June 28th

I take a look at my poor boat. There are 2 lifeline stanchions bent, the rubrail has been torn off and twisted for about 2 feet, the elephant ball bumper is airless and there saw dust all over the boat where the shroud rubbed the pier. All in all not too bad, it could have been a lot worse. Solo again I head to Guatemala. Its quite hilly here, and the water changes from clear to brown and back again. This must the Gulf of Honduras water mixing with the Caribbean. Lots of seabirds here and lots of movement in the water. There's not a lot of wind I get to Rio Dulce late. Now I have to run the bar.

The river bar is supposed to be 6 feet, but there is no channel and the entry buoy doesn't match up with the location given in the cruising guide. So the Rio Dulce entry was more than a little tense. Luckily, (because it was luck) there was no bumping, the waves we small but getting bigger the farther in I went. I anchored in a confusion of wind and currents, not exactly knowing where or how much chain I'd dropped.

I was hailed by the Port Captain later that afternoon and told to await instructions. He came back later and said an inspection was not necessary so please come ashore and clear in. I rowed in (my charger for the trolling motor had broken), stopping at some hotel pier. Now, clearing in at Livingston was not what you would call straight forward. These are the steps involved:-

1) Find immigration. Not too hard, it was uphill from he town pier.

2) Getting immigration to stamp you in. First there was the bit that I should be inspected prior to immigration. I explain (in my very limited Spanish) that it wasn't needed according to the Harbor Master. “OK then it will be 60 Quetzales”, “dollars OK” , “no!”. “The bank is further up the same street”.

3) Find the bank. Google shows there to be 2 banks, not so. There's just the one. Its quite busy. There's a guard who has to open the door for to enter, one that ensures you go to the right line, and 2 with severe looking shotguns that just hang about. The line is long. I finally get to talk to a teller (well sort of, my Spanish is more than a little stunted). She will change dollars, but only $100 and $50 notes, which of course I don't have. There is however another bank that will change $20. Oh there is another bank?

4) Find the alternative bank. Well it turns out there is no alternative bank but there is a Western Union just across the street from the bank. They change dollars but after some misunderstanding the exchange rate is 6Q per dollar (Q=Quetzale – the local currency) for $20 bills, 7Q for $50 bills and 8Q for $100 bills. Wow! I understand fully what its like to get shafted. I get $200 dollars worth of Quetzales at the least favorable exchange rate, buggar!

 5) OK, back to immigration. My passport gets stamped, for Q85 (???!!?!?).

6) Find Customs (after a conversation where the immigration guy tries to send me to the Harbor Master). Its not far just 20 yards away, but well hidden and disguised by acronyms. So I labor away with my kindergarten Spanish and the customs guy with his elementary school English. Eventually, a guy behind me asks if we would like him to interpret (in flawless English). I think he thought it quicker for him. So we clear this up and I have to take a piece of paper to the bank, pay them, then find the Harbor Master (Puerto Capitiana), pay him then come back.

7) Pay the customs at the bank. So its not far a way but the line (a central american line) is outside a closed bank door. Am I too late? No! Its just that only a certain amount of a people are allowed in to the bank at one time, and its full. I have Quetzales, eventually I get to pay. Credit Card is not an option.

8) Find the Port Captain. Not as easy as it sounds, no street signs, google no help, only thing is the kindness of strangers, one of who spoke English and offered to help after watching me wander round in circles. Apparently he learnt English from Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead who was a part time Livingston resident. Anyway didn't take long for the Port Captain (or Harbor Master) to relieve me of another Q240 or so. But I do now have more pieces of paper.

 9) Back to customs (wow! They're still open). I present all my new and old paperwork and eventually I get a sticker! Yay! Not sure what to do with it, but I have a sticker! Headed back to the dingy, and had a couple of beers at the hotel where I left the boat. It was good to see the boat still at anchor. I was more than a little worried about it slipping anchor.

Turns out that for another Q400 I could have had the boat legal in Guatemala for another 9 months. Both the Port Captain and the Customs tried to get me to do this, and it should have been done, but I just didn't have the Quetzales to do it. Now I'll probably end up paying the marina $200 to take care of it. Oh well, just didn't know at the start.

Both the guys in the street that helped me were black. They described themselves a garifuna. They both explained that the history of the Garifuna is one of being picked up and dumped on various coastlines and that there is a lot of discrimination against Garifuna in Guatemala, with most of the good jobs going only to Hispanics. Look Garifuna up in wikipedia, its an interesting read.

Most of the fishing boats left just before dark. I have never seen a more dilapated set of boats in my life. I was surprised how they stayed afloat and shocked they could move under their own power. They moved as a fleet and I assume that was for support in case of failures.

Cooked and then spent the night back on the boat.



The view behind

Leaving Punta Gorda

No wind

Livingston from the sea


The fishing fleet heading out


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