Wednesday, July 29, 2009


My dinghy almost got stolen. I guess I'll upgrade my security as one chain and two cables is not enough.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Dinghy security

A dinghy and outboard engine are very important to our life so we keep ours locked up tight. Too many dinghy engines get stolen each year here on the Rio Dulce to be lazy.

The mantra goes Lock it, Lift it or Lose it!

Someone could cut this off, but I'm sure they could find a softer target elsewhere.
3/8" chain and big locks secure the engine to dinghy and yacht.
Cables secure the bow and also connect to the dinghy engine.

New Windlass

Cutting holes for a windlass. The Atlantic 42 is composite epoxy with balsa core so when I cut the holes for the windlass I routed out about 3/4" of extra balsa core at the edges. The 3/4" space was filled with thickened West Systems epoxy. Once the epoxy cured I re drilled the bolt holes. By doing this one can ensure that water will not come in contact with the balsa core.
Maxwell RC-8 windlass with 150' of freshly galvanized 5/16" High Test "G4" chain. we brought the windlass down from Florida in two separate bags. This thing is heavy! Then we got lucky and found some chain here in the Rio Dulce that was just galvanized so now we have a windlass! To make room for the windlass we removed one of the A/C units. Seems silly to have any let alone two A/C units on cruising boat. It is nice when you are tied to a dock, but that's not in our budget and where we plan to go there are no docks.

We drank the water

We got sick. After a couple of weeks of drinking 3-4 liters a day to combat the heat and humidity we now suspect water here in the Rio Dulce has caught up with us.
Last week I took Kathy to the doctor with complaints of stomach problems. We got an excellent referral to Dr Francisco, now our de facto primary care physician here in Fronteras, Guatemala. Dr Francisco Arenales is actually a Surgeon so we feel we are in good hands for our trivial ailments.

Kathy was diagnosed with a easily treatable GI parasite likely from the water we've been drinking.

400Q: Consultation including extensive Ultra-sound

190Q: Lots of lab tests

65Q: Medication

655Q: Total or $82USD

Aside from the low cost compared to the USA, no appointment was necessary and the doctor friendly and not in any sort of hurry.

Today it was my turn as my stomach was killing for a second day in a row.

200Q: Consultation AND quick Ultra-sound

190Q: Extensive lab tests

65Q: Medication

455Q: Total or $56USD

Tomorrow, I get my results and we suspect the same little bug is causing the problem.

We are now drinking bottled water at 15Q or $1.88USD for a 5 gallon bottle. Another benefit of a catamaran is you can have a stand up water cooler and it won't tip over.

Time passages

4 years, 1 month, 22 days since I quit my job in Seattle.

2 years, 6 months, 23 days since Kathy and I met in New Zealand.

7 years more is the plan.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Rio Ducle Bridge

Our dinghy. Pretty sweet at 11' long with 25hp. Today we discussed installing two large chains one at the bow and one at the stern so we can lock her up tight at night. This past week at least one dinghy was stolen from a boat while the owners were asleep. The dinghy was even up on davits. The thieves cut the lines, lowered the boat to the water and made away without the owners waking up!
Rio Dulce Bridge. It seems pretty out of place in this remote jungle.

Rio Dulce

Kathy makes Huevos Rancheros from scratch. She even made the tortillas with a new tortilla press ! Yum.
View of the lake taken from the highway bridge shows the lush jungle with a few marinas.
Boardwalk to the bathrooms at Casa Perico a backpacker hostel on the Rio.
Dug out canoe with outboard show that times are changing quickly.
Hanging out at Casa Percio with some interesting travelers from around the world.

Local family fishing with a cast net. The kids paddle and dad expertly casts the net.

Main Street in Fronteras, Guatemala. This is two lane road (see the white line) that carries major commerce between Guatemala and point North. Parked cars, pedestrians, buses and semi-trucks and street venders weave through the chaos. There is no sidewalk so one needs to both look ahead and behind to reduce the risk of being run over.
A major break in traffic! You can actually see some road here!
No rules. Trucks, delivery guy and moped all mix it up.

Mar Marine one of the many marinas on the Rio Dulce at Fronteras. You can see LightSpeed just right of center.


Chris Parker of the Caribbean Weather center is very popular for boats cruising the Caribbean. Daily he provides voice weather forecasts via SSB radio. If you are a "sponsoring vessel" (i.e. you pay) you can speak with Chris directly about specific weather for your planned passage. For an additional fee you can also subscribe to daily weather forecasts via email. We find these services highly valuable.

Here is a typical forecast that we would receive via email:

Wx Update, W Caribbean, Fri17, 3p
8am graphical QuickScat: NW Caribbean ENE-E@10-15, except 15-22k S of
18N / no data SW Corner. SW Caribbean ENE@20-27, stronger E of 79W / W
Panama ENE@10-15 / E Panama NE@10-18 / widespread minimal GALEs off
Colombia, N of Cartagena to 13N.
NW Caribbean earlier clouds & showers & possible squalls dissipated. SW
Caribbean squalls S of 10N thru Panama into Pacific, and also within
120mi of CostaRica & Nicaragua S of 13N.
NW Caribbean...moderate ENE Trades become lighter gradually thru Tue21,
as RIDGE lifts N beginning today & TropicalWAVE #1 passes N of area
Sun19 onward. WAVE #2 approaches Thu23, but not certain how it may
impact area. Models disagree on evolution of RIDGE late next week as lots of questions Thu23 onward.
* *
N of W Cuba...moderate ENE Trades thru Sun19, then lighter but with a
few squalls as WAVE#1 passes.
* *
C Caribbean & Colombia...very strong Trades thru tomorrow morning, then
sub-GALE & decreasing each day thru Tue21, as WAVEs pass N of area. C
Caribbean may see MUCH stronger Trades (25-30k) & higher in squalls
Wed22 onward with WAVE#2, but Colombia may not increase much till Thu23,
E of WAVE#2.
* *
SW Caribbean...similar, but Trades fail to increase till Thu23, E of WAVE#2.
Mexico: mostly dry with only a few isolated squalls Tue21.
Belize/Honduras: random, isolated showers & mild-moderate squalls to
35k, but not much coverage.
Nicaragua: a few squalls to 40k today; drier tonight & tomorrow;
scattered squalls Sun19 afternoon thru Mon20, drier Tue21.
W Panama: plenty of scattered squalls thru Sun19 or Mon20, then only
isolated later Mon20 & Tue21.
E Panama: only random, isolated showers & squalls.
Mexico: 070@13 today; 060@10 tomorrow & Sun19, 050-deg Mon20, 7-10k Tue21.
Belize/Honduras, offshore: 080@15-20 today; 090@14 tomorrow; 060@13
Sun19; 050@10 Mon20 & Tue21.
SW Corner of NW Caribbean: mostly NE-E@15 thru tomorrow, then 10k.
Nicaragua: 060@25 today, 23k tomorrow; 045@20 Sun19; 050@16 Mon20, 15k
W Panama: mostly ENE@12-15 thru Sun19 morning; N-ENE@10 Sun19 onward.
E Panama: mostly NE@20 & gusty today, 15-20k tomorrow; NNE@15 Sun19,
12-15k thereafter.
Colombia, max wind near 12N/75W: 35k today, 31k tomorrow afternoon, 27k
late Sun19, 25k thereafter.
Just SW of Cartagena: mostly NE@15-20 thru tomorrow; W-NE@10-15 thereafter.
E of 74W: 25-30k thru tomorrow, 20k thereafter.
NW Caribbean: swells 4-6' (highest S of 18N)/8-9 sec from E-ESE thru
Sun19 then deceasing...while wind-chop runs 3-6' today, 2-4' tomorrow &
Sun19, 2-3' thereafter...highest S of 18N / lowest N of 20N.
SW Caribbean: 13'/9-sec from ENE thru tomorrow; 10' decreasing to
9'/8-sec Sun19; 7-8'/7-8 sec Mon20; 6-7'/7-sec Tue21. Coastal E Panama
subtract 2-3'. Near max wind 15-18' today, decreasing to 13' tomorrow,
10' Sun19, 8' thereafter. W of 81W: 11'/9-sec from ENE-E thru tomorrow,
9' Sun19; 7'/8-sec Mon20; 5'/7-sec Tue21.


Friday, July 17, 2009

Buying a foreign yacht and changing the flag.

A little on a boats registration. Each boat like each person has a nationalaity or "Flag". The owners/captain/boat need not share the same nationality as the boat. However, where one chooses to purchase, operate and store you boat can have a major impact on taxes. Thus, most of the mega yachts are registered in the Bahamas, Cayman islands or a number of other tax havens. For the average Joe it's simply not cost effective to pay high dollar attorneys to set up dummy corportaitons in offshore tax havens and then pay them yearly to maintaine the ruse.

As it turns out our new boat LightSpeed was registered in the Turks and Cacios Islands and owned by a corporation. Our first order of business was to disolve this relationship as quickly as possible as the attorneys that managed the corportation billed out at $300 an hour. OUCH! there was no way we wanted to pay ongoing yearly fees of $2-3K when we could register with the US Coast Guard for a one time fee of $100 with no ongoing costs.

So for this particular deal the purchase path of least resistance was to:
1). Do a stock transfer to obtain ownership of the corporation that owned the boat.
2). Deregister the boat in the Turks and Caicos Islands.
3). Direct the corportation to sell the boat to us as individuals.
4) . Registater the boat with the USCG (i.e. change the "Flag" to USA).
5). Disolve the corporation.
5). Make all this happen in a timely manner... Yeah, Right!!!

The problems we encountered:
1). Attorney that managed the corportaiton and purchase process made mistakes at every turn. It was like herding cats and then he had the gall to charge us for time to correct his own mistakes at $300 per hour!

Our perspective:
If you are a citizen or resident of the USA and will use the boat OUTSIDE USA state waters then the way to go is with a US Coast Guard Documentation. This is the gold standard for establishing chain of title and costs a little more than $100 to complete the paper work yourself. Ongoing costs are zero. Note: You will need to have any foreign "Bills of Sale" Apostillized (a Hight level Notary takes time and money).
If you plan to be in USA State waters (i.e Maryland) for more than 90 days watch out as the state could come after you for "Use" tax in the neighborhood of 6%. Ouch. And some states want you to pay tax the day you enter there waters (i.e. Florida) if you are not registered in any other state. No issue for us as we plan to be well away from the USA for quite a while. Registration is usually not too expensive, but use, excise or sales tax can really hurt.

Home Sweet Home

Happy to back home aboard our new sailing catamaran s/v LightSpeed after a hectic week of travel to Florida and back.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Traveling to Guatemala today

We are flying out to Guatemala today to head back to the boat. It was a good trip to Florida for some shopping and to show the boat to lots of prospective buyers.

While we were here we did a few maintenance projects on the boat like rebedding all the lifeline stanchions, painting the bilges and resealing the windows. We also took a core sample to verify it was in prefect condition.

We have a friend who is going to show the boat while we are away so all in all it was a great trip.

We even got a few offers on the boat... it shouldn't be long before we have another contract at our low offering price. It's tough having two boats so we are ready to sell Pacifica at this bargain price.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Bureaucracy times a million

So my USA passport is full. No big deal I'll just get some extra pages added. According to the official passport website I can do this up to three times and best of all it's a free service.

Problem #1 Regular service to do anything with a passport via mail is running out to 6 weeks. This is not going to work. Expedited service cost $60 and even this is not going to be fast enough.
Problem #2 All appointments at the Miami Passport office are booked out in excess of 2 weeks.
Catch 22 you have to have a flight in less than 2 weeks before you can schedule an appointment at the Passport office.
Call and call again: After a zillon calls and battle with a automated scheduling robot I get an appointment. Great it's almost too good to be true. Cause it was! I show up at the Miami office after a 1 hour drive and they say my appointment number is not valid. Opps the automated system scheduled me for an appointement in Seattle when I was in Miami.
Too late to do anthing else: We fly back to Honduras. I have to beg the immigration officers to stamp over and between other stamps in my passport. This baby is FULL. Then we go to Guatemala and then Honduras again. Now we are way beyond FULL.
Back in Miami 3 weeks later: We crush the automated scheduling system in to submission and obtain an appointment.
Show up at 8:30 for 9:00 Appt: Stand in line to get on elevator, stand in line to get through security, stand in line to make sure I'm allowed to be there. Take a number.
Now Serving number A081 at window 10: I get to the window and plead my case for some blank pages. Humm this takes three days. But, I don't have any pages left and I don't have three days. The country I'm flying to in under a Military Coup and and and... yeah whatever. I'll check with my supervisor.
OK that's $60 to expedite: What? $60 it's suposed to be free as in zero dollars. Umm $60 and I'll check with my supervisor to see if I can get a signature to get this done later today.
No cash check or charge: I'm screwed as I didn't bring any money or cards with me.
Umm can I borrow $60: I ask a guy in line next to me if I can borrow $60 I'll pay you right back...
Major karma at play here: He loans me the money!!!
Ok, Sir come back at 2PM: Come back in basicly 4 hours as that's how long it will take for us lame asses to do ablsoultley noting but stick some blank pages in your passport.
Back at 1:45: Wait in lines as mentioned before.
5:45 PM my name is called: Holy crap! It's now 4 hours AFTER my scheduled appointment and I finaly get my passport EXPEDITD that is for an extra $60!!!! This is major BS.
And this is the short verison of this story.
24 more pages to fill: I figure 3 years max and I'll be back in line.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Florida for a few days

We just flew into to Florida for a few days to show Pacifica our PDQ 39' sailing catamaran to a bunch of prospective buyers. While we're here we'll do a little shopping for boat parts and Dave will get extra pages added to his passport as it's totally full.

More pictures soon.

Sailing in Honduras

Tanker crossing our bow.
Inside helm on LightSpeed with a tanker a half mile ahead.
Puerto Escondido anchorage
Puerto Escondido anchorage in Honduras was beautiful and we even heard some howler monkeys.
Dave pondering the "set" of the spinnaker. Sailing along around six knots of boat speed with ten or eleven knots of true wind from almost dead astern.
Our friends on s/v Kitty Hawk anchored in some crystal clear waters.

Approaching the Sapadillos island group in Belize/Guatemala/Honduras. These islands are disputed between all three countries and thus open to visitors from any.
Kathy getting ready to drop the anchor... manually! This Atlantic 42 doesn't yet have a windlass so it's a pretty big job to set up and drop the anchor and back breaking work to raise anchor. We'll be installing a windlass very soon! Looks like a Maxwell RC10-8 with about 150' of 5/16" chain and a Rocna 55 pound anchor will be our primary anchor set up.