Archive for: ‘May 2013’

Back in the U.S.A.

May 27, 2013 Posted by Deb

Day one of the trip back to the U.S. started with an early morning, 20-plus mile ride in a panga with a 50-horse outboard. El Golfete was flat calm and the air was full of smoke from either Guatemala burning or charcoal making, probably the latter. We thought Guatemala was on fire 18 years ago, and it doesn’t seem to have changed.


We grabbed the bus with at least five minutes to spare. Our memories of the bus trip were that it was hot and long and whenever the bus stopped, cockroaches crawled up the walls. This time it was a modern bus with a movie and nice seats and it only stopped once.


Once in Guatemala City, we did a small amount of tourist stuff then overnighted at Villa Toscana, a nice little bed and breakfast. They arranged for a cab driver to meet us at the main bus terminal holding up a card with our name.


VillaToscanaChuckThe next morning it was a short trip to the airport followed by a cold flight and a very cold layover in the Dallas airport with delays due to the Oklahoma City tornado followed by a final cold flight to Des Moines, Iowa. We arrived in Des Moines 36 hours after starting.

Despite a nasty head cold, we kept up the pace to get ready for the Cast Iron Canoe trip and a transition from 100° and 92% humidity to 40° nights in a tent and dry air. We fired up the old van, rounded up old gear, loaded up the old Alumacraft canoe, and headed to Danbury, Wisconsin, and the Namekagon River. After one night in a tent with a bad cold, I had to beg off and leave the group for a day but Deb continued. I hit a motel and did a lot of sleep, hot showers, Jacuzzis, and was able to return to the fleet on day two at the McDowell Landing. We had a great finishing two day canoe and major food and alcohol event followed by a six pound bacon fry on the final morning.






Cayo Quemado

May 19, 2013 Posted by Deb

RAM Marina informed us literally as we were arriving in Guatemala that our boat was too wide for their travel lift. Our reservation to be stored on land was history but we could get our deposit back. That’s OK, we only cancelled out of Shelter Bay, Panama, and sailed about a thousand miles to hear that.


Casa del Mar met some folks in Texas Bay or Cayo Quemado who had a new, in-water boat storage operation called SeaKist Services. Chris and Kelly have a great storage package and the bay is almost completely surrounded by land. We got into one of their last slots and moved on down there right after we got both engines running and the alternator fixed.


For those following the engine battle, this time it was the main power switch to the engine room but both the mechanic and Doug on Aquadesiac said the relays made no sense and were probably another problem. Doug climbed into the engine room one day and started ripping out the relays and rewiring the battery, starter, and alternator leads. After he finished, we had a much simpler wiring diagram and a lot of leftover parts. We’ll see how it performs over time.

We decommissioned the boat in four days, about six days quicker than ever before. We pulled all the sails, shut thru hulls, shut down and covered solar panels, oiled 150 feet of chain, shut down refrigeration, pulled the outboard and stored and greased it, checked and lubed all the hatches, laid out bug poison, gave away food, packed, made travel arrangements, and doubled up lines and chafing gear and that is the short list.



Fronteras: Rio Dulce Guatemala

May 15, 2013 Posted by Deb

We have fond memories of Fronteras, a small town with only a handful of marinas 18 years ago. Hacienda Tijax was very new back then and Suzanna’s was a great bargain in a nice sheltered area. Now there are marinas everywhere and over 800 boats call the Rio Dulce home.


We remembered the dueling menus from the restaurants on the morning net and that tradition continues. The activity list has grown as well and we signed up for Trivia night at Hotel Kangaroo y Restaurant. The table of Neytiri and Aquadesiac was getting hammered during the early competition with not a lot of expertise in Western Civilization and “What was the last city liberated in Germany in WWII”, and “Which Russian czar was a priest.” But we moved from last to second on “Which country had 700,000 casualties in the 1500’s and 850,000 casualties in 1976 from earthquakes.”

TriviaNightWe sampled a few restaurants and revisited some old haunts but the bulk of our focus was to get the boat repaired and decommissioned for our trip to the U.S. It was nice to see Bruno’s was still around. Bruno’s was the last real bar fight we’ve been in (18 years ago). We ran down the dock as fast as we could back then and we still had one injury from our table (glass shard to the leg).

Bar and Gorge

May 11, 2013 Posted by Deb

Neytiri went in first because we had the shallowest draft. We read depth numbers off over the VHF and used our eyeballs and GPS coordinates provided by Raul, the super agent of Livingston. At one point we read off 5.8 feet which is too shallow for the boats behind us and we all jogged to port a bit. The following shots are of the fleet moving across the bar and up the famous Rio Dulce Gorge.












Roatan to Livingston: Nice, Easy Overnighter

May 9, 2013 Posted by Deb


The boat was crippled coming back from Cayos Cochinos and we were with a group of boats that had set a departure for Zero Dark Thirty the next morning. We’ve never been the boat holding up the party before; and we knew we had to scramble to get a new port battery, get the starboard engine starting again, and check out of the country with the port captain, customs, and immigration. To make matters worse, our mechanic contacts were either unavailable or sick.

We immediately went to the dockmaster for Fantasy Island, Jerry, and got a new contact for engine and electrical work. Not only did we reach Pedro, but he dropped what he was doing and met us at Frenchy’s 44 by 3:30 for a ride out to Neytiri. We got a chance to pick up a new battery, and Deb did a bit of last-minute provisioning before he arrived. It seems Pedro loves working on boats and solving problems and our issues seemed more interesting than the large project he was working on. He solved the starboard engine problem as quickly as the prior two or three pros. This time is was a bad connector on a wire. We installed a new battery, tested the port alternator, and Neytiri was ready to go. The charge for his services was around $30 U.S., and we drank beer for another two hours. During the drinking session, he mentioned that the relays as well as the electrical layout for the engines made no sense. That observation loomed large in the next few days.


The group changed plans and decided not leave that night but later the following day. We would stage at Cabos Tres Puntas for a night before tackling the dreaded Livingston bar at around 8:00 a.m. two mornings down the line. Checkout was a comedy if it wasn’t so painful. We had to wait, make calls, wait, visit the airport, and fill out forms, visit offices multiple times in the proper order, and deal with a wide variety of cab charges. Mike on Casa del Mar double checked our passports and the stamped exit date was more than a month off, actually before we arrived. Good catch and we had to arrange for another stamp. Always fun to explain multiple stamps down the road.

Departure was uneventful but we noticed the new starting battery was getting hit with too much of a charge and pulled the terminal quickly. We met Aquadesiac coming out of West Bay and the three-boat fleet sailed off into the sunset. Neytiri sailed initially, Casa del Mar motorsailed the entire trip, and Aquadesiac motor sailed (about 700 rpm lower than normal) and sailed. When we tried to motorsail to catch up a bit, the starboard engine failed to start again. We rewired the port alternator to the original, pre-Pedro configuration and found it was not charging the house bank at all and the starting battery was trying to cook again. After shutting down the alternator completely, we found ourselves with one engine and no means of engine driven charging of the house battery. We would soon be turning on nav lights and the autohelm chewed up lots of amps from the battery. We shut down refrigeration, the autohelm, and all unnecessary energy consumption and hand steered for the first time on this boat into the night. That makes a long night of it. The autohelm is like a third crewmember. Without it and with the off duty crew asleep, it is challenging to take a pit stop, get a drink, check navigation, trim sails, or do anything that requires leaving the helm.

By morning the solar panels kicked in. The lowest battery reading was 12.62 so we had plenty of juice in reserve. We flipped on refrigeration but the autohelm failed for the first time; and we continued hand steering, arriving way behind the fleet in Cabo Tres Puntas at about 2:30. We kicked back and re-read all the guides and their slightly different techniques for tackling the bar at Livingston. We remember well our last crossing 18 years ago and the depth alarms squawking (until we turned them off).

Cayos Cochinos or Islands of Pigs

May 7, 2013 Posted by Deb

We motored from Roatan to Cayos Cochinos in 4 to 5 hours in flat calm. When we grabbed a mooring, we couldn’t believe the bad rotten egg smell coming off the island. It turned out the smell was coming from our port starting battery which had cooked itself to the point of losing about four inches of acid into the battery compartment. We jerked the battery and put it on the sugar scoop, cleaned the battery box, and waited for the trades to flush out the smell. Of course, now we’re out a port engine within days of getting the starboard engine running. Maybe we were meant to have only one engine at a time.



This little group of islands is becoming our favorite. We are here with Casa del Mar and Aquadesiac and the diving is gorgeous and the locals are incredibly welcoming.


Of course they want to sell us jewelry, food, and Mike on Casa del Mar got an authentic Indian paddle. The little kids are great entertainment and love to have their picture taken. The head greeter has a name we can’t quite get but it is close to Foster. We dinked over to his restaurant on a tiny island called Cachuate after a hard morning of diving and finished up lunch at 4:30. He said he had 150 family members on that island. The island was shy about 15 beers when we left.









Cinco de Mayo Party on Neytiri

Cinco de Mayo Party on Neytiri

Hank and Old Port Royal Revisited

May 2, 2013 Posted by Deb

When we set up shop in French Harbor, Roatan, we went to the nearest boat, Sunyata, and started the process of getting a feel for the area and finding a good mechanic to bring our starboard engine back to life (again). We could not have picked a better boat to ask. Hank had been there for 28 years running a charter operation with his boat three or four months a year and generally kicking back the rest of the time. He set us up with Smiley, so named because he never smiles. Smiley pulled the starter, took it to a starter repair guy, reinstalled it, and chased down two new relays all in about a 3-day period and the total cost to bring the boat back online was under $150 U.S. with tip.

We also met Roy while waiting for a laundry pickup. Roy on Avion had been in Roatan for a long time as well, and he did a double take when we told him we anchored overnight in Old Port Royal. He said that the bay we were in was known as burglary bay and we were lucky to get out of there intact. Oops..

Roatan Road Trip

We actually did hook up with a part of the Panama fleet when Casa del Mar returned from the islands just south of Roatan called Cayos Cochinos. We didn’t so much catch up as they decided they liked the area and let the rest of the fleet sail on. We, along with Aquadesiac, did a road trip around Roatan with Santos, a tour guide who we chartered for a day. When three boats charter a van, that means a lot of stops at the top tourist sites like every hardware store on the island, every marine store, the grocery store, and finally, the gas station. We did a fair amount of sightseeing but the van was very full at the end of the day. The highlight was the tip of Roatan called West End.





Dive Roatan

The thing to do in Roatan is dive. Some folks are doing five dives a day. We dusted off our PADI cards and signed up at Fantasy Island. Importantly for us, we gathered up all the dive gear we inherited from the former owners and had Darren, the head divemaster, tell us what we had. He was like Eli Wallich in Good Bad and the Ugly when Tuco (Eli) pieced together a gun from three or four others. Darren assembled one good regulator from all our stuff, tested, cleaned, and explained what we had for the stunning price of $30. So, not only did we splash for the first time since St. Kitts, we did it with a good amount of our own gear. We did a great wall dive with some folks from Michigan.



That's a really big iguana on the top of the Dive Shop

That’s a really big iguana on the top of the Dive Shop



Frozen Freecell

Okay, it got hot with 92% humidity and the winds went flat. We bailed out of the anchorage and grabbed a spot at Fantasy Island so we could fire up the AC for a few days and dry the boat out. When you’re used to the tropics, AC is a bit harsh and I winter up to keep from getting a nasty cold. Looks pretty strange in this climate, though.