Solo to Lighthouse Reef and the Blue Hole
14 January 2013 | 17 19'N:87 32'W, The Blue Hole
Now with friends gone and Zia in Colorado working on personal projects, I have the opportunity to become reacquainted with the challenges, thrills, and joy of singlehanding a big boat. Getting out of that damned marina in Belize City was really more challenge than I wanted, but a multihull sailor from Mississippi working nearby was very curious about Hekla and he helped me get out, handling lines, and all went well. Then we were off on a screaming reach south to Colson Cayes, with wind gusting to 28 (2 reefs!). These Cayes were mangroves with great shelter, great for getting a few things in order and plotting the next move, to the offshore atolls. Next day was another nice reach north to the deepwater approach to Belize City then out into the mostly unprotected ocean, wind still in the low 20's and sailing hard into it for 4 hours. Rich wanted to come out here, but trust me, the family wouldn't have liked the journey....7' seas....
Lighthouse reef is one of the few coral atolls in the northern hemisphere, formed by coral growing around the edges of steep limestone plateaus. They rise perpendicularly from great depths enclosing a central basin lagoon. Finding the way in and then navigating around the dangerous coral heads of the interior require extreme caution. I chose a clear weather day and timed the entrance for the sun to be high and behind me, the best for visual navigation. Coral heads were everywhere, but easy to see, unless a cloud cast a shadow, which would make underwater features disappear and me freeze in anxiety. I put down anchor in a nice sandy spot just seconds before being whacked by a 30 knot squall, which happily washed all the salt off of the boat! I spent 4 days at this first spot, snorkeling off the back of the boat, kayaking to the barrier reef, exploring the nearby Halfmoon Cay and its bird sanctuary, and catching up on boat maintenance, reading and writing.
Finally I was ready to move on to the Blue Hole. Readers should Google this to get fantastic aerial photos. The Blue Hole is a perfectly round lake rimmed by a ring of living coral. The coral ring is broken by two narrow passages. Getting here was tricky, only 6 miles but constantly on edge, dodging coral everywhere. Finally I eased into the hole itself, and watched the depth sounder soar from 4 meters to 100 in a few heartbeats. The Blue Hole is believed to be a collapsed cavern, once an above sea level limestone cave. It is an iconic dive, but for highly experienced divers only, not me! I picked up a mooring ball inside the hole, and climbed the mast to get some photos. Normally I do not go to such lengths for a photo shoot, but this one was fun, albeit tough. Alas, 70 feet above the water is just not enough to get the whole thing in one frame. The picture above shows Hekla lying close to the edge, the stern in very deep water and the bow near the reef. It is ac tually kind of a sketchy placement if the wind were to shift (which it has not for over 10 days). I have enjoyed the day here entirely alone, swimming and kayaking along the edge of the hole. I'm a little uneasy though, I like the security of my own anchor on the big sand flats much better.