Laying now in the aft cabin. The sound of Otto the auto pilot groaning back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. About 90 miles from Cape St Antonio on the west end of Cuba. Then another 300 to Florida and Orion goes back on the hard for the hurricane season. 

1st leg, Roatan, then past Cuba.

Very short session this go round on the majestic lady.

When we left off I was getting ready to drop into the Guatemala City airport. Then into a waiting car for the six hour drive to the Rio Dulce. A long and winding road for sure. Old sailing friend Dale along for the ride, Elia headed back to Colorado. Planned on picking up Joe in Roatan for the long sail.

As we dropped down in elevation it got hotter, and hotter, and hotter.

Pulling into the marina was like a sauna at eight in the evening. Luckily the last time Elia and I were here we rented a little apartment that had air conditioning (and scorpions!) and so knew that was a possibility.

The next morning the work began. And holy shit, to borrow one of Elia’s favorite phrases, “it was fucking hot?!” The measure was how far the T shirt was soaked through before going back into the air conditioned luxury. Half sweat was a rough session. The worst was 7/8th sweat on a day when an American guy said the heat index was going to be 120 degrees. Drinking tons of water, but all came out as sweat, leaving the pee jar looking like molasses. 

Slowly Orion was coming together. The repaired–and paid for–bimini was missing, but finally Elmer found it in his shop, where it had been stashed for two years and flooded by 6 feet of water while the Rio rose in the hurricanes. Dale danced on the boiling deck to get the port running light straightened out. The batteries, it turned out, were toast. Luckily we were staying at a marina that had a West Marine connection for new, even better AGM beasts. Power we got in abundance. Did I mention money and sweat might need to be applied.

The dinghy motor started, the big motor started, Orion was splashed, we were floating, first on the dock, then on the hook. Soon it was time to head down the Sweet River.

We had time for a quick stop at a hot spring where boiling water flowed into the Rio Dulce bringing giggling Guatemalan tourists in little river cruisers. Quick walk up the hill led by the Spanish-speaking guide took us down a dark tunnel into the sweating caves. Didn’t stay long. No need to crawl into a steaming hot cave when I can open up the engine doors and peer into the bilge for a similar sensation. Back to the springs to float with little dead fish that swam too close to the source. 

Ferry, Rio Dulce style

Into Texas bay for a night of crazy lightning and rain. Beepers started going off. The bilge was filling. What? Where? Water gushing out of the broken pipe to the sink that also drained the scuppers. Hand over the pipe stopped the problem for the moment. My own version of the finger in the dyke. Make a plug. Stop it temporarily until it can be fixed. Another day in the boater’s life. 

Down the river to Livingston to do the checkout. And the long overnight motor to Roatan, in the bay islands of Honduras

Dropping in during the pandemic is quite strange, but then oh so familiar. The temperature check as you get off the plane. The rapid test done 72 hours before leaving even though we had the vaccine in the blood. Then the masks on where it makes sense. 

Joe and Dale. Motley crew indeed.

More and more getting a sense of how much this pandemic has taken out of places that rely so much on tourists. Roatan is a major diving location that used to see 3-5 cruise ships a day. Not one has been there since last March. They are hoping maybe in August. Many of the little cutsie shops are shut down, taxis sit idly by. Went to a deserted dive resort at Fantasy Island. that used to have 200 guests a night. Shut down for the last 15 months. Deserted splendor is quite bizarre. Wandering around in the Covid apocalypse felt strange, but we also felt weirdly and selfishly fortunate to not have to deal with all of the humanity of cruise shippers and mega tourists.

The entire island was closed down for 4-5 months. Some stores delivered food but nothing open. People broke, hungry, desperate. Word is there used to be lots of wild iguanas, but that most of them had been eaten in the last year. Also heard that many of the local reef fish were depleted because the people needed something to eat. And then there were 3 hurricanes to deal with.

A number of cruisers had been stranded for over a year, but seemed to have survived ok. Some very involved in helping the locals build playgrounds, fix up their places, and get back to normal. Many seeming a little dazed and not sure what to do next and seem to have forgotten how to sail or leave.


Captain Malcolm and (temporary, says Elia) first mate Dale.

Untethered again on Orion, with past and future seemingly in place, but a joyous feeling of non attachment to the where of the here and now. Simple joys of reading, writing, a little music, perhaps a snorkle, with maybe a structured activity involving the dinghy. Perhaps not. All very loose and wiggly.

The world untethered for the last year. Kind of like being in an earthquake where the very ground you stand on, count on, moves from under you. People build their lives based on some sort of structure, stability, continuance. And then bamm-oh. The deadly virus appears. Some people seem to have adapted well. Learned how to stay home, work from home, shop from home. Be social on the computer. Play music with the you tube. But as I travel away from the places where that can be easy it seems that for many this whole thing has absolutely shattered their lives. 

And watching how people react. It seems to have brought out various seemingly reptilian instincts of hiding, staying alone, going inside, escaping; I think for some accentuating a tendency that was lurking within. A withdrawal from a society that has gotten more and more out of control? It’s all such an individualized reaction, but there are trends. And the ongoing question of how will we all come out of it? What is the new health of humanity? Whatever it is, the forces now seem to be dividing us more that uniting us. Masks or not. Vaccines or not. Hiding or emerging. Fear or acceptance. Rich, Poor. Biden, Trump. 

Some tethers don’t seem so bad in retrospect.

And on we sail. Winds blowing 20 plus from the starboard quarter. Seas 6-8 feet. One reef in the main. Staysail up for the night. Hoping to catch the Yucatan current to speed us around the tip of Cuba and towards Florida. Orion creaks and groans as we rock from side to side. She’s happy finally getting back to normal doing what she was born to do.

4 thoughts on “Untethered

  1. Orion looking good. Glad she’s turned out to be a good blue water sailor. Along with her crew. I remember Elia wonder why in the hell anyone would want to go ocean sailing just for the hell of it. Always great to read of your adventure.


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