29 April 2019 | North Long Coco Caye Belize
20 November 2017 | Morales Guatemala
15 November 2017 | Rio Dulce Ram marina
30 July 2017 | San Marcos El Dragon hotel
26 June 2017 | San Pedro Guatemala
15 May 2019
'Let's pack up and go to Lago Atitlan' says Ron. Oh my, I had been thinking the same thing but was afraid to suggest it to The Captain. He had been looking daily at the wind and weather - hoping for the right moment to sail south to Roatan. None had presented itself and we were getting a bit stale at the The Reserve. The Beach Club had provided great afternoons around the pool and the people there were super friendly. Jim Slocum -Google" Curiosity- Plane crash"- invited us over one evening to see his unique home on the Reserve. It is exquisite -totally constructed of Bamboo and owned previously by a Canadian. And for sale. Others generously shuttled us back and forth to the Club for dinner. Some days we rented a car and visited Hopkins - a small seaside community of restaurants, guesthouses and the best Italian restaurant we have been to since Vancouver days. But our time was slipping away and with no chance of getting easily to Roatan we set off for the highlands of Guatemala. A chicken bus ride -2 hours to Punta Gorda, a water taxi -1- hour to Puerto Barrios and a 45 min flight to Guatemala City, took us within easy reach of Antigua and the highlands.
We have blogged before of Antigua and its history and beauty and a second look was no less moving. This time there was a United Nations touring event called Buddy Bear, promoting peace and understanding around the world. Do we ever need that. It was inspired by the Cow Parade a few years ago. It was impressive. We had a great time listening to the adventures of the young people - mostly Irish and Canadians - we encountered at Maya Papaya. I think the world is in good hands.
Next up Lago Atitlan.
We mused to each other what the heck did we do for 5 weeks at the lake. What will we do for one week this time? All was revealed as we sat on the edge of the lake looking across to the oh so familiar skyline of volcanoes and hills. As the breezes wafted over us so did the feelings. We will chill. We will breathe in and out. We will read and talk and relax. We will absorb this place into our pores. Not to sound too crazy or like we have drunk the Kool-Aid, the lake has a mystical vibe about it. It is hard to resist. A familiar story told time and time again is " I came for 2 weeks" and 2-3 years have passed.
29 April 2019 | North Long Coco Caye Belize
My 68th birthday April 24,2019
North Long Coco Caye is that elusive caye that we have been told about by friends. A must not miss they say. We could not find it identified on our maps. And then we find ourselves onboard The Reserve motor launch with 20 others heading out there on of all days - my birthday. How cool is that! The Reserve owns the caye and occasionally they take homeowners out there for the day and lunch. Ron arranged for us to join them. We settle in for the 3-hour ride, chatting to the others on board. The lawsuit that hangs over them all dominates the conversation of the men. The women talk about their new homes, floor plans, mold, the next neighbourhood party and who is due back to the Reserve. They are an outgoing crowd and we become included in the chatter as we learn that some are cruisers as well. Gordon, the owner of the Marina and the M.V. Mariah tells us some history of the caye. The first owners of the Reserve bought this caye, which was then a very uninhabitable place. The reef ringed the island and it was sunken in the middle with brackish water and garbage. They dredged it and loaded sand onto the island filling the cavity and forming wonderful beaches all around the coastline. Nearby Rendezvous Caye was clearing its land and the Reserve gathered truckloads of discarded sprouting palm trees- and transplanted them onto their own caye. Their caye is now a beautiful grove of palm trees 15 feet high on beautiful white sand. There are several palapas off the shore with tables and chairs, swings in the water, picnic tables, lounge chairs throughout with washrooms, fresh water showers, a bbq and roughed in serving tables and bar. The Reserve hauled coolers and food and booze and water out to the kitchen for our day. There is wonderful snorkeling around the caye. We enjoyed it all and even saw a ray hunting in the shallow waters off shore. As we prepared to leave a large Cat dropped its anchor off the shore and waited their turn on this lovely island in paradise. We arrived back to Namaste as the sun was setting, feeling like we had experienced something very special and having met some interesting folks.
Belize and the Cayes
19 April 2019
Laughing Bird Caye-April 10,2019
We ready the boat for a sail that means shutting everything away so nothing shifts or falls about while we are under sail. The winds are very light and the seas almost glassy. Unlikely we will be sailing the 4 hours -22 NM it will take us. There are no shallows enroute and we arrive at the Caye about 2pm. It is a small caye – about a 5-minute walk end to end and a 1-minute walk across. It is inside the barrier reef. We find a nice sandy spot to anchor about 25 meters off the beach. The caye is a park and named for the gulls that gather there. Their calls are indeed like a laugh. Wilbert is the caretaker of the caye and tells us where to snorkel. It is a popular destination from Placencia for tour boats offering daily snorkel guides. Three such boats leave as we arrive. The small caye has an elevated structure for Wilbert who tells us he lives here 3 weeks on and one week off. Pretty solitary existence. We don our gear and explore for the first time the Belizean the coral and fish.
Hatchet Caye- April 11-13, 2019
What a surprise as we approach Hatchet Caye. We see from the mooring field a dive shop, a well-developed resort with a restaurant, pool, bar, several guesthouses kayaks, seadoos and dive boats. We are anxious to go ashore and thrilled to try out their mooring balls. After one attempt into a stiff breeze we snatch the eye and tether our bow lines to it. Ashore we settle into the bar and meet the other guests. Some are a group of woman on a Yoga retreat – quite delighted in our boat’s name. 17 folks are a gathering of a family for a reunion. Pretty sweet place for that. And to our surprise Mary and Jeff Holt on SV Finte walk up the beach to join us at the bar. They are new friends from Placencia. They too are hanging out for a few days.
Enjoying the lounge and a few beers we look out to see Namaste adrift. Oh shoot. A mad dash to the dinghy ensued and between Ron and a skiff from the dive shop we grabbed Namaste and tied her up to another mooring ball. The tether on ours had chaffed through on the sea bottom and set us free. Lesson learned – again the hard way! Never trust a mooring ball. Pull back hard on them just like an anchor. Ron is aghast that a resort with a dive shop wouldn’t have mooring balls in better shape. Even after this, they said ‘yeah – we will dive the rest tomorrow’. (They never did!) We did reversed hard on this one but still had a restless sleep.
It is after sunset one night, dark and we walk out to the pier. The resort has turned on blue underwater lights to attract fish. What happens next is extraordinary. We look down and see 10-20 4-foot rays feeding on the fish. Their wings glide them back and forth in the blue-lit waters almost like a ballet. We marvel at the beauty of the scene below us and then slowly make our way back along the winding palm tree lined boardwalk to our dinghy and back to Namaste.
Life on the hook Belize
07 April 2019
Life on the anchor March 26……..
We anchored in Texan Bay also know as Cayo Quamado. ‘Texas Mike’- another character with a distinct voice has a little restaurant on this Bay where you can get a good meal and great cold beer. It is stopping off point for cruisers both coming up and down the river. We need to be out of Guatemala for 90 days this year and the clock started ticking on March 27. The absence of 90 days allows the boat to stay in the Rio for 2 years without paying import duties etc.
Texan Bay is very tranquillo and we loved our time there. Every morning young school kids would come by in a launcha with ground coffee to sell or fruit or knickknacks. The bay is quite sheltered and the water like glass. Once we got our SOS systems up and operational we sailed out towards Livingston on the coast of the Bay of Honduras.-
On a glorious sunny day with light winds we pulled anchor at Texas Bay and began
The spectacular sail down the Rio The water is deep often close to 100 feet with the jungle cascading straight into the river from heights of 300 feet. We passed by massive estates reportedly owned by Canadians and Americans. Juxtaposed to these opulent places were local thatched tiendas and homes of the Mayans.
Crossing the bar at Livingston.
Livingston is small town at the entrance to the Bay of Honduras. A sand bar across the entrance causes much concern with boaters. The depth is very shallow. At high tide it is rarely over 5 feet. Without a short draft and careful attention to the very narrow 7 foot wide channel many boats need to be leaned and dragged through it. It is a constant topic of conversation amongst boaters. One boater recently has mapped the sand bar with some specialized instruments. He provided waypoints to the community that have been incredibly accurate. Our draft is only 4’6” and with careful helming and adherence to these waypoints we motored through the bar with no trouble at all. And we are grateful as the sand bar can shift with the tides.
We headed to Tres Puntas to anchor and stay the night. It is spit of jungle into the Bay of Honduras, which offers protection from south east, and west winds. The area is quite built up since we were there in 2017. It now has a large resort including with water slides.
The next morning 0700 we hauled anchor and headed to Placencia, Belize. The seas were flat and the wind was almost dead at times. It began to fill in later in the day and we were able to hoist our Jib and sail. We arrived in good time- 1600. We anchored in the channel amidst 17 other yachts. We had heard there were 30 anchored which could have forced us in to the lagoon far from the life in Placencia.
We spent a lovely evening have beer and meeting 10 best friends from Yakima Washington- almost neighbours! Some of them had won a week fishing and snorkeling trip to one of the cayes and atolls nearby. They were a hoot and we all had a good time.
We will stay here and enjoy the coastal community for a few days. There is a strong Caribbean influence here in the people, the food and music. The little town of Placencia with an airport nearby, is a jumping off spot for sport fishing and scuba/snorkeling. For the cruising community it is a provisioning spot before exploring the many cayes and reefs nearby. The beachfront is quite quaint. Much of it is built on a small network of interconnected boardwalks. The place is very colourful with brightly painted stores and restaurants.
We have run into friends Steve and Marion and faithful 4 legged companion Trotsky from Whitehorse. We met them in 2017 in the Rio. They are heading back to the RIO having completed their season. Good to hear about where they went and how they got there and what they saw.
The adventure continues
04 April 2019
Returning to the Rio and Namaste
March 12, 2019
Some items in my Guatemala bound luggage:
5 lbs of Red River cereal, mosquito netting for a princess bed, 2 lbs of pistachios, 5 lbs of Woodruff walnuts, electrical cords, 2 lbs of orzo, 3 lbs, rice, 2 lbs of quinoa, a metal coat hanger, 6 personal alarms, precooked bacon, prosciutto, brie cheese, 3 lbs raisins, granola bars, stoned wheat thins, various boat parts, and a couple pairs of shorts. Who knew it would be 100+ lbs. Enter my creative sister in law, Anne. There was no way I was going to schlep 3 bags through Houston airport. So she helped me don a walking boot and ordered a wheelchair at the airport. I got the royal treatment with my very own porter _through check in, security, and preferred loading. The porter even stopped for me to pick up sushi dinner. I thought for sure my gig was up when the purser on the flight said
‘Did you get your boot at check-in? It sure helps with boarding.” All I could manage was a weak ha-ha and mumbled something about a badly sprained ankle was better than a break. I convinced myself this wasn’t a lie.
Great start to the adventure !
March on Namaste
The next 2 weeks I spent planning the food and storing it safely in dry containers. I was slow to acclimatize to the heat and got a stubborn UTI. You just can’t drink enough water down here. Ron likely tore his Achilles tendon before I got here. He has been here since the beginning of February. With the help from a collection of characters living here in the Rio, he managed to get the Perkins engine humming beautifully, replaced the inverter so we will have 12-volt power on board and had the rigging checked.
I find the characters here in the Rio so interesting. There are cruisers who come and go. They hale from all parts of the globe – Denmark, New Zealand, USA, Canada, France, Germany, Italy.
Then there are the cruisers whose journey has stopped here. Living is cheap. As are drugs and alcohol. They all have a story.
One group I dubbed the Bloomers. In spite of encountering adversities they have carved out a place in the river for themselves.
-One woman’s husband died when they first got here several years ago. She has stayed on –piecing out her boat- one cleat at a time. She loves to cook and has developed a catering business from her galley. She is a rough diamond. She announces her lunch specials “ I am in lasagna kinda mood today” on the Cruiser’s net. And sometimes even sells “special brownies”. One cruiser did not understand how special they were until she had consumed them. Ha-ha.
Another woman- a former corrections officer in England solo sailed here. Her boat says 365 days in a marina from where she runs a non profit organization Pass It On It assists Mayans along the river. They turn refurbish discarded solar panels for the small villages along the river. They turn cruisers casts off in to cash at the swap meets making about US$500 per month. Teams of cruisers with various skills help build the village’s infrastructure from construction to setting up solar power. Pass It On also connects the river people with medical attention generally provided by transient cruisers.
Another woman whose husband is a boat broker, teaches at a school called Casa Guatemala, which was formerly an orphanage. They have a Casa Guatemala store based at Backpackers which sells comfort food for cruisers. Twice a week the store goes on the river visiting cruisers at the various Marinas with wonderful fruit, veggies, yogurts and meats to sell. We have bought portabella mushrooms, pastrami, natural yogurt and beautiful fruit and veggies off the side of Namaste.
-Then there is the hippie crowd who have turned on, tuned out. They have left the North American society behind. They find the lifestyle here more to their liking – little interference from Big Brother. “Tranquillo” is the overarching feeling amongst the Mayan communities. One fellow found his home here amongst the Guatemalans –loving their community structure. He tells the story of a husband beating his wife. The community banished him for year. It sounds like our indigenous system of justice.
Some have found a niche for themselves like our mechanic. He fixes engines in the afternoon, day trades in the morning and parties at night. He is a loner, raises geese and chickens that wander freely in his office/workshop.
Some are on a steady slide downwards as drugs and alcohol have taken away their ‘want to’. They seem to survive by selling free stuff they score. We had one of them go up our stick 2 years ago successfully. Not this year though. Not safe for him now.
Cocaine and other drugs are quite prevalent here on the Rio. I don’t know how well attended the AA meeting is here on the Rio.
And then there are the active cruisers. Ron calls some of them delightful Curmudgeons. Health issues start to creep in inspite of a desire to be sailing. So they stay on the Rio and become part of the cruising lifestyle without leaving the dock. There are fabulous Marinas around that are quite comforting –weekly movies with popcorn, organized expeditions to various attractions around here and companionship with people from around the world.
Our recent help with the rigging was a young guy from Tennessee. His boat was once owned by his grampa. He and his girl friend are sailing around, stopping when they need to earn some money to out again. He is a sailor’s sailor. He sailed into his berth on our dock at night, no power and snugged between us and another boat. I know people who couldn’t parallel park as well.
Then there are the legends whose stories of sailing misadventures follow them wherever they go. And the stories are not always good. In one case the captain seems to have more money than smarts. He yearns for the lifestyle but can’t bring himself to do the work. He hires crew who abandon him as he seems to find a way to sabotage the journey. His priorities lists ice cold beer over power for the winches. And of course they are all electric. He lost his $5000 dinghy and motor one night because he could not be bothered to lift it out of water and lock it. We will likely see him again on our journey in some anchorage waiting to find crew. We might even sell back to him his inflatable dinghy. Without a dinghy a cruiser is screwed.
Other cruisers are like us – at the dock waiting for the right weather window to shove off. And the saying in this world is “Shoving off from the dock is the hardest thing in sailing.”
With all the A list items done we were able to shove away from the dock March 26 and head out to Texas Bay and check out of Guatemala for awhile.
To be continued....
31 January 2018
We are settled back in Canada now. Land of snow and cold. We wrapped up Namaste in tarps, cleaned her out of all that could mold and rot and left her in the on the hard. It will be 15 months before we return to her and resume the adventure. The cruising lifestyle has rooted in us and we are keen to continue to sail. For now our task is to re-establishing a land base here in the beautiful Okanagan city of Penticton.It is all very exciting.