Guatemala, Rio Dulce Cruising – September to November 2008

Published 6 years ago

Rio Dulce

Texan Bay

Arriving in the Rio Dulce we spend a couple of days in Texan Bay – a well-protected anchorage with a small marina and restaurant bar run by Mike and Sherree – as the name suggests both from Texas. The food there is reasonable and we are assured it is safe here having recently heard of several cruisers being recently robbed and one tragic incident of murder and serious wounding, all these incidents occurred to boats anchored in the Rio.

Justice is served Guatemala style, however, with two of the perpetrators shot dead and two more in custody, another woman and her son allegedly involved in fencing stolen items and the local drug traffic are also shot dead. It seems the rich and powerful drug barons, corrupt politicians and businessmen who see the Rio as their playground want no trouble here, which draws the attention of the authorities. It is still a cause for concern and we anxiously enquire as to where is safe on the Rio.


We head west along through the Golfete lake to Fronteras, also known as Rio Dulce, where there are lots of small marinas providing berthing for yachts spending the hurricane season here. They all have armed security guards but as we are late arriving are all full with no spare berths. We anchor amongst other yachts off Fronteras.

Fronteras, as the name suggests, is like a frontier town, one street through which the traffic struggles to make progress amongst shops that spill on to the road and pedestrians making there way up and down the street. Large lorries, many moving cattle, trundle through. Cattle lorries are worrying to pedestrians as cattle are loaded side to side alternately head to tail, it is known for pedestrians to be showered with excrement as the lorries slowly pass. We also find a Gunshop on one side of the street with the undertakers just across the road. All the banks have at least 2 guards armed with rifles, the supermarket has armed guards and delivery lorries all have at least one guard, riding shotgun. It reminds us of the wild west as depicted in all the old cowboy films. It is not unusual to hear gunshots in the distance.

Mar Marine

We spend a couple of weeks at anchor moving around from time to time before looking for a marina where we can leave the boat while we go travelling for a month. Mar marine we find has a spare berth for $4/foot/month, we think this is a really good value and leap at the opportunity. It proves a good choice and we stay there for the remainder of our time in the Rio.

The Rio

The Rio is a beautiful place to be, being two large lakes joined by stretches of river and fed by several rivers which descend from the surrounding mountains. There is tropical forest lining the shores with lots of birds and wildlife. There are Manatees in the river and crocodiles although we do not see any, the water is fresh so no fouling of the hull like in many other anchorages we have stayed in.

September we find is oppressively hot with daytime temperatures into the 90’s and nights, not a lot cooler, the water temp is about 35C, so even the bilges are permanently warm. Thunderstorms rattle around most nights. October while we are away travelling, is wet with a lot of rainfall and overcast damp days. In November when we return the river level is 2 feet higher and the marina is flooded. We walk around on brick stepping stones, even the drains are flooded so the toilets do not flush well. But the weather is much cooler now, most days just to the low 80’s and nights in the low 70’s and it stops raining.

When we returned to the Rio after our travels we find we had been visited by a mouse leaving quite a trail of havoc and mess amongst some of our food stores. We had deliberately left cupboards and a hatch open to allow ventilation of the boat. A lot of time was spent investigating where it had been and trying to catch him. We found biscuits under cushions and in drawers, plastic spectacle cases had been chewed and containers of dental floss, he got into boxes of cream and milk leaving the contents to leak out and fester. It even found some dollars and nibbled a few edges on these. We set poison and improvised mouse traps, rulers balanced over buckets with bait on the end, we were loaned some traps. After several nights evidence of visits ceased and we assume the poison eventually got him, it apparently causes extreme thirst so the mouse goes seeking water and as we have found nobody assume he left the boat. T

the other usual infestations of weevils, ants and cockroaches continue which we learn to control with insecticides and keeping food inside plastic containers. Weevils, in particular, are present in the food when we buy it from the supermarket even though we check packets carefully, it is hard to know what else we can do.


Our departure from the Rio is delayed as I need a new passport, mine expires before we plan to get home next year. We left the application with the embassy in Guatemala City during our travels, it will take a month to process. They are efficient and notify me by email when it is ready and I make a quick visit to Guatemala City to collect it, there and back in one day 10 hours on the coach leaving at 3.00am, I get back at 3.30pm so only just over 2 hours actually spent in the city, but a long day. We also need to visit the dentist and travel 90 minutes on two buses to Porto Barrios for this.

We are coming to the end of our 90-day visas so we plan to depart before this occurs to avoid additional charges. We leave the marina and go downriver to Texan bay for thanksgiving Potluck dinner which we very much enjoy.

We leave Texan Bay before sun up so as to get to Livingstone early for the checking out formalities. It is a cold morning and we encounter thick fog as we pass through the gorge, with the current with us it is much quicker than on the way in and we anchor off Livingstone just after 7.00am. time for breakfast before going ashore. Formalities are completed by visiting the port captain then immigration, customs, the bank to pay a fee and then finally back to the port captain for our Zarpe. It takes about an hour and costs about $35 in total.

Then up anchor and we pass over the bar with about 8 inches to spare and head north to Belize.

Roy and Sue Potter

SY Vindomar

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