January 1, 2017. Guatemala. Country # 53. (Revised Jan 3)

Written by Jack van Ommen on January 1st, 2017

Jan 3: I have added more detail to the cruisers in Pto. Chiapas. And a plug for a very good downloadable cruising guide:

Happy New Year!

Reading up in my cruising manuals, once I was under sail yesterday, I changed my plan to skip Guatemala.

At 11 am I entered Puerto Quetzal in the southern part of Guatemala, near the city of San Jose. The cruising guide mentions the possibility to make day trips to the “altiplano” the highlands with active volcanoes, Mayan market villages and coffee plantations. The pictures have always fascinated me. I need a short vacation from my permanent vacation. And a short respite in the cooler highlands. But I nearly turned around and skipped Guatemala. The manual mentions $150 for the clearances. But that has gone to $165 and it is double on the weekend. The morage is also about 20% higher than in Mexico, $1 per foot per day. But this marina is recommended for security to leave the boat while making a side trip. I managed to let me stay here in the marina and be cleared in and out at the $165 fee, at 8 am tomorrow. I hope I find an interesting way to explore and that this does not end up like a trip to Volendam or Universal Studios.

I downloaded for $13 an excellent “Sarana” cruising guide. The advantage is that updates are digitally made available for your $13 and I find that the printed guides just are quickly out of date. If I had inserted the, right on, waypoints for Chiapas Marina, and had my small tablet/laptop changed to not go to sleep after 5 minutes, I could have saved my self the grounding. I highly recommend this to any one visiting Central America.

The administrative paper crap and officialdom here in Latin America reminds me of Greece.

Yesterday afternoon the marina office manager, Memo (Guillermo) took the skippers of three boats to check out of the country to the Harbor Master (Capitania), Customs and Border Control. The Capitania had requested a signed statement from the marina describing my grounding incident. Then the whole group had to sit for an extra hour and a half in the Capitania office while they rewrote a three page statement that they had started about this non-incident. Then five copies had to be signed by me and everyone in the capitania above the title of the clerk. There was a line-up at the fuel dock of fishing boats because the fuel prices went up on the first of the year. We had to hand carry our fuel from the pumps in jerry cans. Fortunately the marina provided the extra empty jugs and accompanied us with the p.u. truck. I had originally intended to leave Friday but since the clearance and fuel took so long I left early this morning. My boat was inspected again with the sniffer dog, just like on arrival. Now this became an issue that I changed the departure time. I was ready to shove off before 7, one of the marina men was on the VHF radio and after a few backs and forths with the capitania, with the mooring lines undone, he gave me the go ahead. But one minute later he yells me back: there is a revision….. I told him to tell them to go to hell. So, just like in Fiji, I kept looking over my shoulder for the patrol boat in hot pursuit.

Though the forecasts were for very light winds I managed to sail nearly the whole way. Some fast and some at just over three knots, but I had plenty of daylight to arrive in Puerto Quetzal. I am the only sail boat here…. The majority are 20 to 30 foot typical sport fishing boats from the southern US that are probably trucked across from the Caribbean side. There are a lot more black and mixed racial Guatemalans here in contrast to Mexico.

A little more about my short layover in Chiapas Marina: I took the local mini bus into Tapachula, about a half hour ride, on Wednesday.  Interesting ride through Mango orchards, cane fields and Teak plantations. The town has a huge mall with an enormous Wall Mart. There was an interesting bunch of cruising boats and crews here. A fifty plus foot Turkish built gulet, flying the Italian ensign owned by Adolf a Swiss from the Bern area, with his Swiss friend Hans and his Hamburg wife Andrea. They sailed the boat from Europe through the Canal and are on their way North. A Hans Christian 38ft “Wakhuna” purchased in the Sea of Cortez by Robert and Irish American and his French partner Delphine. I had to do a double take. She speaks American English with a Dutch accent. She grew up in New Caledonia and learned English from a Dutch couple…. Crew-member Marshall is from Seattle and owns a Rough Water 33, just like my former Arabella’s Landing Marina dock neighbors Ira and Elisa Spector.  They are also on their way south to the canal and then on to Europe.

Right after midnight the whole coastline came alive with fire crackers. I am excited about what this year will bring for me. Last year had many highlights, the publication of “SoloMan”, my participation in the memorial concert in Amsterdam on May 4th, the departure for this new adventure, etc. I am very blessed and grateful.



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