Tuesday, December 6, 2016

From the RIO to the USA: Happy Holidays

Murray adjusting to
Vermont in December

We have left the warmth of the Rio Dulce for the chill of Vermont.  While Atalanta is on the hard for her “make-over” we are in Colchester to celebrate the holidays with family and friends. Richard stepped off the plane in Burlington wearing shorts. He traded those for long pants the next day and one day later it snowed and he needed to add boots to his wardrobe. Murray wasn’t all that excited about being in the  snow. However, it’s lovely coming back to such a beautiful place and to have a home here we can call our own. 

Preparing Atalanta for paint
RAM Marina in Guatemala offers a rare opportunity to have high quality work done at a cost significantly less than in the USA.  Atalanta has not been repainted (Awlgrip) since 1989 so she will have Stars and Stripes blue reapplied to her hull and off-white on the cockpit  and coachtop.  Much time consuming preparation is involved including sanding, scraping, repairing fiberglass, and refairing so it is a 6-week job. 

Rio Dulce
We left the Rio Dulce as crew on our good friends’ Moody 47, Argosea.  After completing the checkout process in Livingston, we made a two-day/one-night passage north to Cay Caulker, Belize where we waited for the strong northerlies to abate. Then it was off to Cozumel for a couple of nights followed by a kickass sail across the Yucatan Channel to Puerto Morelos.  We settled Argosea into her slip at Marina El Cid where she will stay while Tony and Anne are home for the holidays in Great Britain.  Our thanks to Anne and Tony for a safe passage, delicious meals, and good company.

Puerto Morelos is home to a small restaurant, Tacos.com which we believe serves the finest tacos in the world and we managed to get to eat there 3 times.  We also had fresh ceviche on the beach and margaritas made with lots of fresh lime juice. This is not the place for us to stay if we want to lose weight!

We return to Guatemala on December 30 and will need several days to put the boat back together and shop for provisions. Then we anticipate sailing north to Isla Mujeres, Mexico, the Dry Tortugas, Key West and the Exumas.  We will arrive in Charleston, SC by April 15 and then Atalanta will find her way back to her old mooring in Bristol RI.  We will spend the summer in Vermont, sailing in New England waters, and planning our next adventure.

We wish you the happiest of holidays and hope the spirit of the season fills you with joy.

Richard and Kay

More Pics

Our First Snow in a Long Time
RAM's Paint Shed
Soon to be Atalanta's Home
The Crew Moves Atalanta
Main Street in Rio Dulce
(AKA Fronteras)

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Life on the Rio Dulce Continues

We are back in Rio Dulce, Guatemala.  After a wonderful, hectic visit to the USA we are now aboard Atalanta.  While in Vermont we wed and bought a house in Colchester all within 5 days.  As homeowners and boat owners we will begin to discover a new rhythm to balancing our lives on sea and on land.

The Guatemala we are discovering is a country of contradictions.  It is rich in agriculture with farms and ranches spanning from the Atlantic to Pacific shores.  It is a country of great physical beauty with volcanoes, rainforests and lakes and varied wildlife. It has a rich Mayan culture and kind people.  On the other hand, there is a history of prejudice, crime, and corruption plaguing Central American countries that have struggled with occupation, revolution and the economic overreach of the United States. Nevertheless, we are in Rio Dulce, safe and sound.  Surrounded by many other seafarers, we hide from the Atlantic storms in this idyllic setting 30 miles up the river and we empathize with those currently in the path of Hurricanes Matthew and Nicole.

While rich in resources, Guatemala remains a poor country. Provisioning is a weekly activity for us and we find certain items (like beef and fish) difficult to obtain. Chicken and fresh fruits & veggies are available based upon what is in season locally and what is imported.  We were here during peak season for mango, watermelon, pineapple, and bananas. Currently, rambutan is plentiful.  Restaurants offer simply prepared grilled or fried meat with a side dish.  Rice, beans and tortillas are always on the menu. We buy 20 hot, freshly made-while-we-wait, hot tortillas on the street for under $2 USD. Gallo is the local beer, wine is fairly expensive, and fresh fruit shakes are popular beverages.

Kay is an avid admirer of the traditional clothing (traje) worn by many indigenous Guatemalans especially in the rural highlands. Traje’s intricately woven thread, beautiful colors and detailed craftsmanship create a work of art.  However, the clothes also tell stories of identity, geography and cultural preservation.  Each community can be identified by the patterns, colors, and style of embroidery used. Traje should be worn in its entirety: blouse (huipil), sash (faja), shawl (rebozo), skirt (corte) and hair wrap (cinta).  For men: overshirt (capixay), shirt (camisa), belt (cinturon), pants (pantalon) and sombrero. When entirely handmade, a single piece can take months to complete from spinning cotton into thread, dying it, weaving on a backstrap loom, and then embroidering. A complete traje can cost $250 USD – a small fortune! I have been shopping in pacas, aka second-hand shops and acquired a beautiful beaded sash.

Boat services here tend to be high quality and relatively inexpensive.  Docking fees are reasonable although electricity is very expensive. The RAM boat yard provides repair service at a rate of $25.00 USD/hour. We often paid $100.00/hour in the United States.  Consequently, we have decided to have Atalanta’s hull repainted in November-December, a 6-week job. This will extend our stay in Guatemala to almost 6 months. 

Next week we hop on a bus to Flores and visit the ruins at Tikal for 4 days.  Thanks for following.

Richard and Kay

More Pics

Life is Good

A visit to Bread and Puppet
While in Vermont

Kay takes a side trip to Charleston
to visit our Grandson

Reprovisioning in the Markets of
Fronteras, Guatemala

Hanging by the Chicken Bus

and Yes Kay Eats It

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Back in the USA (temporarily!)

Out for a ride in Paul's
1953 MG TD MkII

It has been almost two months since our last posting.  This has been in part because we haven’t moved from the Rio Dulce due to hurricane season and because we have been visiting the States for two months.

Kay and Richard with Tara and Caitlin
On July 25th, we took a five-hour cab ride to the airport in Guatemala City and began what became a two day-trip via plane to New York.  Our goal was to visit family, attend to medical appointments, house hunt (for the transition back to part time life on land next year) and visit friends.
Thanks to the friendship of Paul, we have been able to stay in Westford for the past two month. 

During our time here we found a new house to make a home, decided to tie the knot, and much more.  On September 13th we expect to close on a new house in Malletts Bay, Vermont.  It is a lovely home near the lake and includes beach rights and a mooring.  Water will continue to be central to our lives, even when we are in Vermont.

St. Patricks
Bread and Puppet
Glover, VT
Five days after moving into our new home, we will wed.  The wedding will be officiated by our good friend and (temp) justice of the peace, Paul.  It is going to be a small affair with our family.  After many years of loving each other we have decided to make it official.  Funny how after all these years, we are both so excited to be getting married. 

Soon after we wed on September 17th, we will be preparing to return to Guatemala.  I guess we should call it our honeymoon.  We will haul the boat, paint the bottom, and get her ready to continue the journey to points unknown.

Our vision for the next year is to sail to Honduras’s Roatan Island and to spend November there.  From there we will sail north to the Caymans where we hope to enjoy the holidays.  As the new-year approaches, we hope to see Cuba, Jamaica, and the Bahamas before returning to the states for a month in Charleston, SC.  We will summer with the boat in New England (Bristol) and spend much of our time in Vermont enjoying our new home.  We hope friends and family will find time to join us for this last leg of our four year journey.

As the fall 2017 winds begin to blow, we will once again board Atalanta for southern waters.  Our plan is to never be cold again.  Time will tell.

So that’s the update from Vermont.  Thanks for following

Richard and Kay

More Pics

Caitlin and Kay
Monkton, VT

Chad and Tara

Bread and Puppet

Dinner at Pauls

Monday, July 4, 2016

Hurricane Season: The Rio Dulce, Guatemala

From June to November sailors pay close attention to the development of tropical depressions forming in the Atlantic.  Many storms begin off the coast of Africa, move in an arc across the Atlantic, and enter the Caribbean above the 10th parallel.  Sailors have two choices:  either drop below the 10th parallel or go inland to escape the full force of these weather systems.

This year we brought Atalanta up the Rio Dulce (Sweet River) in Guatemala to Nana Juana Marina. We are 25 miles from the Gulf of Guatemala and the open waters of the Atlantic.  With over a half dozen small marinas nearby, we are meeting lots of other cruisers who chose to spend the next 4-5 months here. 

Guatemala is a beautiful country with a rich Mayan history.   It also has been the subject of US intervention much of which was on behalf of the United Fruit Company.  It is this part of the Guatemalan history that we are finding has relevance to the current political situation and Central America’s relationship with the USA.

Market Stan,  Fronteras
Our journey into Guatemala began with a brief passage from the Gulf of Guatemala to Livingston at the mouth of the Rio Dulce.  After engaging the services of Raul to check us in, we left Livingston and headed up river. This passage was just spectacular with steep canyon walls, dense green forest, and white herons sunning on mangroves.  As we motored up river, the depth varied from 10’-80’ and unlike most rivers, the deeper waters were on the outside of the bends.  After motoring about 15 miles, we inched into an inner bay off the river and dropped the anchor with 4-5 other boats and settled in for a quiet evening. The next morning we continued the last 15 miles to our final destination at Nana Juana Marina in the town of Rio Dulce (formerly known as Fronteras).

The “rainy season” in this tropical zone began about a month late this year but by the third week in June it arrived in full force.  Almost every day the temperature reaches about 89º (“feels like” 110º).  Around 5:00 in the evening we watch storm clouds building over the mountains and hear thunder rumbling in the distance.  That’s our warning to run to the boat and close the hatches because soon the rain will pour down in sheets. It is not unusual to have 4-5” of rain and Atalanta is rising higher and higher above the dock as the water level in the river climbs.

We have been in the Rio Dulce for two weeks but already are familiar with many of its routines and activities.  We are getting acquainted with fellow residents.  When significant numbers of people on boats congregate for long periods of time, a community develops and activities are organized and shared. Pizza & movie nights, International Trivia Contests, potluck dinners, and Mexican Train dominos are examples. Last night we visited a lovely palapa at Tortugal.

Yesterday we took a 30-mile bus ride to the town of Morales.  We climbed into a 12-passenger van (called colectivos and operate sort of like a taxi) and in no time the driver had picked up a total of 19 adults, 1 child, and a large birthday cake.  It was crowded and hot.  The 45-minute ride cost $12 quetzels per person or about $ 1.70 US dollars each way.  The bus driver was constantly switching lanes to dodge hundreds of potholes and never once stopped talking and/or texting on his cell phone. It was quite an experience! Pineapples are in season here and so are lots of other fruits and vegetables we can buy at street markets like this.

Next week we head inland to Lake Atitlan for a week of Spanish lessons.  Our minimal amount of  “gringo Spanish” is embarrassing so we hope to make some degree improvement. Then it will be time to fly back to the USA to visit our much-missed family in VT, NY, and SC.  Late September will bring us back to Atalanta for continued travels.  Guatemala marks our southern most point for this journey since we will be sailing north toward New England by spring 2017.   

Adios and thanks for following.

Richard and Kay

More Pics

Home Marina


Cover up to keep the UV rays
off Atalanta

Local Bar and Restaurant

Rio Dulce
Main Street

Downtown Morales

Pot Luck on Shore

Guatemala Cattle
off to Market

Water Taxi
Rio Dulce