24/11/2015/4:15 pm, Tortuga Marina, Rio Dulce, Guatemala
We arrived safely in Rio Dulce after the usual long bus ride (6 ½ hours this time) from Guatemala City to Rio Dulce. We dragged our bags across the street - with me muttering my usual "I am never travelling with this many bags again!" to meet smiling Manuel who was just arriving with a load of folks at Bruno's dinghy dock.
There is a lot to be said for arriving back "home" at a familiar place, however much we like the excitement of exploring new areas. We met up with several friends from past years and were delighted to find Madcap looking fabulous. Byron and his crew took excellent care of her. She was spotlessly clean inside and out with not a hint of mildew or mustiness.
There has been mucha lluvia lately (lots of rain! Lots and lots and lots of rain!) and the water levels are very high. The plank in this picture is usually a foot above water, and today the bottom is submerged. Some of the stores and docks in the area are afloat, and some of the villages where the local workers live are flooded, but we are doing well here at Tortugal.
I will write more another time - about the whole "transition thing" from northern "home life" to southern "boat life", about the less idyllic part of life on a boat: fridge not working, empty propane tanks, (meaning I could neither store cold food nor cook anything for several days), head (toilet bowl) filling with too much water, no water coming from the taps, dinghy losing air, damp clothing hanging from every hook on the boat. Suffice it to say, there is a clear adjustment period to this cruising business!
Jim and I are both in fix-it mode and we are gradually getting back into ship-shape! Life is very good. We are in no hurry to get anywhere. We have internet connection. We have a marina restaurant that provides delicious healthy meals. We have friends and fellow boaters to share the joys and frustrations. We know local professionals who help where our own skills fail us.
Now I have to go try pumping up that darn dinghy again, while Jim works with Seakist Chris on the fridge!
PS It's 29 C and 100% humidity! And the sun has emerged from the clouds!!
18/11/2015/11:34 pm, Madcap in Rio Dulce / crew in Guatemala City
Jim likes to find novel ways to make our annual trip south to meet Madcap wherever she happens to have spent the summer. This year it was via a weeklong road trip through Florida - and a quick trip over the border to Georgia.
We flew to Jacksonville and drove our rented fire-engine-red Ford Focus up to St Simon's Island for a rendezvous with Steve and Sandi (Yonder) before they flew off to Panama. After much note taking over delicious dinner and breakfast, an examination of their latest marine gadgets, and conversation about the state of the world, we departed the next morning for Amelia Island/Fernandina Beach.
We think our last visit there was in the spring of 2012 when we picked up our car to drive home after leaving Madcap for the first time in the Rio Dulce. We were happy to see that the folks at Tiger Point Marina still remembered us - and for good reasons we hope! Jackie has her office in the "shower building" now, and there are lots of boats in the yard - although not many we recognized. Baird (Romulus) is in his usual berth on the dock and we had a wonderful catch-up chat with him. I do love finding the "old salts" still in place and still full of stories.
And speaking of people still in place, the very best part about Amelia Island is that Dick and Tina Devoe are there! We lounged in their sunroom, walked on the beach, lunched on the patio at the club, danced to the big band sound of Crescendo Amelia at Walkers Landing on Veteran's Day, ate mouthwateringly delicious shrimp and penne at Arte's Pizza (Antonio is still making magic in the kitchen!), and curled up on their comfy couches for late night fingers of scotch - for some of us!
We remembered that we were with them on one other Veteran's day - when the band played the songs of each service, and those who served in them stood to be recognized. I don't know if we do that in Canada. I have never experienced it at home anyway. Do we have particular Army, Navy, Air Force (and several more in the USA) songs?
Next stop along the road: St Augustine. No time for sightseeing this trip because our destination was the Sailors' Exchange. Oh my! The Sailor's Exchange! I LOVE that place and I can't even pinpoint a particular reason except that roaming between its crowded shelves is like wandering through a marine treasure chest. Line and chain, new and used of all dimensions, and shackles and clamps, and blocks and chocs, and piles of teak and used boat parts of every description. We picked up some bits and pieces and discovered that we still had a credit there from some things we sold years ago so we were even happier!
With our treasures loaded into the car, we set off inland to Ocala to visit Christine and Art. We have seen them a little more frequently than other friends on this trip - but it is usually in Nova Scotia as they make their way to their summer home in Lake Annis. It was lovely to be on their home turf this time - and to have a visit with Christine's dad, Bill Crowell and his wife, Suzanne. We visited Silver River State Park for Ocali days - and experienced the old Florida days of sugar cane syrup making and blacksmithing and bluegrass music. It had a bit of the feel of our northern pioneer days, and yet a distinct southern atmosphere.
Next stop on our fast paced trip was Vero Beach where we spent some happy times on a couple of occasions on Madcap. This time we had a mix of emotions. We were delighted to discover that Mary Lou and Bob (Cygnus) were still there on their Bahamas-bound cruise and we met up with them and several of their friends at the Riverside café just under the bridge. On a sadder note, we had hoped to see Nancy and Jim Aadland, with whom we spent many a happy day in the Bahamas. But Jim's experience with cancer came to an end shortly before we got there and Nancy took him to be buried with his family in South Dakota. We got to meet their big orange cat, Snap, though - and that was a plus!
Fort Lauderdale was our last stop of the road trip and we made good use of our time there. Jim had a massage to work the kinks out of his back and shoulders while I strolled the shopping area of Las Olas Boulevard. We met up for dinner at American Social where Happy Hour prices are in effect 4-7 - and the sharable plates of ribs and shrimp salad are sooooo good. We checked out Cooley's Landing where we spent a week or so a few years back and it is still as lovely a place as ever to spend a few days.
And then the week was over! We used the American Airlines curbside check-in at Miami airport, dropped off the rental car and then relaxed for an hour before we boarded our flight to Guatemala City. All went smoothly and after a short snooze, we landed, made a quick passage through customs and immigration and exited to find Elmer holding a "James Bissell" sign and ready to take us to Villa Toscana for the night. It continues to be our favourite first night in Guatemala abode.
This year we made a change though, and instead of going up to Antigua for a few days, we moved to a hotel in Zone 10 for our second night. We have never stayed over in the city, but the Radisson hotel gave us a taste of the high life (but still more affordable than a comparable hotel in Canada). The picture is from our hotel room window - some pretty fancy architecture here. We bought SIM chips for our unlocked phones, browsed through high end shops, dined on true pub-style Shepherd's Pie at Shakespeare's Pub almost across the street and called it a night.
And tomorrow we are off on the 9 am Litegua bus to Rio Dulce. It has been a great journey so far!
28/10/2015/8:29 pm, crew in Halifax / Madcap in Rio Dulce
Our weather has definitely become chillier!
The leaves are turning red and yellow and orange, and we bundle up in warm jackets and scarves when we go walking. And we've been doing a fair bit of walking to work off all the Thanksgiving treats we devoured over the last couple of weeks. (We don't limit ourselves to one or two days of indulging!)
These colourful folks are lounging in the courtyard at South End Florist, just down the street.
I'll attempt again to get some pictures in here to show you some of the lovely scenery we've found on our hikes, and the Halifax waterfront after the visitors have left. Many cruise ships have come and gone - sometimes 3 and 4 a day, disgorging as many as 4000 passengers for a day of exploration - but the last couple of days have been quiet ones and the last ship of the season comes next week.
These colourful chairs are usually filled.
And the "wave" almost always has children scrambling up the slippery surface and sliding back down again - or huddled underneath sharing secrets.
The stands with tasty treats like BeaverTails - deep fried rounds of dough topped with butter and cinnamon, or fish and chips from the Battered Fish are shuttered for the winter season.
And it won't be long before the floating docks are hauled out of the water.
We hiked the first loop of the Bluff trail on the weekend. It's a gorgeous trail and because of the loops, hikers can take anywhere from 3 hours to 30 hours depending on how far they go. The leaves are past their prime, but there was still wonderful contrast between red leaves and granite rocks.
And oh! Those rocks! As in many places along the coastline of Nova Scotia, it is easy to see the terrain left from receding glaciers thousands of years ago - barren rock surfaces, huge boulders that look as if they have been simply dropped in place, and ones like this - floating on a cluster of little stones.
I love the way tenacious trees grow toward the sky from tiny pockets of fertile soil - sometimes stretching their roots around boulders and sometimes emerging from narrow crevices. This one looks just as if it is embracing the rock!
Our family has become supporters of the Cumberland County Hospice Society, and we went to Amherst on the day this sign indicating the future site of the hospice was unveiled. I can remember riding around this field on the hay wagon - a few decades ago! We are all hopeful that funds can be raised to make this the first free-standing hospice in Nova Scotia.
We sat down over lunch with Jim and Jeannie (Estelle) and I scribbled down notes and suggestions as fast as I could, while Jim marked anchorages and shoals on his charts. The "pack this" piles are growing in our bedroom and we're gradually emptying the fridge - sure signs of our departure! Now if those oak trees would just start dropping the leaves in our back yard, I could start raking and be a little ahead of the game on fall cleanup. Otherwise, before we know it, we will be doing boat cleanup in the Rio Dulce, and a major Spring cleanup back here!