Thursday, February 27, 2014


Cruising has often wryly been defined as 'fixing you boat in interesting places'. This is no frustration for us as it's what we expect and enjoy. What's threatening our sanity at the moment is not being able to do our fixing and therefore delays in moving on. What's the problem in your beautiful tropical paradise? I hear you wonder; 'Demassiado lluvia' – Too Much Rain!

We've been here almost four weeks now and apart from a couple of delightful exceptions it's rained every single night. Before yesterday, the last five daytimes have been rainy too and plenty before that. It's not that we 'can't stand the rain'; we are British after all; it's just that our work is largely outside and perpetually damp or drying. Also, it's so warm that you need your doors and windows open trying to tempt in a little breeze.

Tuesday afternoon just when we thought we might have chosen something to do in the moisture, the power went.

The weeks of rain had dampened our spirits and it suddenly got to us just how little we'd managed to get done in this short and finite time we'd have the 'luxury' of power and nearby land. The reality is that we'd prefer to be at anchor in any case but we have several jobs that are massively aided by the use of power tools and a little more space.

Frustration hit and some words were flung. The problems have been only partly rain. It also has not been as easy as Duncan had hoped to get into the swing of things. I can't help feeling a bit like I'm on holiday so wasn't going for it hammer and tongs.

All of our first week was spent going through lockers; throwing out some things, cleaning and trying to irradicate our bugs. There was a fair bit of mould wiping and rearranging to be done before the boat felt homely again. Then there was going up town to provision and celebrate Duncan's birthday together with the inevitable hangovers. A few days were lost and our provisioning would have been much more appropriate if I hadn't felt so nauseus and weak. We consequently predictably ran low on fresh foods only one week later and eaked out our last few onions tomatoes and chillis for the next week. Repeatedly we put off a restocking trip due to the time it would take and how much we wanted to get done before our friend visits – when we had to go to town anyhow.

In any case Tuesday afternoon was a low spot, perhaps exacerbated by perfectly adequate, but below usual par food. We weren't alone, Mauritz who owns our space in the jungle ( I hesitate to call it a marina as it would do it a disservice) with his girlfriend Mavis slammed down his chisel on the workbench as rain dripped down his neck despite being under the roof , 'this is starting to 'shall we say' really piss me off now'; he wouldn't be glueing up his bowsprit that day. Mavis got back from dropping someone off in town in their lancha totally drenched through. 'I'm so glad we moved to the sun, baby'.

So, Tuesday night it continued to pour, we continued to grump at one another and 'no hay electricidad' persisted. We'd heard from our friend and we wanted to meet her soon. We started hatching a plan and went to bed waking up with regularity to squash some bloody mosquitos or lament on the thunderous hammering of precipitation on our roof.

Wednesday bloomed a whole new day. The sun poked through the remaining spots of drizzle, we had a plan and Duncan had laid it down; no more laziness. Mauritz was laughing over his music as he glued up his bowsprit. The whip had been cracked and we sprung into action, lockers were rearranged, cutting lists were organised, stuff was packed away; focus reigned.

In the afternoon I heard Mauritzs' compressor running, I knew he was already up in the bar area 'having a business meeting' with his builders and a beer. I looked across the water; no flow of exhaust out the side of his boat; he wasn't running his generator. 'Dunc, we've got power!'

I routed the edge on the piece of wood for the table; just one pass that I'd been trying to do for 48 hours. Duncan went to strip up a whole load of wood to prepare it to make trim in the future. I fibreglassed the edges of the dinghy way past sundown and we went up to discuss travel plans for the next day with Mavis and Mauritz over a beer for me and a 'Tom especiale' for Duncan; rum, tonic and lime over ice.

Mario could pick us up in his outboard powered cayuco at 06.30. This took a moment to get used to as we'd hoped to go around 2pm having cleared away and scrubbed up the boat a bit and painted the dinghy in the morning in expectation of our first visitor. Once we assimilated the new plan it all seemed grand again and we resolved to go to bed soon; it was already almost 11pm and we still hadn't eaten...

Mario zipped us up to Fronterras in just under two hours picking up various people and fish along the way. We had just enough time for huevos revueltos y frijoles negras; scrambled eggs and refried beans before getting on the bus for Flores. Rachel is there already having made the trip from Cancun airport in record time, however, at this present moment, we aint goin' nowhere.

Our bus stopped in a huge traffic jam just outside Poptun about 4 hours ago and I'm sitting on the side of the road thinking about frustration. We're told it's a teachers' strike blocking the road; apparently they've not been paid sufficiently and are letting people know by stopping the traffic. We're told that either the situation or individuals are 'locos', its hard to tell which, but no-one seems overly worried by this. I'm sure the 70 or so people who have poured out of our bus all have places to be and things to do but at the moment there's nothing anyone can do about it; for now we'll just have to wait.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The day we ran out of screws...

As I think we might have mentioned a few times before; when we bought Impetuous she came with a miriad of stuff. As well as the big important stuff like sails, winches and self steering gear, we were also given lots of little stuff; stuff that you might never consider but that really adds up.

The cupboard behind the cooker, for instance, was full of boxes of screws.  During our rebuild the screws moved to one of the drawers in the head, agreeably as odd a home as the cupboard behind the cooker, but they fit there so well.  Actually sitting on the toilet whilst contemplating what screw one needs for a job seems a fortunate duality of a room that perhaps mightn't have one.

When we were readying the boat to leave Texas we made sure we had plenty of all our favorite sizes whilst we still had access to Blackburns', our marine store.  Indeed we no longer had space for all the screws in just one drawer so the jubilee clips (hose clamps); another item that came with the boat in large number; had to be relegated to another place.   Neither of us are quite sure where to at the moment, but we know we have hundreds of the things lurking somewhere.

So today I went to the drawer to find some small screws with which to screw on the Ratan doors that I have just finished making for the galley cupboards. No suitable screws were to be found. The hinges for said doors are brass, obviously I was after a brass screw to suit. A ½'' number 6, oval headed, countersunk, brass wood screw, with a flat head drive to be quite precise.

I had to rob the afore mentioned screws from the inside attachment of other such hinges to carry out the job. This make do attitude I suspect we'll find increasingly necessary, traveling in far away places. It's a sobering thought though. With only a thousand miles under the keel we have started running out of screws. 

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Build your own nesting dinghy day 2...

Internet has been very iffy here so we're way ahead of this now however, no time to fill in the lot, got to get on!!

We bought the wood whilst still in Texas. Since then it has made our bed in the bow less than the most comfortable. It has been stored under the mattress; cut into guess your dinghy shape sized strips and piled underneath. Also whilst still in Texas Duncan made several model dinghies from cardboard, our favorite has traveled around with us ever since and was used as a guide for the real dinghy; taking angles and dimensions from it.

It all starts with the first cut. The lines for the transom were drawn on to the correct bit of wood and cut, the floor and side pieces followed. The off cuts were gathered up and used to make the forward frame. 

Saturday, February 8, 2014

The Pros and Cons of Travelling with Boxes

Space on a boat is always tight, so when it comes to packing in England we choose cardboard boxes and a roll of tape.  We perfect the weight allowance at the airport, tape them up, then unwrap when we arrive and throw the boxes away.  It works great, always has. Admittedly no straps for carrying but they fit on top of your head just brilliantly.

This time, however, we took our boxes through three different countries of Central America.  Smuggled might have been the word chosen by any of the three customs officers who stopped us on our trip south.  The last customs guy, when we rolled in to Guatemala; tugging on the solitary wraps of gaffer tape, was surprised it didn't pop open revealing a stash of contraband.  He looked at me sternly as I explained, poorly in broken Spanish, that it was just stuff for our boat that we had left in the Rio Dulce.

We were searched first in Mexio. With a fresh smile, we gladly unpacked. The customs officer seemed most interested in the absolute worth of the boxes.  It was perhaps fortuitous for us, that the last items tossed in our boxes were tea. They bring our hold weight up to the 20 kg in manageable 125g leaps.  Sifting through them I picked up our recently acquired epirb; perhaps the most expensive item, he wasn't interested.  With a dreamy gaze of one who has realized that fighting Mexico's colossal racketeers by stopping tourists in airports is futile. He was playing with the hand drill, spinning the drive whilst he watched the drill end spin.

The same inquisition happened as we entered both Belize and Guatemala.  The same inquiry; quizzing us about the contents of each box, a kind of vocabulary test if you like, followed by uncertainty as to which box they would like to look in, in the hope, I presume that our faces will change to a look of fear as the box with all hand guns padded with cuddly toys stuffed with drugs is selected.

We did however arrive, with all the contents of our luggage; including CO2 canisters, burgeoning first aid kit and the usually not packed, though frequently mocked kitchen sink; our current one so deep that an inch of ocean always resides in the bottom of it.  Once stowed in the appropriate lockers, we unavailled ourselves of our suitcase of choice. The cardboard box.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

We're Back Yeah!!!

After a lift from a friend... a train journey, a taxi across London, a bus journey, a night at a friends house, a car journey, a plane journey, a bus journey, an overnight bus journey, a short walk, another bus journey, a well earned overnight rest by the lake at Florres then a final bus journey we arrived at Fronteras; the main town of the Rio Dulce. At this point we wandered laden down to the dinghy dock at 'Brunos' hoping for no more than a cold beer before thinking about the final leg of our trip. What we weren't expecting was that the first person we laid eyes on would be Tom; the sailmaker who looks after our moorings. Tom has been emailing us monthly updates on how Impetuous has been keeping.  Luckily he still had stuff to do 'up town' as we had supplies to buy, so we agreed to meet back in around an hour. Just enough time to squeeze in that beer and a spot of veg shopping.
I had expected the 'lancha' (long boat with a big outboard motor) ride to be noisy with a risk of sun/wind burn to my English wintered skin, however it was much more pleasant than I'd imagined. Since Tom was going where we were, it was also much quicker than the public boat would have been. This would have been dropping off and picking up at many places along the roughly 12 mile trip, we were fortunate indeed. 

And fortunate is how we felt as we spied Impetuous' mast above the tree line and rounded into the Lagoon which had protected her whilst we were away. Cayo Quemado or Burnt Key is only accessible by water and is on the edge of 'El Golfete' a lake on the Rio Dulce in Guatemala. A tributary runs into the lagoon which is surrounded by swamp, jungle and mountains in the distance, it's a pretty cool place to be staying a few weeks...
Dunc; happy to be home!

In the week we've been here back with Impetuous, we've made a dint in the jobs we wanted to get done whilst we still have the benefits of dry land access, but the two main jobs are still as yet untouched...

Tom and his colleagues have been doing their best to look after Impetuous whilst we have been away; their service includes opening the doors and hatches on any sunny days, checking the boat monthly inside and out and giving her a clean when she needs it. This said we still had a bit of catch up cleaning to do once we were back. We've been gradually working through all the cupboards; emptying, thoroughly cleaning and wiping dry with a few spots of Eucalyptus oil in the hope of keeping them more pleasantly fragrant; we're told lemon oil is the thing to use but as we haven't any, this is our attempt. It's a very warm, humid and rainy microclimate here in this part of the Rio Dulce, therefore damp and mould can be a problem. This is nothing to do with the boat, just that the air is wet a lot of the time. It's why the jungle is so lush and the mountains are so beautiful and green.

We've found a few nasties... We had to throw away some of our food stores; the pasta had almost all gone bad from damp and much of our rice had critters crawling in it. We've managed to remain ant free whilst away, after having them marching in lines allover the boat since Texas.  However, we're slightly overrun with these... Anyone know what this is?  They're about 3mm long, best guess is that they came from the rice, thrived and are now to be found allover the place! The numbers peaked around day three when we'd disturbed many of the cupboards and are now thankfully appearing to decline...

My main job this week aside from much scrubbing has been to get the mast varnished. The arrangement was made back when we were deciding what to do about the mast; the deal was that if I wanted us to build our own wooden mast then it was up to me to do the varnishing at least once if not twice yearly... I'm holding him to it, it's fun up there!  One trip up to wash and sand, then two coats have been squeezed in between the showers. It could have waited, as the varnish was still in very nearly perfect condition but we figured it was best to get into good habits straight away.

Duncan has already made two new galley doors which we're going to stretch Rattan over the insides of... We're making good use of the mostly available shore power and workshop area. The owners keep some tools and spend much of their time tinkering there too, it's a very friendly and relaxed atmosphere here, we've been admonished more than once for working past 5pm... 
Now the mast is varnished we've headed back up to the town to stock up on food and drink for the next couple of weeks.  We haven't been able to post until now as the internet hasn't been working at burnt key.  We'll stay for Duncan's birthday today and then head back sore headed to our lovely jungle hideaway.   Our most important jobs are to make a dinghy and a main table, however as always the lists are growing...