Wednesday, June 15, 2011


Up the River

Yep. I guess it was time to give up Roatan, Honduras after all...our courtesy flag was tattered and torn after so many months in the sun and trade winds. Looks like that's another item to add to the list to buy for next year. We are required to fly a small flag of whatever country we're traveling in as a "courtesy" and to let the officials know that we have legally checked into the country.
Upon arriving in Guatemala, we contacted our agent Raul by phone and he came out to our boat with the whole gang; representatives from immigration, customs, and a medical inspector. Now THAT is service! Here they are arriving at our boat in their hired skiff.

We all sat in our cockpit and passed around documents, copies of documents and pens. It all happened so quickly that I didn't have a chance to serve the ice cold Coca-Colas to our guests. Dang, I guess I'll have to just have a few more rum and cokes in the coming days. Or add a wedge of lime and call it a "Cuba Libre". That way I can count it as a serving of fruit!

We waited a little over an hour, then sent a captain from each of us 3 sailboats to shore to pay our fees and pick up the completed paperwork, visas, boat cruising permits, etc. Here's a photo of Jonesy, Karen from s.v. Interlude and Randy from s.v. High States dinghying into the little town of Livingston. That left one crew person on each anchored sailboat. Why do it that way? Because 1) Livingston isn't exactly scenic and the street con artists and beggars can be aggressive, 2) The anchorage does not have good holding and the boat may drag it's hook and end up somewhere where you don't want it unless someone on board can start the engine, 3) There are "opportunists" who may see and know that a boat will be vacant for an hour or so and may want to see what is good for the taking.

Livingston is a "wild west" outpost. It is only accessible by boat (no roads) and thus has developed a different culture than the Spanish/Mayan interior of Guatemala. The population of Livingston dates back to the slavery and pirate days in the Caribbean.

So, in the afternoon our little caravan headed up the Rio Dulce river gorge. This is a photo of our boat entering the interior. Yep, look closely, we are way up there. See? You have to have other boats along for the journey not just for safety, but to take photos of each other's boats!

We were greeted by the sounds and smells of the jungle. We could smell different floral scents and woody/earthy scents. The birds and cicadas were plentiful. Unfortunately, it was also very smokey. This is the end of the dry season and there was apparently lots of slash and burn going on in the agricultural areas.
Along the 20-mile trip up the river, we encountered other river traffic including these small boys playing and fishing in their dug out canoes. There are many local Mayan indians living along the river  - as they always have. We are just a passing curiosity to these boys.

The limestone cliffs are quite high in some areas along the river. At one point there is a steady flow of water from the limestone at the bottom of a cliff and locals use this as a water source during the dry season.

Here you can see how smokey it was that day and see how high the cliffs are compared to our 63 foot mast on our boat. We have heard that this is the location for the filming of the first Tarzan of the Jungle movie. I wonder if I could knit while swing from a vine?

Along the way, there is a mineral hot spring that you can smell (sulfur) way before you can see the facility. These houses are the typical structures that we see along the river - with thatched palm roofs and very open to let the occasional breeze in to cool.

All three of us sailboats arrived safely at Mario's Marina and summer camp for cruisers. Jonesy even took my suggestion and BACKED the boat into our designated slip. Whoa! This big boat really doesn't like to back up at all and shows us that by going in the wrong direction. But this time, Jonesy did a great job (Okay, the guys at Mario's also helped a lot by grabbing the lines and tugging us in). But we are quite happy. This way, we can board our boat from the dock and walk directly through the opening in our cockpit instead of walking all around the outside (in the sun or rain). And, our rear stateroom where we sleep is in the shade every afternoon with the bow (pointy end of the boat) facing into the afternoon sun and getting hot and HOT. We're in a steamy jungle here.

One of the first jobs we needed to do was go buy an air conditioning unit for the boat. We have built-in marine air, but it is very inefficient and costly to run at 42 cents a KWH. So, early one morning, we tagged along with Marco, the marina manager to the "big" town of Puerto Barrios. First, we rode in a boat over to the place where the van is stored, then we rode the 45 miles along a 2-lane road to this seafront shipping town. We passed many trucks for Dole, Chiquita and Del Monte loaded with either bananas or pineapples headed to the port.

The first thing we did when we got there was go to McDonald's  This is a very special treat for us. Look at this great breakfast "Traditional". See, McDonald's has to serve food that these people like to eat. I looked around and everyone but Jonesy had ordered this meal. It is scrambled eggs, sausage, mashed black beans, fried plantains, a slice of fresh cheese and several warm corn tortillas and orange juice. Yummy! Actually I have to say that McDonald's does a great job with this breakfast.

We bought our window A/C unit and then stopped for another errand. As I waited in the van I noticed this SUV. your rear door is missing. Just get another one, tape over the missing window, and use straps between your tow hitch and your luggage racks to hold it onto your car. No problem!

These are another pair of socks for the kids in the orphanage in Kazakhstan. I just used a ball of the jacquard patterned Regia sock yarn and a ball of a gray mottled sock yarn. Now I'm onto a pair of purple Hug Me Socks as my "take-along" project.

Also on the needles is a set of leggings with feet for the baby house in Kazakhstan. I'm using some lovely baby/fingering weight Lang wool in a soft green shade. Plus, I have some teal which I'll use for the feet (because I don't have enough green). I'm still trying to think of a decorative way to do this so it doesn't look so much like I HAD to do it, but rather that I CHOOSE to use two colors. Perhaps a little Fair Isle patterning of the 2 colors before switching to the teal booties/footies.
Besides that I've been working on a new beaded Christmas stocking design. The easy part was the charting and planning stage. The HARD part was when I decided to get clever and do the cabled ribbons patterning in 2 different colors of beads. Then I kept making mistakes  had to fight the beads to get the order correct for pre-stringing on the yarn. Like they say...the 3rd time's the charm. I hope the folks who knit it will have an easier time because I have gone to the trouble to make a listing of the bead color order and have checked it 3 times.

Now look...that doesn't look so hard does it?

Tuesday, June 07, 2011


If not sock, then not knit

If it wasn't a sock, then it didn't get any knitting attention these past few weeks. There just seemed to be a lot of demand for socks, plus I had completed the write-ups of several new designs and needed to knit up the photo samples. Not just one sock for the photo - but 2 because, well, that would be a waste and the kids in Kazakhstan need socks. So, there was a sock knitting frenzy in these parts.

First up is a pair of socks knit for our good friend Cheryl on the sailing vessel Interlude. These are simple ribbed socks in Lang Jawool cotton & wool blend. Cheryl and Karen will be traveling to the high altitudes in Chile and Peru next month and needed warm clothing! I love to knit socks. Sounded like a good match to us.

Wear them well Cheryl! You may recognize Cheryl's leg in this photo as she has been by shanghaied  volunteer leg model these past few months. Now you get to see the rest of her!

On the Mittens for Akkol yahoo group we have been having a Sock Knitting Marathon event for the 530 pairs of warm wool socks we need for the kids in the orphanages. I seem to be getting down to the bottom of my sock yarn stash so I worked on matching up odd balls of yarn for custom socks.

Then, because some of the sock yarn was just plain butt-ugly (which of course is why it was still in the stash), I got to play with my fiber dyes and make them look better. For a horrid purple and white splashed dots Opal yarn, I over-dyed it with a dark purple. I now declare the yarn acceptable for knitting and it won't hurt my eyes when I knit with it. These are the lace socks from that yarn. It is one of my new designs called "Roads Traveled Socks" and will be available in the future on the Holiday Mystery Gifts Yahoo group.

Another ball of Opal yarn had black and white dots, plus alternating pastel colored stripes! Eeeewww. So I mixed up a diluted solution of a cordovan brown and these manly ribbed socks are the results of that effort. Yes, you can still see the original patterning but now it is quite subdued and I don't think anyone would be scared to wear these socks.

Next up are a very simple pair of ribbed socks knit from Regia yarn in a blue color scheme. At first I was tickled that I had found 2 50gr balls of yarn in the same colors so I could knit a larger pair of socks. But, when I started the second sock with the second ball, I realized that although they were the same "colorway", they were not only different dye lots,
but the yarn itself was constructed in 2 different ways! Wow! I've never had that happen before - where a yarn company changes the structure of the yarn itself. It was quite obvious when I had knit a couple of inches of the ribbing. Thankfully, I like to knit the 2 socks at the same time on (different needles) so it wasn't too late to change to a smaller foot on the socks and use every bit of just one ball of yarn. Yep. The second ball has already been matched to some gray yarn and is on the needles for another pair of socks.

Scrounging around in my stash I came up with one ball of a Regia striped yarn and one ball of a solid blue which were a great match.

Each ball alone could only make one sock, but together, they could make a pair. So, I used the solid yarn for the cuff, heel and toe, and the striped yarn for the leg and foot. Do I know how to have fun or what?

But wait, there's more! Here's another pair of "Roads Traveled" socks. These are the smaller size and are knit in a pastel multi-colored yarn.

And there was some test knitting again for the Six Sox Knitalong Yahoo group. This sock is called "Incurvation" and was designed by Janine La Cras. I knit it with a Regia sock yarn. The pattern is lovely, but there is knitting action on every single round - no restful just plain knit stitch rounds. So although I have started the second sock, it may be some time before I finish it. I need to have projects that are easy for knitting while socializing or riding in crowded buses and these are not the project for that.

Finally, here is this year's christmas stocking for the Holiday Mystery Gifts group (yes, I consider this a "sock"). It is my "Beaded Beauty Christmas Stocking" pattern and will be available on July 1st for the knitalong. No, I haven't finished knitting up the photo sample yet, but the pattern is with the test-knitters and I really will finish this. Really. Just as soon as I finish these other socks...

Monday, June 06, 2011


Time to move on

Uh-oh! Those are clouds and a rain squall moving in on the Niki Wiki on a mooring ball in the Roatan Marine Park. Now that hurricane season has officially begun, it's time for us to move on to safer territory. The lazy, mostly dry sunshine days of the winter and spring cruising season here in the Western Caribbean are over. We have been watching the thunderstorm clouds build up over the mainland of Honduras 25 miles away each day. Then we enjoy the wild lightening shows at night. Overhead, we see the stars at the same time.
But those high-energy clouds are moving closer all the time. The tropics are heating up. It is now time to take that final load of trash and recycle aluminum cans to shore in West End Roatan Island (Honduras). Jonesy does a fine job of toting garbage from the boat, to the dinghy, up on the dock, and then down the long sandy road to the trash bins.

The little village  at West End has been very quiet these past few weeks. The big cruise ships are visiting less frequently. The cooling trade winds have been less intense and even missing on some days which means we have been left to swelter in the heat and humidity with only the ocean water to cool us (oh darn).
Where we once had to dodge the tourist tour buses, rental cars, and honking taxi's, we now drift up the open road only having to pay attention to the occasional vehicle. There still are plenty of young folks here for the scuba diving adventures, but they are either out at sea diving or are sleeping it off from a wild night of partying. This little town really ROCKS at night - we know that only from being told about it and from the loud music and occasional raucous laughter we can hear way out at the anchorage (sound travels over water). Only old folks like us are out and about in the tropical sun at mid-day.

Many of the other yachties have already left for safer seas. Some left a while ago to head north up to Florida and then up the eastern seaboard of the USA. Others have headed south towards Panama and Colombia for the summer to hide from hurricanes - or even go through the Panama Canal into the Pacific Ocean.

We are returning to Guatemala and going straight back up the Rio Dulce river to Mario's Marina again.

But first, there's a lot of preparation to do before we head out to sea. We have some maintenance, and potential repair, and of course, provisioning. To support the tourist industry, there are a lot of specialty food items imported into Roatan which are also available in a couple of the larger grocery stores in the towns of Coxen Hole and French Harbor. These items are not available in Guatemala, or really anywhere else that we've been in the last 5 years (except the outstanding Riba Smith store in Panama City).

What "specialties"? How about canned sauerkraut, Hormel chili for hot dogs, and sweet potatoes/yams - and then there's the frozen Johnsonville Hot Italian sausages and Jimmy Dean breakfast sausage. These items, which are readily available in the states of course are very, very special to us as we didn't have access to them for many years. We reserve these goodies for the occasional treat.

Just days before we planned to sail off, one of our cruising friends noticed that our spreaders on our mast had exposed bolts - way up high. Oh-oh. That didn't look right - we could see hardware and most boats have these spreaders mounted flush to the mast. Was the spreader tweaking loose?

So Cheryl from the sailing vessel Interlude quickly volunteered to go up our mast in her bosun's chair (I think she's an adventure junkie and risk taker). After we got her all rigged up to the halyard (rope thing that goes up high) we all hoisted Cheryl up the mast.

The good news was that there wasn't a problem. It was only that the rigging tape had been destroyed by the sun and had disintegrated away exposing the bolts (see photo). No biggie. We didn't have any more tape aboard so we added it to the (growing) boat parts list for me to haul back from the states this summer.

Cheryl thoughtfully took photos of our rigging and of us (Karen from Interlude, Jonesy, and me Terry) lounging on the deck of Niki Wiki while she risked her life. And because Cheryl had the camera, this is the only photo we have of her performing her heroics - she's wearing blue shorts, a gray shirt and is sitting in her black and gray bosun's chair.

Next on the agenda was cleaning the prop. Our propeller had accumulated a beautiful garden of aquatic life. Unfortunately, this would inhibit our forward motion when using the engine. So I got to  had to don scuba gear and play  work really hard at scraping this flora and fauna off of not only the prop, but the shaft, zincs, and the bottom of the keel (which didn't have anti-fouling bottom paint on it due to a little mishap with a sandbar last year in Panama that we're not talking about).

Wow! What a difference being able to breathe underwater makes when cleaning the bottom of the boat! It was a lot of fun. Jonesy was in the water with me as my buddy and to point out the thru-hulls (holes in the boat to suck in water for the toilets and engine or to blow water back out) that needed cleaning.

How do you like our dead boat pet? Ah, the just never know what you'll find on the boat.

Our 26-hour overnight passage direct from Roatan to Guatemala was planned so that we left at the crack 'o dawn. That way we arrived in Livingston, Guate at the peak of high tide. Why high tide? Because we have to cross a sandbar at the entrance to the big river and need to be sure that we have water beneath the keel.

We joined up with the sailing vessels Interlude and High States to make the passage together. There's safety in numbers. Besides the 3 rain squalls we went through, it turned out to be a very pleasant motor passage for all of us. Low winds, low seas, and no pirates, just had to keep our eyes peeled for the freighters coming from the banana and pineapple plantations of Honduras and Guatemala and heading out to somewhere in the world.

Well, that's enough for today. Tomorrow I'll share some of the knitting that's been going on.

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