22/11/2012/8:57 am, Rio Dulce
Two good things: Jim was at the helm this time, and we were among helpful people. Have you guessed how our first foray off the dock went?
That's right! We weren't more than 5 minutes around the corner from Casey's dock when we hit that one little bit of high ground on the way out of the bay. The depth sounder never did show the shallow depth, but the fact that we quit moving told the tale - that and the grass all around us. It's probably no more than a 10 metre diameter and we were stuck smack in the middle of it. Fortunately the thing that always happens, happened again. A local fellow in his lancha sped toward us from the community and when he couldn't pull us off, he called some buddies from the other shore. With our halyard attached to one lancha to tip us over slightly, and lines attached to two others, and even two fellows in the water with paddles, trying to push us, they helped us back off. "Muchos gracias, senors. Please accept a few quetzales for your help". With smiles and waves, we hustled on out of there, and an hour and a half after we left the dock, we were anchored a half mile away in our favourite spot. We figured it wouldn't be long before the story made its way back to Casey, but when we visited him the next afternoon, he hadn't yet heard it. We were somewhat gratified to see him throw his head back with a roar of laughter and tell us that a certain other boat we know has hit that patch twice!
We all had another good laugh when he told us that the power had been off all day. When he questioned the fuel guy who is also in charge of power, he was told "Hoy no. Es domingo." It won't be fixed today - it's Sunday! (Well of course - the guys don't work on Sunday - not here anyway.)
One of the joys of being at anchor here is being able to jump overboard for a swim whenever we want. We were in and out of the 34 degree C water many times over the 3 days we stayed - and managed to clean off the fresh water garden on the waterline while we were in there. We dinghied down to check out the Tower House that Casey has for sale, I spent another happy hour in Annie's Yoga Shala, exchanged a Healing Touch treatment for some flags, and we ended our stay with Happy Hour on Jennifer's big flower and art-filled porch. Two new boats anchored in the bay - David with guests Robert and Bobbie, Pauline and Gordon (Expectations) and Evelyn and Richard (German flagged Aluna) - and it was a pleasure to meet them all. Having once been a cruiser, Jennifer rose to the occasion of welcoming an ever-increasing crowd with great aplomb.
A 7 am departure upriver saw us anchored off Bruno's by 9:30 and ready for some reprovisioning. We are learning who carries what and where the best prices are, so after a stop at the BAM ATM to replenish our supply of quetzales (Q2000 per day limit), we visited Ingrid's tienda across the street from the steps to Bruno's, the big grocery store with armed security men and lockers to hold your backpacks while you shop (we hear it is owned by Wal-Mart), the meat man near Bruno's and the nut man on the dock. When we climbed the steps to Hector's loft to ask about having a rainwater catchment system and a sunshade made, he called a buddy with better English and we made an appointment for him to see the boat on Saturday to take some measurements. Some transactions can be handled with broken Spanish and English, but it sure helps to have a translator for the technical things. A stop at Bruno's to people watch and sip on something cold (cervasa, agua or liquados) is almost de rigeur, so we happily sipped and chatted and laughed as we met up with Jennifer and Bob, Gaston and Helene (from Texan Bay).
Our arrival at El Tortugal went smoothly, thank goodness. It is always a challenge to come into one of those slips with posts to fling the stern lines over, and a dock that we have to try not to hit with our bow. Boats that back well and have sterns that are convenient to get on and off frequently back in, but it is easier to climb over Madcap's bowsprit than to duck under and over the dinghy davits; plus we go forward in a much more reliable direction than we reverse. (I will digress here for uno momento to say how happy we were to read Fatty Goodlander's column in Cruising World, where he commented on how badly his boat Wild Card moves in reverse. Although we know by now that backing up a boat without fancy gadgets has more to do with the design of the boat than the captain's skill, it is always nice to have it confirmed by a seasoned sailor.) Fortunately Manuel was on the dock and another of the dockhands was in the dinghy to grab our lines and put them over the posts. Bear and Beppi (Bees Knees) - our neighbouring boat - also helped out and although it took a fair bit of fiddling, we ended up in the centre of a spiderweb of lines keeping us off the boats on each side, and with any luck, also far enough off the dock to keep from hitting it, but close enough to avoid a gigantic leap from bow to dock.
And so Madcap is back on a dock and we are on another 6 hour exhilarating bus ride to Guatemala City to have dinner with our Halifax neighbour, Yvette, and her relative, Mario. We'll explore the city a wee bit in the morning, and head to the airport at noon to meet Sue and Terry.
20/11/2012/10:16 pm, El Tortugal Marina, Rio Dulce
We enjoyed a wonderful 3 nights at anchor in Gringo Bay. There are stories to tell but no time to write them yet! I added some new pics to the Guatemala album in the gallery, and will write on the bus on the way to Guatemala City tomorrow. Seats 8 and 9 this time, so no watching the driver!! We'll meet our Halifax neighbour, Yvette, and our new Guatemala City friend Mario for dinner tomorrow night and on Thursday, we'll welcome Sue and Terry at the airport and whisk them off to La Antigua for a night. Back to the Rio on Friday.
17/11/2012/2:05 pm, Casey's Dock, Cayo Quemado, Rio Dulce
Last spring, I lamented the fact that we had to hurry away without spending time getting to know our neighbours. We're doing better at that this fall.
We spend our days here on Casey's dock indulging in a mix of boat work and lethargy. When it's really hot, we watch the birds and take an hour over coffee in the mornings. We take another hour at lunch with our liquados - smoothies whirred up in the Magic Bullet with papaya and pineapple and yogurt and local honey. When it's a little cooler, we scrub cockpit cushions and freshen up lockers and sort through magazines and books left from last year and work away gradually at cleaning and waxing the hull. We installed the new SSB grounding coil (and it works a charm) and put the BBQ back on the rail (oops - a piece has gone missing and we'll need to track down a new one.) We cleaned out the anchor locker and changed the flag lines and the one for the radar reflector, and continue to find a myriad of other little things that need to be attended to.
As for the evenings - why we spend them with the neighbours. Right now, that mostly means Casey. He comes over for a beer and or dinner - often some pollo or cerdo (chicken or pork) with rice and whatever vegetables I happen to have. This is a man of a million stories. He has been around the world, and has now established himself in this little bay, building, surveying and restoring boats (and a tower house and a couple of gorgeous kayaks). He has a million more ideas and we are avid listeners to the stories and the dreams. It is so good to have the time for this.
We went over to La Laguna, along with Jennifer and Casey the other night for dinner. We heard about Jennifer last year but she was away during the time we were here. I don't know her last name - she is just called Jennifer by folks up and down the river. She rents moorings in her little bay, and takes local children to the clinic in Puerto Morales, and paints and gardens and creates all sorts of beautiful artwork - she's been here for 20 years, and pretty much knows everyone, and we like her a lot. Along with these two neighbours, we met Sandy who cooks delicious food and Dave who tends bar with his own particular flair, and Annie who teaches and practices yoga.
I joined Jennifer at Annie's beautiful shala on Friday for yoga, and felt like I was living in a dream - except for my stiff body, and that got better! The shala's thatched roof rises high into the sky, spokes circling out from a long central pole that goes straight up the centre - all lashed together at the joints, and it was immensely pleasing to lie on my back and gaze upward. The flowers and shrubs of Jennifer's garden surround it, and as birds chirped, breeze wafted through, and soft music played, Annie's quiet voice guided us through the poses. Grounding and centering were effortless here among so many examples of connection to earth and sky.
Jim and I took the double kayak out for a paddle around the bay - gliding noiselessly past mangroves and reeds to see great egrets and kingfishers, swallows and kiskadees and - a new one to me - the colourful oropendola. We passed huge homes occupied only on vacations by rich Guatemalans, and small homes with lanchas piled high with fishing nets as the men readied them to set on the river at dusk. And on the last couple of nights, the sky was filled with stars. We get some rain most days but we've had over 48 hours without it now, so maybe the season is shifting.
We'll move over to Gringo Bay to anchor on Saturday and will head up to town on Monday.