Saturday, January 30, 2010

Belize CIty and Caye Caulker

Fishing boats at Belize City. Imagine being one of six crew to live aboard one of these vessels for weeks at a time. These boats are typically about 25' long and the majority of the interior is a fish hold! When it's time to set sail visualize 6 fiberglass canoes stacked on deck. And to top it off they still manage to raise sail and navigate these boats to the fishing grounds near the outer atolls 40 plus miles offshore.
Kathy working out arrangement details with a Belize city florist.
Typical, view from the windward (East) side of Caye Caulker
Local artisans showcase island themed works
Typical dock on the windward side. In local lingo this is called a 'bridge'.

Agave Restaurant. Location of our wedding reception dinner.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Warranty Repairs

January 28, 2010

Location: Caye Caulker, Belize

Today was a Warranty Repair paperwork day. It was interesting to interact with three different companies and experience their customer service

Several problems require Warranty repair.

Icom M802 marine SSB radio (early production has know defect)
Company: Icom America.
Service: Response was almost instantaneous (less than 20 minutes via email).
Message: Send it in we will fix it no problem. We will do it quickly.
Rating: 5 stars.

Spectra Catalina 300 water maker (Clark Pump)
Company: Spectra
Service: Great once dialog was established which took 3 days for a response. Then very happy with solid answers and timely follow up.
Message: We will get you a replacement and be sure to ship it to you quickly.
Rating: 4-1/2 stars.

ACR Nauticast B AIS transponder
Company: ACR Electronics
Service: Less than 24 hours response time, and solid tech trouble shooting advice.
Message: We don't believe you. Bring it in and we will test it to prove our point? Wish they valued my business more and would replace broken device as I spent many thousands on their products.
Rating: 3-1/2 stars.

More follow up as things develop.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Flee Market

We did a little spring cleaning yesterday and this afternoon took in a suitcase full of stuff to sell for pennies on the dollar or give away. We set up shop along the main waterfront street and enjoyed brisk trade over the lunch hour. We also sold a old air conditioner to another cruiser today which really helped lighten the load. I'm super happy to have that 5o + pound A/C unit off the boat and now we are floating an inch higher on our starboard side.

The key to a fast catamaran is keeping her light or at least not overloaded with gear you don't really really need.
Lazy Lizard Bar at the Split (North end of South Island at Caye Caulker)
Lazy Lizard waterfront bar also a good spot to go snorkeling.

Caye Caulker walk

Lazy Lizard Bar water seating.
Caye Caulker anchorage
Lobster traps.
Economy dock building methods make me smile.
Agave Restaurant

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Wedding preparations

January, 26, 2010

Location: Caye Caulker, Belize.

We pretty much have the wedding details finalized after making a few adjustments.

Sunset wedding is planned for the dock at Iguana Reef Inn around 5:20PM as the sun sets at 5:52PM local on Valentines Day. Ceremony will be short and sweet and we just met with the very nice man whom will be conducting the ceremony. Coincidentally his name is Valentino.

The reception is planned for Agave which is a pretty major change from our original idea of using Bamboo. We decided we would feel more comfortable with Agave as it has better weather protection should it be a windy or rainy evening.

Spent the last few breakfasts meeting with the owner of Agave to work out details and evening meetings with the chef of Agave to sample the food. We decided on a time tested fresh garlic and butter 10oz lobster tail with an accompaniment of subtle coconut rice and steamed vegetables. For the non-seafood eaters we have a tequila lime chicken breast served with grilled potatoes and steam vegetables. To start things off a colorful Caribbean style green salad with a BBQ mango dressing. We individually tasted six different dressing and are sure you'll love this one. Nothing too fancy, but the lobster lovers are in for a treat.

This AM we walked the perimeter of the island looking for flower gardens that might offer cuttings to adorn our dinner tables. Next we will make the rounds and ask permission to harvest some of these tropical wonders. After a solid and fast walk we enjoyed a well earned breakfast that even included cinnamon rolls.

I gained a new flip flop induced blister on my big toe today to go next to the one I earned yesterday. It seems we've been up and down this island at least 10 times with all the walking to accomplish our wedding planning. I even changed to a different pair of flips today, but 5 or 6 miles in the sand is tough on the toes. Tomorrow I'll need to break out another pair to shift the rub spots to a slightly different spot. Ahh the trials of island life.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Arrived Caye Caulker

January 23, 2010

Location Caye Caulker, Belize
Position: 17* 44' N 88* 01'W
Nautical miles sailed YTD: 594

Beautiful two hour sail from San Pedro to Caye Caulker in 12-13 knots apparent with boat speeds between 8 and 9 knots and zero waves. Sailing behind the barrier reef in light trade winds sure is fun.

Battling with the local phone company for three hours this morning was not so fun. Yesterday I bought a cell phone that I was sold to believe was the perfect solution to connect my computer for Internet access while here in Belize. The phone was not cheap at $185 BZD with monthly Internet only service costing $130 BZD (total of $172.50USD). The problem was that the sales rep sold me load of bullship and when I returned the next morning he was sultry and unwilling to replace, upgrade or make a refund. Shocking to have a sales person lie to your face endlessly and exhibit zero customer service skills. In the end I got my money back, but not without great amounts of cajoling, many many calls to customer service and long hours sitting in 'Smart' cell phone shop. I guess that's all part of the fast paced big city life of San Pedro (only kidding, San Pedro is tiny)

Happy to be back in Caye Caulker... little seems to have changes. And in comparison Caye Caulker Village is super small and so much more laid back than San Pedro.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Fishing off Honduras

Mahi Mahi that Kathy caught and landed 100% on her own. Congrats for a job well done!
Kathy shows off the 15 pounds of shrimp we bartered for with shrimp fishermen at the Vivorillos. These are tails only.
Hog Fish. One of our favorites.
Big Eye tuna? Perhaps, someone can zero in on the exact species and drop us an email.
A Boobie that circled the boat so many times I got out my Canon Digital SLR for this pic as the bird prepared to land on deck.

Belze phone number

January 22, 2010
Location: San Pedro, Belize

Belize Cell is: (501) 631-8788 Edit: January 26 to correct number.

Arrived safely in San Pedro, Belize and successfully checked in with Customs and Immigration. Caught up with some friends from Panama whom just opened a dive shop here in San Pedro.

For those of you coming to the wedding who want to get dive certified please drop us an email to David at as we can set up some group rates.

Tomorrow we sail down to Caye Caulker to get the wedding details sorted out.

A big thank you to everyone who is flying down to Belize we are excited to see you.

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(no subject)

January 22, 2010 4AM
Position: 17°27' N 087°15' W
YTD: 570 nautical miles

Underway from Guanja, Honduras (Bay Islands) to San Pedro, Belize with about 7 hours to go putting us in around 10:30AM.

We are just rounding the North end Lighthouse reef home to the world famous Blue Hole.

With 150 nautical miles from Guanaja to San Pedro we departed Guanaja in the afternoon under clear blue skies and 15 knots of ESE wind. By departing in the mid afternoon we assured of a daylight arrival at the tricky San Pedro reef pass. We usually do our best to plan for a noon arrival thus giving us the maximum amount of daylight for either a early or late arrival. It sure is nice to sail down wind for a change and we have make excellent time for the first 14 hours. Now four in the morning winds have died down considerably and remaining 1.5 meter swells have the sails slamming at intervals as the apparent wind is not strong enough to keep things set. Likely the drop in wind velocity is a direct result of our proxmity of land and the cold air sweeping down off the mountains at night toward the sea.

I just capitulated to the light winds and dropped sail as I suspect the cost of the wear and tear of the sails slamming is exceeding the cost to run the engines.

Beautiful stars out tonight. And earlier in the evening a brilliant waxing crescent moon set allowing the bright glory of the stars to provide excellent viewing in the ultra clear cool evening air. At one point I had Ursula Major rising on the starboard side, Cassiopeia on the starboard bow and Orion directly overhead with the remainder of the sky blocked out by sails. Around 2AM the Southern cross and attendant pointer stars slowly began to show themselves to the South. Wishing for a star chart to learn more constellations on such a beautiful night as this.

Yesterday afternoon we arrived in Guanaja and found twelve boats anchored in El Bight. Of these several friends including s/v Kitywake (Jack and Nichole), s/v Galavant (Anne and Doug), s/v Avion (Roy) and s/v Zephyrs (Dan and Lorraine). We hosted a happy hour on s/v LightSpeed and enjoyed some of the wonderful shrimp procured the day before in the Vivorillos as we caught up on the last six months of adventures. Later we went enjoyed a nice dinner ashore at the German Restaurant with wonderfully authentic food and great company. Kathy even managed to win three games of pool against the local guys. We were sad to rush off this afternoon, but duty calls to get the final wedding preparations completed.

Next stop San Pedro to check in with Customs and Immigration. We hope they are understanding about the many cases of wine and champagne we have aboard for the wedding. We will declare everything then hope for the best. Our last visit to Belize back in March 2009 I noticed about ten cases of beer in the Customs office. Apparently, a big sport fishing boat didn't declare the beer and it was confiscated. So we plan to play by the rules and hopefully not be subjected to undue hardship.

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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Kathy Lands a nice Mahi Mahi

January 20, 2010 11AM
Position: 16°16' N 085°40' W
YTD: 445 nautical miles

About 17 nautical miles to Guanaja, Honduras. Sailing at 7-8 knots with main only in 15 knots true. Surfs to mid teens on bigger waves!

After a watch of 2:00AM to 6:30AM I was sleeping hard when Kathy woke me with news of a fish on the line. Very tired I poked my head out the hatch and saw the pole bent over and the boat moving pretty fast. The good news it the fish wasn't too big as no more line was going off the reel. We keep the drag on our Penn Senator 114H reel set very tight at maybe 12 pounds of pull. It takes time to slow the boat down to go into fish fighting mode so we have everything set up for big fish, although we prefer to catch smaller ones and use small lures to discourage the really big fish from biting in the first place.

So, having observed that the fish was not big (i.e. line was no longer coming off the reel) I asked Kathy if she could go solo on landing this one as I was beat. Suited up with her safety harness she reeled in a 3' Mahi Mahi without even taking down the main sail as we continued at 6 knots. Once the fish was close to the boat, having been planned on top of the water most of the way in, Kathy lifted him out of the water by the fishing line and swung this bright green three foot beauty onto the trampoline. Great job!!

Picture to follow.

Had the fish been a big one and continued to pull out line we would have had to stop the boat. For example with the boat going 6 knots that is 6 nautical miles per hour or one nautical mile per ten minutes or 600 feet per minute. So from the time the fish hit the lure to the time we take down sail, put on a safety harness three minutes might elapse. If it's a big fish then we might have 1800 feet of line off the reel or nearly a third of a mile between us and the fish.

With no more room in the fridge we are done fishing for a while.

Congratulations to Kathy on landing the nice Mahi Mahi on her own.

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Sailing electronics

January 20, 2010 3AM
Position: 16°12' N 084°37' W
YTD: 384 nautical miles

Underway sailing from Cayos Vivorillos toward Guanaja, Honduras

A comfortable sail for a change. Winds are a little light at 12 knots from the ENE and seas are minimal around 1.25 meters. Our course is 285° and we are running (Wind at 5 o'clock) with boat speed of 6-7 knots under mainsail only.

Just spotted a ship ahead, adjusted course a bit, verified the Closest Point of Approach (CPA) on the AIS and now maintaining a visual from inside the pilot house where I just updated my log book with an entry on the sighting. By the time this is done it's time to adjust course again with a turn of the wheel on the auto pilot inches from my computer keyboard. I love the convenience and safety of the pilot house.

Electronics I'm running while underway.

Autopilot: Older Simrad AP300 system with hydraulic drive, fluxgate and three Robertson AP300X control heads (one at out side helm, one at inside helm and one at nav station). Autopilot is integrated with GPS and wind instruments.

Wind, Depth, Speed and Heading: Older KVH Quadro system with three displays at outside helm, three at inside helm and one at Navigation station. Of the seven displays five are two line multi displays that can repeat any data on the network the sixth is an analog apparent wind indicator and the seventh analog wind speed. I like the system a lot, but KVH is no longer supporting the units. When we bought the boat the anemometer bearings were frozen and I was able to nurse them back to life in lieu of spending $250 for a new after market bearing! I even have new in the box spare speed and depth transducers, but I think we are going to move away from the system incrementally over the next year. Just ordered a total replacement system from Tacktick, but will be initially only implementing the mast head wind transducer and wind display. Other elements will need to wait until our next haulout maintenance cycle.

GPS: Nothstar 952X GPS chart plotter. We don't have chart chips for the device so it basically a fancy GPS, but suits our needs for a GPS signal out to our PC running MaxSea.

Navigation Laptop: Averatec 1050 with a 10" screen new in early 2007. It's about at the end of the road as it a tough life for a PC in the salty marine environment. A solid little machine that has miserly power needs and runs MaxSea 10 reliably. My normal practice is to sell laptops when the get to be about 1 year old as after that reliability drops as does resale. I waited to long on this one and now the CD/DVD drive is dead.

AIS transponder: ACR with integral GPS. I really like the idea of the AIS transponder, unfortunately this one is not working so well right now. Contacts are only 3-4 nm out in lieu of the 15-20 they should be

VHF radio: I-COM M422. Has very powerful speaker and works great overall. We run this radio 24 hours a day everyday on channel 16. Yes, all night every night. I wish every one would do the same.

Mast head Tri-color: Orca Green LED one of the first and one of the best (1/2 amp per hour and very very bright).

We have plenty more to discuss, but this is what I run underway. Radar is getting replaced so I don't list it here.

At the moment I'm composing this email on my newer HP Mini Netbook computer with a 10" screen. It has a six cell battery than can go for 7-8 hours and is overall very efficient.

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Monday, January 18, 2010

(no subject)

January 18, 2009

Anchored at: 15°50.6312 N 083°18.1887 W over sand in 4.5 meters with excellent holding.

Location: Grand Cayos Vivorillos

Today we sailed from the Cayos Cajones to the Vivorillos. Lots of snorkeling this morning at the Cajones from 9:30AM to 12:30PM looking for more Hog fish. No luck. Spectacular snorkeling with an incredible number of fish, but no lobster or conch. These important commercial fisheries are hitting even these remote reefs hard.

The anchor was up by 12:45 and we sailed the 20 nm to the Vivorillos in hopes of finding some shrimp boats anchored here for the day. Go over in your dinghy and strike up a conversation with these guys and before you know it they will be handing you a bag of shrimp. Since we were looking for a big bag of shrimp we took over some freshly baked cookies, a half bottle of rum. Our haul today was at least 15 pounds of tails. WOW. Life is good. It's also a good thing we have a second refrigerator that we can turn on for special occasions such as this. I cooked up about 4 pounds of these monsters and put the remainder in the 2nd frige that is cranked down cold and will hopefully freeze the shrimp solid.

What a feast we had tonight. When it was all over we counted 37 shrimp tails and we are stuffed. The heck with cholesterol these shrimp are awesome.

Snorkeling around this afternoon here in the Vivorillos we also picked up a lobster and three conch. The conch got a get out of jail card and were returned to the sea once we scored the shrimp.

Our current plan is to set sail tomorrow Jan 19 and sail direct to Belize. We need to wait until at least 5 PM or we risk arriving too soon as it would still be dark. The 294 nautical miles remaining should go very quickly with the forecast winds ranging from 15 knots to 25 knots.

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Sunday, January 17, 2010

Cayos Cajones (Hobbies) off lying islands and reefs of Honduras

January 17, 2009

Anchored at: 16°02.4939 N 083°06.3599 W in 6.5 meters over sand with excellent holding.

Approaching the Cayos Cajones from the South we used approach Waypoint 15°58.0000 N 083°06.0000 W and steered a course of 355° T direct to the anchorage at: 16°02.4939 N 083°06.3599 W This route keeps a breaking reef a safe distance to starboard (shown on C-Map charts) and then passes a low sand island to Port (not shown on chart) and a small island (Boobie Island not shown on chart) with a structure and palm trees to Starboard. Just North of Boobie island, aptly named for the many Boobies whom make it home, one could also find a nice anchorage over a sand bottom. The approach to our anchorage has a minimum depth of 6.5 meters found at the anchorage, making the approach quiet easy in good light.

We jumped in the water for a quick snorkel before lunch, hoping to catch something for lunch. A small pass between a inner reef and the outer reef yielded some fine spear fishing. Within three dives I had lunch procured in the form of a 16 inch hog fish... I had many to choose from. Visibility was terrible as a result of the strong high winds this last week (Norther) and perhaps this made the spear fishing easier as the fish couldn't see me diving down. From the top looking down you couldn't see the bottom 30'ish feet below and it was a little spooky to just swim straight down, but then bam you would see a small coral head surround by all sorts of pretty big fish. Almost too easy.

Shortly after our arrival several Cayuca (small canoes) started heading our way. The first was a pair of fishermen named David and Martine whom had a cayuca with a sizeable pile of lobsters, conch, crab and fish. Very friendly guys whom had been out on the cayos for over a month and were going to stay for another month. They invited us to lunch tomorrow and already we are thing it sure would be nice to stay another day as the wind is getting really light and the water should clear up overnight for excellent snorkeling tomorrow.

(no subject)

January 17, 2010 9AM
Position 15°55' N 082°57' W
Miles sailed year to date: 270 nautical miles
Total miles sailed on LightSpeed: 2030

Last year (2009) we sailed 4050 nautical miles or about 4617 statute miles. About half of those miles were sailed on Pacifica and the other half aboard LightSpeed. 2009 began in the middle of the Straight of Florida and took us to Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, Panama and Colombia. In the last 24 hours we've sailed about 180 nautical miles at an average speed of 7.6 knots. Not too bad considering we had a double reef in the main much of way and the max true wind speed was 15 knots, but mostly around 8-9 knot true. This boat really moves in light air.
Plan for the day:
Since the wind really shut down over night and this morning and the forecast calls for light winds the next 24 hours we have decided to stop at the Cayos Cajones (also know as the Hobbies). We have a few way points for an anchorage here and based on our current speed should arrive around noon with very settled conditions. Perfect for exploring a new anchorage in these shallow reef strewn waters where 'eye ball navigation' is the only option. We hear the reefs are spectacular so looking forward to a snorkel and some spear fishing this afternoon.

Fishing news:
Speaking of fish we caught a Big Eye Tuna with yellow sides. Not exactly sure on the precise species.. it might just be a Big Eye? About 10lbs which is perfect for our nearly full refrigerator. Enjoyed some lightly seared tuna for dinner with wasabi last night.
Just getting around to send this email via the SSB radio (now 10:30AM) and we have just sighted two palm fringed islands and some breakng reefs that are the Cayos Cajones. The chart only shows some reefs and has few soundings so we are surprised to see Cayos (islands) with palms. It's days like this that you really feel like an adventurer/explorer finding new islands!

(no subject)

January 17, 2010 6:30AM
Position 15 47' N 82 44' W

About 21 hours out of Providencia we've covered about 175nm averaging a speed of over 8 knots. Overnight we ran a double reefed main which cost us some speed, but offered piece of mind should we get hit with a squall. I'm about ready to shake out the reefs as we sail near the Vivorillos Cays and prepare to make the turn to the West toward Belize. Glad to finally be 'around the corner' and have smooth sailing ahead toward Belize in much more settled weather. Only 338nm remain San Pedro, Belize where we plan to check in.

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Saturday, January 16, 2010

(no subject)

January 16, 2009 Still in Providencia. It's 5:45AM and at 6 and 6:30AM I'll listen to our weather Router Chris Parker's forecast for the next few days. If local winds remain strong today we'll postpone heading for Belize (again) and just move the boat about 6 miles North to Low Caye and wait out the weather there. We officially checked out of Providencia yesterday so we need to move or restart the check in / check out process with customs, immigration, port captain and our agent Mr Bush.

11 AM update

Anchor up at 0845 with winds around 15 knots. Sailing nicely around 8-9 knots with a double reefed main with apparent wind of 15 knots just forward of the beam. Seas are 10'ish feet with some as much as 50% bigger or maybe more. Clear skies and aside for the seas tossing us around a bit we couldn't be happier with our progress. The forecast calls for smaller seas over the next few days which will be nice.

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Thursday, January 14, 2010

Providencia for three more days?

Burr, it's a chilly 78 degrees this morning. We actually pulled out a few fleece blankets last night. The strong cold front that penetrated the region 4 days ago is still producing strong winds steady around 25 knots with squalls bumping the winds unto the mid 30's plus. It's really unusual to have strong North winds for this many days. Snorkeling is out as the water is really stirred up and cloudy, walking around the islands is out as frequent rain squalls to 30+ knots and blowing sand is no fun. There is an internet cafe on shore that seems to be closed more than it's open and when it's open it's so painfully slow it's more like being caught in a spiders web than than surfing.

Every morning we tune our SSB to Chris Parker our Caribbean weather router in hopes of a more favorable forecast for future. The wedding is now 30 days away and we still have 525 nautical miles to sail to Belize. Lots of last minute preparations in Belize and I still need to fly to Florida for five days at the end of the month. Checking our log book I see we've now been here for nine days and we are getting anxious to move along. The next weather window is still three days away and then we have a minimum of three sailing days to Belize which only leaves me one week of wedding prep before I need to fly to Miami.

The good news is we are tucked into a very secure anchorage behind Catalina Island and Providencia Island. The anchor is sand with excellent holding at 13°22.8470 N 081°22.3572 W in 2.5 meters of water.

When we arrived we dropped two anchors. Our primary is a Spade A100 with 120' of 5/16" high test G4 chain on a long anchor bridal and as back up a Fortress FX37 on 12' of 3/8 high test chain and 120' (deployed of 200+ feet) of 3/4" three strand nylon rode. The Spade anchor is incredible. Even though it's a little small for my taste (it came with the boat) it's performance to date has exceeded my expectations. We are in the market for a Rocna 55 pound anchor and more chain, but it's pretty hard to get an anchor outside of the USA or Panama without paying exorbitant shipping and potentially duty.

Uploaded some 20 pictures of our limited land travels of Providnecia so read on for more.

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Providencia Island tour

Bridge from Providencia to Catalina island
Love the artistic touch and great colors

Typical family transport. This is only three. Four is not uncommon.

Local homes with million dollar views of the ocean

Local Home... killer view of ocean
Local home... this one too

Local home ... I think every home here has a view of the ocean.

Hanging out of the Chiva

This one too.

Providencia beach and bus

Three Brothers island on the East side of Provideincia marks the South boundry of the National Park.
Colorful guard rails


Pic at the SE beach... would love to vist this spot again. Apparently, they have live music here in the evenings.

Dan & Loranine s/v Zephyrus

Providencia Beach on SE side of island

Billboards are just that in Providencia
Local girls enjoy a Sunday at the Beach.

Kathy tries out a beach swing

Chiva (Sp?) Bus
Local homes

Marine Base.

Localm homes

Kids on the bus are all smiles.

Providencia Bus ride

Riding on the Chiva (sp?) bus which is a crudely converted U-Haul truck.
Great beach front restaurant on this low key island.

Kathy in the front seat of the Chiva.

A more down market Sunday lunch spot, but clearly very popular. I also need to point out that it´s A-OK to park you motor bike in the road. Just not enough traffic for anyone to care.

Dan and Loraine of S/v Zephrus on the Chiva bus.
The whole ride around the island was 2500 Colombian Pesos or $1.25 USD. This included many stops exclusivly for us to take pictures, a drop off for lunch a pick up 1.5 hours later then a stop at the beach for 20 minutes just to show off the beautiful island. What a treat. Again, this is one of the last unspoiled places in the Caribbean.


This unusuall mountian feature is know as Morgans Ass to the locals, it´s name sake being the famous priate Henery Morgan whom used this island as a base for pirate raids.

Kuna bead leggings are put to use covering about 1/5 of our inside steering wheel. This is over 60´of tiny beads. This is the kind of stuff you end up doing when trapped on the boat durring a few days of high winds.

Conch Ceviche lightly marinated in lime juice and sprinkled in freshly ground pepper.