Guatemala : And the work goes on
November / December 2014
Ok, so we are back in the water and have done a smidge of land travel. It must be time to get out of Dodge. We had intended to leave and head north to Florida late November but the weather Gods had other ideas. The Christmas winds had kicked in to the tune of 35-40 knots along with big seas and nobody was going anywhere in the foreseeable future.
As Guatemala is a very affordable place to have work done on your boat, we decided that as we looked like being stuck here for a a bit longer that we’d have both our bathrooms re gel coated. Ten years on they were starting to show signs of old age. So we gave up our berth at Nana Juana Marina and moved over to Ram Marina. We’d seen some of the work done by the contractors over there and it looked really good. Liam pulled out the fittings in each bathroom and the workers taped up with plastic. Then Alboro the ace worker started the job.
Boats are just like houses, eventually they need a little facelift here and there. And while we were at it we had part of the cockpit re done as well. The whole messy process took an extra two weeks with the final work being finished on Christmas eve. We were very happy with the outcome and Liam rated it as 90 out of 100.
Annie’s birthday came and went during early December, celebrating it with good friends and a chicken bbq under the palapa.
Then before we knew it Christmas was upon us and again we celebrated with friends, many of whom were Aussies. Rather than do the usual and invite friends to GWTW to share Xmas lunch, we opted to let someone else do the cooking and a group of us made reservations at a local restaurant further up the river. Starting at noon we all gathered outside the marina store for a glass of bubbly and to share the “Secret Santa” gift exchange. It was a hoot seeing what $10 could buy in the town. Chocolates and rum were high on the list with the kids getting Barbie dolls and kites. Once the restaurants’ launch arrived from Kangaroo los Mexicana's and we all piled in. It was a fun day and as the owner was an Aussie there was a twist to the usual Christmas fare with meat pies joining the turkey on the menu, and those pies were delicious.
With Christmas done and dusted and a tiny weather window opening up for the coming week we had a few last minute lunches to say goodbye to friends, provisioned up and made our way down the Rio Dulce river, checking out of Guatemala on December 30th. After spending nearly six months in the Rio Dulce at last we were heading north.
We’d had a fun time in the Rio with a great bunch of like minded people. Would we recommend the Rio Dulce as a place to spend the hurricane season? Yes we would. It’s a fun sort of place and the town of Fronteras is both bustling and laid back at the same time. The people are happy and friendly and we always felt safe. For more info drop us a line, we’ll be happy to share our experiences with you.
Formalities: Checking In : Most cruisers use Raul the agent in Livingston. You can hail him on VHF 16 /69. He will come to your boat with all the officials. It makes your life easier but you can also do it all yourself. We used him for our check-in as we knew no better at the time. Total cost was for using Raul was around Q1300 for a 3 month entry.When we arrived we had not planned to stay beyond the initial 3 month time frame. An extension can be paid for at the time or at a later date or you can do like us and take the boat back down to Livingston and do the extension yourself by visiting the customs office. Checking out. There is no reason to use an agent as the process is very easy. Anchor your boat at Livingston and take the dinghy to the town dock. Walk up the hill of the main street and customs and Immigration are across the road from each other.The port Captain is a little further up the street and to the right, just ask and someone will direct you to his office. First stop is the Port Captain.Hours are 8am –4pm 7 days. He charged us Q125 total. Then on to Immigration, Hours are 8am –4pm 7 days, Q80 per passport. If you overstay your visa the cost is Q10 extra per day. Customs closed 1pm –2pm for lunch and all day on Sunday, zero cost.
Marinas : Nana Juana Marina, Mar Marina, Bruno’s, Catamaran Marina, Tortuga, Ram Marina and Tijax are the most popular.The first five all have swimming pools. Advance reservations are recommended though not essential. All bar Catamaran Marina at the time of writing have free wi-fi.
Haulouts: Nana Juana Marina can haul large catamarans and smaller ones depending on their width. They also haul monohulls and powerboats. At the time of writing all haulouts at Nana Juana were via a travel trailer and is the main haulout yard for cats visiting the Rio Dulce. Ram Marina haul smaller cats and all size monohulls and power boats via a travelift. At the time of writing they were investigating the purchase of a trailer to haul larger cats as well. Abels boatyard is further up Lake Izabel and can pull out masts via a crane. Haulout facilities are unknown.
Boat bits: Many parts, eg fan belts, filters, electrical, can be found in Fronteras. West Marine have a shop at Ram Marina $$$, but if you need something right now well just pay the price. Captain John’s shipping service will ship items from Miami or airfreight small parcels. His office is run by Rita over at Bruno’s Marina. His prices are very reasonable. Tip bring your bottom paint and particular other spares including computer parts that you might need with you from the USA or elsewhere.
Shopping : Fronteras is good for most things, but remember you are in Central America and not the USA or Europe so you have to look hard for specialty items. Fruit, veg & herbs are wonderfully fresh on the street. Despensa Familiar is the only big supermarket and it has a dinghy dock. Guatemala City, 5 hours away by bus, has many shopping malls, a US embassy and supermarkets including Wal-mart. Propane fills are available in Fronteras.
Safety: General commonsense when in a foreign country. Lock and lift your dinghy at night. Especially be dinghy vigilant the week before Christmas!! Dinghy thieves do their Xmas shopping around 4am at this time.