Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Heading Back to the USA

After almost 9 months in Guatemala and a month Mexico, we are planning our return to the US.  Summer in New England will mean some time spent on Atalanta in Rhode Island and New England coastal waters and some time as landlubbers Vermont. We are looking forward to a summer that brings us closer to family and friends. 

Until then, our adventures at sea continue. Noah and then John Creelman joined us adding much enjoyment to our travels.  Sharing our life onboard with friends and family is an integral part of living aboard and we love it when schedules align and enable us to welcome guests.
Loving Great Food in Mexico

After tackling some boat jobs, provisioning, and sharing margaritas with friends at El Milagro Marina in Isla Mujeres, we realized it was time for another road trip. We picked up our rental car (ever heard of a VW Gol? We don’t recommend it) in Cancun and hit the highway headed for a night in the colonial city of Merida.  After one night at a great airbnb that once was a Spanish guardhouse and a delicious meal at Chaya Maya we were off on the 2.5 hour drive to Campeche (pronounced kahm-PEH-chay).  The town of Campeche lies in the State of Campeche and is visited mostly by those gringos looking to escape the resorts that crowd the beaches of the Yucatan Peninsula. A lovely 2-bedroom airbnb house in the historic section of town was our home for two nights. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1999, over 1600 building facades have been restored. We visited a museum housing world-class Maya artifacts, walked the Malecon on the Gulf of Mexico, watched an amazing lightshow in the town plaza, and added dozens of photos to the 6,000+ we already have.  When you come to visit, Richard will show you ALL of them!

Back in Quintana Roo we drove to Tacos.com in Puerto Morelos where Richard claims to have discovered the best tacos in the world.  Although our stomachs were already stuffed we stopped in the plaza for ice cream and marquesitas. We also took our gringo selves to Costco where the hotdogs are served with jalapenos instead of pickle relish!

Noah Hand Steering
from Guatemala to Mexico
It’s almost time to make a multi-day passage from the Carebbean to the USA.. The trip north can be a challenge thanks to the Gulf Stream current and strong seasonal winds that, of course, tend to blow from whatever direction you want to go in. Sailing in wind-over-current conditions poses a number of challenges.  Waves build quickly and the interval between waves can be short making for a rough ride.  We had our share of 20+ foot waves and 30+ knot winds on the way here and hope to find a weather window that provides a comfortable, smooth and speedy ride. Yeah, right!

We wanted to arrive in the Dry Tortugas about 70 miles west of Key West. However, the DTs are not a port of entry so we will have make landfall in the US in Key West where we can check in with Customs and Immigration. Other stops on the way to Vermont may include Sebastian, FL (Peter and Blaine: prepare the anchorage), St. Augustine (Jason and Meredith: want waffles and milkshakes for breakfast again?), Cumberland Island, Ga. and then on to City Marina in Charleston for a month where ya’ll are invited to visit and enjoy warm weather and great food.

Adios amigos!

Richard and Kay

Noah and Richard in

John and Richard
in Isla Mujeres, Mexico

John and Kay in Merida, Mexico
Conversation Chairs
Campeche, Mexico

Light Show in Campeche, Mexico

Friday, February 24, 2017

Return to Mexico: Farewell to Guatemala: February 2017

Why Refurbish Atalanta?

We think Atalanta is a very special boat.  It was built in 1983 by the Little Harbor Company, a boat building operation owned and operated by Ted Hood.  Atalanta remained Ted’s family yacht for three years under the name of “Robin Too” (get it? Robin --- Hood).  All yachts personally owned by Ted were painted “stars and stripes blue”, a color resembling robin’s egg blue.

Just about ready to 'splash"

Returning the rudder to her proper location
The men at RAM Marina doing their magic
When one takes temporary possession of one of Ted Hood’s boats, it is expected that certain traditions be respected.  She must be maintained to traditional standards while embracing new technologies.  Not an easy line to walk.  When it became necessary to improve our battery system we considered both solar and wind.  Solar would have required an arch on the aft deck; one that we felt would ruin the lines of the boat.  While wind generation was not around in 1983, its installation on Atalanta doesn’t change her lines.  We opted for wind. 

Living aboard on a full- time basis as we have been for the past four years, puts considerable wear and tear on a boat.  Atalanta was last painted in 1989 with Awlgrip.  This material is like paint but more durable and with a higher gloss.  The time for Atalanta to be repainted had come.  Doing the job correctly required all the paint and filler to be removed and the hull taken back to bare fiberglass.  Then it needed to be sanded, re-faired, sanded again, and then painted with 3 coats of Stars and Stripes.  The preparation was extensive and took about 2 months to complete.  We opted to have the work done at RAM Marina in Rio Dulce, Guatemala where the cost of labor is low and the quality of workmanship high.  Henry, the head of the paint crew did a magnificent job and we are thrilled with the results. The RAM Marina is one that we would recommend to anyone looking to have serious painting or refitting done.  They are probably the best yard we have found in all our years of sailing. Now we have to dock very carefully with lots of fenders over the side so we can try to avoid getting that first scratch!

Where To Now?

With our nephew Noah on board, we left the Rio Dulce for Mexico.  On February 17th, we ended our seven-month stay in this wonderful part of the world. We made many new friends on the Rio Dulce and hope to cross paths with them again.  We wandered down the river toward the Gulf of Honduras and checked out of Guatemala at Livingston. 
On the way down river: Cayo Quemodo Bay

Leaving the Rio Dulce
 After safely crossing the shallow sand bar we headed north in open water.  After an overnight sail we anchored at Long Cay in the Lighthouse Atoll, Belize for the night.  In the morning, we sailed 75 miles offshore in search of the Gulf Stream.  We sailed at 6 - 9 knots due north which is a reasonable speed for us.  As the day progressed the winds and seas increased as we found ourselves in 25+ knot winds and 15+ foot seas. 

Noah passage making
 Atalanta competently handled these conditions but the autopilot stopped working so someone had to be at the helm the entire time.  We took shorter than usual watches and arrived in Isla Mujeras, Mexico two and a half days after leaving Lighthouse.

We are docked at El Milagro Marina.  Isla Mujeres is beautiful, the food is great, and we are reconnecting with old friends that we have not seen for some time. Murray actually made friends here last year and he was pretty happy to see them. We’ll relax, eat, drink and socialize (and do boat chores) here for about 3 weeks and then sail to the Dry Tortugas and be at City Marina in Charleston, SC by April 15.

It feels so good to be moving again and many more adventures lie ahead…..thanks for following our journey.

Richard and Kay

More Pics

Los Tres Ricardos

Casa Mate John on board

Noah and Kay in the Rio

Livingston, Guatemala for Check Out

25 kts of wind
15 footers

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

From the RIO to the USA: Happy Holidays

Murray adjusting to
Vermont in December

We have left the warmth of the Rio Dulce for the chill of Vermont.  While Atalanta is on the hard for her “make-over” we are in Colchester to celebrate the holidays with family and friends. Richard stepped off the plane in Burlington wearing shorts. He traded those for long pants the next day and one day later it snowed and he needed to add boots to his wardrobe. Murray wasn’t all that excited about being in the  snow. However, it’s lovely coming back to such a beautiful place and to have a home here we can call our own. 

Preparing Atalanta for paint
RAM Marina in Guatemala offers a rare opportunity to have high quality work done at a cost significantly less than in the USA.  Atalanta has not been repainted (Awlgrip) since 1989 so she will have Stars and Stripes blue reapplied to her hull and off-white on the cockpit  and coachtop.  Much time consuming preparation is involved including sanding, scraping, repairing fiberglass, and refairing so it is a 6-week job. 

Rio Dulce
We left the Rio Dulce as crew on our good friends’ Moody 47, Argosea.  After completing the checkout process in Livingston, we made a two-day/one-night passage north to Cay Caulker, Belize where we waited for the strong northerlies to abate. Then it was off to Cozumel for a couple of nights followed by a kickass sail across the Yucatan Channel to Puerto Morelos.  We settled Argosea into her slip at Marina El Cid where she will stay while Tony and Anne are home for the holidays in Great Britain.  Our thanks to Anne and Tony for a safe passage, delicious meals, and good company.

Puerto Morelos is home to a small restaurant, Tacos.com which we believe serves the finest tacos in the world and we managed to get to eat there 3 times.  We also had fresh ceviche on the beach and margaritas made with lots of fresh lime juice. This is not the place for us to stay if we want to lose weight!

We return to Guatemala on December 30 and will need several days to put the boat back together and shop for provisions. Then we anticipate sailing north to Isla Mujeres, Mexico, the Dry Tortugas, Key West and the Exumas.  We will arrive in Charleston, SC by April 15 and then Atalanta will find her way back to her old mooring in Bristol RI.  We will spend the summer in Vermont, sailing in New England waters, and planning our next adventure.

We wish you the happiest of holidays and hope the spirit of the season fills you with joy.

Richard and Kay

More Pics

Our First Snow in a Long Time
RAM's Paint Shed
Soon to be Atalanta's Home
The Crew Moves Atalanta
Main Street in Rio Dulce
(AKA Fronteras)

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Life on the Rio Dulce Continues

We are back in Rio Dulce, Guatemala.  After a wonderful, hectic visit to the USA we are now aboard Atalanta.  While in Vermont we wed and bought a house in Colchester all within 5 days.  As homeowners and boat owners we will begin to discover a new rhythm to balancing our lives on sea and on land.

The Guatemala we are discovering is a country of contradictions.  It is rich in agriculture with farms and ranches spanning from the Atlantic to Pacific shores.  It is a country of great physical beauty with volcanoes, rainforests and lakes and varied wildlife. It has a rich Mayan culture and kind people.  On the other hand, there is a history of prejudice, crime, and corruption plaguing Central American countries that have struggled with occupation, revolution and the economic overreach of the United States. Nevertheless, we are in Rio Dulce, safe and sound.  Surrounded by many other seafarers, we hide from the Atlantic storms in this idyllic setting 30 miles up the river and we empathize with those currently in the path of Hurricanes Matthew and Nicole.

While rich in resources, Guatemala remains a poor country. Provisioning is a weekly activity for us and we find certain items (like beef and fish) difficult to obtain. Chicken and fresh fruits & veggies are available based upon what is in season locally and what is imported.  We were here during peak season for mango, watermelon, pineapple, and bananas. Currently, rambutan is plentiful.  Restaurants offer simply prepared grilled or fried meat with a side dish.  Rice, beans and tortillas are always on the menu. We buy 20 hot, freshly made-while-we-wait, hot tortillas on the street for under $2 USD. Gallo is the local beer, wine is fairly expensive, and fresh fruit shakes are popular beverages.

Kay is an avid admirer of the traditional clothing (traje) worn by many indigenous Guatemalans especially in the rural highlands. Traje’s intricately woven thread, beautiful colors and detailed craftsmanship create a work of art.  However, the clothes also tell stories of identity, geography and cultural preservation.  Each community can be identified by the patterns, colors, and style of embroidery used. Traje should be worn in its entirety: blouse (huipil), sash (faja), shawl (rebozo), skirt (corte) and hair wrap (cinta).  For men: overshirt (capixay), shirt (camisa), belt (cinturon), pants (pantalon) and sombrero. When entirely handmade, a single piece can take months to complete from spinning cotton into thread, dying it, weaving on a backstrap loom, and then embroidering. A complete traje can cost $250 USD – a small fortune! I have been shopping in pacas, aka second-hand shops and acquired a beautiful beaded sash.

Boat services here tend to be high quality and relatively inexpensive.  Docking fees are reasonable although electricity is very expensive. The RAM boat yard provides repair service at a rate of $25.00 USD/hour. We often paid $100.00/hour in the United States.  Consequently, we have decided to have Atalanta’s hull repainted in November-December, a 6-week job. This will extend our stay in Guatemala to almost 6 months. 

Next week we hop on a bus to Flores and visit the ruins at Tikal for 4 days.  Thanks for following.

Richard and Kay

More Pics

Life is Good

A visit to Bread and Puppet
While in Vermont

Kay takes a side trip to Charleston
to visit our Grandson

Reprovisioning in the Markets of
Fronteras, Guatemala

Hanging by the Chicken Bus

and Yes Kay Eats It