Emerald Seas Adventures

31 March 2016
21 January 2016 | Tortugal Marina, Rio Dulce, Guatemala
02 March 2014
26 December 2013
31 May 2013
20 April 2013
22 February 2013 | Marathon, Florida
15 June 2012
02 February 2012 | Marathon, Florida
01 June 2011 | Cayos de Lena, Cabo San Antonio, Cuba
28 May 2011 | Cayos de Lena, Cabo San Antonio, Cuba
28 May 2011 | Bahia de Corrientes, 30 Miles East of Cabo San Antonio, Cuba


31 March 2016
Valentine’s Day in Placencia, Belize
Today is wet, windy and miserable but even so, things are great here at Placencia. This morning we made coffee and tea and headed over to Expectations, a large catamaran owned by our friend, David. We were part of the privileged few invited over for his homemade cinnamon buns.

Our trip across the Rio Dulce Bar, Guatemala turned out to be a tense and worrisome trip. We crossed the bar easily and watched Scott Free get towed across the bar because their draft is over 6 feet. They are used to the experience and it was interesting to watch as the launcha took hold of the mast halyard, hauled them over and dragged them across.

Not long after we got underway for Belize, we heard that a fellow cruiser was having difficulties. One of their members had injured her ribs when they encountered some wave action and as they continued on, they discovered that they were taking on water. Rather than return to Livingston immediately, they opted to continue onwards.

Later that day, we arrived at New Haven, happy to be anchored for the night and looking forward to getting to Placencia the next morning. Just before dark, the other boat called and advised us they were hard aground. They wanted us to go to their help, but that would put us all hard aground. It was too late in the day for dinghies as night was falling. Scott Free encouraged them to use a kedge anchor and we advised them that the tide was rising. They got over their panic, and a few hours later called to let us know they were floating free and were not taking on water.

Next morning as we checked our engine, we discovered that we were losing fresh water. We could not see where it was coming from but it was going somewhere. We told our friends of the situation and headed off. About that time we got another call from the “other” boat. They did not know how to get out of the mangroves and wanted us to come help. Scott got their position and gave them the compass headings so they could get out (not difficult at all!). They managed to get back on track for Placencia and we were on our way. Minutes later comes the report that they were taking water but the pump was keeping up with the situation.

Scott Free turned back to assess the problem just in case and we continued on because of our own engine worries. Next comes the call that they are sinking. We headed back towards them in case we were needed. Luckily, a coast guard boat came on the scene and we were able to turn around again and continue to Placencia.

Cruisers help cruisers all the time and that is what makes cruising special. However, there is an unspoken understanding that each cruiser makes certain their boat is sea worthy and that they have a good knowledge of navigation and weather. Even with a seaworthy boat and experienced crew, things can and do go wrong, and cruisers will help when they can because they know their turn can come up too. But to be so unprepared, so unseaworthy and so lacking in basic navigational skills put other cruisers lives and property into jeopardy.

Late that night, the “boat” arrived in Placencia, under tow. Jim went over the next day and fixed their bilge pump. Other cruisers have been put to work helping them get sorted. Eventually they went to a shipyard and got some work done. Hopefully they will learn from the experience and their future sailing will be a little less exciting from a sinking, grounding and getting lost perspective.

March 31, 2016 Cay Caulker
What else have we been up to?

Aside from my procrastination at writing this blog, we have been having a fantastic time with all our cruising buddies. We have been up and down the islands a couple of times, visiting Pelican Cays, Blueground Range, Sapodilla Lagoon, Gladden Cay and Turnoff Islands. The sailing has been fabulous!

Currently we are enjoying Cay Caulker. Its a funky place with lots of eateries and some great walking. We were here for the Easter holidays and the place was busy with Belizeans from all over. The music was loud and carried on till 3:00 AM. The dancing was outrageous but fun to watch. It reminded us of being at the Grenada Carnival with all the dancing in the streets and following behind the semi-trucks loaded with huge speakers.

Weather this year has been poor. Lots of northers followed by more northers without the usual few good days in between. As a result, very few boats have managed to make their way to Roatan and Utilla. Jim and I are very disappointed that we could not get there because its our favourite diving location. There is no taking of marine life in Roatan and that means lots of friendly, big fish to photograph. Here is Belize, everything gets taken. There are hundreds of fishing boats and they scour every square inch of these waters collecting anything that is edible.

We have done a lot more snorkelling this year and have found some great spots by Pelican Cays, Lagoon Cays and Gladden Cay. On our trip to Turneffe, we managed to get a few scuba dives in. They were enjoyable, especially the more north we went on the west coast. A slight southerly flowing current keeps the reefs clean. The snorkelling is excellent too! In the mornings we would take Emerald Seas out towards the reef, anchor and then take the dinghy off for a dive. Later in the afternoons, the wind would pick up and we would motor back to our anchorage.

While at Turneffe, we had a scare! After enjoying dinner with our friends, Dave and Ellen, on Cordelia, we went back to Emerald Seas. As we were hoisting our dinghy out of the water, Jim said he could hear an engine and that it was quite close! Just then we see the launcha and it is right beside us. Our night vision was impacted by our stern lights. I ran below and advised our friends on Cordelia of the situation. Security issues exist in Belize and there have been robberies and assaults on cruisers. Our friends set off their alarms to let the “visitors” know that they were aware of the situation.

It turned out that they were honest fishermen and out of gas. Jim gave them a few gallons and they gave us a nice fish. It took Jim and I awhile to calm down from the scare. Before we went to bed that night, we made sure we knew where our spotlight, pepper spray and horns were. We always lock ourselves in at night and set our alarms.

Today I am doing boat chores while Jim is off diving at Turneffe Reef with Belize Divers. It gives Jim a chance to find the good sites and check out the water conditions between here and Turneffe. We plan to head over there sometime in the next few days. Part of the upcoming plan includes trying a shortcut through Turneffe. The water is not deep but we have lots of waypoints. If we do manage to cross over, it becomes a shortcut to Lighthouse Reef. We would like to try it. I talked to Patrick of Southern Mist this morning. He did the cut a week ago and said he would not do it again because he was bouncing on sand and coral as he left Blackbird Cay…….it was blowing 20 knots so it was pretty rough. Dave from Odyssea advised us when he gave their waypoints that you should never go out that cut if it was rough. Odyssea is a large power boat that draws over 5 feet and he uses the cut. We shall see….


21 January 2016 | Tortugal Marina, Rio Dulce, Guatemala
Things are warm and beautiful here on the Rio Dulce.

We have been very busy since we arrived! Many of our cruising friends are here so we have been active socially, especially at happy hour when you can buy a cerveza for $1 or a glass of vino tinto (red wine) for $2. Eating is pretty expensive too! A very nice dinner costs about $5.

Aboard Emerald Seas, things are starting to look shipshape and I have found a home for all the stuff we brought in 6 suitcases. Jim has been busy installing the new navigation lights and getting our dinghy up and running.

Only major setback is our engine. It is broken and needs a new exhaust valve and some gaskets. This would not be a big deal in Canada but here in Guatemala we have to order from the US and have them flown in special delivery. They say we should have the parts in a week but we will believe that when we see them. Situations like this are a great excuse to eat jelly beans, best ever cure for stress.

In the meantime, there are cruising events held every night at the different marinas. We can do movie nights on Wednesday and Friday, Trivia on Thursday, women’s book club on Saturday mornings and lots of hikes. No arobics here and we haven’t done a single sit up or plank since our last class with Martha. Here we can sweat the pounds off naturally.

That's it for now. We are loving it here with all our Guatemalan and cruising friends. Life is good!


30 April 2015
Maybe today is the day that I will attempt to play catch up with our cruising blog! Jim is out diving with Fantasy Divers but I chickened out and stayed aboard Emerald Seas. Its quite windy and the seas look too rough for this fair weather diver! The dive boats are excellent and great in rough seas but its a bit scarey entering and exiting the dive when the boat is bouncing up and down in the big seas while the wind blows 20 knots plus. It looks like we will be stuck here at French Cay Harbour for another five days until the winds slacken off.

Our friends, Scott and Heather, of Scott Free, who we have spent a lot of time travelling together with this season, are on their way back to Belize before the winds pick up to the 30 knot plus range. This was a quick decision for them and we hope all goes well for their overnight voyage to Belize. Unfortunately, we just found out about another pirate attack off the coast of Honduras in late March. This is the second attack of the year and both are in the same area. The president of Honduras met with the victims of the second attack and the country paid their flights out of Honduras. Hopefully this meeting will lead to some security forces patrolling the coast of Honduras. When Jim and I head back to the Rio Dulce around about the 2nd week in May, we hope to travel with a couple of buddy boats for added safety. Scott and Heather decided to head north of Honduras and go to Belize before heading back down to Guatemala and be further away from the location of the pirates.

Jim and I both love to dive and we certainly got lots of diving this year. We have seen lots of moray eels, a few seahorses,two frogfish, turtles, groupers, huge snappers and a gigantic Goliath grouper. We have lots of pictures to share with any willing victims who want to see them.

Highlights of this season:


When we left Canada in January we were both coming down with what we hoped was a cold. By the time we got to Guatemala we were both sick with a horrid bronchitis. Our beautiful, luxurious hotel room in Guatemala City was nothing more than a hospital bed for the two nights we were there. No romantic dinners or shopping at Walmart for us this time.

By the time we got to the Rio Dulce, we were even sicker! We had a room booked at Tortugal Marina because our interior teak was being sanded and varnished. The room was very basic and made of bamboo walls and a thatched roof. There were screens for windows. It was very damp and dark but did have a nice bathroom.

One of the interesting features of this room were the HUGE cockroaches! My goodness, they looked like monsters. Some of them were 4 inches long. I discovered that they love red wine when I reached over for my wine glass one evening. It was crawling on the goblet and heading for the wine. Fortunately for all the guests at Tortugal, I had laryngitis and could only croak in terror. Jim thought it pretty funny until a few days later when he got to enjoy the same experience.

We put cockroach traps around and got very good at killing them. We left the bathroom light on all night long because they like to come out in the dark and this would hopefully prevent them from visiting Jim’s toiletry bag like the first night. Big surprise as you reach in for your toothbrush.

Our flu/cold/bronchitus was not going away and our friends at the marina were avoiding us like the plague. Who could blame them? We sounded awful, coughing, hacking up gross things. We looked worse, red noses and I got an eye infection. Finally we decided to go to the doctor. Jim volunteered to be the sickest and I went along for company.

The doctor gave Jim a thorough exam and prescribed antibiotics for him and some expectorant cough medicine and another expertorant drink. He looked over at me, took pity and doubled the prescription. The drugs helped and improvement came quickly afterwards. Moving back aboard Emerald Seas helped a lot too! No cockroaches and a beautiful and bright living space to enjoy versus the dark, damp “hotel” room.

Once back aboard, we got our suitcases unpacked. This we did on the dock so that we could shake out any cockroaches that might have crawled into our luggage. None were found but I put new cockroach traps everywhere I could think of on Emerald Seas just in case!

Jim installed our new refrigeration system and I organized our food supplies and began stocking up on essentials we were low on. Emerald Seas got hauled out of the water for new bottom paint at Ram Marine. Once that was completed, we fueled and watered up before heading back to Tortugal Marina for our last night with cruising friends.

The next morning we headed down the Rio Dulce. We were on our way at last!


Our time in Belize was very short this year but we did visit some of our favourite spots. The Belizean waters are very shallow and there are coral heads and shoals to watch out for. Last year we travelled to some very tricky areas and were able to record GPS tracks through some intricate passages. We were very glad of these tracks because it would make travelling back to some of these beautiful places a lot less stressful than the first time.

However, as many of you know, Jim likes to play with toys. Concerned that our boat speed did not match our GPS boat speed 100%, Jim finds some vague instructions in the manual on how to reset it. I begged him not to do it but when I wasn’t watching, he did it anyway. Being in a hurry, because he did not want me to catch him, he did not read all the messages that came up on our GPS screen and consequently he deleted ALL OF OUR TRACKS. Our history was GONE! Desperately, Jim tried to recover them but no luck. And then he had to confess what he had done…….

Since that awful day, we make certain that our secondary GPS, my iPhone and Jim’s iPad are all making “tracks” so that if we lose one, we still have another.

Snakes were the subject of many conversations this year!

The first snake event was at Tortugal Marina when a power boat, loaded with a large family came over for lunch. They discovered a Fleur de Lance in their boat when they were leaving. It was large and they are very poisonous. Luckily no one was killed. Unfortunately, they released it at Tortugal and no one knew where it might be…..

The next two events took place in Placencia, Belize. One involved a boat right beside us called the Rendezvous, with Peter and Mary aboard. Mary loves to swim and one day while swimming, Peter noticed a large snake swimming towards her. She got out of the water and the snake tried to come up the anchor line. They knocked it off and it swam to the back of the boat and tried to come up the ladder. Their description matched that of a venomous snake found in the Belizean mangroves.

A few weeks later, cruising friends from Toucan were ashore for dinner. When they returned to their boat that night, their daughter reached over to tie the dinghy line around the cleat. As she was about to loop the rope, she noticed that a snake was curled around the cleat in nice figure of eight pattern, replicating another rope that was on the same cleat. It opened its jaws and was about to strike her but she got out of the way.

I can only imagine the excitement as they boarded their boat and avoided the snake at the same time. Using a boat hook, they managed to fling it into the sea but the snake swam right back to their boat and headed to the anchor chain and tried to climb up. They knocked it away again and kept an eye on it as it swam downwind and towards another boat.

Snakes, snakes, snakes. The thought occupied too much of my mind and too much of the minds of all our cruising friends. When it was time for a swim, I would check all around the boat for snakes. Tying up our dinghy, first I make sure there are no snakes. Poking around dark cupboards in Emerald Seas, get a flashlight and make sure there are no snakes. Keep screens on and snakes and mosquitoes out!


Scott Free, Eiland and ourselves enjoyed a very nice crossing from Southwater Cay to Utila. Calm seas and lots of sargassum seaweed were the highlight of that trip. At one point during the night, the seaweed was as far as you could see in every direction.

It was great to be back in Utila. This island is very funky and there are hundreds of young people from all over the world, mostly the backpacking type, learning to dive or becoming dive masters or instructors. Being pretty cool ourselves, we fit right in!

We rented a golfcart with Scott Free so that we could explore Utila. The steering seemed a bit loose when we started so we returned to the rental shop to have them check it out. They said there was no problem and off we went. One place we wanted to visit was called Pumpkin Hill. We turned onto the rough, dirt road that leads up to the top of Pumpkin Hill. A few bumps later, there was a loud crack. “Must be a stick” yells Jim. Next thing the golf cart steering became totally unresponsive and the left front wheel and the steering mechanism fell off. We lurched to a stop.

A few minutes were spent trying to make the wheel stand up and maybe attach it and the steering back to the car. However we had no welding torch. We were only about 500 feet from the paved road so we thought it might look a bit better if we could somehow push the broken golf cart to the pavement. It was tough going but we managed to push it quite a way down the dirt road. Fortunately, a truck turned off the road with the intention of going up Pumpkin Hill. Since we completely blocked the dirt road, they offered to help push us back to the main road. After they helped us, they only managed a few hundred feet further up that dirt road before they broke down too.

Back on the mainroad, we phoned the golfcart company for help. As we waited every car that passed us by stopped to look at the broken front wheel and offer help. One man who stopped owned the Utila Public TV company. This guy got his camera and interviewed us for the night news while we waited for the rental company to arrive with another golfcart. We climbed back in and resumed our island adventure but Pumpkin Hill was no longer on the itinerary. We returned the cart later that day with all wheels intact.


And so it goes. Lots of diving, lots of great times with cruising friends sharing stories, meals, sundowners and adventures. We did not do all the exploring that we had thought we would do at the beginning of this years cruising season but all that means is we can do it next cruising season or maybe the one after that!

We are anchored back at Utila and hunkered down a bit because of a Northerly with lots of squalls in the forecast. Once that passes we will wait for the seas to diminish and for drier weather before we head back to the Rio Dulce of Guatemala. Tortugal Marina here we come!


24 May 2014
Some of our cruising buddies had abandoned us. Free Will headed to Guatemala and Scott Free took advantage of a short weather window and sailed to Utila. Jim and I were having so much fun in Belize that we decided to stay for a couple more weeks. We anchored in Sapodilla Lagoon to avoid some nasty weather, with the idea of sailing to Dangriga to check out of Belize when the squally weather passed. This plan failed miserably as the winds stayed out of the North, which meant that the trip to Dangriga would be straight into the wind and seas. Instead we had a brisk sail to Blue Ground Range, one of our favourite anchorages.

In the morning we chatted with our friends, Woody and Judy, from Lapis. They suggested we meet them over at Tobacco Cay and travel with them to the Turneef Islands. This sounded like a plan and Woody promised to guide us over and around the shallow spots between Tobacco Cay and Glory Cut. Part way through the trip Woody spotted a suspicious package floating in the water. It was a bundle of drugs and supposedly worth a huge amount of money. Some say finding a bundle is like winning a lottery but if the drug cartels ever found out that you took the drugs and sold them they would use their favoured form of retaliation and kill you. If the police found that you were selling the stuff, they would throw you in jail for a very long time. Woody made the decision to leave the stuff alone. Jim thinks that Woody is a big chicken.

After clearing Glory Cut, we enjoyed a great sail to Turneef Islands and then followed Lapis into Blue Creek which has a shallow spot of 5 feet at the entrance. We had no problems in the creek which opened up to a large lagoon. Woody and Judy led us all the way into the lagoon and to an area which has good holding. We would not have tried entering Blue Creek without Woody to encourage us!

While at Turneef, Jim and I took Emerald Seas back to Blue Creek and anchored on the west side of Turneef. We gathered up our dive gear and underwater cameras and dinghied over to one of the moorings nearby. We enjoyed a great dive and ventured out the next day for another. After spending a few days with Lapis it was time for Jim and I to leave. The trip was rougher than we expected but Emerald Seas sailed beautifully all the way to Sapodilla Lagoon. Here we persuaded our friends from Stoneage, John and Lucy, to drive us to Dangriga so we could check out. They were happy to do so, making it possible for us to leave for Utila the following day.

In the morning of Tuesday, March 18th, we motored to Southwater Cay and spent the afternoon relaxing and getting ready for our overnight trip to Utila. We headed out at 4:15 PM for an overnight motorsail. Sea conditions were benign and the moonlight made for a pleasant trip. As we rounded the north and east side of Utila, we saw dozens of dive boats heading out for the first dive of the day. Utila and Roatan are popular diving destinations and both islands have moorings for the use of dive boats. Cruisers such as ourselves were welcome to use them too.

Utila is a funky place with dozens of dive stores and hundreds of young people. These young people are like diving hippies, here for the cheap food, accommodations, pot, inexpensive diving and training. We fit right in!

From the moment we arrived in the Bay Islands our cruising focus switched to a scuba diving focus. We dove almost everyday and took thousands of pictures. We saw seahorses, shipwrecks, groupers, turtles, sponges, barracudas and dozens of divers underwater. We swam through beautiful underwater canyons and crevices in the coral reef. We had a fantastic time! We did about 50 dives and are looking forward to going back for more next year.

We used our dinghy most of the time and got the scuba cylinders filled at Roatan Divers located at West End. They filled our tanks for $5 and we could use their freshwater for rinsing our scuba gear, cameras and ourselves. We dove with our friend, Scott, and he was an amazing spotter. He pointed out a scorpion fish and a yellow seahorse. Since it was difficult to have three divers diving out of just one dinghy, Scott would follow us in his Fold-a-Boat. This worked well while it was calm but we had a near disaster when we went diving on a rough day. Scott and I surfaced after enjoying another wonderful dive and I got into our dinghy. Scott tried to get into his boat but things went wrong and a combination of waves, boat wake and Scott trying to get in his boat created a situation where the boat filled with water and was in danger of sinking. The engine was partly submerged. Frantic bailing was not helping. Luckily a dive boat came to the rescue and towed Scott's boat to the dive shop.

The West End of Roatan offers a protected anchorage for cruisers as long as it does not blow from the West or the North. While there, the Marine Park officials were putting back the mooring balls that had been taken away a couple of years previously because of a dispute between Anthony's Cay Resort (the owner was the mayor at that time) and the marine park. The new mayor is more supportive of sailboats and as a result, they have replaced the mooring balls. Everyday we would see turtles feeding on the turtle grass and sometimes dolphins would be around the boats.

A big norther was heading our way so it was time to leave the West End and go to French Cay Harbour, located on the south side of Roatan. The distance is about 15 miles and should take about three hours. On the morning of Saturday, April 5th, we headed out with Scott Free. As we rounded the SW corner of Roatan, the seas became very rough and the wind was right on the nose. Scott Free was ahead of us and it was awful to see her hobby horsing, knowing that we were going to be in the same situation soon.

We quickly realized that the combination of sea and wind would mean slow going for Emerald Seas. Jim changed our angle to the wind and we were able to motor sail and be more comfortable at the same time. Scott Free's engine is three times bigger than our own and they were able to plow through the seas easily until disaster struck and their engine quit. We were able to sail into Coxen's Hole and anchor so that they could fix the fuel problem. The anchorage was much nicer than we expected and we were able to watch jets flying over us and landing at the airport.

After about two hours, Scott and Heather had changed the fuel filters and it was time to continue our trip to French Cay. Seas were a bit rougher and the wind was blowing briskly, but with only 7 miles to go before our destination, it should be a piece of cake. However, we had not travelled very far before Heather radioed to us, advising that their engine had quit again! We were able to sail into Dixon Cove and anchor near the ferry dock. Nearby was a little marina and they sent a mechanic over to lend a hand. Since it was getting late, we opted to spend the night where we were.

In the morning we headed back to sea again. Winds were in the mid twenties and the seas were worse. We only had 4 miles to go. I was dreading every mile, worried that Scott Free's engine would quit or that our engine would start having fuel problems too. Instead, we had an uneventful but exciting ride to French Cay Harbour, our home for the next few weeks while we await the arrival of my stepson, Sandy and his wife Renei.

While at French Cay Harbour, we stayed at Fantasy Island Resort Marina. Jerry, the marina manager, made us very welcome and there were lots of activities to enjoy. Hamburger night, sundowner night, help yourself bar, monkeys, peacocks, swimming pool, internet and scuba diving. Jim and I checked out the Fantasy Island Dive Shop and signed up to go on their dive charters. Cost was $25/dive and they provided towels, fresh fruit and water. The diving was excellent but we did get a bit tired of looking at all the scuba divers underwater as they clustered, swam, sank and kicked up the bottom. We soon learned to drag our heals and follow as slowly and as far behind as possible.

Provisioning in the Bay Islands was very good. Eldon's Supermarket had just about everything we needed. Beer and wine were inexpensive, especially when compared to the high prices in Belize. We had fresh water delivered by a water truck because the water at the marina was very salty.

Sandy and Renei arrived for their week vacation on April 19th. The very next morning, Sandy and Jim went scuba diving while Renei and I went kayaking. Our kayaking trip started with my kayak sinking and having to drag it ashore. I found a replacement kayak that was a bit more seaworthy and Renei and I explored the bay in front of the hotel and then kayaked towards Emerald Seas. Renei, although a bit nervous, was willing to explore further so we decided to go all the way around Fantasy Island. The clouds were black and nasty looking and before long we were getting drenched by a tropical downpour. We tried to stay dry under the bridge that joins Fantasy Island to Roatan but were unsuccessful. Soaked through but still cheerful, we continued on and completed our circumnavigation.

We totally enjoyed our time with Renei and Sandy. In the mornings, Jim, Sandy and I would go diving while Renei enjoyed some quiet time with her book or ventured out to talk with other tourists. Afternoons were spent exploring Fantasy Island, swimming and visiting the monkeys, peacocks, iguanas and other animals that were on the island. Easter Sunday was a cruiser event at Brooksey Point. A ham dinner with all the trimmings followed by dancing made for a very fun night. Halfway through the week, we sailed in light breezes but flat calm conditions back to West End. We took Sandy on a bunch more dives and enjoyed the restaurants and bars in the area.One of our favourite restaurants featured an all you can eat brunch which included unlimited champagne or mimosas for $15. On our last morning together, we walked along the beach at West Bay and then sat and enjoyed some margaritas before heading back to Emerald Seas for lunch.

We remained in the West End for another two weeks, enjoying more diving and good times with fellow cruisers. Another restaurant at West End had excellent rotisserie chicken and homemade cinnamon buns. Customers would line up to buy them at 4 PM, just as they came out of the oven. It was hard to leave those cinnamon buns behind and set sail for Utila but our cruising season was coming to a close and it was time to move on.

Back in Utila we signed up to go diving with Eldon's Dive Shop. There are two morning dives and the first one is always on the north side of Utila. Between dives, the captain would take us out to sea and try locate whale sharks. No whale sharks were sighted but the diving was great!

All good things come to an end and it was now time to catch the next weather window and sail to Guatemala. There were about seven boats heading in the same direction and we hooked up with De Capo, Leonie and Arn, as a buddy boat. They had not been to Guatemala before so we were able to help them by giving them GPS waypoints and sharing our experiences regarding checking into Guatemala.

We left Utila on Tuesday, May 13 at 11:00 AM, bound for Tres Puntas, Guatemala, 110 nautical miles away. The trip took 20 hours and we sailed most of the way with E-NE winds at 12- 15 knots and following seas. Weather was sunny when we left and at night we had a full moon to sail by. What a fantastic way to finish our cruising season. We were anchored before 9:30 AM and spent the day relaxing and reading. We went to bed early that night because we had to be underway to the Rio Dulce at 5:00 AM in order to catch the high tide for crossing the bar.

During the night the winds started to blow from a westerly direction which just happens to be the worst direction possible if you are anchored at Tres Puntas. By 2:00 AM we were bouncing up and down at anchor and some boats were dragging. I moved into the main salon in the hopes of a better sleep and Jim followed soon afterwards. We pulled anchor and were away by 5:30, winds on the nose as we motored across to the shallow bar at the Rio Dulce entrance.

Check in at Livingston went smoothly and after enjoying lunch ashore, we motored up the beautiful Rio Dulce. By early evening we were anchored in front of Tortugal Marina and listening to the loud cries of welcome from some of our cruising friends who had arrived before us. It was great to be back!

Already we are looking forward to next season in the Western Caribbean. The only thing that went wrong this season was our refrigeration system. It gave us a bit of trouble in December but after some servicing it worked faithfully till our last week in Roatan and we have made the decision to replace the old system with a newer one. My stove top burners are wearing out and if they cannot be repaired we will have to replace it.

We have less than a week left in Guatemala before flying home on June 2nd. Jim is installing the new anchor winch that we bought 2 years ago. He was surprised to discover that the old winch was in worse shape than he expected. The lower housing and seals were shot. I am busy cleaning and organizing Emerald Seas and packing up our bags. Each day the cruising population gets less and less here on the river as more people are flying home for the summer. The staff at Tortugal Marina get tearful when they say goodbye. They have become good friends to us and we know that they will look after our boats well while we are away.

What a great year and what a wonderful world we live in! We are fortunate to be able to experience this part of the world together. Jim and I have much to be thankful for!


02 March 2014
Belize offers great sailing opportunities. There are dozens of cays and they lie behind a coral reef, the second longest in the world. This provides calm, protected areas for cruising. Depending on the wind direction, you choose the cay you wish to visit and away you fly. Trouble is, you also have to look at the anchorages you are heading for. The outer cays are very small and the seas can wrap around creating rolly and uncomfortable conditions.

Jim and I were a bit tired of the rolly anchorage at Placencia so we decided to set sail in the brisk NE winds and head for Tom Owens Cay. The sailing was fantastic! Winds were blowing around 20 knots but coming from our beam. Our destination was 18 miles away. About halfway there the seas and winds picked up even more. I thought that it might be a good idea to look at our guide book and see what it says about the anchorage.

Oh oh! It says' no protection in NE winds'. Damn! We turned the boat around and headed back the way we came, only now we were beating into the wind and making very slow headway. We altered our course more to the south, and enjoyed a more comfortable sail to Harvest Cay, only 4 miles from Placencia. What a great little spot! We had the island to ourselves. The holding was good and it was nice and calm.

We returned back to Placencia the next morning for some more ice cream at Tutti Frutti and signed up for the Monkey River Tour with 5 other cruisers. Our panga picked us up at 8:15 AM and took us over to Monkey Town. On our excursion we saw a crocodile, turtles, birds and lots of howler monkeys. Our guide, Percy, was very knowledgeable about the plant life and their medicinal properties. He taught us a lot, I only wish I could remember some of it in case I ever participate in some kind of survivor show. Following a great lunch, we headed back to Placencia, stopping to watch manatees as they fed on the sea grass.

The following day we took off for Blue Ground Range with our friends from Scott Free. We spent a relaxing afternoon and explored the area by dinghy. The next day we sailed to Tobacco Cay. We kept a close watch in front to avoid the coral heads and Scott Free followed close behind. We draw 5 feet and they draw 6.5 feet and we can warn them early if the waters are getting too shallow. Tobacco Cay is another Belizian jewel. Its almost joined to the outer coral reef system and there is excellent snorkelling nearby. As we motor sailed to the Cay we were hailed by our friends on Free Will, Ernst and Joke. We had not seen them since last year in Mexico. They decided to join us at Tobacco Cay. That night we opted to stay put even though our guide book recommends daytime anchorage only. We had no problems that night as the weather conditions were so good.

The southern anchorage at Tobacco Range was our next stop. After leaving Tobacco Cay in good light, we meandered our way carefully to the southwest corner of Tobacco Range. The entrance to the protected cove in the mangroves is very narrow and shallow because of the sand bar and shoals to each side. We led the way in for our buddy boats and the shallowest we found was 7 feet. Scott Free found an even shallower spot but managed to push their way through. Inside the waters were deep and the holding excellent. It was very pretty and we did some snorkelling in the mangroves. Jim had a great encounter with a manatee.

In the afternoon we hailed a passing boat full of Belizian fishermen. We were able to trade 3 gallons of gas for 8 conch. Everyone was happy with the deal, except perhaps Jim, who got to spend time cleaning them, a slimy and time consuming job. I made conch cerviche and froze the remainder for future use in conch fritters. It was a busy day of diving, swimming, exploring and visiting friends and finally it was time to head to bed, watch a movie and get a good sleep.

Just before midnight, Jim starts yelling about a boat banging alongside. Oh God! Pirates! As we leapt out of bed we could hear repeated clumping and banging noises on our deck! We were terrified and brave at the same time. I started knocking on the port light and shouting and Jim got his light and bravely headed up the companionway, unarmed and naked, to confront the enemy. By then I had a visual on the culprit. It was a fish that had jumped out of the water and onto our deck. Took awhile for our hearts to slow down and get back to sleep.

The next morning Scott Free left for a dinner engagement in Placencia. We wanted to stay out longer and enjoy the settled weather. We set off for Spruce Cay. Jim looked it up in our Rauscher guide and it described the island as being surrounded by coral reefs. This boded well for snorkelling. The entrance to the anchorage was tricky as we had to wind our way carefully around the coral heads. Good light is a necessity at this location! It took a couple of attempts to anchor. At first we tried our normal routine and threw the hook in what appeared to be 20 feet of sand. Emerald Seas dragged right away and we ended up motoring beyond the shallow hump and anchored in 50 feet of water. Snorkelling here was fantastic! Healthy corals, lots of small fish, eagle rays and stingrays. We definitely look forward to coming back to this spot next time there are settled weather conditions.

Lark Cay was next on our list. This area had interesting mangrove passages to explore and we found good snorkelling on a small coral reef, the highlight being the octopus I found out in the open. Joke had never seen one before and was a bit reluctant to come near it, but Jim took her hand and dragged her over to see it.

The next morning we sailed to Placencia, a short trip but a great sail. It was time for us to visit customs for our month extension and buy more food. Joke and Ernst from Free Will were going to check out of Belize and head to Guatemala. Our friends on Scott Free had found the weather window they were looking for and had motored all the way to Utilla. Already we have connected with more cruisers with similar plans. Peter and Joyce, aboard Minx, a 36 foot Nauticat, might tag along with us. They are from Vancouver Island and spend their summers in Errington, only a short distance from our home.

We are not sure what our schedule will be like for the next while. We are getting Emerald Seas ready for departure and paying lots of attention to the weather. We may head to Lighthouse Reef and then wait there for a good weather window to take us to Utilla or we might sail from Southwater Cay to Utilla in a norther if it's a nice norther with no squalls.

As always, life is good aboard Emerald Seas!


10 February 2014
On the same day that we said goodbye to our friends, Jim and Jeannie Cosgrove, we said adios to our friends at Tortugal Marina and headed down the Rio Dulce to Texan Bay. It was a mad rush to get supplies and fuel up the boat but we managed. The timing was right for the weather and the tide perfect for crossing the shallow Rio Dulce bar at Livingstone. We even had two boats to travel with, Sabin and Scott Free.

By late afternoon we were anchored and enjoying a pretty sunset and a few glasses of wine before dinner. We saw an otter swimming by and many herons. Sabin was tied up at the dock but unfortunately, Scott Free was on the marine ways at Ram Marine, attending to a propeller that was plugged with muscles.

In the morning we met with Raul at customs to check out of Guatemala. By then we were reunited with our friends from Manana, the very same boat that had guided us across the shallows last year. Our afternoon crossing of the bar went very smoothly and the shallowest we saw was 7 feet. We sailed over to Tres Puntas and spent a quiet night.

The following day we sailed to Placencia and the next morning we checked into Belize. As we walked to the Hokey Pokey, the small boat that ferries people back and forth to Big Creek, we were approached by a lady selling freshly made doughnuts. Pretty tasty and only $1.00 Belizian or $0.50 Canadian. Another man had homemade meat pies for sale. Later on that day, after returning from check in, we visited Tutti Frutti for ice cream.

There are lots of boats anchored in Placencia and lots of activities for cruisers. Mexican Train, a dominoes game, is played once or twice a week and happy hour at Yoli's takes place everyday. We have renewed friendships and made new friends all week but now its time to move on and explore the islands and enjoy some snorkelling and diving.

On February 1st we had a wonderful sail to Blue Ground Range and the next day we sailed to Southwater Cay where we would wait for our friends on Contento and Scott Free to arrive. Jim and I went for a shallow dive so that we could try out my new underwater camera housing and our new lenses. The deepest we found was 15 feet but we saw lots of angel fish and a few small rays.

By late afternoon, our friends were anchored safely beside us. Plans were made for an early motor sail to Glover's Reef. The entrance to Glover's is quite tricky. The waters are very shallow and there are coral heads everywhere. We had good light for manoeuvring and before long we were anchored in a nice sandy patch with good holding.

There is a dive lodge at Southwest Cay called Marisol Diving. We opted to join them on their excursion to the outside reef area. The conditions on our first dive were very rough! As we awaited our turn to jump in the water, the big seas would flood the back of the boat and divers had to hold on in order to not be washed overboard! I could hardly believe they would even dive in these conditions. When it came my turn to jump I was feeling a wee bit terrified. The dive guide was yelling "Jump Jump" and the sea were towering above, ready to flood the boat again. Finally the guide gave me a gentle shove and in the water I went. As I swam back to the boat to get my camera setup, I could see the twin props turning as it backed up towards me. Camera in hand, I headed down to the bottom. What a dive! The Aquarium was beautiful and the visibility was over 80 feet. Large groupers were swimming lazily about and the corals were abundant and very healthy. We had a great dive!

All good things come to an end, and eventually we had to surface. The seas were still very rough and our dive boat was a long way away, picking up other divers. Our turn came and following the dive master's instructions we all made it aboard. The captain of the dive boat was very skillful. Jim commented that we could of done the dive easy with our little dinghy. I gave him a very dirty look.

Next day we enjoyed two more dives with Marisol. The conditions were much calmer than the first day but still quite rough. We did the Pillars at Long Cay. Here we found towering coral heads and white sand. There were lots of garden eels and huge barrel sponges. The second dive was at Southwest Cay and was a wall dive with lots of crevices. Both Jim and I managed to get some excellent underwater photos. I am loving my new setup- Canon G16, Fantasea Housing, Sea and Sea strobe and fisheye lens. Best of all is the large LCD screen which is 4 times larger than my old camera.

After enjoying Glover's Reef for 4 days it was time to head back to the protected waters of Belize. The weather was changing and Glovers is no place to be when the winds blow from the North. Our trip back to Southwater Cay was a motor and we had frequent heavy rain showers along the way.We saw a waterspout in the distance. Fortunately the showers let up before we went through the Southwater Cut. We continued on to Sapidilla Lagoon which offers great protection in any kind of weather.

Not much has changed at Sanctuary Belize which is located inside Sapidilla Lagoon. John and Lucy of SV Stoneage, and from Ladysmith, BC, are still working there. We got the feeling that they were a bit frustrated with the lack of progress on site. The grounds surrounding the marina are still as ugly as ever. We were not allowed to visit the pool anymore because one of the residents did not like boats travelling in the canal in front of her house. Everything felt a bit depressing there.

After two nights we sailed back to Placencia to stock up on more food and visit our favourite ice cream store.
Vessel Name: Emerald Seas
Vessel Make/Model: 1991 Island Packet 38 - Hull 154
Hailing Port: Victoria, B.C.
Crew: Jim & Renate Mendria
Jim & Renate love the ocean. Exploring the cold coastal waters of British Columbia and Vancouver Island,scuba diving and photography, both underwater and topside keep the Mendrias busy. [...]
Extra: Live life to the fullest. Be thankful everyday.
Emerald Seas's Photos - St.Martins
Photos 1 to 18 of 18 | Main
Tugboat wreck at Isle Tintemerre
Topless-why not?
Side trip to Saba with John and Noelle to visit with our friends, John and Lynn, of Sea Saba and enjoy beautiful dives and great hospitality.
Hostile shoreline of Saba
Harbour of Saba
John and Noelle at Grande Caise Beach on St. Martin