Tales of the Itinerant Sailor

Cruising 2008

The Landlubber's Tale


Steven Jones  

Changes at Rio Dulce

Monday, October 20, 2008: 

This is my first experience with Spirit Airlines, an egalitarian airline similar to Southwest Airlines, although the flight attendants aren’t quite as laid back.  In fact they were down-right ornery when it came to moving my carryon luggage around.  This might explain why my computer needed a technical adjustment before I could access the GPS system aboard the Sirius II.

I am now boycotting Greyhound buses.  (See First Letter to Greyhound.)  I drive a rental car to Ft Lauderdale to catch the 11:00 a.m. flight.  In Guat City I just make the right bus connection to the Rio Dulce.  There is very little traffic and no road construction.  Everything is running smoothly, too smoothly. 

Then the shoe drops.  I discover that this is a holiday--Revolution Day (independence from Spain in 1821).   Only one water taxi is available.  The operator wants to charge me Q100, double the usual fee, for the ten minute ride to Marina La Joya del Rio.  I don’t think so.  This is only $13US, but it is the principle that matters.  With the help of Steve at Brunos Resort, I am able to track down Garon, the marina owner, and he comes over to fetch me.

A couple of changes since I was here last.  First, remember that the location of this marina is just 15 degrees north of the equator.  This is the tropics.  The entire country is mountainous and tree-lined.  A tropical rain forest.  And this is the rainy season.  The river here, the Rio Dulce, is as high as I have ever seen.  The pier leading up to the restaurant is under water.  Only the cleats are showing.  All the rest of the piers are within inches of being submerged.  Water is lapping at the door steps of the cabins.  And it is still raining.  There is a lot of water here.  I almost need a ladder to board the Sirius II.

Secondly, there is not the usual report of criminal activity on the daily Cruiser’s Net as was so common the previous times I was in the Rio Dulce.  It got so that every week there was a report of a major theft from one of the boaters.  The usual target was a dinghy, especially if it had a nice motor.  Minor thefts included anything on deck that was not bolted down.  When the perpetrators expanded their operations to include the area’s tourists, and tourism started to fall off, it was time for action.

But the clamp down did not come from the local police officials, who seemed to be bewildered or disinterested in these goings on.  Or part of the problem as was the rumor.  The enforcement came from the local drug cartel.  Apparently, revenues were declining.  So goes the rumor.  Over the course of a few weeks, six to eight men were found shot to death under mysterious circumstance.   Men of questionable character.  This is not intended to endorse any of what might have happened.  Suffice to say, theft and burglaries has come to a virtual standstill along the Rio.

I am in no great hurry and take time to chat with the locals as they wander by.  “Where are you headed?” is a common question.

Now I am working under Change of Plans 14b.  The Sirius II is looking spiffy, especially for a 30 year-old boat.  Except the sole.  That is boater’s talk for the floor of the cabin, galley, suite, etc.  It is coming apart and looks awful.  Consequently, I have elected to return to Key West to accomplish this major repair.  “Why,” the locals want to know, “are you taking this boat back to the US when the hard wood you want to use is grown right here and the skilled wood workers are here, also?”

Good point.

Dennis Compton, an American expatriate, approaches me with an offer.  We talk.  I look at some of his projects.  I accept.  I arrange to leave the Sirius II on the Rio Dulce until May 2009.

So ends my cruising season.

Summertime Reunions One if by Land, Two if by Sea

Cruising 2008: The Landlubber's Tale
Copyright © 2009 Steven Jones. All Rights Reserved.

Contact: siriusii@hotmail.com