>> Click here for the archives list of previous newsletters <<

D O C K L I N E S
SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2008

HURRICANE IKE - HEARTBREAKING.....

This is the memorial on Seawall Blvd, Galveston, Texas in memory of the thousands killed during the 1990 hurricane. The concrete walks were damaged and the blocks of granite you see were thrown around by the water force. The statue, however was untouched ..... AMAZING!
 
 
 

The following three articles were reprinted with permission from Soundings Publications, LLC.


Tuesday, 23 September 2008 08:40

EXCLUSIVE: Firsthand report from Texas on Hurricane Ike

Chris Landry, senior reporter for Trade Only and Soundings magazines, is in Galveston, Texas, with a Boat U.S. Marine Insurance Catastrophe Field Team reporting on the aftermath of Hurricane Ike. Look for his dispatches over the next several days. A full report will appear in the November issue of Trade Only.

The stench of the sun-baked barnacles covering the underbellies of the marina docks hit me as soon as I opened the rental car door. Hurricane Ike had picked up the entire 80-boat fleet at Bayland Park Marina in Baytown, Texas, pushed it a quarter-mile inland, and dumped the vessels — still tied in their slips — onto the road. The Category 2 hurricane struck the marina hard. Eleven days after, a mix of power- and sailboats still littered the street that leads to the marina, which sits at the head of Galveston Bay.

DAY 1
This was the first day of my three-day visit to the Houston area. I’m tagging along with the BoatU.S. Marine Insurance Catastrophe Field Team, which includes 11 surveyors and other team members. They’ve already been here a week, assessing the damage, and they’ll likely be here another two weeks.

“The damage is very much surge-driven and heavy in a narrow stretch,” said Richard C. Wilson, the team coordinator and BoatU.S. Marine Insurance’s assistant vice president of claims. “Galveston, Clear Lake and Baytown received the most damage, from what we’ve seen.”

Amazingly, the boats at Bayland Park remained tied to their docks. The storm surge, which rose an estimated 8 feet above mean high tide, lifted the vessels and docks above the pilings and onto shore.

“Because the boats and docks are blocking the road, these boats will have to be picked out one at a time,” said James Wood, a surveyor working for BoatU.S., who is in charge of this marina site.

The “Cat” team must find capable salvage operations that will use cranes to remove the boats. Those deemed unsalvageable will be taken to BoatU.S.’s makeshift boatyard on the other side of Galveston Bay. There, the vessels will be sold as losses.

At Bayland Park Marina, surveyors were waiting for the city to hire a salvage company, which they will work with to recover boats. “Until the salvage job is awarded, there’s not a lot we can do,” said Wood.

BoatU.S. surveyor James Wood

The recreational boats range from 25 to 45 feet. At first glance, many seemed unscathed, such as Richard Nelson’s 1982 Pearson, My Pantheon, a 36-footer. “The rudder is pushed over farther than I think it is supposed to be,” said the 81-year-old sailor. “I haven’t looked in the cabin yet, though.”

Ross Bounds, 48, keeps two boats at the marina. The 1979 Hunter 30 is OK, but he fears the 26-foot custom trimaran is a total loss. “There’s a couple holes in the hull, and the rigging is ripped out of the deck. It definitely cannot float right now.” We expect to find many more boats today. We’re headed to Galveston and will make our way up the bay through Clear Lake and back to Baytown.

DAY 2
Wednesday, 24 September 2008 11:51

Chris Landry, senior reporter for Trade Only and Soundings magazines, is in Galveston, Texas, for the second day with a BoatU.S. Marine Insurance Catastrophe Field Team reporting on the aftermath of Hurricane Ike.

The crunching sound caused me to turn my head. A crane plopped a Pearson 36 sailboat onto a barge after pulling it from the bottom of Watergate Yachting Center on the south shore of Clear Lake, Texas. “Salvage is not a delicate business,” surveyor Bill Ballard told me as we watched the crane place the 1988 sloop on its starboard side.
 

      Jay Eckols' Pearson 36
Ballard is a member of BoatU.S. Marine Insurance’s Catastrophe Field Team. He and 10 other surveyors are coordinating recovery efforts of damaged boats along the shores of Galveston Bay. It was my second day in the field with the “Cat” team. Moments before the Pearson was pulled, Ballard was on the phone with its owner, Jay Eckols of Missouri City, Texas. He told the sailor that his boat’s hull had been severely holed. The news confirmed what Eckols had suspected: The Pearson was a total loss. “It’s been a part of our lives for eight years,” said Eckols, 59, who spoke to me after his conversation with Ballard. “It’s very sad to hear the news. It’ll be hard to find another boat like this. My wife and I went through a grieving process. There were tears.”

Cat team member David Wiggin inspects a Tayana 37 at Lakewood Yacht Club

BoatU.S. has received a couple hundred claims from insured boat owners in the Houston area. The majority of the claims are from owners of boats at the marinas and yacht clubs sprinkled around Clear Lake, said Rick Wilson, the Cat team coordinator. Before we explored the marinas of Clear Lake, we spent two hours in Galveston. The 45-minute car ride from Houston took two hours because of a massive traffic jam caused by a check point at the entrance to the island. The snarl gave me a chance to get a good look at the boats lying on the side of Highway 45. The storm had left many in the middle of the road, but they’ve been swept aside or onto the median with cranes and other heavy equipment. We drove to Galveston Yacht Basin on the north end of the island. Just before Ike made landfall, a boat storage shed — a “botel” — caught fire and destroyed the 300 boats inside. With emergency vehicles unable to respond because of the storm, the boats burned into melted lumps of fiberglass and bent steel.

Cat team member Bill Ballard 
Elsewhere, small powerboats were strewn about the basin grounds, resting upside down, on their sides … you name it. The majority of the vessels were still under the basin’s covered slips. Some were sunk completely, others half-submerged. Dozens had severe hull and deck damage. Rubrails and hull-to-deck joints took a beating, as did flybridges and hardtops. The storm surge lifted the boats and pinned them against the underside of the aluminum roof. But Ike left plenty of boats nearly unscathed. “That’s the thing about this hurricane,” said Ballard. “The damage is severe but inconsistent.”

      Chris Garver's Tiara Sovran
Ron Evans’ 1967 41-foot Hatteras had a broken radar dome and a bent tuna tower. “Hey, it’s floating, and I’ll take that,” said Evans, 65, who lives in Houston. “I’ve been here since last Friday, helping everyone else more than anything.”

Chris Garver had owned his Tiara Sovran 3600 for only three weeks before Ike. The boat had been trucked 1,300 miles from Wisconsin without a scratch. “It was beautiful,” said Garver, 55, of his 2005 cruiser. “I went from being the happiest guy on the planet to being despondent. I think I cried three or four times last week.” The Tiara’s stern was propped up on the dock, standing on its two rudders. “I’m afraid to get on it,” said Garver, who was still waiting to hear back from his insurance company, Liberty Mutual. Early this morning, I received an e-mail from Garver. After we spoke yesterday, he hired Land & Sea Services, of LaMarque, Texas. The company was able to get the boat back in the water without damage.

“To say I am jazzed is the biggest understatement of all times,” he wrote. “I guess those prayers during and after the storm paid off.” Of course, it isn’t just the boat owners enduring hardship. Ike wiped out Lone Star Yacht Sales, a Bertram and Azimut dealership on the bottom floor of an office building at the Watergate Yachting Center. “I lost my home and my office, but our boats are OK,” said dealership director Jim Hedges, who had his yachts moved to hurricane holes before the storm. “It hurts, but we’ll go on. I am looking for another location right now. I am committed to this location.”

In related news, the Coast Guard continues to reset aids to navigation in eastern Texas and southwestern Louisiana.

DAY 3
Chris Landry, senior reporter for Trade Only and Soundings magazines, spent three days in Galveston, Texas, with a BoatU.S. Marine Insurance Catastrophe Field Team reporting on the aftermath of Hurricane Ike. This is his third and final dispatch. Look for a complete report in the November issue of Trade Only.

Packed in a small, one-bed hotel room, eight burly marine surveyors — members of the BoatU.S. Catastrophe Field Team — adjourn their 7 a.m. meeting. They’re eager to get to their assigned marinas and yacht clubs around Galveston Bay, where boats beat up by Hurricane Ike await inspection. Before they depart, the public relations people want to take a group photo. They gather in front of a tree on the hotel grounds.

“All right, everyone say ‘salvage,’ ” announces photographer Terri Parrow, the BoatU.S. Internet guru who’s documenting the team’s efforts to assess BoatU.S.-insured boats. Parrow and Scott Croft, the assistant vice president of public affairs, have been shuttling me around hurricane-damaged zones for three days.

At 8 a.m. Wednesday — our final day here — we pile into the car and head to a field between a patch of oil refineries and the highway.

This 4-acre makeshift boatyard serves as BoatU.S.’s home for damaged vessels, some that may beyond reviving. It’s a graveyard for boats, really — one that’s infested with jumbo mosquitoes and hungry fire ants. BoatU.S. will sell the boats to an auction company, which will then sell them to the highest bidders. Only eight vessels have been dropped off so far — six sailboats and two powerboats.

BoatU.S. surveyor Fred Wright
Ted Lemmond Jr. heads up the boat-transportation operation. With three hydraulic trailers and three towing trucks, Lemmond expects to haul more than 100 boats to this site when all is said and done. He will spend the next 45 days here. I hope he is paid well, I thought, as I swatted mosquitoes off my calves and then discovered a small army of fire ants on my shoes.

After two fire-ant bites, I’m ready to leave, as are Parrow and Croft. Our destination is the Houston Yacht Club in Shoreacres, which has received major media attention because of the severity of damage to its boats and property.

Ike completely destroyed the first floor of the clubhouse, where showers, restrooms and offices are housed. The restaurant and ballroom on the second floor suffered some damage but are in relatively good shape, said club general manager Ross Tuckwiller.

   BoatU.S.’s “boat graveyard
“Yeah, we got hit hard,” Tuckwiller said. “Some people say we’re through, but we’re not. We’re going to have a better facility than before the storm.”  It’s too early to put a dollar amount on damage that Ike did to the 110-year-old club, said Tuckwiller. About 80 percent of the docks need to be completely rebuilt; the other 20 percent will need significant repairs, too, he said. Though the club has insurance, “it won’t cover everything, like this road,” said Tuckwiller, referring to the paved pier we walk over. Ike peeled the pavement off the surface, now covered with hundreds of stones that once surrounded the pier perimeter. The club has 350 wet slips positioned along two piers. Roughly a third of the 250 boats that are kept here — about half power, half sail — were moved before the storm, said Tuckwiller. Most of the boats that stayed were torn from their docks and deposited onto the shore or the club grounds — on the grass, in the parking lot, smashed against the pier rocks. Some sank.

John S. John and his 26-foot Grampian
Tuckwiller couldn’t say exactly how many boats were damaged. The club faces east and is exposed to Galveston and Trinity bays. A sea wall consisting of wood pilings, which appears to be about 4 feet above the water, was no match for the storm surge.

John S. John, 54, walks back to his car after checking on his 26-foot Grampian. The sailboat is in the club parking lot on its starboard side. “They want $150 a foot to remove the boat,” said John, who lives in Nassau Bay, Texas. “That’ll be more than the boat is worth.” (He estimates its value at $3,500.) “This is a disaster,” he said. “This could be it for my boat.”

John cancelled his insurance policy two years ago. The premium was $1,000 a year. “Insurance rates get so high, you wonder if it’s worth it,” he said.

John and his wife, Susan, came to the club the night before Ike made landfall. They doubled-up new 5/8- and 3/4-inch lines to secure the boat. “The water was already thigh-high,” said John, a naval architect for a commercial design company. “The surge was 14 feet. There was nothing we could have done.”

Surveyor Fred Wright has inspected all but one of the 25 boats he is responsible for at the club. “There’s one Catalina we haven’t found yet,” said Wright. He has just finished inspecting another Catalina, a 25-footer.

           Houston Yacht Club
“It’s not repairable for its insurable amount,” said Wright. The boat’s mast is bent, its hull-to-deck joint torn apart, the rails mangled into pretzel shapes.

“Repairing a hull-to-deck joint increases the cost of repair dramatically,” said Rick Wilson, the catastrophe team coordinator, standing near the Catalina. “Repairing a hole in the hull is actually easier and less expensive.”

Of the two dozen boats Wright assessed, about half of them are repairable, he said. Most of the wrecked boats I have seen are sailboats. I walk to the end of the south pier to check out two motor yachts and a big Sea Ray.

This pier and its docks suffered the same level of devastation as its brother to the north. The aluminum roofs that covered sections of slips were either completely blown off or ripped and dangling from pilings. The surge toppled over all of the electrical transformers and the 4-foot-tall concrete platforms they sat on.

Ike ripped the air conditioning unit off the flybridge of the 45-foot motor yacht at the end of the pier. It hangs off the starboard side along with a gaggle of wires from the upper helm station.

A similar motor yacht in the next slip suffered severe damage to its hull-to-deck joint. The starboard side pilothouse windshield is blown out, but the boat is still afloat.

The Sea Ray 480, however, is not. Only its flybridge and foredeck are visible. A small Texas flag lay on the flybridge hardtop, still attached to the bent-over anchor light pole.

Back at the yacht club, employees are busy cleaning. “We’re going to have a shrimp boil on Saturday,” said Tuckwiller.

The End.

****************************************************************

STEVE & MARTHA GILLETT (44MC1979 "VOLCANO"): The Houston Yacht Club has 5 Gulfstars. Two 48 Motor Yachts, two 44 Motor Cruisers, and one 37' Sailboat. I'm not sure of the sailboat's status, but the two 48's made it through Ike with little or no damage - one relocated and one stayed in it's shed. The two 44's did not fare so well. My boat, Volcano, survived Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. We bought it as salvage (formerly Mirage) and restored. The first picture is Volcano in August 08 just off the new Bayport Cruise Terminal in Galveston Bay. The second picture is Volcano in its covered shed 2days after Ike passed. She is battered topside, but will live again. The third picture is We'llSea, and as you can see, she did not survive well. This boat was at the opposite end of my shed and was exposed to the full brunt of waves and wind. She is likely a total loss. Her owner is already looking for another Gulfstar 44 to replace her.

       

IRENE & MICHELE: WE'LL SEA is owned by club members, ROBERT & LESLIE WELLS. They are working with Bill Gutknecht, of Preferred Yachts, to find another 44 Gulfstar. What if you don't have a boat broker you can trust and you are looking for another boat, but don't know the market that well? Hopefully, the next article from Boat U.S. will help.

USED BOAT BUYERS BEWARE:
HOW TO STEER CLEAR OF A HURRICANE DAMAGED BOAT

ALEXANDRIA, VA, October 7, 2008 -- By the time the new owner of a nine-year old, $35,000, 24-foot fishing boat approached the BoatU.S. Consumer Affairs Department for help, it was too late. Shortly after purchasing the vessel the new owner discovered that the boat had been subjected to "excessive trauma" from a hurricane that caused serious structural damage. Unfortunately, the new owner was now left with only one expensive option: litigation.

While buying a used boat is never easy, recent hurricanes could lead to an increase in the number of hurricane-damaged vessels for sale on the used boat market. While many boats are properly repaired and sold, sellers don't always tell the whole truth and sometimes just finding out whether a boat has been hurricane damaged can be difficult - especially if cosmetic repairs have been made. Here are some tips that could help protect you from inadvertently buying a hurricane damaged vessel:

  • Vote "independent": Having a survey done by an independent surveyor is key. In the case of the 24-foot fishing vessel, the new owner hired a surveyor - who was recommended by the dealer - for the pre-purchase inspection. The true extent of the hurricane damage was never fully revealed until after the boat's new owner, who lived in another state many miles away received delivery, became suspicious, and then hired his own surveyor.
     
  • State line shuffle: Anyone wishing to obscure a boat's history need only cross state lines to avoid detection. That's because unlike automobiles, there are few states that have laws requiring the titles of junked or salvaged boats be "branded" as such. And only 36 states even have a requirement that powerboats be titled. In the case of our 24-footer, the boat was damaged in Texas when a hurricane struck. The absence of salvage title allowed the unscrupulous seller to simply trailer the boat to Ohio to list it for sale with a dealer. A seller who is not willing to document where a boat has been berthed or registered for the past few years should be a red flag that extra vigilance should be taken during the inspection and pre-purchase survey.
     
  • Fuzzy "background" checks: Although a few Web sites purport to provide comprehensive background information about used boats, consumers should be skeptical, since there is no one national clearinghouse for boat information, short of checking the records of each boat by calling the boat registration agencies in every state. And be aware that even if you do that, state boat registration records do not include information about accidents or insurance claims.
     
  • "As Is" could mean "expensive": Protections afforded consumers by federal warranty laws and state implied warranty provisions are limited when products are sold "as is". Without a thorough inspection and pre-purchase survey, you may not find any storm-related damages until something major happens and new repair efforts reveal their true extent. And your insurance policy won't cover the repairs since most don't cover pre-existing conditions. If you do buy "as is", consider adding a statement in the sales contract that says the seller has revealed everything they know about the boat's existing or repaired damages.
     
  • Eyes Wide Open: For certain buyers, purchasing a hurricane damaged vessel may be appealing, provided they have the time, budget and sweat equity needed to facilitate repairs. However, knowing it's a "hurricane boat" is a must. ###

************************************************************************

This is one of the most adorable boating, family photos I have ever seen.

This beautiful sunset photo below and the one above are both from the PassageMaker magazine and online photo contest.

************************************************************************

The Continued Adventures of the 4 Wheelers!
The following three articles, Verbs and Volcano's-Sept. 15th, Boarded, Bound & Burglarized-Sept. 22nd, and Mima Goes Mayan and Ponders Greed-Oct. 7th are from Mark Wheeler aboard MIMA a 50ft Gulfstar/CSY with his wife, Susan, and children Amy and Marshall.

Verbos Y Volcanos
(Verbs and Volcano’s)

La semana pasada la familia Wheeler estuvo estudiando Espanol en Quetzeltanango. The translation for those of us not yet fluent in Spanish is that for the last week the Wheeler family has been studying Spanish in Quetzeltanango, Guatemala.

Since arriving to the Rio Dulce on August 11th we have been going non-stop. Five days after arriving we hauled out to give Mima a new coat of bottom paint. With the help of three local men we had the job done in a week and we were back in the water. It was our first time out of the water and it was quite a sight for us to see 50,000 pounds of sailboat sitting on land.

Once back in the water we got settled at Mario’s Marina and three days later we were on a bus to Guatemala City. Our good friends and cruising buddies, the Johnson’s (s/v Side by Side), were flying back to Guatemala City after 8 weeks back in the U.S. Our plan is to travel inland together for a few weeks and also to attend language school together. After a day in Guatemala City we loaded into a van together and after 6 hours arrived in the mountain town of Quetzeltanango, 182 Km from the capitol city. If you are doing the math that is roughly 113 miles in 6 hours.

Although we were in a private chartered van the sheer ruggedness of the terrain made for a very slow ride. The minutes melted away however as every turn in the road revealed another breathtaking vista. The sheer beauty of Guatemala escapes this author’s descriptive ability. In 6 hours we had gone from the metropolis of Guatemala City through beautifully cultivated fields into highland jungles and finally into pine forests always surrounded by volcanoes. As I write this I am looking out over 7 volcanoes three of which are active. The people and landscape of Guatemala are candy for the eyes, bring a smile to your face and place a joy in your heart. This is a truly spectacular country.

Upon arriving in Quetzeltanango (Xela to the Mayan) we settled in with our host family and began our week of Spanish emersion. Our Spanish program involved 5 hours daily of individual tutoring and as much Spanish afterhours as possible. We spent all our mornings in class studying Spanish and even had homework to do in the evenings. The rest of the day we spent exploring the city and its’ many attractions. Xela is the second most important economic center in Guatemala. The city is also in the center of an area populated largely by indigenous Mayans. The dress, culture and pride of the Mayan provided a fitting complement to the natural beauty of the area.

We have now moved onto a coffee finca (farm) that is cooperatively owned by the 40 families that reside here. This all organic fair trade coffee and macadamia nut plantation is a fully sustainable farm that generates its own biodiesel and has its own water purification system and hydroelectric power source. It has been a wonderful learning experience as we gain more knowledge about the history of Guatemala and the struggle of its’ rural inhabitants to carve out a place in this new democracy. Where the road leads from here we are not sure but where ever it leads we are assured of beautiful vista and charming people. Until next time we trust your coffee is warm and your macadamia nuts sweet.
The 4Wheelers

Rio Dulce is a river running from Lake Izabal, in the eastern part of Guatemala, to the Caribbean.

Boarded, Bound & Burglarized
Terror on the Rio Dulce, Again

For the last 8 months most of what we have experienced cruising has really been fun and exciting. The events I relate below happened just over a month ago and I have been slow to write about them as I have tried to process through my own thoughts and emotions. Many are aware of the violent attack on fellow cruisers Dan and Nancy Dryden, s/v Sunday’s Child, on August 9, 2008. This resulted in the tragic death of Dan Dryden at the hands of bandits on the Rio Dulce. Our deepest condolences and prayers remain with Nancy as she recovers from her injuries, and the family and friends of the Dryden’s as they put the pieces of their lives back together without Dan. What is not as well known is that the unrest on the Rio was not isolated to this single event.

For s/v Dream Odyssey, s/v Ctoy, and s/v Mima, August 11 began and ended with a range of emotions uncommon to this sailor and author. We had all arisen at 2:30 a.m. to weigh anchor and head the 25 miles to the mouth of the Rio Dulce to take advantage of an early morning high tide to get across the bar at sunrise and into Livingston, Guatemala. Our careful and thoughtful planning was rewarded by a smooth and “bottomless” crossing. The bar at the mouth of the Rio Dulce has a mean low water depth of 5 feet 6 inches. Of the three boats I draw the most at nearly 6 feet 6 inches. As such we had planned our crossing to correspond with high tide and we never saw less than 7 feet 2 inches. None of the boats touched bottom and by 6:30 a.m. we were safely across the bar and anchored, waiting for the local officials to check us in and purchasing shrimp from the local fishermen.

We were all checked in and cleared by lunch time. We had a quick meal in Livingston and weighed anchor to head up river. I was ecstatic to finally be in the famed Rio Dulce. The first turn in the river ushered us into the jungle, and the river was as beautiful as I had imagined with 200 foot cliffs on one side and lush jungle on the other. We had been advised of the Dryden murder upon our arrival in Livingston by our immigration agent, he also reminded us to not anchor in the middle of the river so as to keep out of the way of boat traffic, and to anchor near a town and close together if we did anchor. In his words the Dryden murder was an isolated case and the river otherwise was a safe place given the advice mentioned above. As such, we chose to anchor at the mouth of the Rio Tatin. The cruising guides suggest this anchorage and talks about the Mayan community here and the volunteer opportunities available in the local school and clinic. We wanted to check it out and arrange to do some volunteer work with our kids during the summer, and maybe visit the spring fed pools at the head of the Tatin River. We were able to meet the local school teacher and his family and go for a quick swim in the spring fed pools. It was a lovely afternoon but as the sun set we all began to feel our 2:30 a.m. wake up call. All three boats did dinner early and retired. Dinghy’s were lifted and locked as usual; extra lights were left on for security and visibility. After a wonderful barbeque shrimp (Cajun style) dinner I was in bed and asleep by 8:30 p.m., thrilled to be in the Rio Dulce and excited about what the next day would bring.

At 9:30 p.m. after having been asleep for only an hour all hell broke loose. We were awoken by Greg yelling from s/v CToy that s/v Dream Odyssey had been boarded and robbed at gunpoint. Greg and I secured our boats and crews and I dropped our dingy and picked up Greg and Barbara and went immediately to Dream Odyssey. What we learned from Roy and Michelle and saw onboard Dream Odyssey impacted us all deeply.

Here is the account that Michelle gives.

“At around 8:30 p.m., while eating dinner, watching a movie and running the generator, at least 5 men with machetes & a gun, boarded our boat and actually came right into the salon and stood behind me before we even knew they were there!!!! We did not resist. Before it was all over, they tied us up, gagged us, threatened Roy with a knife for the dinghy keys, took our money/credit cards, two laptops (with all of our charts, navigational guides & travel logs for the past 4 years, plus all of our photographs!!!), printer, watches, cameras, camcorder, DVD player, LCD-TV, phones, various chargers, radio/cassette player, our safe, etc., etc. They tried very hard to steal the dinghy & motor but were unsuccessful. We estimate at least $17,000.00 worth of equipment was taken!!!! Some equipment was damaged while ripping things out but they did not otherwise trash or damage the boat & THANKFULLY we were not hurt!!! They were on board at least an hour.   We believe they got us to us via a large wooden boat but we never saw it or heard anything. I managed to get untied after they left and they had missed taking the VHF in the cockpit, so we were able to radio our friends who were safe and completely unaware, even though they both said they had made a visual check of our boat during that hour. It was a traumatic experience to say the least & we are doing our best to put it behind us!!!”

True to Roy and Michelle’s personality all they kept asking me is “are your kids safe?” These two were our very first cruising buddies and we are blessed to be their friends. We are all thankful that neither of them had been physically hurt, never -the- less, the senseless and cowardly nature of the robbery still leaves us asking why. Crime at any time is a cowardly act and usually it is viewed from afar, but this time it was our friends and we were involved. Much of what was taken will have very little value in the jungle and these two wonderful individuals have been rocked to the core.

As disturbing as the robbery was it unfortunately does not end there. Later that night another boat was boarded and fortunately again, no one was hurt. We have learned that this sort of activity has been going on for years here and yet none of the guide books or internet websites gives cruisers any warning regarding the very real and palpable security risks that exist on the Rio Dulce. I have been unable to find any security warnings on local cruiser based business websites and although everyone is verbally sympathetic to Roy and Michelle and the robbery there seems to be a sense that if we don’t talk about it maybe it will go away or at least won’t hurt business. A local ex-cruiser now resident told me “everyone knows that if you anchor near the Rio Tatin you will be boarded”. It is odd to me that no one here on the river has ever taken the time to post anything on the web or in print media for those of us who are first time visitors.

The authorities learned the identity of the perpetrators within days but were unable to react because in their words it is “very sensitive.” Once a raid did occur and some of the stolen items recovered the police were run out of town by 40-50 locals carry machetes and boards with nails through them and they were unable to finish their raid. Unfortunately the police and navy have such a bad reputation that they are not trusted by the local Guatemalans. Four arrests were made and the men identified as the robbers. Two of the cowards were underage and could not be held. The father and ring leader, along with his adult son, were held and then just 5 days ago they were released with “not enough evidence to hold them”. I guess the authorities forgot about the stolen items recovered and positive identification made. To add insult to injury, yesterday it was suggested to Roy and Michelle that a payment to the judge might speed up the release of the recovered items that were stolen from them.

The take home message is clear to this cruiser. We must stay ever vigilant as it pertains to security and not forget that the world is still a place where greed and selfishness many times rules the day. Yet, in all, it has become a learning experience for us and the kids. We have talked at length about the impact such a selfish act has had on Roy and Michelle. We have also talked with the kids about the need to be safe but to be careful not to paint everyone (in this case an entire village of indigenous Mayans) with the same paintbrush. One bad family does not mean that the entire community is corrupt. We are admittedly a little more on edge now than before but we continue to stay committed to learning through all our experiences onboard s/v Mima.

Say a prayer for Roy and Michelle as they put their boat and lives back together. Well enough for now, I am off to help Roy work on his boat.
Fair Winds, Mark

“Man is ever about the business of toughening his hide without hardening his heart” paraphrase from E. Stanley Jones

  Mima Goes Mayan and Ponders Greed  

Technically only the crew of s/v Mima went Mayan. We returned to Honduras to visit Mayan ruins while Mima sat safely at our marina on the Rio Dulce. One of the things we had looked forward to most in the days leading up to our hurricane season forced sabbatical in Guatemala was learning more about Mayan history and culture. We had purchased Mayan history books prior to leaving Idaho in expectation of our time in Central America and we have used our geographic location as a spring-board to learn about this intriguing piece of world history. We were also pleasantly surprised when both Amy and Marshall really seemed to get into reading about this fascinating culture.

Tikal in Guatemala is generally considered to be the New York City of ancient Mayan culture and we will make a trip there in 3 weeks. Copan in Honduras is often referred to as the Paris of Mayan culture. Once we heard that and spoke with other travelers who had visited Copan we realized we wanted to go. We loaded up and after an “easy” 6 hour bus ride we arrived at the border. Perhaps I should explain what an “easy” 6 hour bus ride in Guatemala is. The bus, thankfully was not the famed “chicken buses” of Guatemala but an older Mercedes Benz bus that I am sure started its’ life shuttling camera toting tourists around to sites of interest in comfort and class. When they have outlived their lives in more developed countries they seem to get sent here and are referred to as express buses.

The airline style reading lights and air conditioning vents are all still in place, although not operational, as are the curtains. The seats still maintain most of their padding and at least they only allow one person per seat. A big difference between this bus and buses in the U.S. is you stop a lot. I mean A LOT. We stopped for the driver to hand a car radio off to a friend, for him to say hello to a passing bus driver and about a hundred other times, some of which made sense some of which left us scratching our heads. Our driver was very nice and quite interested in the gringos on his bus and loved talking with us, most of the time while driving and text messaging simultaneously. Did I mention that he was really cool? He had the look of a guy ready for anything. Big oversized sunglasses and rings on every finger and that stylish ultra-short beard that made me wonder if he just forgot to shave. None the less, it all worked for him and he pulled it off well.

I do not know much else about our driver except to say that I think he hopes to be a NASCAR driver in his next life and takes practicing with his bus very seriously. This guy moved through the gears like he was driving a dragster, and attempted and succeeded in passing cars and trucks in situations I would not attempt in a Ferrari, but he got us there safely and on time. Once at the border between Guatemala and Honduras it was an easy 15 minute taxi ride to the charming city of Copan Ruinas.

Copan Ruinas has flourished as a town because of the ruins located just one mile from town. The city retains its small town charm and friendliness, yet the constant flow of tourists has attracted many entrepreneurs catering to the broad international base of tourists. The coffee shops, quaint hotels and shops, and beautiful town square invite one to come and stay for a while. But we were here to see the ruins, so the following morning after hooking up with our guide Mike; we headed off to explore our first Mayan ruins. The Copan ruins are the most researched and excavated of all the ancient Mayan sites. Since the turn of the 19th century archaeologists from around the world have been carefully studying and reconstructing this once vibrant city. Entire temples have been found intact contained within the ruins of later structures. The most ornate and complicated of stone carvings that exist today from Mayan culture were all found here, giving rise to the title, “The Paris of Mayan Society”. Much of the old city now looks like it did 1500 years ago minus the colorful paint, and visitors need not imagine much to visualize a vibrant city of over 30,000 people living and working in this valley.

Marshall in Copan
As we walked through the ancient city looking at massive stone carvings called Stellas, and giant architectural structures, we kept saying to ourselves, “wow, could you imagine walking through the jungle and discovering that?” Who knows, maybe one of the 4Wheelers will be an archaeologist someday.

Marshall and Amy at Mayan Ruins
I also found myself thinking about the many similarities between this ancient civilization and ours. I do not pretend to be an expert on Mayan culture nor would I suggest that the practice of animal sacrifice resembles modern society. I am, however, struck by the similarities between the fall of Mayan culture and the current economic challenges facing the United States. Experts suggest that one of the prime reasons for the decline of Mayan culture was that they grew to a state of such excess that the environment around them was unable to support them. This seems not unlike the excess we have seen exhibited lately by a few that has created such an economic hardship for so many innocent hard-working families. As Augustine noted, we are afflicted with restless hearts. We want more. Yet our wants are often unschooled, wide ranging, without limit, ready to alight on the first sweet-smelling tropical blossom that comes our way. The problem it seems in the matter of desire is not that we desire deeply but that we often desire deeply the wrong things. Not unlike the Mayans of old and the greed driven, “Wall Street” individuals of today.

The line is often very thin between need and want, and we are trying to learning how to live lives that embrace who we are as individuals married to a broader commitment to the natural environment around us and the most treasured of all entities, our fellow human beings. I continue to ask myself if I am balancing the realization of our many blessings with a generous and giving spirit. As we all struggle to make our way in this ever changing world we are hoping we can do so in such a way that addresses not only our needs but the needs of others. From the jungles of Honduras to your home our prayer is that we all are learning to live, love and share well.

Fair Winds, the 4Wheelers

IRENE & MICHELE: Wow! Great photos and information. The photo above was from June of this year....look how much Amy and Marshall have grown! Not just physically, though, "mucho" mentally, thanks to Mom and Dad! What an amazing, cultural learning experience for them. KUDOS to Mark and Susan....we think you are wonderful and brave parents!

************************************************************************

RENDEZVOUS REALITY

Emails were sent to the 16 GOC members who voted for Wilmington, and the 18 GOC members who voted for Stuart for a Fall Rendezvous. Unfortunately, there was not enough interest to offset the expense of a Rendezvous. However, we have a solution for those of you who would still like to get together.

There are two choices:

  • The first one is coming up soon. It is the Southbound Cruiser's Rendezvous October 27-29th in New Bern, North Carolina. Go to www.ncgam.com for complete information. There is a registration fee of only $25. The seminars are being held at the Farmers Market that we club members attended during our 2004 Rendezvous. Reservations are made by contacting Dick & Judy Giddings "St Jude." Give them your Boat Name, the names of All Those Aboard who will attend, and Contact Info (e-mail or phone number). It's that simple.
    E-mail richardcgiddings@yahoo.com  Dover home phone # 252-523-7146
    P.O. Box 751 Dover, NC 28526-0751
    Irene may be at the dinner Weds., Oct 29th, if she feels up to it. GOC members should meet at a table at this dinner.
     
  • The second choice is Trawler Expo January 9-11th in Stuart, Florida. Go to www.trawlerexpo.com for complete information. There are two packages to choose - one $95 the other $200. GOC members, Chris & Alyse Caldwell, will be seminar speakers at this event. There is a cocktail party both Friday and Saturday evenings. The 35th annual Stuart Boat Show will be this weekend also, so come on down sailors, too. Michele will be at this event and will be reserving a table for GOC members to attend the evening events. You can register on line or call the Trawler Expo office at 305-868-9224. Boat club group discounts for hotel and marinas are being formulated and I will pass along shortly.

The speakers at both events have great topics this year. Our friend, Claiborne Young, cruising editor and www.cruisersnet.net website father, will be in New Bern for the Southbound Rendezvous along with Mark & Diana Dolyle, editors of Managing the Waterway.

Please email Michele at gulfstaroc@aol.com if you plan on attending either event. I will give you more information on the group discounts as they become available next week.  ************************************************************************

 BE AWARE, IN CASE YOU HAVE THESE ON YOUR BOAT:

  • Sears recalls 145,000 Kenmore Coffeemakers because the wiring in the small appliances can overheat, posing burn and fire hazards. The retailer has received 20 reports of coffeemakers overheating, including 12 fires that caused damage. No injuries have been reported.
  • Sony recalls 73,000 VAIO Notebooks because the units can overheat and pose burn hazards. The company received 15 reports of overheating. Irregularly positioned wire near the computer's hinge and/or a dislodged screw inside the hinge can cause a short circuit and overheating.

************************************************************************ Spare Props for sale from a 49' Motor Yacht, 23x23 4-blade 1 3/4" shaft, call Bill at toll free 866-364-9279 or 727-580-9589.

 ************************************************************************ @@@Websites Worth Watching@@@

www.getjealous.com/mvinterlude - GOC members' Ted & Maricia Miller's cruising photo website. Great photos, especially Canada!

www.ncgam.com - GOC - New Bern, NC - next best thing to a Rendezvous - October 27-29, 2008

www.trawlerexpo.com - GOC - Stuart - next best thing to a Rendezvous - January 9-11, 2009

This is Jonathan & Christine Caldwell's 50AUX "CALYPSO", which was hauled out in June....what beautiful lines, paint job, and the hull is like a mirror. If you are reading your mailed copy of Docklines, try to get to a computer to see this photo on line. She's a BEAUTY! Know wonder those 50's don't come on the market that often!

IRENE & MICHELE: Keep in mind Gulfstar accessories make great Holiday gifts!
Call (727) 347-4602 to order directly.

Download this Newsletter in .pdf format here

>> Click here for the archives list of previous newsletters <<