Friday, February 27, 2015

Anchored near Fronteras

We had a nice restful sleep and were underway at 8:45 am to the Marina area of Rio Dulce. It was a 4 hour cruise and while we had hoped for good lighting for photos of the 7.5 mile gorge section it was cloudy then began to drizzle. It still made for interesting photos I think. The steep 300 foot jungle covered limestone gorge is impressive. As we approached the El Golfete section it rained very hard. By the time we reached where we decided to anchor the rain had stopped and some remaining clouds keep it cooler.

Entering the gorge of Rio Dulce

Taken from the Cafe we are having a Pizza. Asperida is lined up with the white boat on the left so hidden somehow?

Also from the Sundog Cafe

Posted with BlogPress on iPhone

Location:Highway 5,Livingston,Guatemala

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Grand Cayman to Rio Dulce

As it turned out we should have cleared out and left on Friday the 20th.  By Saturday morning it was rocking and rolling even though the wind was supposed to be NE.  We went to town with the wind about 12 knots but by the time we got back it was gusting to 22 knots and the waves were too big to deal with the dinghy but we managed.  Although not without damage to the ladder brackets.  It went smoothly to undo our mooring line and we were underway, first raising the missen then letting out a partial genoa.  It took a while but we managed to get the sails balanced for auto pilot.  Early on we were doing 6 knots and it said we would arrive in 3 days and 8 hours but now we are getting about 5 knots.  It's really rough but we are going in the right direction and it's more comfortable than it was on the mooring.  It's about 12:30 am and we left the mooring about 12 hours ago.  I'm on the 12 to 4 am shift and we switch for tomorrow.  
It's February 22nd and my 61st birthday.  Last year I had just jumped ship in Punta Allen, Mexico with $4 US worth of pesos.  I spent my birthday with Norma who was traveling in a VW Westfalia van parked under some palm trees on the beach.  I also met a young coulple from the UK and found the little resort where they were staying took credit cards!  Now a year later I'm actually going to see Rio Dulce.  I wonder if I'll run into Larry?  I jumped ship crewing for him from Florida to Rio Dulce but ...... We didn't get along. 
The wind is supposed to let up about mid day so maybe another 12 hours.  Hopefully it won't drop to nothing as it sure would be nice to get there in 5 days rather than 7.   
It's midday Sunday and the wind is down to 11 to 14 knots.  We are sailing just over 4 knots now.  The remainder at this speed would take 3 days 15 hours.  It's light winds in the forecast and slow going.  It seems it's going to end up being at least 4 more days unless we get luckier with the wind or motor if need be.  The remaining issue with the engine is fuel somehow getting added to the crankcase oil?  He switched a pump while on the mooring but until we use the engine we won't know if that solved it?  It's still rough but the seas are dropping too.  Wind in the single digits by Wednesday.   Too bad we can't have a south or north wind and be on a reach.  We've been on a broad reach with missen and most if the genoa but our course is further south than direct to Rio Dulce so we will have to jibe eventually.  
As it turned out we are now on a course that's ideal.  The wind dropped but it's still good and we are doing just under 5 knots.  It sounds like the next 2 days will be about 14 knots but Wednesday the wind dies down to 5 or less knots.

First sunset

First sunrise 
It's just past 12:30 pm on Monday the 23rd.  We've now been underway 48 hours with 266 NM remaining to Rio Dulce though the mouth of the River is about 20 NM less than that.  Our first 24 hour period we did 114 NM and the second one was 117 NM so 234 NM total which means in not too much longer we will be half way to the river mouth where the entry port town of Livingston is.  About 8 am the wind went from east to northeast so we unfortunately are heading southerly more than our preferred course.  We will have to jibe before we get too close to the Honduran bay islands.  That tack will undoubtedly have us heading even more north of our course than the southerly tack we are now on.  Grib files were forecasting east winds. At least we have wind.  It's supposed to drop to 5 knots or less Wednesday but potentially from the SE which might allow us to actually slowly sail on course?  
It's been just over 72 hours now and while we only did 86 NM during the 3rd 24 hour day it leaves 180 NM or 160 NM to where we will anchor to clear in at Livingston.  At the 72 hour mark it was also just 127 NM to the south end of Belize's barrier reef at the Sapodilla Cayes which we had to plot the course a hair south to clear them.  Then we enter an area that doesn't often have very much wind on the Grib files?  
It's interesting that we've seen only 3 other boats at night and none during the day so far.  The first night Walter called one on the radio because he was heading right for Asperida.  He was able to call the boat by name and reference the call was from Asperida.  He altered course promptly but gave no reply.  That was during the 8 pm to midnight shift and when I came up he pointed out another ship that seemed to be going slow for a freighter.  I ended up altering course to pass behind that one when it was evident he wasn't going to give me any sort of right of way.  Then last night at the  start of my night shift Walter pointed out a boat a long was off and a long time later it was on the AIS and called Gulden Heeuw it looked like it was a big tall ship and it had upper and lower running lights and the ever popular blue lights that confuse the issue of green light on starboard side... For a while we thought it was coming right at us even on an intercept course but finally as it was closer you could see the port running lights and that the confusing lights were in fact blue.  Also we could see it's course and speed and it even briefly altered it so as not to pass behind us as close as it might have.  We were doing 3 knots and it was going 5 knots.  As it passed off our stern it was about 3.35 NM away.  
Wow I missed writing yesterday?  It was a slow day and our fourth day 24 hour total was only 76 hours.  It's now about 1 pm on the start of the 5th day.  We are currently becalmed as of about 12:15 pm.  It was just as the Grib files said and it also said it would only last about 3 or 4 hours then start blowing again eventually 12 knots from the east so hopefully that Grib file forecast will also be true.  Even with the slow 2 day totals following the first 2 days each over 100 NM it still appears we will end up getting to the mouth of the Rio Dulce a few hours into the start of the 6th day.  That is if the wind does comeback like it says.  I asked about just motoring a few hours but he says it's too far but I only mentioned it because we did motor a 4 hour very calm part of the Passage to the Cayman Islands...which took is 5 days 9 hours!!! Not a good total for a 310 NM passage.  I think this 477 mile passage to the port town Livingston will beat that.  I'm in the only shade big enough that's from the missen.  We rolled up the genoa until we get wind.  I'll definitely have a cockpit Bimini on my future sailboat.  Last night we had a couple ships though only one on my shift.  Just lights in the distance and it's name on AIS was Norwegian Sun.
After about 4 hours of calm the wind finally began to blow around 4:15 pm and we were sailing again.  Slowly at first barely more than 1 knot but as the evening went on we were doing 4 knots or so by sunset.  Had we been able to sail those 4 hours we'd be 12 to 16 NMs closer.  It still looks like if the wind holds through the night and on we will arrive to Livingston in the first 4 or 5 hours of the 6th 24 hour day.  We need it to be daylight and ideally cross the bar at the mouth at high tide which is about 1:45 pm I believe.
Huh! Well after the 4 hour calm at the beginning of day 5 we ended up with the mild east wind becoming a strong SE wind perhaps a catabolic wind off the mountains of Honduras?  It was early into Walters 8 pm to midnight shift and he called me up around 10 pm to roll in some genoa but the wind was 20 to 25 knots and we could not.  Auto pilot was working fine so we called it good.  The main concern was trashing the Genoa which already has some damage on about 6 feet of the mid leach area.  I went back to try sleeping and by the start of my midnight shift the winds were down to the 15 to 18 knot range and continued dropping.  Walter said at times Asperida was clocking speeds of 8 knots when the wind was strongest with just the missen and genoa.  By 1:15 am the we were only going 3 or 4 knots.  Then we got becalmed again about 8 NM before reaching the waypoint south of the Belize barrier reef.  We drifted almost 2 NM closer to our way point and the reef during the rest of my frustrating shift.  At the start of Walters 4 am to 8 am after seeing we'd not really moved much it was time to use the engine.  The total remaining distance to Livingston was 40 NM.  I slept again getting up once to do the day tank and then got up in time for the sunrise.  Checking out navionics I saw we would indeed be getting to Livingston today!!  In fact as I write this section we are at anchor about 10 NM from the crossing of the bar at the mouth.  We are waiting to cross during the high tide.  We anchored here to wait about 8:30 am of the 5th 24 hour day which doesn't actually end until 12:30 pm so I guess we can say we could have arrived to Livingston under 5 total days but it will be a few minutes over the 5 day mark by the time we are anchored at Livingston.  (In fact we anchored off Livingston at 1:56 pm so our total time was 5 days, 26 minutes.  Now hopefully we will be cleared in today so we can go ashore in Livingston and maybe I'll even find wifi to upload this ?

Sunrise behind us on our 5th day approaching Guatemala.

Livingston, Guatemala.  Waiting for the officials to come to the boat to clear us in so we can go ashore.  

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Cold front comes through

GYesterday, Wednesday, it was the start of our second full day of south winds and good sized breakers on the reef.  Before my trip to shore on Tuesday I watched all morning to see how they were breaking and where I'd want to approach the gap in the reef.  It's right where the cruise ship passenger shuttle boats dock on a single concrete pier.  A red buoy marks the right side but it's well inside the reef so it doesn't really mark the gap on the outside.  The waves were intimidating on my approach so I used caution and stayed well out until I saw the gap straight in line with the pier and went in successfully with waves on either side breaking on the reef as I rode in on a wave that didn't break due to the deeper water.  The waves yesterday when Walter went ashore might have been even bigger than Tuesday but mostly it was that they came even more from the south not SSE like Tuesday.  He set out and I was surprised he was on a direct line toward the gap rather than staying well off the reef until in line with the gap, then heading straight in.. I watched with concern hoping no big sets would roll through.  Then I saw that he was not going to be so lucky and he was hit by a big breaker I suppose 50 to 100 feet before reaching the gap. I thought for sure he had been flipped as he disappeared behind the breaker and was quite relieved when I saw the dinghy finally reappear right side up with him still in it once past the reef on the calmer water inside.  He had been hit and tossed to the floor and surfed right over the reef all without hitting any coral with the outboard..  He was of course soaked but his tablet was ok being in both a semi water resistant case and his daypack.  I was glad when I saw him get back up on the side tube and continue motoring toward the dock at the public beach.  He was greeted by folks at the beach saying awesome surf dude or something along those lines.  
I credit my years of whitewater kayaking and sea kayaking and facing similar paddling through gaps in reef or avoiding breakers in general gave me a better appreciation of why you do not want to take short cuts to a gap in the reef?  Anyway it was a relief that the dinghy was not flipped!

As Walter was on shore I did laundry in the sink in a bucket.. I washed in seawater then rinsed in sea water than rinsed a couple more times in fresh water.  During this process I'd noticed 3 sailboats heading this way from the George Town direction.  As I went out to hang my laundry I noticed the wind had picked up to 12 knots from the west so Asperida was now beam to the waves of the 2 days of south winds and was rocking and rolling.  The 3 sailboats were hoping for the 3 port authority moorings here at Spotts Bay but were out of luck and one had to anchor.  Then later the small 'Pirate' tall ship circled around the already moored sailboats.  It's a boat that is listed in tourist brochures doing group and family tours with the crew dressed as pirates.. sword fighting on deck, shooting off the cannon, snorkel stop etc.  It was called 'Pirates of the Cayman Islands'.  I'm not sure of the boats name but it too was out of luck and continued east around the point where it likely knows of other moorings or good anchoring.  Then a while after it got dark a sailing trimaran came right toward us as if they could not see our anchor light?  Walter turned on our bright spot light and they altered course and tied to a makeshift private mooring right next to us.  The wind had done just as the grib files predicted.  During the night the light south wind clocked west then north and about 4 am was howling in the rigging at 20 to 25 knots and the southerly seas were somewhat flattened.  It was the most restful few hours toward morning compared to the last 2 nights of noise and rocking and rolling all the while just 150' upwind of a coral reef.  Going up on deck in the morning, we also have 2 tugs towing barges out aways just heading back and forth avoiding the unprotected George Town area until the wind slacks off.  Also a huge private mega Yacht anchored just beyond the 3 sailboats, 4 counting the catamaran on the private mooring right next to us.  Another small cruising sailboat is anchored or moored far to the west of us and out from it quite a ways was a huge, huge, huge tall ship.  It later came by fairly close to us perhaps looking for a better place to anchor or perhaps they have what the cruise ships have.. Where the boat stays as if docked using thrusters and GPS?  It was that big.. 

The 3 sailboats.  The closest one at anchor plus the Pirate Ship circling around before continuing east.

In this morning photo you can see the 3 sailboats who arrived together and the Red Sail Sports catamaran plus not so easy to see the huge tall ship in the distance...furthest to the left.  You can also see the mega power yacht and theres a 6th sailboat you can't really see in the photo.  

Even with 20 to 25 knots it's pretty flat and much more relaxing though so far quite cold out on deck.. At least in shorts and a T-shirt.  We've just been reading and listening to Cayman Islands radio station.

The big tall ship I mentioned even unloaded a few tenders and shuttled passengers to shore.  It's now left the area but I'm sure remains on the south side of the island.... Or not as the wind has dropped?

Ok the grib files have proven inaccurate for today Friday the wind is around 15 knots and a lot more from the east like ENE?  The grib files had the wind still 20 to 25 knots eventually from the NE by Saturday.  Anyway Walter decided to go ashore for email and hopefully also a grib file update.. Plus dinner for tonight.  
We plan to both go to George Town tomorrow, Saturday morning to clear out of the Caymans.  I guess if you do it before noon on Saturday there is no overtime fee.  Then we will set out but we might wait until morning.. Sunday the 22nd which is also my 61st birthday.  I really had assumed and hoped we'd be in Rio Dulce by now for my birthday.  Now I'm hoping we can at least do the passage in 7 days at most! It's about 497 NM all the way into the Marina area from the Cayman Islands.  That's about 570 statute miles!! 
A cruise ship came here this morning and has been shuttling passengers back and forth.  It's quite cold out and time in the cockpit is brief.  The sun has tried to break through the clouds so an improvement over yesterday which was completely overcast.  I have a feeling we might start to see some sun tomorrow and hopefully it will not be a cold start to our passage to Guatemala.
Walter returned and I guess it was 40 degrees in Miami?  the low I'm assuming.  Cold all up the east coast.  Often that can mean warmer than usual back in Minnesota?  

We plan to set out Friday 2/20 ... Now looks it like Sunday

It's Wednesday almost noon on the 18th as I write this.  We have sat moored on the boat through 2 days and nights of southerly winds mostly 10 to 15 knots, occasionally stronger early on when still SE.  It's now down to 5 knots or less and is supposed to be light as it swings west then north.  About 1 am early Thursday it should be NNE at 20 to 25 knots.  This continues through Friday but since it's off-shore and there won't be waves it won't be a problem taking the dinghy to shore.   Actually we have gone to the shore.  The first day Walter went to find out about whether Sue might be coming.  Yesterday I went and there were good sized waves even in the gap in the reef I took the dinghy through.  With our mismatched pair of oars, one not able to fit the oar lock you have in mind the non ideal scenario that having an outboard issue could lead too as the waves were breaking 4 footers or more over the coral reef.  They would likely dump the dinghy over if you were carried over the reef due to outboard issue.  
I guess Walter is going ashore today to get the for sure word on whether Sue is coming or not?  It did not sound like it due to the short duration of her vacation and the high cost of the 2 one way airfares.
The waves are still breaking big on the reef but the wind is very light now.  I don't think I will bother going ashore until Friday the day we will check out and head SW to Rio Dulce.  That would be when I upload this blog entry.  (Actually I stayed on the boat Friday but will upload this and the newer post Saturday the 21st as we are going to town to clear out.)
OK now it looks like we won't set out until possibly Sunday as the winds begin to drop then and the seas will drop as well.  So never mind the title of this blog post.. I'll post it as is when ever I get ashore next.  I'm going to write another about the events of yesterday and how different it is now with the strong north wind.  

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

It's been a week

This evening about 4:30 pm it will have been a week since clearing into the Cayman Islands.  We are still where we grabbed a mooring that first night and about to have the first wind from the south since being here.  It's supposed to be east right now up to 20 but so far I've not seen even 18 knots?  It's starting to swing slightly south and it's about ESE as I write this.  About 1 pm it is supposed to get a bit lighter with max of 15 knots, then by 4 am tomorrow morning it's supposed to drop to 10 knots.  Eventually it will really die off and a front passes through with a chance of rain then stronger 20 to 25 knot NNE winds which continue swinging more NE until the end of my current Grib files which is 8 am Friday the 20th.  We might be on our way by then depending on whether Walter's friend Sue comes to sail with us and we wait that long?
We rigged up a mooring line bridle for the boat with some large diameter spectra type line.  Still with this south wind of 15 to potentially 20 knots we can't both leave the boat today.  Walter will need to check email for the latest on whether or not Sue is coming so I will likely stay aboard to deal with an unlikely mooring failure..  We need new grib files too.  I wish we could get a marine weather update daily while underway?!?!

Walter is pumping the fuel/oil mixture that accumulates in the engine crankcase when we motor.  He researched the problem in a Deisel troubleshooting manual and suspected a leak of some diaphragm on a pump I believe that's part of the fuel system.  The diaphragm looked fine so he switched the whole pump out for a spare he had.  We won't know if that solved that issue until we've motored a fair amount like several hours.   Since the replacing of heat exchanger on our last stop, we've used the engine a couple times for durations of 4 hours or so...maybe longer?  The only problem seems to be the fuel getting into the crankcase oil.

OK Walter returned with the news that Sue is not going to come.. Or it sounded that way due to her really only having 10 days vacation and airfare to Caymans and then back from Guatemala City would total about $1,200.  I suppose I'm looking at a return to Duluth airfare from Guatemala City to be at least $800 though maybe if I get it more days in advance I can find a lower rate?  If it's substantially cheaper I'll just fly to the cities and visit my mom and beg a friend to come get me.   Weather now looks like we might not be setting out until after Friday the 20th?  That will make our stop here in the Cayman's the longest place we've been.  I was at one point hoping we would be in Rio a Dulce about the 20th when I thought we were to just take a rest of 2 or 3 days?  Oh well.  Strong north winds to almost 30 knots are forecast for late Wednesday through Friday so I guess we will wait for that to slack off.  Then we have to check out of the country via the bus to town I suppose the day before we depart.

This is actually from the evening before ... Sunday evening.  Last night it was just gray with no sunset.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Farewell to Candace

Last night was our last night with Candace on board.  She met a local guy who lives at the condo development next to the public beach we are moored out from.  His name was Roger and he was a very nice and helpful guy.  He took us in his truck to the big hardware store in George Town sort of like a Home Depot back home.  We got a few things like rust remover, 5 gallon gas jug, water jug and a bunch of insect screen to help keep the bugs out of the boat when we get to Rio Dulce.  Rumor has it there can be bugs there.  We invited him out to the boat as he has his own little fishing boat he keeps anchored just off the condo beach.  He even filled and brought out the new 5 gallons water jug.  We chatted into the night and it was after 10 pm by the time we all,said good bye..  Then we had dinner and went to sleep.  Come morning Candace was packing up her stuff and when done she went on a last swim to the beach.  I guess she saw 5 sea turtles on that last swim.  The particular beach 'Spotts Beach' is listed as a good place to see turtles.  It has some patches of turtle grass and a little reef so it gets a lot of beach snorkelers.  There is a little parking lot, porta potty and garbage cans.  It's pretty popular at times.  It's been convenient since we are on a mooring ball just out from the reef.  
Then we all went to shore and caught the next bus to George Town but got off at the bus stop closest to the Airport and had lunch at a place called Mango Tree.  Then we walked about a mile with Candace's huge duffel bag double carrying it.  We eventually left after getting to the spot where only passengers with boarding passes could go.  
Walter and I stopped at a grocery store near where we ate lunch and stopped again at Mango Tree for a drink and one last check for new email.  Then we took a bus back and were out on the boat by 4:20 pm.. It's unusually quite and boring sounding around here?  Just the sound of the wind in the rigging.
I guess we are sort of waiting to see if another friend of Walter's about to start a 2 week vacation wants to come sail to Rio Dulce with us..  I hope we hear from her that she wants to come but if not... Off we will go sailing to Rio Dulce about 495 miles away.   It's about 475 miles to the mouth of the river where we check in to the country at a town called Livingston that apparently has no road access to it?  After a night anchored there we head up the river known for where scenes from old Tarzan movies were filmed.  The ones with the former Olympic swimmer Johnnie Wiesmiller.  I'm not sure how it's spelled.

Photos from last night but it was dark by the time Roger arrived

Friday, February 13, 2015

George Town vs George Town

Yesterday we went to George Town on the public bus.  It's $2 and first we had to make our way past the guanlet of the cruise ship shuttling zone where the usual public bus stop also sits.  We opted to walk a half a block further and flag down a public bus after finding out the public buses have a red or orange circle on the front.  They are just large vans just like the many shuttles and taxis transporting the hundreds and hundreds of cruise ship passengers.  The cruise ship shuttles were $5 each and dominated the scene.  To me George Town, Grand Cayman is another place ruined by the cruise ship industry.  How many jewelry stores does a small town need?  Did I really travel here to take my pick of HardRock, McDonald's, Subway, PizzaHut, Burger King or KFC?   I much preferred George Town in the Bahamas.  It was more like I was on a cruising sailboat visiting a local town.  It's a maximum example of large numbers of cruisers but the town is still much as it was before all the visitors on cruising sailboats and the lesser number of power yacht cruisers began arriving in large numbers.
The good news about our time in Town was we did find a spare impeller for the raw water pump of the boat engines cooling system.  We checked internet again at a coffee shop but nothing else about it was really of much interest IMHO
Some photos......

On this last photo while it is not crazy rough on the water this large restaurant seating area had all the tables pulled way back.  If you look close at the pier in the background you can see the waves rolling along higher than the top of the pier... This is used to drop off cruise ship passengers who are brought in by tenders from the ships which stay out a few hundred yards.  It was all taking place where we were moored the last 2 days but today the normal east wind has returned.