On the Road Again
Gloriously, it feels like weve busted free. Hurricane season is officially, and in reality over, and as we slipped Ithakas lines from the docks at Tortugal Marina in the Río Dulce and pulled out into the River, motoring downstream toward the ocean, we were roaring with pleasure. Yes, Ill miss long, hot showers and ice cubes, but its wonderful to be finished with the majority of projects for which we needed electricity and a stable platform. The new radars installed, the seams by the coach roof are resealed; the switch for the windlass has been decrudded, and all systems have been checked. Most amazing of all, my friend Harold and I rebuilt Ithakas refrigeration system, which has been dead since we left the States. We installed a used automobile compressor, replaced the expansion valves, bled the system, filled her up with freon, and once again we have a working engine-driven freezing system thats humming cold. This task was far too daunting for me to attempt a year ago, and its a sign of our changing life on Ithaka, that we successfully turned it aroundat least for now!
But as we looked astern at Tortugal and waved goodbye to the good friends we made there, both human and canine, we felt sad too. Erika and Lobo, and their baby Juan, on Arenas, have become our friends, as have Daphne, who owns the marina, Thierry, who runs the place, and Arnulfo, who works there. Arenas is destined to leave Tortugal soon, but I wonder when well see them again. The pooches, Mancha and Joe Friday, both of whom can execute exquisite run-off-the-dock-belly floppers when trying to corner fish, have been fine entertainment and friendly mascots, sometimes sleeping on the dock right behind us. But its time to move on to new places and new friends. On of the ironies of cruising, which is so much about encountering the new, is that the dues one pays most often are having to say goodbye. Such is, I suppose, the privilege of longer life for all of us.
Only 500 yards down the river from Tortugal is a massive cement bridge and the hell-hole of a town, well-named as Fronteras, because it really does push at the boundaries of just about everything. But, as we passed beneath the bridge, I thought about the fresh tortillas I bought there most days (un mano por un quetzal, fiveone handfor one quetzal, about 13 cents). As we rolled by I looked toward the dinghy dock, my mouth watered, and I even felt the tiniest bit sentimental about Fronteras, but sanity returned and those feelings passed quickly enough.
Were both excited to feel liberated, to no longer be within earshot of trucks and telephones and neighbors. While weve loved traveling about Guatemala and Salvador and visiting the United States, theres a season for all things, and our season, like our refrigerator, is reborn now. Onboard are new flippers and masks, a new speargun, a slew of books crying to be read, a galley full of provisions, a series of charts weve only started to study, and guidebooks for islands and countries we hope to visit. I hesitate to lay them out in detail in print, because it seems every time we make plans and say them out loud, it all but guarantees well end up doing something else. This isnt peculiar just to us. Its a familiar refrain among cruisers, who often say that plans are what most often get in their way of life. The other night Bernadette and I started to talk of where wed like to spend next Thanksgiving, which is likely to mean hurricane season, but we stopped ourselves short lest we jinx it somehow. I know that over the next months well each make hints, linger over particular charts, muse aloud with the occasional "what-if"yet well fall short of stating in a full-on declarative sentence: "I want us to be at such-and-so." Normally direct with each other on so many things, this minuet has some odd moments but seems to work without invoking the wrath of poltergeists, dybuks, or curses. One day, one of us will say, "Jeeze, why dont we just spend next hurricane season..." and through a series of delicate dance steps, voilà, the consensus will have been reached. I dont quite grasp the whole process yet, but this seems to be how it works.
Having just spent our second Thanksgiving on the boat, we marked that as a milepost. At Tortugal, Daphne cooked a turkey feast, and we shared it with cruisers from Argentina, France, Belgium, Italy, Canada, and the United States. It was an internationally ecumenical affair, and the fact that this version had been rooted in the States didnt matter a bit. Its a holiday that translates well because its free of religion and full of harvest; plus, everyone out here has plenty of reason to be grateful.
Anchored tonight in a quiet bend of the Río Tatin, we see kerosene lights flickering on shore in the few huts and houses. No longer wired to the docks, were using fewer lights, and turning them off sooner. Were reacquainting ourselves with the groan of the anchor rode and the strain of the snubber, with the echo of waves and currents against the hull, and the turn of the boat as the tide switches direction. We can hear wind in the rigging. Its light, though, just strong enough so we dont need screens to fend off bugs. And the sounds around us are of nature, not civilization.
Ive got a fishing line off the stern. Ill check it before I go to bed and, if nothing, again in the morning. Well see. This afternoon a group of youngsters in cayucos were only a few yards from Ithaka, flinging their nets and hoping to pull in roballo. More of them though were paddling about and splashing each other, the impulse to play being so much more seductive than the obligation to work. Its good to be on the road again.