Log #54f Cruising down Belize

April 28, 2012 in Log Series 50-59, Logs by Series, Series 54, The Logs

Mission to Seafarers, Toronto

April 28, 2012

Hi Folks,

We have been back in Toronto for three weeks now, and most of our presentations and medical checks have been completed, so I can get down to catching up on my logs before we leave May 28 for the Yukon. We are in our trailer in the parking lot of the Mission to Seafarers here in the Port of Toronto. We left our GMC Yukon and the trailer here for the winter, and moved in as soon as we arrived. They both wintered well, especially as it was a mild winter here in Toronto. We took the cover off the trailer, put the batteries in the trailer and car, and started both up very easily. Getting a trailer ready after winter storage is much easier than getting a sailboat ready for launch after a winter on the hard. A couple of extension cords provide electricity; we fill up our water tank from a garden hose; use their kitchen sink for doing dishes and the washroom facilities in the Mission so as not to fill up our holding tanks. We also have a spectacular view of the Toronto skyline from the trailer (see attached picture). We appreciate the generosity of the Mission for allowing us to stay here while we are in Toronto.

Log_54f_Toronto_skyline

It was strange coming from hot summer-like weather in Guatemala to the late winter/early spring weather of Toronto. It is lovely seeing the buds come out on the trees, and the early daffodils and scilla blooming in peoples’ gardens. The last few days however have been quite cold, and a couple of days ago we had some snow flurries.

This log gets us down to the tropical island paradise of Caye Caulker in Belize, and I was sidetracked talking about conch and conch recipes. If any of you would like more detailed recipes for conch or the bannock we make, drop me a line.

All the best,

Aubrey

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 Log #54f Cruising down Belize

Toronto, Canada

April 15, 2012

From San Pedro, where we checked into Belize but left in a couple of days because of an uncomfortable anchorage, we motored 12 miles down, inside the reef to anchor in a wide sheltered bay behind Caye Caulker (17 44.660N, 088 01.839W). Inside the reef is quieter, sheltered from the waves of the open Caribbean. However, the water is shallower, between 8 and 12 feet, with occasional coral clumps and shoals that have to be avoided. This wide bay on the leeward side of the caye had about a half dozen cruising sailboats from the U.S. and Canada at anchor. We dinghied ashore to leave Wave Dancer at a rickety dock near the fish co-op. We asked if it was OK to do so, then wandered into town. A benefit of Belize is the ability to speak English.

Caye Caulker is an ideal tropical laid back island with a vibrant tourist economy of small scale resorts, tour companies, and travel agents. It has a wide selection of good restaurants. We enjoyed a pig roast at a Cuban restaurant, watching the pig turned on the spit, then shifted to a barbecue for carving a delicious pork meal (see attached picture).
Log_54f_Pig_roasting                                                                                 Log_54f_Judy_at_the_Pig_Roast

I enjoy the crackling skin of a pork roast, but this was even better. At the point where a canal links the outer and inner bays there is a large sand spit with an active beach bar (see attached picture), music, and bikini clad patrons enjoying the warm waters, drinks in hand.
Log_54f_Beach_bar                                              Log_54f_Para_surfing_
Some of the activities include a wide variety of day trips on fast launchas to various keys for fishing, snorkelling and diving. Along the sandy beach instruction was being given for diving, wind surfing and kiteboarding. I was too lazy to take another lesson in kiteboarding. The sport looks fascinating, skimming along on a surfboard propelled by a parabolic kite aloft. I tried it once and it was remarkable the control that can be exercised on the kite. It was all I could do to master getting up with the kite and cautiously surfing a straight line for a short distance. I was exhausted after a half hour of getting up and falling off. I doubt if I will be ambitious enough to take more lessons to master the skill a bit more. I did master windsurfing twenty years ago, but have not been up on a windsurfer since we started our cruising life 14 years ago. The techniques and technology have changed since then. However if given the opportunity I would like to try it again.

When we were in New York, anchored behind Coney Island a kiteboarder was skimming along back and forth behind Veleda doing turns and jumps with great skill (see attached picture). I got a video of him jumping over the dinghy that I may be able to put on Picasa or on my website when it is up and running, shortly, hopefully.

Judy walked over to a nature park on the end of the island for bird watching, but made a quick retreat when she was deluged with mosquitoes and other bugs. This was the first time we have been to a location that was so infested with bugs, and only in the park. The main streets and beaches were not infested with anything more than a few sand flies. We have not been bothered with flies on board at all.

Another day we dinghied around the south end of the island, which is not very populated. There were a couple of canals dug into the island through the coral strata on which a couple of large homes were built, but no further development. A hundred yards off shore we drifted in the dinghy while Judy had her binoculars on the bird life. I snorkelled around the shallow water in search of conch, but found only one that was a keeper (see attached picture).
Log_54f_Aubreys_Conch
I did manage to cut my finger on an abandoned conch shell when I tried to lift it out of the silt, slicing it on the sharp edge of the outer lip.
We haven’t cleaned a conch since we collected a large number in the Bahamas in 1999 (see attached picture), and I depended upon a co-operative local who showed and helped me hammer a hole in the third ring from the end, and pull the conch out by its operculum, a hard covering at the open end of the shell. Then came the fun of stripping away the guts and attachments to get the solid white mass of meat from it, a messy slimy operation.

                                                    Log_54f_Conch_caught_in_the_Bahamas

Conch needs to be pounded quite well; otherwise it is very tough.See the picture below for Judy pounding the conch with a car repair rubber mallet.

Log_54f_Judy_pounding_conch

Both Judy and I like conch in a variety of recipes. For conch salad, it is a spicy tasting solid meat that can be chopped up fine (raw) and mixed with finely chopped onions, sweet peppers, cucumber, celery, and tomato (about a half cup of each), and sprinkled with juice of three or four limes, and a half teaspoon of salt (best if chilled before eating). Mmmm!

Then there are conch fritters, a favourite that Judy has made on several occasions for my birthday when we were down in Hog Island on Grenada. Conch chowder and cracked conch (sautéed in butter with other spices) are other recipes we have enjoyed. However with this one conch, we had it as cracked conch with pan fried potatoes and white wine.

We were given a few extra cleaned conch by the skipper of a large catamaran that was registered from Iqaluit in the territory of Nunavut in Canada’s northland. We stopped by as we were wondering about the registration, to find it was crewed by four women, one of whom was the owner and skipper. The boat was a charter boat owned by an American who used Iqaluit as a port of convenience for tax purposes. They were appreciative of the conch recipes and a bannock recipe we gave them. They were impressed with the variety of ways bannock can be prepared (simple plain white bread, chocolate cake, sweet bread, ginger bread, savoury bread and even garlic bread).

After five days at anchor off this tropical paradise we weighed anchor on Feb. 22 for the 26 mile motorsail through several cuts between islands, past three large cruise ships,
Log_54f_Cruise_ships_off_Belize_City
past the shoreline of Belize City to go alongside Cucumber Beach Marina (17 28.338N, 088 14.941W) a few miles south of the city. We rented a car for a week and drove all over Belize as I will write about in my next log.