We were surprised to look over at the Grand Caribe dock today and see the unmistakable Optimist dinghies of the San Pedro Sailing Club moored on the water.  Stepping further out onto our veranda, I saw another moored boat with a bright jib, and a Hobie Cat with its brightly striped, tall mainsail up on the beach.  Of course I had to head out immediately with my camera to snap a few shots.
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Optimist Dinghies on a mooring ball
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Optimist Dinghies off Grand Caribe dock
Cowboy Doug saw me taking photos and came out to ask me if I would post them on his Facebook page.  I wasn't sure how they would even turn out because I couldn't even see my viewfinder in the bright sun, but I got pretty lucky.  He said the sailors had brought their own hot dogs to put on the grill, and some of their parents had met them there for some food and beverages.  I am sure they enjoyed a dip in the Grand Caribe pool as well since the day was plenty warm.

After lunch, they headed back to their home base at Caribbean Villas, I'm guessing.  What a perfect day for sail they had, with moderate easterly breezes.  We would have enjoyed sailing south with them on a comfortable beam reach.
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Off they go!
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Need any crew, guys?
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These folks had a bit more work to get going
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The lagging boat heading out now -- wonder if they could catch the Optimists?
Paisley enjoyed some sandy fun on the beach while I was snapping photos!
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Paisley with a sand beard
 
After all the perfect weather we'd had so far on this trip, it seemed like a cruel joke to wake up early this morning to dark,  threatening skies and high wind.  I guess it had to happen, right?  I awoke when the engines cranked up before 5 am, and I believe we pulled away from the dock at Abelle's boat yard a little before 5:30, a bit later than Simon had planned for.  (I figured that late night the night before was going to have some fallout!)

Surprisingly, even with the loud drone of the engine, we were so tired that we managed to doze off and on until around 6 am, I guess it was, before going out on deck and surveying what Mother Nature had in store for us on this last, long day on the water, as we made our way back from Rio Dulce to Placencia, Belize.  Captain Simon was not a happy camper, as the winds had been gusting up to 30 knots (on our nose again as the winds had shifted around to the northeast), and he was concerned that conditions would deteriorate further once we got out of the calm river and into the sea.
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Angry clouds
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Dramatic sunrise
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Coffee time! (L to R) Clive, Chunky, Bruce, Simon (at helm), and me
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I'm sleepy but happy to be on the boat and having a hot cuppa joe
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We got a little rain, but not as much as the clouds seemed to threaten
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As we motored on, the low sun was peeping through and highlighting these houses along the Rio Dulce
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Low-lying wisps of clouds seemed caught in the trees
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Lush rainforest along the river banks
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These local men didn't let a little wind stop their morning paddle
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Waterfall along river bank
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Love these quaint little resorts or grouping of houses nestling into the river bank
The closer we got to Livingston and open water, the rougher it became.  The wind continued to blow hard, and s/v Hope began hobby-horsing and rolling around in the building surf.  We knew we were in for a real doozy of a day at sea.
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You can see how rough the river was starting to get as we got closer to Livingston
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Birds cluster around fishing boat on rough waters near Livingston
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Rough conditions near Livingston, Guatemala
As we drew closer to the dock at Livingston where we needed to check out of Guatemala with Customs and Immigration, Simon realized that it was chock-a-block full of boats that didn't dare venture out in the rough conditions.  We'd have to anchor out and send in the dinghy to check out, since there was no room for another boat, particularly one of Hope's size, at the dock.  Needless to say, he wasn't happy about this.  If the anchor didn't set properly, the stiff winds could easily blow s/v Hope into other boats on the dock.  This was one of the many times on this cruise I was relieved to be on someone else's boat.  These kinds of situations are nerve-racking enough even for those of us not ultimately responsible for the boat, but for a captain, they are really stressful, since it is his responsibility to keep the boat and its crew safe from harm.

The anchor didn't set the first time Clive tried, but the second time, it did.  Big relief!  Barry volunteered to go with Clive in the dinghy to shore with everyone's passports to check all of us out of the country.
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It was starting to rain again right as they took off
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Rough conditions for a small boat
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Barry and Clive head up the hill into town for a bit of last-minute shopping while our passports are processed
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By the time they got back, the sun was peeking out. They are talking to the immigration guy here.
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Barry enjoying the adventure
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Clive and Barry returning
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Hooking the dinghy to the lines on the davits in preparation for hauling it up
Barry had a bag with him that I was curious about since we hadn't discussed buying anything more on land.  Turns out the little sneak had bought Guatamala t-shirts for Bruce, Chunky, Ruthie, me, and himself!  Whatta guy!  
Our work in Livingston done, it was time to haul up the anchor and make our way to the sea.  The wind had not relented much at all.  Several of us took some preventative less-drowsy Dramamine just in case.  Although I rarely get seasick, I could already tell that my tummy was feeling just a little "off" for the first time on this trip.  The "motion of the ocean" made everything more difficult today -- from walking around the salon and cockpit, to using the head, to getting food or filling a water bottle.  Even reading, for most of us, was out of the question.  Ruthie, the lucky gal, was the only one who seemed to be able to read and do pretty much everything else with nary an issue.  Simon forbade anyone from going forward to the bow due to conditions.
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Photos never do a good job at capturing sea state -- it was rocking and rolling out there with numerous whitecaps
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Splash! Every now and then a wave would wash over the decks
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Ruthie attempting to pour water - not an easy task today
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Wind gauge shows 23.3 knot winds at this point. Simon said they ranged from 20-30 knots with waves from 6' to 10'. Wow!
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Both Captains Simon and Clive were busy at the helm today
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Mainsail and reefed genoa -- and the sky was now beautifully blue, but still the wind and waves roared
Even with the medicine, I was feeling a bit queasy and kept eating saltine crackers in an attempt to keep my stomach calm.  A couple of times I thought I was going to be sick, but I just kept staring at the horizon, and the feeling would pass. I had to stop moving around, though, and just sit very still.  

This was the only day we didn't pull a bunch of food out of the fridge and have lunch together.  It was every man and woman for him or herself, as it was tough to move around the boat, and everyone's stomach had a different tolerance level for the motion of the ocean.  Ruthie actually spent most of the afternoon in their cabin reading, and I went to our cabin a couple of times to nap briefly.  Keeping my eyes closed and lying down seemed to help a lot with the queasies. 

Barry started feeling bad and was standing out on the side deck watching the horizon diligently, hoping to keep from being sick.  He had not joined the rest of us in taking the motion-sickness medication in the morning, a big mistake.  He did take some at this point, but it was too little, too late.  I was passed him a few crackers to eat in hopes that that would help, but when Simon had to turn s/v Hope into the wind to take the sails down, the boat motion slowed dramatically, and that was enough to put Barry over the rail.  Good thing he only had crackers and water on his tummy!  After the fact, he was able to lie down and rest.  The waves and wind were easing off by this point, and I started feeling much better myself as the afternoon wore on.
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One man down
By the time we finally made our way to the Placencia fuel dock, the wind had died down quite a bit, and the sea state was much more comfortable.  We were treated to a gorgeous sunset as we motored down the lagoon.  We were about 1.5 hours behind schedule, Simon said.  
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Ruthie and Chunky at Placencia fuel dock
Since we were running behind schedule, Simon told us he would only anchor for about an hour in Placencia to make it easier to eat dinner.  Then we would continue motoring through the night to San Pedro.  We pulled out most of what was left in the fridge and had a large buffet so that we could eat up as much of the food as possible, since this would be our last dinner on board.  We still had a lot of Ruthie's delicious Italian Sunday Gravy pasta dish and various cheeses. Unfortunately we were very low on bread as much of it had molded along the way.  But there were plenty of Ruthie's high-test brownies, so no one went hungry.
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These were indescribably delicious -- and dangerous!
Simon asked for three of us to serve a four-hour night watch each so that he and Clive could rotate resting and captaining the boat all night long on the way back to San Pedro.  The night watch person's duties were to keep the captain awake and help in any other way requested.  We headstrong crew members (I guess we were now official crew since we were going to do night watches!) decided amongst ourselves that four of us would serve a three-hour watch each instead and let Barry sit (sleep) this one out since he had been sick.  It was easier to divide twelve hours by four than by five anyway.  

Bruce took the first evening shift, Chunky and Ruthie generously volunteered for the "o-dark-thirty" shifts, and I took the 4:30 am to 7:30 am slot.  I figured this way I could hit the hay early and also catch the morning sunrise as we sailed up the Belize coast.  Barry and I were in bed by 9 pm, if not earlier.  It's hard to even remember after a day like this!

Stay tuned for Guatemala Cruise Day 5:  Return to San Pedro
 
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On Day 1, we departed from San Pedro on Ambergris Caye in northern Belize, and sailed down to Placencia in southern Belize

The twin engines roared into life promptly at 4:30 (also known as o-dark-thirty) for our scheduled 5 am departure from the TMM dock in San Pedro.  We had one of the two aft (rearward) cabins, situated on the port side of s/v Hope, and our bed pretty much sat right over (or beside) one of the 55 hp diesels.  An alarm clock unlike any other! Struggling out of our comfy berth in total darkness, our excitement over what was to come quickly overtook thoughts of sleep.  There would be plenty of time to nap later.
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Our berth

Captains Simon and Clive guided Hope away from the TMM dock, and we were off on our adventure!
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Yes, that's me, making a rare 4:46 am appearance, with the lights of San Pedro behind me.
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By golly, even Barry was up!
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Our head with shower -- very luxurious!
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Bruce assisting with raising the mainsail
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Pre-sunrise glow with the moon in view...beautiful
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The crew slowly comes to life, with the help of a little caffeine. L to R: Me, Clive (at helm), Chunky, Bruce, Ruthie
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Even Barry drank coffee on this trip
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Chunky enjoying a comfortable spot with his coffee
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Captain Simon makes an appearance as we watched for the sunrise
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I like this photo of Barry in quiet contemplation of the sunrise
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El Sol!
With sunrise behind us, Ruthie sprang into action in the kitchen.  Barry and I ate oatmeal (with dried fruit, walnuts, whey protein, and cinnamon) every morning, while Ruthie cooked eggs and sausage for the rest of the crew.  She is a wonderful person to have aboard a boat, cheerful and energetic -- at least at mealtimes!  :)  S/v Hope had a really nice and spacious kitchen (by boat standards) and nice-sized fridge and freezer compartments (again, by boat standards).
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Galley Gal Ruthie
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Since the wind was light and coming from the southeast, and since we were on a tight schedule, our captains had to keep the diesel engines on most of the time, even while the sails were up, to make good time.  They did turn the engines off from time to time and ran under sailpower alone.  Wish we could have done more of that, but conditions just wouldn't allow for it. 

After breakfast, we non-captain types got to spend most of the day just chillin' on the boat.  With the light winds and calm waters, quite a few naps were taken by the motley crew members.   This day reminded me why I loved sailing.  When it's good, it's very, very good.  Kinda like that little girl with the one curl in the middle of her forehead, from the old nursery rhyme...but you might remember the rest of it too: "when she was bad, she was horrid".  Oh yes, stay tuned!

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This is the life!
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We passed Belize City
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The helm
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The dinghy
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Chunky, Ruthie, and me chillin' on the trampoline -- good place for a nap!
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Passing the town of Dangriga -- it's hazy, but you can see the outline of mountains in the distance
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One minute I'm awake...
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...and the next, I'm down.
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Bruce and Cap'n Clive at the helm
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Are we there yet?
The Captains' plans were to refuel, then put down the anchor in Placencia.  Simon and Clive would eat dinner and nap for awhile, then fire up the engines and we'd take off again at midnight and sail all night. Although they didn't need us to stay up with them, I knew that sleeping would be a challenge with the engine so close to our berth.  I could already tell my body was going to get very confused by this schedule!
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We're here!
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Placencia anchorage
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Placencia
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Heading for the fuel dock
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Lagoon side of Placencia - lots of boats
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Simon filling the port diesel tank at the fuel dock
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Clive putting down the anchor, while Ruthie gazes longingly at the yacht in the photo below...
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This incredible 164-foot Westport "Vango" was at anchor near us. Had its own helicopter and garage for a smaller boat. They didn't even invite us over for drinks!
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Anchoring out and having a cold beer at the end of a long day is my very favorite part of sailing
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Chunky, Bruce, and Simon chillin' in the cockpit
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A beautiful sunset at anchor
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Sunset is my favorite time of the day...
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Beautiful afterglow
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A few appetizers before dinner
Ruthie had brought a delicious spaghetti meal for all of us called "Italian Sunday Gravy".  There's homemade sauce, sausage, meatballs, and short ribs; and it's been cooked nice and long so the flavors are rich and hearty.  We normally don't eat a lot of meat, but we could definitely make an exception tonight.  She'd also brought garlic bread and the most amazing frosted brownies.  I could almost feel my clothes getting tighter just looking at all the gorgeous food!  I had thought we'd be eating dinner in Placencia, so I really didn't bring any dinner food, but Ruthie came through with enough for two crews.  Thank you, Ruthie -- you are a gem, and Chunky is a lucky man!
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Da feast
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Barry stepping up to the trough
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And yes, I DID get a drop of spaghetti sauce on that white cami, of course. What was I thinking?
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Soups on!
Stay tuned for Guatemala Cruise Day 1:  Placencia to Rio Dulce, Guatemala