Ocean Planet – Adventure in Guatemala
March 14, 2002
We are now reaching in a light westerly off Costa Rica, after a night of bashing to weather across the Golfo de Papagayo. Pos: 09 30N, 085 13W. Temp 91F, pressure 1008mb.
You heard on my last update that we were stopping in Guatemala for fuel. It turns out that we had more of an adventure there than I expected.
On Monday the 11th we approached Puerto Quetzal, the main Guatemalan shipping port on their pacific coast. We have books on many of the central american ports, and knew that it was a good harbor for our deep draft, but had no idea what logistics we might face with customs and getting supplies. Surprisingly, a few miles from the harbor we came across another sailboat (skipper John Malone of Vancouver, BC) that had just left the port. We talked on the VHF and he gave me some pointers on working with the port captain, immigration, and the man to talk to for getting fuel and supplies. That man was capt “Big Al”, a well traveled american who has the giant salvage tug “Megaton” and a big floating drydock in the harbor.
“Hello, Mom? We’re entering Puerto Quetzal”
Big Al was every bit the character our sailing samaritan described, and more. His center of operations, the 220ft “Megaton” was located on the local Guat. navy base where he knows everyone. After we cleared with immigration and the porto capitan (a several hour process) Al came by in one of his small workboats and offered to help us find supplies and show us around. Good thing or it would have taken us days to find the local markets and gas stations that Al drove us directly to. Every few minutes of driving (if that’s what you would call Al’s seemingly careless dodging of cyclists, pedestrians, and trucks) someone Al knew would honk and wave. What pandemonium the local markets and stores are! In spite of the overwhelming poverty and dirt, The people there seemed happy and the food available was impressive. There were a few sad souls begging here and there, but not much more than one would see downtown in a big weathly US city.
Quetzel from the water
We bought Al dinner at one of his favorite local restaurants (the owners of which were of course good friends of Al’s) and had too much beer to drink and stories to hear and tell before stumbling back to the water and the boat. BTW, the anchorage was in a tight security naval base so the boat was safe for the few hours that we were gone…
We pulled out of portal Quetzal on tuesday morning afer getting clearance from the port captain. What remains with me from our visit is how very lucky we are in the US for our standard of living, but also how impressed I was with the spirit of Guatemalan people that I met. I would like to come back and visit the multi-cultural town of Antigua (not to be confused with the caribbean island we are headed for!) that I have heard a lot about. So little time, so much culture to see… And so much of it is all connected by the wide highway of the ocean.
My biggest regret is that I forgot my camera when we went shopping!!
Bruce, Greg, Dave, Hank, Howard, “Wilson” and Ocean Planet