The great escape.

Rain, rain, go away.

10th November 2023

Shell Bay, Rio Dulce, Guatemala – Tres Puntas, Guatemala via Cayo Quamodo & Livingston, Rio Dulce, Guatemala

In the classic WWII film ‘The Great Escape’, all the detainees go to great lengths to ensure their successful escape from their POW camp. The inmates start by building 3 tunnels, they then don elaborate disguises to fool the Germans and reach their routes exactingly. Steve McQueen takes things to a whole new level by stealing a plane, crashing it, acquiring a motorbike and then jumping barbed wire fences into neutral Switzerland*. We don’t think of ourselves in the same league as Steve McQueen but we have made a great escape. We have escaped from the Rio Dulce.

To make our escape from the Rio Dulce successful we had to find a day when the tide was high, Hector was available and the swell was low. Just such a day was on the horizon and we set about ticking jobs off our list and putting right all the things we couldn’t while imprisoned ashore at RAM Boatyard.

Knowing our timeline predicament ‘Carlos the Carpenter’ worked double quick on Ruffian completing carpentry tasks that were well beyond us. He made templates, measured and remeasured and in double quick time delivered a teak plinth for our new to us Windpilot wind vane steering that was as hard as nails, as seasoned as a professional and as cheap as chips.

Saying goodbye to the Rio was going to be easy but saying goodbye to people never is. There were sweaty hugs at our last HiT session, beers at our final NanaJuana BBQ and then were was our final impromptu goodbye at ‘The Shack’ where both Iain and Larry met a new friend** amongst old ones.

Leaving Shell Bay behind us it seemed that the Rio really didn’t want us to leave. Like gushing tears, rain fell from the sky in torrents hiding the hills and even the shoreline. This was too little too late and we were determined to seek out new sailing grounds, find some blue water and finally enjoy life after months of boat work.

Zipping into Livingston we felt like we were once again cruising. New sights, sounds and smells enveloped us. Fish that dried in the sun gave the town a distinct smell, the bustle of the port gave it a distinct sound and every sight for us was new and unexplored. Iain was so overcome by all these new experiences that he actually succumbed to Fiona’s pleas to buy a new hat and parted with the last of his Quetzals making the hat nearly free.

With all the formalities complete it was now just a question of making our physical escape. Motoring through the canyon we followed in Lady Blue’s wake and were closely followed by Simon on Libertad. The walls hung high above us and, with the early morning mist still not burnt off, we felt that we were not only making an escape from a country but from a whole other world.

At the entrance we were now facing Steve McQueen’s motorcycle moment. Where he had to jump fences, we had to slip over a bar that made the water too shallow for Ruffian’s keel. Attaching a line from the top of our mast to Hector’s boat we motored towards the obstruction. Right on cue, just as the water was growing impossibly thin, Hector took up the strain and Ruffian started leaning over.

We watched the depth gauge like hawks as our newly anti-fouled keel skimmed over the sand with mere inches to spare. Then as the numbers started to grow, like a soothsayer, Hector reduced the strain, reduced the lean and Ruffian had escaped the Rio Dulce.

Unlike Steve McQueen who after his failed escape languished in a cell, we were free to find blue water, free to explore new worlds, all in a boat that has been through the wars and is once again an ocean going vessel.

* Where sadly he crashed his motorbike, fell back into the dastardly hands of the evil camp commandant and we leave him bouncing his baseball against a wall whilst languishing in solitary confinement.

** Who if we’d be allowed to take him with us would have been called Frank, would have been Iain’s alter ego and would have been a great playmate for Larry.

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Author: Iain & Fiona Lewis

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