Wednesday, May 30, 2012


End of season doldrums

Socks for the Akkol Orphanaage
We've got it...those end-of-the-cruising-season-doldrums. Not because of anything WE do, but because the weather has turned gloomy, rainy, squally, and the wind if there is any at all is out of the wrong direction (west).So we are just kinda stuck on the boat for the most part, reading and knitting. Not really complaining because it sure beats working.

Because of the constant cloud cover the solar panels aren't making amps for us so we have to conserve electrical power and have even been running the diesel generator. Sometimes it is dead calm - no breezes - and humid beyond endurance. That's when I turn on my little 12-volt fan. It's noisy, but at least I'm cool enough to knit. Because if I'm knitting, I'm happy so Jonesy's happy.

We can't even get in the water to cool off because the west winds are driving the water from the scruffy town of French Harbor towards us - and that means murky, icky (sewage) water (remember this is a Third World country). That also means we can't run our reverse-osmosis water maker so we also are on water conservation mode.

Tropical depressions (good name for them!) are already forming and tropical storms and hurricanes are becoming a threat - and a reality on the Pacific side of Mexico already! Many of the other sailboats have already sailed off for safe ports for the summer. Some went way south to Panama which is out of the hurricane zone and others have headed into the Rio Dulce of Guatemala where we will soon be joining them. Every year I dread going into the steamy jungle of Guatemala - that is until I experience the gloomy, hot weather in May then I remember why we go to the rio. Now I'm ready to see my FRIENDS in the Rio and crank up that shore-powered A/C. That is until we get the delicious trade winds blowing on us out here again and the sea turns turquoise - then I want to stay in the islands forever!
Island water highway tree tunnel to the next little bay

another little channel cut
We're now back in French Harbor after our little trip up-island. After leaving Port Royal, we spent some time in Calabash Bight before coming back here. Along the shore of the island the residents have cut channels between the bights (bays) so that they can travel by motor boat without going out onto the rougher ocean. This makes for faster, safer travel. We took our dinghy through these channels and went exploring all the way down to the "big" town of Oak Ridge.

This sleepy little water-front town used to have a bustling shrimp industry in days past. The old concrete buildings have been torn down, but the residential houses remain and mostly right over the water!

Water front general store
We found the on-the-water grocery store and made some necessary purchases of fruits, veggies and salty snacks. For a water-front community, having all the stores along the channel makes perfect sense as most folks travel by boat.

It was one of those Hallmark holidays "Mother's Day" and this little shop happened to have some beautiful purple Old Navy brand rubber flip-flops - the perfect gift for the cruising mom. My old ones had almost worn through the bottoms. I just feel so special in my new purple shoes!

After spending a few days in the tranquility of this remote part of the island of Roatan, we thought it was time to head back to civilization. Oh, and our water pump on the big 'ole Perkins engine in the boat had sprung a leak. Dang.
So we headed back to French Harbor here and Jonesy got busy on the internet to find a replacement pump for this 20+ year old engine. Found it, had it shipped air-express to Roatan from the USA. The shipping costs were almost as much as the part itself- but it was worth every penny as we are now ready to tackle our passage to Guatemala in just a few days. We are looking at a good weather window which coincides with the high tide we need to cross over the sandbar at the entrance to the river.

KNITTING: It's been all about socks. I've had a wonderful few weeks simply knitting socks for the kids at the Akkol and Uruprinka orphanages in Kazakhstan. Just for fun, I added a little treasure pocket to this blue pair. Then I tucked a tiny little Honduran coin into it for good luck too. To keep the pocket secure I later added a button closure. Then, I just had to do it again on the next pair of socks!

This pair of striped socks are for demonstration purposes for my up-coming sock class I'll be teaching this July in Oregon. I have knitted one complete sock, then just the leg of the second sock. This is where I will demonstrate the knitting of the heel. See? It's all ready to go.

Because one of the pairs I finished up this past couple of weeks  is a new design of mine which won't be released until this fall, I can only show you a little bit of the beautiful yarn used. This blue and green yarn was a gift from my recent boat guest. Now it is a completed pair of new socks and is also being used in a new pair I'm knitting now as one of the colors in a stranded-knitting design.

Ahhhh...the sun is out and the wind has come up again from the east - the wonderful Caribbean trade winds. Jonesy has already gone up to sit in the outside cockpit and soak up the breeze. This is the view of Little French Key that we see from the boat. I'm off too....

Wednesday, May 16, 2012


Night terrors

Why did Jonesy wear an LED headlight to bed? Why did he hide the banana in one of the kitchen drawers?

I awoke the other night to Jonesy doing a flapping dance in the salon. He was chasing a bat, a little brown fruit bat who had ventured inside our boat. This little guy flew down the hatch right over our stateroom berth - past Jonesy's face and was heading towards the galley to find the banana.

Yep, it worked. The headlight that is. Jonesy was once again awoken by the fluttering of the fruit bat and turned on his light. Ah -ha! Busted! The bat left (probably in sheer terror). Yes, I'm sure it wasn't a vampire bat, Jonesy. Even though they do exist down here in the tropics, you would have had blood dripping from your face from the anti-coagulant. We've had problems with fruit bats before when we had bananas on board down in Panama, remember? Now just go back to sleep.

Saturday, May 12, 2012


Up-Island in Roatan

Niki Wiki on a mooring and dinghy in Port Royal, Roatan
Demo socks for class and Akkol
Hello! We have internet! It's expensive and is pay-by-the-hour so we won't be trolling FB or posting emails, but we just had to blog!

We caught the short pause in the trade winds and were able to motor up-island to the eastern end of Roatan. Whoo hooo - new territory for us! The seas were smooth and it was a pleasant little 2 hour trip up to Port Royal. Well, that is after we turned around and captured our dinghy which had decided to go on it's own sea cruise. Just as we passed the reef at the exit of French Key Harbor, the painter (rope) that was towing our dinghy broke. Luckily we noticed it right away and were able to turn around. Masterful steering by Jonesy and quick reactions by Terry to grab the long boat hook resulted in a successful dinghy rescue operation. We are always nervous when towing the dink behind us rather than lifting it up out of the water and onto the davits (pulley and bracket system) on the back of the boat. The polypropylene rope had simply shattered at a splice. The splice held, but at the point where the end of the splice met the rest of the rope it gave way.

We picked up a free mooring which is generously provided to cruisers by the Mango Creek Lodge. The owners of this beautiful eco-resort, Patrice and Terry, invited us to spend some time at the resort and we had some great discussions about world-wide cruising and the politics of the island. One evening we purchased a lovely lobster and fish dinner then stayed for a rousing game of Mexican Train Dominoes with Patrice and another cruiser who was passing through. It was like a mini vacation! We enjoyed the peace and quiet of the eastern end of the island where there are no roads and no noisy tourist facilities. The snorkeling was fantastic as expected and the breezes enabled the sock knitting marathon to continue.

1-100_1580The socks above are another pair of demo socks for my upcoming July sock knitting class in Philomath, Oregon (more details to come). The white parts are the "in-class" working areas and the self-patterning yarn is the homework. These, as almost all of my finished warm projects will be sent to the kids in Kazakhstan at the orphanages through the Motherless Child Foundation.

Wood carving on door in Honduras Check out these wood carvings which are on the doors of the rooms in the Mango Creek Lodge - aren't they beautiful? The original artist has now passed away so these are real treasures. I have shared just a couple of these with you here, but there are many, many more carvings on doors, bed headboards, mirror frames, and furniture throughout the resort. I love how the wood changes colors too.

1-100_1569 And here's another pair of socks knit during this time. As I was sitting in the cockpit I looked towards shore and suddenly realized that the yarn colors that I was using in these socks were the same Caribbean pastels that were also used to paint each of the over-the-water cabins of Mango Creek Lodge! Great minds think alike. So I just had to get a photo of one of the socks in the gardens behind the pink cabin (the one that we insist on calling "salmon" because the guys don't like to even think that it's pink.)

1-100_1589 Yep, still have to darn in those loose ends on the second sock. But fortunately there are a lot less than a knowledgeable knitter would expect because I cheated and used some self-striping yarns for some of the color changes. The tiny scallops on the cuff is a little experiment of mine. I've been looking at crochet edgings and thinking about how to replicate them in knitting because I do like the look of them. Another pair of monstersocks (artistically(?) knit from leftover assorted sock yarns) for the kids of Kazakhstan

1-100_1566 These are the over-the-water cabins at Mango Creek - and that's Jonesy in our dinghy zooming to shore. So after a few days up-island in Port Royal, we decided to drift back west again. The safe cruising season is coming to a close in early June so we need to get moving towards our summer camp at Mario's Marina in the Rio Dulce of Guatemala.

This short 1 hour trip was a little rougher than the last one. The seas were about 4 feet, lumpy and bumpy, but at least they were coming from behind us so it wasn't uncomfortable. We made it to within 50 yards of the narrow opening in the barrier reef to Calabash Bight when our naughty dinghy went walkabout again! Unfortunately this time we were in very shallow water with the wind and seas pushing the Niki Wiki and the quickly moving dinghy right into the reef! Much as we tried, we couldn't safely maneuver the big boat and hook the dinghy so I leaped from out and down from the deck and landed in the dinghy. No injuries!

Calabash Bight channel opening looking out to sea
Shamefully, it's now time for me to admit that I've never mastered the outboard motor. Nope. Jonesy handles all the transportation. If I'm always with him why do I need to learn? Well, because someday I may be in a situation where I'm sitting in a dinghy, in high seas, being quickly driven towards a reef. Much shouting (swearing) and frustrated arm gestures were exchanged between the two skippers of the Niki Wiki.  Jonesy had to throttle up the big boat engine to avoid going aground and he headed through the channel into the safety of the bay. I finally got my act together and zoomed ahead of him. Yes, the water was a beautiful teal blue but who cared at the time?

1-100_1584 After about a full minute I began to actually enjoy myself! What freedom and fun! I dinghy'd (get that? I dinghy'd) over to the mooring ball and thread my dinghy painter (rope) through the ring on top of the ball to wait for Jonesy. When he caught up with me, he tossed me the bow lines and I thread them through the ring on the ball. All safe.

After radioing the nice folks at the Turtlegrass Marina (where the cool people hang out) to let them know we had grabbed one of their free moorings, Jonesy got to work on the dinghy line. Yep. It had broken again but this time at the other end at the old splice. Lesson learned: Line breaks once - throw it out. Jonesy had another opportunity to make a boat repair in an exotic location. This time he used a new piece of line and carefully melted only the loose ends and not the main line when he sealed the splice.

I got to work making tacos with all the fixings for lunch, ate, then fell fast asleep for a long afternoon nap. Why? Because I could.

Saturday, May 05, 2012


Sailboat Sock Blockers

Socks, socks and mittens. That's been the excitement in these waters this past week. I've been merrily churning out warm goodies for the kids at the orphanages in Kazakhstan from the yarns that my guests brought down to me in March.

Notice the sailboat sock blockers? Those are my new treasures. I bought a set in Adult Medium and another set for the Adult Large socks that I make. The lace patterned socks especially need a good stretch to show detail, and I also like the crispness of a sock fresh off the blockers.  They are made from wood and have lovely finishing and can be purchased from Chappy's Fiber Arts and Crafts EBAY store.

This first pair is a simple knit with a self-patterning yarn. The next photo is a pair where I knit the leg and foot in black with the cuff, heel, and toe in a self-patterning yarn. These are a pair of socks to demonstrate parts of a sock for my upcoming sock knitting class in Oregon this July. Of course after the class these socks will be bundled up with whatever has been finished up to that point and sent off to the Motherless Child Foundation.

The obligatory foot over water shot taken from the boat
After anchoring out here in French Key Harbor for a few weeks we are ready to set sail and wander up-island a bit. The plan is to leave tomorrow (Sunday) or wait to Monday if the winds haven't settled down. Our plan is to anchor a spell in Calabash Bight and Port Royal - still on this island of Roatan. Hurricane season is approaching and we want to go-see-do in more natural places. Internet access will be spotty if at all.

A large part of my yarn goodie bag from my guests was some worsted weight alpaca, silk, and merino wool blend in assorted yummy colors! This yarn is incredibly soft - so I decided to match up the multi-plied "twists" with some solid colors and make mittens for the kids in Kaz. I actually got going on these because we had some very humid days and I couldn't knit on my wood needles which I use for socks. They were just so tacky/sticky and the stitches wouldn't slide. But the knitting must go on! So I whipped out my big sized metal needles and made these 2 pairs of adult sized mittens.
On a recent (hot) walk, we spotted these orchids blooming. The actual orchid plant is rather ugly, but the flowers are so lovely! I left my fingers in the photo so get an idea for the scale of these little blooms. When we get to see something special like this it makes getting our exercise worthwhile (other than the health benefits).

So off we go!

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