Because of the length of this day and the large number of photos, it is split it into two parts. Part 1 documents our midnight departure from Placencia and cruise down the Rio Dulce, prior to arriving at Abelle's boatyard in Guatemala, near Fronteras on the map below (near the bottom). Part 2 will document the afternoon and evening hours spent on land after arriving at the dock.
's engines roared to life again just a couple of hours after we'd hit the hay for a little fitful sleep (for me at least) prior to our midnight launch from the anchorage in Placencia. I'd jokingly suggested to Simon that we just stay the night in this calm and beautiful spot, but he had a schedule to keep so of course would hear nothing of it. Clive weighed the anchor at midnight, and we were on the move again.
Although I stayed in our berth, I can't recall now if I slept any at all between the time we departed and about 1:30 am; but I do remember that I was hot and sweaty as there was very little breeze, and it was humid, of course. Chunky and Ruthie had decided to sleep out on the trampoline, so around 1:30 I thought I might join them for awhile and see what it was like out there. I snuck out onto the bow and laid down on on my damp beach towel. It was definitely cooler and very damp. The stars were absolutely breathtaking out in the middle of the sea with no light pollution.
Deciding I needed a bit more than shorts and a t-shirt on, I lowered myself back down into our cabin through the top hatch (surprisingly, this awkward gyration did not wake Barry up), changed into long pants, threw on my wind breaker, then tried going out to the bow again. It was good at first, and quieter than being right on top of the engine in the berth, but soon I got too chilly even in that outfit and had to bail on sleeping under the stars.
Chunky and Ruthie had the right idea, bringing the most unlikely of garments for the tropics along with them, the cult phenomon Snuggie
, basically a blanket with sleeves. With those, they managed to stay warm enough to sleep out on the bow all night, while I had to retreat back to our cabin to sweat. I actually had even warmer clothes in my duffel, including a fleece jacket, but it was way at the bottom, and I didn't want to risk waking Barry or others up with all my comings and goings, so I just stuck it out and managed to grab a few hours of sleep after all.
In the morning, we were rewarded with a beautiful sunrise as the motley crew started cracking open our eyes. In contrast to the completely clear, starry sky of earlier, the sky was now thick with clouds, but at least it wasn't raining.
Snuggies -- silly but effective
Bruce, Chunky, and Simon
Cap't Simon swabbing the decks
Yes, I look and was sleepy!
Since we had entered Guatemalan waters, our captains had raised the Guatemala courtesy flag (blue and white vertical stripes) and a yellow Quarantine flag. The 'Q' flag would be in place until we checked in with immigration authorities in Livingston.
The crew hung out and watched for signs of Livingston in the distance. When Simon requested it, we helped him look for markers that would lead us safely into the mouth of the Rio Dulce and away from shoals. The markers in Central America aren't up to US standards so were often very hard to see. Some were sticks and some were bottles or floats of various types. Good thing there were plenty of pairs of binoculars and (bleary) eyes aboard s/v Hope!
A Guatemalan marker
Not hard to see was this huge Chiquita banana barge
Bruce and me looking for markers in our nearly identical uniforms
We soon arrived in Livingston, where we'd check in so as to be in Guatemala legally. Our passports would be stamped, and off we'd go on the rest of our journey.
The colors of Livingston
Approaching the dock to check in -- and the sky is now blue!
Clive awaits as Simon guides s/v Hope to the dock
Barry helped by throwing a dock line to a dockhand.
s/v Hope on the docks of the colorful town of Livingston
After s/v Hope was safely docked, the customs and immigration officers arrived. They greeted us all with a Buenos Dias (good morning), then sat around the cockpit table with Simon to go over the paperwork and stamp our passports. There was also a doctor and a fourth officer of some sort who came aboard. It was all fairly formal, but they were friendly. The officers asked Simon if there were weapons, drugs, or pets onboard, or if anyone was sick. No, no, no, and no. A few stamps and signatures later, and we were able to get out and walk around and sightsee for awhile. Livingston was quite hilly, very different from what we have become accustomed to in San Pedro. And it was warm, very warm.
Welcome to Livingston
Emily, Bruce, and Chunky climbing the hill
Emily (far left)
Everything was in Spanish, so we wished we'd gotten a little farther with our lessons, but calculating the exchange rate from the local currency, Quetzales, to US dollars (approximately 7.5 Q per $1 USD) was probably our biggest challenge. Fortunately, shops accepted our US money as we'd read they would, so we were able to make some very important purchases -- adult beverages. Since Belize tightly regulates beer imports, you drink Belikin unless you want to pay a mint, and bringing in or selling beers from many countries, including Mexico and Guatemala, is strictly illegal in Belize. So, we felt a bit like kids in a candy store grabbing local and Mexican brews. Simon had placed his order for local Gallo beer, not to be confused with the California wine of the same name, so Chunky and Bruce picked that up for him as well.
While available, wine is very expensive in Belize, so I was happy to get a bottle of Chilean Sauvignon Blanc for just $11 USD -- it would have been at least double in San Pedro (which is why I almost never drink wine in Belize). Barry and my total came to $35 USD for 10 single beers (there's no such thing as a "sixer" in Central America) and the bottle of wine. Not as inexpensive as I'd expected in Guatemala, but worth every penny for the chance to drink something besides Belikin!
Bruce and me in store where we bought beer and wine
Chunky with his "loot" in bag
Heading back to s/v Hope
Barry was happy to get some of his favorite beer, Corona. The others are local brews we wanted to try.
Rio Dulce ("Sweet River") cruising
The next part of our trip was quite different than the ocean sailing we'd done so far and involved motoring down the Rio Dulce. We had checked some web sites about this in advance so were prepared for it to be beautiful, and we were not disappointed. The foliage and bird life were fantastic, and the occasional hut or rustic resort along the river's banks perfectly suited the environment. This would be an absolutely wonderful place to kayak or canoe. If you ever get a chance to visit this beautiful area, do not hesitate! We were still pinching ourselves at our good fortune.
The river narrowed here and got even more beautiful
The water turned emerald green to match the trees
Barry was right in his element watching for birds and other interesting sights off the bow. Couldn't wipe that smile off his face!
High rocky cliffs along the banks
Wouldn't you love to stay here on vacation?
A beauty of a boat and a blood pressure lowering scene
The mountains were gorgeous
This pair of Mangrove Swallows hitched a ride on our lifelines for awhile
Pelicans on stilts
Emily and Ruthie having a bite of lunch
At this point, we were getting very close to the boatyard where s/v Hope would have her transducer repaired. We were just about to go under the bridge in the town of Fronteras, also known simply as Rio Dulce, same as the river.
That's what I'm talking about!
Rio Dulce is a popular cruising destination with quite a few marinas along the way
The bird trees
Going under the bridge in Fronteras - Hope's mast came within a foot of the power lines on one side of the bridge. A hold your breath moment for sure!
Bridge with Esso fuel dock below
Cruising boats at nearby marinas
Ruthie striking a pretty pose, and Bruce anxious to arrive at the boatyard
Stay tuned for Guatemala Cruise Day 2, Part 2: Rio Dulce, Guatemala