“But everyone said the boat arrives between 3am – 3:30am and leaves afterward!” I said in Spanish, reminding the head of the Capitania what he had told me the previous afternoon.
“Well,” he replied humbly, “it was early today.”
We missed the boat to Corn Island. Actually, we missed two boats to Corn Island, the one that departed as we were walking up at 2:45am and the first one 15 minutes prior. Having lived here long enough to know not to trust any one person when it came times and schedules, we had triple-checked the times the boats were leaving and everyone said…well, no need to repeat myself.
Lesson 1. Don’t ever take a local at their word without checking for yourself. Even then it can be safer to be skeptical.
So there we were stuck in El Bluff at 3am Friday morning. We returned to the room we had rented for the night and decided to discuss our strategy when the sun came up.
The next morning we went back to the Capitania’s office and were relieved to find out there was another boat heading out between 11am – 11:30am. There was no way we were going to miss this one…we left our phone number with the Capitania’s office who agreed to call us if there were any changes in the schedule and told them we would be back an hour early to wait. Nooo problem mon! With such backup measures in place, we felt it safe to take advantage of the next two hours and visit the El Bluff beach for a morning swim.
We returned just before 10am, sandy, sunburned and ravaged by sandflies. I made a quick stop by the Capitania’s office to see what he may have heard about the boat. “Oh,” he said, matter-of-factly, “That boat left an hour ago.”
“Como?” I asked him to repeat. “It left at 9am,” he said. “We were going to call you but the guy who has your number left on the boat.”
Lesson 2. Making a phone call costs money and effort. Don’t depend on a local to do it.
We sat down, some of us in disbelief, some of us humbled and some of us kicking ourselves for not knowing better. We had arrived at the wharf in Bluefields an hour early, caught the last panga to El Bluff, gotten the info we thought we needed, found a cheap room to stay half the night, missed the first two boats, gone back to sleep, woken up and gotten new information we thought we needed, gone swimming, missed the third boat and were now trying to decide what to do. It was Friday. The next boat leaves Sunday.
We went back to Bluefields.
We returned to our foreign friends sympathetically laughing at our tale. Our local friends laughed over a more you-should-have-known-because-everybody-else-knows tone. I have heard this tone before and, try as I might to understand the local culture, it still irks me. I always assumed it is a product of growing up in a tough environment. We shrugged it off.
Lesson 3. Locals will rarely sympathize with you.
As nice as it was sleeping in our own beds, we were determined to get to Corn Island. We retraced our steps back to El Bluff on Saturday evening and rented the room we stayed in before. Again we triangulated our information on the departure time and decided to get up around an hour beforehand to wait for the boat.
I showed up at the Capatania´s office at 2am and met a guy I recognized from two days prior. He confirmed the 3am – 3:30am time and said that what most of the passengers do is hire someone to wait by the wharf. When the boat comes, the waiter runs to the person´s hotel to wake them up. I asked how long he was going to be hanging around the wharf and he said all night. hhmmmm… We struck a deal and I returned to get an hour´s sleep before his banging at the gate woke the entire house.
Lesson 4. Do as the locals do.
To cut a long story short, the boat had arrived at 3:30am like the locals predicted, but didn´t leave until after dawn. We grumbled a bit due to the lack of sleep but were so happy to be heading east across the water that not even six hours sitting on wet sandbags and being drenched in salt spray could spoil our mood.