Archive: » 2012 » December

Finally, off we go to Utila, Honduras

We say ‘finally’ because we checked out of Belize about a week ago. It’s not like we’re breaking the law or anything like that; at sea, mariners are entrusted with their own float plan, however slow. And furthermore, so many elements can interfere with that plan, be they mechanical or natural. Yes, we probably stretched it a wee bit by going diving with the whale sharks, but essentially if you’re living a life at sea, then even getting propane or taking out the trash, or leaving a country, can be an interesting, unpredictable adventure.

Utila is beautiful. We land at its western end where there’s an archipelago of expressive cays edging a sparse coral field. We don’t see any palm trees in this landscape – the cays of Utila look temperate despite the tropical climate. With an anglo ancestry by way of the Cayman Islands, the three Bay Islands of Honduras have an English heritage. The sing-song coloration in their accent, both in English and in Spanish, sounds joyful to our ears.

Diving with Whale Sharks

Whale sharks are the largest fish in the world – they can grow to be 40 feet long. Thankfully, they’re vegetarian, as most large animals are, but they have a soft spot for caviar. So, they migrate the open oceans of the earth in search for this tiny delicacy. Luckily, nature has its way of creating routines and endowing species with memory. Thus emerge phenomenal migrations between feeding grounds, mating grounds and the shopping malls… well, at least for some.

Here we go for an unforgettable open-water dive to see the whale sharks feeding on snapper roe – an impressive species themselves – who come to spawn off the barrier reef at this time of year. Whoever called the chess-playing computer ‘Deep Blue’ knew something about nature’s incredible affinity for, and reliance on memory to advance life. Not for sale at the malls.

Visiting the SW Cays in Glover’s Reef

So, we’re goofballs. Here we are exploring one of the two cays that make up the SW cays. It has a friendly dive resort – we’ve read that they allow stragglers like us to join their dives. In fact, this is the season to go dive with the whale sharks. We’ll see whassup and maybe join a group for a dive or two. Why are we goofballs… well, who knows? Some people just are.

Onto Glover’s Reef

We leave Belize – technically – and head to sea. Our plan is to meander toward Honduras. We hope to stop over at Turneffe for a few days, then move on to Glover’s Reef, and if we dare, we’ll backtrack a bit northward to Lighthouse Reef – the farthest east of the three atolls. It would give us a tactical advantage on our south-easterly heading given the prevailing easterly wind direction. But, plans or no plans, the mainsail roller furler fowls up as we arrive in Turneffe so we cut everything short – we dart over to Glover’s Reef and focus our attention there. Wow… this is a beautiful atoll and the sailing is great despite the technical mishaps… technically we’re also supposed to be out of Belize so it must be some kind of theme for this leg of our journey.

Cay Caulker – Final provisioning and checking out of Belize

In Cay Caulker, we take the water taxi to San Pedro to check out of Belize – we’ve been here four months – that’s the limit. Besides fueling up and filling the water tanks, we also take the opportunity to provision for our crossing to Honduras. Gotta do it, and here it is.

Great Sail from Colson Cays to Cay Caulker

We weigh anchor early in the day to make a run for Cay Caulker. We need to get there so that we can deal with our immigration – we’ll be checking out of Belize after four months here; the maximum allowed. The day goes by sailing north on the main channel, enjoying the breeze, our familiarity with the area, and each other.

Northward along the Barrier Reef to Colson Cays

We move along the inner side of the Barrier Reef, meandering northward – wow… this really is an awesome scene, with reefs squeezing the navigable path tightly. We motor. We make it! We decide to stay in Colson Cays – a desolate mangrove duo. The southern cay is populated by a pair of vernacular pied-a-terre – a spectacular way of life: Fishing. It’s us and one other boat. Couples, pairs, twins, duo… that’s what Colson Cays was all about.

Douglas and South Water Cays

We continue northward, staying a couple nights at Douglas Cay, where Linda swims half a mile in a bold move. We then move on to South Water Cay, the most populated of the outer Belizean cays… It has charm in abundance… it looks like it’s been battered by hurricanes a few times. Like many Belizean cays, no matter if it’s one of the most populated, nary a soul to be seen… maybe during Easter?

Ranguana Cay

We need to get back to San Pedro to check out of the country – we’ve been here four months now, the maximum. So, our plan is to move along the barrier reef northward and catch some of the remote cays that sit on the reef. With a name like Ranguana Cay, we would go out of the way to see it. So, it’s a welcome coincidence that this Cay is just north on Tom Owens. We also run into some old friends from Placencia… no, no, no, that’s not ZZ Top on our boat.

Diving in the Sapodillas

We continue to enjoy the splendid waters of the Sapodilla Cays and go on a mission…eh-hem… we mean a dive of goodwill. We go off the deep end on this one.

Exploring Frank’s Cay in the Sapodillas

After the storm we head back to the Sapodillas – they are just as stunning as they were the first time. We take Zapato, our faithful dinghy, and both our cameras to Frank’s Cay and spend the day having a photo safari. As usual, nobody is here but us.

Seeking a Safe Haven from a Storm

We hear on the SSB radio that a pretty strong storm is on it’s way. Usually nobody stays out on the reef because it’s very exposed. Not even the researchers will be here on Tom Owens. So we decide to head down to the Sapodillas because we’ve heard there are protected anchorages there. It defies logic – these cays are even more exposed and the so-called “protection” is due to the extensive reef formations. The concept is to anchor in deep-water pools surrounded by thick coral reefs. Well, we go check it out and simply don’t feel it – too many coral heads scattered about the pools. So, after a drive-thru, we decide to head toward the Belize mainland to the west. Because we’re motoring on this distincly calm day, we can get to New haven in just a few hours. We happily settle in for a few days and let the storm pass – it’s very nice to see southern Belize again. We plan to head back out to the beauty of the reef along the Sapodillas once we’re done with this mainland haven.

Tom Owens Cay

We leave Placencia and head eastward toward Belize’s outer reef, specifically to Tom Owens Cay. It’s a very tight anchorage surrounded by the reef. There’s a dive resort and research center there. They cater to scientific tourists who work M through F and then return to the mainland for the weekend. The current group is studying the effect of the Lion Fish on the local flora and fauna, and they are also conducting a census of the lobster population. The highlight of the stay are the three identical charter catamarans that anchor 30 feet away in a perfect row for a one-night, lickety-split visit… it’s a nudist club! Lot’s of sudsing-up at the deck showers after their skinny dips. Sorry, we don’t even think of taking a single picture…

Easter Week in Placencia

We make it to Placencia just in time for Easter, the biggest holiday of the year here in Belize. Belizean’s celebrate by taking the whole family to the beach. Industrious locals sell mouthwatering bbq and we work our way from tent to tent enjoying ribs, cilantro rice and more. We like Placencia a lot – we’d been here before but didn’t stay as long as we wanted so this time we stay for a while. We do find our friend Gary right away and spend time with him over meals and many glasses of rum, shaking our heads.

Back to Placencia

We heard from another boat while out at Turneffe that someone we knew had a bicycle accident in Placencia, and then, totally unexpectedly, succumbed to her injuries a few days later. We had just met Joyce and her husband Gary once before in Guatemala – we had one of those grand marathon afternoons that ends way past midnight. Well, the sad news goes deep, so we plan to go find Gary in Placencia to express our shock and sorrow, and perhaps even spend some time comforting him. We first stop for a few days at Bluefield Range, a small and desolate cluster of mangrove cays on the way to Placencia.