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…..so 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…..so 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


Boat jobs in Rio Dulce

Saturday afternoon we hit the nearest ATM and the machine just whirred.    A bit concerned, especially as the guy in front of us made a withdrawal, we headed to the lobby to get the strongest internet signal to make a skype call.    Finally we got through to the bank and were told that everything was fine with nothing dodgy happening.   So the advice was to use the card elsewhere and see what happens – it could be the chip that was damaged.     That’s a job for another day then….

Later on we spent a few hours bobbing in the pool before returning to Morphie for another rainy night in the cockpit.


Sunday morning and because it was rainy the guys didn’t work – so we had a lazy start before heading into the restaurant to watch the Euro finals which was live at 1pm.   Was a great match and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.   When we got back we chilled for a little while before getting ourselves cleaned up and got picked up by Charlie and Saundra – and we went across the river to Sundogs for a pizza.   Was a great evening and we said sad farewells to Saundra who was flying home in the morning….promising to keep an eye on Charlie in the meantime LOL.

Richard and Charlie Jan and Saundra

Monday morning and the guys arrived early….  Richard was doing boat jobs down below while I got on with the laundry.    We are a bit restricted in terms of how long we can get off the boat because the guys need access to the companionway….so we are trying to use our time productively and are  working on our lists of things to do.   This morning the cormorants are back and they look so funny half submerged between dives….


At lunchtime we headed over to RAM marina – where Morphie is hauling.   We checked out the slip and the boatyard before heading into the office.   We met Karen – who speaks perfect English thankfully – and organised our haul out slot, confirmed that we want Morphie on the concrete not the grass area, and optimistically scheduled our antifouling being done on our return in November.   After lots of research we have finally chosen a new ablative paint which is acceptable to both New Zealand and Australia (and is sold there too for top-ups).   Thankfully the paint (in blue) and primer is sold here so we can reserve our cans now.   We were also very pleased that this marina confirmed that they are happy for us to do our own work whilst in the yard.


We also had a look at the accommodation in the marina – they have small concrete bungalows – for cruisers to share.   The master bedroom is $25 a night so pretty reasonable although it has shared facilities.   Richard wasn’t that impressed (thought it was a bit smelly) but it would do and it would appear that, if we wanted exclusivity, the cost would be $50 a night for the whole unit.    That’s a much better option – we agreed to go away and think about it.

Back to the boat and we were pleased that all the wood had been sealed…..and just in time because the rain came down again during the evening.

Getting sealant on

Tuesday morning and we used a different card to get some cash out – and then went to the hotel to check out their rooms.   They have four types – from the standard up to a suite – and we can get a discount as marina guests.    Well….the suite was lovely….and the standard rooms were anything but.  In fact, gross is the best description.    Hmm…what to do…..do we really want to spend $120 a night for the mid-range room with no fridge or cooking facilities….    Check out the photo of the suite – shame they are so expensive even with our discount! 

Nanajuana suites

While in the hotel lobby we did some research on line about potential land travel.   Everything is a long way away so we are thinking – if the varnish is finished on time and we are on top of our hauling lists – that we might get the bus to Flores, head into the Tikal National Park, maybe fly to Guatemala City and head to Antigua for a few nights before heading back on the bus to the Rio Dulce.


AntiguaBack to the boat and Charlie came by.   He has swapped out his old cooker for a brand new stainless Force 10 and is donating the old one to a cruiser here who supplements her income by cooking cruiser take-away lunches.   Richard went off to help him and I stayed down below….until Freddie said they were leaving as Morphie had had her first coat of varnish applied.  Woo hoo! 

First coat of varnish First coat of varnish 2

Richard and Charlie finally came back and, having had a couple of beers while they planned their expedition LOL, they regaled me with  hysterical stories of the marina of the damned.  Apparently the boats are falling apart with one of them about to sink and the people are pretty wasted…  

Charlie left and we were sitting in the cockpit when we realised that our tarpaulin was delaminating and strands were hanging off.  I said we’d better take that down in the morning before some of it lands on the varnish – and, of course, at that minute it did.   Damn…so we spent a while sorting that out…and took the tarpaulin down.    It did rain overnight but the varnish was dry enough not to get damaged.

Wednesday morning and we owned up to what had happened the night before.  Freddie wasn’t bothered and was working on the companionway / eyebrow today.  He also managed to get all the canvas strands off the varnish – these guys are pretty laid back and take it all in their stride.    As they needed dink to get around the rail we took ourselves off to town via a local tuktuk.    We were surprised by the heavy armed security at the entrance to the hotel / marina complex as this was the first time we had left via the road.

Our transport In the tuktuk

Tuktuks are an inexpensive way to travel and was a great experience, especially going over the bridge rather than going under it.    The scale of the river is pretty impressive.     

Onto the bridge Rio Dulce 1 Rio Dulce 2 Rio Dulce 3 Rio Dulce 4

Town was very busy and it felt quite different to be driving through it rather than avoiding the traffic on foot.  

Into Fronteras Fronteras 1 Fronteras 2

We nervously put our card in the ATM and we were very relieved that it worked fine – that’ll be the last withdrawal for a while now as we have enough to cover our quotes and beer vouchers.   We headed back to the marina across the bridge again and spotted a helicopter that had just landed – presumably dropping off people to one of the large powerboats that live here….


Back on board and the guys are knocking off for the afternoon as the weather is threatening and they didn’t want to do another coat of varnish.  The companionway boards, in the meantime, have been taken to the workshop to be done there….   Pleased with progress so far.

Later on we headed over to MAR marine for their movie night – and they picked us up in their complimentary launcha.   The food was good, the movie was a bit dark, but we had a good time catching up with Larry, Dave and Mary who we had last seen in Fantasy Island.   It was nice to have an evening out.

Thursday morning and we have three guys on board….  And although a cloudy day there was no threat of rain…so they got on with it.    Richard cleaned out the drawers under the fridge / freezer and got rid of the mould that always forms here due to the condensation from the units.   We have always maintained this to be a design fault….    The actual drawers themselves have got damaged in the constant damp environment so Richard found Arnie to get a quote on getting them remade with solid wood.   

Damaged drawer

I sat on the dock cleaning all the stainless again – not often you get a chance to do both sides – and spotted a couple of cracks that need welding.   Freddie is going to get someone over to see us as we’ve given up on the other guy – and we’ll ask him about the helm seat modification too.  

As we are so keen to take a road trip we’ve started on some of our ‘putting the boat to bed jobs’ and we got down all the straps / ropes / pulleys that hold dink up on the arch and cleaned them up.  We’ll grease them up before we put them away for storage.

Both of us worked hard for about six hours straight in the heat we collapsed down below for the rest of the day.   The guys carried on working and, before they left, everything had had its second coat of varnish.   It is starting to look really good and there is a long way to go – we always thought Winfield in Bequia was the varnishing genius – but think these guys might just have the edge!

Another quiet night on board – but this time with a lovely steak dinner and it was dry.  Not really a sunset but a pretty sky nevertheless.


Friday morning and the guys are back on board rubbing down – we actually have some blue sky this morning – and Richard has just been into town to get some beer supplies.    He also popped into the canvas guy to pick up our bespoke pads for dink but they weren’t ready….so he’ll be going back for them later.    I’m sitting down below – fans at full pelt – blogging.   Hopefully the weather will hold and we’ll get another coat of varnish completed today.

Fingers crossed for a dry evening as we are planning to have sundowners at the “Shack” later.  Bye for now


Keeping busy in Guatemala

Saturday afternoon we relaxed before heading out to Mar Marine for sundowners but the place was empty…. so decamped to Brunos instead.   We enjoyed happy hour before returning to Morphie just before the rain started.   Talking to the few people around it seems that most of the boats are currently unoccupied so that’s why the bars and restaurants are pretty empty.  

Mar Marina BrunosDinghy dock at Brunos

Sunday morning we were up early to move our dock lines and fenders in preparation for the varnishing work being started Monday.   We wanted to position Morphie further away from the dock and to free up the cleats.  We then tied the fenders to the dock and pilings rather than to the boat and removed the jerry cans off the rail – and their fixings – and secured all the other ropes and lines high above the deck.   The only victim in the process was a U-bolt that Richard dropped in the water.  Oops….    It may be fresh water but it is 20 feet deep and murky so we’ll replace it as we didn’t fancy taking a swim to look for it – especially as water-born amoebic dysentery is endemic here!

The rest of the day we chilled out with the fans blowing at maximum speed – the heat here is brutal and we’re both struggling to maintain our energy levels.  To cope we have quickly adopted the local way of working early in the morning – followed by afternoon siestas – and resuming activity later in the afternoon when the sun is lower in the sky.   Or it would be if we could see it as the cloud cover is pretty much 100% of the time at the moment.      

Sunday late afternoon we decided to take ourselves to the dock palapa to meet cruisers who congregate there every day at 5pm for sundowners.  Well…..not that night….they were all sat in one boat’s cockpit watching us.    It is pretty clique here….    So feeling slightly uncomfortable we watched the sun go down and returned to Morphie’s cockpit to road-test the re-waterproofed canvas in the rain.   We are pleased to report no leaks!


Monday morning and Freddie and Matthew turned up – first job was to remove all the stainless steel from the rail.   They got it off bit by bit while Richard and I managed to find places to secure it all on the coachroof – what with that and our scruffy bit of tarpaulin over the boom to keep the deck cool enough to walk on – and we are starting to look like the Clampits LOL.

Metal offIn the afternoon I prepared some ribs (for us) and dauphinoise potatoes (to share) for the pot luck that Jim, our dock neighbour, had organised for 6pm.    We wandered to the shaded cruisers BBQ area – near the boatyard – and cracked open a beer – marred only by the biting red ants and the feasting mosquitos…   At around 6.30 pm we were still on our own and Tim came by.  He had just come back from Livingstone where they had failed to get their cruising permit extension and, annoyingly, while on anchor overnight vagabonds had cut the lines to their genoa and stolen them along with a pair of sandals from the cockpit.  They were pretty fed up about this and we were increasingly frustrated by the no-show of the other cruisers.  

So we decided to abandon the pot luck and arranged for Tim and Philippa to come over to Morphie instead.    As we were walking back we bumped into Jim and Jean – who were finally on their way to the pot luck almost an hour late – and they asked us not to leave.   Apparently everyone was late because they had been playing dominoes.   Sorry – no can do – we’ve made alternative arrangements now – bye!   Tim and Philippa came onboard and we had a great evening – they enjoyed sharing our food – and we enjoyed their company.    Philippa and Tim

Jim came by later and told us what a great time we had missed but we were still smarting from being sat there like lemons.   He was clearly embarrassed – tough!   

Tuesday morning we headed into Fronteras and were fascinated by the huge flock of cormorants fishing in the river.  

Cormorants 2 Cormorants

We went to the Café de Paris for breakfast, which is the most modern place in town, enjoyed fresh chocolate croissants and the views from the terrace. 

Cafe de ParisFronterasFronteras 2

We then went for a wander around town – delving into side roads from the main drag – and found the fish market.  

Fish market

Fish market 2 Fish market 3

Later on we found the “concrete mall” which is where most of the hardware stores are located so we enjoyed perusing the strange collection of items for sale.     We noticed, in the car park, two calves in the back of a small truck and we thought it was a strange place to see them – then suddenly two guys wrestled one of them to the floor and securely tied his legs together.   It was very brutal and we realised that they were about to slit his throat so we made a quick exit.  

Calves in truck

We wandered through the streets and found a small market – selling everything from live chickens, (dead) chicken feet, Tupperware, shoes, pots and pans and sacks of food stuffs.  Oh yes and shoe shining stations for the cowboys.  They even drive motorcycles between the stalls too!    I was happy to find a new handbag to buy as the other one had disintegrated for the princely sum of £6.  

Local market Into the local market Sacks of food stuffs Pots and pans Tuppeware Traditional clothes Boot cleaning

We enjoyed the sights, the sounds (yes and the smells) before returning to the main drag to buy some fresh fruit and veg.   Richard was very happy with his purchase of a bag of fresh lychees for less than a £1.

Fruit and veg Fruit and veg 2 Fresh lycees Been shopping

Back to Morphie and we handed over dink to Freddie so that he could continue removing the varnish under the rail and went down below to try and keep cool.   Later on we went to the pool for a restorative bob and said our farewells to Tim and Philippa who were starting their circuitous route home to the UK the following day.  

Time in the pool

We had another evening in the cockpit – and another sunset.  Woo hoo.

Goodnight againWednesday morning it was soggy having had torrential rain overnight – we walked to RAM marina to get more cash from the ATM and had breakfast in the marina restaurant.    Sadly the internet was poor again but at least there was a breeze.    Freddie continued to work hard stripping the varnish.  

Stripping the varnish Freddie

While there we made arrangements for the local ‘fixer’ Raul to visit us on Thursday so that we can get our cruising permit renewed – an expensive option but it would appear to be the only way to guarantee success.   Sadly still no quote from our fabricator / welder – will chase and see what happens…..

Charlie and Saundra came by – they had just returned from Cayo Quemado.  They had gone down there to have their rigging replaced but the trip had been a complete disaster as the rigging that had been delivered had the wrong swages on.    So they need to sort all that out.   We gave them a sympathetic beer before making arrangements to see them on Thursday.   Later on we headed into the restaurant to watch the Portugal –v- Wales match – was sorry that Wales didn’t make it through but kudos to them for getting so far in the competition.   Back on board and we waved Freddie off and had a quiet evening in the cockpit whilst being treated to another dramatic thunder and lightning show. 

Thursday morning Richard took the generator apart to fix something – and gave grateful thanks to YouTube videos!    

Fixing the generator

Then he bailed out dink – which was almost full to the top after last night’s downpour.    

Emptying dink

Freddie continued stripping the wood while we waited to be informed of Raul’s arrival.

Freddie working hard

We took our handheld VHF to the restaurant and, the minute it was announced, we took ourselves to the Marina Office and, thankfully, we were only second in line.    It cost us Q2100 (£210) to get the nine month permit process underway.    There were a lot of boats looking to him to perform this service and it would appear that customs in Livingstone are no longer issuing them to individuals – forcing everyone down the same route.    There is a lot of speculation as to why.     Very frustrating when we know the cost of the permit is actually only £100 but what can you do?   We have to remember that we are in Central South America and that greasing palms is how things get done!

Money paid over and we returned to Morphie.   Freddie is doing well….. and we spent the rest of the day chilling.    We were supposed to be going out for an early dinner with Charlie and Saundra but, unfortunately, rain stopped play.   However, we were invited on board Windsong (Jim and Jean) to celebrate International Chocolate Day in the evening and so we went and joined them for a few glasses of wine.  They own a 49 foot Taswell which is very nice and we particularly liked the layout down below which they had designed themselves, but not sure they are going anywhere.  We think they may be Rio dwellers only leaving when they have to…..   Was a lovely evening and the home-made chocolate truffles went down a treat.

Friday morning we were up early and took ourselves off to Backpackers for breakfast.  


When we had eaten we went to their travel agency to enquire about some trips we would like to do.   The lady did not speak English and it was hard to get any information out of her in Spanish – so we took away a business card and will try again another day.

Back into Fronteras on the lower level under the bridge we found one of the small shops and the neighbouring hostel had been completely flooded and all the stock ruined.   Amazingly resilient people just getting on with the clean up….   

We went into the upholstery workshop to give them our dinghy pads.  These were custom made for us in Dominica when we realised that dink was getting marked by the arch.   So we designed them ourselves and had them made – back in 2012.   Now, of course, they are pretty worn and the padding is getting thin – so we’ve cut up a couple of cheap yoga mats to make the padding – and given the workshop these plus some strong heavy-duty vinyl we had on board.   Price agreed and they should be ready for us next week.  Boat jobs are coming along nicely – shame about the fabricator / welder not getting back to us though…  

It was very busy in Fronteras and as Richard walked ahead of me I spotted cows in a big truck and they were just emptying their bowels!   Luckily it fell behind Richard and in front of me…..right next to the stalls cooking up the chicken…   Don’t think we’ll be trying street food anytime soon!    Then a coach pulled in and, as it glided to a halt, the conductor opened its door in preparation for people to get off – and this barely missed Richard as it swung out.  Phew, dangerous place this LOL.

Back to Morphie and we got ourselves cleaned up in preparation for Charlie and Saundra coming round to pick us up.   They have a launcha here with a nice-sized outboard so we planned to head further up the river to Kangaroos.  

Our lift arrives

We drove up the river under the bridge admiring the views and some of the properties lining the water when suddenly a big wide tail submerged just in front of us – it was a huge manatee.   What a treat!  

Heading up the river Up the river Up the river 2 Up the river 3 Up the river 4 Up the river 5

Kangaroos is a quaint water-side restaurant / hostel owned by an Australian (hence the name) which serves Mexican food (because his wife is Mexican).    Very nice chilled place for a leisurely lunch – although the mosquitos were a bit much so we all had to resort to Deet to keep them away.   It was great to spend some time with them again especially as Saundra is flying home to Texas on Monday – and we had a fun time as always.   

Kangaroos 1 Kangaroos 2 Kangaroos 3 Fun lunch

After lunch we headed further inland to Lake Izabel and past the fort of San Philippe which was built to repel pirates…although it is actually nearly 20 miles inland.    Was great to see the lake – which is huge – and we enjoyed buzzing around admiring the spectacular scenery.

Towards the fort Fort 1 Fort 2 Fort 3

Heading back towards the bridge

Back to Morphie and we took ourselves off to the pool to cool down.  We had literally just got in the water and the heavens opened – we stayed put for a little while as we were wet anyway – but then the thunderstorms started so decided that it wasn’t such a good idea.   We ran for cover and watched the rain come down….before finally returning to Morphie…and sitting it out in the cockpit.  

Sheltering from the rain

The storm was fierce and the deluge almost biblical and, of course, we lost shore power for a while too.    We ended up having quite a late night after all as Richard wanted to just watch the light show.   And I only screamed once so definitely improving on the fear factor!


This morning – Saturday – and Freddie has just arrived.  All the wood has been stripped and chemically cleaned – including the companionway boards – and he is now taping up and rubbing down prior to sealing.   

Work in progress

Slow progress but very thorough and we are quite excited about how it will look when finished – and we are very pleased not to be doing it ourselves for the first time in a number of years.   Later on we need to try the ATM again as the machine has been empty of cash for a few days and then we’re just going to chill…and, if it doesn’t rain, maybe a few hours in the pool.

Bye for now


Settling in Fronteras, Guatemala

Sunday afternoon we took ourselves off to the pool for the afternoon and came back about five.  


Hotel lobby

I was just starting dinner when the heavens opened so we went down below and decided to have a movie night on board.    We were watching the Panic Room and an almighty bang and simultaneous lightning made me scream again!    Then we heard air horns.   Worried about fellow cruisers we stopped the film, popped out heads out, but could not see anything at all in the torrential downpour.   Finally having seen the (dark) film through to the end we had an early night.

Monday morning we were up bright and early and I started on the laundry.   In the meantime there were a procession of workmen on the boat next door – and the canvas guys asked us if we wanted any work done.   Well – actually – we did.   We wanted to create a new window in the bimini so that we could see the sails when underway (and to be covered when not) and there were a few zips and snaps that needed replacing.  We also wanted it re-waterproofed to save us a job later.  So they went off to consider a price.   In the meantime I finished the laundry and then they were back.   The price was good so we agreed it – and they promptly did all the measurements and took the canvas away!    So we put up our tarpaulin again and that will have to do until it all comes back.  The guys working on next door’s brightwork asked us about work too – we explained what we wanted to do this year and they went off to put together a quote.

Canvas off

Lunchtime we went to the NanaJuana restaurant to watch England play in the Euros.   Hmmmm….least said about that the better…..   Later on we returned to Morphie – pretty fed up – and stayed on board for the rest of the day.   Again it was a stormy night but no storms in the immediate vicinity thankfully.


Down comes the rain

Tuesday morning we received the quote for the brightwork.   A bit more than we wanted to pay so we’ll get another quote to compare against.   We headed out in dink to Fronteras leaving Morphie behind in her snug slip next to the powerboat sheds.

Morphie tucked in nicely Heading out to town

Dinking across the river we admired the view of the bridge which is actually huge (with 90 feet at the centre) and carries heavy traffic – with truck airbrakes screaming 24 hours a day as they cross.   Egrets nestle into the mangroves and there are boats tucked in everywhere along both sides of the lake.    Not sure about the name of this one though!

Bridge over the river Boats tucked in everywhere Lots of egrets Not sure about the name

We found the dinghy dock and wandered under the bridge – stumbling across Captain Johns on the way.   He has good brightwork people apparently so we arranged for them to come by later in the afternoon.

Dinghy dock

We wandered into the main town – having to avoid huge trucks as they come hurtling through, mingling with the tuk-tuks, motorcycles, coaches etc etc – and there are no pavements so you constantly end up ducking into the front of shops to stay safe!

Fronteras 1 Fronteras 2 Fronteras 3 Fronteras 4 Fronteras 5 Fronteras 6

The people here are mainly Garafuna and lots of them wear traditional clothing co-existing with a cowboy population wearing big buckles, cowboy hats and polished boots and guns on hips.   The locals tend to ignore us as we walk along with the occasional good morning and smile….   Wanted to take some people shots but thought better of it – will try to find a quiet place to do this from on a future visit.

First stop was the bank – we queued up but were told they couldn’t give us cash over the counter – we had to use the ATM.   The ATM was open to the street so could easily be compromised so we were a bit uncomfortable with that – and, of course, all the tradesmen want to be paid in cash.   So we wandered the street until we found another ATM which had an armed guard outside – hopefully this will be safe.    The maximum you can take out in one day here is Q2k (£200) so we’ll be doing this regularly for a little while!   After getting drinking vouchers we headed to the supermarket which was a big warehouse and didn’t have a huge range of goods – but we really only came for some cans of beer and soda.   Richard fancied some tuna but wasn’t sure about this brand!

Supermarket Not sure this is a good brand

Back to Morphie and we watched a local fisherman cast his nets from his dugout canoe.  The waterway is incredibly busy with water taxis, launchas, jet skis, large power boats, dinghies and kayaks.   Everything is moved by water….even fridges LOL.

Fishermen on the river Been shopping

Later on the guys from Captain John came by.   They were young and seemed to have to make a lot of phone calls to get advice so we were not inspired….particularly when they passed the phone over to us to get some clarifications.   Hmmmm – quote not as expensive as the others – but no evidence of quality work either.   Time to think about it…. 

Later on we headed over to Backpackers Hotel to get some fresh bread and made contact with Casa Guatemala, an orphanage, which we have some clothes to donate to.  When we get a chance we are going to arrange a visit up the river to deliver them.


We then dinked around the corner to Louvies marina, where Island Sol are tied up.

Waters edge Island Sol in Louvies

Saundra has put her back out on top of the stress of realising a significant sum had been withdrawn from their bank account when their debit cards had been compromised.  We enjoyed visiting with them for a little while and promised to help them with scanning / printing documents for their bank to start the investigation on whether they should get the money back or not.    Shocking!    We were suddenly very grateful for the stance taken by our bank who had immediately promised us a refund as we were using a credit card.

Wednesday morning and Charlie came by and we did all the paperwork with him – that printer / scanner was definitely a worthwhile purchase this season.    Later on we went for a walk next door to RAM marina – which is where Morphie is going to be stored when we go home.   The yard is nice and clean and the boats are well spaced – so pretty happy with our choice.  

RAM marina Boatyard at RAM

We then went into the marina shop and realised they had an ATM which is in view of the cashier.  We decided that as there were less likely to be vagabonds hanging around this area we would use this machine for our future withdrawals.  Fingers crossed.    We also visited the chandlery and were pleased to find out that we can order from the West Marine catalogue and, providing we pay 50% up front, they will deal with importation and storage until we return.   Very happy with that news, so Richard continues to work on his spares list.

Later on Charlie came by and we went pool bobbing for a few hours.  Sadly Saundra was still laid up.   Great fun….

Pool bobbing

And we had a sunset – our first one since we arrived in Guatamala.   Woo hoo!

Goodnight Guatemala

Thursday morning and we started to negotiate the prices on the brightwork.    Richard cleaned down below and polished all the woodwork and I started on the stainless steel.   It is hard working in these high temperatures and humidity – currently 43C / 110F.    We had a lazy afternoon recovering and decided to go to the cruisers palapa for sundowners to meet others.   Well….of course….we got ready and we were just climbing into the cockpit when the heavens opened again.    These are not normal rain showers they are torrential tropical downpours – so we abandoned that idea and settled down to another movie night.  This time we decided to watch something lighter and ended up choosing Finding Nemo.   Love that movie.

Friday morning and I made another ATM visit.   Then our preferred brightwork guys came back with a reduced quote.   Bit more negotiation and finally hands shaken on a price – looking forward to this work starting next week.   Next visitor was a fabricator / welder as we want to adapt our helm seat which is fine for cruising but not so great for long ocean passages….  He took measurements and Richard’s drawings away to source the appropriate marine grade stainless steel and fittings that he needs – so now just waiting for the quote.   We’ve also received our full rigging report and have agreed to get our ‘emergency rigging pack’ and the sacrificial UV strips to be re-stitched by Tom the rigger on our way out of the Rio in early December.

Just getting ready to go out to Fronteras again and the canvas guys turn up – job done – and reinstalled the canvas.   Very happy with their work!

Canvas modification

Finally we headed into Fronteras to get some fresh produce – visiting about four stalls to get quality fruit and salad.   Heading back to Morphie and both of us were overheated again…..so we had a quiet afternoon down below with all the fans blowing…and decided to stay put listening to the rain beating down.

This morning, Saturday, we had a lazy start and I’m blogging while Richard has just gone off to get one of our gas bottles filled up.    We are pleased with our progress on the boat jobs so far….and fingers crossed we’ll have enough time to go exploring inland soon. 

Bye for now.