January 2, 2011
The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:
The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads This blog is doing awesome!.
A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 11,000 times in 2010. That’s about 26 full 747s.
In 2010, there were 3 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 37 posts. There were 38 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 11mb. That’s about 3 pictures per month.
The busiest day of the year was June 28th with 129 views. The most popular post that day was Peru.
Where did they come from?
The top referring sites in 2010 were mail.yahoo.com, facebook.com, ssca.org, phyllisrapp.com, and wascoart.org.
Some visitors came searching, mostly for machu picchu, sky king, tropical rainforest, мачу пикчу, and guinea pigs.
Attractions in 2010
These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.
Peru August 2008
Argentina August 2008
About October 2007
untitled November 2007
I Like to be in America May 2008
June 26, 2010
Home is the sailor, home from the sea…
Our beloved vessel and friend, “Antares” is for sale.
When one cruises a boat, especially a sailboat, it becomes almost animated; a friend, a nearly alive thing. It’s a sad day when you have to sell her.
We left Isla Mujeres, Mexico with a favorable forecast. Usually, on the passage to Key West, the winds are opposing, which makes for a lousy trip. We had unusual winds, and sailed nearly all the way to Key West, one of the great sails of our trip. Later, we did the same: Key West to Miami (No Name Harbor, Biscayne Key, remember Nixon?). We were so fast, we actually had to slow down, to arrive after daybreak.
On board, we had our first previously unknown crew: Chris and Mandi. Very young (from where we sit) and a whole shitload of fun. They were eager, smart, attentive, and generally great crew (anybody need them?). We had a lot of fun with them, and were sorry to see them go.
One of the worst weather experiences of this cruise happened in No Name Harbor. We had just anchored after a long overnight in the crowded anchorage, had our usual degenerate, alcohol spiced breakfast, and crashed. Soon, Phyllis was yelling in my ear to wake up. A previously unforecasted storm had blown in, with 40+ knot winds. Antares dragged (for only the second time in 3 years: captain’s fault) and we had to spend the next two hours maneuvering around (sometimes backwards) to avoid hitting someone.
We finally got re-anchored, crashed again, and had a good time there. Surprisingly, there were many cruising friends to play with.
Cruising is like joining an exclusive club. If you’re real, you belong. We have spent many more hours with our cruising friends then with our long time “real life” friends. I call them our “new best friends”.
Our latest (and probably last, for a while, at least) new best friends, were Alan and Suzanne of “Delphini”. In addition to being the last, they are also a bit odd. Not exactly what you think. They do have a featherless bird (sorry, Alex) and an ancient dog, blind, deaf, can hardly walk (name’s Lucky…no, that’s just a stupid old joke; name’s Magellan) but that’s not what I mean. What’s odd about them is that we had (count ’em) at least 6 final, tearful, farewell parties with them. Each time one of us was leaving for sure, we or they would turn up again unexpectedly, sometimes for weeks. The one in Mexico was the best. They left for Cuba, never to be seen by us again. Days later, we left for Key West. The day after our arrival, Mandi, looking around in the anchorage, said, indicating the boat just behind us, “doesn’t that look like Dephini”? Durn, if it wernt. So, we partied on in Key West, then in No Name Harbour in Miami, then, (I think really finally), they were in the slip next to us on Isle of Venice in Fort Lauderdale. They’re gone again. It’s a good thing, or we’d drink ourselves to death saying goodbye all these times. Goodbye, last new best friends. (By the way, they did go to Cuba, which is a great story that I’ll be sure to tell as soon as they get out of jail.)
I wrote the above several weeks ago, meaning to finish it promptly. Then, we got involved in the well known horror of actually moving off the boat, which is much like moving on land, but worse. We managed to ship 30 boxes to ourselves by UPS, throw away tons of junk, sell a bunch of things by Craig’s list, and thoroughly clean the boat (our broker/friend Joel had even more cleaning done, which has caused Phyllis, one of the world’s foremost clean freaks, to get a rash). Finally, the sad day came: Joel and wife Vela, Phyllis and I took our last (maybe) ride on “Antares”, up the New River in Fort Lauderdale to her new home. I actually teared up a little. I told you boats become like animate objects. It was very hard to leave her there, so lonely looking (but clean!). The pain was eased a little by joining Joel and Vela at the Fort Lauderdale Yacht Club that night for a great meal.
The next day, we flew to SFO. The Chappells made a great party for Lyle’s 21st. I didn’t realize it at the time, but that day was the start of the most insane buying spree we’ve ever been on. We needed everything to start our land life. Between us, Phyllis and I are the worst shoppers ever. We have no patience for it, so we just grab what we need and cry over what we’ve spent. It started with a car, which I went to see for giggles, then amazed myself by negotiating for it over the phone several times during the party. Finally, they made me a deal I couldn’t refuse. One of the conditions was that they would drive me home in the new car, because, by that time, I was too drunk to drive myself. We now have a brand new Honda Fit (a great little car in periwinkle blue).
On to our old home town (Healdsburg) where we proceeded to rent an apartment, sign up for the usual necessary (and unnecessary) services, and completely furnish it (the only things we had left were an old oak hutch and 2 beautiful oriental rugs that were eaten by the freaking moths while in storage). The biggest shocker is that I also took a job with my dear old group in Ukiah. So, to paraphrase Zorba the Greek, “a house, furniture, car and job: the entire catastrophe”.
Cruising on a sailboat is not for everybody; in fact it’s for almost nobody. Even those, like us, who love the lifestyle, choose different ways to do it. We discovered we don’t like long passages (that leaves out Europe, the Pacific, etc.). Also, we would choose to cruise part time the next time around. That requires a land base (friends and relatives get real tired of you after a while, and it’s no fun living out of a suitcase for too long. By the way thanks to all of you who put up with us during the last 3 years).
So, we’ve swallowed the anchor. We may barf it up again some day, and anyway, there are always other adventures out there. Thanks to everyone who read these blogs. I’ve enjoyed the writing, and Phyllis has enjoyed painting for it. We hope to keep in touch with our “new best friends” and get to see our old ones more often now. Fair winds and following seas to everyone.
Address: 421 Matheson Street, Healdsburg, CA 95448
April 2, 2010
Isla Mujeres, Mexico
April 1, 2010
Just Another Tequila Sunrise
For some reason, I had forgotten how much I like Mexicans. They’re genuinely friendly, often happy, very eager to please, and seem to actually like Americans. Here, (at least), on the Yucatan Peninsula, it’s safe: no dinghy theft, kidnappings, robberies, and all the other adventures that make cruising so interesting. Isla Mujeres is a fun place, sort of a funky resort island set a short ferry ride away from it’s more famous, bigger, and much more plastic big sister, Cancun.
Of course, Mexico invented the Manana Syndrome (pardon the lack of a tilde; I tried to insert it, but it’s too much trouble, no problema). Manana literally means tomorrow or morning. The Syndrome, however, is something different. It means not now. That could be anything from tomorrow, to next week, or never (more often than not, it’s never). Mexicans, and Latins in general, hate to say no to anything, regardless of the circumstances. So, if asked directions, they’ll give intricate answers, despite the fact they have no idea where it is you’re talking about. If asked to do something, it’s “of course, senor” (again, the tilde) even though they haven’t a clue what you’re asking for, and even if they did, they couldn’t possibly do it. It’s a form of courtesy, I think, and quite charming, unless you actually need something. The trick is not to need anything. No problema!
We got to Isla (as all us hip cruisers call it) from Lighthouse Reef, Belize, in one shot. We logged our first (and only) 200 mile day (in part because of a big lift from the current), and found a friendly reception at Isla Paraiso, not far from the center of town. So, after 3 months of suffering and deprivation on the hook in Belize, it’s party central again: socializing, eating out, mucho tequila. The restaurants are generally good, some great. We celebrated my Medi-Care inauguration at a Middle Eastern (it figures) restaurant run by a Mexican Israeli that was wonderful. There’s a fabulous Cuban restaurant just down the street, the best fish tacos I’ve ever had at another place in town, and, wonders of wonders, a delicious New York style pizza place one block away that delivers to the boat. When they first opened a few days after our arrival, I went 5 days in a row (sometimes secretly). Heaven! I won’t say anything more, for fear of stealing the thunder of my friend Lulu, the famous cruising restaurant connoisseur (see the latest issue of “Bue Water Sailing”).
Since we arrived here, Antares has only moved 3 times. Once, to get hauled at the local yard (we had to replace all the bottom paint that was scraped off when we were dragged through the bar at the Rio Dulce), fix some leaking bow thruster seals that were discovered during Jordy and Cindy’s visit [good thing they didn’t know; we almost sunk][not true, but it sounds more exciting]), and some other things. Incidentally, while we were hauled out, some large animal got on the boat (we could see it’s tracks). Phyllis, of course, went nuts, imagining it to be hiding somewhere (like the engine room vents, the bilge, the shuffleboard court, etc.). We now have a pet iguana somewhere. He only eats small parts, like fingers.
The second time we moved was to a different slip with a better view. Then, our friends Bruce and Sandy came for a visit, and in order to do some “real” cruising, we took a little trip to Puerto Moreles, a cute little town about 30 miles from here. I went for the diving. There’s a huge barrier reef right off the anchorage. Unfortunately, like in Belize, where almost everything is some sort of National Park (read excuse to extract money from tourists) the Mexicans have turned the entire barrier reef from Cancun to south of Puerto Moreles into, you guessed it, a National Park, which means money and rules. The money wasn’t much. You have to buy a bracelet to dive, if you can find one. The rules, however, require you to wear a life preserver (or, what some comedian bureaucrat named a personal flotation device, or PFD). This is not, as you may think, for safety, but to prevent you from free diving (which was the whole idea to begin with). Most of you have seen these things: big, bulky and safety orange colored. This, along with the shocking pink bracelet, clashed with my hair, which, when it existed, used to be red. All this ruined my day.
The best parts of the Puerto Moreles trip was a restaurant we found that had the best ceviche any of us had ever had, and a trip to a local animal park named, improbably, “Crocoland”. They didn’t only have crocodiles, but many other animals as well, which explains why Phyllis has a small boa constrictor around her neck in one of the pictures following (she is not, as you may have thought, in the habit of trekking in steamy, dense, jaguar infested jungles to find boa constrictors to wear). Sandy, being an animal lover, refused to wear or kiss any animals. In fact, she spent the entire visit in the gift shop.
We also traveled inland to the “White City” of Merida (which is actually several shades of grey). There, we went to art galleries, free music in the park (every song had the word “corazon” [heart] mentioned hundreds of times, because Meridians like to think of themselves as romantics. A typical song would go something like this: corazon, corazon, corazon, mi corozon, and then repeat that line 24 times). We also went to a great Mayan archaeological museum, where I was forced to dress up as a Mayan person (see following pictures). Those Mayans had it hard. The earrings hurt, but not as much as having to have my head flattened. This is an ancient Mayan custom (really) that they did to children because of what seems to me a very strange sense of beauty, but then, I’m not Mayan. By the way, this reminds me of an old, possibly politically incorrect joke about the perfect woman, which I won’t tell, but involves the shape of her head, her dental condition, and her height. Mayans (who are short) with poor dental care may have been, in fact, the perfect women (other than Phyllis, of course).
Isla Mujeres means Island of Women. It was named that in 1517 by the Spanish explorer Hernandez de Cordoba, when, upon awakening on the island, he found himself thrilled and delighted, and exclaimed (in Spanish of course), “there’s women here!” OK, as anyone over 50 (and Lyle) knows, that’s not true. I stole it, with some modifications, from Mel Brooks’ “10,000 Year Old Man.” If Cordoba found any women here, he would have done to them what any self respecting Spanish explorer did in those days, raped them and killed them (not necessarily in that order). By the way, if you think that’s harsh, I recommend you read the book I’m reading now, Aztec, by Jennings. Those Spaniards had quite the sense of humor!
I was hoping to save the best for last. However, it didn’t quite work out. I was approached by the marina owner, asking if I would be interested in chartering my boat for a photo shoot. I would be paid hundreds of dollars, but better than that, the shoot was for a Mexican men’s magazine, “H” much like the American “Maxim”, which contains ridiculous advice for horny 20 somethings, and, more importantly, soft core porn. Can you imagine? My dream come true. Topless (and more) beauties running around my boat in provocative poses. I was even promised that I could get some private pictures with me and the models. Of course, during this time, Phyllis, who wasn’t too happy about the whole thing to begin with, would have to be steering and cooking, adding insult to injury.
Alas, it was not to be. The day of the shoot there was another in the interminable series of northers this winter (thanks, Al Gore). They had given me the cash, and supplied lots of food. They showed up in the AM, but I refused to go out, claiming it was too rough and dangerous, playing the idiotic role of responsible skipper. They insisted on staying, instead of coming back the next day, as I suggested, to take some background photos (actually, to pester me all day until I relented, which didn’t happen). The model even used our boat to change into her thong bikini, which only Phyllis had a chance to witness, as I stupidly wasn’t on the boat at the time. She even asked Phyllis to help her with the strategic placement of the rear strap, lest she revealed too much (unclear on the concept, if you ask me). She used my bike as a prop (I’ve changed the seat so that I can preserve the original in perpetuity). All day they were shooting pictures around the marina. Just by chance, that day, every gringo sailor, Mexican or even male dog within 100 miles happened to be there with their cameras. Finally, in a completely misplaced fit of modesty, the model refused to pose any more in public, they made me give back the money (it’s a long story, but I had to do it), and hired a nearby mega yacht to do the shoot. Shoot!. That’s why you have to look at completely boring pictures of parrots.
OK, we’re off to the fish taco place. More later.
February 3, 2010
January 26, 2010
…and don’t it feel like a long time
feel like a long time
feel like a long, long time
I’ve just been on deck, watching the resident manatee lazily diving, getting closer to the boat, obviously curious. I’m trying to get up the courage to dive in to swim with him. It’s not that I’m afraid of the manatee; it’s that the air is cold, the water is cold, and I don’t really feel like putting on a wet suit, jumping in, then spending a half hour getting hypothermic. So, I punked out and came below to write. Another norther (cold front) is upon us.
It has been a long time since the last blog. In part, it’s because we have been a little busy: finding spots to hide out from the too frequent cold fronts and other weird weather we’re having this year (thanks, Al Gore!), trying to get Antares’ 6’9” draft off the perennial 6’8” bottom, or keeping the hands of the Belizean officials out of my pockets, and (unsuccessfully) the peaceful, friendly locals from stealing my dinghy and outboard.
It’s very beautiful here, with nearly endless islands, clear water, a huge barrier reef, and 3 of the only 4 atolls in the Western Hemisphere. It’s also very shallow (we should have had a catamaran) (sorry, Joel), very difficult to navigate (we’ve had several close encounters of the reef kind), the officials are pirates, the locals (although mostly friendly and funny) are also pirates, and worst of all, the weather has been unusual this year (when have you ever heard that before?). I expected cold fronts every week or so, but even between the fronts, we’ve had very little good weather. In fact, Lyle and Shannon came to visit for a week, never got in the water, and only saw the sun for the 2 hours before they left. Since then, it’s been a little better, but not much.
The worst was getting our dinghy stolen. Most cruising boats have davits on the back, that are used to hoist the dinghy and outboard out of the water at night. We don’t, but I rigged a way to hoist it up alongside (called hipping). However, I got lazy, and got into the habit of letting it stay in the water, behind the boat, chained and locked. One morning, I was talking on the radio net, and 3 boats reported their dinghies stolen. I asked Phyllis to check ours, and guess what….during the night, someone cut our chain, stole the dinghy (which they had no use for) and the outboard. They then proceeded, just for fun, to stab the dinghy (an inflatable) 8 times, and abandon it. Cute. We found it barely afloat nearby.
It’s a long and sad story, so I’ll tell it (what else do I have to do?). We had an extra dinghy (smaller), but discovered that the inflatable floor had blown a seam. We also had an extra, smaller outboard engine, but discovered that it wouldn’t start (it hadn’t been used in over 2 years). Mr. Mechanic (me) decided to rebuild the carburetor. After several hours, I put it back together, pulled the cord, and it started! (Boy, I am good). Offering Phyllis a ride in our new, more modest, rig, I tried to shift into gear, but the gear shift was frozen. Not a good day.
End of story: we bought a new, smaller outboard from the local Yamaha pirates (very expensive, and they took out the spark plugs and the spare plugs, substituting inferior ones). I had the spare outboard fixed, patched the air floor as well as I could (it actually only leaked a little) and had Lyle bring a new airfloor with him from the States. Now, we’re back in business, but with a smaller, slower setup, and a smaller, less impressive bank account. By the way, we hip our dinghy every night.
The best parts of Belize are the offshore atolls. They’re just like Pacific atolls, with a nearly complete fringing reef encircling a huge lagoon (the atolls are miles long and wide) with endless coral heads dotting the white sand bottom. They have a couple of passes where the reef is broken, allowing entry (sometimes a bit hair raising). Once inside, it’s calm and beautiful, even when the wind blows. Snorkeling on the coral heads is good (although the spearfishing has been disappointing), and, on calm days, diving on the outside of the reef is good. There are lots of fairly large marine creatures here, like huge manatees, numerous dolphins, big barracudas, and rays. I spent one pleasant hour swimming and playing with an eagle ray about my size. I hope it was a girl.
This is a very small country, but its been cleverly divided into numerous marine preserves and national parks, where you are forced to pay a fee. The sole purpose of the fee seems to be to pay the salaries of the “rangers” who come around to collect it, since there is no other obvious manifestation of any other service being provided. They all proudly describe themselves as an “NGO” (non government organization), which means the government doesn’t pay for it, I do.
Reading this, you may have been stuck by the omission of certain constructs that I was previously foolish enough to use, such as “he/she”, “one of us”, etc. These were used by me, the writer, (who’s initials are JR), in an attempt to make this blog appear neutral as to the participants in this great adventure. It’s another example of political correctness gone amok. The reason I point this out, is that we have attained a certain level of achievement (a very insignificant level, but you take what you get), by being published in the famous sailing rag “Latitude 38”. Interested parties may read the distorted version of our adventures in the January issue, in the section called “Changes in Latitudes”. The hard copy is available for free (already, you get the idea of the significance of this event) at chandleries like West Marine, yacht clubs, and other places having to do with boats, if you’re lucky enough to live in Northern California. If you’re not, or are too lazy to get in your car, or confused how to start it, you can download the on-line version (again for free) at http://www.latitude38.com/ebooks.html. The catastrophe occurs right at the end, where credit is given to the writer, Phyllis. Can you imagine, after all the hours I’ve spent, all the words I had to look up, all the lies I had to tell, Phyllis gets the credit for the writing. It’s absolutely true that she did all the paintings, took many of the photos (with my direction, of course), and is much better looking than me, but credit should be given where due. So, no more coy attempts at being neutral or fair. I am the writer.
We’re awaiting the arrival of friends Jordy and Cindy next week (they’re bringing down comforters). As they leave, so will we, as our 90 days allowed in Belize will expire. I have gotten two 30 day extensions to the original 30 days, at great expense of time and money. Each time, I have been asked why I wanted to stay longer by the friendly, smiling official pirates. “Why, to drop a few more thousand dollars in your pockets”, I cheerfully replied. That did it: stamp!
Next stop, the Yucatan peninsula of Mexico. Coronas, Tecates., tequila, oh my.
November 16, 2009
15º51.32´ N 88º33.23´ W
November 14, 2009
We left the Rio Dulce the same way we entered: on our side, tipped over by a masthead halyard being pulled by a fishing boat positioned to our starboard, “Antares” sliding through the mud of the river bar. Actually, going out was a lot easier than coming in. We probably could have made it on our own. We only touched bottom once. However, we had already contracted for the tow, which was sensible given our first experience, Now we’re anchored in a beautiful bay on the other side of the Bahia de Santo Tomas de Castilla from Livingston (a curious name for a Spanish pueblo), the town at the mouth of the Rio Dulce.
“Antares” only moved twice since arriving at Mario’s Marina in June. Once was a shortly before leaving shakedown cruise/party attended by around 15 boats to Lake Izabal, the source of the Rio. The other was a pre-exit trip to Texan Bay, closer to the river mouth. True to it’s name, everyone there “tolks lak thee-is” (and smokes a lot of “herb”). Once again, the trip down the river gorge was stunning.
We made two land trips since coming back from the States. One to Lake Atitlan, the other to Peten. The Lake was a joy: cool weather, cool water, and a spectacular (but surprisingly affordable) hotel (Casa del Mundo), which climbed up a lakeside hill, every room with a perfect view of the (then) full moon, surrounding volcanoes, water and sunsets. The trip to Peten Province was also a success. First, we visited the island town of Flores on Lake Peten, kind of a more compact Antigua with good restaurants and the usual tourist shops. Then, a day at Yaxha, a Mayan archaeological site. Next day, we went to the more famous Tikal. Both were interesting in their own ways, but, the best part of both places was trekking through the jungle, seeing lots of wildlife and flora. We had a great guide, who was also a naturalist. Of course, we learned a lot about Mayan history (the captain of either the winning or losing team in their ballgame had their hearts cut out, which brings up lots of interesting questions about motivation and sportsmanship). Finally, I felt like (to coin a phrase), you’ve seen one Mayan pyramid, you’ve seen them all (I really didn’t coin that phrase). As an aside, I have a great idea about all these ancient ruins. They should pick one, and instead of partially restoring it, they should completely restore it, with plaster, paint, sculptures, etc. This would have the practical benefit of protecting it from the elements, and give the average schmuck an idea of how they really looked. They could even hire current Mayans (or Incas, or Greeks) to dress up and hang around. It would be good money for these, usually, poor people. Maybe they could even stage a ballgame, and cut out the heart of the losing captain. Think of the pictures we could bring home to show our friends (“here’s Phyllis, holding the still beating heart of the losing captain”).
And another thing. I’m constantly amazed at the comical scams being tried on gringos. Millions of years ago, we drove down Baja California. There, in the middle of the desert, with nothing else around, was an old Mexican guy with a vaguely military hat, who had placed a log in the middle of the highway. We had to pay a “toll” (maybe one peso) to get through. This trip to Flores, we paid bus fare to Flores (makes sense). It even said Flores on our ticket. Sure enough, about 10 miles from Flores, the bus stopped, and a guy got on to inform us that we had to get off the bus, and take a mini-van from there to complete our trip (for more money, of course). I may have gone for it, except that I noticed he only told the gringos that. So, I told him we were staying on the bus. He shrugged, walked to the next gringo, and, of course, the bus took us directly to Flores. Ay, caramba!
So, what to make of our 5 months up a river? We did it to avoid hurricanes (but this year, everybody avoided them by going anywhere they wanted to)(don’t listen to this, you hurricane gods). It’s a long time to stay in one place, although we weren’t on the boat for half of it. The Rio was beautiful, but very hot. The marina we chose was good, mainly because of the delightful swimming pool with shockingly cold, clean, spring-fed water. We made many friends, who we saw and played with nearly or actually daily. It’s one of the odd things about cruising. One spends more time with recently made friends than with one’s old, land based friends (you know who you are, you old friends), and then they’re gone, mostly for good (as I’m writing this, we just waved goodbye to Doug and Anne on “Galavant”, who we’ll probably never see again). It’s like being a kid again.
Traveling in Guatemala was great. It’s an interesting, very colorful and artistic country (Phyllis was a big hit with the locals), mostly because they’ve retained so much of their Mayan culture. Splendid squalor. It’s a bit dangerous, but unless something happens to us tonight, we will have gotten out intact (don’t listen to this, you gods of mayhem).
At this point, I feel a little like I’ve escaped. I guess I didn’t like being “trapped” up a river.
Next stop, Belize. Clear water, thousands of cays (pronounced keys), a huge barrier reef, snorkeling, diving, and living on the hook again. We’re ready to go.
September 25, 2009
Fronteras, Rio Dulce
September 24, 2009
Up a Lazy River
Man, is it hot!
We came here in late June, about 25 miles up this gorgeous river, to escape the hurricane season. The trip up the river gorge from Livingston, at the mouth, was stunning. Blazing green, parrots and monkeys screaming, a real jungle. Unfortunately, despite all my clever timing of the spring tide, we ran aground at the river bar and had to be towed into Livingston sideways. That was fun. We tied up at Mario’s Marina, and haven’t moved since (the boat, at least). I do start everything regularly (on boats, as in people, motion is lotion). While the boat hasn’t moved, the people have, a lot (more on that later).
This place is a wide spot on the river, just downstream from Lago Izabel. Years ago, someone started a marina here, and now, like us, scores of boats come to the many marinas that cater to cruisers avoiding hurricanes. There are lots of people to play with (although many just leave their boats for long periods to do inland trips and to avoid the heat), many restaurants, a real fuel dock, some boat parts, and it’s very lush and pretty. The town (Fronteras) is a throwback to the wild west: one main street along the river, no sidewalks, lots of people and traffic, open stalls and markets, and an occasional real shooting.
We chose Mario’s from among the many other marinas for one main reason: the luscious, shaded pool. The water is actually cold (the river isn’t). I’m told it’s spring fed from high in the mountains. Who cares? It’s delicious to jump in on a blistering hot day and freeze one’s ass off.
It’s so hot here, that one gets sweaty just from doing a few minute’s boat work; or making the bed; or walking to the pool; or thinking about doing any of the above. Jeff (a well known good sweater) sweats so much that he had to install windshield wipers on his glasses to see. Have I mentioned how hot it is here?
After about 2 weeks of living in the oven, we went to Antigua, the old capital, which is a delightful colonial town in the mountains, thus cool (the opposite of hot). No, we didn’t sail there, those of you who are geographically impaired, we took a bus. It’s a wonderful place, quaint, interesting, with numerous attractive hotels, restaurants, museums, bars, and lots of outdoorsy things to do. We climbed an active volcano, where, unlike in some countries with too many lawyers, the guides not only allowed us to get as close as we wanted to the lava, but even brought marshmallows to cook on sticks. Unfortunately, one of us got too close (guess which one) and crashed through the newly hardened lava, shredding his or her arm and hand. The blood soaked tissues, when thrown down onto the rocks, immediately blazed up, suggesting religious themes.
On the way up, one of us insisted on hiring a horse because of extreme fatigue, even though that one of us hates horses. On the way down, our actual guide fell, severely injuring his ankle, and had to be carried down the rest of the way on another horse. Finally, we were all stranded, and had to eat the horses to live. The two of us were, by far, the oldest farts on the trip, and only went because we were assured by the tour company that anyone could do it. Ha!
We also rented mountain bikes and toured the surrounding area, Very interesting, despite the heart attack. Part of the trip was a tour of a macadamia nut factory, which claims to supply the oil in various obscenely overpriced Lancome products, which one of us uses to excess.
We spent 2 wonderful weeks in Antigua, spending only the monopoly money that is a time share exchange. Jeff met and started a relationship with a scarlet macaw at the hotel, which was surrounded by signs warning guests not to approach or touch the macaw. She (I assume) was in love.
Jeff’s mom Lillian died in late July, after a truly nightmarish last few weeks of life. She was 91, and had a good life, but didn’t deserve the end she got. Credit and love goes to Stephanie, who held it together and did the hard work at the end. Thanks is inadequate.
We had made plans for a long trip back to the States before all this, and suddenly had to rearrange our plans to accommodate this reality. Of course, American Airlines couldn’t (wouldn’t) help. Incredibly, the best we could do was dovetail a completely separate trip onto our pre-existing trip in order to attend the funeral, etc.
The good news was we got to spend a lot of time with long lost (?) family. We were in NJ, NY, Mass. We then flew back to MIA, then to Guatemala City for one night, to start our original trip (I promise, we weren’t smuggling drugs), then back to MIA, for a connecting flight to San Francisco.
It was a rewarding, fun and eclectic trip. We were in San Francisco, Healdsburg, Sea Ranch, back to San Francisco and Lake Tahoe. Then, we flew back to MIA, drove to Daytona (actually, New Sphegma Beach) for a more relaxed family reunion, then drove to Lake Placid to see the Potters, then to Fort Lauderdale, Miami, and finally, back home to Antares, with, what else, 2 big bagsfull of boat parts.
Special thanks go to all who extended their hospitality to us during this long trip. It’s a burden to have cruisers (aka schnorrers) as friends. This includes (you know who you are) Steffi and Marty, George and Jerry, Steve and Janet, Donna and Charlie, Rick and Vicki, Jordan and Cindy, Bruce and Sandy, Aunt Milly and Uncle Ray, Ethan and Kim, Lara and Aaron and the adorable Logan,Vela and Joel, David and Lois, Maureen and Glenn, and especially Charlie, Lisa, Caroline (the queen of Healdsburg High School) and Kenneth (the triple threat madman of the Healdsburg Bulldogs). Please come to visit us (while there’s still time).
We’re back on the Rio, not yet acclimated to the heat, and September is the hottest month. Oy! The good news is we are just now planning a short land trip to Lake Atitlan for next week. The Lake is supposedly prettier than Tahoe, and cool. Can’t wait!
Did I mention how hot it is here yet?
June 15, 2009
16º04.158´ N 86º57.871´W
June 12, 2009
Heaven is in Your Mind
Here we are, in many people’s idea of heaven, but of course (as with everything), it’s only true sometimes. The worst part for me are the things that break constantly (and we have one of the good boats). Here’s a partial recent list: generator won’t start, generator overheats, windlass controls don’t work (luckily, we have a remote in the cockpit), wind, depth and speed instruments in the cockpit suddenly don’t work (again, luckily, we have another display in the cabin, and I was able to apply the greater hammer theory to that, which has, for the moment, fixed the problem). The main VHF radio gave up the ghost, and a high pressure line for the water maker blew out. In Panama, the hot water heater broke for the second time. The outboard ( a nearly new and usually reliable Yamaha) stopped running (a faulty fuel line connector) and the shaft that holds the gear shift lever rusted and sheared off, requiring me to drill it out from some very odd angles. My theory about boats is that the half time to any random failure is about 30 minutes. If anybody tells you that it’s no different than a house (you do, after all, have to fix the roof about every 20 years), just look at them quizzically and laugh gently.
Some people like fixing these things constantly (like my friend Fred on Mistral), but I don’t. I never worked on cars, wasn’t an engineer or construction worker. Almost everything I do is new to me, so there’s the uncertainty (or total ignorance) factor. Plus, parts are not easily available, professional help is hardly that, and usually unreliable, functioning on island time, where soon come means nothing, and manana means not now, not necessarily tomorrow, sometime later, no time in particular.
I shouldn’t be kvetching. Our good friends on Lulu just got hit by lightening for the third time! All the electronics and electrical stuff is ruined. They now are stuck for 4 months with a multi-tens of thousand dollar job.
On the other hand, I’m writing this to the sound of the waves breaking on the nearby reef, one of my favorites (and apparently universally so: they put that sound into sleep machines, along with rain, chirping frogs, and people moaning).
Those of you who read the last blog (well written by Phyllis, don’t you think? I may be out of a job) know that I flew to FL to help with my my ailing mother, while Phyllis stayed with the boat. We stayed at Fantasy Island Marina a little longer than we planned to, because it was very hot and windless for a few days, and the a/c sure felt good.
Back in the day, I read a book named Meetings with Remarkable Men, by George Ivanovitch Gurdjieff. During our last cruise 20 years ago, we met a remarkable man named Alan Frank. He was kind, generous, tall and handsome, and our good friend for a while. He was also probably the only lawyer, engineer, Jewish, semi-pro basketball player, fugitive from the FBI for extortion, father of a Jewish starting tight end for the 49ers (when they were good) in the world. Jon (the son) quit at the top of his game to finish medical school, and went on to become an orthopedist on the Peninsula. The last time I saw Alan (the father), he was sailing off from somewhere with 2 people he had stolen from the Dominican Republic (a beautiful young woman named Benicia [who spoke little English, but called Alan Captain Meshugeneh] and Turkey Green, a somewhat famous jack of all trades), singing opera at the top of his lungs. The last time I saw his boat (“Jonathan” for his son, whom he adored), it was moored forlornly in Grenada, having been attached by Jon in order to recoup some of the money that his loving father had extorted from him! Alan was, at the time, in the slammer, having been picked up by the FBI while attempting to visit his son in the US.
This time, we met another remarkable man, in Fantasy Island. His name is Jamie Betheaepstein (no hyphen). Jamie is, in all likelihood, the only Black, Jewish, psychiatrist, previous NFL kick returner (with a super bowl ring, eppis), dive master and instructor, owner of a live aboard dive boat in Roatan. He claims his brother is Larry Bethea, who was a first round draft choice for the Cowboys as a defensive end. Larry never lived up to his potential, was cut after about 6 years, played for a couple of teams in that horrible new league (I can’t remember the name, but Oakland had a team). He was caught robbing a convenience store, and then shot himself in the head. As for Jamie, if you doubt any of this, you could look him up (google him; it makes for interesting reading). He is, however, another generous guy. He took Phyllis and I on our first wreck dive (unfortunately, I got lost in one of the rooms-very spooky experience).
I don’t know why we don’t meet any women like this. They probably just aren’t crazy enough.
We left Fantasy Island for West End, an attractive little town with a great anchorage, plenty of good enough restaurants, and endless diving opportunities just behind our boat (the Park Service even provides moorings for diving and anchoring). From there to Utila, another of the Bay Islands, with an even more interesting town, which reminds (old) me of the old Caribbean (which is, of course, much better than the new Caribbean). Just now, we are in the Water Cays of Utila, having come back from snorkeling all day to scout out a good scuba dive for tomorrow. There’s even what appears to be a great little town here. We’ll check it out tomorrow.
In a few days, we’ll start moving toward the Rio Dulce of Guatemala, where “Antares” will stay for 4 months of the hurricane season, but we won’t. We’ve plans for extensive land travel in Guatemala (Antigua, Tikal, etc.) and the US. It’s not our style to sit in a place for 4 months with other cruisers, playing Mexican train dominoes, going to pot lucks, swap meets, wife swapping parties, etc.
Speaking of wives, we had an earthquake here (or an ocean quake) a couple of weeks ago, at 2:30 AM. It was a 7.3 on the Richter scale, and boy did we feel it (the epicenter was only 23 miles away, under the ocean). I thought Phyllis was getting frisky, but no such luck. There were fears of a tsunami, but it never happened.
May 14, 2009
Fantasy Island Marina , Roatan, Honduras
16 21.429 N 86 26.351 W
De Plane! De Plane! I’m on Fantasy Island but I can’t find Ricardo Montalban and the only midget on the island is myself.
Jeff left for Florida on Mother’s Day to take care of family business. I stayed behind to look after the boat. It’s a little lonely but I enjoy the time alone to paint and catch up on the blog. The marina is a pretty place with a hotel that caters to divers. Roatan is a lot about diving as beautiful reefs surround the island. We haven’t had time to dive here yet, but we’ve done a lot of snorkeling along our route to Honduras.
Donna and Charlie Schaffer joined us for 2 weeks in April. They flew to San Andres and sailed with us to Providencia. San Andres and Providencia are Colombian islands off the coast of Guatemala. Both Donna and Charlie are avid divers. Charlie takes fantastic underwater photos and has given me permission to use them on the blog. The reefs in Providencia were healthy and beautiful which has been a rare situation in the Caribbean.
After the Schaffers flew back home we left Providencia and sailed pass the Mosquito Coast of Nicaragua to the Hobbies Cays. We were sailing with a catamaran called “Mistral” with Fred and Barbara Cusksey aboard. At around 1am during our watch change, Jeff noticed that “Mistral” had altered her course. Jeff called her on the VHF to ask about the course change. We got no response. We tried for nearly 3 hours with several different radios including the SSB and still had no response . About that time Jeff noticed that the radar revealed that there was a vessel within two miles from us with no lights on. Because Nicaragua is “big time” pirate territory our anxiety increased. What if they we boarded? What if pirates killed them? What if one of them fell overboard while the other slept? We could see the navigation lights on “Mistral” and because she’s a faster boat she was getting further and further away from us. Starting to worry ,we decided to call for assistance. On VHF channel 16 we tried in vain to hail Honduran and Nicaraguan coastguards and then used the SSB for stronger reception. We heard nothing, not even the fisherman chatter that is frequently heard out to sea. In a last ditch effort we used our satellite phone and called directory assistance in Miami to get the number of the Miami coastguard. At around 4am we contacted the U.S. coastguard in Miami , told them of the situation and asked them to call the Honduran coastguard for assistance. At the same time we were closely monitoring the mysterious vessel without lights. The coastguard in Miami agreed to our request and told us they would call us back with the results. After hanging up with Miami we decided to call out on the VHF one more time. You guessed it; Barbara’s cheery voice answered our call. She was totally unaware of the situation and when we filled her in with the details she seemed clearly embarrassed. We were relieved but fairly humiliated by having called the coastguard. We immediately called back Miami on our satellite phone and told them of the situation.
According to her crew, when “Mistral’s” AIS is used it disables the VHF radio. I forget what AIS stands for but it is used to track and identify other vessels in the area. When Barbara got up for her watch at 4pm she turned off the AIS and resumed receiving on her VHF. And that’s the happy ending of a dreadfully anxious night. There were no pirates and Fred did not fall overboard. In fact they slept quite well on “Mistral” during that passage. Aboard “Antares” was another story; but we did we manage to sleep soundly when we anchored that afternoon in the Hobbies and when we woke up the local fishermen sold us two large lobsters for $5 and a pack of cigarettes.
March 14, 2009
March 14, 2009
I’ve been elected to write the blog this time around because the captain’s creative thoughts are dampened by worldly worries. It’s true that his writing abilities are more developed than mine but I’ll try my best to make this blog entry somewhat intelligible and entertaining. However, I must point out that he can’t even draw a stick figure. Oh well, you can’t have everything ….and I’m better looking too!
We left Cartegena, Columbia on New Years Eve and sailed on a down wind trip, port hopping through the San Blas Islands of Panama. The San Blas Islands are located on Panama’s Caribbean coast. They are considered to be one of the most perfect cruising grounds in the world and are unique because they are home to the indigenous Kuna Indians. The islands and their associated mainland territories are called Kuna Yala by the Kuna Indians. Kuna Yala does not welcome industrial development and the rain forest land looks much like it did when Spainish first arrived hundreds of years ago. An exception to the lack of industry is the introduction of high tech telephone buildings that are present on the most populated islands.
The Kunas are physically small but are well proportioned and appear to be very healthy. They are for the most part, a very peaceful population. The married women wear the traditional dress of colorful molas, glass beads around their arms and legs, tattooed face paint, gold nose rings, earrings and necklaces. The men and unmarried children wear western attire; tee shirts, shorts and flipflops. My experience was that they loved to be photographed and sometimes insisted that we photograph everyone in the family including the dog. Since 1925 no Kuna is allowed to intermarry. Violation of this rule results in expulsion from the tribe. Kuna Yala is a matriarchal society, the woman controls the money and the husband pays to marry her and then moves into her family compound. Family values appear to be quite traditional but there is a tolerance for gay and in particular, transvestite life styles.
Kuna villages are composed of huts that are made from cane and the roof is constructed from palm leaf found in the jungle. Every village has two oversized huts, the “congreso” and the “chicha”. The “congresso” is the townhall where the villagers congregate. The “Sailas” is the chief who provides wisdom for the Kunas and sings sacred songs. The “chicha” hut is basically the local brewery. “Chicha” is a distilled drink made from sugar cane that is used for spiritual events. During these events most of the villagers, including the children become intoxicated.
Each island is a cooperative society. The day starts out early for the Kunas . Many get into their “ulus” at sunrise and paddle to the mainland where they harvest fruit, firewood, sugar cane and coconuts. Others fish for the village. The women create and sell “molas”. These are beautiful appliquéd textiles made by sewing and cutting different layers of cloth. The designs range from geometric designs to abstract images of birds, fish, animals and depictions of Kuna life. During our visit I developed a case of “E- Mola Virus” (a deadly buying disease coined by a fellow cruiser).
The water surrounding the islands that were close to the mainland were murky and sometimes inhabited by salt water crocodiles (yikes!). We didn’t do much swimming in those waters. The islands that were further west and away from the mainland had crystal clear water with beautiful reefs. We spent many days snorkeling and visiting the reefs with the use of our “snuba” ( a floating gas powered compressor equipped with two regulators that hang off its sides). Jeff and fellow cruiser Stu from “Heartsong” spent many hours hunting for lobsters to no avail. We ended up buying them from visiting Kunas that paddle up to our boats to peddle them along with fish, octopus, vegetables, fruit and, of course, molas. They also want you to charge their cell phones because they have no electricity on their islands. It’s a very strange sight to see a traditionally dressed Kuna with a cell phone in their hand.
We left those islands in February, parked the boat in a slip at Shelter Island Marina at the entrance to the Panama Canal and flew home for a short visit with friends and family, skied for a few days in Tahoe and bought stuff for the boat in Fort Lauderdale. It was great to see everyone and I decided that once a year was not enough time for a visit home. So, we will return to the states again in August. The plan is to sail to Guatemala via the Colombian islands of Providencia and San Andres, with stops in the Bay Islands along the coast of Honduras.
At present we are dealing with boat issues such as a leaking hot water heater with a short and an up coming haul out date to get the boat’s bottom painted.
December 25, 2008
Club de Pesca
10º24.937´ N 75º32.718´W
“Go very light on the vices, such as carrying on in society. The social ramble ain’t restful.”
Boy, is that ever true. We haven’t been this active socially since we were communists.
We’re still here at the fabulous Club de Pesca, where it’s been an endless series of parties, drinks, dinners, restaurants, etc. since we got here. Luckily, Colombia is not very expensive, and we still have some energy left over from our youths.
There are several cruising boats here, plus many friendly Colombian boaters, all conspiring to create an ongoing floating party. Plus, the Club and it’s members are extraordinarily friendly (as are most Colombians), so we’re included in many of the Club’s social events. The best was the recent annual regatta. It was part fishing tournement, part sailing races, and endless parties. I was crew (tripulante) on an English friend’s boat. As crew, Phyllis and I were invited to all the events of the regatta (3 breakfasts, 3 dinners, free drinks, other events). The last day’s race was the “Admiral’s Cup”, named that because each entry had a real Colombian admiral as crew. We took secundo (second) in that race. What a trip! We screamed across the finish, turned hard right, and then paraded by the “Gloria”, the Colombian cadet tall ship. All the cadets and officers aboard “Gloria”, in dress whites, snapped to attention, pipes were sounded, and they saluted us and our admiral. After we docked, we attended a party on the “Gloria” where we were presented our trophy for second place. Phyllis loved getting served drinks by all those cute cadets.
I, on the other hand, liked getting served endless free scotch by the 3 lovely “Grant’s girls” provided by the club. Also, free wine, food, entertainment…..yikes, these people can party.
Recently, I read an article in a cruising magazine about Cartagena. The author described the two choices of marinas: the Club de Pesca (where we are) and the Club Nautico, where, by far, most of the other cruisers stay. He aknowledged that Club de Pesca was nicer (the other place is somewhat of a dump), but disparaged the Club de Pesca (and, by extention, those of us who stay here) as being somehow uppity. What he doesn’t get is how much staying here, (mostly among Colombians), instead of there (mostly among Americans, Canadians and the dreaded French) has contributed to our total enjoyment of Cartagena. We have partied with some of the richest (but still friendliest) people in the country. We have been invited to dinner and breakfast at a club member’s penthouse overlooking all of Cartagena. One couldn’t buy these kinds of experiences.
Still, we’re eager to get going now. I think we have been on the dock too long. We have a Christmas party tonight, then various goodbye dinners and drinks, then we’ll leave next week for “something completely different” the San Blas Islands of Panama. I’ve attended (I hope) to all the boat tsouris (a broken high pressure hose on the watermaker, a leaking water pump on the generator, a maddening leak in the raw water supply line of the generator that took me hours to trace [it was as a result of a typically French Rube Goldberg design that was totally unnecessary], and other smaller projects). We’ve also gotten a lot of medical projects taken care of here. They have good practitioners and very cheap prices. There is a “weather window” for next week (that just means that the winds will be something less than 30 knots, and the waves less than 12 feet). We’ll probably be going alone, because all of our friends going that way want to stay for New Years. We’re ready to leave. We’ll probably come back here some time.
Hasta luego, Cartagena. What a town!