Haul Out on the Rio Dulce

Our original plan was to come in to the Rio Dulce for about two weeks. We also wanted to do three boat projects while we were here for those couple of weeks. The outboard was not running right so we wanted a mechanic to look at it. The depth sounder, which is an important piece of equipment, was acting up again and probably needed replacement. So if we had to haul out to replace the transducers we might as well paint the bottom, since it has been two years since the last time. We also discovered cracks in the corners of the windshield where it had been bent. We were concerned that they would spread and we would loose the integrity of the whole thing. So we wanted to build a strong support frame for the entire windshield.
Getting the parts and finally getting the outboard repaired only took 6 weeks. So far we have had two people LOOK at the windshield job but not a lick of work on it yet. We began the process of having the boat hauled about a month ago. There are two places to haul here on the river. One is the new Ram Marine on Shell Bay and the other is Abel's on the river itself near to old Spanish forts. We chose Abel's but this is not your typical yard that most are used to in the States.
Abel hauls your boat on a rail system. He has three, side by side that offer a wide range of adjustment for just about any size or shape of vessel, either power or sail. ( UPDATE, July 12, 2010, a new 85 ton travel lift and dry storage space is now available. )  We began by setting an "appointment" for hauling us. We were told that would be in about a week. Others had told us it would be smart to check on the status on a daily basis. This proved to be a daily exercise for us for weeks. One of the boats that was already hauled was an extremely large catamaran that was being painted. The other was a charter boat from Belize that was also being painted. Now keep in mind that torrential rains are common here every day. So imagine trying to paint a boat. Both of these were delayed by 3 weeks or more, which meant we were also delayed. In addition Abel gives preference to emergencies. And wouldn't you know someone tried to run their power boat over a reef in Belize.
On a Tuesday we dropped by for our almost daily update and were surprised to find the catamaran had been launched. We were told it would take a day to readjust the rail car from the catamaran. Also the charter boat from Belize was being sprayed so we might want to wait a couple of days for that to be finished. On Thursday we made another visit and the charter boat was still not painted yet. We decided not to wait any longer. So we got the OK to bring the boat over on Friday morning. Finally this was going to happen.
Friday morning we were up early and got under way. It is only a couple of miles from the Marina to the haul out. There was a power boat on the rail that was supposed to be gone by the time we arrived. So we just motored around for about an hour or more while they finished installing the cutlass bearings and launched it. The rail car was lowered into the water and the boat towed off by a small skiff. We were then signaled to bring our boat in. We drove in on the railway between four steel beams that stuck out of the water. Two of Abel's employees were in the water waiting for us. Once we were close to center over the car the guys in the water tied lines to the beams to keep us in position. Using only snorkel masks they swam under the boat and adjusted the beams tight against our rub rail. Next they set up the stands to prop up the hull. All of this is done by hand under water. Once they were comfortable that the boat was well supported a signal was given to another fellow on shore who fired up the diesel winch that slowly pulled us by a cable, out of the water and onto the service area. It is obvious they do this many many times. We never felt concerned at any time, but we were absolutely fascinated.
Once the boat was high and dry they power-washed the bottom and we began the removal of the old depth and speed transducers. The boat owners can do as much or as little of the work as they choose. We decided to have them do all of the sanding and painting and we would handle the transducers. We did get the transducers out on the first day. but because the bottom needed to dry out, not much else was done. We had taken a room at a small hotel about a block away so we checked in, had a nice dinner at their restaurant and enjoyed sleeping in an air conditioned room for a change.
The next morning the work began in earnest. We had four workman hard at the job of scraping loose paint and sanding. Meanwhile we went about installing the new transducers. The workers were very friendly, hard working and efficient. By mid day they had the boat almost ready for painting. We had also ask them to do a little cosmetic fiberglass work around the stern tube. It was done exactly as we had ask. By early afternoon the first coat of paint was applied and we were delighted with the way things were going. Since the workman usually started early, they didn't get the second coat on the same day. At the same time, we were doing some varnishing in the main salon, since we were off the boat. At the end of the day it was back to the hotel for dinner and air conditioning. If you haven't guessed, we don't have air conditioning on the boat.
The following morning the second coat of paint was being finished just as we arrived. We just needed to wait a few hours for it to dry before we were launched. So we did a final coat of varnish. At the designated time the boat and the rail car were released into the water. And I do mean released. As we came out it seemed like we were inched out a little at a time. But going back in seemed like they just cut us loose. But as we slid into the water the railway slowed to a stop. We did a thorough inspection to be sure nothing leaked. And once again the workers went under the boat with just masks and removed all of the stands. we slowly motored off the car and backed into the river. The whole experience was easy and painless. Except for the part were you have to pay for it all. It was quite a unique experience for us and that is what attracts us to this cruising lifestyle. But we have to remember to be patient here. There is the time on your clock and there is Guatemala time. There are days on the calendar and there are Guatemalan days. And they are not the same.
As an additional note, a new marina with a traditional travel lift has opened in Shell Bay directly across from Mar Marine. It is named Ram Marina and has room for storage on the hard, docks including fuel and other amenities. The Rio is constantly changing and new marinas and services are popping up everywhere.


  1. Great looking boat, you sure do good work - what were the costs of hauling and laydays in the Rio?

  2. We were only out for a total of three days. the total cost for haul out, lay over, 4 gallons of paint, very expensive, and three laborers for 2 1/2 days was about $780.00 US.


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