Tuesday, March 29, 2011
Tuesday, March 22, 2011
Unlike some of the places I have visited Honduras does not charge much for checking in and checking out. The fees for Mexico, Belize and Guatemala may not seem like much, a couple of hundred US each, but if you are spending two or three days in each country as you pass through it is a lot of money. So I will bypass them all and head direct back to Key West, a distance of about 800 nm. Of course if the weather turns bad I will duck in and take refuge.
This is a particularly good time to leave. I am in the eastern trade winds. This means that almost all of the time the winds are from the NE, E, or SE. There is a weather system developing over the Gulf of Mexico that will shift the winds to the west for the next couple of days. I hope for a great downwind run to the Bay Islands.
I am off this morning to Livingston to check out for an early morning departure tomorrow.
Monday, March 21, 2011
Saturday, March 19, 2011
Alan and I took the launcha up to Rio Dulce where we boarded the "chicken bus" for the four hour trip to Flores. We started out standing which was somewhat of a concern, particularly when two very stout Guatemalan women got on board to sell food and drinks. But it turns out this is the "local" and over time enough people got off and we were able to get seats. We arrived in Flores in the early afternoon and were greeted by Gabriel and Gerhart who had left Texan Bay a few days early on their way back to Ramstein, Germany for the summer. They had already found a good and inexpensive hotel. We took a room and prepared for the 5 AM departure via minivan to the park the next morning. We were advised to go early as it gets very hot in the afternoon.
We were greeted by a beautiful dawn as we rode to the park arriving just before the official opening at 7AM. We paid our modest entry fee and starting walking the park. We had focused our attention at the treetops when a large group of spider monkeys decided to walk right past us on the jungle floor. A few minutes later one of the park workers offered us the opportunity to hold a black widow spider (I declined but Alan was game.) Then we came around the corner to the Mayan central plaza site. There are so many good pictures and descriptions on the internet that I will not bore you with mine except to say that it was magnificent
My afternoon entertainment was to take a 12 zip line tour through the jungle canopy. You put on a harness and they hook you up to a cable and off you go, sliding down the cable to the next platform where you climb up and do it all over again. It was great fun until just at the end we got an afternoon tropical rain forest downpour which assured that my bus ride back to the hotel was in sopping wet clothing. .
This morning we got back to Rio Dulce and this afternoon to Texan Bay. Alan and I are contemplating buddy boating over to Honduras later in the week. We will see if that works out.
Tuesday, March 15, 2011
The Leiter Side of Union Thuggery
"Collective bargaining" corrupts policemen and philosophers alike.
By JAMES TARANTO
Last week, as the Wisconsin stalemate was coming to an end, we worried about the potential threat that unionized policemen, in "solidarity" with other unionized government employees, might tolerate or even participate in lawless behavior in order to undermine the workings of republican governance and preserve union privileges. Milwaukee radio host Charlie Sykes reports that Wisconsin businessmen are now receiving letters importuning them to oppose Gov. Scott Walker's efforts on behalf of Wisconsin's taxpayers:
***** QUOTE *****
The undersigned groups would like your company to publicly oppose Governor Walker's efforts to virtually eliminate collective bargaining for public employees in Wisconsin. While we appreciate that you may need some time to consider this request, we ask for your response by March 17. In the event that you do not respond to this request by that date, we will assume that you stand with Governor Walker and against the teachers, nurses, police officers, fire fighters, and other dedicated public employees who serve our communities.
In the event that you cannot support this effort to save collective bargaining, please be advised that the undersigned will publicly and formally boycott the goods and services provided by your company. However, if you join us, we will do everything in our power to publicly celebrate your partnership in the fight to preserve the right of public employees to be heard at the bargaining table. Wisconsin's public employee unions serve to protect and promote equality and fairness in the workplace. We hope you will stand with us and publicly share that ideal.
In the event you would like to discuss this matter further, please contact the executive Director of the Wisconsin Professional Police Association, Jim Palmer, at [phone number redacted].
***** END QUOTE *****
Palmer's union is the first of the seven "undersigned groups"; the others are two more police unions, two firemen's unions and two teachers unions. Although the new legislation excludes police and fire unions from its limits on so-called collective bargaining, one can understand why they would oppose it: Their own privileges become less secure if they are the only ones to enjoy them.
It should be acknowledged that cops and firemen have dangerous jobs and thus are arguably more deserving of generous retirement benefits than, say, motor-vehicle clerks or teachers. But the substance of their compensation is a separate question from the procedure by which it is arrived at. "Collective bargaining" is outrageous because it is an affront to democracy: a system of collusion between politicians and unions, which cuts out the taxpayers whose money they are spending.
No doubt there were compelling political reasons for Walker and Republican lawmakers to leave in place the privileges enjoyed by police and fire unions--whether crass partisanship (they are less Democratic than other unions), cops' and firemen's claim to public sympathy, or the desire to avoid (or at least minimize) the threat of a backlash by the workers on whom the government and citizenry depend to maintain order.
But in principle, so-called collective bargaining is no less objectionable in the case of cops and firemen than of anyone else. Once the public accepts that it is over for everyone else, there won't be much political support left for privileging the police and fire unions. Thus it makes perfect sense for them to side with the unions representing teachers and others with easier jobs. Their privileges are safe as long as everyone else's are at least contested.
In the letter to Wisconsin businessmen, however, we see why so-called collective bargaining is particularly corrupting to the police. Although the letter explicitly threatens only an economic boycott, when it is written on behalf of the police--of those on whom all citizens depend to protect their safety--it invariably raises the prospect of another kind of boycott. Can a businessman who declines this heavy-handed "request" be confident that the police will do their job if he is the victim of a crime--particularly if the crime itself is in retaliation for his refusal to support "the dedicated public employees who serve our communities"?
Sykes sums up the letter this way: "That's a nice business you got there. Pity if anything were to happen to it if, say, you didn't toe the line and denounce Governor Walker like we're asking nice-like." He's right. "Organized" law enforcement bears a disturbing resemblance to organized crime.
Sunday, March 13, 2011
I have taken advantage of the down time to start researching land tours. My primary reason for coming to the Rio Dulce was to go inland and explore the Mayan ruins. I have now discovered that Guatemala is quite an interesting place. I am in the lowlands. However there are a lot of high mountain areas and some desert. In particular I was fasicnated by the term "cloud jungle." This is a jungle area at 10,000 feet. I have added it to my list of must sees.
It is unfortunate that there is no high speed internet at Texan Bay marina. I would love to be able to upload some pictures, but that will have to wait. Actually, since there are no roads it is pretty amazing that there is electricity here - at least most of the time. The area only got electricity two years ago so when the power went out in the rain storm it was no big deal to just fire up the generator to keep the beer cold. Good thinking. Perhaps more amazing is that fact that every structure on the Rio and in fact the town of Livingston at the foot of the river was brought in by boat. Pretty cool.
Saturday, March 12, 2011
We then stopped at a local hot spring. It was really quite warm except when the wake from the passing boats would slop cool river water into the small lagoon. At the same stop was a limestone cave. Armed with flashlights we headed down into the side of the cliff. It got quite hot quite quickly. After about a 20 minute walk we asked our guide how much further the cave went and he said we could easily walk another three hours. We passed on that and returned to the cool surface and a cold beer.
Last night the rains came. I mean really came. They started at about 6 PM local time and continued all night and into this morning. The Noah's Ark end of the world kind of deluge. Then again, this is the rain forest. It is finally starting to let up so I will head back to Reboot to do some cleaning and get some other tasks done.
Thursday, March 10, 2011
Livingston obviously has a crime problem. Many of the buildings were surrounded by fences with concertina wire on the top. To visit the bank you have to go into a man trap with a guard. The outer door opens, you go into a small vestibule, and once the outer door is locked the inner door can be opened. There were a variety of street beggars and various people offering services. In broad daylight I felt pretty comfortable but it is not a place I would choose to visit at night. Having finished the check in procedure we adjourned to the dinghy dock where we paid off the "boat boy" who watched over the dinghy (he was 60 if a day) and headed back to the boats.
We headed up the Rio Dulce. The lower part of the river is a 500 foot high limestone gorge full of birds, power launches and canoes. The local population fishes the river and the major form of transportation in this area is by motor launch. With the exception of two very thin spots (neither was marked in any way except for a rapidly declining depth gauge) the trip was beautiful and uneventful. For once I was the following boat so all I had to do was stay in AIRBORNE's wake and hope they did not stop abruptly.
We arrived at the lower end of El Golfete, a large bay in the river. Just off to our port was the Texan Bay Marina where we decided to spend the night. They have great food, cheap cold beer (what a change from Belize) and good company. After a fun evening talking to the owners and other cruisers I retired for the night at cruiser's midnight (8 PM.) What a beautiful place.
I have decided to stay here for a day or two and unwind and then head further up the river.
Wednesday, March 9, 2011
I told you that yesterday was a lazy day. Today was the opposite. It started at about 2 AM when the radar indicated that I was headed into a region of rain. Rain itself is not a problem but one never knows what kind of wind it will bring with it. Other than a few weird wind shifts the showers were pretty benign and REBOOT got a very needed fresh water wash down. Then the wind died completely. I of course can motor but I was trying to conserve fuel as diesel is $5.00 + US per gallon and also I am trying to learn how to run for days on end without using fuel. This is in preparation for long crossings, e.g. the Atlantic or Pacific.
I made it into Punta Gorda harbor by about 10:30 AM local and tied up at the Texaco fuel dock. I met four young Canadians who where sailing their boat to the Rio to store it for the summer as they had run out of money and needed to go back to work. I left REBOOT and walked down and checked out. On the way back I stopped at the local pizza place (Ed King are you listening) as I figured I could get a slice or two. I was greeted by a young Dutch woman. She told me that this was her third day on the job and then related her world travels since age 18. I have discovered many European men and women in their 20's and early 30's who seem to be "back packing" around the world. Apparently they are not concerned about jobs or careers.
The pizza was meh and the wind was kicking up so I went back to REBOOT and cast off. Punta Gorda harbor has no protection from the trade winds (why would it, the trades blow just about every day.) It was too late to head for Livingston Guatemala so I headed generally Northeast to hide behind one of the Cays for the night. By this time the wind was kicking 20 gusts to 25 and the seas were 4 to 5 feet on the nose. I finally said "what the heck am I doing, turned 180 degrees and headed for Bajo de Ox Tongue off Punta Manabique for the night. There I found another sailboat "AIRBORNE" that I have heard on the radio bands for the last few days. We chatted on the radio and agreed that we would head out tomorrow for Livingston, Guatemala and the Rio Dulce. Tonight we sit in the lee of the point with our Guatemalan courtesy flags and our yellow "leper" flags. The yellow flag indicates we need Customs and Immigration to come out and clear us into the country, in this case Guatemala.
So tomorrow the famous Rio Dulce, Velcro for Gringos...
Monday, March 7, 2011
Today has been a lazy day. The winds are in the 10 knot range and a little further forward than I would prefer. (As Jack Aubrey would say, "Two points free" would be better. Since the winds are light the wave and current action on REBOOT's heading is more pronounced - my German Friend Otto Pilot is having a harder time keeping course - more like 30 degrees each side of the track. This results in major ongoing changes to sail trim so I slow down and speed up on a regular basis. The breeze is cool, the sky except for the cumulus clouds over the land quite clear and the ride comfortable. I am enjoying sailing along at an easy pace.
The transition back to sailing has been nice. Most of the last month I have been motoring against adverse currents and adverse winds. Today I have been able to keep the engine off and enjoy the quiet. The winds are to remain light overnight. Last night the sky was crystal clear. I am about 20 miles off the coast of Belize so what light pollution there might be should be very limited.
My friends on the Maritime Mobile Service Net ran phone patches to both Trevor and Spencer in the last couple of days. I find it so cool that I can talk to them while out in the middle of the ocean or in this case the Caribbean Sea. (A phone patch is hooking up my radio communication from REBOOT to shore with a telephone call to the desired party. Cool! Old fashioned too, this is how it was done before satellites and cellular telephones.)
Sunday, March 6, 2011
But... Today was one of those great cruising days. After a brief rainstorm in the middle of the night the dawn was clear and cool. REBOOT, in the company of CARIBBEAN SOUL II and WAYWARD SUN left Long Cay at Lighthouse Reef and headed to the National Preserve at Half Moon Cay, a journey of about 5 NM. It is a tough 5 miles as one is navigating around the reef the entire time. Even the channel has a few coral heads sticking up above the water. The lack of someone on the bow of REBOOT makes it all the more nerve racking.
After a couple of hours we all settled down off Half Moon Cay. This is a Belize National Monument. It has palm trees instead of mangroves and this means NO MOSQUITOES. I dressed in long pants and shirt expecting to be eaten alive when I went on shore to see the bird colony (Boobies and Frigates) so I was a bit overdressed when I discovered NO MOSQUITOES. Did I mention NO MOSQUITOES?
The preserve is amazing. There are about 4,000 Red Footed Boobies nesting. We hit it at just the right time, the young birds have hatched but are still in the nests. There are also Frigate Birds - black with a red crop. They are apparently "pirate" birds as the live by stealing from other birds. Their most interesting feature is the ability to blow up their crop to a big red ball. I got some great pictures of both which I will share when I have a fast internet connection.
Tonight we had a cruisers dinner on WAYWARD SUN. We watched the sun go down and then noticed that the sky is so clear you can see the dark part of the moon. To the North lots of heat lightening, but the rest of the sky is crystal clear with millions of stars.
Tomorrow I leave the company of CARIBBEAN SOUL II and WAYWARD SUN to head for Punta Gorda and check out of Belize. It is about a 24 to 36 hour trip depending on the winds. I will catch up with my friends in the Rio Dulce, they need to return to Belize City for a day or two to handle some things.
I relate this piece of trivia as I think that the cruising life can be divided into the "Good Old Days" and "Now." Of course the "Good Old Days" ended the day you set sail. You are asking yourself "why does he bring this up now?" In the good old days it cost $7.95 US to check into and out of Belize. Now, depending upon how long you stay it costs between $100 US and $300 US per month. This lets you stay in the country. If you have read anything about Belize you know that one of its most famous attractions is the Blue Hole on Lighthouse Reef. Cruisers in the "Old Days" would go out and anchor, snorkel, perhaps SCUBA at the Blue Hole. Now it is a National Preserve. This means it now costs $30 US per person per day to anchor in the same place that was free in the "Old Days." Since you can't really appreciate the Blue Hole from sea level, and since the SCUBA diving isn't that great (there are very few fish other than sharks living in the hole) and since anchoring around the hole where the snorkeling is pretty good still costs $30 US I have decided to take a pass and dive the rest of Lighthouse Reef. It is free (except for Half Moon Cay and its red-footed boobie population. That costs $10 US per person per day.) It is truly sad that so many places now charge a fee.
Saturday, March 5, 2011
That said, today in the company of Dave and Margi of WAYWARD SUN I did SCUBA off Long Cay at Lighthouse Reef. We had a great dive. It was about 30 feet under the dingy dropping down to about 75 feet. Actually it dropped of further but we turned around and worked our way back up the reef line.
The afternoons have become hot with a very strong sun so I find that I nap or just paddle around REBOOT in the water. About the best time to accomplish anything is early in the morning.
I had dinner on WAYWARD SUN, last night on CARIBBEAN SOUL II, what great evenings. I have become better at cooking something interesting for myself but that does not hold a candle to dinner on another boat.
Thursday, March 3, 2011
I had come into Turneffe via the Blue Creek pass. This takes one over a very shallow reef. I was in the general company of CARIBBEAN SOUL II and WAYWARD SUN. They both drew too much to attempt the passage. A good thing, as I only had 3 inches of water under REBOOT. Once over the reef it got quite comfortably deep again until at the end of the creek I once again went thru a very thin area. The next morning (yesterday) I decided to leave as the mosquitos and flies were terrible. I followed the guide book to the southern passage and could not find my way out. Every attempt resulted in shoaling and depths that were too shallow. So I decided to head back out the way I had come.
The short story is that I was on a falling tide and when I reached the first thin area I once again had no where to go. I subsequently got in the dinghy and rowed around to find that the actual deep water of the marked channel was not in the marked channel but off to the east. But at this point I had no where to go until the rising tide. So I settled down for the tide to finish going down and come back up again enough to get thru. Which it did at about 6 PM local time. This meant that I had to navigate back out of the river in fading daylight or wait until morning. Knowing that I still had to pass over the reef I decided that the light was OK for me to try so that I could pass over on the rising tide. Not to mention that inside the channel it was dead calm and I was being attacked by swarms of mosquitos. I made it with about 6 inches to spare, turned South and made anchorage near where CARIBBEAN SOUL II and WAYWARD SUN had dropped the hook the day before.
This morning we all got underway to Lighthouse Reef, the site of the "Blue Hole" that you see in all of the tour books about Belize and Central America. On Half Moon Cay inside the reef there is a colony of over 4,000 red-footed boobies. February and March are when the new babies hatch so it should be extra fun. There are also sea turtles and frigate birds. Unfortunately the advice is to bring your insect repellant. Hopefully I will be able to find an anchorage that will be OK and only have to deal with the mosquitoes when touring the shore.
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