Emma Jo Arrives in Guatemala

Fronteras, Rio Dulce
Izabal, Guatemala

Once we decided to go, we left yesterday morning about 6:15 a.m. with a “buddy boat” called Chickcharnie, with Don and Rosie from Montana aboard, to attempt to cruise to Punta Gorda, check out of Belize, cruise to Livingston, check into Guatemala, and find a quiet anchorage for the night.

Cruising in open waters now has Jan wary, so we thoroughly secured for sea, only to find ourselves in flat calm, almost glassy seas across the Gulf of Honduras. FINE with me!! We were in Punta Gorda in less than three hours, and the formalities went fairly efficiently, so off we went immediately toward Livingston, arriving there just after noon. We figured we’d have to wait for the officials to finish their lunch before coming out to our boat to clear us in – apparently lunch lasts until about 3:30. [Read more…]

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.

 

 

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…]

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…]