Friday, January 31, 2014

Crossing the Bar of the Rio Dulce

Last minute provisioning from Esmerelda - she comes around
to the Marinas with lots of fresh produce, bread, cheese and
eggs. That's Linda behind me.

The next morning after our haul out the trees near our
anchorage were white with herons

Another look at the "bird trees"
The Rio Dulce is a beautiful river in Guatemala on the Atlantic side and a refuge for a huge number of cruisers during the hurricane season. A cluster of over 15 marinas, 11 good sized ones center 20 miles up river around the town of Fronteras. The river is generally deep, up to 60 feet at times but the mouth is silted over with mud and sand brought down river. The controlling depth for 1/2 of a mile is 5 feet. We draw 6 and 1/2 so we have a problem. We were supposed to cross last night with two other boats but when we pulled out of our slip at the marina we couldn't get the boat up to speed. Scott spent an hour checking the transmission and shifter (gear mechanism) and then he got into his scuba gear and checked out the propeller. Happily that was the problem, but after 50 minutes he'd used up his air and still hadn't freed it up. Zebra mussels had invaded our folding prop. So we called the boatyard nearby and luckily as we know the manager pretty well, they agreed to haul us and take a look. Scott and they managed to clean and grease it, and get our boat back in the water. But by this time it was 4 pm and it's 3 hours to the mouth of the river (plus we need time at the small town there to check out with customs etc.) 
So we anchored for the night and this morning we're trying again. Hopefully we'll make it out this evening, unfortunately later than yesterday - 7 pm. We'll motor the 2 hours over to an anchorage and spend the night (we normally don't go into a harbor in the dark but it's open and we've been there several times and have waypoints). It will be a huge relief to get the anchor down tonight! 
Well it's Thursday, we made it and we're safely at anchor in Placencia, Belize - but it didn't work out as nicely as we hoped. Wednesday morning we left our anchorage in the pouring rain and motored down the river. It cleared up a few hours later and was lovely for the section across the lake and down the narrow part of the river. There vertical cliffs rise on either side covered with lush green vegetation hanging over the river. It's really lovely. There is a small rather charming town called Livingston at the mouth of the river where we anchor and check out of the country with customs and the port captain. All went well and we had a great lunch of fish in garlic sauce, beans & rice and a salad at Malecon Restaurant. 
I was rather a nervous wreck waiting the hours until we could start across the bar. There is only one high tide a day and as I mentioned only 2 really high tides a month so 7 pm was the optimum time to depart. We went an hour early as the tide was still rising and there was some light. It's a half mile across the bar and we just went as fast as we could. We scraped and bumped the bottom for about 1/4 of a mile, slowing down to half speed as we plowed through the soft mud. Luckily we have a big engine and she got us through.
We motored over to our anchorage, dodging a big freighter on the way but as we went the wind increased and the waves got larger. The wind direction change predicted for Thursday came early and our usually protected anchorage was no longer great. But we anchored carefully and figured we'd be OK. Unfortunately at 11 pm it really started howling and the boat was bucking badly. We decided it wasn't safe to stay and weighed anchor. Plan B was to motor up to Belize overnight. The first two hours were rather miserable as a squall hit us and it poured fresh water from above and sea water over the bow and showering the cockpit. Very uncomfortable but our boat can handle it. Further complications when our autopilot stopped working and we had to hand steer - difficult in these conditions.
Anyway - long story short. By 1 pm the rain had ceased and the stars came out. The wind died down and the waves abated. We pulled into Placencia, Belize at 6am, anchored and went to bed. We'll both feel better tomorrow after some sleep. Scott has an early morning tomorrow as he takes a 7am bus to another town 2 hours away to check in with customs etc.
It's Friday now and I'm getting this blog post posted. I'm also waiting for Scott to come back from checking into Belize. Unfortunately I just got a quick text from him and the bus broke down on the way back. Poor guy - he's been gone since 7 am and is probably starved. I have a great lunch waiting for him - jalapeno, corn and shrimp chowder. Hope he's here soon!
In between the showers as we headed down the river
were rainbows!

Near the end of the trip the river narrows and steep cliffs rise up on both sides

Looking down the main street in Livingston at the harbor where we anchored to check out of Guatemala.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Back in Guatemala, First in Antigua

The view from our room at Chez Daniel in Antigua - pretty nice, huh?

A little vignette

Peering into the courtyards is really fun

Los Arches with the mountains beyond

Floats for the Easter Week in Antigua being prepared

Each new street opens a vista

This Mayan family rests in front of the

While these manikins show off  traditional

There is a lovely walk up to this cross with a great view of
the city

The Museum of Colonial Art

The building itself is the greatest example

Is this gorgeous of what?

Mayan women with handwoven fabrics and other crafts
piled on them roam the streets looking for customers.

This woman is also carrying her baby

Intact churches and equally beautiful ruined ones are
on almost every corner

This is the bookend photo to the one at the front of the post. It's the two volcanoes just to the right of the previous one!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Punta Gorda and Bonita Springs, Florida

Julie and I in front of the Christmas tree and cozy fire at
the Tarpon Lodge on Pine Island 
 Two of our good friends have left the cruising life and settled in South West Florida. We had never been down that way and wanted to see their new digs so we planned a one week trip between Vermont and Guatemala. First we stayed with Julie and Peter Gowan in Punta Gorda and then went on to visit Barbara Craig (formerly Gilmour) in Bonita Springs. We were very impressed with their new homes and these lively communities.
Julie and Peter bought a condo on the junction of several canals and have a lovely view (and their new powerboat right in front). Punta Gorda has a attractive historic downtown and lots going on.

Group Shot
 They've joined the Yacht Club and made a lot of friends, some of which we had a chance to meet. We enjoyed long walks on the waterfront, the busy farmer's market, a ride through the canals, and lots of great meals. One day we drove out to Pine Island and after a wonderful lunch at the Tarpon Lodge walked around the Nature Preserve. There is a self guided tour of the once busy community of Calusa Indians (there for almost 1500 years but wiped out by you know who) and 6,000 year old skeletons have been unearthed on the site. The huge shell mounds they built still dominate the area although much smaller than they once were.
Next we drove down to Bonita Springs. Barbara has bought a condo in a huge gated community near her mother and sister. She looks out over a lovely lake. It is very established with beautiful landscaping. We took a picnic lunch out to the private beach. It is on a island and a launch takes residents out and back. A pretty creek wanders through the area where Barbara kayaks frequently. Barbara made us an amazing stuffed crown roast of pork for dinner. She's a great cook.
The next morning we were out early after a hearty breakfast and by noon were on the plane to Guatemala. More posts to come!

Mr. and Mrs. Osprey on their nest

Love this foliage 

Looks good 

Festive Punta Gorda downtown at the Farmer's Market

Barbara and Scott relax at the beach

And walk on the long lovely beach

We were fascinated by the flocks of birds wheeling around
in the sky while others watched

This is the private beach at the huge complex where Barbara lives

Scott, Barbara and Heather on the launch that takes residents out to the
beach, which is on a private island just off shore.

Christmas 2013

Christmas morning and the stockings are emptied
James and Morgen look happy

Lots of funny and useful things

James usually plays Santa and gives out the gifts (after

Morgen wearing the scarf Sean gave her

Scott is still in his PJs and that's my "Flavor
Bible" from James

Sean looks pleased with his painting and books from Mom
and Dad

Pretty soon everything stacks up

Heather in her scarf from Morgen and that's a Le Cruisset
casserole from Scott

James and Morgen walk ahead on the side trail up to the AT

We loved the snow crystals on the leaves

It was a beautiful but cold day - more snow arrived just after

Sean cooking up a storm as usual

We went up to the Smiths for a post Christmas dinner and
visit. Here's Gail, Sean and Lucy.
James, Morgen and Scott
Great picture of Gail
Around the table for a wonderful dinner
Family Shot, except the photographer (and Rob who had
to work)