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March 16, 2011
Dear Friends and Family,
Finally, we are safe in Belize. When we started planning this trip last fall, we had anticipated being in Belize by mid February but later is better than not at all! Cruising is a lesson in learning not to have expectations and that is a lesson that is still difficult for me but I am getting better!
Our cruise from Mexico was pretty good. We took it slow to start, stopping at Bahia de la Ascencion the first night after leaving at 6 a.m. and arriving by about 1:30.
Chat-Eau is with us but we also included our new friends on Sunshine in this passage. They are a smaller catamaran but have kept up with us very well. All came over to help me finish some home baked bread sandwich rolls and we had a good visit and planning session. The anchoring at this and the next location are behind a reef, a few miles from the land mass where there is a small town. It was too far and too rough to go ashore. The anchorage behind the reef was still pretty choppy and the bouncing and noise of the water under the hull made it more difficult to sleep and even move around.
The next day, we went to a shorter hop and stayed behind another reef at Bahia del Espiritu Santo. Similar situation to the night before but an earlier arrival because it was a shorter hop. We had thought to leave at day break the next morning for an atoll off the coast of Mexico but because of bad weather coming and difficulty of day light departure and arrivals in areas where we clearly wanted to see the reefs, we opted to wait at Espiritu Santo until 4 p.m. when we would still have day light to pass through the reef and get on course and then sail through the night for Belize with a morning arrival in San Pedro, or if necessary going 30 more miles to a larger entry point if the seas were too rough to make the one on San Pedro.
We had been having good sails, with speeds averaging 7 knots at least so had been making good time. The seas, while high, at least 6 feet much of the time, and higher on some occasions, have been on the beam or aft of the beam (on the side of the boat or slightly toward the back of the side of the boat) and so not too bad. The point of sail was mostly a beam reach and strong enough winds to push us but not too strong. The night passage gave us a little more pause. Actually, we had trouble with the auto pilot. That is the part of the boat that does the steering automatically and certainly makes operating the boat over long passages much less tiring. Ours would hold for awhile and then turn us in to the wind. An alarm would let us know that it was malfunctioning so we could adjust but it took more physical effort as well as being on the spot all of the time so was more than we are used to.
Paul wanted to stand watch and so Rob and I were both getting shut eye while underway which was a little unusual for us! Actually, I volunteered to stand watch but Paul and Rob did most of the watch catching sleep in the main cabin in between. Frankly, while I was in bed all night, it was not easy to sleep. Steve and our watch stander were on the radio a lot and that is broadcast in to the birth. I don’t think that mattered that much though as the movement of the boat rocked a person around so much, sleep was difficult.
You may wonder how Paul and Bernice have taken this part of the trip. I don’t think either one of them thought it would be like this but they are real troopers and never a complaint. Luckily, Bernice had been able to keep her seasickness under control and Paul is not impacted by it.
He has made my crew jobs easier as he pulls up the dinghy, goes forward to spot reefs and coral heads, ties down the jib sail and put on the jib cover at the end of the day. He is good at hanging out and brining in we towels as well. I guess he appreciates my efforts in the galley and Bernice is my assistant there, making salads and drying and putting away the dishes. They are very good at not using a lot of water, in fact, probably better than Rob and I are.
We did take some of the day at Espiritu Santo to snorkel on a coral head near the boat but Bernice is not experienced at snorkeling. If you have not done it, you often times have a hard time breathing. It was also a little rough but the three of us enjoyed a brief look at the fish and coral. I hope we will get some more chances in a more comfortable environment for her. All together though, we will stay inside the reef where the water will be calm and we will be doing only day sails.
We arrived yesterday about 8 a.m. Finding the entrance to the reef was tricky as it is very small. There is a floating yellow marker that lets you know you are there but it is hard to tell from the water. You enter the passage, which is quite narrow and hard to tell the edge of the reef and then make an immediate turn to avoid a growing coral head right in the middle. We followed the guide books and had no trouble but it was a little frightening. Chat-Eau was about 30 minutes behind us and then about 30 minutes more was Sunshine. The anchorage here is also behind the reef though close to town. The anchorage is shallow, we are anchored in 5 feet but there are deeper spots.
We ate breakfast and cleaned up and without a rest went in to check in. Got to the right spot but no one was there. They didn’t show up until about 45 minutes before they were to close for lunch. Glad we waited though as they did arrive.
In Belize, they don’t allow any fresh produce in to the country so we had made arrangements not to over buy on those things and so we were in the market to buy more produce. With that in mind, we checked out one market on the way to immigration and Customs. They had a nice selection of many good looking things like broccoli, mangoes, lettuce, etc. When we finally had customs come back, they were bringing in confiscated produce in large quantities. One of the guys in immigration was talking about how good it would taste!
Well on the way back we stopped at the grocers to get our things and they were now out of all the good looking food we had planned to buy. We were told it had been confiscated by customs!!! I guess it is illegal to import a product in to Belize when it is in season with local farmers even if the local produce is inferior quality. The owner of the market takes it in stride but he says in Belize it is easy to buy drugs on the street but you can’t get legal lettuce in the stores!
They did have a customs official and the port captain come out to the boat and we had to bring them by dinghy. They looked for produce and weapons. It was interesting where they chose to look but it wasn’t a tossing of the boat so no problem.
It rained in the afternoon which made it hot inside the boat. We have to keep hatches closed or it rains in. I heated up the boat more making yogurt and bread but people took the afternoon to nap.
Hopefully today we will explore a little more this morning, maybe treating ourselves to lunch in town, and then head to Cay Caulker for the night. It is quite rough here, not only because of the chop over the reef but the many ferries that buzz by at very high speeds. No one pays any attention to a no wake zone here! We have only 6 days left with Paul and Bernice, so have to make good use of them!
Here is a reflection on my part. Paul and Bernice are spending their third visit on cruise with us. They met us in Puerto Rico, Grenada and the Tobago Cays and now Mexico and Belize. Sailing is not something either one are in to in general. Each trip has meant delays and rescheduling for them, each trip has some point of heavy seas and this one had 3 days without stepping on to land. Yet, they still except our invitation. We feel blessed and honored and love the opportunity it affords to become even closer. We have been so blessed in our lives with wonderful friends, loving and close family and opportunities that far surpassed any of our expectations. To be able to share this experience with those who come aboard and with you through these logs, only makes life fuller.
Rob and Sue
Living the dream in Belize!