21/01/2015/7:02 pm, Buenavista Bay, Rio Dulce, Guatemala
While it felt good to get in the water and be at anchor in Shell Bay in "downtown Fronteras", it feels much better to be on Casey's dock down river in lovely little Cayo Quemado, and absolutely fantastic to be at anchor in Buenavista Bay - aka Gringo bay, aka Jennifer's Bay!
One of the finest things that has changed since we were last down here is nando and his boat loaded with produce, bread, eggs and chicken. He makes the rounds of these little communities on Tuesdays and it sure makes grocery shopping easier. He stocks a wide range of produce as well as chicken and eggs. For the princely sum of 133Q (or about $16.00 Cdn) yesterday, I bought 2 pounds of potatoes, a pound of carrots, a pound of plum tomatoes, 4 big beets, a bunch of onions, 4 apples, 2 avocados, 5 bananas, a huge papaya, 3 oranges, a big zucchini, half a dozen eggs and 2 pounds of chicken legs.
After his first visit to us last week, I cooked the whole chicken I bought, along with some carrots, onions and potatoes into the best chicken stew ever. No preservatives or chemicals in either chicken and veggies and they all tasted just like they should. What flavour!
We've been visiting with old friends too. It was a delight to visit with our dear friend, Jennifer, on her flower filled porch with Dog (pronounced deeohgee) curled up beside me. The skin of a fer de lance snake dries on the wall behind us, and Canadian pennies cover a new horned cow skull hanging nearby. Martine came by while we were there and we were able to catch up on her recent trip to Cote d'Ivoire where her husband Andre has been involved in establishing a new gravel operation. Martine and Andre spent close to 40 years there before leaving to go sailing and eventually settling in Rio Dulce. From the sounds of her stories, that's a place I can pass up right now.
Keith the plumber is living aboard his boat at Casey's dock and we have had great fun listening to his stories - and he is in fine form this year! He installed a drinking water faucet in the kitchen, makes sure there is enough water in the tank for wonderful hot showers, and showed us a whole other side to his skill when he made a killer pasta dish one night - it should be his signature meal! Martin and Karen arrived from England at their home in Buenavista Bay and came over to Casey's for a visit. Karen has a brand new state of the art knee and is excited about being able to walk and bicycle and do all the things they love to do here. Bea and Wolfgang have moved into their new house around the corner, and Doris and Stan are still in their house next to Martin's. We haven't been over to see Sarah and Tim's new house but it sure looks pretty as we pass through the little canal next to it on our way to Burnt Key Marina.
Jennifer, Bea and I had a lovely yoga practice in Annie's shala in Jennifer's garden - it was really good but oh Annie, I miss you! - and Doris, Bea, Jim and I went for a nice long walk up through the finca yesterday. (That's the one where we take a lancha - Doris's this time - along the shoreline of El Gofete, up the creek, tie up to a tree, climb the muddy bank and half an hour after starting out, we go for a walk!) Rumour is that the finca has been sold and the new owner will be planting oil palm trees. A big new road has been cut through one section already. It will surely change things for the folks of Que Brada Seca - that little village of scattered thatch houses with chickens and pigs and lots of children that can be found way back there past the finca - and for those of us who call it our little piece of paradise for walks.
And we've had a couple of delicious meals over at Burnt Key Marina in Texan Bay. The roof was on when we last saw the new construction last spring, and it is wonderful to see the finished product now. The thatch roof rises high in the air, keeping the air beautifully cool below. Shelves are stocked with books for trading and borrowing, a hammock and a comfy chair or two are there for relaxing, and there is even a bit of a wifi connection. Like all internet connections down river, it is limited and not exactly reliable, but it is a tenuous thread to the outside world.
Tom the sailmaker repaired two of our sails this summer so we stopped by his loft to say thanks and to buy some new line for sheets on the yankee sail. (His price is several Quetzales cheaper than in Fronteras.)
So after a full week of work and play, including one glorious star filled night in Buenavista Bay, we have motored up to town again for a stop at the bank, a movie at Mar marine, a better internet connection, massages from Blanca at Tortugal Marina, and a visit to the Dispensia (grocery store) and the Backpackers store for the things Nando doesn't carry. We'll go back down the river on Thursday to do some more visiting, enjoy the peacefulness and wait for weather to head up to Belize.
21/01/2015/6:59 pm, Cayo Quemado, Rio Dulce, Guatemala
We've worked steadily on the TO DO list since we got to Casey's dock last Tuesday. First off was a re-do of some of the wires and hoses connected to our new Raritan macerating toilet that had pretty much monopolized the space in the locker behind the head. The new plumbing still takes more space than I would like, but I can live with it now - the towels and laundry supplies and toilet paper and paper towels will fit in a new configuration. I've pared down some of the extras I used to keep on hand and because we are not expecting company this year, the extra linens and towels could get buried under our berth. I soaked lines in buckets of water with a dose of fabric softener and restrung them - davit lines for hoisting the dinghy and the outboard motor, furling lines for the head sails, sheets for the mainsail.
Jim spent the better part of Wednesday (in the rain) with his head in the starboard cockpit locker, disconnecting our old batteries. He spent a long time making diagrams of what wires went where, and how the new batteries should be linked, and Wednesday was the day to make it happen. Unfortunately it was pouring rain and our bimini and dodger (cockpit coverings) leak like sieves this year. Fortunately, we have a lovely big Department of Justice umbrella on board - a left over from some conference I think - so the retired Assistant Deputy Attorney General/newly minted electrician could work in comfort! This picture shows the man at work! I used to encourage him to write an "ADAG - Unplugged" article and this would have been a great pic to go with it!
With the wires disconnected, Che (Casey's right hand man) lugged the old batteries out of there, put the new ones in, and built a box to secure them in rolling seas. Then it was Jim's turn to hook them all back up. I spent part of the afternoon in the forward berth knitting and listening to podcasts. When the air turned slightly blue and the rain stopped, I went for a walk, and by the time I got back he had everything working a charm! Let me tell you - I am really impressed!! These new batteries are AGM golf cart batteries - a starter battery and 4 others hooked in series parallel. These are more powerful than our last ones, do not need topping up with distilled water, and do not release gases that set our propane alarm off - all pluses in my book. I know there are some of you whose eyes will glaze over, and others who might be really interested in such things, and that you will all applaud my co-captain's wonderful newly applied skills!
Work continued on varnishing and general boat care when the sun shone. Che got boosted up the mast to adjust and tighten the wind indicator, Bilo removed a plexiglass covering from our lovely butterfly hatches and re-varnished the wood, Jim and I bent on the sails, Jim pored through the lockers on his side of the boat, sorting and reorganizing his tools and spares. He replaced all the fuel and water filters and changed the engine oil and installed the new regulator for the wind generator. I did laundry, hung it on the line and actually got it dry in about 24 hours - with a couple of extra rainwater rinses. I spliced a new length of nylon rode to our anchor chain, cleaned our rarely used cockpit enclosure panels and went through the whole boat interior with vinegar and water to freshen everything up. I used to say that we could both do all the jobs on the boat, but that isn't really true. We can both sail it and both navigate, but Jim's expertise in and management of engine and electronics are all his own. I take care of things sail, line and rope related, and we pretty much split the household chores as we do at home.
The next post will let you know some of the other things we've been up to - it is not all work and no play in this neighbourhood!
12/01/2015/7:37 pm, Shell Bay, Rio Dulce, Guatemala
After a few days of getting adjusted to the pace of things in the river, after another few days of getting over our frustration about the "beginning of the season" chores to get Madcap ready to go sailing, after becoming adjusted to a near constant state of dampness, we are noticing a change.
It started as we began to get things working on the boat, took a leap when we launched, and really became noticeable on our second night at anchor here in Shell Bay (so named because of the Shell Gas Dock, I presume.) As we sat in the cockpit at dusk with the noise of trucks gearing down to go over the big bridge, with brakes squealing as they descended the other side, we remembered our fascination with this little part of Central America. That bridge handles all the road traffic moving from south to north or north to south along this Caribbean coast. Every truck carrying goods from the Peten to the city crosses it. Every bus from the city to Flores and Tikal crosses it. Every collectivo (mini van carrying anywhere from 12 - 24 passengers) carrying workers and travellers to and from Puerto Morales crosses it. Yes, it is noisy. Besides being a thoroughfare, it is a social and recreational spot. I have never seen a bridge used as a meeting place, but especially on the weekends, food vendors set up their stands on both sides of the road at centre span. Tuk-tuks and cars park all along the sides, narrowing the traffic to 1 lane. Sometimes the Bungy Jumpers are there too and we watch people make that death defying leap over the railing, but we haven't seen that yet this year.
This little bay is ringed with marinas and boat yards - the big ones, RAM and MAR and Nana Juana, and a half dozen smaller ones with an assortment of large motor yachts, sport fishing boats, sailboats ranging from 20 ft to 50 ft and a wide range of runabouts. A half dozen of us are anchored out in the middle. Lanchas (open fiberglass boats with outboard motors on their sterns zoom back and forth to the marinas and pull in for fuel. Some are small, 14 - 16 footers, and some are great long things 24-26 feet. Some are loaded with local families, some with tourists, some with fishermen and some with workers at the marinas. That night when it all came together for us, I saw a small boat ghost by in the reflection of lights from the gas dock. The neon lights shone brightly enough to illuminate the figure of a fisherman standing in the bow and casting his big circular net into the water.
We have risked life and limb to go shopping in the little tiendas and produce stands that line the street in town while cattle trucks, buses, tuk-tuks and motorbikes roar by inches from our toes. We've been meeting up with friends; we checked out the wonderful thin, thin thin crust pizza from the newly reopened Sun Dog Café; we've seen Gone Girl and Guardians of the Galaxy at Mar Marine movie nights (where you have dinner or a drink and watch it on the big TV over the bar); we've had massages in the tree house at Tortugal Marina from Blanca - the best masseuse in the business - anywhere.
Tomorrow we head down river to Cayo Quemado where we will tie up to Casey's dock to finish the getting ready - including installation of our new batteries - and then we'll anchor in Jennifer's Bay to swing with the breeze and jump into the water for swims, and visit with our friends, and life will be quiet and the boats will be mostly dug out canoes, and there are no trucks because there are no roads.
But for now, we are deep into Appreciation of what IS and letting the Irritation of what ISN'T wash away. Maybe that rain is good for something after all!