Exploring Placencia

Departing Placencia
Belize

The Acupuncturist at Placencia

We opted to stay a couple of days here, as it is a delightfully funky place – kind of an “end of the road” collection of stilt houses painted all kinds of Caribbean colors from turquoise to pink to violent coral purple.

It’s a cruiser haven, and when we pulled in the other day, there must have been about 50 boats huddled between Placencia proper and the cay across. Many American, a few Canadian, and a couple of Germans, from Hamburg, no less.

When we went ashore, we followed a ½ mile long sidewalk that wanders in between the stilt houses and found an eclectic collection of businesses – dive shops, guest houses, an acupuncturist, a sports bar, and even a salon and “spa.” I couldn’t decide whether my favorite is the combination coffee house/internet café/laundromat started up by a guy from Vancouver or the bar/restaurant called “Purple Space Monkeys” painted wild colors. On the walk, the strangest site was the cemetery, where some of the departed had proper crypts above the ground, and others appeared to have been laid to rest in plain old sand, and recently at that.

Grocery shopping was good at Wallen’s market, where there is a semi out back with cases of beer (they know their clientele!). You take in your empty bottles, the “writer dude” gives you a receipt, and the cashier gives you a ticket to take back to the semi for replacements. Very efficient. Stocked up on crackers, coffee, and cookies as well. Ole went back for a nap, leaving Jan with the dinghy (she’s now dinghy-certified) to go get a haircut and check e-mail at the Canadian’s laundry.

Last night we hosted cocktails for some new friends, and oddly, most of them were from the west coast – from Las Vegas, from Montana, and from Oregon. It was our first official “cruisers” cocktail party, and we were surprised to find each couple bringing an hors d’oeuvres to share. There was so much, it was almost a shame to leave for dinner ashore! The company was exceptional, the conversation was fun, and dinner ashore was great.

We left Placencia this morning at about 10:30 to head for New Haven. It’s hard to face it, but tomorrow we’re hoping to clear out of Belize at Punta Gorda , clear in to Guatemala at Livingston, and anchor somewhere in the mouth of the river to head up on Friday to Hacienda Tijax, which we hope will be our home for the next several months.

 

 

A Boat in Distress…and What to Do About It

Placencia
Belize

So after another wonderful day, we heard on the radio that there was a norther coming on Saturday morning, with expected winds from the northwest at 10-15.  As we sat Friday night over the rum and oj, we remarked to ourselves that heck, 10-15 was nothing, we were on the south side of the cay, and we could handle it.  We snorkeled the anchorage, and found we were set in sand on top of a hill in about 30 feet of water. The anchor chain lay across the top of the hill and gently circled down to the bottom at 50 feet before tracking back up to the boat.  We thought we’d be fine, as we had out 175 feet of chain.

About two miles away, in an area the chart calls Bread and Butter Cays (but the cruising guide calls Stewart Cay), we spotted another trawler, tried to hail them on the radio, but they must have been otherwise occupied.

At 11:00 p.m. on Friday night, Jan was up on the computer and Ole had just gone to bed, when, out of nowhere, the wind started blowing 25 with gusts to 30, out of the northwest.  So much for weather forecasting.

Ole shot out of bed, looked at the plotter, and found we had slipped anchor and our adrenaline kicked in.  [Read more…]

Nothing to Do but Relax…

Spruce Cay, Belize

Jan Explores the Reef at Southwater Cay

Aahh, so this is cruising.

We spent another day at Southwater Cay, relaxing in the morning and going ashore to explore in the afternoon.

The island has two lodges – Blue Marlin and Pelican – on opposite ends, and a private homestead for the Bowman family, an outpost of the IZE (International Zoological Expeditions), and a station for Southwater Cay University in between. All of these facilities exist on an island that is barely ½ mile long and about 100 yards wide, situated right on the barrier reef, and are connected with a one-person wide footpath. Everyone we met along our walk was lovely, friendly, and welcoming. After our walk, we ended up back at Blue Marlin, and waded out to the top of the reef for a look. [Read more…]

Wow. NOW we’re talking.

Southwater Cay
Belize

Emma Jo at Southwater Cay

Glee is now raging in full force.

The 10-mile cruise from Garbutt Cay yesterday took us southeastward toward the barrier reef, from 30-foot depth to something in between 8 and 10 feet, cruising in water so disarmingly clear we could just about count the hermit crabs on the bottom as we motored along. On the way, we passed by Tobacco Cay, which seemed attractive to quite a few cruisers, including the Texans from yesterday.

We anchored within 100 yards of the north end of Southwater Cay, after aiming at a mooring ball closer in and determining there was only about 4.5 feet of water under it. The area has grassy patches, so we found a clear patch of sand to drop the anchor and back down about 50 feet of chain. The water is so clear that we could physically see the anchor dug into the edge of the sand patch. [Read more…]

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…]