A Family of Friends
12 January 2013 | 16 30'N:87 59'W, Belize barrier reef
I returned to the boat as scheduled on Dec 28, along with a family of friends: Rich, Mona, Cale, and Silas. Rich has sailed with me on the trimaran Hecla, and was looking to introduce the family to an adventure cruising in the Caribbean. We consumed nearly a whole day with logistics; returning to an unattended and hastily put up boat left a number of maintenance issues, expired boat customs papers, plus the usual logistics of stocking the pantry and keeping the kids entertained. Next morning I was in no hurry to leave, as heading east into strong easterly trade winds, mid 20's at least, is not a great intro to cruising-sailing for kids. But they were troopers, enduring the 1-1/2 hour bash to Wippari Cay reading a playing games below until Mal de Mer raised its head. Wippari Cay is home to a small fishing resort, where we found only the caretakers at home, including a shy young boy who eventually broke out a soccer ball and all of the kids had a great time playing impromp tu soccer while trying to keep the ball out of the water on that tiny island.
The week rolled on, the kids discovering the magical underwater environment unknown to them, eagerly climbing back on board after snorkeling and pulling out the fish identifier to see what they had found this time. Rays, barracuda, grouper, lion fish, angel fish, permit, parrotfish, trumpetfish, triggerfish, and many more were identified, with some favorites being the giant tarpon and black tip shark. We made a point to snorkel the coral reefs, where we would find fan, brain, elkhorn, and many more corals (haven't found a coral identifier card yet), tubular sponges, conch, and more. We were tempted by a glowing description of Lighthouse Reef to head to that offshore atoll, but it would have involved a half-day of hard sailing into the wind for just one night, and I didn't think the family would really like that.... We visited lots of islands, some favorites being Seal Cay (always delivers a spectacular snorkeling experience), Queen Cays, Hatchet Cay (with a well-run resor t, restaurant, and dive shop), Laughing Bird Cay, and Tobacco Cay, which is seemingly overdeveloped but offered quirky culture, several bars and a meal, with good snorkeling and swimming. No-need-to-return is South Water Cay, with an aloof dive resort and not much else. We never got to snorkel there, we arrived during a furious rain squall, which never abated long enough in 16 hours for us to get in the water with good visibility. We found many restaurants and resorts listed in the guide book written 5 years ago to be closed. In general the area, including Placencia, seems to be hard hit by the down economy, with lots of properties for sale (including Seal Cay ;-) ), the well run operations thriving and others floundering.
We worked our way north from Placencia, mostly along the outer reef, to Belize City, where the 4 departed on the 8th. We chose the Fort George marina because of its proximity to the mouth of the river bisecting the city, which is supposedly an interesting dinghy tour, but found the city more or less on lock down because of an isolated gang violence incident, so we did not go into the city outside of the tourist area. The marina is completely unprotected from wind and waves, challenging to get in and out of with its cross current, but secure ;-).
Hekla is such a great boat for this kind of adventure; comfy, secure, with lots of water toys. It was a pleasure to be able to share it and this great country with great friends.