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October 10
I arrive at the shiny new airport in Guatemala City around 10:00 pm after a long three-flight journey from Winnipeg.  As promised, there is a nice man holding a sign with my (misspelled) name on it.  Hugo bundles me into his van for the forty-five minute drive to Antigua.  The old, pot-holed, two-lane has been recently transformed into three lanes of fresh new asphalt in each direction.  The rainy season is still holding sway and Antigua is relatively high, so the weather is definitely not tropical:  68° with a light rain.

The minibus drops me at 6ta Calle Poniente, No. 25, the lovely home of Ana Consuela de Solaris.  Susan and I stayed here last time and we enjoyed both the house and the company very much.  Felix, the caretaker lets me in, shows me to my room and I am ready for bed.

October 11
My classes don’t start until Monday, so I catch a shuttle bus to El Salvador.  I am really looking forward to visiting all my Salvadorean friends again.  A five-hour ride in the shuttle brings me to the town of La Libertad.  I have never visited this part of El Salvador and the road along the coast has breathtaking views.  This coast is a popular surfing area and each little beach town is full of surfistas.  My friend, Francisco, is waiting in La Libertad to take me the rest of the way home.  Another hour’s drive and I am settling into my little casita in the corner of Francisco’s yard, as if I have never been away.  Last year, I befriended a skinny little dog from the restaurant next door.  It doesn’t take much more than a few pats and a treat or two to make a life-long friend among the canine population and Paco and I quickly bonded.  I soon realized my error, when “Paco” came in heat but, by that time, the name had stuck.  I have only been sitting on the porch of the casita for about five minutes, when Paco comes bounding across the yard, wagging her tail and wriggling herself nearly inside out.  For the rest of the weekend she rarely budges from underneath my table. 

October 12
I have a wonderful time, meeting all my old friends again and catching up on their doings over the last year.  Francisco has had a good year in his contracting business and has all kinds of new projects to show me.  The battered Chinese motor scooter is still running so I use it to go visiting.  Misael and his sons have had a successful year with their tour business.  Both boats have been refurbished with new seats, new canvas biminis and shiny new paintjobs.  Miguelito’s restaurant still serves the best camarones al ajillo I have ever tasted.  I left Antigua this morning wearing a light jacket.  In El Salvador, on the coast, the temperatures are in the 90s, with cloudless skies every day.  The rainy season seems to be ending early this year, but we do get a couple of ferocious thunderstorms during the nights.

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                            Newly refurbished tour boats of RutasAquaticas Molinas

Over a year ago, Rodger, an Australian fellow, began negotiating to buy Jan’s Ocean 71 sailboat.  The boat has been sitting neglected on a mooring in the estero pretty much since it arrived in 2001 and is deteriorating badly.  While searching for the boat on the internet, Rodger got a hit on my website and contacted me.  I was able to help him get in touch with Jan.  After I left last year, Rodger travelled to the Costa del Sol and negotiated an agreement to buy the boat.  I put him in touch with Francisco, who has taken on the responsibility of carrying out the work that is required before the boat can make the trip to Australia.  The boat is now tied to Francisco’s dock and a massive refit is underway.  Before I can do much else, Francisco hustles me down to the dock and takes me on board.  An enormous amount of work has been done:  the rudder removed, repaired and reinstalled, the main engine removed and replaced with a newer one, the diesel generator removed and replaced with a newer one…and the list of things still to do is endless.  A boat of this size and quality is staggeringly complex.

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Ocean 71 at Francisco’s dock

view of the saloon

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Francisco (r) and Eliceo, his brother and right-hand man

Galley stove damaged by seawater

In the time I have available, I go through as much of the boat as I can, making notes and taking pictures and then emailing them to Rodger.  Then he phones with a big list of things he wants me to look at, ask Francisco about and questions he needs answers for.  He wants to get as much of the repair work done here as possible, because it is so much cheaper than in Australia.  Rodger hopes the boat will be ready to leave by next May.  When I tell Francisco this, he looks distressed.  We both agree:  there is at least another year of work still to complete.  Rodger does not wish to hear this!

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New engine and generator

Damaged lifeline stanchions

October 14
All too soon it is time for Francisco to drive me back to La Libertad to catch the shuttle.  I say goodbye to my friends and to Paco.  I’m sure she is still curled up under my table, waiting for me.  With any luck I can get back there for another few days before heading to Managua to meet Susan.

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Funny poster in a feed store
(Spanish-speaking cows say: “Muuuuu”)

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