Saturday, September 28, 2013


Stepping Out in the Rio Dulce

Guatemalan hand weaving on loom
Because we are currently living in a small hotel room we need to search out places to eat. Breakfast is a no-brainer with cereal and bananas in the room, but we face a challenge for lunch and dinner. Fronteras (aka Rio Dulce) is a small town by most standards even if it is a once-a- week or monthly destination for the people living out in the rural areas. We have our choice of several restaurants, a handful of small open-air kitchens or street food.

Of course we can always eat right here in the Vista Rio Hotel and we often do! They are quite accomodating about my special gluten-free requests and I've had some great meals such as the pan-seared Robalo (snook) with veggies and baked potato last night and the cheese grits with my lunch the other day. But we like some variety and this is our opportunity to try out new things without having to take a dinghy ride first.

Someone suggested that we visit the air-conditioned (!!!) Suli Restaurant on the other side of the big bridge. So we paired up with Terri and David from s/v Sylvester (who are also staying here in the hotel while their catamaran is in the boat yard). We hailed a couple of Tuk-tuk motocycle taxis and rode up and over the largest bridge in Central America to the restaurant (about 65 cents a person for the ride).

Outside patio seating area Suli Restaurant
Restaurant Suli is nicer than we expected. Although the exterior facing the main road is simply concrete and glass, it's the food, and typical Guatemalan decor inside and behind the building that is nice - and clean. We have been experiencing a heat wave (heat index up over 100 degrees daily) so we chose a table inside where the A/C could give us some relief. We all ordered steak meals - either churrasco or lomito (grilled sirloin) with and w/o onion gravy (yes, of course Jonesy went for the gravy style). Unfortunately one person wanted theirs almost well done and in the translation it looks like we got the lomitos well done and the churrascos were perfect. The LARGE steaks were served in the typical Guatemalan style of this area with french fries, corn tortillas, salad, and coconut red beans and rice. Jonesy and I cleaned our plates! This was our splurge meal for the week - our share of the bill was Q240 including soft drinks and tip ($30 US).

On our walk today I HAD to stop at our friend's place and pick up a coconut to drink - it was so dang hot! For Q5 or about 65cents, Elicio slices off the top of a green coconut with his machete to access the coco water inside. He added a straw and I was a happy girl! Yes, I put a lime in the coconut when I got back to the hotel room where I had limes.
Fresh Coconut Water to go

Although our friend Elicio has problems with his legs, he gets around town on his homemade hand cranked wheeled chair and is always cheerful. We see him cranking along with firewood, coconuts, or simply warm tortillas in the back bed of his scooter to deliver back to his family. Going downhill towards town he simply coasts and flies right along. But going back home is tough!

Elicio lives in a typical extended family compound along the road we walk every other day. Some of the family members create rustic typical Guatemalan style furniture in an open-air, dirt-floored wood shop next to the house. Jonesy and I often admire some of the finished pieces. Dang. They just won't fit on a sailboat though. I love how they use the wood in its more natural state including all the knots and bumps. Some of the local woods are heavily colored with different shades of tans, browns and almost blacks in the same piece of lumber. Very nice.

Usually the family makes tables, chairs and headboards for beds, but check out this photo of a "liquor tree" for storing and displaying all your bottles booze. I think it's a hoot! I can see this in my son Brett's home. But alas, it's the getting it there that is the problem.

Liquor Tree Guatemalan Style
Yes, when I'm not eating or walking I'm usually knitting. I've managed to finish up one of the pairs from the last post which were about half done and have also started and finished another pair. Both of these are mixed-up monster socks from leftovers. I've worked through all of the yarn that I thought to pack for our 2 weeks in the hotel. But it looks like we'll be here yet another week.

Work is progressing on the boat but it's just a big boat. Finally, the whole bottom has the first few complete layers of gel coat with more to go. All of the blisters have been repaired so it's looking so much better!

In the meantime, I've started back to knitting on a lace-weight scarf with some lavendar alpaca yarn until I can get back to the boat. There I'll have to brave the ladder up to the boat to grab some more sock yarns.
2 more pairs for Kazakhstan

Have you seen the crowd-funding website Indiegogo?  It's an international micro-financing tool for small businesses who need a boost. It must be hard, if not impossible for small businesses or even individuals to get needed funding these days. Some of the requests are neat - others are totally goofy, but it's fun to be able to help out folks.

I've lightly helped out two yarn related enterprises (small contributions because we are on a tight/fixed income but I donate some of my funds from the sales of my patterns). First I supported a campaign by Fox Fibre to repair farm equipment to help them continue to develop and produce naturally colored cotton yarns. This farm is in the Copay Valley of northern California which has lot of small family farms. I love that area - and I love naturally colored cotton.

Then I came across Anzula Luxury Yarns in Fresno California who are looking to install real Air Conditioning in their old warehouse yarn dyeing production area. Fresno without A/C? That's cruel!! I'll do my little part to help out fiberly people who just want to get me a better product for my yarn addiction. Wouldn't YOU?

Sunday, September 22, 2013


On the 'Hard" in the Rio Dulce

Dry docking at Abel's boat yard Rio Dulce
We're "on the hard", in dry-dock, "hauled out", out-of-the-water (or whatever you call it) in Abel's boat yard on the Rio Dulce. It's been many years since we last performed the routine maintenance of slapping on a fresh layer of anti-fouling paint on the bottom so it is simply time to bite the bullet and do it. Also, our insurance company requires us to have the boat surveyed by a professional periodically and Jonesy wanted to do a couple of repairs.

Hauling out is EXPENSIVE, inconvenient and the logistics are a nightmare. Terry has to be back from playing in the states to help, the yard has to commit to a date when they have space and labor crew available, the hotel has to have a room for us, and Jonesy has to have all the parts and materials ready. Remember, the boat is our home so we had to pack everything that we thought we might need for being away for an undertermined length of time. Why pack? Because take a look at the ladder we have to climb to retrieve things from the boat - and there's no A/C once you're inside that hothouse!
View from our room at Vista Rio

The expense part is already recognized in our cruising budget, and Jonesy is a pro at managing the logistics, but there's no good way past the inconvenience of living in a hotel for a couple of weeks. Sure, I don't have to cook (yippeee!) but being gluten-free is tough when you need to eat out for most meals.

Blisters in the fiberglass hull
Of course there's an upside to our new temporary lifestye. We get to experience life in a friendly and funky hotel on the river and are getting to better know some folks we've only seen at parties or casually passing in town before now. There's a whole different social scene here at the Vista Rio Hotel and Marina than at Mario's Marina where we have been docked and it's been fun getting to know folks.
Jonesy has gone to the boat yard every day not only to work on his own projects, but also to manage the work being done by others on the boat's bottom. See, we had blisters in the fiberglass below the waterline. This is not a new or unusual problem
Jonesy on Tijax nature walk
for older boats in general or for our boat in particular. The solution is labor intensive which is what makes it expensive and requires a long stay in the yard. Thankfully, labor is quite reasonable in Central America.

Yesterday was World Peace Day and Hacienda Tijax Jungle Lodge and Marina extended an invitation to all to come and celebrate (with a shaman?) in the tower on their nature reserve. Apparently there were different types of celebrations, get-togethers, pray-ins or whatever taking place around the world. Of course we went! The first part of the trail was over swing bridges which were suspended over a wetland type of jungle. Yes, I know the picture is blurry - it's tough to get a photo in the dark shadows of a jungle when the bridge is bouncing from all of the people walking on it.

The next series of elevated walkways were much higher off the ground. No photos. I had to concentrate on not falling off! It was beautiful! I'd like to return and just spend some time sitting on the walkways and looking at the life in the tree canopy. After a moderate climb on a well-manicured gravel trail we reached the top of the hill. The view is fabulous! Here's me with a background of the Rio Dulce (river) towards our hotel and the town of Fronteras/Rio Dulce.
Terry in the Tijax tower

We skipped the ceremony part (just not our thing) and as the sun slipped behind the distant mountains we headed down on the faster (roadway) route back to the hotel and our little launcha. What a great way to spend an afternoon. So now when I vie for the Miss USA title I can honestly say that I have actively participated in promoting world peace - right?

Back in the hotel room we discovered that the water had been turned off due to a pipe leak at the water pump for the well. That's life in Guatemala, you just roll with the various outages and be thankful for the modern conveniences when they do work. We (thankfully) turned on the cable TV (whooo hooo!) and enjoyed a few English language shows...and I knit.
Monster Socks

For this hotel stay period I have been working on Monster Socks made with wild combinations of leftover yarns. These pairs are knit mostly from yarns donated to me by the campers from Meg Swanson's Knitting Camp last year (thanks Leanne! and Al). Yes, they are all different but they all have one thing in common...a secret pocket! I'm experimenting with different methods to insert little pockets on my socks. I've made several before but all used the same method. This current batch has 3 more different kinds of pockets just for fun.

Why am I not working on designing something more
Yellow Bamboo clump at Vista Rio Hotel
interesting? Because I was not seeing well this past week - couldn't use Excel or read - but I can practically knit plain socks by feel.

Last Wednesday I suddenly couldn't see much out of my right eye!!! Just black swirls and my entire field of vision was covered in a dark grey filmy speckled pattern. Thankfully it was the one day of the week when an Opthomologist comes to town and I got in to see him. No big was a "Posterior Vitreous Detatchment" and possible a little bleeding into the eye "gel". He said it would clear up in a few weeks...and it already is much better. It sucks getting old, but it's better than the alternative and life is good.

Sunday, September 15, 2013


BIG Yellow bug

Yellow bug with black spots
Oh yeah. This is one big yellow bug we found this week while out on our walk. How big? Well, as I was jumping and squealing because the bug kept hop/flying while I was trying to take a picture of it, a local gal calmly picked it up so I could get the next photo which shows it's size. What - about 3 inches?

The wings had a soft yellow-green powderly-looking iridescence on them which was lovely in the bright sunshine. After harassing him a bit, we all left him alone to continue on his merry way. Anybody have a clue as to what he is? I think it's a beetle of some sort.

Yes. I'm back in Guatemala on the boat but not for long! Tomorrow
BIG yellow bug with black spots in Guatemala
morning we will throw off the dock lines and motor a couple of miles up-river to the boat yard. It's time for a complete dry dock professional survey of the boat (for insurance purposes and peace-of-mind) and we need to address a problem with our rudder. We'll be staying in a room at the Vista Rio hotel on the river for at least a week and maybe more.

It's been 5 years since we had anti-fouling paint applied to the bottom of the boat so we'll also have that done as long as we're out of the water. We are so pleased with the performance of our current bottom paint (Petit Super Premium) that we special ordered more from the USA and paid to have it shipped down here
to Guatemala. Pricey - over $1000 in paint and shipping. But the paint that was applied when we first bought the boat was so ineffective that we had complaints from the folks who scrubbed our bottom so we know how much trouble cheap paint can be. These past few years, the combination of the better paint and being in the Caribbean has meant that Jonesy and I have been able to dive the bottom and clean it ourselves with very little effort. (Except in dirty Cartegena Colombia which grows barnacles on boats so fast they have to be scraped every 2 weeks!)

And...the refrigerator and freezer stopped cooling. Jonesy figured out it was because we have a bad battery in our bank of 4 so the fridge wasn't getting enough voltage. These batteries are powered by 5 130-watt solar panels (total of 650 watts). So he took a set of batteries off the bank and we are doing fine on just 2. After 3 years of continuous service, we now need to replace all 4 batteries (like about another thousand bucks). It's's budgeted.

Here's another pair of socks that I knit from Opal Magic yarn out of Germany. I didn't bother to match the self-patterning of the yarn after I found the first knot which was a good thing because there was a second knot down in the skein. Both knotted areas disrupted the patterning. But these will still keep a teenager's feet warm in Kazakhstan.

This past Wednesday I had a sudden disruption in my vision in my right eye! All of us old folks have had the occasional "floater" in our eyes, but what I had this time obscured my complete field of vision with black swirls that broke up into bands of black dots that looked like flocks of birds - or dry powder dye dissolving in a dye bath solution for yarn! It was painless and frightening. Well, luck would have it that Wednesday is the day that the ophthamologist comes for afternoon appointments in the small town of Rio Dulce. We called and got me right in. I've had a "Posterior Vitreous Detachment" which may have also had a little bleeding.
Caprese Salad a la Carol

No big worries - the retina is fine. But it will be a while before my vision clears up. The doctor's fee? Well, that was 150Q - or about twenty bucks total for an in-depth exam and detailed explanation in English.

I don't see well enough to read much or work in Excel to chart out knitting patterns, so I have been doing a lot of plain sock knitting which I can do even with my eyes closed. So, the kids in Kazakhstan will benefit at least! for a little food porn. Check out these beautiful Caprese Salads that my friend Carol made for us in Oregon. Those red, yellow, purple-black and green slices are all tomatoes from her garden! Each variety tastes so different too! My favorite for taste are the Russian Black Crims, but they are also a little ugly. The fresh mozzarella cheese and touch of olive oil and seasonings made this a culinary delight! Humph. Now I'm back in Guatemala where they sell only one type of tomato (Roma) in the vegetable stands. No complaints really - I'm glad to have such fresh and inexpensive vegetables available.
McDonalds Guatemalan Traditional Breakfast

Where we are is about 6 hours east of Guatemala City down in the jungles by the Caribbean Sea. But flights from the USA go into Guatemala City so I spent a day there shopping before riding the bus down to the Rio Dulce when I returned from Oregon. When I was out to dinner with friends from s/v Lively Lady who were also staying at the same hotel (Las Torres) we got to ride out the bumps and rolls of an earthquake. Just another day in a geologically active area.

One of my traditions if I'm visiting the big city is to enjoy a "Traditional Breakfast" from McDonald's! You will recognize the sausage patty and the scrambled eggs, but the other tasty portions are 2 warm corn tortillas, pureed black beans with a slice of fresh cheese, fried plantanos (similar to banana), mild salsa and "creama" (a runny not-so-sour cream).  As I can't eat wheat this meal is the perfect treat! Oh, you'll also see sugar there for my coffee which comes with the meal. They always give lots of sugar here in Guatemala. But wait for this....

The McCafe coffee salon!!!
McCafe Guatemala City
Attached to many of the McDonald's restaurants here in Guatemala are McCafes! Here you can find comfortable group lounge type seating and buy pastries to go with your coffee which is served in china cups. There is even a stand-along McCafe in the Oakridge Mall where you can be served your espresso drink with a seasonally appropriate swirl in the top foam.

McCafe Guatemala City
Yep. This is McDonald's and the coffee is delicious. Not just coffee but the whole assortment of coffee and tea beverages. I saw a sign advertizing McCafe on a McDonald's up in Oregon so I stopped to go inside. What they meant there was that they served coffee drinks and other smoothy style sweet drinks. Their "cafe" was simply the equipment set up to make these drinks - nothing more.

But if you are ever visiting Guatemala (and you really should for a 1000 reasons) and you see a sign for a McCafe these photos show you what you can expect. It's more like a Peet's or a Starbucks! They have interesting art on the walls and I've even seen a fireplace in the cafe in zone 9.

McCafe Guatemala City
The pretty young Guatemalan girl is hiding back in the corner of the photo of the counter. She was shy. Anyway, the photos are from the McDonald's in zone 10 on Calle 13. Maybe I should, you know, to document and expand general knowledge, go out and visit all the McDonald's McCafe's? Then, of course I should sample all the beverages too, and sit and knit. What do you think? How about joining me!

And I'll say it is good.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013


Eradication by Mastication and the FLAK

3 qts Wild (invasive and delicious) Blackberries
Eradication by Mastication - that certainly is a mouthful isn't it?

What it means is to work at getting rid of invasive species of plants and animals by eating (chewing) them! I did it and I'm still alive and didn't get sick. See, if suddenly everyone wants to eat delicious dandelions from their neighbors' yards then this weed would disappear from the suburbs. Anyway, that was the idea behind a fun fundraising event I attended in Oregon which was organized by the Institute for Applied Ecology.

Yep. In a lovely outdoor setting, we were served a Greek Spanakopita made with phyllo dough and cheese, but with dandelion greens instead of the usual spinach, wild boar sausages, braised wild turkey, potato salad with frog's legs, crayfish appetizers, and a yummy Himalayan blackberry cobbler for dessert - all invasive in the Oregon environment. Hmmm...there were blackberries growing along my friend's driveway so a few days later I grabbed a couple of containers and started picking (and eating) and freezing the bounty to do my part. Of course there was a lot of mastication of berries topped by greek yogurt going on in the days that followed. Here's a link to a short video of the event (the party, not me picking or eating blackberries) that was on the Wall Street Journal website.

FLAK sweater
While I performed ecologically correct eating in Oregon, back in the jungles of Guatemala Jonesy supervised the
He also 
  • Cleaned all the icky green battery terminals down in the cramped bilge
  • Removed the anchor windlass motor - had it rebuilt - and reinstalled it
  • Rewired the anchor windlass
  • Installed new deck foot switches for the anchor windlass (step on the buttons for raising or lowering the heavy anchor. The new ones have covers on them so we don't scare ourselves or guests when we accidently step on the the dang things)
  • Repaired kitchen faucet, reset the sink in the counter, and installed a new splashguard behind the sink. 
  • Replaced several Shade Tree Awning fiberglass rod segments which broke during storms
  • Replaced reading light in the forward V-berth with an LED one for the pleasure of our guests
  • Hosted the VHF Radio Rio Dulce Cruisers' Net on Wednesday mornings
Zipper closure on FLAK
After many years of hibernation and sporatic knitting, my Follow the Leader Aran Knitalong (FLAK) cabled sweater is done! I wasn't real happy with the zipper until a fiber friend came over and gave me the great advice to sew an additional line of stitching closer to the placket edging. Voila! The placket hugged the zipper and the inside has a much more finished appearance. My goal was to make this a unisex style sweater so that it would be acceptable to either a boy or girl which is why I modifed my original plan for a cardigan into this zipper/placket combination.

For this project I used Knit Picks Wool of the Andes (100% peruvian wool) in the "rain" color (color discontinued). This sweater, along with all of the sock and mitten knitting that I've done and have collected from the other sailboat cruising knitters Jackie, Celine, and Jan has all been mailed to the Motherless Child Foundation. This November the founder of the organization will be personally transporting and delivering these and literally hundreds of other items to the orphanages in Kazakhstan. So if you happen to spot a misplaced cable twist or other error in the photos don't tell me! It's gone and there's nothing I can do about it now!

Sunday, September 01, 2013


Summer Produce

Food Bank donation
I'm sure that this abundance of fresh, organic produce looks familiar to folks who have gardens - what a bounty. I've been harvesting so many different types of tomatoes, squash, beans, lettuce mix, and kale from my friend Carol's garden this past few weeks. I've made 2 deliveries of about 30 pounds each of goodies to the local Food Bank. The prices in the stores and farmers' markets for produce, and especially organic stuff is SCARY up here in the states! Hopefully some people were able to enjoy these veggies who would otherwise not have any.

Chicken veggie soup
Of course I've been doing my best to eat up this bounty too. What a great life here for me...I show up in Oregon to a garden that is ready for harvest and I get to have wonderful meals. Here's some chicken vegetable soup I enjoyed for several days while catching up on my reading. We only get our mail about twice a year so I had a nice stack of knitting magazines to keep me occupied. 

Master Knitting Level 1 swatch
Speaking of knitting - my submission of works to The Knitting Guild Association for Level 1 of the Hand Knitting Masters program has been accepted with no resubmits (resubs are often required for improvement or correction of technique)! Yippeee! That means that I only have 2 more levels to produce to have "TKGA Master Knitter" bragging rights.

Here's a photo of one of the many swatches that were required for the program in addition to a report on blocking of knits and answers to questions about techniques. That hardest part for me was getting organized! There is a specific format for the submission and some of the questions were about what I did when knitting the swatches. So things had to be knit in a specific order. I used my trusty friend MS Excel to keep a check off list of the requirements and my status towards completion of each of them.

Yes, I have already signed up for the Level 2 work and will start that when I return to the boat in Guatemala.  I'm not much fun on the boat (from Jonesy's perspective) when I'm working on the program because I have to concentrate and research each topic to provide references ( IS work but work well worth the final accreditation). There's just too much other stuff to do right now up here in Oregon on my "vacation" from the cruising life.

Dogs walking in the Opal Creek forest
Like what besides harvesting and eating you might ask? I took a drive up to an old-growth forest to hike with the dogs in a natural setting where no logging has ever taken place. This is the land over which activists protested for many years and protection of the spotted owl was invoked. The Opal Creek Ancient Forest is now protected and is a real treasure.

I let the dogs do their doggy-sniffing activity along all the spots where other dogs had left "sign" for the first mile. For them this was the E-ticket portion of the adventure, and after all, I was there to give them some fun too. I believe this took about an hour. We then picked up the pace and covered some territory before coming up to a stunning little waterfall into a crystal clear pool. I'm sure that the dogs weren't impressed because they couldn't get in that water. But there were plenty of opportunities for them to get wet later.

Opal Creek Ancient Forest
After a few hours, we turned around and headed back down to the car. This return trip was faster because we didn't stop for sniffing. Walking outside in an open, natural area is so refreshing. There aren't a mess of distractions so you can actually let your mind wander as your feet do the same. Well, yes, my mind does tend to wander anyway wherever I am but that's a different kind of inattention now isn't it?

The tired doggies not only slept all the way home in the car, but crashed on their doggie beds right after eating their dinners too. I was relieved from toy-tossing duties that night for once! Seeing as these gals are used to being walked long distances every day, I've been exercising them by tossing their toys outside and letting them retrieve them. They run around, I stand in one for me. Yes, I walk them too, but I'm a slower walker and I don't cover the distances that their two "peoples" do for them.
Lucky checks out old mining equipment at Opal Creek

Fiber, fiber everywhere...I have visited two fairs in the last few weeks. First I went to the Benton County Fair to pet all the sheep and alpacas and view the handicraft competitions. Last week I drove up to Salem to see the Oregon State Fair to do the same. I saw lots of different sheep; navajo-churro, shetland, corriedale, and more. I just love to stick my fingers in through their fleeces and poke all the way to the skin to see how deep it is. It's always greasy feeling as unwashed wool should be.

But wait, there's more fiberly fun! I was invited by a friend here to attend the opening of the (Sur)face Forward: an Exhibit of Contemporary Surface Design for textiles in Corvallis. It was wonderfully inspiring! The colors and textures and innovation in the works activated my creative brain circuitry. I have already started a new knitting design which incorporates some fo the novel things I saw combined with an article I just finished reading in Cast On Magazine (from TKGA).
Lucky loves to look over cliffs - too scary!

Then, on the same night, I stopped by the meeting of the Marys River Quilt Guild because I had seen a notice in the paper that they were meeting and had a special guest speaker. The speaker, Diane Bishop, owns the quilt shop Ladies of Liberty Quilts and spoke about Civil War Era quilting. Not only did she speak, but she shared many examples with us. I love the warm colors of that era.

So the Marys River Quilt ladies were a group of friendly people! After I introduced myself as a guest (including where I was from), I was asked if I was the "SailingKnitter"! What fun! Sharon H. (Hi!) is currently knitting one of my sock patterns from Six Sox Knitalong Yahoo Group. (Sharon, the name we couldn't remember is "Soxie"). It's so nice to have more fiberly friends!

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