06/19/2009, Gulf of Mexico
Yes this is long overdue. We've been stateside for almost 2 weeks and are swimming in the process of plugging back in. To say it is overrated would be a gross understatement. Thankfully everyone in Texas is so friendly that we're not sure if we're dreaming. So let's step into the way back machine and return to the long passage to the great state of Texas...
With apologies to Dr. Suess...
Oh the things you will do and places you will go, for it's a great big world out there, don't you know!
You know what else? It's true! We have been blessed beyond belief to go and see, to touch, taste and feel many places on this amazing journey.
We are now somewhere out in the Gulf of Mexico heading back to the states. As I look back on this past 20 some months of sailing 'round the Caribbean I am frankly in awe of how God has guided us and protected us. Sure we have tough passages that we wouldn't care to repeat anytime soon, but really very few. No harrowing events to make us fearful.
From our first night passage leaving North Carolina with Solange and Slow-Mocean (frost on the decks!), to the 'big' crossing of the Gulf Stream to reach the Bahamas. From our first multi-day passage to the Dominican Republic with Wandering Dolphin to braving the north coast of the DR and across the much feared Mona Passage with High Five (we motor across in a calm). Hopping our way down the Leeward and Windward Islands to reach Grenada for hurricane season. Transiting the outer islands of Venezuela to the ABC's with Independence, Alegria, and Fruko. Then taking on the tough coast of Columbia for 3 days, with no autopilot, to reach Cartegena for Christmas with Independence, Uliad, Coqueliocot (everyone should go to Cartegena - amazing place!). Leaving Cartegena (finally), for the San Blas Islands of Panama to catch up with Migo again. A long slog to reach the magical island of Providencia and on to the Bay Islands of Honduras (Guanaja, Roatan, and Utila), Guatemala, Belize and then through Mexico. I could go on and on about the experiences of each and every place, and perhaps I will at a later date. For now I just sit in wonder at it all.
And now we head home. We do so with glad hearts as well as sad hearts. Sad as we know this wondrous door the Lord opened for us to make this trip possible is closing. We trust He is opening a new door for us as we 'plug back in'. We have no idea what will be in store, but we know it will be filled with as much fun, love and adventure as this one. I'm also sure it will eventually involve shoes, socks and pants.
Salt & Light docked at: 29 33.29N 95 01.52W
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