Key West, Florida, USA to Fronteras, Izabal, Guatemala, 12-2014
The plan for the passage was to leave the Garrison Bight Mooring Field around noon because of the high tide at 1300. We then had the morning to get some last minute items taken care of before we dropped the mooring. Danny and I went into the dinghy dock in the tender, while Jeff and Kitty got DREAM AWAY ready for the passage. Danny and I took the last two empty diesel Jerry Cans, and the two empty water Jerry Cans, in with us.
Danny and I went off to the fuel station and got the two diesel Jerry Cans filled. Danny wanted more bottled water on DREAM AWAY, so he took off up Roosevelt Boulevard to the nearest grocery store, which was a Gordon Food Service Store. Danny purchased a case of water, and hoofed it back to the fuel station. We loaded the Jerry Cans and the case of water onto the cart, and headed back to the dinghy dock. We topped off the two water Jerry Cans, loaded the diesel Jerry Cans, and the water into the tender, and headed back to DREAM AWAY.
When we returned to DREAM AWAY, Jeff, Danny, and I got busy tying down the Jerry Cans on deck, along with all of the other buckets and Extren fiberglass plate. When we completed that task, we got the outboard motor off of the tender, and put it on the life rail mount, and then brought up the tender onto the davits. When that task was completed, we were ready to start the passage.
In case it comes up during this update, I will list how the days of the passage are ordered. Day one of the passage was Friday, December 12th. We arrived at Cabo Tres Puntas very early on Thursday, the seventh day, December 18th. On Friday, the eighth day, December 19th, we checked into Guatemala at Livingston, and then motored up to Gringo Bay (Bahia Buena Vista) and spent the night. On Saturday, the ninth day, December 20th, we arrived at "our" marina, Monkey Bay Marina.
This passage started on December 12th around noon, when we dropped the mooring at the Garrison Bight Mooring Field in Key West. I had decided to leave around noon so we did not have to fight the current and the tide. High tide at Garrison Bight was at 1300, so it was a good decision. As we motored through the harbor at Key West, we made very good speed. We were motoring along at around six knots.
Once we got away from the harbor traffic, we unrolled the Genoa, and were able to motorsail. I dropped the engine RPMs, and we were able keep up our speed. The big problem here was keeping away from the floating buoys of the crab traps that were all over. We finally got into water that was over 100' deep, and the crab trap floats disappeared. The wind was very steady, so I put up the mizzen sail. The problem was the wind velocity, which was between six and nine knots, not the 10 to 15 that was forecast! For the remainder of the afternoon and on into the night, we motored sailed to the southwest with the wind out of the north.
Overnight and into the next morning, December 13th, we were able to motorsail at a very good speed, sometimes reaching 8 knots. There was just not enough wind to sail. Also helping our speed was the fact that we were almost through the Gulf Stream, and we were actually getting some help from the counter current that runs west down the north coast of Cuba. The seas were not too bad so far, and Kitty had not had to take any seasick medicine at this point.
My main fisherman, Jeff, had a line in the water before I had breakfast started. I was just starting to cook up breakfast, when the news came down to the galley that we had a fish on the line. And what a fish it was! A nice big Dorado. I was able to get two really nice fillets from the fish, and dinner was planned even before we had breakfast. Some good news and bad news here. Our freezer was so full, there was no room for more fish, so I asked Jeff to not fish any more that day. That turned out to be a bad plan, because the next day we were in the Caribbean, and the Floating Sargassum was so bad, Jeff was not really able to fish the remainder of the passage. A big disappointment for us all. He tried really hard, but he would no sooner get the line in the water, than it would catch more Floating Sargassum.
The passsage was rather uneventful. We tried all kinds of sail arrangements to try and get more speed, and/or to try and make a sailboat instead of a motorsailer. We tried wing on wing, but nothing really worked. By the time we got near the end of the passage, there was not enough wind to keep the sails up, so we became a motorboat. We did have one pod of dolphins that came by DREAM AWAY, but they did not hang around for more than 15 or so minutes. The only real failure we had was the freshwater pump. I had a spare, so got that fixed pretty quickly.
We did have one event that was a cause for concern, but in the end it was nothing. Late on the evening of day six, when we were in the Gulf of Honduras, between Honduras and Belize, we came across two life preservers. They were floating in a large line of trash and Floating Sargassum. We retrieved both life preservers, and they did not have any growth on them, so they had not been in the water very long. The life preservers had the initials "KST" on them. We called on channel 16 of the VHF radio and got no response. When we checked into Guatemala, we asked the port authorities about sunken or damaged vessels, but none had been reported. We ended up with two pretty good life preservers!
Of course, we saw our share of cruise ships, and merchant ships. We all took pictures of the outstanding sunrises and sunsets, so will have plenty of pictures of those to share. We got into the Gulf of Honduras late on the evening of day six. As mentioned before, the wind had died and we were down being a motorboat. As we progressed through the night, we entered the Bahia de Amatique. We were fortunate to have a small rainstorm come over us around midnight. The rain washed the days of accumulated salt off of DREAM AWAY. We made our way into the Bahia de Amatique, and anchored at Cabo Tres Puntas around 0400 day seven, Thursday, December 18th. We were not alone. There were at least four other cruising boats anchored at Cabo Tres Puntos when we anchored. When we made sure the anchor was set, and all of the proper lights were on, we all hit the sack for a welcome sleep. We had all been up a very long time.
When we awoke late on the morning of day eight at Cabo Tres Puntas, all four of the boats that were anchored there when we dropped anchor had left! Except for local traffic, we were alone. The high tide at the bar at Livingston was at 0630 that morning, and I had decided we needed a day of rest before we attempted to cross the bar. We had a nice relaxing breakfast, and then pretty much spent the remainder of the day relaxing.
We did do one project, that was necessary. At one time during the passage the roller furling Genoa would not roll up. This is not a good thing! A couple of hours later when there was no wind pressure on the Genoa, I was able to roll it up by myself. I do not like problems that "fix" themselves! So I went up the main mast, with Jeff and Danny on deck helping with the process. The problem turned out to be tension on the Genoa halyard! I had put too much tension on the halyard, and the bearings at the top of the forestay were not properly aligned. The easy solution was to slack off on the halyard! Which I did.
By the time we finished with this project, it was mid-afternoon, so we all took showers and had a fairly early dinner. We wanted to get to bed early, as we had to be up early in the morning. From our anchorage at Cabo Tres Puntas, it was just over ten miles to the bar at Livingston. The high tide for the next morning was scheduled for 0650, and that was exactly when we wanted to cross the bar. So, backing up in this dialog, we needed to raise the anchor around 0430, so we could get under way, and make the two hour trip across the bay to arrive on time. Reveille was scheduled for 0400!
And so it was! We got up at 0400, and first things first, we got the coffee going! We brought up the anchor, and used the washdown system to clean the chain and anchor as they came up. We got the anchor and the snubber all squared away on deck, but not put away below deck. As soon as we crossed the bar, we would be anchoring again in Livingston.
It was a very uneventful trip across the Bahia de Amatique. As usual, I was very nervous crossing the bar, but the waypoints I had from several years ago were still good, and we had no trouble whatsoever. We got into the small harbor, and anchored in front of the fuel station on the dock in Livingston. It was just 0700, so we knew it would be some time before the officials came out to the boat. We had the yellow "Q" flag flying, indicating our desire to clear into Guatemala. We worked at getting the tender into the water and all set up. We would need the tender to get back and forth to the dock after the officials had arrived, so we could finish checking into the country.
I had told Jeff and Danny that the officials here were pretty efficient, as they usually came out to DREAM AWAY even before I had completed the anchoring process. Today that was not to happen! The officials finally arrieved on DREAM AWAY around 1000. There was the Doctor, the Port Captain, and the Customs Agent. We gave them all of the paperwork they required, and answered all of their questions. Raul, our agent had already called on the radio. He explained that immediately after the officials left DREAM AWAY we could go over to the dock and then go to his office. He would take care of everything for us.
When the officials left with our passports, a copy of the ship's documentation papers, and the crew list, we got our act together, boarded the tender, and headed into the dock. Our first stop was at Raul's office. He explained all of the procedures, and all of the current costs. Since we did not have any Guatemalan Quetzale's, we headed to the ATM at the bank to get some of the local currency. When that was done, we went to a local restaurant to have a meal. We had not really had a real breakfast this morning, and it was now lunchtime, so we were really hungry. We encouraged both Jeff and Danny to have the Tapado. This is a seafood soup that is very popular on Guatemala's Caribbean coast. They both ordered the large one, and it was! The good news is they throughly enjoyed the soup, and they each pretty much finished it! Kitty had a sandwich, and I had a pork steak.
While we were having our lunch, Kitty was chatting to a woman at the next table. Turns out she is Canadian, and working in Guatemala City teaching English. She happened to be in Livingston during the holidays. She offered to let Jeff use her telephone for a few minutes so he could call his wife and let her know all was well. Jeff made the call, and we were very appreciative of her jesture. She said she might be in the Rio Dulce in the next week or so. We told her we would be at Monkey Bay Marina and how to get in touch. We had to get going, so we left Shannon at the restaurant, and headed back to the waterfront.
When we had finished lunch, we headed back to Raul's office and retrieved all of our paperwork and passports. I paid him for visas, and the three month cruising permit for DREAM AWAY. I also paid him for the nine month extension to the cruising permit for DREAM AWAY, so she will be good for a year in Guatemala. Kitty and I are good for three months, then we can get a three month extension to our visas. After that period of time, we must leave Guatemala for at least one night before we can come back to Guatemala and start the process all over again.
We then left the office, and went back to our tender, which was being looked after by one of the locals. Quite an interesting personality, and I feel bad because I cannot remember his name. We made our way back out to DREAM AWAY, got settled in, and opened up the boat. We then upped anchor, and headed up the gorge of the Rio Dulce to "Gringo" Bay (Bahia Buena Vista). This was planned as our anchorage for the night, as we were anxious to visit with a dear friend who lives in her house on "Gringo" Bay (Bahia Buena Vista). Jeff and Danny were overwhelmed with the beauty of the gorge up to "Gringo" Bay (Bahia Buena Vista). Kitty and I had made this trip several times and it was still awe inspiring. I am not good enough with the English language to properly describe it.
We arrived in "Gringo" Bay (Bahia Buena Vista) in the late afternoon, after a wonderful trip up the gorge of the Rio Dulce. We got the anchor set, and DREAM AWAY settled. We got the tender in the water, and then headed over to Jennifer's house to visit with her. It was not a very long visit, as she had a friend over and it was getting late. We went back to DREAM AWAY just as it was getting dark. We had decided we would head out to the Burnt Key Marina and have dinner. This was initially a good plan, but as we sallied forth in the dark, and the trip got longer and longer, and as I was not sure of the marina's location, we finally decided to go back to DREAM AWAY. I was not sure of the fuel situation in the tender, and still had no real clue of the marina's location.
When we got back to DREAM AWAY, we put together a very good dinner of a bunch leftovers. Little bits and pieces we had remaining from previous dinners and lunches. After dinner, and the dishes were done, we just enjoyed sitting in the cockpit. It was very dark, and the stars were wonderful. We were early to bed as it gets dark around here by 1730, so by 2000 it felt like we had been up all night!
The next morning, which was technically day nine of the passage, we upped the anchor and got underway from "Gringo" Bay (Bahia Buena Vista) and headed out across El Golfete. It was a cool and cloudy day, and of course no wind, so we motored across the lake. When we got to the west end of the lake we entered the Rio Dulce again. We were now getting very close to our destination, Monkey Bay Marina. This section of the Rio Dulce is where most of the marinas are located. We contacted John, the harbormaster at Monkey Bay Marina by calling him on our friend Paul's VHF radio.
John came out in his little launcha to pick me up and take me into the marina so I could get an idea of where and how to dock DREAM AWAY. In the meantime, Kitty was driving DREAM AWAY around in circles waiting for me to return. John and I came up with the plan, and he took me back out to DREAM AWAY. We had already done the work of getting out the dock lines and fenders, so now we put them in position. When we were all prepared, I drove DREAM AWAY into the marina where the multihulls are normally kept. When I got in, we got lines onto the dock, and then we truned DREAM AWAY around so she would be facing down river, into the wind.
Once DREAM AWAY was turned around, it was just a matter of getting all of the lines and fenders placed properly, and DREAM AWAY secured. We put the tender into the water, as it would be needed in the coming days. We also got the electricity and the water connected. John took Kitty, Jeff, and Danny for a tour of the marina to show them the bathrooms, showers, kitchen, beer and soda cooler, and the big and little ranchos. When the tour was finished, We all helped, including John, to get some items and parts off of DREAM AWAY. Some were items that John was expecting!
When most of the work was done, we all took our showers and relaxed. Kitty and I were overwhelmed to be finally back at Monkey Bay Marina after being away for three years. Kitty, Jeff, and Danny went over to MAR Marine for movie night that evening. I did not join them. I had been looking forward to sitting in the cockpit with an adult beverage at Monkey Bay Marina for a long time, and I did not want to put it off!