Log #53q ICW Part 5 Georgia to Florida

March 6, 2012 in Log Series 50-59, Logs by Series, Series 53 East Coast USA, The Logs

Sapodilla Lagoon, Belize

March 6/12

Hi Folks,

This log gets us down into the Florida Keys where we spent a month in Boot Key Harbour in Marathon. Right now we are sitting out a cold front that has stalled over us, giving us rainy, cool (22 C or 72 F) weather. However we are able to fill up our water tanks from the drain hoses we have attached to our bimini. We are greatly enjoying Belize, and will spend a couple more days exploring around this lagoon and up some of the rivers before we leave.

I have written an article for the Seven Seas Cruising Association about the new marina that is being built here and managed by a Canadian. I have attached the article (Pasted below) and a picture I sent in for your info.

This is a beautiful part of Belize which we visited last week from Belize City where we had rented a car for the week. We went to several nature reserves, but the one we like best is the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary in the tropical rainforest at the base of the Maya mountains, which we plan to revisit when we come back this way next winter.

All is well with us and Veleda.

All the best,


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Log #53q ICW Part 5 Georgia to Florida

Water Cay, Belize, CA

March 2, 2011

Brunswick, SC extends up a mile long channel with a bulk loading terminal and several run-down fishing docks and a large well kept municipal marina at the end where we tied up for a couple of nights awaiting Michael’s arrival. Up the main part of the Brunswick River is a larger containership terminal. We wandered the pleasant sleepy town, and I used a bike borrowed from the marina to go down to the fish docks to buy some shrimp and fish for a couple of meals.

Michael arrived the second evening and we shoved off next day to motor and motor sail out the Brunswick River and into Jekyll Creek between Jekyll Island and the mainland marshes. Judy band I spent a couple of days last year on Jekyll Island in our trailer. The island was once the playground of the rich and famous such as Rockefellers, J.P. Morgan, Carnegies and Vanderbilts. We didn’t stop this time and just navigated up some of the marshy channels to anchor for the night up Umbrella Creek (31 01.542N, 081 30.059W) in complete isolation. Next day after a dinghy trip up some more marshy channels, seeing a few birds and the muddy bank, we went back out and up Jekyll Creek to the open bay to get some quiet sailing in before returning to Brunswick. We had hoped to anchor off the marina and dinghy Michael ashore next morning, but we were hailed by the marina and informed there was no anchoring in the entire harbour. Oh well, it was only $2.00 a foot. While alongside, Michael climbed to the top of our mast to inspect the anchor light for us (We felt like Tom Sawyer whitewashing the fence).
After he left next day (after having also repaired my laptop which was infected with a virus) we continued back down past Jekyll Island.

As we rounded Cumberland Island we saw a few of the wild horses that inhabit that island. However just past it, we grounded! We were within Buoy #60 (30 50.908N, 081 28.660W) at the junction of the Cumberland Dividings, the Crooked River and the Brickhill River, and well within the depths indicated on our GPS, but the GPS was wrong. Instead of the 8 to 10 feet it indicated, we were grounded in 4 feet of water. Oh well, we were able to back off the soft mud bottom. We draw only 4.5 feet, and frequently are motoring through 5 and 6 feet of water, so a bit of silt build up can suddenly ground us.

On into the more open waters towards Cumberland Sound is a U.S. Navy base degaussing range alongside of which was a British nuclear submarine. We didn’t stop or go over to identify closer, as the military is very suspicious of vessels around their ships and there is usually a 500 foot perimeter in which civilian vessels are not allowed.

After crossing Cumberland Sound, we were now in Florida passing Fernandina Beach. We motored on down, now having to rely upon our computer chart and our GPS charts as we did not have the strip charts for Florida East Coast. No real problem as long as our electronics work. It is mostly eyeball navigation anyway. This first stretch of the Florida ICW looked uninviting, with ramshackle cabins cluttered with junk, causing me enough concern that I did not want to anchor in sight of any of these shacks for fear of some locals seeing us as easy victims. We anchored off the main channel behind an island with no other buildings in sight.

We left early next morning onto a quiet mist shrouded ICW, quite beautiful. We were even visited by a dolphin breaking the glassy calm water.  Forty miles later we anchored off Castillo San Marco in St. Augustine (29 53.880N, 081 18.537W).  We filled our jerry cans with diesel and wandered over to the marina office to buy the Southern Waterway Guide for Florida, the Keys and the Gulf Coast. I felt more secure with this publication available, especially for the Keys.

We rarely do paper chart work now as we are in enclosed waters such as the ICW, or entering ports with chartlets of all the navigational aids and information available. Judy is the main navigator, and does a good job of plotting our passages on the GPS which we then just follow. I get frustrated periodically as I want to see the larger picture (chart) and especially the direction from which we are approaching an entry to a channel from open water. For this reason I like the computer chart plotting programs, but that involves having the computer on and available on the main salon table for consultation. The GPS is in the cockpit and easily accessible, but it does not easily portray the larger areas on its small screen (3” by 4”). It is amazing the amount of information available from either the GPS or our chart plotting programs. But – the information is dated from the date of publication. We do not have any system for updating chart info. However, tide, currents, and lunar information are in place for many years in the future. So, for example, if I wanted to find out the tide times and current set in the Magellan Channel near Cape Horn on March 25 in, say, 2015, I could identify the best time to make our approach. The old fashion chart plotting with paper charts, parallel rules, compass, protractor and pencil is still a valuable skill for any sailor to know.

On we motored another 47 miles under several high bridges down wide channels to anchor off Daytona Beach (29 11.928N, 081 00.343W). We were now in typical Florida built-up wealthy territory. Next day we headed down the wide channels going past Titusville and Cape Canaveral. After clearing the NASA Causeway Bridge we turned towards the launch areas to anchor beside the main causeway going over to Cape Canaveral. We were pleasantly greeted by a pod of dolphins that played alongside as we approached our anchorage (28 31.459N, 080 45.259W) on that grey late afternoon.

Next day on we went on down the “Sunshine State” in grey weather, through the built up luxury vacation spots of Cocoa Beach, Melbourne, Sebastian, Vero Beach, to anchor at Faber Cove (27 27.439N, 080 18.109W), the entrance to Fort Pierce. Next day we were going in and out of rain squalls all morning, past Stuart, Jupiter, Palm Beach, past St. Lucie Inlet, and Jupiter Inlet to anchor just inside the north entrance of Lake Worth in Old Port Cove (26 50.134N, 080 03.141W). We refuelled and had a pump out at Old Port Cove Marina, a large but reasonably priced marina.

We were now set for our final passage, offshore past Fort Worth, Boynton Beach, Boca Raton, Pompano Beach,  Fort Lauderdale, Miami, Key Biscayne and down into the Florida Keys, past Key Largo and down to Marathon where we were to spend a month in Boot Key. This final 30 hour passage of 163 nautical miles was exhausting.  More about this in my next log.

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March 2012 – Subject Area: New Marina in Belize

While cruising down the glorious cays of Belize, we were anchored off Colson Cays, well sheltered from the predominant 15 knot (force 4)  southeast winds, when we had a weather report of winds switching to the northwest next evening at 20 to 25 knots (force 6) which would expose us to a lee shore. However the winds switched overnight and by 0530 we were experiencing 20 knot northwest winds and four foot seas. We had planned to go down to anchor between Twin Cays to the south, but were concerned that with the heavy seas, the entrance would be hazardous.  Another Canadian boat anchored with us, Becker Babe, had already left, and indicated they were going over to Sapodilla Lagoon which offered an easier entrance and a sheltered lagoon worthy of a hurricane hole. Good idea!

As we passed Sittee Point, we were in the lee, sheltered from the northwest winds and waves, and made the easy dogleg entrance into Sapodilla Lagoon, using 3,681 foot Victoria Peak (in the Cockscomb range of the Maya Mountains and Belize’s highest point) as a visual reference. We anchored on the east side of the lagoon in six feet of water (16 46.605N, 088 18.023W) with two other Canadian and three U.S. boats.

The lagoon is about two miles in length, and ¾ mile at its widest, with a small mangrove island in the middle near the northern end where the natural depths are between five to eight feet. Below the island the depths shallow to two to three feet, leading into Cabbage Haul Creek.

We were shortly visited by Canadians John Willms, his partner Lucy, and their 17 year old son Kingsley, from Stone Age. John is the manager of the new soon-to-be-operational Sanctuary Belize Marina, part of a large residential, resort and marina development well underway on the northwest portion of the lagoon, protected behind the mangrove shoreline. John is a shipwright from Ladysmith in British Columbia who just arrived in mid-February in his 60 foot ferro-cement Stone Age (get it?), to oversee the development of, and manage, the marina facilities for this large complex.

In talking with him, the marina will have 170 fully serviced slips with 12 foot depths, able to accommodate vessels up to 120 feet in length, with specialized slips for catamarans. It will be a full service marina with a 120 ton travel lift, repair facilities, free water and metered electricity at all slips, a laundromat, showers, club house, TV hook-ups, and close access to the planned marina village and all its amenities. It will have a fuel dock for gas and diesel, as well as a pumpout facility. Propane can be easily arranged through local service vehicles.  Garbage disposal will be available with some recycling. He envisions availability of rental cars and taxis, and possibly marina courtesy cars. The communities of Hopkins to the north and Placencia to the south are only a half hour’s drive away, while the international airport at BelizeCity is just a three hour trip by car or shuttle. There is an international airport planned for Placencia.

Living on his boat for a prolonged time on the hook, John is sympathetic to vessels at anchor in the lagoon, and plans to have a dinghy dock so boaters can access the marina and a powerful WiFi signal that can be received by boats out in the lagoon. (Happiness is having access to wifi and the internet from your boat!) He may even consider a discount for SSCA members.  

The land has been cleared for the development, and several work crews were busy. The dredged canals meander several hundred yards along the shoreline behind mangrove thickets, leading to a fully constructed complex office and a couple of attractive homes already built and landscaped. Much more dredging is planned for the marina, the entrance to the lagoon and the lagoon itself to 12 foot depths, and the southern portion of the lagoon to eight feet. Incidentally, there is another marina planned at the southern end by Cabbage Haul Creek, but the land has not been cleared yet, and its opening is unknown at present.

This project is located in a diverse tropical rain forest setting here in Belize. In addition to the marina it is selling estate properties from one to five acres in size in a variety of settings on the water and inland for residential use in over 14,000 acres along seven miles of shoreline, and surrounded by 111,000 acres of wildlife reserves. There is a five acre island for the exclusive use of members offshore. The project appears to be quite eco-friendly, encouraging activities in this Belizean jungle location: along the Sittee River Wildlife Reserve, in the sub-tropical savannah, in nearby national parks including Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary and the Maya Mountains, and water experiences such as fishing, snorkelling and diving on the coral reefs and mangrove marshlands and tidal wetlands.

Sanctuary Belize Marina is expected to be operational by May, an ambitious undertaking, but it is well underway. We will be back next winter for Dec. 21, the winter solstice and the portentous end of the Mayan calendar, for the festivities associated with that event here at this new marina. We wish John and the enterprise our best, and look forward to visiting next December. I will provide an update at that time. For information on this marina and complex go to www.sanctuarybelize.com.

Commodores Aubrey and Judy Millard