October on the Rio ......

Phil & Nikki Hoskins
Fri 4 Nov 2011 03:14

Along came a Spider!


With just a few weeks before we leave our ‘summer camp’ in the Rio Dulce we are attempting to clear the decks of all foreign creatures. In particular garrisons of spiders that think it’s clever to steal onboard at night and set up home in various locations, thankfully, for the most part on the outside. The Skipper has now resorted to night time chemical warfare tactics catching them when they are either busy web mending or just sitting plumb centre admiring their work. Also a priority is clearing the hulls of the fluffy sticky balls containing a new generation of budding arachnids. After emerging from their nests they make a beeline for lockers and cubby holes until they have learnt to avoid being eaten by their own kind or by our newly acquired Gecko called "Buddy". Particularly difficult to nail are the jumping variety which do just that when you are about to clobber them. However, these tiddlers are just nuisance value compared to the large brute that, until Phil’s visit, had been residing somewhere in the rafters of the covered workshop at the back of the marina.


Using the electric rotating wire brush machine to clean up some screwdrivers that had been badly abused as paint stirrers and make-shift chisels etc. his attention was more focussed on looking out for any snakes in the surrounding bog on which the workshop is perched and not wire brushing any of his digits. The ‘workshop’ is set back into the jungle canopy and is a no-go zone unless you go early in the day to avoid the swarms of mosquitoes and tabernos, a wasp-like flying insect that is truly vicious. Having no walls it is open to dead foliage drifting down from the surrounding trees and it was one of these leaves that he thought had drifted down onto his head and back.


Having finished with the screwdrivers he walked towards the boat stopping to talk to a fellow cruiser, who, after a few minutes started to stare intently before announcing “that’s a hell of a spider on your shoulder”. Glancing sideways the following nano second of time included first an agonised shriek, with simultaneously, a right hand deployed to the shoulder region to sweep the hairy body with equally hairy legs off the white t-shirt. The conversation then continued whilst both men eyed the spider, which, none the worse for its heavy-handed rejection, sat on the board walk for a few more minutes before darting into the surrounding foliage. From recent experiences a large Scarlet Macaw, despite it’s ability to quickly remove large chunks from a persons ear is infinitely better company to have perched on your shoulder than a hairy ‘pider. And that’s official!


Surprisingly in the first week of October the temperature dropped enough to start work. It is still hot but the daily thunder storms & torrential rain have gone into a more weekly routine. Some days it is overcast & breezy making for very comfortable working environment.  Skip has removed several of the deck hatches & replaced many of the corroded hinges - a job that was long overdue from the refit in the UK.  This was not before a thorough scrub of the decks. It  took a couple of days to eradicate the many bugs that had taken up residence in our ropes, winches, blocks & cleats over the last few months under the awnings rigged to protect Ajaya from sun & rain.  The Admiral had started the tiresome task of getting the sticky reside off the plastic guardwires (from the sun) when she realised that she was getting dirtier from the oxidising & smut (they cook on open fires here) encrusted decks.  A complaint was lodged with Skip who knew which side his bread was buttered on!
Sadly the return of many cruisers to the Rio announces to the criminals of the area that it is the last chance this season to obtain ill gotten gains.  A few dinghies & outboards had gone missing earlier but activities stepped up two weeks ago.  A couple next to us on the dock who had only just returned to their boat after the summer months away lost their dinghy & outboard one night.  The outboard had been locked on their pushpit for the duration but that night it was on their dinghy, hoisted on their davits but sadly not locked.  The river level had dropped enough for the thieves to escape with their booty under the dock leaving behind a pair of Wellington boots!!  Not a fair exchange. We later heard that another outboard & fuel tank had been stolen before a couple of guys were caught in a nearby marina loading outboards into their boat.  A trifle unsettling knowing they were obviously casing the joints & were only a few feet from our boat that night.  Our outboard is now defaced with natty green dancing dolphins & is chained to the dinghy, davits & arch nightly.  In the Rio, where all transport is water based, an outboard is a very sought after commodity, most cruisers here have rigs worth over £3,000, a painful loss - as we well know. And some 10 + dinghies and outboards are now missing!
                     Green dolphins! Note - remove Yamaha hp (horse power) labels & do not put name of mother ship on dinghy - they will know you aren't on board
Thieves excluded, the cruisers do as much as they can to support the local charities.  A boat comes round to the marinas every Saturday & Tuesday from "Casa Guatemala" an orphanage originally set up by cruising folks many years ago. They sell meat, veggies, bread & dairy produce. For those of us trying to get work done it saves the hassle of launching dinghies & heading for the crowded, dusty & busy town.  This month one of the marinas hosted the "Poker Run".  Initially we ignored the information being given out on the morning VHF net as we don't play Poker or run - silly us.  This was in fact a fun event to raise money for one of the local schools. The school leavers wanted to leave a legacy for future pupils.  It was actually to do with access to sex education which in their naivety is badly needed.  So early one morning we headed out in our dinghy along with many others to collect our instructions - very carefully adjudicated, we might add, to avoid any form of cheating!  Upon picking up our first playing card we then had to travel to six other participating marinas to pick up another card - also carefully marked, adjudicated, signatures checked, to avoid any form of cheating - serious stuff this............. and we had to be back by 2 o'clock ..........
One of the smaller marinas                                                   some of the nosh                                                 & bemused local lads
Several dinghies went down river, others went upriver. We zig-zagged.  All the marinas offered a tour of their facilities (ah! - there was their incentive) & as we've said before cruisers nemesis, free nibbles & drinks! Not forgetting -  this was not even elevenses & we try not to imbibe before '5 o'clock somewhere' it was going to be a long day.  At each venue a pupil from the school spread the cards & made a note of our names & examined our signatures.  On arriving at one of our favourites watering/lunching holes, which we saved for second to last,  we ran into a few pals & broke the tradition.  The said location is run by an Aussie who never went home & who said he thought Vegemite came before Marmite.  We just had to put the record straight - did you know Vegemite was known as Pawill for a while!!! - see Wiki.  Luckily we weren't late back & avoided disqualification........serious stuff this.
The Admirals rubbish hand                                                         The Skippers plate                                               The deserving students
The lunch was excellent, the live music from cruisers accomplished, the speeches (to be honest) a little convoluted & the raffle - outstanding for us. We bought six tickets & won three prizes.  But to finish the story on the Poker, the adjudicator took a while to sort things out whilst we were all eating............serious stuff this.  The Admiral was playing for another boat that had to go down river to sort out visa issues, a common problem here, but was reliably informed upon checking in that her hand was naff - oops.  The Skipper meanwhile came seventh out of 52 and won $50 worth of shipping of goods to the Rio. This we have since learnt is almost gold dust.  Little did we know at the time that the boat the Admiral was playing for would have appreciated the prize. Meanwhile, we asked for it to be auctioned & got $40 for the charity.  One of the raffle prizes was a meal for two in Antigua - we don't plan to go back but found a good home for it (enjoy the meal Steve & Roberta),  the next was a couple of meat tortillas from what we thought was a restaurant in town which we gave to the pals the Admiral lost for -  it turned out to be a night time street vendor - that found a third recipient.  Finally, we did win a bottle of rum..........serious stuff this!!  
Then there were the Rugby finals - we could have watched all the matches but we had work to do! In fact you can procrastinate all year here. There are also regular flea markets where you all swap junk.
Yes, it is on an old projector screen from a computer - ITV too!!            How much rubbish ..........                                                      view from the bow
On to the critter count ........
Dig this beetle                                                          Open all hours (?)                                                     Spot the hummingbird
No October would be complete without Halloween!! Not something at home we relish with the penchant for young teens to cause havoc but here with the North Americans it can be fun.  So with three nights of festivities offered we chose the 30th at a nearby marina.  The costumes, games & music were great................................
"Cereal Killers" the winners........................................................wooden spoon & fishing line game (?)...............dancing (of sorts!)
We've enjoyed our stay on the Rio. Our mail is due to arrive via friends in the US who are returning in the middle of November & we can't wait to see them again but most of all to get on our way.  For any cruisers reading this - the postal service in Guatemala is very unreliable - DHL, UPS & any other couriers can ship goods/mail but NOT credit cards via a third party (it will be scanned & sent back to sender). Our mail held by family in the UK could not be sent here so we had to rely on it being sent to the US by post thus delaying our departure by a few weeks ..........Never mind there's still plenty of work to do onboard!!
                                                                  A very special mutt we will miss very much ...................................................