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March 23, 2011
Dear Friends and Family,
It is been a week so get a cup of coffee or a sundowner (depending on the time of day you read this) and relax. I have a weeks worth of news to catch you up on.
I am not sure Craig corrected the date of my last log a full week ago but I just realized that I had written away a week of time as last week I dated the log March 23. Today really is March 23 and by coincidence, we are making the same passage today that we did 4 years ago on our last visit to Belize and it is going pretty much the same.
We have been in Cay Caulker for almost the whole week but today we are moving from that island just south of San Pedro where we entered Belize down to the main ship channel through the reef. We will anchor near there for the night but plan on going to the reef to do some snorkeling tomorrow. After that, Chat-Eau, who is following us down, will head back to Cay Caulker to be in place to pick up their son who arrives on Saturday for a week.
We will head out to check out the atolls and return Saturday, 10 days from now when Rob’s brother Kevin arrives for 6 days. We hope to check out the places this week to see what they are like take him when he comes. He is interested more in the boating/water part than any mainland trips.
The noteworthy part of this passage is Porto Stuck. It earns that name as it is a channel between the tip of two islands and it gets quite shallow on either side. We had no problem as we could see the markers and pretty much tell where it was shallow but deep draft boats at low tide have concern. We always had at least 3 feet under our keel.
The other interesting part about this area where we will anchor tonight is that we can see the large cruise ships anchored off shore. Where we will anchor is near the channel they will use to leave this evening and arrive early tomorrow morning. There are 4 of them today.
We are currently sailing and aside from one time at the start, the auto pilot is holding. We are making in the high 7 knot range of speed and the water is quite calm inside the reef. This is the type of sailing one really enjoys in this area! We had thought to have either Steve and Nancy’s son or Kevin bring in a new part for the auto pilot but concerns of duty charges made us think we will just sail by hand if needed and bring one back ourselves next year. So far it looks like we will have the auto pilot most of the time anyway and we don’t plan on any more long passages on our boat before we leave it on the hard.
Let me fill you in on the last week with Paul and Bernice. As usually happens with their visits, we have done less than originally hoped for. We enjoyed spending time ashore on Cay Caulker. It is a smaller place than San Pedro. You can walk down the streets and not worry too much about traffic as the gulf carts and bikes will be patient with you if they are coming up behind. Trouble with those forms of transport is that they are very quiet so you don’t always know they are waiting behind you.
One of our first jobs was to take laundry ashore as it had been weeks since ours was done in Isla Mujeres. Paul did his crew job and carried two bags of laundry and his computer in to town. Rob had dropped us off and wanted to do some things first on the boat. When Rob came to meet us he said he couldn’t find his wallet. We went to the laundry to see if they had found it or if it had gone through the wash. They didn’t have it. Now of course one might think they had found it and didn’t tell us but when we got back to the boat later, Rob’s wallet and the keys I had been looking for were right where they should be in easy sight. Bernice had said a prayer and it certainly paid off. The next day we went in to tell the owner of the laundry that we found the wallet. She was so grateful that we told her as she had been praying an even lost sleep over it. It made her question her worker’s honesty but she had known her for years and could never think she might steal. We were sorry that we had upset her but thankful that we had let her know. People here openly discuss and practice their faith and it seems to be common and strong. Even the Rasta men will quote scripture, though they seem to like old testament best with the fire and brimstone and judgment and punishment.
The island center is full of all kinds and quality of resorts, most quite small, and restaurants, bars, travel operations, grocery stores and open markets.
There are youth hostels as well and good thing because we are seeing a lot of young people on spring break here. There is really no beach to swim from so docks are used for sunning and relaxing in some cases. Some houses are here as well but they are more located out of the center of things. Three ferry companies service this area so you can get a ride on one of them almost every 1/2 hour from about 6:3 a.m. to final arrival back to the island about 7 p.m.
You can take a ferry back to San Pedro or to Belize City. Paul and Bernice took a ferry back to Belize City yesterday. It takes about 45 minutes. This particular one arrived from San Pedro with a family on board.
You could tell how restful a passage it was as you could see both of their children napping, one in his Mother’s arms and one resting quite nicely on a life jacket.
As Paul and Bernice left, they could take one last pass by Catalyst and Chat-Eau as this ferry leaves from the side of the island on which we were anchored. Paul and Bernice were flying standby with Paul’s retired pilots pass but unfortunately, they filled with paying customers so they had to spend the night in Belize City where they had a long hot shower and went out to dinner and slept in a bed that didn’t splash! Hopefully, with about 3 options for flights, they will make one of them. Paul thought it looked good but it will be a long day for them.
We never did do any more snorkeling. Bernice was reluctant and it was rougher even on this side of the reef due to some very strong winds. The water was a bit brisk yet as well. We did some money infusion of the economy with both Bernice and I doing some shopping. I got a couple of necklaces and an art print and frame and Bernice got a beaded evening purse and a wooden bowl. The types of wood they have here are very strong and durable and water proof. The color of the grain and variation in color from very light to very dark in the same wood makes every piece a unique design.
Bernice picked one out and is quite a good price negotiator. She had her picture taken with the carver who helped sand out an imperfection in the bowl she chose. Besides the bowls, there are many kinds of carvings of toucans, sharks, manatees, scuba divers, abstract art, you name it. It is tempting but not necessarily inexpensive which is probably a good thing or I would be buying a lot!
We had a few meals in town. Bernice tried Conch (pronounced conk) for the first time. This is the animal that lives in those large flared edge shells with the pink interior. The shells are sometimes used as horns to hail the sunset which we did more than once on this cruise with our own conch horn. The animal inside requires a lot of processing to be tender enough to chew. This conch was OK but I have had better. In general, restaurant food in Belize is not as good as many other places in the Caribbean. Maybe that is due to their English colonial influence. We have done a lot of going out to lunch though and while I think I am a better cook, it is a fun thing to do.
We had thought to do some main land travel but in the end, thought it was more difficult to do what we wanted to do than it was worth so we just stayed in town.
Rob put out the hammock which was a hit with both Bernice and Paul. We really needed two of them!
We had a few social events. The first was dinner on Chat-Eau who followed us to Cay Caulker a day later. Nancy and I had arranged ahead of time for me to be her hairdresser while on this cruise. She had gotten the correct ingredients ahead of time with detailed instructions for coloring her hair. We had been meaning to do it but Nancy wanted to do it someplace off the boat to be sure no hair color would stain the interior of the boat. I told her I do it to myself all the time on the boat so, baring any other reasonable option, Nancy prepared a space covered with plastic for me to do my work. The results turned out beautifully so I think Nancy has more confidence in my ability to keep her looking the stunning red head that she is. While waiting on timing of the color, I cut Steve’s hair for him. He likes it short so a razor cut was quick and easy. I started it but actually Bernice took it in hand to finish. She still has her licence as a hairdresser though no longer practices the art. I think I will be fine the next time on my own and now need to get after cutting Rob’s again. The pictures of this event in the log show our Punta Gorda cruising club burgee as we took it for our club’s web page. Nancy served a wonderful feast as a thank you to the 4 of us.
We also had Sunshine and Chat-Eau over on Sunday morning for fresh baked cinnamon rolls before P and B and Rob and I went in for Sunday mass. It was a small church and probably the most interesting thing is that aside from the obvious visitors, there were no local men in the church at all. It was the children’s mass so lots of them. It is attached to a Catholic school. The priest was filling in from Belize City since the regular priest was in the States dealing with family situations. The mass started out with the priest coming to new people and finding out where they are from. In a very small church you can easily do that sort of thing and it has happened to us most of the places we have been in the Caribbean.
We also had a farewell dinner for P and B for 8 of us on Monday night. We can seat 8 but it does fill up the table! Sunshine chose to stay at Cay Caulker until Scott Johnson (S and N’s son) arrives on Saturday as he is bringing in a new hand held radio for them. He is also bringing in some computer chips for us and some line for Steve. So far, Kevin is only bringing his own stuff but we have 10 days to come up with something for him to carry! We said good-bye to Sunshine this morning as they will then head to Guatemala. They want to have the boat taken care of and leave by the end of April. They will come back and explore Belize next year more thoroughly.
We went ashore looking for permission to use a particular resorts internet but the owner was not there. Leaving the resort was a family of three that had just checked in and were heading back to town. We visited with them about their travels inland and plans for their 3 days in Cay Caulker. They were interesting and were very interested in our boating life. We invited them for cocktails that night and luckily, he provided us with the code for the internet. It was one of the strongest on the island so we were happy to have that access off the boat. We had been trying to skype but no luck. We found out later that it is blocked in Belize so that you are required to use their phone lines at $1 per minute to the U.S. If you go to the internet places, you can pay about $1.50 for 15 minutes and they have a way of unblocking the block so you can skype from there but it is not at all private. Steve has purchased an unlocked phone with a sim card and minutes so you can talk for 30 cents a minute. I don’t think we will buy one as we seem to get along without and we know from past experience that if you have a phone on board, that can get expensive! E-mail will work fine for now.
I will try not to go as long again as the logs really get long but will probably not be able to send pictures for over a week. We are sending our position report update so you will be able to follow our course and know when we are moving on.
We have heard from a few people but get little feed back or info on your lives. Just remember that if you send us an e-mail on this sight, remove our message before you send us yours.
Especially with this one, it would take forever to receive!
Sue and Rob
On the road again!