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.
Coffee time! (L to R) Clive, Chunky, Bruce, Simon (at helm), and me
I'm sleepy but happy to be on the boat and having a hot cuppa joe
We got a little rain, but not as much as the clouds seemed to threaten
As we motored on, the low sun was peeping through and highlighting these houses along the Rio Dulce
Low-lying wisps of clouds seemed caught in the trees
Lush rainforest along the river banks
These local men didn't let a little wind stop their morning paddle
Waterfall along river bank
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.
You can see how rough the river was starting to get as we got closer to Livingston
Birds cluster around fishing boat on rough waters near Livingston
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.
It was starting to rain again right as they took off
Rough conditions for a small boat
Barry and Clive head up the hill into town for a bit of last-minute shopping while our passports are processed
By the time they got back, the sun was peeking out. They are talking to the immigration guy here.
Barry enjoying the adventure
Clive and Barry returning
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.
Photos never do a good job at capturing sea state -- it was rocking and rolling out there with numerous whitecaps
Splash! Every now and then a wave would wash over the decks
Ruthie attempting to pour water - not an easy task today
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!
Both Captains Simon and Clive were busy at the helm today
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.
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.
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.
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