Friday, February 18, 2022

Free At Last?

 On Tuesday Jerry and Debarah on Czech & Mate got their call from our agent Raul that they and 2 other boats had been approved for departure. They were told they had to leave by Monday. He didn't have permission for us yet. We were a little surprised as we had applied several days before them.  Our friend Peter on "Dora" was down checking out that day and emailed us that 3 boats had been approved and were leaving that very day. So they were in the second group of cleared vessels.  We managed to talk to Raul and he informed us that we were in the next group of three to be investigated. Jean on C'est Si Bon and Jean Jacques from here at Tortugal were the other two. 

That's Peter on "Dora" on the front left and Jean Jacques in the third row right. Jerry and Debarah are in the last row on the left at the back, the furthest left and the third from the left. I organized a trip down river to a great restaurant run by a Swiss/German man, Casa Pericho, for dinner. We hired a big launcha to take all 18 of us!

It was a stressful night and most of Wednesday thinking that we would not be able to leave with Jerry & Debarah and that there might be additional problems with our application, but finally late in the afternoon on Wednesday we got our call. We too were approved and must leave on Monday too. Well that's good news but now we have additional complications. Our friend Jenny Wolf had planned to join us in Belize from 2/21 to 2/28 but was flexible enough to change her flights to land in Guatemala on Saturday afternoon. So not having any news about our clearance, we reserved an Airbnb in Antigua for Friday and Saturday nights to meet her and bring her down on Sunday. 

A fun little cloud hovers over the river. That's our swim raft in the center.

We have to leave on the high tide and it is at 11:30 AM on Monday. That is 3 hours away from our Marina and we have to start the check out procedures at 8 AM (includes COVID test). We have to sail down river near the mouth on Sunday. There was an earthquake on Wednesday leaving some roads with landslides. YECH! So we canceled our trip and hired a driver to pick Jenny up from the airport on Saturday and bring her down to us. We can then leave Sunday morning and sail down to Cayo Quemado near the mouth of the river. Join us crossing fingers and toes that the weather cooperates and we have a comfortable exit from the river. It's not a great tide so we'll need to be pulled over by our halyard and may even need a second boat to tow us across the bar. But we'll be OUT and headed to Belize. I'll send another post when this is all accomplished.

Happy Hour with Dave & Ellen who got COVID on their trip to Tikal - they are in quarantine on their
boat. Happily, they have only mild symptoms. Peter and Bill on Minx came down with COVID as well on a separate trip to Tikal (we think it was the bus) and they are almost recovered now but still on their boat waiting for a negative test. Dave on the boat, Jerry, Rick & Marsha and Ellen on the dock.

Debarah sat on our boat with us and that's Ellen
over on her's. 

Just an update - it's Friday night and the weather is looking good for our departure Monday. I'll let you know more after we get to Belize. 

Dave & Ellen on Cordelia had their great friend
and former band member with Dave, Janice,
down for a visit. They gave a terrific concert one
night at Tortugal. Janice played the fiddle - but
she is a violinist and music teacher.

We have a number of good restaurants here at
Rio Dulce, Las Amandas' owner was formerly
chef on a super yacht. Here's his Eggs Benedict.

Scott Free looks towards the full moon and yearns for the open water!

Friday, February 11, 2022

Retirement Possibility in Guatemala


One of the building locations for retirement cottages in Cayo Quemado, Guatemala. 
Our friend Sarah Cannon is building a small retirement community here on a spectacular peninsula in Cayo Quemado, Guatemala. She and her partner Tim built a beautiful home many years ago nearby but after Tim passed, Sarah sold it and has recently moved to her still under development property nearby. It's an enormous project. When they purchased it, it was jungle! She has two teams of workers going at all times, landscaping and building. There are no roads in this area so everything is brought in by boat. Two sets of docks are finished, one for her boat Cannonball and one large one for everyone's launchas and dinghies. One large building is almost finished. On the first floor is a workshop and bathroom. On the second floor, still uncompleted will be the community kitchen and dining room. The top floor will be the residence for the cook and her husband, but until Sarah's cottage is finished, she is living there. 
A second site for a cottage. Each site is landscaped so it is private from the others and has it's own view of the lake. Sarah has had land built up around the peninsula so that there is a nice walk all around the property along the water.

Sarah's house foundation is already outlined and will be built next. She took the site nearest the yoga palapa. Women from around the area meet together during the week for yoga there. She hopes to have 2 or 3 cottages built for other retiring individuals or couples. They will share the cost of upkeep and meals can be communal or individual as needed. Pretty amazing!!!

Jerry, Debarah, Sarah and Scott

Sarah's boat "Cannonball" rests at the new dock
she just had built for it.

The Yoga Palapa
A view inside, hammock ready for a nap afterward.
There is a big professional workshop on the first
floor of the main building, which will eventually
be used by the residents
Looking down from the dining room to the 
launcha/dinghy dock.
Jerry, Scott, Debarah and Sarah are standing in the dining room of the main building. The
first and third floors are finished but not this floor, which will also contain the communal
kitchen and another bathroom. The caretaker/cook's residence is upstairs: Sarah is living there
now. All the cottages will also have their own kitchen, but can eat here as well. 

Monday, February 07, 2022

Trapped in Guatemala


Sunrise at Tortugal as we prepare to sail downriver to Cayo Quemado. 
We've known for some time that we were supposed to leave Guatemala by January 20th, but as that time approached we still had boat work ongoing. Our Marina manager, Byron, assured us that we could stay a while longer and just pay a fine on the way out. We only needed another week. We wrote Raul, our agent and explained the situation. We heard back from him on January 8th and he said we'd be OK leaving a week or two afterwards, with a fine. We also heard from others in the river that they were waiting s well. So we didn't leave as originally planned. Well, in hindsight, that was a big mistake. 

Our anchorage at Cayo Quemado, also known as "Texan Bay" due to Mike's Cafe. Mike specializes in southern comfort food.. We had chicken fried steak and chicken fried chicken one night, both served with a huge helping of mashed potatoes and gravy (nice and peppery) with a small salad  It's actually a series of small interconnected bays that merge into mangrove lined canals that feed back into the Lake.  This is all located at the far end of El Golfete, a long narrow lake that connects Lake Izabel via the Rio Dulce to the Golf of Honduras.

But we were blissfully unaware of the problem at our beautiful anchorage. We came the day before to get our insurance rigging survey from Tom, a rigger that lives there. He scrambled all over our boat and pronounced it "amazingly over rigged and sound". The survey went off immediately to our insurance company who finally approved our renewal. SO, all set, we thought and proceeded down to Livingston on a launcha to check out of the country. Raul was plain spoken; "Your boat has overstayed it's allowed time and you will have to either import it into Guatemala or leave without a zarpe." Well, these aren't possible options for us (or any of the other boats in our situation). Importing the boat into Guatemala is a two year process and not only involves a complicated procedure to determine it's value (we've been told the tax is 30%) but you have to hire a lawyer to accomplish it. And leaving without a zarpe means not being able to go into Belize, Mexico or Cuba on the way home, regardless of weather or needed boat repairs! So we applied for special permission to depart admitting our error and explaining that we needed to return to home for health reasons (and we admit it, old age). Now we were told, we just need to wait. That was January 27th and we're still waiting. 

We have a guest, Jenny Wolf, arriving on February 19th. She had planned to meet us in Belize but was flexible enough to change her plans so will come to us in Guatemala. We're going up to Antigua, the old capitol on the 18th and she'll join us there on the 19th Then we all go down to our boat in the Rio Dulce. Hopefully, we'll get permission to leave that week and the three of us will sail to Belize. She'd fly home from there if that works, otherwise, she'll fly home from Guatemala City. Wish us luck!

Rigger Tom scrambled all over our boat, up to 
the very top with little assistance and no fear.

We took a public launcha from Cayo Quemado
down the Rio to Livingston to "check out". Along
the way we picked up and dropped off various local

We spent a week at Cayo Quemado visiting with our friends Brenda on My Island Queen and Sarah on . Cannonball. The later has been building a "retirement community" near Cayo Quemado, more on that in another blog post! Jerry and Debarah from Czech & Mate stayed with us until we sailed back up to Tortugal Marina on February 2nd. It's now February 14h and no word yet. We hope to be able to leave on the next high tide starting a week from now. 

Rigger Tom at the top of our mast.

Lunch at Bugga Mama's our first trip down to 
Livingston. This is a training facility for Ak'Tenamit,
 a Rotary sponsored school for local

Scott and Jerry at the bow of our this time private
launcha trip to Livingston.

It's hard to see the scale here but these cliffs are 300 feet high and lined with mahogany, teak and palms. The river is 6 miles from the end of El Golfete to the Garifuna town of Livingston at the mouth of the river. 

Our second trip we enjoyed a great meal at this
restaurant, Raul's favorite - terrific fresh fish!

Debarah at Casa Rosita's where our launcha docked.
These beautiful painted tables were especially
 commissioned from a local artist. 

Our launcha driver Bob, Debarah and I on the way

Dried fish are a specialty here in Livingston.
When the fish are running they are put our to dry
all over town. 

On the way back from Livingston our driver Bob took us through some of the narrow canals that
wind their way through the mangrove forest. There are no roads anywhere in this region. The locals and expats all travel by boat and many of the homes are built partially on stilts over the water. There is little solid land.
Here's a typical local home on the canal with their small engineless dugout out front. 
Our last night we had dinner here at Sonia's with Jerry & Debarah and Sarah. One table set out on the dock and one menu - chicken pepian, rice and salad - no alcohol, we brought wine with us.