Happy Times and Eclipse had planned an early departure from Livingston, Guatemala, but the river gods had something else in mind. We were delayed first by HT’s starboard engine that’s become reluctant to turn over. Our second holdup came from Eclipse’s port side propeller, bound by a fishing net. The guidebooks provide ample warnings about abandoned fishing nets, but there’s nothing to be done about it. You can’t see the nets below the water’s surface, and you don’t realize what’s happened until you hear the dreaded thump-thump.
Captain Geoff jumped into the river and quickly assessed the situation. The Rio Dulce flows rapidly at the point where it dumps into the sea. Geoff tied a line onto a cleat and put a loop into the other end. He used the loop as a stirrup to shove himself under the swift water to reach the propeller. He used a knife to saw away at the net wrapped around it. Then he employed our Hamilton hook knife, a tool we bought soon after a fishing net wrapped around one of our propellers as we crossed from the Turks & Caicos to Puerto Rico.
By 11:15 a.m. both boats were underway again. We headed south through the gorge that has become one of Guatemala’s leading tourist attractions. The steep walls of Cueva de la Vaca reach 300 feet high, a mass of bromeliads, brush and trees where tropical birds coyly hide. In certain places the walls are bare limestone rock looming over the river. Where the rock meets the river’s edge, the random graffiti of sightseers blemishes the limestone.
At the gorge’s end our boats slipped into El Golfete, a lake that’s a smaller version of Lago de Izabal further south. A light drizzle turned into a downpour that was so heavy we could not see Eclipse ahead. Both boats dropped anchor outside Texan Bay to wait out the storm. Thirty minutes later we re-anchored in a better spot for a quiet overnight stay on the Rio Dulce.