Feliz Navidad

On Thursday Richard identified and fixed dink’s leak so he was able to be lifted back onto his davits.   We then relaxed for a while before joining Ulla and Jo at the pool where we shared a pre-Christmas bottle of bubbly with them.  Very nice it was too before we returned to Morphie for an early night.

Friday morning we awoke to torrential rain again…but we needed to go into town to do some provisioning and also to check whether our cable had arrived.   So we dragged out our oilies and made our way across the river.  The package had still not arrived but we were promised it may arrive later in the day.    Oh well…so back across the river…until it was time to do it all again.  Check out this boat near us – can you believe that someone actually lives on it?!? 

Just after three we returned and were amazed that, yes, our parcel had actually arrived.  Woo hoo!   We can make plans to get out of here now once we’ve done the installation and test that the Iridium Go is working with the external antennae.   We were both pretty excited and didn’t even care that customs charged us £20. 

Back on board we quickly unpacked it and….oh no….they have sent four of the same connectors.   So we can connect to the unit itself but not to the antennae as the connectors supplied are too small.   This is turning into some sort of farce!   Feeling pretty despondent we fired off another email to the company.   We have decided we are not waiting around any longer – especially as they are probably closed for Christmas – so will try and get them sent to us in Panama. 

Saturday morning and the rain finally stopped.   Richard decided to cut the antennae connector from the original thicker cable to see if he can connect it to the new thinner version.   Check out the difference in size!   

Anyway….he managed to do it…and the continuity tests of the braid and the core were successful so he knew we had a good termination.    Fantastic…well done.   So we then focused on pulling through the cables into the boat.   Here is what the arch looks like now with its recent addition.

While Richard was terminating cables and reattaching the GPS I took myself off to the petrol station – and topped up with petrol, two-stroke oil and a gas fill for our BBQ propane bottle.   We then did some more pre-passage testing:  radar, check;  GPS, check;  Iridium Go, check.   Hey we are almost ready to go – really just the sails left to sort out.  They are currently loitering in the saloon and getting in the way.  When we leave here we are heading down the river about 15 miles to where Tom the rigger is located.  He is going to strengthen the stitching on the sacrificial strips for us.  We are also going to install an additional boom bail for the boom break while we are there.

Later on we went across to MAR Marine to join a group of cruisers who were coming down the river with us following Santa.   We all piled in – it was pretty full – and headed around to Backpackers to await Santa’s arrival admiring the beautiful sky as the sun went down.  

In the meantime we checked out Santa’s sleigh and said hi to Rudolph.   Finally at six the generator was started and the sleigh was lit up – Santa and Mother Christmas arrived and got settled – and we took off into the darkness.    Oh yes…and that hair and beard is real.

We skirted settlements and marinas along the way and there was a noisy reception from land as we went by.  We sang carols too…   Fireworks were going off all over and it was just an amazing journey. 

About 45 minutes later we arrived at Casa Guatemala and went into Santa’s Grotto.   Here some of the resident children were waiting to receive their gifts.   Santa’s helper is actually Heather who is the CEO of this charity and a very special hard-working inspirational individual.  The connection she has with the kids is amazing and they all love her back.   We thoroughly enjoyed watching them wait their turn for a hug with Santa and, surprisingly, not one of them opened their bags.   Can you imagine giving a two year a Christmas gift and them not tearing it open immediately??  Oh yes, and the blonde cutie, belongs to one of the resident volunteer teachers.

Then it was time for the local children from the surrounding villages to receive their gifts.  We took ourselves off to the gymnasium area – well it did have a basketball hoop – and we sat on concrete steps to watch the proceedings.   Fire crackers / bangers and other assorted fireworks were being set off all around us and the air was pretty thick with the smoke.  

Shortly afterwards Father Christmas arrived….and took his place on his decorated throne.  The villages were all asked to queue – the mums (some of whom are as young as 14 years old) with their children – and the dads (some of them were just boys really) watched from the perimeter.   They were let forward one family at a time.  There was no pushing, no shoving, nothing…just polite anticipation although there was some jostling as they first got into line LOL.   There were hundreds of them.

As each family came forward the children were identified by gender and age to ensure they got a relevant present, which was all gift wrapped and given to them by volunteer children. 

Then they had a hug from Santa before excitedly running back to their family groups to tear open the gifts.   Can you image the pure logistics of this huge endeavour?  No child left without a gift.   Fantastic or what?!?   This whole experience was incredibly humbling.   The pure joy on their faces – and their mothers too – was just stunning.  As this was their only gift some of them started quietly and politely bartering with each other if they fancied something different.   Cuddly toys seemed to win the popular vote!

After this huge present exchange we went to the kitchen where all the boarders were fed with a special Christmas meal – which included turkey and cake.   Once they were all tucking in more plates were distributed outside of the dining area to the village families.   Interesting  observation – not one child turned their nose up at anything….   When was the last time you gave a two or three or four or more aged child something to eat and they didn’t complain they wanted something different or whinge about being made to eat vegetables???   We wanted to help give out the food but our launcha was about to leave so we had to make our way back to the boat.

The trip down the river was dark and fast.   Was a little concerned about how many of us were on board and the load was definitely not evenly distributed.   But we made it back in one piece and dry!

Back on board we had a few beers and Tim joined us to try out one of my Dark and Stormies now that I had found the ginger beer in the store.  It ended up a very late night – and we thoroughly enjoyed the huge firework displays across the river – and it was a perfect end to a very special and different Christmas Eve.

Christmas morning we had sausage rolls – sadly bread rather than pastry – but hey we are in Guatemala!   Thanks everyone for the lovely cards.   

We had a lazy time before getting ready to go out.    Tim picked us up at the dock and we headed over to Backpackers.  The noise levels were high with lots of locals sitting on top of the bridge throwing firecrackers into the water.   Who would know that setting off fireworks would be such a popular pastime here in Guatemala?!?   

We managed to get to Backpackers just before the heavens opened – looks like we are going to have a wet return trip!   We liked the nativity scene here….it certainly feels like Christmas….unlike our marina which still hasn’t got a bit of tinsel anywhere let alone a tree!   

The lunch was an interesting plate of food – turkey, ham, stuffing, carrots, beans, cheesy mashed potato plus some unusual extras like roasted beetroot and tomato.   That said it was very flavoursome and three courses with a glass of wine for £15 is just amazing value.    Heather had set out a ‘friendship table’ for the cruisers to all sit together but this got ruined a bit by a bunch of them deciding to sit at the other end of the restaurant and watch American football…..and another bunch deciding to take a private table….   Never mind – there was enough of us – and we had fun and our waiters did a great job.

After we had had enough – and during a small break in the rain – we headed back and ended up stopping off at Seraphim for a few pontoonies before returning to Morphie.  Thanks for your hospitality and company Tim.  

This morning’s weather download (Boxing Day) continues to point to a weather window on Wednesday  to leave Guatemala – and the high tide is conveniently timed at 7.45 am to get across the sand bar at Livingston.  So we are heading down the river today to get our sails re-stitched.   While we are there we are hoping to get a lift in a local launcha to Livingston on Tuesday so that we can check out a day early which enable us to head straight off very early Wednesday morning without being forced to do an ‘officialdom’ stop (which would mean catching the later evening tide).   Our next destination is actually Roatan but we’ll be taking a convoluted route.   We’ll head up first into Belizean waters to avoid the vagabonds near the coast of Honduras and then run down to Utila to check in.   This gives us a slightly better wind angle too.  But, of course, I don’t need to tell you all this now as you can follow our track.     There is no internet or anything down the river so we’ll check in with you all again when we can. 

Bye for now


Happy Christmas from Guatemala

Friday morning we received a tracking message that the new communications cable had arrived in Miami.  Now it is in the hands of the airfreight company to Guatemala.  No further tracking available so just keeping everything flexible crossed. 

By eight we had Arnie on board doing the varnish keepers again….and he’d finished by 11.30.   At 1.30 the heavens opened with huge heavy raindrops.   The minute it stopped we rushed around drying the newly-varnished areas and were very surprised to find that it had survived the deluge without any damage.   Check out the weather coming across the river.    

We continued to sort out spares and storage holes down below.   We decided to get rid of some more clothes and old charts so Richard ran over to MAR marina to drop them off at Pass it On – a local charity.   Hopefully they’ll find some use either for the items direct or will sell them on to top up the kitty. 

As we are now stuck here until Christmas we decided to pay our marina bill for a month’s stay as the  deal is much better at only $220 including water.  It was hot and humid all day so we took an afternoon siesta but had to retreat down below once the sun had gone down as we felt so cold in the wind.  The barometer, however, said it was 27C so shows how acclimatised we have become LOL.    Another movie night on board beckoned.

Saturday morning and we had a 7.30 start with the last layer of keepers being done.   So we kept busy and cleaned all our saloon cushions – while Richard made extra bungees to secure the seats and back rests so things do not come flying out of the storage areas behind if we hit heavy weather conditions.   I left him to it and went off in search of internet as I wanted to learn how to best download weather files and synoptic charts when using a satellite connection.  I watched the video, amended my settings and was able to get weather routing and everything.   I was very happy with the outcome.   Everything is set up now – all we need to do is get it wired up and get off this dock!!!   Later on we had a cooling bob in the pool before returning to Morphie.  

We had paired our Sony Bluetooth speaker so there was an eclectic mix of music on a random selection.  Good job we had no neighbours LOL.   Well, we stayed up late, singing and chatting. Richard decided he had to try his newly-purchased Guatemalan Rum and drank all my coke in the absence of any ginger beer on board.  So I ended up with White Russians.   Suffice to say we were pretty merry by the time we retired at about midnight!

Sunday morning up early again as it was final varnish day.   This was for the whole rail to integrate the keepers in with the rest.   Arnie turned up at 9.00 am and got on with it.   Well it looks absolutely amazing……     

In the afternoon we went bobbing with the crew again and this time I remembered the camera.  After the excesses of the night before it was definitely time for an early night.

Monday morning we were up earlier than planned as the boys knocked on the hull at 7.30.  They quickly dried the boat and removed the blue masking tape.   We headed into town while this was going on…we wanted to purchase Christmas presents for the kids at Casa Guatemala.  

Close to the orphanage site (which is only accessible from the water) there are thirty surrounding Mayan villages where kids live in extreme poverty without access to clean water, electricity, schools or healthcare.   Casa Guatemala offers them a free education and almost 50% live on site receiving free room and board as well as tuition, materials, clothing and health care.   At the minute almost 600 children are being supported – some are orphans while others have families who are just too poor to care for them.  So the large cruising community here have been asked to supply small gifts and goodies so that Father Christmas can give every child a gift.  We managed to get 20 small simple items in town so filled up one of the collection boxes.  It felt great!   We are planning on following Father Christmas down the river to see him deliver the gifts on Christmas Eve.  Here is last year’s effort – should be a lot of fun. 

By Monday afternoon – despite the rain showers – the topsides have been thoroughly washed and cleaned.  We continued with boat jobs but are running out of things to do down below now – so look forward to the lads finishing so we can continue on deck.   After a break we took ourselves across the river, getting soaked, wearing our Santa hats. Here we are looking dishevelled to say the least but at least we were trying to get into the Christmas spirit! 

The promised carol singing didn’t really take off, although the local kids did have a good time, so we came back about 8.30 chilled through to the bone.  Oh yes..and dink was a bit floppy…looks like he’s developed a slow leak now.

Tuesday morning and the temperature had dropped to 23C which is positively freezing when combined with strong winds.  The boys came back and spent the whole day waxing, polishing the topsides plus the stainless – under close supervision….   It feels very decadent having all this work done for us but two lads for two whole days costs only £80.  Here they are working hard.

Apparently, according to the locals, giving them work earns us more respect.   Not sure if that is true but it’s certainly an unusual USP.   And we’ve been invited out with Arnie (the boss) on Friday for a beer, so there may be some truth in it.  Here’s Morphie looking absolutely stunning!

Later on we restored all the cans on the rail and reinstalled the cockpit cushions.   Then we installed our new rope holders before we gave up in the heavy rain….  

For the first time the sun did just peep through as it said goodnight to us.  

We sat in the cockpit for a while watching and listening to the heavily laden trucks go across the bridge – they are well illuminated – we just can’t help breaking into song of Holidays are coming….Holidays are coming….  LOL

Wednesday morning and it was the first day when we weren’t expecting anyone to call.   So we had a lie in listening to the rain beating down on the coach roof.   We had a brunch while I popped off to the posh marina provisioning shop as they had told me they were getting restocked that day for Christmas.

Found some fresh orange juice – to go with the bubbly for Christmas Day – and some breakfast sausages.   Happy girl!     While we were sitting in the cockpit we waved goodbye to Charlie and Saundra on Island Sol who are on their way to Roatan for Christmas.  Really sad we will not be with them – but we have fingers crossed for a New Year’s Eve reunion if everything works out with the cable and the weather decides to be kind.

In between rain showers Richard installed the dodgers on the rail so we are completely canvassed up now.   He’s also installed the new triple / double blocks to the rail to integrate the additional lines from the whisker pole.    And rain keeps stopping play.    Later on we headed off in the water taxi to MAR marine for a movie night – well, the food wasn’t great and the film was dire!  Oh well, at least we had a night off the boat.  

Oh yes and we have made our Christmas lunch reservations for 4pm at Backpackers who have a visiting Canadian chef – so they are promising turkey, ham, stuffing and all the trimmings.  Fantastic deal at only £15 a head!

This morning, Thursday, Richard is troubleshooting dink’s leak while I’m in reception blogging.   

So to sign off today we’d like to wish all our family and friends a wonderful happy and healthy Christmas.   We miss you….  Cheers!


It’s a conspiracy….

Saturday afternoon we went bobbing in the pool and it turned into a bit of a party for a few hours with Jo, Ulla, Charlie and Saundra plus a few others that popped in and out. Was great fun and, of course, I forgot to take a single photo of the festivities.   So here’s a picture of the pool without us.  

We made the conscious decision to shower on board as I certainly have no intentions of utilising the hotel facilities – especially now that I know someone recently found a snake in there. 

Sunday we had a lazy start and a hearty brunch. In the afternoon we started to trace the cable from the arch into the navigation station.  This cable belongs to one of our GPS receivers and goes through the area of the arch we are having altered to accommodate the Iridium Go antennae. We traced and disconnected it before securing two strong cables to act as the draw wire. Check out this wiring maze behind the chart plotter.

We took apart the GPS and as the cable inside is in a sealed unit – presumably to protect from water ingress – Richard started pulling the cable from the arch while I pushed cables up into the arch from the back cabin.  Finally we had mission accomplished and were now ready for the welder.  Last job for the day was to put the fuel cans in their covers. They look great – we shall look so smart when everything is installed and fixed on the rail.   

Late Sunday afternoon we headed to the pool for our customary cool down before another night on board.

Monday morning we were up very early in readiness for things to happen and, of course, it is pouring with rain.  Great – no varnishing again today!   So we took all the canvas off – in anticipation of the welder’s imminent arrival – and waited…and waited.  I got on with the laundry in the meantime.  By 10 am when the rain stopped Richard went off on his man hunt again.  He found them and eventually they turned up along with all the gear.   So we were feeling slight more hopeful of finally getting this done.  Richard showed them the autopilot steering arm which needed to be cut to size. This then frees up a stainless piece to extend the antennae mount. We seem to have things under control – then they decide that to do this they have to go elsewhere. So Richard goes with them as he is not confident that it will either happen or be done to our specification if they are left to their own devices!  So off he goes on the back of a scooter to Fronteras……

Lunchtime and the fridge guy turns up – nothing majorly wrong but he did tweak a few things and install the new thermometer. He also showed me how to recalibrate the Carel thermostat offsets which was part of the problem. In the meantime, I was troubleshooting the Iridium Go unit as it had decided to stop talking wirelessly to the iPad and wouldn’t submit the GPS readings to the tracker. By the time Richard returned the fridge guy was just leaving – so he taught Richard how to use his gas gauges properly. We are pleased to report the refrigeration units are working perfectly now and not drawing as much power. Feeling happy that something has gone well!

I finally managed to fix the Iridium Go….and realised that some settings had reset themselves and, with the wifi being turned off, it couldn’t communicate either.  A complete mystery how this happened but at least I worked it out.  So….woo hoo….the tracker is now live!  You can follow the link from either the right-hand menu or the new tab on the menu bar.   Am so pleased that this has finally gone live – although as you can see we are not going very fast tied to a dock LOL.

The steering arm came back with Richard and the guys had done a good job cutting it down to size and welding it….so fingers crossed for the next bit!

Richard popped into town for a few things while I stayed on board. He returned with fried chicken – the staple diet here – and it was actually really tasty. The welders returned later and cut a hole in the rail….ready for the new fabricated post to be welded in place.   

And that was it for the day….. Finally at around 5.30 we were home alone. Supervising work of local workers is very tiring.   We decided to stay put so after cleaning and tidying up we had a movie night.  

Tuesday morning and the sun came out again.   There was lots of movement in the anchorage as everyone with a deep keel was heading down the river to catch the super high tide across the bar.   Astonishingly by eight we had varnish workers….by nine we had welders. Wow things are finally coming together.

The varnish workers were kept to the bow of the boat when the welders started. We had covered the stern with corrugated cardboard which we soaked in water to catch any stray sparks. And we also had a fire blanket to hand. We were very worried about potential damage.  Anyway….we disconnected shore power and turned all batteries off…and sat on the dock.  Thankfully it didn’t take too long and the welders left to go get some cleaning / polishing materials.   Here’s the latest look….

All going well except that we’ve just realised that the cable itself will fit through the arch but, where the rail is fixed to the boat, the installers have used some type of gunk that has reduced the diameter which is not amenable to being cut nor filed.  OMG.  One problem resolved to find another created…..   Here’s a picture of the gunk!

So we sent an email to the distributors for information on alternative cables we can use – we had actually asked this before we left the UK but was told there wasn’t anything else without a severely compromised performance.    By the time everyone finished for the day it was getting late and we just cleaned and tidied up again…and reinstalled all the canvas.  We were pleased with the end result. 

All we need to resolve now is the cable issue.  Sadly there was too much cloud cover to see the super moon or the Gemini meteor showers.

Wednesday morning we were up early the varnishers came by and we headed into town for some fresh vegetable provisions.   Busy in town again today….   

Back on board and the heavens opened….and then again…and then again. The varnishing is suspended again (sigh) so I did some computer work while Richard got on with the installation of a new helm seat.  

Island Packet build a great boat but the helm seat on Morphie has to be the most uncomfortable ever designed…. The seat back is too far forward causing me to get backache and there is nowhere to brace ourselves in a seaway either – my feet don’t even reach the floor. We decided not to make any structural changes as the seat is fine for short multiple day passages – but definitely not for the long periods planned this year.

So we purchased this seat from West Marine – it folds completely flat when not in situ for easy storage – and Richard did his magic with webbing design again and fixed it in place. He even made me a foot rest.   Here he is testing the outcome.   I found it very comfortable – great job.  We then dismantled it all again – this is something we’ll utilise later. 

We had dinner in the cockpit watching the biblical deluge bounce off the topsides. We got another email from the support team about the installation issue.  They do have another thinner flexible cable we could use – problem is that they are in Miami and have no presence here. This specialist cable is not available in the shops. Well thanks for that. Shame we couldn’t have been given this information when we asked in the UK!   Oh yes and the best helpful comment was….”Have we thought of securing it with cable ties rather than using the arch”. Completely missing the point that it is getting access to down below that is the problem!  Richard held me back from firing a “Dear Numpty” response.  We have now started to call the Iridium Go the Iridium No!!!

We composed together a very polite response saying that having a hatch open to feed the cable into the boat (however it was fixed externally) wasn’t perhaps a sensible idea!  There is an airfreight forwarder here in the Rio who can ship from Miami so we may have to go down that route. Christmas in Guatemala is now looking like a distinct possibility…..

This morning – Thursday – and it is cloudy but dry.   Rubbing down the keepers has happened but the varnisher didn’t show to apply a coat – apparently his bike has broken down.   Oh well….that’s life! Richard has just reactivated our wind generator and I’m blogging…..   We have loads to do but really can’t start on some of the list until the varnishers have finished….for example we are planning to install triple blocks rather than double blocks on the rail to accommodate the lines from either the whisker pole or the boom brake.

We headed over to the concrete mall again later….visiting Rita the Air Freight lady along the way….as it is a definite that we are going to have to order this thinner cable.   This is a crucial bit of kit this year as we need to access weather whilst at sea.

Anyway….we got some narrow handled chisels…and when we got back Richard managed to get the gunk out of the hole.  But it didn’t open up as anticipated – the installers had installed a plate over the hole which also reduced the diameter and this is not accessible to remove.  Clearly they were sizing for the cables that existed not for any future additions.    Damn! 

Anyway we are now sitting in the hotel reception on the internet and have just ordered and paid for the cable and connectors.   We’ve cancelled our Christmas reservation at Fantasy Island and we are resigned to staying here while we play the waiting game.  And, of course, our marina is the only one on the river that has absolutely zilch decorations – very sad!   But was cheered by this snowman made from plastic cups we found in Brunos today. 

Remember the bugs from the last blog?   Well, while sitting here Richard killed a beastie trying to sting him and we were very impressed by the speed in which the ants carried him away.    Dangerous place this LOL.  

Think it is time soon to call it a day and maybe treat ourselves to a bob…  Has been a long, hot and stressful day!

Bye for now


I’m a City Dweller….get me out of here!!!

Sunday afternoon we were ready to splash – with only food and some old working clothes left in the apartment – so we accepted Charlie’s invitation to have dinner with him at another restaurant hidden up one of the Rio’s tributaries. At five we took off into the mangroves….to this lovely little place and had a great steak dinner (which is a pretty unusual find here).  We had a fun time.

into-the-mangroves our-destination local-restaurant having-fun-up-the-river

By eight we were back in the apartment quaffing our last cold beers before soaking up our last night of air conditioning and mindless TV before retiring to bed.

Monday morning we were up very early and paid our marina bill – no cash no splash LOL – and headed to RAM’s West Marine-affiliated chandlery to collect our big order which had been sitting waiting patiently for our return.  Well…we were there ages which annoyed lots of other clients….and, finally, they agreed to let us take our goods and to return the following day to pay.   The till could not work out the final amount left to pay and the young guy was totally confused by their complicated system.

We were heading back to our apartment when we were suddenly called on the radio – they were ready to splash us in ten minutes!  So we headed to Morphie and made sure everything was ready for her trip to the water.  The travel lift turned up – we got off – the ladder was removed and they lifted her off her blocks.


This made us nervous, especially as they left her hanging there while one of the guys topped up the antifouling in areas affected by the stands and chocks.  We just sat on the wall helplessly and nervously watching while the guys took a short break as they waited for the newly-applied antifoul to dry.


Finally Morphie was on the move and we followed behind on the torturous long walk until she was lowered into the water.

the-long-walk-starts into-the-watersplash-down

Richard walked the plank and checked for leaks…and then we were pulled out of the launch area until we were snug alongside the fuel dock… feeling very relieved the ordeal was over for another year.


While Richard was topping up the ten fuel cans on the rail I did a final trip to the apartment to collect our frozen food, hand in the keys, and returned just in time to pay the huge fuel bill LOL. We sat on the fuel dock – turned on the fridge / freezer – and waited for confirmation that we were good to move across to our slip in NanaJuana. That came sooner than expected and we motored around the corner very pleased that everything had worked as it should. Then we realised the fridge was playing up….which we expected because we knew that its thermostat was dodgy in the summer.  The freezer was, thankfully, working perfectly.

We spent the rest of the day sorting ourselves out and headed to the pool for a quick cool down before returning to Morphie for our first evening and dinner on board followed by an early night. We were tired but happy to be back on board.


Tuesday morning we awoke refreshed having slept through – despite the lack of air conditioning on board LOL. And the fridge still needs some help. On the list!  Our first task was to get dink off the coach roof. We pulled him up above the deck with the Genoa halyard…pumped air into him…and launched him over the side into the water. Then we got the outboard off the rail and lowered it down onto dink’s transom. Mission accomplished. We then sorted out his gear and locked him to the dock. Next job was to reinstall the ropes / pulleys / cushioned pads etc onto the arch. After that it was time to reinstate the dorade – this has to be removed when dink is on the bow – and put up the canvas. Here she is looking pretty in her slip.


In the meantime we had a visit from the varnish guy who is going to make good some “keepers” that had been affected by the UV during our time on the hard. We also spoke to a canvas guy who we hope is going to make canvas covers for our fuel cans as they are also getting affected by the sun.  Plus we would like a couple of lightweight sun canopies to cover the boom. Then we took ourselves off to get some drinking vouchers / internet to make arrangements for the refrigerant guy and electrician (utilising the winning bids from Saturday’s auction).

We also approached a stainless steel welder to help us with the Iridium Go installation on the arch. Oh yes and we finally agreed and paid our outstanding bill at the chandlery. Phew…busy and so very hot…so we spent a few hours in the pool before returning to Morphie for dinner. Sadly we can’t pick up internet on the boat here so we went back to the hotel reception to check on emails before another early night.

Wednesday morning we awoke to rain and cloud. So the guys coming to do some varnish keepers have cried off starting today. The canvas guy has been and gone – and we have shaken hands on the deal with promises that it will all be finished by the end of the week.   That would be amazing.

In the meantime we’ve temporarily fixed the fridge by isolating the dodgy thermostat and injecting some gas. But we still need to replace the thermostat before we set off and the whole system given a proper check. Access to trades will become more difficult (and significantly more expensive) once we leave the Rio. At ten o’clock we were expecting the welder. He did turn up eventually and had good ideas but he couldn’t fit us in until 20 December at the earliest. Hmmmm… we definitely want to have moved on by then. He has gone away to look at his schedule to see if he can do it earlier but told us to shop around just in case. Not confident of getting this done and not a job we can tackle ourselves….

We carried on working.  Richard has added additional clips to our safety harnesses so we have both short and long tethers available when under way. He has also sewn together some webbing straps to fix our new helm seat in place for long passages – although we probably won’t use this for a while yet.


Appointments have been finalised with the electrician coming Friday and the fridge guy Monday.   So we just have an alternative welder to source. Lunchtime – in the crippling heat – we took dink across to Fronteras.


We were assaulted by the noise, smells, trucks, and manic activity all over again. Nothing much changes here on the river.  But as we needed to get some basic provisions it was a necessary evil.  Four heavy bags later, wilting in the heat, we returned to Morphie completely drained so took to our bed for a siesta once we had unpacked.

Wednesday evening we headed across to MAR marine via their complimentary water taxi service for movie night. Great dinner, happy hour all night, and thoroughly enjoyed the Tom Hanks film Scully, about the pilot who landed his plane on the Hudson River, saving all 155 people on board.  Here is a picture of the actual immediate aftermath of that dramatic event.


Thursday morning we were up early and the varnishing work started in earnest. We got more money out of the ATM and I did laundry while Richard sorted spares. Then we found another welder through Edgar the dockmaster here…who also acted as an interpreter. Allegedly the work starts Monday. Fingers crossed!

Richard carried on sorting through spares and packing things away while I sorted out our first aid supplies – spare items to be stowed and an emergency kit to deal with all eventualities in one place. At one point looking at the mess spread across the whole of the cabin sole Richard said he thought I could perform open-heart surgery and still have supplies left.    Well….you can’t have too much…can you?!?

Lunchtime we had a reunion with Charlie and Saundra (who had just flown in from Texas) and went out for a nice lunch on the river. Check out Saundra’s local Garifuna fish soup – yes that is a whole crab peeking out LOL.

charlie-and-saundra fish-soup

Back to Morphie and we did some more tidying before taking ourselves off to the pool for a short bobbing session. On our return we were surprised that the canvas man turned up within minutes – he must have been watching out for us. He had finished the job. Amazing turnaround and good quality work. Woo hoo…things are starting to come together.

Friday morning and we woke to more rain. Damn….another day without the varnishing guys. But the electrician turned up and while his minions did the small job of swapping out the oil pressure gauge he and Richard put the world to rights in terms of electronic equipment.    We could have done this small job ourselves but, as the welding had not been done, the original task we wanted help with was not going to be worth doing.  Never mind.  This guy was interesting…he was sailing from the US to Panama…he came across the Rio and hadn’t left since. I really can’t imagine living here for 20+ years. After the electrician had gone Richard took apart the navigation station and put in new power supplies for the digital barometer and the Iridium Go. Here he is having fun….


Then he cut the holes in the panel and installed them.  Brilliant job – well done!  All we need now is that welder.  Pulling the cables into the arch and installing the receiver will be the final part of the installation – so the nav area will remain looking like this for now.


While Richard was creating a mess down below I took all the fixings for the cans off the rail – the footman loops we had purchased as marine stainless steel clearly weren’t.   Grrrr….   They have rusted badly making a right mess on deck which I had to clean up.   Not happy.    We couldn’t take them apart and replace them as we don’t have enough spares on board – so the only way forward was a compromise solution.   So I took them all off….cleaned them up…and covered them in a rubber solution which, hopefully, will reduce the rust.   Here I am re-fixing them to the rail….


Oh yes we also put up the new lightweight canvas to give us some additional protection from the sun.


Phew – busy day – and later on we cooled off in the pool chatting to Jo and Ulla.

I guess you might be wondering about the title to this blog?  Well….it is spider season here in Guatemala. My absolute nightmare as they frighten me. These beasties are everywhere and each morning Morphie is covered in new intricate webs. Thankfully no tarantulas have made it on board or into our bed as was the case for one cruiser on the radio net the other morning as he sought advice on venomous spider bite treatments.


I pushed seven smaller ones off the deck today this morning – and trust me that is really brave. But I did beg Richard for help with a particularly large nasty looking beastie. This one was aggressive, reared up and jumped at him before it became fish food in the drink. My fear of spiders is not helped by the fact that many of them here are venomous with some of the smallest being the most dangerous. Yuck!

On top of that we are being feasted upon by other bugs despite taking preventative precautions. We often wake up with blood on the sheets where some critter has got squished during the night. And they seem to like biting my face so I feel like a teenager with bad skin and zits.   Oh yes – and the best story for last – after bobbing we cleaned up onshore. The hotel public toilet / shower facilities are pretty big so we locked ourselves in and shared a shower. At one point Richard told me to move urgently – and I can’t see without my glasses – so I followed his instructions. Grabbing my specs to finally see what was going on as Richard worked hard at dispatching the critter – I was horrified to find out that a scorpion had actually been walking across my foot!!!


Seriously….it was a small one….but OMG….get me out of here!!!   Richard has never met a real live scorpion before – my hero – so brave.

Saturday morning and I’m sitting in the hotel reception with views over the pool making the most of the internet to get this blog done.


I’m also simultaneously downloading more KAP files from Google Earth. Frustrating that I lost time with computer problems so that I’m still working on this – had really hoped to have finished this by the time I left home.

Anyway, more boat jobs to do after I’ve finished this, and am hoping to be able to go bobbing again this afternoon.   The tracker should be going live soon – so watch this space.  In the meantime, bye for now.


Back in Guatemala

Monday 28 November we were rudely awoken by the alarm clock at three in the morning.   It was time for us to start the next adventure.   I was full of mixed emotions at this point – sad at leaving our family and friends but also excitement about what was to come – and I admit to shedding the odd tear.   At 4.30 we were picked up and by six we were at the bag drop desk at Heathrow Airport Terminal 3 ready for our first flight of the day to Miami.  


We had more baggage than our ticket would allow so we had to pay for one additional 23kg bag for the hold.   The guy behind the counter didn’t know how to charge us the advertised £65 so he took the bags, printed our boarding passes and we were walked over to customer services to process the transaction.  Well, the computer said no, and at one point we had four agents working on the problem.   Rather than let us off the fee they persevered and, finally, after 30 minutes we had paid and were free to go.   We were very pleased to find out that our bags had been tagged to go direct to Guatemala so we didn’t need to reclaim and recheck them in Miami, which is often a nightmare.

We got through security with no further inspection – which was pretty surprising with the amount of electronics we were carrying – with two hand baggage bags alone weighing almost 20 kgs each!   Relieved that all was going to plan we headed off for some breakfast and ended up with some sausages baps.  Yum…. breakfast

Finally after a bit of retail therapy it was time to go to our gate and onto the plane – it wasn’t full and was only running 29 minutes late.   Was glad to be underway and settled in to the trip, finding the seats slightly narrower than usual.  We haven’t put that much weight on, honest!!!   We took off smoothly and we settled down to watch a film with both of us opting for Finding Dory.   Almost two thirds of the way into the film the whole plane’s entertainment system failed and had to be rebooted.   Once it was back up and running neither of us returned to the film as we were slightly disappointed.  Finally the service trolleys arrived and we ended up with another breakfast – what?!? – was hoping for an early lunch at 11.30 really.  Never mind…..   By 2pm having had no additional service Richard went off and collected wine for us both so we could celebrate our departure in style.   Eventually just before we landed they fed us again – and we were surprised to get a basic afternoon tea.   What happened to lunch?!? afternoon-tea

Hungry and feeling a bit jaded we got off in Miami and did the endless walk to immigration.  Queues were surprisingly light and we cleared quite quickly before returning through security and to the gate area where our next flight was due to depart.   We went into a nice looking bar and grill – ordered two appetizers and two beers – expecting US-sized portions for the price.  Oh no, they were tiny!  Having just spent $50 (made more painful by the pound’s slump post Brexit) we voted with our feet and went off to the Chinese buffet where we filled up on cheap and tasty grub.  

Later on it was time to board our second short three-hour flight to Guatemala City. The plane was full to capacity but more spacious seats than the BA international flight – go figure!  


When we arrived we had another long walk to immigration which was all very efficient.   I was feeling quite anxious now as this airport’s customs have a reputation for checking all bags and taxing contents heavily.   We hired a porter and he helped us through the security lines and onto the x-ray area where all bags are screened.  I was disappointed to notice that one of our large checked bags had lost both its padlock and its metal ID tag.   Anyway…we declared maximum imported personal goods allowances…and had fingers crossed for a favourable outcome.   The lady wanted to check both hand luggage bags – we declared Yacht in Transit status – and showed her Morphie’s customs papers.   Well, it worked, and we got through with no charges.   Woo hoo!!!

We exited the cool calm of the airport terminal into craziness – people everywhere, sweltering heat and no courtesy bus to our hotel to be found.  Another hotel driver asked us if we were OK – and we were grateful for his intervention.   He telephoned our hotel and agreed to take us with his guests as the Intercontinental Hotel was just across the street – and no charge either!  Thank you so much for rescuing us from the madhouse!   Finally we checked in at the Clarion Suites and wearily took to our bed around 10 pm local time (4 am London time). hotel-room

Tuesday morning we were awake at the crack of dawn – despite being really tired – as we had failed to adjust successfully to the time differential.   So by 7.30 am we were having a leisurely and substantial breakfast.   At 10 am our minibus turned up and we were ready for the six hour road trip to be reunited with Morphie in the Rio Dulce.   


Having a private bus was definitely an extravagance but worth every penny.   In the end we elected not to stop once along the route and arrived at RAM marina shortly before 4pm.   We were horrified, though, that our driver was going to drive straight back to the City without a break.   Hope he made it back OK.

We picked up the keys to our apartment anticipating a quiet evening in front of the TV in the air conditioning….and perhaps a glass in hand.    We had booked this place exclusively for our use many months in advance.  


I was NOT happy to find instead that the marina office had double booked the accommodation and there was a French couple sharing with us.   So we ended up just locking our bags into the small second bedroom and, having been to the office to vent our displeasure along the way, we went off to give Morphie a pat and then to NanaJuana where we surprised Jo and Ulla poolside.   We then had dinner in the hotel’s restaurant before returning to the apartment.  


The French couple were clearly annoyed to be sharing with us too.   Well, I was furious, especially as they had taken the ensuite bedroom, and I was quite clear (rude according to Richard) letting them know this situation was for one night only!   We ended up holed up in our bedroom….and luckily the air conditioning unit was working.    But I couldn’t help myself be a little heavy handed with the bathroom door during the night when I had to leave our room to use the facilities.  I blame it all on tiredness LOL.

We got up early Wednesday morning and visited Morphie properly.   Her bottom paint looked great and we were very pleased with the work that had been done.   Funny though, how some people just felt the need to draw in the protective wax covering….


On board we were surprised to find that the exposed ropes had gone mouldy.  That had not happened to us before.   Down below there was a film over some of the walls and various items – I think we would have been covered in mould within another couple of weeks despite our vigorous laying-up procedures to avoid this.  Oh well, time to get to work!    We scrubbed and cleaned all day, and come three pm we had had enough in the sweltering conditions so returned to the apartment.   And, yay, the French couple had left…we called that a Frexit.   They are now living on their boat on the hard so not surprised they are unhappy but, sorry, not our fault.

We headed to the pool and enjoyed a bobbing reunion with Charlie, Jo and Ulla before returning to RAM Marina where we had a burger dinner enjoying the views across the lake.  Not great but now that we have the apartment to ourselves we can shop and cook each night.    We had an early night after a tiring day.


Thursday and we were up early again.   We unpacked everything that we had vacuum packed and put it all away.   We then went off to finalise our slip in NanaJuana for when we splash on Monday.   We also went shopping and provisioned up the apartment.   Then we took all the canvas back to the apartment and did some preventative patching of some worn areas.  We also re-waterproofed bits and, when it was all dry, we returned to Morphie and reinstalled the canvas to give us some protection from the fierce sun while working on the hard.   Later on we had another quick bob in the NanaJuana pool before returning to our air-conditioned haven and a home-cooked pasta meal.


Friday morning it was time to wash the ropes, clean the topsides, put a little air into dink and get rid of his tarp.   Y-valves were worked, sea cocks were opened, the knot meter was reinstated and all fuel cans were removed, washed and put back on the rail.   Sun screens got installed too.   Then it was time to tackle the hull and wash off the wax and we got the boat yard to polish the hull using their industrial machine.   Doesn’t she look a treat?


We carried on moving stuff from our big bags piecemeal as we didn’t want to lug them up a 10 foot ladder!   We even made our bed on board in preparation for Monday.   Finally at just gone five pm we called it a day and returned to our room for another cool evening in front of the TV with a curry.   There is only one English-speaking channel so we are watching absolute drivel but, hey ho….

Saturday morning and we were up early again and just did more unpacking, sorting etc.   In the meantime the huge paint shed next to us was being emptied and readied for an afternoon charity event supporting school children to get an education in a small fishing community in Cayo Quemado.     At around 11 ish we returned to our apartment and got cleaned up before heading off to the event.


This event was hosted by RAM marina and had lots and lots of donated raffle prizes and items to bid on in a silent auction.   We enjoyed catching up with some cruisers that we had met previously and bid on quite a few things….and purchased about 24 raffle tickets.  


Children in Cayo Quemado (and this is pretty standard across Guatemala) only get educated for free up to the age of 12 years old – after that their parents have to pay towards the costs of tuition etc.   Although not a lot of money in such a small impoverished fishing community this is beyond the means of most of the families.   This is a very worthy cause and we were very happy to participate.    Here are some of the students who have benefited from the trust in recent years – having now successfully graduated from High School.


We tucked into free food / popcorn and a courtesy beer (yes, we did purchase more!) before we settled down to listen to the results…. 


charlie-enjoying-free-foodCharlie won two free haircuts and lunch for two at Brunos.   Richard and I won nothing!   But we did succeed in three of our auction bids:  a Q100 voucher for the store; an hour’s electrical service worth Q440; and an hour’s refrigerant service worth Q450.  Not bad for a Q500 (about £54) outlay.   The electrical guy we hope to utilise when we pull the cable through the arch for our Iridium Go (satellite) unit.   The fridge / freezer sometimes struggle when we first go back in the water so will be nice to have assistance to trouble shoot if that happens.   And, if it doesn’t, we know we need to swap out the thermostat on the fridge so we’ll use our ‘expert’ for that.  


After the event was over we headed off to The Shack with Charlie in his lancha where we continued drinking and having dinner.   Here are the men behaving badly!   Was a lovely end to a fun day. 

the-shack men-behaving-badly view-from-the-shack

This morning – Sunday – and we have just taken all the bags to the boat and unpacked them.   We are almost ready to be splashed tomorrow morning.    Richard is doing his final engine checks and will be applying barnacle buster to the prop and keel plates later.    I’m in the apartment creating more KAP files for OpenCPN and blogging simultaneously.  I’m really looking forward to getting Morphie back in the water tomorrow and moving back on board although I know I’m going to miss the air conditioning LOL.

The plan next week is to stay in NanaJuana and continue with our jobs. There is the installation of the Iridium Go unit (and the tracking page will be made live once this is installed and tested); the installation of the new electronic barometer in the navigation station; adjustments to the helm seat; stainless steel cleaning; getting the wind generator operational again; un-pickling the watermaker etc etc etc…to give you just a flavour of the tasks ahead.     Looks like we’ll be pretty busy!

Bye for now.