Friday, March 21, 2014

Utila, Honduras to Livingston, Guatemala

Posted by Scot

The trip from Utila to Livingston was pretty unremarkable.  Actually, now that I think about it, the very fact that a 100 nm overnight trip off the northern coast of mainland Honduras can strike me as unremarkable says a lot about how far our sailing has come.  Similar trips a few months ago were enough to have me stressed out for days before and after.  So I guess, in order to show the trip some respect, I should make a few remarks about it.

Goodbye Utila!

After having dragged anchor the night before, and tolerating ongoing rolling and bouncing in the anchorage at Utila, we were glad to weigh anchor and get on our way at 1500 hours.  In fact, from a wind perspective it probably would have been better to wait one more day for the easterly trades to fill back in and give us a downwind push.  But we were keen to get on our way, so we elected to set out into the dying westerlies that were on our nose.  The winds were not much of a concern, since they were forecast to drop off to nothing as the night wore on.

The forecast was perfect, and within a few hours of setting out, there was almost no wind to speak of.  Initially, we had some northern swell giving us a side roll which was a bit uncomfortable, but as the wind died, so did the waves, and soon we were motoring along in a calmer sea state than we had seen at anchor in the previous 3 days.

Some more Honduran house-on-stilts architecture.

We had our now-familiar dolphin visit in the late afternoon.  These dolphins were different than the ones in the last couple of videos I have posted.  They were bigger, and grey with white speckles.  They did more jumping than swimming, and didn’t stay long.  Still, we were happy to see them for their brief visit, since we have started to take them as a sign of good luck for our passages.

I was pretty tired right out of the gate, not having slept well the previous few nights.  Fortunately, Alexander is now comfortable enough to do a formal watch.  So starting at about 1800, the rest of us went to bed, and Alexander kept an eye on things until 2100.

Having gotten a few hours of sleep, I felt much better, and sat up into the wee hours for my watch.  Not much happened.  The wind stayed light, and I played with the sails a bit to see if I could help the engines along.  The moon was full, and it was easy to see all around – almost as good as daylight.  The lights of a freighter were visible in the distance, but  nothing came close to us.

Sara took over for the middle of the night, then I got up and stood another watch at 0530.  I love that time of the morning.  Getting to watch the sun rise at sea is a treat.  Christopher got up at 0730, and he and Katie went up to the trampolines to keep an eye on things.  I took the opportunity to lie back down on the salon couch and close my eyes, although I couldn’t fall asleep,as the boat and the day woke up around me.

Christopher keeping a bow watch as we come into Guatemala.
We came around the tip of Cabo Tres Puntas at around 1030.  Our plan had been to anchor there for the day and stay overnight before heading across the bay to Livingston, and checking into Guatemala.  After a quick crew meeting, though, we (almost) unanimously agreed that we had enough energy to continue across to Livingston to check in that day.  (After a little breakfast, the one holdout on that decision came around).  If the check in didn’t take too long, we would be able to start our trip up the famous Rio Dulce that same afternoon.

It's amazing what a little breakfast can do for some people's moods!
We kept our motors running across the dead calm Bahia de Amatique, dodging a couple of freighters on their way in and out of Bahia de Santo Tomas de Castillo.  Sara and I are always amazed that our diesels can run 20 hours straight without a hiccup, but once again, they performed flawlessly the whole trip.

The town of Livingston on the Guatemala coast was a welcome sight.  The Rio Dulce, like all rivers, carries a fair amount of debris downstream, and dumps it at it’s mouth.  There is a well known shallow bar at the entrance that makes it necessary to exercise caution when coming in.  It is not uncommon for boats with a draft over 6 feet to drag their keels along the bottom, or get stuck here altogether. We carefully kept to the GPS waypoints we had been given, though, and with our shallow draft, we had no problem getting across the bar and dropping anchor in front of Livingston.

Livingston, Guatemala.
We radioed Raul Veliz, who is an agent who assists cruisers in checking into Guatemala.  It is not mandatory to hire him, but we had heard from other cruisers in Honduras that it facilitated the check in greatly.  Raul lived up to his reputation.  We had emailed him a couple of days previously with all our paperwork, and shortly after radioing him, he arrived at our boat, with all the necessary officials in tow.  Raul, along with a member of the military, a doctor, a customs official, and one other person, who I never really figured out, all trooped aboard Monashee and sat around the table in the cockpit.  They hardly glanced at either us, or the boat.  Raul passed them all the relevant paperwork, they all wrote and signed and stamped what they needed to, and within minutes they were heading off back to town.

This little guy flew into our cockpit sometime during the night.  Katie bonded with him before we threw him back from whence he came.
Raul promised us he would have all the paperwork finalized in half an hour, and we could meet him in his office to pick it up.  So, Sara and I dinghied in to town, changed some money at the bank, and headed to Raul’s office, where, true to his word, everything was ready.  It wasn’t the cheapest check-in we’ve had, but it also wasn’t the most expensive.  And it was definitely the most efficient.

Once we were all checked in to the country, we headed back out to the boat, scarfed down a quick lunch, and headed up the much anticipated Rio Dulce!

The waterfront, Livingston, Guatemala.

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