Our ill Fated Attempt at Honduras

Friday  July 26, 2013

fender on Hydromax

You know how most great adventures start, right?  Usually over a drink, or at least good food, where one person ponders out loud, “You know what would be fun?”, as they go into detail about trying something off your beaten path or that hadn’t entered your mind.  And since you’re enjoying your drink or your favorable food, you cock your head and stare off into the distance and reply, “That does sound like a good idea.”.  And so began plans for our ill-fated trip to Honduras.  The dinner club was sitting on the top deck of Hydromax, basking in starlight with spaghetti and meatballs when Luis pondered, “You know what would be fun?  We should all take a trip to Honduras, to the Bay Islands, in my boat.  Be gone for a week or two.  It will be a good time”.

Even though there are huge amounts of boat projects for us to be working on (have I mentioned that Matt is sanding and varnishing the entire interior of Serendipity?), we agreed to this trip because we needed a welcome relief from these projects and it was a chance to visit Roatan without having to take our own boat there.  The next week was spent planning and provisioning, and even though all five of us had originally intended on going, Luki dropped out just a couple of days before, stating that even a week might be too long to take off from his projects, then leaving behind me, Matt, Ana Bianca, and Luis to make the trip.

Weather in the Gulf of Honduras was checked daily before our departure, and even though a tropical storm, Dorian, was forming in the Eastern Caribbean, things looked great for us to make the 175 miles out from Livingston, at the mouth of the Rio Dulce, to Roatan.  A bail out plan was put in place in case the storm did end up heading our way, but at the time of departure, Passageweather was showing our crossing to only have 5-10 knots of wind with 1-2 meter seas.  This was slightly disappoint to me since I had picked our departure date about 4 days earlier, based on glass calm seas and no wind anticipated for that day, perfect conditions for a motorboat.  I had wanted to re-create our perfect passage up to El Estor, but it turns out, the weather had other plans in mind.

On board with us for our departure was a Belgium family that had stayed in some of the land based accommodations at the marina and now needed a lift to Livingston.  Always wanting to be one to lend a hand where he can, Luis insisted they come that far with us. After a quick breakfast and a $7,000 fill at the fuel station, we were off.  The night before, a terrible storm had blown through, causing plenty of debris to wash into the river and us spending the first few miles trying to avoid it.  Once the river opened up into the golfete we were in the clear and even made a short stop to let our visitors go for a swim.  On our way once more, the three of us sailors (me, Ana Bianca and Matt) gathered on the top deck of the boat to discuss the week ahead that might be in store for us.  Matt had already been a little antsy about going, his OCD mind focusing on all the time he was going to miss on Serendipity, checking things off the to-do list before we leave for our backpacking adventure, and Ana Bianca was not quite enthusiastic about heading into the Caribbean Sea with a potential tropical storm heading our way.

I was slightly more indifferent, but all three of us knew that Luis was incredibly excited to be out for an adventure, and wouldn’t come back for a month if he had the option.   We talked in hushed voices about how we’d all be better off if instead of going to the Bay Islands of Honduras, avert to some islands off Belize and staying for only three to four days, fitting in with Matt’s timeline, and having a much quicker escape back to the Rio Dulce if need be, satisfying Ana Bianca’s unease.  We agreed that since Ana Bianca was the most knowledgeable about these islands, and the most forward with Luis, we’d let her bring it up to him when we arrived at Livingston.  But until then, we sat back and enjoyed the views as the golfete narrowed back into a river and the canyons around us grew higher.

7.26.13 (1)

fishers on the Rio Dulce

Ana Bianca

There goes Ana Bianca, hogging the spotlight.  Literally.

granite in the Rio Dulce

canyons of Rio Dulce plants meshing together

I think we’ve just left Guatemala, and entered Jurassic Park.

 

As soon as the boat was anchored in front of Livingston and we had taken a lancha to shore, wishing the Belgium family well with their travels, the four of us set out to find internet and see what tropical storm Dorian felt like doing in the next few days.  The previous hour before this, Ana Bianca had been finessing Luis with our new idea, trying to get him to see the benefits of a few days in Belize versus a week in the Bay Islands.  I, on the other hand, was still torn and thought I’d let the weather do the deciding for me.  I should have known it was not going to be ideal out there, since even as we came up to Livingston and the bar, whitecaps were visible on the water just outside and the notoriously calm waters in front of Livingston were rocking and rolling as we sat at anchor.  If it was that bad here, I could only imagine what it would be a few miles out from shore.

Doing the regular checks of Passage Weather and NOAA, we saw that one of the potential paths for Dorian was to come west, over Cuba and further into the Caribbean Sea.  It confirmed Ana Bianca’s worries that 175 miles from safety might be just a little too far to toy with, and we’d be much better off in the islands off Belize.  We could tell Luis was disappointed, I’m sure he had a his heart set on making it to Roatan and Utila, and even more so, showing us all a good time while we were there.  I think he felt that switching to Belize was giving up.  Now that we had all decided on where to go though, the next step was to visit the customs and immigration agent, Raul, for our zarpe and to get stamped out of the country.  The entire conversation with Raul commenced in Spanish, with Luis and Ana Bianca talking to him, and me picking up on every 10th word.  I could tell the topic was switching to weather and it wasn’t long before Ana Bianca was standing behind Raul’s computer looking up buoy conditions stationed out in the Caribbean Sea.

It took another ten minutes of Spanish being fired back and forth before I was fully let in on what had transpired since we stepped into the office.  Apparently there was a captain of a fishing vessel that had been on his way out of the office, having just checked back in to Guatemala, as we were on our way in.  According to this man, he had just arrived that morning from the Bay Islands, and conditions out there were not good.  Away from shore, he was stating that the seas were hitting 10 meters.  10 METERS!!  For my non metric friends, that’s approximately 32 FEET!  And we were about to head out into it!  No wonder Ana Bianca was quick to get a little more weather info before we walked out of that office and back on to the boat.  Strange thing is, every site we checked showed just about the same thing we’d read before.  Winds at 10-15 knots and waves at 1-2 meters.

A quick group huddle came after this information was translated to everyone.  The chance of there actually being 10 meter waves out there when all our other information was stating otherwise was slim, but as Ana Bianca put it, even if they were half of that, it would still be a rougher ride than any of us would want to go out in.  Departure today was not going to happen.  The consensus was that we’d stay put in Guatemala that night and check again the next day.  As Matt and I already knew though, seas don’t calm down from that stature in one day.  If there was any truth to that fisherman’s statement (or even half of what he stated), we would be waiting at least three days for favorable sea conditions.

A now very discontented Luis led us all back to Hydromax where we made plans of what to do for the evening.  Livingston is not a good place for one to leave their boat overnight, with pretty good chances of theft, and the next safest option was about 8 miles up the river.  Weighing anchor we headed west into the sun and back into the jungle.  I’d be lying if I said that Matt and I weren’t slightly relieved at this weather predicament.  It meant that the whole trip may be put off.  Not that we hadn’t been entirely excited about the idea initially, but the timing just seemed off.  Not only was everyone (except Luis) in a hurry to get back to their boat to complete projects, ensuring that this vacation would not be as relaxing as if there was nothing but time on your hands, but the constant change in plans was making tensions run high aboard, and it almost felt as if continuing on would create a feeling of animosity between our group.  Maybe it was better to call the whole thing off and say, ‘At least we tried, maybe another time’.

The three of us who weren’t as upset about the non-departure that day left Luis with a little time on his own to sort his feelings.  I think after having been at the marina in Guatemala for the past two years and listening to conversations at dinner each night of all of his new friends recent adventures, he was ready to go have his own.  15 ft waves or less, he was willing to go, sacrificing 24 hours of comfort and strapping himself to the wheel if need be, so the next time we gathered at the ranchito he could join in our passage conversations with ‘Hey guys, remember those crazy seas on our trip to Honduras?’, and catalog it with the rest of his The Most Interesting Man in the World stories.  It is just speculation of course on why he wanted to get out there so badly, but the desire was definitely there.  We all kind of wished Luki was on board, a human sedative that relaxed and calmed, and put everything into perspective.  But since it was only us, we decided that time and space were the best current medicine, and we sat up on deck, trying to keep the mood light until our anchorage came into view.

Texan Bay

Matt & Jessica at Texan Bay

kisses, Matt & Jessica, Texan Bay

Some kisses will lighten the mood.

kisses, Ana Bianca, Texan Bay

Ana Bianca wants kisses too.

 

We motored into a gorgeous and quiet bay, and after the hook was set, made some coffee while sitting around the open transom to discuss the day and the possibilities for tomorrow.  There was the option of motoring back down to Livingston, but checking the weather online wouldn’t be enough.  Had we gone soley on weather reports from that, we still would have left today.  We needed real time updates from someone out on the water.  Which meant trying to hail down a ship on VHF and having them relay the current conditions to us.  But…what would it take for all of us to agree that conditions were good enough to go?  I think the three of us knew it as soon as we walked out of Raul’s office that afternoon.  This trip, was off.  Luckily, Ana Bianca and I had something up our sleeves.  Instead letting weather dictate our travels, why not do some land based traveling instead?  All of us had been wanting to get out to Antigua, why not try for that?  We’d go back to the marina the next morning, continue on projects throughout the next week, and leave in one week by bus to central Guatemala.

Matt was quick to agree, just happy not to have to face the prospect of rough seas, and once Luis realized it was that or nothing, he agreed as well.  Stating that Antigua didn’t hold much interest for him, but maybe he’d spend the weekend at Lake Atitlan.  With the knowledge that we wouldn’t have to brave any rough weather out on the water, I let out a huge sigh of relief.  That same uneasy feeling I had in my stomach just before we crashed in St. Augustine had been forming, and I was glad to avert a potential crisis before it happened.  Since we were all decided on the plan now, the only thing left to do was enjoy the rest of the evening and the beautiful sunset in front of us.  It may not have been where we’d envisioned ourselves to be that night, sitting at anchor instead of preparing to begin our sleep shifts, but to me it felt like exactly where we needed to be.

boats in Texan Bay

sunset at Texan Bay

 

Goodnight everyone!

Ana Bianca in a hammock

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A Saturday afternoon Sail

Saturday July 20, 2013

Annica, Ignacio, and Ana Bianca

As much as I hate to admit it, I am forever tied to the water.  Blame my parents for raising me in such close proximity to the wonderful shores of Lake Michigan, but I’ll never be able to escape my need to get back to the water, time and time again.  Sloshy and uncomfortable passages may not be my highlight, and might also produce nothing but complaints from me, but I could never leave the water for good.  We’re meant to be together.  Which is why I was so excited when Ana Bianca invited us out for a day sail on Lake Isabelle on her Beneteau this weekend.  After just arriving in Guatemala herself a few weeks ago, she made friends with a family that hails from Guatemala City but also has a weekend home on the river.  Fast friendships can translate from cruisers to landlubbers as well, so when the man, Ignacio, had a birthday coming up, his big wish was a sail out on the water in Ana Bianca’s boat.  She readily agreed, and even invited the rest of the dinner club along for the adventure as well.  It wasn’t to be anything too fancy, just a few hours enjoying the lake along with a couple of drinks and snacks.  I was assigned guacamole and chips and eagerly showed up with them in hand on Hydromax, our meeting point, before we were to shove off.

Dark clouds threatened in the distance, but we paid them no mind as we dinghied out to s/v Kajaya who was now sitting at anchor in our little bay.  Shortly after we arrived and stocked our goodies into the fridge, Ignacio appeared with his family, wife Annica and daughter Camilla, in their personal lancha and stepped aboard with their own cooler full of goodies.  If the rain held off it, looked like it was going to be a wonderful day, but again, one should never speak too soon.  Those dark rain clouds opened up on us just as we were weighing anchor, but as storms tend to do in this area, it was over almost as quickly as it began.

rain clouds threaten

rain pours while weighing anchor

 We weren’t even the one mile it takes to round the corner where the Castillo de San Felipe sits before the sun was out and shinning again.  As soon as we hit the entrance to the lake, we gauged the wind and opened the sails.  Our sail started us out on a nice downwind run and I was able to grab the wheel for a little while when everyone else scattered about.  Matt was in a very in depth conversation with Ignacio (or Nacho as he told us to call him) about everything sailing, including how the sails worked at different points into the wind to push us along.  Ana Bianca and Luis were down below so they could whip up a few of Luis’ famous margaritas, and while I was at the helm, Annica and Camilla would try to hand feed me chips and guacamole since I had surprisingly not eaten anything yet.  Once I had gotten some chips and guac down, I was able to enjoy the helm at my hands, the wind at my back, and the feeling of a weekend pleasure cruise.  It’s been so long since we’d been out on the water just because we felt like it, and it brought me right back to our weekends on Lake Michigan where there was no time frame, no destination, and the only concern was which point of sail felt best and if there was something cold to drink in the fridge.

Luis and Jessica

 (photo courtesy of Annica)

Castillo de San Felipe

Camilla, Annica, Nacho, and Matt

entering Lake Isabella

 Even though I had been happy to take over the helm and show off my amazing skills of how to stay on course (without autopilot!), there were others that wanted a shot as well and soon I was handing off my position to Ana Bianca who in turn showed Camilla how to steer the boat and keep a course.  This left me with nothing to occupy my time except stuffing my face, which I was happy to do.  Nacho had prepared some croquettes that were incredibly delicious, and with a topped off margarita in my other hand, it was really turning into a perfect Saturday afternoon.  We shared with Nacho and Annica our previous sailing adventures and our current plans to hopefully cross the Atlantic to the Mediterranean the following summer.  Nacho, ever the adventurist, jumped at the chance to be our third crew member for the crossing, stating that he’d always wanted to sail across an ocean.  The offer even came with the promise of him being our personal chef and bartender the whole journey.  While it was VERY tempting to agree to this, we told him that he’d probably want to go on a much bigger boat than ours, and that 34 feet could get very cramped after three weeks.  Which is probably why we won’t bring anyone with us on the crossing.  Having 7 people out for a pleasure cruise though?  Totally do-able.

ana and camilla

 (Photo courtesy of Annica)

Matt trimming sails

cheese spread

We had our nice relaxing time going down one side of the lake, but when it was time to turn around our new intended course right into the wind, which meant a lot more tacking.  Ana Bianca had the wheel under control, and Matt was in his element, adjusting sails each time we went back and forth.  At the beginning the tacks were few and far between, so the other five of us sat around without purpose except to keep enjoying ourselves.  Nacho broke out a tub of chilled wine him and Annica had brought, so I sat with a pinot grigio in one hand as I continued to talk sailing with them and watched the sun get lower in the sky.  It was also a little amusing knowing which way the boat would heel each time we tacked, and trying to explain to Nacho which way the tub of wine was going to slide right before it did.

The closer we got to the entrance of the river though, the more tacks we needed to make.  This meant that I was brought out of my seat while Matt and I worked together to trim the sails.  The sailors in the group wanted to make it as far as possible without turning the engine on, and as the lake narrowed this meant having to cut back and forth every few minutes.  Ana Bianca was still stationed behind the wheel and just as we’d start cutting through the wind she would shout out “Now”, and I’d unwind the line from the previous leeward side as Matt would begin winching it in on the new low side.  Then we’d switch spots and do it all over again.  Just as we were entering the river again we cut it so close that it deserved a congratulatory round of high fives among us that we didn’t end up beached.  It felt great being back on the water once again, and appreciating sailing for what it was once more.

Nacho pouring wine

matt and nacho

(Photo courtesy of Annica)

Matt cranking the winch

Ana Bianca's great captaining skills

overlooking Kajaya

sun setting on Lake Isabella

sailboat passing Guatemalan fisher 1

sailboat passing Guatemalan fisher 2

As if a great day out on the water wasn’t enough, we were invited to Nacho and Annica’s weekend home on the Rio Dulce for a nice home cooked meal later in the evening.   They own a gorgeous open air home, set high up on a hill overlooking the river.  Even though it was too dark by this time to see much outside, we settled comfortably into the relaxed and welcoming ambiance the interior had to offer.  Our dinner for the evening was a to die for Argentinian steak paired  with an equally intoxicating red wine, and as I sat there reflecting back on the day and how we’ve been instantly welcomed into all of our new friends’s lives,  I couldn’t help but appreciate how incredibly fortunate we are, not just to lead the life we do, but to keep meeting the welcoming and generous people we do.  I don’t know what we did to become this lucky.

Nacho & Annica's weekend home 1

Nacho & Annica's weekend home 2

Nacho & Annica's weekend home 3

dining room table

Argentinian steak

coffee & dessert

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Morales,Morales,Morales!

Tuesday July 16, 2013

collectivo

It’s kind of funny how once you know you’re going to be in a place for awhile, it’s easy to fall into a rut. With 4-5 months here in Guatemala, there’s certain things we want to do and see, but they keep getting put on the back burner.

“We should go visit the ancient ruins at Tikal.”

“Yeah, but we have plenty of time for that. We’ll get to it later.”

“Copan is also relatively close you know.”

“We have all summer.”

Even our neighboring town of Morales, something that’s a 20 minute drive away, a larger town that carries much more than Fronteras, was put on the back burner. “There’s nothing we really need there, if we’re just going to check it out, we can do it later.” Three weeks we’ve been here, and in three weeks the only sights we have seen outside of our normal trek to town for necessities was our first weekend in Guatemala where we were swept away to El Estor. Every day after that has been focusing on boat work and nothing much else. Even though while we’re actively cruising we usually sweep through a country or destination in a week, we can’t seem to be bothered to take a hop to the next town over right now. So the other morning while I was having coffee at the ranchito and Matt was sleeping in (our sleep schedules seem to differ a little bit these days) and Luis came by to ask if the two of us would like to go into Morales the next day with him, Ana Bianca, and Luki, I agreed on behalf of myself and Matt.

This morning as I got myself ready for ‘the big city’, I finally got myself out of my athletic gear that’s become my new uniform for our days at the marina here, and into something more presentable. The five of us shuttled over to town in Luis’ lancha and made our way up to the main road, where I was told we’d be taking a collectivo into Morales. The only thing I knew about these is they were the cheap, local transportation. Thinking in my mind that it would be a bus, I almost walked right past the mini-van looking vehicle that Luis had stopped at. Ohhh, so that’s a collectivo! And the gibberish I’d heard them yelling out every time we walked by was “Morales”. Or as it sounded to me “MoralesMoralesMoralesMorales”.

This collectivo was a twelve seater van that had three rows of seating holding three people each running through the back, and then three seats up front for the driver and two passengers. Being the first people to get in, Matt and I slid into the first row of seats, with our other three friends taking the row behind us. Silly me, I thought we’d wait until we had eleven passengers and leave, but even before taking off we had about fourteen people squeezed into that tiny van. Even sillier me, I thought it would stay that way. All along the way to Morales we’d make a stop for anyone that was on the side of the road and waved their arms to flag us down. As each person joined, we squeezed in tighter with me eventually sitting on Matt’s lap as we fit five people into our row alone. By the time we made it into Morales, I kid you not, we had 28 people in that van. Four were small children, but that still meant we were double capacity for adults. I’m surprised that no one was hanging off the racks on the roof. One saving grace about Guatemalans though is they hold personal hygiene very highly and probably smelled even better than we did, which was a big bonus for us as we sat in such a cramped enclosure.

As we pulled to a stop in town and the door slid open, we all spilled out as if the closed door was the only thing keeping everyone in place.  I don’t know exactly what I was expecting form the ‘big city’ of Morales, but I don’t think it quite delivered to my expectations, not right away at least.  It could have been my recent researches of Guatemala City, or the repetition of hearing “Morales will have everything you need!”, but I was dropped on to a dusty road that looked like it had very few shops.  Fret not, it turns we weren’t quite in town yet.  We had chosen to get out early to check out a hardware and lumber store just on the outskirts.  I have to say, it’s a bit better than what we’ve been finding at the concrete mall, and may even give the hardware store in Grand Cayman a run for it’s money.

hardware store in Morales I can see why they have an ATM at the front of their shop.

 

Matt and I didn’t make any purchases here, just wandered around converting prices from Quetzals to USD.  ”Oh look, this hammer is only $6.50.  Look!  Drill bits for under $10!”.  We all came out of the store empty handed, but it was good to know the kind of selection offered just a 20 minute, 28 person van ride away.  That was really the end of our necessity to visit town, the rest of our time could be spent wandering around for fun.  I did pop in and out of a few pharmacies to see if they carried a prescription we were running out of, and although they did have what we were looking for, no one carried a generic and wanted $90 US a month for it.  Are you effing kidding me?  No thanks, I think I’ll wait until we’re back in Michigan and take advantage of Walmart’s generics for $10/month.

After doing a little more walking through the desert Central American sun, my shirt was soaked and I needed a little shade.  We found some at a fruit stand that was sitting on the side of the street, and even talked the woman running the stand to hack open a fruit that we were clueless on so we could all take a sample of it.

fruit stand in Morales

unnameable fruit

Still couldn’t tell you what this was if my life depended on it.

bag of...yellow stuff

 

The closer we got to the center of town, the more stores and shops we came upon.  Again, in my head we were going to a mini Guatemala City and I foolishly thought there’d be many more Americanized stores instead of the concrete cubes that house stores like back in Fronteras.  Nope, they were the same.  Just many many more of them.  Not that this is a terrible thing, and we browsed the stores and talked about how we really need to get Matt a set of cowboy boots and a cowboy hat to help him really fit in here.

cowboy boots

In the end we just did a big loop of the town before ending on the main road that would take us back to where we had originally been dropped off.  We stopped for lunch in a little cafe, and although it took all my strength not to order a cold beer or a tasty margarita, I instead opted for the free natural juice that came with the meal.  I have to remember that every dollar counts now for our South American trip.  Paying the bill at the end of our meal we were given Halls cough drops as mints.  Because, well, why wouldn’t you get those.  As our visit neared an end, the only thing for us left to do was step outside and hail down any vehicle yelling “RioDulceRioDulceRioDulce!”

market in Morales

Matt in Morales

butcher shop in Morales

 

 

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A Tour of Tortugal

Monday July 15, 2013

view from Tortugal's common room

It’s occurred to me that we’ve been at the marina here in the Rio Dulce for a few weeks now, and I haven’t really shown any photos of what our new happy home looks like.

First, let me start off by saying that all marinas are not created equal.  Even though we had done no research before we came here and simply picked the place because our friends on Skebenga would be here as well (that,and we heard they just had a new wifi system installed), we lucked out with what I think is the best marina on the Rio Dulce.  It’s light, it’s airy, it’s even eco-friendly, set right in the middle of a nature reserve.  Even though there’s rarely anyone here, the complex is spread out which gives a feeling of privacy.  We’re tucked into a little cove away from town which affords great views of serene palm trees and mountains, and to top it off, we’re one of the few places on the river that enjoys a gentle afternoon breeze, something that is very needed in these hot and muggy conditions.  Here I introduce to you, our sweet little home for the summer.

Tortugal restaurant

The restaurant and bar area, which doubles as a movie theater under the stars every Friday night.

TV at Tortugal

Couch and TV in the common area.  Perfect for catching up on my telenovelas.

pool table in common area

Billiards table in the common area.  We’ve played, hmmm,…once.

swimming platform

View out to the swimming platform.  They recommend you don’t jump from here.

bungalow at Tortugal

Bungalow’s available for land travelers.  They see our boats and are probably jealous of us, but really, we’re jealous of them.

entry to men's room

The saloon doors to the men’s restroom.  I love the photos.

entry to women's room

Seriously can’t get enough of them.

 

kyaks

Kayaks available for tooling around.  Or in case your dinghy breaks down.

bench at Tortugal

Cute little bench along the walkways. I don’t think anyone ever sits there, but it’s still cute nonethenless.

Ranchito at Tortugal

The ranchito right next to our boat.  My favorite place to hang out.

Dorms at ranchito 1

The 4 person dorm above the ranchito.  One of Georgie’s favorite places to sneak off to.

Dorm at ranchito 2

There are times I want to pay the $10/night just to be able to hang out up here.

walkway to bathrooms

The walkway from the ranchito to the backpackers showers and restrooms (which we tend to use as well).

backpackers restrooms

Showers to the right, and toilets in the back.  And plenty of mosquitoes after dark.

backpackers showers

The backpackers showers.  They don’t always have hot water, but in the middle of a hot day, they’re a nice place to cool down.

view of the boats from the bathrooms

 View of the boats at dock from the bathrooms.  We’re the hillbilles with the blue tent covering our boom.

house for rent

 The four room hut for rent at the end of the dock. Sometimes occupied by families, but usually drunk college kids.

lounge area at Tortugal

 A lounge area looking onto the bay and river.  A perfect place to get eaten alive.

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The Breakfast Club

Sunday July 14, 2013

breakfast on Hydromax

During our few weeks here in the Rio Dulce, we’ve developed a bit of a breakfast club.  But to tell you how that came about, I’d have to back-up a little bit, and tell you about our dinner club.  Ever since the crews of Serendipity and Skebenga threw a dinner party for Luis at the ranchito last week, Matt and I have not had a chance to prepare a dinner on our own.  First it was ordering a pizza at the marina with Luis, where he told us more about his restaurants and all the special dishes he used to cook.  Then it turned into Luis wanting to fix us one of those dishes the next night.  While raving to him about his cooking skills, he’d tell us about the his next favorite dish he wanted to prepare for us the next night.  Throw that in with the weekly Friday pizza and movie special here at the marina, and we haven’t done more in our galley than heat up some top Ramen for lunch every day.

Through the dinners on Hydromax, we’d try to offer bringing sides or even money to cover at least our portion of the groceries.  Each time we were turned down for those but did turn into the official dishwashers afterward.  Our dinners saw us through the departure of Elmari as she left to spend the summer with family in South Africa, and the addition of a new friend at the marina, Ana Bianca.  It seems like everyone in our group, Luis, Luki, and even Ana Bianca have a special dish they like to prepare, and Matt and I have been basking in the fruits of their labor.  Work on the boat during the day, gather for dinner and drinks in the evening.  It’s been absolutely perfect.

After only a few nights of this dinner routine though, we realized there was a problem.  Between the five of us eating, there’d always be just enough food leftover to have no reason to throw it away, but no way to incorporate it into the next night’s meal.  This is how the breakfast club came about.  After one night of dinner, Luis started talking about how he could turn some of our leftover dinner into a delicious breakfast the next day and invited us to come over the next morning to enjoy it with some fresh Cuban coffee.  We thought it was a one time deal, Matt even dragged himself out of bed by 8 am for it, but that same night over dinner Luis began talking about what would be for breakfast the next day.  The tradition has been continuing and now we’ve all been meeting twice a day for good food and company.  Matt and I have finally been able to contribute something by brewing our Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee inside our Thermos brand French Press and bringing it over to Hydromax every morning.

eggs and bacon on Hydromax

 While eating one of our meals the other day, Ana Bianca mentioned she had a juicer on board and wanted to break it out sometime.  After a trip into town and a bag full of fruits and veggies later, we were ready to try it out this morning.  We made two different juices.  The first one was simple, but really tasty.  We cut up a pineapple and added some mint leaves.  It sounds like an odd combination, but it worked out great.  The end product was frothy and sweet, with just a little kick from the mint.

Our next glass was a combination of everything else we bought.  You name it.  Carrots, oranges, beets, apples, they all went in.  To me it didn’t seem like these should mix in any kind of way, but Ana Bianca promised that it would come out very sweet tasting and all the flavors would blend together.  We watched the liquid turn a bright red when the beets were added and after all the ingredients went in, filled four glassed and topped them off with ice.  Our apple, orange, carrot, beet juice was…not quite as sweet as I thought, but not too bad either.  I can see why people do this for it’s health value, but it still seems like a lot of work to me unless you’re on a real big health kick or trying to lose weight fast.  Just give me my morning coffee and omelette.  Or a pineapple mint juice.  I’ll still take that one.

Matt washing veggies

bowl of beets

oranges and carrots, ready to be juiced

pineapple juice

the non juice parts

beet juice

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In Stitches

Wednesday July 10, 2013

  7.10.13 (3)

I can’t believe I was actually worried that we’d get here to the Rio Dulce to spend four months with the boat, and that I’d be bored out of my mind.  That there would be nothing to do everyday, and I’d be sitting there, twiddling my thumbs, watching the seconds on the clock tick by.  But if there has been one thing to describe our time here now, it is busy.  My whole day is spend in front of the computer, trying to catch up on my two months of backlogged posts, planning our upcoming backpacking trip to South America, and on top of that, learning Spanish so I can actually get us around.  Matt keeps his days busy as well, but all of his attention is focused on the boat.  We had a list of things we wanted to tackle once we got to a spot that we’d be sitting at for awhile, and what better place then when you’re at a marina.  There’s no tipping back and forth while you’re trying to concentrate, although that hardly ever bothers Matt, extra electricity is just a few short feet away, and a decent sized town with a lot of the supplies you could need is only a five minute lancha ride away.

So this day had been passing pretty regularly.  I’d gotten up about two hours before Matt to begin my day on my laptop, sitting squished up in the v-berth with my fan pointed directly at me.  When he finally got up we did our routine of breakfast before he started disassembling the salon and moving all parts and cushions up to the v-berth, which forced me on to one of the picnic tables at the ranchito next to us.  Doing our separate work for a few hours, we took a break to make our way into town when our friend Luis offered us a ride since he was going in anyway.  About 7 liters of Pepsi were stocked up along with a couple bags of nacho queso chips, one trip to the concrete mall for hardware supplies, and we were on our way back to the marina.  As usual, Luis asked if we’d need the lancha any more that day, and after not being able to think of any other reasons we would need to go into town again, we told him to secure it for the night.  Rain was threatening, so I moved the tower of cushions around in the v-berth to make a spot for me to sit once more.  Matt, waiting for his latest coat of varnish on the starboard side salon to dry, took to his other project of making a sliding board to fit over our stove and give us more counter space.

Concentrating as best I could, I tried to drown out the banging and clanking and drilling sounds that were coming from the aft cabin.  Then I heard a big clatter, followed by a painful groan and then “Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit”.  Craning my neck back, I could see him holding his hand up in the air, and it didn’t even take me two seconds to grab the medical bag that had been conveniently replaced right next to me for the day, and throw it on the settee while unzipping it.  Taking a look at Matt’s hand, I found out that while holding down a stainless steel tube that he had been drilling, the bit broke and the end still attached to the drill went right into his index finger.  It wasn’t gushing blood at the moment, which was nice, but I still had no idea what to do.  I grabbed him a paper towel to keep pressure on the wound, and then raced to the head where I sent bottles from our medicine cabinet flying, trying to search for the hydrogen peroxide.  When I finally got to a bottle, I splashed a healthy amount on the wound as he winced in pain.  Ok, so we have it disinfected.  Now what?  Is it going to need stitches?  Will a butterfly bandage be enough to make it heal?  The cut looked fairly deep, and living and working in the environment we do, infection was my number one concern.  There just looked to be too much of an open area for things to make their way in if we only tried to remedy it with a bandage.  Time for the skin stapler maybe?  Matt had always been looking for an excuse to break it out.

The other good thing about being in a marina at the moment as opposed to out at anchor, is there were other people close by to consult on the matter.  Jumping off the boat and on to the dock, I ran in search of any sign of Luki or Luis to give a second opinion.  Coming up on Skebenga, I didn’t see anyone aboard, and then turning around I saw Luis making his way onto the dock at the same time Matt was.  He took one look at Matt’s finger and said, “It’s fine, just put a bandage on it for a few days”.  Ummm, I’m not sure that a simple Bandaid is going to cure that flap of skin that’s hanging off his finger.  I really wished Luki was around, him and his wife Elmari seem to have a good knowledge about medical training, but since they weren’t, I wanted a trip to the clinica in town.  Matt looked to be on the same page as me, and as Luis went about untying the lancha and getting it ready to go, I flew down the steps of the companionway to grab both our shoes, cash, and the ATM card.  Before I knew it, we were headed towards Fronteras, and all in less than five minutes after Matt had drilled into his finger.

It was another lucky thing that we had Luis with us, since not only did we have no clue where the clinica was, but there probably wouldn’t have been enough Spanish between the two of us to find it, explain what we needed (although I’m sure just pointing to his finger would have done the trick), or most importantly, understood what they were telling us in return.  I guess we were kind of over dramatizing the situation back at the marina, we must have given Luis the impression that there were no extra seconds to spare, and as soon as we stepped foot onto the main road he hailed a tuk tuk to drive us the half mile up to the clinica.  As he paid the $2 fare,  we walked inside, or through the open garage style door I should say, to find a nurse/assistant standing behind the pharmacy counter.  Luis explained the situation, and she took down very basic information such as Matt’s name, age, and nationality on a blank sheet of paper.  Very official.  She said it would be 200Q ($25) just to see the doctor, and then whatever the extra cost would be for what else needed to be done.  We agreed, and were then told to wait until the doctor could see us.

The only place to sit was a bench outside, but assuming the doctor would be right out, we began flipping through the local newspaper sitting on the counter.  Which, on the first few pages at least, were filled with images of bodies covered in white sheets due to murders, auto accidents, or whatever else might leave a dead body behind.  I’m pretty sure images like these would not fly back in the States.  It took about 30 minutes, but we were finally led into the doctor’s office with Luis in tow to translate.  After giving a two second look at Matt’s hand, the doctor explained that he could give him a shot of novocaine and fix him up with a few stitches.  We agreed once more, and just as I was pulling out my camera to get a front row seat to the show, both Luis and I were ushered out to the ‘waiting room’ (i.e. the bench sitting outside in the gravel lot) while they went to work on Matt.  I think the doctor spoke just a little bit of English, which made me feel a lot better about leaving him alone in there, because both of us have found that when someone begins asking us something, even if we have no clue what they’re talking about, we just bob our heads up and down and respond “Si, Si”.

“I don’t like the way this finger is looking, I’m going to have to take it off”.

“Si.”

“As long as we’re hacking you open, I’ve always wanted to try and put a goat heart in human. Would you be willing to try this?”

“Si.”

“I’m just going to need you to sign this legal document saying I am not at all liable for anything I do to you.”

“Si, Si.”

But 20 minutes later, after Luis and I had gone through a few bags of Cheetos and two bags of water (Yes, I said that right.  The water is drunk out of plastic bags.), Matt was returned to us with four stitches and a nice little bandage taped between his fingers.  He was given a prescription for antibiotics which he was told to take twice a day for a week, and to pull out the stitches one week later.  After paying 300 more Q ($39) and being told to come back if the whole area turns yellowish-red, let’s hope not, we were on our way home.  For having an accident happen in a small town of a third world country where we don’t speak the language, I actually think it went pretty well.  But just so we don’t have any repeats, I think all drill bits should be kept away from Matt until at least this wound heals.

7.10.13 (1)

 Our ambulance driver.

7.10.13 (2)

Getting ready for surgery.

7.10.13 (4)

May as well enjoy a bag of water while I wait.

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Bucket Laundry & Big Adventures

Monday July 8, 2013

bucket laundry

If you’ve been following this blog for awhile, you’ll know that Matt and I are pretty cheap.  Stingy might even be a good word.  If we don’t have to spend money on something, or there’s a cheaper way to do it, that’s usually where we’ll turn.  And with absolutely no incoming flowing in, we need to be that way.  Whatever we have saved up in the bank account has to last us through the next couple of years, and neither of us is ready to cut this trip short so we can blow our money on extra trips out to restaurants or really happy Happy Hours.  Sometimes we happen to be ‘those people’ which others look at with disdain and mutter “Why don’t they just spend the extra couple of bucks”.  Today may have been a case of that while I sat dockside, taking up the art of bucket laundry.  That’s right.  No $8 a load, wash, dry, and fold, for this girl.  I’m doing it by hand.  ’Why be that incredibly stingy?’, you may ask?  I’ll share that with you in just a moment.

First, in case anyone is curious, and since the #1 question (I kid you not) from friends and family before we left was “How are you going to do your laundry?”, I’ll share my method on this.  Usually, there is a coin-op facility, or in the case of our marina here, a service that will take care of it for you for a fee.  Or….there’s bucket laundry.  I hadn’t read up on any tips or tricks on this pocket, I just taught myself to think like a washing machine.  I divided our clothes up into loads, with each load containing five items.  Then in our big bucket, I filled it about half way with fresh water from the spicket, and took one article of clothing at a time for an initial rinse.  I didn’t know if soley dunking it in a few times would do the job, so I sat there with each t-shirt, pair of shorts, or set of pajamas, and plunged every item individually 50 times.

When I was sure the initial grossness was off, I emptied the bucket, rinsed it out, added a little detergent, filled it half way again, and then started the process over again.  Each item received 50 dunks or swishes just to make sure that the detergent fully seeped in to every thread.  It has to be close to how a washing machine works, right?  After the cleansing came one final rinse, again at 50 dunks per item, and then I was satisfied enough that they were clean.  Up on the clothes line they went, ensuring our hillbilly status here at the marina.  It was a time consuming process, close to 45 minutes a load, but the extra few dollars every load saves will come in handy.

pajamas getting washed

clothes hanging to dry

 

If you’ve guess the reason as our saving every penny is because of a boat baby on the way, you’d be wrong.  Sorry, but not this year.  We’re saving pennies where we can, because, we’re throwing some land travels into our mix!  Not that the Rio Dluce isn’t a great place to spend your summer.  The town of Frontera is quaint, there activities going on at a number of marinas every day, and you’re only a bus ride from visiting ancient ruins in Tikal or Copan.  We just want a little more from the free time we have on our hands while sitting here.  Talking about the next step, as we spend much of our time doing, we lamented about the fact that we’re so close to South America, and it’s too bad we won’t get the boat there to do a little exploring.  Then it hit us that we don’t need a boat to explore South America.  So over the past six weeks or so, we’ve been discussing a visit there while the boat is sitting safely at the marina in Rio Dulce.

Then came the question of how much time we can afford ourselves, what we want to see, and how much land we could cover.  We knew we wanted Peru on the list, just because of the number of sights to see in that one country: Machu Picchu, The Nazca Lines, Lake Titicaca; as well as it’s diverse terrain.  After looking at other areas such as Angel Falls in Venezuela and Iguazu Falls in Argentina, we ruled that they would be just too far to travel to from Peru without a plane, and we couldn’t afford the extra tickets.  So now the new plan is to fly into Lima Peru and then one month later, fly out of Medellin Colombia.  There should be plenty to keep us busy while in Peru, Ecuador, and Colombia, so we don’t feel like we’re missing out too much, and still hope to hit the eastern side of South America sometime in our travels.

We don’t know exactly what we’ll do or where we’ll go, but the beauty is, we don’t have to.  As long as we can make it to Colombia for our flight out, we’re good.  No dependency on wind or weather windows, we’ll be free to travel where we want, when we want.  There is also one more surprise in this trip that is making us super excited!  Since we’re using Spirit Airlines because it’s the cheapest we could find (see, I told you), and Spirit is forcing us to Ft. Lauderdale before we can take a connecting flight to Lima, we decided that since we’re going to be shuttled into the States, why not go one step further and make a visit home as well?  Yes!  We’re now adding a 10 day stop in Michigan to our travels as well!  Friends, family, fast food.  It’s more than I could have hoped for for our summer.  Matt just purchased our tickets for an August 13th departure.  Five weeks until we get to go home, and the countdown starts now!

Matt booking our flights

We have a notebook full of airline dates, times, and prices.

 

 

I can’t wait to see sights like these!

Guatape-Lakes-Pano

Guatape Lakes – outside of Medellin Colombia

Botero Sculpture Park

 Botero Sculpture Park – Medellin Colombia

(Photos courtesy of Tamarisk, Round The World)

 

 

PE Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu

PE Nazca Bones

Bone cemetery in Nazca Peru.

(Photos courtesy of Bumfuzzle)

 

 

 

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Rio Dulce Swap Meet

Sunday July 7, 2013

Mar Marine

On the first Sunday of every month, one of the marinas here in the Rio Dulce holds a swap meet for all the boaters in the area to seek out little treasures for their boat or cruising lifestyle, or to try and make a little extra space in their boat and sell things that are no longer needed.  As full as our boat seems to be with useless items  (ok, so they’re all backups that will come in handy sometime) we had nothing to bring with us, and just wanted to check out the scene with Luki and Elmari as they wanted to try and rid themselves of seven years of paper charts covering every nook and cranny of the world.  As usual, Luis was our chauffeur, and the five of us arrived there in the late morning heat, ready to see what kind of treasures could be uncovered.  The place we went to, Mar Marine, was already packed and tables were set up all across the stone floor.  For several minutes we just wandered along, seeing what kind of goodies we could come across.

entrance to Mar Marine

swap meet at Mar Marine

Luis and Matt at swap meet

 

It ended up being a little different than we expected.  Not quite the same items that were for sale back at the swap meet we came across in Cape May.  That one was full of boat parts and boating or fishing related items.  This one was, how do I put it?  Like a very eccentric garage sale.  Barely anything there had to do with boats or boating.  Sure, there were the few nautical items.  A couple of navigation lights, the odd winch or wiring set.  But most of it was…anything but nautical.  Old movies, cook-books, jewelry, cell phone chargers from 2004, ect.

Not that I’m too into boat bits anyway, but I walked around from table to table, admired some of the jewelry, flipped through a couple of the books, almost choked at the fact that people were trying to get $30 for their 10 year old Waterway Guides, and then made my way to the couch that Luki and Elmari had set their charts out on.  The heat and humidity are so bad here that all I had the energy to do was sit in one spot and readily accept the cold Pepsi that Luis offered to buy me.  I was able to pull myself away for a few minutes when Matt wanted to show me a Lewmar winch 32 that he thought could replace the one we use to raise the main, currently a Lewmar 16.  At a price tag of only about $16 and the chance of making the main easier to raise, I told him to go ahead and get it.

That ended up being our only purchase of the day, although, had I had some of my own money on me, I probably would have spent a lot more time at the table of handwoven items from a local Guatemalan woman.  In a little bit of Spanish and in a quiet voice, I told her I’d be back to buy something the next month.  We didn’t stick around for too long, the heat and humidity were making us all basically fall asleep while standing.  We gathered our things and all the charts that didn’t sell and made our way back to the marina.  Maybe we’ll have better luck next month.

tortoise shell

Anyone want a tortoise shell for $45?

Skebenga's paper charts

jewelry for sale

handwoven headbands

Matt looking at winches

turtle at Mar Marine

 Don’t you belong at Tortugal?

 

And just so you know I’m not kidding about the heat, here’s the clock/thermometer we keep in the boat.  Do you know what the humidity is here?  About 90%

7.7.13 (10)

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American Holidays, Taking over Foreign Countries

Thursday July 4, 2013

Mario's Marina, Rio Dulce

So I know it’s kind of common for countries to steal another country’s holiday, it happens all over and we’re definitely guilty of it in the States.  St. Patrick’s Day, Cinco de Mayo.  They have nothing to do with us, yet we like to party for them like they were our own.  But I do have to say, I was slightly surprised when on the net, we kept hearing promotions for a 4th of July party at one of the marinas.  Yes, I get the fact that of the 15 or so marinas in the area, few to none are going to be housing boats of native Guatemalans.  What did surprise me, is that we haven’t found a lot of Americans in this area either.  I know that Americans bring their boats here, but they’re usually the first one to jump ship (no pun intended) and get back home to the States for the summer, or do any other kind of land travel.  In fact, of the 40 boats currently in our marina, only 5 have people staying with them.  Everyone else is gone.  Then, inside our little buddy group we’ve formed, we’re the only Americans.  So then why would a marina cater an American holiday to all the Canadians, Europeans, and others in the area?  Because We’re #1!  No, I’m kidding.  It’s probably just an excuse to get everyone together and drink.  If we’ve learned one thing about the cruising crowd, it’s that they love their drinking.

Calling in a last minute reservation for the five of us just the other morning, and snagging the last available seats I’m pretty sure, we made plans to have Luis shuttle us over in his lancha around 4 in the afternoon.  We’d heard that last year they’d run out of food for late arrivals, and we were not about to let that happen to us.  We did end up being some of the first to arrive, and picked a table in the back, I think the only one that had some kind of breeze forming over it.  Some cold drinks were purchased from the bar, and Luis and Elmarie were served margaritas that were just as big as our daiquiris in Honduras, but opposite of those, were full of liquor and little of much else.  Still being new to the area, we didn’t see too many familiar faces, but did have a nice chat with some other Americans from our marina (ok, so I guess there are a few), from Jasdip and Unplugged, the same people that joined us at Denny’s Beach.  Dinner was served shortly after, and although Matt and I were a little wary of having any local fare again, it didn’t take us long to dig into the fire roasted pig.  The potato salad however, was pushed to the side this time.

crowds at Mario's Marina

This place filled up fast, I’m glad we got seats.

margarita at Mario's

I’m pretty sure this thing could have knocked two grown men on their asses.

view from Mario's Marina

I don’t think I could ever get sick of these views.

 

 

It wouldn’t be a party without games, and while the dinner plates were still being cleared from our tables, they were ready to get into full swing.  It started out pretty innocent, and for the first few minutes, I didn’t even know what was going on.  A woman got on the microphone and asked who in the crowd liked rum or tequila.  That’s a silly question, of course I like rum and tequila.  My hand went right in the air.  At that point I was asked to come up front, along with about seven other men that had also risen their hands.  Wait, that question was leading to something?  I thought it was just a survey among cruisers.  I expected everyone’s hand to be up.  Tentatively I walked up with the other men and found that the question was going to lead to a spirited game of musical chairs.  Yes, that game which is normally reserved for small children and birthday parties.  Then the alcohol question began to make more sense.  ‘Oh’, I thought to myself, ‘When you end up without a chair, they must make you take a shot for losing, and send you back on your way.  Thank god you only have to do that once.’

The music began and we all kind of nervously giggled as we paraded around the chairs, feeling a little silly playing games that were meant for people 20 years our junior.  Or 50 in the case of most of my rivals.  But, as soon as that music stopped, it turned into a real competition.  We all sprinted and dove for any empty seat, and while I had tunnel vision and could not account for exactly what the others were doing, all I know is I landed in and empty chair.  ‘Ha!’, I thought.  ’Too bad for that poor sucker that lost and is going to have to take a shot.’  I was still smirking when a shot glass was placed in my hand and I was asked “Rum or tequila?”.  Thoroughly shocked, I sputtered, “But I didn’t lose?!”.  ”Oh no”, the woman laughed, “You take a shot each time you advance to the next round”.  It seemed like a cruel punishment for achieving, but I mumbled, “Either is fine”, and forced myself to choke down the straight liquor through three attempts.

I wasn’t so sure I wanted to ‘advance’ any further, but my competitive side got the better of me and I was determined to go to the end if I could.  The music began to play again, and all of us who remained started to relax a little, hopping, skipping, and making our jolly way around the chairs.  Twice more I dove into an empty seat when the music ended, and twice more I choked down shots of straight rum.  Which must have been going straight to my head, because on the fourth round my brain was distantly away as silence rang out and I was left without a chair.  I wouldn’t say I was quite upset about it.

drinking a tequila shot

This is the face of winning.

musical chairs

‘Round and ’round we go, where we stop, nobody knows..

losing at musical chairs

What?  I lost?  That’s it, I’m taking my beer and I’m going home.

 

I didn’t go far though.  I wanted to see how this turned out, so grabbing my camera from Matt, I stood front and center to catch the rest of the action.  Maybe the guys had just been playing nice when I was around, or now that there was one more chair out, they realized how serious this competition was getting.  The next time the music started to play, the remaining guys got a little….nonsensical.  Desperate to keep ‘their’ chair, they would do everything from keep one foot on it, to pick it up and continue in the circle with it, or in one guys case, start running around with it up in the air.  The women helping to run this game were not very happy, but it was all they could do to keep themselves from laughing as they tried to tell these gentleman with a serious face that they needed to play by the rules.  Two rounds and one remaining chair later, I started to worry, wondering what kind of antics might come out for the win, but it was the same as you’d get in any elementary school classroom.  Slowly shuffle your feet when you’re in front of the chair, and then race around the back to get front and center again.  When the music finally stopped, there was a little tug of war with the chair, but one guy was able to firmly plant his ass in it as the other tried to tip him over or drag him off.  Ahhh, kids.

nearing end of musical chairs

“This one’s mine!  I call dibs!”

dive for last chair

Silly boys.

 

There were a couple more games to follow, but none of them involved alcohol.  I sure know how to pick ‘em, huh?  We stayed long enough for me to get dragged out on the floor one more time, a big dance circle for all the women attending while we sang along to ‘We are Family’ by Sister Sledge, and enjoyed another fireworks display.  Thousands of miles from home and anything resembling the good ‘ol US of A, I have to say, I’m glad they decided to steal borrow this holiday from us.   We may not have sat around listening to the national anthem or thinking of the day’s original meaning,  but bringing all of us cruisers together for one great night, I think it served it’s purpose.

One nation, of cruisers, indivisible                                                                                    With fair winds and rum drinks for all

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The Most Interesting Man in the World

Wednesday July 3, 2013

most interesting man in the world

 Photo credit, Dos Equis

 

Do you remember those Dos Equis beer commercials, featuring ‘The Most Interesting Man in the World’?  You know, with quotes like ‘Police often question him, just because they find him interesting’; ‘He once had an awkward moment, just to see how it feels’, and most importantly, ‘I don’t always drink beer.  But when I do, I prefer Dos Equis’.  Of course you remember those.  Everyone does.  So hang on to that thought, because it becomes important.

After having had Luis take the crews of s/v Serendipity and s/v Skebenga out on his trawler for almost three days where he fed us food, drinks, anything we needed for nothing in return, we decided we needed to give him a big thank you.  The only way we could all think of, since he wouldn’t accept money or gifts, was to cook him a nice dinner to be served at the ranchito to pay him back for his hospitality.  The crew of Skebenga, much more talented in this area than either of us, took care of the food, and we were given the responsibility of drinks.  So off to the DF we headed that morning to grab a 24 pk of Bravah, and then pulled a few bottles of wine out of our ‘cellar’ to go along with it.  From what we’d seen, no one in this group was heavy into drinking, so we figured these items would suffice.  When the dinner bell rang, we stepped off the boat to find out that Elmarie had beautifully set up one of the picnic tables with fancy glasses and dishes, and Luki was standing off to the side, ready to make mojitos for anyone who wanted them.  All of our hands shot up, and moments later we were handed freshly prepared mojitos with a secret ingredient that gave it an extra little kick.  (Yes, I know what it is, No, I won’t tell you)

mojitos, ready to be mixed

 

We all settled into the empty picnic table to enjoy an appetizer of fresh guacamole that Luis had brought to share.  Have I mentioned already that he’s an amazing cook?  Best guacamole we’ve ever had.  I seriously need to take lessons from this guy.  We stuffed our faces on this until we remembered there was still a main course to come.  Moving ourselves over to the dining room table and filling our plates with the tasty chicken dish that Luki had prepared (maybe I need lessons from both of these guys), we were finally able to talk Luis into telling us the history of his life, something he was hesitant to do on our boat excursion, telling us he’d save it for another time.  These are the things we found out about Luis that night.  He grew up in Cuba, and even though his father was a doctor and their family was very well-to-do there, they all packed it up to move to the States in the late 50′s when the Revolution was beginning, when Luis was around the age of 17.  I won’t go into too much detail since it’s not my life and not my story to tell, but we also found out that he had fought in the Cuban Revolution twice, once for Castro, and once against him.  For his second service, the one against Castro, he went through harrowing details on how one by one, his group fell apart and he was the only one left, roaming through the countryside of Cuba, just trying to survive.  He was eventually captured in a small town and thrown into prison for two years where he received daily threats from Castro himself that he would be executed.  They were all scare tactics, and eventually he was bailed out by the US government.

Moving back to the United States, he became an entrepreneur, going into the restaurant business.  His first restaurant was a little local hole in the wall Mexican restaurant, mostly filled every night with immigrants and bar fights.  He didn’t even have a name for the place, so when the cops hassled him that it was illegal not to have a sign for his establishment, he just told them “I call it 2nd Left At The Light”, something that was already posted up the road, a government sign put up referring to something else.  He sold that place after a number of years, tried a French restaurant for awhile, which did really well, and then ended with an Italian restaurant in Florida, which did even better.  As if it was no big deal, he told us of a time that Oliver Stone (writer of Scarface) came in to eat one time, complimenting him later and asking how a Cuban did such a great job preparing Italian food.  He replied to Mr. Stone, “You tell me how an Italian did such a good job writing a movie about a Cuban!”.  It was around the time Luis was recounting a story that while running a restaurant in Chicago in the 70′s, he turned away a mafia heads, some big guy called Muffy I think, since he refused to accept a tip to seat the guy right away, knowing what it would eventually lead to, when I nudged Matt.  ”Guess what I just realized”, I quietly exclaimed, “Luis is the Dos Equis guy! The Most Interesting Man In the World!”.

It took him a half a second, but then he fell into a silent laughter with me, because we both realized I was right.  Hell, he even looked and sounded the part!  The stories kept going on and on all night, and all four of us sat there, mouths basically hanging open, as he recounted his life, mundane and ordinary in his mind, but to us, a cumulation of some of the most interesting stories we’d ever heard.  Did you know they wanted to have a female companion to go with the Marlboro Man and his wife was asked to be her, but she turned it down?  Or that his mother, a seamstress, was personally asked to do work for Yves Saint Laurent?  The kicker was at the end of the night when dinner was winding down and Luis asked for a beer, after having drank Orange Crushes all night.  I told him I had some chilled Bravahs in our fridge, ready to break out, and he goes, “No, just grab a Gallo from my fridge.  I don’t normally drink beer, but when I do, I prefer that”.  I almost died.

dining table at ranchito

chicken stew

Leelanau Cellers Wine

Representing with some Michigan riesling.

wine and kisses On a quick side note, Georgie has figured out how to jump from one boat to the other, and now we’re constantly chasing her down after she decided she prefers our neighbor’s far more shaded deck than ours. With four more months to go here, I could see this turning into a problem.

Georgie on neighbor's boat

 

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