Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Belize, December 2007

After many boat projects, we departed Monkey Bay Marina in the Rio Dulce on December 3 and motored down to Texan Bay at the eastern end of Lake Golfete for the night. We met Ron and Yen from Moonlight there -- they had left the day before us -- had an excellent enchilada dinner and good company. In the morning, Sherry drove Yen and Marlene down to Livingston in the big launch. What a spectacular ride that was: Sherry took us through a cut that was overflowing with lily pads all in bloom, beautiful trees and plants all around, and spectacular birds. When we exited the cut, we headed down the canyon enjoying the sights. We engaged Raul to expedite our checking out and then went to Gabys Restaurant for a great chicken lunch.

After spending a few more days at Texan Bay, we finally left on December 7, heading for Punta Gorda in Belize. We arrived around 11 a.m. to check into Belize, very efficiently and easily, we must add. We continued on to North Moho Cay for the night and enjoyed a very pleasant anchorage. We woke up to beautiful blue skies with fluffy clouds and decided to meander through some of the southern cays before heading north to Placencia, our next destination. Around noon, we thought we'd better get a move on to get to Placencia. The big fluffy clouds turned grey, the wind picked up, the squalls started -- one right after the other with heavy rainfall -- and now the wind was on our nose gusitng to 20 kts and more. In the midst of all this, our starboard motor overheated so we turned it off. Not able to make good headway, we tucked into a lagoon behind No Name Point and spent a rainy night at anchor, safely tucked in with mangroves on three sides. The rain continued in the morning, but subsided by noon. so after checking the starboard propeller and making sure the cooling water was flowing we started both motors without difficulty and got underway. We headed straight for Placencia, dropped anchor, and have been here ever since!

Placencia is a lovely town. Provisioning is very easy, there are several good restaurants, an excellent gelato store, nice gift shops, a sidewalk along the beach for walking or running, friendly people and lots of specialty stores peppered throughout the town. One spot that isn't missed by anyone is Tutti Fruiti, a store that makes incredibly wonderful gelato. We've discovered a really easy bread recipe in one of our cruiser cookbooks, so we're now baking our own bread (Marlene is, to be exact). There's nothing comparable to the smell of baking bread, even when you're out cruising! Also on the domestic front, we've become quite accustomed to doing a small load of laundry every other day (a small washing machine came with the boat) and hanging it out on lines across our cockpit. We've gotten quite used to having our clothes smelling so nice, and they come out less wrinkled than in a dryer.

Last Saturday night (December 16) we attended the 8th Annual Mistletoe Ball with several other cruisers. Hundreds of locals attended; dinner was included in our ticket price -- turkey with all the usual fixings -- and great live music for dancing on the sand in the balmy Caribbean night air. We stayed out til midnight, a rare event for us cruisers who are in bed by 9:30 most nights. Plans are underway for a Christmas dinner on the small key in the anchorage. At least 30 people are expected.

A fun thing that we've done lately is keeping in touch with friends Rob and Linda on Cat'n About via SSB radio. They're across the continent from us, now in Costa Rica on the Pacific side, and since we're on the Atlantic side it's interesting to compare weather and the towns provisions and resources. So far, both of us have good access to provisions, but their weather has been much better than ours. The Caribbean has been experiencing a series of fronts lately -- everyone says the weather improves in January.

Christmas is just a few days away -- so Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year to all our readers.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Copan, Honduras

Sunday, November 18, we left the boat aroud 8:15 a.m. to meet Yen and Ron from Moonlight at one of the bus stations in Fronteras. The bus we planned to be on leaves at 9 a.m. and goes all the way to the Honduras border near Copan. After several hours of traveling through the countryside, a few of them with us standing, we were quickly checked into Honduras and whisked away in a "collectivo," a van that holds 12-15 people, and driven to the B&B where we had reservations.

Casa de Cafe, the B&B, is a breath of fresh air -- designed and built by an ex-pat New Yorker who has created a reasonably priced classy place. When we say classy, it means that the rooms are tastefully decorated and immaculate, the bed is comfortable, the windows are screened, and the bathroom has hot and cold running water with a large roomy shower. Plus linens include wash cloths and hand towels. Now folks, these things are taken for granted up north, but down here in the developing nations south of the border, these amenities are luxuries and not often found at all at any price.

So onto the reason for the trip. Copan is an important Mayan archaeological site. Most cruisers visit Tikal while in Guatemala. Tikal is noted for its grandeur; it has acres of huge, majestic pyramids and ruins. Copan, on the other hand, is known for its artistry, its sculpture, and most of all for having the most hierglyphics found in any ancient Mayan site. We spent two days there, the first roaming around the ruins in the Archaeological Park and the second visiting the two museums. The museum adjacent to the Park is built to international standards. The facility is gorgeous, the exhibits are beautifully designed and lit, and the written descriptions easy to read. The museum in the town is much smaller, howeve it houses an impressive collection of ceramics and other relics. The Peabody at Harvard and the Getty in LA have participated in the interpretation and conservation of some of the hierglyphics. If you have a chance, visit the Copan and the Peabody websites to get a small glimpse.

Our journey back to the Rio Dulce wasn't as efficient as the outbound. We took a collectivo to the border, another collectivo to Chiquimula, a town an hour away, however this collectivo crammed in 18 or more people. In Chiquimula we got on a bus that was supposedly going to the Rio Dulce (in fact the bus driver promised it would), but when we got to Morales, about 45 minutes short of the Rio, we got booted off and put in yet another collectivo. At one point the van had 23 people in it and the driver drove like a bat out of hell. After we arrived back in Fronteras, we agreed that we'd never again ride in one of those &*$#@! things.

November 22

We enjoyed a traditional Thanksgiving dinner tonight with Ron and Yen at one of the marinas here in the Rio. Turkey was delicious, pumpkin pie, as well, and all the fixings made for a grand meal. A few more days of boat projects -- and hopefully we'll be on our way by December 1.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Rio Dulce, Guatemala, Fall 2007

We arrived in Guatemala City around 9:30 p.m. on October 15, and at 8:00 a.m. the next morning, were picked up by a private van driver and shared the van ride with another cruiser from Monkey Bay Marina. We were so glad to be back on Damiana about 6 hours later! She was in great shape, no mildew, outside had been washed by Efreim, the very capable helper at the marina.

A few days later we left the slip and took Damiana up to Abel's boatyard to have some bottom work done. Our rudders needed a minor repair, as did our keels which had been scraped by a submerged "whatever" in the ICW in May, causing the boat to do an "about face" in a split second. After the repairs, Abel and his crew put on 2 coats of primer and 2 coats of bottom paint. All the work took 8 days and we tried out 3 different hotels, the last one being the best. We ate breakfasts and dinners out at all the recommended eateries here in the Rio Dulce, and dinghied over to Monkey Bay at noon. Monkey Bay has a refrigerator where we kept bread and sandwich fixings along with yogurt and fruit. While there we played Mexican Train and Baja Rummy with several cruisers, helping to pass the time in a pleasant manner.

A few days after we were back in the water, Rob and Linda from Cat'n About came over to visit from Lake Atitlan where they had spent the summer volunteering at the hospital in Santiago. They were interested in checking out the Rio as a possible destination once they were back on their boat which was in El Salvador. We dinghied to all the marinas, ate out at a few places, played Baja Rummy (two 10,000 point games with each of the Joneses winning one -- we'll get 'em next time!).

The four of us traveled to Antigua for a few days, then to Santiago, Lake Atitlan. We really liked Antigua and hope one day to return for about a week to take Spanish lessons. Antigua is an ancient colonial city which served as the Spanish capitol of all of Central America. It is in a valley surrounded by volcanoes, one of which spewed plumes while we watched from the rooftop of our hotel -- very exciting! We were greatly impressed with the quality of the fabrics and artistic work found in the Mercado de Artisans and spent several hours admiring and shopping. The town is very walkable, all cobblestones though -- bring good walking shoes -- and there are numerous wonderful restaurants.

Lake Atitlan is breathtakingly beautiful, also surrounded by volcanoes, and not to be missed! A real high point was being able to visit with our good friend, Kathy, who has been volunteering at the hospital off and on for the past 2.5 years. Kathy took us on a walking tour of the village, and we were pleased to see how many locals warmly greeted her, running up and kissing and hugging her. As a nurse and nurse educator, she has made a valuable contribution to the well-being of many of the people living in Santiago. We spent only 2 nights there and then back to Antigua for another afternoon and night -- and then once again back to Damiana.

We've been back for just a few days and have had a chance to visit twice with Ron and Yen (Moonlight, Baja HaHa 2004) and are making plans to visit some of the Mayan ruins with them this coming week.

Happy Thanksgiving to all of our readers --- gobble gobble

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Summer 2007

Damiana has spent the summer in Guatemala -- and so far, so good -- no hurricanes have affected her.  Thankfully for us, Felix turned south and avoided the Rio Dulce.  He did enough damage, however, which is not good news.  We left her in good hands at Monkey Bay Marina so we could return to the States for family visits and work opportunities during the summer hurricane season.

This summer has been trying to say the least. We started off staying in a residence hotel in Oxnard where Roy was expecting to work for the entire summer.  There were two agencies involved, and in the end, his contract was canceled, effective 3 weeks later -- the hospital was going to close for several weeks for a mold removal problem.  This was unknown to us and to Roy's contact at the Locums agency at the time the contract was signed!

The hospital in Oroville, where we spent last summer, had an urgent need, so Roy flew up there to help out.  While there his brother, Jim, who had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in January, passed away.  I (Marlene) flew up to Seattle to be with Cam, Jim's wife,  and after several days flew down to rejoin Roy in Oxnard where he finished his obligation to the hospital.

In the meantime, we had arranged for Jellybean to be brought back to the LA area to be sold.  A delivery captain we met on the 2004 HaHa agreed to do the job and we asked Ray from Adios (friend in Mexico) to help out.  We thought we had emptied out Jellybean quite well in La Paz, however that was not the case.  Two carloads of stuff were taken to Minney's, a used boat gear store.  Then a complete cleaning and a few coats of varnish were taken care of before she looked good enough to sell.  We did all this stuff in a one-week window.

Ah, we finally had a breather and went to Vermont for a few weeks.  Roy mowed and trimmed trees; I only trimmed!  The high point in the Vermont trip was attending the annual family reunion where they bury a pot of beans in a hole in the ground (after a crib of wood has been set afire and drops into the hole), covered over and then retrieved the following afternoon.  Everyone brings potluck to go along with the beans -- the "beanhole" has been going on since the early '70s.  The following weekend there was a graveside service for Jim, and a few days later his ashes were buried.  This was a hard time for everyone.

We arrived back in California in time for Roy to return to Oroville where he is at the moment.  We'll be here until early October, then drive down to LA, gather all the items we'll take to Damiana, and fly to Guatemala on October 15.