26 March 2020 | Placencia Harbor
22 February 2020 | RAM Marina Rio Dulce Guatemala
27 December 2019 | 950 Gruene Place Dr. New Braunfels Texas
12 October 2019 | 950 Gruene Place Dr. New Braunfels Texas
12 August 2019 | Newe Braunfels, Texas
08 May 2019 | RAM Marina Rio Dulce Guatemala
27 February 2019 | Roberts Grove Marina and Resort
25 January 2019 | RAM Marina Rio Dulce Guatemala
10 December 2018 | RAM Marina Rio Dulce Guatemala
04 October 2018 | RAM Marina Rio Dulce Guatemala
09 August 2018 | Palenque - Mexico
30 June 2018 | RAM Marina Rio Dulce Guatemala
04 June 2018 | RAM Marina Rio Dulce Guatemala
03 April 2018 | River Ranch RV Resort - New Braunfels, Texas
17 January 2018 | RAM Marina Rio Dulce Guatemala
29 November 2017 | RAM Marina Rio Dulce Guatemala
13 October 2017 | RAM Marina Rio Dulce Guatemala
03 September 2017 | Hill Country RV Resort New Braunfels Texas
19 June 2017 | New Braunfels, Texas
31 May 2017 | RAM Marina Fronteras Rio Dulce Guatemala
26 March 2020 | Placencia Harbor
Bert Dorrestyn | Cloudy, windy but nice warm
In our previous blog we described the plan to leave Guatemala and to sail to Belize. Most of the time these plans are written on the beach in the sand at low tide and when the tide turns the plans are gone and new ones are developing. But this time the plans exactly worked out.
We left RAM Marina on a nice Sunday morning and motor sailed over the Golfete to a bay called Texan Bay or in Spanish “Cayo Quemado” and stayed overnight so we could leave early the next morning to be just past 8:00 AM in Livingston to give our passports to our Custom Agent Raul. He always sends his nephew with a lancha and delivers our stamped passports and “Zarpe” back to us on board of “Island Girl”. A “Zarpe” is a ‘set sail document’ you need when you leave a Central America country and sail to another country.
You have 2 high tides but one is higher and the most preferable tide to cross the sand bar in Livingston. Unfortunately, on our departure day this tide was late in the evening so we used the low high tide which was only 1 Ft. A week before our departure a fellow cruiser did a survey and posted the waypoints to cross the bar. We exactly followed these waypoints, had no problems to cross the bar and we motor sailed to a safe anchorage called “Tres Puntas’.
The next morning, we left the anchorage just before sunrise in the dark for our trip to the port of entry in Belize called “Punta Gorda”. This port has no protected anchorage and can only be used in very calm weather without any swell coming in. We had such a day, but out of safety Dorothy stayed on board and I took the handheld radio so she could call me if problems arose. It took me just a little over one hour to get cleared in and we continued our trip to a very safe bay called “New Haven”.
The water was like glass with no wind and hardly any waves. This was the same the next day but it was the quiet before the storm. At 6:30 PM the storm blew in. It was a very bad cold front arriving from the USA. In minutes the wind picked up from 0 to 37 knots. The rain came down and even the very protected bay had some significant waves. The rain stopped after about one hour but the wind remained very strong the entire night. It took 3 days before the wind and seas came down and since we did not have any communication with the outside world except through our Sat Phone “New Haven” became very lonely.
On Saturday we left New Haven and motor sailed to Placencia. We did not leave the boat until Monday morning to get Belize dollars and do some shopping. Placencia is a lovely town with nice restaurants and shops. It also has Dorothy’s favorite Hairdresser shop and the cost for her typical treatment is less than half of the price in the USA. I followed with the dinghy my cruising friend John to the gas station to pick up some diesel fuel to keep the tank filled and with that preventing too much condense developing in the fuel tank. Failing to do this last year gave us so many problems to get the fuel and the tank cleaned. To get to the gas station we had to follow some of the channels to the town. Along these channels you see some very beautiful homes and rental guest houses, but many are for sale. This is what we observed in many places in Belize; a lot of development of beautiful homes and resorts but many are for sale and/or show clearly overdevelopment.
We saw this last year during our stay for 3 months in “Robert’s Grove Marina” but I write this blog during our stay in a beautiful Resort and Marina development in “Sapodilla Lagoon” called “The Reserve”. The marina has 250 beautiful slips surrounded by restaurants, bathrooms, laundry facilities and a convenience store with a car and boat fuel station. There were only 8 boats in storage in the marina and 2 boats including “Island Girl” had people on board. When we arrived, there were no boats anchored in the lagoon while this is a very protected anchorage. At the same time a lot of boats were anchored in Placencia when another incoming cold front created large swell and made boats roll in the most uncomfortable way. We left Placencia before the cold front moved in and had a great sail with a stiff northerly wind with speeds up to 27 kn. We had to tack a couple of times and sailed close to the wind but “Island Girl” was in her groove and we loved to finally sail again.
We were not planning to go into the marina, but since there were no boats on anchor and we still had some work to do on “Island Girl” we took a slip connected to shore power and water and I started one of the outstanding projects while Dorothy used the laundry facilities. We toured the proposed resort and enjoyed the beautiful landscaping of the partly developed resort.
And then the cold front moved in; howling wind and the temperature dropped like a rock; it was very cold at 65 F when we went to bed at 9:00 PM, but we slept so well that we did not wake up the next morning until 7:00 AM instead of my usual 5:00AM. It is amazing that we were only 2 weeks on our way and had 2 major cold fronts coming down on us here in Belize. Many cruisers who spend a lot of years in Guatemala, Belize and the Honduras Bay Islands told us that this was very unusual. The next morning it was raining and it lasted the entire day. We had reserved for the next day the only available car to drive to a little town named Hopkins and a larger town called Dangriga both along the coast to do some provisioning and at the same time some sightseeing. The people who used the car dropped off the key in the evening and they were drenched from the rain but despite the weather they said they had a good day.
We had a great trip to both cities and we even took some time to drive along the Hummingbird Highway which circles into the mountains to the new capital called Belmopan. We were lucky to go to the grocery store just before 12:00 PM; it was a national holiday and the stores were all closing at noon. Three employees helped us to scan all our items, pack them, took them to the car and they closed to door behind us. The marina is in receivership and allows only cash transactions, so we needed to go to the ATM. We do not know if it was because of the national holiday or that the ATM in Dangriga never allows transactions larger than BZ$ 100.00 (US$ 50.00) but that was all we could get. We needed a lot more so we made a lot of transactions to get what we needed.
The next day we checked out of the marina and went on anchor in the lagoon in preparation for the next day trip to South Water Cay. We made this trip via “Blue Ground Water Range” which is a collection of mangrove cays that enclose a 40 ft deep lagoon. Entering this lagoon is a little intimidating since you must cross over a shallow reef between two cays. Our friends from “s/v Aeesha” guided us through. The remainder of the trip goes over a shallow area with a lot of coral patches but we followed a track from our dear friends and “adopted” children Keith and Ida from “s/v Cheers”. We had a great sail, arrived safely and anchored in front of “South Water Cay”. On this location you are so close to the outer reef that you hear the constant sound of the waves crashing the reef. We stayed there for one week and had a great time with snorkeling and using my Hookah to dive underneath the boat to remove a fishing line and a lure from my propeller.
We were surrounded by 12 other boats, but one morning everybody left. We found out later that everyone wanted to return to Guatemala before the borders closed. And now they are locked up in the Rio, cannot leave since all the borders are closed and the airlines are not allowed to fly to and from Guatemala.
We could not use our cellular phone at this location since the reception was to weak. A fellow cruiser advised us to raise the phone into the mast and use the “Hotspot” this worked out great; we got all the news and could stay in touch with the family.
We sailed back to Sapodilla Lagoon and every afternoon we went with our dinghy to the “Beach Club” to swim in the wonderful pool and enjoy the beach. During the week the “Beach Club” is closed, but we can use the facilities. In the meantime, I also worked on some boat projects although I could not solve every issue we have.
At this moment Belize has only one infected person with the “Corona Virus” but is preparing for more problems. The schools will be closed for 1 month, but there is no restriction on travel in the country. The airport is still open for local traffic and charter flights taking tourists and some cruisers back to their home country. We had not experienced an impact of the Corona Virus Crisis but we needed to renew our visa and cruising permit and for that we needed to go back to Placencia. There is a lot of confusion at which immigration offices you can do this and it seems that the one in “Big Creek” which is close to Placencia is the only safe option. We heard rumors how bad it was and how difficult it was to get provisions so we were a little apprehensive when we went ashore. Placencia is a tourist town and in the high season there is a lot of activity going on. However, now it was very quiet, restaurants and bars are closed but shops are open and we could find all the provisions, parts and fuel we needed without any problems. A lot of places have a mobile sink outside with a water hose, soap and paper towels and you need to wash your hands before entering. The water hoses are lying in the open and with the sun shining the water is warm, which is a luxury for sailors who do not always have warm water available on board.
Getting our visa, custom clearance and cruising permit extended was no problem and since we were the only one in the offices, we were done in a record time. So, we are ready to spend another month in Belize and hope to find a lot of new places we can enjoy.
A lot of waiting and boat work in Guatemala
22 February 2020 | RAM Marina Rio Dulce Guatemala
Bert Dorrestyn | Light Rain and a cool breeze
In our previous blog I wrote that all the needed parts and tools where shipped and we had packed the remaining parts we needed to make the necessary repairs to our boat. We were quite optimistic when we left on December 30, 2019 to head to the Rio Dulce where our beloved boat “Island Girl” was waiting on the hard for our arrival.
The flight to Guatemala via Houston is not too bad and with an early start at 4:30 AM we arrived at 2:00 PM in our hotel after we went first to the bus terminal to buy our tickets for the next day bus trip. It was a very fast bus trip and after departing at 9:00 AM we arrived in the Rio Dulce at 3:00 PM.
It is always a little scary to enter the boat after you leave it behind for 7 months. But thanks to the great care by Adan one of the employees of RAM Marina the boat looked splendid. The humidifier kept the boat at a great humidity level of 55% and that is compared to the outside humidity level, very good. We turned on the window A/C and we could move in. But we did not do this, we slept for 4 nights in one of the cabanas which gave us the opportunity to unpack all the gear and find proper storage.
Then the disappointments came. Because of lower shipment costs most of the parts was sent by boat and it would take a few weeks before they would arrive. But the biggest disappointment was that the shipment by our Watermaker Spectra Dealer was incomplete and we could not install the watermaker. It took to until the 9th of February,2020 before the parts arrived. This delayed our possible departure from Guatemala by close to a month.
Our boat is built in 1991 and the insurance changed the interval of inspection surveys from every 5 years to 3 years. In the Rio Dulce is a very good mechanic and marina owner who has the full certification for American and International boat inspections. He is known in the Rio as Capt. John. Capt. John found during the inspection some space on the bearing for the propeller axle. On an “Island Packet” boat that is a difficult and costly repair. But Chris Wooley and his crew got the job done in 3 days and we were ready to go into the water and complete the inspection. The inspection resulted in some minor recommandations but no issues with the seaworthiness of the boat and it received the classification of “Above Average”.
During the morning “Rio Dulce Cruisers Net” the reception of some of the other cruisers was either bad or we could not hear them at all. After we replaced the connector and a new antenna this problem was solved. The antenna is high in the mast and I was happy that Nelson, one of the best technicians here in the Rio Dulce could do the work for me.
RAM Marina is a maintenance and storage facility and besides many covered slips for large yachts it has very limited dock space for sailboats. But the manager, our adopted daughter Karen always has a place for us and our favorite place is opposite the fuel dock. However, that is also in the channel and ramp for the launching, splashing and lifting of boats out of the water with the travel lift. If a large boat is splashed or taken out of the water, the crew moves our boat to the fuel dock to be able to get that large boat out or into the boatlift. The happened this week and it took a long time to get this boat in the water since it was so wide that it got stuck due to the lift straps. To allow other boats to get to the fuel dock the crew moved our boat to the end of the fuel dock and the backside was now sticking out. When the large catamaran left the fuel dock the crew of the boat showed that they had no notion how to maneuver a large boat and came straight to the backside of “Island Girl”. Although I was screaming the boat crew did not react and I jumped on the dock to push this large boat from the dock. I succeeded only partly, because the catamaran took my flagpole off but missed the davits with the solar panels. The marina built me a new flagpole, but I was not a very happy camper.
The remainder of the week we spent on doing provisioning and checking the systems of the boat. We cleaned the boat, took off all the awnings and stored them. The Rio Dulce town called Fronteras has a new strip mall with a great new grocery store. It is a very modern store with a lot of fresh produce and a lot of fruit. We were able to find all that we needed for the first couple of weeks while we are underway.
Belize is a very expensive destination for cruisers. Not only because of the high cost for customs clearing and immigration, but also port control, health checks and agricultural department. Normally most cruisers check-in close to Placencia, the location where most cruisers start their trip in Belize. But this location went completely over the top, both in cost and procedures. So now we are trying to check-in in the first coastal town north of Livingston where we go over the sand bar. But this location has no protection from the normal trade wind and can only be used in very mild conditions. It makes the starting trip to Belize a little complicated. This is the plan:
1. Sail through the lake to Texan Bay or in Spanish “Cayo Quimado” and stay overnight
2. Sail the next morning through the “Gorge” to Livingston and check-out with the help of our agent Raul.
3. Cross the sand bar and if you get stuck or have a draft of over 5.5 feet use a towboat.
4. Sail to a protected anchorage called “Tres Puntas” and stay overnight.
5. Leave the next day early and sail to “Punta Gorda” in Belize to check-in.
6. Depending on the time of the day either sail back to “Tres Puntas” or continue the trip to a nice and protected anchorage called “New Haven”.
7. Most of the time people spend a couple of days in “New Haven” to relax before continuing to Placencia in Belize.
This is the plan and in our next blog I will report how it all worked out.
Goodbye Texas - Hello Island Girl
27 December 2019 | 950 Gruene Place Dr. New Braunfels Texas
Bert Dorrestyn | Cloudy 60F and Light Wind
In my last blog post of October 12, 2019, I mentioned that on the first day of fall it was cold with a morning temperature of 53F. Now when I go at 5:15AM to the swimming pool I don't even dress warm with this kind of temperature. But on November 19 it was 28F and I tell you I was very warmly dressed but with the 25/30 knots of wind from the north it felt like I was naked when I walked on the parking lot of the health center.
When I was young and living in The Netherlands where I was born this kind of temperature was nothing for us and I was looking forward to winter when the canals, streams and lakes were frozen and we could ice-skate. Snow skiing was for many years besides waterskiing my favorite sport. Even after I moved to tropical countries like Suriname (SA) I returned in the winter to Europe to go snow skiing in Switzerland and Austria. The last time I went snow skiing was in 2010 in Park City Utah and I had a great time skiing with my son Robert and his two boys Jack and Max. We sold our Ski Nautique waterski boat in that same year and put all our entertainment into sailing with our beloved sailboat Island Girl which we purchased in 2009. This also marked the time that I started hating cold weather and we were fine living in Miami Beach, Florida. We had one car for Dorothy and I drove a small scooter except on the few days the temperature was below 65F then Dorothy had to drop me off at City Hall.
I hope that I made my point that I hate being cold or to be in a cold environment. On "Island Girl" I always sleep under a blanket even on hot days. We left Texas for Miami Beach, Florida in September 2006. The summers in Texas can be brutal hot and the winters are typically mild with mostly nice and warm days and this was how I remembered it while living for 22 years in Texas. So, it was a shock for me that since half October we have had so many cold days. But it is Texas so it happened a lot that the mornings are cold in the low 40's and the afternoons nice and warm up to the high 80's and sometimes even the mid-90's.
We spend a little over 6 months in the USA to watch and work on the completion of our new house in the Historic District "Gruene" in New Braunfels, Texas. Although we don't want to repeat it, we had fun doing it. Only 3 weeks ago we had the last inspection by a city inspector for our backyard patio and the fence. It was long process but compared to our neighbors in our small neighborhood it was the fastest. We love the house and we are feeling at home.
We experienced also how fun it is to live in a small community where you know or at least have met your neighbors. We had afternoon get-togethers along the river where the neighborhood association created private access to the river with a small picnic area. With Christmas time some of our neighbors organized Christmas get-togethers and the first one was a "Progressive Dinner". We started in the first house with drinks and appetizers, then we moved to the second home where we had the main course and in the third home we had deserts. The choice of drinks and food was overwhelming and it was all very good and tasty. I keep a pretty strict food intake, but it was impossible to stick to this with all this great food. Our neighbors are great and easy to communicate with. Of course, we all have the same interest in how our small subdivision is developing, but besides that it was great to share stories and life experiences. After this great evening we also spent a very nice and sunny Sunday afternoon in one of the largest homes in the neighborhood which is built on the cliff along the Guadalupe river. The view from this house over the river is great and we had a nice afternoon. Our last get-together on Friday night before Christmas was with a smaller participating group but it was still a lot of fun.
This is the first time since we left on our Caribbean tour 7 years ago on December 6, 2012 on our boat "Island Girl" that we stayed this long in the USA. We decided to stay this long to make sure that our new home was complete with no open issues that could cause problems in our absence. We also wanted to be with our family for Thanksgiving, my birthday and Christmas realizing that it was 13 years ago that we had done this. We had great get-togethers with our family on the two holidays and on my birthday. Experiencing the Christmas shopping craziness in the USA is something we are completely grown out of during the time we spent the holiday season in the Caribbean and South America. Earlier in the year we celebrated the 21st birthday of our granddaughter Kristin and the 50th birthday of our daughter Dominique. Both milestones in their lives.
To prevent having to buy in every country we visit a new SIM card for our phone and thus having a new phone number over the last 7 years we obtained a "Google Fi" SIM card which can be used in 100 countries in the world while keeping the same phone number. We purchased an unlimited plan for data, phone and text and used this on Christmas day to contact our overseas families in Grenada, Colombia, Guatemala and The Netherlands. It worked great and now we hope that we can make and receive calls in our sailing destinations this season. We also replaced our old Satellite phone we have used over the past 10 years on the boat for a new product called "Iridium Go". Iridium GO is a small but powerful satellite communication device allowing multiple users to connect and use voice, text messaging, map and weather data as well as SOS and GPS navigation. The system is an internet router which allows you to use your cell phone, tablet, computer etc. to communicate. Although we have VHF and SSB radio onboard, Satellite phone communication is a very important safety feature. Last year we used it intensively when we had a non-working engine and no wind while we were slowly drifting to the reefs of Belize.
All the needed parts and tools are shipped. We packed our last belongings and remaining parts we need on board and we are ready to go back to our beloved boat "Island Girl". We will leave on December 30, 2019. We will miss our family and friends and our new house but we will be happy to go to a warmer Guatemala and new adventures in the Caribbean.
Moving into our New Home
12 October 2019 | 950 Gruene Place Dr. New Braunfels Texas
Bert Dorrestyn | First day of Fall Cold - Very Cold 53F
We started the process to get a new home on land in April 2018 when we purchased a lot in a new development in the historic district of Gruene in New Braunfels Texas. In October and November 2018, we worked with the architect to design the home that we were dreaming about. In view of our age and future we wanted to have a home that was close to be ADA compliant and that was more difficult than we anticipated. We made some concessions but the design gave us a home with a completely flat floorplan without thresholds and most of the doors 30 inches wide, support bars in the bathrooms and due to all these provisions completely wheelchair accessible.
We had several meetings with the builder since some of our whishes were different than most of the details other people use. But my experience as an amateur home builder helped me to convince the builder that our views were doable and would make a great home. Later we heard that the builder warned his contractors that the we were different than the typical new homeowners and had a lot of detailed demands. We obtained a construction loan and signed the construction contract just before Thanksgiving and we flew back to our boat in Guatemala.
The actual construction started on January 14, 2019 with the pouring of the concrete slab. During the construction our daughter Dominique was our contact person between us in Guatemala and Belize and the builder. Due to our boat problems we did not spend a lot of time outside areas without cellular phone connections and were able to react fast on issues or questions raised during the construction. Dominique made weekly a series of pictures and videos she sent us, so we had a good insight about the progress.
About a month ahead of us the construction of a home next to our lot was started and this house was based on the same home design but with completely different details. One weekend our daughter walked into the wrong home and took pictures she sent us. The pictures showed completely different details and many of them made it a completely different home. I became completely ballistic and since it was the weekend I could reach no one and I started a series of e-mails to everyone involved in the design and construction. After one day of confusion and e-mails it became clear that the pictures taken were from the ‘wrong’ house.
We had high expectations that we could move into our new home in the middle of July but that did not work out. The house was complete for occupation on the 9th of August, but it took several days to resolve small issues the city builder inspector found and finally late afternoon on August 14 we received the certificate of occupancy. We started moving in the next day and that was right on time since my son’s rental house where we lived in, was rented out on that same day.
We moved only the same amount of furniture we used in the rental house of my son and started moving only slowly the remainder of our belongings from the storage unit into our new home. It felt like opening Christmas presents on a daily basis since we put our belongings close to 7 years ago in storage and especially the boxes contained a lot of surprises. We did most of the moving with our Ford Edge which has a lot of room when we put the back seats down. At the end our friends Kurt and Kitty helped us with moving 4 heavy pieces of furniture using their flatbed trailer.
A lot of our furniture had light damages due to the 3 moves we made, from the condo in Miami Beach to the storage in Miami, then from Miami to the storage in New Braunfels and then finally to our new home. My garage became my workshop where I built and refurbished furniture and had a great time doing it. Our condo in Miami Beach had very large rooms and we could not use all we had in our new home. We sold some of it, dropped it off at “Good Will” and used the construction trash container to throw away the rest. We are still rethinking if we want to keep some of the items and/or replace them.
South Texas is hot and dry in the summer, many days over 100 deg and no rain at all. We selected a Xeriscape design for our yard and the landscaper waited until the end of August to start the installation. It was a lot of work and over a period of 4 weeks 3 men worked daily very hard to complete the work. We are extremely happy with the result. We only have drought resistant plants and trees that use very little water and thanks to a computerized drip irrigation system the yard requires very little maintenance and will still be beautiful when we are not home and on our boat for a long time. We are still waiting for the construction of a patio in the backyard before we can do similar landscaping around this patio. We love our new home and we hope that we can enjoy this beautiful place for many years.
During all the work to make our house our home, we had to make more doctors’ visits than we expected. When I started to drive our U-Haul truck from Miami to New Braunfels, I realized that I had a lot of problems to look over my left shoulder. Since I have limited vision in my left eye I really need to turn my head to the left side to see what is next to me. It became very painful and started influencing all my neck movements. X-rays, CT Scans and an MRI showed that I have a condition which is called disc osteophyte complex (bone spurs). The spine surgeon declared that he could do nothing about this and I will be receiving pain management with steroid injections in the neck area of my spine to relieve the pain caused by inflammation.
The MRI also showed that I had a nodule on my thyroid and a needle biopsy needed to be done to find out the status of the nodule. Good heaven it is benign and the Ear, Nose and Throat doctor, specialized in thyroids decided to take the observation approach by follow-up visits together with an ultrasound every 6 months since all the tests were negative and I don’t have any symptoms.
In November 2018 Dorothy had cataract surgery on her right eye which was a complete failure. The implanted lens was off center and instead of a vision improvement she lost most of the vision in that eye. The bad eyesight was also due to some problems with her retina and we had a lot of discussions with the two doctors involved which surgery needed to be done first and it was even discussed if it was possible to do the two procedures at the same time. We opted for the retina procedure first and this surgery turned out to be more complicated than expected but Dorothy is doing well and hopefully she can have the ‘new cataract surgery’ soon.
On July 19, 2019 our daughter Dominique had to have both her breasts removed due to breast cancer. Due to complications in the recovery she had in the meantime 3 other surgeries and she had a lot of pain, many restrictions and had not been able to go back to work since her first surgery. Fortunately, she works for her brother, our son Robert’s, company and he and his wife Heather have been supporting her tremendously. Her three children are helping her a lot, taking care of her and driving her for the many doctors’ visits to San Antonio.
In the beginning of September our cruising friends Maris and Linda from s/v Amekaya came to visit us and we had a great time. We had lunch in historic Gruene, the first day in a restaurant situated on the cliff overlooking the Guadalupe River and the second day in bar/restaurant in a historic building.
My son Robert used to train very hard and intensively as an Ironman athlete. Due to injuries he has lately scaled back his training schedule and took up his other passion, deep sea fishing, again. He and his wife have a very nice condo on the Texas coast in Port Aransas. This area was devastated 2 years ago by a horrible hurricane “Harvey” but is now on the road of recovery. We spent Labor Day weekend with them and Robert took me out fishing. Which means Robert is catching fish and I just enjoy the ride. The fishing is done around the offshore anchoring area of large tankers waiting to enter the harbor of Corpus Christi and around the old drill platforms. The difference in the status of the tankers laying for anchor compared to some time ago: they are empty and leave Corpus Christi loaded with oil. In the past they were full and waiting to off-load the oil to the refineries of Corpus Christi.
It is great to see your grandchildren doing well. Our oldest grandson Justin used to work for our son Robert but has now started his own business and he seems to do well. For his 26th birthday he invited the entire family to a very nice restaurant that used to be a post office in downtown New Braunfels. I dressed up for the event and was wearing one of my dress shirts I had not seen for 7 years and my favorite boots. Since we left our boat Island Girl 7 years ago I never use shoes, my flip flops are doing just fine for me. Walking was very unstable and I felt like I was drunk even before I had one drink. Dorothy also dressed up and wore a pair of her many high heel shoes. She also found it very uncomfortable and was so happy to take them off.
We like our new home but want to go back to Island Girl.
Building a new Custom Home took longer than we hoped for
12 August 2019 | Newe Braunfels, Texas
Bert Dorrestyn | Sunny and very hot
In our last blog in which we described our stay in Belize we expressed the expectation that the construction of our new home would be complete halfway the month of July. It is now close to the middle of August and there is still a lot of work to be done. The good news is that we can move in on August 16, 2019. That is about a month later than we hoped for when we left Guatemala on June 19, 2019.
Our trip was a lot different than our normal return flight to New Braunfels, Texas. When we left Miami Beach on December 6, 2012 for our Caribbean sail adventure, we rented out our beach condo in the expectation to return within 2 years and we put all our belongings in a climate-controlled storage facility. We flew to Miami, rented a U-Haul truck and a team of movers to load the truck. We were planning to discard some of the stuff that we did not want to keep, but the storage facility did not allow us to use their dumpster. Due to this we could not fit everything in the truck but could not delay our departure due to commitments we made. Besides we did not have a transport vehicle to take it to a disposal facility. Since we are in the meantime no longer residents of Miami Dade and due to that we could not use the disposal location from the county. So, we rented a small unit for the remainder of our items and decided to come back later to take care of this.
Before we left Miami we had lunch with our cruising friends Scott and Barbara from s/v Rula Bula and David from s/v Wildest Dream. We left Miami for Delray Beach where we spent the night and enjoyed a great dinner with Keith from s/v Cheers. I almost forgot to mention that on the evening of our arrival in Miami we had a nice get together with Dorothy’s former boss, Georgie, while we enjoyed some delicious finger food.
We planned not to drive more than 8 hours a day and we arrived on Sunday afternoon after a 3-day road trip in New Braunfels. We drove straight to our new home and saw for the first time the progress that was made and we liked our new home on sight. While we were in the house our daughter Dominique came and it was so great to see her again. That evening we had dinner together with our son Robert, his wife Heather and their son Max. Their other son Jack is serving in the Navy and is stationed in Japan. Dominique was together with her son Justin and daughters Kristin and Katelynn. Our small family was nearly complete with Heather’s mother Nancy. It was a pity that Colton the son of Robert and Heather could not make it.
The next day we started unloading the U-Haul truck in a storage room of our son Robert. This storage room is huge and we could drive the truck inside and that was great since a rainstorm was inundating a large part of south Texas. It was a typical Texas event where most of the things are big. Due to the storm our friends Kurt and Kitty could not help us to get our RV out of storage to take it to the campground. However, they did this for us the following day and we spent one extra night in a hotel.
We had a reservation at a very nice RV and Cottage resort and we got one of the best spots in the older part of the resort close to the swimming pool and entertainment area. The very nice bathrooms and laundry facilities were just on the other side of the road. Due to the upcoming 4th of July the resort was fully booked and many events took place in the evening with live music and dancing. We celebrated the 4th of July with a BBQ next to our RV and our entire family attended. Although our children are going through some rough times we enjoyed the day with great food and cold drinks.
Our daughter Dominique was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent surgery on July 19 and unfortunately 3 weeks later she had a second surgery to remove infected tissue which caused her a lot of pain. She is now completely bed ridden, but we hope that she will recover soon.
We had agreed to help her during her recovery with taking her to hospitals and doctors. Although the distance from New Braunfels to the Stone Oak Medical Center is not too far, with all the waiting it still takes a lot of time. We still needed to go back to Miami to pick up and dispose of the last of our possessions. We decided that it was the best to do this before Dominique’s major surgery.
We had a great drive to Miami in our new used Ford Edge Titanium, but when we entered the Florida Panhandle we started getting into large and very violent rainstorms with blinding rain and heavy wind. It was the first band related to the developing hurricane Barry. At one point it was so bad we had to stop along the freeway together with all other traffic. We arrived safely in Miami and thanks to our cruising friend Scott who is a resident of Miami Dade we could dispose of all the stuff we did not need anymore and loaded our car with the items we wanted to keep. We had a hitch installed and used a luggage rack with a nice bag which allowed us to transport stuff nice and dry. We spent the night in Scott and Barbara’s home and we had a nice dinner together. When we watched the news the following morning it was clear that developing hurricane Barry would make landfall in Louisiana and if we did not leave immediately we would be stuck somewhere in Mississippi or Louisiana to wait out the storm. We had to cancel our nicely planned breakfast and “hit the road”. On Thursday evening we arrived in Hammond Louisiana and understood from the news that the developing hurricane would come ashore early morning Saturday and if we left early on Friday we would not be too badly influenced by the storm. That was great since a lot of flooding was reported in Louisiana and the previous day while we were driving along the gulf coast we had a lot of rain and due to this we saw quite a few of the most horrible accidents. People were preparing for the storm and we had problems in the morning to find a gas station that had fuel. But it worked out and the weather improved as we were driving west away from the storm.
Since many years we lived far away from our family who live already for a long time in New Braunfels. Due to this we did not have the opportunity to celebrate birthdays with them. It was nice to be able to be part of the celebration of our granddaughter Kristin’s 21st birthday. Our grandchildren are becoming all close or are already adults and we are happy to see them and being part of their lives.
Since owning a house, a boat and an RV is too much for us, we put the RV up for sale and we received an offer from the dealer where we bought the RV, Camping World. However, they were only interested in the purchase if we delivered it before the beginning of August. That was a problem since our home was still not ready and available. Our son and daughter-in-law came to the rescue and offered us one of their rental homes to live in until the middle of August. We moved a minimum amount of furniture into this house and for the first time in almost 7 years we enjoyed living together in a house. This house is very large with 8 different spaces including 4 bedrooms. Since we did not want to carry the bed and mattress to the second floor, we put our bed in the dining room. The house has a great view on the back of a park with a large pond with several fountains. I cleaned the pool and we had a great time camping in this house.
The area around New Braunfels is exploding and many new subdivisions are built in the foothills of the Texas Hill country. Our children are living close to the old town center and the rental house is just in between their houses. Very close to the rental is our new home, which is built in the historic district called Gruene. We are within walking distance from our children. New Braunfels is situated along IH35 the freeway between San Antonio and Austin. Both cities were never affected in the economy downside and are growing at an incredible speed. From New Braunfels you can drive in 30 minutes to San Antonio and in 45 minutes to Austin.
Our home is custom built and although we agreed with the architect and builder on the plans for the home in November last year, during our stay in Belize we had a lot of contact with the builder using WhatsApp, now we have almost daily contact with the builder and even with the contractors about details. We are visiting the house daily and sometimes even more than once a day. It is so great to be so closely involved with the building of our new home. The reason of course is that I have a lot of experience in home building after having built single handedly 3 houses and 3 other large structure on our property on Medina Lake here in Texas.
Unfortunately, I have the tendency to always select the more expensive solution of options and due to this we have a lot more overages in cost than anticipated. Since we want to keep some savings for future expenses we asked the bank to increase the construction loan and they were happy to facilitate us. This is another example how great it is to live in a small community where you can speak directly with bank director. We hired a xeriscape designer to design our small yard. The request was for a design without grass and only local drought resistance plants and trees with just drip irrigation and low maintenance. This means a lot of rocks, boulders, flag stones and river rock. We were both amazed what such a design costs, but since we want to spend a lot of time on our boat and will not available to take care of the yard, we believe that it is worth the money. Due to the incredible hot August weather the landscaper has delayed the construction of the yard until September.
Before the weekend the construction of our new home was completed and all the facilities checked. A cleaning crew moved in and the house was clean on Saturday night. It was amazing to see for the first time our new home complete and clean. However, the last hurdle will be the city inspector who will give us our occupancy permit. If this all works out we will be moving in this week and a busy time will start with moving and decorating the house.
We will report on these events in our next blog.
Short Sailing Season in Belize
08 May 2019 | RAM Marina Rio Dulce Guatemala
Bert Dorrestyn | Warm and Humid with a light breeze
The only purpose of sailing to Belize this year was to have a 90 days "escape location" so that after this time period we could go back to RAM Marina in the Rio Dulce, Guatemala and continue the process of cleaning our fuel tank and all the other needed repairs on our beloved boat "Island Girl".
For people who are not familiar with the '90 days procedure', let me explain. If you are entering a country with your boat to spend longer than 24 hours in this country you need a cruising permit, which are in a lot of countries very expensive. If you leave the country you need to surrender your cruising permit and it will be replaced by an exit permit, which in Latin America is called a "Zarpe". In a lot of countries, you are not allowed to re-enter the country for a period of 90 days after you leave. When we came back to Guatemala in December 2018 with a disabled engine, we violated this rule, but we got a reprieve of one month to do the needed repairs, then leave and stay out of Guatemala for 90 days. We could not fix all the problems in that one month, so we decided to go to Belize on a safe anchorage, stay there for 90 days and then return to Guatemala.
In Belize these rules are even more complicated since you can only get a visa and cruising permit for one month which you can only extend 2 times. You cannot request an extension when you overstay your current permit. In case your permit ends on a Sunday you must extend the Friday prior and basically lose 2 days. This must be very confusing for people from the USA who believe in open borders.
As we described in our previous blog while on anchor in Placencia in Belize our problems became worse and more systems started failing. It became clear that our electronic problems where caused by an indirect lighting strike. However, the biggest problem was that our watermaker did not work anymore. We sailed to a marina in the lagoon called Robert's Grove. While waiting for the parts we ordered, I started fixing many on the other problems.
We were planning to take more trips and do some diving. Unfortunately, the parts were very expensive and the FedEx shipping costs together with custom clearing and shipping from Belize City to Placencia put a heavy burden on our repair and entertainment budget, so we had to cancel our plans for additional trips. To give an idea: the total shipping costs of the parts added up to over $1500.00. We were so fortunate that one of the cruisers in Robert's Grove flew back to Belize from the USA and he was so kind to take some of the parts with him. Thank you, Greg and Nadine from s/v Heurisko.
We installed the new navigation system and Greg helped me with some connection problems using his new soldering tool. The new system uses a different communication protocol and wires, and this had some influence on the old instrument. Fortunately, we found solutions to these problems and the system works great.
We had less success with the repair of the watermaker and after consulting with the manufacturer we decided that this system needs to be rebuilt by the manufacturer or dealer. This sealed our decision to remain in Robert's Grove until we completed our 90 days' stay.
How did we spend our days in Robert's Grove Marina? If you don't have transportation the resort is quite isolated. The resort has a shuttle service to Placencia Village but we didn't consider Placencia attractive enough to spend a few hours there while waiting for the return shuttle. The cost of a taxi ride to town is expensive, $20.00 so this is not a very good option when you are on a tight budget. Twice a week we went to a small village called Seine Bight not too far from the marina that has a good basic grocery store called "Publics". We took these 10 to 15 minutes walking trips early in the morning while it was still nice and cool. The store had an amazing choice of groceries and fresh produce. However, you could only buy frozen or salted meat. The people living in Seine Bight are poor Garifuna people and that reflects on the prices in the store, still expensive like everything in Belize, but a lot cheaper than in Placencia Village. Compared to stores we use in Guatemala and other locations this store has a very nice layout especially for a small poor village as Seine Bight.
The resort part of Robert's Grove Resort and Marina is on the sea side and the marina is on the lagoon side split by the only road from the mainland to Placencia Village. The resort side has 3 small swimming pools and I used one every morning at 6 AM to do some lap swimming. From my walk from the boat passing the road to the seaside I met many people waiting for the bus, walking or biking to their destination and we greeted each other every day like old friends. We love the people of Belize, friendly and nice and they all speak perfect English. Other languages spoken in Belize are Creole by the Garifuna people while the many guest laborers from Honduras speak Spanish.
Roberts Grove Resort and Marina has two restaurants, one in the marina called "Habaneros" and one in the resort on the seaside. Both are a little pricy but the food is good. On our 41 anniversary we had both breakfast and dinner in the resort. Sitting on the beach in the morning and enjoying a good breakfast is close to be in paradise. During our dinner a Garifuna Drummers group performed and it was great. The dinner that night was a BBQ. The food was delicious and the ambiance was the best you can get eating on the beach with the smell, sound and fire of the BBQ pit and in the background the exciting drumming of the Garifuna Drummers group. We could come back every year for our anniversary celebration.
To enter and exit Belize and to keep our visa and cruising permit valid we had to go 5 times to the government offices in Independence. No, we actually had to go 6 times, because when we arrived on March 29 at the immigration office we were told that the office could not grant visa extensions that day since no financial transactions could be performed due to closing of the fiscal year of the central government and we had to come back on Monday, April 1. Besides the cost of the visa extension and cruising permit a trip to Independence is quite costly. This is the breakdown:
• Taxi Roberts Grove Marina to Placencia US$ 20.00
• Water Taxi from Placencia to Mango Creek US$ 24.00
• Taxi from Mango Creek to Independence US$ 10.00
• Immigration Visa for 2 people US$ 50.00
• Cruising Permit US$ 120.00
• One-time Agriculture Department US$ 25.00
This totals for just being in Belize on a cruising boat with 2 people for 90 days: US 959.00 and this makes Belize the most expensive cruising location we have visited in the last 7 years.
One day our friends Maris and Linda visited us in Robert's Grove Marina with their rental golf car and we drove to Maya Beach Resort where we had a great lunch. They also took us 5 times to the Placencia Airport to pick up one of our packages that was announced to arrive from Belize City. Unfortunately, none of these times the package had arrived. Then we learned that if a package is put on a plane, but there are no passengers on the plane for the same destination as the package and no passengers are waiting for that flight, the destination is skipped, and the package stays on board until the next time. The result was that the package arrived the following day.
The few times we had to visit Placencia Village we had a great lunch in the Barefoot Beach Bar. A great place to be, good food and affordable prices. We always visited a small French Bakery Store owned by a French lady. Her baked goods are excellent as long you don't mind the prices. The local hairdresser was a fun place to wait for Dorothy while she had her hair got done. The owner plays old fashioned Country and Western Music and she told us that this type of music is very popular in Belize.
I don't like to be involved in politics in any place, but after hearing all the emotions in Belize about a referendum called "MFA Referendum Belize" I needed to know what this was all about. The purpose of the referendum is to ask the Belizeans if they agree that Guatemala and their country request the International Court of Justice to finally resolve the Belizean-Guatemalan territorial dispute, as part of a commitment signed in December 2008 between the two countries. The Belizean-Guatemalan territorial dispute is an unresolved bi-national territorial dispute between Belize and Guatemala. A large part of Belize and even the entire country of Belize has been claimed by Guatemala since 1821. The people of Belize do not trust the International Court of Justice and are afraid to become part of Guatemala and find the estimated cost for the court case too high for a poor country such as Belize. One very respected individual told me that for the estimated lawyer cost of US$ 40 million a modern hospital could be built and give the people access to modern health care. I studied the entire history of this case and I found it very interesting.
And then our 90 days in Belize were over and we could return to Guatemala. Unfortunately, we had to be illegal for 2 days in Belize while waiting for a higher tide in the lagoon. But on Thursday May 2 at 7:15 AM we slided out of the mud we were in for 3 months and entered the lagoon. Our new untested navigation system worked, and we could follow the waypoints through the very shallow lagoon to deeper water close to Placencia Village. Our original plan was to anchor in front of Placencia Village to clean our propeller and check the keel of the boat, but there was a nice stiff wind and it was great for sailing, so we raised the sails and headed to Tres Puntas in Guatemala.
Tres Puntas is the waiting station to go to Livingston where we must cross a very shallow bar to get into the Rio Dulce. We arrived at 4:45 PM in Tres Punta happy and relieved that most of the systems I repaired were working. It was our first night in the boat without an a/c in 3 months and it was hot and sleeping was difficult. The next day we left the anchorage at 5:00 AM to be able to make the high tide to cross the bar. This was our 7th crossing and it was the most uneventful one. We dropped the anchor at 7:15 AM and waited for the governmental officials to take our papers for the checking-in process. At 11:30 AM we picked up or passports and cruising permit and got on our way over the Rio Dulce to Fronteras and RAM Marina.
The rainy season had already started in Guatemala and a lot of rain had fallen in the mountains. The river flowed very fast and we had 2.5 kn. current on the nose until we came in the Golfette. In the meantime, we understood that due to problems with the boat lift in RAM Marina we could not dock on our favorite place. We called our friend Steve the dock master of Catamaran Marina if he had space for us and we got a welcome space next to Steve's boat an identical Island Packet 38 called "Slow Flight" in Catamaran Marina. Thank you Steve for your help.
Hopefully we can move to RAM Marina this week so we can start to work on cleaning our fuel tank and remove the watermaker so we can take this machine back to the USA for repair. We have given ourselves a little over a month to do all the needed repairs before we go back via Miami to New Braunfels to our new home that is currently still under construction.
While we had a good time in Belize our builder was busy building our new home. It was so good to be in a place with very good internet and phone connections. Our daughter Dominique checked the progress of the construction weekly and reported to us. She also did inspections together with the builder. Still it was needed more than we anticipated to have verbal contact with the builder about details of the construction and items we had ordered during our visit to the USA last year November. It worked all out very well and we have the expectation that the construction will be completed in July this year and we hope to report on this in our next blog.