Placencia, Belize To Fronteras, Guatemala
Our original plan was to stay in Placencia until the 31st of December, check out of Belize on the 31st, sail to New Haven Bight in the south of Belize, and spend two nights there. On the 3rd of January, we were going to sail over to Cabo Tres Puntas, in Guatemala, and spend the night there. The next morning, January 4th, we would then cross over the bar, around 1000, and check into Guatemala.
This plan changed on the 27th of December. While I was running the generator making water, and charging the batteries, the impeller on the raw water pump on my generator failed. I knew I did not have a spare impeller. I have two impellers on the way, and they will be in Guatemala on the 9th of January, thanks to friend Paul. But until then, the generator is down. Issue one.
One of my wind generators has failed on the trip from Mexico to Belize. It is not a big problem, as we can still charge the batteries with the main engine, but it is a disappointment, and with that down, it means my options are dwindling. Issue two.
With no generator, water making is limited (I think I can still make limited amounts using the batteries and inverter for power), and that can be a real problem. Kitty, with her skin condition, needs a lot of water, and not having it available could be an issue. Issue three.
With these issues in mind we decided to change the plan (there's a surprise) and try to leave Belize, and get checked in to Guatemala on the 30th or 31st of December. We emailed John, the manager of the marina in which we would be staying in Guatemala, and also emailed Raul, the check in agent in Guatemala, to verify all of the authorities offices for checking in would be open both days. Return emails verified that they would be open both days
The new plan was to check out of Belize on the 28th of December, sail to New Haven Bight in the south of Belize on December 29th, and spend the night there. On the 30th of December we would sail over to Cabo Tres Puntas, in Guatemala, and spend the night there. The next morning, December 31st, we would then cross over the sand bar around 0800 on the morning high tide, and check in to Guatemala.
On the morning of the 28th of December we headed into Placencia around 0730 to catch the water taxi, the Hokey-Pokey, over to Mango Creek, Belize. When we got to the water taxi landing in Mango Creek, we hired a cab to take us to the Immigration office in Independence. The cab driver, John, was very helpful. He asked us what our plan was, and we told him we were checking out of Belize. He then told us the day was the official holiday for Boxing Day, which was on a weekend day, December 26th. He said all of the offices were closed, and it would cost over $200.00 in overtime to get all of the officials on the job.
Kitty and I decided we were not in that big of a hurry, and decided to postpone the checkout until the 29th of December. John took us back to the Hokey Pokey landing, and did not charge us anything. We told the John we would be back early in the morning of the 29th, so if he was at the landing, we would use his services.
The morning of the 29th of December we were up and ready to hit the beach in Placencia to catch the 0745 Hokey Pokey over to Mango Creek. It had rained a lot during the night, and just when we got ready to get the dinghy off of the davits, a squall came through and postponed the effort to get to the beach on time. Oh well, another change in plans! The next Hokey Pokey water taxi was scheduled for 1000, so we decided to wait for it. When we made our way into Placencia and went to the Hokey Pokey landing, we found that a boat was leaving at 0930. We got on the boat, and got over to Mango Creek. John was waiting for us at the landing, even though we had taken the later water taxi.
John first took us to the Immigration office. Here we got our passports stamped, and had to pay a $7.50 BZ conservation fee each. The Immigration Officer asked us when we were actually leaving Belize. We told her the next morning at 0600. She wrote down the information and typed up the forms, then told us we owed her a $50.00 BZ Late Boarding Fee! When we asked her what this was about, she said that, because we were not leaving between the hours of 0800-1200 and 1300-1700, we were charged a Late Boarding Fee. Since we were not in any hurry, we told her we would leave at 0830 tomorrow morning. She said no, since we already told her our plans, and she had written up the documents, we could not change our minds. So we had to pay the fee. We left the Immigration in not the greatest mood.
John then took us to the port of Big Creek, so we could check out with Customs and the Port Captain. At Customs, we got the the documentation required to check into Guatemala. Next was the Port Captain. Here we had to pay a $90.00 BZ Departure & Admin Fee. So our total for check out including transportation was $210.00 BZ. The present exchange rate is $1.00 US = $2.00 BZ.
John took us back to the Hokey Pokey landing where we awaited the next boat. It was scheduled to leave at 1100, and it did. When we got back to Placencia, we stopped at a small roadside restaurant named the Grill-N-Go to have lunch, which we both really enjoyed. It was roast chicken with rice and beans. We also stopped at John the Bakerman, but he had no fresh bread or rolls because of the holiday the day before. He was just beginning to make the day's batch and they wouldn't be ready until 1600.
On the way back to the dock we ran into the Jim, Lori, and Marci who were on a neighboring boat (Lorena). The boat was from Galveston, so we had haled them when they first arrived, and had visited with them over the last two or three days. We talked about getting together later on for a movie. We asked them if they would come and get us off of our boat as we were leaving very early in the morning, and wanted to get our dinghy put up and secured. Their dinghy was still in the water, so they agreed to this plan, which we really appreciated.
When we were at the dock we stopped at Brenda's, who is a really sweet person. She is a real character. She runs a food stand where she cooks Jamaican jerk chicken, then adds rice and beans and sliced cucumber, and a piece of fruit for $15.00 BZ. She also bakes phenomenal coconut macaroons, and bread pudding. We purchased two dinners to go, and some bread pudding, as she had no macaroons left. These meals would be our dinner for the evening.
We got back out to the boat, and got busy getting the boat packed up for what we hoped would be a light passage. The first thing we did was get the motor off of the dinghy and secured, and then the dinghy up on the davits and secured. While I was getting the final touches on the dinghy and the outside of the boat, Kitty was down below getting the inside of Dream Away ready for a passage.
We had the Jamaican jerk chicken dinner from Brenda's, which we really enjoyed. Next, Jim from the Galveston boat came over and picked us up in his dinghy, and we went over his boat to watch a movie. He has a really great boat, and he has done a lot of work on it over six years. The movie we watched was “The Reader”. It was a little slow in the beginning, but turned out to be a great motion picture, which we all enjoyed. After the movie, Jim took us back to Dream Away, so we could get some shut eye!
The next morning, the 30th of December, Kitty and I got up at 0515, so we could get under way by 0600. We paid the fee so we were damned well going to do it! Our plan was to bypass New Haven Bight, and sail directly to our anchorage off of Cabo Tres Puntas. Since our schedule had been delayed, this was our only hope of getting into Guatemala on the 31st. Should there be further delays, we would have to stay anchored out until Monday, January 4th, as we didn't want to incur the extra costs that would be involved in checking in on a holiday and/or weekend. Cabo Tres Puntas is located on a peninsula just across from Livingston, Guatemala. The distance is about 42 nautical miles, from Placencia, Belize, to Cabo Tres Puntas, so we should have no trouble getting to our anchorage in plenty of time. For the first 2/3 of the trip, we should have a favorable 1.5 knot current, and the last 1/3 of the trip would be a 1 knot current against us.
We got the anchor up and were underway by 0624! We were making good time with just the engine powering us, but I unrolled the roller furling Genoa, and our speed picked up to 6.8 knots. There were lots of squalls around, and we did get a lot of rain on the trip. Because of the squalls, I did not want to put up the main or the mizzen sail just in case one of the squalls had a lot of wind in it. I had already decided to run the engine all the way to Guatemala anyway, as I wanted to get a real good charge on the batteries.
We made a good run all day and dropped the hook (anchor) at Cabo Tres Puntas at 1333. We got settled in and had a toast of Zaya Rum to celebrate our arrival in Guatemala. We had a nice dinner, each took a shower, and then we were in bed early. The plan was to be at the bar in Livingston at 0800 the next morning, the 31st of December. Our anchorage was about two hours from Livingston so we had another early morning planned. We got a fair amount of sleep, even though it had rained very hard for several hours during the night.
The morning of December 31st, the last day of the first decade of the 21st century, and an occurrence of a Blue Moon, we got up again at 0515. We actually started picking up the anchor chain in the dark. We got the anchor up and were underway by 0550.
I had been pretty up tight concerning crossing the bar at Livingston. The guide book stated the MLW (Mean Low Water) would be 5.5 feet, and the high tide on which we would be crossing was a .9 foot high tide (adding that to the MLW depth). We had two waypoints that I had used when crossing cross the bar when we were here three years ago, and we hoped the sands had not shifted so much as to make those inaccurate … but who knows!!
We got to the outer waypoint at 0750, and we started in. We had no problem, and the lowest depth we saw the whole time was 6 feet. We made it in, and we were in Livingston harbor! We were anchored just upriver from the fuel dock by 0833. We got out all of the paperwork we would need, then started getting the dinghy into the water, and the motor on it. That is when the officials showed up.
A launcha arrived with Raul, our agent, an official from Immigration, the Port Captain, and an official from Customs. We got them all seated in the cockpit, and Raul told me what paper work he needed for each of the officials. We provided all of the paperwork, plus our passports. After doing their initial inventory of our papers, all of the officials, and Raul, left. Raul had told us to come to his office in about 45 minutes, and he would have all of the paper work for us stamped and ready to go. We asked how much all of this would cost. The price was 1100 Quetzals. We only had about 300 Quetzals, so we had to go to the bank to change money. The exchange rate is $1.00 US = 8.24 Q. Raul told us the bank would be closing at 1000 because of the holiday. This was a problem, as it was 0920, and we still did not have the engine on the dinghy!
After the officials left, we finished the rest of the dinghy preparation, changed our clothes, got the boat locked up and secured, and headed into the town of Livingston. We parked the dinghy at the BugaMama restaurant. We had a couple of little boys watch the dinghy for us, and we headed to the bank. We got to the bank at 0950. Oh joy, guess what, we were not the only ones at the bank! We barely made it in the door. There were 32 people in line in front of me. I thought we will never get out of the bank. As it turns out, we were able to get out of the bank, with our money exchanged, by 1110.
We purchased some rolls and some sweet cakes on our way to Raul's office. Then, at his office, we picked up our paperwork and our passports, and paid our bill. We decided to have a lunch at the BugaMama restaurant. It was a great lunch and we enjoyed it very much. What was interesting is the restaurant is owned by a Maya orphanage organization. The organization takes young Mayans and trains them in the restaurant, hotel, and service industry. So all of the help at the restaurant are students in some phase of their training, and the profits go to support the orphanage.
We left the restaurant, and went back out to Dream Away. We got the boat opened up, and the motor up and secured, and the dinghy on the davits. We had the anchor up, and we were headed up the river by 1252. We were very anxious to get started as we had been looking forward to the trip up the canyon of the Rio Dulce (Sweet River) ever since we left Guatemala the first time. As you will notice, I took a bunch of pictures, and they are all probably the same pictures as those we took when we made this same trip in December of 2005. To bad, please try and enjoy them all.
We had an uneventful trip up the Rio Dulce, and actually had no rain on the trip. We entered the El Golfete body of water around 1430. We still had over ten miles to go to get to our final destination, Monkey Bay Marina, so we decided to spend the night in a new marina called Texan Bay. The cost was only 80 Q ($10 US), and that included water, so we did it. It took me about 15 minutes to get all of the dock lines out, and the fenders secured in place. I had initially planned anchor out, so was not prepared for a slip. We entered the marina and got tied up with a lot of help from boaters who were already at the marina.
We got secured and went up to the “office/bar/restaurant” to sign in. Here there was a huge crowd of Mayans, and about ten gringo boaters. As it turns out, the owner of Texan Bay had purchased three big pinatas and filled them full of toys. All of the Mayans were from local villages around the marina, and the owner had invited them all over so the kids could have a chance at the pinatas. The whole crowd of Mayans moved to the back of the property where they did the pinata thing. We signed in. I had a drink, and we ordered a plate of five tacos, which we throughly enjoyed.
We talked for about an hour with the boaters gathered at the restaurant, then excused ourselves so we could go back to the boat. I filled up our water tank, and we both took showers, which was much appreciated. We then settled down and read for a while, but we were in bed on New Years eve by 2030. Not only did we go to bed early, but I slept in to 0640. Did I mention it rained again during the night? But it was not as heavy as it was the previous night.
We got up the next morning, the first day of the new decade, and had breakfast. After breakfast we walked around the marina to look at all the boats docked there. After seeing the boats and visiting with a couple of the boaters at the restaurant, we went back to Dream Away so we could get under way. On a side note, the boat “Tempest”, formerly named “Victoria” was there at the marina, and we visited with Ed and Gracie, her current owners. For those of you who have been following our saga all these years, you may remember that this was the boat we originally wanted to buy in Houston. When someone bought her out from under us, we were crushed, but ultimately found our Hardin, on which we now live. When we delivered our boat from Florida, there was “Victoria”, a CSY pilot-house ketch, sitting across the dock from us. During the next couple of years we made two attempts to buy her, even living aboard for a few months while we shaped up Dream Away for possible sale. But nothing ever worked out, and she sailed away. We encountered her again the first time we were in the Rio, and here she was again, this time. Small world.
We got untied and out of Texan Bay by 0945. We headed sort of west across El Golfete. It is a small lake about seven miles long and 1-1.5 miles wide. It is fed by the Rio Dulce, and several other small rivers. Once across El Golfete, we continued up the Rio Dulce again, and started getting into the area where most of the marinas on the Rio Dulce are located.
We contacted our marina, Monkey Bay Marina, on the radio. We communicated with the manager, John, and he explained where he wanted us to go. We got the lay of the water, and got into the guest slip and tied up by 1200. We are finally here!!
We will be changing slips in a day or two, as John is working on getting boats moved around to fill in the spaces of boats that are leaving. That will free up our “real” slip. John gave us the tour of the marina, and it is really nice, we are going to enjoy it.
We talked to some of the other boaters here at the Marina, and they were having a pot luck that evening to celebrate New Year's Day. They told us, that since we were new, and weren't quite organized, we could just bring a meat to cook, and did not have to bring a dish for the pot luck. This was good news, as we needed the time to get settled. We had a great meal at the pot luck, and got to meet the the other cruisers currently here at Monkey Bay.
It has been raining most of the time ever since we got to Monkey Bay Marina. Apparently a cold front has come through, and the tail end is lingering over us. It is not the normal tropical rain, in which it rains in Biblical proportions for about an hour, and the sun comes out. It is the misty weather, and then heavy rain for about 2 minutes, then back to the very wet mist. This is supposed to be the dry season. Oh well, the good news is, we know it will get much better.
This officially finishes the trip from Placencia to Fronteras. The accompanying pictures cover the trip. There are also a couple I took this morning. Early in the day, we saw, up in the trees, the reason the marina is named Monkey Bay. There were about six golden-mantled howler monkeys, and I was able to get a couple of pictures of them, so I am including them here. From what I hear, they come every day, so I will have a lot more opportunity to take pictures of them. There is also a plethora of hummingbirds and butterflies here, many around a nearby mimosa tree. I will be taking some pictures of those, as well as the marina in general, and will get those out in the next update.