Big Creek, Plancencia and Tobacco Range

Thursday, February 17, 2005

016-52.560 N
088-5.580 W
Marine forecast for this location

Ahoy from the Tobacco Range of Belize!

I must admit that I have no idea why this area is called the Tobacco Range, other than guessing that perhaps they smuggled tobacco through here at some point. This is just another set of cays where I can't imagine that they ever grew tobacco...Anyhow, we arrived here late this afternoon after spending 2 days in Placencia. Tomorrow we're going to exit thru Tobacco cut and head to Lighthouse Reef while the winds are still light and favorable. So far we've had to motor everywhere we've gone. Today we were headed ENE and the wind was out of the NE at about 7-10 kts. Not exactly sailing weather. But we've been behind the reef and the water was flat. I can't complain too much. Tomorrow it's a 35 mile slog into the wind outside of the reef to Lighthouse reef, but the winds have been light, so the seas shouldn't be too bad.

We spent 2 nights at Placencia, which is clearly a major tourist destination. You need to realize that there's a single paved road in the town, and a 3 foot concrete sidewalk running along the buildings by the water. Other than that it's all dusty, dirt roads. And for this privilege most tourists pay $140 for a short flight from Belize City or take a 3-4 hour bumpy ride on dirt roads to get there! I suppose you could sail here too! :-) But it is very quaint, and would provide a great place to relax. There's a ton of restaurants, 2 hardware stores (don't even begin to think Home Depot), an ice cream store and several stores to provision, so you can see why it's a cruisers destination.

Before arriving at Placencia we cleared into Belize at Big Creek. We've never cleared in there before, so it was a bit of a learning experience. Big Creek is used by a banana company to bring their freighter in, and is extremely well marked and dredged. Once we got anchored we headed into Customs and was told that we had to go to Immigrations first. Well, that's in town, which is about 2 miles away. Luckily we were picked up by a local who took us to the police station where they provide immigration services. We would had a hard time finding it on our own. We had to hoof it all of the way back, which felt a lot shorter than when we we walking to town and not knowing where we were going.

It was noon when we got back and Customs was closed. After lunch I went back in and cleared in. No problem and there was no charge. There was a $10 charge for an agricultural inspector to come out and look at the boat. That was pretty much a joke as all that he did was to peek inside the refrigerator and glanced at the freezer. Nothing else was inspected. Considering that they're supposed to be protecting their crops from smuggled fruits and vegetables, it was poor job. If you're going to do an inspection, do it for real!

We spent a good part of the next 2 days doing final provisioning before heading out to the atolls. I couldn't imagine that we needed anything else, but we did...You need to understand that I'm basically forbidden to open most of the food cabinets, refrigerator or freezer due to the fact that they're packed to the gills and that any mis-step might cause them to explode. Believe me, if the S.S. Minnow had gone aground with our provisions, they would have eaten well for a long time...

Well, tomorrow's an early day so I had better wrap this up. I hope that all is well with everyone.

-- Geoff & Sue

For the cruiser:

Big Creek:

There are over 20 buoys marking the channel which is 24+ feet deep. The start of the dredged channel is at

16-28.89N 88-22.69W and is marked by a red and green buoy. Do not cut the corner as it's very shallow on either side of the dredged channel. Follow the channel and creek all of the way to the end. You'll see 3 balls which mark the edge of the turning radius of the freighter. Anchor behind them in 7-10' of water.

Customs and Agriculture Inspection is at the end of canal where the freighter docks. Tie up on either side and look for the Belize flag on the building next to the entrance to the banana plant. Agriculture is in the camper across the road from Customs. Immigrations is in the town about 2 miles from the banana plant. The road ends at the banana plant, so just start hoofing it from there. If you're lucky, someone will pick you up as you're walking. Immigrations is at the police station, which is on the road to the right just before the BTL towers. Ask once you've gotten that far. Note that extensions are only done on Thursdays at this time.

Tobacco Range:

This is a difficult anchorage to find. We came in from the main channel and had to go around the north end of Coco Plum cay. A bar extends 1-1.5 miles beyond the end of Coco Plum cay, so be very careful when crossing this area. We cut it too close and picked our way along in 7' of water. The following waypoints should get you in without any problems. Be careful with the first 2 points as we were south of them and ended up in shallow water, but it looked like if I had followed my waypoints and been 100 yards further north that we would have been OK. As you're approaching it looks like you're going into solid mangroves, and it's not until you get close that you see the entrance. Be aware of shoaling on either side of the entrance. Anchor anywhere inside. This is a great storm anchorage.

1) 16-54.49N 88-06.95W * Use extreme caution *
2) 16-54.66N 88-06.50W * Use extreme caution *
3) 16-54.278N 88-06.438W
4) 16-52.969N 88-06.750W
5) 16-52.553N 88-06.501W
6) 16-52.361N 88-06.153W
7) 16-52.500N 88-05.700W

Edited on Feb 7, 2005 to correct waypoint for Big Creek. Edited on Jan 20, 2007 to correct waypoint 7 from 16-54.5 to 16-52.5
Log ID: 632

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