05/27/2009, Cay Ambergris Belize
Swimming with sharks...
Yep, we've all heard the saying, and every now and then you get to. For real! Sure we've seen the occasional shark swim by in the distance, and once in the Bahamas a bunch of us were out hunting when a very large shark, either a Black Tip Reef or a Bull Shark, swam by and then decided to stick around. While all parties vacated the water toot-sweet (Liam got to the beach with Kevin from Solange), I had the pleasure of picking up Tofer and Andy (Wandering Dolphin & Saniti), off of a reef patch where they were standing knee deep, back to back with spears in hand while the shark gave them a couple of very close once-overs.
Then there are the times, such as here in Ambergris Cay, that you pay good money for the pleasure of doing something nutty, like swimming with sharks. With two kids along for the ride to boot. We, being myself, Liam and Michaela, chose to go diving for what may prove to be our last dive for a long time. The dive shop, shameless plug for Belize Diving Adventures, was great and Enes put together two fabulous dives. Huge fish, beautiful coral, everything you look for in a dive. The second dive was the crazy dive.
Nurse sharks abound on the Belize barrier reef and we chose to have Enes bring along a bait box to attract them. It worked, and before we knew it about 15 sharks ranging from 4' to 8' were swimming around us. Enes dropped the bait box on a sandy patch in about 50' of water and motioned for us to come closer. Sure, no problem, nice sharks! One even came close to curling up in Liam's lap but turned at the last minute much to Michaela's relief. Enes then took hold of one of the smaller ones, flipped it over and we all had a turn petting it and scratching its belly. A bit freaky to say the least!
When the bait box was empty Enes went to retrieve it. The larger sharks had other plans for the bait box and were trying to get to the last bit of odor. She would gently shove a couple out of the way but still couldn't quite get it back. Chivalry being fully alive in my book, I went to help 'move sharks'. Next thing I knew I was pushing those mean ol' sharks out of the way so the fair Enes could retrieve said bait box. Strange sensation to push a shark as big as me around!
OK, now for the disclaimer. Nurse sharks, while fully sharks, have no sharp teeth and a small mouth. They are a big sucker fish that could give you a very, very large and nasty permanent hickey if they chose to, but are mostly docile. This explains why tourists can swim with them and Rennie gave the okay for us to go!
05/17/2009, Turneffe Islands Belize
So how are we enjoying Belize so far, one may ask. Just fine, thank you very much, now that the first couple of nights of great discomfort and insanity are past us.
Discomfort and insanity, in Belize??? Inconceivable!!!!
Our trip out of the Rio Dulce was uneventful with no bottom-bumping involved, thank God. 2 hours of motoring in no wind to get to Punta Gorda, Belize, and we were cleared in by 10:30 in the morning. The customs and immigration folks were very entertaining. No stuffed-shirt attitudes in Belize! We were reminded of Mexico's fiasco with swine flu by the nice young lady in the hospital mask who had an extra health questionnaire for us to fill out. Could make our trip up the coast of Mexico interesting...
The Moho Cays awaited us, so after a quick walk through town we were off. Early afternoon we were anchored in 30' and well hemmed in by reefs. The water being cloudy from river run-off (think turquoise-blue glacial run-off), we were unable to do the customary visual inspection of the anchor.
Side note: Do any of you boaters out there in non-tropical waters have any idea of what your anchor should look like when set? Didn't think so. We sure as heck didn't when we started this crazy trip. Our first anchor set in the Bahamas was the first time I saw it. After backing down on it, and feeling very 'cruiser', I promptly donned mask and snorkel to 'dive the anchor'. Sure enough, big ol' hunk of metal somewhat buried in the sand. Mystery solved! We now knew what it should look like. Which means of course, when back in our home waters I'll be quick to dive every anchor set to ensure the security of my family. NOT! Which brings up a bit of a conundrum. If an anchor is set, and no one is around to see it, is it really set??? Just a deep thought for the day.
So, back at Moho Cay, the sun begins its decline and the wind pipes up to 20-25 knots. Perfect, just like we like our anchorages. Uninspected anchor is holding just fine, not another boat in sight, anywhere, we have a fine meal and are off to sleep. Lightning starts around midnight. Those of us from the Pacific Northwest don't get to experience the drama of huge thunderstorms with lightning everywhere. We get earthquakes instead. Being on land with lightning all around is one thing. On a boat with a big aluminum pole sticking 60' into the sky is quite another. For 3 ½ hours Rennie and I watched and smelled the lightning all around. Oh yes, I said smelled. When you can smell the electricity crackling through the air you know it is WAY TOO CLOSE. So we watched, prayed, smelled, prayed some more, the night away. By about 4 am it had moved away enough to sleep. Nothing, and I do mean nothing, beats answered prayer. Liam and Michaela got up a few times. Ethan, he slept through it all, the little sneak!
Needless to say we boogied north in the morning, to Ranguana Cay, in search of a nice spot to spend Mothers Day. Lovely place with water clear enough for anchor inspection, even caught a small tuna and a nice sized Cero on the way. We spent a short bit of time ashore at a little 'resort', where some locals were just reeling in a nice barracuda. As the photos will show, it was darn near as big as Ethan!
All in all, a pretty good Mothers Day, then the rolling started. Some sort of swell was coming from somewhere. No rhythm at all to it, just a big herky-jerky shimmy motion. We've been in some rolly anchorages (Porlamar VZ, aka rollamar), but this is the only one that had the boys out of the v-berth and in the salon to 'sleep'. Oh yeah, more lightning. No smell to it this time, but enough to keep us awake!
Yep, lovin' it here in Belize so far! The days have been pretty good. The nights, not so much. At least we won't have to worry about any R.O.U.S.'s.
... It has gotten better. Much, much better! We spent two nights at North Long Cocoa Cay with no roll, no rain, and no lightning. I even had some success with the spear, getting two very nice Nassau Groupers. That was followed by a great sail up here to South Water Cay, located right out at the barrier reef. Another beautiful island with yet again not another boat in site anywhere, free moorings, awesome snorkeling, no lightning... Turns out Belize ain't so bad after all!
Moho Cay: 16 09.30 N, 88 40.50 W
Ranguana Cay: 16 19.80 N, 88 09.30 W
North Long Cocoa Cay: 16 33.80 N, 88 06.20 W
South Water Cay: 16 48.90 N, 88 05.00 W
Turneffe Islands: 17 10.10 N, 87 54.80 W
05/08/2009, Rio Dulce
It's had to say goodbye to good friends. We know this from first hand experience departing Seattle. Leaving family and friends behind was tough, but we knew we would see them all within a year or so.
Cruising friends are a bit different. You may only have known them for a few months or more, but it is an intensive few months or more. You can see your neighbors at home, your church and school friends, a few times a week or so, and most of that time it is just waves of hello or good-bye or idle chatter. It may take a year or so before you really get to know your neighbors and develop a close relationship. Cruising can bring you into close contact immediately and you can see your new friends every day for hours at a time. If you hit it off, you can know the ins and outs of your 'neighbors' within a day or two. Warts and all!
We have been travelling with Migo for almost 4 months now, and that is not including the month or so last year in the Eastern Caribbean. It is now time to say goodbye to some very dear friends. We will miss Patrick, Sofia, Joana, and Jonatan as we move on and they stay here in the Rio Ducle for the next 4-5 months. It may be a year, or possibly many years, before we are able to hang out and enjoy each others company again. However long it is we look forward to the day.
Similar goodbyes were said to High 5, Independence, Wandering Dolphin, Solange, Fruko, Alegria, Saniti, Meander, Uliad, Sonrisa ... The list goes on and on. We have been truly blessed to meet and come close with some truly amazing people on our travels. Each one has contributed to our family in more ways than we can describe. Whether it is learning about a new country, culture or language with them, or sharing the trials and tribulations of living, growing, repairing, and learning in a confined space, the friends we have made have helped to make this adventure truly great.
location: 15 39.75N 89 00.14W