It's hard for me to believe that we're about to head in and get ready to store the boat for hurricane season, but it's true. The season felt very short. Perhaps that was because we were delayed getting out of Guatemala due to working with the Jungle Medic. Perhaps it was due to the short time that we were able to spend with good friends out at Lighthouse Reef due to schedules, weather, mechanical problems, etc. I don't know the exact cause, or maybe it was just the combination of all of the above, but it sure felt short.
One thing that I certainly learned this year is that Belize isn't a great place to sail, especially when you most of your trips are between Lighthouse Reef and the Belize City area. You're either sailing downwind, which in theory is great if you've got enough wind, or motoring into the wind to get back. And since your sailing schedule is timed by your 30 day customs & immigration clock, you may not pick the best times to sail. Now, if you're running up and down the coast inside the reef, you've probably had great sails with beam reaches on flat seas. Unfortunately the diving stinks inside of the reef. I guess that this is the difference between sailing and cruising. Cruising is about the destination and sailing is the act of getting there. I have some friends who love to sail and claim that they want to cruise, but I suspect that they'd go crazy hanging out in one area for any length of time. You can just move, move, move, but then you never get to know an area or the people.
Our trip to Roatan pretty much fit the above description. Roatan was 75 miles SE of Lighthouse Reef, and at this time of year the trade winds blow consistently out of the E to SE. Unless you can wait for a wind shift to the N, which is rare at this time of the year, you're going to have to motor to get there. So we motored to get there and we pulled in just after 8 AM and got ourselves anchored in a nice sand patch.
On Monday we had to check into the country with the Port Captain and Immigrations. That's in Coxin Hole (aka Toxin Hole) which is a half hour ride away in a collectivo, which are small vans that circulate between various towns and pick up people along the way. It's cheap, about $0.80 each way, so you can't complain about the cost. It's not door to door, so once they get you to the destination city, you still have to find your way to your destination. Luckily we've been there several times in the past, so we had a good idea of where we were going.
Unfortunately the best laid plans often go astray. The Immigration agent had left his passport stamp at the airport and the Port Captain was out of the office. So, we headed back to the West End where we had lunch and then I headed back to Coxin Hole. Remember how I said that the collectivos were SMALL vans? How many people do you think they can fit in one? Well, I can assure you that the number is at least 17, as that's how many we had on our way to Coxin Hole! After I got there I had to convince the Port Captain to give me a cruising permit and then I had to wait for Immigrations to show up, but I was able to get everything completed. By 4 PM I was back on the boat after having spent virtually all day taking care of this simple matter. What a waste of a day!
Greg and Judy from Lone Star Love have been dealing with their own set of issues. Greg had to go back to the States to deal with some family matters and then they've been doing battle with the La Ceiba Shipyard over a job that the shipyard keeps screwing up. They finally managed to get themselves out of the shipyard and met us in Roatan. It was great seeing them and we even got in some dives together.
The diving here just doesn't begin to compare to Lighthouse Reef. To paraphrase the old McDonald's commercial: "Where's the Fish?" This is a marine park, and there just aren't many fish, especially in the medium to large size. The local dive shop association has decided that they need to patrol the reefs to make sure that no one is poaching, so they have 2 boats which monitor activities on the reef. To fund this they've added a $1.00 per tank fee (oops, donation) onto each air fill. That's a 20% increase in cost, and from what I've seen there's no accountability for this fee and all that's happened is that they've raised their profit margin. We'll see what happens.
The weather is definately changing into summer patterns. Tropical waves are rolling through here on a regular basis. Normally they're on a 3 day cycle, but right now they're coming every 2 days. You can get some pretty intense winds and squalls with them, so you don't want to be out sailing in them. As a result it looks like we'll be leaving for La Ceiba on Friday as that will be the next tropical wave free day.
That's it from here. Hope that everyone is enjoying their summer. See ya soon!
-- Geoff & Sue
Log ID: 703
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