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Saturday, March 15, 2008

Guatemalan morning

It's dawn on the Guatemalan coastline and I can just barely make out the Guatemalan trees under the Guatemalan clouds. John let me have an extra long off watch (almost four hours) and, coupled with the fact that my spirits are always highest at sunrise, it promises to be another great day of passage making. I apologize for sending such brief reports up until now, but we were either preoccupied with sailing the boat (i.e., just hanging on), dodging fishing traffic, trying to get some sleep, trying to get something to eat, or John was sleeping out on the settee where I normally use the computer. It's relatively flat right now and we're motoring, plus it's still cool, so he's retired to the pullman berth (where we don't get much breeze come the afternoon). Oh, temps have been mid-80's with humidity 65-85% and the water temps have been low-80's since Thursday.

So what have I left out? It's been challenging at times, but nothing more than we've handled before. In fact we've had worse seas coming down the coast of Oregon and California. It's just that, except for summer weather in the Sea of Cortez, we've been very complacent about "weather" along the Mexican coast and we forget what it's like to sail in more than 20-25 knots of wind. I was very nervous about "what might happen" while we were crossing the potentially worst part of the T'pec but once I dropped that frame of mind, I realized that it was great sailing. Well, it would have been nice to have been able to keep the boat clean for a bit longer - we're now covered in a salty crust, and I'm wishing for a big rain cloud (but no lightning, please!).

Aside from the nice periods of sailing, it's mostly tedium. Until yesterday we've been tired and sore and it was a challenge to do routine things. Mostly we are so anxious to try to get some sleep on our off watches that things like eating and personal hygiene take a back seat to hitting the sack. I finally ate into precious sleep time and took a real shower yesterday morning. Since I'd already lost those minutes from my off watch period I didn't bother to attend the border crossing ceremonies which occurred after I'd already gone to bed. Although I did wake up long enough to hear John playing a recording of the Guatemalan national anthem to the other boats, and all the ensuing radio chatter about flag raising.

I just remembered that I wanted to explain the reason we were so tired and sore after the first few days is because sailing is much more work than motoring (people like to call it motor sailing, but it's really just motoring). When the wind is constantly changing from light to heavy and back to light again, John has to reef/unreef the main sail, roll in/out the jib, drop/raise the staysail, and take on/off the preventer for the main. It's exhausting for him and even my hands were sore from the little bit of line handling I do for him. Maybe some day we'll find out what it's like to sail in a nice steady tradewind breeze, but that's sure not what we have along the eastern Pacific coastline.

So far the only casualty has been Ziggy's grass. We're trying to nurse it back to health, including trimming back the individual leaves, after it took a saltwater bath our first day out. We store our dinghy right side up on the foredeck and stow odds and ends in it to clear the decks. His grass normally goes right up in the bow of the dinghy and he's had visitation rights on our calmer passages. John and I knew that the potential for taking salt spray over the bow was too great to leave it there, but we waited too long to move it and by then no one wanted to carry the heavy load back to the cockpit in rolling seas. I saw it take an actual dousing of Golfo de T'pec before I had a chance to go up and rescue it. We've been soaking the grass in fresh water since then, cutting off the burnt ends of the leaves, and hoping it will come back to it's former lush greenery for Ziggy's sake. Ziggy himself has been fine. I'm sure he doesn't enjoy this any more than we really do, but he sleeps a lot, and takes advantage of any calm periods to go off-leashing forward of the cockpit.

Last night Zephyrus and Nakia stood by while Fortuitous wrestled with a transmission problem. We spent a lovely afternoon sailing in light breezes over a long easy swell, and turned our engines on when the wind died off at sunset. Unfortunately Fortuitous' transmission gremlin was back (last seen in Zihuatanejo), and it took until midnight to get a temporary fix in place. We were close to shore, it was flat calm, and we all just bobbed there with our anchor lights on. We managed to launch our dinghy so that John could row a cruiser kludge over to Ralph and Cheryl. We will see today if they stop in at Puerto Quetzal or continue on with us to El Salvador (www.barillasmarina.com by the way, if you want to take a look at our next stop).

Linda and John

{GMST}13|52.960|N|091|22.881|W|March 2008|Guatemala{GEND}