Monday, December 23, 2013


Sea Kayaking on Roatan Island

The "trade winds" have returned to the western caribbean and I'm loving it! Sure, the breezes have been a little stronger than what we all like when we're out on our anchors, but the humidity has dropped and a lovely wind blows through the boat all day...and all night!

We love the wind at night because our wind turbine spins and keeps our battery bank charged up. It makes more amps than it takes to keep the refrigerator running. Because our solar panels wake up when the sun is overhead we have to turn off the wind turbine because the batteries are fully charged.
KAYAKS in CoCo View channel

For entertainment I joined a little ocean kayaking expedition with other cruisers. Because it was so windy we decided to tour the channel that was dredged many years ago behind the CoCo View Dive Resort. But first we had to get there...and that meant an open ocean crossing (well, we were kinda protected by reef but there is an opening in the reef and the seas pounded through that). Whew! It was great exercise and, I have to admit, a lot of fun riding the waves!

A narrow spit of land separates the channel from the ocean front so we still got some nice breezes back there and also didn't get attacked by bugs.
Ocean is right out there

This channel is (supposed to be) the centerpiece of a real estate development project. Building of homes and boat facilities has been very, very slow though. But we did see a couple of houses and some sailboats tucked away. Roatan is in the hurricane zone so whatever is built here has to either be built to survive a hurricane or built cheaply and expected to be lost. Plus, this is Honduras after all so expectations as to permanent ownership rights have to be lowered. We all know what can happen in these Latin American countries in land dealings and have heard many sorry tales!

But the location is splendid so I can understand why some folks might want to accept the risk of destruction, nationalization, or fraud. Although we see a lot of (overbuilt) McMansions in the islands I prefer the more simplistic beach/island houses like the one pictured below. Just give me a screened in patio and a dock for my zip-around boat. What do you know? This one is for sale too! Not for us though...we live on the boat and like to pull up anchor and get a move-on periodically.
After an hour or so we turned around to head back to the beach were we started at Fantasy Island Resort.
Thankfully, our return trip was with the wind at our backs so we we mostly coasted along and enjoyed the view. That is until we came to the point where we needed to cross that open water channel.
Here we had to paddle like crazy! Not only into the wind, but also into the waves! OK, maybe I'm a bit warped, but again this was so much fun! To have the wind and the sea spray in my face again and the roar of the waves breaking over the reef in my ears was invigorating. I did have a little trouble getting this photo and managed to take one of those accidental pics of my feet.

We all made it back safely to the little protected beach front of Fantasy Island Resort. Yes, I was the last kayaker throughout the day. Why hurry? It's not like I've got anywhere else I gotta go.

Now of course my knitting hasn't been ignored just because I'm out playing in the water. There's been plenty going on on my needles. Here's a new little pattern for a pair of baby socks with scallops, ribs and an eyelet row with a matching cap. All made from one skein of color-changing yarn (Jojoland Melody). I love these colorful yarns! There are many different manufacturers of this type of yarn too. I'd love to use more of this with my knitting.

My plan is to thread some pretty ribbon through the eyelet/purl rows and tie little bows. Of course, that means a trip to the main town of Coxen Hole here on the island to buy ribbon which will be a 2-hour travel event.

So this is how I spend the days leading up to Christmas. Sure beats hitting the malls, but I miss my boys and I miss cooking them a big feast on Christmas day. We'll be going to the Christmas potluck at Brooksy Point Marina that day and I'm baking a couple of pies. Maybe we'll get out to snorkel to work up an appetite first!


Tuesday, December 17, 2013


Lumpy Bumpy

NEW dock Placencia, Belize
The weather forecast called for relatively calm seas and light winds in the Gulf of Honduras area so we made the decision to head to the island of Roatan in Honduras. Our last day in Belize was spent half doing the paperwork cha-cha (riding taxi boats and vans) to officially check out of the country at 3 different offices and half on spending the last few B-dollars in our wallets to provision. There's not much to buy in Belize compared to the bounty of American goods we were expecting to see in Roatan, but shelf-stable staples are always a good purchase as well as fresh fruit and veggies (expensive!).

Luckily, a fisherman had just come in with a big Amberjack so we bought 8 3/4 pounds of whole side fillets to stash in the freezer. Last stop was Brenda's Caribbean Cooking beach stand where we picked up some Jerk Chicken with coconut rice and beans for lunch. To finish off our Belizean dollars we asked her to stuff the to-go bag with a couple of tamales and some of her homemade coconut "macaroons". These sweet treats are cooked up over a wood-fired stove using just freshly grated coconuts, raw sugar and a touch of spice (usually allspice or cinnamon). So they are really more of a candy. Allspice is grown locally and is used in a lot of the cooking - wonderful stuff!

For folks who haven't been to Placencia in a few months, take a look at the photo above of Jonesy at one of the fingers on the new concrete dock in the bay! They have outfitted it with a lowered walkway (about 2 feet below the dock) for dinghies and other small boats. We are so grateful for this! I asked a man who was working on the dock if we were allowed to tie up here and he said "of course, mama". After traveling in many places which are much less welcoming (such as Isla Mujeres town and much of Roatan), we are that much more appreciative of the efforts made in Placencia.

The overnight passage to Roatan was not "calm" at all! The seas were lumpy and bumpy and came at us from all directions. Even so, we both managed to get some sleep at times and arrived safely in French Harbor, Roatan. Thanks to an innovative fix that Jonesy made over the summer(installed latches on the refrigerator and freezer) the doors stayed closed and no food escaped to romp in the galley. We saw plenty of little dolphins along the way. No, I didn't put out the fishing rod as my freezer was full of fish already!

So, I knit. In the last couple of weeks, I've finished up two small pairs of socks. The first pair is knit with Knit Picks Stroll in a dark green and light green with 3 stripes of brown on the leg. Just simple socks. The next pair is the same sizing and green yarns, but with a blue Regia solid yarn for most of the sock. Nothing special - except that they will keep little kids feet warm in Kazakhstan. I'm still behind in my personal challenge to knit 52 pairs of socks in 12 months (that's a pair a week), but am knitting as fast as I can want.

So...we're on Roatan Island, Honduras now. It's been fun reconnecting up with fellow cruising friends from the Rio Dulce, Guatemala and other folks we know here on Roatan. We've grocery shopped 'till we dropped at Eldon's Supermarket for American foods and beverages that we haven't seen since we were last here in May of 2012.

The weather today is squally with intermittent (warm) rain and winds so we need to stay on the boat at anchor to be sure it stays that way. Our scheduled go-see-do trip with friends had to be postponed to perhaps tomorrow. Better safe than sorry - the boat is our only home. That's OK, we've been enjoying fresh fish cooked many ways and the leftovers used like tuna fish in salads. I've had several lovely days of knitting up in the cockpit with the breeze through my hair. Knitting what? Socks of course, but these are special socks for a submission to a future publication - I hope! Life is good.

Sunday, December 08, 2013


Let the Cruising Days begin!

Dec. 1st was the day that we had targeted as our "Get out of the Marina" date - and we made it! Here's the last photo of us in Guatemala taken in the early overcast morning just before the staff arrived to shove us off untie our dock lines. Yes, Jonesy is wearing a sweatshirt as the temps had dropped down into the low 70's overnight.

After saying our good-byes, our first stop was the fuel dock to fill up with diesel for the cruising season. We headed up river to the Puma marine station and carefully eased this big boat up to their dock.

By the time we had filled our tanks the weather was starting to clear up and we could see blue skies. What a great day for a slow motor trip down the river Texan Bay (aka Burnt Key Marina, Cayo Quemado) which was our staging place for our exit from Guatemala.

We spent a full day and 2 nights anchored in the lovely lagoon of Texan Bay. During the day we could hear and see flocks of parrots, the occasional montezuma oropendola chortles of the male birds and even a couple of spottings of manatees. In the evening flocks of egrets and comorants flew past us towards there roosting areas for the night. Jonesy rode a launcha down to Livingston to meet with our marine agent and I knit - a lot.

Finally, after we had completed the paperwork cha-cha of checking out of Guatemala it was time to leave. As we started our short trip down the final few miles of the river to the open sea we received a call on the VHF radio from a boat who was traveling with us. Seems that another cruising boat from Guatemala had been turned away and escorted out of Honduran waters due to an overstay on their visas. This was the result of a different interpretation of the 90-day visa immigration law of the "Central American 4" countries (Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua) than what at previously been in place. Well, Roatan, Honduras was our destination that day and it looked like we would also not be allowed to reset our visas until we had spent time outside of the Central American 4.
GIANT 12" foot monster socks

So after we crossed the sandbar at the mouth of the river we turned left and sailed up to Belize instead of going to Roatan Island in Honduras! Plans changed at a moment's notice! Thankfully, it was just a day sail to Placencia, Belize and by that evening we had dropped the hook. So here we are now - and loving it.

We've met up with other cruisers here and have wandered around the funky and fun little town (yes, we have already had some of the ice cream at Tutti Frutti's). Since we were last here in June of this year there have been LOTS of improvements made by the locals. The new concrete dock has been completed and even has some lower wood docks so we can get out of our dinghy's easily. Along the "main street" concrete sideway many of the older houses have been cleaned up and freshly painted and there are several new trinkets shops. So far I haven't been in the water yet....there have been large jellyfish floating around - scary.

I've been on a sock knitting frenzy (again). The photo above is a pair of GIANT socks made from assorted leftover yarns. Then I made a child's sized pair from brighter colored yarns. Today I completed a 3rd pair of child sized socks but no photo yet.

December 1st was also the day of introduction of my new EXCITO socks to the Six Sox Knitalong group. These socks tackle the problem of stitch tension for stranded colorwork and slip stitch patterns in socks. Excito means "success" in Spanish, and I'm hoping that other knitters will be able to have some success in using these different color work methods using the techniques that I've described in the pattern.

Of course all 3 of these pairs of socks described are for the kids in Kazakhstan.

Excito Socks

Yesterday we noticed a couple of snorkelers swimming in the water who seemed to be tired and struggling a bit. They were still quite a bit offshore. The winds had just come up and we knew that these folks were approaching an area of strong currents before they could get to shore. So we called out to them and invited them to come aboard and we would take them to shore in the dinghy. They agreed, climbed aboard and I gave them a dry towel and some bottled water. They were a nice young couple who were attempting to swim around the little island by Placencia. But it was just too much with the added wind and chop. Jonesy zipped them to shore where they thanked him profusely and lived to play another day.

Tonight the breeze is kind and gentle, unlike last night when we had a squall with gusting winds and wild rain for a spell. Because the temps are in the 80's during the day and 70's at night, I like to sit out in the cockpit - day and night - and knit, watch (dolphins, and frigate birds), and listen to life here in Belize. Right now it is fairly quiet with only 2 different beach bars playing music - both raggae so at least they kinda blend. The moon is waxing but still a crecent and tonight the stars are visible between the puffy clouds. Life is good.

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