Sailing Journey to Guatemala through the Rio Dulce to aid the locals affected by Hurricane Iota and Eta
Sailing from the Keys
We departed Islamorada, Florida on Monday, November 16, 2020, aboard Viento Azul, with six souls on board. We are carrying medical relief supplies, not knowing what is ahead with Iota threatening Nicaragua. Aboard are Captain Ted and Gail with Blue Water Surrender and Worship Sailing. Our crew for this soon-to-be very exciting journey consist of Sheldon and Pamela from Boatique of Guatemala, and Carla and John from Coconut Grove Sailing and Canvas.
We await the rising of the noontime Snake Creek drawbridge to allow us entrance to the sea. Passing through, the sun is brilliant, glimmering across the settling chop of the shallow, turquoise Florida Keys waters, now milky white from weeks of wind and rain.
While we were raising the mainsail, a giant rat with racing stripes down his back jumped ship, to our surprise. We are grateful he went overboard. He would be an unwanted companion offshore!
Viento Azul is Rio Dulce bound with Iota increasing to a Cat 5 over Providencia. We are grateful to have Carla and John aboard as professional world class racing sailors. Carla sailed the Olympic trails twice and is a Northern American A-Cat champion. Their connections with the US Air Force in Pensacola is giving us the most current weather updates. We are also connected to home by satellite phone for any changes with our good friend Steve.
We have a great team which will be needed for this crossing. One of our team members is telling stories reminiscing of the old days in Coconut Grove when he worked at the Mutiny Hotel where they paid the staff in Sweet ‘n Low, the white powder currency of the 1980s. Many more stories will be shared along the way. With sailing, time is always present unless there is the wrong type of excitement.
At 12:20 p.m., we are on a starboard tack. Our main and genoa are full; our course is set at 120 degrees, traveling at seven knots. The sun is reflecting diamonds on the water while our hulls gently pierce through the relaxing sea, quietly lapping a peaceful sound. Four dolphins appear, welcoming us to the sea with graceful joy, playing in our bow wake. They come and they go leaving smiles for all aboard. On the horizon, a plane is flying very low. Later, while monitoring channel 16, we hear they were searching for a missing person. A very frightening thought to be lost at sea, especially in stirred-up sea conditions.
Our day progresses with Pamela and Sheldon at the helm while passing Duck Key. The sun will be setting soon – this time of year, night comes early. Carla takes the opportunity to rest below deck before night shift starts. Our schedule will be two-hour shifts split between three couples.
Taking in the end of the day with the warm Florida Keys air, the sea is semi peaceful. Relaxing on the trampolines is a great place to be. Stretching out, a gentle sensation of floating on a cloud and hovering becomes a heavenly moment one to be enjoyed now as the projected weather ahead in the days to come foretells rain and high winds, accompanied by pounding seas. When we reach the corner of Cuba, progressing towards Mexico, the opposing current will get you every time as it meets the wind of the Yucatan Peninsula. This will only aggravate adverse conditions.
The Mission Begins
Just as the sun is painting an array of spectacularly brilliant colors across the sky, we snag a lobster pot. Captain Ted, with knife in hand, dives in to cut the prop free. We are on our way again. Chicken curry is on the menu by Pamela and was enjoyed by all. A hot meal is a great way to end a day out at sea.
Day Five of open sky
Day Five: Hang in there, it is Friday, and relief comes as we sail behind Banco Chinchorro, Mexico. The seas are calmed to two feet, and what a relaxing moment to cherish with the wind holding at 20 - 25. Once we pass the lee of the bank, we can expect high seas again until we reach Turneffe in Belize.
The day is much more comfortable, and we’re making good time with our jib out at 20 degrees and the wind dropping to 15-20. In the afternoon, one more time, the dolphin come to play. With the fishing lines out, Carla reels in fresh Mahi-Mahi for chef Pamela to place in the pan.
Today has been the first sunny day since we left. Looking back, now that it is somewhat calm, you can see how intense the past few days have been. Which is now one big blur. My hair is stacked in one big, tangled mess. It is nice to feel tranquil with less pounding on the hulls. Peace and quietness blossom as a rainbow appears in the sky. Our only threat today has been a few squalls, spitting rain and disturbing the wind’s direction.
Six Days to make it to Guatemala
Day Six: After surrounding us with rain all night, it continues into the morning. In sight is land, the southern outer islands of Belize. We have had ups and downs, twists and turns along the way. We had to pass a very small island with one lone tree, which I dubbed One Tree Island, which was fading behind us as mountains were appearing before us. It is now 26 more miles to Livingston, Guatemala. The sea has diminished to a wonderful one-foot chop as we are on our final stretch. At 2:15 p.m., we drop anchor in the mouth of the Rio Dulce which is now having the biggest flood of a lifetime due to the passing of Hurricane Iota as we await check in.