Monday, July 4, 2016

Hurricane Season: The Rio Dulce, Guatemala

From June to November sailors pay close attention to the development of tropical depressions forming in the Atlantic.  Many storms begin off the coast of Africa, move in an arc across the Atlantic, and enter the Caribbean above the 10th parallel.  Sailors have two choices:  either drop below the 10th parallel or go inland to escape the full force of these weather systems.

This year we brought Atalanta up the Rio Dulce (Sweet River) in Guatemala to Nana Juana Marina. We are 25 miles from the Gulf of Guatemala and the open waters of the Atlantic.  With over a half dozen small marinas nearby, we are meeting lots of other cruisers who chose to spend the next 4-5 months here. 

Guatemala is a beautiful country with a rich Mayan history.   It also has been the subject of US intervention much of which was on behalf of the United Fruit Company.  It is this part of the Guatemalan history that we are finding has relevance to the current political situation and Central America’s relationship with the USA.

Market Stan,  Fronteras
Our journey into Guatemala began with a brief passage from the Gulf of Guatemala to Livingston at the mouth of the Rio Dulce.  After engaging the services of Raul to check us in, we left Livingston and headed up river. This passage was just spectacular with steep canyon walls, dense green forest, and white herons sunning on mangroves.  As we motored up river, the depth varied from 10’-80’ and unlike most rivers, the deeper waters were on the outside of the bends.  After motoring about 15 miles, we inched into an inner bay off the river and dropped the anchor with 4-5 other boats and settled in for a quiet evening. The next morning we continued the last 15 miles to our final destination at Nana Juana Marina in the town of Rio Dulce (formerly known as Fronteras).

The “rainy season” in this tropical zone began about a month late this year but by the third week in June it arrived in full force.  Almost every day the temperature reaches about 89º (“feels like” 110º).  Around 5:00 in the evening we watch storm clouds building over the mountains and hear thunder rumbling in the distance.  That’s our warning to run to the boat and close the hatches because soon the rain will pour down in sheets. It is not unusual to have 4-5” of rain and Atalanta is rising higher and higher above the dock as the water level in the river climbs.

We have been in the Rio Dulce for two weeks but already are familiar with many of its routines and activities.  We are getting acquainted with fellow residents.  When significant numbers of people on boats congregate for long periods of time, a community develops and activities are organized and shared. Pizza & movie nights, International Trivia Contests, potluck dinners, and Mexican Train dominos are examples. Last night we visited a lovely palapa at Tortugal.

Yesterday we took a 30-mile bus ride to the town of Morales.  We climbed into a 12-passenger van (called colectivos and operate sort of like a taxi) and in no time the driver had picked up a total of 19 adults, 1 child, and a large birthday cake.  It was crowded and hot.  The 45-minute ride cost $12 quetzels per person or about $ 1.70 US dollars each way.  The bus driver was constantly switching lanes to dodge hundreds of potholes and never once stopped talking and/or texting on his cell phone. It was quite an experience! Pineapples are in season here and so are lots of other fruits and vegetables we can buy at street markets like this.

Next week we head inland to Lake Atitlan for a week of Spanish lessons.  Our minimal amount of  “gringo Spanish” is embarrassing so we hope to make some degree improvement. Then it will be time to fly back to the USA to visit our much-missed family in VT, NY, and SC.  Late September will bring us back to Atalanta for continued travels.  Guatemala marks our southern most point for this journey since we will be sailing north toward New England by spring 2017.   

Adios and thanks for following.

Richard and Kay

More Pics

Home Marina


Cover up to keep the UV rays
off Atalanta

Local Bar and Restaurant

Rio Dulce
Main Street

Downtown Morales

Pot Luck on Shore

Guatemala Cattle
off to Market

Water Taxi
Rio Dulce

1 comment:

  1. Finally got caught up with your travels. Binged over a year's worth of posts. We think of you often, can't believe it took so long to get back to your adventures. Doing some on-shore biofuels-related stuff on the Delmarva. Think of you every time we go past the cove where we spent a night. Hope to have something to show you there the next time you come by. Depends on grants. Thanks for the relaxing (mostly) cruise with you as I read your adventures. Now back to the regular routine. I won't wait so long next time. Enjoy your shore-leave.