The Cruising Adventures of Joan & Ben Schuetz aboard
Part 19: On to Lago Izabal
Saturday, 19 February 2000
The last couple of days, we explored El Golfete by dinghy. There were many creeks, rivers, lagoons and indian settlements. Always very beautiful. Thursday afternoon, in the dinghies, we separated from Heide and checked out different areas. Around 3:00 PM, Heide called on VHF and said that their dinghy engine had a problem and the battery was down. We got their location and set out across the lake, way across the lake. In mid lake, the waves were up to a three foot close chop. Marv and Marge were eventually located about 6 miles west of our anchorage, they were in a setting sun and hard to spot. The engine problem was minor and easily fixed the next day, but for then, they were dead in the water. Towing them back through the heavy chop took about an hour and a half. We were all thoroughly soaked, but you need a little excitement now and then to get your blood up. Since there is very little motorized boat traffic on the lake, had they been alone, Marv and Marge could have spent a day or two adrift. It's good to have radios and backup.
We pretty much relaxed Friday morning and did a little house cleaning. Now that we have used up some of the supplies and have given away the clothing, there was newfound space for better organization.
Since coming up the river, Joan and I have seen one mosquito and have been bitten only once or twice. Odd, how you can be nestled around so much wet jungle, streams and rivers and see so few bugs. Even at night with the lights on there are seldom visitors of any kind. We haven't heard any howler monkeys around the lakes yet, but the birds sounds at night are pretty special.
Friday around noon, we pulled anchor and headed further inland. There is a narrow passage connecting El Golfete and Lago Izabal. In that passage are 6 or 8 marinas and the shores are lined with expensive homes mostly belonging to wealthy Guatemalans. The small town of Fronteras, also on the north shore, has a small airfield that provides access for those with private planes. Most of the marinas use med-mooring. That is, the stern or bow is tied to the dock and then two anchors are set off of the other end to keep the boats at 90 degrees to the dock. Well, the only advantage over being anchored out is electricity. Otherwise, it's inconvenient as hell. So, we sought out the only marina that has finger piers, Suzzanah's Marina. It is located in a little lagoon on the south shore. Calling on VHF, I told them that we would be back in a few days and also determined that the docking fee was only $150 per month. I doubt that includes electricity, but who cares. When we return and tie up, it will free us to make week long inland excursions to places like Tikal, Guatemala City, Antigua, Chichicastenango, and lots of other interesting places.
For the next few days, however, we will explore Lago Izabal. The lake is roughly 30 miles long, 15 miles wide and average depth around 40 feet. It is surrounded by hills and mountains. On the north, the mountains are up to 3800 feet while the southern mountains range from two to ten thousand feet. This mornings plan is to visit Finca Paraiso (paradise farm). Everyone has said that it is a must stop. I'll report on it next time.
I forgot to mention that unlike most other countries, Guatemala gives cruisers a 3 month visa; renewable for an additional three months. Then, you have to leave the country. However, all that means is a day trip to Belize, then back to Guatemala for another 6 months if you please. No wonder they call this a gringo trap.
A little more on the weather. So far, here in the lakes, the mornings have been still and humid. Around noon, as the day heats up, a breeze picks up and it is very comfortable. Then, in the evening, the wind drops out again and the overnight temperature is in the mid to upper 70s. So outside of a little elevated humidity, it's varied and quite nice. After another months tanning we will pass for indians and won't need a visa renewal. Now there's a few dollars savings.
Our good old boats are running very well. On the inland waters, we rarely run the engines above 1000 rpm. The generators, ancient as they are, continue to pump out watts without complaint.
Joan, Ben, Marge, Marv, and Maggie