Posts Tagged: ‘travel’

Cast Iron Canoe: 2017 Edition

May 31, 2017 Posted by Deb

Namekagon River

Namekagon River

A traditional canoe trip that started decades ago and which we’ve been a part of for many years. Our sailing life has kept us away too long, but we made it back this year. Old sailing friends, Forrest and Yvonne on s/v Nazdrowie, who we met in the Dominican Republic in the 1990s introduced us to the group; and it has been a party ever since. This year we picked the Namekagon and Saint Croix rivers over the three-day Memorial Day holiday weekend.

Tent City

Tent City

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We Know How to Fill a Canoe

The weather started out great and stayed better than the forecast for three days. We did have rain and hail, but we built a tarp city and we’re pretty much impervious to bad weather. True to Cast Iron tradition, we had two Dutch ovens, plenty of liquid refreshments, and a wrap-up five-pound bacon fest on the final morning that forced Deb to stay upwind. No injuries to report other than a number of tick bites that sent Deb to the doctor for the anti-Lyme routine.

Tarp City Going Up

Tarp City Going Up

Hail On the River

Hail On the River

We did have a longer than normal 22-mile day due to full campsites that featured a 1.5 mile sprint to beat out another group to 12.3 mile campsite. Unfortunately, Deb and I won the race but missed the campsite sign. The sprint pretty much turned our arms to noodles for the next two days. Oh well.

Land Ho

We look forward to the transition both from the ocean to land in the spring and back to the boat in the fall. With each move, we have a high energy vision of what we’re going to do “this time.” Yeah, right. We seem to forget that the seven-plus days it takes to put the boat away and the exposure to air conditioning and airplane air usually leaves us half dead with colds. This switch was no exception but we did get a couple of days of Casa Grande Palm Creek pickleball in before the bad colds really set in. We motored north in the RV on a three Wal*Mart run with 102-degree fevers. It is now late May and we’re just barely back on our feet again. And hey, it’s cold up here in May.

Wanna Go Outside at 100 Degrees and 100% Humidity?

Wanna Go Outside at 100 Degrees and 100% Humidity?

Plans

Our plans change weekly but our high-energy vision included an extended summer on land with biking, pickleball, a variety of water events, camping, and other north country fun stuff. Now we’re toying with the idea of getting rid of all the mobile stuff including the RV and Neytiri and looking for a home or a townhome. Our future yacht broker is begging us to bring Neytiri back to Florida again and to do so immediately. That ain’t happening but we may get back on the boat early in the fall and sail her back to the U.S.

So … we’re going house hunting at 10:00 tomorrow morning after moving the final leg of our RV trip from Melcher-Dallas, Iow,a to Woodbury, MN. For us, home ownership again is a big and scary change.

Toys Are Out in Iowa

Toys Are Out in Iowa

Celebrating Hayden's Soccer Win with Dorothy, Cindy, and Halle

Celebrating Hayden’s Soccer Win with Dorothy, Cindy, and Halle

Late Entry: The Famous Roatan Yacht Club

We thought it was famous and very nice 22 years ago. We were worried that we weren’t dressed well enough to go into the restaurant. It seemed very British. We had just finished a long ten-day passage from Cartegena, Columbia, somewhere around November, 1995; and we weren’t too presentable. We stored our dinghy there during our last visit four years ago even though it had been closed for new owners and renovations. The carpenters were banging away.

Roatan French Harbor Yacht Club

Roatan French Harbor Yacht Club

Little did we know how far the Yacht Club had fallen. This year, the property has been seized for money laundering and the official government “Stay Out” signs are up. We had to find another dinghy dock to get to town and our Plan B four years ago was the shrimping/fish station. They’ve had a very bad fishing season and we were advised to stay out of that area. So … by word of mouth we found a lady in a small house down from the police station car graveyard with a little dilapidated dock on a shoreline filled with floating garbage. The routine is to hand her 50 Lems (2 bucks) and walk to town.

Only Sign From the Street

Only Sign From the Street

Murder at the Yacht Club: A German Hotel Owner is gunned down at his Business
Nicolai Winter, the German owner of the French Harbour Yacht Club was gunned down at his hotel by a man in this thirties, presumed to be from the mainland.

On March 6, 2007, around 9:30pm, the murderer checked into a room at the hotel and came back to ask for Winter’s assistance in opening the room door. While Winter with three other Yacht Club staff walked towards the room, the assailant pulled out a 9mm gun and shot Winter several times. The assailant then fled the property on foot.
According to Yacht club staff, Winter was alive for some time after the shooting. Bay Islands Voice was notified of the shooting and called Preventiva Police, DGIC and Ambulance in Dixon Cove. No one picked-up the phone. After a visit to the Dixon Cove ambulance station the attendant said “none of the vehicles are working.”
The frontier police and DGIC police arrived at the crime scene 30 and 60 minutes after the shooting, but no immediate search of surrounding area was done and no road blocks were set up. The murderer, presumed by the police to be a contracted killer, was not apprehended.  Winter bought the Yacht Club in 2004 for in excess of one million dollars. The legal future of the Yacht Club is far from certain. According to Honduran law, in absence of a testament, Winter’s closest relatives: his mother, or his sister will inherit the property.
According to Felipe Danzilo, a lawyer involved in the sale of the Yacht Club, Winter did not yet make all the payments on the property. The previous owners of the Yacht Club: Marcel Hauser and Peter Beuth, still hold a mortgage on the Yacht Club.

Within a week of Winter’s death the old owners of the hotel brought the “Pluribus” company owned by Daniel O’Connor, a American business owner from Tegucigalpa, to serve as a “safe keeper” of the Yacht Club business interests. O’Connor made efforts to assure the continuous functioning of the business: that the employees received their salaries, hotel stayed open and he plans on having the Yacht Club’s restaurant open by Semana Santa. “Every business has a value as long as it is running,” said O’Connor.

O’Connor, who has lived in Honduras for 12 years, was shocked by the lack of concern about the murder displayed by local business community and local business leaders. “This is disappointing in a community that prides itself on being tourism oriented,” says O’Connor. “This will bring a negative impact on tourism here.”

Source :  http://www.bayislandsvoice.com/issue-v5-4.htm

Where Are We Now? Belize!!

February 4, 2017 Posted by Deb

Hanging out at Robert's Grove in Placencia with Side Trips to the Reef in Southern Belize

Hanging out at Robert’s Grove in Placencia with Side Trips to the Reef in Southern Belize

Cuba

April 20, 2016 Posted by Deb

Cuba

It was always our intention to get to Cuba before the U.S. hemorrhaged a sport fisherman armada, and it would be forever changed. We were about eight miles off the coast 20 years ago when Fidel decided to shoot down a couple of private planes trying to sneak in from the U.S. The Gulf filled up with U.S. destroyers and aircraft in a heartbeat and we were being buzzed by very large aircraft at about mast height with a row of grey destroyers in front of us. None of them answered our hails on any channel so we hung a left for Key West.  That was 1996.

 In the Footsteps of Grandpa Sam

Our family history had a walkabout character.

Grandpa Sam was a great-grandfather on Chuck’s Mom’s side. It was said he didn’t like anyone in the family much.  He was a bit of a recluse in his old age, and didn’t much care for everyone living with him after the great depression.

The folklore is that he didn’t really like farming, at least not the winter part of it, and would hire out as a hand on the freighters that took off across Superior and down the Erie Canal, where he continued on to Cuba.  Grandma Sarah would throw dishes and pots and pans and cutlery at him as he left.  He’d come back in the spring, but no one knows what happened in Cuba.  No doubt we have relatives there, but who they are or whether or not they go by the name of Groth, no one knows.  Probably not. Sam himself looked like an old black sharecropper with a long white beard.

The Neytiri report includes no Groths found but we’re guessing he had a hell of a good time. You’d have to work hard at not.

Great Grandpa Sam Groth on the Way to Cuba

Great Grandpa Sam Groth on the Way to Cuba

Hemingway Marina

Tucked Into Marina Hemingway

Tucked Into Marina Hemingway

We made the quick overnight passage straight to Hemingway Marina in relatively calm weather and we’re prepared for the five government department hassle. We hailed Guarda Frontera at the 12-mile mark, and there were two young uniformed guys waiting to handle our lines as we docked at around 7 a.m. They had great broken English and we were done in just over an hour. The Agriculture Department looked at all our food and took nothing, to our surprise. Oh … the Health Department took our temperatures as well. Can’t be too careful with those unhealthy Norte Americanos. The government officials state that we are not obligated to tip them but … We handed out a U.S. $20 on occasion and one guy was polite but acted like we were a little light.

They Taped Up Our Satellite Phone and Blocked Skype Calls

They Taped Up Our Satellite Phone and Blocked Skype Calls

Walk Around the Grounds Until You Feel At Home

It felt different. Kind of like a trip back to the 1950’s with Rod Serling. The architecture, the cars, the colors, the state of the infrastructure, the cars, oh … and the cars. Wow. They have two currencies and that takes a bit of practice, they now have internet in some of the hotels courtesy of Venezuela and a cable on the bottom of the ocean. Our IP’s said we were in Caracas, VZ. They block Skype, our Sat phones were taped up, and they don’t use https (secure websites) so unless you have a VPN, connecting to a site (like a financial site) that requires security is a problem. Our credit cards and debit cards were useless so it was cash, cash, and more cash. The exchange penalty was supposed to be over but we found it alive and well at 87 CUC for $100 US. You could get to $91 if you worked at it.

As we were sitting in our first restaurant and contemplating our next Cuba move, Deb brought up the cash question. She had been lobbying to get a bunch of Euro’s before we got here and I put it off for Key West (or just put it off). You kind of get that cold sweat feeling going when you start to add up the marina bill, the inland travel, diesel purchase, electricity, a buffer for a weather delay, and food. For the first time since college we were tight on cash with no good options. Oops. We started tightening our belts and looking for a solution. After all, there have to be other credit card addicted Norte Americanos that are too brain dead to total up how much they needed before they left the U.S.

Havana

1950's Revisited

1950’s Revisited

The cars. Everyone talks about the old Spanish buildings but the first thing we noticed were the cars. The old Spanish buildings are cool but we wanted to see the haunts of the rich and famous before the revolution. That past is everywhere and the atmosphere is one large party. Live music in every restaurant and on every street with a parade of some kind every few blocks, sometimes running into each other. We watched a parade of tall people (stilts) detour around a street classic dancing show. The musicians take a break from time to time and pass the hat around and one CUC is enough to make them happy.

12-Feet Tall on the Streets of Havana

12-Feet Tall on the Streets of Havana

Spontaneous Parades

Spontaneous Parades

Salsa Dancing

Salsa Dancing

Colors on the Balcony

Colors on the Balcony

Do You Think the Street Artist Captured Chuck?

The Cuban Street Artist Thinks I Look Like a Doonesbury Character

We felt welcomed and safe everywhere, even in the off streets. When they found out we were from the U.S., most of them gave a thumbs up and yelled (I mean yelled) “Obama”! He had just been there. We were told by the cab driver of a mint condition 56 Chevy that they have been taught since they were little that the U.S. is evil and the people are bad but that they never bought into it. It feels like they are in the calm before the U.S. invasion and everyone wants that invasion to happen. The cabbies of vintage cars were all asking for estimates on what their vehicles would be worth in the U.S. (our Spanish was barely up to the challenge but we did okay).

Forts and Cannons and Chuck

Forts and Cannons and Chuck

Taking a Break to Listen to Some Musica

Taking a Break to Listen to Some Musica

Food Was So-So But Drinks Were Amazing (Cucumber Limonada)

Food Was So-So But Drinks Were Amazing (Cucumber Limonada)

Rasta Cuban Cigar Smoker

Rasta Cuban Cigar Smoker

Peeking at the Real Havana Just Over a Crumbled Wall

Peeking at the Real Havana Just Over a Crumbled Wall

One Block In, A Little Cleanup Needed

One Block In, A Little Cleanup Needed

Hotel Nacional de Cuba

 Hotel Nacional de Cuba - A Lot of History

Hotel Nacional de Cuba – A Lot of History

Trip two into Havana (about 25 kilometers from Hemingway) had more focus.  We wanted to see the famous hotel/casino from the old Mafia days with all the big boss names, Frank Sinatra, and Hollywood stars. Nice place but then we stumbled into the History room and there are portraits of the famous people that have visited all the way up through Kerry a few months ago. Vladimir Putin is up there with Kevin Costner and Woody Harrelson. There’s a room dedicated to Winston Churchill. The bar serves a Mafia Mojito and the phone on the wall is an ancient wood beast that was used to connect to the rest of the world. We wondered how many hits were called in from that phone. At one time or another, they all sat in the lawn chairs looking out over the Gulf. So … we did too.

Mafia Mohito

Mafia Mojito

HotelNationalChuck

Cienfuegos and Trinidad

Road trip. This is where Deb does her best. She’s like the Duracell bunny when it comes to difficult travel arrangements. The one day we finally solved our money problems, the Cubanacan travel agent at the Hotel Aquarios at Hemmingway failed to show . Not to be deterred, Deb dragged my complaining b…t down to the next town by bike and we found another agent in a grocery store. Off we went to Cienfuegos at 8:00 the next morning.

Cienfuegos Plaza Marti

Cienfuegos Plaza Marti

What to take on a Cuban road trip. Well, of course, all the money you will need for everything and also, of course, all the toilet paper you’ll need. Even nice hotels are usually out. We appreciated old building after old building and church after church but were getting a little tourist fatigue. We hit a many famous places as possible and did well on restaurants but this road trip was not quite normal for us. We started at our number one choice for accommodations, La Gorta Villa casa particular out on the point and, of course, it’s Friday so they are full. As we knocked on doors down the point, it was obvious they were all booked for the weekend. Oops. The folks at Casa Amarillo finally helped us and walked us down the road to Casa Cuca, an elderly lady that has a room set up for tourists. It was great. Her whole family showed up in the mornings to do breakfast and we had A/C even though she had none. She gave us keys to her front door and the room and we became like family.

Cuca's Garden

Cuca’s Garden

The local transportation options include horse and carriage, motor cab, and hundreds of bicitaxis which are human bicycle powered carts that will take you miles for 2 to 3 bucks. We did all of them at one time or another.

Bike Taxi

Bike Taxi

Horse Taxi

Horse Taxi

More Taxi Options

More Taxi Options

Trinidad was a one day, walking tour, one bar and one restaurant stop and we did not do it justice but there are only so many old buildings you can assimilate. It had a great feel to it and we will return by boat but we got a weather window from Chris Parker (our weather guru) and we had to get back to the boat. Less than five hours later, we were in Marina Hemingway and home.

Rest Stop on the Way to Trinidad

Rest Stop on the Way to Trinidad

Really Old Yellow Church

Really Old Yellow Church

Resting in the Shade of an Ancient Church

Resting in the Shade of an Old Yellow Church

Lunch Break With A Band

Lunch Break With A Band

Cuba Wrap

One of the more unique stops in our travels and not easy to explain. The average Cuban citizen has born the brunt of the U.S. embargo, not the higher ups, and yet they love all their foreign visitors. When you ask for help or directions, they go over and above and if you don’t cut it off, you’ll eventually be invited to dinner. And talk about a blast from the past … we can’t get over those cars.

Cars Lining the Seawall

Cars Lining the Seawall

We left in the early morning hours as the katabatics flattened the seas over the entrance. We sailed all day and all night and the following morning we were still off Cuba. That is one large island, sixteenth in the world. Then we hung a right for Mexico across the freighter lanes and the famous Gulf Steam current. There are so many freighters, they now have lanes in the ocean called transshipment zones. We had to cross them and had over five bogies on radar at one time but only had to alter course once. We were luckier than the young Russian couple just in front of us at Marina Hemingway. They hit a freighter in the middle of the night and lost the nose of their boat. The picture below is after weeks of work putting her back together. They had just re-mounted the roller furling when we left. That is close to “worst nightmare” hearing a crash and seeing a giant wall of steel on top of you going 20 knots. They were still kissing each other when they took work breaks, so no psychological issues and just happy to be alive.

Russians in

Russians in Cuba

Ft. Lauderdale Finals

April 7, 2016 Posted by Deb

The Ft Lauderdale chapter came to an end when we cast off our lines from Seafarer’s Church and headed out the New River. After seven weeks of hard work and hard spending, we finally worked through an eight-page project list and declared ourselves ready for the ocean again. We broke up the boat work with entertaining neighbors, a very entertaining landlord/pastor and wife, two rounds of company, a couple rounds of old friends in the area, and a brief reunion race with my old pylon racing partner at a pylon race in Mulberry, FL.

Home at Sonny's Dock on the New River

Home at Sonny’s Dock on the New River

After the Dania Flea Market with Old Sailing Friends

After the Dania Flea Market with Old Sailing Friends

3-Hour Dinghy Tour Around Ft. Lauderdale with Tom & Kelly

3-Hour Dinghy Tour Around Ft. Lauderdale with Tom & Kelly

New River Floating Tiki Bar

New River Floating Tiki Bar

Barb & Michael's Visit to the Pirate Republic

Barb & Michael’s Visit to the Pirate Republic

Randy & Chuck Pylon Racing Since the Dawn of Time

Randy & Chuck Pylon Racing Since the Dawn of Time

And  the Boring Stuff

The highlights of our Ft. Lauderdale were a seven-week rewiring job on the starboard hull, new life raft, new A/C, new VHF, new RayMarine wind instrument, new port head, new starboard alternator, underwater hull cleaning, a starting battery/house battery paralleling system, a galvanic isolator, a new battery combiner, a new salon table, and much more that we’ve forgotten already. We did much of the work ourselves (except electrical) with the help of three contractors. Two of the contractors were semi-retired geniuses that helped because of their relationship with our landlord/pastor, S0nny.

Genius at Work

Genius at Work

Getting Rid of French Stuff on a French Boat

Getting Rid of French Stuff on a French Boat

New Wind Instrument

New Wind Instrument

Most People iHre Young Guys for This

Most People Hire Young Guys for This

Leaving Ft. Lauderdale at Sunrise - On to Key West

Leaving Ft. Lauderdale at Sunrise – On to Key West

Key West

Our shakedown cruise was an overnight run to Key West starting before rush hour at O’Dark Thirty so we wouldn’t get trapped by the bridges. The boat hadn’t moved since May, 2015; and it’s always a weird feeling getting underway after that much time … and in the dark as well. We had cell phone coverage and made calls and browsed all the way down the coast. Somewhere off Key Largo, we got our official permission to visit Cuba in an e-mail from the good old U.S. Coast Guard, compliments of Petty Officer Wilson. We applied a month earlier and it was getting thin on timing.

There wasn’t much wind until the very end of the run to Key West. Deb started making frequent trips to the head for seasickness. She didn’t take her Stugeron because this was supposed to be a milk run. Late in the trip, the gennaker failed to completely furl because of the tightness of the wrap in high winds. That was not a big deal until we tried to turn into Key West in 23 knots of wind. It started unwinding and flapping badly. Our attempts to dump it on the deck failed and we had to run off downwind (out of the channel) and pull the mess in. About then the trampoline cords started failing so we had added issues of humans falling into the ocean. We recovered the sail and turned back into the channel without hitting the reef but it was close.

We dropped anchor, slept, and set up for what was to be a wait for weather period of R&R while we prepped for Cuba. We were going to get cash, brush up on Spanish, read the guide books, and supply the boat. It turned out the weather window was at noon the next day so none of the above happened except a quick cash run. That early window had consequences that generated another chapter later in Cuba.

Sunsets Pier in Key West

Sunset Pier in Key West

Te Anau: Jetboat & Kepler Tramp

January 20, 2016 Posted by Deb

We were moving into real backpacker country and Te Anau is a jumping off point for the ledgendary Milford Sound. Our plan was to hole up there and wait for a break in the rain to make our move on Milford Sound.IMG_20160120_135730-700x933

The backpacker crowd in southern NZ has to rank among the toughest on the planet. Some say Milford is the second wettest place on earth with 252 inches per year on average. We had a campervan and access to laundry and we could barely stay ahead of wet gear. They have tents, huts, and, new to us, drying rooms. Oh … the huts are nice with lots of stoves but the sleeping dorms are a combination of flat racks and tightly spaced bunks.IMG_20160119_192045-700x525

Back to the drying room … imagine a room about motel size with pegs on the walls and clothesline ropes strung every few feet running the length of the room. Now try to visualize that every possible space on a peg or a rope is draped with wet backpacking clothes that have been out for who knows how long. Now add heat from the drier and breathe in through your nose. When you regain consciousness, you’ll be happy to know the have great medical care.images (4)-700x519

To survive backpacking you have to see through all the wet and nasty stuff for those days or moments that are incredible. Still, our hearts went out to the fairly old couple who said they were out for days where they could barely see the trail in front of them.Lake Te Anua with palms-700x393Little Hobbit Hole-700x393Ron, Deb, Chuck @ picnic table-700x393

We clicked off another Lord of the Rings filming location with a jet boat tour of the Upper Waiau River to down to what some call the prettiest lake in NZ, Lake Manapouri. A little over a minute of the Lord of the Rings exit by boat from the Woodland Elves was filmed on that river. It took 3,000 people and three months for that 90 seconds and our Maori driver had the “feed everybody” contract. He’s never seen the movie.

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The Glaciers

January 17, 2016 Posted by Deb

Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers are on the west coast and we hiked both. They are the only remaining glaciers that extend into a sub-tropical rainforest. We toyed with the helicopter rides but visibility sucked and the sticker price screamed sunny day.

Franz Joseph Glacier Entrance. What??

Franz Josef Glacier Entrance. What??

Rockslide Danger ... Where?

Rockslide Danger … Where?

IMG_20160117_155125~2-700x933IMG_20160117_151802-700x933IMG_20160117_155011~2-700x469

At that point we hadn’t quite realized that if you don’t do things in the rain in the south, you might as well stay home. Good rain coats were not in our bags and we went shopping at Fox Glacier. They definitely knew how to charge with some in the $200 NZ range. We stopped by a helicopter shop and asked if they sold raincoats that were cycled off the bottom. They checked with management and hauled out a great set of coats and if we had told them we were jumping on a plane in a few days, they would have been ours. When they found out they were not souvenirs and we were going to use them for weeks, they balked because if we got hurt in NZ with their logo … it’s a lawyer/insurance thing. They hauled out a “Logoless” set and we were off. That was the day the rains began in earnest.IMG_20160118_145648-700x933

We stayed in the town of Fox Glacier, and Deb and I hiked Lake Matheson while Ron and Barb watched the Broncos in a sports bar that happened to have a waiter from Denver who was an NFL fan.IMG_20160118_114349-700x525IMG_20160118_114426~2-700x367

Lake Matheson's Famous Reflection View

Lake Matheson’s Famous Reflection View

Where's My Reflection?

Where’s My Reflection?

Jacksons Rainforest Hike

January 17, 2016 Posted by Deb

Christchurch got nuked by a nasty earthquake in 2012. We’ve been running into folks who bailed out of there scattered all over NZ. Google Maps hasn’t quite caught up with some of the relocatons. Thankfully, we took a cab and didn’t haul our bags for the 10-minute walk that was more like a 15-minute cab ride.
Christchurch was the pickup point for our new home, a 7.3 meter campervan. After a 10-minute orientation, we were handed the keys and off we went driving an even bigger vehicle on the left.IMG_20160117_165422~2-700x525-700x525

We headed straight up into the mountains to Jacksons, rain, one-lane bridges, and great scenery.IMG_20160115_150230-700x525IMG_20160116_143906-700x933IMG_20160116_135502-700x933IMG_20160116_134446-700x933

Out of the Rainforest Heading for the Jackson Tavern at the Bottom of the Hill

Out of the Rainforest Heading for the Jackson Tavern at the Bottom of the Hill

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Exumas: Highbourne to Warderick Wells

April 10, 2015 Posted by Deb

We are in the land of big toys. It’s party time for the U.S. East Coast crowd with easy access, crystal clear water, and mini-mega yachts. We’re a bit condescending to the mini-megas here after being in St Martin. Anything under 100 feet isn’t even in the running. We are surprised at the monohull to cat ratio because we’ve come from places where the cat count often exceeded the monohull count; but here, in the really thin water, there are monohulls everywhere.

Guess We Need More Toys

Guess We Need More Toys

We staged at Egg Island off Spanish Wells and left for the banks at O Dark Thirty. We were on the banks by eight and paralleled the nasty coral of the Middle Ground for three hours until the sun got high enough to cross. Funny thing … we ended up on the Yellow Banks where the coral is tame and deep and cruised into Highbourne at 1:00 p.m. with only a couple of coral dodging moves behind us. Highbourne has the Xuma restaurant but their bar and big TV were closed for Easter Holiday right when the NCAA finals were playing. We (I) gave them some grief about that.

Norman’s Cay

A name most know and famous for the drug smuggling era and Carlos Lehder. We even watched the movie Blow with Johnny Depp. The legendary bar MacDuffs in the post drug era that was known to so many cruisers is a ruin now and the island is undergoing yet another failed development attempt. It looked to us like the workers quarters and equipment were just rotting away after having terra-formed the whole island with big dreams in mind.

Carlos's Drug Plane in the Background

Carlos’s Drug Plane in the Background

Norman's Cay: So, Now What?

MacDuffs at Norman’s Cay: So, Now What?

Shroud Cay

Our goal was to pay tribute at the famous Camp Driftwood created by Ernest Scholtes by hand carrying debris from the beach and hacking the steps out of the hill. Historically, it was a rite of passage for cruisers to leave a token at Camp Driftwood and a note in a jar. In the 2015 Guide it says “A description of Camp Driftwood would not do it justice.” We did our pilgrimage by dink through the mangroves to the far side of the island and found 20 or 30 beach goers, none of whom had ever heard of Camp Driftwood and it was just up the hill from the beach. We finally found one guy who told us where it was and all that is left of Camp Driftwood is a sign … and that was the end of our pilgrimage.

Leaving Camp Driftwood

Leaving Camp Driftwood

Warderick Wells

There’s a waiting list to get into the north mooring field near the park office where you can get internet … that’s if you call $15 for 100 megs in 24 hours actually having internet. Neytiri made the list and we’re liking it here. The only down side is the stern of the boat is over thigh deep water at slack tide, our dink got shoved onto the coral at the park dock, and there is no place to eat, leave garbage, or do laundry and we’ve been out awhile. Kind of reminds us of real cruising again.

Boo Boo Hill is another rite of passage. For the gods to grant you fair weather you are to leave your boat name on a piece of driftwood at the top of the hill. The Park Service has additional rules but the tradition is alive. Mother Nature is hard on names and, though the pile is large, we found few dates older than 2007. We did find that Panache, friends from the last couple years sailing, had been there before us.

Driftwood Offerings At Boo Boo Hill

Driftwood Offerings At Boo Boo Hill

Rites of Passage on Boo Boo Hill

Panache and Neytiri: Rites of Passage on Boo Boo Hill

We have covered all the hiking trails except a few at the very south end and the sharp rocks took the soles off one set of shoes already. Today we hiked six beaches and snorkeled one wreck and two patches of coral and had each one of them to ourselves.

Exuma Park: Neytiri at Anchor

Exuma Park: Neytiri Moored

Ladder Into a Hole (Teenage Horror Movie?)

Ladder Into a Hole (Teenage Horror Movie?)

ExumasHikeChuckExumaParkCauseway

Whale Killed By Plastic

Whale Killed By Plastic

The Four Questions: 2014 Update

December 18, 2014 Posted by Deb

Storms?

No open ocean bad weather in over 4,000 miles but we scrambled twice in Belize with 50 knots plus while at anchor. The first hit in January when we were loaded with company and we tucked around the south end of Caye Caulker where we’ve hardly ever seen a boat anchored. Probably because it is very thin in every direction. The blow pinned us down for two days but we held on two anchors and company caught up on reading. Going ashore was challenging and only two of us made in during the worst of it.

The second was a wall cloud that hit on beautiful hot afternoon when the locals said it wouldn’t. We almost lost a solar panel on that one. Deb road it out hanging onto the panel while I ran the engines to keep the stress off the hooks. Frigate birds were flying backwards at about 30 knots.

The Light Show Ahead of the Norther

The Light Show Ahead of the Norther

Bad Guys?

We saw our first physical altercation that left a man out cold on the street with his groceries scattered everywhere, we heard a massive cell phone screaming rant, and one other nice verbal battle that we had to back away from but that was our first three days in Florida. Guatemala, Belize, and Mexico were fine.

Welcome to the U.S.A.

Welcome to the U.S.A.

Bucks?

It looks like we will finish up 2014 with a total tab that is slightly over 150% of our former land life. On land, we were pretty dug in and pretty efficient. The numbers are still surprising because we thought we would do better each year as we did in the 1993-1996 voyage of Sanity. It looks like medical including dental and eyes have gone way up and we are travelling a lot more. Also, we kind of knew the closer we got to the U.S., the higher expenses were going to be and that has definitely played out. Our planning for retirement had us a little over 110% of our former life so we’re definitely running hot. We do not intend to make any changes other than swearing off surgery for a while.

What Do You Do All Day?

This is the “little if any fun” period in Brunswick, GA. Monday was calm so we hoisted the main and cleaned off the mildew and mud daubers. Nasty job and it took most of the day. We had to give the boat a bath as well. Tuesday we ripped the water heater apart due to a leak and spent most of the day searching for replacement parts, the most difficult was an inline pressure relief valve with a built in check valve. Ahh… the French.  That night we did a muriatic acid bath on the parts that were going to be re-used. Wednesday we re-assembled the water heater twice and waited to do a fresh water pressure test. All of the water heater repair time was spent head down, one knee on the chest and the other stuffed over the exhaust chamber with one hand for support leaving only one for doing the work. That afternoon we took a four-hour side trip to Bailey’s Gym for a workout and shower. Any down time on these projects went to phone calls trying to juggle vendors, marinas, haulouts, rigging work, regulator testing, and admin on a nasty package of bills that arrived. Tomorrow, Cumberland Island hiking if we get over the stomach flu. If we don’t get better, we’ll turn in the rental car and wait for the chumming to stop before another road trip. When we get to the Bahamas, we will replace this section with something more fun.

Dock 12

Workin’ Off Dock 12

Black Market “Dew”

March 10, 2014 Posted by Deb

Coco Plum Caye

Coco Plum Caye

Our “Get Acquainted” tour of the southern Belize islands netted some great finds and some marginal finds. We already mentioned that we’re giving a thumbs down to Wippari (less than clear water and the owners are a bit burned out) and Ranguana (very costly to set foot on the island). We also think that Glovers is a bit much for a short vacation and would cost us $70 U.S. per day if we take a boat load of guests.  Once there, Glovers is fishing and snorkeling paradise but little else in terms of shore recreation.

DebSailingPosition

SouthernBelizeCaye

We gave a large thumbs up to Hatchet, Queen (middle island only), Pelican, and Coco Plum although Coco Plum is a lunch/drink stop only. Their three course suppers are $40 U.S. per person and the anchorage is settled weather only. If feasible, South Water Caye is on the list as are the Colson Cayes but we doubt we can get to Colson with company.

Lionfish Bar on Hatchet

Lionfish Bar on Hatchet

A funny thing happened as we returned through the barrier reef near South Water Caye on our return from Glovers. We turned to starboard (north) instead of port (back to Placencia). It was a gorgeous sailing day with winds at 22 to 25 kts and we just didn’t stop. We finally ran out of day at Colson, dropping our hook as the sun went down next to a large catamaran that we found out later had a strobe mooring light. Someone has to do something about strobe mooring lights … obnoxious barely begins to describe them.

Dodging Cruise Ships Off Belize City

Dodging Cruise Ships Off Belize City

Our trip north was to find a rod to match a new reel we got from Jeff Borchert, Deb’s cousin up in Iowa. The real reason was that the Mountain Dew shelves were showing signs of getting thin. Mountain Dew is not legal in Belize. Bottled Pepsi and Diet Dew are available (sort of) but not the high test. The Coca Cola folks have a contractual stranglehold on Belize and the little green cans are only available up in San Pedro on the black market. The folks in San Pedro delivered two 36 packs of Dew and a case of Belikin to our dinghy at the ferry dock in San Pedro after relieving us of $130 U.S. We weren’t going to pass after coming all the way north and committing to two more shots at Porto Stuck. It was a gorgeous trip with the exception of a norther hitting us at the Blue Ground Range. We have rarely seen a lightning show like that night and winds hit over 40 knots in Placencia. The next day, we sailed on into Placencia wing on wing, hand steering because the auto helm wasn’t quick enough to keep the main from gybing.

Precious Cargo Delivered to the Dock

Precious Cargo Delivered to the Dock

Cases of Beliken Beer Headed for Porto Stuck

Cases of Belikin Beer Headed for Porto Stuck

The Lost Reefers and Their Tattooed Groupie at Yoli’s in Placencia

The Lost Reefers and Their Tattooed Groupie at Yoli’s in Placencia

Queen Cayes: Their Island a Couple Hundred Yards Away (the building is an outhouse)

Queen Cayes: Their Island a Couple Hundred Yards Away From Ours (the building is an outhouse)

The Light Show Ahead of the Norther

The Light Show Ahead of the Norther

ChuckSugarscoopSnaplper

Fishing Gear – Check
Snapper – Check
Clean Fish – Ch … Oh now I remember

Tucked Back Into Roberts Grove Next To Our Favorite Mexican Restaurant

Tucked Back Into Roberts Grove Next To Our Favorite Mexican Restaurant