Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Belize, December 2008

As planned, we departed Monkey Bay Marina in the Rio Dulce, Guatemala on Saturday, November 29, 2008. After checking out of the country around noon, we started the watermaker -- yea, it started working so we flushed it with sea water -- and then proceeded up to Moho Caye in Belize for the night. At 6:30 a.m. the following morning, we were swarmed with bugs so made a hasty retreat and made coffee and tea underway. We arrived in Placencia about 4:30 p.m. Sunday. We had repeatedly flushed the watermaker, so we finally started to make water and fill our tank after changing the filters.

On Monday, December 1, Marlene took the Hokey Pokey Ferry up to Independence to check both the boat and us into Belize. Yet another small world experience: shared a taxi with a young man, Slater Clay (Xenos) who left San Francisco with his partner, Julie, a year after we did, socialized with many of our cruising friends on the Pacific side before transiting the Canal, and just happens to be a Vermonter with a grandmother who lives a few miles away from Roy's mother's house in Dorset.

The next day we shopped for groceries and once again Marlene tried her hand at making focaccia, Bologne-style. It worked quite well, finally, after 2 earlier tries. We invited the couple from Xenos and another couple from Blue, John and Angie, to come and join us for Rum Punch and, of course, focaccia.

We left Placencia early afternoon, December 3, to start our trek north to Belize City. After spending a quiet night in Sapodilla Lagoon we sailed up to Robinson Caye. After spending a squally night we motored over to Belize City to see if we could anchor safely so we could shop for the next two weeks. We tried 2-3 times but couldn't get good holding so we sailed back to Robinson Caye for the night. The next morning, December 6, we sailed over to Cucumber Beach Marina so we'd be at a dock when Roy's 87-year old mother, Charlotte, and brother, Bill, arrived later that day. We hired a cab driver to take us to several stores and also to the "City Market" which is where fresh produce is sold in stalls, tents, and on tarps on the street, close to the bus terminal.

Finally on December 7, we got underway to officially start our cruising season. An easy sail to Caye Caulker, a walk through the town, an overnight in the anchorage and then sail north to Ambergris Caye on December 8. A few more stops for provisions, a brief stop at the French Bakery, cold drinks and a lobster dinner at a beachside restaurant topped off the day. We raised sail in the morning (December 9), weighed anchor, and sailed to St. George Caye. We spent the night at anchor and waited until morning to go ashore. We arrived during off season so the famous hotel was closed. Nonetheless we walked the length of the Caye (December 10) and were delighted with our visit to the Aquarium at the north end of the Caye run by a family and houses about 30 or so tanks with fish and turtles from local waters. Cali, their 7-year old son and docent, picture above, did a remarkable job, telling us all about the fish and animals. During our second night at anchor at St. George's, a front rushed in at 1:00 a.m. first with a huge downpour and then howling winds, gusting to 30-35 kts all night. Our anchor dragged and dragged some more -- so that by first light (December 11) we realized we were in mud, so we revved the motors, weighed anchor and took off! With jib alone we sailed south for 9 hours in winds averaging 20-25, gusting to 30 kts, choppy seas, but took refuge in Sapodilla Lagoon around 3 p.m., just as the winds were abating -- and had a restful night.

On December 12, we sailed down to Placencia and spent the next several nights at anchor. We took several walks along the sidewalk and the road, shopped for provisions, ate a few restaurant meals, and Charlotte and Bill were able to find some nice souvenirs to take home. Bill spent a full day scuba diving out at a few of the reef cayes.

Another morning we took Damiana out in light winds to try out our new spinnaker and it worked superbly -- went up effortlessly and billowed out with only a few kts of wind. Bill thought we were traveling too slowly so he dove in and attached the bridle around his waist and started swimming. He thinks he moved the boat a smidgeon, but really, it was the current!

We had a nice time with Charlotte and Bill -- we were most impressed with how Charlotte got around as easily as she did. And, as usual, Bill was always ready to help out in any way. They left at 9:00 a.m. yesterday. We spent the afternoon doing laundry and had a quiet evening of reading before turning in at 11 p.m. All in all, in spite of stormy seas and many days with cloudy skies, we had a great week. The other two photos up top are of Charlotte sitting at the bow of Damiana and Bill trying to tow Damiana by hooking the bridle around his waist!