Wednesday, January 30, 2008

West End, Roatan, Honduras

We picked up anchor from Utila this morning about 8am. The wind was forecast to be light SE, and maybe sail-able. But it was too light and too close ahead to sail.

But we had an easy motorsail and arrived in West End about 12:30.

There is not much guidebook coverage of West End. It is pretty much a 'fair weather' anchorage and a very small town. You have to come in through a narrow cut in the reef (marked by PVC bouys) and then find a sandy spot to anchor in off the beach. Most of the bottom is heavy grass, and not good holding. Someone told us 'don't be here in a strong cold front'.

But we had a perfect day, and a set of waypoints from the Windswept 42 list. It was an easy entry and easy to find a good spot. There are some moorings here, but right now they are all taken. So we found a nice sand spot and we are well stuck to the bottom.

The West End Reef Out Our Back Door

After we got the boat secured, Dave urged me to check to see if we had wifi... and we do. Someone with a 'linksys' wifi. It's pretty tenuous, I'm barely getting it with my external antenna. But it's enough to do email and get weather.

West End looks like even more of a diver's paradise than Utila. More later...

Infini Anchored West End

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

More Utila Diving with Paradise Divers

Well, after 2 more days of diving with Paradise Divers in Utila, I am happy to report that they are 'a good operation at a budget price'. They are so convenient to us at anchor... 2 minutes in the dinghy and we can unload all our gear directly into the dive boat.

Though we did do one afternoon of diving from our dinghy, we opted to take 3 2-tank trips with Paradise, to go to places further away. 2 trips to 'The North Side'... walls that drop to 500 feet, and one to the 'Sea Mount' on the east end of the island.

Paradise's boat and the equipment IS a little worn, but it all operated properly. The instructors are good, and really care about the students. And everything went smoothly on our dives.

We still didn't see a Whale Shark (but didn't really expect to, this time of year). Our divemasters (DM's), Joaquin and Daniel, were good knowlegable guys and safety conscious. And all were 'characters'.

Oli, Joaquin, and Daniel

It was interesting diving on a boat with such a diversity of people. We had students from Germany, Israel, Spain, the U.S. and Ireland. Language is an issue with the divemasters and instructors! One Divemaster told me a story about having to coach a student from Israel through the written test via pantomime, because they didn't have any tests in Hebrew, and the kid didn't understand enough English.

And of course us 'cruisers' add to the exotic mix. I'm sure they think we are as old as God. (I remember at that age thinking that my 30-year-old teacher was OLD). Dave talked about first getting certified to dive in 1970--that's about 15 years before any of these 20-something students were born!!! And they just couldn't believe we were sailing around the world for 10 years.

A couple of the DM's were interested in seeing how we live, so we brought them out to Soggy Paws for Dave's 'engineer's tour'. They were both ready to go buy a boat and sail around the world. But Dave showed them all the 'systems' he has to maintain...they understood after hanging out with us for a few days, that it isn't all 'margaritas in the sunset'.

We did a total of 8 dives... 6 with Paradise Divers and 2 out of the dinghy. We took the camera on the last dive and got a few good pics.

A Tasty-Looking Crab (6" across)

Beautiful Soft Corals

Two Banded Coral Shrimp

Tomorrow we leave for West End, Roatan, 25 miles away... the 'front' we've been expecting passed through today. We got some rain and a little wind shift, but nothing more than a 5 knots from any direction.

The forecast for tomorrow is for light SE winds, so it should be a nice motorsail further East (to windward, but only 25 mi).

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Diving in Utila

Utila is widely known to be the cheapest place in this part of the world for Dive certifications. There is literally a dive school about every third building all through the town. The island is now ringed with very nice dive moorings, which are regularly maintained. We can see 5-6 dive bouys just outside the harbor within easy dinghy reach.

View of Utila Harbor and Closest Dive Bouy

Dive Bouys Along "Black Coral Wall"

It is also well known as a great place to see (and dive with) Whale Sharks. Whale Sharks are the world's largest fish. Try this link for more info

I was really excited about seeing some whale sharks. However, the main 'season' for seeing them is not til March and we will likely be long gone by then. Though the websites say they can be seen any time of the year, the dive shops didn't seem so encouraging.

We stopped in several dive shops in the center of town and asked about dive trips and dive tank refills. The standard price for a 2-tank dive seems to be $50 US. (The going rate in Florida is about $65-$75 now).

But Dave found a place on the water that he dealt with 5 years ago, owned and operated by native Utilians, that offered us 2-tank dives for $30 with our own equipment, and $35 for our friends without their own equipment. And tank refills at $2.50 apiece!!

Dave and Sue Getting Ready to Dive

So we did a 2-tank dive yesterday with Paradise Divers to the north side of the island (too far for us to dinghy). Mike and Sue on Infini hadn't been diving in 4 years, so this was a nice easy refresher dive for them. It was kind of an overcast day so it wasn't as pretty as it could have been. But visibility was good, and there was lots of live coral and a few interesting fish and wiggly things.

The dive operation was a bit low-rent... the boat slow and not well maintained. The rental equipment kind of ragged. The captain, divemasters, and young students all seemed well hungover from a night of partying. But we circumnavigated the whole island in the course of the trip, and the crew were real characters and gave us lots of information about places we could go diving on our own. We had our own equipment and so were just looking for a cheap ride, so we didn't care too much.

Dave and I plan to try to do at least one or two dives on the dive bouys off the harbor in the next day or so, and maybe another dive on the north side with Paradise.

It has been squally in the mornings here. While we were in the dive boat, we saw a cloud with 2 waterspouts. Fortunately they were not heading for the harbor!

The WaterSpout

Mike and Sue from Infini, headed ashore between showers

Lickety Split left here today for Roatan. They are trying to hook up with some other friends waiting for them there. We'll probably catch up with them in a few days. I think we are targeting a weather window on Tuesday to head east to Roatan. We have a few more dives to make before we leave here.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Utila, Bay Islands, Honduras

We actually had a low opinion of this place when we arrived. The 'Coconut Telegraph' tells us that there is an ongoing problem with thefts on boats in the harbor. Usually at night while people are gone. It seems the typical unsolvable Central American problem. Everyone knows about it. Everyone agrees it is bad and something should be done. But no one seems to have the power to do anything about it. The Mayor says it is because the Police are Federales, and he can't get THEM to do anything about it.

Anyway, we had planned to just stop in here and clear in. It is supposedly easy to clear in here, because all the people you have to clear in with are in the same building. In Roatan you have to take a bus or taxi to the big town which isn't a nice boating place.

But the other problem is that the Immigration guy hasn't been seen in Utila for a couple of weeks. Most boaters who were here when we got here, only stayed overnight, and just didn't clear in. They told us 'nobody here cares, we'll just clear in in Roatan'.

But Dave, being the upstanding guy that he is, felt he should at least attempt to do the right thing. It turned out well. Dave and Don from Lickety Split went in and had a nice chat with the Port Captain, and got their paperwork done. The Port Captain told us that the Immigration guy would be there tomorrow for sure. So we finished off with him the next day. We got our passports stamped and a 90-day cruising permit. It was free and very painless.

The Port Captain's Office on the Town Pier

The little town on the the little island of Utila is very charming in a Bahamian sort of way (sorta reminds me of New Plymouth at Green Turtle). Most of the people here still speak a Bahamian kind of English, but most also speak Spanish. (The Bay Islands used to be part of British Honduras).

The town has some pretty good grocery stores. We were able to find some brand name things here that we couldn't find in Guatemala (like Cheerios). We bought some Honduran rum, and more granola bars. The fresh veggies weren't quite as fresh as in Guatemala, but not bad (when the supply boat comes in). Still haven't found any whole wheat flour, but I still have a pretty good supply aboard from the States.

We have sampled a couple of the local restaurants. With the theft situation, we feel more comfortable being aboard after dark, but we've done lunch in 2 places. Several people told us that the Jade Seahorse was 'not to be missed'. An artist lives there and has made an Alice in Wonderland garden out of glass bits. We had some nice burritos and some cold cervezas in the garden. Muchies is on the main drag in the middle of things and looked like a popular place. So we ate there after our dive yesterday. (we liked Jade Seahorse better).

Part of the Art at Jade Seahorse

Our friends on Lickety Split read about RJ's BBQ in their Lonely Planet. They are only open after 5:30 on Wed-Fri-Sun. So yesterday they went there and got T-bone Steaks for take-out and were back aboard just before dark. ('BBQ' in Central/South America often just means 'grilled', not BBQ with gooey sauce). They said it was a great meal, and we may do the same thing on Sunday evening.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Underway for Utila

Yesterday turned out nice... the sun came out and the wind went down.

We took advantage of the nicer weather to go ashore and do a short hike around the bay. This area is some kind of nature reserve, so there are howler monkeys and lots of tropical vegetation. We heard but didn't see the howler monkeys, and some of the tropical birds.

Soggy Paws in the Sun in Escondido

We climbed to the top of the highest hill for an overlook of the bays, but the vegetation was so thick we could only glimpse water occasionally.

Exploring Ashore

Dave on the Beach

We picked our stern anchors up yesterday in anticipation of leaving early today. Good thing we did it yesterday! They were dug in so far that Dave had to break out the Scuba gear and help get everyone's anchor up. He spent 10 minutes underwater, just getting our anchor unstuck. And then went and helped Infini and Lickety Split with their anchors.

Dave and Don Pulling Stern Anchors

We left the anchorage at 0700 this morning, and anticipate arrival in Utila this afternoon around 1500 (3pm).

We are motorsailing right now in very light southerly winds (coastal wind effect) and a knot of current behind us. Our strategy is to stay along the coast for a couple of hours to take advantage of the early morning offshore breeze and the countercurrent, and then turn and head for Utila.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Better Weather Today, I Hope

The cold front that wasn't supposed to get here is still lingering around our area. But the weather looks much better this morning.

The forecasters are still saying the winds should be N-NE, but all day yesterday we had W-NW winds, sometimes as high as 25 kts. We hung in our little exposed anchorage by our fingernails, because it was too dangerous to try to leave. It rained on and off all morning. And it was too dicey on board to leave the boat and go ashore.

The Grib File (Wind Forecast)

We amused ourselves by watching the waves breaking on the rock that looks like Gibraltar, in the channel next to us. "Whoa, did you see that one!?"

We did a few 'projects'... tracking down leaks and stowing more stuff--continuing the process of transforming our boat from the floating condo that it has been for the last 6 months to a truly seaworthy vessel.

Dave amused the rest of the boats in the anchorage by playing with his anchor setup every hour or so. We broke one snubber during the night, so he rigged a backup snubber and was playing with variations of snubber arrangements. (For the landlubbers... a snubber is a 10-20' piece of heavy stretchy rope that is connected to the anchor chain to provide a little 'give' to the anchor chain as the boat strains on it). He rigged a second line to our stern anchor, to try to distribute the load a little.

The 12v adaptor for my laptop that we had bought in November didn't have the right end plug on it, so Dave cut off the wrong one and put the right one on. Now I can run my laptop directly off the 12v without going through an 'inverter' (transforms power from 12vDC to 110vAC) and the 'brick' that comes with the computer (transforms the 110vAC to 19vDC). The adaptor boosts the 12vDC to 19vDC directly and is more efficient. for $35 for a high amp one and $25 for a lower one. Or EBay, $15 for an any-volt any-plug adaptor. The EBay one 'smoked' on my big laptop (not high enough amperage when we ran the DVD).

Looking out the porthole of my bunk this morning, I got pretty excited because it looked like the skies had cleared. But now that it has gotten lighter out, I can see we still have a fairly thick layer of low stratus. In the anchorage, surrounded by high hills, it is hard to tell what the wind is doing out there. The winds are light and variable in the anchorage, and the trees don't look like they are getting strong winds either, so maybe today will be a better day. The seas are still running very high--they are still breaking clear over the top of 'Gibraltar'.

I think we'll hang out here another day and let the weather settle a little more, and leave for Utila early tomorrow.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Crappy Forecast!

This morning's GRIB file still is forecasting 10 knots from the north, but we had 20-25 from the WNW for awhile, in this small enclosed anchorage that is open to the west.

Fortunately it didn't really kick up until about dawn. Things got kinda hairy for awhile. Infini, a Westsail 42, was anchored on a lee shore with 5' waves under their bow, and only about 2' of water under their keel.

We've finally gotten all repositioned, and fortunately the wind has swung around to the north, so we are out of the wind. But it's blowing like stink out there and the waves are still huge outside.

There's such a high hill on the north side of the anchorage, that once we got in the lee we were getting backwinded, and there's also a funky circular current going on in this bay.

So for awhile we were drifting around on our anchor, back to the wind, and sideways to the considerable swell and rolling like a, like a... well, rolling a lot!

With stuff flying all over down below. (Even though we were mostly stowed from the previous day)

We finally (with some difficulty under the conditions) put a stern anchor out to put the bow into the swell. We also dropped our dinghy, and got Infini and Lickety Split repositioned in a better spot and also with stern anchors out.

We didn't get breakfast or the first cup of coffee until 11am! We will probably keep an anchor watch tonight unless the conditions get considerably better. It does seem to be improving some.

The longer term forecast has the wind clocking around to NE-E and blowing 15-20 for a couple of days. So we'll probably be here for a couple of days. There are howler monkeys here, and a hiking trail, so once the conditions stabilize, we'll get off the boat and explore a little.

Sherry & Dave

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Puerto Escondido, Punta Sal, Central Honduras Coast

Anchored safe, but crappy weather...

We arrived here at 2:45 pm yesterday. This is an 270 degree enclosed anchorage and open only to the west. You can look it up on Google Earth at 15-54.6N 87-37.9W.

The weather was gorgeous last night. Nice sunset, nice moonrise, clear skies.

The forecast up north where the cold front is supposed to STALL is 25-30 kts. But here along the coast, they are *still* only forecasting 10 kts out of the north. Well, we have westerly winds right now at 20 kts and its raining a cold rain. It's kind of uncomfortable, but our anchor is well set and we are hoping the winds will soon move around to the north, where we will have good protection.

Anyway, we are sitting tight here today.

Escondido, Exposed to the West

Infini, Almost in the Surf

Another Boat Coming In

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Motoring East Along Honduras Coast

We left the anchorage at 0530 this morning. Our friends on Infini left at 0230 and Lickety Split at 0415, but Dave insisted we wait for daylight. And we motor faster than they do.

The offshore forecast is for 15-20 kts and there is a front up north by the Yucatan. But we expect light and variable for most of the day close-in along the Honduran coast. We currently have about a 1kt counter-current, so our ETA at Punta Sal is about 3pm local time (but I expect we'll slow down later when the afternoon winds pick up).

All is well aboard.

Out of the Rio!

Yes, we really did make it away from the dock.

We crossed the bar at Livingston at about 2pm Local Time and were anchor down at Cabo Tres Puntas about 4pm. Dave and I jumped in and scrubbed the river slime off the bottom and enjoyed a nice candlelit dinner in the cockpit (the first in months... no bugs here!)

Our First Glimpse of the Ocean in 6 Months

Buddy Boat Infini at Livingston

The Livingston Sea Bouy

Our plans are to leave here at 5am for Punta Sal, Honduras for a long (12 hour) motor up wind along the coast.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Good-bye Catamaran Marina! (snif)

It is with real regret that we are leaving here.

Catamaran Marina is a real nice place for cruisers, and we've really enjoyed it here.

Soggy Paws at Catamaran Marina

The owners of the Catamaran complex, Kevin and Louisa, invited all the cruisers over to their house last night for a farewell 'cocktail party'. We've really enjoyed hanging out with Kevin in the Tiki bar for football games, the pool bar for Happy Hour, and playing round-robin tennis on his tennis court. Kevin is also ex-Navy, so Dave and Kevin spent a few hours reminiscing about 'Navy days'. So when he heard that several of us were leaving for good, he organized a cocktail party to say goodbye.

Kevin and Louisa with Dave and I

Some of our Catamaran Buddies

Tonight, we repaid the hospitality and had Kevin and Louisa over for drinks and a 'boat tour'. And then we all went over to our friends on s/v Infini for more drinks and (better) hors d'ouvres. After Kevin left to attend to arriving hotel guests, we really enjoyed talking with Louisa about life in Guatemala in the 60's. She grew up here--her father was associated with United Fruit in Guatemala for many years.

We have all our chores done, there's no more room in the fridge, the freezer, or any of the lockers. We pull out of here at 8am tomorrow morning. (YAHOO, we're cruising again!)

Our plan is to check out of Guatemala at Livingston tomorrow afternoon, go out over the 'bar' about 3pm, and anchor overnight at Cabo Tres Puntas. We are still looking at the weather and trying to decide if it will be calm enough to head east on Saturday morning.

The offshore weather looks 'boisterous', but the near-shore weather looks reasonable. If we think it's going to be OK, we'll leave Tres Puntas about 5am Saturday and head for Punta Sal in Honduras, about 60 miles east. There is a good all-weather anchorage at Punta Sal where we can weather a few days of nasty weather, if we need to. The next stop after that should be Utilla, in the Bay Islands of Honduras.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Porthole Gaskets Replaced

My job in the last few days, in between tending Dave up the mast and shopping trips ashore, has been to replace the gaskets in all the portholes.

On Soggy Paws, there are 6 small porthole up forward, 9 large portholes aft, and one strange one in the cockpit. All have 10 year old gaskets, and about half of them were leaking a little, even when dogged tight.

My job was to remove the porthole cover (the bronze and glass part that swings down to latch the porthole shut), pry out the old gasket, and glue in a new gasket with contact cement. It's pretty simple.

Old Porthole, New Gasket

We 'water tested' the first few that I did... sprayed the porthole with the hose to see if we could force a leak. All the new ones seem watertight.

We expect a few miles 'slogging to windward' in the next few months, so this was an important job to get checked off before we set out.

Nice Shiny Clean Bilge

With confirmation that the engine was running fine, with no leaks. Dave set out to clean the bilge. The normally oily spot under the big diesel now shines white. The murky spot under the main cabin sole, very deep and dark, is now clean (not quite shiny white, though).

Fortunately (for me), Dave is the only one with arms long enough to reach down to the really nasty part of the bilge.

Note Dave's 'cruiser shorts'. These are 'favorite shorts' that should have been tossed a year ago. At least they are properly repaired with sail repair tape!

The Engine Still Runs!

This morning Dave fired up Mr. Perkins and he rumbled to life like a good diesel should. No leaks (oil, water, or other). The transmission was exercised and went forward and backwards as expected. Yahoo!

Monday, January 14, 2008

Ground Tackle (Anchor) Maintenance done

While we were here in the Rio, tied up to a dock, Dave sent the anchors and shackles off to Guatemala City to be re-galvanized. (It's very cheap here, and they do a good job with it). We got them back quite awhile ago but hadn't finished up the re-assembly.

Yesterday we unloaded all 300' of chain from the primary anchor, into the dinghy, and end-for-ended it. Dave filled the dinghy with fresh water so the anchor chain also got a nice freshwater bath. When we loaded it all back in, Dave re-attached the shackles and anchor so we're ready to go.

We also got to see how Dave's 'distributed chain' scheme worked. We have fed the last 100' of the chain through a PVC pipe underneath the V-berth and the cabin sole, down to a spot in the bilge, just forward of the mast. This is to distribute heavy weight low and in the center of the boat. It fed up through the tube just fine... needed a little hand tugging occasionally, but we didn't have any rock solid jams.

We had to hand-feed it back in, to get it to flake into the bilge area properly, so it will come out easily again. But it only took a few minutes to do that. We will rarely use that 100' of chain, but it's nice to have if we need it.

Everything's in good condition, this also verified that the Tigress Windlass is working great, too.

Another thing off our departure list!

Provisioning Done

It took me another 2 days (between other projects) to re-inventory all the stuff I'd already stowed, but I finally have a complete and accurate inventory of everything in all the 'deep storage' closets. I've opted not to bother inventorying the stuff in the 'ready storage' closets, because they are small enough to see the entire contents without unloading the whole thing, and the contents change too often. Stuff in these closets are stored by category (breakfast food, snacks, sauces and seasonings, etc), so when I'm looking for something, I know where to go.

All the small stuff in bags have been grouped and bagged in ziplocks. This makes it less likely for packages to get rubbed through as the boat moves, and make a big mess. And, hopefully (but not always), keeps the bugs out.

I've also gotten all the meat bought, packaged, and frozen in meal-sized packages (sans all the styrofoam packaging, etc). Here in the Rio, we get most of our meat from 'Casa Guatemala', which is a combination orphanage and working farm. They have some of the nicest 'Lomo de Cerdo' (pork loin) that we've found even in the States. Completely boneless and wrapped in small packages and pre-frozen, it's perfect for us. They even sell chicken filets (boneless chicken breasts), sometimes a tough commodity to find down here.

We also bought some beef 'lomito' (loin) from our favorite restaurant Brunos (who buys Argentinian beef in Guatemala City). We expected this to come as steaks in 1-pound slices, but we got 2 whole lomitos frozen together. I had to thaw the whole 5 lbs partially to get the two hunks of meat apart, and chop them up into something like meal-sized portions.

Also note the Pressure Cooker on the stove. I bought a bunch of chicken quarters and cooked them down in the pressure cooker, and de-boned them. A meal's worth of chicken quarters cook down into a small ziplock bag. We then package 4-6 of the meal-sized ziplocks of a similar type into a big ziplock bag, and then layer the big bags into the freezer (so there's always a beef, chicken, ground beef, etc bag laying on top). It also means that everything is double-bagged, so keeps better in the long run, and less of a chance of a stinky mess if your freezer stops freezing.

Rigging Work Done

After 1 ascent of the mast by me and 8 ascents by Dave, we have finally replaced all the upper and middle mast tangs, mounted the new tricolor light, mounted the lighting spike and mounted (and unmounted again) the spinnaker halyard bail.

Dave brought with us from States 4 sets of mast tangs that he had Rick Heim from Gulf Coast Industrial Repair of St. Pete, fabricate to his specifications (316L stainless). (Dave highly recommends Rick for any metal fab work). A set consists of 4 pieces of stainless and a very large stainless bolt. (see pic below, of 2 sets).

These are to replace the 30 year old tangs that is the last piece of original standing rigging (besides the mast itself) left on the boat. The originals were 304 stainless. They appear OK, but you never know until the worst possible time, when something like that might break on you. So before we did any major ocean passages, he wanted to get these replaced. When he gets a chance, he'll document the whole thing in his Workshop section of the website.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Provisioning Again

When we were getting ready to leave Florida, and I was provisioning, there wasn't really time to do it right.

To do it right, you need to make a plan, understand how much space you have, how long you are going to be 'out', and plan how much food to buy.

As you buy it and store it, you have to keep track of what's where. When you buy 2 months worth of food at a time, it's pretty important to do proper planning, as well as have a 'stowage plan'.

At that time, I was really rusty, and not very familiar with Soggy Paws. And we were kind of pinched for time. So I just sorta winged it... I went to the Commissary at Patrick every day for about 5 days, and bought a piled-high cart load. And I just crammed it in the lockers that Dave pointed out to me, pretty much 'willy nilly'. I just kept buying, seat of the pants, until there wasn't any more room aboard. (I did have a little experience, from cruising before).

Dave also had a bunch of stuff in boxes from his storage area that either came his way from his Boy Scout Charter days or bought in 2005 when he last thought he was leaving soon for parts unknown. So that added to the 'mystery mix' aboard. (I'm still finding stuff I didn't buy, and probably won't use, in fairly large quantities).

So, bottom line, there WAS no storage plan on Soggy Paws when we left in May.

This time, I wanted to do it properly. No excuses now, time-wise. I'm retired, right?

So I started by pulling every last thing out of every deep dark locker, inventorying it, and starting from scratch. Soggy Paws has a lot more, deeper, storage space than I had on Island Time.

I put my inventory directly in an Excel spreadsheet. It took me about 4 days to get thru all the food lockers, write everything down, and make a list of what more to buy.

I was nearly done...buying and stowing... and keeping track of it all... until last night... when I was trying to clean junk off Dave's computer... to install something new.

I guess I accidentally deleted my 'What's Where' spreadsheet.

When I couldn't find it this morning, I tried in vain to recover it. I tried 2 different 'undelete' programs, but since I'd installed a bunch of stuff after deleting it, it is apparently gone forever.


I hadn't gotten around to backing it up to another commputer or a thumb drive. :p


So I have to go back thru the lockers and re-inventory everything AGAIN.

I COULD just go back to 'willy nilly' mode, but I found so much stuff that I didn't remember I had, when I was inventorying lockers, that I really want some kind of record of what's where.

I probably won't keep it up over time, but when I'm trying to figure out where that package of Brownie Mix is, at least I'll have some idea of where to start looking.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Getting Ready to Pull Out of the Rio Dulce

We are now definitely focused on leaving here and heading further south. Our target date is to cross the bar out of the Rio on Jan 18th.

Dave has compiled a short list of projects we NEED to get done before we leave.

In the last week he has (almost) finished the propane system rework. We only lack a few connection fittings that our friends on Infini are bringing back from the States. We hauled our Force 10 stove out onto the dock, and while I thoroughly cleaned the stove, Dave replaced all the 30 year old propane hose on the boat.

He also 'plumbed in' connections for our new propane instant hot water heater and a connection to the grill. The entire system can now be fed from either of 2 tanks by just changing valve settings, and we can shut on/off supply to the 2 new connections when they are not in regular use. It's a pretty slick setup.

We've also been doing some maintenance on the rigging. I spent 3 hours up there a couple of days ago--remounting hardware at the top of the mast that we had taken down (or lost overboard) due to tall mast/short bridges. We now have a new Windex and a new 'lightning spike'. I also installed new lime-green 'spreader covers'... the foam tubies from Walmart make great chafe gear, but need to be replaced about every 18 months.

View from Soggy Paws' Mast

Dave spent another 3 hours at the top of the mast yesterday, trying to get a new tricolor light mounted. Unfortunately the old holes and wire leads don't match up with the new light, so he's got to make an adaptor.

We spent some time yesterday playing with Dave's Mast Ascender. Since our friend Jim Yates raves about how easy it is to go up using his Top Climber (similar, but different brand), Dave thought he'd try it out. It has the advantage of being able to get you higher than the mast top, which is difficult in a conventional bosun's chair.

The instructions with our 'Sea Connections Mast Ascender' are 3 pages of printed instructions and no diagrams, and refer to 'the ascender directions' which are not enclosed! Apparently this company is no longer in business. But we did find some helpful diagrams on the Petzl website (the maker of the ascender devices).

It is not that hard to ascend, but for me at least, descending was very difficult. The ascenders (common mountain climbing devices) are made for ASCENDING, not descending. I saw a post on a mountain climbing website, where a rigger was asking about descending techniques and the mountain climbers' response was: you dummy, those are ASCENDERS, not DESCENDERS. Maybe the Top Climber has a better system--it's definitely using different devices (but their video doesn't show a descent!)

That's why we couldn't get over to photograph the tarantula yesterday, I had been playing with the ascender and was stuck about 15' in the air and was having trouble going down! (I did eventually get myself down without having to be rescued)

When Dave finally climbed all the way to the top of the mast, it did work as advertised going up, and for standing up at the mast. Coming down, Dave managed to get himself halfway down the mast, but we eventually just lowered him in the chair on the second safety line, just because it was faster/easier.

Tarantula Alert!

Dave and I were up on deck working on stuff this morning and a lady from a boat down the dock started screaming about a tarantula on board.

The ruckus went on for quite some time because she lost sight of it and wasn't sure where it had gone. Then she washed it overboard, only to have the dang thing climb right back aboard. Someone who was watching said it actually swam under the boat and climbed up the other side, but I didn't see that myself.

She finally took her hose and washed it toward the shore and it disappeared into the jungle (not that far from our boat!)

Unfortunately we were not fast enough to get a picture of it. :(

Monday, January 7, 2008

Earthquake in Guatemala!

Just after we climbed into bed last night, we felt the rig shaking really hard for a couple of seconds. At first I thought it was a big gust of wind that had hit us. But Dave went up on deck and said it was dead calm out.

After a few minutes of discussion, we decided that it could be an earthquake. It turns out that the Rio Dulce is right on a fairly significant fault line between the Caribbean plate and the North American plate. See the little yellow 'we are here' on the map below.

Map from Major Guatemalan Earthquake in 1976

This morning on the VHF net, one of the Guatemalans came on and said there had been an earthquake last night just before midnight. I did a little poking around on the seismic sites and it looks like it was measured as a 5.1 or 5.2 somewhere in Guatemala.

Anyway, we are fine. There were no immediate reports of any damage in our area. All the boats are fine here at Catamaran Marina.

New Year, New Look

We had an uneventful New Year's Eve. We missed partying with our old crowd at MYC, but had a nice time hanging out with our new gang at Catamaran Marina.

We sat on the dock and watched the fireworks upriver off the Castillo.

The hotel here was very busy between Christmas and New Years with Guatemalans on vacation. The bar was set up with a DJ for a big loud dancy party, so we opted to watch a movie on Soggy Paws. We did stay up til midnight and marveled at the beautiful starry night.

I've been poking around with Blogger trying to get a 3-column template. The old layout wasted so much white space. Since I publish the Blogger blog on my own website via FTP, the layout tools available with 'New Blogger' don't work for me.

I finally found a site that had an interactive template designer. It was really cool and I finally got the new template posted tonight. Here's the designer link for you geeks that want to play with it. PsycHo

The Sad Part About Cruising (Friends Leaving)

We were sad to see our new friend Doug leave in Serendipity today.

It is definitely one of the bad things about cruising... when new found friends go in other directions.