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Tag: florida (Page 1 of 2)

Journal of the Voyage

During the voyage from the Caloosahatchie River, Florida (Fort Myers) to Rio Dulce, Guatemala I kept a little written journal. I have posted those journal entries along with some photo links on my blog.

Here’s a little index to the nine posts:

Caloosahatchie to Rio Dulce, Day 1
Departure!. Down the Caloosahatchie, past Sanibel, to the Gulf

Caloosahatchie to Rio Dulce, Day 2
Dry Tortugas midday and a swim

Caloosahatchie to Rio Dulce, Day 3
A Carnival Cruise ship, A/C problems, and a swim

Caloosahatchie to Rio Dulce, Day 4
A close call during the night, lots of traffic in the Yucatan Channel

Caloosahatchie to Rio Dulce, Day 5
Isla Mujeres at 3 AM, sleep, refuel, swim, continue south

Caloosahatchie to Rio Dulce, Day 6
South behind Cozumel, fighting the north setting current, Dolphins!

Caloosahatchie to Rio Dulce, Day 7
Mexico/Belize border, Grennell’s Channel at 9 PM

Caloosahatchie to Rio Dulce, Day 8
Belize coast, a swim, Placencia, Great Monkey Caye

Caloosahatchie to Rio Dulce, Day 9

Threading between the cayes, Livingston, Rio Dulce!

Caloosahatchie to Rio Dulce, Day 9

September 1, 2008 Monday

I was the first up at dawn, made myself some coffee, and then tried to photograph the sunrise. But I was foiled by condensation. We had run the air-conditioning hard all night and the humidity outside was 90 percent so the entire boat was coated with condensation. Stepping outside my camera was instantly covered with dew so I gave up on that plan. Then we raised anchor and started off from Great Monkey Cay en route to Guatemala. We threaded our way carefully amongst the various cays and had one traffic conflict with a catamaran that kept crossing and re-crossing our bow quite closely while I was on watch. I could not figure out what they were up to so I called Bert up to the bridge. He assessed the situation and blew the air horn at them which caused them to assume a proper course while we passed them. We concluded that they were intoxicated.

Bahia Amatique

Bahia Amatique. Click to view larger.

Livingston Buoy.

Livingston Buoy. Click to view larger.

Livingston, Guatemala. Click to view larger.

Once free of the twisty passages between the cays we assumed a straight course for the Livingston sea buoy. We straightened up the boat a bit in preparation for the Guatemalan officials to come aboard, inspect the boat, handle immigration, and so forth. I had the watch during the final hour while Bert rested and enjoyed watching the coast of my destination grow closer and closer. We passed the sea buoy at 12:00 noon exactly, crossed the bar without incident, and anchored a little past the municipal dock amongs the fishing vessels anchored in the river’s current. We were finally on the Rio Dulce. Hurray!

Migracion at Livingston.

Migracion at Livingston. Click to view larger.

Starting up the Rio Dulce River, Guatemala.

Starting up the Rio Dulce River, Guatemala. Click to view larger.

Canoe on the Rio Dulce

Canoe on the Rio Dulce. Click to view larger.

Bert called the officials and before long Raoul, immigration, customs, and a doctor came aboard, did the paperwork, collected our passports, and went ashore to complete the process. While we were waiting Bert prepared a lunch of soup and salad. About an hour later Raoul returned with the passports and paperwork, and we were properly checked into Guatemala. I took down the Q flag and replaced it with a Guatemalan flag and looked ahead to the trip upriver, just like I had done 12 years before in 1996. I hoped that the lighting would be good for photography.

Canoe on the Rio Dulce.

Canoe on the Rio Dulce. Click to view larger.

Limestone cliffs along the Rio Dulce

Limestone cliffs along the Rio Dulce. Click to view larger.

Along the Rio Dulce.

Along the Rio Dulce. Click to view larger.

Bert rigged the signalling cannon on the bulwark and we headed off upriver with me furiously shooting photos and video clips. The canyon was as beautiful as I had remembered it. It was mid-afternoon so the lighting was quite good for pictures. When we reached the Golfete we were treated to a full 180 degree rainbow. I hoped it was a good omen. Perhaps the rio was welcoming me back home. One heavy rainshower formed on our port beam and Bert turned the boat to bring us into the shower and wash the salt off the boat. We made a couple of revolutions in the heavy rain then continued on upriver towards Fronteras.

Canoes along the Canyon of the Rio Dulce.

Canoes along the Canyon of the Rio Dulce. Click to view larger.

Settlement at the east end of El Golfete.

Settlement at the east end of El Golfete. Click to view larger.

Rainbow on El Golfete

Rainbow on El Golfete. Click to view larger.

We arrived in the bay at Fronteras after dark, circled once to locate a spot to anchor and dropped anchor in front of Bruno’s at 7:24 P.M.

Rainbow on El Golfete

Rainbow on El Golfete. Click to view larger.

Bridge of the Rio Dulce at Fronteras

Bridge of the Rio Dulce at Fronteras. Click to view larger.

 

El Castillo

El Castillo. Click to view larger.

Caloosahatchie to Rio Dulce, Day 4

August 27, 2008 Wednesday

There was a bit of unwanted excitement last night. At 2:30 AM Nancy woke me. She had a radar contact that was getting closer and was now down to under two miles. The radar trace looked like a rain shower but she was not sure. Through my bleary eyes the contact looked like a rain shower to me too so I opened the hatch and looked outside: no clouds, no moon, and bright stars. So I grabbed the starlight scope and looked in the direction of the contact and saw lights. By now I could see the lights with my naked eye: white lights fore and aft and green. Damn. He was crossing our bow from left to right at high speed. I called Bert from his sleep but he arrived just after the big ship crossed our path about 1/2 mile ahead, making a huge smear across the radar. There was no radio call, no nothing. The big ship simply raced off to the north. None of us are happy. Fortunately no harm was done and I got a very sobering experience.

Bert, now wide awake, took the wheel and to my surprise I fell asleep and slept until 7:30. I guess I was tired. I relieved Bert right after I awoke. All is well but I have five targets on the radar to keep an eye on. There’s a lot of shipping in the Yucatan Channel. At one point I had a freighter on our starboard quarter making 9 knots on a collision course but before I hailed him he altered course slightly and passed 1/4 mile astern of us. I took photos. The Kodan radar is a terrific tool because it will track multiple targets, show their course and speed, and warn of targets on a collision course. An enormous freighter making 22 knots passed us eight miles off so I got photos of him also.

Sunrise in the Gulf of Mexico. Don't miss the ship in the image.

Sunrise in the Gulf of Mexico. Don’t miss the ship in the image. Click to view larger.

The seas were getting bumpier so I stowed the second salon chair on top of my belongings and lashed it down. I was tired of it rolling around in the salon and nobody was using it anyway. The sun was hot by 8:30 AM so I turned on the pilothouse A/C. The seas were getting increasingly rolly with sets of swells coming from all directions. I had heard that the Yucatan Channel was kind of wild and it is. Swells and currents are funnelled into the constriction between Cuba and the Yucatan and the ride was no longer the nice flat sea we had before. The northbound current here is very apparent. We are running full speed but only making 3.4 knots over the ground.

Freighter

Click to view larger.

Early morning in the Gulf of Mexico. Don't miss the ship at the center.

Early morning in the Gulf of Mexico. Don’t miss the ship at the center. Click to view larger.

Bert came back on watch at 9:30 AM to check weather reports and his ham radio skeds so I got busy working on the windshield wipers. They have been broken / inoperable for quite a long time but one can’t complain since they are 36 years old. I tried to save the original mechanisms but there was no way. One was shot completely. Two had been previously repaired or replaced and they were cemented in place with epoxy. Why they were installed that way is a mystery. The nuts and backing nuts work just fine without any glue. I spent pretty much all day working on them and ended up having to destroy them and drill out the thick three-inch long brass bushings with a 5/8-inch drill. The project was made all the more interesting with the boat pitching and rolling in the seas. It’s good exercise. But now there are nice clean holes for new wiper motors assemblies to be installed.

Nancy in the galley of M/V Vagabond.

Nancy in the galley of M/V Vagabond. Click to view larger.

Another freighter.

Another freighter. Click to view larger.

By early afternoon we got into the swifter current in the Yucatan Channel that is the birthplace of the Gulf Stream. At full speed we were making only 2.5 knots over the ground. By late afternoon Bert had had enough and he altered course to the west to get out of the worst of the current, then headed south again towards Isla Mujeres.

Caloosahatchie to Rio Dulce, Day 3

August 26, 2008 Tuesday

I awoke at 6:30 AM. Nobody woke me for my watch because Bert rose during the night and relieved Nancy. I did not mind. I relieved Bert and enjoyed the quiet time on the bridge to get organized and do some writing.

The quarters A/C blew the replacement capacitor during the night. It was an old cap so I was not surprised. I dug into the ship’s stores and found more caps and some “rescue kits” which are capacitors that have built-in electronic protection. Very handy that Bert had those in stock. In order to check all of the electrical components on the A/C compressor including the sensor switch on the side of the compressor housing I had to tear the electrical box apart because it was assembled with pop rivets that were not accessible, so I couldn’t drill them out. Oh well. Everything checked out fine so I installed the special self-protecting capacitor and the compressor worked fine, and continued working fine for the rest of the trip. Bert then cooked up a pancake breakfast and I spent most of the day taking photos and keeping an eye on the machinery.

The bridge of M/V Vagabond at night.

The bridge of M/V Vagabond at night. Nothing on the radar. Yay. Click to view larger.

Early morning in the Gulf of Mexico, north of Cuba.

Early morning in the Gulf of Mexico, north of Cuba. Notice the chain from 25 foot long starboard stabilizer boom to the water. That chain runs down to a heavy steel stabilizer bird with wings that “flies” from 8 to 12 feet underwater. The bird is designed to fly forward through the water with little resistance. The bird will readily dive deeper but resists being pulled up. There’s one on each side of the boat. These greatly reduce rolling motion of the boat for a smooth ride. Click to view larger.

Early afternoon Bert stopped the boat for a swim. With the main engine shut down and before I went swimming I added two more liters of oil to the engine. Adding oil seemed to improve the overheating problem. Now with the engine stopped I could get an accurate dipstick reading. The oil level was indeed low.

Port stabilizer boom and distant ship.

This is the port stabilizer boom with chain running to the bird underwater, as explained above. Notice the ship in the distance. Click to view larger.

The swim was fantastic. The water temperature was perfect and this time the water was not just tropical clear but absolutely clear. The last time we stopped there were some little bits of sargasso seaweed in the water but this time it was so clear it was unbelievable. The water at this spot was 11,000 feet deep and there was absolutely nothing in the water. Visibility was unlimited. No matter how far I swam from the boat, with my dive mask on, underwater, on it looked like Bert and Nancy were right next to me. Visibility was perfect. The bright sunlight allowed me to see a long way down and I spent quite a while just floating and staring down into the water. The sunlight reflecting and refracting up from below was a spectacular light show. I never saw anything in the water; no fish, not even a single particle of anything in the water. One odd thing I noticed was the saltiness of the water at this spot. It was extremely salty, saltier than any seawater I’ve ever tasted. It was so salty it made my eyes burn.

Carnival cruise ship approaching to pass us astern.

Carnival cruise ship approaching to pass us astern. Click to view larger.

The same Carnival cruise ship after passing behind us.

The same Carnival cruise ship after passing behind us. Click to view larger.

We showered in fresh water and got underway again. It seems the slight overheating of the was caused by a combination of low oil, plus a partially clogged keel cooler, plus 93 degree seawater. With another two liters of oil the engine temperature dropped four degrees back to where it is supposed to be and I reset the alarm back down to the correct temperature. I made triple backups of my photos thus far and developed a scheme for running regular backups of the several gigabytes of photos I expected to take along the way. I sent a short email to my daughter via Winlink so she would not worry. We are sailing ahead of Hurricane Gustav, across its likely path, so we are making all possible speed for Isla Mujeres. The hurricane is still more than 700 miles away so I am not worried but better safe than sorry and we are watching it very carefully. At Isla Mujeres we only plan to make a technical stop, take on fuel, and keep going, getting to Rio Dulce, Guatemala as quickly as possible.

Tired heron resting in the rigging.

This heron was tired. We’re 100 miles from the nearest land, the northern coast of Cuba. He stopped to rest for a while and seemed completely unafraid of me. Click to view larger.

Sunset in the Gulf of Mexico, north of Cuba.

Sunset in the Gulf of Mexico, north of Cuba. Click to view larger.

Bert cooked up a huge dinner of steak and mashed potatoes. After dinner I did some writing and then went to bed. Nancy has the first watch.

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