Holiday Week In Antigua & Guatemala City

Although some may think we are constantly on holiday, we still do like to get away from the boat and water life for a break and to enjoy the comforts of hotel pampering for a while. Rob’s birthday is always a good excuse as we are often yard bound for hurricane season, so we booked ourselves a week in the cool of the mountains to visit Antigua, said to be one of the most beautiful places in Guatemala.

Santa Catalina Arch - Landmark Of Antigua

Santa Catalina Arch – Landmark Of Antigua

The Litegua bus company run several classes of bus and we caught the 0800 Premier Plus from the Rio Dulce to Guatemala City last Monday. A tuk-tuk from the marina cost us 1.50 GBP, the bus was exactly on time and the tickets right through to Antigua cost 12.50 GBP each. The bus was air-conditioned, comfortable and run efficiently. We stopped at a roadside restaurant area about 2 hours from the Rio and I went for the local options enjoying 2 crisp rolls filled with minced chicken, topped with a mild sauce and cheese. All for 12 Q or 1 pound 20 pence. A film was shown in Spanish but on the return journey we had to endure 3 dire films, all about men beating the hell out of one another. Just outside Guat City we changed onto a smaller bus but our luggage came with us to the main Bus Station in Zona 1. We arrived at just after 1400 and the connection to Antigua was a minibus at 1435 so I had enough time to exchange my receipt at the desk inside for a proper bus ticket for the final leg.

Breakfast Courtyard El Meson De Maria Hotel

Breakfast Courtyard El Meson De Maria Hotel

By 1545 we were in Antigua and already impressed with the cobbled streets and beautiful old colonial buildings. Several guides offered us free advice on how to find our hotel, El Meson de Maria but it was only a 5 minute walk from the main square. As we passed the classy restaurants and bars we began planning our week, mainly focussed around what we wanted to consume, given the lack of good restaurants in Fronteras!

The hotel was excellent and we would definitely stay there again. It wasn’t too expensive, included breakfast and beverages in the evening and was in a great location for all the museums, bars and restaurants. There were sitting areas all around the hotel and a roof terrace with views over the 3 volcanoes. Breakfast was served in the courtyard to the sound of the fountain and our room was comfortable and clean.

Roof Terrace With Volcano Views

Roof Terrace With Volcano Views

The shower was interesting though. A blue ceramic pipe stuck out from the wall but didn’t have a showerhead, so you got a lot of water at once. The shower tray was a good foot deep, so it was almost a bath as well. Half of the ceiling was glass, making it very romantic being able to see the stars whilst you showered.

Around the hotel were charming old items, such as the oven where breakfast was laid out, an old barber’s chair and framed textiles. It only rained once but most of the walkways are under cover and the hotel had umbrellas to loan when we went out in the evening. On our return we helped ourselves to hot chocolate and coffee with a cake, sitting in the courtyard or roof terrace.

Breakfast Is Served!

Breakfast Is Served!

For breakfast we had fruit juices, coffee, fresh melon, pineapple, papaya and watermelon balls that someone must have spent hours carving out with one of those devices Lakeland sell. Then a choice of fried or scrambled eggs with plantain, black bean puree and cheese. 2 warm bread rolls with butter and jam came with it and the final option was a plate-sized waffle with maple syrup. It was all delicious but the same every day and with a French bakery on the corner by the hotel, we opted to buy breakfast there one morning instead.

Apart from visiting the many museums and shops, the main event was eating. As it was Rob’s birthday we had a couple of mojitos before dinner, at 5 pounds each. Prices in Antigua are definitely not what we are used to but it is a tourist destination with tourist prices. Next we found Escobar, a trendy steak house near the hotel. The sirloin and fillet were delicious, the service was great and the décor was smart. Every restaurant had candles on the tables and many served excellent food. The steak meal with wine was less than 40 pounds, so still good value. Another night we went to Café Teatro where they do a swiss cheese fondue costing 15 pounds for 2 people. It came with bread and potatoes to dunk in the cheese sauce and the waitress scrapped off the burnt cheese from the bottom of the fondue dish for us to finish off.

Typical Old Door In Antigua

Typical Old Door In Antigua

Another night we went to Hector’s, the top rated restaurant in Antigua. We were told you had to queue in the evenings but at 1830 only 2 of the 12 tables were taken so we had no issues. The chicken stuffed with leeks with a mushroom sauce served on herby mashed potatoes was delicious and again, less than 40 pounds for us both. It is a small place though so getting there early is best.

Ice-cream parlours, chocolate shops and street sellers with nuts and fruit also tempted us during our stay. Luna de Miel is another top restaurant, serving crepes and coffee in a roof top terrace. We only had time for iced coffee so sadly didn’t get to taste their savoury and sweet pancakes.

Union Tank

Union Tank

Between all this eating we did try to walk a few calories off by walking around the sights. Jeff told us about an app called GPSMyCity and I downloaded a map of Antigua listing the museums and attractions with some information about each one. There were ‘must sees’ to do and we covered them all in 3 days, booking an extra night at the hotel just to ensure we did them justice. The climate was also a refreshing change and an escape from the heat and humidity of the Rio. To actually need a long sleeved top and nightwear was a novelty.

We visited the textile museum where a young lady demonstrated how they make the colourful cloth on a simple loom. Each area of the country has their own pattern and mothers pass on the skills to their daughters. Men sometimes make cloth but the women do the majority of the work. The quantity of cloth on sale was staggering and results in wallets, bags, scarves and notebooks as well as clothing. Prices are always negotiable and the sellers enjoy the bartering process, more than we do I imagine.

Textile Weaving Demonstration

Textile Weaving Demonstration

One morning we walked east a few blocks to find the Casa Santa Domingo, a 5 star hotel in the grounds of an old monastery. It houses several small museums, all well worth the 4.80 GBP fee. The grounds are well cared for, as are the macaws living there but the silver museum left us feeling how obscene all the religious silver crowns and banners were, given how much poverty there was. Was it really necessary for the priests to dress so opulently?

Apart from the silver, there are Colonial, Archaeology, Pre-Columbian Art and Modern Glass, Sacatepequez Art and Popular Handcrafts and Pharmacy Museums. They are attractively presented and located close to one another around the promenade.

Chocolate Museum Cafe

Chocolate Museum Cafe

The final museums we went into was empty but for us. One was off the main city square and housed old books and information about early printing in the town from 1660. The other was a Jade museum and shop. There were a few other museums in town, including the Palacio de los Capitanes Generales housing military exhibits but we felt we had seen enough. Apart from the Chocolate museum near our hotel of course. They have a café and run a school where you can take a class on making truffles or bars of chocolate. Their shop sells lovely combinations of chocolate with a variety of added ingredients. Not cheap though.

Cemetery

Cemetery

As we walked around town we found many of the sights recommended by the guide. The Tanque La Union and adjoining park, the cemetery to the west of town and the huge craft shop all gave us a few interesting hours and photo opportunities. The cemetery was all white with family buildings housing the coffins of the deceased and room for the next in line. If you feel like a rest, horse drawn carriages can take you around the main attractions instead. You can also people watch for hours from a bench in the shady central park, a busy place for tourists and vendors. Several spas offer relaxing massages and you can take tours on horseback into the mountains, or just take a car to coffee plantations.

Bright & Beautiful

Bright & Beautiful

We also saw several fast food outlets, almost hidden because their signs are so small and bland, presumably a planning restriction as the city is part of a UNESCO Heritage Site. McDonalds, Burger King, Wendy’s and Subway all have branches in Antigua together with lots of fried chicken and taco stalls. We only saw a couple of Spanish language schools and are glad we took our classes in San Pedro. It is also much cheaper there, for accommodation and eating out.

Although I crept out of our room one night around 0300 to see if I could see any lava flowing, I didn’t. Countless tourist offices run walking tours to the volcanoes but we declined, having plenty to do in the town. The lava report online also said there wasn’t any lava flow, so we were out of luck this time. The surrounding hills are beautiful and the town nestles down between them, surely a risky place to have your capital city. It was destroyed so many times by earthquakes and lava and re-built but finally they decided to re-locate their capital to Guatemala City in the 18th Century.

Shop Chock Full Of Local Crafts

Shop Chock Full Of Local Crafts

We wanted to spend at least a night in the capital and getting a shuttle bus for 7.50 GBP each to our next hotel seemed a good plan. The shuttles leave for the airport regularly but we arranged to take the 1100 one as it gave us plenty of time for breakfast and vacating the room. The driver picked up 8 people and 6 were dropped at the airport but he took us directly to the Meraki Hotel near the Oakland Shopping Mall. It is a small, modern hotel with a café for the included breakfast. The mall is about a 10 minute walk and full of modern clothes and shoe shops plus fast food outlets.

Cathedral

Cathedral

Closer to the hotel is a lovely mall, mainly with good restaurants and bars. We opted for a great Italian called ‘Calula’. I had a starter of mozzarella and tomato salad followed by superb ricotta cheese ravioli with a lime butter sauce and Rob had chorizo then tuna. With wine the bill was 60 pounds and it came stuck onto a cocktail glass full of candyfloss, something different!

Night Out In Guat City

Night Out In Guat City

Unfortunately our room faced the road and being a Friday night it remained busy and noisy into the early hours so we didn’t sleep that well. Our taxi arrived at 0800 and cost 5 pounds to take us to the Litegua Bus Station for our return journey, this time all on the same bus. We arrived in Fronteras by 1530 and got a tuk-tuk back to Nana Juana where Beyzano was waiting for us, hot but the same as always. We loved Antigua and would have been happy to spend a lot longer there but it is still good to be home!

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More TLC For Beyzano – Renovated GRP, Anchor Windlass, Autopilot & Guest Cabins

Our workmen have finished for now with the completion of our GRP repairs, the improvement in the anchor windlass and servicing of the autopilot, otherwise known as ‘Cyril’. Arnie and Hector did a great job of the GRP and matched the colour so well we can’t see where the repair on the stern was done. The non-slip finish by the helm and the smooth GRP just under the teak toerail is excellent and virtually invisible. Very pleased with their work and for the days and care it took, great value too.

Invisible Repairs To Our GRP

Invisible Repairs To Our GRP

Our anchor windlass has been slowing down this year and sometimes stopped altogether. It has done a huge amount of work during the past 5 years and Rob thought the brushes needed to be replaced so we asked Roger Day to look at it. He first checked for power issues and took it to his workshop. It was trying to draw far too many amps, causing extra heat to build up within the cables and the motor. The cables were unable to deliver the power that the motor was trying to draw but once he had replaced the brushes and cleaned the baked on residue from the motor, it drew just 30-50 amps. It now sounds completely different and as a top 5 piece of kit, we are relieved to have it back in good working order.

The Smooth Stern

The Smooth Stern

He also sourced new brushes for the autopilot motor and Rob and Roger cleaned the armature and bearings and reassembled it. The motor wasn’t giving any problems but the service manual recommends changing the brushes after 2000 hours and we hadn’t checked them in the last 5 years despite using the autopilot on long, boring passages. They were worn down by about two-thirds. We had originally been looking for a tiny oil leak but never found the source. All the hydraulic pipes and joints were checked but there was no obvious leak. Finally Rob had to make sure he wired it all back correctly or port would become starboard and vice versa when we hit the autopilot buttons.

Cleaned Up Autopilot With New Brushes

Cleaned Up Autopilot With New Brushes

Neddy brought our new mattress covers within 3 hours of taking the old ones away. Funny how needing the weekend cash on a Friday gets the jobs completed really quickly. They are really good, making our port guest cabin look very smart again after years of being abused as an ‘overflow garage’. We kept the old covers on the starboard cabin mattresses and will only put the new ones on when it is time to sell ‘Beyzano’.

Smart New Blue Mattresses For The Guest Cabins

Smart New Blue Mattresses For The Guest Cabins

With the large palapa just behind the moored yachts we thought the smooth wooden floor ideal for laying out our spinnaker, the coloured foresail we haven’t used before. In fact, in the 8 years we have owned ‘Beyzano’, we haven’t even unpacked the huge sail and were curious to see what colour it was. We use our cruising chute or gennaker whenever we are going downwind as it is smaller and anchored at 2 of the 3 corners whereas the spinnaker is only held by a hoisting halyard and the other 2 corners fly free with guys to balance them. Both have huge plastic buckets to pull down the long cover or ‘sock’ to douse the sail when the wind gets up or it is time to moor.

The Massive Spinnaker

The Massive Spinnaker

So we hauled out the big bag from the ‘garage’ cabin and got it over the plank onto the pontoon behind the boat. From there it was easy and we un-twisted the sock and pulled it up to reveal a crisp, barely used, red, white and blue monster sail. At least it is very patriotic and in the same colours as our cruising chute. That done, we just packed it up again and put it back at the far end of the ‘garage’, presumably only to be seen again when we sell the boat. Another day we unpacked our bright orange storm sail, another we have happily not needed. The piston hanks were seized up so Rob cleaned them off to free them and coated them in vaseline. Having plenty of time here has enabled us to do all sorts of minor tasks we would otherwise put off and if we get too hot we just jump in the pool.

On the 6th October we are hauling out at Ram Marine, the next-door yard. We brought it forward a month as people will be coming back in mid October and the yards get much busier. Ram is a very professional outfit and well run by Karen. They actually care about the environment whereas others definitely do not. The boatyard has a proper lift and painting shed high enough to take yachts with their masts up. Although Nana Juana has a trailer lift, our depth puts us on the edge of their operational constraints and we don’t want to risk it. Ram charges 7 US$ a foot to haul and launch but being ashore is free if you are using their employees to work on your boat. Other contractors are not allowed but you can work on the boat yourself and pay a daily fee. The work costs and horrendously expensive anti-fouling paint are obviously on top. We should have stocked up on anti-fouling in Panama, a lesson learned. We are paying nearly 400 US$ a tin and need 3 ☹

Another Lovely Day At Nana Juana

Another Lovely Day At Nana Juana

Whilst we are ashore we need to have the teak toe rail and rubbing strake sanded down, as they are getting rough. Then there are a couple of scratches to touch up on the blue hull before it is polished. Finally I am letting someone else paint the bottom for the first time and hope they do a good job. We will change the anodes, clean and polish the propeller and I will paint 5 coats of hard, white antifouling on the stern where ‘Beyzano’ sits in the water. Another first is that we aren’t staying on the boat ashore as for the first week we have booked an air-conditioned room in a 3 bedroom villa onsite. They have 2 bathrooms so Ram only rent out 2 of the bedrooms, so we have a private bathroom. There is a fully equipped kitchen with microwave etc. and they cost 25 US$ a night. If there is more work to be done we might go back onboard and hope the fans keep us cool enough.

Tony and Anne kindly organised a minibus last Friday for us all to go to the biggest supermarket in Morales. For 6 pounds each, it wasn’t much more than the local bus and was much more spacious and quick enough to get our frozen food back before it defrosted. Another opportunity to buy real cheese! We also bought frozen meats from the Casa Guatemala shop in Backpackers by the bridge. Their minced beef, pork ribs and chops, chicken, cheeses and ham are very good. Although they deliver on Tuesdays and Saturdays, it saved time going directly to their shop for the frozen goods.

Not A Bad Spot For Some Early Morning Pilates

Not A Bad Spot For Some Early Morning Pilates

Jeff went to Guatemala City again to get his new replacement iPad as the one he bought in Panama developed a black screen and wouldn’t reboot off iTunes. We dropped him off at the Litegua bus station in Fronteras for the 0800 bus and bought 2 tickets for us for next Monday as we are off to Antigua at last. It will be Rob’s birthday treat, not the 8 hours on the 3 different buses but to go to a beautiful old colonial city with countless coffee shops, restaurants, shops and museums. We have high hopes of Antigua and may extend our 3-night stay so we can explore the town and surrounding volcanoes in depth.

Antigua is a favourite location for learning Spanish but I still have plenty of books and much to remember before I would think of taking classes again. I can just about converse with our workmen regarding their work, family life and give answers to questions about our life and plans. Restaurants are another good place to speak Spanish but once the staff think you can speak a little the conversation speed goes up rapidly. I’m probably happier with my Spanish than my French now but this is purely down to being here for so long and hearing so many people talking. I’ve never spent more than a fortnight in France in one visit. I found Spanish easier to learn than French and as usual, reading and writing it is far easier than speaking. At least we can continue to practice Spanish in Mexico, Cuba and Miami but after that we will only be visiting English and French speaking countries.

Yesterday marked Guatemala’s Independence Day with celebrations, parades and fireworks helping the party atmosphere. Being near the weekend, it is a 3-day national event and the pale blue and white national flags are everywhere, including a new one on our stern. Makes a change to be somewhere where they aren’t celebrating getting rid of the British!

Planning ahead for a change, we have booked a month in El Milagro marina on Isla Mujeres near Cancun in Mexico from December 20th. Although it cost 850 US$, their weekly rate is 250 dollars, so with the nasty northers and the possibility of dragging our anchor or having another boat drag into us in the poor holding anchorage, we decided it was worth the money to have a safe and relaxed Christmas instead. We wouldn’t feel comfortable having a few drinks if there was a likelihood of an issue with Beyzano. We are hoping our friend, Steve, will join us for a couple of weeks and we can leave the boat to explore inland. ‘Horizons’ will also be there, our third Christmas together and Steve’s third visit to the Caribbean on Beyzy too. Jo and Liz of ‘Nimrod’ used to be our neighbours in Haslar Marina and came to see us off in Las Palmas but we haven’t seen them since then. By co-incidence they will also be in Cancun in January so we hope to catch up then. Looking forward to it already and desperately trying to find Christmas cake ingredients as it is getting near that time again ☺

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Fishing Success – But Only Rob’s Arm!

When we returned from movie night last Friday a neighbour’s alarm was going off and nobody was going to sleep through it, especially Rob, so he went onboard to switch it off. Unfortunately he caught his arm on a fishing rod on the way off their boat and one barb of a fishing hook became embedded in his left forearm.

I was already on our boat but Robert and Carla were nearby and the first thing I knew of the drama was Robert and Rob getting onboard with Rob attached to a long fishing rod. It was late and we were all tired, so not the best circumstances to think clearly but we had to removed the hook ourselves or find a Doctor. The curved end of the hook wasn’t even visible so pulling it out from the other end was not going to be easy. It wasn’t painful according to the patient but it was very rusty and I worried about infection in this hot and humid climate.

Baby Egret All Grown Up

Baby Egret All Grown Up

So, we grabbed the medical bag in which I fortunately had some local anaesthetic liquid, given to us in June 2011 by my cousin. I wasn’t sure it would still work but it did. Carla fetched some cutters to firstly cut the fishing hook to remove the rod and rest of the hook. It was very tough to get through but Robert managed to without pinching off skin. We were left with a small bit of visible metal, nothing more so I pushed his skin down over the sharp end and Rob pushed it up a bit until we saw where the hook end was under his skin, marking it with a pen. I then wiped the area with antiseptic and injected the anaesthetic in 4 places along the hook. It took effect immediately.

Next we had to cut through his skin until we revealed the curved end of the hook and let Rob pull it out. Relief all round! I then cleaned it all up, smeared on some antiseptic cream and bandaged it. We had antibiotics luckily and within a couple of days you couldn’t see any swelling nor feel any heat. He is still taking the antibiotics but will end the course today and we will monitor the situation. His thanks go to the ‘surgical team’!

Nearly As Big As Mum

Nearly As Big As Mum

Co-incidentally, at the movie night a Doctor gave a presentation to inform us that he is setting up a surgery for cruisers in the marina on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. He mostly works in trauma but would be a useful contact.

Our colony of white egrets roost in a few trees near the boat and we have been watching the fluffy red-brown chicks grow up. They still have some red-brown feather but are getting ready to fly the nest. There are many birds here, Jeff has been watching Toucans in the tree near ‘Horizons’ and you can hear the howler monkeys calling. As for bugs; we have see a few ants in the boat and new spider’s webs each morning but we rarely get any mosquito bites, quite surprising. Being here hasn’t been as buggy as we were led to believe but the temperature and humidity are undoubtedly hard to take. It was 92 degrees the other day and very humid.

Local Fisherman Keeping The Sun Off

Local Fisherman Keeping The Sun Off

As I continue to clear out lockers and find items I’d forgotten we had, I am finding things that haven’t survived the heat. Our front awning is showing some green growth on the port side so we need to bleach that. My plastic waterproof document folder is in 2 pieces, the front having become unglued from the back. Worse than that, the soles of our expensive Dubarry sailing boots have melted off!! Due to the heat, cooking on the boat is tough and we take any opportunity to eat out or use our Cobb placed on a table in the palapa. There is no heat under or at the sides of the Cobb and 5 of us did a chicken stir-fry in the wok, placed over the ‘cobble stone’. Carla and I cooked and we enjoyed a nice evening in the breeze.

The New Bar Underway

The New Bar Underway

Jeff took us all to Texan Bay last weekend for the closing of Mike’s bar. He is building a new one on the opposite bank and it is in the frame stage. Workers walked on the roof beams without any form of safety equipment, happily singing away. Mike did a Tex-Mex evening and then a BBQ for Sunday lunch, which was his excellent, tender pulled pork. There were bags of ‘special’ brownies being passed around but we avoided those as we wanted to make it back to the boat. It always surprises us Brits how early most Americans like to go to bed as by 7.30 pm on Saturday night the ‘party’ was over and we were back on ‘Horizons’! A local family came by to sell us baskets and jewellery but I’d already bought some last time and could actually convey this in Spanish thankfully. Another lady with her daughter brought hot food for breakfast, wrapped in leaves but it was peppery and mushy with suet pudding, so not the best but it was only a pound.

Not Our Favourite!

Not Our Favourite!

We stayed in Texan Bay for Sunday night to enable us to get a launcha along the Rio Dulce back to Livingstone, where we cleared in. I decided to take our passports directly to Raul’s office, as we are illegal on September 4th. The 25 minute fast boat ride cost us 10 pounds each return but well worth it to see the gorge again without worrying about the depth! The scenery is really spectacular. My 9-month boat extension was ready and the passports were taken to Immigration and back in a very short time duly stamped out and back in 3 days later. Apparently it works! The passport extension costs 45 pounds each and the boat cost 210 pounds. The boat extension can be stopped by taking the boat out of Guatemala but if you return within 3 months the clock is restarted, so say we left in November having used up 3 months, then sailed for nearly 3, we would still have another 6 months left when we got back.

The Beauty Of The Rio Dulce Gorge

The Beauty Of The Rio Dulce Gorge

Boat work, by others at least, continues. A GRP template was made by cleaning a piece of the deck, which already has the non-slip surface. They then put wax on it, masked it off and layered it with GRP and resin, let it set and then pulled it off for a negative template. In their workshop they then made the final template, coloured to match our deck. Currently they are recessing the deck so the new pieces fit in flush and will fare it in next week. Finally the smooth GRP is going to be finished.

Eventually I made up my mind and ordered new blue covers for the 4 stern mattresses. The old ones are just too worn and dirty to use and new ones make a huge impact, bringing ‘Beyzano’ right back up to her beautiful best. It cost 350 pounds to have all the covers made and as you can sleep 3 people to each cabin, they are pretty big. 2 are back already and look great in the guest cabin but we will keep the old covers on for the ‘garage’ room so the new ones only get used when we sell the boat.

New GRP To Replace Cracked Non-slip Surface

New GRP To Replace Cracked Non-slip Surface

Talking of ‘Beyzano’, we have also found out how she got her name. Stephan, the previous owner, saw my post about names and made a couple of comments. Whilst he played football with Italians, they gave him the nickname to make him feel more Italian and less left out, simple as that. Good to hear from him again and glad to know he thinks ‘Beyzano’ is still being lovingly looked after. Rob didn’t get to meet Stephan and we both very much hope to meet up with him in the USA next year.

I am also progressing with my Spanish and take 2 classes a week with Roberto, on the palapa here in Nana Juana. It costs 4.50 pounds an hour to go over my questions about grammar and talk. I’m quite comfortable with reading and writing quite a lot of Spanish now but I don’t get to chat much, so that’s my aim. Neddy, who works for Elmer on our canvas and mattress covers, wants to speak more English and he is coming over on Saturday mornings to chat, him in English and me in Spanish. I still do my Duolingo classes every day and have only 8 more sections to finish before the end of the course. As I’m only ‘44% fluent’ I assume there is another one afterwards.

The Negative Mould Being Made

The Negative Mould Being Made

So, we are now over half way through our time here and hurricane season. It’s been a busy summer for storms but we are safely tucked away here. We have a few more tasks to do before we haul out on November 10th, such as service the winches, replace some teak plugs in the deck, order a sailbag for our new main when it arrives and investigate why our anchor windlass is running slow. Rob got the autopilot and ram out to check on a small oil leak and he is also checking the engine heat exchanger. He also wants to look at the steering wheels, as there is a slight creak sometimes from the port wheel. None of these are actually big issues, he just likes to pre-empt a problem.

Recessing The New GRP Into The Old

Recessing The New GRP Into The Old

All is well in the Rio Dulce and time speeds on by. Carla and I took the local bus to Morales, a nearby town, especially for the better supermarket. I even found cheese which tastes of something and isn’t ‘plastic’. Life is good 🙂

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TLC For Beyzano

Whilst Belize suffered some damage from Hurricane Earl with power lines down and some devastated beaches, in the Rio it was eerily calm and dry for a few days whilst the system passed just north of us. On the diagram you can see how close it came, as we are in the medium green section. In the north of Guatemala there was a lot of rain so we wondered if the river level might rise here and got ready to loosen our lines and those of our neighbours but it barely changed and all was well.

The Path Of Hurricane Earl

The Path Of Hurricane Earl

So with that little excitement passed, we have just continued to enjoy the socialising and time to relax. Most days we float around in the swimming pool just to cool down, as it is incredibly hot at the moment. Over 90 degrees most days and blazing hot by 0900. I shower and by the time I’m dressed again I feel in need of another shower, not pleasant. Our awnings and fans help a lot but we stay inside the boat more and spend time on the Internet or tidying up the lockers.

Recently we had a lot of the contents of our friend’s boat to store whilst he had a prospective purchaser to stay on his. Unfortunately, despite flying from Canada and spending a week here, the deal didn’t go through as he had decided that having a boat was going to be out of his comfort zone. Disappointing after all the hard work and expense put in getting the boat ready but we all know you have to be lucky to find a genuine buyer and even more so to find ‘the one’ who falls in love with your boat!

One Of The Rooms At Nana Juana

One Of The Rooms At Nana Juana

On the subject of boats something that always amuses us are the names some people give them. Ours is bad enough, usually needing an explanation of where it came from but we have noticed that many Americans like to give their boats names which are statements, such as ‘Sold The Farm’, ‘Never Bored’, ‘Smart Move’ and ‘Best Day Ever’. They are often linked to what the people used to do, for example ‘Fried Chicken’ and ‘Plane To Sea’.

Skype has been keeping me in touch with Kym and John’s wedding plans, down to helping choose colours, picking flowers and looking at outfits. We have already booked our flights in May using another batch of air miles earned over 5 years ago. The taxes alone were 1.5K GBP though, not nice. We have enough air miles left for a final flight and after that we’ll have to pay the entire fare. I love flying but am especially excited this time as we are flying on the Airbus A380, a plane I saw in testing many times at Filton when I worked there but never got to fly on. We have almost no luggage to take to the UK but will take a case inside another so we can bring out the usual supplies on our way back to Washington. Better check the rules for importing foods, as I’m sure the USA will be very strict.

Roger's Boat With The Fuel Polishing Kit

Roger’s Boat With The Fuel Polishing Kit

By the beginning of September we will have been in Guatemala for 3 months and our Immigration and boat permits need to be updated. We contacted Raul, the agent in Livingston and I met him during his regular visits to Nana Juana to remind him we need the new paperwork. The boat gets a 9 month extension pass but our passports only get a 90 day stamp each time. Some cruisers just go off on a short break abroad but Raul somehow manages to get the passports updated and I’ve left everything in his hands but it does feel weird to rely on someone else for the first time. I’ll be glad when it is completed.

The boat work continues slowly and is mainly being done by contractors. We last bought fuel in February in Panama, so don’t use much over the year but when we need the engine, we really do need it! After the engine cut out off Utila one windless night due to a blocked pipe or filter, we decided to get our fuel polished and the tanks emptied and cleaned out. We have never done this and don’t know if the previous owners did, so there could have been 14 years of gunk in the tanks. Although Mike on ‘Tomorrow’s Dawn’ kindly lent us his machine, we couldn’t get the fuel pumped through so paid Roger Day 60 pounds to bring his kit to our boat and do the job for us. Most of his kit was kept off our boat in his launcha meaning a clean and easy job. It didn’t take long and we have shiny tanks filled to the brim with 500 litres of clean fuel. Rather than leaving the dock, we jugged the fresh diesel and filtered it as we added it to the tanks. The fuel from RAM is very clean anyway, as they filter it too and are very careful to clean out the cans for you beforehand as well. Fingers crossed all will be well with the fuel supply now.

Watching The Fuel Polishing Operation

Watching The Fuel Polishing Operation

We have obtained quotes from local workmen for polishing our stainless steel and smooth white GRP. It is quiet here with many cruisers gone back home, leaving people looking for work. At 15 GBP a day we think it is better to give them some money than try to spend time out in the heat doing the polishing ourselves. When we bought the boat there were some thin cracks on the stern platform and we have always wanted them repaired. We also have a couple of scratches on the white GRP and a stress crack around the starboard fuel filler cap and are in the midst of having those mended. The old GRP was dug out and several layers of new GRP added, smoothed and shaped. Next the shiny topcoat will be painted on to match the colour and the non-slip finish can be replicated with a special template. I will be posting photos further when this is complete.

Where Our Fine Cracks Used To Be

Where Our Fine Cracks Used To Be

As prices are so competitive it is tempting to get a lot of work done here. We are even thinking of getting replacement stern cabin mattress covers made for when we finally sell Beyzano. Having used those cabins as store rooms and the occasional guest cabin for 8 years the mattresses could do with being re-covered and we can always keep them in a cupboard until the boat is emptied ready for sale.

Repairing The Area Around Our Starboard Diesel Filler Cap

Repairing The Area Around Our Starboard Diesel Filler Cap

Being at Nana Juana is still lovely and we are very fortunate to be here for the hurricane season at less than 200 pounds a month, including electricity. Our view from the stern must rate as one of the best in a marina and we wouldn’t be without the pool. Several of the ‘inmates’ meet there each afternoon to chat and chill, along with socials on Fridays at the Palapa and Sunday BBQs under the boatyard Palapa. The bar is shut and the restaurant is expensive and not as pretty as many of the restaurants in other marinas. It is too big, isn’t under a thatched roof and it lacks ‘atmosphere’ being empty most of the time. The grounds are pretty and we feel very secure here, seeing the security guards wandering around all through the night.

The Storage Yard At Nana Juana

The Storage Yard At Nana Juana

Next weekend we are heading off to Texan Bay once more, in ‘Horizons’ with Jeff. Texan Mike is opening a new restaurant across the bay and holding a Tex-Mex evening and a BBQ to celebrate. Cruisers have been asked to donate anything a new restaurant might need to help him out. It will be a good excuse to go sailing again and it is really pretty bay to anchor in. Our friends Robert and Carla on ‘Moody Mistress’ flew back from Canada this week and brought me 5 packets of ginger nut biscuits for the lime pie base. Good to see them again. Time passes by and our fears of being totally bored here were unfounded but we are planning next season already and looking forward to being at anchor again in clear water. With the flights booked and the marina berth at Deltaville also reserved we do at least know we have to be in the Chesapeake by 1 May.

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Hurricane Earl – Just A Whisper Away

We have all been watching the Tropical Storm named Earl for a few days as it was predicted to take a path quite close to us and may reach hurricane status this afternoon as it approaches Belize. Being tucked up so far from the sea makes us feel quite cosy but once we heard the ‘H’ word we soon clicked back into cautious cruiser mode and started looking at the NOAA hurricane centre site again. Honduras, the Bay Islands, Belize and Mexico have all been put on TS Watch and the latter are now on Hurricane Watch officially. We are well inland but with up to a foot of rain possible, the danger here could be flash floods, mudslides and the river rising. We have decided to stay on Beyzano for the next couple of days until the danger is past and hope that Belize is not too badly affected. Placencia is located on a flat, sandy spit several miles long, with houses right on the oceanfront and there are countless flat islands which could be virtually washed away in a big storm surge.

Don't Leave  Your Crocs Flip Flops Out In The Sun!

Don’t Leave Your Crocs Flip Flops Out In The Sun!

Although I didn’t intend posting too often whilst moored up for 6 months, little things happen on a daily basis and if I don’t record them I’d just forget. So the rest of today’s blog is just a list of disconnected small events.

I bought some new croc flip-flops in Colombia at a modern mall and they weren’t cheap. Perfect for using around the pool in Nana Juana, I left them on our deck last week and the result was a curled up shrunken pair of shoes that I can no longer wear. Surely flip-flops are likely to be used in a hot climate, so they are clearly not fit for purpose. There wasn’t a notice with them to say do not leave in the sun! In the bin they went and I ‘had’ to buy a nice new pair in the West Marine chandlery in the next door marina, Ram. They have little blue anchors printed on them, very apt.

Rob had a pair of sandals with glued straps, which snapped. Normally we would have thrown them away too but seeing how the local people fix and mend, we decided not to be so wasteful and sought out the cobbler in town. He has another small stall at the side of the hot and dusty main road, inches from the lorries taking cattle around the country. They were stitched back into the rubber soles for 1.50 GBP. Amazing. The cobbler was very proud of his work; another humbling moment for us and Guatemala has been teaching us lessons I hope we never forget.

Mayan Style Houses On The Rio Dulce

Mayan Style Houses On The Rio Dulce

We read about the Dutch being the tallest race on earth with Guatemalan women being one of the shortest, at 4 foot 9 inches average. Rob and I do feel tall here, quite a novelty for us. The Mayan ancestry is evident in nearly all the people we see locally, a totally different ethnic mix to those living in the Eastern Caribbean. Their daily struggle is humbling to watch, with children helping their parents sell a small amount of produce at the side of the road. Women chat whilst holding squawking chickens, Jeff spotted a piglet being carried into a tuk-tuk and having its head accidentally bashed on the metal frame. Fruit and vegetables abound, from beetroot and radishes to spring onions and papaya. All fresh and costing next to nothing. Cruisers benefit from the low wages and cost of living, being able to buy so much produce for so little, comparatively. A bag of fresh mushrooms, 6 perfect limes and a cucumber cost me a pound.

Rob & Jeff Enjoying The Excitement Of Sorting Out 'The Man Drawer'

Rob & Jeff Enjoying The Excitement Of Sorting Out ‘The Man Drawer’

We also appreciate the seasonal nature of supplies here. Now heavily into lychee season, there are mountains of the spiky red fruits on wooden stalls all along the main road in Fronteras. We didn’t even know what they were at first, having only seen them tinned in syrup I guess but once we tried them we were hooked. Juicy, fresh and nutritious.

It isn’t all take, take, take though. Several charity projects work around the area to help the local communities, orphanages and remote villages. One such project is called ‘Pass It On’. Old solar panels and boat batteries are taken high into the hills to villages without power. Solar lights are also donated to help children do their homework in the evenings, as it gets dark around 1830 here all year round.

Our New 'Upside Down One Zip' Sprayhood Window

Our New ‘Upside Down One Zip’ Sprayhood Window

We have been paying local tradesmen for new canvas work and Elmer’s team has now made us a brand new sprayhood with a separate cover to keep the sun off the windows, a cover for the outboard, a new life sling bag, a new back piece for the bimini (shades the cockpit from the evening sun) and reinforced the dinghy chaps. The new sprayhood has the opening window the other way up so it is easier to open and the zip is a continuous one rather than 3 separate zips. A few more inches were added to the sides to give more protection in the cockpit but the lockers can be opened with it still in place. We also had them clean and waterproof our bimini as it was letting the rain straight through, meaning we couldn’t sit in the cockpit when it rained. All of this work cost less than 1300 pounds and it was all done on time and as agreed. We have been really happy with the work done and glad to put something into the local economy.

The New Bimini Extension

The New Bimini Extension

The Guatemalans are resourceful people, able to make anything you need it seems. Rather than buying and importing items for the boat, it is worth seeking out the local guy, located somewhere in town who can just make it instead. Someone on the daily net will usually know of a contact.

Debbie the chef is back from her holiday, thankfully. She lives on a boat at Mar Marine and loves to cook for the rest of the cruisers. On Tuesday evenings she cooks a starter and main from a different country each week. For a fiver you get the food, beautifully presented and a glass of wine. Last week we had the most tender, lean beef bourguignon with dauphinoise potatoes. Real treat! Yesterday we had a Chinese meal but decided to go at lunchtime to dodge the rain.

Smart Cover For The Outboard

Smart Cover For The Outboard

Friday night was the weekly film at Tortugal Marina, under the bridge. They were showing ‘The Great Escape’ and I had never watched it right through. Salad and a choice of pizzas plus a glass of wine or beer comes at 5.50 and everyone gets a bowl of hot popcorn during the film. Unfortunately it tends to really pour down at around 1700 every night, just as we are going out to the dock to be picked up in the different marina’s launchas. We even resorted to our Musto jackets and salopettes last time, kit we hadn’t donned since the early days of the Atlantic crossing in November 2011. Kept us dry but they were hot to wear!

Last week we had a croissant and coffee at the Café de Paris twice but in August we plan to cut back on our spending to help pay for being in Antigua next month. We are living within our means day to day but for the bigger items, such as the new mainsail and annual insurance, we are dipping into savings. Fortunately a new cooker is not required at the moment. Rob dismantled the gas hob as it was down to just 1 working ring. I went off to order our new mainsail and got back to a clean and working cooker. It’s hard enough to manage a full roast dinner at Christmas on 2 rings, let alone 1. Despite all his efforts the main burner went back to not working properly the following day, so we will need to buy a new cooker in the US in May and they aren’t cheap.

Our Extended Sprayhood Sides

Our Extended Sprayhood Sides

We have had a few expenses this year with the Rally and the clearance costs for so many different countries but the sail is the next big item. After weighing up all the different options and costs, we came down to Doyle or Mack. In the end the cost was around the same, at 3000 pounds but Rob preferred the sailcloth that Mack use and they had some brilliant reviews for service and quality on the forums. Wonder if we’ll notice any difference in speed?

On Saturday we were invited on board ‘Argosea’ for a delicious chicken curry. Jeff made Bombay potatoes and so I took a spicy red lentil dahl to go with it. I made fruity flapjacks yesterday to use up the oats and golden syrup but hope to be able to replenish the lockers in Belize and Mexico for Christmas. It is something we took for granted in the UK, being able to replace items we ran out of but here, once it is gone it is gone for a long time. We even save jars of chutney and marmalade for Christmas and go without the rest of the year. Something you can always buy is Kellogg’s corn flakes, Pantene shampoo and conditioner and Lay’s crisps (similar to Walkers). Nutella, Lipton’s teabags and Oreo biscuits seem to be everywhere too.

Sunday was our weekly day of rest and socialising starting with breakfast at Tortugal with Tony and Anne, swimming to cool down, dominoes with 10 other cruisers at Nana Juana and the marina BBQ accompanied by torrential rain and high winds. A lot of people have gone home but a surprising number are still here and live on their boats almost full time. It seems a lot spend their days drinking and smoking interesting things as a few are ‘away with the fairies’ to say the least. We heard that some of the chocolate brownies you can buy from one of the boats are quite special as well!

I was going to head off to the office to post this blog up before battening down the hatches but it is raining. Nothing for it but to hope I can post photos using the onboard WiFi, make some pastry to go with the jar of mincemeat I need to use up and await Hurricane (it did reach hurricane force this afternoon) Earl to pass just north of us.

Posted in Belize, Costs, Domestic Info, Friends & Family, Guatemala, Honduras, Maintenance, Techy Stuff, Weather | Leave a comment

Exploring Lago de Izabal On ‘Horizons’

Jeff invited us for another mini-holiday last week and this time we headed west to the 25 mile wide Lake Izabal. During the mornings it was very calm but the wind can kick up in the afternoons and it isn’t a place to get caught out. Other warnings in the guide suggested only anchoring in company but we were safe enough for the 2 nights we stopped, once by the Castillo de San Felipe and then in the anchorage near the hot springs and waterfall. We didn’t see another yacht the entire time, apart from unoccupied ones at anchor but the scenery and vastness of the lake was definitely worth seeing.

Tranquil Lago de Izabal

Tranquil Lago de Izabal

The first day it was too calm to sail so we motored under the huge bridge we see every day to the Castle, a couple of miles away and dropped the anchor just north of the pretty park in nice sticky mud. There is a jetty where the tourist launches moor and we tied the dinghy up there in sight of the gatekeeper. It cost us 2 pounds each to get in (20Q) and was money well spent. The castle is on a tiny island and is beautifully restored and kept. One of the prettiest castles we’ve visited and it has a cordoned off swimming area off the beach and plenty of shady areas with tables to picnic in. A basic café staffed by students has drinks, snacks and ice cream.

Castillo de San Felipe

Castillo de San Felipe

Our Spanish lessons came in handy as the guide was entirely in Spanish. The castle was built to deter constant attacks by pirates and guarded the lake from further incursions. It was repeatedly damaged and rebuilt, has a small drawbridge over the moat and a prison. We didn’t wade through the water into one of the ‘water cells’ but guess it was a pretty miserable place to be incarcerated. The airless main prison was grim enough and you can imagine the prisoners chained to the wall in the few recesses around the room. Several cannons remain pointing out to sea.

Beautiful Day For Exploring

Beautiful Day For Exploring

Next we dinghied over to find the Kangaroo Lodge, another pleasant thatched restaurant with a really hospitable Australian owner. It is located down an inlet but is signposted. A couple of 8 week old kittens were playing but fortunately both had owners, otherwise I’d have been tempted, again! Amongst the vegetation of the jungle were a few villas, a Jacuzzi and gym. Looked like a tranquil place to stay. The food was good too.

We stayed the night at anchor without any problems and headed off the next day for the small resort called Denny’s Beach, 10 miles further into the lake. Only 2 moorings of the original 4 survive but we decided not to tie up. Although the entire resort is for sale, trips to the waterfalls and Mayan ruins are still arranged and the staff were friendly and welcoming. The view across the huge calm lake was breathtaking and probably not done justice in the photograph.

Top Of The Castle

Top Of The Castle

They obviously get some bad weather there as a stone filled breakwater was protecting a couple of run down yachts and another yacht was washed up ashore, a sad sight. We just anchored off the swimming area and had a drink before heading to the opposite side of the lake after lunch to find Finca El Paraiso, the settlement near the Rio Aguas Caliente (hot water river) and waterfall.

Horizons Off Denny's Beach

Horizons Off Denny’s Beach

We had left it late despite the good sail and didn’t arrive until 1800 but there was plenty of room to anchor, once we had left the rocky bar a good eighth of a mile to starboard. It is marked. There are also shallows and fishing nets to avoid nearer shore but the holding was good in about 5 metres. Just a mile east of the anchorage was another sheltered but isolated bay with very calm water, probably too bug ridden for us.

Stunning Scenery Around The Shores Of The Lake

Stunning Scenery Around The Shores Of The Lake

Ashore we found a restaurant and small resort so we had dinner of fried chicken, rice, salad and french fries. You can easily walk to the waterfall yourself or hire a guide from the resort. Horses and tractors can take you to the hot spring, otherwise it is a 40 minute walk. Another 20 minutes will take you to a cave, through which you can swim to the waterfall inside the mountain.

Drawbridge, Moat & Gardens

Drawbridge, Moat & Gardens

After a peaceful few hours of sleep the wind direction changed and it became choppy for a while but the dawn soon broke and we were off on our way back to the Rio Dulce, stopping in Tortugal for a delicious breakfast of freshly squeezed orange juice with caramelised cinnamon apple pancakes served with cream. Then it was back to Nana Juana, a new berth for Horizons around the corner from the main dock and back to Beyzano for us.

Tortugal Marina - Our Breakfast Stop

Tortugal Marina – Our Breakfast Stop

Sunday was busy with dominoes from 1300 through to past 1600, then the weekly BBQ, attended by over 20 cruisers based in the marina. Its not all fun and socialising though as we were up at 0545 yesterday to take advantage of the calm wind to get our genoa down and folded away. It hasn’t been off the forestay for 2 years and needs the stitching checking and a general clean. I also cleaned the deck, hatch covers and hatches whilst the front awning was off. Today I put neat white vinegar all over the headlinings and walls of the cabins, washed the floor, dusted all the shelving and sorted out the paperwork.

Starting early means it is much cooler to work but we have a routine of working, then swimming once the day’s chores are done and this is often by 1000. It is a routine which is working well as we feel we are both making progress and enjoying being here, not just guilty that we haven’t done anything constructive. We intend staying in the Rio throughout August, getting the annual tax returns completed and finally ordering the new mainsail and parts we need to service the watermaker but in September we will head off to Antigua, the old capital, allegedly a town with beautiful old colonial buildings and some rather swanky hotels. Rob’s birthday beckons!

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Week Learning Spanish In San Pedro La Laguna

On Saturday 9 July we met Alex from Rio Dulce Travel, at 0630 for our journey to Lake Atitlan, west of Guatemala City. Richard and Kay from ‘Atalanta’ and Tony and Anne from ‘Argosea’ joined us. We booked a 16 seater van with air conditioning and comfortable seats as we knew it was going to be a long day. In the end it took over 12 hours with a couple of short stops plus a late lunch and we were glad we had gone for the more expensive option. The return trip cost 800 pounds in total, split by 3 but it was worth every penny.

Sunrise Over Lake Atitlan

Sunrise Over Lake Atitlan

We first headed for Morales, then turned west along the main road to the city. They are improving the road between Morales and Guatemala City but it is arduous and slow work as they cut into the mountains to expand the carriageway. Long queues of traffic can delay the journey by hours and there is no other option. It was amazing to see the diggers higher up the sheer cliffs and the rocks falling down. Local families sit along the dusty road selling fruit and drink and everything was covered in red dust.

Our Favourite Restaurant - El Barrio

Our Favourite Restaurant – El Barrio

The farming land is nestled between 2 ranges of mountains and very fertile. Crops grow everywhere in neat little parcels of land and countless stalls fringe the roads selling pineapples, melons and other fruits we don’t recognise. It is dramatic scenery so I spent most of the trip just looking out of the window. What spoils it is the quantity of litter in every place a car could stop. Awful.

San Pedro Spanish School

San Pedro Spanish School

Guatemala City is a shock to the system. Huge, noisy and from what we saw, ugly. The shanty area looked desperately poor perched on the hillsides with ‘waterfalls’ of rubbish just underneath the shacks. Must be unbearable in the heat. During our return journey we stopped at a sparkly clean and modern shopping mall to see what it offered compared to Fronteras. The contrast couldn’t be more extreme. They had plenty of big names, designer clothes shops, all the fast food chains and a huge Walmart supermarket.

As we drove away from the city it got cooler until we ascended into the clouds on top of the mountains near Lake Atitlan and got up to 8500 feet. The bus then had to wend its way down again, zig zagging along the sides of the mountain into the towns on the lake. The road wasn’t in great shape, with lots of pot holes and it took hours to make the last few miles into San Pedro.

Town Taxi Rank By The Ferry Dock

Town Taxi Rank By The Ferry Dock

We had all decided to stay at a hotel rather than take up the homestay option the school can arrange. Given only Tony could speak Spanish, it seemed unfair to the host family to have us there, unable to converse but I would go for that option next time to avoid speaking English with my friends after classes. Hotel Sakcari is situated on a pathway next door to the school with a stunning view over the lake but it is basic. We had a private bathroom with clean towels, a TV on which we saw the Wimbledon final but you had to go to the reception area to get coffee. Cold drinks and alcohol were available on an honesty box system as well. There were pretty areas to sit all around the garden, by the pool and hammocks to sleep in after a hard morning in class. We didn’t find any other hotels in town which looked any better.

The first evening we strolled across the pathway to El Barrio, a great restaurant where we ate no less than 6 times. They did an amazing breakfast on Saturdays and Sundays for only 4 pounds and this included a glass of champagne, huge bowl of fresh fruit with yoghurt and granola. Next was a choice of bacon, sausage, hash browns, eggs, omelette, frittata, tomatoes etc. None of us managed the final course of pancakes.

Breakfast In The Italian Bakery

Breakfast In The Italian Bakery

The place was run by Stuart, originally from England, so we didn’t use much Spanish there unfortunately. In the Italian Bakery, the other side of the San Pedro School, we were able to try out our new phrases for excellent coffee, croissant and cinnamon rolls topped with almond icing. The whole area is full of bars and restaurants, catering for the students and tourists. Naturally there was an Irish Bar.

After class there is plenty to do with horse riding costing a mere 6 pounds for 2 hours, several massage rooms, a cookery school specialising in local cuisine and the town to wander around. I was keen to visit the museum but it was shut the entire week. Countless shops and stalls sell the traditional cloth that the women all wear. They have a long piece of material just wrapped around their waists and it is held in place with a belt, again without fastenings and the ends are simply tucked back under the belt. We barely saw a female child or woman who wasn’t dressed in this style. They match the colour of the skirt with a coloured top and cardigan but the outfit is quite expensive, so they don’t have too many sets.

Rob and Tony Off For A Jaunt Around Town

Rob and Tony Off For A Jaunt Around Town

The climate on the shores of Lake Atitlan is perfect. Cool enough to feel wonderfully fresh all day rather than exhausted and needing a shower every hour but the occasional burst of sunshine to warm up the pool and enjoy a lie in the hammock. It rained a couple of times and was torrential for a while but it soon cleared up. It wasn’t humid like the Rio Dulce and we really appreciated being away for the week. For the first time in years I actually wore a nightie and the bed had a sheet and blanket.

The hotel was a short walk from the ferry dock and there are tuk tuks to take you around the town for a pound or less. We found a market in the square and a huge church amongst the small houses. One coffee shop arranges tours of the coffee plantation and production line and sells great coffee. Our meals were all very good and we didn’t spend more than 25 pounds for the both of us including drinks. It was good value and our hotel was 200 pounds for the week, as was the school.

Rob With Clara At Graduation!

Rob With Clara At Graduation!

San Pedro Spanish School is a well-established school set in beautiful grounds overlooking the lake. Rob and I decided to take individual classes as Rob thought he would hold me back, given his lack of linguistic skill and feel uncomfortable. My tutor was Lupita, very patient and full of interesting information about local life. She spoke in Spanish nearly all the time so although I couldn’t understand all the words, I did get used to the pronunciation and speed. Our classes were taken under small thatched palapas in the garden, each with a table, chairs and whiteboard. We had exercises to do, conversations to write up and share, games such as scrabble and homework every day and by the end of the week I felt I had learnt something, even if I still can’t sit down and chat easily with a local speaker. The school has a conversation class at 1715 each day, showed a film about the life in a town in 1993 and gave free salsa dancing lesson on Thursday.

My Profesora Lupita In Our Classroom By The Lake

My Profesora Lupita In Our Classroom By The Lake

In the picture of Rob with his teacher, Clara, he has a split lip, the result of my elbow hitting him during salsa class! She said she laughed with him every day. We all took our respective profesoras out for a meal on Friday and I would happily return for another week’s class. They gave us certificates and a statement of our Spanish level so we can take lessons in another school if we wish. Rob and I would like to see the old capital, Antigua, in September and there are lots of Spanish schools there too. Another option is Flores, nearer here.

What we have noticed in Guatemala, is that the majority of people are working. Much of the manual work is done by hand and we saw a man carrying half a dozen rocks on his back, taking them time and time again to where they were needed. They dig the soil by hand and cut the grass with scythes. Even if they are selling a few pieces of fruit and barely making ends meet, they are working. In the eastern Caribbean we got used to seeing a lot of the men ‘liming’ in bars in the morning, drunk for the rest of the day. We rarely encounter beggars here whereas it was a daily occurrence in St Lucia and Grenada. Life is undoubtedly hard here with no benefits system to help the mentally or physically disabled if they can’t work.

Private Palapas Make It A Great Learning Environment

Private Palapas Make It A Great Learning Environment

Lupita explained that only small children have birthday celebrations and when people marry they can’t afford a big cake, a new dress for just a day nor a big party. Education is hard to finance so not many people are well educated. Lupita told me that she started at University with 175 students in her year. Only 17 made it to graduation, as they couldn’t afford the 150 pounds a month. The families have to support one another and the average daily wage is very low. Despite all this we have found the Guatemalans to be very friendly, happy and interesting people, used to working hard and getting by.

The Mayans make up the majority of the population but they are under-represented in government. Guns are everywhere in towns, guards keep watch even in the electrical appliances store but how anyone could run off in the middle of the day with a freezer on their backs, I’ve no idea. We were told that a policeman in one village demanded alcohol and money after hours and was refused by the young shopkeeper. The policeman then shot him 3 times in the head before running back to the police station. A witness alerted others and the town bell was rung, bringing everyone out of their homes. They surrounded the police station and all but 5 ran out of the back entrance. The villagers got into the police station and the perpetrator owned up and was beaten up but survived. He got just a year in jail despite being responsible for 6 murders.

Steep Plots Of Land To Farm

Steep Plots Of Land To Farm

Here in Fronteras we heard that some gangsters were robbing tourists and cruisers a few years ago. This brought extra police into the town and questions were asked. One morning several of the criminals were laid out on the bridge, having been shot dead by the local ‘mafia’ who didn’t much like the police investigating their area. It all feels very safe here for us so guess it worked.

One afternoon Rob and I got the ferry across Lake Atitlan to Panajachel, a larger town with better road links to the city. There was a bigger supermarket rather than just the small shops or Tiendas we found in San Pedro but there wasn’t much more choice. Panajachel has a lot of stalls selling dubious tourist wares, seen in most towns here. I think the plastic horses by the ferry docks set the tone as we arrived. The 6 of us decided to take the ferry to meet Alex in Panajachel for our return journey to the Rio, thereby cutting down the journey time by a couple of hours. It costs 2.50 GBP to cross the lake and took half an hour. The mountains rise steeply from the lake and some of the cultivated fields are on precarious slopes. A set of tower blocks looked utterly out of place.

Why???

Why???

I read that the US Embassy was putting out a warning about the volcanic activity in the area. If I had had more time, I would have taken a 2 day tour of the volcano to see the lava flowing at night, as it is a bucket list item. Perhaps next time.

Beyzano was as we left her and our thanks go to Jeff for bailing out the dinghy after each rainstorm. There is nowhere to leave our dinghy out of the water, now that the boats are close together, so we have to stop it sinking. He also welcomed us back with a chilli con carne, very kind. Yesterday was dominoes all afternoon then a BBQ with other yachties staying in the marina. 2 big BBQs are courtesy of the marina, complete with gas cylinders, tables, benches and a palapa to keep us dry.

Bless!

Bless!

This week we need to get on with some tasks on the boat as we are already a quarter way through our time here and need to order the mainsail and decide whether or not to haul out and where we are going in the spring. Should we head for the USA in late April or come back into the Rio in May? Decisions, decisions.

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Fourth Of July In Texan Bay

Jeff has been getting bored being tied up to the dock so when we heard that they were having a BBQ in the bar in Texan Bay, so called because of a Texan who has set up a restaurant and bar there, it sounded like an excellent opportunity to cast off the lines and head away for a couple of days.

Texan Bar In Texan Bay

Texan Bar In Texan Bay

Rob and I packed a small bag for our mini-holiday and were crew for the first time in a while. ‘Horizons’ is a 30 foot long catamaran and crossed the Atlantic in 2012 and we met Jeff and Di in Trinidad just 2 years ago. We have spent many happy hours on their boat but never slept aboard, nor sailed on her, so it was a great experience. The trip to the bay was just motoring as there was barely any wind but with a draft to dream of, we slowly explored a narrow, shallow inlet not that far from Nana Juana on our way east. It was very tranquil with lilies on the water and a few small local houses on the banks.

We didn’t think much about depths but the clear plastic bottles marking fishing nets and pots had to be avoided and weren’t easy to see. These litter many areas in the Rio Dulce and lakes so you need to stay alert.

Clear Plastic Marker - Beware!

Clear Plastic Marker – Beware!

It was just outside Texan Bay that we had our nightmare storm last month and a little chilling to motor past that area again but we soon entered Texan Bay and found plenty of room to anchor in the calm water. The depth was around 3 metres throughout and the bay goes around a corner, not easily seen from the narrow entrance. A few houses, tiny marinas, a couple of bars and a sail loft make up the bay. We dinghied into some smaller inlets through lily pads and past pretty houses secluded in the rainforest.

The Texan Bar was easily found with a big Texan flag draped outside. We had lunch then returned in the evening for the celebrations. The BBQ pork was lean, tender and delicious, served with salads and dessert was pieces of fruit dipped in a chocolate fountain. There were a fair few people there but it didn’t get raucous and nobody even danced. They let off some spectacular fireworks once it got dark. As we left the heavens opened but although we managed to get back before it really rained, we were all still soaked. The wind died completely during the night and the photo shows all the boats in different directions, sterns very close at times.

Bobbing About In All Directions

Bobbing About In All Directions

Our friends on ‘Ayeesah’ came into Texan Bay, having just arrived from Utila. We last saw them in Linton and Antigua before that, Trinidad prior to that. Small world but connected by Facebook, which is a boon for sailors. John had Tom check his rigging and told us that the 28 year old rigging is still in good shape but the newer rigging, just 8 years old, needs replacing. They just don’t make it like they used to!

After a leisurely breakfast waiting for the wind to pick up, we left for Nana Juana. This time we had a fast passage under the cruising chute and Horizons shot back across El Golfete. Rather than negotiate the mooring buoys with all the lines tied down to them, Jeff decided to anchor off the dock and had the marina staff assist him with the lines the next morning. Once we were anchored Jeff produced curried chicken in roasted peppers, a lovely lunch to cap a great couple of days.

Local Home On The Tranquil Bay

Local Home On The Tranquil Bay

Jeff offered to look after Murray, the cutest little dog, whilst we were all away for the week. Dogs are not allowed on the public buses here, nor in most hotels, so Kay and Richard were stuck. Having pets on boats isn’t straight forward, with many countries having strict rules about pets coming in. We have been tempted a few times but managed to resist homeless puppies and kittens. It is by no means certain that we could find somebody to care for our animal for a month or more so it wouldn’t be fair to get a pet. Not all countries have kennels and taking pets on flights to the UK would be very expensive and I’m not sure what the quarantine rules are these days.

Heading Into Shallow Inlets

Heading Into Shallow Inlets

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Life In The Rio Dulce – 5 Years On

Today it is 5 years since Beyzano sailed out of Falmouth harbour in Cornwall and headed across Biscay to Spain. It was the start of our big adventure and the realisation of a long held dream. Looking back it was a huge step to take, especially difficult given our family circumstances at the time. It was both exciting and daunting but we took the opportunity and 99% of the time we are glad we did.

Bridge Over The Bay Into Fronteras

Bridge Over The Bay Into Fronteras

We have only been here for 3 weeks but already feel part of the furniture. Our days are whizzing by somehow but it is often hard to say what we have actually done. Normally we have a short timeframe in which to complete our boat tasks but this year we have months and have settled into a lazy, unhurried way of life. No doubt once October arrives we will be like headless chickens trying to get everything finished but for now we are happy to take it slow and easy. To be fair, Rob has replaced the outlet hoses in both heads, not a pleasant job. The engine throttle lever has been re-fibre glassed and he has taken the watermaker pump off to get the part number. We have cleaned and stored cushions and ropes and sorted out a few lockers.

Further progress has been made by employing a local canvas shop to re-stitch and glue our dinghy chaps and add some more material to where it usually rubs on the docks. They also made a new yellow bag for our lifesling and are in the process of manufacturing a completely new sprayhood with extended sides and the window opening from the top rather than the bottom. I have also asked for a cover to go over the plastic windows to cut down the glare and heat from the sun whilst we are at anchor. They are also making a new back extension for the bimini, as the one we have is in 3 pieces and an eyesore (to me at least). These 4 items cost less than a thousand pounds and Beyzy deserves a present for going through that storm the other night. I have chosen a beige linen tweed for the back piece and hope the pattern will not show up the dirt as much as plain oyster. All the materials are sunbrella, known to be resilient in these climates but the stitching thread is equally important and should be Gortex if possible.

Fronteras Main Street At A Quiet Time

Fronteras Main Street At A Quiet Time

We had some issues starting the outboard engine and although Rob took it to pieces and cleaned everything he could think of, it still didn’t want to start easily. We were glad to be introduced to Tyrone who is based in Nana Juana whilst he does up his own boat. He worked for Mercury in the USA for several years and ours is a Mercury. We took the petrol tank to next door marina, RAM, to dump the fuel, clean out the tank and get fresh petrol. The staff were very helpful and the dock is easy for yachts to tie up on too. It started yesterday to get us into town for the 0800 bus to Morales and also started first pull when we got back 5 hours later, so long may it continue.

With Nana Juana being linked by road to Fronteras it didn’t matter too much that we were without ‘our car’ as reception ordered us a Tuk Tuk taxi instead. It costs a pound each way and was fun to go over the bridge, one of the largest in the Central Americas. The town hasn’t grown on us much, mainly because it is so manic (the photo was taken early in the day) and you can’t really get the provisions you want. I don’t say ‘need’ as we can live on fruit, vegetables, rice, pasta and chicken but it would be lovely to have different cheeses for example. Our food bill is very low of course and I don’t think we have spent more than 20 pounds on any shop so far.

Local Taxi - Tuk Tuk To Town

Local Taxi – Tuk Tuk To Town

We leave our dinghy locked at Bruno’s dinghy dock across the bay, near the bridge. The tiny shop nearest the bridge has boxes of Clo wine for £3.80 and we have it chilled, even the red wine and it is fine. Along the road you mainly find shops selling cheap clothes, plastic shoes, fried chicken and chips, fresh fruit and veg stalls and tiny supermarkets. You can spend hours going in and out of each one but as they all sell slightly different goods you never know if the next one might have what you want. Mobile phone shops are everywhere.

Agriculture is vitally important around Fronteras and a few of the shops specialise in animal foods and medicines. We saw chicks and chickens in cages outside one shop and lovely leather saddles. Farmers stroll around in cowboy boots and big hats. Most of the stalls are small and only offer a few items for sale but Rob found all the fuel filters he needs for the generator and main engine in one place, which only sold filters. There is another small unit, which makes and sells hoses, so you can take your old hose there and get one made to fit.

Leather Boots Anyone?

Leather Boots Anyone?

I can’t say Guatemala is a gourmet’s paradise but you won’t starve. The Café de Paris is a favourite as it is air-conditioned, clean and pleasant. It is like an oasis on the high street and we go there for great coffee, croissants, crepes and a lunch special of a main (today’s was lasagne with salad), drink and pastry for only 35Q, about 3.50 pounds. We had good pizzas at Sundog, overlooking the water. Their dinghy dock is very convenient and they have a proper pizza oven. The drinks are huge and the atmosphere is fun there.

Health & Safety Not A Big Concern On Our Bus

Health & Safety Not A Big Concern On Our Bus

So yesterday we got the local bus to the next town, Morales. The minibus took a good 45 minutes through the countryside and the whole trip was an adventure from start to finish. There is always a driver and a helper, someone to encourage passengers onto the bus, same as in Grenada. Here they keep the sliding door open and hang out as the bus is careering along. At one point he opened the passenger door and jumped from the main part of the bus into the drivers part!

We saw lush, green fields along the way, with small farms where families sat by the road cutting up coconuts and selling fresh coconut water. Larger farms had big fields and lots of cattle. We see hundreds of cows being moved around in trucks going through Fronteras and they seem very healthy. At least we can get fresh milk here with no problem. Morales is a nicer town than Fronteras we thought. There were some traffic officers keeping the cars and lorries to one-way streets so it was safer walking around. There were even pavements in some areas. There were more shops and we found the big supermarket. Still couldn’t get ginger nut biscuits for making the base for lime pie, nor digestives for cheesecake base but we can do without desserts for a while.

Juggling Machetes For A Living

Juggling Machetes For A Living

Jeff found a coconut in the gardens at Nana Juana so we have been chopping coconuts on the dock with my machete. Seeing a young man on a unicycle juggling machetes deserved a few Q and a photograph as I can barely hit a stationary coconut myself. Whenever the traffic lights changed he would get out in the road again and try to earn some cash.

There are 3 movie nights a week, a trivia quiz night, a poker game and a dominoes session. All are at different marinas so you get the chance to see what the other locations are like. Tortugal is set in more wooded land than Nana Juana with a wooden walkway over the swampy ground. The bar area was really nice though. We also like Tijax, again set in the vegetation but with gorgeous domed thatched palapas and a nice pool. Monkey Bay can only be reached by water, is quite small but has a lovely social area and well-equipped kitchen for cruisers to use. There are many other marinas around the Rio and people do move around during the season but we are happy here for the foreseeable future as it is convenient with a great pool.

The Walkway At Tortugal

The Walkway At Tortugal

We can buy 10 day’s supply of drinking water for 2 pounds at the restaurant and have been socialising in the palapa most nights. We used 2 Cobb BBQs and a gas BBQ one evening to cook baked potatoes to go with the 7 lobsters we had bought that morning. 4 boats took part and brought along pasta and green salads, garlic bread and chocolate brownies. That was us of course, known for desserts these days! I don’t often bake cakes on the boat as it is so hot but with our fans blowing it is bearable. I want to use up all our supplies before we leave Guatemala so I can restock in Belize and the USA. Some of our tins are from June 2011.

Our days are starting later than before, as we are not getting up early to do any work on the boat. We download a newspaper from the UK and rant and rave about the news for a while over breakfast. We are plugged into shore power so can have toast and use the hairdryer without running the generator. Then we check the emails via Tigo, the local provider. We both bought SIMs for our iPads and have had no problems with getting online. The marina WiFi can be slow, so when I need to use the MacBook I go to the office for the best signal and just quickly publish this blog there. Nearly everything else can be done on the iPads on the boat.

Produce Stalls In Morales

Produce Stalls In Morales

It is really hot some days with the ‘feels like’ factor being over 110 degrees. I stay in the boat a lot more, keeping cool with the fans and having all the hatches covered. It isn’t unbearable by any means and we don’t need air-conditioning. The palapa seems to get a breeze blowing through during the afternoons so it’s a great place to hang the hammock and chill out.

One thing I do every day is my Spanish course. Using Duolingo, I am plodding through the words, writing the new ones down and trying to use them. We have booked a week’s Spanish lessons in San Pedro La Laguna, on Lake Atitlan, a beautiful area, surrounded by volcanoes. It is supposed to be cooler there and we are looking forward to our week in the mountains. We will have 4 hours of 1-2-1 lessons a day, with homework and conversation groups in the evenings and I’m keen to get started so we can converse with the local people more. In August we plan to go back to the same area to take another week of classes but live with a local family for ‘total immersion’ rather than a hotel as we are doing this first time.

Ornate Dresses In A Tiny Shop With Minions!!

Ornate Dresses In A Tiny Shop With Minions!!

The rest of our time we potter about on the boat doing minor jobs. We have a list with a schedule but for the major jobs we need specific parts and that is one thing that is difficult to source. Mostly parts have to be flown in from the USA, adding time and cost to every job. Some might have to wait until we take the boat to the US, including our mainsail as we were quoted over a thousand pounds to ship it here.

The watermaker and the remote for the windlass are the 2 items we should fix just to make life easier. We have managed without the watermaker for some months and I can press the up or down buttons at the helm to raise or lower the anchor but it is better if Rob can do that from the bow whilst watching the anchor. We need to service the generator, outboard and main engine, put some more antifouling on the hull and service the steering wheels and winches. We need to repair some caulking and teak screw hole tops, clean the dinghy and generally prepare for the next season.

The Big Fuel Dock At RAM Marina

The Big Fuel Dock At RAM Marina

Beyzano is still totally sound and nothing of an urgent or safety nature is making itself a priority. The only issue is the lightning. Virtually every evening we watch the thunder and lightning show, getting huge downpours of rain and hoping the lightning doesn’t get too close. We double checked we had insurance cover for a strike for this area. A power surge took out the laptop on a boat just 4 up from us the other night, so I am putting the electronics in the oven whenever we leave the boat or before we go to bed, just in case. We are used to seeing the flashes carrying on through the night. The rain is soft and fresh though and there is no salt in the air here, given we are so far from the sea. The stainless steel is remaining rust free.

Our stern is sitting in the water as always and is getting a fair coating of brown slime but it comes off easily. The dinghy is also in the water constantly and will need a good scrubbing before long.

Chicks Awaiting A New Home

Chicks Awaiting A New Home

As we are here for another 5 months and I don’t expect too much to happen, the posts will be less regular but I’ll write about our trip to Lake Atitlan next time.

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Final Few Miles To Our Delightful New Home For The Next Six Months

After managing to sleep again after the storm we woke to the sound of egrets twittering and the wonderful sense of calm water and no wind. Who needs to sail! We ate some ‘Christmas cake’ I had frozen for our 20th Wedding Anniversary as a celebration and started to motor the final 13 miles across the lake to the area where the marinas are located, at Lake Izabal.

Guatemalan 'Dragon's Breath'

Guatemalan ‘Dragon’s Breath’

Following all the rain, there were clouds of mist draped along the forest reminding me of the Welsh hills with ‘dragon’s breath’. It was a picturesque few hours with a couple of pilings to avoid but no other dangers. The depth was usually 4 metres but after we exited the lake and went into the next section of river, we first saw 7 metres but then it shallowed to just 0.3 metres under us at around 15 degrees 41’ N 88 degrees 57‘ W and we had to miss several fishing pots at the same time.

We called up Nana Juana Marina on VHF Ch. 68 and got our lines and fenders ready for berthing stern to the dock but in the event they put us alongside for a couple of days before being moved into our final spot next to our good friends ‘Moody Mistress’ and ‘Horizons’. We are stern to a high dock, using a plank to get ashore. The bow is held in place with a line to an underwater fixing and the other is tied to a post. The stern lines are both to posts on the dock and we are held tight with the ropes like guitar strings. In the high winds earlier in the week we saw a boat’s bow leaning so far over that it touched ‘Horizons’ and we’ve left our fenders down on both sides in case our bow also catches the wind and starts to move onto our neighbours but we are hoping it doesn’t. The dock hands were great in the wind and rain, swimming down to the mooring fixture and tying an extra bow line on it to keep the other boat off ‘Horizons’ and they were checking all the boats.

Needing To Walk The Plank From Now On

Needing To Walk The Plank From Now On

‘Tomorrow’s Dawn’ saw us motor by and called us up, as did ‘Ocean Rainbow’ and Jeff came out in his dinghy to welcome us in and check we were really OK after the night before. In no time we were tied up and able to give everyone a hug and relive our adventure!

The marina is small, as most are on the Rio but it has beautifully kept gardens, lovely thatched roofs over the bar, restaurant and reception. There is another thatched area called a ‘Palapa’ with sofas, chairs and tables especially for cruisers to socialise, hang hammocks up to relax in the breeze and swop books. We are allowed to use the area for small boat tasks and once we got our mainsail off the mast we laid it out on the floor of the Palapa to take measurements for the sail makers to quote us for a new one.

Our Daily Cooling Off Area

Our Daily Cooling Off Area

There is a big pool with shady umbrellas, thatched of course and recliner rocking loungers and we have been going there late afternoon when it is cooler. It is a very sociable place as we are all on the dock or in the yard and another area has a BBQ available. Literally a hundred metres away is RAM Marine with a small West Marine chandlery, small supermarket and an ATM that would take all our cards. The currency is the Q or Quetzals and there are about 10 to the pound, so nice and easy for us to work out. We end up with wads of cash though, as in Trinidad and Colombia.

The Social Area Just Next To The Dock

The Social Area Just Next To The Dock

For the first evening Rob and I decided to pay for an air-conditioned room in the grounds as an anniversary treat and our friends organised for us all to go out to eat at a nearby marina and booked the launch to pick us all up. As marina guests we get 30% off the rooms in Nana Juana and they start from 36 pounds a night. Typically, just as we were ready to go out for the evening the daily storm arrived with rain and howling wind sweeping across the marina. We sheltered in the bar and were thankful we weren’t out at anchor again. Once it lulled Rob got his shirt off and ran down to the boat to pick up some crisps, drink and a bar of Cadbury’s chocolate to take back to the room for a picnic. There was nothing else to be done but get our waterproofs on and run. It might not have been a top class meal out but it was amusing and memorable.

Shaded And Dry

Shaded And Dry

Beyzano has all her awnings up now to protect the deck and keep the inside cool. The canvas over the saloon is high enough to sit under and stops the rain coming into the hatches and cockpit. They don’t seem to be too badly affected by the wind, which tends to come side on. We filled a tank with the non-potable dock water and our solar panels are still providing all the electricity we need. I used the small laundry here but the washing machine beat the clothes to a pulp by never ending spinning so I’ll take my next load to Backpackers where they do it all for you for the same price as a token here. A full set of bedding, plus 7 towels, 6 t-shirts and shorts cost just 4 pounds for a wash, dry and fold. Bargain.

The marinas are all within dinghying distance; offer movie nights and special meal deals, sending a free launch to collect you too. Prices are good and there are plenty of workers to help with boat tasks. For 6.50 GBP we had fish fillet, baked potato and vegetables with a glass of wine, popcorn and a movie as well as the launch.

The View From Our Bow Across To Fronteras

The View From Our Bow Across To Fronteras

Jeff and Di took us into the local town, Fronteras, to show us the shops and supermarkets and find the French creperie. It is an interesting place, at the bottom of one of the biggest bridges in Central America and basically along a busy highway with huge cattle trucks going by within inches of you and there are no pavements. Young policemen carried big guns and signs on the restaurants said ‘No Guns’, something we Brits are not used to! The main supermarket had fresh milk and some basics but we can forget many of the foods we are used to I think. I will explore the other smaller shops in the hope I can find a few more of our ‘normal’ items but the fresh fruit and vegetables are excellent and we bought huge ripe mangoes at 4 for a pound. A delicious cooked chicken was less than 5 pounds but enough for 2 meals and it saves cooking and making the boat hot. Rob got some thin sweet bread and Di and I shared 30 eggs as they only sell them in that quantity. We won’t starve but it isn’t exactly Waitrose!

The Hotel Reception

The Hotel Reception

The day we went into town all the power was down, so there was no air-con, no cold drinks and no croissants in the creperie but they could still cook crepes on gas so we enjoyed a brunch and fanned ourselves with the menu. It is really hot and humid, 91 degrees sometimes but our fans on the boat are enough and we don’t want to get used to aircon and have to pay huge electricity charges. We bought a small, quiet 12-volt fan with a sticky suction pad and use it in the cockpit as well as inside. Otherwise we swim when we get too hot and try to work before 0800 if we can.

Local cruisers run a VHF radio net on 69 at 0730 providing weather and social information. There is plenty going on, trips to be organised and boat jobs to be completed but with at least 6 months here we have more than enough time to spare. We are settling in happily but this week Di, Carla and Robert go home for a few months. ‘Ocean Rainbow’, ‘Oystergo’ and ‘Makani’ are also leaving, some to travel in the area and some back to the UK. On Friday night the remaining 6 OCC Rally boat crews gathered in the Palapa for drinks and snacks as a temporary farewell. Later John and Claire played guitar whilst we all tried to sing along. Rob, Jeff and I will have to make some new friends and get on with maintaining the boats between social events. Our task list isn’t pressing and once we had moved into our final docking position we simply washed off the decks and lines and put the awnings back in place. With water falling out of the sky in torrents, we don’t mind using copious quantities to wash everything. Ordering the new sail is the first priority as it may take some time to arrive but we are going to rest for a couple of weeks before getting on with the other tasks and not exert ourselves too much.

Not A Bad View - From Our Stern

Not A Bad View – From Our Stern

On Tuesdays and Saturdays the Casa Guatemala orphanage boat goes to all the marinas, announcing their arrival on the VHF. They sell fruit, vegetables, anchor butter, Brie and other cheeses, frozen meats, beer and bread. They will also try to source anything you need. You only pay a little extra for delivery and it is for a good cause. New neighbours have been stopping by to say hello and we are already talking about arranging a few social events. It looks like we are going to have a very happy few months here.

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