Ahoy from the crew of the BlueJacket!
We're firmly entrenched in the vortex of life back home, but I'll back my mind up to our final weeks of 2016 cruising...When you last heard from us we were having a great time diving at Lighthouse Reef. We knew that we needed to cross the sand bar at the mouth of the Rio Dulce at astronomical high tide, which is either at full or new moon, so that pretty much dictated when we needed to leave Lighthouse Reef. That schedule got accelerated by the weather, as much higher winds and seas were predicted, so we made the decision to leave a couple of days early to take advantage of 2' seas instead of 6' seas. Not a tough decision...
We departed from Half Moon Cay using the southern exit, which is something that we've never done before, but it would save us easily half an hour as compared to going to the west and around Long Cay. If you look at the picture to the right (you can click on it for a high resolution version), all of the grey areas are reef and what you can't see are individual coral heads. It was a tricky and shallow exit, but we made it without any issues. Phew!
From there we headed to South Water Cay, which is about 40 miles to the SW of Half Moon Cay. South Water Cay is inside of the barrier reef and we arrived late afternoon. The last time that we had been in there was 12 years ago after a harrowing night at Glover's Reef with 2 boats aground, but that was a story from a past blog. Our notes from the last time that we had anchored there indicated that the holding wasn't great and we definitely confirmed that as it took us 3 attempts to get anchored where we felt secure. Let's just put it this way, we both were happy when we were finally set and I wouldn't want to be there when it was blowing!
A friend of John Terry who goes by Blades, knows the head station manager at a Smithsonian research facility located on Carrie Bow Cay (shown above - South Water Cay top, Carrie Bow bottom). Blades got us an invitation to visit the facility, so as soon as the boats we anchored we dropped the dinghy and headed across the cut to Carrie Bow cay.
We were met by Clyde and Liz who were the current field station managers and who gave us a great tour of the facility. We also met the 2 visiting scientists, who were studying the bacteria that lives on nematodes. Then we were treated to a wonderful feast prepared by their local chef. All in all it was a wonderful visit and we hope to be able to stop there again!
The next morning we headed due west and cut through the Blue Field range so that we could get into the main channel and not dodge coral heads. The winds picked up nicely and we put up the sails. For the first time this year John decided to fly his spinnaker in light winds. The winds picked up and picked up and we mentioned this to John several times. Finally when the winds were a steady 18 kts and gusting higher, John decided to try to take the spinnaker down. "Try" was the operative word as it wouldn't come down and after 10-15 minutes of struggling with it, he finally just let the halyard go and wrestled it back on board. I don't think that he'll wait that long again to drop the spinnaker again!
We then headed into Placencia, which is a delightful town. Our primary purpose of going there was to clear out of Belize, but we also wanted to spend some time there reacquainting ourselves as we hadn't been there since 2004.
Placencia has a population of about 1500, but that swells with all of the tourists that flock to the area. It has beautiful white sandy beaches and is close to the barrier reef, which provides good snorkeling and diving. For the cruiser, Placencia Cay provides great protection for just about anything other than S winds and should a major storm come up, the lagoon provides 360 degree protection.
The area of Placencia that I'm talking about is the town located at the end of a 16 mile long, 1/4 mile wide peninsula. Pretty much there's only a single road that runs the length. In town you have the main road and then a board walk and paths that run off of that. Being a major tourist destination, there are lots of restaurants and shops. There is also a large hardware store and a very reasonably stocked grocery store for the cruisers.
Due to time constraints we only had 2 days to spend there and bright and early on our 2nd day we took the Hokey Pokey water taxi to Mango Creek and then took a taxi to Big Creek where we cleared out. While I like Belize, I HATE dealing with Belizean officials. Every time I deal with them I feel like all that they're interested in is seeing how much money they can extract from the tourist, and generally it's not a pleasant encounter. Unfortunately this time was no different. But we got cleared out and the next day we headed towards Guatemala, which will be my next blog.
-- Geoff & Sue
For the cruiser:
South Water Cay:
We tried anchoring at 3 different locations before we finally held well. We have a 25 Kg Rocna and it would very slowly pull through the sand/grass bottom. I suspect that a lot of the other boats which were anchored there had the same issue, but didn't realize it. We finally found holding towards the N end of South Water cay in a bright sand spot just before it gets shallow.
In order to keep away from bugs and for better air flow, we anchored towards the S end of Placencia Cay (in front of the Paradise Resort) and had more roll than boats anchored closer to the cay and/or further N. I would probably anchor in a different spot next time.
To clear in/out of Belize:
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