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….