Bye Bye Belize… Hola Guatemala!!

We spent the last days of June getting ready for our departure from Belize after 10 months in the country. It’s been a great experience and we got to see most of the country, but we were definitely ready to move on… there were just a few things that stood in our way…

Tadd had to completely dismantle our dinghy’s outboard, soak every little bit of it in penetrant and oil, and painstakingly coax each bit back to life… we had left the sturdy 1964 Johnson sitting on the back rail of Third Aye the whole time we were working … didn’t even try to start it once… ahhhh… so won’t ever do that again. But in Tadd’s expert and determined hands, the dinosaur once again came to life and gave us hope that we would be able to make it ashore on our travels.

We did our best to enjoy a rather soggy Placencia Lobsterfest and the World Cup matches while Tropical Storm Alex washed through.

Fresh lobsters on the grill in Placencia, Belize!
Fresh lobsters on the grill in Placencia, Belize!
It was no where near as bad as some expected and we had a few good nights out and another hiding out in our cozy little Third Aye.
hurricane alex
Tropical Storm/Hurricane Alex hitting land in the Gulf of Mexico

What we thought would be the biggest hurdle before departure turned out to be a formality. We were required to temporarily import Third Aye into Belize and therefore hand over a bunch of cash to Customs. They had assured us and our customs broker, Mr. Billy Valdes, that the money would be safe and sound, waiting for us in a treasury account when we came to leave… but every other sailor that we talked to while in the country offered little hope or confidence that the cash would turn up when we asked for it… ugh!

The Belize Central Bank almost never gives up her American Dollars
The Belize Central Bank almost never gives up her American Dollars

But as it turned out, Billy was a star!! He not only got us our money back, but he convinced customs to cut us a cheque before we cleared ourselves and our boat out of the country (normally they say you have to physically leave before you can claim your money back!! Huh!!??). So all we had to do, in the end, was turn up in Belize City and have Billy drive us around to pick up the cheque and stuff. He rocks!!

So, all that was left was to stock up on some food, diesel and ginger ale… and do a run around all the local banks to change Belize dollars back into US dollars, as they won’t let you change more than USD 250 at a time… definitely time to move on!!

First thing on Thursday July 1st, we untied from the dock and set sail SE to Tom Owens Caye.

Tom Owens Cay in Belize
Tom Owens Cay in Belize
We spent a few days hanging out with our friends Polly & Roland at Reef Conservation International, and doing some diving. It was a fabulously relaxing few days with some amazing dives, tagging along with the students that Polly was simultaneously teaching PADI Open Water, Rescue and Divemaster to!! What an amazing lady!!
Polly Wood on Tom Owen's Cay
Polly Wood on Tom Owen’s Cay

But by Sunday it was time for us to head off and on to Guatemala. We had checked out of Belize on the mainland and couldn’t check into Guatemala until Monday morning, so we just sailed west and anchored for the night off Cabo Tres Puntas in Guatemala.

Primitive houses on Cabo Tres Puntas near Guatemala
Primitive houses on Cabo Tres Puntas, Guatemala
Then early Monday morning we sailed across to Livingston, to official enter Guatemala.
Third Aye arriving Livingston
S/V Third Aye, arriving across the sandbar into Livingston
With the help of the infamous Raul, we expedited our entry and within a few hours we were on our way up the Rio Dulce… out of the saltwater and into the sweet!

S/V Third Aye on Rio Dulce
S/V Third Aye on Rio Dulce
The trip up river was pretty spectacular… through a gorge, where the towering limestone walls were draped with green robes of rainforest plants that clung to the steep rocks. There were many herons, egrets, pelicans and butterflies buzzing around, keeping us company as we slowly made our way inland, against about 1kt of current. Absolutely stunning!!

The canyon walls of the Rio Dulce River are astounding
The canyon walls of the Rio Dulce River are astounding.
Winding our way through the gorge… the walls were much higher than they look in the pics!

Tadd driving S/V Third Aye up the Rio Dulce river
Tadd driving S/V Third Aye up the Rio Dulce river
Tadd driving us up river… keeping a close eye on the depth sounder for errant sand bars and submerged pilings… not just a jaunt through the gorge when you have a draft of over 4′.

After a couple of hours we emerged into the wide waters of El Golfete… we considered stopping at a marina here for the night… but when we set our anchor in Texan Bay and realised the only wind was that which we had be creating ourselves… we opted not to sit and cook until sundown, and headed back out again and pushed on to our marina at Fronteras.

Lago El Golfete
Lago El Golfete
Our new home on the dock at Vista Rio Hotel & Marina
S/V Third Aye at dock in Guatemala
S/V Third Aye at “Riverview” dock in Guatemala

It is probably the cheapest marina on the Rio… but as the only one who responded to our emailsand had space available for us… it is now home… and actually, as we check out the other places around here we are very happy with our choice!!