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….
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?!?
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).
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 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.
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.