Monday, January 12, 2009

Happy New Year

January 3, 2009

We had a pleasant holiday season and hope all our readers did as well.

After Charlotte and Bill left Placencia, the weather turned for the worse and the harbor was filling up with cruisers starting the season.  We decided to stay through the holidays since weather predictions indicated squalls and cool weather until January 1 at the earliest.   The Saturday before Christmas 14 of us were up at Robert's Grove, a 5-star resort for a fabulous buffet.  Luckily that night weather cooperated, we all ate our fill, including unlimited lobster.  Bananas Foster for dessert was also a hit with our group.  The Christmas Potluck was once again held at Tranquillo, the restaurant/bar on Placencia Cay.  The owner let us bring our own food and drink since they were closed that day.  We set up 3 tables of cards and dominos and played games until the witching hour -- 9 pm -- Cruiser's Midnight.

On Monday, December 29 we got up very early to take a 7:30 a.m. ferry up to Mango Creek and from there took a bus to Dangriga to get an extension for our visas and boat.  The immigration officer had no trouble granting visa extensions but said we'd have to return to Big Creek, up a river from Placencia, to get a boat extension from Customs.  A long bus ride back, a cab ride to Big Creek and another ferry from Mango Creek back to Placencia and by 3:30 p.m. we were finally finished.  A bonus was finding a market in Dangriga that carried some nice edibles not available in Placencia.

The week between Christmas and New Years found us playing games with other cruisers, doing boat chores, shopping for provisions to last us for at least 10 days since we planned to take off on January 1 or 2.  On December 30, a power boat bumped into our port hull and caused some damage -- cracks in the hull and loosened any eye which we use to hold part of our anchor lines.   The people on the power boat were towed to the dock and we never saw them again.   We reported it to the local police, two officers came to the boat and then went to get an "expert in fiberglass" to come and assess damage and estimate repair cost.  A short time later an officer and the expert returned and shoved $50 in Roy's hand and said, "take this."   No further follow up was made that day or over the weekend.  Needless to say that $50 won't even cover the cost of materials let alone labor, but we thought -- what the heck -- we were flying a U.S. flag, the boat that hit us flew a Guatemala flag and the collision occurred in Belize -- did we have any chance of ever collecting just compensation?  We figured we'd have to chalk it up to experience.

New Years eve several of us dinghied over to one of the big cats in the harbor, hosted by Barb and Torrey, everyone brought snacks and drinks, and at 6 p.m. it was midnight in Greenwich so we toasted the New Year.  As usual, the party ended by Cruiser's Midnight, 9 pm.

Next, we wanted to scoot out of Placencia and find some nice places to snorkel.  Our departure was delayed until Friday, January 2 because of weather and wanting to do some repairs.   Roy filled the cracks with epoxy and we're now using a nearby cleat for the anchor line.  We were a few hours out of Placencia when we received a hail on Channel 16, the emergency radio channel.  Another cruising boat, Tisha Baby, hailed us and said that a police officer came looking for us and wanted to speak to us.  Turns out he asked us to return to Placencia to complete some legal papers for the Port Authority re: the collision, which we did.  While at the dock we heard that the people on the power boat were missing.  Today we heard from friends in Placencia that the power boat has been seized by the Belize authorities

Finally around 1 pm yesterday we left Placencia for the second time and motored, then sailed, to a lovely spot, North Long Cocoa Cay.  This noon we dinghied to shore and were invited to go ashore even though the island is privately owned by Sittee River Wildlife Association.  We declined because the bugs were out in full force, however we snorkeled off the bar at the tip of the island and saw gorgeous coral of many colors and shapes and a few tropical fish.  While in the dinghy we passed over numerous huge dark red starfish.  This afternoon we got in the dinghy again to go to the other side of the cay -- it's very beautiful.

We are anchored in about 5.5 feet of water and our dinghy ride got us within 3 feet of bottom.  We could see everything on the bottom from the dinghy -- the water is crystal clear -- this is why Belize is so high on cruisers' lists.

January 4, 2009

Last evening we had a nice dinner of BBQ chicken, ratatouille, and fresh baked bread.  Afterwards, Roy said, "shall we have Bananas Foster for dessert -- and with that he got up, gathered the banana, butter,rum, cinammon vanilla ice cream and made a scrumptious dessert.  To top off the evening we played Scrabble -- Roy won.

This morning we tuned in NPR on our single sideband radio but at 8 a.m. switched to the local cruisers' net.  It's another beautiful day here at North Long Cocoa Cay; we decided to stay here one more day before continuing to explore the cays in this area.

January 9, 2009

We left North Long Cocoa Cay on January 5 and meandered through several small cays, following a route in our guidebook, and arrived at South Water Cay, right at a cut in the barrier reef.  Two other boats were on mooring balls, Blue and Barracha, we set our anchor in about 6 feet of water.   The cay is home to a zoological research institute and also has a resort with nice cabins peppered throughout the south end.  The following noon, January 6, three more cruising boats arrived and several of us dinghied to shore to walk around the south end of the cay -- very beautiful.

Early in the morning on January 7, we, along with two other cruising boats, Sanderling and Tempest, departed South Water Cay to sail out to Lighthouse Reef, one of the most famous and interesting atolls in the world.  It is home to the Blue Hole.  We've wanted to see Lighthouse Reef ever since we first arrived in Belize in 2007.  We had a light wind forecast so we expected to motor most if not all of the day -- that wasn't a problem, however the swell coming right at us from the east was pretty rough.  All three boats were bumping along for several hours.  As we approached the reef, it was scary since the reef is submerged and not visible until you're right on top of it.  Luckily many cruisers  have plotted the courses into the several cuts in the reef, which we followed to a T.  We anchored on the west side of Long Cay inside the reef, Marlene made a focaccia, invited everyone from the other two cruising boats to come and share -- and had a happy hour on Damiana that evening to share out stories of our "swell" passage.

Yesterday, January 8, we dinghied all around the south end of Long Cay, looking for good places to snorkel.  Finding none, we scooted over toward one of the diving mooring balls.  The sky was somewhat  hazy so visibility wasn't perfect, however Roy was able to swoop down and see some coral and small fish.  Marlene, a surface snorkeler, snorkeled afloat for a short time.

Last evening we had Bob, Annette and Stephanie from Tempest come over for snacks and a rousing game of Chicken Feet (a fun dominoes game), a great way to spend our last evening at Lighthouse.  Last for this visit -- we'll definitely come back -- it's gorgeous!

We weighed anchor at 7:45 this morning and are on our path to return to South Water Cay or beyond for the night, planning to return to Placencia tomorrow.

We motor-sailed all day, not enough wind to give us enough speed to reach South Water Cay by nightfall.  The swell was much calmer than on Wednesday.  We reached the South Water Cay area by 3 pm so decided to try anchoring in Twin Cays, where its reported manatees live.  Alas, we couldn't get good holding for our anchor, and much of the anchorage has silted in since the guide book was written, so we backtracked to South Water Cay for the night.

January 10

After a brisk sail from South Water Cay, we arrived in Placencia harbor around 12:30.   Wind was in teh 10-15 kt range and under jib alone our speed was between 6.5 and 8 kts.  Again, we had "swelly" seas, but since we were behind the reef, it was quite a bit more calm than out in the ocean.

We're here for a few days to provision and pick up Tammy and Holly who will spend the next several days exploring the cays with us.