Thursday, December 31, 2015

New Year's Eve

I've never really been into New Years Eve celebrating other than ones in the past concerning winter camping out or going on a moonlit ski.  Anyway I'll be spending this one with my cousin Craig camped on highway 1 about 10 miles north of Santa Cruz.  It's great you can still just pull over and sleep on the side of the road in spots.  We will celebrate in a historic old times sake kind of way, although we likely won't be awake until midnight...or even 10 pm.?

I got a text and the boat I'm crewing on reached San Francisco this midmorning.  After sailing all night, once at the marina he crashed I suppose as he didn't text back with the marina address or answer my phone call.  We continued on with our day and Craig is now out surfing.  We will drive to the boat in the morning.  It sounds like we will head right out tomorrow afternoon due to the high nightly rate at San Francisco Marina and Yacht Club... just 2 miles in from the Golden Gate Bridge.  

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

It's been a month since arriving

It's now been one month since I arrived to the Oakland Airport. My cousin picked me up and I've been staying at his place ever since. I knew this time of year had the potential to keep small craft in port due to strong winds and large seas. Originally, I thought about renting a car and driving up to Eureka to meet the boat but once I got here I decided to just hang out with my cousin and wait for the sailboat to reach San Francisco. After 2 weeks stuck in Brookings Oregon and almost 2 weeks in Eureka he had made it to Fort Bragg on Sunday. He said he was hoping to reach San Francisco on Wednesday, which is tomorrow so it won't be long now. My cousin wants to go surfing again so we will be heading to the coast tomorrow and this time I'll be packed and ready to get onboard.
It might seem like a long time to be waiting for the boat?.. But it's been great reconnecting after nearly 40 years with my cousin and best childhood friend for a month.

Location:Manteca,United States

Thursday, December 24, 2015

My first Redwoods

After a couple of days on the coast, we drove over to Redwoods Regional Park up in the hills west of Oakland. Gregg, a friend of mine who was a kayak guide for a couple seasons in '98 & '99 had invited me via Facebook to a Shinrin Yoku Forest Therapy Walk. Gregg is currently a nurse and still guides occasional kayak trips. Most recently he was co-guide with a Prescott College group on a 2.5 month trip to the Sea of Cortez.

Gregg was working towards some credentials or certification for this type of Japanese forest therapy and is soon headed to Japan to further his pursuit. He is hoping to eventually convince certain doctors to prescribe this kind of therapy to patients suffering from an inadequate connection to the natural world. Anyway, it was interesting and great to see Gregg again. I'd last seen Gregg around 2003 when he stopped in Grand Marais on his way to Alaska where he worked as a nurse for a few years. At some point he moved to the Bay Area of California where he now lives. This trip is about getting onboard the sailboat I'm crewing on, not sight seeing so I won't be getting up to Redwood National Park etc.. I'll be back this way soon on a road trip with plenty of time for camping and backpacking.

According to a sign on the path, the ordinal huge and ancient Redwood trees in this area were clear cut from 1840 - 1860. The current redwood trees are up to 175 years old I guess but many are much larger than the biggest white pine you'll see in northern Minnesota. Many are 2' to 3' in diameter and a few were closer to 4' in diameter. I never knew that redwood trees would sprout from the cut stumps but they do. You could see circular clumps of 2' - 3' diameter trees around the remains of a really huge ancient tree's stump....

To the Coast

It's Christmas Eve that I'm writing this. I will be spending Christmas with my cousin Craig for the first time in perhaps 40 years ..?  The boat I'll be crewing on has reached Eureka after over 2 weeks of waiting in Brookings, Oregon for a break in the weather.  He's now been in Eureka over a week but it sounds like he may be able to make progress south this weekend.  It's possible he could reach San Francisco sometime next week.
Last Thursday through Saturday, Craig and I drove out to the coast to his favorite surfing place in Davenport, about 10 miles north of Santa Cruz.  We camped out 2 nights and it was nice to see that at least in Santa Cruz county you can still just pull over at numerous places along Highway 1 and sleep. My cousin slept in his truck topper.  I slept under the stars the first night and in a tiny tent during a rainy second night.   Craig got in a few surf sessions Thursday afternoon and Friday then we drove to Redwood Regional Park near Oakland on Saturday morning.  A former kayak guide employee and friend Gregg, had posted on Facebook about a type of Japanese nature walk he was doing in that Park.....

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Catching up with my Cousin

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It's been one week now that I've been in California staying with my cousin Craig in the Central San Joaquin Valley.  He lives in Manteca so about a two hour drive to the coast or Yosemite National Park.  The sailboat I'm going to be crewing on is presently in Brookings, Oregon just north of the California border.  I was going to try getting up to Eureka, which would be the boats next stop but I've decided to wait until it reaches San Francisco.  Since I have a place to stay I figure I may as well let the boat catch up with where I am.  The boat is currently waiting for improved conditions and has been in Brookings since Monday the 30th.  I've not talked to the captain since then but he said it will be a while before he can head out again.  There is currently a gale warning for that area with 40 - 50 knot winds and seas to 27 feet.

Catching up with my cousin has been wonderful.  We have not seen each other since 2002 when he drove up to Grand Marais after coming back to Minnesota to be part of sprinkling the ashes of his parents.  We were the best of friends all through our childhood and up until he moved out to LA California to pursue his career as a Mechanical Engineer.  We kept aware of what we were each up to through the years but mostly via occasional emails.  He eventually moved up to the Bay Area and at some point got into surfing, free diving and scuba diving.  He's lived in Cozumel, Mexico working as a dive master and in Sitka, Alaska selling jewelry to the cruise ship crowd.  We were looking through photos he had and I snapped a photo of one which I'll add below...
We must be about 18 or 19 years old here : )


It's interesting to discover we share so many similarities after so many years.  We both talk about retiring in a foreign country and now my cousin even seems interested in the idea of living on a sailboat for a while.  It seems likely we will spend a lot more time together in the years ahead after barely staying in contact since the late 70's.  He's living in Manteca due to work but was layed off in August so spends a bit of each day seeking a job via the Internet.  He hopes to find a job that would have him living closer to the ocean so he could surf more often.  We aren't really driving all over sight seeing and I miss my walks on the beach back in Duluth but it is so cool to talk about old times and future plans.  We are by far each other's closest relative, with a lot of childhood memories as we lived only 1/4 mile or less from each other.   It seems it will be at least 2 more weeks before the sailboat arrives to San Francisco.  That's it.....

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Crewing on a different sailboat

As it turned out my last post November 8th about meeting a boat in Long Beach California fell through.  I'd not yet booked my flight yet as I was waiting to hear when I should arrive based on the results of a haul out and boat inspection.  I took this to be an inspection of a boat already owned to make sure all was shipshape for the beginning of his planned sail around planet earth.  I found out after I contacted him for an update that the deal fell through.. Turns out he was yet to own the boat and was lining up crew before he even owned it?  Hmmmm?  

Anyway after sending out a few more inquiries I heard back from 2 different boats also heading south down the west coast.  One was planning to depart San Diego December 1st and sail to La Paz and hang out in the Sea of Cortez for the winter.  The other was further north in Astoria on the Columbia River bound for Panama by spring.  The first boat was a 41 year old captain and his dog on a 40 foot boat.  He stopped replying after our first phone call that I thought sounded promising...  For a brief day or so it seemed I might have to choose between the 2 boats but suddenly I didn't have to and was exchanging phone calls with the boat in Astoria.  This was all happening on the 23rd and I was not able to get to Astoria or the second port Newton and I won't make Coos Bay or Brookings either but I have booked my flight to Oakland, California for 7 am November 28th...the day after tomorrow!!  The flight cost me the most off all the one way flights of the previous 3 winters crewing, including the return flight from Guatemala City last March.   And the price went up for Sunday the 29th and didn't come down until December 3rd.  Oh well, I was able to use PayPal Credit so I get zero interest for 6 months to pay it off.    

I've been visiting my mom so I have to head back after breakfast tomorrow...then pack and winterize my attic apartment before getting taken to the Duluth Airport by 6 am Saturday morning.  I arrive in Oakland about 3:50 pm Saturday.   2 friends from my past live in the Bay area, neither of which I've seen for too long.  One is my cousin and my best friend up until he graduated college and moved to LA.  The other worked as a kayak guide 2 seasons in 1999 and 2000 I believe?  I'll see my cousin for sure but my former employee might be away.  It will depend on how things go.  I might rent a car and drive to Eureka to join the boat or I might wait to join the boat in San Francisco if there is good weather and he arrives to San Francisco too soon?  

Oddly...I've never been to Northern California or seen the Redwoods etc.. This visit certainly won't satisfy my desire to check it all out.  I'll be back soon enough on a road trip at a better time of the year for some camping/hiking/backpacking.  

The boat is a 40' Choy Lee that sounds very well equipped.  The owner/captain is not so experienced sailingwise but was an Alaskan bush pilot now retired.  It sounds like it will be just the 2 of us.  

It's been hectic this year as I'm trying to join a boat that's already underway.  Other years I had more time to book my flight enough in advance to get a better price.  
This Pacific Northwest coast has a reputation of being quite treacherous at times where seas building can make crossing the bars to enter rivers along the way to wait out stormy conditions...impassable forcing you to push on in very challenging conditions.  Spring and Fall seem to be best times of year for this stretch with winter a definite no go season.  Or so I've read...  So far he has had pretty mild conditions, mostly motoring in small 3' swell at 14 seconds.  

How far down the west coast I get remains a mystery.  I need to return at the end of March roughly.  I think we will be beyond Mexico by then but it all depends.  

Sunday, November 8, 2015

My 4th winter of volunteer crewing

Usually I wait to post until I'm 100% certain if there is such a thing...based on the fact I've not yet purchased my one way airfare to Long Beach California, where the boat is.  The previous 3 winters, on 3 different sailboats, I've been sailing in the western Caribbean.  Two of those 3 times the planned destination was the eastern Caribbean but boat engine problems caused a change of plans.  The second winter I was helping sail from Florida to Rio Dulce Guatemala but ended up jumping ship in Punta Allen Mexico.  I learned last winter that boat never made it to Rio Dulce and ran aground and sank trying to negotiate the channel through the reef into Xcalak Mexico.  Last year due to engine problems the captain decided Rio Dulce would be a better place for major engine repairs or replacement than the eastern Caribbean.  We ran into the boat I'd met last winter at a marina in Isla Mujeres and got the story.   After picking up replacement crew for me..sounded like someone he knew..they set out for Xcalak ... Read more.

Anyway...about this upcoming 4th winter volunteer crewing.  I'm joining a 41 foot sailboat that is embarking on a circumnavigation.  I believe it's the very beginning but I'm not certain yet.  The captain/owner is 41 and described himself as retired though he owns a business that functions with only occasion input from him.  He wants a crew of 3 to 4, himself included.  Once I leave the boat they will be making the jump to the Marquesas Islands in French Polynesia.  He hoped I could help with that and so did I but return airfare was $2,200 and that was from Tahiti so I'd also have additional travel costs.  I really can't be away past tax time and my lease with my tenants is May 1st.  Kind of makes me wish I had already sold my house but still I don't really want to be away from my 94 year old mom!  3 or 4 months is arguably too long.  This crewing gig is likely to be for around 3 months.  I'm joining the boat in Long Beach California and will leave the boat in La Cruz Mexico..just south of Mazatlan.  
That is unless something happens ?  I think if he found a crew to replace me who was also up for the jump to French Polynesia I'd be out... I'm waiting to hear of our estimated departure based on a haul out and pre-circumnavigation boat survey Tuesday.. He's hoping for a mid November departure if all checks out.. I'll buy my airfare once departure is more closely estimared.  

I'm looking forward to some sailing in the Pacific Ocean.  It was much more difficult to find a boat this year.  I sent out over 15 inquires while previous years I'd only inquired 2 or 3 times before finding a boat.  It appears there are many more crew seeking boats than boats seeking crew online.
I'll blog as best I can...

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Porpoises following Asperida

In the morning of the 5th day on the passage a large pod of porpoises came and swam along with Asperida about a half hour.  I was 4 am to 8 am shift and Walter briefly panicked when he didn't see me in the cockpit.  We were sailing along at a pretty slow speed on auto pilot.

It's always fun when a pod of porpoises come swim along with the boat while sailing. This was the most I've ever seen perhaps almost 50 but it's just an estimate.

Looking back

This was taken after clearing into Guatemala in Livingston just before heading out to the boat.  I thought it was a nice photo of Asperida.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Guatemala City

I've really only been within walking distance of the Hostel I chose to stay at.  Anyway it's a big city with plenty of familiar franchise presence.  The hostel recommended a couple places with good and inexpensive food.  I only tried the one but it's only a breakfast and lunch place and on my first day I arrived 10 minutes after 3 and they stop serving lunch at 3.  I walked further to a big fancy modern mall and mistakenly chose to eat at a restaurant called Skillets.  It was a total of Q 104 which is about $13.65.  A typical lunch or dinner price back home.  The next day I had lunch at the recommended place and it was Q 25 or $3.35 US.  After that good inexpensive lunch I decided to walk over to the grocery store to get a few things for later rather than going out somewhere.  I stopped at that same mall and was going to get a coffee but since just a cup of coffee small was over half the cost of my lunch I changed my was a Starbucks.  The mall had many familiar brand stores and a few unknown to me.  Quite the display of consumerism out of control.  I then proceeded to the grocery store and was thinkng just some bread and peanut butter and snack bars.. The bread and snack bars were a good value but the tiny size peanut butter like not even a cup..more like a 6 oz jar was Q 57... which is about $7.58??? I opted for a little 6 oz tub of cream cheese for Q 4.45 or 60 cents.   The only other guests here that were staying more than a night before a flight home or having just arrived about to head off to the various tourist destinations were a couple woman applying for work visas at a hostel in Mexico.. They met there and have been working there under the radar but now both want to make it official and eventually obtain a Mexican residency.  One was from Argentina and the other from Sweden.  You can not apply for a work visa within the country you seek to work at hence they have been doing a bit of traveling here finishing off with a few days in 'The City' with visits to the Mexican Embassy.
My excuse for not doing some sight seeing like visiting La Antigua is I've been traveling in a sailboat since December 2 and am focused on getting to Bryson City to visit a good friend from highschool I've not seen in a very long time and looking forward to spending 5 days with he and his wife.  Perhaps someday I'll be back to Rio Dulce with a sailboat of my own and have plenty of time to check things out.

$3.35 US

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

The bus ride

The cruising guide books on Asperida covering Rio Dilce were from 2009 and another from 2013.  Even the more recent guide made reference to taking the chicken bus from Fronteras (Rio Dulce) to Guatemala City concerning a flight to where ever.  Well I'm not sure if they still had chicken buses for the route to 'The City' from Rio Dulce back in 2013 but the don't anymore.  Old repainted school buses from the U.S. are still used on various rural routes possibly even with the occasional customer bringing a chicken?  I suppose the success of tourism has the 2 main bus lines in the country using big comfy air conditioned Mercedes or other buses.  I took Litegua and the almost 6 hour bus ride only cost $10 U.S.  You start out heading up over the bridge spanning where the Rio Dulce becomes Lago Izabel.  Then you travel around 40 to 80 kph with occasion short stops.  Just short of half way there is a longer break at a hotel, cafeteria with restrooms.  About an hour past that stop you finally begin climbing into the mountains on the same paved but narrow road just like what passes through Fronteras.  There are plenty of places for a bus to roll off the mountain with little in the way of guardrails.  At some point this secondary paved road changes to a modern 4 lane divided highway the rest of the way to The City.  I had chosen a seat in the very front but the very high windshield that would have allowed good viewing was covered by curtain on the upper part to shade the sun for the driver allowing only a veiw ahead of the road a 100 feet ahead at the most.  While it's quite tropical in the Rio Dulce area once underway the terrain became much more arid as you can see in the photos.

The high bridge over the Rio Dulce

Tuesday, March 10, 2015


You hear about how bad the bugs are and that you need to have insect screening on your boat.  During the 12 or so days I was here I don't think I counted more than a dozen mosquitoes?  Maybe it's not the worst bug time of year?  Maybe if your accustom to minnesota mosquitoes they just aren't real thick in comparison?  Anyway it's 5 am now and I had a nice last night and a mosquito around 4 am.  Now I'll rest another hour before getting up.

Last sunset in Rio Dulce at Monkey Bay Marina.

This is actually a few nights back when the moon was full.  The boat is just a random boat anchored in Monkey Bay.  It's a steel hulled gaff rigged schooner with a lot of corrosion.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Another Pizza

Last evening we decided to go try a pizza at the nearby Catamaran Hotel and Marina.  It was better than the pizza at Sundog Cafe I think but still lacked ... It was a medium size pepperoni pizza and I doubt there was even one piece of pepperoni per slice of pizza.. Plenty of goey mozzarella cheese though...too much really.  The Catamaran restaurant was deserted so at first we decided to go check out another little restaurant up a creek in the next bay.  That one was devoid of customers as well so we returned to Catamaran.  We sat at the bar as there were other people though we spoke to no one besides the server.  The owner or manager was right next to me.  I asked about wifi and was surprised that at that Hotel/Marina you have to buy time on it?  Or perhaps actual Marina and hotel guests are giving it free?  Anyway he said I don't recommend it as it's not that great.... I think he didn't want to bother though I doubt he would have felt with selling it.  The bar had a big screen TV and was showing The Voice singing competition show.. First TV experience other than a soccer or rugby game since arriving here.. After The Voice it was Fox News and I moved over to sit on a couch until we finally left.  Pretty right wing crowd at the bar it seemed.  
Now I've just one more night on Asperida before taking the 6 hour bus ride at 8 am tomorrow.   The guide book of a few years back talks about taking the 'chicken bus' to Guatemala City but I've looked at the buses and they are big cushy new Mercedes buses these days.  I'll then stay 3 nights and check out the City a little?  I guess it's near the city center and also near the historic part of the city..  Some here at the Marina said I should have spent a couple days in Antigua instead and I had no real argument other than trying to spend less money.  Also now my focus is on spending 5 days reuniting with a best friend from high school I hadn't seen in about 30 years.  I'll stay with he and his wife until I fly to Duluth March 18.

This was taken days ago when Walter was still shopping around for the Marina to call home.  
It's where we sat and ate our pizza though.

Saturday, March 7, 2015


Just 3 more nights for me.  Then 3 in the City.. It's the 5 days of a reunion visit of a best friend in high school and his wife I'm really looking forward to.  Then I fly to Duluth on March 18, spend one night home then go visit my dear old mom for her 94th Birthday!  It was another rainy day.. Not all,day but off and on with one particularly long and heavy rain in the late morning.  I was over in the big hang out area and stranded there for a couple hours?  The generator was running which is the main reason I. Decided on the alternative hang out.  Mostly the shared mobile hotspot with a 250 MB limit per 24 hours is adequate as long as you don't stream videos etc... And the manager says not for Skype video calls or FaceTime but a Russian guy here is using his 250 MB exclusively on FaceTime I'm guessing as he has a Mac laptop.  During these times loading of websites or even getting emails is slow to non successful.  I'm looking forward to better WiFi at Quetzalroo Hostel.  It's pretty frustrating here as far as Internet access goes
Below is of the heaviest rain taken from the hangout looking at the cluster of 3 sailboats..  You can tell Asperida from the round cockpit canopy and wooden spars.  

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Monkey Bay Marina

It was a calm night and morning so after breakfast we hauled up the anchor and docked stern in using the dinghy to haul a line in for other cruisers on the dock to pull us in.  It's nice to have access to bathrooms and showers and garbage etc.. This marina actually composts and recycles.. The 2 drawbacks to me are the Internet is a shared cellular data plan with a 250 MB daily limit per device.  That's why Walter wanted to get his own plan.  The other is isolation as Tijax was within walkable distance to town.. Here there is no road or even's probably swampy?  It's called Monkey Bay due to the howler monkeys which we heard last night and early this morning...along with the barking dogs at the private places across the small bay.  Also no restaurant which maybe ends up saving you money but I kind of like having one at the marina or to at least be able to walk to one.  Tijax was $40 less per month also.  Right now we are running the generator rather than shore power such is the high cost of electricity here.  Time to put out the other 3 big solar panels now that we finally have put up the 'Shade Tree' cockpit canopy.  It's great.. Now let it rain and the sun beat down!  
Think I'll go take a shower and assume 3:48 pm is not a popular shower time?  There are 2 bathrooms with toilets and 2 showers.  I think we bring the total boats here right now to 5 so maybe 10 people or so here right now.  It's not a very big marina.  

There are Mosquitos and there is that new mosquito borne virus with the severe pain in your joints if you get dengue fever.  I don't think things will be insect screened until I'm gone.  A bunch of screen was bought in the Caymans but it isn't a priority.  In the evening I get pestered by a few mosquitoes and I dread the night but so far the nights are relatively bug free.. Perhaps it's that its raining a lot at night?  By comparison to summer in minnesota the mosquitoes are not really bad but it's been so free of bugs so far the entire time since leaving Beaufort S.C. December 2nd.  As it turns out the 250 mb a day is fine by me.  I think my time will run out befor my mb's?  The manager wanted us to move the boat as our gangplank off the stern was infringing on the dock too much.  So far I've not been able to pick up the wifi from the boats new location.  Oh well.

A few photos of Monkey Bay Marina

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Flooding and anchor drag

Yesterday March 2nd we had the most rain during the night and into the morning.  One of the first things I,saw as I was opening the companionway during a lull in the rain was our closest neighbor waving frantically as we had dragged anchor during the night and were quite clost to his boat.  We hauled up the anchor and moved out somewhat and dropped it again.  We were there quite a while drying things out as the rain finally seemed to have stopped.  There was quite a breeze too.  At one point we went to shore as Walter wanted to see about the cost of a cellular data plan as part of deciding between Tijax Marina or Monkey Bay Marina.  We dinghyed to Bruno's and quickly checked email.,  then some guy yelled who ever has the red dinghy immune saw come from the big black better get out to your boat as you've dragged anchor and your against someone else's boat.  We went out and untangled the mess.. It was the boat of a nice British couple who we've talked too several times.  They have 2 boats here now and have been coming to the Rio for a very long time.  Once free we motored over to Monkey Bay and anchored in the end out of the wind.. I guess the decision was made by default of the anchor drag?  Later we went to town and Walter got his Cellular Data plan and we bought some groceries then returned before dark as it's now about 3/4 of a mile to to town rather than 150 feet when anchored there.

    Asperida anchored just off Brunoes dinghy dock.

   This is from through the pothole of the British couple's boat we dragged into.. 
   The breeze must not have started blowing yet.?

Sunday, March 1, 2015

About the boat I crewed on last winter

I heard mention on VHF the name of a boat I'd met in Isla Murejes while volunteer crewing in the boat I eventually jumped ship from in Punta Allen.  Aparently that captain had a friend he contacted come to help crew for the remainder of the way to Rio Dulce.  Those who followed last winters blog know it was not agoodmatch myself and that captain but I was toughing it out as I really wanted to see Rio Dulce.  It came to ahead just past Punta Allen and I jumped ship.  Well I'd emailed that captain about how the rest of his voyage went but never got a reply.  Sadly he and his friend crew who replaced me ran aground on the reef near the channel into Xcalak to clear out of Mexico.  The 2 of them had to jump off the boat and swim to shore.  Then they were fined $200,000 US for damaging the reef.  Once in prison while trying to arrange legal council the police offered to let them escape if they paid $4,000.  They could only scrounge up $2,000 which was excepted and they fled Mexico for home leaving the boat as a wreck.  I was sorry to hear of this but it made me very glad I jumped ship when I did as that was to be just a 2 days further sailing !!! 

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Rio Dulce Gorge

I've booked my flights home for 3/13.  I'm flying out of Guatemala City on Friday the 13th.  So I've less than 2 weeks here in the Rio Dulce Marina area.  In fact I'll likely take the bus to Guatemala City 2 days early but certainly one.  It depends on what I find as far as hostels near the airport and if I want the extra day in the big city?  I guess it also gives me an extra margin of time for any bus breakdowns.  It's a 6 hour bus ride.  
But this is about the Gorge of the Rio Dulce.  It's impressive especially the first half or so of the 7.5 mile "gorge".  The cruising guide book talks of seeing parrots and hearing howler monkeys but on the drizzly day we went through it was only pelicans, cormorants and egrets.  For those who ever saw any of the old Johnny Wiesmiller Tarzan movies I guess they were filmed here or at least some filming was done in the Rio Dulce gorge.  It makes me want to find some of those old films and watch them again.  I think they were from back in the 1940's?  
There is a lot of boat traffic and at least half is various kinds of tourism.  Some were just shuttling tourist from Fronteras to Livngston or visa versa and some more like guided nature boat tours.  I'm sure some are a day trip with lunch in Livingston and back?  Just guessing as I've not been checking out the tourist brochures.  The other boats were fishermen or local families and while plenty had outboards on the various kinds of boats there were a fair amount if dug out canoes being paddled with Mayan couples or familes.  The dwellings on the shore along the way ranged from simple thatched roof huts with no insect screens or electricity.. To fancy Eco lodges or newer private homes of wealthy Guatemalans that still fit well into the jungle landscape.  It was fortunate the rain held off to just drizzle for the gorge but it rained heavily as we motored down the length of El Golfete.  I mostly stayed in the pilot house monitoring Navionics while Walter stood out in the rain.  Then the sun began to shine just as we reached the Marina area.  We were anchored just off the Bruno's Marina dinghy dock in Fronteras 4 hours after pulling up the anchor in Livingston.  Today (Sunday) we will go look at some more marinas.  Walter is shopping around for the one he will keep Asperida at for potentially a year.
Some photos...

Friday, February 27, 2015

Anchored near Fronteras

We had a nice restful sleep and were underway at 8:45 am to the Marina area of Rio Dulce. It was a 4 hour cruise and while we had hoped for good lighting for photos of the 7.5 mile gorge section it was cloudy then began to drizzle. It still made for interesting photos I think. The steep 300 foot jungle covered limestone gorge is impressive. As we approached the El Golfete section it rained very hard. By the time we reached where we decided to anchor the rain had stopped and some remaining clouds keep it cooler.

Entering the gorge of Rio Dulce

Taken from the Cafe we are having a Pizza. Asperida is lined up with the white boat on the left so hidden somehow?

Also from the Sundog Cafe

Posted with BlogPress on iPhone

Location:Highway 5,Livingston,Guatemala

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Grand Cayman to Rio Dulce

As it turned out we should have cleared out and left on Friday the 20th.  By Saturday morning it was rocking and rolling even though the wind was supposed to be NE.  We went to town with the wind about 12 knots but by the time we got back it was gusting to 22 knots and the waves were too big to deal with the dinghy but we managed.  Although not without damage to the ladder brackets.  It went smoothly to undo our mooring line and we were underway, first raising the missen then letting out a partial genoa.  It took a while but we managed to get the sails balanced for auto pilot.  Early on we were doing 6 knots and it said we would arrive in 3 days and 8 hours but now we are getting about 5 knots.  It's really rough but we are going in the right direction and it's more comfortable than it was on the mooring.  It's about 12:30 am and we left the mooring about 12 hours ago.  I'm on the 12 to 4 am shift and we switch for tomorrow.  
It's February 22nd and my 61st birthday.  Last year I had just jumped ship in Punta Allen, Mexico with $4 US worth of pesos.  I spent my birthday with Norma who was traveling in a VW Westfalia van parked under some palm trees on the beach.  I also met a young coulple from the UK and found the little resort where they were staying took credit cards!  Now a year later I'm actually going to see Rio Dulce.  I wonder if I'll run into Larry?  I jumped ship crewing for him from Florida to Rio Dulce but ...... We didn't get along. 
The wind is supposed to let up about mid day so maybe another 12 hours.  Hopefully it won't drop to nothing as it sure would be nice to get there in 5 days rather than 7.   
It's midday Sunday and the wind is down to 11 to 14 knots.  We are sailing just over 4 knots now.  The remainder at this speed would take 3 days 15 hours.  It's light winds in the forecast and slow going.  It seems it's going to end up being at least 4 more days unless we get luckier with the wind or motor if need be.  The remaining issue with the engine is fuel somehow getting added to the crankcase oil?  He switched a pump while on the mooring but until we use the engine we won't know if that solved it?  It's still rough but the seas are dropping too.  Wind in the single digits by Wednesday.   Too bad we can't have a south or north wind and be on a reach.  We've been on a broad reach with missen and most if the genoa but our course is further south than direct to Rio Dulce so we will have to jibe eventually.  
As it turned out we are now on a course that's ideal.  The wind dropped but it's still good and we are doing just under 5 knots.  It sounds like the next 2 days will be about 14 knots but Wednesday the wind dies down to 5 or less knots.

First sunset

First sunrise 
It's just past 12:30 pm on Monday the 23rd.  We've now been underway 48 hours with 266 NM remaining to Rio Dulce though the mouth of the River is about 20 NM less than that.  Our first 24 hour period we did 114 NM and the second one was 117 NM so 234 NM total which means in not too much longer we will be half way to the river mouth where the entry port town of Livingston is.  About 8 am the wind went from east to northeast so we unfortunately are heading southerly more than our preferred course.  We will have to jibe before we get too close to the Honduran bay islands.  That tack will undoubtedly have us heading even more north of our course than the southerly tack we are now on.  Grib files were forecasting east winds. At least we have wind.  It's supposed to drop to 5 knots or less Wednesday but potentially from the SE which might allow us to actually slowly sail on course?  
It's been just over 72 hours now and while we only did 86 NM during the 3rd 24 hour day it leaves 180 NM or 160 NM to where we will anchor to clear in at Livingston.  At the 72 hour mark it was also just 127 NM to the south end of Belize's barrier reef at the Sapodilla Cayes which we had to plot the course a hair south to clear them.  Then we enter an area that doesn't often have very much wind on the Grib files?  
It's interesting that we've seen only 3 other boats at night and none during the day so far.  The first night Walter called one on the radio because he was heading right for Asperida.  He was able to call the boat by name and reference the call was from Asperida.  He altered course promptly but gave no reply.  That was during the 8 pm to midnight shift and when I came up he pointed out another ship that seemed to be going slow for a freighter.  I ended up altering course to pass behind that one when it was evident he wasn't going to give me any sort of right of way.  Then last night at the  start of my night shift Walter pointed out a boat a long was off and a long time later it was on the AIS and called Gulden Heeuw it looked like it was a big tall ship and it had upper and lower running lights and the ever popular blue lights that confuse the issue of green light on starboard side... For a while we thought it was coming right at us even on an intercept course but finally as it was closer you could see the port running lights and that the confusing lights were in fact blue.  Also we could see it's course and speed and it even briefly altered it so as not to pass behind us as close as it might have.  We were doing 3 knots and it was going 5 knots.  As it passed off our stern it was about 3.35 NM away.  
Wow I missed writing yesterday?  It was a slow day and our fourth day 24 hour total was only 76 hours.  It's now about 1 pm on the start of the 5th day.  We are currently becalmed as of about 12:15 pm.  It was just as the Grib files said and it also said it would only last about 3 or 4 hours then start blowing again eventually 12 knots from the east so hopefully that Grib file forecast will also be true.  Even with the slow 2 day totals following the first 2 days each over 100 NM it still appears we will end up getting to the mouth of the Rio Dulce a few hours into the start of the 6th day.  That is if the wind does comeback like it says.  I asked about just motoring a few hours but he says it's too far but I only mentioned it because we did motor a 4 hour very calm part of the Passage to the Cayman Islands...which took is 5 days 9 hours!!! Not a good total for a 310 NM passage.  I think this 477 mile passage to the port town Livingston will beat that.  I'm in the only shade big enough that's from the missen.  We rolled up the genoa until we get wind.  I'll definitely have a cockpit Bimini on my future sailboat.  Last night we had a couple ships though only one on my shift.  Just lights in the distance and it's name on AIS was Norwegian Sun.
After about 4 hours of calm the wind finally began to blow around 4:15 pm and we were sailing again.  Slowly at first barely more than 1 knot but as the evening went on we were doing 4 knots or so by sunset.  Had we been able to sail those 4 hours we'd be 12 to 16 NMs closer.  It still looks like if the wind holds through the night and on we will arrive to Livingston in the first 4 or 5 hours of the 6th 24 hour day.  We need it to be daylight and ideally cross the bar at the mouth at high tide which is about 1:45 pm I believe.
Huh! Well after the 4 hour calm at the beginning of day 5 we ended up with the mild east wind becoming a strong SE wind perhaps a catabolic wind off the mountains of Honduras?  It was early into Walters 8 pm to midnight shift and he called me up around 10 pm to roll in some genoa but the wind was 20 to 25 knots and we could not.  Auto pilot was working fine so we called it good.  The main concern was trashing the Genoa which already has some damage on about 6 feet of the mid leach area.  I went back to try sleeping and by the start of my midnight shift the winds were down to the 15 to 18 knot range and continued dropping.  Walter said at times Asperida was clocking speeds of 8 knots when the wind was strongest with just the missen and genoa.  By 1:15 am the we were only going 3 or 4 knots.  Then we got becalmed again about 8 NM before reaching the waypoint south of the Belize barrier reef.  We drifted almost 2 NM closer to our way point and the reef during the rest of my frustrating shift.  At the start of Walters 4 am to 8 am after seeing we'd not really moved much it was time to use the engine.  The total remaining distance to Livingston was 40 NM.  I slept again getting up once to do the day tank and then got up in time for the sunrise.  Checking out navionics I saw we would indeed be getting to Livingston today!!  In fact as I write this section we are at anchor about 10 NM from the crossing of the bar at the mouth.  We are waiting to cross during the high tide.  We anchored here to wait about 8:30 am of the 5th 24 hour day which doesn't actually end until 12:30 pm so I guess we can say we could have arrived to Livingston under 5 total days but it will be a few minutes over the 5 day mark by the time we are anchored at Livingston.  (In fact we anchored off Livingston at 1:56 pm so our total time was 5 days, 26 minutes.  Now hopefully we will be cleared in today so we can go ashore in Livingston and maybe I'll even find wifi to upload this ?

Sunrise behind us on our 5th day approaching Guatemala.

Livingston, Guatemala.  Waiting for the officials to come to the boat to clear us in so we can go ashore.  

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Cold front comes through

GYesterday, Wednesday, it was the start of our second full day of south winds and good sized breakers on the reef.  Before my trip to shore on Tuesday I watched all morning to see how they were breaking and where I'd want to approach the gap in the reef.  It's right where the cruise ship passenger shuttle boats dock on a single concrete pier.  A red buoy marks the right side but it's well inside the reef so it doesn't really mark the gap on the outside.  The waves were intimidating on my approach so I used caution and stayed well out until I saw the gap straight in line with the pier and went in successfully with waves on either side breaking on the reef as I rode in on a wave that didn't break due to the deeper water.  The waves yesterday when Walter went ashore might have been even bigger than Tuesday but mostly it was that they came even more from the south not SSE like Tuesday.  He set out and I was surprised he was on a direct line toward the gap rather than staying well off the reef until in line with the gap, then heading straight in.. I watched with concern hoping no big sets would roll through.  Then I saw that he was not going to be so lucky and he was hit by a big breaker I suppose 50 to 100 feet before reaching the gap. I thought for sure he had been flipped as he disappeared behind the breaker and was quite relieved when I saw the dinghy finally reappear right side up with him still in it once past the reef on the calmer water inside.  He had been hit and tossed to the floor and surfed right over the reef all without hitting any coral with the outboard..  He was of course soaked but his tablet was ok being in both a semi water resistant case and his daypack.  I was glad when I saw him get back up on the side tube and continue motoring toward the dock at the public beach.  He was greeted by folks at the beach saying awesome surf dude or something along those lines.  
I credit my years of whitewater kayaking and sea kayaking and facing similar paddling through gaps in reef or avoiding breakers in general gave me a better appreciation of why you do not want to take short cuts to a gap in the reef?  Anyway it was a relief that the dinghy was not flipped!

As Walter was on shore I did laundry in the sink in a bucket.. I washed in seawater then rinsed in sea water than rinsed a couple more times in fresh water.  During this process I'd noticed 3 sailboats heading this way from the George Town direction.  As I went out to hang my laundry I noticed the wind had picked up to 12 knots from the west so Asperida was now beam to the waves of the 2 days of south winds and was rocking and rolling.  The 3 sailboats were hoping for the 3 port authority moorings here at Spotts Bay but were out of luck and one had to anchor.  Then later the small 'Pirate' tall ship circled around the already moored sailboats.  It's a boat that is listed in tourist brochures doing group and family tours with the crew dressed as pirates.. sword fighting on deck, shooting off the cannon, snorkel stop etc.  It was called 'Pirates of the Cayman Islands'.  I'm not sure of the boats name but it too was out of luck and continued east around the point where it likely knows of other moorings or good anchoring.  Then a while after it got dark a sailing trimaran came right toward us as if they could not see our anchor light?  Walter turned on our bright spot light and they altered course and tied to a makeshift private mooring right next to us.  The wind had done just as the grib files predicted.  During the night the light south wind clocked west then north and about 4 am was howling in the rigging at 20 to 25 knots and the southerly seas were somewhat flattened.  It was the most restful few hours toward morning compared to the last 2 nights of noise and rocking and rolling all the while just 150' upwind of a coral reef.  Going up on deck in the morning, we also have 2 tugs towing barges out aways just heading back and forth avoiding the unprotected George Town area until the wind slacks off.  Also a huge private mega Yacht anchored just beyond the 3 sailboats, 4 counting the catamaran on the private mooring right next to us.  Another small cruising sailboat is anchored or moored far to the west of us and out from it quite a ways was a huge, huge, huge tall ship.  It later came by fairly close to us perhaps looking for a better place to anchor or perhaps they have what the cruise ships have.. Where the boat stays as if docked using thrusters and GPS?  It was that big.. 

The 3 sailboats.  The closest one at anchor plus the Pirate Ship circling around before continuing east.

In this morning photo you can see the 3 sailboats who arrived together and the Red Sail Sports catamaran plus not so easy to see the huge tall ship in the distance...furthest to the left.  You can also see the mega power yacht and theres a 6th sailboat you can't really see in the photo.  

Even with 20 to 25 knots it's pretty flat and much more relaxing though so far quite cold out on deck.. At least in shorts and a T-shirt.  We've just been reading and listening to Cayman Islands radio station.

The big tall ship I mentioned even unloaded a few tenders and shuttled passengers to shore.  It's now left the area but I'm sure remains on the south side of the island.... Or not as the wind has dropped?

Ok the grib files have proven inaccurate for today Friday the wind is around 15 knots and a lot more from the east like ENE?  The grib files had the wind still 20 to 25 knots eventually from the NE by Saturday.  Anyway Walter decided to go ashore for email and hopefully also a grib file update.. Plus dinner for tonight.  
We plan to both go to George Town tomorrow, Saturday morning to clear out of the Caymans.  I guess if you do it before noon on Saturday there is no overtime fee.  Then we will set out but we might wait until morning.. Sunday the 22nd which is also my 61st birthday.  I really had assumed and hoped we'd be in Rio Dulce by now for my birthday.  Now I'm hoping we can at least do the passage in 7 days at most! It's about 497 NM all the way into the Marina area from the Cayman Islands.  That's about 570 statute miles!! 
A cruise ship came here this morning and has been shuttling passengers back and forth.  It's quite cold out and time in the cockpit is brief.  The sun has tried to break through the clouds so an improvement over yesterday which was completely overcast.  I have a feeling we might start to see some sun tomorrow and hopefully it will not be a cold start to our passage to Guatemala.
Walter returned and I guess it was 40 degrees in Miami?  the low I'm assuming.  Cold all up the east coast.  Often that can mean warmer than usual back in Minnesota?