few days (or a week), but then you’ll catch an amazing sunset, or have a drink with fellow cruisers and share sob stories, or spot dolphins riding in your bow wake, and remember that this life is not without it’s benefits too.

 

  • In Matt’s opinion, our davits are useless. You might be surprised to hear this one, and I don’t really have an issue with it, but it’s one of the things Matt wish he knew before we left. Our davits are a set of metal bars off our stern that hold the dinghy up out of the water, and in our case, holds one of our solar panels on top. We use our davits every day, so you might be wondering why he wants to get rid of them. First we’ll start with the dinghy aspect. Every single night we use the davits to haul the dinghy about four feet out of the water, keeping nasty things from growing on the bottom, and more importantly, giving possible thieves a hell of a time trying to steal it. Without the davits, we could still lift the dinghy out of the water every night with a halyard up at the foredeck. We’ve also found that having the dinghy on davits while passaging (even through the islands of the Bahamas) causes too much strain on the davits, so it gets secured to the foredeck during those times anyway. As far as the 210 solar panel that’s housed there, we’d remove it and replace it with a wind generator. That way we’d still have the two 105s for sunny days, and a wind generator for the cloudy (and usually windy) days.

 

  • Your personality is not going to change very much from who you were on land. We have found that a lot of the things we loved back on land are still things that we love on sea, and it’s hard to escape them. Laugh if you want, but our two big weaknesses are TV and fast food. We do have an actual TV on the boat along with a hard drive full of movies and shows, and they get used almost nightly. It’s how we used to unwind back on land, and it’s how we unwind at the end of each day now. When we left I was hoping the tv would barely ever get turned on because there would be too many new and exciting things to hold our attention that we wouldn’t need it. But no matter how much I try to fight my brain about television being unnecessary, it still wants the boob tube. As far as the fast food? The only time we go without it is because it’s not available. I envisioned cruising as a time for me to get really involved in cooking from scratch and making delicious meals every night, and although I’m getting better, we just have a weakness for greasy fries and burgers that has to be satisfied. My original dreams of turning myself into a culinary master didn’t come to be just because I thought it would happen with a little extra free time on my hands. I will say that you grow as a person while out traveling, trying new things and finding new likes and dislikes, but if you think you’re going to completely reinvent yourself, that’s probably not going to happen. But why would you want to do that anyway?

 

  • When purchasing a boat, place durability over looks.  We, or at least me for sure, LOVE our boat.  I think it’s a great size for us, has a good layout, and even looks kinda pretty.  Sure, Matt may be obsessed with what 10 more feet could do for us, but otherwise, we think we made a good choice.  But if there’s one thing we could change on our boat, even though the looks are a big drawing point for us, is the durability of some of the items on board.  Take the cushions for example.  They’re original to the boat (at 24 years old, can you believe it?), but still have a nice modern and clean feel to them.  They’re pretty, they make the interior look nice.  But they’re not durable.  They get dirty very quickly, and constant use has them getting pilled and a little worn down at the edges.   At times we’re even laying towels and other items to sit on just so we don’t do any further damage.  Then there’s the floors and walls.  They’re teak and holly plywood, and there are dents abound.  Moving things around in small spaces, items rearranging themselves on passage, or just good old gravity when your’re not expecting it.  I’m not saying our boat now looks horrid and torn apart, but she’s definitely rougher around the edges than she was a year ago.  Bottom line, you LIVE in your boat.  It needs to be able to handle your constant wear and tear.

 

  • It’s not how it’s depicted in photos.  Unless you’re Taru Tuomi (whom I wish I could be like), all the glamour goes out the window when you’re cruising.  In pretty much every way, shape, and form. As far as personal glamour, there was about five days in Jamaica that I forced myself to wear the dresses I bought just so I could get use out of them, but other than that I’m in shorts and a tee (and now it’s even becoming gym shorts more than jean shorts), my hair is up, and I have on no make-up.  The areas we’re in are so hot and humid that it’s barley worth making an effort, and gone are all my original ideals of wearing cute bikinis all the time with perfect make-up and long flowing hair covered with a wide brimmed hat.  Unless there’s a special occasion, it’s just not gonna happen.  What’s also not depicted in the photos is all the hard work that goes into cruising*.  It’s not just sitting surrounded by a perfect landscape, with perfectly trimmed sails, and a glass of chilled wine in your hand.  If you follow blogs or are into some of the sailing magazines, you probably know this already, but the work of constantly maintaining a boat, dragging your laundry to a coin-op (or worse, doing it yourself), showering in your cockpit, and tearing apart half your boat just to get to a jar of peanut butter, is anything but glamorous.  Sure, there’s a couple of sunsets and fruity drinks thrown in, but that’s only about 20% of the lifestyle.  If that.

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*Yes, I did know it was going to be hard work before we left, I just didn’t realize the portion of it vs fun relaxing things.  I thought it would be 25% hard, 75% fun.  Nope, I got it the other way around.

**When I told my loving husband I was writing this he goes, “Ugh, I hate when people who don’t know what they’re talking about write those kinds of posts”.  So if you found this utterly useless, don’t worry, you’re not alone.

 

8.12.13 (1)

What I’ve Learned My First Year In

Monday August 12, 2013

8.12.13 (1)

Leaving our mooring in Muskegon for the last time.

 

Now that Serendipity has been out traveling for one year, I felt compelled to make a list of things I have learned over our last 12 months of travel.  This post is not meant to be advice to future cruisers on what works and what doesn’t while living and traveling on a boat (that’s coming later), but rather, things I have learned about myself and the lifestyle of cruising.

 

  • I thought that by leaving Michigan in the middle of summer and continuously heading south, that I would need few to no warm clothes.  I was oh.so.wrong.

 

  • Memory foam up in the v-berth, although 10x more comfortable to sleep on, also makes it 10x harder to make the bed.

 

  • Friendships are made fast, and with bonds that will last a lifetime.

 

  • If your battery bank can spare it, en electric water heater, like the Bodum one we own, will be one of your best friends while traveling.

 

  • It is surprisingly easy to find yourself wearing the same outfit for two days in a row.  Sometimes three.

 

  • Sitting on the opposite sides of the salon and ignoring your spouse (intentionally or not), is almost as good as being alone.

 

  • Just because you are constantly tired or hungry or nauseous, does not mean you are pregnant, and you can stop taking an at home test every month ‘just to be sure’.

 

  • Before we left, I envisioned passages as a time to get a bunch of things done.  Instead, due to my (non-debilitating) seasickness, I get nothing done.

 

  • It takes approximately six months to get used to the fact that the steps on the companionway must be used as extra counter space while cooking, instead of having a meltdown because the boat is too small.

 

  • It IS worth it to have a microwave, even a 600-700 watt one, because leftovers are so much more enjoyable without the extra pans to clean.

 

  • Listening to some of my favorite music can pull me out of a bad mood almost instantly.

 

  • Many port officials still seem genuinely surprised to see a woman listed as captain.

 

  • A harness and leash, as silly as it may look, is the best thing ever for a cruiser with a cat.

 

  • I can not get on board with the non-shaving thing.  Even if I was alone on a deserted island with no one else to see me, I would find something sharp and keep my legs smooth.

 

  • Matt thinks the davits are useless, and we would have been better off without them, exchanging the one solar panel that sits on top for a a wind generator.

 

  • I barely go through half the clothes I’ve packed.  And yet, I’m still happy I have every item I do.

 

  • Friends can help force you to get out and explore after you’ve been stuck in a rut of sitting around on your ass day after day.

 

  • No matter how many times I try, I can not seem to ‘equalize’ by plugging my nose and blowing out when I dive below 10 ft of water.

 

  • Ten days is really all I can handle out in the middle of nowhere.

 

  • It takes approximately nine months to become a master of the Tetris game that is your storage area.

 

  • I really really need to learn to cook.  Actual, from scratch, big girl meals.

 

  • I kid you not, one of the things I missed the most once we were out of the States was access to Pandora.  (I could not find any internet radio stations that worked in the countries we were in!)

 

  • If a chart says to seek local knowledge, which you do, but something still feels wrong?  Trust your gut and turn back around.

 

  • Cruising really does make you bipolar.  One day you’re up, one day you’re down.  One minute you’re ready to burn down your boat, and the next, you couldn’t imagine living a better lifestyle.

 

 

Important memories from our year cruising:

 

Leaving our port for the last time to sail out into the unknown.8.12.13 (2)

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Making lifelong friends along the way.

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8.12

Picking up a boat cat in Georgia.

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    Taking Serendipity into a new country for the first time.

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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. And if you want to try this out yourself, you can find a coleman scanoe for sale at Shoppok.

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

8.4.13 (15)

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.

8.3.13 (9)

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 impact doors – Impact Glass USA, 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!