The Cruising Adventures of Joan & Ben Schuetz aboard
Part 17: On the Rio
Tuesday, 15 February 2000
Cruising south from No Name Point where we had anchored after visiting Monkey River, we threaded our way through a myriad of Cays. They were really different. The water depth ran 30 to 50 feet right up to the mangroves and submerged coral heads. That's called steep to when the depth rises very very quickly. We marked square miles of fish with the depth sounder and saw many fish on the surface, but never determined what they were. Nothing was tempted by our trolled artificial lures either. After several hours, we came to the last cay, Stuart Cay, before Punta Gorda. We had to anchor there because Punta Gorda has only a very exposed place to anchor.
Stuart Cay is about 200 yards long and 100 yards wide. It was marked on our charts as being an acceptable place to anchor for the prevailing winds. Boy, I don't know how the writer of the guide figured that was an anchorage. The southwest corner of the cay was riddled with coral heads and there was barely enough room for our two boats to swing without hitting them or each other. Somehow we managed to settle in though and that evening the wind behaved itself.
In the morning, winds were calm and we made the last few miles down to Punta Gorda. This town, in my opinion, is the nicest place in Belize. It has the colorful mixture of old Maya and other indian influence along with paved streets and friendly people. We stocked up on some fresh fruits and had a really pleasant morning before checking out with customs and immigration. Check out was simple and as pleasant as it gets. The humidity in this latitude is around 110 percent and the temperature is in my comfort zone. Joan is not so comfortable though.
The last 16 mile leg south to the Rio Dulce is open ocean, but with calm winds the seas were really smooth. Again there were square miles of bait fish, but nothing was interested in our trolled lures. With real food, who needs the artificial stuff.
Approaching the Rio, the delta bar is shallow, rising to only 5 feet at mean low tide. We had no problem crossing the bar though and around 2:00 PM we dropped the hook at Livingston, Guatemala just inside the mouth of the river. A mile or so to the south, the mountains rise to around 10,000 feet and on each side of the river there are bluffs several hundred feet high covered with dense, luxuriant dark green jungle. This first little glimpse of the Rio is spectacular and we are really excited at the prospects of exploration.
We waited on board for customs and immigration to visit, but alas they didn't show up until nearly 5:00 PM. When they did, they were really nice and we felt warmly welcome. However, we couldn't completely clear in as one of the inspectors “was at a meeting”. So, we were asked to come to the office in Livingston at 9:00 AM. No problem.
Soon after, a small boat with an American man came by and invited us to have dinner, ranch house style, at the La Marina about ½ mile up river. He guaranteed a good value. We told him that we hadn't finished clearing in and he laughed and said that the customs agent was on a drunk again. Thus, “the meeting”.
The fellow went to all of the boats in the area with the same offer and all accepted his offer. As it turned out, we had a great meal at a long table under a thatched roof open palapa. Price for the meal, $5.00 US each.
So far, we have had no mosquitoes or no-see-ums even at night. Last night we were anchored within 100 feet of jungle and with boat lights on and doors and windows open, not even a moth showed up. We did, however, have a large, silver dollar sized, spider in on of the sinks last night. Can't figure out how it got there as we haven't made any kind of landing since Mexico.
This morning, with clouds down to the jungle on our right and mountains on the left, we had a brief shower. The river traffic of cayucas (dugout canoes) is amazing. They are on the river at all hours day and night. In a few minutes we have to hopefully finish our check in. Then, we will be free to head up river. We're all a twitter.
Joan, Ben, Marge, Marv and Maggie