48′ Tayana, Rio Dulce Guatamala #134

I had moved the 48′ Tayana cutter called Island Time once before. Professional cowboy Phil and I, sailed her downwind from Curacao to Honduras across the southern Caribbean. It was a beautiful trip. The boat’s very cool owners, Paul and Maggie then did some extensive cruising of that part of Latin America. After getting their fill of paradise, they called us back in to move her again. This time we would be driving her upwind, upcurrent, upswell. Paul kept a tight ship so I figured the cruise would be a breeze … if a little on the nose.

For this adventure I re-enlisted my old friend Phil. Originally from TX, Phil and Vicki now run a ranch in CO. Our third was an easy going young Floridian named Chris. Phil, Chris and I all met up at a hotel in Guatemala City. We had some early morning grub and then made our way to the bus station. The ticket lady didn’t like the looks of my older US dollars. I produced a couple fresh ones and we were on our way.

We were treated to a long bus ride through the green mountainous interior of Guatemala. We even got a restaurante stop along the way. The bus is a good way to get to know a place. I had to change money and buy some stuff. The locals always offered me the good rate and when I overpaid, they corrected me. That says a lot to me about the people.

The boat was at Marios Marina (a Lats Harbor Hangout), way the hell up the Rio Dulce. We arrived at Fronteras and called Marco for a boat ride to Mario’s. He said 15 minutes. That means an hour and a half in local time, by the way. It was tough waiting at the pick up point; an overwater bar where we sat in the shade while a beautiful local girl served us dollar coldies. Phil bought trinkets from the Indians. This place was warm and jungly, the way I like it. There was no rush now as we eased into third-world time.

At Mario’s there was a fun cruising group hangin’ out at the bar but I headed up to the office. I thought I’d get things rolling with the checkout. Young Myrna faxed our paperwork to port captain Raoul in Livingston. With that done I had a look around. The mini pool was empty for repairs. There was a kewl overwater bar/restaurant that was connected to the docks. I met the owner Jim and gave him a fresh Lats burgee. He said Mario’s was for sale but I wasn’t ready to settle down. Cruisers Trish and Bob introduced themselves and gave me the full low down on check out, the river, provisioning, etc.. It’s what cruisers do, and it’s much appreciated.

I met up with the boys. Chris stayed to represent us at the bar while Phil and I went down to check out the boat. It didn’t look bad considering it had been sitting for two months. We did some quick cleaning and got some electronics fired up. I downloaded satellite weather off the efficient Skymate system. I still had the software on my netbook from last trip.

We spent the next morning, prepping the boat for sea. Trish and Bob dragged us out on a harbor cruise and we saw the old fort, and then they helped us provision in town. It set us back a couple hours but it was a nice thing to do. We got off the dock in the early afternoon, just in time for the afternoon rain. We parked at the fuel dock and waited for a break in the wx so we could fill up.

And finally, we were underway. I’m not a huge fan of inland cruising, there’s always a bunch of stuff that you’re about to run over or into. I prefer the serenity of the open ocean. Cruising the Dulce in the evening provides a unique challenge as fishermen lay their nets right across the navigable part of the lakes. We survived with some focused maneuvering and interesting hand gestures between us and the fishermen. Not those ones. So you know, random arm waving means come this way.

And finally, we made it to Texan Bay. Well, I thought we were in Texan Bay. We anchored up and enjoyed a perfect night on the hook. We had a light breeze and no moon and the stars were spectacular. The next morning we found the real Texan Bay and parked in front of the marina. It was recommended to us that we don’t try to anchor off Livingston because it was not safe. Sherrie, owner and manager of Texan Bay Marina, could shoot me down to Livingston to check out. That sounded fun.

She rolled up in a big center-consul panga with a boy driving. Paperwork in hand, we took off and headed down the river. While it’s open and wide up river, as it winds down to the sea the Dulce turns into a gorge. They must have had this gorge in mind when they came up with the word gorgeous? Crazy beautiful and understated in the guide. We sped through towering jungle walls and past the occasional reed roof shack with a dock out front. Back home you know you’ve made it when you have a dock in front of your house.
Sherrie and I walked up through Livingston, got some bread and hit the bank. The town didn’t seem so bad. I’ll probably do the anchor check out next time without the pre-faxing. I suspect those are what singled us out for the high fees. Roaul charged us 630q ($81). And there was a fee for the launcha. I saved a couple of bucks by putting a temporary fix on the outboard, (filter had clogged, bypassed it).

Back at Island Time we hauled the hook and headed down the gorge again at a more civilized pace. We ambled by dugout canoes hand fishing, the jungle huts, and a riverside bar/restaurant with a dock … tempting. We got a good look at the vertical limestone walls, large white birds contrasting against the dark green of the gorge face. With a sailboat, the shoals are suddenly relevant. We followed the cruising guide track and kept to the deeper water.

The Dulce has a serious river bar at it’s entrance. It is 6 feet deep at high tide and we drew … six feet. We arrived an hour and a half before high tide which gave us some time to get off if we found a shoal. We had waypoints from other cruisers, the advice of the cruising guide and the previous track from when the boat came in. I played it by ear. We saw 5.7 at one point but never felt the bottom. Our patience had paid off and we were back in the safety of the sea. – – –

More next month on our cruise to Fantasy Island and our boatyard visit. Now an update on our cruising environment. There are people that believe that the world is flat (it’s not, I checked), that the earth was created a few thousand years ago, or that man’s doubling of CO2 won’t affect our Climate. Most don’t agree. But everyone agrees that high CO2 is wrecking our oceans. The ocean sucks up most of our CO2 which is causing the destruction of the food chain base and our coral reefs. See: nrdc.org/oceans/acidification . The good news? The switch to renewables has begun. To help, we must maintain our firm stance against pro-pollution companies and their reps in congress that profit by injuring our friends, family and our living planet . It is a time for heroes. Step up.

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