Check back frequently as we will be adding new information often.
The most recent log entry is at the top.
To start reading from the earliest entry on this page (May 3, 2003), click here.
To read the history and background of the project, click here.
To see a full listing of the photo gallery pages, click here.
May 2009 update: Neither crew nor funds materialized in order to move the Absolute Absolution at this time; therefore, the trip through the canal has been cancelled. Poppa left Panama in May, and returned to the Burlington, VT, to continue building the Owl Party.
And many many thanks to all who helped and/or offered to crew.
March 6, 2009
Poppa now has a full crew onboard and will be ready to leave for the canal in about 10 days.
His multi-national crew includes 3 from Great Britain, 2 from Sweden, 1 from Poland, and 1 from New Orleans.
Poppa Neutrino is now in Puerto Lindo, Panama, on the Absolute Absolution.
He is starting a floating Zen Buddhist Ashram.
He is also looking for crew to sail
from Panama to the South Pacific and beyond in the coming months.
This invitation is for those serious about not
only the phyisical voyage in life but also the spiritual one. There will be
one or two months of work preparing the vessel, which has not sailed for some time now.
How long this phase takes will depend on the efforts of the
crew, possibly determining an earlier sailing date. We recommend you explore our site and
read about our history and philosophy before applying. You
will be required to share food expenses and pay the cost of your own visas for all countries we visit.
Ed's log - January 4, 2009
After leaving the Absolute Absolution in January 2008 and feeling that
I had made the correct move by not sailing, I traveled with June in South
America: Peru, Bolivia and Argentina.
During our travels in Bolivia in the city of Sucre, June and I watched a documentary called "El Minero del Diablo" (The devil's miner). (
It is the true story of two
young boys aged 12 and 14 who work in the silver mines in Potosi, Bolivia.
When the film was over, I sat quietly for a while trying to resolve the
imagines that began to flood through my mind. Within a few minutes the
images and flashing thoughts coalesced into an idea and then a sequence of
events that a group of people could make happen. I think I had a vision, and
when I was finished translating it 15 minutes later, I knew what I would be
doing in Bolivia for some time to come.
The vision was a simple one: using financing, equipment and
volunteers, to offer the children in the mines other options. Give them a space
to learn the things that I learned in my high school back in Canada. Get
them out of the hazardous working conditions of the mines and into programs
that will help them, their families and their communities.
This was the picture, and I know it will be modified by many
situations and events. Ultimately I want to offer these children other
alternatives, find out what they want, what there parents want and what the
Inspired by this plan I have set up a registered non-profit NGO in Canada and I am currently in Ecuador studying Spanish. June is with me on this trip
again and is one of the board members on our newly formed non-profit, Give
Take Share, Inc. Next week we are on our way to Bolivia to start the ground
work, building contacts in the community with local school boards and other
organizations already working with children.
There will be a lot more information posted on the web site for the
project www.givetakeshare.org. The site will be up and running before the end of this month.
I have handed the Absolute Absolution over to Poppa Neutrino, who is
now going to sail her either into the Pacific or up through the Caribbean
towards the U.S. Either way, it is great that the Absolute Absolution is going to be back
under way again after sitting in port with no certain future.
Poppa and his
crew will be back on the Absolute Absolution this week preparing for the continuation of
"The sail of the century".
Poppa expressed to me that the timing of my
invitation to hand over the raft was perfect with regards to the things he is
doing in his life, and his passion roared for the adventure ahead. He has
people around him ready assist in the voyage. So we are both getting what we
want and that makes me feel good and grateful.
- - Ed
Ed's letter to his crew - December 15, 2007, Panama
I am in panama, on the raft, and everything looks great. Better
than I expected.
Yet something unexpected has happened to me. I have to put a hold on this trip. I woke up yesterday morning in a
state of anxiety. One that I could not shake for several hours. I do not have this happen
very often, rarely to be honest; ten years ago was the last
time. What came with this state was a strong feeling that I
should not proceed this voyage at this moment. I do not know,
at this moment, why I have this feeling but it is one I cannot ignore.
I am the kind of person who listens to his inner voice and I
feel that as a responsible captain I must inform all of you about
what is happening.
At this stage I must postpone preparing for the voyage and
welcoming the crew. I feel that I have to go and see my parents as they have been heavily on my
thoughts this last 36 hours.
If this feeling passes the voyage will be back on as the weather window for leaving Panama
in the end of March. If not, I will have to indefinitely postpone the voyage.
I feel that you have each followed your own personal
voices to make such incredible moves toward travelling on the Absolute
Absolution. This I’m sure is going to come as a huge
disappointment to you all, but I hope you will understand.
For me this is very difficult - to put the brakes on, not
knowing the whys or the wherefores. I am often at odds with
this kind of illogically decision making, but the truth is that I have grown
immensely in my life from listening to my intuition.
It has been a guide when logical thought seems
bogged down and confusing.
- - Ed
Ed’s log - October 28, 2007
The next leg of our voyage will take us into the Pacific!!! The
Absolute Absolution will be going through the Panama Canal early in
2008 and then on to the Marquesas Island group via the
Galapagos Islands. I will be back on the Absolute Absolution mid-December to begin preparations.
This trip will have challenges created by ourselves and by mother
nature. In order to teach navigation more traditionally we plan to
navigate on this voyage using a sextant. Another element will be
how those on board handle the long voyage to the Galapagos and then
on to the Marquesas.
The sailing of the Absolute Absolution in the Pacific will give us our
first opportunity to see how she handles the trade winds. She was built
for downwind or off the wind sailing, and she will finally get her chance to show us her best!
June's log - 15 March 2007 see photos
I read Tolstoy’s War and Peace while we were waiting patiently for a
weather window to leave Guanaja, in the Bay Islands of Honduras. It
seemed that the easterly trade winds would be eternally against us , and
our excitement at news of cold fronts bringing more northerly winds was
continually dashed when they dissipated east over Cuba. We were in good
company – Christopher Columbus had spent months waiting for good wind to
sail around the Honduran point and had eventually tacked back and
forward making as little progress as one mile a day. The Cabos Grace a
Dios had been named in recognition of the difficulties faced by vessels
braving the reef-lined coast to sail south.
Finally we had news of two strong cold fronts descending back to back
towards us. On Monday, 12th February we weighed anchor and motored
east. The next day we picked up the south easterly winds that would
precede the fronts – we had 20–25 knots of wind and seas up to 15 feet.
Our port rudder blade broke its housing and both rudder blades bent
under the force of the waves, so we removed them so Ed could reinforce
the housings and straightened the blades.
The next afternoon, in much calmer weather, we spotted a small
motor-driven boat ahead of us, and were firstly fearful of pirates
approaching us under the guise of being in distress. There seemed to be
a number of men in the boat and as they approached we prepared the sails
so that we could sail downwind if necessary to escape them. But they
were Cuban refugees, 8 men and 3 women, headed to Honduras or Guatemala,
and they were asking for directions. They came up alongside and we gave
them water, a map and a compass and our good wishes for a safe arrival –
they had completed most of their journey with another 100 miles to go.
On 17th February the first of the cold fronts reached us in the early
morning, with winds again up to 25 knots. At 2 am the port rudder broke
off above the water line, and the blade was hauled aboard to prevent
damage to the hull. At 6 pm Ed took the decision to remove the
starboard rudder as the force of the waves was threatening to rip the
rudder from its mounting and damage the stern of the hull. We were now
steering with only sails.
With continual adjustments to the sails we were managing to hold an
easterly course, and at one point thought we could make it to Jamaica.
But as the wind started to come more out of the north we were pushed
south. The second norther reached us late on the 18th, and at 9 pm a
large wave crashed against the port hull, blowing open a side hatch in
one of the cabins that had been securely fastened in preparation for big
seas. We bailed out the 2 inches of water on the cabin floor and shored
up all the hatches on the port side against further similar wave action.
By the 19th February we were experiencing winds of 30–35 knots with seas
building from 8–12 feet and more. But the Absolute Absolution was
holding up well in these conditions and we were still on course for our
target of Cartagena, Columbia.
On the 20th February a squall came up in the early evening, bringing
winds of up to 40 knots. We dropped all sails and hove to until the
squall passed through.
By the 22nd February we were starting to feel the effects of a 1-1.5
knot east to west current set across our southerly course. Although Ed
continued to experiment with the sails, by late the next day he was
beginning to think that not only would we miss our target of Cartagena,
but also our second choice of the San Blas Islands in Panama.
Ed used all his sailing ingenuity to control the raft - alternating
between dropping all sails to drift west, to using the mains and mizzen
to point up wind as tightly as possible; re-fitting the reinforced
starboard rudder back on the rudder post to give us limited steerage;
deploying a drogue off the starboard hull to manoeuvre the raft a little
more. At one point he even let out a donated parachute off our
starboard side, but the wind was too strong for it to be effective. The
Absolute Absolution was jibed back and forward, inching toward our new
target of the San Blas Islands.
On the 26th February we dropped sails in order to slow down for a
morning approach into Punta San Blas the following day. On the 27th
Ripley sighted land on her 4 – 6 am watch and, after 14 days at sea, we
arrived in El Porvenir at 9.30 am. We had made it to Panama!!!
Before we left Guanaja, Ted and Sheri on sailing vessel Mystique had
assisted us in getting our single side-band radio rigged up so that we
could transmit as well as receive weather reports. Ed fashioned a
ground from a piece of copper pipe, splitting it with a grinder and
bone-shakingly beating it flat with a hammer before fixing it to the
inside of the starboard hull. When it broke off during the northers, we
could still transmit using a 6 meg dipole and plenty of relays from
other sailors. This meant that every day we were in communication with
other boats, initially with Ted and Sheri on Mystique and Doug on
Christiana through the North West Caribbean net, and later with Doug on
Que Linda and our long time friends Brad and Carol on Continental Drift
through the Panama Connection Net. We felt the energy and support of
our friends and other sailors we have yet to meet throughout our voyage
and feel they played a huge part in our successful safe arrival in port.
We enjoyed a relaxing sail through some of the beautiful San Blas
Islands, meeting the Kuna Indians living in the country they call Kuna
Yala. They are an independent nation, self-governing and
self-sufficient. The women hand-sew brightly coloured squares of cloth
called molas, that are attached front and back to other fabric to form
blouses. They sell the molas to tourists and boaters, while the men
farm coconuts and fish.
We are now at anchor in Puerto Lindo, close to Portobelo, so named by
Colombus and full of history of pirates and ancient forts. Two days
ago we said farewell to our crew. Ripley has been with us since early
October in Guatemala, and in that time she has proved a first class
crew, taking charge of anchoring and sail changes, assisted by Geoff who
joined us on the last day of 2006 in Roatan, Honduras. Ripley has
challenged herself physically and psychologically throughout her time
with us and is now ready for the next chapter in her life – working as a
line-handler in the Panama Canal before heading back to the USA with the
intention of getting her own sailboat. Geoff overcame inexperience and
seasickness to develop a love of sailing far beyond anything he could
have imagined. Building a sailing canoe is high on his list of future
goals. Both our crew performed admirably under tough sailing conditions
and Ed and I wish them all possible success with their dreams.
We are leaving the Absolute Absolution in a marina 25 miles from the
Panama Canal to return to Europe to raise finances for our next voyage.
Cartagena is still attracting us to Colombia and has haul out facilities
so that we can make further modifications to our raft. After that the
Panama Canal is on our doorstep – gateway to the Pacific Ocean and
June’s log - 22 January 2007, Helena, Honduras see photos
I returned to Punta Caimanes on Lake Izabal in early November. It was great to see Ed again, and our yellow raft bobbing on the mooring out on the lake. A few days of adjustment to the heat and getting to know Ripley, a 23 year old former art student, the first of our crew. She is interested in experiencing a long sail and in the Neutrino ideas, and has participated in upgrading the Absolute Absolution with Ed. Oh, and I also got to know Louie, the kitten Ed adopted. Louie’s full of energy – great fun to have around as he’s such a character.
The site on the beach where we had been hauled out for over a year was strangely bare, not only because our huge catamaran had vacated the premises, but also because so had Louis and his family. Gone was his wooden house – demolished and given away to other villagers for construction/firewood, the smoky fire for cooking, Louisa slapping the tortillas into shape or beating the hell out of her laundry, the 6 boisterous boys tumbling around in the sand, the dogs scavenging in the garbage piles, the chickens pecking for flies along the shore. With the money Louis had earned as guardian of raft and pets during our absence, he had decided to create a tienda (small general store) in the nearby town of El Estor; a big step for him and his family. Six months before we met him, Louis couldn't afford a fishing boat and used to swim out a couple of miles into the lake to place his nets. We are wishing him great success in his new business venture, and hope he and his family will be happy there.
I was shocked to see the devastation to the village caused by the summer floods which have still not receded. The heavily swollen Sumach river that dissects Punta Caimanes had further divided the community into waterlogged islands, making access to Rio Dulce town even more difficult. A backhoe was sent in to restore the river to its former course, but after days of digging and sandbagging, further heavy rain in the mountains descended to wash away the newly constructed river banks. The fishermen were struggling to deliver their catches to town via the flooded roads, and shore up their flimsy wooden homes. This left them without the possibility to attend the boat building school in its entirety, but Ed came up with the idea of recording each step on our camcorder. In that way a video could be made that can be played to the fishermen on the VCR at the village tienda.
Ripley was eager to learn boat building, as she has dreams to live and travel on a sailboat on her return to the USA. Learning to use power tools and carpentry will be useful skills down the road. She was later joined by crewperson Ethan, an experienced carpenter, but someone who is interested in learning fibreglass techniques. Ed was happy to pass on his knowledge to them and to the many villagers who visited to view progress of the sail/rowboat prototype “Listo” as it gradually took shape on the beach.
Tom, our Swiss friend who lives in Punta Caimanes, is doing well with his bread making business – so much so that he is housing and employing David, who had been one of our trainees during the hull repairs, to help him full-time. Now David, who has no other family in the village, has a home and an occupation. Tom wants to expand into baking cakes to sell, so I spent a day demonstrating different recipes. My aim to plant some fruit trees in the village suffered a setback – the citrus seedlings Tom was growing on his land were boiled in the hot summer flood waters. He hopes to plant more in the future, once a solution is found to the river overflow problem.
Our stay in Punta Caimanes was drawing to an end and time for ‘mas tarde’ (see you later) rather than goodbye. The Leonardo family who had adopted Ed and me so wholeheartedly on our arrival threw a farewell lunch at daughter Bessy’s home in Puerto Barrios. I saw her little baby Louis for the first time, and feel honoured to be a part of their lives. Although there are tears shed by members of the family, and by others in the village, we have committed to staying in contact. It may be a while before the Absolute Absolution returns to Punta Caimanes, but there are planes and buses, emails and telephones.
We left the lake for Rio Dulce town to get provisions, then got the weather window we have been waiting for. We motored down the river to Livingston to formally check out of Honduras, and after 24 hours of motor sailing on flat calm seas arrived in Utila, Honduras. Ripley and Ethan enrolled on a dive course, while Ed and I enjoyed snorkelling in the crystal waters surrounding us. We discovered a wonderful garden called the Jade Seahorse, created by Californian artist Neil Keller, where he had built a random sculpture of paths, bridges, tunnels and walls, using materials such as old wine bottles, shells, coral, marbles and ceramic plates. Ethan decided to leave the Absolute Absolution to pursue independent travel, and Ed, Ripley and I enjoyed a great Christmas together, dining under a palm tree on the beach on a fish dinner created by a local restaurant owner - coconut milk conch soup followed by wahoo stuffed with lobster. Delicious!
A few days later we made the jump to Roatan, this time with sails full of wind – the raft made great progress in the water with our new slick hulls. In Roatan we checked in at Coxen Hole before moving east to French Harbour – a great spot for reef snorkelling as well as exploring the island by road. We collected Canadian Geoff Hall from the airport on New Years Eve – our newest crew member is full of ideas for creating rainwater collection systems and a garden for herbs and vegetables. He has never sailed before and is so enthusiastic about the coming voyage.
We waited patiently for good weather conditions to jump further east along the coast to Helena, effectively an island as it is cut off from the rest of Roatan by a mangrove swamp. We visited a community centre there set up by an alternative missionary group. They have created a clinic where locals can receive free medical and dental treatment; a school for the children, and a water treatment plant using reverse osmosis to provide drinking water for the community. Everyone in Helena was so friendly and welcoming, it was fun to walk through the village pathways with ten or more giggling children accompanying us. One day we walked to the top of the ridge where we were able to see the shores on both sides of the island and pick guavas from the trees. Finally we made it to to Guanaja, the most easterly of the Bay Islands, a crowded mix of houses and businesses built on stilts to form a small cay just offshore, and a few houses newly built into the mountains following the devastation of Hurricane Mitch in 1998. Again we have been warmly received by the local population.
From here we have a great expanse of sea to traverse to our intended destination of Cartagena, Columbia. We are in great spirits, eager and excited for the challenges that lay before us.
NOTE: In mid-December we received word that Absolute Absolution had reached the mouth of the Rio Dulce and was headed out for Honduras.
On Dec. 19th we received word that they had arrived safely in Honduras. A quote from June Donaldson: " We checked out of Livingston, Guatemala, at 3 pm and landed in Utila, Honduras, exactly 24 hours later. It feels great to be out of lakes and rivers back into the ocean. Spending a few days here while crew do a dive course then to Roatan later in the week." Next entry
Ed's Log November 2006, Punta Caimanes, Guatemala.
The Absolute Absolution floats again. We are back in the water on beautiful Lago Izabal after having completed repairs to the hulls.
After returning to the raft in early September I spent a month preparing for the launch of the Absolute Absolution, hiring four local men to help me with the final little bits that had to be done. The last week of September I became concerned about the rapidly falling level of the water in the lake and the possibility of having to roll the raft back a few hundred feet to get her to float. So we were moving along quickly with the building of carriages and launch rails made out of an extremely hard wood called Chico. So dense is this wood that it sinks in the water, perfect for our purposes. By the end of the month the launch was looking like it was going to take a long time. The water level was going to make this effort a hard grind.
Then it started to rain - poured down in buckets for days - and this was possibly in answer to my attitude that regardless of the weather and factors beyond my control the Absolute Absolution WAS going to be launched and continue its work traveling, adventuring and exploring with its crew. By launch day the lake had filled to brimming, with water lapping on the rails under the stern carriages. What an opportunity! Instead of the long battle I had anticipated I now had the belief that we might possible launch in one day. The raft had only to travel a boat length plus a half -75 feet in all.
Rolling on steel tubes down wooden tracks the operation to launch the Absolute Absolution took three days plus one day (the second day) to fill the steel tubes with concrete so the tubes didn’t collapse. As we discovered one tube at the stern had flattened a little impeding the movement of the 15 to 20 vessel. It took eight men three days to push the raft back into the water and the final push, in the twilight of the final day, required about 30 to 40 men women and children from the local village. She fell off her rollers just five feet from victory and we need reinforcements. With all hands pushing and two boats pulling with all they’ve got the bow slipped back off the bench and a cheer went up.
Stuck no more, free of the land and its trappings, she floats again with so many possibilities. Although she has been transformed, as of this writing she has not been put to the test of the sea. That is the next great adventure and that will be the next log.
Our destination is open, though we are considering Cartagena, Columbia; Jamaica or Cuba. Our first stop will be the Bay Islands off Honduras - we will decide our next move once we’re there. Our first crewmember, Ripley, arrived early to help with preparing the Absolute Absolution for sailing, learn about Neutrino life and participate in the small boat building school that is currently under way. Ethan will arrive next week and more are lined up to join us as we travel through the Caribbean.
I feel more alive with the spirit of this adventure than ever before. The possibility of finding joy while pushing up against the elements seems more attainable. This is always the challenge for me, to be exceptionally competent yet embrace the beauty that is my life. My eyes, my heart my mind and my spirit are open.
October 2006 - Absolute Absolution is now afloat on Lago Isabal after her long stint on land undergoing repairs. Ed is in good spirits as the launch took only 5 days, as opposed to 3 weeks for the haul-out process. Crew are arriving, but MORE CREW ARE NEEDED! Click here for requirements and contact info. Meanwhile, preparations are in progress for once again taking off onto the high seas. Next entry
August 2006 - Update and Plans, Log entry by June Donaldson
The repairs to the raft went really well, and were completed in February. Both hulls have been reskinned with plywood, 4 coats of fiberglass and gellcoat, a tough paint used for lanchas. The back deck has been replaced and the masts re-stepped, with new mast steps made out of chico, a local wood as hard as steel. The Absolute Absolution is now in better shape than when it was first built and we are so excited at the prospect of sailing her again. We were initially planning on getting the raft back in the water to get some sailing in before the hurricane season, but we are really high and dry on the beach and so decided to wait to re-launch in September at the peak of the rainy season when the water level of the lake will be at its highest. We departed Guatemala in early March, with Louis agreeing once again to take care of the raft and Thor and Brendan. We are again raising funds for the Absolute Absolution project in Europe, but are looking forward to returning to Guatemala in September, when Ed will be supervising the launch of the Absolute Absolution back into the water, and resuming his boat building school. This second phase of the boat building school will take place in response to requests for help from the fishermen in the village. As fish stocks decline in Lake Izabal, they have to paddle further and further away from the village to bring back a decent catch. For those fisherman fortunate enough to own outboard motors, they have been badly hit by global increases in petroleum prices. The community are looking to more efficient ways of boat design and propulsion and have asked for help with adding sail power to their traditional cayukas and lanchas. Ed has agreed to advise them on alternative boat designs and to build a prototype of a small sailboat before the Absolute Absolution leaves on its next voyage. We won't be sailing out of Lake Izabal and the Rio Dulce after hurricane season ends (late November/early December), but are already receiving and sorting through crew applications for the next sailing. While Ed continues with the boat-building school, I will be working with our neighbour Tom Wyss. Tom left Switzerland to live an eco-friendly life on Lago Izabal and with his help we will be hoping to plant some fruit trees in the village before we leave. Meanwhile our friend Bryan, the Jungle Medic, has recently taken delivery of a school bus which has been converted into a mobile clinic, so he will now be able to make more visits to Punta Caimanes and surrounding villages. We look forward to working with him again. Next entry
Jungle Medic visits Punta Caimanes - January 2006 see photos of the Jungle Medic's visit
- Log entry by June Donaldson
I heard of the Jungle Medic, aka Bryan Buchanan, by chance one day as I was waiting for a call from a sailing friend on our VHF radio. A few days later, one of the boys in the family living close to our boat was stung on the eye by a bee. I called Bryan for advice on how to treat the boy and he was extremely efficient, offering to come out to the village if the boy had an allergic reaction. A week later, I returned from a trip to discover that Diego, one of the men who had helped us to haul out our raft, had fallen out of a tree onto his head. He was quite badly paralyzed down one side of his body and when I called Bryan, he said that he must go to the hospital in Puerto Barrios (a two hour bus ride) for an x-ray. Diego’s financial situation was bad, as he was unable to pursue his livelihood as a fisherman, so I committed to covering his travel expenses and any medication he needed. He returned the next day, saying that the x-ray had disclosed a ruptured vein in his neck, causing pressure in his head, and had been advised to visit a doctor in the same town for medication. He had received an injection, and the doctor had said he must return every week for 7 weeks for further injections. However, he did not improve significantly, and I called Bryan again to ask if he could take a look at him. He asked where we were, and when I replied “Punta Caimanes” he said he had never heard of the village, even though he had lived and worked in the area for four years. I told him that there were many health problems in the village, and asked if he could organise a clinic so that the people could get treatment. I gave him directions and he came out to examine Diego and to make an assessment of the village. He asked Diego what medication the doctor had prescribed and when he was shown the phial, said that he had only received a vitamin shot. Bryan said this was not unusual, a patient turns up and the doctor has no idea how to treat him. The patient wants something, so the doctor gives something harmless. Bryan prescribed anti-inflammatory drugs to reduce the swelling in Diego’s head, and set a date for the first clinic for the village. I put posters up in the village and made an inventory of drugs donated by Betty, a former resident of Punta Caimanes, which were kept at the tienda (village store). On the morning of January 18th Bryan, his wife Riechelle, Riechelle’s sister, mother and father, plus volunteers from the boating community, Diane and John, arrived in the Jungle Medic truck. They unloaded medicine in suitcases and with classroom desks and chairs, set up the clinic in front of the school. There were so many people waiting and arriving, and Riechelle’s job was to organise them family groups, each one being given a number. A play area was set up for the children, with books, crayons, and games including some I had brought back from Europe. First of all, each family would have a consultation with Bryan. He would write a prescription on some paper with their number and they would proceed to the next station where Riechelle’s sister administered worm medicine to the children. Next stop were Riechelle’s parents who gave out the prescribed vitamins and mineral supplements from a huge suitcase and treated any skin infections. Finally, anti-biotic medication and pain relievers were issued to those in need by Diane and John, who gave their time to help out with the clinic. I bought a sack of oranges and Dora gave them out to everyone as they left. Over 200 people went through the clinic that day, most of whom had never seen a doctor in their lives. The vitamins alone saw a huge drop in the number of people with colds – the Mayans are extremely sensitive to sudden changes in temperature. Skin infections were cleared up, and worms were evacuated from the children in their faeces and orally. Bryan has committed to coming out in emergency situations and to running a regular clinic here, with specialist doctors visiting from time to time. He is awaiting delivery from the USA of a converted school bus that will serve as a mobile clinic – giving patients more privacy for consultations and a larger storage area for medication. He is also building a small clinic near his home in nearby San Felipe (he is currently working out of his kitchen) with dormitories for those who need observation. There are also plans for a lab for blood analysis and a room for minor surgery. So many villagers have thanked me for bringing the Jungle Medic to Punta Caimanes, but thanks should go directly to Bryan, his wife and family, the volunteers who help with the clinics and Betty and everyone who donate the medication and supplements. You can learn more about the work of the Jungle Medic Missions at www.junglemedicmissions.org
November 2005 - March 2006 - Teaching and Repairs, Log entry by June Donaldson see photos
We returned in early November to Punta Caimanes, on the shores of Lago Izabal, Guatemala, where the Absolute Absolution had been drying out for repairs. It was great to see our dog Thor and our cat Brendan again, who had been looked after by our neighbour Louis. He had agreed to caretake the raft during our absence and had even rebuilt his house in closer proximity for added security. After a few days recovering from jet lag and getting used to the heat it was time to start the boat-building school, which would also provide employment for the students as they learned while helping repair the raft. Louis had stated that he wanted to be able to repair and fiberglass the traditional cayukes and lanchas used by the local fishermen and was quick to sign up for the school. Elmer Jr., his younger brother, Hervick, and David were also eager to learn all aspects of boat repairs so they could obtain work in the boatyards in the nearby town of Rio Dulce, as a way of supplementing their income from fishing. These men became Ed's first boat-building students here. The first stage involved Ed teaching carpentry skills during the re-skinning of the hulls and the renewal of the back deck; later they moved on to learning professional fibre-glassing while completing repairs to the hull. Ed and Louis harvested some long bamboo poles from a local finka (farm) and, with the aid of a very long handmade ladder, constructed a shelter over the first hull to be repaired to protect it from the rain. Then Ed went to Puerto Barrios with Elmer Jr. and came back with a pick up full of plywood, fiberglass resin and rolls of fibreglass mat, all of which had to be carried across the river from the road to where our raft was hauled out. The men have all mastered their new skills quickly. We have had visits from many boat owners as the work progresses and they are very impressed with the standard of workmanship. Each day also included a half hour of language exchange, during which Ed improved his Spanish and at the same time taught the men English. Meanwhile, I have been enjoying my time with the children of the village, who are so enthusiastic about learning English, and I have been experimenting with ways to make learning fun. They only have school in the morning, so there is no time for practicing art and music. During my stay in France last year I raised funds to buy educational materials for the school by baking cakes to sell in the local markets. So, on my return, I did drawing and painting with all the children, from 2 years to teens, with art materials brought back from England. I also taught music and songs, using instruments such as maracas, tambourines, triangles, bells and castanets. On Christmas Day, the villagers were very sad that we were so far away from our families. They cook tamales (corn tortillas stuffed with spiced meat, steamed in banana leaves) for Christmas Day, and Ed and I were inundated with gifts of these delicious specialities from so many of the families in the village. Throughout our stay we received regular presents of freshly caught fish, coconuts, mangoes, as well as invitations to share a supper of one of the hundreds of chickens that roam free in the village. It is hard to imagine that last year we came into Punta Caimanes, against the advice of the sailing community at the marinas in Rio Dulce town, who deemed it too dangerous to venture into Lago Izabal. With very little Spanish, we asked to be taken to the chief of the village where I read a speech - written with the help of an English/Spanish dictionary - asking for permission to haul-out and make repairs to our raft. They accepted us into their community and their hearts and we have now created a close relationship that will last beyond our time in Guatemala. On every level they have been so generous to us, and we have been so touched by their friendship.
Ed Log, September 2005 see photos for this period
We have made it to the Rio Dulce, Guatemala. This latest leg of our voyage started off in Isla Mujeres, Mexico, where we made necessary repairs: Two new rudders, a new mizzen mast, two new dagger boards and a repaired bow post that got munched by the big back-hoe in Las Coloradas. (see previous log). Then we found our crew for this adventure. We interviewed many people and welcomed aboard Lisa and Mika from Sweden, eager to learn the ropes and to be a part of the rafting world. We also brought along Rachel, a young Australian women looking for something a little different then the mainstream experiences she’d been getting on her travels. We set off for Honduras at the beginning of May and it took all of a month to get to the Rio Dulce. It was a challenge for myself and the crew to navigate the Absolute Absolution down this treacherous coastline. With reef pretty much all the way along it, mistakes are not forgiven. The many boats scattered along this remote region are testimony to the folly of getting a little too close or being blown onshore in a storm. As a raft, the Absolute Absolution was slow in the water and therefore difficult to steer in the onshore wind. We tested our patience waiting for the right weather windows and overcame all the obstacles that were presented to us. We battled with the elements and won. No one flinched when pressed and all on board were the kind of sailors I would sail with again. In Belize June and I decided that Guatemala’s Rio Dulce would be a great place to take a break from the open ocean, visit a country we’d never been to and to work on making the raft a better sailing vessel. Along the way we enjoyed the watery world in which we sailed. Tried fishing without any success. ‘Something strange in that’ we all thought, since everybody else was catching all they could eat. What we need is someone who knows how to fish and can do it on a raft. The snorkeling was fantastic, out of this world… I think I got my fill for a life time as did everyone else on board. We met many interesting people along the way, including a couple who had been ship- wrecked three years before and liked the place where they became ship-wrecked so much they decided to stay. Life on board the Absolute Absolution is always a challenge, for myself and June as well as the new crew. Not just the sailing of the raft but also our relationships with everyone on board. Mica, Lisa and Rachel had to reach deeply into themselves to discover the whole meaning of being out on the water and living with other people. Their preconceptions of the sailing life were to some degree shattered. It is not just about functioning in an isolated world but about communication and expression of problems as they arise, before they blow up into something unresolvable. All three of them shone brightly in their struggle to resolve conflicts and came together as a team as the voyage progressed. Mika was so eager to learn the whole sea faring lifestyle, he met all challenges and grew from them. It was out there on the stormy seas that he learned much about himself, particularly when reflecting on the problems experienced by friends back home. He resolved to take more control of his life by moving towards his deepest desires, with music, art and in his relationships. Lisa was a valuable and generous crew member - so happy to have the opportunity to sail on such an unusual vessel. She worked hard to overcome resistance to feedback and came to recognized that exposure was not a sign of weakness but of courage, allowing her to share experiences with others on board. She ended the trip with the determination to become proactive in her connections with members of her family. Rachel was an enthusiastic and energetic part of the team throughout the trip. She developed her ability to consider others without compromising her own needs. Although she was quick to identify her deepest desires, her biggest breakthrough was discovering that she could work towards them in a personally creative manner. Once we crossed the bar at Livingstone, Guatemala, the crew departed to continue on their journeys. June and I continued up the Rio Dulce to Lago Izabal. In the lake I had time to really survey the two hulls and felt it best to haul out here and done some work on the bottom of the raft. We found a little Mayan village on the shore of this large lake and asked the people of Punta Caimanes if we could pull our boat up onto their shore, they welcomed us and joined in the effort. It took thirteen days to move the 20 plus ton raft up onto the beach. This was a great opportunity for us to work on one of our projects goals - to generate assistance in the communities we visit. It was great working with the villagers, learning the language, finding out what they need and how we can help. Many of the villagers want to improve their financial situation. They love their fishing but it is often not enough to support their families and the alternative of working in the banana plantations brings scant reward for a 12 hour day. I will be providing the opportunity for them to learn new skills such as carpentry and fiberglass application as I supervise work on the bottom of our raft. English is also a desired subject as so many foreigner boats now visit the Rio Dulce every hurricane season and the opportunity for work is becoming more and more available. With English the villagers can work in the boat yards and marinas. June, who is trained to teach English as a foreign language, has had an enthusiastic response from the villagers to her offer of classes for all age groups, according to their needs. The tiny school has very few educational materials, and June is determined to obtain as many books as possible, in Spanish as well as English, also art supplies for the children. The raft has been drying out for a couple of months and in the meantime June and I are in Europe raising funds for the village school and working to finance the next leg of our journey. The next leg of our adventure will be to…?….. not sure exactly, but it will be an adventure. What I do know is that I will remember our accomplishments to date and also embrace the reality that we are sailing a raft not a boat. Sometimes I forget.
ED'S LOG, February 19, 2005 see photos for this period
After a long stay in Key West, Florida the Absolute Absolution is once again under way: off to boldly explore the limits of recycled material. First stop for Absolute Absolution was Las Coloradas, Mexico. The Captain for this voyage was Shawn Kelley, crew person on previous voyages and Captain of the Absolute Absolution on her last cruise from Mexico to Key West. Shawn’s crew included June Donaldson, my partner in the project, and five first time sailors, Melyn Smith, Matthew Ritzinger, Grayson Scoggin, Silas Ellis and his sister Emma Ellis. Chris, a fellow sailor in the Key West anchorage, dove to free our anchor from the mooring and Arnot, owner of the local water taxi, towed the raft without charge out into the channel. The Absolute Absolution left under sail power only, in keeping with pre-motorised tradition. The trip to Mexico lasted nine days, with frustrating contrary winds and strong opposing currents. The raft finally arrived on the north coast of Mexico during a powerful northerly storm, near the port of Las Coloradas. Unfortunately the anchor did not hold the vessel, and the vessel ended up bouncing over the outer sand bar, eventually going hard aground on the beach. The captain and crew did all they could to hold the raft off the beach but to no avail.
I arrived in Las Coloradas one week after the grounding. I found Shawn and June in good spirits though weary from being in their current position, aground and crewless. I did not get to meet or thank the five sailors who helped crew the Absolute Absolution to Mexico. I am grateful to them and wish them all the best.
Over the course of the next week June, Shawn and I devised a plan to free the Absolute Absolution from her sand trap. With the help of some fishermen, headed up by a kindly man called Francisco Javier Peraza Chan, aka Panqui, about twenty sailors of the Mexican Armada, the use of a very big backhoe donated by Pedro Peon Roche whose mother owns the local salt refinery, a full moon, and a spring tide, we dug the raft out and set her back on anchor. My deepest thanks to all involved in the operation: without your help my dream would have come to an end there on the beach. The grounding had destroyed both rudders and torn the rudder bearings off both hulls.
I built a sled for our Honda motor and mounted it off the stern of the vessel. This would be our propulsion and our steering system. We left Las Coloradas about a week after coming off the beach and began our motor-sailing voyage to Isla Mujeres. The trip took about a week, motoring only in ideal calm conditions. We arrived in Isla Mujeres with a big sigh of relief. There is some repair work to be done here, which will take about four to six weeks, after which the Absolute Absolution will continue south towards Honduras. I promise to keep you posted.
Today Shawn will be leaving on a sailboat bound for Miami and then by land back to New Orleans. Her help to the Absolute Absolution project, and to June and me personally, has been enormous. She is a great person and a great sailor. A special thanks to Capt. Betsy for bringing Thor and Brendan from Toronto, Canada, to Key West, and for all her help in preparing the Absolute Absoution for its voyage. My gratitude also to Shawn’s mom, Pat Kelley, who kept Shawn’s cell phone topped up in Key West whilst the crew prepared to leave, and for helping Betsy get back to Maine. Thanks also to Poppa Neutrino who got the ball rolling. Finally to June, we’re still rollin’ baby, the dream is alive, let´s keep it that way, thank you again.
Until the next time, be free, follow your deepest desires.
After arriving in Mexico, the raft unfortunately dragged on her anchor and ended up grounding at the back of one hull, damaging the rudder. This situation got worse over the next few days, until Ed's arrival, when a community effort freed her and set her floating once again. We will publish more details of these events soon. next entry
January 16, 2005 - Arrival in Mexico!
Absolute Absolution arrived safely today in Las Coloradas, on the Northern side of the Yucatan Peninsula. All aboard are well. More news soon!
January 2005 - News from Key West
The Absolute Absolution sailed out of Key West Harbor on January 7, headed for Mexico. Shawn Kelley, who was Captain for the Cuba trip in 2003, is onboard again as Captain. Also aboard are June Donaldson, Thor(the dog), St. Brendan (the cat), and 5 new crew members, who joined the raft in mid-December to prepare the vessel for resuming her travels. More information to be posted here soon.
Ed's log - January 2004, Key West, Florida
The Absolute Absolution has been anchored here for the past three months and will stay a bit longer. I am here with Thor and the cats, relaxing, upgrading the vessel and doing creative street performance. The weather turned a little cold here a few days ago as a cold front blasted through the keys dropping temperatures to nearly 60 degrees. A little joke for all you northern folks!
Upgrades on the vessel include the recently acquired and installed wind generator, which is great to have. The wind she does a blow here! Nothing like free power. Also a steering motor has been installed on the newly built transom on the aft bridge deck. See Photos
The engine and drive unit has been acquired for the new drive system and will be installed over the next couple of months. We are looking forward to sailing south into the Caribbean in the new year and are looking for crew at this time.
It is really great to have this rest here in Key West to once again look at the big picture and see how best to move towards it: To creatively take a sailing school around the world.
If I were to die today, can I say I have done what I think are the most important things in my life?
August 14, 2003 June writes about our sail from Isla Mujeres to Cuba and then to Key West, Florida.
In June we decided that our next sail would be to Cuba, rather than coastally to Guatemala The Absolute Absolution had been in Isla Mujeres, Mexico, for six months and we were anxious to get in motion again.
We left Isla Mujeres on July 2nd with 11 people aboard a record for the Absolute Absolution. Every individual cabin was full and we built two additional bunks in the lounge area to accommodate our crew. David and Betsy came from the USA joined Ed, Shawn and myself. Cory (who had traveled part of the Mississippi trip with us) couldnt resist the chance to sail to Cuba, so he, his wife Patty and their two small children, Zoey, 18 months, and Mia, 6 months, teamed up with David and Betsy for the drive from Arizona to the Mexican Caribbean. Richard Terry from England, who had been attracted to the project during his vacation in Isla Mujeres, and Davids grandson, Galen Maloney, also signed up as crew.
Everyone was looking forward to a leisurely short hop to Cuba, but what should have been around a 3 day trip turned into 3 weeks at sea. We were headed for the south coast of Cuba, but almost immediately got into adverse currents which took us way up into the Gulf of Mexico. Light and erratic winds made sailing difficult, until we got hit by the edge of Tropical Storm Claudette, and then there was too much wind - enough to frighten some on board with its ferocity and the size of the waves. But the raft never gave us any worries, and once the storm had passed, we were back to calm conditions again no wind to fill the sails.
We had provisioned in Isla Mujeres for a maximum of a week but despite rationing and a donation of 2 jerry cans of water from a passing container ship, we were at one point within a day of running out of food and water. Then the universe provided. First we had a massive rainstorm that yielded 65 gallons of water, and the next day, after not having seen a boat for days, we woke up to the sight of a massive cruise ship headed straight for us. When we had made contact and explained our plight, they pulled up right next to us and delivered fresh food. Our 53 foot vessel was dwarfed by the Carnival cruise ship Inspiration. All the passengers were lined up on the deck talking to us whilst we maneuvered into position to take the supplies on board I think we made their trip. We have since received expressions of good wishes from some of the passengers in the Guestbook on our website. At times like these an individual really recognises on a deep level how few but how precious are the necessities of life before the rainstorm many of us expressed that we could do without food if only we had sufficient water to remain hydrated. We all felt that the propitious events that intersected us to provide us with food and water were a gift of grace, and we are especially grateful to the crew of the Inspiration for their generosity to us.
Patty, who was nursing her baby Mia, suffered badly from seasickness, but we all rallied round to help with caring for the children, who were totally unfazed by being at sea. In spite of our efforts, Patty became weaker as the trip lengthened. So we pulled into a bay on the western side of the north coast of Cuba, and contacted the local authorities to try to persuade them to let the family off the boat. Punta Alonso Rojas was not an official Port of Entry, but two days of lengthy negotiations on the radio, and the assistance of Charlie, an English teacher, who acted as a go between, resulted in success. Patty and the children were checked out at a local hospital before Cory joined them for the drive to Havana airport.
During the negotiations we were anchored off the beautiful small island of Cayo Jutias but were not allowed to get off the raft. After so long at sea we were anxious to get our feet on land, particularly Cuban land, so bought fuel for the motors and food so that we could proceed to Havana. The remainder of the trip was smooth sailing, and a couple of days later we were tied up in Marina Hemingway, just a short bus ride from Havana. Shawn had completed her first voyage as Captain and the crew had worked together to bring the Absolute Absolution to Cuba under very difficult conditions. We stayed there for 12 days, relaxing, meeting the wonderful people of Cuba and filming a documentary of Cuban life to add to the footage of our adventures at sea.
We are now in Key West, Florida, minus Richard, who returned to England from Havana, and Galen, who has just left for his hometown of San Francisco after a year of travel in Europe and the USA. Finding creative ways to finance the next leg of our round-the-world voyage is our current focus, together with the pursuit and fulfillment of our individual goals.
3 May 2003: June brings us up to date
Our arrival in Isla Mujeres gave us the opportunity to take time out and think about our next moves as individuals. Shawn decided to stay with the Absolute Absolution with Tony and Corrie, Poppa Neutrino left to explore Mexico. Ed and I spent Christmas and New Year in Europe, visiting my family in England and Alan Pugh and Leslie Ronald in France - former crew members on the Son of Town Hall.
For Ed, this was the first break for him in a long, long time. He stayed on the Vilma B for the entire 2,000-mile journey down the Mississippi and on to Corpus Christi, where he immediately started work on the construction of the Absolute Absolution. When we joined Poppa Neutrino, Betsy and Shawn in Port Isabel, Ed designed and instructed and finished building the Absolute Absolution without taking time off. He captained our crew to Mesquital in Mexico for sea trials and supervised the salvaging and mounting of our 3 masts on our return to Port Isabel. He captained us along the Intracoastal Waterway and out into the Gulf of Mexico and brought us safely to our first destination here in Isla Mujeres. This was an incredibly determined effort on Ed's part, involving great personal sacrifice in order to complete his goal - to create an adventure for a group of people.
On his return from Europe Ed decided that he needed to focus on other levels of his life, and relinquished the captaincy and the sole decision-making for the project's future movement. He is still the owner, designer and builder of the Absolute Absolution, and remains very much involved in the project.
I took over the immediate responsibility for the project's focus, and decided to extend our stay in Isla Mujeres so that we could release ourselves from the intense forging that had been necessary to get our project into motion. We have been exploring many aspects of creative expression, in music, art, writing, inventing and designing. We have also been identifying opportunities to provide voluntary assistance in the local community.
Shawn has been appointed as our new captain - she has made incredible progress in all aspects of sailoring since her early days as Second Mate on the Mississippi. Ed has been training her in fine-tuning her navigation and problem-solving skills, and she is now ready to take command of our next voyage. Poppa Neutrino left to assist his daughter Ingrid set up a new show for her band in New Orleans and is now on his way to New York to oversee the building of a raft by community artists. Tony Davis decided to return to the USA, and Corrie Cole has left us to work on boat deliveries and other sailing opportunities in the USA and in the Caribbean.
We are now actively seeking new crew for our next sail, which will be a leisurely cruise to the Rio Dulce in Guatemala to sit out the hurricane season and make some land trips in this beautiful part of the world. We also want to extend the community assistance which has become a more prominent focus of our project, identifying needs and skills in the areas we visit that can be exchanged, and offering the skills of our crew to help the local people.
All these changes reflect the fluid nature of our project - we are determined not to be locked into mechanical and rigid plans, but to give ourselves the maximum freedom and spontaneous response to every opportunity that comes our way.
Best wishes to all our friends around the world, - June