Ahoy from the crew of the BlueJacket!
[Please note that these blogs haven been delayed due to boat work. I'll get caught up with them once we get some time when we're at LightHouse Reef.]
[Sorry, that 1st email was a test for me and wasn't supposed to have gone out to you.]
It's been way too long since I've written one of these blogs. As you may recall, we didn't have a cruising season last year as when we got to the boat we discover that she had been struck by lighting while sitting in the boat yard. We spent about a month trying to determine the extent of the damage. Basically everything electrical needed to be replaced...all of the electronics, batteries, charging devices, etc. It took a long time to select and design replacement components. Dealing with the insurance company (Falvey) was actually fairly easy as I had receipts for 99% of the components that had been damaged, so it was easy to compute the depreciated value of the items. Of course they then cancelled my policy, as it was clearly my fault that BlueJacket had been struck by lightning, but that's another long story. The total cost of the repair, including items, shipping, duty and labor was about $65K.
I shipped most of the components to Guatemala via freighter and then headed back to the boat in October to assist with the installation. Chris Wooley, who has worked on BlueJacket since 2001, runs a business named El Toque Final which primarily deals with electronics. I worked side-by-side with his team removing the existing systems and wiring and installing the new systems. Many things were straight swaps, but when it came to electronics, this was a major shift. I went from a 20 year old RayMarine SeaTalk based system to a state of the art B&G NMEA 2000 system. Prior to shipping everything, I carefully designed the system (including cable lengths) and tested the setup at home. As a result things went smoothly, but I was putting in 10+ hour days, 7 days a week while I was there. Chris's team put in lots of additional time on items that didn't need my input and it all got done professionally and on time. That's Nelson, on the right, installing the generator.
We also had BlueJacket re-AwlGripped (painted) and had the transom re-gellcoated at RAM Marina. I really want to thank them for the great job that they did as she looks fantastic. RAM has also been wonderful in their support of us and handling our special requests.
As you may also know, Sue & I run a charity named Fresh Start Furniture Bank in Hudson, MA. We provide free furniture and home goods to people in need. Our growth rate has been amazing. Last year we furnished 439 households with over 15,000 pieces of furniture and home-goods. Our volunteers put in over 9,000 hours. This year we're expecting to help 579 families and distribute over 20,000 items! We just added an additional 2100 sq ft to our distribution center and hired our first part time employee, a store manager to help Sue and to take over while we're gone. Sue & I both put in 50-60 hours a week, so for us this is a full time+ unpaid job and leaving our baby is a scary thing. But we have great volunteers and have faith that all will be well while taken care of while we're gone.
In January Sue lost her dad to Alzheimer's disease which he had battled for 15 years. This was expected, but that doesn't make the process any easier. The good news is that Sue's mother, Elaine, is doing very well and had a great outlook on life and the future. My mom, Muriel, who is 96 and still lives at my childhood home, is staying with my sister in the Portland, OR area for the winter, but will be returning in a couple of weeks. That's scary, but the good news is that we have good satellite communication to keep in contact with them.
All of these issues pushed our departure date way back and a couple of weeks ago we headed back to the boat to get her ready to go cruising. On February 19th we flew to San Pedro Sula, Honduras as it's typically easier to get from San Pedro to the Rio Dulce from there than it is from Guatemala City. Plus, In Honduras, customs doesn't do an in-depth search of your bags, which is important when you're carrying in lots of boat parts.We stayed over night in San Pedro and then went grocery shopping for items that we can't find in the Rio and then headed to Guatemala. Intense rains had been falling all throughout January, which washed out some roads, but luckily they had been repaired. There's been a lot of civil protest and we ran into a road block where the protesters had blocked the road with burning tires and branches. Thankfully the officials cleared it quickly and we weren't held up for long.
We made it to RAM marina in the middle of the afternoon and quickly set about trying to get the boat ready to depart. Due to tides, we needed to cross the bar at the entrance to the Rio Dulce 9 days later, which didn't give me much time. On top of that, BlueJacket needs to be out of the country for 90 days, so this really complicated matters. I was working 12-15 hour days trying to get all of the systems up and running. However, we did manage to take some time off and volunteer with Pass It On Guatemala who was having auction, which included quite a few parts that came off of BlueJacket. Sue handled generating the invoices and I played cashier. Other than our Sirius radio, everything went well and we made it out of the marina and headed down river on June 1st.
The trip takes you through a canyon with 200-300' high cliffs on either side. It's absolutely stunning! Unfortunately as we were headed through the canyon, the engine raw water impeller, which provides cooling water to the engine, failed. I slowed the boat way down, opened up the engine compartment, and limped into Livingston where we cleared out. Once the engine had cooled down, I replaced the impeller and we were ready to go!
The bar at the mouth of the Rio is 5' deep at low tide and runs for about 1/4 to 1/2 of a mile. BlueJacket draws 5.5', so we need at least a 1' tide to give us any breathing room. We also have a 6' wide wing keel, which makes a great anchor if you get stuck! The 1.6' high tide was at about 10 PM and we had a 2 hour passage, so we pushed our departure time to 7 PM. That was probably a mistake as the tide was probably only at 1' and there was a good 2' seas coming through. As we were going out, we grounded several times when we dropped into the trough of a wave. I just powered our way out and we eventually made it! Believe me, a cheer went up when we made it to deep water! We headed across the bay to Cabo Tres Puntas, where we spent the night. The next day we dodged heavy downpours as we headed to New Haven bay in Belize, but that's a story for another day.
-- Geoff & Sue
For the cruiser:
We stay at the Guacamaya Inn in San Pedro. It's very safe and friendly. Highly recommended.
We're anchored in New Haven at 16-15.1N 088-35.62W which is a huge bay which provides 270 degree protection. We're anchored in 15' of water over sand at the mouth of the bay to keep away from flying creatures that inhabits the surrounding mangroves. This would be a great storm hole which can handle a ton of boats.
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