November 1-21 2012
Yesterday 14 of us went in a van from Rio Dulce to Guatamala City. In different combinations we went shopping in the afternoon and back to our hotels.
We were picked up in the morning and went about 20 miles to Sumpango to the Day of the Dead celebrations and here they had a kite festival. There were vendors selling local handicrafts and I wanted to buy a bag, but not the first one I saw. The vendor kept coming down in price, but I kept saying no and wanted to move on, especially when I saw the big camera. I was later to find that I made the Guatamala News on TV.
It was uphill to the site and then down again, including a section that would not have passed Health & Safety, to the kites which were at the end of the football field. People spend months making the kites out of coloured and painted tissue paper. They are mostly round and the smallest are about 3 metres in diameter on a bamboo frame. The kites are very ornate and the largest are quite huge, 20’ and more supported by large tree trunks, these do not fly.
I did buy a small patchwork backpack and a woven jacket, which were both needed later.
There were lots of vendors selling all types of food and local goods and small kites. The goods ranged from local handicrafts to plastic windmills and squeaking frogs with an extending tongue.
There were portacabin loos on the field and the locals were charging Q2 for use of their toilet.
The Day of the Dead is when people visit the graves of their relatives, which can just be mounds of earth or concrete structures. They decorate the graves with paint, grass and flowers. Then they sit and contemplate, or chat to their ancestors while the children play in the graveyard, some flying their own small kites. It is very colourful and you are never more than 100’ from an ice cream vendor cart.
One of our group did get pickpocketed, which happened to me in Colombia, so I know how it feels and I was extra careful.
About 3pm they start flying the smaller kites. A path through the crowd is cleared, but that doesn’t last, so they have to run as best they can to get the kite airborne and some don’t make it very far, but others do well. The field is surrounded by hills and in the background is a volcano shrouded in cloud, so the kites have to get out of the bowl to get a good breeze. Most of them crash down on the crowd, some faster than others and some people were pulling the tail to bring the kite down. Prizes are awarded for design, altitude and duration of flight.
We left at 5 and went back to our hotels, it had been a long day and I was too tired to go out again.
We left at 8 to go to Walmart for 1 hour on the way out of the City. Nobody bought too much, but we had to pack it on the roof rack. We were dropped off at the dock and the driver said that he had seen me on TV. We made it just in time for the shuttle back to the marina.
Lynda and I went to Mario the computer repairer. It rained very hard and, even though we had an umbrella, we were soaked. My hard drive from the old computer had been put in a case, but I could not access the files, so he put it on a recovery program, but it was going to take 3 hours.
Lynda’s computer was ready, but I will have to go back for my drive.
We came back on the 5.45 shuttle and it was dark. I had a long hot shower and a hot chocolate to warm me up.
I went to the swap meet and managed to get a filter for the watermaker.
I went all the way to town and walked to Marios, but there was no reply so I will have to go back, probably next weekend because he works in the city during the week.
More people are coming back to the boats and we had 9 for dominos.
I had bought a large foam yoga/play mat to make new cockpit cushions. 1” soft foam sandwiched between the close cell mat. I will have to perfect them, but I have the basics done.
I went into town to try and get some mesh to finish the shading on the arch, but they did not have any. I then didn’t have time to queue up in the supermarket so I went back for the shuttle. It was late and another cruiser gave me a lift back to the marina.
I was hoping the water had warmed up, but it is still too cool for the pool.
I woke up early in extreme pain. It was just like the gall bladder pain, but that was removed in Panama 2 years ago. I moved into the cockpit so that I could get someone’s attention. Barry was first and that led to Jan and we had the breakfast room full of medical people setting up a clinic, but they are all dentists.
Reception phoned the clinic in town and the doctor would be there at 7.30. Someone was going for fuel and he was going to take me when he got back. I got in the shuttle which leaves at 7.30, that would do, but I was retching bile over the side and so it was decided to take me first. The low fuel warning alarm kept going off.
Took a tuk tuk to the clinic, which normally is only a few minutes walk. We were told that the doctor would not get there until 10.30. Please phone him and tell him it is an emergency. He said he would come straight away, but would be 1 to 1 ½ hours. He ordered tests and the laboratory is next door so the results were ready by the time he arrived. I could not sit, stand or lie for any time and my insides felt like they were being dragged out, apart from the pain in my side. The pain had nearly gone by the time the doctor arrived. The doctor said he thought it was going to be appendicitis, but he did a sonogram and it was stones in my right kidney. If there hadn’t been a diagnosis I would have opted for being put out of my misery.
I have 3 types of pills and he gave me a shot for the pain. The doctor underlined his phone number many times and told me to ring any time, which was really kind. This was the lovely high of drugs and I was able to go to the supermarket and chat to cruisers, but it didn’t last long enough. I spent the afternoon in the cockpit, doing nothing. I feel ok, but not well. Some bread for tea and lots of water to drink.
I had to go to Puerto Barrios, 2 hours away, for more tests. Lynda came with me and we left the marina at 6am. We took a collectivo to Morales and then on to Puerto Barrios. If I had been feeling better I would have got off at the junction before Morales and caught a different collectivo, this would have saved time, but there would not have been any seats. The clinic was out of town, but we asked 3 times, including a policeman, who didn’t know. The clinic was clean and well run, the equipment was not new, but it seemed to work. Patients were brought from the hospital in ambulances, so it must be the best in the area. The instructions are for everybody to arrive at 8am, we arrived at 8.30 and waited for over an hour. I had not eaten, but still not completely complied with the instructions on the back of the letter. These were in Spanish and the doctor had not given me the extra medication, I knew what it said, but 2 hours in a cramped minivan was not conducive to the requirements. They were not going to do the procedure, and no staff spoke English, but one patient was able to fight my corner. They agreed to do the first x ray and if that was not good enough then they would charge me 175Q and I would have to come back. If the x ray was ok then they would continue for 650Q and not charge the extra.
The x ray was fine and they continued with the dye test. That was once they found a vein, but I didn’t seem to have brought any of those with me – hands, wrists, elbows, feet. The woman tried my right hand and instead of the dye going in there was a reflex reaction and my feet went up in the air and crashed back down on the table. The woman went and got an older doctor and with the aid of a flashlight he got the tube in my left hand. X rays were taken at 10, 25, 40 and 70 minutes. At 1030 there was a 7.4 earthquake which made the bed and the floor shake. People came in and I just hoped they weren’t going to stop because I am not sure they would have got me back. There were 2 large white spots on the right kidney. I had to pay an extra 100Q to have 2 additional x rays, not sure why, but I wasn’t going to refuse. They asked me if I had taken anything today, 6am I had taken the anti-inflammatory. I was given water and on the later x rays the spot could be seen to be moving. The pill was in my system and showing through, but it was not in the kidney. The other spot still looked ominous. After 2 hours we left and took a taxi to the small, not very exciting shopping centre outside town, but it had McDonalds and I had chicken and chips, I hadn’t eaten for 2 days, so I enjoyed that. We had a quick once through the shops and then picked up an ice cream and went across the road to the hospital where Carol, from our marina, was recuperating from a stroke. She was being let out that afternoon, but had 20 minutes, so we borrowed their taxi to take us back to the clinic where we collected the x rays and a report.
Lots of people have had a bug and so it seemed that all the sick people were at our marina, with visiting dentists. All the nurses on boats and a contingent of visiting doctors were at the next marina, which seemed quite unfair.
We took a collectivo and paid to get back to Rio Dulce, but it stopped in Morales for 20 minutes. 15 minutes after the alleged 4pm departure we gave up and got another collectivo and paid again. Live and learn. We got back with time to catch the last shuttle to the marina and got back at 6pm. 12 hours and $100, exhausting, but not a bad day.
Back to the doctor with the results. I had translated the report and it seemed ok. What looked like scratches on the kidney were from the clamps at the gall bladder removal. The one spot we knew was the tablet, the other one was outside the kidney. The opening which had been swollen was going down and the narrow tube was clear. There did not look like any large stones which would be a problem. I may get more problems with small stones, but I have to drink lots of water to flush as much through as possible. Prevention is better than cure, I do not want to have to go through that pain again, believe me.
It probably cost me 2500Q, $300 or 200GBP, not good, but it could have been so much worse. It would have been free if I had been in the UK, but it is cold there and sunshine has a cost.
Now I was not in much pain the doctor didn’t seem anywhere near as nice.
I spent the morning cooking – oatmeal cookies, a loaf and a cake. I will eat them, except for the second half of the loaf, the fish can have that, but I really must pay attention to the difference between Baking Powder in the recipe and Baking Soda – yuk.
I went into town to collect the hard drive. The files had been inaccessible, but now they have been recovered. I haven’t checked yet. Still no mesh in town so I will have to adapt something I have for a temporary solution.
Went to Tortugal to meet up with other cruisers and Dave played guitar for an hour before the film. Red Dog. The story was ok, but I found the actors, or the real life people they were portraying, awful.
Went to Marios Marina for the swap meet. I sold the refrigerator gauges and bought a lifebuoy, which was in better condition than mine which I had thrown away. I also bought a remote for the windlass, which might come in handy if it works. The chain does not stack very well coming up, but solo anchoring can be difficult, so any help is welcome. I stayed for lunch and a game of cards.
It was my day to make people happy. First a dinghy overtook me on the way and they said thank you as they always got overtaken and couldn’t beat anyone – I know how that feels.
Second I congratulated KD on tidying and cleaning their salon to a very high standard, nothing on the table – somebody had to look, this status doesn’t last long on a boat.
Thirdly I let everybody beat me at Hearts. It was raining all day, 27C, feels like 33 with no wind, but I was really cold. I finished the day by going to visit Carol as she is back in the marina, but they are staying in a cabin for a few days.
I spent the entire morning just adding a piece of rubber strip to the dinghy. I had done the back half, but still had to do the front sides. I had to hand drill holes in the top of the fiberglass which was hard work. I cut one side strip and put sealant on and turned round to get the cable ties and the strip fell in the water and sank. I got the small grapnel anchors out and tried to fish for it. I found a tyre. In the end I had to get my mask and snorkel and go in. The water is not clear, but is only 10’ deep and once I was under I could see the strip on the mud and was able to get it up with the anchor. I did both sides and that only left the back. The front has a slit water hose tied on and so I did the same with the back. More holes and this time the wood was an inch thick. It was extremely hard work and I just had time for a quick shower before dominos.
This afternoon is solid American football on both tv screens. I managed to sit through the first half of Houston v Chicago. Tommy gave me the basic rules, but it still seems too rough to me.
I cannot get more mesh so I used the garden shading I bought in Curacao. I have done the two sides of the arch, it took all day and I went in on the 3pm boat, which only gave us half an hour before the next one back. I was done in under 15 minutes and waiting for the boat. We had a nice tour as there were chores to be done for the marina by the driver.
If I am going anywhere I need to put the sails back on. I put the genoa on and then realized that the furler had to be loaded with rope first. I didn’t want to undo the sail so I hand loaded the furler. Time consuming, but I was happy with the result. Next I attached the main, but the mast furler also should have been loaded with rope. This had to be done by hand turning the main track in the mast and the sail had to be taken off. I had greased the track before I left it, but it was very, very stiff. It took hours and was very hard work. It would help if the gap at the bottom of the mast was bigger to get a hand or a tool in, it is difficult enough just to get the shackle done up. I had a shower and checked up on some of the people here who have been sick, there is a lot of it about. I have finished all my tablets.
The weather held out while I did the sails, but it was now raining, so time to hunker down indoors.
I have to try the wireless remote for the windlass or give it back to Jimmy for a refund. I have the wiring diagram for the remote and one for the windlass. I had asked J, who is electrical, for some advice and somehow Doug volunteered. He said we should try it direct on the battery before I tried to fit it, good idea, but it didn’t work. Any project means lots of access points and lockers are opened and tools and equipment are out, so it took time to tidy up. It was just warm enough, refreshing, for one last dip in the pool and then off for a hot shower and over to Marios for taco night, without the tacos for me obviously.
I started to bake, banana oatmeal cookies, choc chip and cranberry cookies and cheese straws. Doug came back and had an idea on the wiring. We tried it again and it at worked. Now I had to attach all the wires to the windlass control box. I wanted to be able to remove it if necessary and certainly did not want to cut the existing wires. This meant I needed some double spade terminals, which we could not find in town, hardly a surprise. In the evening we went to Trivia Night, probably my last for a long time.
I went round to Doug to recheck where the wires went, which wasn’t obvious to me. I had made up some double terminals with extra pieces of wire, which I thought was quite clever. When I went to fit them I found that I had made them with 2 females and they should have been 1 male and 1 female. I am actually running short of female connectors in all sizes and this was another 3 wasted. Never mind I remade the connectors. I had turned the power off, but electricity seems to have a life of its own, I must have touched something with the spanner. The space was very restricted, so I covered all the terminals and had another go. I was all wired up and switched the power on. The windlass still worked with the foot buttons, which was important. I tried the remote and it worked, except the up button put the anchor down and the down button took the anchor up. I was tempted to change the words on the remote, but did go and change the wires over and then it worked properly.
Mid morning I left the dock and anchored. I can use the remote, but it doesn’t work inside the cockpit, only on the side or further forward. I have tried to get the antennae a bit more straight up and maybe that will help.
I have to waterproof all the connections before I can put the panel back, but today I couldn’t get the top off the electrical paint. I am sure rust is useful for something, I just haven’t found out what yet.
I took the outboard off the dinghy and do not want to launch that until I get to Belize. I did haul the dinghy up, only for practice, but it seemed heavy even with the winch.
I still have the cockpit cushions and the last of the shading to do, but that can be done anywhere.
I bought some led light strips from Doug, so now I need wire, more things to do.
Within hours of me leaving the marina there was a fleet wide radio announcement that a boat had been stripped the previous night and to stay in marinas. It was a 54 catamaran and lost $10K of contents, but the dinghy and outboard would have been a large chunk. They had been in the Rio 5 months, but that was the only night they had left the boat empty. It is always a mistake to leave a boat at anchor unattended. I only had to do it for 3 days in San Blas when I had to go to Panama City to have my gall bladder out. It was a worry and I would not want to do it again.
The navy patrols have stopped because nobody was paying them for protection any more. It is the run up to Christmas and the thieves are out, which is a poor state of affairs.
I stayed in the cockpit, which I often do at anchor, but am not used to being so covered and protected and so go indoors if it rains. I did have a horn and a torch and dug out the movement sensor light that I had bought in England and that is something else I have to fix up. The light came on when I turned over and so it works. At 1.30 the light, which I had temporarily fixed with a sticky pad, fell down and it was cold even in the duvet cover and it is not as comfortable as bed, so I locked myself indoors.
Amazingly I survived the night, a whole 250 feet off the dock. Just after 8 Stan and Lyn came and picked me up and we went to town. I showed them where to buy everything and it was 2pm when they dropped me back at the boat. The lady in the office had a birthday today and I was supposed to go to the party at 1, but I missed it. I went in and did get a tiny slice of chocolate cake. I waited for Jane to finish playing tennis and then she gave me a lift back to the boat. There is a Japanese meal and variety night at Vista Rio, but I will not leave the boat in the dark and could do with a break from people for a bit.
Tonight I watched Downton Abbey, Series 1, Episode 1. I must have seen it back in the UK, but I enjoyed it and it was quite a change for me. I have acquired a lot of films and e-books which will keep me occupied. I will have to charge up the computer more often to do this, but it will keep me away from Solitaire.
I spent the morning sorting the anchor locker and the deck ready for sailing. I need to be at anchor to sort this out, although I should have been able to do it on the dock. Both anchors, chains, ropes, marker buoy and snubber are ready. I have tidied all the mooring ropes and did move the diving tank to the other side. This is out of the way when lifting the dinghy, I will have to see if it will make me lean when the dinghy is centred.
I went launched the dinghy to go into the marina for dominos. It was good practice and I now use two halyards, one on each half of the dinghy using 2 winches. This makes it easier, but I would not like to try it with the motor on. The new motor is much easier to haul than the old one and I have a separate dinghy hoist for it.
I won at dominos, probably my last chance in Guatamala.
Today Stan and Lyn picked me up and we went into Morales. They had to go to the dentist, everybody does a lot of medical things here as it is so much cheaper than in the US and Canada. I showed them where the new supermarket was. This is actually owned by Walmart, nothing to get too excited about, but it is nicer than the one in Rio Dulce and has a few different items. Unfortunately the things I had gone back for were no longer available, but nothing was a necessity. You do have to buy things here when you see them.
We got back to the boat at 1.30 and I put grommets in the new windvane cover I had made.
Then I worked on the shading for the back of the arch and I had a couple of visiting dinghies, which is nice.
I went into town, just in case the mesh had arrived, but no. I was waiting for gel coat from Arnulfo and I saw him on his motorcycle. He went home and got the gelcoat for me and brought it back. This is mainly for dinghy repairs.
Back on the boat I put up the last of the arch shading and strapped the windvane sail under the solar panel.
I have a small polystyrene body board and the back cover was disintegrating, so I used practically the last of the shading material to re-do that. It gets dark soon after 5 and so I will have to finish the sewing another day.
We went on a trip to Quirigua, the local Mayan heritage site. The Mayan Calendar ends on 21 December 2012 and it was supposed to be the end of the world. A new 5200 calendar will be started, but I won’t be around for those celebrations, so I went to this one. You can Google it if you are interested, Wikipedia has an article, but you will have to translate the page from Spanish. It is worth taking a look.
They have been having the ceremonies on the 21st of each month this year in the various departments of Guatamala and the final one will be next month in Tikal, the most important site. The President was meant to attend, but he sent a couple of ministers instead and the program was running very late. We had a guide round the stones and then watched the ball game. The winner used to be beheaded, certainly an excuse to throw the game, but I think they changed this to the loser. They only use their forearms and legs, not heads, hands or feet; so it is quite difficult to get the ball through a small hoop fixed vertically above their heads.
As usual I have my photos, but I will take advantage of Val, my duly authorized photographer, who takes hundreds and much better than mine which I am taking on the phone after the theft of my camera.
I am going to post this now because I am out of the marina and have very limited internet.
I hope to be heading to Belize next week and I have activated the sat phone, but I have not tried it yet.
This will only enable me to get weather and my mailasail email. I will pick up my Hotmail when I can.