“So, are you doing anything fun today?” a man at Finca Ixobel asks casually. “Well, actually, we are driving to Rio Dulce to meet our new boat and start moving on,” I respond. “Wow, that’s pretty exciting!”
We are only 1.5 hours away from Rio Dulce but it seems to take forever. We are all excited to get there after our long journey and settle into our new home. As we descend from the mountains it gets hotter and hotter. Rio Dulce flows from Lago Izabal, Guatemala’s largest lake, through a steep canyon to the ocean. The hills between the lake and the mountain prevent hurricanes from coming in, so it is a haven for sailboats during the hurricane season.
Finally, we see the turn-off for the marina just before town. We try explaining to the man at the gate that we just bought a boat at the marina, but he just looks very confused. Eventually he just takes our name and lets us through.
We pile out of the air-conditioned car and begin sweating immediately. We walk quickly along the long boardwalks through the mangroves, barely able to contain our excitement. As we get to the boats, Graysen is yelling “Papa, Papa, which one is it?” “The one with the blue tarps,” Matt says. Even though half of them have blue tarps, I see Beatrice right away.
She is beautiful. Her lines are simple and elegant. A 43-foot Montevideo from South Africa built in 1979.
We pile on the boat under the tarps and check out our new home. Three bedrooms, two bathrooms, and a huge deck! What will we do with all this space after living in the 16-foot trailer for 7 months? The boys find the v-berth right away and climb up to play. I check out all the storage lockers. There is a lot of stuff that needs to be sorted, and it could use a good clean before we move in. It seems well used and well loved.
The kids are hungry and hot so I take them back to the trailer for some food and to grab their swim trunks and take a dip in the pool. The trailer is so hot, it is unbearable, even to eat lunch. We rent a cabin for a few days so we can make the transition onto the boat manageable. After our swim, I read books to the boys in the air-conditioned cabin and we all promptly fall asleep.
When I wake up, Matt has the tarps off. He is covered in sweat, his shirt soaked, but a big grin on his face. “We have a lot of work to do!” We spend the afternoon inflating the dingy and putting the little motor on it. Then we take it across the little bay to the Sundog Café.
The last time Matt and I bought a boat here in the Rio, we went sailing for a while, and then came back here to do some repairs on it. The repairs turned out to be much more extensive than we anticipated, and we soon ran out of money, expertise, and steam. So we started the Sundog Café with some friends. We baked bread and treats, and served breakfast, lunch, and tapas in the evening. We wrote the menu everyday on a chalkboard, and did most of the cooking, shopping, and serving ourselves. Eventually, we parted ways with our business partners and returned to Alaska.
Since then, our business partners have moved on and a Swiss guy named Tom took it over. The original tiny palapa and wood restaurant burned down. The new location is bigger, right on the water, and has a wood-fired pizza oven, a dozen employees, and laminated menus. Only the name, logo, and a few stools Matt built remain from the old place. Still it is great that some remnant of what we started lives on.
The next day the kids are up with the sun at 5:20 and by 7am we are covered in sweat. All our food is out at the trailer so we take the long wooden docks out to the parking lot to fix some breakfast. Back at the boat, I try to start cleaning on the boat, but I’m not sure where to start. There is so much space and so much stuff to sort through. I wander around for a while, trying to find direction.
Matt sees the bewildered look on my face and sends me to the pool with the boys. “Why don’t you go order some lunch and cool off?” In the afternoon I get out a bucket of vinegar water and start wiping things down. Each locker needs to be emptied, cleaned, and sorted. We make a big pile to donate to Casa Guatemala, a children’s home down the river.
Every project requires a super-human amount of effort in the heat. It feels a bit like trying to run in a dream or moving through plasma. With each small effort completed, we collapse in a pool of sweat to recover. We visit the pool once or twice a day and the boys beg for “dingy-boat” rides. In the late afternoons the wind picks up a bit, offering a tiny bit of relief.
Somehow we manage to get things cleaned out and move onto the boat. It takes a bit longer to empty the trailer. Then we clean and repair the trailer, taking turns working in the early morning before the heat becomes too unbearable. But it comes together little by little and eventually, we have a new home.