Friday, February 22, 2013


Ship-Shape and Ready to Cruise

Pixie and Ellen Shopping
We have another count-down to launch of our cruising season - T-minus 6 days and counting! The mis-directed emergency repair engine part finally made it into Jonesy's hands and was installed within hours of arriving. All other systems are "Go". We actually had a nice high-tide to get out earlier but a big storm was hurtling towards us with seas of 10ft, winds up to 35knots and rain. Nope. That's not our style so we have sat tight and squeezed in an extra week of socializing.

Of course that also meant that I needed to continue grocery shopping. One of the fun benefits of living "on the river" is the weekly visit by Esperanza. When the business that she worked for decided not to provide this meat and dairy products delivery service anymore, she put together her own shop in town and continued the personal delivery. This young Guatemalan gal is quite the entrepreneur isn't she? She's extended the offerings to include fresh fruits and vegetables which we all adore. So every Tuesday we hang around the docks in the marina here so we can be first in line to make our selections.

And because we had some extra time, Jonesy also managed to squeeze in some not-so-critical repairs to the boat. We had lost our wind indicator (vane) which sits way up high on top of our mast. How? Friggin' Frigate birds. These "magnificent" big sea birds love to sit up on top of the mast. But their weight has caused the delicate wind indicator to bend. Several times we have paid folks to go up the mast and make repairs. This last time the dang thing just broke right off and disappeared into the sea. Sure, we have electronic wind speed and direction indicators, but simply looking up is a lot easier to quickly grasp the wind direction.

Man up Mast - Niki Wiki gets a Wind Indicator
For at least a year, Jonesy has had the word "Windex" on our whiteboard shopping and to-order-do list. I kept asking him why he needed window cleaner when we had a squirt bottle full onboard.  Davis Windex is the brand name of the wind indicator. So now we have ours ordered, recieved and installed. Finally, we can stop having this silly conversation...for awhile. Maybe longer, because our new model has an anti-bird spike on the top of it. Jonesy hired a brave soul who did the mast-climbing while Jonesy and I manned the halyard and safety line. Yes, there is a man at the top of our mast in this photo.

Being here in Guatemala during the month of February is new for us as we are usually out in the Caribbean somewhere by this time. One of the things that I've enjoyed being here during late winter is seeing plants blooming that I've never seen do so before. The other day I noticed the big cashew nut tree in the back gardens area of the marina. By the time we come back in June there are cashew fruits on the tree. But now here are the tiny thick-skinned red and green blossoms! They have a funky sweet smell that is not very pleasant almost like marigolds.

Another pleasure has been being able to spend some time with my friend Teresa and her Read Smocking Machine! Teresa used to make smocked dresses for her daughter many years ago (said kid is now 30-years old) and she has hung onto this precious machine. We set it up and smocked a length of fabric for me to embroider. This will be the yoke of a sundress for my 1-year old niece Ella. The machine saves a bunch of time! Without it I would have to carefully space and hand sew the 8 lines of gathers. Now I can just dive into the embroider which is the fun stuff!

Of course there has been a lot of knitting going on too. Mostly I've been doing mindless knitting of socks for the teenagers in the orphanages of Kazakhstan. But there's also been brain-bashing charting and writing of complicated instructions of new designs for other hand knitters.

Beautiful young women in Kazakhstan with handknit socks 
The very best knitting related experience for me was the posting of photos taken by the director of the Motherless Child Foundation when she was delivering the warm knitted clothing in December. What did I see? Lots of photos of kids holding up a pair of my handknit socks that they had selected from the stash as their own. One of the older girls who was modeling for her "graduation" portrait was actually wearing a pair of my socks!! But the most squeeeeees came when I came across this photo of FIVE girls who had each selected a pair of socks knit my me! Aren't theese girls adorable! This just makes me want to knit more, more, more!

Jonesy's Perkins Punk Necklace
And speaking of adorable. Here's Jonesy wearing his new "Perkins Punk" style manly-man cruiser necklace (our engine is a Perkins diesel, not steam). We figured that these little phenolic resin auxillary driver dampers cost as much as a piece of nice jewelry! So, he might as well wear the spare part we bought on a nice 35cent chain instead of hiding it away in the spares locker! All in good fun.

Off we go! (we hope)

Saturday, February 09, 2013


Status Quo

New Bow Lettering
So, another week has passed and we're still loitering around Mario's Marina here in the Rio Dulce of Guatemala. Our emergency repair engine part just sat in Florida at the freight forwarding service because they didn't know what to do with the package. Our supplier had left off the "magic" code in the address that directed the box to Guatemala. So in the infinite wisdom of the "service" it was left to sit until someone finally asked about it. Sure, we just love to pay extra money for air-freight rushing, not that we're in a hurry and desperate for the part so we can go cruising or anything. Sheesh.

The Admiral in the shade of a cashew tree
No worries though. That just meant that we've had some extra days to take care of non-essential chores and fun stuff - like getting our boat name decals installed on the bow. We had these made for us on Roatan island in Honduras two years ago for about $20US. The only time we remembered that we needed to install them was when we were out at anchor or on a mooring. That was so other boats could find us as the Host Vessel for the Roatan Marine Park. But, we couldn't install them at that time because the boat was bouncing around and our dinghy would bounce up and down and we couldn't get them lined up. The right time to do it was when we were on the calm river safely tied to a stable dock. But we forgot, because we didn't need them then. Finally! We paid the young guys who work at the marina to do it for us. Wasn't that easy?

Pineapple blossoms

And...we're still dog-sitting the Admiral. No surprise there. His human, Teresa, is on a sailboat with friends attempting to sail down from Isla Mujeres (Cancun area) Mexico to here in Guatemala and they have had boat and weather issues. See? That's just part of the lifestyle. We really can't say where we'll be exactly when. Just that we'll be somewhere sometime. So for Teresa, our difficulties have made her life more comfortable because Admiral can just stay at the Niki Wiki Adventure Camp for Boat Pets.

Pineapple patch
Do YOU know what color a pineapple blossom is? The actual little flowers on this pineapple are purple, just a few here in this example - but check out the magenta, yellow, and green leaves! Beautiful! Marina employees have been planting the tops that have been cut off of pineapples and simply letting them grow to make more pineapples. Out in the back yard  behind the building that houses our monster diesel power generator (for the many electrical outages) I found the secret pineapple patch. It's all because of the Admiral and his need to explore (and urinate on) every plant on the entire marina grounds.

Pineapple growing
The pineapple patch is nothing special to look at until you get up close. Tucked away in this far corner it just looks like some landscaping gone half wild. But now I know its secret. There was even one fully grown pineapple that one of the groundskeepers will harvest soon and take home to his family. He's earned it. As I was taking these photos my arms and hands were sliced by the serrated edges of the "leaves" - ouch!! They are like double-edged steak knives. I'll stick to buying mine in the local village or along side the road for a whopping 50 cents to $1US.

As long as we're living in the tropics, I'm enjoying eating the local produce - and planting it too! In this past month I have purchased a cinnamon tree, a root (rhizome) for a turmeric plant, and a piece of rooted cactus plant which produces a lovely fruit called pitaya or dragon fruit. All for about $3US each.

Baby Cinnamon tree
Next on my list will be a black pepper vine which I know where to buy. Heck, I thought pepper grew on trees. That's because where I grew up, in Southern California we had California Pepper Trees and they had little balls that looked like peppercorns. Live and learn. Then I'd love to find an allspice tree and a cacao (chocolate) tree. Why not?

My cinnamon tree is doing fabulously! It had been kept for quite some time in heavy shade at the plant store and looked tired. But as soon as it was tucked into the ground in the sunshine at least half of the day it has sprung to life! Of course it will be many years before anyone can harvest some of the branches for bark for seasoning. I probably won't be here (but who knows?) so I'm just leaving a legacy for future cruisers to enjoy.

Turmeric sprout
My new turmeric plant has struggled. As soon as it was planted, it was attacked by the leaf cutting ants and had the top leaves chewed off! Thankfully, the rhizome had another sprout which has grown beautifully. Did you know that the bright yellow spice comes from the ground up roots of this relative of ginger? That was news to me! Turmeric is also used to dye fabrics and yarn which you know I find facinating.

I'm sure my turmeric plant will recover, but it was a setback. Those dang ants! They are cute as heck marching around in neat little lines as they carry pieces of leaves, but they can be destructive.

My pitcaya cactus hasn't been planted yet. It needs dryer soil than the other plants so I'm trying to find the driest place here. As it's been raining a lot lately, that's been impossible to do. But we've had 2 solid days of sun so I'd better get to to work on that before we leave!

There sure has been a lotta knittin' going on this last week. I've been having fun designing and knitting up some more ornaments for the Advent Calendar Knitalong project on the Holiday Mystery Gifts Yahoo group. It's funny how ideas for more ornaments spring into mind as I'm busy knitting something else. It's tough to be disciplined enough to simply jot down the new idea and plod ahead with the writing up of the current project.

I can't share photos yet of these projects, but I can share my progress on the Eggplant Parmigiana KAL I talked about a prior posting. This is a lace stitch pattern so I can't work on it in a social situation because it does take a tad of concentration. But the Admiral dog has been occupying my lap...all day...everyday, since he came aboard so I have lots of quiet time.

Spare Fuel Injector Pump cleaned up
Jonesy has been boat-busy. Yesterday he cleaned up our spare fuel injector pump for our big engine because it had rusted while in our spares cabinet. That's what happens on a boat at sea...everything corrodes. We've learned to use those heavy duty Ziplock XL baags. I have to keep a small squirt bottle of sewing machine oil in the galley to keep my hand-crank can opener from rusting. It gets a drop of oil after every washing.

Good-bye s/v Sunnyside Up!
Jonesy also tested the anchor windlass (the electric-powered mechanical thingy that lifts the heavy anchor) and the main sail electric roller furler. Also he took a look at the main sail itself which is still in fair shape. So those have been checked off of the Get-the-heck-outta-the-marina list. So many of our friends have already left. In fact, we don't have neighbors on either side of us anymore because they have both sailed off. No, it's not lonely here because several new-to-us folks have flown in to spend time on their boats during the cold winter months up north. So we are actually meeting folks for the first time that have had their boats here longer than us (3 years)! We just aren't usually here these winter/spring months.

One of those neighbors was s/v Sunnyside Up whose cat, Ginger was an attendee at our Cat Session of the Niki Wiki Adventure Camp. Carolyn and Tom have sailed off for adventures in Mexico and beyond with no plans to return to the Rio here. We managed to get a photo of their escape. Good-bye! Save travels!

Saturday, February 02, 2013


Cruising Interrupted

The Admiral's Dog Sweater
It's February and we're still at the dock. Sure, we planned to be here today - and to leave on Tuesday. But our cruising has been interrupted. Well, to be interrupted means we actually started and that hasn't happened...yet.

The critical part for the engine repair is in Florida at the freight forwarding service. It should arrive any day now. That's good news. Jonesy can flail around in the bilge and subdue that bad water pump in short order. But, wait...there's more.

The radar system started misbehaving. We called in a specialist (yes, here in Guatemala there are actually independent folks who can diagnose electronics problems). We need parts. Oh...there's no actual replacement parts available. The factory has a 2-,month backorder as our equipment is obsolete at 6 years old. He suggested that Jonesy update the software for the electronic chart plotter while he was at it. Ooops. Now the chart plotter is dead. Again, no replacement parts (i.e. circuit boards) are available.  That is a show stopper.
Cup Holders & New Outboard Cover

The radar we can do without this season as we are day-hopping for the most part (or had planned to do so). But navigational charts? Those are absolutely necessary. Especially because we will be in areas we've never sailed and Belize has hundreds of reefs and atolls. So we are investigating solution for the chart plotter.  Stuck in paradise again.

But, there has been some progress made in other areas. Check out our river transportation launcha. See our new cup holders? One is that black circle on Jonesy's seat there. Not only are we styling now, we can stow our water/beverage cans and bottles for the hot ride back to the marina after walking and shopping.

Happy, Styling Jonesy
Plus...see the new padded fabric cover on the outboard engine? The white is reflective tape. We had a mishap at the crowded dock in town last week where a larger engine smashed our fiberglass engine cover. That's not good because then rain water would get into the guts. Marco, our marina manager suggested that we get it repaired at the same place where our fiberglass launcha was made. Yep. 4 hours and $30US later we were all better. That same day we picked up a brand new pre-made $25US canvas cover too! Very nice! See? We can get some boat stuff here in the Rio Dulce of Guatemala.

Hunky Chunky Cables Socks

Finally the first of the month rolled around and I can share with you two new designs of mine that have been released. First up is my Hunky Chunky Cables Socks for the Six Sox Knitalong Yahoo Group as their Feb/Mar 2013 sock pattern. These socks have a single big cable running down both the front and the back of the socks. Wouldn't you feel special wearing these with your open-backed shoes or sandals?

The knitting technique is intarsia-in-the-round which will make some less-adventurous knitters go running about screaming obscenities and poking people with sharp sticks. But then, knitters could also use these socks to impress and amaze other knitters. Only other knitters would be able to grasp the challenge of these socks. So if you are ready to accept the assignment go get your pattern while it is free only during February and March 2013 on the Yahoo group.
Chunky Cable down the back too

For the Holiday Mystery Gifts Yahoo Group I've shared my new little holiday Teddy Bear Ornament. You can either download the pattern from Ravelry for $3US, or grab it for free only during the month of February 2013 on the group. I think it would be fun to make one of these little 4 1/2" tall ornaments with self-patterning sock yarn too! It is knit flat on 2 needles then seamed and stuffed.

For a girly version you could tie a ribbon around the neck or add a lace frilly skirt with a wide piece of purchased lace trim! My mind runs wild with the possibilities...guess what I'll be knitting for the next few months. Yep, more Christmas ornaments. I mean, who wouldn't want to decorate their tree, office, home, packages, backpacks, etc. with personalized handknit cuties?
Teddy Bear Ornament 

Now, at the top of this post I featured the boat dog that I've been pet-sitting. He's proudly wearing his new sweater as he poses on the bow of our boat. What? You thought I would have a little dog onboard for weeks and NOT knit him a special little sweater? Of course I would and I did. I also wrote up the pattern which is now being tested for errors. It will be released to the Holiday Mystery Gifts group next month. I know, I'm spoiling some of the "mystery" but I'm so in love with this little dog and had to share.

The sweater is knit flat in one piece with no seams! The two front straps criss-cross over the dog's chest and are brought back under the legs and button up to the side of the back piece. It's really easy to knit and easy to get on a dog. Not that that was a problem with Admiral. He loves getting dressed - and even posed for his photo session. What a hoot!
This is a photo of the sweater - see if you're a knitter you'd realize how easy it is to knit one of these.

Yes. Admiral needs a sweater even down here in Guatemala. It has been rather chilly with temps in the 60's and light to heavy rain. It's damp and gray. Admiral gets chilled. Amazinginly he's taught himself how to pull his little blanket up over himself! We are having so much fun with him.

So, our ship's stores here in the galley are stocked with staples for our cruising season and the freezer has layers of meat. It's not like any of it will go to waste as we still have to eat. It just means that when we finally get our issues sorted out I'll have to restock. We've taken down and stowed the larger of our two big ShadeTree awnings over the boat so we're exposed to the tropical sun (if it ever reappears). The watermaker has been unpickled in preparation for going out to sea (so no dock water) thus Jonesy now has to run it every couple of days. We're all ready, set,...and now stay.

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