Thursday, April 28, 2016

Crossing the Bar and a Rescue!

Scott Free motoring down thru the canyons of the Rio Dulce
Before we start our cruising season we need to get out of the Rio Dulce and that can be difficult for us. There is a five foot .2 mile muddy bar at the beginning of the river and we have a 6.5 draft. And that's assuming we exit with less than full fuel and water tanks. Most years we've been able to enter and exit by ourselves (but plowing or bumping our way through at times) with our unusually big Ford Lehman 135 hp engine. But this year we had to leave on a 1.2 ft tide - a minimum of 4 inches too shallow. So we planned ahead for a boat to meet us and lean us over with a line from the top of our mast while we powered through. It worked fine. Jim on "Emerald Seas" documented the exit.
With Jim & Renate we sailed up to New Haven Bay for that night. Just as we finished anchoring we got a distress call from Zula - a small sailboat with a very inexperienced captain and first mate - Roger and Valerie. They had gone aground about 7 miles (as the crow would fly) south of us. We managed to talk them through the kedging process (taking an anchor out to deeper water and pulling the boat off the ground with the windless to it) but it was more difficult due to the cracked ribs Valerie had sustained crossing the bar earlier. Roger thought his draft was 3.5 and it was actually 6 feet. They finally settled in at anchor for the night - a huge relief for all. It would have been a difficult, possibly dangerous, trip back to them from our position at night.
That's Scott Free far left and the motor boat far right - between them is a line from our mast that is tipping the boat over
to allow our 6.5 feet draft to go over a 5 foot bar with about a foot of tide. We're powering ourselves. The boat below left
is stuck fast and will need a tow forward as well as a tilt over - two boats.

The next day we sailed north to Placencia but soon after had another call from "Zula". They were having trouble reading their chart plotter, weren't sure where they were and they were taking on water while moving. Scott and I volunteered to go back and assist. Emerald Seas was having problems with their motor and needed to continue on to Placencia.
The boat on our left is stuck fast and
 will need a tow forward as well as a tilt over - two boats.
Scott boarded them and investigated their leak. It was through the cutless bearing and their bilge pumps weren't working. I called for assistance from the Belize Coast Guard who came and took Valerie to a health clinic in Punta Gorda and from Monkey River Tours, who sent a fast launcha and 2 men with a portable pump. They towed Roger into Placencia Lagoon and he had the boat repaired at Thunderbirds Yard. Valerie made her way by bus and ferry back to us. We met her and got her a room for the night on shore. She was naturally quite shook up.
Everyone it seems in Placencia followed the drama on the VHF radio so we were the center of attention at Yoli's that night and had to recount our adventures for some time afterwards.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

"It's a Boat!" - Endless repairs to the Generator and the Head

Celebrating at the Maya Beach Bistro
The last weeks have been busy with important boat repairs. And all during our visit from Julie and Peter Gowan. Luckily for us Peter is a mechanical engineer and experienced cruiser. And Julie took all the constant installation activity in stride. We ate dinner in the cockpit a number of nights while Salaam, our mechanic, worked on the generator. To do this we have to open up the whole salon floor so moving about the boat is a real challenge. Peter also jumped into the head repairs after Scott previously cleaned out the whole system. The pump mechanism had come loose from the floor and was leaking. They were successful.
The generator had stopped working ten days before they arrived. Salaam removed the engine portion and drove it up to the Mennonite community of Shipyard in the far north of Belize to have it repaired. A week later he returned and installed it but it didn't work. The new plate they built was too wide. Then Peter and Julie arrived and their second morning we moved to the town dock and Salaam and 4 men removed the entire generator and brought it back up to Shipyard. We had 2 nights to sail out to Pelican Cays and enjoy some cruising life before returning to have the generator replaced. Salaam thought that the new Thunderbirds Marina up in the Lagoon behind Placencia would work for us and be easier to effect getting the 700 lb generator back on the boat. We stopped by the Marina a week before by land to check it out. They gave us way points into the Lagoon and said the channel into the Marina was 8 feet. We'd never been into the Lagoon as a lot of it is very shallow. So we decided to give it a go. At several places going in we were scraping the bottom but we figured out what happened (and on the way out, had no less than 7 feet). So when we got to the channel into the Marina we thought we had it made. But right in the center between the red and green buoys marking the entrance we went hard aground! We managed to get off and anchored. Dad and Peter went in but there was only a man at the fuel dock that didn't know anything. So we went all the way back out and into the main anchorage. It was past 5 by then so we determined to go out and enjoy ourselves. During Julie and Peter's visit (and the endless repairs) we celebrated our 37th Anniversary and Heather's Birthday. And we had a wonderful evening! Drinks at Yoli's Over D' Water and grand fish dinners at Rum Fish. Topped off by fabulous gelato at Tutti Fruitti's. The next morning we were at the dock by 6 am and effected a very successful transfer of the 700 lb generator into place. That night Salaam returned for 4.5 hours to finish the job. And IT WORKED!
It wasn't all work during their stay. We had fun times on the boat and exploring the Placencia area. Naturally there were lots of wonderful meals and sun downers! We look forward to our next time together.
Our rented golf cart was fun transportation
Peter and Scott with their heads in the Head
After days of work cleaning out the system,
the pump mechanism broke

Salaam, on the left, trusses up the generator with a halyard through
After lifting it, a second line is attached from the boom through
the companionway
and then 3 men move it up the companionway
While 2 others lift from above
The last push into the cockpit
Now they plan for the next move, onto the dock
Using the boom and tackle, they are successful and then have
to the carry it to Salaam's truck.
Now Peter could get into the space left and clean up.
Some persistent leaks had to be fixed before we could head
out to enjoy the islands for a few days.
Three days in the idyllic Pelican Cays, swimming and snorkeling
Then back to Placencia to get the completed generator
 back onboard. That's Julie on the far right.
Peter and Salaam worked out a great system for moving it
 from the cockpit to the salon floor.
They used a heavy board to "slide" it down onto the floor
 with the line attached to the boom.
Two additional heavy boards were laid across
 the floor to support the huge weight
And then they carefully placed it back into it's place
Julie on the beach in front of our favorite breakfast place, De' Tatch

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Grandchildren Visit in Belize

Group Portrait - Grammy & Grandpa with Maya, Daniel, Shira, Ariella "Cookie" and Jonathan "Uzi" 

For the first time our oldest son Joshua brought his family down for a visit on Scott Free. And it was wonderful. The weather cooperated, giving us sunny not too windy days and allowing us to take the family out on the boat to various Cayes on 3 days. We visited Colson Cay first for a great snorkel and swim with Josh, who had to leave us too early to get back to work. We had two more full days out to Pelican and Ranguana, both times coming back in the early evening. They all loved being on the boat and scrambled all over it. We hadn't realized that all the hatches were entrances and exits! The older 3 stayed on the boat some of the nights and the rest used the beautiful condo we rented at Sunset Pointe. Our 2 bedroom 2 bath huge apartment has big porches on both ends overlooking the lagoon and the harbor. Lots of local wood and Mexican tiles gave it a island feel. Happily the second bedroom contained beds for 5, in various levels. We also visited the beaches and walked the Placencia sidewalk with it's craftsmen and artists. It was Easter week so there were 3 times more people than usual - but that's just fun. But the highlight was our day out at Ranguana where a family of dolphins visited us for some time. Mom, Dan, Auntie (or Uncle) and Baby swam with our kids in the water. Amazing! We can hardly wait for another visit!!!
Under the same flowers with Michal this time.

Daniel at the wheel

Ariella and Maya relaxing in the cockpit

The kids loved the dinghy. Maya nicknamed it the "Yak"
Here Jonathan, Shira and Cookie

Joshua with Jonathan and Grandpa

Captain Cookie

All the kids loved scrambling around the deck, popping in
and out of the hatches.

Josh gets some late day sun rays as we head back to Placencia
at sunset.

"Uzi at the inside steering station
We played Mexican Train Dominos, Scrabble and
Backgammon on our passages between islands
Our second day cruising was north to the Pelican Cays to
visit our friends on Hideaway Cay. Kim prepared a delicious
fish lunch
Everyone gathers around the kids table and the Easter
decorations. It was Easter weekend. The kids brought fun
presents for little 3 year old Ama who lives on the Caye
Kim, Ama and Dustin with two of Ama's favorite presents
We walked the sidewalk in Placencia and
admired the craftsmen working there.
Cookie, Michal and Jonathan enjoy the beach
Placencia Beach
Daniel, Cookie and Michal 
Breakfast in the cockpit - Daniel, Cookie and Maya stayed
some nights on the boat
Shira watches the dolphins play on the bow
We had several dolphin encounters - here while underway
and earlier the kids swam with them in the water.
Three adult dolphins and one baby.
Heading into Placencia harbor after a day out on the water
Everyone took turns steering the boat, both Scott Free and
our dinghy, "Yak"
Maya looks like a mermaid figurehead here!
Our beautiful youngest granddaughter Shira
Maya buried Shira in the sand - totally (well almost)
Grammy with Shira
Shira took her turn at the wheel