Thursday, May 10, 2012

On to Guatemala

Walt and Honoree paddle over from Wisp
for dinner on Scott Free. They do have a
motor but hadn't put it on yet.

Chicken with Peanut Sauce was on the Menu

Frank's Cay, where we spent five days with Walt and Honoree on "Will O' the Wisp", is one of several cays at the south end of the chain of islands on the barrier reef off Belize. We snorkeled every day, ate fabulous meals on each other's boats and caught up with our good friends' adventures. They spent the season on Roatan in Honduras, mostly at the West End. Lots of political troubles there have created havoc among the cruising community.
 We were waiting for the full moon and the highest tide of the month to cross the dreaded bar at the entrance to the Rio Dulce where our boats would spend the rest of the year safe from hurricanes. It was only 23 miles to the Cabo Tres Puntas where boats anchor before entering the river, only 9 miles away. Not surprisingly many boats had gathered there at the same time.
 The next day we were up at 5am to sail to the mouth of the Rio Dulce River and be there just before the high tide at 7:45am. We were the first boat out of the anchorage but once there we found an Aussie boat waiting too. We both had 6'8" drafts - very marginal for this. The sea buoy wasn't in the location either of our guides provided. Directions said to leave it to port and head to the bluff on the west side of the river past the town of Livingston. We thought the buoy must have been relocated due to a shift in the channel. "Bandit" gestured for us to go ahead first. Scott gunned the motor and we were off. It's a mile distance to the town and we plowed a furrow in the mud for half of that. Sometimes we slowed down to a crawl or bounced. We used all 135 horses to keep going. Unfortunately "Bandit" behind us only had 75. They stopped short and later we watched them be towed in with a line off the top of their mast to a local panga. The controling depth of the bar is supposed to be 5 feet and there was two feet of tide at the full moon this month so we were very surprised to have such trouble. Later we discovered that the buoy had torn loose and been reinstalled incorrectly. Other boats in the know left it to starboard and had better luck. This was a relief since we can expect a better time leaving the river next year with the correct coordinates.
 We checked into the country at Livingston, the small community at the mouth of the river, and then motored the 25 miles up to Fronteras where we anchored for the night. The views were spectacular as the river winds between cliffs of lush green vegetation backed by blue mountains. We picked up a mooring off Tortugal Marina, an atmospheric place with artistic touches everywhere. This morning we were up early to walk for a few miles through green fields and forests. We love it here!
We had a number of delicious lunches and dinners on
Wisp, many featuring fish that they just cauaght.

Anchored off Livingston after our memorable "Crossing
of the Bar"

Mountainous Guatemala was a big change from our
island times these last months.

Mayan family stop to chat. That's a baby slung on her
back in traditional style

Looking down the main street of Livingston

Wisp leads us up the Rio Dulce past towering cliffs of jungle all in intense shades of green

The river winds through the hills sometimes in hair pin
turns. Happily we had a good guide book and Wisp
ahead of us. They've done this trip a number of times.

At times it widens out into a lake.
Both simple and very expensive homes occasionally appear.
This area was originally all Mayan families but now wealthy
Guatemalans are building huge vacation homes here.
The Tortugal Marina where we picked up a mooring ball and where Wisp will spend the rest of the year. 
Our morning walk took us through this pretty forest.
The bridge crossing the River at Fronteras is the tallest in
Central America - 80 feet at the center. The noise of the
trucks' jake braking is loud early in the morning.

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