Reflections on Season Four

This year the cruising season was fluid as we were very dependent on weather patterns.  The original plan of heading to Panama had to be changed when we found out about Panama’s horrendous lightning season so we slowed down our movement through the islands.  We made our final landfall in Guatemala where Morphie is now taking a rest on the hard in RAM Marina, Rio Dulce, where we said our usual emotional farewells to her.   It doesn’t get any easier to leave her alone in a foreign country but at least she is not directly within the hurricane belt this year – fingers crossed!

Looking shiny

We have had another fantastic nine months on board and we particularly loved visiting and exploring new places.   And of course lots of diving!   Some of the destinations we had visited as tourists before so it was fascinating to visit by boat instead – and was a very different experience.

We visited six countries this year stopping at the following places:

  • USA:  Fort Pierce, Fort Lauderdale, Miami, Marathon, Key Largo and Key West
  • Cuba: Varadero, Havana and Cabo San Antonio
  • Mexico: Isla Mujeres, Puerto Morelos and Cozumel
  • Bay Islands of Honduras: Utila and Roatan
  • Belize: Placencia and Ranguana Cay
  • Guatemala:  Livingston, Cayo Quemado and Rio Dulce

The main difference this year was the difficult weather patterns combined by very strong adverse Gulf Stream currents which caused us to constantly revisit our sail plans.  Passages had to be carefully planned to make landfall in daylight hours and, with our SOG (speed over the ground) affected both positively and negatively by the Gulf Stream currents it was definitely more demanding navigationally.


But I’m glad to say that we managed to achieve our goal each time even if it did mean slowing our boat speed down during the night a couple of times.   There were also more overnight passages as the distances between destinations were longer.   On top of all these factors there was also an underlying threat from piracy in some of the waters.

For lots of reasons ranging from officialdom to poor holding and lack of suitable protected anchorages in adverse weather– and sometimes just plain convenience and/or security concerns – we spent a lot of time this year in marinas.  We have never really been marina dwellers and we surprised ourselves by actually enjoying the change.   It was great to be able to go off exploring and diving without having to worry about Morphie.  The costs were very different too:  $140 a night in Key West;  $25 a night in Mexico;  to $300 a month in Guatemala.

Highlights of the season have to include:

Florida – fantastic reunions

Out for lunch at Marina JacksJan and SharonJim and RichardUtopia reunionFinal dinner togetherBack to Mrs Macs

Getting ready for our African Queen experienceHaving fun

Cuba – revisited

Havana 3Havana 23Havana 29Salmon & shrimp cevicheHuge empty marinaHot dayHavana sunset 2Mosaics 4Isla Mujeres – great diving, new friends and just lovely!

Park dive 11Dive 2Out in the cartNight out at Sunset GrillHats 1Dive 4GoodnightBeach 3Reef dive 3Beach 2Mexico – in holiday mode

Fireshow 4Mayan pole 4Infinity pool 2Coba 4Morphie snug as a bugCozumel 2Coba 6Utila -wonderful diving

2 WhalesharkSunset Utila 21 Dive 8Dive 10Dive 3 - 7Dive 4 - 8Dive 2 - 2Goodnight UtilaRoatan – monkeys, sloths and new friends

Hangout 2Hangout 11Having fun at LFK 2Fantasy IslandMeeting the localsDive 4 6Guatemala – road trips, quality workmanship, new friends and reunionsFlores 1

Off out on the riverRiver 10River 8ReunionOur hotel 3New varnish 2Cruisers Happy Hour 2BBQ nightBobbing friendsPhilippa and TimAfternoon views 2Tikal 30Wisconsin – great visit to good friends on the way home

Dinner with the newly wedsBoys having funVisit to Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing CompanyLook at those clouds!Girls having fun on the lake

The disappointment this year was our inability to visit the outer cays of Belize which we had to abandon in the light of the poor weather we experienced.    So that will have to stay on the bucket list for now.  But we did meet a great bartender!

Selfie with Kieron

Because we have been staying longer in one place than usual we have met lots of new people – some that have become new friends and others that we will be happy not to see again LOL.    The Western Caribbean because of its low cost of living – despite exorbitant clearance / departure fees and just plain corruption in places – attracts a lot of liveaboards that just do not go anywhere and, to all intents and purposes they are living on their boats and only move when officialdom requires them to do so to remain legal.    But we have also met many people who have travelled the world and are now slowing down to find a place to stay…..     We’ve received advice and gathered lots of relevant knowledge from the cruising community along the way which we were particularly grateful for – the sharing of waypoints, on-line charts and films are commonplace – and makes for a co-operative and friendly way of life.   But, that said, we have come across people that only travel in company to the exclusion of all others…….   So usually friendly, sometimes not!    I think the fact that we are moving on each year allows us to just gloss over this element of the cruising life and not get embroiled when there is a local difference of opinion LOL.

So what’s next?   Well, next season, is the biggie!   We plan to head to Panama (via the San Blas islands if the weather allows) continuing to go in the ‘wrong direction’ against the currents.  Early next year (probably February) we’ll go through the Panama Canal leaving the Caribbean behind us and head off into the Pacific Ocean.   First stop after the canal transit and provisioning up in Panama City we head to the Galapagos, the Marquesas, the Tuamotos, the Society Islands and eventually hoping to make landfall in New Zealand.   Tonga and Fiji definitely feature…but the actual passage will be dictated by weather and timing of the cyclone season.   So we’ll be gone for a year rather than nine months with thousands of miles to cover – with the longest passage about five weeks at sea.


We have many exciting challenges ahead and are currently researching satellite communications – we already have an SSB radio on board.   The combination of satellite and long-range radio will enable us to get up-to-date weather and routing information as well as keeping you all posted on our progress.   One major decision has been about whether to take crew to help us this year – we already have volunteers to be our line handlers through the Panama Canal – but we have decided to go it alone.   It is our dream and we don’t want to share it!    Many people get crew to assist on this passage – not least to avoid sleep deprivation –  and we know that some people think we are crazy but I guess we’ll just have to live with that LOL.

So this is a final “Bye for now” this season.   Please come back to read all about our preparations for Season Five later in November.


Reunions home and away

Wednesday we got busy with domestic duties and getting all the laundry done.   Thursday we had a lazy start and then I headed off to Finley’s third birthday party – was lovely to see Rachel and the kids again.  The Nanny Jan welcome was amazing!

Finley and Kiera

Friday we collected mum and spent the afternoon tidying up the outside space ready for the BBQ we’d planned for Sunday.    The evening was lovely and hot so we enjoyed sitting in the garden with a few cold ones.

Saturday was hectic with mum and I shopping for food followed by Richard who headed out for drinks and ice.    Phew job done and we had an Indian curry delivered – was absolutely lovely!  

Sunday morning we were up early and prepared the food and, by 1 pm, I was able to take a rest waiting for the first guests to arrive at 2pm.  

Waiting for the guests to arrive

Sadly the weather was a bit mixed but thankfully it didn’t rain hard….    We had a lovely time catching up with everyone and I think they enjoyed themselves as there was very little food left over and they didn’t leave until late in the evening LOL.


Monday it was time to clear up and take mum home.   Then it was back home to pack for our trip to France….and at three am on Tuesday morning we were up and getting ready to drive to the airport. We got to Stansted Airport on time and dropped our checked luggage off before heading through security.   All pretty chaotic but actually was quite speedy so we enjoyed a coffee / pastry breakfast before boarding.  We took off slightly late and, pretty soon, we were over France and on terra firma just after nine o’clock.  Not the best airline – we’ll never complain about American Airlines again LOL.

We were met by Carolyn and Ron who took us to the lovely town of Eymet – we went for a wander around and a reunion cold beer – enjoying the lovely square and sitting out in the sun.

Eymet 1 Eymet 2 Eymet 3 Eymet 4 Eymet 5 Eymet 6 Eymet 7 Eymet 8 Eymet 9

We then headed off to the beautiful villa they had rented for a few weeks to celebrate Ron’s 70th birthday.    As we arrived we were met by their two Scottish Border Terriers Jamie (10) and Rufus (5) who were very excited to see us too…..   

Villa 4 Villa 1 Villa 3 Jamie Rufus

We enjoyed the rest of the afternoon by the pool, doing a bit of bobbing, and catching up over a lovely BBQ dinner.

First afternoon Pool bobbing Chef Ron

Wednesday morning and we headed out to Chateau des Vigiers – which is a beautiful old building sitting on a golf course surrounded by stunning gardens.  

Chateau Chateau 2 Chateau 3 Chateau 4 Chateau 5

We had a lovely lunch at the Brasserie in the grounds and wandered around admiring the modern art before heading back to the villa.  This area is stunning with endless fields of vines stretching as far as the eye can see.

Wine country

BrasserieLunch at the Brasserie Golf course art Golf course art 2

We then had a lovely afternoon and evening bobbing in the pool, playing with the crocodile and enjoyed the spacious outside dining area.  

Pool bobbing 2 Pool toys Pool bobbing 3

Jamie was guarding the villa and Rufus was constantly asking when he could get in the pool with us – when we kept saying no he decided to commandeer one of the sunbeds as his own and kept an eye on us from this position throughout the evening LOL.  Anyone would think it was his birthday – well, actually, it was the day after!

Guarding the house Time for a swim Rufus watching from his sun bed

Thursday Richard and I stayed by the pool snoozing while Carolyn and Ron headed off to the airport to collect Gary and Pam.   They arrived and we spent the rest of the afternoon enjoying the water, catching up, and another celebration BBQ with a few glasses of lovely local wine.   It ended up quite the party night….


Friday we all headed off to explore Saint Emillion….and enjoyed wandering around the town….this is an amazing place with fantastic views surrounded by vineyards and old chateaus.    The dogs were with us and they behaved amazingly well – particularly as it was so hot.   

Saint Emillion 1 Saint Emillion 2 Saint Emillion 3 Saint Emillion 4 Saint Emillion 7 Saint Emilloin 5 Saint Emillion 8 Saint Emillion 9 Saint Emillion 10 Saint Emillion 11 Saint Emillion 12 Saint Emillion 13

We decided to have some lunch and the waiter made a great fuss of the dogs giving them premier cru water under the table LOL.   All too soon it was time to head back to the villa where we had a lazy afternoon.

Lunch in Saint Emillion

In the evening we headed back to Eymet for dinner in the square after an extremely speedy taxi trip through the country lanes.    It was lovely and was the perfect way for us to celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary!   Hard to believe it’s been that long….

Back to Eymet Dinner in Eymet

Saturday is market day so we started off at St Foy la Grande and wandered around the stalls – largely clothing and artisan goods – although we did find the oysters and loved the umbrella shades over the street.   The boys (as in the dogs) were getting a lot of admiring looks as we wandered around the small streets.   St Foy

St Foy 2 St Foy 3

Having had our fill of this market we moved on to the town of Bergerac – which straddles the Dordogne River – and we found quite a few statues of Savinien de Cryano de Bergerac.   He was a French novelist, playwright, epistolarian and a duelist and his work was part of the libertine literature of the first half of the seventeenth century.  The town are clearly proud of their famous descendant.  

Bergerac Bergerac 2 Bergerac 3 Bergerac 4 Bergerac 5 Bergerac 6 Bergerac 7 Bergerac 8

After a lovely lunch (sadly with poor service) we headed back to the villa leaving Gary and Pam there who wanted to do more shopping….   We had another late party evening outside – and couldn’t believe that it was our last night and the final opportunity to wish Ron a happy birthday…   He even had a special shirt for the occasion LOL.   

Time for dinner Birthday boy

Sunday morning and we headed off to Issigeac – this is another lovely little town and was absolutely packed – with most of the stalls being about food / wine / cheese and even some pygmy pigs!  

Issigeac Issigeac1 Issigeac 2 Issigeac 3 Issigeac 4 Issigeac 5 Issigeac 6 Issigeac 8 Issigeac 7

We found a quiet corner for a final cold one before heading to the airport.   By two o’clock we had said sad farewells and were waiting for our flight back to London.   We had had a brilliant time in France – thank you both so much for inviting us.

We arrived back in the UK to quite a chilly grey day and had a decent drive home before having an early night.

This morning – Monday – and Richard was up early as he started work today to top up the sailing kitty.  So I’m back to domestic duties……and plan to do another blog to reflect on this season’s experiences before I sign off.   So please come back soon.

Bye for now


Having fun in Wisconsin

Sunday night we took Fabio’s advice and found the small mall around the corner from our hotel in Guatemala City as he said the best restaurants were to be found there.   We wandered in and realised that it was pretty upmarket when we noticed some international brands plus an indoor car dealership selling expensive sports cars.   We walked around and weren’t really drawn to any of the food offerings so ended up deciding on Chinese.  It was definitely the wrong choice – the food was average and the price was astronomical!    

Last night in Guatemala

Up early Monday morning for the five am shuttle to the airport.   It was on time and full….   It was chaotic at Guatemala City airport even at that time in the morning but we eventually made our way through the crowds and found the check in kiosk for American Airlines.   Got checked in, bags dropped, and went through security.   Not too bad an experience but we were glad to be on our way.

The  new AA plane took off on time and we enjoyed playing the seatback brain training games to while away the short hop to Dallas Fort Worth.  

New AA plane

We arrived ahead of schedule and, as we were disembarking, we were a bit shocked to see a large plane fuselage on fire just by the control tower.  Oh no…that doesn’t look good!   Everyone was watching through the window and, eventually, the fire was brought under control.  We got through the automated passport control kiosks and were referred to a live person for the final check – all going very smoothly – until it was my turn and, of course, my profile crashed the computer!   Hmmmm……    Well, the Homeland Security guy was really chatty and told us that the burning plane was an exercise – phew glad about that!    Anyway he restarted his computer to no avail….so he got me dealt with by his colleague without having to wait in another line.   That was a relief.    Then we picked up bags – quickly cleared customs – and followed the signs to recheck them onto our next flight.

We took the airport shuttle to the domestic terminal and, having cleared security again with our hand luggage getting the usual extra attention, we got to our gate for the next flight to Minneapolis.  We didn’t have a lot of time so ended up with a quick chicken meal.   Richard took the middle seat and ended up being squished by the huge lady sitting next to him – so big that she took half of his seat – and she eagerly demolished a whole family sized bag of sweets during the trip whilst watching Downton Abbey on her tablet.   Glad she didn’t ask us anything as we’ve never watched it LOL.

We arrived on time in Minneapolis, collected our bags, and were met by Ruth.    It was lovely to see her.  Realising that she was limping we found out that she had very recently had surgery on her knee.     We drove the couple of hours trip to their beautiful lake home in Wisconsin and was met by Dan who had just returned from golf.  We had a lovely reunion over pizza….and there were a few reunion Dark & Stormys consumed!

Tuesday morning, after a leisurely breakfast, we decided to make the most of the weather as it was so warm out – and the forecast was for it to deteriorate later in the week.    So Richard and Dan headed to the golf range and the shops while Ruth and I got the speed boat out and went for a lake drift and a girlie catch up.  

Girls having fun on the lake

Later on we spotted Richard and Dan on the dock so we went back and picked them up before heading back out on the water.    And, of course, we had to celebrate the reunion properly by having a bobbing session in the lake – sadly Ruth couldn’t come in the water at this point as she hadn’t been given the all clear from the hospital – but she was a handy boat barmaid for replenishments LOL.

Waiting to be picked up Lake bobbing Hold onto your hats!

Back to their beautiful home and we had Dan’s speciality of home-smoked ribs on the deck with fresh corn – fantastic!   It was a lovely day.

Smoked ribs

Wednesday and Dan, Richard and I headed out to a family farm to pick fresh corn – and met Ruth’s Uncle Lee who was a great character and, at 94 years old, was still going strong.  Amazing.  This area of the US is flat and stretches for miles of stunning farmland.    

Picking corn with Uncle Lee Family farm Family farm 2 Family farm 3

We came back and then the rain started to come down.   So we spent a while playing cards which was great fun and Richard, unusually, was the winner!   When the rain cleared we decided to go out on the boat for a sunset cruise – really nice way to see the sun go down.  

Sunset cruise Sunset cruise 2

Back on terra firm and Dan went into BBQ mode, this time it was New Year Strip steaks.    Yumm…..

Steak night

Thursday morning and Ruth had to go for a medical check-up so we had a lazy morning.   She returned very happy as she had been given the all clear to go swimming in the lake – yippee….   The weather was lovely and warm again so we headed down to the dock – and had a few pontoonies….  

Richard on the dock

Today it was absolutely stunning with the clouds reflecting on the still water.   This is such a beautiful place to live although I didn’t fancy the stories of the ice and snow in the long winter!   We reminisced about our old system of purchasing odd (Morpheus) and even (Evensong) rounds of beer – although no need to walk up the beach to fetch them here though LOL. Oh yes, Ruth and I jumped into the lake for a little bob so that she could, at last, enjoy the water.   

Look at those clouds! Panorama of Beaver Dam Lake Must be an even round

Thursday evening we picked at leftovers from the previous couple of days plus, of course, some more fresh corn!   And then, suddenly, the weather changed and the clouds were heavy and black.  So we took ourselves to the front porch – beer in hand of course – and watched the weather coming in.  It was a pretty good rain storm.

Here comes the storm

Friday morning and it was still raining so we headed out to go shopping and managed to pick up a few necessary items like a new laptop and a Bluetooth speaker!!!    Both were better value and higher specification than the UK – despite the poor exchange rate – so was definitely worth the effort.   We then went on to visit the Jacob Leinenkugal Brewing Company which is a famous brewery in Wisconsin.  We had a great time visiting the shop and tasting their range of brews – my favourite was the Red Grapefruit.   Very refreshing!    Richard preferred the Leinies original.    Great time had by all…..   

Visit to Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Company Leinies Leinies 2 Leinies 3 Leinies 4

We then headed out to a local restaurant called Cameron House – a pretty ordinary exterior – but a very friendly and homely interior with great food.   Feeling completely full we headed back to the house and all ended up having an early night – Dan’s 9.17 pm falling asleep deadline appears to be catching LOL.

Time for dinner

Saturday morning and we had another relaxed start before heading out around 2pm to Still Water, Minnesota.   This is a quaint tourist town on the river full of interesting little quirky stores and lots of bars and restaurants.  Oh yes and, of course, there was a West Marine so we had to visit – was almost like old times and Richard managed to find some more boat stuff to buy….

Still Water Still Water 2 Still Water 3 Still Water 4

In the town we particularly enjoyed the kitchen store and I loved the unique olive oil shop – sesame oil got my approval while Dan did not enjoy the truffle oil LOL.    Wandering around Richard fancied the Madcapper Husband DayCare Centre but we didn’t let him or Dan indulge themselves!  Sadly we didn’t have time to indulge ourselves further by trying out the bars as we were meeting the newlyweds Andy and Kirstin for an early dinner.

Olive Oil store Madcapper Madcapper 2

We all met up and had a fantastic dinner – Richard and I both opted for the lamb as we had felt deprived of this for a long while – and thought that this was the best food we had tasted in the US.   Fantastic flavours and very well executed.   Great evening and lovely to catch up with Andy and Kirstin too.  

Dinner with the newly weds

On the way back to Wisconsin we stopped for another drink ….   And we kept Dan awake throughout the journey even though we didn’t get back until after 10 LOL.

Sunday morning and it was already our last day.  Couldn’t believe that the week had gone by so quickly.    Ruth and I decided to head out to the casino for a girlie trip – while the guys did another golfing range run.  


When Ruth and I decided to return home we realised that Dan, Richard and Danny had gone out on the Hobie Cat.   So Ruth and I filled a cooler and took ourselves off in the speed boat to find them.   They were having a great sail around and we cruised by a few times before heading back to the dock.   

Rescue crew Boys having fun Sailing nicely

They finally returned and while Ruth, Richard and Danny put the boats to bed I escaped to the kitchen to chop some ingredients while Dan popped out to get some last minute ingredients.  Tonight we were being treated to Dan’s smoked meat paella.   It was scrumptious!

Chef at work


After dinner we all played Guitar Hero with Danny showing us up with his expert skills – before finally retiring to bed at almost 11 pm, definitely almost a Dan record.   What a fantastic fun-filled trip – can’t believe it was only one more sleep before going home.

Monday morning and we were up early and packed our bags.   By 10 we had said sad farewells to Dan at home while Ruth drove us to the airport in Minneapolis.  We had a good run and just before 12 noon we said sad farewells to Ruth too.     Had been a fantastic trip – thank you both so much – we had a wonderful time.

We got our first flight having grabbed a sandwich first and found ourselves on one of the older American Airlines planes – but it was only a couple of hours to Dallas Fort Worth our first stop.   We were slightly late arriving into Texas as we had to route around a few thunderstorms in the area.    We finally got off the plane and made our way on the Sky Train to the international terminal.  

sky train DFW

We found our gate and were surprised to find that they were already boarding although the departure time was almost 45 minutes away.   So no time to wait or hang around – suits us.   This was a lovely new plane again and was only about half full so, once the doors were locked, people spread out so we had three seats between us so that was nice.    We took off on time as the rain started to fall and quickly reached our cruising altitude before there was the most spectacular sunset…..

Beautiful sunset

Back to a heat wave in London this morning – Tuesday – and the traffic wasn’t too bad so we got home pretty quickly.    We have had a few hours sleep and are looking forward to catching up with family and friends soon.

Bye for now


Exploring Guatemala City

By early afternoon on Friday I had finished all the laundry and Richard had completed the laying up checks on Morphie.  But he’d noticed that there was standing water on the stern rail which means, as the scuppers are definitely clear now, that Morphie isn’t properly level.  So he reported this to the boatyard asking them to sort it out before we left.     In the meantime we packed up our apartment and returned to Morphie with the vacuum packed (clean) items that we were leaving on board.  We said our final sad farewells – and were just taking down the ladder when the travel lift operator said he would be back shortly.

Goodbye Morphie

So Richard waited – while I returned to the apartment to do some pizza bites to share at the cruiser’s happy hour.    And he waited and eventually at just gone five o’clock Morphie was lifted up, rechocked and buckets of water were chucked over to ensure that no water remained standing.  The guy was very careful and we were particularly impressed that the marina responded to our concerns so quickly.

But, of course, this meant that we were late for Poppy’s birthday party.    We quickly got ready and headed off to NanaJuana – by which time the kids had attacked the huge piñata and we missed the fun although I did get some chocolate.   Poppy was happy with her little birthday presents and I got a lovely cuddle in response.   We settled down watching the kids having fun and enjoyed our last night with our fellow cruisers even being treated to a beautiful final Rio Dulce sunset.  All too soon it was time to go and say our sad farewells….  

Birthday girl Time for cake Party underway Time for cake 2 Beautiful sunset

Saturday morning we were up at six and got ourselves sorted – I did a quick tidy up – and we waited for our transport.   RAM marina sent us a driver to take us to the bus station free of charge but we were expecting a car not the truck that turned up LOL.   Never mind, we arrived at the Litegua bus station in good time.

The bus turned up on the dot of eight and, hurrah, it was an Especial Plus version which was pretty comfortable.  We had great seats at the front although we couldn’t see the movies – which didn’t matter as they were in Spanish anyway – and the guy opposite us snored loudly throughout the whole journey!!!    We stopped about three hours into the trip and grabbed a burger and food for later – having learnt our lesson on the previous journey.   And, of course, this one was really fast by comparison and we arrived into the outskirts of Guatemala City at around 2 ish – got transferred to another bus and were taken to the next terminal – and had to wait for the other bus to come which had our luggage.   All very confusing and worrying and I got quite stressed especially as everyone on our second bus was going to Antigua and we weren’t – but Richard pointed out this was a ‘gringo only’ bus.   I really couldn’t understand why we couldn’t identify our luggage and put it on the bus with us rather than it having to go separately.   It was all very strange….   But finally we were reunited with our luggage and tried to hire a taxi to our hotel.   The first taxi wanted a fortune – then he dropped it 20% but still too much – so we asked around until we found one at a better price.

We finally arrived at our hotel and checked in quickly and smoothly.    And our room is absolutely huge.  Lovely!  Nice views from the 10th floor too.

Hotel room 1 Hotel room 2

View from our room

After recovering from our trip we ventured out about five – and were told it was safe to walk for two blocks in any direction but beyond that, not a good idea.   OK, we can do that.  So we wandered off and were surprised to come across a Hard Rock Café, Dunking Donuts, Burger King, McDonalds all within this small area.   Hmmm…not what we had expected at all!    We just wanted a drink so avoided the Jack Russell burger place – yuck don’t fancy them!


Continuing to wander around we found ourselves faced with a police cordon and a road block with something clearly going on down the road with ambulances in attendance and everything.  Richard was all for going to see what had happened but, fearful of all the hired guns that protect every business around here, I wasn’t having any of it.  

Finally we found a little sports bar which looked attractive and went in – we ended up drinking Coronas as they didn’t sell our preferred Guatemalan beer and enjoyed watching the world go by.  

Bar selfie

Then the heavens opened.  We waited for the rains to stop before heading back to the hotel.    What I hadn’t realised earlier was that the pavements in this Viva Zone are made of a kind of granite which are treacherous when wet – and, of course, I’m only wearing flip flops with no tread of any kind.    I did the limbo quite a few times almost hitting the deck but got saved by Richard’s strong grip pulling me back upright.    Absolutely crazy design!   We ended up walking in the road trying to avoid getting run down along the way.  

Back to the hotel and we sat in the bar watching GB winning gold on the track – well done Mo!  Then we went to the hotel restaurant and enjoyed the ambience of the (fake) rocky wall and waterfall.    We were pleasantly surprised by the excellent quality and presentation of the food. It turns out the chef is French….

Hotel restaurant

This morning, Sunday, we were up early and enjoyed the huge breakfast buffet before meeting Fabio, our tour guide.   He took us on a drive through different zones and we learnt a lot about the city and the country more generally.    A violent past and present with dictatorships, military take-overs, a long brutal civil war and Fabio was grateful that they were now in a democratic period – although he despaired over how cheap life had become; the scourge of the gangs; widespread corruption; and the poor living conditions in the favelas.    The private security business is the largest growing business in Guatemala with armed guards at almost 90% of all businesses and many private homes too.   Guns are cheap and easy to get whether on the black market or through legal means.   Fabio believes in higher education but recognises the problems that poverty brings with many children working and helping their families instead of being in school.

We ended up going for a walk along 6th Avenue which is permanently pedestrianised.  We walked a number of blocks enjoying the sights of some ancient buildings – often marred by really ugly structures nearby – and watched the entertainment and listened to the music.   Walking around in family groups, shopping, eating street food, selling their wares, listening to music and being entertained is clearly how the Guatemalans like to spend their Sundays.

Guatemala 1 Guatemala 2 Guatemala 3 Guatemala 16 Guatemala 4 Guatemala 5 Guatemala 6 Guatemala 7 Guatemala 8 Guatemala 9 Guatemala 10 Guatemala 11 Guatemala 12 Guatemala 13 Guatemala 14 Guatemala 15

Moving on we went to visit the oldest church in Guatemala City.  The El Santuario de Nuestra Senora del Carmen was built on top of the Ceritto del Carmen hill after the Genevese penitent Juan Corz brought the religious image of the Virgen del Carmen from Spain and settled for years as a hermit in a cave.   After it was burnt down and rebuilt around 1620 they had the image stolen in 2001 but it was miraculously recovered in 2003 and it remains housed within the sanctuary. Eventually Juan Corz moved out of his cave into the tower that was built to house him.  The Church celebrated its 400 years in 2013.  The statues and the landscaping of the park obviously came later.

Coez 1 Coez 2 Coez 3 Coez

While we wandered around we saw a number of girls in beautiful prom dresses being professionally photographed and the rest of their family clearly in a party mood.  Well, it turns out, that 15 is the magic age here in Guatemala when girls are celebrated and given a ‘welcome to womanhood’ type party.    And this is what was going on.    Boys, on the other hand, are welcomed to manhood at 18.    Fabio told us that, particularly among the indigenous population, many girls were betrothed at 14 and had their first child by the time they were 15 or 16.

Sweet 15

The views across the city from the top of the hill clearly shows the mismatch of old and new sitting side by side.

View from hill 2 View from hill 1

When driving down the hill back towards the city we saw some slums – and Fabio confirmed that these people had come to the city having been driven out of the mountains either by war or earthquakes. They squat and build their homes on top of each other living in pretty terrible conditions – with many of them exposed to risks such as landslides.  You can only imagine what it would be like to live in such a harsh environment.   Hard to believe it’s 2016 sometimes.

Slums Slums 2

Leaving this area we then drove past the military building (now largely a museum) which was being patrolled by heavily-armed military police – and checked out the ancient Cadillac that used to belong to one of the dictator generals.   Nice!

Ancient car 1 Ancient car 2 Ancient car 3

Then we drove off to see a new development called Cayaluca.   This is another world.   Guatemalan and overseas investors have combined to create a new city within a city.   This has residential, commercial, retail space all built together around a large plaza in the style of a Spanish town.    It was a beautiful place – although still under construction – and was full of local tourists wandering around admiring this very exclusive new addition to the city.   We were surprised to see large brands like Starbucks and high-end retail outlets here.   Fabio liked it but thought it was a shame that people felt it necessary to live and work in such a fake, albeit safe, environment.  

Cayaluca 3 Cayaluca 4 Cayaluca 5 Cayaluca 6 Cayaluca 7 Cayaluca 8 Cayaluca 9 Cayaluca 1 Cayaluca 2

We then headed back towards our hotel in Zone 10 and came across a huge Pokemon event going on in the main road…queues stretched back miles. 

Pokemon crazinessArriving back we said our farewells to Fabio and thanked him for such a great tour.    Although we enjoyed the contrasts of ancient, modern, beautiful, ugly warts and all we really weren’t inspired by our visit.   But at least we can now say that we have visited the largest city in the whole of South America.

Jan & Fabio

Back in our hotel room now and going to head out for dinner again this evening.    Then it’s an early night as we have to be on the airport shuttle at five in the morning to start our next adventure.

Bye for now


Getting ready to leave the Rio Dulce

On Friday having got ourselves unpacked from our trip we moved into work mode.    The first job we had on our list was to wash and remove the sails.    This year, as we are so far inland and outside of the “official” hurricane zone, we are leaving the main on and are only taking both headsails off.  So we made the most of the light winds, unfurled them and washed them in situ….

I got on with some canvas cleaning / waterproofing while Richard got on with other engine-related jobs down below.   Finally the sails were dry and we took them off and had to drag them onto the grass area so that we could bag them up properly.   Job done….phew!

We then hauled dink out of the water using the genoa halyard.  We usually scrub his bottom on the dock as I like to use a bleach-based product – but, unfortunately, the dock here in NanaJuana just isn’t wide enough so we hauled him straight up onto the deck and I used plain old boat wash to clean instead.  After dink was dry we covered him in a tarpaulin and tied him down.   Another job done….

Having got incredibly hot and bothered we then took a little time out before heading off to the cruisers’ happy hour and had another nice evening.

Friday night happy hour

Saturday morning we were up really early and got the anchor chain onto the dock – I cleaned out the locker and washed down the chain and, while it was drying, I also got on with the laundry.    Richard was busy ticking off jobs down below……    During the day Arnie came by with the doors to our heads – he had done a great job on restoring them back to a good condition.    We were very happy with the quality of his work both on this and the repairs to our gelcoat.  

But we were not happy that we still had a blocked scupper on the starboard side caused by varnish / wood scrapings – we had tried in vain to clear this – so pushed it back to Arnie.  His crew caused the problem so they can fix it!   He promised dutifully to come by on Sunday.   I made the mistake of paying him the cash for all the work and should, with hindsight, have withheld some of the final payment…..  

Anyway…..after a hot and productive day….we relaxed for a little while and did some checking off our haul out lists and our final West Marine order.  Later on we sat in the cockpit, pretty exhausted,  we enjoyed the latest thunderstorm and had a very early night.

Sunday morning and we were going through the diary and realised we’d made an error – we had it fixed in our mind that we were hauling Monday morning when, in fact, the date we had scheduled was Tuesday.  Great – that gives us another full day to get ready – so we told NanaJuana that we would be leaving Tuesday morning instead.    And, of course, we carried on working hard through the morning and by three o’clock in the afternoon we had had enough – and Arnie had not shown up.   Damn…..    But we have an extra day now on the dock so we’ll hunt him down on Monday LOL.

Having done well with the lists – including the servicing and storing of the outboard engine – we decided to take ourselves off to the pool later in the afternoon and enjoyed putting the world to rights with some of the other cruisers.  

Cooling off

There are definitely two groups of cruisers here – those that keep themselves exclusively to themselves and exclude the rest of us.   They do not talk to us in the pool or attend the weekly Friday happy hour or the Sunday BBQ event.  They even go into town together all the time….    All very strange – the rest of us just dip in and out as the mood takes us – and that suits us very well as we don’t feel obligated to attend all the time.   This is exactly what we decided on Sunday night when we elected not to attend the BBQ in favour of a quiet night on board.

Monday morning, up bright and early, and we got on with boat jobs.   Richard tracked down Arnie and got an apology for Sunday.   Arnie thought that a powerful vacuum cleaner might suck out the blockage – Richard agreed it was possible and took his machine hostage to ensure his attendance later LOL.  Good thinking my man!!!    Anyway…he did turn up…and it didn’t work so he made arrangements for Wednesday morning and he’ll investigate when we are on the hard as there will be better access to the through hull.  OK, we’ll live with that.

Anyway….by Monday afternoon…we were ready to go.   We disconnected the electricity, paid our marina bill, and went to the pool to cool off before having an early night.

Tuesday morning it all went like clockwork, we slipped away at 8.30 and reversed onto RAM marine fuel dock by 8.45 am.   We filled up with diesel – as we leave the tank full on the hard to avoid condensation building up in the tank – and waited for the travel lift to turn up. 

Waiting to be hauled

We were scheduled to be lifted at 9.00 am.    Of course, it didn’t turn up.  By 10.00 am I went to the office to find out what was going on.    Oh sorry….someone didn’t splash….we need to move some boats to make room for you….there is polishing to be finished…..  Hmmmmmm…..  Anyway I asked for the key to our apartment thinking that, at least, we could shift our bags and left-over food.   This was available so I spent the new few hours moving things ashore.    The apartment is in the middle of the boatyard and is pretty basic with an uninspiring view.  But it has AC and a big-screen TV so we are happy….

Our apartment Not much of a view! Apartment 1 Apartment 2 Apartment 3

Finally at lunchtime we are told it will be later in the afternoon so we locked up Morphie and told the office we’ll be in the apartment waiting to hear.   We watched the Olympics and just generally chilled in the cooled air.   Bliss…..     By 3.30 pm we were getting anxious – we do not want to leave Morphie on the fuel dock overnight – so we returned to the office.  We were advised that we would be lifted tonight – and the guys would work overtime if necessary.   So we returned to Morphie and sat in the cockpit waiting admiring the local boats moving their cargoes along the river – today it was a mattress delivery LOL.

Mattress delivery

Finally at almost 4.30 pm the travel lift turned up and the guys took control.   Here in RAM they do not let you reverse into the strops – you get off the boat at the fuel dock and they pull the boat into the slip by hand.  Morphie is pretty heavy so we were surprised at the ease they moved her.  We were, of course, standing watching anxiously……   Interestingly then a swimmer went in the water and started to position the strops and tie them off under Morphie’s hull.    Never seen that before!

Being moved into place Here comes the swimmer Checking the strops

Finally Morphie was on her journey – she was turned around 180 degrees – and moved through the boatyard to our spot on the hard, just by the huge sheds.     Morphie was chocked up and enjoyed being pressure washed.  

Here she comes Through the boatyard Getting a wash down

We borrowed the pressure washer for a short period to blast the through hull and think that we might have cleared the blockage – but tomorrow will be the test.   We were pleasantly surprised by the condition of Morphie’s bottom…as the antifoul had been applied two years ago.    We headed back to our apartment and had a nice cool evening in front of the TV before sleeping in a bed that doesn’t move!

Wednesday morning and we were up early and climbed on board.   Richard was pleased that the scupper was now clear and we tested it a number of times to make sure that water drained properly.  Woo hoo…..  Very relieved that was sorted.  Charlie picked me up to take me into town as I needed to get our bus tickets; some Guatemalan rum to take home;  and I wanted to get Poppy’s birthday present.  I also managed to pick up some  strong antibiotics which are available over the counter here without prescription which are a great addition to our first-aid kit.

In the meantime Richard was cleaning all the wood and fibreglass down below with a water and vinegar mix area by area.   He had finished our cabin by the time I returned – so we covered the bed with a plastic protector and then started to stow things.   This clears up other areas to be cleaned.    I was scrubbing the heads when Richard went off to meet Arnie – who, surprisingly, actually turned up early only to be told thanks, but we have fixed it!  He was very relieved….

We carried on working until about two when the heat caught up with us.  So we retired to our apartment and then wandered back to NanaJuana pool to cool off – catching up with Charlie, Joe and Ulla.   We had a great time.

Thursday morning we had booked one guy to work for us.   The cost here in RAM is a very reasonable US $50 a day and was actually offset by the generous offer of our first night in the apartment free of charge to compensate for the seven hour delay in being lifted out of the water.  By eight I had him washing down the hull…..   He doesn’t speak a word of English so it was all in Spanish – or my version anyway LOL.    Richard continued to work stowing and cleaning things – while I worked outside cleaning the propeller, the grounding plate and the cooler plates for the fridge / freezer.   By the time I had done this my young man had finished washing down….so I set him off going around again using fibreglass cleaner and buffing the hull.     I started scrubbing the awlgrip which had heavy salt deposits…..     Then it was time for his lunch – so I went back on board and cleaned the fridge, freezer, oven etc while Richard finished the wood.   He had applied a lovely coat of wax polish to condition the wood in our absence.   The lad came back from lunch and he then used a special Awlgrip conditioner on the bootstripe while Richard and I continued on deck.  I cleaned the plexiglass and we removed all the canvas.    By this time Morphie is looking very clean and shiny – and then it was time to apply wax which we’ll leave on to give the hull some protection from the UV in our absence. 

Looking shiny Looking shiny 2 Hard worker

Phew….a long long day….from seven to five thirty in the heat…..   So we collapsed back at our apartment and had a very early night.   During the night we had a horrendous thunderstorm and lost power – so we lost the AC and it got hot, hot, hot – and we had to use the flashlight app on the phone to go to the loo LOL.

This morning – Friday – and it’s our last day here.  Richard is on board doing our final checks while I’m doing the laundry.   We’ll then pack – return items to the boat that we don’t want – and say our final farewells.  We are hoping to attend the cruisers happy hour tonight as it is Poppy’s birthday celebrations and it is our chance to say goodbye.

Tomorrow morning – Saturday – and we are off to Guatemala City on the 8.00 am bus.  This takes about six hours allegedly…..but, just to make sure of making our flight on Monday morning….we have checked into the Hotel Clarion Suites for two nights which is in the ‘safe’ area of Zone 10.  Then we are heading to the US for a week of fun in Wisconsin before returning home to the UK. 

Hotel Clarion & Suites

Bye for now


Exploring Guatemala – Antigua

Monday night, just as we were settling down for an early night, reception phoned to say that our pickup to the airport had been moved back an hour to 6.45 am.   We argued – as our ticket says we have to be there two hours in advance of our fight (at 8.00 am) but they said, no point, the airport doesn’t open until 6.45am anyway.   So, reluctantly, we gave in and accept the new departure time.

Tuesday morning and we were down in reception early – checked out – and then waited to be picked up.   And, of course, they were late so we are getting rather anxious as the clock ticks towards 7.  Finally two vehicles turned up for us!   So we jumped in one quickly and headed to the airport. 

On arrival we had to queue up for a physical bag search before being allowed into the building.  Then to check in which was smooth and efficient before we went through the next level of security into the departure gates area.  What we didn’t realise was that there were no facilities air side so we missed out on the opportunity to get coffee or a snack.  Oh well…..never mind……

The small propeller plane flew in, passengers disembarked, and we watched their bags being manually off-loaded.  Then the guy went off and came back with a new trolley and we were close enough to identify our bags being put into the tail of the plane – so at least we know they are coming with us LOL.

Our plane

Finally we boarded and were surprised by how nice it was…..   We took off about five minutes late and then there was a stewardess service giving us complimentary Pringles, chocolate biscuits and a soft drink.  Not exactly a healthy breakfast but we were surprised to this on a one hour domestic flight.   

On the plane

As we headed towards Guatemala City the topography changed dramatically and we are flying over stunning green mountain ranges as far as the eye can see – and then the city came into focus below – and it is huge!

Mountainous terrain Guatemala City

We landed safely, entered the terminal and, straight away, we came across our driver.  He had been sent from the hotel to pick us up.    We weren’t sure what to do about collecting bags but everyone was just standing around so we did too….and then the bags came through a hole in the wall and were handed out.   Great service – we were in the taxi less than 15 minutes after landing.   The most bizarre view of the day was having to go to the side of the road to let the small plane pass us on the street!

Plane in the street

We drove through Guatemala City – surprised by the huge amount of industrialisation and wondered where all the workers lived – and crawled through endless traffic jams.   We finally cleared the suburbs and headed into the mountains but the traffic didn’t abate at all – just crawling along slowly.  We were lucky that our taxi driver was quite aggressive otherwise I think we would still be stuck in the city LOL.

The roads increasingly got steeper – and sharper – and hairpin bends with large drops to one side became the norm.   And of course the trucks struggled with the inclines so the traffic moved even slower……   Finally, after almost two hours on the road, we arrived into the cobbled streets of the ancient city of Antigua.    We were very happy that they let us check into our room early at our hotel – Convento Santa Catalina – which is over 400 years old and attached to the famous arch right in the centre of the City.

Hotel Convento entrance Hotel Convento 2 Hotel Convento 3 Hotel Convento Famous arch

We unpacked and decided to chill for a little while – after all it was still only 11.30 am.   We turned on the TV in our room to catch the first news item which was about the blockade at Tikal.  What?!?   Mayan workers were blockading the entrance to the national park in protest at their poor wages – and no-one was being allowed in or out, so people were missing flights, tours, stuck in hotels etc etc.    Wow – thank you Tikal Jungle Lodge for tipping us the wink and getting us moved out to Flores a day early – we certainly dodged a bullet there!    As an aside we think they should reconsider their entry pricing structure as we paid Q200 (£20) to enter – Gringo prices – but Guatemalans only pay Q20 (£2).  If Guatemalans can afford to stay in the hotels and do tours they can afford to pay more to get in – just saying!

Early afternoon we headed out to wander the city – and dodged all the hawkers selling everything from Mayan handicrafts; original artworks; materials; jewellery; musical instruments; fruit etc etc etc….   And spoke to a few of the licensed tour guides who were hanging around the central square area to get a better feel for what was on offer.    We then found a little Bistro and had a lovely sandwich lunch before heading back to the hotel.   Our first impression of Antigua is just WOW as it nestles in the valley beneath three active volcanoes.

Antigua 1 Antigua 2 Antigua 3 Antigua 4 Antigua 6 Antigua 7 Antigua 9 Antigua 10 Antigua 11 Antigua 12 Antigua 13 Antigua 14 Antigua 5

In the evening we went out again looking for a place to eat – was a bit surprised to come across a London Pub and both an Indian and a Chinese restaurant.    But we wanted authentic so went into a local restaurant which specialised in BBQ food – I had the chicken off the grill while Richard indulged in the fresh fish dish.   It was all very tasty and we had a lovely time.  

Antigua 8 Dinner in Antigua 1 Dinner in Antigua 2

Wandering back to our hotel we came across Fridas Bar which was in memory of Frida Kohl a famous Mexican feminist who was renowned for her native art and brutally frank self-portraits.    So we had a nightcap before returning to the hotel.

Fridas 1

Wednesday morning and we were up early and headed into town enjoying the coolness of the mountain air – was so nice not to be ‘glowing’ constantly LOL.  We found a lovely coffee shop selling pastries so that was breakfast sorted and we were surprised to see one of the volcanoes spit out some ash.    Just amazing….

Volcanic activity

We then wandered to the central plaza and hired an English-speaking guide David for a three and half hour walking tour.   Historic buildings – often rebuilt and remodelled many times due to devastating earthquake damage – hence the decision in 1776 to relocate the colonial capital of South America from Antigua to Guatemala City.   This place has it all –  a stunning history particularly around the Mayans adopting Catholicism;   the Spanish invasion;  wonderful architecture; and traditions dating back centuries particularly the use of the locally-crafted colourful cloth and Jade which is found naturally in this area. Fascinating….  Interesting fact – Mayan children are often born with a cleft palate due to the lack of Vitamin A in their diet.

Tour 3 Tour 4 Tour 5 Tour 6 Tour 7 Tour 8 Tour 9 Tour 10 Tour 11 Tour 12 Tour 13 Tour 14 Tour 15 Tour 16 Tour 17 Tour 18 Tour 19 Tour 20 Tour 1

After resting up back in our hotel we went back out and hired a tuktuk to take us out of the cobbled streets and up to Cerro de la Cruz where there is a view over the city.  We weren’t sure we would actually make it up the steep inclines and wondered whether we should have got a proper taxi….but we made it without having to get out and push LOL.   Finally we arrived – and OMG what a view!

In the Tuk Tuk Afternoon views 2 Afternoon views Afternoon views 4 Afternoon views 3 Afternoon views 6 Afternoon views 5 Heading back down

Back down to the city we found another bistro and had a sandwich lunch and a couple of cold ones before walking to a local bar to meet Paul, Fiona, Celeste, Lincoln and Poppy – from Gone Walkabout one of our boating neighbours in the Rio – who are in Antigua doing a Spanish course.    We had a few drinks and it was great fun to see them all again – Poppy apparently missed me sooooo much LOL.   Here are a few shots when we were playing with the selfie stick!   We said fond farewell to them – promising to go to Poppy’s fifth birthday celebration just before we leave Guatemala.  

Fiona and Celeste Jan and Poppy

We then went for a late dinner at a small intimate restaurant.   Richard thoroughly enjoyed his steak but my food was bland and unedible … never mind… the wine was lovely!   We were surprised we were locked in the restaurant when it was time to leave – and then we had to knock on the bolted front door of our hotel to be let in.  This was only 10 pm but the whole City had gone to bed!

Dinner in Antigua 3 Dinner in Antigua 4

Thursday morning and we were up very early – time to get back to Morphie.   While we were away we had been tracking the formation of Hurricane Earl and were relieved that it did not do a direct hit on Guatemala although, sadly, there are reports of damage in Belize.  So, for Guatemala, just a rain event but that can mean mudslides and traffic disruption so we had fingers crossed for the bus trip back!   After enjoying a good breakfast overlooked by angels in the Convento we packed up, checked out, and got into our shared collectivo (eg minibus).

Hotel Angels

We went around the City picking up backpackers until the minibus was full to the gunnels with luggage loaded on the roof – then finally we departed for Guatemala City.  The traffic was bad….the pollution was worse…and we just kept on going.   The overall impression of Guatemala City and its suburbs is an underlying threat of violence – most customers are served through steel bars;  shops / offices / gated communities have heavily armed private security guards;  armed police and army are everywhere doing roadblocks;  wealthy houses live behind huge walls topped with glass and razor wire and solid steel gates.  And, of course, don’t forget the drugs and gangs….who often leave body parts in the street as a warning to others….      

Finally just before 11 we arrived at the Litegua Bus Station for our transfer.  We got our seat allocations; got our bags tagged and loaded onto the coach; and then we queued up to get on board.  Everyone got patted down by the gun-toting security guard – we think he was checking for weapons – and then we got on and found lovely spacious Pullman seats.  

At 11.35 we departed on time and started to make our way out of the city through the heavy traffic.  Then about half an hour later we unexpectedly pulled into another Litegua garage and were told to get off.  So we got off – the bags were transferred to another coach – and we boarded this one instead.   And, of course, this coach is not as comfortable, the seats are smaller and harder and less room all round.  Sigh….   We took off again and headed out away from the city through the mountains – enjoying the sights of the countryside all surrounded by lush green jungle.    But against this beautiful scenic backdrop is the poorest housing we have ever seen –  just blocks or wood shacks with tin roofs – no electricity or water with the rivers supplying their needs.    And rubbish is strewn everywhere along the road and into the river.   Shacks perch precariously on top of cliffs and although some are shored up many are just crumbling limestone walls…  But, despite the hardships, Guatemalans are some of the friendliest and happiest people we’ve ever met.  They have nothing.  But the kids are always playing and laughing – there is often girlie hair braiding groups sitting around – and they all look clean and well fed.

Anyway….after a torturous trip with just one 15 minute stop to grab food…. 11 hours later we arrived back on Morphie via Fronteras gripping an emergency box of fried chicken to go with the cold beers we left in the fridge.  Just what the doctor ordered….  

This morning, Friday, and we’ve just listened to the cruisers net and I’m blogging while Richard is putting the kettle on.   We have had a wonderful trip and really glad that we took the opportunity to see some of the sights of Guatemala – but it is time to shake off the holiday mode and get back into work mode – Morphie is due to come out of the water on Monday morning, so lots to do.   

Bye for now


Exploring Guatemala – Tikal

Sunday afternoon we were picked up by a tourist bus to take us to Tikal which was about an hour away from Flores.   We enjoyed the tour guide’s banter and, by the time they dropped us off at our hotel, we had signed up for a ‘sunrise tour’ for the following morning.  We checked in and walked through the gardens to our room at the Tikal Jungle Lodge.   This turned out to be a lovely little bungalow with outside seating….with jungle views.   Very nice!

Lodge bungalows Room 1 Room 2

Tikal Lodge RoomWe quickly unpacked and went for a wander looking at the hotel grounds, checking out the pool and the restaurant / lounge area.   

Lodge 3 Lodge 2 Lodge Lodge gardens Lodge pool Lodge gardens 2

Then we decided to take ourselves off out to explore the park.  We wandered to the visitor centre, admiring the little Mayan stalls, and the model which gave us a better idea of the scale of this place.   Oh yes, and we avoided the crocodiles along the way!

Tikal visitor centre Tikal shops Watch out!

Tikal was discovered in 1848 by the Coronel Modesto Mendez Ambrosio Tut.   It was opened to the public in 1955 and it was recognised as a site of humanities heritage by UNESCO in 1979.   Tikal, in Mayan, means In the Lagoon but it is still known as the Place of the Spirit Voices.   The Mayan civilisation dates from the year 800 BC until 900 AD and the nucleus of the city was about 65 km sq.    The park has 19 main areas with five main temples, a Gran Plaza (which took an estimated 1,000 years to build) and numerous unexplored areas which have been reclaimed by the jungle.   It is home to many species including jaguars, cotis, wild pigs, howler monkeys, spider monkeys and is a bird watcher’s paradise.  

Although not ready for a trek into the jungle we did walk for about an hour along well-maintained paths cut through the area.  We enjoyed the sounds and sights and we got quickly exhausted in the heat of the day. 

Tikal 1

So we turned around and went back to our room for a rest up.   After a while we went out for dinner and returned to our little bungalow for an early night.

Time for dinner

Waiting for us in our bathroom was a large spider and Richard tried to trap him in a glass but the diameter of the glass wasn’t big enough!!!   So this agitated the spider who then scampered around jumping like a lunatic and took refuge under the sink – sadly he had to be despatched as we couldn’t have slept knowing he was there. 

Monday morning – at 3.00 am – and the alarm went off.  This eco-lodge shuts off the generator from 10pm to 7am so there are no lights at all so we even had to wash using a light from a head torch LOL.  Equipped with that and a flashlight app on the phone we headed into the pitch black – so dark you couldn’t see a hand in front of your face – and made it to the hotel reception where we were met by Carlos (our guide) for the sunrise tour at 4.15.  

We walked in the dark – at a steady pace – for about an hour and learnt a lot about the Mayan culture until we reached the base of Temple IV and then we started the long climb up the 200+ steps to the top.    They were, thankfully, wooden with handrails until we reached the very top.    Then we climbed the original walls until we took our place against the wall and sat waiting along with other tourists.   The forest canopy started to be seen through the gloom but it was too misty for a view of the sunrise or the tops of the temples poking through the trees.   We sat for a while but had to admit defeat after an hour or so….so made the long walk back down.  

Tikal 2 Tikal 3 Tikal 4 Tikal 5 Tikal 7 Tikal 8

We visited lots of sites with Carlos before we returned to the hotel for breakfast at 9.00 am.   After breakfast we headed back out into the jungle and returned for the canopy view now that the mist had cleared – and it was certainly worth the effort – and, if it looks eerily familiar, think George Lucas and Star Wars!  Tikal is a magical place and we enjoyed the visit greatly.

Tikal 9 Tikal 10 Tikal 11 Tikal 12 Tikal 13 Tikal 14 Tikal 15 Tikal 16 Tikal 17 Tikal 18 Tikal 19 Tikal 20 Tikal 21 Tikal 22 Tikal 23 Tikal 24 Tikal 25 Tikal 26 Tikal 27 Tikal 28 Tikal 29 Tikal 30 Tikal 31 Tikal 32 Tikal 33

Back to the lodge and we decided to get connected, so went into the lounge area, for the internet.    We also told reception that, as we were flying in the morning, we were going to be leaving at 5.00 am for the airport so would check out this evening.  What time did reception close?

This was met with a stunned silence – oh no they said – you can’t do that!   Why not?  The park is closed tomorrow morning until 7.00 am.  Why?   A meeting.   So what – all we want to do is leave by minibus.   Oh no, you won’t be able to, as the minibus will not be permitted to enter the park to pick you up.  So what’s the answer then?   We will transfer you to our sister hotel in Flores (the Isla de Flores) put you up in the best room and then transfer you to the airport in the morning free of charge.   Disappointed – but what can you do – we headed back to our room and started to pack ourselves up.  Just grateful that we hadn’t prepaid for the airport transfer.    

At 1.30 we left Tikal and arrived back here in Flores an hour later.    Oh yes….and guess what….it was like ground hog day as they gave us the keys to the same room we had before!   

We are now enjoying the air conditioning again before we have an early dinner.  We are out of here at 5.45 am in the morning to go to Flores airport – where we are flying to Guatemala City – and then transferring onwards to our hotel in the ancient city of Antigua (which used to be Guatemala’s capital city).    On with the adventure!

Bye for now


Exploring Guatemala – Flores

Thursday afternoon we got a lift across the river to Fronteras and arrived at the bus station at just gone three in preparation for a 3.30 pm departure.   The bus station is really just a shelter from the road and it was sweltering… we were looking forward to our First Class bus with air conditioning, reclining seats, movies etc etc.   At 3.30 pm a ramshackle-looking bus turns up – but we are told this is not for us.   Good!   So we asked about ours…..and we are told there are problems and that it will be another hour.   Hmmm……not a great start!    But we enjoyed watching the beauty queens being paraded in the back of vans while we waited.

Beauty parade 1 Beauty parade 2

At 4.30 pm another derelict old bus turned up and we were herded on at speed.   Well, it would appear the First Class bus wasn’t running, and we are in second class instead.  At least it wasn’t third class with livestock LOL.    The seats were broken and the air conditioning didn’t work, it was rammed, people were shouting excitedly on their mobiles, and the baby behind us kept pooping its nappy so the smell was not exactly fragrant.   We were quite nervous as the time slipped by because this was a local bus and it kept stopping and starting – while we were anxiously watching out to ensure our luggage stayed with us.   The scenery was pretty but the people are really poor – we saw many people using the river for their cooking, cleaning and washing needs.

Finally, after two hours, we arrived at a ‘comfort break’ service station and were able to talk to the driver who confirmed that he would tell us when we got to Flores.    In the dark we did wonder where we might end up!

Finally after four hours on the road, being shaken to bits, we arrived at the Flores Bus Terminal – so we grabbed the first taxi that came along and got to our hotel.     The Isla de Flores Hotel is lovely.  We have a huge room and bathroom and spotlessly clean.     We quickly unpacked, went to the café / bar area, had a snack and a cold one before having an early night.

Our hotel Our hotel 2 Our hotel 3 Our hotel 4 Our hotel 5 Our hotel 6 Hotel room 1

Friday morning we were up early so I luxuriated in the bath for a while – what a treat!  We had breakfast before heading out to explore.   We walked – and walked – and walked for hours around the whole island stopping on occasion to rehydrate with frozen fruit juices.    We thoroughly enjoyed the sights and sounds of this little island oasis away from the chaos on the mainland and its lake / island views.   We were surprised at how quiet it was but I guess it is the rainy season….  Oh yes, this is the Peten region if the selfie photo confuses!

Flores 23 Flores 1 Flores 2 Flores 3 Flores 4 Flores 5 Flores 6 Flores 7 Flores 8 Flores 9 Flores 10 Flores 11 Flores 12 Flores 13 Flores 14 Flores 15 Flores 16 Flores 17 Flores 18 Flores 19 Flores 20 Flores 21 Flores 22

Early afternoon we had had enough so returned to the hotel.  We wandered up to the third floor to check out the little plunge pool on the roof and decided that some cooling off was in order. 

Hotel plunge pool

We were in our room just getting into our swimmers when suddenly the heavens opened.  So bad that our shutters blew open….  And the storm started.    So we stayed put and ended up watching a film on the computer as the TV only has two English speaking channels – CNN and BBC World News.   

After a relaxing few hours we got ourselves cleaned up again and headed back out into town.  We were fascinated by the street vendors who had set up for the evening – and especially that most of them seem to just sell huge cakes alongside their savoury snacks.  We were also treated to a lovely Flores sunset.  

Street food 1 Street food 2 Street food 3 Sunset

We had never seen so many swallows in one place before…..apparently they head this way from Canada….was reminiscent of a scene from a Hitchcock movie!  And, of course, one of them pooped on my arm as we headed underneath LOL….  

Birds! The Birds!

We had a cold one in a water-front bar before heading to a restaurant that we had spotted on our earlier travels.  We had a lovely meal looking over the lake before retiring back to the hotel bar to take advantage of the happy hour cocktails.

Time for dinner Happy Hour cocktails

Saturday morning and we had breakfast before chilling for a few hours as we were meeting Joe and Ulla at 11.00 am.  This was pure fluke that they were going to be here at the same time…so we decided to get together.    We wandered down the waterfront and found a water taxi to take us around the island and the neighbouring areas.   There was a cute little dog on board too – but he was clearly poorly and, by the end of the hour on the boat, had taken himself off under the floorboards.  Hope he was OK!   

Off out on the river Boat puppy Boat crew

The tour was nice as we meandered around the lake and saw some local settlements – Mayan and Spanish origins alike – along with lots of dilapidated or part-finished properties that were being left to rot.    Again lots of have and have-nots living side by side…..

River trip 2 River trip 4 River trip 5 River trip 6 River trip 7 River trip 8 River trip 9 River trip 10 River trip 11 River trip 12 River trip 13 River trip 3

We headed back to Flores onto the island and we went to a local quirky hostelry for a cold one.  We sat and chatted before heading off on our separate ways to reconvene later.   Richard and I returned to our hotel pool and managed 45 minutes bobbing before running for cover when the rain came down……   

Later on we headed back into town and we took cover from another whiteout in Joe and Ulla’s hotel bar….before finding the smallest restaurant ever to have dinner in.   Was a fun time before we said farewells and we’ll see them again when we return to the Rio Dulce.

Out for dinner

This morning – Sunday – and we’ve had breakfast and I’m blogging while Richard is doing some research into satellite communications…..   At 1pm we are heading off on a collectivo to Tikal for the next part of our adventure.

Bye for now


Boat jobs finished – time to explore Guatemala

Friday night we went to the Cruiser’s Palapa for Happy Hour.   Quite a few people turned up and was great fun with lots of stories being shared…

Cruisers Happy Hour 1 Cruisers Happy Hour 2 Cruisers Happy Hour 3

Saturday morning and the guys were back varnishing again…..this was the ninth coat.  Only one more to go….   We popped into town and got some provisions and, once they had left for the day we took ourselves to the pool for a while.   The guys also returned our drawer with two of the sides replaced with solid wood rather than the original marine plywood.  With some final tweaks it fitted very well and we’re hoping that this will survive the wet atmosphere under the fridge better than the original design.

New drawer

Sunday morning and the guys were back for the final push.  They did the rub down and the final coat on the companionway and the helm seat but then decided to watch the weather as it was looking ominous.    Yep then it started to rain……    So they abandoned the idea and we all had some beers before they left.     Later on we went to the BBQ area and enjoyed another social evening with the cruisers.

Monday morning, bright and early, and the guys were back.     Yay….a nice day looming…with low cloud cover enabling us, unusually, to have a mountain view from our slip.

Mountain view 1 Mountain view 2

They worked hard and got the varnishing finished.   Anxiously we sat in the cockpit with all our flexible appendages crossed and, yay, it didn’t rain until later in the evening and the varnish was dry enough not to sustain any damage.   Job done!!!

For those of you who are actually interested in the varnishing process:

  • Remove varnish back to wood using a heat gun and a scraper
  • Rub down with 150 grit paper
  • Apply sealant
  • Sand down sealant using 220 grit paper
  • Alcohol rub between every coat
  • Sanding down between varnish coats one to four using 220 grit paper
  • Varnish 50:50 with thinners for coats one to four
  • Sanding down between coats five to ten using 400 grit wet and dry
  • Varnish 70:30 with thinners for coats five to nine
  • Varnish 70:30 cut with Turpentine (which gives a glassy finish) for final coat ten.

Tuesday morning and the guys came back and started to remove all the blue tape.   Once they had done this they climbed down into dink – with us on the coach roof – getting the steel work reinstated.   All the screws were replaced and sealed in with silicone.    We had one casualty in that the large crack in the stern piece actually broke through – and we were frustrated because this was the bit we wanted welding…but no-one turned up.   Oh well…never mind…..we’ll have to replace that piece at some point but in the meantime it was reinstalled and didn’t look too bad.

We are very happy with the finish – fantastic job guys!

New varnish 1 New varnish 2 New varnish 3

After an exhausting time working in the heat we planned a pool afternoon but we had the odd heavy shower….so decided instead to go across to the Shack.   We arrived around 4.30 pm and had a cold beer and some great food….and was enjoying ourselves….suddenly the heavens opened and the storm started.   So we sat it out for a while watching the clouds and the rain stopped.   Then the sky got ominously dark so we made a run for it, wearing our oh-so-trendy pack-a-macs!

Storm brewing

We got back to Morphie and all hell broke loose, so we sat in the cockpit watching the thunder and lightning show before retiring for an early night.   Richard, however, had to brave the storm during the evening as dink was full of rainwater and needed bailing out.

Wednesday morning we were up early and got on with the clean up.   We washed Morphie’s topsides;   I cleaned the stainless again (sticky finger prints!);  Richard reinstalled the cans although frustrated that the stainless handles had rusted badly in a single year so they are added to the list of purchases;  we put the pole back into its position;  and we moved the ropes back onto the cleats.

Reinstalling the boards Rusty....

Here is Morphie looking fantastic!

Back together and sparkling

Next jobs are the saloon doors to the heads which got water damaged a long time ago when Morphie was in charter – and have annoyed us ever since.    They are solid teak but have veneer insets so we were a bit concerned about tackling them ourselves.   And all types of products have failed to restore them.   So we agreed a price and handed them over.  The other job is some gelcoat repairs – the main damage being on the binnacle – which occurred while we were on the hard in Grenada and away in the UK.    We think it is a rope burn….   Anyway – the quality and price of the work here is amazing – so we’ve agreed a price and this work will happen while we are away exploring.

Gelcoat damage

Later in the afternoon we headed into town and purchased our bus tickets to Flores – all in Spanish as they do not speak a word of English.   When we got back to Morphie we reinstated dink onto the arch as we realised that leaving him in the water might not be the best bet while we are away.

We were completely exhausted and overtaken by the heat so we decided to get a takeaway cooked chicken for tea.   Once back we had a siesta to cool down and ended up literally just tearing the chicken apart with a few cold beers in the cockpit before having an early night.

This morning, Thursday, and the canvas guys have just been by to deliver our new rope tidies for each side of the companionway.  We are very pleased with them but won’t install them until next season.

New rope bags

Richard is now doing some sewing while I’m blogging.    We will pack later and head into town for the 3.30 pm bus to Flores.    We are very excited about exploring Guatemala before we get back to the rest of the boat jobs in preparation for Morphie coming out of the water.

Bye for now


Boat jobs coming along nicely in Guatemala

Friday afternoon we headed off in dink to The Shack.    Great little bar and although it was empty we enjoyed meeting Marvin the owner and listening to his plans for the future.   At the minute he has two beds upstairs so he’s looking to put in another couple and make it a small backpackers’ hostel.   He has lots of energy and enthusiasm so hope this works well for him.

The Shack 1 The Shack

While having some very cold beers we enjoyed watching the locals in the water – using a winch from the bow of a moored yacht to bring up these huge cages.   Not sure what they could hold – is this crabbing Guatemalan style?  

Crabbing maybe

We tried a local snack which was basically crispy tortillas topped with loads of vegetables, ground refried beans, ground beef and cheese all piled up high on top at Q10 for two – that’s only a pound – we certainly didn’t need any dinner later.   Heading back to Morphie the sun was just going down behind us – had been a lovely day.

Heading back before dark

Saturday and the guys are back on board early.   The weather is holding for us so far – fingers crossed.   As they need access to the companionway we are pretty restricted as to what we can do so carried on planning our road trip and chilling out down below with the fans on full blast.

By around 3pm the next coat of varnish was on….and it’s looking good……   

Another coat Another coat 2

We chatted to Charlie on the VHF and he came by so we took ourselves off to the pool for a bobbing session.   Great fun had by all.

Bobbing friends

Back to Morphie and the heavens opened…..and it rained….and it poured…..

Down comes the rain

Sunday morning and the guys are taking the day off so we luxuriated in a bit of a lay in.    While the work is going on we are up before 7.30 each day…..    Later on we get our food ready as we’re heading to the BBQ area for a pot luck this evening and we’ve invited Charlie along too just in case the others don’t show up again!

Well….actually…..quite a few people turned up and we had a lovely time.    Poppy, the four-year old Australian boat kid, has definitely taken a shine to us both – she makes everyone shuffle up every time so that she can sit next to us.   Amazing vocabulary for her age too…..and she loved the dauphinoise potatoes that I’d done as my ‘sharing’ dish.

BBQ night Poppy

Monday and back to the grindstone…..  Freddie and Matthew turned up on time and started rubbing down.  They have moved up to 400 grade wet and dry paper now and the wood just looks better and better.    Interestingly they wash all the wood down with pure alcohol before applying the next varnish coat which we’ve not seen before – but definitely on the list for us to try in the future.   Richard popped over to the town to collect our new pads from the canvas shop – these keep dink from getting damaged by rubbing on the arch when in a big sea.   Very happy with the end result and, although they look strange, they are an exact, albeit fatter, replica of those that had worked well for us over the last few years.

Dink pads

While the guys were working hard we got on with some laying up jobs – today it was the turn of all the sunscreens and the cockpit cushions to get a good scrubbing.   Although not sunny and humid here most of the time stuff does dry out pretty quickly….so that got all stored down below.     Another job ticked off the list.  Yay!

Later on we went to the pool and surprised Ulla and Joe with some champagne – they have just celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary.   Amazing inspirational couple – German by birth – but have lived all over the world including time in South Africa / Swaziland running an adventure tour company.   They moved on board their boat in 1988 and have done a couple of circumnavigations since.   It was lovely to give them a treat in return for all the good advice we’ve been getting….   Had a great up-market bobbing time!

Golden wedding anniversary The Happy Couple

Tuesday we purchased our paint from the West Marine store here at RAM Marina and got a large discount as we are having the work done here on our return… ended up paying pretty much US catalogue price.  So that was a result.   Richard is still working on his list of other things we need….    We also went into see Karen to confirm that we would like to take one of their apartments – on an exclusive basis.   Only $50 a night so worth the extra money not to have to share the fridge / freezer / cooker or lounge area….  Not the best but we’ll manage!

Tuesday afternoon we were going to go bobbing but the thunder started at around 4pm so cancelled that idea.    Had another rainy night in the cockpit worrying about the new varnish getting damaged!

Fingers crossed for no rain damage Fingers crossed for no rain damage 2

Wednesday morning we went into town for some provisions……and it was busy and crazy as usual…..but I think we are getting used to it now……  I chilled out when we got back but Richard worked really hard doing the oil and oil filter and the primary and secondary fuel filter changes.   It all went swimmingly.  

The guys are doing well and finished early.   So we treated them to a couple of beers and I practised my Spanish on them….before having a quiet night on board.   The rain came down again but the varnish was pretty dry so we dodged the bullet again!

Thursday we were on board most of the day trapped by the work going on around us.  Was pretty fed up that Raul – the fixer – didn’t show and is now scheduled for Tuesday next week.    Want to get our hands on our nine month customs extension as we need to make copies and I want to get our documents ready for leaving Morphie on the hard.    Arnie bought the drawer back with solid wood sides rather than plywood that had suffered in the damp conditions under the fridge.    A few more tweaks before it’s finished, but definitely an improvement.  

Thursday afternoon we went to the pool again and had a great time playing with the kids and bobbing by ourselves more serenely once they had all departed LOL.   Morphie has had eight coats of varnish now and looking sooooo shiny……   

Shiny shiny Shiny shiny 2

We’re quite excited to see the finished result with all the stainless back on too.   Oh yes…and talking of stainless…..the second guy came, spent ages doing measurements, gave us a (very reasonable) quote and then failed to show up or get in touch.  Looks like saying ‘no’ to a job isn’t the way it is done here in Guatemala they prefer to say yes, look interested, and then walk away.  Think we might give up on this and Richard is looking at other ways we can modify our helm seat ourselves….   So watch this space.

This morning, Friday, and we are both in the marina restaurant.   Richard is continuing with his West Marine list of things to get and I’m blogging…..  Later on there is an organised Happy Hour in the Cruiser’s palapa so we’re looking forward to that.

Bye for now