Leaving Marina Tijax

November 7, 2007
Hacienda Tijax

Well, we’ve completed most of the items on our “before we leave the dock” list, including a major jaunt into Puerto Barrios for some serious grocery shopping. But the weather doesn’t seem to want us to go quite yet. There’s a long front extending from the mid-Atlantic coast of the US all the way through the Bahamas and down through the Gulf of Honduras, making for 20-25 knots of wind and 6 to 9-foot seas. Sorry – been there, done that – getting t-shirts made. We’re using the time to knock off a few more items from the list and socialize a little bit as we watch everyone making ready to leave.

Friday night, we hosted another barbecue out by the pool. It was pouring rain, but damn if cruisers are anything, they’re intrepid. With enough kerosene on the grill, steaks and shrimps were plentiful, and cruiser-brought treats were sufficient to satisfy all of us.

We had barely enough time to recover for the barbecue lunch hosted by Eugenio up at his farmhouse the next afternoon. Nestor, his Israeli security consultant, did all of the cooking – from perfectly grilled steaks to homemade hummus, tahini and flan. Several of Eugene’s staff were on hand as well, and it was wonderful to be able to thank them for such a wonderful stay.

After about a 5-hour lunch up at the finca, we were not at all hungry for dinner. So we joined Sid and Tuve of Blue Moon, Ken and Patti of Novena, and camped out on Alianna’s back deck with Sim and Rosie for more beer. We had only been there about a half an hour when we heard a frantic call to turn on the radio: there had been a collision between two lanchas under the bridge and someone was thrown into the water, reported missing.

Recently the editor of the Rio Dulce Chisme Vindicator, the online “newspaper” for gringos in the area, compared this area to the Wild West of the 1880s. That’s about the level of emergency service here. Coast guard? EMTs? Rescue divers? Fuggedaboudit. Lights on the river? Dream on. A local missionary who lives aboard a trawler and is fluent in English and Spanish was contacted by the Navy station a few miles up the lake, to see if he could coordinate a volunteer search. Sim and Ken, armed with as many flashlights as they could collect, along with our gas tank joined the searchers. There may have been 10-20 dinghies on the water, along with the navy lancha, who searched in the dark for about 90 minutes. The current under the bridge usually boils a bit, and creates whirlpools under certain conditions. And at 20 miles up from the ocean, there is not much tidal influence. The navy overestimated the flow, and the search was concentrated about a quarter to a half mile downriver from the bridge.

Needless to say, they did not find the man that night, and after about an hour, they knew if he hadn’t swum to shore and walked to a local bar for a drink, it was now a recovery rather than rescue mission.

We heard this morning that he had been found under the bridge. And that his fiancée, also in the lancha with him, had been thrown out of the boat as well, suffering propeller damage enough to kill her.

As a developing nation, Guatemala does have laws. Like running lights, speed limits and licences for lanchas. But they don’t have the manpower or resources for enforcement. The driver of the lancha responsible for the accident leapt into the water, swam ashore, and ran away. The locals probably know who he is, but he’ll never be caught, much less prosecuted.

I’ve been out in the dinghy at night, and have experienced narrow misses. The lancha drivers have this “more is better” attitude to engine size and speed. They think it’s cool that the bigger the engine, the higher up their bow goes. They operate solo, with nobody on the lookout up forward. When we’re out at night, we madly wave a flashlight around, hoping that the lancheros will at least notice us.

The river community is all abuzz about this incident, coupled with recent dinghy thefts. All it does is remind us that while we are relaxed and comfortable here, we can’t afford to be careless or complacent.

Goodbye Girls: Rosie, Tuve, Patty, Ans, and Me

Goodbye Girls: Rosie, Tuve, Patty, Ans, and Me

We went out for a last shout with Ken and Patti of Novena, Sim and Rosie of Alianna, and Gerald and Ans of Spirit, to partake of the Sundog Happy Hour and dinner at Rosita’s. What wonderful luck we’ve had this year, with these fine folks as neighbors. We can only hope that our future is full of kindness and community like we’ve had here.

At the end of the day, it looks like we may head out of here on Thursday, November 8, sail downriver to “Texan Bay,” at the upstream edge of the gorge, and wait a day or two for the weather to calm down.

Getting Ready for Some Fun in Belize

Saturday, March 10, 2007
Radisson Fort George Marina
Belize City, Belize

It’s just after 11:00 a.m. and we’re finally getting ready to get underway for what we hope will begin the fun portion of this cruise.

Ole got back yesterday afternoon as planned, we washed down the boat, reset the lines, pulled up the anchor we had set against the norther, and looked at what we’ll do with the remaining 19 days of his vacation on the way to Guatemala. We think we have a plan. We’re not tied down to waypoints and planning for seas, as we’ll be cruising all through protected waters until we arrive in Rio Dulce – but the plans do call for napping, skinny-dipping, snorkeling, and the “work a little, play a little” ethic we thought this cruise would be about.

Jan heard over the radio that Mercury was retrograde during the months of January and February and was about to turn direct – apparently there’s some folklore that when Mercury is retrograde, travel and communications get messed up. No kidding.

It’s return to a direct path, whether we believe it or not, at least gives us reason for optimism, hoping that the next three weeks will be much more delightful than the first three!

This morning, we went to the open-air market to provision fresh fruits and vegetables, and to a modern, clean grocery store to stock up on the dairy, dry goods, and beverages.

Here are a few pictures of what we saw:

We’re only going to cruise about an hour to a protected spot in the Drowned Cays, from which we’ll launch the dinghy and explore. We don’t know exactly when the next internet connection will be, so we’ll take lots of pictures and update the journal daily, uploading it when next we can.

Last Night in Miami!

January 20, 2007
Miami, Florida

Sanely awake this morning, sans hangover, although when we rolled back to the boat from Monty’s at about 10:30 last night, we sat down, thought 2 or 3 thoughts, then went to bed.  We were asleep before our heads hit the pillow!

There was nice turnout at Monty’s last night to wish us well.

There was a contingent from Riverview Marina — aboard Chris’ “South Forty” were Kim, Brendan, Debbie, and Chris; and Frank and Leslie (Maggie’s kids) drove down from Ft. Lauderdale.

Lots of folks from Royal Caribbean came as well — and as far as we know, many stayed well beyond our bedtime!

Almost the entire complement of Lera Consulting showed up — Martha and Abel; Michael and Magda.

Here are some miscellaneous shots of folks enjoying themselves:

We have been working so hard these last two weeks that an early night was called for.  But we loved that so many friends came to wish us well!

This morning we had planned to fuel — contacted the fuel barge early last week and made an appointment for this morning just off Bayside — but got a call saying their driver had “called in sick.”  Let’s see … the barge would have charged us $2.14 for diesel…Miami Beach Marina wanted $2.97 for the same diesel… at 800 gallons, that was Svein Taklo to the rescue!  Found a marina a couple of hours back up the ICW and diesel at a reasonable $2.34 (!).  Since I had some Barnes & Nobel gift cards burning a hole in my wallet, and hadn’t had a minute to stock up the library before we left, I begged off the fueling trip, borrowed a Mercedes, and went bargain book shopping in Coral Gables.  What a guilty pleasure!

Because we had agreed to be available for visitors this afternoon, we tied up at Bayside for a couple of hours, and entertained Susan and Terje for a couple of hours.  Their visit was interrupted by the world’s fastest business meeting — Martha leaping onto the boat with a ream and a half of paper, then leaping off again.  Seemed like a total waste of Margaritas to me, but I guess she had plans.

After visiting hours, we decided to save ourselves a few cruising dollars and anchor off Star Island for the night.  Tomorrow is the BIG DAY!

Leaving Riverview Marina

11:00 a.m.
Leaving Riverview Marina

Goodbye Committee, Including Mugsy & Mabelline

Goodbye Committee, Including Mugsy & Mabelline

The “goodbye committee,” though small, was lovely. Michael, Spiff and Gin, plus Mabeline and Mugsy, were there to help us push off.

The last cruise down the river was beautiful — a day in the low 80s with sparkling sun and light wind.

The last passage through the 11th Avenue Swing Bridge, followed by the bends in the North Fork of the New River — although it’s not for the weak in spirit, bigger boats than us have come and gone.

We cruised south toward Miami, arriving at Miami Beach Marina at 3:30 in the afternoon, only to find that their actual moorage rates were 25% higher than those advertised on the web. Can’t wait for the picture of Miami in the rear view mirror! Although the going away party at Monty’s is scheduled for this evening, we’ll write about it tomorrow!


Ready to Go…

January 19, 2007
2:00 a.m.
Riverview Marina
Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Two weeks, 58 to-dos, and several boat units later, we are almost ready to go. It’s 1:35 a.m. on Friday, January 19, 2007, and I have just finished a thorough housecleaning while Ole is in the engine room changing the oil in the generator and the Lehmans. We have been at it since 7:30 a.m.

While the doing has been fairly straightforward, the getting ready to leave has been a bit complicated, mostly by the emotions of transforming relationships from “present” to “absent.”

Both Ole and I are rather linear, in that if we have a task to do, we put our nose on the line and follow it, often to the detriment of anyone or anything that gets in the way. And this week, what has “gotten in the way” have been our friends and neighbors phoning or stopping by just to chat, usually right in the middle of some straight-line project or other.

At first, I found it mildly irritating – after all, aren’t these people aware of all the stuff we have to do? But after the third visit in the same day from one of our dock buddies, it finally dawned on me – we are loved and we will be missed. In the past couple of days in particular, I found myself stopping on purpose — to chat, share a cup of coffee or a glass of wine, or to just “be” for a few minutes, savoring the feeling of community, and knowing that the tasks would still be there when the conversation ended.

The world is moving on. Maggie is going in for back surgery tomorrow morning. Trevor left today to deliver a work boat back to the Caymans, his former home. Gin is leaving the area for Key West on Sunday, looking at a change of career. Frank has gone back to school. Terry has been diagnosed with terminal cancer and will be going home to Arkansas this weekend to allow his mother to care for him. Amy and Ryan are selling the sailboat – Amy is pregnant and looking forward to the cottage with the white picket fence. Ed has quit drinking. Kim and Brendan are looking forward to the last child finishing high school when they can cast off the lines. Chris is still searching for “the one.”

But even more profound is that the relationships will still be there, once the task list is complete and we have moved on.


January 5, 2007
Sovereign of the Seas

Let’s see…what have we forgotten? We made a list a year ago, of projects and purchases that seemed important in preparation for our departure on January 18 of this year. Buy and install the new autopilot. Check. Buy and install the water maker. Check. Find and test a mail forwarder. Check. Get SCUBA certified. Check. Take all of the classes we could at the Power Squadron – Boating, Seamanship, Engine Maintenance, Piloting, Advanced Piloting. Check.

Even though we’ve made steady progress on the big things, with only two weeks left before the first leg of our long journey home to Seattle, the list just seems to get longer. Get vaccinated against all sorts of nasty mosquito-borne illnesses. Take the HAM license exam. Get health certificates for the cats. Put together a ditch kit. Create a stowage plan and provision. Clean out the lazarette. Buy enough Velcro to stick everything down in case of rough seas. Oh, yeah — buy seasick medication. I’m about to have an ulcer just worrying about what hasn’t made the list yet.

So how did we end up here?

It started with a crazy idea on New Year’s Day 2004. As part of our New Year’s resolution process, we pondered how to make the best of life for the limited time we were in South Florida. We started by asking, “What would be the most outrageous way we could think of to get home to Seattle?” By boat, of course–our own boat! We brainstormed the type of boat that would make the journey safely, comfortably and economically and settled on a trawler. We arrived at a dollar figure that was a stretch, but within reach.

The next question became: “What do we need to know, to do, and to have to make that crazy idea happen?” We spent that New Year’s Day like little kids, creating a plan with poster board, magic markers, post-it notes and magazine pictures. We put together three years’ worth of posters, with lists and target dates for each achievement, including the drop-dead date to buy the boat, and ending with a target departure date. We hung those childlike posters on our bedroom wall, so we could seem them first thing each morning and last thing each night.

Then we went to work. Ole was on yachts.com every night. I browsed bookstores. We attended boat shows from Palm Beach to Miami. And before we knew it, six months earlier than we planned, we got Emma Jo, our 1988 DeFever 49 raised pilothouse trawler. Then the list got serious. Fiberglass and teak repair; new carpets, drapes and furniture; all new electronics; canvas; Awlgrip; and lots and lots of sweat equity.

At times it seemed that we’d never get everything done – each purchase and repair revealing yet another unexpected project or expense. BOAT: Break Out Another Thousand!

A shakedown cruise over to Bimini added even more items to the list, including procedures we hadn’t thought of and didn’t know we needed, as well as equipment it was just plain stupid not to have.

One piece of advice we found helpful was to separate the items on our list into three categories: Safety (training and equipment), Administrative (communication, banking, etc.) and Convenience (want to do, nice to have). Using this system we prioritized and began hammering away at our list, adding, subtracting, and reprioritizing as necessary. Gradually, the dream began to materialize.

A salty English sailor from our marina gave us the best advice of all – the last item on the list should be: “Destroy this list and cast off.”

By the time you are reading this, we will have taken Trevor’s advice, thrown away the list, and made it from Fort Lauderdale to Miami to Key West to Isla Mujeres and Belize, and learned a lot along the way—about our boat, about each other, and about lists.

We’ll keep you posted about our progress periodically, as wi-fi allows. If you want to e-mail us, and are willing to wait a few days for an answer, please use “pedersens at emmajo dot net.”