WHERE DID THE TIME GO? 2017 SEASON IS OVER!
27 May 2017 | Rio dulce, Guatemala
END OF SEASON ALREADY?
Jim and I are back at Tortugal Marina and we are busy getting Emerald Seas ready for her time alone while we head back home for some Canadian adventures. It will be nice to see our family and friends. We will be bragging about all the sunshine and hot weather we enjoyed while they suffered through an unusually snowy winter and a very wet spring. Everyone is hoping we bring some of the Caribbean sunshine home with us in our suitcases.
This year we had planned to spend lots of time in the Bay Islands diving. Unfortunately, the best laid plans of mice and men don't always work out the way we would wish. Following our grounding at Bluefield Range, we were underway in some steep following seas and we heard some strange knocking sounds coming from under the steering seat around the rudder post. Because we had done a lot of rocking back and forth using a halyard while trying to unstick Emerald Seas, we were concerned that we might have damaged the rudder post.
I contacted Alan Pressman. our boat broker, and he was very concerned. The advice he gave us after consulting with other IP owners was that we should make certain that all was well before we ventured out into more challenging ocean conditions. Steering failure in rough seas or near treacherous reefs can have some awful consequences.
Jim did some investigating and found a few loose bolts. He tightened them up and we continued with our Belizean sailing. All seemed well for a couple of weeks and we had no problems. A weather window was opening up for a good trip to Roatan so we headed to Placencia to check out of Belize. While doing so, Jim was able to connect with another cruiser who was also heading to the Bay Islands. Its nice to have a buddy boat when travelling in Honduran waters. Pirates are out there and there had already been three pirate incidents this year.
The plan was to meet at Hatchet Cay and head out the next day through Gladden Pass. On our way to Hatchet Cay all was well until the winds started to pick up and we adjusted our course towards the anchorage. This put the seas on our stern quarter. The noise started up again. Not good. After much discussion and some tears, we had to make the grown up decision to cancel our Bay Island plans and head back to Guatemala so that the rudder can be checked out at Ram Marine. Belize is not known for its shipyard capabilities.
We crossed the bar to Livingston and on March 25th, Ram hauled us out of the water and checked everything. The rudder post was good but there were some bolts in an obscure area that were loose. These were adjusted and we were put back in the water. We visited with our friends, Arnie and Leonie from De Capo and stocked up on some more wine and beer before heading back to Belize. We were glad that all was well with Emerald Seas but it was sad that it caused such stress and conflict between the crew.
The rest of the season was spent with trips to Turneffe, where we enjoyed some diving and some good times with other cruisers. One day there were so many friends anchored at Douglas Cay that I organized a Chick Party. It went really well with lots of laughs and good food. Dick on Indian Summer organized a Cock Party so the men were able to have a good time as well. I even made a Rum Cake, which was very well received.
Other highlights of the year were Jim being the hero at Hideaway Caye by succeeding at finding all the the moorings which had disappeared after four catamarans had tied up to one mooring, broke it loose, and then did the same on another mooring. Dustin, Kim and their daughter, Ama were very grateful and treated Jim and I to a few dinners.
We enjoyed several trips to Sapidilla Lagoon. Some were to avoid weather systems and others were just for the convenience of being able to do some laundry. Jim and I, along with Lizzie from Indian Summer, ventured up Cabbage Haul Creek in our dinghy. We got to an area where the creek was very skinny and shallow. Visibility was poor. All of a sudden, our dinghy lifted up in the air and there was a big swirl and something big took off. We are certain that it was a large crocodile that we had disturbed. No more swimming in this area for us!
Our last two weeks in Belize were spent at Pelican Cayes, Tobacco Caye, Southwater Caye. Rick from She Wolf, Jens from Arwin and ourselves did a few dives at Pelican. The vis was poor and the areas were very silty, but we did see some interesting stuff.
We did two dives at Tobacco and enjoyed great vis. On the first dive we saw a very large nurse shark and 2.5 foot remora stayed with us for the entire dive. It was cool diving with the remora and we got some good pictures. The remora was very interested in each of us but it never tried to attache itself to us. There was lots of coral but not many fish.
Southwater Caye was the best of the three locations because there was more variety in the corals. At Southwater Caye we celebrated Jim's 67nd birthday with another Rum cake. Marsha and Rick and Kim and Mike of Kiymi celebrated with us.
Leaving Southwater Cay, we stopped one more time at Pelican Cays to say good bye to Dustin, Kim and Ama. After a couple of days there we enjoyed a slow sail back to Placencia. We checked out of Placencia and headed South to New Haven for the night. Next day we met up with Moondance at Tres Puntas. Its safer to be anchored with another boat due to pirates and thieves.
Earlier this year, our friends, Woody and Judy, from Lapis were robbed while at Bahia Graciosa, which is only about five miles from Tres Puntas. At the beginning of our cruising season, we stayed one night there in the company of Magic, with Doris and Dennis. It was a protected but large anchorage. At the time we felt that it was a bit isolated and we felt vulnerable because it was a hidden anchorage. Tres Puntas is not as protected but it is very visible.
Following is a copy of Woody and Judy's letter to the Rio Dulce Chisme.
Subject: The Bad part of the news
Monday night we were anchored in a quiet bay, alone, ready to enter Guatemala Tuesday morning early. The bay was about 14 miles from Livingston and we had been there lots of times in other years. A park area with no houses, monkeys, birds, mountains.
About 10pm some bump woke us. Woody got up to check, got to the companionway, saw a guy midway into lifting our outboard off the back deck and into his boat which was tied alongside. Woody's adrenalin kicked in, he yelled and charged the guy.
The guy was standing on our boat on the outside of our lifelines. The guy and our outboard ended up in his boat and Woody ended up in the water hanging off the side of his boat. The guy had his hands around Woodys neck to choke him and pushed him underwater. Woody grabbed his wrists and freed himself, realizing the outboard was gone. And at the same time seeing a gun in the guys waistband and the guy reaching for it. He never did pull it out.
He untied his boat, had trouble starting the engine but did, circled slowly (looked like he might return), then slowly took off. I came out when Woody charged the guy and found Woody in the water. I yelled at the guy that I wanted my engine back ??? And then checked to make sure Woody wasn't injured. He had scrapes and was in pain. Then it was a matter of getting Woody back onto our boat because the ladder was up and our dinghy, hung off the davits, prevented me from lowering it. And it was dark.
So Woody walked me through untieing it and getting the ladder down. He was bleeding a bit so we cleaned him up and put some antiseptic on. We got the engine going and tried to call another boat we knew was about 5 miles away. No response, all radios off. We motored the 5 mile and anchored next to the other boats.
We were pretty shaken and there was no sleep that night. Morning coffee at 4am, watched the sun start to come up, and at 5:30 am, with the 5 other boats we upped anchor and headed for Livingston to check in to Guatemala. The officials boarded the boat and we were able to report the incident but there wasn't much to be done, especially since it meant appearing in front of a magistrate, and we are hoping to be leaving Guatemala soon. We did leave a written report with the Port Captain who didn't speak English. Our customs agent had done all the translating.
So we are at the dock of friends here in Guatemala and they are pampering us. They made us a nice chicken dinner last night. We'll stay here til Friday and then head to our marina. It's Easter chaos here with lots of crazy people in boats.
We're looking forward to our trip to the highlands just before we catch our plane home. Now just still trying to recover from our confrontation and it will take a few days. We'll be ok. A few lessons to be learned though! Judy and Woody"
A terrifying experience for two of the nicest folks we know. They have been cruising this area for over 10 years. What an awful way to finish the season. I hope they will be able to mentally recover and enjoy next season. They, like almost all of the other cruisers, will be doing their upmost to anchor and travel with a buddy boat.
Back safely at Tortugal Marina on the Rio Dulce, we have been very busy getting Emerald Seas ship shape for hurricane season. Byron is going to redo all the wood floors inside and all the brightwork outside while we are back in Canada.
Emerald Seas will be looking very pretty when we return.
Our mechanic, Jamie, contacted Jim when we were at Ram checking out our rudder. He told Jim that he had charged too much money for doing the work on Yanni. Jim was happy to hear that as we felt it was a bit expensive by Guatemalan standards. Jamie met up with us at Tortugal this week and refunded us over $400 US dollars. He was very embarrassed at his accounting error. At the time he was working on our engine, he was also working on Jerry's engine (Czech n Mate). I think he charged us for their parts too. We are glad that he was honest and refunded us.
There are very few cruisers left here at Rio Dulce. Our social life has taken a nose dive and we have no excuses for putting off boat chores. Jim had an awful job of changing the bilge pump hose. What looked like a simple task turned out to be an ordeal. We could not find the right size hose or fittings. Jim's swearing was the worst I have ever heard- usually I enjoy his swearing as he does it with a bit of humour and originality. Not this time.
We leave Tortugal Marina tomorrow morning for the 6 hour bus trip to Guatemala City.The next morning we fly back to Canada. Once we get to Vancouver we will stay a night at the Accent Inn and in the morning of May 31st we fly to Victoria. Jim's brother, Gerry, will be picking us up. We will spend the night with Mark and in the morning we head home to Nanoose Bay.
Our first weekend at home will be busy. Jim is participating in the Lasqueti Sailboat held by the Schooner Cove Yacht Club
. Big barbecue on the 2nd and the race is on the 3rd. Great way to start off the summer at home!
GUATAMALA & BELIZE- 2017
09 March 2017
Jim and I are feeling a bit frustrated right now. We have been here since January 14th and we are waiting for an engine part to arrive which will arrive “manaña” but never does. Today it is February 10th! Looks like we will not be in Placencia for the annual Boardwalk Art Festival and for Rosie’s big birthday bash with free food and lots of cake and ice cream on February 13th. Very disappointing but hopefully we will make up for it later this month. We will miss saying goodbye to our friends on Scot Free and Cordelia when they leave Placencia as they head towards Mexico and then on to Cuba.
Enough of the complaining! We left Canada on January 2nd and flew down to Cancun, Mexico. From there we took a taxi to Playa del Carmen for the night. Our hotel there was something else! This boutique hotel was called Hotel Reina Roja. The decor was very interesting with chain link fencing. Two porters brought our bags to our room and unlocked the door for us because the electronic room keys did not work. They opened the door and we entered. Wow. Lots of red and the size of the bed was very impressive, but not as impressive as the large art work above the bed which at first appeared to be a beautiful lady getting ready to lick a penis. On second look, it was a beautiful lady drinking drops from a faucet. Modern art and innuendo. On our balcony was a mannequin, very scantily dressed and the shower had interesting nozzles everywhere. I checked out the free toiletries to see if “blue pills” were included but there were none.
The next day we rented a car. This took most of the day because we could not find any available. Eventually Jim found a car at a premium price compared to what we would of paid if we had rented online before leaving Canada. This deluxe car had roll up windows and air conditioning that did not work. No matter, it was big enough to hold all our luggage. We packed up and headed to Tulum to meet up with our good friend, Bil Philips.
Once we got to Bil’s Speleotech Dive Shop, we unloaded our gear and suitcases and got settled into our very comfortable room. Bil made us very welcome and showed us around his facilities. Very impressive! Check out his webpage at: www.speleotech.com. Bil arranged for a friend to come and take us cavern diving for the next couple of days. Paul (Pul) was great to dive with and we went to Dos Ojos, The Pit, Angelita and Dreamgate. The highlight was our very last dive at Dreamgate. Although not a deep cavern, the formations were pristine and awe inspiring. All the dives we did featured something unique. The Pit (totally loved this one too) had a large cavern. At the back of the cavern there was enough light to light up the huge space. Paul and I hung suspended away from the walls. It was magic! Jim missed that experience because he was busy taking pictures of the formations at the back.
After a couple of days in Tulum, it was time for us to head to Cozumel and Papa Hog’s Diving. The plan was to dive for 5 days. We stayed at Papa Hog’s Penthouse. It was a large suite with a small kitchen. Facilities had changed since our last time at Papa Hog’s so we found it a bit lonely at night. The main building with restaurant and dive shop used to be part of the building that housed the penthouse. The new facilities are across the alley from us.
Margaret and Mike were as hospitable as ever and the food at the restaurant was great. Their margaritas were as strong as we remembered. I only drank one margarita while we were there. Too dangerous.
Diving was good. We were on a boat with other like minded and like aged photographers who enjoyed poking slowly along. One of the divers, Christine, had dove with Dave and I many years ago when she was working at the Diving Locker.All of us were good at finding spots with no current and everyone was generous with the sharing of cool creatures to photograph. We saw several toad fish this time.
In the afternoon of our second day of diving, a large northerly storm hit Cozumel. This made diving impossible for Day 3. We enjoyed more diving on Day 4 but on Day 5, Jim got sick. I opted to stay with him and I was glad I did as the group encountered some serious current conditions that threatened to take them out to sea. They even had some vortex type of currents. When they surfaced, there was no boat nearby and it took some time before they were picked up. After hearing that story, I was happy I had stayed back with Jim, I love diving but I am not a fan of adverse currents.
On January 10th we flew out from Cozumel to Guatemala City via Mexico City with Interjet Airlines. This is the 2nd time we have used them. They are great. Their jets are modern with lots of legroom and comfortable seats. There is no weight restrictions on the luggage - apparently that is because it is a Mexican airline and when Mexicans travel they like to buy lots of stuff and bring it home. It was nice not spending hours trying to make all our suitcases weigh less than 50 pounds!
We arrived in Guatemala City late at night and had no trouble collecting our luggage and checking into the country. The shuttle from Crowne Plaza was waiting for us and he got us to our hotel safely. Jim was suffering with his sinuses and so he spent much of our first day resting. By the next day, I was getting a bit stuffed up too. We visited the nearby grocery store and bought some cheeses that are hard to find in Fronteras. That night we had a nice dinner at the restaurant and an early night before catching the bus to the Rio Dulce.
Rio Dulce and Emerald Seas
We arrived back on the Rio Dulce on the 14th of February. There to greet us were our friends, Scott and Heather, Rick and Marsha, Dick and Lizzie and many others. It was great to be back “home” at Tortugal Marina.
Emerald Seas looked clean and tidy and there was no damp or mould anywhere. However, within a few days we fired up the engine and realized that she needed some more loving care. Jamie our mechanic ordered up some new valves and gaskets. Our hope was that it would take only a week but this is Guatemala and nothing takes only a week. We had to be patient.
In order to pass the time, Jim ordered new solar panels and installed them. We were very happy with the results. Our three new panels produce a total of 20 amps of power per hour on a sunny day. Jim is overjoyed! We donated our used solar panels to Pass It On Guatemala. The three panels will be used at isolated villages to provide light at their single community building which serves as school/hospital. Our three panels will benefit three communities.
I passed the time taking some coffee Spanish lessons with Erica. Doris, from Magic, joined me. We had a great time using our Spanish on Erica and asked all sorts of nosey questions. Erica was very patient with us. Afterwards, Doris and I would do some shopping in Fronteras before heading back to Tortugal. We were pretty confident with our Spanish and enjoyed trying out our skills. The lessons I have been taking in Canada have really helped and I can understand more of what people are saying.
Doris taught a hand weaving course at Tortugal. She is a great teacher and it was fun learning a new skill. I am a bit of an “all thumbs” person, but she was patient with me and the rest of the cruisers. Doris visits weavers wherever she finds them. She is writing a book about her sailing and weaving adventures.
Many of our cruising friends were still at Tortugal because of boat problems. Jim helped wherever he could in solving electrical issues and finding where deck leaks were coming in on other boats.
We crossed the Rio Dulce Bar on February 17, 2017 along with Magic and motor sailed over to Bahia Graciosa for the night.
Next morning we set off for Placencia, Belize. It was a motor sail the whole way. We anchored in a protected spot near Placencia Cay. There were not a lot of boats as most of them were out enjoying the calm conditions on the outer reefs.
We checked into Belize on Monday, February 20th. Afterwards we celebrated with ice cream and a nice lunch out. Our friends, Dave and Ellen, of Cordelia were in Placencia. Originally they were going to Cuba with Scott Free but their transmission broke and they had to return to Placencia and order a new one from the US. We sat outside Tutti Frutti with them and listened to a reggae/jazz band playing. The musician on the saxophone was excellent.
After a few days of enjoying Placencia we headed up to Sapidilla Lagoon to await the passage of a weather system. Chris Parker was forecasting for strong winds out of the west and the south and Placencia is not the place to be for that kind of wind. It gets very rolly and so its better to move further into the Placencia lagoon or head to a place like Sapidilla.
We enjoyed our time at Sapidilla. The protection is great on all sides of us. The boats that stayed in Placencia had a very difficult time when the winds arrived overnight as the sea conditions in the harbour became very rough.
Pelican Cays was our next destination and Jim did some diving to try find some of the moorings that used to be there. Apparently three catamarans had tied up to one mooring in strong winds, broke that loose, and then tied up to another mooring and broke it loose as well. Without the moorings, boat traffic to Pelican Cays is reduced. At 60 feet of depth, it is a deep anchorage, especially compared to the usual 10- 15 feet of depth we like to anchor in. Dustin, Kim and Alma of Hideaway Cay were very thankful that Jim and Mike (Mike and Mam of Genesis) were trying to find them.
While Jim did the diving, I enjoyed the playing with 4 year old Alma. We played Uno and she beat me 5-2. At first I thought I would have to play “gently” as she was only 4. After the 1st game, I realized that she was a card shark and I better try a bit harder to win. After she won three games in a row, I finally won one, but only barely and partly because I think she took pity on me. We played a few other card games and she beat the pants off of me.
Leaving Pelican Cays, we headed to Coulson Cays and met up with Doris and Dennis of Magic. The next day we tried to make our way between Middle Long Cay and Bluefield Range and go to Rendezvous Cay. We followed the Rauscher guidebook. For once, the advice was wrong!!! We soon found ourselves in very shallow water. Jim decided to turn around and get out. Too late. Emerald Seas was not moving. We were stuck good.
Magic was still on their way and called to see if we were ok. We lied and said all was well and that we were going to stop here for a bit and do boat chores. It is not a good thing to run aground in Belize. Fines have been levied in the tens of thousands of dollars! Magic understood our plight and kept quiet.
Jim and I spent the next three hours on a falling tide trying to kedge Emerald Seas to deeper water. I was pushing the bow with the dinghy and other times I was pulling the halyard and making Emerald Seas rock and roll. While Jim was kedging with our anchor winch, the winch stopped working and Jim had to go to the cockpit and use the winch. It was hard work and it was hot work. And it was not working.
We took a break and discussed the situation. The tide was almost low, which does not mean much when the difference between high and low tide is less than a foot. The next high tide would be 10 PM at night on a moonless night. Winds were picking up already and at night the winds can blow even stronger.
Taking a chance, I put in a call to friends on My Island Queen, a big powerboat. Lucky for us, they answered right away and even better, they were only about a mile away. They came to our rescue and in no time we were pulled free. Jim and I were overjoyed!
We headed north and anchored for the night at Shag Bogue. Great, protected anchorage. Although it is right beside Bannister Cut, it is a better anchorage because there is no fighting the current against the wind. Magic and ourselves enjoyed a quiet night.
After a wonderful sleep, we set off for Cay Caulker. The route there is quite shallow, especially around Port O Stuck. We followed our previous route and had no problems. After Port O Stuck we were joined by two dolphins. Our sail to Cay Caulker was fabulous and we were able to find good holding fairly close to the town. Near us were Lapis and My Island Queen.
Emerald Seas Blog Catch-Up
28 April 2016
Procrastination has reached a new level for me! Today it is January 21, 2017 and my intention was to begin our blog for this year's cruising adventures.
However, once I looked at our blog, to my shame, I saw that I had not kept it up last year. I shall now correct that situation with a quick catch up blog for 2016.
Sailing was incredible in 2016. We visited Cay Caulker, Turneffe and Lighthouse Reef with lots of great sails along the way. Its relatively calm behind the Belizean reef system and the winds can be very steady. We made some destination decisions based on wind direction just so that we could have a good sail.
Gladden Cays- beautiful set of cays with a challenging approach. We spent several days there with our friends, Scott and Heather, on Scott Free.
Turneff Islands- great place for scuba diving and snorkelling. Our big adventure there consisted of us following Lapis across the islands on a route which was very narrow. We had done a lot of research on making that trip and our way points were many and all entered into our GPS. The beginning is a very narrow mangrove waterway and then it opens to a very shallow part. As Lapis entered the shallow part, they made a turn to the left and grounded. We were right behind them and the only choice we had was to turn to the right, where we promptly grounded too.
There were two other sailboats following behind us and they had to turn around in the narrow channel and head for deeper waters at South Water Cay.
Lucky for both Lapis and Emerald Seas, Chickcharnie was ahead of us. This is a large powerboat with big diesel engines. They came back and assisted us in getting into deeper waters.
From there, we continued across Turneff. Waters stayed shallow but very passable until we got to the east coast. Oh my God. It was very sunny and the lighting was good but it sure looked tricky. Lapis went ahead of us and eyeballed their way to deep water. They assured us it was ok. We followed them and eyeballed our way out into the deep waters. As we exited, we had a eagle ray jump out of the water in front of us. From there we took a short hop over to Lighthouse Reef.
Lighthouse Reef- Here we stayed for a couple of weeks. The diving was great and we were able to dive on the east side because of the NW winds. We had two other couples diving in their own dinghies which added to the safety of all of us.
Lighthouse is famous for the Blue Hole. Being so close, we made arrangements with a dive shop to go there and see it first hand. The ride out was exciting in their fast boat as they carefully avoided all the reefs. Once we got there, the dive master briefed us on the deep dive.
We descended down the wall to 145 feet. At 125 feet there is a cavern with stalactites which we swam around. Looking out from the cavern I saw three sharks swimming. Looking down, all I saw was darkness.
After a few minutes it was time to make our ascent, doing many stops along the way so that we could decompress. At the end of the dive we used up our air in the shallows looking at the schools of fish and whatever else we could find.
Jacques Cousteau explored the Blue Holes in the 70's with a submersible. To get to the Blue Hole, they had to blow a big hole in the coral reef. At the bottom of the Blue Hole they found another cavern with stalactites at approximately 400 feet.
On April 19th, we left Lighthouse and motor sailed to Southwater Cay. It was time to go back to Placencia and check out of Belize.
On April 21st we sailed to Tom Owen's Cay and anchored for the night. It was an interesting place to be. Jim wanted to go diving but there was a big NE swell. We explored the area and did some snorkelling. Our night at anchorage was very rolly so the next day we headed to Nicholas Cay.
We had to worm our way through the coral in order to get to a sandy area which was recommended for anchoring. Holding was great and it was flat calm! Surroundings were beautiful! We spent several days here. The seas were calm and Jim and I were able to dive on the outer reefs. They were very interesting.
We would anchor our dinghy in about 25 feet of water and then follow a channel out to the drop off. There I would lay a few pieces of white coral in prominent locations so that we would find the correct channel when we finished our dive. This worked great.
During our time out at Nicholas Cay, also known as the Sapidillas, there was a conflict between Belize and Guatemala. We were concerned that things might escalate. Rumour had it that the English were sending a warship to stand by. We talked to the coast guard station in the Sapidillas and they were not concerned.
The time came for us to head to Guatemala. We anchored in Tres Puntas on April 27th and crossed the Rio Dulce Bar at 11:01 AM with a 1.48' tide on the 28th. In Livingston we checked into the country with Raul and then headed to Cayo Camado (Texan Bay) for the night.
In the morning we had an enjoyable downwind sail to Tortugal Marina. Its time to get Emerald Seas ready for hurricane season.
Before returning to Canada, we will spend a few days in La Antigua and then we fly to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, where we will board the Nautilus Belle Amie and head to the Socorros for a week of diving with giant manta rays and sharks!
Life is good!
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….
BACK IN RIO DULCE, GUATEMALA
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!
THE WESTERN CARIBBEAN ADVENTURES 2015 OF THE BLOG LAZY, PROCRASTANATING CREW OF EMERALD SEAS.
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:
1. SICKER THAN DOGS
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 Jimâs 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 âhotelâ 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!
2. DONâT PLAY WITH THAT AND SNAKES ARE WORSE THAN SHARKS
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 wasnât 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 doneâ¦â¦.
Since that awful day, we make certain that our secondary GPS, my iPhone and Jimâs iPad are all making âtracksâ 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 beâ¦..
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!
3. BAY ISLANDS, HONDURAS
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. âMust be a stickâ 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.
4. HEADING BACK TO GUATEMALA
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!