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.
In Belize Waiting for Parts
27 February 2019 | Roberts Grove Marina and Resort
Bert Dorrestyn | Nice and warm with strong breeze
Cruisers are using the definition of “Cruising is repairing your boat in Exotic Places”. This seems lately what we are doing. After we returned from a disastrous trip to “Utila” one of the Honduran Bay Islands (see our previous blog: “Being in a Marina is not a Preparation for Offshore Sailing”). We had only one month to make the needed repairs or we had to pay penalties to the “Custom Control” in Guatemala for returning to Guatemala within a 90 days period after we left. We worked hard and I even flew back to the USA in one day up and down to pick-up parts. We used fuel jugs to run the engine and the generator since we did not have time to properly clean our main fuel tank, but after intensive testing we were confident that our solution allowed us to go to Belize for 3 months before returning to Rio Dulce to do the tank cleaning.
Our electrical mechanic spent a lot of time and money to repair the alternator and replace the volt regulators and all our testing gave very positive results. However, when we were ready to leave the engine did not want to start. We called the mechanic who came 1 ½ hours later and working for about 30 minutes, he fixed the problem and we left very delayed.
We did a lot of work to rewire the power supply to the Navigation system expecting to solve the problems with this system. Directly after we left RAM Marina, we did the calibration of the electronic compass and the course computer. The calibration took more time and was harder than expected, which should have been a warning that not all the problems on the Navigation System were solved, but we had no problems to use the system to motor sail to Livingston.
Due to all the delays we arrived very close to the high tide at Livingston, but our custom and immigration agent was ready for us and it took him less than 15 minutes to get our paper work done and we could leave. We crossed the bar without problem, and we headed relieved to “Tres Puntas” where we would stay overnight. The sun was going down fast, but we knew we could make it to our anchoring place before dark. And then the engine stopped again, and we could not get it to start. We called our custom and immigration agent and asked him to send a tow boat to tow us back over the bar to Livingston. What a disappointment but the next morning I started to diagnose the problem. It turned out that the inlet of the fuel outboard tank I bought had a very small filter which could clog up with the smallest piece of dirt. I fabricated a fuel filter before we put the fuel in this tank and removed the small inlet filter and the problem was resolved. The high tide was now an hour later but we made it over the bar and anchored just before dark in “Tres Puntas”.
Due to some bad weather we stayed the next day with a few other boats in “Tres Puntas”, which was great for me since I needed some rest. The next day we motor sailed to a very nice anchorage in Belize called “New Haven”. It is not to difficult to get into the anchorage, but it turned out that my navigation system was behaving badly and only with the help from a navigation system on my tablet were we able to get past the shallow waters and reefs. The next day we tried to get out of “New Haven”, where the wind was very calm and the water flat. However, as soon as we turned into open water the waves on our nose were short and high and the wind was strong. Just as we tried to turn, my anchor chain was released and before I could restrain it, we had close to 200 ft of anchor chain out and the anchor was stuck in the ground. It took me a lot of time to get the anchor back in and we returned to the “New Haven” anchorage.
What happened? When I was taking the anchor in on our anchorage in “New Haven” it had a lot of mud both on the chain and the anchor and when I was cleaning it Dorothy called for help since the navigation system behaved very confusingly. I went to help her but failed to secure the anchor thus allowing it to release when we encountered the rough water.
The next day we had a very calm and uneventful sail to Placencia with the help of my laptop computer navigation application. We found a nice protected anchoring spot in what is called “Placencia Harbor”. The following day we took the water taxi to the mainland to check in with immigration, customs, agriculture and port control. It was an expensive and time-consuming endeavor. After we returned to Placencia we had a very nice lunch with several other fellow cruisers. We enjoyed our stay in Placencia, but we discovered more and more electric and electronic problems. It was like every day another problem showed up. When we discussed all these problems with a few other fellow cruisers we concluded that our problems might have been caused by an indirect lightning strike while we were on the hard in RAM Marina. It is common knowledge that in case of a direct or an indirect lightning strike electronic problems tend to show up days, weeks and sometimes months after the strike.
An example was our wind generator. It worked fine. Suddenly in the middle of the day it stopped working. The red wire of the 8-gauge cable had no connection anymore without any sign of breakage on the outside. I pulled a new cable and the problem was solved. The same went for our AIS system and several other systems. All these were solved with replacing the cables.
However, the two main problems which remained, and I could not solve were the problem with the water maker and the navigation system. For both we needed parts from the USA. Without fresh water we could not stay on anchor any longer on and we decided to move to a marina. We understood from other cruisers that there was a nice marina on the peninsula called “Robert’s Grove Marina and Resort”. This marina is too far to walk from Placencia Village, so we rented a golf cart to explore the peninsula and find the marina. We found the marina and it looked very nice. The peninsula is on this location very narrow with in the middle the road from Placencia to the main land of Belize. The marina is on the lagoon side of the peninsula and it has a Mexican restaurant, a dive shop, condos and houses. On the sea side is the resort with a beautiful pool, restaurant and the beach.
During high tide which is only 8 inches higher than low tide we left the Placencia Anchorage and headed to Robert’s Grove Marina. The water in the lagoon is very shallow and the dock master of the marina gave us a set of waypoints to follow. The last 2 miles were very shallow with water between 2 and 0.1 feet underneath the keel. The dockmaster told us that the water depth in the marina was 7ft. so we were very happy to make it to the marina, but when we tried to go to the slip about 3 ft. from the dock, we got stuck in the mud and this was during high tide. The dock master pulled us off with a dive boat and put us just past the entrance of the channel. The depth at this location is between 5.3 and 5.5 ft so Island Girl is resting in the mud with low tide. Fortunately, it is very soft mud, so it causes no problems.
Robert’s Grove Marina and Resort is a very nice place to be. As you can see in the pictures, which I posted together with this blog we are in a narrow channel with rental condos on one side of the channel and on the side where Island Girl is, are private homes. The main part of the marina has a catamaran charter company.
In the morning boats come in to drop-off workers who live on the mainland and of course in the evening they come to pick up these people again. Most of these people live in a little town called Independence. Local people live on the mainland instead of Placencia Peninsula due to the incredible difference in the cost of living, even taking into consideration the cost of the daily watertaxi. During the day there is traffic from dive, snorkel and fishing boats both for people vacationing on the peninsula and tourists from the cruise ships.
The distance from the marina to Placencia village is 4.3 miles which is too far to walk to do grocery shopping. But there is a small village called Seine Bight close to the marina that has a good basic grocery store called “Publics”. Which is a surprise for people who know south Florida where “Publix” is the largest supermarket chain. The distance to that store is just 0.5 mile, so it is very doable to walk to this store for some shopping. For other things we must take a taxi which is very expensive - US$10.00 one way.
I did a lot of the repairs for which I did not need parts or had parts. But now we are waiting for parts of the Watermaker and a new course computer system. The cost of the navigation system is US$2,999.00 plus shipping and import fees and cost. The parts have been ordered and now we are waiting for their arrival.
But it was not all work, it was time to play and we planned a trip to explore the mainland of Belize. We rented a car from Budget and took a 3-day road trip to “Orange Walk” a small city in the northern part of Belize with the intention to have a great south to north view of Belize and to visit the Maya Ruins of “Lamanai”. Instead of using the “Coastal Road” which is a dirt road we took the “Hummingbird Highway” which offers a stunning view of the Mayan Mountains to Belmopan and with that we visited 4 of the 22 recommended places to visit in Belize. The road condition is excellent, but not all the narrow colonial bridges are replaced yet and at every narrow bridge crossing we waited until the heavy truck in front of us was safely on the other side.
The old capital of Belize is call “Belize City” and is the largest city in Belize. The city is the country's principal port and its financial and industrial hub. Cruise ships drop anchor outside the port and are tendered by local citizens. When Hurricane Hattie swept ashore on October 31, 1961 it destroyed approximately 75% of the houses and business places in the low-lying areas and the coastal city. The government proposed to encourage and promote the building of a new capital city on better land with space for an industrial area. The new city called Belmopan was constructed just to the east of the Belize River, 80 km (50 mi) inland from the former capital. The construction started in 1967 and the government was moved to the new capital in 1970.
From Belmopan we drove to Orange Walk Town which is the fourth largest town in the nation of Belize and is located on the left bank of the New River. We stayed in a very lovely retreat on the “New River” called “Lamanai River Retreat”. The river makes this retreat very idyllic with nice gazebos along the bank of the river where you see many birds and even a few crocodiles. Once a day a tug boat tows several barges with products from the sugar factory to the sea to load them into ships heading for the US or Europe.
We did not realize that sugar is produced in the northern part of the country, but it is the nation's largest agricultural export product, accounting for 50 percent of domestic export revenues and half of all agricultural land use. We also saw along the “Hummingbird Highway” many citrus farms and 2 large citrus factories. Fruits, such as bananas, oranges, and grapefruits, are the country's second largest agricultural export. The export of these agricultural products have a high revenue due to preferential quotas and tax rates on sugar exports granted by the USA and the EC and Belize export of citrus concentrate and bananas to the USA is duty free under the Caribbean Basin Initiative (CBI).
We planned to use our rental car to drive to the “Lamanai Ruins”, but the owner of the Lamanai River Retreat advise us to take the river tour to the ruins. We first thought the price was high, but when we realized how much was included in the price we signed up. The next morning the tour guide picked us up and drove us to the location along the river from where our boat left.
The tour over the “New River” was amazing. Although it is called a river it is more a lagoon and it is an oasis in a maze of narrow rivers and waterways that cut through Belize. Nearly all the shorelines are covered with water lilies and behind it a very dense foliage. The area always had human occupation and is essential to commerce and trade while still maintaining the ecological integrity of the diverse wildlife along its banks.
In the New River Lagoon, you can find an abundance of birds like Jabiru storks, roseate spoonbills, great black hawks, social flycatchers, snail kites, blue crowned motmots, night herons, northern jacanas, squirrel cuckoos, cormorants, and several species of parrots. I took pictures of bats ‘glued’ to the outside of hollowed-out tree trunks, but they are very difficult to see. Also, along the banks you can see crocodiles, iguanas, and turtles. I am not a wildlife photographer, but I am very proud of a few of the pictures I took from birds.
After a 1 ½ hour boat ride with many stops to see the wildlife up-close we arrived at the “Lamanai Ruins” which means “Submerged Crocodile”. The ruins were once a major city of the Mayan civilization and was occupied as early as the 16th century BC. Most of the site remained unexcavated until the mid-1970s. Archaeological work has concentrated on the investigation and restoration of the larger structures specifically three temples the “High”, “Jaguar” and “Mask Temple”. I climbed the “High Temple” and the view over the “New River Lagoon” and the surrounding jungle is stunning. We have been in many other sites in Guatemala, Mexico and Honduras and this site is not the most exciting one except for the surrounding area and the cleanliness of the site. No trash cans, what you bring you must carry out. We had a great lunch in the park and an amazing boat trip back to Orange Walk.
Belize is expensive, especially compared to Guatemala. But the grocery store prices in Orange Walk are a lot lower than in Placencia. We did some extensive shopping and even bought a small cooler to transport the meat products back to Island Girl.
On our way back to Placencia we made a small detour to Belize City and Dangriga. Dangriga was settled around 1830 by Black Caribs from Honduras better known as Garifuna. Dangriga is home to the Garifuna, a cultural and ethnic group, descendants of slaves who were brought from the Lesser Antilles, mainly Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. Many Garifuna today are of mixed ancestry, primarily with West African, Central African, Island Carib, European, and Arawak mixture. Garifuna music is quite different from that of the rest of Central America. The most famous form is “Punta” and it is the best-known traditional music and dance in Honduras, El Salvador, Belize, Guatemala, and parts of Nicaragua.
If you are interested in the enormous influence on the population and culture in the Caribbean due to the arrival of Europeans, you must read about the history of the Garifuna.
We hope that we will get our parts soon so we can get Island Girl ready for some sailing, but in the meantime, we enjoy our stay in Belize. Being connected to the internet also gives us the opportunity to communicate with our daughter Dominique, the developer and the builder regarding our future house that is under construction at this moment. Dominique sends us pictures and videos about the progress on a regular basis, and we are very excited about the prospect of being able to move into our new home at the end of this sailing season.
Being in a Marina is not a Preparation for Offshore Sailing
25 January 2019 | RAM Marina Rio Dulce Guatemala
Bert - Light rain with cool temperatures
On May 27, 2017 we arrived in RAM Marina in the Rio Dulce in Guatemala. Due to health issues we were not able to take our boat Island Girl out and go sailing. However, we spend a lot time on the boat, both on the hard and in the water. We did a lot of major repair jobs on the boat including replacing our chainplates, installing a new generator, batteries and a refurbished wind vane. We regularly tested both the main engine and our generator, and it seemed that all the systems worked well. We decided to leave RAM Marina and sail to the Honduras Bay Islands.
We left the marina on December 18, 2018 and had a very nice motor sail to Livingston where we needed to check out and wait for the high tide. With our draft of 5.5 ft. and the correct route we would be able to cross the bar close to high tide. The high tide we were waiting for was at 4:30 PM, but at around 3:00 PM a few other boats were leaving, and we tried to follow them. We clearly did not select the correct route and we got stuck. Within a minute a tow boat came along and towed us for $60.00 over the bar and we were on our way to Utila one of the Honduras bay islands.
Just after we passed “Tres Puntas” the sun went down, and we sailed into a very pleasant night sail. Just before we passed the most southern reefs and cays of Belize, we met a cruise ship called “Norwegian Get Away” and we were on a collision course. I called the cruise ship on the radio and they made a course correction to give us space and the ship passed us at about 2 miles to our port side.
The seas was very calm, but the wind dropped, and we switched on the main engine. In the middle of the night our engine stopped after we heard some strange noises coming from the engine. I switched fuel filters and added some oil. Two hours later the engine stopped again and could not be started anymore. Luckily the wind picked up again and we continued our trip sailing. In the morning the wind dropped, and we were just drifting.
We called on the radio for help and s/v Halcyon responded. Although they had problems with one of their engines, they offered to tow us to Utila. In the beginning we were able to have decent speed of 4 knots, but the closer we came to Utila the more current we got on the nose and the speed dropped to less than 3 knots, but the wind was picking up, unfortunately also on the nose and we decided to try to get to the entrance to the bay of Utila on sail.
Just before sunset the wind picked up to 25 kn. and we had some nice sailing tacking to the entrance to the reef. Then we got new problems. A block of the head sail broke, and the inhaul sheet of the stay sail came lose resulting in two large sails flapping in the wind. I could replace the block of the head sail, but I could not control the stay sail and we came very close to the reefs.
We called for help and Brit and Sandy from s/v Halcyon and John from s/v Aeeshah came with their dinghy over the very rough seas to Island Girl. Brit and I managed to furl the stay sail and John and Brit managed to sail into the entrance and found us an anchoring spot. It was 10 PM when this trip ended, and we were very happy to have made it safely thanks to the help of cruising friends.
Since the generator did not want to run as well, we were very low on battery power and had to close down all the systems and only have a few small lights on.
John from s/v Aeeshah came the next day to check the engine and found that we had very badly contaminated fuel and the tank needed to be cleaned before we could use the engine or the generator. John cleaned all our filters and we went to the dock of Mr. Bush, a local store owner, to pump out all the ‘old’ fuel. We cleaned the tank as best as we could without a service entrance to the tank and put new fuel in. For 4 days we ran the engine and our generator while at anchor without any problems.
During the trip we also realized we had more problems. The refurbished wind vane indicated the wind speed, but not the wind direction and the Balmar Alternator did not supply any power neither with the internal nor the external volt regulator. The electronic compass and the chart plotter continuously went into error mode due to low power on the system.
My birthday came up, but it was not a nice day to go to town because of the rain, but in-between rain showers we made it to the dock of the dive school and had a nice lunch in the restaurant. We had the same weather on Christmas day, and we spent the entire day on the boat, but we still had a good time. The next day it was beautiful weather and we went ashore and rented a golf car to explore the island. To our big surprise we discovered a lot of large new houses on the east side of the island. The water was still too cold for me to do any diving, which I normally love to do especially on Utila, which has very beautiful dive spots close to shore.
We felt that with the bad fuel and all the other problems we needed to go to Roatan so we could get some more support and have more protected anchor places in view of the fact we did not trust the engine with the dirt on the bottom of the fuel tank. We decided that it was time to continue our trip and left at 6:30 AM on 12/27/2018 for Roatan.
We did not make it further than the exit marker of the bay in between the reefs when the engine stopped again. The wind was okay, so we decided that we needed to return to the Rio to fix this problem.
Unfortunately, we only had wind for an hour and then drifted until 2:00 PM slowly away from Utila. After this episode we had a nice sail until the next morning 5:00 AM in front of one of the cays in Belize called “Tom Owen’s”. The wind dropped completely and the remainder of the day we just drifted slowly to the reefs of Belize.
Around 1:00 PM we knew we were in deep trouble with hardly any electric power left on board and too close for comfort to the reefs. We called Karen of RAM Marina on our Sat phone and she contacted the Belize Coast Guard. She gave us the phone number of the Coast Guard and after we called them with the coordinates of our location, they realized we were indeed a threat to the reefs of Belize and sent a fast boat to tow us to their local station in “Hunting Cay”.
The crew of the Coast Guard boat did not want to use the tow line I had ready but insisted to use one of their lines which was clearly in a very bad condition. They did not want to wait until I had my sails down and started towing us at a speed of 8 knots back to their base. To get there we had to go in-between two reefs. One of the reefs was hit by the ocean swell and the braking waves were very high. We were heading towards this reef. At the last moment the captain of the Coast Guard boat realized this, and he made a sharp turn. The line went slack, but he kept on going and when the line went tight it broke with a big snap. Island Girl was still sailing with full sails and the momentum of the tow and sailed straight to the reef. The tow boat captain turned around and collided with us. Before we had two lines connected to both vessels so he could tow us from the side he hit Island Girl several times and we were afraid he damaged us big time. But it was also the other way around. The anchor of Island Girl grabbed the eye brow of the Coast Guard boat and tore a big part out of it. But we made it to anchor place, and we were very happy to drop the anchor without further incidents.
We went onshore to check in and had to pay $25.00 for immigration and a tip of $20.00 for the Coast Guard crew. The next day we discovered that we were in shallow water and we had to call the tow boat to tow us to deeper water.
I was able to connect the generator to a jug of fuel, but without a fuel line I could not do the same with the main engine. And then the rescue team arrived with fuel lines and connectors. Tyrone, Jesslynn and Smadar left at 6:00 AM on 12/30/2018 the Rio with a lancha for the 60 miles trip to “Hunting Cay”. It was for them a rough ride over open water, but they arrived at 11:00 AM and Tyrone made the fuel connection to a jug of fresh fuel and at 2:00 PM we were on our way to “Tres Puntas”.
We arrived in the dark at about 7:00 PM, anchored the boat, had a bite to eat and went to sleep since we had to be up again around 1:00 AM the next morning to make a 3:00 AM crossing over the bar in Livingston. We were a little early, but we had a better route and only slightly ‘bumped’ the bar in the low side of the waves. We anchored in front of Livingston and went back to bed.
On December 31, 2018 at 6:00 AM we continued our trip in the Gorge and the Golfette to RAM Marina. It was too early to check in with immigration and since the boat was supposed to stay out of Guatemala for 3 months our agent advised us to just continue our trip and come back after New Year to do the check-in. We arrived in RAM Marina at 11:00 AM very tired but extremely happy with a warm welcome from Karen, her crew and cruising friends.
We did not wait until midnight on New Year’s Eve, went early to bed and slept for 12 hours straight. We did this for 2 nights before we started feeling better and rested. This was not a good trip, but it had a very happy ending thanks to so many great cruiser friends who came to our rescue.
We took a lancha to go back to Livingston on January 3 to check in with immigration. Our custom and immigration agent is always taking care of this process. We gave him our passports, had a very nice lunch of local food, picked up our stamped passports and returned with the lancha to RAM Marina.
We started to make a list of all the items in need of repair and we came to 25 with many expensive parts that we needed to order in the USA. The major part of the issue was to polish the fuel and put as much fuel as possible in jugs and our fuel bladder to clean the tank. One of the firms that does this job in the Rio is Captain John Marine Service and they did the best they could, but because the tank has baffles and no real service entrance to the tank, we could not clean the entire tank. To access the other parts of the tank we need to start cutting the floor and the tank, so we decided to wait for further action until after this sailing season. We will use jugs, our fuel bladder and an outboard fuel tank to make short trips to Belize.
To reduce the time to ship and pass customs in Guatemala we shipped all the parts to my son’s office where my daughter Dominique collected everything and packed it all together with some other stuff in a duffel bag. I took a one day up and down flight from Guatemala City to Houston. Normally we take the bus from Fronteras to Guatemala and back. But we were warned that the opposition planned big demonstrations and road blocks on the major roads all over the country but especially in the City. I could not take the bus. The solution was a taxi ride to Puerto Barrios airport and a flight with a small plane to Guatemala City.
I arrived at 7:00 PM the hotel in Guatemala and the next morning at 4:30AM a courtesy bus took me to the airport. I left Guatemala City at 7:00 AM and arrived at 10:00 AM in Houston. I met my son Robert who handed me the bag with parts, had lunch with him and I flew back at 8:00 PM to Guatemala where I arrived at 11:00 PM. Back in the hotel at midnight and the next morning with the bus leaving at 9:00 AM and arriving at RAM Marina and Island Girl at 3:30 PM. Exhausted, but happy that I had all the parts and we could complete all the repair jobs.
Unfortunately, we needed a few more parts most of them we could buy locally unfortunately these were very expensive and on January 25, 2019 we declared the projects complete.
We plan to leave the Rio on Tuesday January 29, 2019 and sail to Belize to spend there the next 3 to 4 months.
Six Years on our Way and Counting
10 December 2018 | RAM Marina Rio Dulce Guatemala
Bert - Raining with nice temperature
Six (6) years ago on December 6, 2012 we started our Caribbean sail trip and we had a great time sailing, visiting many countries and meeting many nice and friendly people. Unfortunately, last year we had to miss the sailing season due health issues, but we still spent a lot of time on our boat Island Girl in RAM Marina. We arrived in the marina on May 27, 2017 and we are very excited that finally we can make the last preparations to start sailing again.
We left Miami Beach 10:00PM and it was dark and although we practiced taking off all the lines without any help it was more difficult than we anticipated. No one to cast us off, it was just Dorothy and me when we started this journey that we originally planned to take about 1 ½ to 2 years. Although we meet every day wonderful people it is still Dorothy and me and we love it to be together and can enjoy the world together. We visited 37 countries in the Caribbean, South and Central America. The countries we visited are beautiful, but it is mainly the people we meet that make a difference in our lives. We miss our family and friends and exchange a lot of “hi’s” and goodbyes which is typical in the life of cruisers. But although the oceans and seas are large, the world is small and one day we will meet each other again.
In the first 4 years we sailed 9 months out of the year. This was possible because we were sailing in the south Caribbean and the north coast of South America and this kept us out of the hurricane area. We made every year a month’s trip to the USA to visit our family, friends and get a health check. Every year we received a clean bill of health, except the one year when I was misdiagnosed for having Lung Cancer. In 2014 I had a new corneal transplant with the fastest recovery I ever had from this procedure. It was also the best transplanted cornea I ever had with very good eyesight.
However; this good luck changed completely after we returned to Panama after our annual visit to the USA. I developed a very aggressive infection due to a fistula. I had to take an emergency flight back to the USA and was operated in a hospital just outside “Bush International Airport” in Houston. Later I needed another surgery on this fistula and in the meantime, I underwent 2 more surgeries, unfortunately the problem only gets worse and not better. I had to stay for 3 months in the USA for daily wound care and be close to medical facilities for another couple of months.
After we returned to Panama, we crossed the Panama Canal on Board of a large catamaran. We made a very nice land tour through Panama with a rented car and we fell in love with the Pacific side of the country. We flew to Colombia and stayed for a week with Kelly and her family in Santa Marta. The remaining sailing season was short but very exciting. We visited the Colombian islands of San Andres and Providencia. In San Andres we drove Island Girl on a reef, but luckily the damage was very light. We teamed up with s/v Panache and s/v Imagine Square and sailed together to the Honduras Bay Islands. The season ended at the end of May in the Rio Dulce in Guatemala. On our way back to the USA we visited Antigua and had a nice sightseeing tour in Guatemala City.
Our stay in Texas was very eventful with another surgery with mixed results; we sold our condo in Miami Beach after it survived hurricane Irma and needed to evacuate our RV to higher grounds after Hurricane Harvey hit Texas. We had to delay our departure to Guatemala since Bush International Airport in Houston was closed.
We had a very nice land trip in a rental car through Guatemala and visited The Netherlands to see my brother who was diagnosed with ALS and the rest of my family. We had high hopes that our generator would be fixed, but the cause of the problems was never found. We visited the historic Maya site of Copan in Honduras where I got a cold and started to realize that my transplanted cornea was rejecting. Instead of starting our sailing season, we put the boat back on the hard and returned to Texas for a new cornea transplant. The new cornea never gave me the eyesight I had with the previous one and I was very disappointed. While recovering of my transplant we purchased a nice lot of land in historic Gruene along the Guadalupe River in New Braunfels.
After 3 months in Texas we retuned to the Rio Dulce in Guatemala and performed a difficult task of replacing the chainplates on Island Girl. We made a wonderful trip by bus through the south side of Mexico and the highlands of Guatemala. On our return to the boat we installed a new generator.
We were planning to start building our new home in the summer of 2019, but that did not seem to fit in our future sailing plans. We changed our plans and decided to fly back to Texas to get the process started. Again, I had a lot of health problems, so at the same time we visited doctors.
Due to a delayed flight from Guatemala City we missed the connection to San Antonio and then the connecting flight was delayed as well. It was 11:00 PM when we arrived in our RV. But thanks to our friends Kitty and Kurt and our daughter Dominique our RV was nicely parked on the campground and our bed was made.
We were very busy and hardly had any time to relax. I had a total of 13 doctors’ visits and Dorothy had 2 including cataract surgery. We had long meetings with the architect, developer and builder for all the designs changes we wanted for our new home and after that we signed all the needed paperwork for the construction which started a week after we left. We selected all the amenities like faucets, range, oven, refrigerator, microwave, sinks, granite tops and cabinets for the kitchen and bathrooms, the tiles, lamps, lighting and the front door.
During our stay it looked like our dear Texas was freezing over. One morning at 5:00 AM when I was leaving our cold RV for my morning swim it was 25F with a 25 miles northerly wind. All our friends used to cold temperatures will say that this doesn’t sound too bad and some will even say that it is great weather, but Dorothy and I are not used to it and cannot even remember when we were in this kind of cold weather. During our stay we used 4 large tanks of propane to keep the RV warm. The best evenings were Friday night dinner at our daughter’s house, good food, great company and warm environment.
Because I made a reservation error, we were flying back to Guatemala on Thanksgiving Day. We had a Thanksgiving dinner at our daughter Dominiques home on Wednesday night and our son Robert and his wife Heather invited us on Sunday to their apartment for a pre-Thanksgiving dinner. Except for 2 of their sons who could not make it, the family shared a good time and a great dinner. Jack, the son of Robert and Heather is joining the Navy and will report for boot-camp in Chicago in December and this was the last time we saw him as a civilian. We are very proud of him. Our daughter Dominique was together with her 3 kids, Justin who is our oldest grandson, Kristin and Katelynn the youngest.
Back on Island Girl we started to prepare the boat to start sailing again and weather permitting we hope to depart the Rio Dulce before Christmas. Our points of interest this season will be Belize and the Honduran Bay Islands.
However, we will return to Guatemala since we have decided to make the Rio Dulce with RAM Marina our home port.