Tuesday, December 31, 2013

It's a wrap 2013 in a nutshell or more appropriately hermit crab shell

Our 2013 cruising season on board SVAquadesiac began in February at Bocas Del Toro, Panama where we provisioned SVAquadesiac in a marina on an island once walked upon by Christopher Columbus! Our cruising plan was to make our way to the Rio Dulce, Guatemala by June 2013, the start of hurricane season.  The voyage to the Rio Dulce was interesting as we plotted courses to islands in the Caribbean we had never heard of.   The islands of San Andrés and Isla de Providencia both considered Hawaiian island type gems of Columbia, were our first two stops.  San Andrés promotes modern day tourism and trade while Isla de Providencia was the home away from home of Captain Morgan!  Both were pretty unexpectedly amazing islands to visit.

On March 31, 2013 we arrived at our next stop Islas de la Bahía Roatán & Cayos Cochinos.  Here we joined up with fellow cruisers we had first met in Mexico and enjoyed exceptional diving, snorkeling and exploring.  Our friends love the island so much they started a business there called http://www.zeppelindiveandsail.com and now call it home.

We welcomed several friends on board for a vacation away from it all!... be careful what you wish for… The cruising life is not all cocktails and sunsets. We were very grateful for all the spare parts they brought to fix our autopilot or “Auto” for short.  We spent a lot of time at a resort called Fantasy Island, yes, just like in the old TV show.  It is complete with a plane wreck in the lagoon.  We went to the trendy West End, old island haunts such as “Hole in the wall”, probably not in your Lonely Planet guide and Cayos Cochinos where we had lunch served to us on a tiny speck of an island called Chachauate by a Garifuna fisherman who is name Fausto.  Yes, he wrote it in the sand for me.  No reservation required. 

Towards the end of May on a full moon, we set sail for the Rio Dulce, Guatemala.  We entered the Rio Dulce following a catamaran and watching our depth sounder instead of the scenery.  We inched our way over the sand bar into the Rio with only inches of water under the keel to spare.  This was Tarzan country, jungle for as far as you can see. The town, Livingston, is only accessible by boat. We were greeted by an unusual contingent of officials all looking for a cold beverage in return for stamps in our passports and cruising documents.  Our goal was to head up river and locate the marina where we had made reservations to keep the SVAquadesiac for the coming hurricane season.  The water under our keel was now an emerald green, gone was the blue water of the Caribbean.  I kept a sharp look out for canoes, crocodiles, manatees, submerged pilings and of course Tarzan, just in case.  I had read somewhere that the Rio Dulce can swallow a gringo.  I believe this to be true.

We returned home to Napa in June.  Doug picked up some more contract work to refill the cruising kitty, I still work at doing nothing all day, wink. 

In December we celebrated the 1st birthday of our granddaughter Summer Lynn Simms. Oh so cute!  Her folks Dillon and Megan are pretty special as well.

We started 2014 with a wedding!  Gregg and Courtney were married in beautiful, sun drenched Carpinteria, California on January 4, 2014.  So as you can see our family continues to grow and we could not be happier!

Monday, May 27, 2013

What was I thinking? Semuc Champey Guatemala

Well we did it!  Holy smokes!  I still can't believe they were advertising for this tour at a cruisers swap meet in the Rio Dulce, Guatemala.  Did they really think these Gente del mar people could actually survive a trip to semuc Champey !  The trip is not for the faint of heart.  It starts with the bus trip there.  Our shuttle bus was 2 hours late... They bought us a beer while we waited. So no problemo.
The road to Linquin was crazy!  At one point we had to get out of the shuttle bus and walk because the road was flooded.  We walked about 100 yards in knee deep water.  The road there is mostly dirt/rock/ruts.  When the driver came upon another washed out section he just floored it and we were almost swept away into a fence.  I was in the front seat so it was very exciting.  With all our delays we arrived in Linquin after dark and was met by yet another driver this time in a truck with only one open seat inside the cab.  Doug got the short straw and had to climb in the back and ride for 45 min up/down a rocky, rutted road while trying to sit on a 2x6.  We arrived at the hostel and they turned on the generator just so we could get to our room.  We stayed at El Portal right at the park entrance.

Our room was nice enough and we were certainly tired enough that I did not notice the termites eating our headboard until the second night!  Nice place, they had good food and nice wine in a bottle for sale.  No ice!

We had a hearty breakfast of pancakes and yoghurt with fruit then headed out on the first part of the tour.  This was billed as a 40 min hike.  What they did not mention is that it was literally straight up!  It took me an hour to get to the "mirador" and I was drenched!  The view was very pretty indeed, but ug!
Next we hiked straight down, I had to go down some of the stairs like a ladder it was that steep and slippery.

One of the points in the brochure says "12:30 - Viewing the largest waterfall where the river leaves the tunnel". What they don't say it first you walk across the river on the limestone bridge then descend down the waterfall on a rope ladder and enter the cave that has ragging water coming from all directions!  I was so scared I could hardly move.  The guide says come here Linda and look at this... I did not move, I was still trying to figure out how I was going to get back up the rope ladder without falling to my death.  I managed but I was terrified.

As we walked back down to the park entrance a snake crossed our path.  It went right over the guides foot.  I got a good picture of it. Yes it was poisonous.

After lunch we ventured up to the k' an-ba caves.  Again the brochure says visit the cave, no details.
Enter at your own risk, do not enter without a guide.  The brochure shows people walking wearing swim suits and holding a candle.  What the don't tell you is that this is full on spelunking in your swim suit while holding a candle in one hand and trying to swim with the other.  We ventured 1.6 km back into the abyss.  At least half of the cave time was spent swimming.  The water was also ragging in several areas.  It was way more then I bargained for.  There was also a cave waterfall we had to either climb a rope or take a ladder up and over.  The ladder was of course on the opposite side from the rope. It was so dangerous it makes me shake just thinking about it.  When the guide offered to help me cross under the waterfall I guess I imagined more of a bear hug approach of helping me, instead he grabbed my boobs and held on as we swung through the water fall. Well it did take my mind off of how petrified I was.  I just took on a little water as I gasped.   At the top I did not even consider jumping into the deep pool from a great height.  The guide jumped into the pool, disappeared for a long time and then I noticed he was standing behind the group who were gazing into the deep pool all wondering what the fuck we were going to do now.  Yes, it was funny but that was the second time he had pulled our chain, so to speak. The first time he took all our candles and disappear ahead of us to light the way to the waterfall.  he was gone just a little bit too long.  Doug took the water slide near the exit and I took the ladder.  I was pretty happy to see day light sense my candle was down to 1/4 inch.

We opted out on the tubing down the ragging river.  Instead we went back and put on dry clothes and watched the rest of the group fly by on their tubes.  It started to rain as they got to the end of the tube ride and they had to walk back up the road to the hostel carrying their tubes in a downpour.  It was fun and terrifying and extremely dangerous.  Doug and I are too old for these extreme adventures.  There is NO safety backup anywhere.  It was one guide to 8 people.  No life jackets, no climbing ropes or harnesses.

Monday, April 8, 2013

You have come a long way baby!

Where to start.... it has been over a year since I lasted posted to the blog.  I have oodles of reasons why, but why start there.  Where in the hell are we now?

Fantasy Island!
Roatan, Honduras (The Bay Islands)
We arrived here on March 31, 2013! Easter Sunday.
Hard to believe we have been here for over 10 days now. We came into the west end of the island due to the weather that was forecast- really high winds. The island acts as a wind break to the anchorage and there is no fetch there.  I had phoned ahead to make contact with a friend we had ,Wayne & Ely on board SVZeppelin, in the anchorage because it was apparent it was going to be dark when we reached our way point.  Without fail he answered his phone and said keep on heading to the way point and he would meet us there, in the dark, in his small dive boat.  It was with great relief when I saw his running lights, even though they looked very small and dim.  He took us between the reef and over to the mooring field.  He had a mooring all set up for us.  After over 52 hours of hand steering (Broken Auto Pilot) from Isla Provindencia Columbia we thanked Wayne and went to bed!

The next morning we started off with Wayne and Elly in their SUV and accomplished everything on our list in a matter of hours.  Normally it takes days because we don't know where things are and have to rely on taxi or buses.  By 3:00 in the afternoon we were actually ready for company!  It was pretty amazing.

That night I was feeling a bit bedraggled so I went to be early, about 8:00 pm.  Doug wasn't far behind.  At 11:00 we heard a really loud BAM, not a good noise.  It was a noise that actually got Doug out of bed first.  Our mooring line had snapped in the wind, Chaffed.  We had put our line through the mooring line eye, then attached to the boat.  It just could not take the boat motion.  We found ourselves up against the reef, a noise not good to hear.  I heard Doug start the engine so I grabbed our glasses, and started turning on instruments and nav lights.  Doug seemed to have a much better idea of where we were in the mooring field so he stayed at the helm and I went forward and dropped the anchor.  It held on the first try, nice!  I looked around and realized we were both butt naked running around the boat, what just happened?  Having just a little bit of adrenaline I sat in the cockpit for another half hour on anchor watch.  I finally went back to bed only to hear the sound of voices and a anchor being let down.  So I was up in the cockpit again seeing what was going on.  Apparently another boat had also come loose from their mooring.  And yes, they were also butt naked running around top side.  In the morning we picked up another mooring using only the mooring line attached to the boat, which is what we really wanted to do the first time.

The next day, Wayne drove us to the airport to pick up Dave and Julia which was really nice of him.   It was great to see Dave and Julia !

They brought us lots of boat parts and most importantly spare parts and tools to fix the auto pilot.  The new parts were metal instead of plastic, this was a good sign. Dave and Doug installed the new parts and they work like a charm.  We stayed in the West end for several days as the weather was blustery.  It was an opportunity to explore the west end.  By Thursday the weather was forecast to lye down so we headed out to a place called Cayos Cochinos or hog island.  Here we finally got in the water to snorkel, it was beautiful.  Very clear, not too murky.  There was a westerly swell that was not forecast and bothersome.  We went over to the Turtle Cay Resort and had a rum drink and checked out a very green spotted eel that lives under a stone wall.

We had dinner on the boat and enjoyed the breeze in the cockpit.  I was awakened at 3:00 am by the sound of a plastic bag fluttering around the cockpit. It wasn't just a little breeze any longer.  I had towels and swimming suits laying on the lines so I got up to check on things. Our dingy was still in the water attached only by its small painter line.  I decided it was more work then I was awake to do on my own so I rousted el captain.   We doused the wind scoop, brought anything in that wasn't attached and hoisted the dinghy.  I stayed up and watched as a lighting storm passed.  There were 3 other sailboats moored in the harbor but no one had proper mast lights glowing.  I could only see the boats when the lightning flashed.  Very eery.  I was wondering if I was the only one awake.

The next morning I awoke to find Julia awake, well sort of, in the salon.  We had a good laugh at the state of things including our hair.  Morning are always fun.  It's a time to rehash the events of the prior day or evening.  She rises very early in the morning and when I looked at my watch 615am I knew she should be up.  The weather had not calmed, in fact it had gotten worse and we were now squarely on a lee shore in bad weather.  We managed to boil some water for tea and went up to the cockpit.  Dave poked his head up only to be told if he wanted coffee he was on his own.  Dave managed in a galley he hasn't seen in years to ascend the companion way with a steaming hot cup of coffee.  He had barely placed his second foot on the soul of the cockpit when we heard the familiar BAM of our mooring line snap. Luckily the four of us have lots of experience being on boats together both in good and bad situations.  This was bad.  The dinghy was still hanging off the halyard full of all our snorkel gear.  The wind was howling and we were very close to shore.  All we could do at first was small circles until we came up with a plan of action.  Doug popped up and wanted to lower the dinghy into the galloping sea, but first we needed to get our gear out.  Dave at the helm, Doug precariously hanging in the dinghy and Julia and I tossing everything we could grab on board below decks.  We lowered Doug then had to find the towing harness to attach it to the stern.  Doug was truly riding the bull that morning.  We had Wayne and Elly on the radio asking what in the world?  They were wondering if they could help.  We had decided already we were just going to tow the dinghy and leave, not try to reconnect to a mooring.  I was able to hold the boat straight into the wind, off the rocks while Dave attached the towing line and Doug scampered aboard.  Another act in the Simms family circus!  Julia descended the companionway to tame the gorilla who had tossed the entire contents below decks.  Nothing was in its place, yes contents may shift was an understatement.  As soon as both Doug and Dave were at the helm and making course decisions on how to exit over the reef I ducked down below and found solace gripping my pillow.

Our course was decided, Fantasy Island.  It's been a working harbor for hundreds of years yet there are mere floats marking the entrance and reef.  Mind boggling.   The sail over was rough but everything was fine so all was well.  We called to the harbor master and he responded and gave us a location for a side tie.  Not just a straight forward side tie.  Between his boat and a 63 foot Cheoy Lee motor-sailor.  So it was once again all hands on deck with fenders and lines.  We managed to thread the needle, within inches, and glide up to the dock. Whew!

We were met by Jerry, a long time cruiser himself.  He was the dock master here at fantasy island.  We were checked in and given the grand tour of the resort.  Being at the dock meant we had all the privileges of being at the resort.  There was lots of places to snorkel.  Wrecks, planes, walls to dive. Lobsters to look at in the anchorage a reef just outside.  Monkeys, iguanas, no see ums.  This place has it all.  For the next two days we snorkeled and ventured all around in the dinghy. We even saw the Roatan yacht club being fully renovated. We also got invited over to a private island, which as long as the cruise ships are not in is really quite amazing.  Seems they also invite everyone from the cruise ship over as well when they are in port.  Every one needs to make a living.

Dave and Julia left on Sunday and we spent all day on Monday exploring the island by car on dirt roads.  I wished they could have stayed and explored with us.

The island is beautiful and the diving and snorkeling really amazing, the best I have ever seen.
Looks like we might be here until middle of May waiting on our new inverter to arrive via slow boat from Florida.
After that we are off to the Rio Dulce in Guatemala to put the boat up on the hard for the season.