Log #56a Back to Veleda

November 5, 2012 in Log Series 50-59, Logs by Series, Series 56, The Logs

Fronteras, Rio Dulce, Guatemala

Nov. 8, 2012

Hi Folks,

It is good to be back aboard Veleda. We are currently back here in the town of Fronteras, having fueled and watered, and resupplied our galley. We will be in the area for a few days before setting off out the Rio Dulce for the Caribbean and up to Belize. It is hot down here (31 C, or 90 F) and Judy has her ideal climate in which getting up in the morning just means putting on a bathing suit.

More in my next logs about our travels in Guatemala en route to Veleda and our getting Veleda ready after a seven month layover for another season of sailing Central America. (Rough life!)

All the best,


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Log #56a Back to Veleda

Gringo Bay, Rio Dulce, Guatemala

Nov. 5, 2012

We have finally returned to Veleda, Nov. 3, securely on her mooring down here at Jennifer’s (see attached picture).


Veleda was in good condition. Jennifer had arranged to have the insides and topsides cleaned for us, so Veleda was fresh and clean with no mildew inside and clean decks. One of her workers picked us up in a launcha at Bruno’s and took us to a fuel dock to get a jerry can of gasoline, for the outboard and our Honda generator. Veleda’s fuel tank was left full of diesel. Our dinghy with its engine on was tethered to the stern (Jennifer had arranged to have dinghy and outboard stored ashore after we left last March 31st.) Incidentally, the total charge for all this storage and service for a seven month period was only $740.00 US, at $100 a month which included monthly check ups to start the engine, check the batteries and bilge, and air the boat out, and storage and launch of the dinghy. The extra $40.00 was for the final cleaning inside and out and the launcha shuttle into and back the 20 miles into the town itself. We are very pleased with the service. Thanks Jennifer.

Jennifer is a very pleasant gentle lady who operates this small mooring field herself with the help of a couple of local Mayans (That is her house at the side of the mooring field with Veleda in the middle in the attached picture.). She also helps a local Mayan girl who is deaf by financially assisting her education, as well as contributing to several projects to help the Mayan community. To help her in her endeavours we gave her all our east coast pilot books and charts to sell at boat bilge auctions, as our plans next year are to sail the west coast of B.C., Alaska and Puget Sound for a couple of years, and thus hopefully will not need those publications. (The smell of burning bridges). Jennifer turns over any money made at these used spare parts auctions for her charities.

We left our trailer and our GMC Yukon at Dallas Platt’s in Canby, Oregon for the year. We covered the trailer with the cover we used with the Aerolite last year, and bought a cover for the Yukon which Dallas was going to put on for us. Murphy’s Law, the first cover delivered was the wrong size, and he is patiently awaiting one the proper size. I say we are leaving the trailer there for a year as our plans are to ship Veleda in May or June from Galveston Texas to Seattle Washington, and sail Puget Sound and the Gulf Islands around Vancouver Island until the fall when we will put Veleda in a marina for the winter and then take the trailer south down the midwest and California. Our second summer on the west coast (2014) we hope to take Veleda up to Alaska and back. After that who knows? We will take it a year at a time.

Rather than returning directly to the boat from Dallas’ we stayed in Guatemala City for five days to tour more of Guatemala. Prices were cheap at $25.00 a night for a decent hotel with full bath and TV. We operated from Guatemala City, but in retrospect should have done so out of Antigua as all the tours we took went from there. Guatemala City is not set up for tours. We were not impressed with the Atititrans tours which operated from our hotel. They did not provide tours, only relatively expensive shuttle busses to the few locations we chose. None of the drivers spoke English. No information on the locations we visited was provided. We got our information from our Lonely Planet Guide book.

However we did see several locations in which we were interested, including the Pacific coast beaches at Monterrico, an interesting turtle and reptile sanctuary, and a “busman’s holiday” in the form of a boat tour through the mangroves.

Log_56a_Monterico_Iguanas                     Log_56a_Caimans_at_Monterico

Another trip took us to Panajachel in the highlands on Lake Atitlan, a giant volcanic caldera, and across to the interesting Mayan town of Santiago. Lake Atitlan is a world attractive venue, surrounded by volcanic hillsides and several cone shaped active volcanoes.  See the attached picture of the model of Lake Atitlan where Santiago resides on the inlet to the right, between the towering volcanoes of Toliman and San Pedro. These mountains featured in Mayan creation myths in which the earth rose from the sea.

Log_56a_Toliman_volcano_above_Santiago                  Log_56a_San_Pedro_Volcano

In Panajachel the tourist industry is controlled by the ladinos and gringos while Mayans from surrounding villages come to sell their handicrafts. The tour we took cost us an extra $35.00 each for the lake tour which was just a trip across the lake to Santiago and back. We subsequently found when we were there that we could have arranged the trip ourselves for less than $2.50 each. In Santiago we paid another $25.00 to a local young Mayan who spoke adequate English and toured us around the village for an hour (see attached picture). It was a good tour as the “atitecos” (as the local are known) cling to their traditional Tz’utujil Mayan lifestyle. There are many Mayan language groups in their own communities, the two main ones around Lago Atitlan are the Tz’utujil and the Kaqchiquel.

It was interesting to see the syncretic traditions and practices of Mayan Catholicism, including their church and especially their “deity”, Maximon, revered throughout the highlands. The effigy of this deity may differ from community to community. It is usually housed in a local home, changing each year, where the Mayans come to make offerings, worship, and beseech his blessings. As described in our Lonely Planet for Guatemala,

 “In Santiago Atitlan, Maximon is a wooden figure draped in colourful silk scarves and smoking a fat cigar. Locals guard and worship him singing and managing the offerings made to him. His favourite gifts are Payaso cigarettes and Vendo rum. But he often has to settle for cheaper firewater Quetzalteca Especial. Fruits and gaudy, flashing electric lights decorate his chamber; effigies of Jesus Christ and Christian saints lie or stand either side of Maximon and his guardians.”

To the side of this Maximon lay a sarcophagus of St. James (Santiago) or another effigy of Maximon that is paraded through the streets when to domicile is changed each year. The hard-drinking and smoking guards sat by to accept and use the offerings. This was in a “private residence” for the year.

Log_56a_Maximon_and_Guardians        Log_56a_Maximons_Guardian

All the houses in this area were cinder block huts with open doors onto a narrow stone walkway, where it was difficult to identify where one “home” ended and another began (see attached picture). Other than the main streets, all the Mayan homes were unpainted cinder block.


Most of the Mayan women wore long straight wrap-around skirts tightly belted at the waist by a sash, and a colourful blouse tucked in at the waist. All three of these garments were colourful complicated patterns, not necessarily complimenting each other, but never-the-less were traditional and attractive. (see attached pictures) Several wore wrapped headgear for a combination of sun protection and a base for balancing objects on their heads.

Log_56a_Mayan_women_at_market_in_Santiago          Log_56a_Traditional_Mayan_costume          Log_56a_Mayan_lady_selling_weaving

Judy however bought a complicated blue herring bone type patterned shawl. Weaving was a skill introduced by the Spanish, and there were different patterns for the various language groups so the different Mayan clans groups could be easily identified. Now the Mayan weaving and other crafts are a major source of the tourist dollar.

Many of the men wore colourful shirts, western Stetson-like hats and the gaudiest ¾ pant monstrosities I have ever seen. I wouldn’t be caught dead in one of those atrocious looking pant outfits (see attached pictures).


The town of Santiago experienced many massacres and “disappearances” during the long tortuous civil war between 1966 and 1998 in which the army and various dictators were supported by the U.S. As our Lonely Planet Guatemala guide described,

“In the 1980’s, left wing guerillas had a strong presence in the Santiago area, leading to the killings or disappearance of hundreds of villagers at the hands of the Guatemalan army. Santiago became the first village in the country to succeed in expelling the army, following a notorious massacre of 13 villagers on Dec. 1st, 1990.”

This was one of several incidents as commemorated on a memorial plaque in the church.


Log_56a_Santiago_Massacres   Log_56a_Santiago_plaque_2
More about some of our experiences as we returned to Veleda in my next log.