Thursday, March 28, 2019

Raccoon Attack and Other Stories

First of all, his name was Chucky. But we didn’t know that walking out on a very dark dock to get our dinghy. It was late and Yoli’s bar was closed where we keep our dinghy. Suddenly this large raccoon appeared and rushed at our legs. We were surprised and scared - thoughts of rabies shots in the stomach ran through both of our heads. Scott batted him away with our shopping bags and yelled, but he kept coming on. We jumped in the dinghy and frantically untied the painter while pushing off. It was quite a scene.
Next morning we reported the situation to Yoli, the owner of the bar and the dinghy dock. She became quite upset.
“You go right back there and talk to Reagan (her husband) and don’t let him sweet talk you!”

We were rather mystified but not for long. There was the said raccoon playing around Reagan’s woodworking shop. Reagan laughed and dismissed the concern. “Chucky” is the pet raccoon of one of his employees and he loves to hug your legs. But who is going to know that unless you are already acquainted! Let’s just say that Yoli agrees with the surprised customers
Here's Chucky!

Well, that’s the most humorous of my stories. I’ll get the serious one out of the way next. Our good friend Renate Mendria on Emerald Seas had a heart attack on Friday, March 16 while anchored at Shag Bogue with 3 other boats. After they anchored Renate felt totally exhausted, unusually so, and told Jim to go over for a drink with the others while she rested. After he left she experienced numbness spreading down her arms and up to her chin. She felt like her teeth were loose. She called Jim and he returned. The other boats contributed advice and aspirin & nitroglycerin. She felt somewhat better after these and they decided to wait until morning before getting her to the hospital. Early the next morning Jim and Mike sailed the boat over to Cucumber Beach Marina where Don & Rosie on Chicharne were waiting with a taxi. Renate was admitted to the hospital and stayed until Monday afternoon. She had tests which indicated she had a minor heart attack with little heart damage. They don't really know what caused it and that will have to wait until she has further tests home in Vancouver. On Thursday, March 21 we went up there to see her with Dani & Jens from Arwen in a rental car from Placencia (7 hour round trip). We took Jim and Renate out to lunch right there at the Cucumber Beach Marina. She seemed just like herself and it was hard to believe what she’d been through. We’re so sorry that we’re so far away! They are such good friends! On Friday she had a visit with the cardiologist and on 3/25 she and Jim flew home to Vancouver. Happily, they have insurance which took care of the expenses. They have left Emerald Seas at the Marina until Jim can either come back with someone and take it to Tortugal Marina on the Rio Dulce, or hire a delivery captain.
Scot & I, Renate & Jim, Jerry & Deborah earlier in the season

Our other stories all involve problems with Scott Free. She is 29 years old and showing her age. Not in appearance - she looks great - but in mechanical failures. Our first recent excitement came just as we were approaching the reef entrance to Wippari Caye. An unfamiliar alarm went off. We frantically looked around for the reason. “Try the engine room”, I suggested. Oh dear, it was flooded up to the main engine and water was spraying around. It was the salt water pump - - the hose had burst. We had forgotten to shut off the pump after cleaning the chain and anchor. We shut off the engine and started manually pumping, adding power to the automatic bilge pumps. A half hour later we had emptied the engine room and bilges. Now came the scary part. “Would the engine turn on after being soaked in salt water?” What a wonderful engine sound that was!
But there was no guarantee that this situation would continue so we headed to the nearest Marina, seven miles away. Meanwhile, Scott started washing off all the engine parts and checking everything. We made it to the Sapadilla Lagoon and anchored just outside the Marina. Unfortunately, the starter motor didn’t work a second time so we had to send it off to be rebuilt. And Scott installed a new saltwater pump hose.
Luckily, this is a lovely place to be stuck in. The lagoon is a beautiful anchorage and the Marina has a laundromat, convenience store and a Beach Club with pool and restaurant. We suffered lying in the pool with Margaritas. I know - you feel sorry for us - not!
Heather with a section of the dinghy raftup in Sapadilla
Lagoon. Fun time getting together in for sundowners and
an appetizer pot luck.

Sunset looking over the Lagoon

After installing the rebuilt starter motor we sailed out to the Funk Cayes with Emerald Seas (this was before her heart attack) and anchored in a gorgeous cut between two cayes not far from the barrier reef. There we bought conch from a local fisherman (and feed him lunch and cold drinks- these guys spend all day out in a tiny wooden canoe) and Renate made the most delicious conch fritters. We snorkeled during the days and took turns entertaining each other on our boats - perfect.

Well, lots of other boat parts have failed since then - the rudder sensor (can’t use the auto pilot), the portable VHF, the hydraulic seals that power the rudder (no steering at all) and the alternator (charges up the batteries with the engine). We moved down to Placencia after the starter motor was rebuilt and installed. The rudder sensor and new radio made it down to Customs from the U.S. but nothing is easy in the third world. After taking the boat shuttle (the Hookey Pookie) to Independence on the mainland to recheck into the country (necessary every 30 days), he went over to pick the package at the Placencia Post Office. Oh no, they are over in Independence. Too late that day to get there. Next day he goes over and meets with the Customs officer at the Independence P.O. He can’t release the parts because Scott doesn't have a Belize radio license (he has a U.S. one). He needs to get one from the Public Utilities Commission. OK says Scott, I’ll leave the $25 radio with you and just take the boat parts I need. Oh no, says the Customs officer - you take all or none. So Scott worked his way through the red tape at the PUC to get that license and returned over to the Independence Post Office. Now the Customs officer was missing. Luckily, Poppy, Scott's taxi driver, knew where she was - a softball game. Would you believe, she left and released the package. Hopefully, her team didn't lose as a result We're sitting here right now waiting for the hydraulic sealers to be rebuilt. “Still not feeling sorry for us?”. Well, you’re right…

One more story and that’s it for now. We were anchored in Placencia harbor with at least 30 other boats when a squall hit us at about 8 pm. We weren’t at all concerned as our anchor was well set and before dark we checked and there wasn’t another boat in front of us. But suddenly we got a VHF call warning us that a boat was dragging into us. Scott went out to the bow with our big flashlight and I put on the engine and got on the wheel. A local fishing boat with 7 men was trying to motor back and forth just in front of us. The wind was howling and rain pouring down. I tried getting out of their way with our engine and bow thruster but they kept coming back. Then we realized they had tried to anchor in front of us and had caught their anchor in our anchor chain. Finally, one of the fishermen dove off their boat and managed to untangle it. By this time their boat was alongside ours and we all registered relief together. They reanchored behind us, thank God!

So only a few of the stories encountered this season. There are many more….for another time.

Monday, February 04, 2019

We're in the water now...

Blue Ground Range is a circle of small cays around a deeper lagoon. From our anchorage we could see over a submerged connecting reef to the outer barrier reef that runs the length of Belize. That's where we headed next - to South Water Cay. This is a favorite spot with several small resorts and good holding. One of the better cuts through the barrier reef is just south of the island but the anchorage is well protected from north easterly directions.
Sorry to be adding a few professional photos on this entry but I wanted you to see the view from wider prospective than
my camera could provide. We anchor right off this spot - EZE Resort on South Water Cay. The red roof building is a casual fun local feeling bar where we enjoy Happy Hour - half price drinks.
Emerald Seas, Lapis Ten Year's After and Indian Summer joined us there. We had a fun snorkel over by the tiny Carrie Bow Cay just past the opening in the reef.
Then the next morning we sailed 13 miles east to one of the few atolls outside the Pacific - Glover's Reef. This oval shaped atoll is 20 miles long and 7.5 miles wide. A few small cays rise above the encircling reef and there are a few cuts that allow passage inside. We entered through the largest, on the south east corner and made our way following the deeper blue passages to a anchorage west of Long Cay.
This is what Glover's Cay looks like from the air. There is a breaking reef around most of the atoll. This view is looking from the north. The entrance and the Cay where we anchored is in the upper left corner. 

The bottom here is tough sea grass and we had a hard time getting our anchor to bite in. It finally did but we set our anchor alarms carefully that night. Two small nice dive resorts share a nearby cay. We'd been there before and headed over for drinks with Ten Year's After, Summersalt and Emerald Seas at Mariposa Resort. Scott was hoping for some wifi to have a conference call with Rights and Democracy but it turns out they have very poor reception and it only works in the morning! It's expensive out here so far from the mainland - our two drinks came to $18 American. They were good though - carefully made Mojitos.
It was a windy night and after listening to the weather report from Chris Parker on the SSB the next morning, we decided to head back to South Water Cay. We just didn't trust our anchors to hold when the wind direction changed (sometimes in the middle of the night) and we were surrounded by either the cay or shallow reefs. Hopefully we'll be back here to do some diving and snorkeling when the weather is better. We spent a week here a few year's ago later in the season.
On the way back we had some bad problems with steering. Our auto pilot couldn't hold a course and the wheel/rudder connection seemed loose. This is a time when it's good to be with buddy boats! Luckily Scott is a very clever amateur mechanic and tore apart our bed to see the steering cables and hydraulic system underneath it. He discovered a slow leak in the hydraulic fluid so we topped it up (the boat is rock & rolling with steep waves and we're both huddled over the steering post trying to carefully pour fluid through a tiny funnel into a tiny hole!).  After pumping the wheel back and forth we were able to hand steer back through the cut to South Water Cay. What a relief to put the anchor down!
So two lovely more nights there snorkeling during the day and one memorable evening with 10 cruisers on Emerald Seas, and we had a great sail back to Placencia. We needed to be there to watch our Patriot's win the Super Bowl. Yeh! Not a exciting game but a great outcome.

Monday, January 28, 2019

Belizean Montage

Sunset in New Haven with Czech & Mate, Emreald Seas
and Ten Year's After with the full moon already in the sky.

Everyone but myself went into shore to cut down and open
up coconuts. I had already had a few bites from the "no
see ums" at anchor so didn't want them to feast on me even
 We had a fairly easy trip out of the Rio Dulce. Hector took our halyard and tipped us over enough after we got stuck. It was only about 100 yards before we were free again. Then we all motored over to Tres Puntas for a quiet night anchored. Next day we were able to sail part of the way up to New Haven (the rest had to be motored). A "Norther" was coming in on Sunday so this was a good protected spot to weather it out. One night everyone came over for Mexican Train Dominos and drinks.
Then on Monday we sailed up to Placencia and checked into Belize the next morning. The next few days we were plagued by winds from the south during the day that sent rollers into our harbor and had all the boats rocking and rolling. We were glad to head north up to Sapadillo Lagoon for a few days with the four boats already mentioned, Indian Summer and Cordelia. This is a very protected anchorage with a beautiful Marina and Beach Bar. The development here, called Sanctuary, has been through some tough times and there are only about 35 houses built (there are 700 owners suing the developer, who is under investigation from the FTC at present). They love the cruisers that bring some life (and money) into the place. There is a great laundromat, convenience store and fuel dock.
Fourteen boats spent a few days with us anchored outside the Marina and we enjoyed the Beach Bar and facilities.
After last night's Norther went through, we're off towards the reef for some snorkeling and swimming. Now anchored in Blue Ground Range.
Fearsome Scott brandishes his machete. 

Scott, Renate, Deborah, Pat and Jerry

It wasn't easy opening up the coconuts! But
they managed and we enjoyed the meat.

Jim's photo of Scott Free at our second sunset

Dick & Lizzie from Indian Summer enjoy some rum
punches at the Beach Bar at the Marina in Sapadillo

Twelve of us, all from Tortugal Marina, have lunch 

The beautiful pool at the Beach Bar

We got ferried over to the Beach Bar from the Marina. That's
Jerry from Czech & Mate in the front

Friday, January 18, 2019

Back on the Rio

We had quite a scare on Tuesday Jan. 15. Our dinghy was out of commission getting a leak fixed and Jim from Emerald Seas volunteered to take the two of us into town. He has quite a powerful motor on his inflatable and had just come up to speed a ways off the Marina when my cloth shopping bag started to fly off. He lunged to grab it and accidentally threw the tiller/throttle over hard. The dinghy took a very sharp fast turn and threw Scott and I overboard. It almost took Jim as well but he managed to hang on and put the outboard in neutral. I was thrown upside down hard and was disoriented. But both Scott and I could hear the engine and feared being cut up by the propeller. Both of us stayed underwater worried about it. But I had inhaled and swallowed some water and finally had to come up. I was in pretty bad shape, coughing and having a hard time breathing. Luckily a nearby launcha was there very quickly and reached down to hold me up. Meanwhile Scott came up under the dinghy and Jim managed to haul him out from underneath.
It all happened so fast! We were very lucky it wasn't much worse. Everyone helped haul Scott and I up into Jim's dinghy and we returned to Tortugal. Some of the staff there had seen the accident and they were waiting with towels and welcome hugs. Jim was very shaken too. All of us were soaked. Scott lost one of his hearing aids and Jim his prescription glasses. Luckily my pocketbook which was around my shoulder, stayed on through everything (and neither of us had brought our cell phones!). A very hot shower helped us calm down and warm up. This morning a stiff neck from the whip lash and some nightmares last night are all that's left.
We've been back on the Rio since Jan. 3 and after a week getting Scott Free's bottom and boot stripe redone on the hard at Ram Marine, we were back at Tortugal. Alternator problems from last year are still with us and hopefully will be finally fixed tomorrow the 17th. New canvas, dodger, bimini and transition unit will be finished then as well. With any luck the bow thruster problems will at least be diagnosed too. We hope to check out of Guatemala and exit the "dreaded" mouth of the Rio on Friday the 18th. The high tide is early evening so it will be a dark crossing over to Tres Puntas anchorage for that night and then the next morning we will sail north for a safe anchorage either at New Haven or up to Placencia. A big norther is coming in Sunday morning so we need to be somewhere with good protection.
It's been lots of fun socializing here as many of our good friends are here. There is one group every morning enjoying the free coffee and another even bigger one at cocktail time. Good conversation and lots of support with repair issues. We'll be leaving the river with several boats - always a huge relief. More news when we get to Belize.
Quick note - we're at the mouth of the river waiting for the tide - in one hour. We've arranged for a boat to stand by and take our halyard to tip us over so we can make it out. Wish us luck!

Monday, December 31, 2018

Christmas 2018

Almost all our family came for Christmas this year. Josh arrived the morning after this photo, taken before he arrived as Sean and Will were leaving. James, Morgen and Kolya weren't able to make it up from Washington DC.
First row: Jonathan "Uzi", Shira, George and Zoë. Second row: Ariella "Cookie", Michal, Maya and Tommy. Back row: Nick, Daniel, Heather, Scott, Sean and Will.
We are leaving today for Boston and then tomorrow down to Guatemala, at an ungodly time in the morning. We'll meet Renate and Jim from Emerald Seas there and after two nights, Otto is picking us up and driving us down to Tortugal. Scott Free is up on the hard at Ram Marine, hopefully getting it's bottom sanded down and repainted. We'd like to get out of the river mid January as we need to be out of Guatemala this year for 3 months and would prefer to get back in April, not May. It gets too hot at that time of year. Have a Happy and Healthy New Year!

Friday, December 07, 2018

Fall Catch Up & Sky Diving

Kolya's first smile

In a serious mood, he's a real redhead like his father and
Uncle Sean.
Well Scott did not become State Senator from Rutland! But he ran a great race and campaign. For a relative newcomer to the area, he came in quite close to the winners. And we replaced a previously long held Republican seat with a Democrat Progressive, Cheryl Hooker. That means we've heading back to Scott Free in Guatemala on 12/31. 
Our new grandson Kolya (born 8/1) is thriving and such a happy handsome boy.  Heather went down for a week in October and then we both went down for a week at Thanksgiving. James and Morgen are such relaxed parents that it's no surprise that Kolya is an easy baby. His laughing fits are so contagious! And they put on a great Thanksgiving dinner with all the trimmings. Sean & Will flew down from Boston for the week too.
Heather has been very involved in the Living in Place group here in Shrewsbury. Formerly Aging in Place, we changed the name to reflect the reality that it sometimes involves younger persons that face temporary or permanent disabilities.  "Aging in place" is a term used to describe a person living in the residence of their choice, for as long as they are able, as they age. This includes being able to have any services (or other support) they might need over time as their needs change. Heather has organized cooking groups that meet in her kitchen once or twice a week to cook meals for needy neighbors. Four farms in our community and lots of individuals have donated vegetables and meat to our cause.  We've filled several freezers with food, ready for anyone that needs it. Other teams have collected medical equipment and volunteers to do work around the house and yards. It's very satisfying work.
Sean, Kolya, Will, Julie and Gary (Will's Aunt & Father) at
the National Museum of Art.

James and Morgen and Kolya

We're very excited about Christmas this year as hopefully all our family will be here. Josh, Michal and five of our grandchildren are flying in from London (where they are now living). Zoë, George and two more of our grandchildren fly from California. Sean & Will are coming and hopefully James, Morgen and Kolya. We've had snow on the ground for weeks now and the skiing is excellent - a real White Christmas!
Oh and to celebrate their respective Birthdays, Heather and Sean went sky diving at Jumptown, Orange, MA. See the photos below!

We visited the National Arboretum, beautifully decorated
for the holidays. 
Heather and Sean celebrated their respective birthdays this year by Sky
Diving at Jumptown in Orange, MA
And it was FUN!

Saturday, August 25, 2018

New Grandson "Kolya" and Scott runs for Vermont State Senator

Kolya (formal name Nicholai Roy Garren) was born August 1st at 11:15 am by C Section at Sibley Memorial Hospital to our son James and daughter in law Morgen. He was 8 lbs 13 oz at birth, very alert and happy. And he's a red head just like his Dad and Uncle Sean! 
We're all very happy!!
We drove down to Washington DC and had dinner with James & Morgen on July 29th. They checked into the hospital that night but had a long wait before finally having a C section. Mom, Dad and Kolya all doing well and now home. We stayed around for the rest of the week oohing and aahing. Heather will be back for a week in September to help out and both of us will return in November. 
Scott is running for State Senator here in Vermont. There are 3 seats representing Rutland County and until now they've been held by Republicans. We are a Conservative corner of the State. But we're all hoping for a change this Election Day. If elected, Scott will serve an initial two year term in Montpelier. The legislative session usually runs from January into May so this would mean a change in our cruising life! We'll see!
Kolya hours after arriving!

Happy Mother Morgen

Yes, another red head!

And it's number 8 for Scott...

Uncle Sean visited 

I love this shot of James and Kolya

Ecstatic Grammy

Josh flew in from Tulsa right away to see his new nephew

James caption on this was "I thought I ordered a
Uncle Will has a serious discussion with new nephew

Monday, July 23, 2018

First Time Ocean Liner Cruisers

This is a map showing our cruise - Land of the Midnight Sun - with our stops
On our balcony in Amsterdam before departing.
This was our first ever cruise on a "big" boat. To be honest we had no interest in booking one until our very good friends Walt & Honoree invited us to join them on Holland America's Konigsdam Norwegian Fjords Cruise June 10 to the 24th. We hadn't seen them for too long and this seemed like a great itinerary - Land of the Midnight Sun and gorgeous scenery. The cruise exceeded our expectations.
The first surprise was how tasteful and manageable it all was. We expected a gaudier "Las Vegas" look. It is the newest ship for this company and was pristine and elegant (mostly). There was a nasty smell of tobacco in the Casino but we managed to avoid it as much as possible (it was necessary to occasionally speed walk through it on the way to something else). And the food was uniformly excellent, especially in the Main Dining Room (MDR). We chose the fixed time at 5:30 PM and were very pleased (I know it's early but the only other time was so late). The couple that joined us at the table were lots of fun and great company. And we liked getting to know our waiters and wine steward - excellent all. Scott and I ate at two of the specialty restaurants: Tamarind and Sal de Mer. The former would probably have been excellent but we had the rijsttafel and it was disappointing compared to others we've had.  The service and decor were excellent however. 
Sal de Mer was wonderful. The food, service, decor were all outstanding. The six of us from our table at the MDR came and we all felt it was worth the additional charges. They even coordinated with our Wine Steward to provide our reserved wines. The Lido market provided plenty of good choices at every meal. We generally had lunch there, although we enjoyed the burgers at the Dive In and the sandwiches at the New York Deli. Breakfast was fine, although we enjoyed it more in the MDR when we had time. 
The entertainment was also better than expected on the whole. Exceptions were the other acts in the Main Stage - with the possible exception of the pianist (we were mixed on that). The dancers and singers that performed the 5 big shows were wonderful. Our favorite performers were the Lincoln Center quintet - fantastic! The particular musicians on our cruise broke all records for attendance. The dueling pianists and B.B. King Blue's Club were also fun once in a while as were the BBC Earth videos (one in the Main Stage with live music). We also enjoyed the demonstrations in the America's Test Kitchen by Erin (and the TV hosts). 
Our main critique was the relentless plugs for products. "Demonstrations" were usually sales pitches. And these made up too much of the day's activities. Interesting "non profit" events were often scheduled opposite each other. And although there was a very nice gym with plenty of equipment, they CHARGED for yoga or cycling sessions! Alcohol pricing is often mentioned as a problem but we found the prices comparable to a good city restaurant. And we often were able to go to a "wine tasting" or "martini tasting" and save money. The later was really fun! 
The excursions were always very expensive and generally unnecessary. We four went on the Stappen Island Bird Watching Trip in Honnigsvag and felt it was worth while. Scott, Walt and Honoree did the 8 hour Pulpit Rock Hike out of Stavanger and it was great. Otherwise we organized our own trips or used local tour companies. We spent much less money and saw more! In Haugesund for example we saw everything from two excursions (would have cost almost $300 each) using the public bus!
So in summary, the best thing about the cruise was being with Walt & Honoree. Would we take another cruise? Nothing in the distant future - but I could imagine us crossing the Pacific Ocean as an alternative to sitting in a cramped plane to Australia/New Zealand (at least one way). And we'd be happy to go with Holland America if we did. But as long as we're spending half the year cruising on our own Scott Free, we've no need of any other ship.
PS - We took WOW airline round trip to Amsterdam and will never do that again.
We took the offered tour of the kitchen but it was pretty
empty and there was little cooking to be seen. We did meet
and talk to the Head Chef, which was interesting.

Erin gave fun demonstrations of 3 dishes, all coordinated
with a video from America's Test Kitchen. They were
standing room only!

There was a Captain's reception which we attended with free wine/beer and a chance to meet the charming Captain Werner Timmers. He was a big hit on the "Meet the Crew" presentation. That's him between Scott and I. 

This is my only shot of our room - I've included a stock one
further down in the blog post as it's much clearer. We thought
the room was very comfortable and attractive - lots of storage.
We were in a Salon Veranda room - 1052. 

This is my shot of the pool area - better stock one below.
Our room was just inside the door on the second floor
above this location - great spot!

You can get a feeling of the size here.

Our room was on the 10th floor near the bow.

We had breakfast in our room several times with Walt &
Honoree to watch the scenery. Other times we had
champagne (brought with us) and appetizers before

The complimentary robes were very nice. We ordered coffee
as a wake up every morning and it was excellent.

Our favorite place to view the fjords was up on the top
deck. That's the 7 Sisters falls (only 4 were there for us).

The weather wasn't conducive to sun bathing. And the roof
only opened a few times over the pool during our trip.

Easy on and off the tenders for us. They were used only twice
during our cruise.

That's our lovely ship on the left.

The crew managed the traffic brilliantly for the ports 

The crew were mostly from Indonesia and the Philippines
(where I spent 2 years in the Peace Corps) and they were
 really nice and professional. Here's our bartender for
the "Martini Tasting".

The Duck foie gras with Lingonberry sauce at Sal de Mer

And my Lobster Thermador" 

You still need to polish some brass on the ship!

Walt and Honoree with our favorite waitress at the Lido.

Stock photo of the pool. Our room was just inside the door on the second floor on the left. We were the second room
inside and we never had any noise in the evenings even though they showed movies here in the evenings. And we went to bed early by cruising standards. 

The Tamarind Restaurant

Walt & Honoree, Craig & Lisa and Scott & Heather at
Sal de Mer

The World Stage Theater

A stock photo of our room

The gym. Walt and Honoree taught us Tai Chi and we often
used the machines.