THE END

Esta historia se repite en español siguiendo la versión en inglés.

It’s been some time since my last post. Many things have happened and this is a summary of recent events.

I returned to Guatemala in mid January and departed Livingston, Guatemala on Tuesday, Feb. 20. My destination was Placentia, Belize. I left Livingston at 1 pm and anchored across the bay at a place called Cabo Tres Puntas. The next morning, I left the anchorage at 5:30 am. I estimated that the trip would take 8 – 10 hours. There was no wind and I expected that I would have wind from the east in a few hours.

After a couple hours, my engine overheated. I hoisted  sails, but unfortunately the winds were more from the north-east than the east.  That put them dead ahead and the waves, while moderate, were from the same direction. For non-sailors, you can’t sail directly upwind and the ability of a boat to get close to the wind is called the “ability to point.” My boat was very sturdy and comfortable, but was very poor at going upwind.  That made my progress along the desired course very slow. The wind and waves continued to build, further slowing my progress.

The 8 – 10 hour trip was now of uncertain duration and by 10 pm, I was less than half way to my destination. I was nearing one of my way points that would allow me to turn towards shore and have a more favorable angle on the wind.  I had restarted the engine, but was running it at low rpms while watching the temperature gauge.  I started having trouble maintaining my course and was working on restoring it when I went aground.

At the time, I wasn’t sure what I had hit and feared that it could have been a reef. I prepared an abandon ship bag with food, water, my documents, money, and my satellite phone. If I was on a reef, I could have been blown off into deeper water and sunk. I would not leave the boat unless this happened.

When I found that I was not in immediate danger, I turned on the satellite phone. One of the many mistakes that I made was to not have Belize emergency numbers saved in the phone. I checked one of my cruising books, but could not find a number. I made an emergency VHF transmission, but no response. So I called my wife, Marcia, in Costa Rica. It’s the only contact I had in the phone.

Satellite phones  can be very spotty. The antenna has to be pointed toward a satellite, with no obstructions in the way. I made several calls to Marcia, with the connection dropping and being of poor quality. I managed to get my position to her and that I feared that I was on a reef. She enlisted the help of a neighbor and contacted to Costa Rica emergency people who contacted the Coast Guards of Costa Rica, Guatemala, and Belize.

I turned on my deck lights and surveyed the area and found that I was aground on an island and not in any immediate danger. I was also uninjured. The boat was resting on its left side and I spent an uncomfortable night waiting to be rescued.

At sunrise, I saw that I was only a few steps from shore. I made another call to Marcia and then went ashore. The phone call was of poor quality and I guess that I didn’t pass the fact that I was on the island  clearly.

I was on East Snake Cay, a small mangrove covered island with no inhabitants. I walked the perimeter of the island and found no one. During that walk, my phone died, so I couldn’t make any more calls.

When I got back to the boat,  I grabbed some more water, a large cushion, and some canvas and made myself a camp on the island. It was very low lying and rocky.  I spent the entire day waiting and when the sun set, I started my second night stranded.

The next day, I was starting to wonder why no one was coming, because I gave my GPS position. I was in no danger and had enough food and water for several days. It wasn’t until after noon that I was picked up by the Belize Coast Guard.

They took to me one of their outposts that was in sight of the other side of the island. They said that they had searched that side of the island the night before, but had not circled the island. They fed me, checked my documents, and called their superiors and the US Embassy. They offered to take me for medical care, which I declined. The US embassy contacted Marcia and patched us together to let her know that I was okay. Until then, she was not aware that I was not in danger and she and many other had passed uncertain hours without knowing my fate.

 

Then they took me to Punta Gorda, the closest port of entry. There I was interviewed by Customs, Immigration, and the Department of the Environment. Of the three, I was most concerned by the environment.  I was aground in a protected area and fines for damage to coral are very punitive. When i was released, I was directed to return the following morning to accompany a team to inspect the site.

The next morning I returned to the site with officials from customs, the port authority, and the environment. The boat had been looted and almost everything had been taken. I really wasn’t that surprised because that often happens to boats that go aground. Two people surveyed below water around the area and fortunately found no significant damage.

Next, I had to hire someone to bring the boat to port.  I found someone and returned to the boat the next day. They removed all of the trash and water logged cushions and siphoned the fuel from the tanks.

They brought the boat in two days later. It was in pretty sad shape, with everything taken from it and the mast knocked down during the removal.  I sold her for what amounted to salvage value.

The environmental people had to return to reinspect to ensure that the removal caused no damage. They found none and i was released.

Upon my return to Costa Rica, I found out how many people were worried about me and how many had been involved in the search efforts. While I was rescued by the Coast Guard of Belize, the Coast Guards of the US and Guatemala as well as the US embassy were also following the progress and keeping Marcia and friends informed of the progress.

I had no idea of the number of people who were directly or indirectly involved and I thank all of you for your efforts. I’m sorry to have caused so much worry to so many and I promise to never buy another boat.

Tom

Ha pasado un tiempo desde mi última publicación. Han sucedido muchas cosas y este es un resumen de eventos recientes.

Regresé a Guatemala a mediados de enero y partí de Livingston, Guatemala el martes 20 de febrero. Mi destino era Placentia, Belice. Salí de Livingston a la 1 pm y anclado a través de la bahía en un lugar llamado Cabo Tres Puntas. A la mañana siguiente, dejé el anclaje a las 5:30 a.m. Estimé que el viaje tomaría de 8 a 10 horas. No había viento y esperé que tuviera viento del este en unas pocas horas.

Después de un par de horas, mi motor se sobrecalentó. Levanté velas, pero desafortunadamente los vientos eran más del noreste que del este. Eso los puso al frente y las olas, aunque moderadas, eran de la misma dirección. Para los que no son marineros, no se puede navegar directamente contra el viento y la capacidad de un bote para acercarse al viento se llama “capacidad de apuntar”. Mi bote era muy robusto y cómodo, pero era muy pobre yendo viento en popa. Eso hizo que mi progreso a lo largo del curso deseado fuera muy lento. El viento y las olas continuaron creciendo, ralentizando aún más mi progreso.

El viaje de 8 a 10 horas ahora era de duración incierta y hacia las 10 pm, estaba a menos de la mitad de mi destino. Me estaba acercando a uno de los puntos de mi camino que me permitiría girar hacia la orilla y tener un ángulo más favorable con el viento. Había reiniciado el motor, pero lo estaba ejecutando a bajas revoluciones mientras miraba el indicador de temperatura. Empecé a tener problemas para mantener mi curso y estaba trabajando en restaurarlo cuando encalle.

En ese momento, no estaba seguro de lo que había golpeado y temía que podría haber sido un arrecife. Preparé una bolsa de barco abandonada con comida, agua, mis documentos, dinero y mi teléfono satelital. Si estuviera en un arrecife, podría haber sido arrojado a aguas más profundas y hundido. No dejaría el barco a menos que esto sucediera.

Cuando descubrí que no estaba en peligro inmediato, encendí el teléfono satelital. Uno de los muchos errores que cometí fue no guardar los números de emergencia de Belice en el teléfono. Revisé uno de mis libros de crucero, pero no pude encontrar un número. Hice una transmisión VHF de emergencia, pero no hubo respuesta. Entonces llamé a mi esposa, Marcia, a Costa Rica. Es el único contacto que tuve en el teléfono.

Los teléfonos satelitales pueden ser muy irregulares. La antena debe apuntar hacia un satélite, sin obstrucciones en el camino. Hice varias llamadas a Marcia, con la conexión cayendo y siendo de mala calidad. Me las arreglé para obtener mi posición y que temía que estaba en un arrecife. Ella contó con la ayuda de un vecino y se puso en contacto con personas de emergencia de Costa Rica que contactaron a los Guardacostas de Costa Rica, Guatemala y Belice.

Encendí las luces de mi cubierta y examiné el área y descubrí que estaba varado en una isla y que no corría ningún peligro inmediato. Yo también fui ileso. El bote descansaba sobre su lado izquierdo y pasé una noche incómoda esperando ser rescatada.

Al amanecer, vi que estaba a solo unos pasos de la orilla. Hice otra llamada a Marcia y luego fui a tierra. La llamada telefónica fue de mala calidad y creo que no pasé el hecho de que estaba en la isla con claridad.

Estaba en East Snake Cay, una pequeña isla cubierta de manglares sin habitantes. Caminé por el perímetro de la isla y no encontré a nadie. Durante esa caminata, mi teléfono murió, así que no pude hacer más llamadas.

Cuando volví al bote, agarré un poco más de agua, un gran cojín y un lienzo y me hice un campamento en la isla. Era muy bajo y rocoso. Pasé todo el día esperando y cuando se puso el sol, comencé mi segunda noche varado.

Al día siguiente, comencé a preguntarme por qué no vendría nadie, porque di mi posición de GPS. No estaba en peligro y tuve suficiente comida y agua durante varios días. No fue hasta después del mediodía cuando fui arrestado por la Guardia Costera de Belice.

Me llevaron a uno de sus puestos de avanzada que estaba a la vista del otro lado de la isla. Dijeron que habían buscado ese lado de la isla la noche anterior, pero que no habían recorrido la isla. Me alimentaron, revisaron mis documentos y llamaron a sus superiores y a la embajada de los Estados Unidos. Me ofrecieron llevarme a la asistencia médica, lo cual rechacé. La embajada de EE. UU. Contactó a Marcia y nos puso parches para hacerle saber que estaba bien. Hasta entonces, ella no era consciente de que yo no estaba en peligro y ella y muchos otros habían pasado horas inciertas sin saber mi destino.

 

Luego me llevaron a Punta Gorda, el puerto de entrada más cercano. Allí fui entrevistado por Aduanas, Inmigración y el Departamento del Medio Ambiente. De los tres, estaba más preocupado por el medio ambiente. Me quedé varado en un área protegida y las multas por daños al coral son muy punitivas. Cuando me liberaron, me indicaron que volviera a la mañana siguiente para acompañar a un equipo a inspeccionar el sitio.

 

A la mañana siguiente volví al sitio con funcionarios de aduanas, la autoridad portuaria y el medio ambiente. El bote había sido saqueado y casi todo había sido tomado. Realmente no me sorprendió porque eso suele suceder con los barcos que se estancan. Dos personas inspeccionaron debajo del agua alrededor del área y afortunadamente no encontraron daños significativos.

Luego, tuve que contratar a alguien para llevar el bote a puerto. Encontré a alguien y volví al bote al día siguiente. Quitaron todos los cojines de basura y agua y desviaron el combustible de los tanques.

Trajeron el bote dos días después. Estaba en una forma bastante triste, con todo tomado y el mástil derribado durante la remoción. La vendí por lo que equivalía a valor de rescate.

La gente del medio ambiente tuvo que volver a inspeccionar para asegurarse de que la eliminación no causó daños. No encontraron ninguno y fui liberado.

A mi regreso a Costa Rica, descubrí cuántas personas estaban preocupadas por mí y cuántas se habían involucrado en los esfuerzos de búsqueda. Mientras estaba rescatado por la Guardia Costera de Belice, los Guardacostas de los EE. UU. Y Guatemala, así como la embajada de EE. UU. También seguían el progreso y mantenían a Marcia y sus amigos informadas sobre el progreso.

No tenía idea de la cantidad de personas que estaban directa o indirectamente involucradas y les agradezco a todos ustedes por sus esfuerzos. Lamento haber causado tanta preocupación a tantos y prometo nunca comprar otro bote.

Tom

 

 

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ISLA UTILA, HONDURAS

Here’s a short sample of video I recorded with my GoPro mounted on an ATV. It’s been edited and sped up 300% to just catch some of the view on the main road.

DABOTE is still one the hard in Guatemala.

BACK ON THE HARD

I had to make a hard decision to abandon my plans to continue to Panama after my auto tiller died. There are no repair or purchase options on the island and shipment of a new one from the states would take a couple weeks. That would put me further into the hurricane season.

I has another very exhausting 24 hours of hand steering to get back to Guatemala and had the boat hauled. It’ll remain there for the rest of the year. I could have left it in the water, but it costs about the same to have it out.

It’s discouraging, but there was no way I could continue without an auto tiller. I did do some steering by using the sails tied to the tiller and using a length of surgical tubing to balance the force. That worked well with the wind forward of the beam or slightly beyond that, but I couldn’t get it work downwind.  I have studied methods and watched videos, but I lacked a downwind pole. I had tried to find one in Guatemala, but was unsuccessful.

 

I’m back in Costa Rica and have time to make decisions about how to continue.

I had some photos from Utila and from the boat yard, but I lost them when I had to reset my new phone to unblock it from the AT&T network.

 

 

THE RIDE FROM HELL

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Isla Utila, Honduras

That’s the phrase that kept running through my mind when I arrived to Utila. It’s how my fellow Old Krank Bicycle Club member Carter MacEntyre (possibly misspelled) described every long distance ride he completed. This despite being a strong rider and riding several hundred miles per month.

 

I left Livingston, Guatemala on Monday, June 19, at about noon. There was a little wind, so I decided to sail out. There is a sand bank across the river entrance that limits the depth to 5 feet. My boat draws 4 feet, so no problem. Deeper draft vessels have to time the tide to enter and exit.

I was not mid-channel, but also not that close to shore when I went aground. Locals watch for this and have built a good business around it. A few minutes later and $50 lighter, I was on my way.

The first few hours were non-eventful. As the sun set, I was motor sailing due to light winds. I could see lightning in the distance, but was dry for the time being.

A sudden, strong squall with heavy rain forced me to lower the sails. I can roll the head sail from the cockpit, but have to go to the mast to drop the main. I wear a harness with 2 tethers when I leave the cockpit. The longer one attaches to Jack (safety) lines on deck and the short one attaches to the mast or rigging to keep me close to my work. After that, I was very wet and the auto tiller was steering while I went below to dry off.

I stayed below while the boat motored along. I could stay dry and take a look around while standing on the top step of the gangway. The combination of the wind and seas became too much for the auto tiller to steer. So I turned it off, shut off the engine and drifted. This tactic is called “lying ahull.” If I had some sail up, I could have “hove to”, but I wasn’t in the mood to do that.

There was nothing around us and the water was plenty deep. So, it was a safe place to just float around. It was also comfortable enough down below. It was too dark to see the waves and I don’t have a wind instrument. I don’t know how hard the wind was blowing, but my wind generator sounded like a small plane taking off. It normally hardly turns at all.

After 30 – 60 minutes, things settled down and I started the engine and carried on. I stayed below and all was well. Maybe an hour later, the rain and wind increased again and the auto tiller was showing signs of displeasure. When I would push a button, rather than the normal “Beep”, it would say, “Meh.” Then it just failed completely.

I didn’t note the time, but think it was before midnight. That meant that I had to hand steer the rest of the way. I wasted about an hour trying to get a couple bundgy cords to steer. I knew that would work, and it didn’t. So it was on the tiller to hand steer. It is very difficult to steer to the compass. There were no visible landmarks, so I had to follow the compass. Taking my eyes off of it for more that a few seconds would take me off course. That is very tiring. I would stop periodically and go below for a break while floating in neutral.

When the sun finally rose, I could at least see a point on the mainland. That made it much easier to steer. However, my plot charter told me I still had about 7 hours to reach my destination. I thought that I would never get there. But, of course, I did eventually. I anchored and called the port captain on the VHF radio.

I thought about asking if I could come in the next day, but I remembered when I cleared in as crew with Paul Sommers on “Dragons Wing.” Well. First, I arrived when he was out to lunch, so I stumbled off to have some myself. Then I looked for a cell phone SIM card to buy internet. That wasn’t easy, but got done.

Checking in took a lot longer than I thought it would. It was the same person, but the rules must have changed. He had a computer and I don’t remember that he did before. He spent a lot of time being careful with the forms and reading them over and over. He even had me take him to the boat to get photos. I thought he take a photo of the Hull number, or at least check it. He took a photo of the stern with the name and hailing port. When we returned to his office, he double checked everything and then told me to return the next morning.

Then, it was immigration. That didn’t take too long. They did have an electronic finger print machine that I think was new. He also printed my passport stamp with a computer printer rather that a manual stamp. The entry fee was $3.00.

This was THE RIDE FROM HELL!

I returned to the port captain’s office today and got my paperwork. He didn’t ask for any money and I didn’t offer any.

I just started to think about what I’m going to do about the auto tiller. This is a small island and I can’t just pop into a marine store. My next destination is 4 or 5 days at sea. I can’t hand steer that.

I’ll post some more about the island later. This is a big diving location. I’m not into that, but I’m checking into snorkeling with whale sharks. I’m also going to rent a Quad and ride around. There a very few roads and they are full of cycles and ATV’s.

This link will take you to map with my location.

https://iridium.com/floating/map?lat=16.095583&lon=-086.896683

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The auto tiller

ROAD TRIP

It sure is taking longer to get out of here than I ever would have guessed. I spent a couple nights on the lake to shake out some of the systems. I had a leaky shaft seal and engine fuel problem. Those got fixed and then I had a water pump leak. The pump needs a couple $11 seals. These are not available here, of course. So, while I wait for them to come from the U.S., I took a couple days to visit Takal.

Takal is the site of an ancient Maya city. There are miles of trails and various pyramids and other ruins. You can search for more information, I’m just going to post a few pictures. There are many clearly marked trails through the jungle.  I saw a lot of birds, monkeys, and coatis.

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Restoration is a slow process. Here is a cycle being used as a cable lift to haul stone and cement to one of the temples.

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I saw a lot of birds. I wasn’t able to get good photos. Here is one very colorful kind of turkey that I could approach.

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My pump seals arrive Wednesday. I may be on my way to Belize soon. I hate to jinx it by thinking that this is the last thing I have to fix.

Splash

That was the sound of my boat getting back in the water. It was a pretty exhausting 3 weeks, but thanks to Tim, Wyatt, and Carson; I’m looking good. At least, the boat is looking good. I’m still old and not that easy on the eyes.

A little magic happened during the time in the yard. The boat MAGICO left the water, but the sailing vessel DABOTE returned. I renamed the boat. That’s supposed to be bad luck, but I don’t believe in such things (knock wood). I applied for entry into Guatemala with the new name and my new documents. The cruising permit under the old name expired and I wasn’t going to pay the fine to extend it. So, like magic, MAGICO just disappeared.

I’ll be moving up river in a couple days to have some more work done.

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The interior is not as squared away, but will be in a feew days.

Progress on the Hard

The day after  posting those ugly photos, I thought that i would make a quick post on the progress to date. I have had a lot of great help from the male members of the Foley family. They are self described “Overlanders.” The five of them have been traveling for 2 years and will have to move on before their vehicle permit expires.

Tim and his sons, Wyatt and Carson have been sanding and painting every day for over a week. The boat has 2 coats of bottom paint and 2 coats of epoxy primer on the hull. The top side painting preparation is very labor intensive. The finish coats will be high gloss polyurethane and will show any brush strokes or scratches. So it’s been sanding and filling and sanding for days.

Here is what it looks like now. I have another day of fine detailing before the first finish coat

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L-R Carson, Tim, Wyatt.

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You can read more about the Foley family at http://www.clunkmonkey.com.

Malia and Kaila Foley are not pictured here but you can read about them at their site. The entire family has been a pleasure to meet and spend time with and they have really come through on the labor side. I’m going to miss them and not just for the labor.

 

On The Hard

On the Hard – the way boaters describe their boats when they are out of the water for maintenance.

It’s been a while since my last post. Sometimes I wonder if Blogging is a little too much like the people who post endless photos of their meals on Facebook and my posts are just not that interesting. In the end, I decided to keep going.

Since my last post,  I spent a couple weeks with my brother in Florida. I bought a lot of things that are not available here or are very much more expensive.

My transmission has been rebuilt and I have a functional 16 HP Perkins diesel engine. I installed a new fuel filter and had my fuel tanks cleaned.

My new VHF radio outputs a GPS signal that my laptop can read and I have a navigation program that is similar to GPS systems on land. Instead of maps, it displays nautical charts that give you information like boat speed, course, water depth, buoys, and navigation lights.

I have a satellite phone for making calls at sea.

I installed a new propane stove and also bought a portable refrigerator that will be permanently installed.

Now it’s time for things that can only be done on the hard. The main items to be done are to install 2 new sea cocks for a new head (like a toilet, but more moody) and paint the bottom with anti-fouling paint. The paint minimizes marine growth on the hull which will really slow you down and may eventually damage the hull.

Here are 3 “Before” photos.

 

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I Just Moved Aboard

Well, I’m in Rio Dulce, Guatemala. I arrived on Nov. 15 and first went to the marina on the 16th.

The boat was closed up for a long time, so it needed a good airing and cleaning. I stayed in a hotel 3 nights while I worked on cleaning and finding where everything was aboard.

Above decks it was gray/green. After a lot of elbow grease and Clorox, it is white again. It still needs painting, but I knew that. At least it doesn’t look totally unloved.

I talked to Casey a couple times. He’s the one with the Shannon and I can still stay in his cabin and he will help me relocate a lot of good equipment from it. I’m taking the anchor windlass, some winches, and the roller furling.  For now I am in a nice marina for $125 per month. I met a lot of nice people here from all over the world.

I started the engine today (a 16 HP Perkins diesel). It started fine. I know  the shift cable is disconnected and that’s on the to do list.

The boat could sail away now, but I want to add a few things.

I had a bit of an adventure today. I couldn’t find pillows and sheets in Rio Dulce so I took a shared minivan to a nearby town. You can flag these down on the road and they are very inexpensive. What I didn’t know is that they pack them like a clown car. They also drive like their hair is on fire.

I arrived alive and got my pillows and sheets and had a nice lunch. Then I flagged down a van. I was the last aboard. I ended up sitting on a narrow piece of metal behind the front passenger seat. It was more of a foot rest than a place to sit. My feet were on the entry step and there were too many people to close the door. I did have a handhold. My feet shared the step with the young guy who took the money and handled the seating and baggage. He was leaning out the open door as we raced down the road and would climb out and go on top where the baggage was as we approached a stop, He did this while the van was at full speed and he came back down after the van had left the stop.

I’m sure that I’ll never do anything that dangerous at sea.

I’ll post again soon and maybe add a few photos. The photo on the main page of this blog is the Rio Dulce from the center of the bridge.