My Peace

My Peace
Under Sail

Sunday, January 29, 2012

29 Jan 2012

Started raining last night around 8 and rained all night.  When the thunder started Mia flew out of the chair she has been sleeping in to the bed without ever touching the floor.  Weather is expected to be like this for a few more days.

Due to the weather and my boredom I updated all my Homeland Security info purchased my 2012 "Cruising" sticker and checked on the status of my 2012 Coast Guard registration document.  Got to thinking that when we re-enter U.S. waters I really wonder if My Peace will be able to pass a Coast Guard safety inspection with the law changes and expiration dates on some of the safety equipment.

This afternoon we are heading to Vista Rio for dinner, our friends Jay and Jerr took over managing it the first part on the year.  Today’s special is supposed to be “pulled pork”, I’m waiting to see what it taste like, it will surprise me if it can match the pulled pork at the Pig on Beal Street in Memphis.

Friday, January 27, 2012

November 2011 through Janurary 2012

Click on pictures to enlarge

Well, it has been a busy two months, haven’t updated the log in a while, but we’ve been busy.  We have been around Lago de Izabal twice now and each time has been a new adventure.
The first time we went with Matt & Carla, our friends that we sailed with from Isla Mujeres, Mexico to Placencia, Belize with.  Jimmy and Karla some new friends we met at Ram Marina in Rio Dulce, Guatemala.  We spent six days going clockwise around the lake stopping and anchoring at nights in protected coves, taking in the local villages and wildlife.
Denny's Beach
Our first stop was at Denny’s Beach, a nice small resort with a little village about a 15 minute walk away from where we tied up our dinghies.

School at El Chapin

Our welcoming committe

Village of El Chapin

We visited the village of El Chapin at the southwest end of the lake; there must have been over 75 children at the little dock to greet us.  Jimmy brought a couple of bags of candy with him to hand out to the kids; it was a “mad house”. 

Howler Monkey

Howler Monkey
King Fisher

At Anchor
We went up to Rio Polochie and anchored, took the dinghies up the river and saw all kinds of wildlife, the “Howler Monkeys” sounded like lions and tigers.  Spider monkeys were everywhere in the trees.  We were able to see a small crocodile slide into the water off the bank of the river.  This was a very unspoiled area of the lake.

El Estor

Main plaza El Estor 


Navy dock El Estor 

At anchor in front of the navy dock

Market El Estor

Meat market el Estor

 Hand woven cloth

 Market El Estor

 Market El Estor

 Hand made tortillias cooked over a wood fire

Guatemalan sailor and his children

One of our favorite stops was El Estor at the far end of the lake.  A very clean safe anchorage, we were there for market day and they have a huge market on Saturdays, it covers about two blocks.  From there we went to El Paraiso caught a ride into the jungle about 2 miles away and went to the Rio Auga Caliente.

 Rose & Mia

Hot water fall

Hot water fall

Auga Caliente is like nothing I have ever experienced before in my life.  It is a river that comes out of the mountains and flows into Lago de Izabal.  About 2 miles before it reaches the lake there is a hot spring about 120 degrees which flows over a waterfall into the 72 degree river.  You can get back under a cliff at the bottom of the waterfall and sit in the river water as well as let the hot water from the waterfall massage your back.
The next stop was the village of Jocolo, very small, maybe 20 families there which has around 40 children.  The most beautiful Saba tree stood next to the school house.  8 men wouldn’t be able to hold hands and reach around the trunk.  The Saba is the national tree of Guatemala.

 Dinner at Kangaroo
Dogs can have fun too
The final stop was San Felipe where the Castillo de San Felipe is located.  We anchored there for the night and took the dinghies over to Kangaroo Resort for dinner.
Three weeks later we made the same trip except we headed up this trip and had 11 boats in the floatilla.  Denny fixed a great chicken bar-b-que for us the evening we spent at Denny’s Beach.  During this trip all boats had a chart with the “way points” listed and as it turned out it worked well.  Some boats made the full trip others left early and others joined at other “way points”.
We have been asked to plan another trip around the lake which we hope to do sometime in February.  The cruising season is now in full swing as hurricane season is over so the boats are leaving the shelter of Rio Dulce and heading out to points all over the Caribbean to return at the beginning of hurricane season.  Actually this is the best time of year in Guatemala as it is winter and the lows are in the upper 60s and the highs are in the mid to low 80s.
A few days later our friend Billy from Guatemala City came by for a visit so we took him and his family over to Finca Paraiso for lunch, Billy loves Chivichi Cameron (sp) and they have the best.  Finca Paraiso is only about a 4 hour sail from our marina.  We stayed a little longer than we should have and had to finish the trip back in the dark, not the smartest thing to do here.
At night the fishermen put out there nets and lines everywhere and you can really mess up your boat getting tangled up in them.  About an hour from the marina I got a call from our friends Jay & Jerr, they are the ones that lost their boat in Puerto Aventures a few months back, the were about 45 KM from Rio Dulce on their way down to look for a boat and that was the end of the line for the “collective” (a common form of transportation here as well as the rest of Central America mostly 10 passenger vans they cram 20 people into and on top of) until morning.  They were at a little crossroad and everything was closing down for the night, the next “bus” wouldn’t be through until morning.
Billy very graciously volunteered to pick them up when we got back to the marina which wasn’t until around 7:00 PM.   We got to the crossroad at around 8:30 and Jay & Jerr were jumping with joy to see us.  They piled in and we brought them back to the Rio.
We had a great American style Thanksgiving dinner turkey, pumpkin pie, mashed potatoes, green beans cranberries and all the other fixings at Backpackers restaurant with Jay and Jerr.  A few days later they found the boat they wanted for the price they were willing to pay it was a good deal.  They headed back to Puerto Aventuras to pick up their few possessions they had left after the loss of their boat to bring them back to Rio Dulce.

65th Birthday at Vista Rio 
7 December is "Dia de Diablo"
Jay & Jerr got back in time for my birthday, which happens to be on the “Dia de Diablo” the day of the devil which we celebrated at Vista Rio Restaurant and Hotel; it was complete with a Piñata Diablo.  I chose to save the piñata to take it to the village of Jocolo on our next trip around the lake which was already in the planning.
We got 11 boats together for another trip around the lake following the same route we took last time.  The first stop Denny’s Beach, I had called Denny earlier to have him arrange a chicken bar-b-que dinner which turned out excellent.
Over the past few years there have been some unfortunate situations on the lake with some boats being boarded so most of the cruisers in the Rio are afraid to go out into the lake.  The Navy, state, federal, and local law enforcement has done a good job of making it safe now but the cruisers are still afraid.  So by putting these cruises together the folks are willing to take the chance with a “flotilla” they feel safe.
Much the same as the earlier trip, just more boats, some went back early some joined us later in the trip.  We stopped at the village of Jocolo and asked the village leader if we could give the piñata to the children.  No Problem!  The kids had a blast, the younger children apparently had never had wrapped candy before and the older ones showed them that they had to take the paper wrapper off before putting it in their mouths.  To give you an idea of this village there is no road to it, the only way is by water.  They are totally self supporting by farming and fishing.  They produce enough for themselves but not enough surpluses to take to market to be worthwhile; there is no electricity, and only 2 cell phones that are supplied to the village by the government for emergencies.
After the piñata was good and dead and we were leaving the Pastor, Martin, wanted to show us their Church they have been building for the past 7 years.  Martin explained that they needed 10 bags of cement to finish Rose and I took it to heart and said we would get it for them.  As I previously said they have no money. 
We got back to port and helped out with a charity for an orphanage for “special needs” children.  Rose made 50 pounds of potato salad, Jay acted as DJ, Jerr made red beans and rice, vista Rio hosted the event and I bar-b-qued 80 chicken quarters.  With the raffle we were able to raise over $1,000.00 USD.
The next day I started trying to gather the money for 10 bags of cement for the church in Jocolo, Rose and I had already decided that we would cover the total if it became necessary by giving each other cement for Christmas instead of a present.

 Unfinished Church in Jocolo
Once again the cruiser community came together and in one day we had enough money to make the purchase with Rose and I giving each other a bag of cement to each other rather than a Christmas present.  Gary the owner of Texan Bay Marina at the other end of El Golfete pitched in and provided the transportation for the bags of cement (1,000 pounds) in his 25 foot launch.  The only way to get to Jocolo is by water it is about 5 miles west of the mouth of the Rio Dulce on the north shore of Lago Izabal.

Loading cement for Jocolo church

 Unloading cement
 Gary showed up on the Friday before Christmas and we loaded up 10 bags of cement into his launch and headed to Jocolo.  When we arrived they met the pastor met us on the shore with 5 men to unload the cement.  They walked out into the lake about knee deep and unloaded the cement. (thanking us with each bag they unloaded)  As we were leaving the Pastor and the head of the village invited us to join them for their Christmas Eve fiesta, Rose and I accepted their invitation.
Rose and I arrived Christmas Eve morning around 1100 hrs dropped anchor and relaxed on deck most of the afternoon.  Rose never goes to visit without taking something for the host.  In this case we discussed what to take with our friends that have been on the rio longer than we have for suggestions.  We were told that in this case prepared chickens and potatoes would be appropriate.  So before we left town we purchased 35 pounds of chicken, 30 pounds of potatoes, and 4 cases of Coke to add to the fiesta.  I delivered the chicken to the pastor’s wife and returned to the boat to wait until 1730 hours to go to shore for the evening.

Christmas Eve service

We arrived on shore at 1730 hrs and were invited up to the Church and met with the pastor and his wife.  We were offered a Coke (warm no refrigeration in the village) and then taken into the church.  It had been raining all day but it didn’t dampen the spirits, the Praise Team was sitting up in the front of the church tuning their instruments.  The only electricity in the village is a Honda generator to provide power for the lights in the church and for the electric guitars.

Praise Team
We figured we would be able to understand some of the service unknown to us the entire service was going to be in Kekchi the local Indian dialect even their Bibles were written Kekchi as I found out when I tried to explain the name of our boat My Peace was taken from the Bible John 14:27.  (In Spanish it is Mi Paz)  We were able to fumble through the Kekchi Bible and find the passage thanks to Rose’s knowledge.
The service lasted until midnight, 6 hours of Praise and Worship and sermons in Kekchi.  The doors were left open as villagers wondered in and out during the service.  All the women were dressed in their traditional tribal attire; we have been told that you can tell what tribe a woman is from by the colors and patterns in here woven in to the cloth. 
At midnight the service was over and dinner was served.  The women of the village had cooked the chicken and potatoes we had brought as well as “Guatemalan tamales” to feed the 75 to 100 people who were present.  The pastor asked us to join him in his home while the others stayed in the church to eat.  Rose and I explained that we wanted to stay with the villagers, so some of the men picked up the table that had been prepared for us and carried it into the church.  We were the guests of honor for the evening, an experience we will never forget.
We got back to the boat about 1 in the morning to get some sleep.  At around 730 hrs Christmas morning I heard a thump on the hull, went up on deck and there was a woman and her son in a cayuco inviting Rose and I to their home for breakfast and hot chocolate.  I told her Rose was still asleep and we would be able to come in about an hour, and then went below to wake Rose.  The woman and her son had left or so I thought.  What actually happened is they went back up the river to where their home was located and the son had returned to where the river entered the lake and waited for us to return to the deck so he could show us where their home was.
The minute we appeared on deck and started lowering the dinghy into the water I saw the young boy starting to paddle the cayuco from the river mouth about a half mile away toward My Peace to guide us.  We followed the boy up the river which continued to get narrower and narrower until it was too narrow for the dinghy.  We tied the dinghy to a tree and joined the young boy in the cayuco for the remaining trip to their home. 

Guatemalan Tamale

The woman had prepared “Guatemalan tamales” and hot chocolate ad had us sit at the table for breakfast.  “Guatemalan tamales” weighs about a pound and a half and is wrapped in banana leaf, mostly made from maiz with a small amount of meat in the center; one would feed two people easily.   After breakfast we were introduced to the entire family and shown their small finca (farm). 

Traditional Christmas dinner at Backpackers
We went back to the boat to return to Rio Dulce for Christmas dinner with our friends.  As we were loading the dinghy I heard the village elder Mario and the pastor calling us from shore.  I put the dinghy back into the water and went back to shore.  They asked if I could give them a ride back to Rio Dulce to get some gas.  They had used all the gas in the village to power the generator the night before for the church service including the gas from the launches, so I took them out to My Peace for the trip back to Rio Dulce where they would catch a collectivo (a form of public transportation usually a van) back to the road that goes to El Estor and walk down the trail 2 miles to the village.
We dropped off the elder and pastor at the fuel dock and headed back to our slip at Ram marina.  Later that afternoon we joined our American friends at Backpackers Restaurant for a traditional Christmas dinner consisting of  turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, ham, pumpkin pie, and all the usual American trimmings.

New Years eve we decided to head east down the rio across El Golfete to Texan Bay.  Mia doesn’t like loud noises and neither do Rose and I and we knew Rio Dulce was going to be a “war zone” of fireworks.  It started raining in the early evening and didn’t let up all night we had been invited to a party in Texan Bay but due to the weather we stayed on the boat and had a quite relaxing New Year’s Eve.
New Year’s morning we caught a ride with Gary in his launch to the “round house” further down the rio for a New Years brunch.  Eggs, pancakes, sausage, bacon, fruit, mimosas, Champaign, and fried potatoes.  We spent another day at Texan Bay due to weather then headed back up rio to Rio Dulce. 
On January 5th our friend Billy called, he and his family wanted to take us on a tour of Guatemala.  Remember we don’t have any “land transportation” and unlike Mexico dogs can’t travel in public transportation so for the past 4 months we have had to limit our travels to Lago Izabal and Rio Dulce.
Billy drove up from Guatemala City the next day, about 250 kilometers, to pick us up.  We locked up the boat and told the marina we would be gone for a week or so touring the country.  Guatemala is about the size of Pennsylvania.  It is bordered on the east by the Caribbean and on the west by the Pacific, north by Belize and south by El Salvador, mountains and volcanoes (many very active) cover the entire country.  I would have to say the highways range from very nice to very poor going through the mountains.

Billy's house at his finca
We arrived in Guatemala City just before dark and stopped by Billy’s house in the city to drop off his son and then headed to Puerto San Jose where Billy has a finca on the Pacific coast.  His home at his finca was beautiful he designed it himself.  The main house is surrounded by a screened in porch which extends about 20 feet out all around the house.  The area inside the porch is a square divided into 4 rooms all of which enter from the screened in porch, 3 bedrooms and a kitchen dining room, each bedroom has its own bathroom facility.  A large swimming pool and spa are out the back of the house.

Relaxing around the pool

We spent most of the next day relaxing around the pool taking it easy.  In the afternoon we drove w few kilometers to the beach relaxing on the black sand beach listening to roving mariachi bands until sunset.  

Mariachis on the beach

Rose, Mia and I in the Pacific beach surf

Nana, Rose and Mari

The waves were about 6 to 8 feet and due to no reef system the waves broke right on shore a very beautiful site as long as they didn’t break on you.  I remembered when we visited Maui last year a story of a man that had a large wave break on top of him slamming him down onto the beach breaking his arm and shoulder.

Billy's daughter Nana
Rose & Nana

Nana & Val

The next day we headed to his brother’s finca and coffee plantation about 25 miles north of the El Salvador frontier.  The finca was halfway up the southern face of a mountain and has been in the family for at least 4 generations.  Besides raising coffee, he has pineapples, papayas, and bananas, but his real interest is in his prize winning Spanish horses.  His brother welcomed us as if we were family, his home and swimming pool was very similar to Billy’s.  In the evening after a wonderful bar-b-que dinner Rose and the other ladies enjoyed to pool relaxing in the spa.

Baby pineapple

Coffee bean berries

The next morning the horse trainer came and I watched as he worked about 5 of Carlos’s prime horses, it was almost unbelievable the grace and maneuvers of the horses as the trainer put them through their paces.  Carlos let me ride the brown one and that was a real experience.  Unlike a “cow pony” these horses must be kept reined in; if you loosen they take off like a shot. 

Rose "4 wheelin'"

Rose, Carlos's wife, and Mari

Later that afternoon we all got on 4 wheelers and went toward the back of the finca to where a creek cut through.  I failed to notice that Carlos had attached a shotgun to the front of his until we got to the creek; I asked him why the shotgun and I was informed that a snake known in the U.S. as a Fer de Lance is very common as well as being very deadly.  Later that evening sitting around after dinner Carlos’s wife was telling about finding a small Fer de Lance in the bathroom.  About 2 in the morning I had to use the restroom and walking in the dark to the dark restroom all I could think about was a Fer de Lance in the “john”.

One of Carlos's horses and his trainer

One of Carlos's horses and his trainer

This ain't no "cow pony"

The ladies "chillin'"
We returned the next day to Billy’s finca in Puerto San Jose.  That evening we went to another beach further to the south same black sand due to the volcanic rock that it comes from.  Same wave action but the waves were larger.  We had chivichi cameron at a restaurant on the beach and returned to Billy’s finca.

Sunset on the beach in Puerto San Jose

Relaxing by the pool at Billy's after a hard day at the beach
An active valcano "puffing"

An active valcano "puffing"

"Indian Head"
In the morning we loaded up and headed to Antigua one of the oldest cities in Guatemala.  To the north of us as we drove there was a volcano that was spewing smoke, gas, and ash about every 5 minutes, we joked that it had consumed too many beans the previous night.  As stated earlier there are several active volcanoes in Guatemala and when they blow their tops it really makes a mess of things.

The Chateau Bed and Breakfast
The Chateau's vineyard

The Chateau
Billy and Mari

An old church in Antigue

Damn Aggies are everywhere, even in the oldest city in Guatemala

An active valcano "puffing"
We arrived in Antigua late morning and drove around; we stopped at the Mission San Francisco over 400 years old,  had an enjoyable evening at a restaurant and bar owned by a friend of Billy’s that had unique Guatemalan music. 

The front of a Charango

The back of a Charango

I learned of a guitar called a “charango” which is from Bolivia only about 18 inches long has 10 strings and originally made from the shell of an armadillo the sound was like nothing I have ever heard.

Mission San Fransisco over 400 years old

Street scene Antuiga

A little cuitie

Guess who?
Back to Billy’s for the night before returning to Rio Dulce with a “short” shopping trip in Guatemala city.  You have to remember in Rio Dulce we have very little selection for shopping so Rose is real excited, Wal Mart, Cosco, for me McDonalds, Kentucky Fried Chicken, and Burger King.  The shopping took a little longer than anticipated but we were able to find the things we needed including a crock pot.  Back on the road to Rio Dulce.  We got to the marina late Billy and Mari spent the night in the V berth on our boat and headed back to Guatemala City in the morning.
We have since pulled My Peace out of the water for some necessary work, bottom paint, rudder bushing replacement, keel damage repair from dumping a coral head in Belize, and to reinforce the dinghy davits.  We should be out of the water for about 2 weeks and then back into our adventure.

On our way to Antugia we stopped at a French style chateau Billy k new of.  It had a vinyard and when finished is going to be a bed and breakfast.  finding this structure out in the middle of nowhere was a surprise.