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Central America, Story

Old Salts of the Earth, A Travel Story

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Crazy Rio Dulce!

“You will be on the sailor schedule soon enough. You’re going to be OLD SALTS!”

I didn’t want to believe it. How could we, who normally head to bed around 2am, possibly be asleep by 10pm (Sailor’s Midnight)? But to be honest, there were a slew of other things that happened over our three weeks of saltiness that were even more unbelievable.

…9:30 crept upon us and I rubbed my eyes. “Aww, crap.”

Sailors are different breed of people I hadn’t had the pleasure of hanging out with during our last two years of travel. Sure we had sailed from Panama to Colombia but almost everyone on the boat was a passenger.

We drank beers at bars with Iraq and Vietnam veterans. People compared scars, told battle stories, and talked about their latest conquests of Guatemalan women. Did I mention these guys are well into their 60s? They were a loud, drunk, rowdy bunch. I rather liked their panache.

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Crazy old salts in the background right there.

It explained the occurrence of the…

Ship gone rogue.

One particular evening, as we were watching the sun set, we looked out onto the beautiful lake to see a man anchoring his sailboat and heading to the bow to get some of the last rays of sun for the day. Except, his anchor didn’t take and he seemed oblivious. As we watched him slowly float away from his spot and toward a dock with a giant palapa on it, we couldn’t turn away. It was like watching a train wreck. No matter how much screaming you do, they can’t hear you and it won’t change the outcome.

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I would be staring at this sunset too… You can see the crash pad palapa on the left.

The sailboat futilely bobbed towards the dock and the sailor finally took notice about 20 feet out. Panicking, he ran to the cockpit to start his engine – only to find out that as he started it, it ran over his anchorline and got caught in the propellers. He slumped over defeatedly as the boat came to a crashing halt on the other side of the palapa. We held our breath.

A rescuer jumped into the water and quickly started untying the anchorline from the engine. With help from a few good samaritans, he got his boat anchored and they all went for drinks… except over the next half hour, we watched the newly badly anchored boat swing back and forth, nearly missing the boats around him.

Which lead to the…

Near bar fight.

The guys came for drinks at the bar we were at. As they sat down and gave frat boys a run for their money on how quickly a beer can go down, an old salt lady came barreling into the bar, a scowl permanently attached to her face. She had a local in tow as an impromptu bodyguard.

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“THE” bar.

“Your boat hit my friends boat!”

All the men at the table immediately stand up, like dogs raising their hackles.

“You’re a lying b****!” one of the guys shouted.

You could cut the tension with a knife. I was half expecting the woman to grab one of their beer bottles, break it open on the table and start shanking the bunch.

But mainly it didn’t lead to much more than (supposed) empty threats. I would be a bit concerned though… Rio Dulce is known to be the wild, wild West of Guatemala.

But that doesn’t compare to the….

Drunk Irish guys with AK-47s.

Shaun and I dragged the mattress from our room on to the top of the sailboat. We were docked at Burnt Key Bay and the night was stagnant. We were hoping for a bit of reprieve and a good breeze on the roof.

As we slowly drifted to sleep around 9:30pm, feedback filled my ears and a loud guitar riff echoed across the bay. Am I dreaming? What is going on? OMG, is that… PINK FLOYD? A rowdy bunch of shouts could be heard from the bar. I rolled over and tried to get some sleep.

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We should have gotten the hint of this crazy bay by the confederate flag flying on one of the boats…

The next morning we were talking to Sandy (the owner of BK) and she was talking about the crazy Irish guys who drunkenly pulled up to the dock on the boat, Irish Miss. I remember the pink, sunburnt skin of these guys as they stumbled onto land.

Apparently they asked Sandy if it was okay if they shot off their automatic weapons during the night. They were drunk and wanted to have some fun.

Sandy, an old salt herself, was not pleased. And by not pleased, I’ve seen honey badgers look more appealing than her when she gets riled up. At 5 feet tall, this woman is like hell on wheels. She is scary if she doesn’t like you. She lets you know. She freaked OUT on these guys. The swarm of Sandy was released. She screamed, “Get the *F* out of my BAY!” and went to go get her machete. She wanted to make a point.

…and when we woke up the next morning to the calm, placid waters of the bay… the Irish Miss was gone.

As Sandy recounted the story the next morning, I sat in disbelief.

I swear I’ve had some of the craziest things occur while boatsitting and sailing rather than being on the road with locals and chicken buses.

So BEWARE. Are you looking to become a sailor? Are you looking to get into boatsitting? THESE are the people you will be spending time with

Sound fun?

I thought so. 😛

18 thoughts on “Old Salts of the Earth, A Travel Story”

  1. Wow, yeah I can see why the parental units would be upset with this post! I’m just happy you two are safe! Hey, at least you will never have a shortage of amazing stories to tell strangers or the kids someday.

  2. That’s nuts! I’m making a mental note never to cross a Guatemalan barkeep with a machete.

    1. Thank you Sam! I wish I could be a sailor. Shaun would drop dead before that happened. He was still dealing with seasickness over this whole ordeal. (He must love me.)

      1. I feel his pain! We did a short sailing trip from Koh Samui to Ko Phangan for the day. I was soooooo sick! Even after taking a seasick tablet!

        1. We were trying out ginger candy but apparently he does well enough on rivers to not take anything. It may have also helped that we were docked for a couple of weeks and he got used to the rocking. Do the tablets make you sick as well?

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