Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Leaving Guatemala

On Feb. 2nd, 2009, Dorothy and I met up with a friend in Ft. Lauderdale who would be our crew from the Rio Dulce River in Guatemala, to the Bay Islands of Honduras. Terry, an avid fisherman/boater on Long Island Sound, NY, and long time family friend, let it be known a year or so ago, that he was interested in crewing on one of our passages. A couple of months ago I thought this particular trip would offer a wide spectrum of the cruising life to him, so gave him a call. We could embellish it with a side trip to Antigua, up in the mountains of Guatemala before we even get far from the Guatemala City airport on arrival.

Spirit Airlines even decided to play an important role in our never ending "Problem Solving" lifestyle, by seeing how many "Solutions" we could come up with! At the ticket counter in Ft. Lauderdale, after standing in line for 2 hours, they refuse to let us board the aircraft with our One Way Tickets. After a short argument and offering 10 pieces of printed material showing our boat location, clearing in papers, documentation, etc. and clearing out paperwork from the agent in charge of our departure, with clarification every minute that we were flying to Guatemala to take OUR boat out of the country and heading to Panama. The logic did not seem to get through, that we did not need a return trip ticket. They certainly seemed happy to sell it to us, but NO, we could not use it! Why is that? Nope, we had to buy a $604. return ticket (note: the expensive ones are Fully Refundable- the cheaper ones are not, so I put it on my card and cancelled it later) I bought the ticket while precious airport time was evaporating. We had to then, boarding passes in hand, run for the last security checks, run to the aircraft where they were calling our names over the P.A. system at the gate, and Terry was standing there with crew, OUTSIDE the aircraft-- refusing to board unless we were there! Good for him, he might have saved the day!

Oh, it gets worse. We arrive in Guatemala City, to find only ONE of our THREE suitcases left Ft. Lauderdale.. To add to that, the bags were full items necessary for the boat. Not clothes, but electronics and parts procured over 6 months of careful shopping. Worse still, Spirit would not have another flight into Guatemala for 2 days. I was livid.

We accepted life and headed for Antigua, to follow our original plan of an overnight there, then heading down to the coast(Rio Dulce River)in the morning-a 5 hour bus ride. All 3 of us did that and with the One bag that did arrive, I had enough parts to effect some needed repair projects, windlass motor electrical brushes and an impeller for the engine water pump, that the ride back was worth it. However, the next morning, Terry and Dorothy would go grocery shopping....provisioning. "I" however, would catch an early morning bus and ride 5 hours back to Guatemala city, cab it to the airport, secure my missing 2 bags (Hopefully) cab it back to the bus terminal and enjoy another 5 hour bus ride down to the river. yup, that's the way it played out, except the bus took an extra 3/4 hour going and another 1.5 hours returning. Call me Numb Butt.

I got in at 11 p.m. and fell sound asleep. The next morning after clearing a clogged toilet aboard---another shitty story---we left Catamaran's Marina/Hotel and headed to the Shell station for fuel, did a short visit to the Spanish fort at the juncture of the river and lake, then headed downriver to Texan Bay for dinner and rest. The 15 mile boat ride was relaxing yet we were all kind of exhausted by now. At Texan Bay, the owners have a launcha that will take you downriver further, to the town of Livingston at the mouth of the river, so we could do the essential 'clearing out procedure'. The officialdom there is kind of relaxed and I set things up before hand by email. Raul, the agent in charge was wonderful as always and we got to walk the town a bit, while he took care of business. Twenty minutes later, we were ready for the return launcha ride and some rest time. Dorothy cooked a wonderful meal and after some chatting, we hit the rack early.

Small boat projects were still on a list, and although it was raining lightly, I managed to get some of the deck work done. We headed down river at 3 p.m. and by 5:30, staged and ready to follow the first boat game enough to try to cross the shallow bar. IT was a full moon, highest tide of the month attempt. IF you cannot do it now, you can't do it. Arranged by Raul also, was Gaviota, a fishing boat owned by Hector. The $50. charge (in U.S. currency) covered Hector taking a line from the top of your mast and pulling your boat over sideways, far enough, that your keel would be up a bit off the bottom of the river bottom and bar, going out to the sea bouy. Several boats used him and several of us powered our way through the muck. IF I ever do it again, I'll pay the $50 and save more than $200., in bottom paint!!

Anyway, we were off and in 2 hours were anchored offshore, in safety near Tres Puntas for the night. Our next journey had begun................and yes, more ;) ..."Solutions" to come.

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