Sunday, January 29, 2012


Roatan - end of the working day

We've been really busy (not), working hard (not) and contributing to the advancement of mankind (not).

But we DO have our old job back. We are again officially the Host Vessel here in the Roatan Marine Park Mooring field at the West End of the island. Our job is to ensure that arriving boats maneuver safely through the channel in the reef, get attached to a mooring, and are given information about protecting the reef and paying for the right to stay here. Thankfully we are not responsible for the social entertainment or moral values of said cruising vessels.

These photos were taken by friends on s.v. Pavo Real  which is moored near us. Obviously, the sunsets have been beautiful. You can also see in the photos how we lift our dinghy with the halyard each evening to hang on the starboard side of our boat up out of the water. We do this for 2 reasons, first to prevent theft of the dinghy and engine (it is locked at all times) and secondly to prevent a buildup of barnacles and slime on the bottom of the dinghy.

Much as we love to watch the sun set, it does mean that we have to put on our LED headlamps to be able to continue knitting (me) and reading (Jonesy). Anybody feel sorry for us?

Wednesday, January 25, 2012


Socks and Island Food

Now finished...another little pair of socks for soon-to-arrive baby Ella Grace. The self-striping yarn really did all the work on these. I just twiddled some toothpick sized needles around the yarn and this is the result.

My stupid computer would simply not connect to the internet using the TIGO dial-up USB port modem. Using this telephone company is how we get internet out here in the anchorage - and also in Guatemala (but that takes a different SIM chip). We load money onto these "sticks" using a telephone number and then buy chunks of computer time (day week, month). Anyway, it's all very confusing and was a no go.

So Jonesy and I dinghy'd into the village of West End and rode the packed public transportation "collectivo" van into Coxen Hole. The first place we went was out of business. I was hungry so I forced Jonesy to take me to what looked to be a very popular local food joint. The menu was limited and verbal in Spanish - fried chicken, fried pork or pork patis. Well, I can't eat wheat which is probably what is coating anything fried so I opted for the last choice given whatever it was. The plates came. Lovely red beans and rice and a nice green salad. But what in the world was the mass of bones and connective tissue in the yellow sauce? No meat to be found! Jonesy guessed it was pig's feet. Yep, we looked it up later - pig's feet.

We walked about a mile to the next computer/phone business to see if they could get my internet working. The lady there tried for about an hour but no luck but we did enjoy watching and listening to the stream of people coming in to buy phone time. Next, we walked to where a different public transportation company had vans to take us out to French Harbor - another half hour of travel (the van only travels at about 20mph!). There we went into the main TIGO customer service office and a talented young man diagnosed the problem, uploaded a different driver, so voila! it works. No charge? You've got to be kidding. A generous gratuity was accepted.

We got back to our boat just in time to dinghy over to the sailing catamaran Sunbow for dinner and drinks with a gang of other cruisers. I celebrated having access to the cyber-world again and being able to watch the sun set over the sea. It just doesn't get much better than this.

Sunday, January 22, 2012



Free at last! Bright and early (9am) we tossed off the mildew covered lines, waved good-bye to the staff and friends at Mario's Marina and pointed the bow down-river towards the sea. All systems (chart plotter, engine, engine exhaust fan, running lights, auto-pilot, manual helm, sail roller furlers etc.) checked out perfectly in the first half hour so we were confident that this was really going to be the start of our 2012 open sea cruising season.

I managed to stay awake a couple of hours to knit on a new sock project (secret) but then fell asleep. During my recent work re-organizing storage lockers on the boat I found some great sock  and fingering weight yarns that I forgot I had sneaked brought aboard! Check out this old skein of "Red Heart Super Fingering" 100% WOOL - yes real wool from Red Heart brand. This went right into my current project.

We passed through the beautiful river jungle gorge – I, of course slept through it all because we had to get up at the crack ‘o dawn to get ready to leave and I had barely gone to bed by then. So, no new pictures, sorry.

Jonesy woke me up in time to drop the anchor in the port town of Livingston, Guatemala where the river meets the sea. As I stood guard on both the anchor's ability to stick in the mud and the boat in general (theft issues here) Jonesy scooted into the town to visit our agent Raul who handles all of our paperwork cha-cha dance for both our passport visas and our marine travel documents. Check out this fishing boat with the pelicans loitering on the back. We could actually smell the pelicans before we could see them – eeeew. About an hour and a half later Jonesy returned to the Niki Wiki after successfully checking out of the country of Guatemala (and buying bread and bananas which were not available locally before we left). Already the air was different - much dryer than up in the jungles where we have spent the last 7 months.

Now came the scary part – crossing the very shallow areas of the sandbar which tries to block our path to the sea. We had timed this trip for a high tide exit (1.6 feet) during the daylight hours. We draw 5 ½ feet (our boat measure 5 ½ feet from the waterline to the bottom of the boat) so we needed at least that plus a margin of error for safety so we wouldn’t hit bottom. We need the extra depth from the peak of a rising high tide to float us higher. Plus we needed the seas to be calm with no wind waves so we wouldn’t bounce up and down – it’s the “down” part that may cause us to hit bottom. Our date for this departure was carefully planned to optimize our chances of a safe crossing. Piece ‘o cake…we never saw less than 6 ½ feet of water so that means that we had a full foot of sea beneath us! Obviously, you can see why we needed the high tide and didn’t want to bounce!

The winds and seas were calm that afternoon so we motored for about 3 hours over to our planned stop to anchor overnight at Tres Puntas Guatemala. Jonesy had checked with our agent to ensure that there hadn’t been any violence there lately and we glad to hear that there hadn’t been. Last year we made the trip out to the islands straight from Livingston due to a murder of a cruiser on a sailboat along the same coast a little farther southeast in Honduras. But apparently the violence hasn’t spread north up to Guatemala so we could have a restful night before the 24-hour trip out to the island of Roatan. And peaceful it was indeed. The sea was flat and glassy and there were no clouds. After sunset we sat out on deck under a sky full of stars. The stars were reflected across the flat water so it looked like an endless sky. . Jonesy tucked himself into the berth and I stayed up knitting with my LED headlight.

Early the next morning we took off for some Caribbean sea cruising. I went back to sleep so that I could be awake and alert to knit all knit take my watch at the helm. The seas were still calm and the wind was only 3 knots out of the north – right on the nose again. Jonesy spotted some dolphins which were our only sighting of the trip. If you look closely at this photo you will see the mountains of Honduras on the horizon. Our route takes us far enough way from this dangerous coast, but we can still see it!

At 7pm Jonesy went below to sleep and I knit (and glanced at the gauges and looked about for other ships). Still, it was lovely calm conditions until around 1am. Monsters appeared on the radar screen. At first small dots as if another sailboat had suddenly appeared, but then it grew to the size of an island and was joined by other “islands” all lined up in a row. Dang, I knew what it was then – a line of tropical squalls. For an hour I watched as we approached the squalls. I secured the cockpit by rolling down the plastic rain shields and zipping them closed – and waited. Soon we were in the squalls, but all I got was some higher winds and choppy wind waves which woke Jonesy up. We luckily had passed through the line and not a drop of rain!

Now Jonesy took the helm and I went below. No sleep though because the winds had picked up (on the nose still) and the seas were like a washing machine. I couldn’t stay in one position in bed but was rocked back and forth no matter which way I positioned myself. Finally exhaustion set in and I was out. While I slept Jonesy battled another set of squalls that had the most rain he’d ever seen at one time! The wind blew the rain sideways so that it was forced under the plastic cockpit rain panels and drenched every seat in the place. Meanwhile it squirted under the forward hatch and soaked my newly covered V-berth cushions. But in our rear berth I was safe, dry, and dreaming about new color combinations and stitch patterns for socks.
Roatan Island Immigration Office

Finally, the sun came up as we approached the island of Roatan – right on schedule. Not too early as to arrive in the dark, and early enough that we had time to head to shore to check in with the authorities. We headed to our GPS waypoints for the cut in the reef, motored in and picked up a Roatan Marine Park mooring ball (a good one too because the sailing vessel Pavo Real had just given it up and sailed out as came in).

Within minutes we had dropped the dinghy in the water and scooted to shore to the little village of West End. Picking up a “collective” which is a (12) passenger van for public transportation, we joined 22 other people crammed like sardines for the half hour ride to the main town of Coxen Hole. First stop has to be the Immigration office. Whoops, nobody was there. So we meandered around town and stopped for lunch. We checked again and the immigration officer had returned so we got our passports stamped and bought our 90-day tourist visas (US$3).
Roatan Port Captain and Customs Offices

Next stop was the Port Captain’s office which is right next behind the Immigration building and next door to the Customs (Aduana) office. I know, you can't really read the sign because some of it has fallen down. No worries - it was like that last year too. Everybody knows what it is so why fix the sign?

There was nothing to do but sit and wait. because now it was lunch hour for the Port office. Here's Jonesy waiting in the little park next to the Port Captain's office. See that "briefcase" the older gentleman has open on his lap? Well, it was made of wood! Soon the Port Captain returned and we did the paperwork cha-cha dance to officially bring the boat into Honduras.

So now we are in one of the most beautiful spots on earth. I snapped my hammock into place under the boom of the main sail – ah, back in the hammock again. Already we have social plans; today is Football on TV and domino games at Foster's Grill, tomorrow we meet a friend in West End to deliver dinghy repair epoxy that we carried with us from Guatemala then a potluck supper on sailing vessel Sunbow, and Tuesday is a gathering of cruisers at the Creole Chicken restaurant where we can enjoy island style food in the open air on the beach.

By the currently accepted definition of "cruising", Jonesy got to immediately make a boat repair in an exotic location. Our rear electric head had broken another impeller so he got to take the toilet apart in a small cramped space and replace the part. Yep, we had the replacement part. What was my job? Well I stayed out of his way and knit.

Then I prepared a late lunch/early dinner of chicken fried pork loin, country gravy, baked real russet potatoes, a green salad with fresh tomatoes, and a hefty slice of garlic bread.

Niki Wiki on a mooring Last night I realized that I had not once said the words or phrases "hot" "clammy" "sweating like a pig" "let me cool off before I do that" nor had I used a sweat rag at any time! The bright sunny skies and cool Caribbean trade winds have made life so very comfortable for me. Here's a photo taken yesterday of the good ship Niki Wiki safely on a mooring in the Roatan Marine Park in West End.

Oh! Another green sea turtle just swam by…life is good.

Sunday, January 15, 2012


Yikes! in Southern Mexico

MEXICO view chiapasAfter we had spent an extra day in San Cristobal de Las Casas we were finally able to get a bus down to Palenque. Why the delay? We went to buy tickets and we were told that the road was closed. OK, no problem. We went back the next day, boarded the first-class bus  and both settled into window seats for the journey.

MEXICO Highway Extortion
Uh-oh. We came to a stop. Time ticked away and the line of cars and buses didn't move in either direction on this 2 lane highway. Being rather curious and unafraid, I ventured outside and walked up the road - yep, just like the last time but this time it was daylight so I felt very comfortable. That is until I reached the road block. Yes, a political road block had been set up in the small village of Abasolo. This gringa quickly turned around and headed back to the bus.

After 3 hours, traffic moved and we were finally allowed to approach the protesters. These photos were covertly taken from inside the safety of the bus. The groups of men approached each vehicle and apparently stated their cause - and demanded money to pass. From what I gathered, these are an indigenous group who feel that the government hasn't come through with financial support to their people. So they resort to closing the only highway in the region and disrupt the flow of commerce. Yes, I had seen, during my earlier expedition outside, that the local police were in on it too by actually using their vehicles to block the highway.
MEXICO Nail Board to stop traffic
Nail Board

So what happens if you don't want to make a "voluntary contribution"? See this 2 x 4 wood board with the nails sticking up on it? This is swung into place in front of your vehicle until you pay up. Did anyone try to pass it? Yep. We saw a car with lots of flat tires on the side of the road.
MEXICO Extortion
Here is a photo of the men working verbally on our bus driver. At the same time, men were banging on the door on the other side of the bus and demanding to be let aboard. Sure was a tense several minutes. Finally our bus driver paid them enough money and we were allowed to proceed.

We never saw any weapons or violence, but that's always a concern when people get worked up about something. Thankfully, the extortion was running smoothly at least when we passed through. A few hours later, our bus approached the first Mexican Federal police car we had seen. The officer and our driver had a chat in the middle of the highway - I assume about what had happened. Well, they were laughing too so I don't know it they thought the whole thing was funny or had more interesting things to talk about.

We're just glad to be safe.

Friday, January 13, 2012


Knitting and We're Outta Here

Ella socks *Knit, write, rip, erase, write, knit, repeat from * until you get it right. That's how my week has gone for my latest design. But I'm finally happy with it and it is now in the test-knitter's hands. It's the March Mystery Scarf/Stole KnitAlong for the Holiday Mystery Gifts Yahoo group so I won't be posting photos until it's released. You know, because it's a mystery.

rio 001To reward myself for my perseverance (and to ease the guilt about neglecting boat work), I started a little pair of socks for soon-to-arrive baby Ella Grace. This has a hard deadline! She'll only be tiny for a short time.

Of course I really should be working harder at getting set to throw off the lines of the boat and head out to sea in just 3 days!! Today we took our little fiberglass lancha for it's last trip up the river to the town of Rio Dulce/Fronteras. It has now been hauled up onto shore to be stored until we return to Guatemala here in June.
Rio dulce brunos rio 002Today was the last time this season we tied our launcha up to the dock at Bruno's Hotel and Restaurant, and our last meal there too. We shopped for fresh produce, frozen fabulous pork chops and loins from the Casa Guatemala orphanage meat shop, and picked up a stack of fresh corn tortillas from one of the street 006

Here's a photo of Jonesy with our shopping basket and tote bags. Whew! It was hot and humid today and town was just as crowded as usual. We dodged the cattle trucks, big rigs, motorcycles, buses, and tuk-tuks safely happy to know that we won't be doing THAT again for several months.

We will drift down river to Livingston on the coast. There, we will officially check out of Guatemala before crossing the sandbar at the mouth of the river at high tide and out to sea. Our plan is to spend one night in a small anchorage along the coast before setting sail for Roatan Island, Honduras. That passage will be about 26 hours depending on wind and sea conditions.

So, weather permitting we'll be joining our cruising friends at the Roatan Marine Park mooring field in less than a week. Yipppeee! Let the fun begin!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012


Pop Top Chain Mail

MEXICO Travel 193Have you seen some of the crafty things that folks are making from soda and beer can pop tops? Some of the local gals here crochet these together to make purses, belts, bracelets, etc.

But I thought that this chain mail of pop tops that we saw in San Cristobal de Las Casas, Mexico was, well, hummm, something else.
MEXICO Pop Top Chain Mail
Tag hidden to protect Mr. Crafty

I don't know...I just can't see either one of my sons spending hours pulling the tops off of their beer soda cans, then crafting them together to decorate their rides. Plus, what exactly is the purpose, if any, for this loopy chain? Too weak for a cow or dog catcher, and too high to drag on the pavement and make noises. And what's up with the antenna mounted on top of the license plate? Doesn't that get in the field of vision for the driver? Maybe I'm just too old to get it. Maybe it really is deck.


A finished circular lacy baby blanket for Ella Grace who will be arriving soon. This new pattern is with the eagle-eyed test knitters right now.

Friday, January 06, 2012


Binnacle Bra Installed!

Remember the Binnacle Bra that I knit for the sailing vessel Interlude a couple of months ago? Well, the gals have now installed it on their boat and sent me the photo!

And you know what? I used the leftover yarn for their Wine Glass Slip-on Coasters that were delivered as Christmas gifts to them by the sailing vessel Jumbie for me. Now these gals can be all matchy-matchy as they sip their wine flavor of the evening in their cockpit while watching the sunset.

The pattern for the Coasters is free only during the month of January 2012 on the Holiday Mystery Gifts Yahoo Group so if you want it - go get it! After that it will be for sale on Ravelry.

To relax my brain and just for kicks, I knit a little cat toy for our marina cat mascot Estrella ("star" in Spanish). I used up some of the hand-spun wool singles that I had bought many years ago for pennies from some spinning guild members. The wool is natural colors and too scratchy for much else. But holding two strands together, I created this dead "critter" on a string stuffed with unspun wool rovings for Estrella. Ugly? Yep. Does she like it? Oh yeah. Estrella lives on the sailing vessel Barnacle where she is (over) fed and leading a much better life now than before when she was producing kittens (now fixed) and scrounging for food in the village. Someday I'll get a photo of her but it's tough as she only comes out at night.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012


Mexico & Crafty stuff

MEXICO Travel 088
Posada San Cristobal
After 2 days in Tapachula, Mexico we were ready to explore another area - San Cristobal de Las Casas. We were very joyfully surprised to discover that the bus would be taking the winding road (Mexio 211) up through the high mountains! Friends had told us how beautiful this route was, but that the buses took a round-about way to avoid the bad road at the 6,400 ft. summit. Well, that road has been upgraded and that's how we got to go - up and over the Sierra Madre de Chiapas.

The scenery was wild, rugged and sparsely populated. Up, up we went driving by small villages where there was always at least one sign advertising that they bought coffee and cacao beans. We passed small family houses where their coffee and cacao harvest was spread out in the sun to dry and saw coffee shrubs everywhere. Coffee and cacao are cash crops for these rather poor people. We didn't see much if any corn being grown like we had seen up in northern Mexico. I'm guessing it's because with the cash the farmers can get from the coffee and chocolate crops they can buy the federally price subsidized corn for food and come out ahead.

MEXICO Posada San Cristobal
Posada San Cristobal
MEXICO Travel 084
View from our room
Sorry, no photos. I never knew what was around the next bend and by the time I saw it - it was gone. Once over the summit, we came into the high altitude town of Motozintla, home of the Mam indigenous people. The road then criss-crossed over over a wildly rushing river. Finally after about 9 hours in the bus, we arrived in the mountain city (elevation 7000 ft) of San Cristobal de Las Casas, Mexico and instantly fell in love! No, no not with each other - that has been going on for 37 years already - I mean with the beautiful 16th century city.

MEXICO San Cristobal DogsWe found a lovely and very inexpensive hotel (Posada San Cristobal) right near the center of town. Next morning it was time to head out and explore! The city was so clean and it reminded us of Cartegena, Colombia because of the Spanish Colonial influences. When we saw these two well-fed dogs sunning themselves we suddenly realized that we hadn't see any street dogs at all.

But what there WAS was plenty of fresh roasted and brewed local coffee and chocolate! Along the street were coffee shops with chairs and tables outside where we could sit with our drinks and simply enjoy the sunshine and cool temperatures of this high altitude city.

MEXICO Travel 191
TV repair shop

But of course, there were many stores too - like this TV repair shop. It was really only as wide as the doorway. That's it. But I'll bet they do a great job of keeping old sets running.
MEXICO Travel 188

The little leather goods shop was filled to the ceiling with beautiful skins in whatever color strikes your fancy. But something else was calling to me...we had passed a fabric store near our hotel and I needed to get back to it. A real Parisina which is a Mexican chain of fabrics, crafts, and notions.
MEXICO Travel 094

I have spent many hours in these stores during the two years that we cruised the Pacific Coast of Mexico. They are my Mecca. But one can not simply dash in and pick up what you want and be gone. Oh no, you have to look at everything. And then it takes 3 people to sell you even just one button. One gal gets the button out of the glass case for you at the button counter where you have waited in line for your turn. Then you take your carbon copy of the hand-written order paper over to the cashier's secure cubicle and wait again to pay for your nickle purchase. She gives you a receipt and staples it to your order form. Then you wait in line again to pick up your bagged purchase with the original order form stapled to it from another secure cubicle station. But it is well worth it! Everything so so inexpensive! Ribbons and lace are about 10 cents a meter, zippers run about a nickle to a dime, and fabric is generally about $1 to $2 per meter.
MEXICO Travel 092
MEXICO Travel 093I consider a visit to this store as "educational" because I have to ask for everything that I want so I have to learn the Spanish words for this stuff. Or just wave my arms around and point. That works too.

MEXICO Travel 091This store even had quite a bit of yarn for knitting - acrylic of course, but then it does get cold up in these mountains. The rest of these in the photo are spools of crochet cotton, Omega brand crochet nylon, and a few spools of thread. There are so many different brands of sewing thread available. It's just overwhelming.


And YES, I do actually make things from my craft supply purchases and don't just hoard the materials. For instance, I made these wine glass charms recently for a friend to give as gifts. At first I used some pre-made wire earring hoops, but then I realized that I could simply use wire and bend it in the same shape. Add a few beads and Voila! wine glass identification charms with each one different.

So, one of the charms has a knitting row counter on it. That one is for a friend who doesn't do well at remembering how many glasses of wine she has consumed! Perhaps she (or some kind soul in her company) will remember to turn the counter one click each time her glass is filled.
craft 004 Cheryl
Wine Servings Counter
The green knot work on the far left side is a shackle lanyard for sailing gear.

In the knitting arena...we have the January Mystery project for the Holiday Mystery Gifts Yahoo group. These are Wine Glass Slip-on Coasters. Yes, I had to purchase a glass of wine in order to take a photo of the little coaster on a glass. Dang. My grandmother used to have little paper and plastic diapers for wine glasses, so when I realized that somebody was leaving red wine stains I took out the needles and made these. The yarn used is Elann Esprit which is a sport weight cotton with a touch of elastic. I figure that the elastic will give great stretch and hold, plus will prevent saggy-diaper syndrome if it should get too wet (sloppy drinkers you know).

OK - that's enough for one day. I know I promised sheep...but that will be the next blog....really.

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