Friday, July 20, 2007

Dockside in the Rio Dulce

We pulled into Tortugal Marina yesterday. Almost all the marinas are full, and the late arrivals are scraping the barrel on the lesser marinas. We were really amazed at how many boats are here. There are more boats at Mario's Marina now than were in the whole Rio Dulce when we were here in Island Time in 1997. And about 10 small/medium marinas instead of the 2 that were here then. It is possible to anchor out, but security is an issue (dinghy thefts, etc). Dave wouldn't even consider anchoring

Fortunately we had planned ahead and secured reservations several months ago for us at Tortugal. (we did this by paying dockage ahead for 2 months without being here) Dave said the overflow marina (formerly called Suzannah's) was really hot (no breeze) and 'low rent'. Tortugal is right across from Suzannah's, is well run, has a nice restaurant, and gets the afternoon breeze. It is also one of the few marinas upriver from the town of Fronteras, and so the water here is clean enough to swim in.
The stern of our boat is about 50 yards from the marina's swimming area (complete with float, lounge chairs, and dive platform).

I was dismayed to find that the wifi at Tortugal is not working, and the only wifi I can pick up from here is locked. So that's going to be a pain in the butt. Tortugal's satellite dish got struck by lightning a couple of weeks ago, and the satellite system has been shipped to the US for repair. There is still no phone/DSL in the area, everyone does internet by satellite... and with the advent of cell phones, there is little pressure for the phone company to extend the wires.

I'll have to find a convenient internet cafe. There are several a short dinghy ride away, and one we passed on our walk into town charging Q10/hour ($1.30). A few people at the marina are talking about getting cellular data cards. I told them if they did that, to get me one too. It is a PCMCIA card that uses the cellular system to do internet. In the states a cell data internet card plan is only about $40/mo. One of the guys here said he thought it would only be $30/mo for 'all the data you
can use'. We seem to have good cell reception here (better than in Satellite Beach!)

Though most of the travel around here is done by dinghy, we hiked into town by foot yesterday afternoon, just forthe exercise. It is about a 30 minute walk on a mostly shaded path. (Safe enough in the day, but probably not good at night). We bought a Guatemalan Sim Card for my GSM (Cingular) cell phone, changed some more money, surveyed the grocery store, and bought a few veggies.

Cell Phones: I have a Cingular GSM tri-band phone. When you buy it from Cingular, it is locked to Cingular. You need to get it 'unlocked' before you can use it on any other cell phone system. We had already paid a guy in Belize $20 US to 'unlock' my phone. You can also get this done via eBay, by mailing your phone to someone. Or you can buy an already-unlocked phone on eBay. You need a tri- or quad-band GSM phone to be able to use the phone everywhere in the world. Dave's old dual band Nokia
is good in South/Central America except Costa Rica. So here we paid Q50 for a Guatelmalan sim card and bought Q100 worth of minutes (for a total of $20US), and they said it will cost us about 10-15 cents a minute to call Florida, and about half that for local calls. One of the challenges was dealing with the phone in Spanish. When you insert the Guatemalan sim card, all of the sudden the phone menus were all in Spanish. I finally located the manual for the phone to figure out how to switch it
back to English. Then when we tried to call out, I had trouble with MY phone... it will call and receive, but apparently the microphone is broken (probably a byproduct of the unlocking process).

But I had an unlocking program for Dave's Nokia (program purchased earlier off eBay) and unlocked his phone, popped the sim card in, and voila, phone service. (now if I only had internet!!!) Aparently pay-as-you-go phone cards are the norm now for cruisers, at least in the US and Caribbean. There is no monthly charge, and when you leave a country, you just sell the sim card and leftover minutes to the next boat coming in. (much cheaper than using my Cingular phone service 'roaming' which is about

Dave got a chance to go off to Puerto Barrios this morning. PB is the major coastal port, a few miles from Livingston. You can get anything in PB. I think Dave was after some R12 refrigerant, but who knows what else he'll come back with. I was left with the cell phone and the dead batteries of a friend's boat who's off in the States. Dave said "I got the battery charger going, the multi-meter's on the dinette, call Ron and he'll tell you what to do. When I checked his batts, they were up from
zero to 7.7 volts, and his freezer's at 45 degrees. Hope the batteries are not destroyed... We're not sure what happened, but at least we were here to handle it.

Gosh it is so nice being around other 'yachties'. It has been nearly 2 months since we've socialized. Being footloose and fancy free is fun for awhile... On this morning's VHF net, there were announcements about Spanish classes, CPR classes, free wifi with lunch (several of the local spots advertised their daily specials). Tomorrow is 'Swap Meet Friday' at Mario's Marina, about a mile downriver. Ah, civilization. (but I'll be darned tired of it in a few weeks).

1 comment:

  1. Hi, Dave and Sherry~

    Been crazy busy and am just now catching up on mid-June to July 22 on your blog. It is so much fun to cruise vicariously with you! Sherry~you're quite the travel writer--a pleasure to read.

    Been crewing on Echo again this summer. There is a very cute Frenchman who is the new ASA teacher here at Bell Harbor Marina--inspiration for taking more ASA classes ;=)

    Can the two of you do me a favor? Can you photograph any mermaids and sirens that you see--on land and at sea? I'm putting together a global collection for a book. I have some from Europe, Maui, Kauai, Australia, St. Vincent and The Grenadines, and want to keep on collecting. Please and thanks!