San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Confiscated Drug Boats Employed for Tourism

MANAGUA – Confiscated speedboats that were once used by Colombian drug traffickers may soon be used to zip tourists around LakeCocibolca, also known as Lake Nicaragua.

Independent boat contractor Alberto Mitchell has bought three seized 38-foot go-fast boats from the Nicaraguan Navy and says he plans to convert them to diesel engines and put them on the lake for tourism use.

The boats, which can fit about 20 people at a time, could be used to transport people between Granada, the Island of Ometepe, and the port town of San Carlos, where Lake Nicaragua feeds into the San Juan River.Mitchell said the boats could cut the trip from Granada to San Carlos by half, to as little as four hours, depending on the waters.

It’s the latest effort to tap into Lake Nicaragua’s tourism potential.

“We need more boats. Right now it’s just limited to the ferries,” said U.S. developer Kenneth Cole, who along with Nicaraguan partner William Teffel is building 36 luxury condos on the shores of Lake Nicaragua, north of Granada, at the gated community Brisas del Lago, which features an underground tunnel for residents to access the beach.

Cole said increasing boat traffic on the lake, with more flexible schedules, would help unleash the lake’s tourism potential.

Ometepe Island native Milton Arcia, meanwhile, is renovating an 800-passenger, $2.5 million cruise ship –“The Colcibolca” – that will offer weekly tours of Lake Nicaragua.

He hopes to have the ship, which he’s restoring at his El Diamante boatyard, south of Granada, on the water by June. Arcia is also rebuilding a fleet of forgotten Soviet hydrofoils; a newly constructed island-transport ferry; several yachts; and the rusted, partially submerged remains of a 120-year-old historical ship named “La Victoria,” which Arcia wants to turn into a floating restaurant.


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