Sunday, November 18, 2007


We have been busy the last week seeing old friends and attending various events:

- WRCC (Waterway Net) picnic in Wickham Park (Thursday)

- MYC (Melbourne Yacht Club) TGIF (Fridays)

- SSCA (Seven Seas Cruising Association) Friday - Sunday

- CSY (Caribbean Sailing Yachts) Owners Breakfast - Sunday

- ECSA (East Coast Sailing Association) Wednesday

- GW (Globe Wireless) Wednesday

Sherry raced with her old women's crew in the ECSA Women's Race on Sunday, taking first in 2 out of 3 races. Meanwhile, Dave and friends played golf at the newly renovated Patrick Golf Club.

The SSCA Gam was its usual flurry of social and learning events. The best presentation we attended was by Nine of Cups on their 'Circumnavigation of South America'. They went some cool places.

We had a nice breakfast with old and new friends at the CSY Breakfast, held at Memaws BBQ on the Sunday of SSCA.

Saw many old and dear friends at the Waterway Net Luncheon just before the SSCA Gam.

Sherry gave a 45 minute slide show/presentation at the ECSA meeting on Wednesday night (and promises to do the same at MYC TGIF on Nov 30).

We had a nice visit at Sherry's old company, Globe Wireless.

And finally, TGIF at MYC. The newly renovated clubhouse is gorgeous and we are really enjoying being back in town to enjoy the clubhouse and all our old friends.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Gator Football / Boat Show / Shopping!

Sherry Hanging out at the "Hub" at UF
(waiting for game time)

Nothing Like a "Gator" Game

Dave Pricing New Dinghies at the St. Pete Boat Show

This is what we call "Civilization"?

We have been having GREAT weather here in Florida this week, cool and sunny.

Gator Game: Yay, lots of fun! The Gators won convincingly, and so did the 'Noles and Navy (Dave's teams).

Boat Show (Strictly Sail St. Petersburg): On Sunday, light attendance. Fun socializing with several old friends manning booths. Poking around the displays looking for something new (not much). Beautiful weather!

Shopping: Walmart, Bealls, Target, West Marine, Office Depot, etc... We have already filled one large suitcase with the stuff we've bought, and still have a few more items on our list.

I4 Traffic: Bleah!!

Our plans for the month: Thursday we drive across the state to Melbourne for the WRCC and SSCA gatherings, with hopefully an appearance at MYC too on Friday night. We'll be based in the Melbourne area until Dec 5, with some side trips around Thanksgiving. We have a bunch of doctors appointments and social activities lined up, and we need to attend to Sherry's 2 rentals (anyone want a 2 BR / 2 BA furnished condo on the beach in Indialantic?)

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Back in the U.S.A.

We got up at 4:30am and were at the airport at 5:30am. The Guatemala City airport has been recently upgraded and it looks pretty much like any other airport.

Security wasn't particularly stringent at the Guate airport. For example, we saw a bag left by itself up near the front of the line at the ticket counter for nearly an hour--this probably would have triggered a massive security incident in the U.S. And I got through the security checkpoint without any hassle or a close look at my stuff. I was carrying a laptop and a backpack with lots of wires and electronics. And nobody questioned my water bottle. (However, later, Spirit Air had their own bag search as we got on the plane, and they did confiscate my water bottle there.)

The Spirit flight was uneventful. Our tickets, booked online a couple of months ago on cost only $99 round trip, but then they added all the Government taxes on both ends, which brought the price up to about $210 pp (still VERY reasonable).

However, this price does not include any checked luggage. Checked luggage costs $5 per bag if reserved ahead and $10 per bag at the airport. They do no free snacks or beverages, but will sell you the average array of stuff for $3 a can (credit cards only).

Our bags arrived on schedule, unmolested. We'd taken the precaution of using a cable tie to tie the zippers together, so we could tell they had not been opened.

The trip through Customs and Immigration was no problem, and efficiently managed in fairly pleasant settings, and by 1:30pm we were in our rental car headed out of the airport.

Dave had planned a couple of stops in Ft. Lauderdale on our way out.... At the Sailrite store, his favorite sushi place for lunch, Sailorman, and the watermaker place. We struck out on the first two. Sailrite has closed their Ft. Lauderdale store (too expensive to operate, not enough true cruisers to support it). The sushi restaurant had been levelled and there was no indication that they'd relocated somewhere else. A large CVS pharmacy was under construction.

After finishing our business in Lauderdale, we hit the road headed for Dave's college roommate's in Clermont, where we'd stored Dave's car. We enjoyed a nice night a Jimmy's house and left for Dave's cousin's house in Largo in the morning.

We had one little wrinkle we forgot about. When we stored Dave's car, we had to turn in the license plate, so they didn't suspend our driver's licenses when we canceled the insurance. We'd forgotten the paperwork--left it on the boat. However, the county tax office in Clermont had it all on their computer, and in 5 minutes we had a new tag and we on our way. Dave had activated the insurance via phone on our way out of Ft. Lauderdale.

We dropped the rental car at the Clearwater Airport and made it to Bryan's (Dave's cousin) house in Largo by noon.

Our plans are to stay in the area here until Thursday (Nov 8) and then head for Melbourne, to attend the SSCA Gam. We'll make Melbourne our base for the next month.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Headed Home (a day in Guate City)

On Wednesday, Dave and I hopped on the morning Litegua bus to Guatemala City. It was an uneventful trip and I took advantage of the time to read a book. Dave marvels at my ability to read in a moving vehicle. But I've always done it. It's a great way to make the time pass.

We arrived in Guate about 2pm, at the Litegua bus station downtown, and negotiated for a taxi to take us to our hotel near the airport. We weren't sure what the far should be, but the taxi driver started at 90Q and we got him down to 60Q, so we probably got a reasonably fair fare.

Our hotel, a small family run hotel called Patricia's was recommended to us by a friend.

It turned out to be a family home, in the traditional Guatemalan style with a courtyard in the middle. The family rents out 6 rooms with shared bath, 3 in each leg of the "U". It was a very clean and fairly cheery place, and Patricia and her family were very nice. The beds were firm, the pillows NOT lumpy, the sheets good. There is free wifi. TV is shared, in the courtyard.

We'd recommend this as a budget hotel close to the airport. The cost was $12 U.S. pp, which includes one airport transfer and a continental breakfast. They also gave us a ride into town (Zone 10) for 25Q (about $3). They do NOT do dinner, but there is a small diner within walking distance featuring typical El Salvadoran food.

After we got settled in the hotel, Dave and I spent the afternoon poking around the Zona Viva (Zone 10) in Guatemala City. This is the area where most of the foreign embassies are located, and has several US-style shopping malls, plus numerous bars, restaurants, and hotels, all within a few blocks of each other. This is where most non-backpacker tourists stay in Guatemala, either coming or going. There is a nice-looking Holiday Inn and a few other upscale US hotels. But the low end of these hotels start at $75/nite, a price we'd never consider paying in Guatemala.

We strolled the malls and were amazed at the "stuff". You can truly get just about any U.S. goods here, at a price. Not outrageous, just what you'd expect to pay when adding shipping costs and government import taxes (12%). The largest store in the Rio Dulce is about the size of a typical 3BR home in the U.S., so everything is limited in selection and quantity. So we just gawked at all the stuff in these stores. And the malls they were in were typical huge malls... 3 levels with a large food court in each one.

We also walked a few blocks to check out the budget hotel that many of the cruisers use when coming to the city. Hotel Las Torres

It is located in Zone 10 and within walking distance of all the malls, restaurants and bars. We had received conflicting recommendations from our friends. One friend said it was great, and other said they wouldn't stay there again. Though we didn't get to see a room, because they were all full, it looked "entirely adequate".

The Las Torres is right across from the Holiday Inn and costs half the price. They advertise a room rate of $38.50, but tell them you're a boater on the Rio Dulce and give them a boat card to put on their wall, and you get a room rate of $25. The front desk guy says their wifi works "most of the time". I think we'll stay here on our way back through Guate just to experience it for ourselves.

Our plan was to eat while downtown and then catch a cab back to the hotel for an early night. We needed to get up at 4:30am to catch our 7am flight out to Ft. Lauderdale.

I have to confess that we ate in the mall food court, and then had an ice cream at McDonalds. The mall meal was good--at a New Orleans themed restaurant though with a Guatemalan flair.

We flagged down a taxi back to the U.S. Again he asked for almost double what it should have been and when Dave started pressing for a lower price, he whined about rush hour, etc. We settled on 30Q, but Dave gave him 35Q, because the traffic was bad and he turned out to be a nice guy.

It appeared that we were the only guests at Patricia's. We never saw another guest, and it was a nice quiet hotel, EXCEPT for the engine noises coming from the airport. The traffic dies down after dark and the only one that disturbed us was about 4am, some turbo prop revving up his engines.