Sunday, June 26, 2005

Guatemala-Belize

Hello gang,

The outward bound course went very well, though because the forecast for the first week of the course was calling for 45 knots of wind with gusts up to 50, including rain and visibilities less than one nautical mile, we took the cadets backpacking in the rain on the appalachian trail. much fun it was, everyone got through in good spirits, and we eventually did get to go on the pulling boats, where we did some rowing, some sailing, and some sailing in the fog. all the essential parts of an outward bound course. i stressed attitudes from the beginning, as i knew the weather was going to make things challengine, and the cadets did a wonderful job and hopefully learned a lot.

From Maine, it was back home to Sherborn for a few days of rest and volleyball before returning to Guatemala with brother Will. So nice to have company, and on our seven hour bus ride back to Rio Dulce, we made wonderful friends with a 7 year old girl and her mom, both named Lidia. At first will and i just played hide and seek games. bit by bit she grew more comfortable with us and realized we were worthy of talking to. by the end of the trip we were best friends, especially will and her, as i had taken a nap for a few hours. we took lots of pictures kept each other laughing for the entire ride. way better entertainment than any movie would have been. little lidia even asked us for our phone number, which we gave her, and while in belize, we heard that a spanish girl had called our home looking for guellermo (aka willy).

we made our way back to the haus, dissapointed to not have the lidias with us, found rob, and our dingy which then had one side that needed to be reinflated by mouth every two hours or it was unrideable. (our foot pump was recently rendered inoperable, losing the spring first, then operating the bellows by hand, then decreeing it was hopeless.) this necessitated taking off the little 3.5 horse power engine each night for fear that during the night it would end up submerged. the troublesome starboard tube now has two patches on it, one patching the second patch, and has significantly slowed the leak. yet in our last passage, the wooden floor fell out, due to the deflation of the starboard tube, and during the night, slipped quitely into the sea. always an adventure.

rob then relayed a frightening story about the haus while we were all away. apparently rob came back from el salvador late one night and motoring out in the dingy, could not find the haus. all around the harbor to no avail he went, soon growing to tired to deal, got a room and slept till morning. in the morning he could still not find it, and fearing the worst, asked around aroub the "barco gris" or the grey boat until someone said they saw it out in the river. rob later found our floating home in the middle of the river where it was anchored with our back up danforth anchor that we keep on deck. as the story goes, someone cut our anchor line to get our 35 pound cqr anchor (worth about $500) and let our ship go. luckily for all of us, someone saw the haus floating away towards destruction, jumped on her and threw in the back up anchor with what was left of our anchor line. a million thanks to that maksed man, whoever you are!!! certain disaster narrowly averted. much karma there is in that act.

out of the rio dulce and guatemala we went, rob, will and i towards the coast of belize only a day sail away. after clearing into the country we headed north towards the outer reef and islands where we happily made our way north each day. some beautiful clear blue water, some okay snorkling, and some amazing dolphin groups riding our bow wave in water so clear it looked as if they were flying. we also went whale shark hunting as we crossed over the outer reefs. during our diving adventures in utila, honduras we had been able to snorkle with one of these massive fish thanks to our dive boat captain. (whale sharks are the talk of the town in utila - your not worthy unless you´ve snorkled with one.) in belize we wanted to see another, without other dive boats around and without 30 other crazed snorklers all trying to become worthy. so we did what the dive boat captain did and went towards the jumping fish, and jumped in the water with our snorkling gear. the first time we saw nothing, the second time i took the helm, rob and will jumped in to the school with fish everywhere - above, to the side, and below - but saw no whale shark. i had drifted away and was preparing to set sail to pick them up, when i heard, "BENNY, GET OVER HERE, QUICK!" apparently it was not a whale shark that rob had seen eyeing him, but a reef shark. i went as fast as i could to the two nervous snorklers and pulled them in, and we safely continued on our way, deciding it was perhaps better to not jump into the feeding frenzy unless a whale shark was actually sighted from the safety of the boat first.

made it to belize city to pick up yet another brother, brother chad! he was not planning on coming to visit due to a hectic schedule as always, but leaving will and me at the airport to return to guatemala, as he drove away he decided he had to come. so the brothers were together with robby. the temperatures were hot, especially below decks which when we were sailing was the only refuge from the sun. working up to 100 degrees during the day and a cool 86 during the night. needless to say, we were hot, but swimming lots, and had some great water volleyball after we made it to caye caulker north of the city. rob then flew home for a wedding, so it was just us boys on board (needless to say we missed sister far and wished we had coordinated it better so the four of us could have been on the haus together). did some snorkling, tried to pick up some belize ladies for will, sailed in the big ocean blue, and then it was too soon time for them to go home. it was not easy to say goodbye, but it gave me an opportunity that i had thought and read much about: solo sailing.

i had about a week until the three other guys came back from the wedding, so i wanted to make some progress north, at least getting to mexico. so i said goodbye to the bros, ran around doing all the clear out logistical manuevers, changed the engine oil, and left the city at around 5:30pm sailed until an hour past dark, anchored in the lee of a mangrove island, checked the engine oil, got the boat totally clean and organized for a solo sail, plugged all the gps waypoints in, so i would have a navigator, and tried to sleep for a few hours. i was tired, had been running around all day but was too amped up to sleep so i rubbed my temples and leaned my head over the bed in an effort to get blood back to my brain. at 11pm i got up pulled up the anchor and proceeded to beat my way out of the channel to the open sea. it was only blowing about 10 knots so it was easy to manage the haus as we taked back and forth out of the channel eventually turning to the north and towards mexico. the night passed quickly with thunderstorms far off to the north and south and dawn came after a furious battle with mosquitos and other tiny little devils. worst bugs of the trip, even at five miles off shore. the day proceeded smoothly and i made it into xcalak (pronounced ish-kalak), mexico around 2pm. (the wind vane had steered much of the way) i was tired, had taken little five minute naps along the way, and was very happy to be at the anchorage. it was a great experience to have total control of the haus, making all the decisions, and it was nice to be able to maintain a clean boat. it is not often that one of us can know where everything is, especially when underway, but i had a clean boat when i departed and i had a relatively clean boat upon arrival. a great experience, but i have no desire to be on a long cruise by myself. i kept thinking that the others were down below or just about to relieve me of watch, but then i would realize it was just me. powerful at times but also it could be lonesome. overall a great experience to sail alone and it is one that will surely stand out in the sailings we´ve done.

that´s part one for now, more to follow.

thanks ben

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