Relaxing on Garbutt Cay

Garbutt Cay, Fly Range
Belize

After just about an hour’s cruise from Bluefield, we arrived on the west side of Garbutt Cay, and anchored in about 20 feet of water. It was so still, and the water so calm, that we opted for an early afternoon swim and a few cold Lighthouse beers.

About the time we were out of the water and suitably dressed, a catamaran bearing a family of 7 and a Texas flag where the US flag should be came right up beside us to anchor for the evening, launching the kids in a kayak and the parents in the dinghy to go fishing. [Read more…]

A Clash of Cultures in Paradise

Bluefield Range, Belize

Bluefield Range Resort

Another astonishingly pleasant day. After pulling up anchor at about 11:00 a.m., just a scant 4 hours later we crept into a perfectly sheltered little bowl amidst three mangrove cays with about 12 feet under us. The trusty cruising guide spoke of the “Bluefield Range Resort” on the southern tip of the westernmost cay, but binocular surveillance showed a ramshackle collection of stilt buildings with all doors and windows open and looking pretty well abandoned.

The post-nap dinghy trip over to the “resort” confirmed that the place was indeed deserted, but not abandoned. The cay is barely a quarter mile long and maybe 50 yards wide at the widest point, with a few scrubby trees and mangroves along the north end. The grounds appeared raked, there was no trash or flotsam on the shoreline, there was a neat fire/trash pit, and the place looked tidy. When we found a laundry bucket with warm water and clean clothes in it, we got a little spooked, as there was no evidence of anybody around. [Read more…]

Finally…This is What Cruising is Supposed to Be

Bannister Bogue, Drowned Cays
Belize

Wait…can this be? A passage of just a couple of hours with no knockout swells? A gentle breeze? Balmy temperatures?

You’d think Mercury had gone direct or something!

We headed generally south of east from Belize City at around 11:30 a.m. for a string of mangrove islands called the Drowned Cays, and a particular channel through them called Bannister Bogue, found it without problems, and dropped anchor in about 12 feet of water in front of two big sailboats at about 4:30 p.m. It didn’t seem all that great for swimming, as a pretty decent current through the bogue ran from the lagoon east of us to the flats to the west. [Read more…]

Provisioning in Belize

Radisson Fort George Marina
Belize City, Belize

It’s just after 11:00 a.m. and we’re finally getting ready to get underway for what we hope will begin the fun portion of this cruise.

Ole got back yesterday afternoon as planned, we washed down the boat, reset the lines, pulled up the anchor we had set against the norther, and looked at what we’ll do with the remaining 19 days of his vacation on the way to Guatemala. We think we have a plan. We’re not tied down to waypoints and planning for seas, as we’ll be cruising all through protected waters until we arrive in Rio Dulce – but the plans do call for napping, skinny-dipping, snorkeling, and the “work a little, play a little” ethic we thought this cruise would be about.

[Read more…]

Are We Having Fun Yet?

Radisson Fort George Marina
Belize City, Belize

It is good to be sitting here at a dock where the only movement is from the unprotected passage of the trade winds and dive boat traffic with its resulting 2-foot chop and occasional bonk into the dock.

Why?

Because getting here was such a challenge, both physically and emotionally. And after the conditions we endured getting here, there is now no such thing as a bad anchorage or sloppy dock.

We left Bahia del Espiritu Santo at about 9:00 pm as planned, looking forward (?) to a 90-mile trip south toward a little hole-in-the-reef called Xcalac (pronounced shkah-LAK) to clear out of Mexico.

Ignorance is bliss.

Unfortunately, due to a loose nut on the chartplotter dial, our entry track from the previous day had somehow vanished, so we had to negotiate our way out of a very shallow lagoon in the dark. Not recommended, though Ole did a fabulous job. Once we got out into the briny blue, the wind picked up and the sea conditions deteriorated over the night, starting at 10 to 15 knots with 4-to-6 foot seas, and escalating to the point where the autopilot again went on strike. [Read more…]

Lesson Learned: Emma Jo Can Take WAY More than We Can

At anchor, Bahia del Espiritu Santo
Quintana Roo, Mexico

It’s clear that every day contains lessons learned.

On Sunday evening, at 9:00, we weighed anchor from San Miguel in Cozumel, headed just about due south for Bahia del Espiritu Santo some 86 nautical miles down the coast. The first three hours we were in the lee of Cozumel, had light winds, and gentle swell from the south southeast, and we said to ourselves, hey – this won’t be too bad. Had some tunes on the I-pod, homemade oatmeal cookies, a pot of French Roast sitting in the thermos in the sink, and everything secured for sea. The swells, though 4 to 6 feet, were long and slow enough for us to actually enjoy them.

Then we discovered that the boat can take way more than either the autopilot or the crew.

About half an hour south of the tip of Cozumel, we were in the deep blue of the ocean, and the winds steadily increased to between 18 and 25 miles per hour, and the size of the swell began to overwhelm the autopilot. By about 2:45 a.m., with Jan on watch and Ole trying to catch some rest down below, the autopilot screamed that it had had enough, what with trying to maintain 6.5 knots while fighting off a steady east wind, a strong north setting current, swells increasing to 8-10 feet, and an annoying wind chop on top. [Read more…]

The First of Many Lessons to be Learned: We’re Homeless!

12:10 pm
San Miguel, Cozumel

(From Jan’s personal journal…)

Left Isla Mujeres about 11:00 am yesterday morning, in partly cloudy skies and fresh east wind of 20-25 knots, making for some rolly conditions as we headed south to Cozumel. The only casualty was a set screw in the port aft corner of the bimini, making Ole go up on the fly bridge to jury-rig a tie down during some pretty decent rolls.

We arrived in Cozumel just as the sun was setting, and anchored in 15 feet of swimming-pool clear water just off my favorite artisan store “Los Cinco Soles,” and sat through the departure announcements of Splendor of the Seas, anchored a couple of hundred yards off our stern. We laughed, realizing that Ole had no standby, no passenger duties, and no pager to go off in the middle of the night.

The anchorage is unprotected, so we gently rocked during the night, and more forcefully during the morning, as the Crown Princess arrived to the accompaniment of excursion boats zooming past us with abandon. [Read more…]

Cruising at Last

Marina El Milagro
Isla Mujeres, Quintana Roo

MÉXICO!

Links of Interest:

Here’s a great interactive map of Quintana Roo, showing where we are and where we’re going through Mexico. And here’s a great little site with information about Isla Mujeres.

We are now officially cruising!

Alter waiting for a comma between cold fronts, we scooted across the Straits of Florida, hung a right 20 miles off the northern coast of Cuba, held our breath, and ran across the Yucatán Channel. Total travel time: about 50 hours. Casualties: one Rubbermaid bucket; one pair of Ole’s reading glasses, and a broken arm on Jan’s beloved Maui Jim sunglasses. Poseidon has rarely been satisfied with less. [Read more…]

All Fixed Up, Ready to Go!

Oceanside Marina
Key West, Florida

Hooray! The new transmissions are in, the engines are perfectly aligned, and we’re ready for the weather to cooperate so we can be on our way! All that’s left to do in the engine room is to paint some of the bolts and connections, de-grease the diamond plate, and put stuff away. Ole worked like a stevedore to get it all done.

Mark the Mechanic

Mark DeJong of Marine Diesel of the Florida Keys was fabulous. His staff are knowledgeable, fast, and courteous. And besides, he looks like somebody from ZZ Top. We would highly recommend him for any work in the keys – he works on about 20 boats a month, and he’s a straight-up guy. [Read more…]

More on the Deceased Transmissions

The saga of the deceased transmission continues…

After moving heaven and earth to wire money to American Diesel for “next day shipping,” the transmissions were to have been sent Thursday, February 1. Ole called to verify they had been shipped, and was told that “the freight forwarder did not feel like driving 80 miles to pick up just two transmissions, and besides, they were short on drivers.” We were assured they would indeed be shipped on Friday. A call Friday afternoon verified that the freight forwarder had, indeed, picked them up on Friday, but wouldn’t be actually shipping them until Monday.

There was much swearing in Norwegian. [Read more…]