After over ten years online, the Emma Jo website (this one) was hacked, shredded, destroyed, white-screen-of-deathed. The web hosting company did nothing to protect it, and when I called for help, blamed me for it and offered absolutely no solutions.

Hence we are temporarily offline. We’ve scraped the internet way-back machine, combed through the computer files for backup copies of posts, photos, and graphics. There are over 6,000 files to examine, reassemble, and re-post. So we’ll be offline for a while.

Oh, well. At least it keeps us off the streets.


Party, Party, Party…and Travel

Hacienda Tijax
Fronteras, Guatemala

With Ole’s 10 on/10 off schedule, we really have to cram life into a compressed schedule, and July was no exception.

For the Fourth of July we were invited to “Calamity Jane’s” birthday at the Crow Bar. Jane and her husband, Roy, have a Beebee trawler called Steel Magnolia, who came down here from Houston about a year ago. His boat is written up in the December 2006 issue of Passagemaker Magazine. A former newspaper owner, Roy has retired to manage the Crow Bar with Jane and run the Rio Dulce’s online newsmagazine Rio Dulce Chisme Vindicator. Crow Bar Marina has its own cast of characters, who were all on hand for barbecue and rum. [Read more…]

Tourists Doing the Rio Dulce Thing…

Hacienda Tijax
Rio Dulce, Guatemala

Tijax filled up this month, with boats arriving from England, France, Holland, and the US. After casually meeting a few cruisers on the dock, Gerard (from France) took it upon himself to organize a cocktail party in the dining room at Tijax so we could all meet one another. The party was the same night Ole arrived home from Sovereign, so he missed the initial meeting, but came up to speed quickly as we organized a couple of private excursions.

The first was about an hour away from Fronteras – to a place called “Finca Paraiso.” It’s a private ranch that happens to include a river with volcanic hot springs. There were eight of us — two from England, two from Holland, two from France, Ole and I, who rented a mini-van and driver, carried picnic lunch in backpacks, and spent the better part of the morning in the river. [Read more…]

May is “Travel Month”

Hacienda Tijax
Rio Dulce, Guatemala

May was a busy travel month, celebrating two family birthdays and a wedding in the States.  From Tijax, via the internet, I booked travel from Guatemala City to Reno to Seattle to Orlando and back to Guatemala, over a three week period.

My sister Sara’s birthday was the tail end of April, and my Aunt Maybelle’s 90th birthday was in early May.  As both families live on the US West Coast, we opted to make Reno the rendezvous spot for both activities.  My lifelong friend Suzanne was able to join us at the Silver Legacy and the Peppermill (it helps on the rates to be a “frequent gambler”).  I hadn’t seen Suzanne since our trip to Bimini for Thanksgiving in 2005, so it was good to catch up. [Read more…]

A Gringa (Partially) Does Holy Week in Antigua

Easter Sunday
Tijax Marina
Fronteras, Guatemala

Nuestra Senora de la Merced

If we Americans are guilty of pageantry and associated gluttony at Christmas, we are only outdone by the magnitude of Holy Week (Semana Santa) in Guatemala in general, Antigua in particular.

Monday I took a shuttle van with our boat buddies Rosie and Don from Chickcharnie for the 6-hour trip to Antigua. The drive was amazing and relaxing in that someone else had to be responsible for negotiating the potholed mountain road and building holiday traffic. We arrived in Antigua at about 2:30 in the afternoon, and checked into a triple room at a private, restored 17th century colonial house run by the charming, outgoing Karla, who spoke no English but greeted us like long lost family. [Read more…]

Emma Jo Arrives in Guatemala

Fronteras, Rio Dulce
Izabal, Guatemala

Once we decided to go, we left yesterday morning about 6:15 a.m. with a “buddy boat” called Chickcharnie, with Don and Rosie from Montana aboard, to attempt to cruise to Punta Gorda, check out of Belize, cruise to Livingston, check into Guatemala, and find a quiet anchorage for the night.

Cruising in open waters now has Jan wary, so we thoroughly secured for sea, only to find ourselves in flat calm, almost glassy seas across the Gulf of Honduras. FINE with me!! We were in Punta Gorda in less than three hours, and the formalities went fairly efficiently, so off we went immediately toward Livingston, arriving there just after noon. We figured we’d have to wait for the officials to finish their lunch before coming out to our boat to clear us in – apparently lunch lasts until about 3:30. [Read more…]

Exploring Placencia

Departing Placencia

The Acupuncturist at Placencia

We opted to stay a couple of days here, as it is a delightfully funky place – kind of an “end of the road” collection of stilt houses painted all kinds of Caribbean colors from turquoise to pink to violent coral purple.

It’s a cruiser haven, and when we pulled in the other day, there must have been about 50 boats huddled between Placencia proper and the cay across. Many American, a few Canadian, and a couple of Germans, from Hamburg, no less.

When we went ashore, we followed a ½ mile long sidewalk that wanders in between the stilt houses and found an eclectic collection of businesses – dive shops, guest houses, an acupuncturist, a sports bar, and even a salon and “spa.” I couldn’t decide whether my favorite is the combination coffee house/internet café/laundromat started up by a guy from Vancouver or the bar/restaurant called “Purple Space Monkeys” painted wild colors. On the walk, the strangest site was the cemetery, where some of the departed had proper crypts above the ground, and others appeared to have been laid to rest in plain old sand, and recently at that.

Grocery shopping was good at Wallen’s market, where there is a semi out back with cases of beer (they know their clientele!). You take in your empty bottles, the “writer dude” gives you a receipt, and the cashier gives you a ticket to take back to the semi for replacements. Very efficient. Stocked up on crackers, coffee, and cookies as well. Ole went back for a nap, leaving Jan with the dinghy (she’s now dinghy-certified) to go get a haircut and check e-mail at the Canadian’s laundry.

Last night we hosted cocktails for some new friends, and oddly, most of them were from the west coast – from Las Vegas, from Montana, and from Oregon. It was our first official “cruisers” cocktail party, and we were surprised to find each couple bringing an hors d’oeuvres to share. There was so much, it was almost a shame to leave for dinner ashore! The company was exceptional, the conversation was fun, and dinner ashore was great.

We left Placencia this morning at about 10:30 to head for New Haven. It’s hard to face it, but tomorrow we’re hoping to clear out of Belize at Punta Gorda , clear in to Guatemala at Livingston, and anchor somewhere in the mouth of the river to head up on Friday to Hacienda Tijax, which we hope will be our home for the next several months.



A Boat in Distress…and What to Do About It


So after another wonderful day, we heard on the radio that there was a norther coming on Saturday morning, with expected winds from the northwest at 10-15.  As we sat Friday night over the rum and oj, we remarked to ourselves that heck, 10-15 was nothing, we were on the south side of the cay, and we could handle it.  We snorkeled the anchorage, and found we were set in sand on top of a hill in about 30 feet of water. The anchor chain lay across the top of the hill and gently circled down to the bottom at 50 feet before tracking back up to the boat.  We thought we’d be fine, as we had out 175 feet of chain.

About two miles away, in an area the chart calls Bread and Butter Cays (but the cruising guide calls Stewart Cay), we spotted another trawler, tried to hail them on the radio, but they must have been otherwise occupied.

At 11:00 p.m. on Friday night, Jan was up on the computer and Ole had just gone to bed, when, out of nowhere, the wind started blowing 25 with gusts to 30, out of the northwest.  So much for weather forecasting.

Ole shot out of bed, looked at the plotter, and found we had slipped anchor and our adrenaline kicked in.  [Read more…]

Nothing to Do but Relax…

Spruce Cay, Belize

Jan Explores the Reef at Southwater Cay

Aahh, so this is cruising.

We spent another day at Southwater Cay, relaxing in the morning and going ashore to explore in the afternoon.

The island has two lodges – Blue Marlin and Pelican – on opposite ends, and a private homestead for the Bowman family, an outpost of the IZE (International Zoological Expeditions), and a station for Southwater Cay University in between. All of these facilities exist on an island that is barely ½ mile long and about 100 yards wide, situated right on the barrier reef, and are connected with a one-person wide footpath. Everyone we met along our walk was lovely, friendly, and welcoming. After our walk, we ended up back at Blue Marlin, and waded out to the top of the reef for a look. [Read more…]

Wow. NOW we’re talking.

Southwater Cay

Emma Jo at Southwater Cay

Glee is now raging in full force.

The 10-mile cruise from Garbutt Cay yesterday took us southeastward toward the barrier reef, from 30-foot depth to something in between 8 and 10 feet, cruising in water so disarmingly clear we could just about count the hermit crabs on the bottom as we motored along. On the way, we passed by Tobacco Cay, which seemed attractive to quite a few cruisers, including the Texans from yesterday.

We anchored within 100 yards of the north end of Southwater Cay, after aiming at a mooring ball closer in and determining there was only about 4.5 feet of water under it. The area has grassy patches, so we found a clear patch of sand to drop the anchor and back down about 50 feet of chain. The water is so clear that we could physically see the anchor dug into the edge of the sand patch. [Read more…]