This morning we were up with the sun, only to find out that most of the other boats in the bay had already gotten out before us. I swear, I didn’t even think I was sleeping that hard, but I heard no engines running or anchors being weighed. Our only hope is they don’t get to the agent’s office in Livingston before us and clog up his day with paperwork, forcing our departure back until late afternoon. It didn’t matter to me though. Once again, we were moving. And the best part of the Rio was yet to come. The rocky cliffs, the immobilizing thick jungle, and being deposited into the Amatique Bay, leading out the the Gulf of Honduras and Caribbean Sea. We were about to be set free once more.
Reaching the town of Livingston about half past eight in the morning, we dropped the anchor off to the side from the flow of traffic and put the dinghy down to get ourselves to shore. None of the other boats from last nights anchorage were resting in the same place, which means they must had checked out previously, going back up the river for the night and heading back down to catch this mornings high tide. We had contemplated that as well, but since we want to arrive at our destination tomorrow morning, a mid afternoon low tide departure will suit us just fine. We tentatively powered the dinghy up toward shore, scanning the horizon between all the shouting children that were pointing for a spot to go, until we saw the older Rastafarian man that had kept an eye on our dink when we first arrived here, and mentally reminded ourselves to save at least $5 before we spent the rest of our Guatemalan cash so we could tip him when we left.
Rounding the somewhat familiar streets, we walked up the steps to the agent’s office and found out that even though it wasn’t quite 9 am yet, the door was open. Raul, the agent we were used to working with, wasn’t there, but in his seat was a younger man of around 15-20. Maybe his son or a nephew? Just as friendly and outgoing as Raul though, this new guy mentioned Raul would be in shortly and that he could get our paperwork started in the meantime. Going over the fees, he told us what we could expect to pay to check out, and that we should be back in an hour to collect our zarpe. Other than that, we were free to roam the town.
I had been able to sneak my laptop in my bag with me, along with all the necessary boat papers that had to make their way in, and after walking through a few of the backstreets and realizing we didn’t have a need (or want really) for any of the goodies in the thrift shops on the main street, we decided to stop for breakfast at a brightly blue colored restaurant, taking seats in the shade on a covered patio. Proud of myself for speaking only in Spanish, I was able to order a coffee along with some delicious sounding coconut bread and jam I keep hearing about, and procure the password to their wifi signal. While I was doing last minute Facebook updates and assuring both our parents that they we may be out of internet range for the next week and they should not alert the authorities about us if we’re not heard from in the next two days, Matt did some last checks on his email and the weather.
Before we knew it, our hour was up and we were back in Raul’s office, shaking his hand and getting our zarpe, the whole process already completed for us. Man I love dealing with an agent. One stop shopping. What we did realize after checking out though, is that it cost us a good deal less than we thought it would, and we were still left with 300 Q, or about $40, in our pockets. I looked at the pretty sundresses billowing in the wind while resting on mannequins, but Matt just shook his head no. I already have too many dresses, and they never get worn. True. So instead we hiked up the hill to the bank and exchanged our Guatemalan cash for US and began our descent back to the dinghy.
Getting to Serendipity once more it was still about three hours before our slack tide, but the waters looked so calm that we didn’t think going out against a small opposing current would be a big deal. The dinghy was quickly hauled up on deck and secured and before we knew it we were motoring out through the bar, following our previous tracks from our entrance back in June, and my heart in my throat until we hit steady depths of 12 feet again, although we only saw under 7 ft once or twice. The winds were on our nose just enough that we were able to motorsail with the mainsail up, sacrificing just a little speed so that we could point high enough that we didn’t run ashore on the point of land in Guatemala that hooks out at the end of Amatique Bay.
For hours we cruised on like this until just an hour before the sunset when we were able to point more north, prepping ourselves to sneak into the inner channel between mainland Belize and it’s outlying cays. We found a coordinate that allowed us to take open waters for a great portion of the southern point, and then duck in with ample safety once we reach it in the dark. Matt took a nap to prepare himself for the first night shift, and when he woke up I heated the chili I had prepared the night before. Seas were mostly calm and I didn’t even get sick below deck which I was very thankful for.
I have to say, our first day back out, and everything was perfect. Oh right, except for that one issue. The issue of a bolt shearing off on the engine, one of three that holds in the new alternator bracket we just had fabricated. And what’s that? Oh yeah, we’re in the middle of a channel. In the dark. With the wind still on our nose. Having a running engine is kind of an important thing. Matt shut the whole thing off for a few moments as we bobbed around, losing all forward momentum, making sure the issue didn’t look like it was going to get worse. We could survive with 2 out of three bolts, but if either of the others went, we would be fu@%ed. Thinking quick, he took some wire and wound the bracket on tighter, but now the rest of the passage will consist of 30 minute engine checks to make sure it’s all still running smoothly. Dear god, do not let anything happen until after my night shift. I don’t think I could handle sailing through this channel while left to my own devices right now.
Thank the lord, this day has finally come. Not that I don’t absolutely love Guatemala, a country that will now always be a part of me, but I’m happy to once and for all be making my way out of her. Which has been no easy feat, since she had decided to dig her claws deep into us and make it very hard to go. Not only were we suffering from a bout of bad weather windows, but a few days ago when we threw on the engine to power our batteries, our alternator bracket snapped in half. It didn’t even take two minutes before we had the part off and were in our dinghy, seeking out Luis’ help since our new welding friend Thomas is off on holiday and we needed to find the next best guy. Bringing us to town and guiding us into a tuk-tuk, we rambled out the main road of Fronteras until we were on the outskirts of town and up to a little house that held the local welder. Between a few conversations, two days, and $18 later, we had a new bracket in our hands and a weather window to get.the.hell.out.
There’s a slack tide tomorrow just after noon, and we’d like to position ourselves to be in Livingston and checked out of the country in time to catch it. From there it will be somewhere between 60 to 100 miles to our first anchorage in the outer cays of Belize, we haven’t quite decided on one yet. The big job for today though, is to move ourselves from our comfortable little home of Fronteras, which we’ve gotten to know and love so much, down the river about 12 miles where we’ll be anchoring overnight in a safe little bay that’s popular among cruisers.
The was a mixture of feelings flowing today as we upped anchor from in front of our old marina. Excitement to be moving again and seeing new things, and heartache to be leaving a place that’s grown so special in our hearts.
The trip down the river was incredibly relaxing and just reinforced the traveling lifestyle once more, an afternoon sun casting golden rays on the surrounding landscape. Once we were in the safety and wide spaces of the Golfete, I felt safe that Matt wouldn’t crash the boat into anything (damn his short attention span for steering!) I took a seat up near the bow to fully immerse myself in the tranquility around me and find asylum from the dirty looks Matt was giving me from adding Kraken to my Pepsi at two o’clock in the afternoon. Hey, we’re finally traveling again, this is a cause for celebration.
After two and a half hours of motoring, we set our anchor down in the little bay with four other cruisers that looked like they had the same plan we did, to escape first thing in the morning. Even though the setting wasn’t quite secluded, it was undoubtedly gorgeous, and we couldn’t help but pull our sport a seats out on deck to enjoy the view along with a good book until the sun went down. Finally the early evening chill and swarms of bugs drove us indoors, and now I start my batch of chili so that we’ll have a pre-made dinner to eat on passage tomorrow.
Although we didn’t move far today, moving at all has made a world of difference from what we’ve been used to for so long now. The excitement, the anticipation, the unknown. Dare I say, I’m actually eager to get back out there and begin cruising again.
You know how our Thanksgiving was spent? Sitting in the boat. Wait, no. We went to the Dispensa to buy Pepsi and evaporated milk so that I could make pie. While we were wandering through the streets in town and ducking around the masses of people on the streets and cluttering the grocery aisles Matt commented, “Wow, there’s still a lot of people out and a lot of business open for it being a holiday”. When I reminded him that this was not an area that celebrated buckled shoe’d pilgrims sitting down with feather headdressed native americans, he just kind of cocked his head to the side and muttered “Oh yeah…”. Not that it’s hard to see why he’d think that though, every holiday that we’d normally celebrate back at home has at least one marina or more celebrating it here on the Rio.
It’s not that we didn’t have invitations to go out, a few of the marinas were hosting dinners, and a few friends had invited us out to these, it’s just that….we didn’t really want to. We were content to sit around Serendipity and do nothing. Each day we’ve had a few friends from the marina swing by in their dinghies as we’re enjoying ourselves in the cockpit, reading books and generally relaxing, wanting to know when we’ll be leaving or if the weather has changed at all. This time we think we might actually have an out, coming up on Monday, the 2nd. Wow, I still can’t even believe that we’ll be here into December. I remember when we weren’t even sure if we’d be around for Halloween because we wanted to get on the move again as soon as possible. Things here are just so easy and familiar that it makes it hard to leave. I can see how people get sucked in and stay for years. With a little more convincing from friends in the area, it probably wouldn’t take much to turn us into those people either.
For our big Thanksgiving feast tonight we’ll be enjoying leftover chili from a recipe that Elmari emailed to me and hopefully finishing it with some pumpkin pie. Of which I’ve actually had a tin of the filling since last year’s Canadian Thanksgiving, so I hope there’s no surprises when I open it. All of this enjoyed with a few episodes of How I Met Your Mother, and I’ll be a happy girl. It may not be the crazy boat crawl we had last year with our four boat armada in St. Mary’s Georgia, but I think my liver will really thank me for this easy going night tomorrow. Last year we were not on the best of terms on Black Friday. Those folks on Hideaway, they know how to make a mean cocktail. (Yes Ryan, I’m talking about you and your Painkillers. I miss them!!)
A lunch of Not Top Ramen. No, this was Bottom Ramen.
There hasn’t been much going on here on the ‘Dip since we’ve been on anchor. Ever since our trip on Lago Izabal on Sunday, we’ve just been hanging around the boat and enjoying the fact that we’re at anchor again, falling back into a relaxed pace of life. All projects have basically stopped and we’ve been filling our days with reading and evenings with a cold beer in hand as we watch spectacular sunsets. Ok, maybe that last part is just me. I still can never get Matt to enjoy a beer, but he sits there all the same, enjoying the views with a Pepsi in his hand instead.
The only semi-interesting thing that’s been going on here is that ever since our watermaker went through it’s flush cycle after our first night at anchor, I’ve gone into complete water conservation mode. Matt says we shouldn’t run the watermaker while in the river since the water here is contaminated enough that it would clog the filter and cause too many chances to destroy the membrane. Since our forecast has now changed and we truly have no idea when we’ll get back out into the great big blue, I’ve been trying to preserve every necessary drop.
Before, we had the luxury to take full showers in the cockpit, using the water for pre, mid, and final rinse. Now, I’m enforcing a decree that all bathing must be done with river water, and yes you can use fresh water for a final rinse, but by god it better take less than 20 seconds. Before, all dishes were done in the sink where a hefty amount of water was applied to the pre-rise, getting all those sticky or dried on bits of food removed from the plate. (We no longer have a hot water heater, read back to this post to find out why) Now, all dishes, utensils, and anything else that needs a cleaning is dragged out on deck where I drag one of our 10 gallon buckets through the water and do a pre-wash with last week’s sponge. Then I can bring the dishes back to the sink, suds them up, and give them a few dribbles of fresh water.
Even with all this water hoarding, I was afraid we’d run out before we could get back into the Gulf of Honduras to replenish ourselves. So whenever it’s possible now, we’ve turned to catching rain water. We honestly have no kind of fancy set up for this. We just wait for the rain to start pouring down, open one of our deck based tank filling areas, and set up a dam just behind it with a towel so that water can no longer rush from the bow to the stern, but instead builds up flows into the opening. I don’t think we’ve been catching enough to sustain ourselves, but it’s enough that I don’t feel bad about sneaking a few cups of water a day for coffee.
It’s funny, back in the Bahamas I used to chuckle at my friend Stephanie for the way she would conserve water, doing all the steps I’ve listed above, and even a few more, since there’s not a water maker onboard their boat and they don’t enjoy constantly lugging water. Now, I can completely relate. I feel you Steph, it is not easy trying to manage a boat without a constant water supply coming in!
So that has been our week thus far. Time for me to sign out though, the sun is just starting to go down, and I think a Bravah and a seat in the cockpit are calling my name.
If you thought that we had broken away from the Rio and were now smoothly sailing up the Gulf of Honduras towards Belize, sadly, you would be wrong. Checking into the weather forecast we found out there’s some strong northers on their way out their mid week. While there would still be enough time for us to leave tomorrow and get to an anchorage by Tuesday, we haven’t found one that looks like it has good enough shelter for what’s about to blow though, and we don’t want to chance it. I’m sure there’s things closer to the mainland, I’ve heard Placencia is good, but we’re trying to get through Belize by only skirting through the outer islands. The winds look like they’re going to be on and off for a few days, so most likely we’ll be stuck in the Rio for another week. We’ve got a pretty good set-up here though, and I could think of worse places to be.
Just because we’re still in the Rio doesn’t mean we can’t do any sailing. We have been able to break away from the constraints of a med-mooring, one of the reasons we never really wanted to take the boat in and out of the slip before. And what happens to be just around the corner from us? Gorgeous Lago Izabal. Miles and miles of a freshwater lake surrounded by rolling green hills and mountains. We’ve taken the dinghy out here a few times before just to tool around, but never the big boat. When we woke up this morning the sun was out, winds were blowing around 5-10 knots down the river, and we figured why not? Winds are usually 5-10 knots higher on the lake than on the river, so it should have been a perfect day for a sail. Plus honestly, after a five month hiatus from raising sails and handling lines, I could probably use a little refresher.
Trying to be the bad-asses we were back in the Bahamas last year, we raised the main at anchor and I caught enough wind while tacking back and forth that we were able to raise the anchor under sail power along. Ok, and the help of a windlass. Turning the bow towards the Castillo de San Felipe, a large fort that guards the entrance to the lake, we sailed along at a breakneck 1 knot. At first it was fine. This was a pleasure cruise after all, no need to hurry. It didn’t become so fun 10 minutes later when the wind shifted to fall pretty much on our nose and we came to a standstill. In fact, I think the current from the river was actually starting to push us backwards. So much for a non engine day. We threw that bad boy on and motored our way into the lake.
We had barely gotten inside, and sure enough, the wind jumped up from a frail 5 knots up to 13. The covers were plucked off the winches in the cockpit and we prepared to let out the headsail. Everything smoothly came back to me and I was actually able to succeed in a few area that Matt failed; “No, the other clockwise”. Together we made a few other mistakes that a person who hasn’t been on the water for months might experience. We forgot to clear everything off the deck and lost one of our dock lines overboard when we heeled over too far, which wasn’t retrievable, and our extendable scrub brush, which was. And guess who performed the man overboard maneuvering to get it back? Moi. It’s almost like we’ve switched bodies and I’m acting as Matt normally would, and he’s acting as me. Kind of scary.
Once all was situated again we put the autopilot on and just sat back to relax. There was one other sailboat on the water, they had entered about 20 minutes before us, and we seemed to be right on their tail, tacking at all the points they tacked at, seemingly chasing them down to the average observer. Finally at one point we stayed on a tack longer than they did, almost running over a few mooring balls placed in front of what I assume was a resort, and won the race. Since honestly, when is it not a race if there are two boats on the water. The other boat seemed to take it as a cue to concede to their defeat and turn around to head back toward the entrance to the river.
“You said we never had to do this again!!”
Now that we weren’t busy trying to retrieve items from the water or show up other center console boats on the lake, we decided that this would be the perfect time to try out the new headsail we’d purchased online and brought back to Guatemala from the States. This new sail is the equivalent of a 60 or 65 in size and is rigged to hank on to an inner forestay that Matt has rigged out of Amsteel. We purchased it since we seem to run into nothing but 25-30 knot winds on all of our passages here in the Caribbean (even though we never leave with a Passage Weather forecast of over 20), and we’re sick of the improper sail trim we get from a partially furled headsail. Again, this is not something I want to try out for the first time in choppy seas or building winds, so a quiet little sail on the lago was an ideal place for a jab at it.
My job was to pull the lines for the current headsail out of all the cars and blocks, and then run them forward to Matt so he could bundle them and tie them out of the way. Then I brought out a separate set of lines we keep in one of our lazaretts to have Matt attach them to the clew of the sail where I could then run them through the cars and blocks, and back to the cockpit. Once that part was finished I asked if he needed help hanking the new sail on and raising it from a halyard on the foredeck, but I was just told to handle the lines in the cockpit, sheeting it in once it was raised. The whole process went off without a hitch and I was quite proud of us. Not that this could have gone very wrong in the mostly glass calm lake we were in, but at least we didn’t eff up any of the simple steps like forgetting to run the lines through the blocks.
Content with ourselves, but also realizing the winter sun was already making it’s decent in the sky, we turned Serendipity back towards the entrance of the Rio. By this point all wind had just about died out and even though we were now sailing downwind, our speed was back to a dismal 1.5 knots. Since we weren’t moving along very quickly we thought it would be a great opportunity to squeeze in our showers/baths for the day. Admittedly, these would be our first boat showers since crossing to Rio Dulce from Utila Honduras. Matt splashed in the water first, and I scolded that he’d better still hang onto the ladder dangling off the back, since 1.5 knots was still probably faster than he could swim and I didn’t feel like going back for him. He bobbed around for a few minutes, soaped up, washed off, and then it was my turn to go.
Jumping in the water, I quickly made the lunge forward to grab the ladder, and let myself trail behind the boat for a moment, letting my hair fully absorb the fresh water. Submerging my head all the way under the water for a few seconds, I went to pull myself forward to the ladder so I could get out and shampoo, but used too much strength and smashed my nose right into one of the wooden steps. The pain seared, and for a moment I thought I had broken it. Not exactly a thought I was relishing, even if it was only for reasons of vanity. Stepping up the ladder I made Matt check my nose to make sure it wasn’t bleeding from the inside, but it seemed to be clear. Whew. Mini catastrophe avoided. After taking a minute to suds up my hair though, Matt pointed out I did have a nice little gash going near the bridge of my nose. That I could live with.
The rest of our ride back down the lake was uneventful, although for a few minutes Matt had seemed to have disappeared into thin air, and I finally looked up and saw him perched on one of the spreaders. He’s had a thing lately of randomly scaling up there, I just prefer when he tells me first, especially if we’re underway. Before we could get to the entrance of the river we went through the process of taking the new headsail down, perfectly rolling it back up on deck (score!), and running the lines for the original headsail back to the cockpit once more. Coming up to the castillo we turned the engine on once more and motored back to our spot just in front of the marina. It was a very uneventful day out on the water for us, but I think that is exactly what I needed before facing the Caribbean Sea again.
As I mentioned in our last post, we are so happy to be out at anchor again, but not all of it is because of fresh breezes and better views of the sunset. Nope, there’s one more reason I’d left out. We’re both quite happy not to have to see a certain neighbor at the marina any longer, someone we haven’t been on good terms with for awhile. But to get to this point, first I have to go back and start at the beginning.
When Matt and I first arrived at our marina in late June, we were placed in one of the last slips (I mean, I guess we did hang out in the Caribbean about three weeks into hurricane season), but thankfully still in a primo place right in front of the ranchito, a favorite hang out place of ours equipped with shade, picnic tables, with a couple of good conservatory heaters (conservatory heater reviews on www.konservatory.co.uk are helpful) and a hammock, as well as being snuggled between two boats who’s owners had left for the season. It was quiet and peaceful, and we liked it that way.
While being given a quick rundown on how everything worked our first or second day there, one of the marina employees showed us the power boxes that each coupling of boats shares, each boat has their own side, and each power box sits above two water spickets, one for fresh drinking water, and one for river water to do washdowns. The two boats next to each other share these spickets, but it wasn’t a problem for us to constantly attach or detach our hose since we were the only ones there at the time. It was also mentioned to us, for reasons that we couldn’t remember for a long time, that the power outlets were switched between ourselves and our neighbor. He needed to use our side, and if we needed power we should use his. All the billing would be figured out at the end of each month. Sure, no problem. For the first five weeks we spent at the marina before leaving for some land travels through South America, life at the marina was p-e-r-f-e-c-t. All of that changed as soon as we got back.
Getting back to the marina after our six week leave, we found that the boat that had originally been next to us, our power box buddy, was gone and there was a new boat in it’s place. To protect this person (or possibly just ourselves) I’ve changed his name and boat name. Let’s call him…Lon, and we’ll call his boat…Infinity. We first met Lon our second day back at the marina and desperately needed to fill our water tanks after having left them empty during our absence. His hose was attached to the fresh water spicket and we wanted to get his permission, or at least give him a heads up, before we unattached his hose to put our own on. After knocking on the hull he came out of his boat, immediately talkative, and immediately friendly. He explained that he had a Y attachment which would allow both of us to keep our hoses connected to the fresh water at all times. Before we could even go about filling our tank he ran into his boat to grab this and attached it right away so there would be no worries in the future. How nice, right?
Over our next week and a half back we saw plenty of Lon. He was usually in the ranchito, as we were, talking to the marina employees as they went about caring for the boats, and keeping them refreshed with cold 2 liters of Coke that he kept out in a cooler for them. The days were spent with him telling us all about his previous travels, and showing us photos of his grandchildren, as well as going into lengthy conversations about his family. After a few days though, we started trying to avoid him a bit. Sure, he seemed nice enough, but there were two things we noticed about him and his conversations. One was that they never ended. I’m all for sharing a friendly talk with other people that are around, but there’s a time and a place, and all day every day is not it. It became hard to get any work done outside of the boat because this man would talk and talk, even when you ended the conversation and tried to concentrate on what you were doing. Forget trying to write blog posts out there too, one of my favorite pastimes our first few weeks there.
The second thing is that most of his conversations were beginning to fall on the bitter side. Although he’d done a few nice actions that we’d seen, everything out of his mouth was a complaint of something another person had done. His food wasn’t prepared properly at the restaurant, he felt he was getting charged too much for work he was getting done (Seriously? Labor in Guatemala is dirt cheap.), ect. After a week and a half of this, when Lon had to leave for a two week stay in Guate City for (planned) medical reasons, we were actually kind of relieved. We could go back to the peace and quiet, and personal space, that we’d sorely been missing.
The day that Lon came back from the city, it was a rainy and surprisingly chilly day, and Matt and I were sitting in the ranchito catching up with our friends Luki and Elmari. Lon came walking up the dock from his boat and up to Matt and I, and let us know that while he was away, our cat Georgie had um, used his boat as a litter box. We were mortified. I quickly ran over to his boat with him, apologizing profusely. Leading me into his cockpit he displayed a rug on the floor where, sure enough, there were about three different spots of cat poop slowly drying into the fibers. Wanting to right this, I grabbed the rug and made my way back to the docks to give it a thorough cleaning. As I was stepping off his boat he made an offhand comment of “I know it wasn’t my cat, because my cat is trained”. We think the reason Georgie may have gone to the bathroom is because there is another cat living aboard there and the smells attracted her, which is in no way an excuse, the incident was still all our fault, but it seemed like a weird thing for him to say. After an hour of really good scrubbing to his desicrated rug, I couldn’t find him around, so I left it in the ranchito to dry.
We didn’t see Lon for a day or two after that, not that we were trying to avoid him, although I think the whole ‘cat pooing in his cockpit’ was the start to some bad vibes between all of us. Then one night, just as the sun was going down and the two of us had retired to the safety of our salon for the evening to avoid the ever present mosquitos, we heard Lon calling our name. Or Matt’s name actually since he never preferred to address me on his own. No reason to have woman handle anything when there’s a man around. Below deck I was only able to catch Matt’s part of the conversation, but what I found out a few moments later was that Lon was trying to start an argument about our power cord. Remember how I mentioned earlier that when we got to the marina they told us we needed to switch sides with our neighbor? Well, not that we use shore power, we don’t even have the cord or capabilities of that anymore, but sometimes when we’re running low and we happen to have the option avialiable to us, we hook an extension cord up and run it into the boat to charge things like our computers or the tv. Which, we had been doing for the past few weeks since the precious shade from our ranchito was also now shading our solar panels.
Apparently Lon didn’t get the memo about the switched sides. All he saw was that we were using ‘his’ side to charge our boat, and assumed that we were being sneaky little thieves that were trying to have him charged for our power. So not the case. Matt tried to calmly and politely tell Lon this, although Lon was not having any of it. He continued to call us thieves and said that we were trying to rip him off, making sure that he was being charged the hundreds of dollars of power we must be using in his name. After a couple more times of trying to politely explain the situation, Matt couldn’t handle the name calling anymore. He kind of exploded and went on to tell Lon that we were only doing what we were told, and went on to tell Lon that he was was a lousy neighbor, playing his music on high volume all the time, loud enough for the half of the marina to hear. And this, is where the war started.
Being a non-confrontational person myself, my first thoughts were to ignore Lon at all costs for the next few days until the whole thing blew over. When I walked onto the docks the next morning to use the restroom, I did not look at him and did not say anything as I saw him fiddling around by our shared power box. When I came back a few minutes later, I saw that the Y hose valve which he so graciously had put on a few weeks before was gone, and the end of our hose was now floating in the river. Not cool. Still, I didn’t make a big deal of it. I strode back onto our boat, picked up the end of the hose out of the water, and coiled it back on board. If he wanted to play dirty, fine. We’d take the high road by ignoring it and not succumbing to his childish passive aggressive behavior. Apparently he wasn’t done with us though. No, he wanted us to know just how pissed off he was, and that we’d never get away with ‘stealing power’ from him again.
A day or two after the hose incident, I kept myself busy in the cabin from that point on on, with less chance of running into Lon, while Matt continued boat projects which kept him constantly running on and off of Serendipity. And one of the times he was passing by Infinity to get to the marina’s workshop, who was basically blocking his path on the dock?, but Lon, oiling his shotgun and staring Matt down. Yes, you read that right. This guy had an illegal weapon in the country, and was now using it to terrorize us. Matt tried not to give Lon a second look as he continuously passed by him, showing him that these scare tactics were not going to work on us.
For a few more days after this we all went back to a routine of completely ignoring each other, which suited me just fine. I’d be out on the docks doing bucket laundry, and not feel the need to look up and smile and wave at Lon as he passed by. I became braver and began taking my computer out to one of the picnic tables at the ranchito when I knew Lon would be out there, knowing most likely that he would not say anything to me. In a way it was kind of nice. We finally had our peace and quiet back. I though the issue was somewhat resolved, and we could all coexist among each other while pretending the other did not exist. This lasted until we needed to fill our fresh water tank. Remember now that Lon had taken a monopoly on the fresh water spicket, keeping his hose constantly attached.
Taking our hose out of the cockpit once more, we wound it around wooden pylons and out to the dock until we had enough slack that it could reach the spicket. The plan was for Matt to use a set of channel locks to undo Lon’s hose (they had to be super tight, otherwise the hoses leaked), and then I would hold Lon’s hose out of the water while Matt attached ours and we went about filling our water tanks. We weren’t trying to be dirty or underhanded about it in anyway, our only hope was to do it quietly and without confrontation. Unfortunately, that was not the case. We set out to do this project after we saw Lon leave his boat, on his way to the showers. Just about as he had gotten far enough down the dock to be out of our sight, he turned around and saw us. From 300 hundred feet away we could hear his yells. “Don’t your dare touch my things, you dirty little thieves!!”. Matt, already extremely perturbed by Lon’s behavior but definitley not acting in his best form yelled back, “Quit being such an asshole, Lon!”. Ohhhh boy. If this man could have exploded at the sound of someone calling him an asshole, he would have.
Running down the dock toward us he continued yelling at top volume to anyone within ear range. “Did you hear him? He just called me an asshole! This guy called me an asshole!” Trying to step in and be a little assertive myself I replied, “Lon, you’re not being fair”. “Fair?”, he cried back, “Fair? Don’t even talk to me about fair, you thieves!!” Getting right up in our faces now, he rammed into Matt, causing Matt to drop Lon’s now un-attched hose into the water. He yelled at us, again, for stealing his power, and now claimed that we were stealing his water. From a shared spicket. We tried to explain that, hello, this is shared water, but he wasn’t even listening by this time. He only wanted to hear the sound of his own voice. At this point we were beyond trying to deal with him, and went about ignoring him as we finished attaching our hose and climbed on Serendipity to finish the task of filling her water tanks.
After we had been our our boat for a minute or two and not responding to any of his calls or insults he ended up storming off. When our water tanks were filled up we un-attached our hose from the spicket, and would have put Lon’s back on, except now it was sitting in the river. Because of Lon. About 30 minutes later we heard someone outside our boat calling our name, so we went on deck to check it out. Two of the marina employees were standing there, apparently Lon had made such a stink at the front desk that they were sent out to handle it. Going through the whole story, we explained how the issues started and how we’d gotten to the point that we were now at. Of course, the power source came into question. When we tried to explain that we had been told upon arrival to use the outlet on the opposite side of our box, we couldn’t remember the exact reason why, only that we were told to do so. Matt thought it was because our side was not working and since the owner of the original boat on the other side was not there, we could then use theirs. I was under the impression that both sides just generally switched, but couldn’t remember why. We also couldn’t remember who had told us this, it being our first day here, and now five months ago.
The marina employees we were now talking to had no recollection of us being told to switch, and since we couldn’t tell them who had told us to do it in the first place, there was no one for them to outright question on the situation. Trying to get the whole thing settled once and for all, we said that we’d gladly pay anything that Lon was charged because of us. In fact, we’d pay double if it made him happy. The marina agreed to this (only what we used, not double) and said they’d reset the boxes and from now on we should stick to our own side. They also said they could bring out a Y valve that belonged to the marina to fix the water spicket issue. We were completely fine with this and also apologized profusely to them for having to get involved at all. How sad was it that three grownups could not resolve it on their own?
From that point on, now that all issues with Lon should have been fully settled (oh, and the marina informed us that our 110 volt charge we used on his side for three weeks came to 40 Q, or about $5.10), I found no reason to act like he even existed. My conscience was now clear. Before, if he approached me, I might have felt obliged to try and be civil to him so we could work out the above issues. Now if there was any reason he might feel the need to get my attention, I would have had no qualms with not making any kind of contact back. He was dead to me, and you can’t very well have a conversation with a ghosts. Friends of ours that were privy to the whole situation (that had also never met Lon, lucky for them) said we should take the high road, bake him a cake, and try to start fresh or at least put all this unpleasantness behind us, but I just couldn’t do that. Not with him. Because in his mind this would have made him victorious. He would not have seen it as us taking the higher road, he would have seen it as us trying to make up for a guilty conscience. Of which I did not have.
Luckily we knew our remaining time at the marina was limited, and both parties gladly stayed out of each other’s way. Then something spectacular happened our last week at the marina. Lon was moved back to his old spot, and the boat that was originally there when we first arrived was placed back. That owner was coming back and needed that spot for it’s easy access onto one of the few finger docks. We were happy just to have even more space put between us and Lon, but after this new boat arrived back, something even better happened. Our new (old) neighbor came by to introduce himself and ask us a little favor. The shore power doesn’t work on his side for some unique connection he had, and if it’s not too much trouble, would we mind switching sides on the power box since our side was compatible? Yup, we had been right on target about that little issue all along. Turns out someone just didn’t want to listen to us. I have to admit, I felt a great triumph when Lon walked by a few days later and noticed our neighbor plugged into our side of the power box, absolutely proving him wrong.
I’m pretty sure he expected us to fill our water tanks with river water, the other side was his.
So much trouble, from one little power outlet.
Now this is how cruising is supposed to be. Don’t like your neighbor? Pack up and leave.
We are finally at anchor again, and it feels SOOOO good. We may not have made it far, just a few hundred feet. If fact, we’re anchored in that pretty little bay that you may have seen from photos of our dock. Just a small little area between the marina and another house.
We think we have a weather window to leave on Monday to begin our way up to Belize and eventually Mexico. You might be asking why we’ve kicked ourselves out of the marina four days before our departure, but part of the reason is that we still need to make it 20 miles down the river before we get to Livingston where we’ll be checking out of the country. Since we want to be there first thing in the morning to allow plenty of time for these check our procedures and hopefully still catch high tide just around noon to get past the (sand) bar leading to the bay, we’re going to take one day getting down to a little spot just 7 miles up from Livingston called Texan Bay. We’re still debating if we want to leave for there tomorrow and spend the weekend there, or continue to hang out just across from the marina where we have easy access to town (Texan Bay is in the middle of nowhere) and…a wifi signal that we can still pick up from the marina. I think that might settle the case right there. I kind of love having internet access. Plus, I’m not ready to end my internet dates with my good friends Jackie and Ron just yet.
This morning we filled our water tanks one last time, gave the ‘Dip a quick washdown, and scouted the area to make sure we weren’t leaving anything behind. Like Georgie, although I’m sure she’d love to permanently set up shop in the ranchito. Just after lunch we had a few of the marina employees help us with the lines that are attached to shared posts with our neighbors, and just like that, we were out after five months of sitting still.
As soon as the anchor was down, there was a whole new feeling on the boat. With the hatches open, light breezes washed through the cabin. The afternoon sun danced across the teak in the salon as we gently swayed side to side. Things just felt….right again. Like living on a boat is supposed to feel. After dragging our cushions on deck for some fresh air and sun (because they still haven’t fully dried yet), we just relaxed. Sat on deck, soaked in the views, and enjoyed the day. I don’t even know the last time we’ve done that. I didn’t even know how much I missed it. Let me just tell you though, it’ is a fantastic feeling.
Well, off to sneak back in and take our last hot showers until who knows when.
I think Georgie’s enjoying the freedom that being at anchor brings as well.
As I’ve mentioned, Matt has a million different projects going on right now to spruce up Serendipity and get her ready for cruising. Most of them have been for more along the lines of comfort features while at anchor, a sliding board that covers the stove for more counter space; reconfiguring our dining table to give more room to move around the salon; things like that. But after doing much research online, we’ve taken on a new project that will improve the actual performance of Serendipity. Or, possibly save us from disaster. However you want to look at it.
Our plans this coming summer are to take the ‘Dip from St. Martin in the Eastern Caribbean over to the Mediterranean, which includes crossing approximately 3,200 nautical miles of the Atlantic Ocean. We’re hoping that this will be a very uneventful crossing for us, but you know what they say, ‘Hope for the best, plan for the worst’.
As you’ve probably been able to guess, Matt has spent many a night here in the Rio while we have internet access, scouring to see what are the biggest issues boats run into on ocean crossings, and making sure that we can do our best to prevent them. What he ended up finding, is that the most common cause for distress while passaging is rudder failure. For my non-nautical friends, the rudder is a vertically hinged plate of metal, fiberglass, or wood, placed at the stern of the ship and is used to steer the boat through the water. Now I don’t know about you, but I consider steering a pretty frickin’ important necessity to get from Point A to Point B, and that is probably one of the last things I want to fail on me out in the middle of an ocean.
Throughout the summer and into the fall we toyed with the idea of building an emergency rudder, considered the condition of our current rudder, and what options we would have if it did fail on us out at sea without having a backup. Don’t get me wrong, there are still little things you can do to control steering a little bit without a rudder, such as trailing a drogue on one side of the boat to get it to turn that direction, or attaching boards to a spinnaker pole and using that as a replacement rudder. It’s actually part of the reason we bought ours (with the added bonus that it could be used as an emergency mast should we ever be de-masted). We were very back and forth on the issue if we wanted to put in the time and money, and take away precious storage space, to build and have mountings for a second, albeit, smaller rudder. As if we were waiting for a sign to be sent to us, Matt came across this article of a relatively new Beneteau Oceanis 50 that was traveling between islands in the Eastern Caribbean this summer when their rudder sheared right off. They ended up putting in a distress call and were towed through 6-8 ft seas for nearly 30 hours until they arrived on the island of Martinique. If it could happen to them, it could happen to anyone. That cemented our decision. We wanted an emergency rudder. We’d both be much happier having it and hopefully never having to use it, than falling into a situation where we needed it and were only able to rely on the other backups listed above.
Since we’ve made this decision, we’ve been in talks with an American named Thomas that runs a welding shop in the Rio. With his help, and some very detailed instructions from Matt, he’s spent the past few weeks making the mountings for the rudder and was able to bring all the pieces over this afternoon to install them. The parts we had Thomas make/weld for us are: three stainless steel mounts to be attached to the transom; a rudder mount, and a gudgeon. Here’s a rough sketch Matt made of how it will all fit on the boat.
We’ve set it up so that the three transom mounts will be permanent and always visible, but the rudder mount, gudgeon, and rudder will be stored away. Should our current rudder ever shear off (let’s hope not), we’d assemble the rudder mount to the transom mounts, slip in the the new rudder, and hopefully be able to maintain decent steerage. Not enough to be a permanent fix if the original rudder was gone, but enough to get us to land and someplace we can do repairs.
After Thomas brought all of the pieces over, all we can say is that we are thrilled with his work and we’re so happy that we were able to find him here in the Rio. Thanks for introducing us to him Luis! Just yet another advantage of our little dinner club.
This is a two part project for us, Matt and I will be making the rudder ourselves once we get to a place where we can get the supplies necessary, probably Mexico or the US. The rudder will be 48″ long, 12″ wide, and made from foam, fiberglass, and epoxy. Consider phase one checked off the list though!
Lining up and installing the transom mounts.
Placing it all together.
Phase one complete.
The gudgeon, which will eventually be attached to the emergency rudder.
Wherever we go, it seems like good friends are never far away. Although we had to say goodbye to Luki and Elmari on Thursday, which was incredibly sad although we do plan on meeting up with them again in Belize or Mexico, we happened to be sticking around the Rio long enough from another visit from our friend Nacho. With one catch. All the girls were back in Guate City, keeping busy with things like dates with long distance boyfriends or riding competitions, so it was just going to be Nacho coming. Along with his dad, and friends; Jean Louis and Nico. So it was essentially to be a guys weekend. And Jessica. Which is totally fine, since I essentially consider myself one of the guys anyway.
After doing a little bit of communication by means of VHF radio this morning, Nacho sent his lancha to our marina this morning to have us brought out to their river home. When we arrived, Hula Girl was once again being stocked up with soda and beer, ready to start another Saturday on the water. We were also introduced to Nacho’s father, Javier, who thankfully spoke English, because Matt and I wondered if this might turn into a day of charades, something we would have been fine with, but this made things a little easier. Nico and Jean Louis were out duck hunting for the day and were to meet back up with us at Nico’s river house that evening for dinner, so it would just be a small group out on the boat.
Before we knew it the five of us were rushing down the river and into the Golfete, Matt and I getting way too comfortable with these 20 knots speeds, and I’m sure when we take Serendipity down this path shortly it will feel like we’re moving at a standstill. Just like the last time we were taking ourselves into the bay, we made a stop in Livingston for a few provisions and I was given a tip that some of the shops here sell the local beer, Bravah, for 2Q, or $0.25 a can. Did you hear that Matt? We are doing our beer stocking here before we leave!! As soon as the deck hand, Randy, arrived back with the cold cans of beer, I popped one open and watched as a few local kids shyly wandered over asking for spare change. Randy handed them whatever leftover money he had and they excitedly scampered off to buy themselves a cold Coke.
Crossing the bar at Livingston, I noticed how we were able to just gun it across the shoals, while other cruisers (like us) who were eager to depart, had to wait for the high tide to come in so they could get at least six feet under their keel. The bay was once again calm and I kept my fingers crossed that it would stay that way for the next week or so, since we’re hoping to make our own departure within that time. Hula Girl found her familiar spot and dropped hook in five feet of brackish salinated water. We barely had time to get ourselves secure before a lancha was headed our way with lunch. Which, let me explain on this.
Since Annica and Maria and Camila were all back in Guatemala City, there had been no one to prepare a tasty little spread for us to enjoy on the boat. Nacho had made a few calls while we were temporarily provisioning in Livingston to have some fresh lobster brought out to Hula Girl, apparently there is a (lobster) farm near the point where we’d anchored the boat. As the kid came out to us we spied a large bucket filled to the brim with lobster inside. Nacho began talking and negotiating with the boy, a scale was hung to weigh the lobster, and before we knew it we had 12 glistening lobsters in our possession. Nacho turned to Matt and I to mention the boy would be back shortly with some tortillas and fried yucca, and that “I’m sorry none of the women were here to prepare us a tasty lunch, so we will just have to survive”. On lobster.
Since Matt and I are somewhat versed in cooking lobster, after all the ones we caught in the Bahamas, we offered to clean and prepare them. First we ripped off the antennas to stick up the lobster’s…you know, maybe I’ll just skip how we cleaned them. Anyway, by the time we had five of them prepared and ready to go on the grill, slathered with a little oil, our tortillas and fried yucca had been shuttled out to us and we were ready to get this lunch going. After the lobsters had gone on the grill and turned a brilliant red we each made ourselves a plate and dug in without any care or even need for utensils. ‘Surviving’ has never tasted so good.
Lunch was followed by a relaxing swim, partially to ward off the early afternoon heat, and partially to cleanse our sticky, lobster laden fingers. When it was time to raise hook we headed back toward the slowly wilting sun, dragging fishing poles for fun, and getting ready to rally ourselves for the evening ahead.
And that’s just one of the small ones.
Lobster, get ready to meet your maker. And then get ready to meet the grill.
‘Let’s put another langosta on the barbie!’
Part II: Punta Monos
While speeding back up the Rio and watching the sun slip behind the last few hazy clouds of the day, we had a strange phenomenon, something we hadn’t experienced since in Bogota. We got chilly. That’s right, this little town of seemingly endless heat and humidity had actually cooled down enough after the sun had gone down to bring a chill through the air. We honestly never thought we’d see the day where goosebumps would appear on our skin while we were in the Rio Dulce.
Wrapped up in a towel to fight off the cold, we brought Hula Girl to dock in front of Nico’s river house which was just at the end of the Golfete. Him and Jean-Louis were still out duck hunting, but we were just dropping off the remaining lobsters so they could be used for dinner if the duck hunt wasn’t successful. From the text messages we had been let in on earlier, so far it wasn’t.
Pulling into Nacho’s house just as the moon was rising, we were told his lancha would bring us back to the marina to give us time to rest and clean up before dinner that evening. I had just enough time to get a shower and a cup of coffee in before getting a call back on the VHF, notifying us that the lancha was back on it’s way to pick us up. As soon as we arrived back at his place, Nacho was ready to go (Javier was staying behind), and he traded places with the lancha’s driver as we flew toward Nico’s place. (Funny side note, all of the guys had literally flown in from the city for the weekend. Nacho and Javier on a rented plane, and Jean-Louis and Nico on his helicopter. Not a bad life.)
As we pulled up in front of the home we noticed the ‘big’ boat was back, which meant that Nico and Jean-Louis were there now as well. It appeared that both men had just gotten back and were in the process of showering and making themselves presentable after spending 12 hours cooped up in duck blinds. It turns out that later in the afternoon, they had been successful. We busied ourselves by the bar behind the open air seating area and as Nacho was taking orders I had a sudden nostelgia for our days on Rode Trip while nestled in the Ragged Islands of the Bahamas and Stephanie would prepare us gin and tonics as a pre-dinner cocktail. I never really drank them before that, and I certainly haven’t had one since then, but for some reason I really wanted one at that moment. Nacho scanned the bar and came across a few kinds of gin, but we ended up pulling out the Hendricks, something that I guess is pretty top shelf although I would have no idea since I’m not normally a gin drinker.
As soon as each of us had a nice cold G&T in our hands we went to sit on the couches just in time for Jean-Louis to come in. I already knew him a little bit from my girls weekend in there when Nacho and Annica joined us we enjoyed both amazing wine and views from Jean-Louis’s home in Antigua. I introduced him and Matt and let them talk about sailing since Jean-Louis also has a history in it, while I helped myself to some crackers on the table. I was probably mid face-stuff when Nico, our host wandered in. Another set of introductions was made and while we complimented him on what we had seen of the house so far, we ask for a tour of the rest of it. The area we had been sitting in had the kitchen, dining room, a seating area, and things like bathrooms and pantries. All of it was open air (ok, not the bathrooms or the pantry) and all of it was beautiful. Next we were taken up the stairs which housed one more open air sitting area and two bedrooms.
Scaling the stairs with my G&T in hand I thought it was strange that my hand had become wet, I didn’t remember sloshing my drink on the way up. I couldn’t have been too tipsy, it was my first drink of the night after all. When we stepped onto the landing at the top Nico looked up and made a comment about a few bats that had nested themselves there, complaining that they had taken a tinkle, pointing to a wet spot on the floor that I had just passed by. Oh, so that wasn’t gin on my hand. It was bat piss. I laughed it off, but Nico promptly led me into one of the bedrooms ensuites so I could wash my hands. He then asked if I wanted a fresh G&T since we no longer knew how ‘fresh’ mine was anymore, but I just waved him off. A little bat pee in my drink? That’s fine, I can handle it.
Next we left the main living area for the private ones. Apparently Jean-Louis is such a frequent guest here at Punta Monos that he has his own cabin here, a spacious room with a four poster bed and an ensuite bathroom. His cabin is even named Monkey Cabin, very fitting seeing as he owns the Monoloco (crazy monkey) chain of restaurants in Guatemala City and Antigua. Nico showed us his cabin which was a very similar layout, only much bigger. Then we were taken on the walkway to a sunning platform and bar area on the water, and finally to the monkey viewing area hidden deep in the trees. I guess howler monkeys are very popular in this area, and Nico had set up an area to watch them in the morning. It’s how the place also got it’s name, Monkey Point, and I was pretty determined to force my welcome there until at least 4 am when the monkeys came out.
Nacho looks pretty comfortable behind that bar. I think he’s done this before.
I can be ready to move in on Tuesday!!
Back down in the main living area we hung out by the grill and swung around in hammock like chairs and freshening our G&Ts while watching Nico start dinner, placing the remaining lobsters on the grill after they had been cleaned and seasoned. When the table was set and we sat ourselves to dinner I couldn’t help but look at the lobster and steak and salad on my plate and realized that I have never eaten as well as I have in Guatemala. Then again, I guess it’s all about who you know. And we seem to know the right people.
Dinner was nothing short of divine and I tried to savor every bite on my plate. I did happen to make the mistake of getting up mid meal to use the water closet and came back to find my plate had been cleared away. Before I even had the chance to try the lobster brains, something that Javier had been preaching about all day as the best part of the lobster. I guess I’ll just have to save that for next time.
Nico manning the grill.
A little surf and turf for dinner.
Because of the incredibly early morning that he and Jean-Louis had, Nico excused himself shortly after dinner to retire to his cabin for the rest of the night. Matt and I gave him our most sincere thanks for inviting us into his home for the evening. It’s sad that we had only met him just before we’re leaving the country, but we were happy just to have the opportunity. If we had left with Skebenga as originally intended, we wouldn’t have even been here tonight.
The remaining four of us hung around the dinner table, finishing off the bottle of wine that was served with dinner and continued to get inebriated on top shelf gin. While Matt and Nacho sat on one side of the table talking about, I’m not sure what exactly, I got into a conversation with Jean-Louis about things I had found out about him after the first time we met by doing a little internet stalking. Like the fact that he started a company called Urban Reclamation that employs Guatemalans and reuses vinyl from billboards and turn it into useful items like totes, messenger bags, and even tee shirts. It turns out he had just made a stop at the factory the day before and had a few business card holders that he gave me. They’re so cool looking and our boat cards are going to look awesome in there. I only wish the items were available to buy online because I’ve already drooling over the unique messenger bags and girl purses but can’t get my hands on one. Do you hear me Jean-Louis, you need to sell these items online! People will buy them!!
Before we knew it the clock had gone well past midnight and I’m pretty sure we all were ‘fully drunk’. A new quote from one of my friends that sounds 100 times better when slightly slurred and with a Spanish accent. As still determined as I was to stay and see the monkeys, Nacho and Matt and I piled back into the lancha to make our ways home for the night. Although I’m sad that we didn’t leave with Skebenga since we have some last minute things to finish up in the Rio and we’ll be traveling on our own again instead of an amazing buddy boat group, I’m fully glad that we stayed long enough to spend this day with Nacho, Javier, Jean-Louis and Nico. Fully happy, and…fully drunk.
I could start this post by saying ‘I can’t believe we’ve been in the Rio Dulce for over four months and I still haven’t taken photos of the town to show you what it looks like!’ No, there is a reason I have waited so long to do this. Being a gringo with a camera glued to your face makes you somewhat of a target here. Not in the kind of way that someone’s going to flash the gun in their holster and mutter something like “We don’t take kindly to your type around here”, but it does leave an impression on the people going about their every day lives here that, to you, they are something to speculate. These same people that we buy our produce from or smile and say hi to on our trips to the market because they’re there day in and day out. Oh no, I did not want to be labeled as that person in their minds. The one who is blood thirsty to capture anything non conventional of Northern America or Europe.
But at the same time, I couldn’t very well leave Rio Dulce without some documentation that I’d spent a third of a year there. This thought was not lost on me alone. Luki and Elmari also wanted to get out and record the ins and outs of this town, but luckily for them, they’ll be gone in two days. Making this probably their last trip into town, it is now of no consequence to them if the last memory the man that rings up their tomatoes has of them, is of them pointing a camera in his face while he goes about his work. Taking photos of people who have not outwardly asked to have their picture taken can sometimes be an awkward thing, but as Elmari stated, “Today, I am not going to let that bother me. If I see a good photo, I will take it. I will be ruthless”. Which almost sounded idiosyncratic coming out of her mouth, since ruthless is the last adjective that would pop into your mind while thinking of her, but I understood where she was coming from. ‘For months I was the resident. Today, I am the tourist.’ So out we went, armed, and with cameras glued to our faces.