Dream Away Update 18-Dec-2005


We are now safely tied up at the Tortugal Marina on the Rio Dulce, the state of Isabel, Guatemala!

We left Isla Mujeres, Mexico, on the 13th of December around 10:30 in the morning. We had a crew person with us. The day before we left Isla, a woman came to the boat and asked if she could crew with us to the Rio (Rio Dulce). Kitty and I were not thrilled about the prospect of taking someone we did not know. Diane said she had been to the Rio several times, and had crossed the bar at Livingston many times. Also, she used to have her own boat so she knew how to handle a boat; she was fluent in Spanish; and, she said it was no problem for her to cook underway. Miguel and Jose from the Marina Paraiso knew her and recommended her. I thought that it might be a good idea to have someone on board that was familiar with the river, but it was up to the Admiral. Kitty talked to her and it was decided that Diane would go with us. Diane is a Canadian who has her own organic vegetable farm in eastern Ontario. When the growing season ends, she fly to Cancun and either gets a ride on a boat to the Rio, or takes a bus from Cancun down to Belize. From there she either hitches a ride on a boat or continues the bus trip to the Rio. She spends the winter in Guatemala improving her Spanish and working for several volunteer groups helping the Guatemalan people. When the winter is over, she tries to catch a ride on a boat back to Cancun, and then flies back to Canada for another growing season.

When we left Isla, I knew that the first 24 hours would be bumpy, because the wind was out of the northeast and the Yucatan channel is a north flowing current. I was right!! We had good wind, so we motor-sailed to try and get east so we would not be affected by the current. The wind was predicted to change and come around from the east, and then from the southeast.

When we got to our way point about 40 miles off of the coast of Mexico, we headed south. The wind was still from the northeast and the seas were very lumpy. It was not as pleasant as our crossing to Isla Mujeres, in fact, it was very uncomfortable.

On the morning of the second day, the wind started to come around from the east so we shut off the engine and became a real sailboat. The seas were still very lumpy, but we were on our way and making very good time. The wind was blowing from 15 to 20 knots. The seas were moderating some, but the admiral (Kitty) was not pleased. We still had about 1/3 knot current against us.

On the third day, the wind was coming from the southeast, but was dying down to the point that we had to become a motor-sailor again. It was not bad as the seas were calming down and the trip was getting to be very pleasant. Also, our crew person was preparing a lot of the meals and cleaning up the galley after the meals. She was a great help to us. She also mentioned that preparing and cleaning up after meals was woman's work and that I was not expected to help. What great news, although the Admiral was less than thrilled. The good news was that by the end of the third day the seas were almost flat. However, the wind was coming out of the southwest. Any guesses on which direction we were heading? Correct!

By the morning of the fourth day we were a motor boat, but the seas were flat, like a lake, and we were able to keep up our speed even though we were running the engine at 1300 RPM. Looking at the distance that we had remaining, and the tide table for Livingston, we knew that we would not get into Livingston on the fourth day in time to cross the sand bar. We decided to go around the point of Cabo Tres Puntos and anchor there for the night. We were anchored by 1520. We got the cockpit cleaned up as there was salt spray all over the boat from the passage. We got cleaned up and had showers, and were able to have sundowners in the cockpit. That was nice. Diane, who is a vegetarian, had prepared veggie burgers for dinner that night along with rice and beans. As it turned out the veggie burgers were very good and tasty. A perfect end to the day.

We were anchored near another boat that was from Germany. They were heading out of Guatemala, and gave us some information concerning crossing the bar at Livingston. They also drew six feet, so we were going to use their information, plus Diane's local knowledge, to get us through. The next day, Saturday, we brought up the anchor and headed across Amatique Bay to Livingston. We crossed the bar right at high tide and had no problems and did not even bump the bottom. We anchored the boat near the fuel dock in Livingston. We got fenders out to prepare for the Guatemalan officials to come aboard. They initially come out to the boat to ask questions and collect papers, then, in about a half an hour, one goes into Livingston to complete the entrance formalities.

Sure enough, within 30 minutes a boat came out to Dream Away with representatives from Immigration, Health, the Port Captain, and Customs. The representative from customs was named Raoul. He spoke very good English, and we had Diane on board in case something needed extra interpretation. Raoul explained the process and each of the other officials took the information that he required. The Port Captain, who is actually in the military, inspected my shotgun/line launcher and, with an explanation from Diane that it only shoots blanks, he let me keep it! All of the representatives left, leaving us a map and an order to see each of them in Livingston (with the exception of the Health officer, we were through with him). We went ashore. What a wonderful place! The city of Livingston was at one time ruled by the British, so there is a very West Indian, black flare to the city. In fact, English is still spoken by many of the blacks in Livingston.

We went to each office and got our necessary papers ending up with the port captain where we got the final paper and our cruising permit. We decided that we had enough time to make it from Livingston to the marina rather than spend the night anchored in Livingston harbor.

The trip up the Rio was almost like a boat trip that you would see in National Geographic. The Rio is perhaps 150 feet wide with 300 to 400 foot cliffs on each side. The sides are covered with trees and plants, what a scene. We made the trip up the Rio and across a small lake called El Golfete. We got to the Tortugal Marina around sundown on Saturday the 18th of December.

We got our lines secured, and Diane departed as she had a room reservation at another marina with a hotel. We got the water tanks filled, and ourselves cleaned up. We had a quick drink and then went to the restaurant to have a nice dinner before we came back to the boat and crashed.

It feels great to have accomplished another milestone in our cruising life. This coming week we will be checking out the area and see what is going on around here. In the meantime, if you would like a little adventure, come on down.




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