First Day in Guatemala…..

Dear F&F,
February 21, 2009

We slept very well with the air conditioner on which kept out the noise of the US Coast Guard sailors partying at the nearby palapa restaurant/bar. We got up about 7:15 am. Miguel Oscar who is recommended in our cruising guide as an agent to help with the check-in process appeared on our dock at 7:30. His Spanish was muy rapido, so we asked him to return after 8:30 when we knew Carmina would be here to translate. It is a 2 hr drive from Guatemala City to Puerto Quetzal. At 8:00 am Ziggy showed up – the American mechanic that has been living & working here in Puerto Quetzal for 15 yrs. He & Scott discussed the transmission symptoms, diagnosis & plan for new unit installation. He is very nice & even though he has not worked on this kind of sail drive unit, seems to be a capable guy for the job.

We were so excited when our dear Carmina showed up with 19 year old niece Alejandra (that she has raised since 4 yrs old, so she\’s more like her daughter). Alejandra is shy speaking English even though she understands a little. This is good as we are trying to use more Spanish. Carmina explained to us the owner of this marina is a very rich & famous man in Guatemala. She told the marina office by phone yesterday that we were friends of his arriving from Mexico. This explained when the manager of the marina then showed up about 9:00 am asking if everything was ok, did we need anything & welcomed us to Guatemala. When Miguel Oscar the paperwork agent returned it was very helpful to have Carmina explain his services & fees. We agreed to use him in order to avoid running around to check in on our own. We made 5 copies of our passports, boat documentation & Zarpe (exit paper) from Mexico. He took all these & was gone 2 hrs to go to the Port Captain\’s office, Immigration & Customs. When he returned, 1 official from each office was with him & came aboard our boat. We did not know how much of an inspection of the boat they would want to do. As it turned out they were very polite & friendly. Carmina offered them water & iced tea & we served them each while they sat at our salon table doing the necessary paperwork. Scott filled out 1 form & signed another. I was so relieved they did not ask if we had fruits & vegetables from Mexico. I confess I had hidden a few apples & onions… In less than 15 minutes, they said we were finished & got up to leave after finishing their cold beverage. I asked if we could take their photo. They agreed, so we got a nice group shot of Miguel, Carmina, Alejandra & the 3 officials. That makes 8 people onboard. It was just after 12:00 noon when they left – a busy morning.

Scott walked up to the car to help Carmina & Alejandra carry their luggage down to the boat. A group of architecture students were strolling down the dock (on a field trip of some type) & admiring \”Beach House\”. Scott is not shy & loves to share our adventures, so gave out many cards with our website information & took their photos while they were taking photos of us & the boat. Meanwhile Carmina is wearing her \”Beach House\” t-shirt so looks like official crew & they are very impressed to see that we have a native Guatemalan with us. It was very sweet. They were very excited to hear about the manta rays we saw in the Islas Revillegigedos and wished us well on our travels.

Now that we were officially checked in to the country, we could take down the yellow Quarantine flag (a formality requested by customs officials worldwide, not that they really think we are importing some dread disease) & free to get off the boat. The 4 of us went to the palapa restaurant for lunch just up by the marina office. There are mostly sport fishing boats on the dock. We are the only sailboat/cruisers. At the restaurant we talked to some of the US Coast Guard guys. We also met a group called \”Help International\” who are Americans volunteering medical & construction services here. We are learning some subtle differences of Guatemalan Spanish to Mexican Spanish. For example tortilla chips are called \”totopas\” in Mexico. Here they are called \”nachos\”. They do not offer salsa. The guacamole was not good. But we reserve judgment on Guatemalan food since this is just one tourist restaurant. Carmina & I shared fish sticks. Scott & Alejandro each had a queso hamberguesa.

Scott was happy to receive the email from Scott Adam who is our LA hero that picked up & shipped out the new transmission. We have the DHL tracking number & it could arrive in Guatemala City as soon as Monday. We do not know if customs there will hold it up for duty payment. We will have to check on the status tomorrow. There is internet access from the palapa, but we have not tried it yet.

There was much more wind today which has caused this dock to become very surgy. We don\’t love it but are able to mostly ignore it. Fortunately Carmina & Alejandra do not seem to mind. We all took a nice siesta in the late afternoon. Alejandra has been mostly on her cell phone excitedly telling her friends about being on a yacht. She had seen Carmina\’s photos from her visit to us in La Paz, but being onboard herself is having high impact. She is a very sweet young lady & we are happy to share our floating home with them.

While I cooked dinner, Scott got inspired to install our new bathroom bug screen. The installing was not so difficult as the removal of the old one. One down & 1 to go. Just making the guest cabin back into a bedroom, instead of the overflow garage, was a trick. The port forward cabin (main garage) is a royal mess, but we will manage. We are really enjoying our guests. It is wonderful to spend time with Carmina & get to know Alejandra. We will meet her nephew (son) Eddie & Carmina\’s brothers, aunt & other extended family when we go with her to her home in Guatemala City. But for now these two will stay with us. Tomorrow being Sunday, we will take as a sightseeing day. Antigua is a historical colonial town about 45 minutes drive, we will visit tomorrow. Monday Ziggy the mechanic will return & begin to disassemble the engine from the transmission. As much as he can do while we are in the water to see if he can get to the source of the failure. The rest of our schedule will depend on when our new transmission clears customs in Guatemala City. Carmina will drive us to pick it up there. We have to move the boat to another area, called Iztapa Lagoon, for the haul out. It has a sandbar so we can only enter at high tide with a panga guiding us in where the bottom contour is deep enough for us to safely pass. This will be a bit nerve wracking with only 1 functional engine, but we will manage.

Scott & I had showers tonight. I am filling the water tanks right now so our guests can shower in the morning. The dock water is potable, but requires extensive filtering due to sediment. This will likely clog up our filter system quickly. But the harbor water is too dirty to use the desalinator so it is the lesser of two evils. Overall, a good first day of our unscheduled stop in Puerto Quetzal. We are looking forward to getting in some fun while we are detained for the new transmission installation.

Scott and Cindy
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