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Rio Dulce - getting safer for cruising sailors

by Capt. Pat Rains, The Log/Sail-World Cruising on 16 Oct 2009
Rio Dulce area SW
In an unprecedented move, the Guatemalan government last month joined marina owners along the Rio Dulce waterway to build a floating security network to protect cruising sailors. The Rio Dulce has long been a popular place for cruising sailors to leave their boats during the hurricane season, but recently has been marred by robbery and violence.

A series of robbery attacks, including one that was fatal,(see Sail-World http://www.sail-world.com/Cruising/Rio-Dulce:-heading-for-safer-waters/54026!story ) on cruising yachts throughout 2008 spurred more than 30 Rio Dulce marina and hotel owners to organise a coalition to improve the security situation and safety of thousands of visiting boaters, as well as protecting the ecosystem for future generations. EcoRio had been paying for the training and operations of private security officers.

“Now, Guatemala's government has begun to significantly increase naval patrols and personnel on call in the area of Rio Dulce, where most of the marinas are located,” said Eugenio Gobbato, president of the EcoRio organisation.

A squadron of Coast Guard vessels now patrol the primary marina district from the south end of El Golfete to the Castillo San Felipe peninsula, including the towns of Fronteras and Relleno.

Last month, EcoRio distributed 7,000 large fold-out maps showing yachties and other tourists exactly which regions are patrolled 24 hours a day and seven days a week, which are patrolled less often, as well as the locations of all the marinas and hotels in the entire Rio Dulce region, from Livingston to Lake Isabel. The maps, distributed free to dozens of marinas and other tourist locations, were made possible with additional government funding, according to Rio Chisme news service reports.

“Consequently, the Rio Dulce has become one of the most security-conscious and patrolled areas for cruisers in this part of the world,” said Daphne Becker of Tortugal Marina in Fronteras.

Rio Dulce is a popular cruising ground on the Caribbean side of Central America located between Belize and Honduras. The narrow gorge at the entrance makes the Rio Dulce a safe and popular summer destination, supporting at least 15 marinas, several haulout yards and a large year-round community of liveaboard sailors.

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