Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Safe arrival in Belize & up the Rio Dulce

Just wanted to let you know that we arrived yesterday at 5:30 AM in Placencia, Belize after a continuous motor/sail of 47 hours from Isla Mujeres, Mexico. The first 24 hours had some challenges. Scott suffered from seasickness for the first time in a long time. And of all things it set off a 18 hour bout of hiccups!  (I was worried. Did you know you can die of hiccups? That happens to one of the characters in Annie Proulx's "Postcards") We had big following seas and wind from mostly directly behind us. This is hard on the auto pilot and causes the boat to rock from side to side. We were using the genoa (in hindsite we should have used the main with a preventor) and a sudden gust from the other rear direction and the jib sheets wrapped around it and caught up on something on the deck. So we couldn't furl the jib. It was flapping around like mad. It was pitch black with no moon. Both of us had our life jackets on and Scott clipped on to the jack lines and went forward to straighten out the foredeck. With wildly flailing jib sheets and jib it wasn't easy but he managed to clear them enough for me to furl in the jib on the winch. What a relief. We had been watching a thunder storm ahead and worried about our jib tearing in a squall. Luckily I was feeling quite good and was able to stay up most of the night and let Scott get some sleep. He felt much better the next morning and I caught up a bit with naps during the day. 
The weather improved rapidly during the second day and by evening the seas and wind had subsided and it was a much easier night. Our only challenge was entering the ship channel in Belize - very confusing lights at the entrance. It's a strange feeling speeding along in the total darkness relying on your charts. But then we were behind the reef and it was a piece of cake down to Placencia. 
Last night we celebrated with friends out for dinner - 11 of us. And we sure enjoyed our quiet night of sleep - together at the same time! Tomorrow we sail down to an anchorage across the bay from the Rio Dulce and then into the river in the early morning on a high tide. We'll check into Guatemala and back to our Marina up river.
UPDATE: It's Noon on 4/30 and we're tied up at Tortugal Marina in Guatemala. It was a hot calm day motoring down to Tres Puntas, our anchorage across from the mouth of the Rio and hot again the next morning when we attempted to cross the bar. But yet again, despite a published tide of 2 feet, we needed help. Tipped over and powering ahead we made it through the shallow areas and anchored off Livingston. After checking into the country and a nice lunch with buddy boats Cordelia and Wahoo, we motored up to Texan Bay. That night Dave and his guest John entertained us at Mike's restaurant. And this morning on another scorching day Scott Free had her last day underway. She's tucked in now for the season and Scott & I are below with blessed air conditioning cooling down our body temperatures. It's 98 degrees and the humidity is very high.
Plans are to get the boat ready this week, take the bus to Antigua on Sunday May 7 and fly to Washington DC on 5/9. We'll be back in Vermont in another week or so.
UPDATE AGAIN - We're back in Maryland and Washington DC after a nice stay in Antigua at Chez Daniel and then excellent flights on Avianca through El Salvador to Dulles Airport. Unusually we enjoyed the trip as we did it with new friends Patrick and Sean from S/V Islander. We met Patrick in Isla Mujeres while he was on his own. Sean joined him as crew and they sailed down to the Rio a few days behind us. Unfortunately they had miserable weather and so were pretty happy to have Islander settled down at Tortugal and return home to Ireland. It was great fun company!
We said sad good-byes to our very good friends Uli & Thomas
from Toriba. They took off for the 3 day trip up to Key West
the day before we took off for Belize.
Eleven friends join up for a celebration dinner upon our
arrival in Belize.

Heather, Patrick, Sean and Scott. We traveled back from Guatemala with them 

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Back in Havana

The best bedroom in our last Casa Particular on Calle Oficios
we shared with Larry & Christine. The next morning they
left for Viñales and we met up with Josh & family
Christine lent Heather her beautiful scarf. We're having
drinks at Cafe Oriente in San Francisco Plaza.
Showing off the scarf!
Here we are all together (except Uzi who was hiding) at the
very expensive restaurant where we had our first dinner
Scott, Shira and Maya on our terrace at Villa Ruiz in Playa
Daniel, Uzi, Maya, Shira and Cookie pose with a Spanish
Maya and Shira at one of the fun clothes
pin sculptures at a beautiful gallery near
Cathedral Plaza.

There is so much fun public art in Havana. This is a very
 new piece in the Plaza Vieja.

Cookie, Shira, Daniel, Scott, Josh, Uzi and Maya stroll the

At the Museum de Bombas (firemen) Maya
poses behind a plaque.

Another example of the lovely small parks with art and
fountains scattered around Havana - here with a generous
musician practicing his guitar.

We enjoyed this fun parade through the pedestrian only
Cubans love to feature their best parts.
Maya communes with Chopin.
Our handsome oldest son Josh in a new Cuban hat.
And with Daniel and Cookie at El Morro fort
A close up of Cookie on one of the big guns
Looking across the channel to the center of Havana
And up at the Farro (lighthouse). The guard
inside allowed the kids to go up to the top
(they were not supposed to do this) and they
loved it!
At the entrance of the fort we really enjoyed a terrific 3
man band.
And Michal showed off her salsa moves with one
of the band members while Josh got a photo.
No, Cookie isn't driving yet but she enjoyed sitting at the
driver's seat - all color coordinated!
At the Museum of the Revolution 
This is the group that had a late night at the Buena Vista
Social Club show in Vieja Havana one evening. Michal
looked particularly Vavoom!
Heather spent a day in bed with the stomach flu. Her
grandchildren gave her a beautiful floral tribute!
And here it is - lucky Grammy!
For Heather's birthday we all went to Santa Maria beach
and then later to the Melia Hotel for a wonderful dinner.
Outside La Mina restaurant after a ballet at the Alicia
Alonso Theater.
And lined up in front of the "Grandma" boat mural at

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Trinidad, Cuba

Music is everywhere and participation is encouraged.
Christine joined for some salsa! 

The "Spanish Steps" like stairs to the Casa de Musica right
behind our Casa Particular apartment

A close up near the top of the stairs

Finding a nice place to eat is easy!

I'm not sure how long I have on wifi here in Havana. It's really surprising how much I miss having access to internet. So far on this visit we've had it only once three days before this. So I'm publishing this entry in segments so at least something goes out. Trinidad is very beautiful and there is music everywhere - and it's excellent. We had two nights in a beautiful Casa Particular (a future post will list all the places we stayed with Airbnb, restaurants and travel arrangements - along with advice on how to avoid the grifters) with a roof top terrace overlooking the city down to the sea. Our apartment in Trinidad was very charming with two terraces, 3 stories (pretty much one room per floor made up our apartment). The first terrace was tucked in between rooms on the third floor and was where we had our breakfast. The second encompassed the entire roof top. From there we could see over the entire town down to the sea. Melenia was the caretaker and took  care of us very well - the breakfast in the morning was perfect (the owner, Barbara, was in Rome). Our only critique would be the unequal nature of the two bedrooms - one was larger and adjoined the only bathroom. And as mentioned in the reviews, it was quite noisy at night - less the music and more the very loud party people.
Our first afternoon we took Melenia's advice and ate at a very attractive restaurant on the square just below our house. The band was good and Christine ended up joining them for a dance.
Leading out of the square a long flight of stairs ends up at the Casa de Musica with an outdoor lighted stage. Chairs and tables dot the stairs with some people just sitting on the ground. Bands rotate continuously throughout the afternoon and way into the night. That evening we sat and enjoyed mojitos with the crowds. The first band was the same as at lunch and they all waved to us! Afterwards we walked around the most historic area and chose La Terreza Restaurant due to the cascades of bougainvillea over the tables. The two women singers were quite good and sang more modern tunes, a nice change.
Melenia had organized a taxi to take us to and from La Playa the next morning. The beach was quite lovely with still clear water - Larry & Christine enjoyed a long swim. Scott and I walked the beach. There were a couple of small hotels back from the water but it was all very low key - no bathroom/shower facilities and just one simple cafe.
Back in Trinidad after a nice lunch out on a patio behind a restaurant we set out to find the Cubanacan office. In Cienfuegos the Cubanacan employee couldn't sell Larry the tickets to Viñales but told us to get them in Trinidad. The office was locked shut but luckily a nearby vendor alerted the agent who was having coffee and he opened up. BUT he didn't appear to know anything and denied that the agency even had a bus to Viñales! We were about to give up when a resident next door told us where to find another agent. This man was doing business in an arcade. He gave us some good advice (but couldn't sell us tickets). He suggested we try to buy them at the Hotel Plaza in Havana the next day and if that didn't work, show up at 8 am for the bus and try to buy them from the driver (in the event that failed, hire a taxi with anyone else in the same predicament - I guess this happens frequently).
Christine and I did some shopping on the way back and both bought red bead necklaces and bracelets. I found the souvenirs here more expensive than at the big tourist market on the harbor in Havana. After a siesta we were back walking the streets looking for a place to have dinner. Trinidad is packed with tourists, both foreign and local. There were lines at many places. Finally we chose one where we were able to wait at the bar and really enjoyed watching the bartender make drinks. He was very good and meticulous. He introduced us to the Trinidad favorite cocktail - the Canchánchua (lime juice, honey and rum, traditionally the very crude unfinished rum called Aguardiente), delicious. The food and service were great although we were all getting pretty tired of basically the same choices - fish, shrimp, chicken or pork with rice and a small salad.
Our last morning, after another great breakfast, Melenia organized a man to come with a wooden hand cart. He piled on all our luggage and tied it down. We set off at a trot as it was late. The bus was comfortable but it was a long trip - six hours with a brief stop for a snack. Larry was able to buy the tickets to Viñales and Scott managed to purchase 11 tickets to the Ballet for Sunday at the Grand Teatro.
We took a taxi to our Casa for that night and had a nice driver. He stayed with us while we tried to get in. The owner's aunt was watching TV and didn't hear us. Some of the other tenants in the building helped get her attention. More when I can get some faster wifi.

Heather bought a red bead necklace from this
really nice vendor, copying Christine who had
bought one earlier.
This is our apartment building - our bedroom was second
floor far left.
And this is our roof top terrace!
I love the tile detail on this restaurant!
It's common to see flowers are for sale 
Great combination of tile, painted murals and color
Scott, Christine and Larry at La Terraza Restaurant
Christine and Scott silhouetted in a patio 
This library was more notable for the building than for the
number of books - but it's impressive that this small town
had a library at all. 
Late evening in one of the pretty squares around town
Scott with Melinia and our luggage piled high in a hand cart
This was the scene across the street from our Casa Particular in the early morning as we left Trinidad.
Souvenir stands line the street - they all sell
pretty much the same things everywhere.
The view down from our terrace across tile roofs to a man
on a horse, a common sight.
A complimentary drink at Esquerra Restaurant on the Plaza
Many of the restaurants are in old colonial homes and still
contain some of the furniture, and often pianos.
Christine and Larry stroll down the Plaza Mayor with the
Church of the Holy Trinity in the background.