Log #56f Belize City to Placentia

February 16, 2013 in Log Series 50-59, Logs by Series, Series 56, The Logs

 

Toronto, Canada

March1, 2013

Hi Folks,

We are still in Toronto, guests of Doug Caldwell a sailing buddy of ours, awaiting an MRI for Judy. She has a pinched nerve and is taking chiropractic and physiotherapy, as well as doing daily exercises while waiting until April 5 for the scheduled MRI. (She is on a standby list if an earlier opening comes up.) Our plans are up in the air until we know her prognosis, or until the therapy and exercises give her mobility and relief. She is in frequent discomfort when she is up for meals, and needs to lie down after 20 minutes or so to relieve the shoulder and neck pain. Judy is taking physio and chiropractic therapy for her pinched nerve, and she is improving slowly. She has an MRI scheduled earlier now, for March 8. If no surgery is prescribed, we hope to be back on Veleda by early April to resume our live aboard life and plans for sailing the west coast this summer.

I have made several slide presentations to a couple of sailing groups, but Judy was not able to come along.

This log gets us from Belize City down the reefs to the idyllic tropical sandy peninsula of Placentia.

Incidentally, Veleda is still in Roatan at Brookseys Point Marina. I am enjoying the snow up here, as it has been many years since I have been in Canada during the winter. I hope to get out cross country skiing some time this month. I have to make up my logs from memory as we did not bring our log book or any cruising guides with us, and I have the rest of Belize and our return to Roatan to yet complete.

All the best,

Aubrey

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Log #56f Belize City to Placentia

Toronto,Ontario CANADA

Feb. 16, 2013

We had a most enjoyable get together with  Georges and Lisette on board Pako, anchored only 50 metres off our starboard bow in the  Drowned Cays off Belize City. The Drowned Keys are a group of low lying mangrove keys across the bay from Belize City. They are used to store barges used to offload ships at anchor, but inside them are several lagoons providingsafe anchorages, ocassionally visited by dolphins, and home to fleets of egrits and a few alligators.

                                                

        Barges stored in the Drowned Keys                          Dolphins in the anchorage

Pako is the boat we sailed with last year from Placentia here in Belize to the Rio Dulce in Guatemala where we sailed with them up Lago Isabel before leaving Veleda in gringo Bay while we returned to Canada to do our cross country trailer odyssey last summer. We met Georges again in the Rio last month just before we left the Rio for Honduras, and he was off to Mexico. So this rendezvous was not expected, but enjoyed as it is when we meet old friends we have sailed with or met in ports all around the Caribbean or even over in Europe and the Mediterranean.

We helped Georges with our system for cleaning his fuel. We have used a fuel squeeze bulb as used with outboard motors. It has a couple of clear plastic tubes, one of which goes into the fuel tank to suck dirty fuel from the bottom, and the other end goes into a two litre coke bottle where the dirty fuel can be assessed and the clean fuel decanted back into the tank. However, Murphy’s Law, the squeeze bulb was dried out and would not work properly. So I went back to Veleda to get the spare bulb we had, but the connections for this were not the right size for the tubes we had. Oh well, at least now he knows how to clean his fuel when he next gets to a chandlery. We were also able to give him some heavy duty wire as he was rewiring his electrical anchor windlass.

That evening we were invited over for a most delicious Indonesian meal with delicious chocolate and peanut sauces. We never did get their recipes for the various dishes served. It was a good opportunity for our guest from Toronto to experience the camaraderie of the cruising lifestyle.

This was also an occasion when our Mercury outboard motor would not start. I pulled my guts out, took out the spark plugs and cleaned them, all to no avail. We wound up paddling the dinghy across to Paco several times.  I thought we would have to go back over to Cucumber Marina  to get a mechanic to clean out the carburetor again. Damn Mercury motors!

However late that afternoon, it finally started. I don’t know what the problem was, but every start up is an anxious moment; will it start or not? Some times it starts on the first pull or by the third pull. If it doesn’t start then, I am in difficulty. I frequently us the release button which allows me to put the throttle handle into forward gear  without engaging the gears, in order to rev the engine at increased throttle. This works sometimes.

Oh well, “if you can’t take a joke —“.

We both left next morning, with Pako heading up to Mexico as we made our way south to Coulson Keys. I caught a three foot barracuda that I flopped into the cockpit. It looked small enough to eat (larger ones may be infected with ciguatera), but Judy was so uptight about blood and scales in the cockpit, that I threw it back overboard. We anchored inside the reef, a couple hundred metres off the resorts. Wandering around the sparsely occupied luxury vacation resorts we got some advice from the local dive boat before heading off in the dinghy to snorkel the reef, including the information that barracuda caught in this area were OK to eat, and were considered a good eating. Our first destination to the north had some interesting shallow coral heads with a variety of sealife. On our way across to the next site we saw a few sting rays wafting through the clear shallows. The next site was  just inside the entrance channel in deeper water, but spectacular reef coral.

It was a bit deeper, from eight to twenty feet, alive with a dramatic population of colourful tropical reef fish. Diving down to get a closer look at them, I swam through small canyons in the reef, enjoying not only the fish, but the wafting colourful sea fans and other undersea vegetation. We showed Linda the tube worms, little puffs of small opaque florets that when touched collapse suddenly into their stems. The sea grasses rhythmically wafted to and fro with the surface surge, drifting us gently back and forth as we skimmed over the bottom looking down at this idyllic water world.

However the wind seemed to be strengthening, and I didn’t trust the exposed anchorage where Veleda was located, protected by the reefs, but exposed to the increasing wind and longer fetch which was creating three foot waves. We towed the dinghy behind Veleda as we motored a mile west to Twin Keys, where we planned to anchor between the keys in a sheltered anchorage out of the wind. The entrance between the keys was not marked with any navigational aids, and our GPS was unreliable regarding the depths. I thought we had given the first point a wide enough berth to enter the channel between the two keys. But, I grounded gently and had to wiggle the boat around into deeper water to port (I hoped). The channel to port worked and we slowly motored another half mile between the keys through shallow 5 foot water to anchor in the middle in a comfortable 15 feet of water. The anchorage was like the Drowned Cays off Belize City, with low lying mangrove covered islands all around, our mast higher than the mangroves. We had a quiet night at anchor.

Next day we were off to Placencia, still in Belize.  This is a pleasant community where it is very easy to meet the locals. We enjoyed the dockside beach bistro of Brenda’s where she produces local cuisine on her charcoal barrel stove, to eat there or take out (everything is in Styrofoam containers anyways). But, she does provide some good local Belizean and Caribbean dishes, not high cuisine, but tasty none the less.

 

                                                  

 

        Brenda’s beachside eatery                                           Judy and Linda enjoying Brenda’s cuisine

We also enjoyed the Coffee Hut for good coffees, teas and muffins as well as free internet service. We went several times to Omar’s for good basic seafood dishes, albeit we had to go next door for wines and liquors and bring them back to Omar’s to enjoy with the meals.

One of the reasons for going to Placencia was to take a few of the tours available to explore the reefs and Monkey River. Going up Monkey River we saw this Bare-throated Tiger Heron, a relatively rare breed of the Heron family.


In addition there is a local airport which would allow Linda to fly to the Belize City airport on her return to Toronto. The first snorkel tour was to Laughing Bird Cay, about 15 miles out on the reefs. We were originally going to another island further out, but the seas were rough and we were pounding into them so hard that we diverted to Laughing Bird Cay.

It was a delightful day on this narrow coral island, part of a marine park. A park ranger oriented us to the island as part of a large coral lagoon system. We snorkeled in the morning before enjoying a chicken barbecue lunch with scalloped potatoes and coleslaw, all included in the $60.00 per person fee. The island is a haven for pelicans, with dozens of them sitting on the water scooping up the millions of minnows and schools of fish feeding off the live coral. It was interesting while snorkeling to see the underside of the pelicans, their legs and webbed feet frantically paddling while we were swimming within a few feet of them.

 

                      

Laughing Bird Cay                                               Pelicans off Laughing Bird Cay

                           

Conch lined path on Laughing Bird Cay                          Dried sea fan on the beach
                                     
Lunch on Laughing Bird Cay                                                          Aubrey and Linda on Laughing Bird Cay

The coral heads were in shallow water, but were alive, not bleached out, as the reef system protects this area from storms and wave action. Swimming through the fantastic schools of fish from small minnows to foot-long yellowtails was a wondrous sensation of drifting into the living masses as they meander, zigzag and dart about in unison through the shallows. It is amazing that I could be surrounded by hundreds of fish, in the midst of their school, but not one touched me, nor could I move my hand fast enough to touch one of them. The unison with which they dart away from any sudden move I would make is magical. Hundreds of them will dart left or right, up or down instantaneously, as if choreographed by a group mind. Science still does not understand the mechanism by which fish and birds and possibly other herd animals spontaneously change course simultaneously.

The late afternoon trip back to Placentia was not as rough as we were going with the swells which had diminished since our morning bashing into the waves. The next day storm clouds covered the area. The anchorage was relatively calm, but fast moving clouds could be seen to the southeast. As we watched the cloud formations, and rain patches we saw a waterspout form, a narrow sinuous thread of dark whirling cloud that touched the water and scooped up a mist of water at its base. The column wavered then disintegrated while another swirl started, and then another and a third water spout developed.

 

           

We were glad these waterspouts were a couple of miles away and hoped they did not continue to develope over the anchorage.