New Marina in Belize

March 5, 2012 in Blogs, Crusing

Sapodilla Lagoon, Belize
March 5, 2012

To: Barbara Theisen, Editor, SSCA Commodore’s Bulletin

From: Aubrey Millard, Veleda IV

Re: Letters from Our Members

Hi Barbara,

We are cruising Belize and have just discovered a great hurricane hole here in Belize and especially the development of what is planned to be a very good marina in a sheltered location, as I have written up in the article below. I have attached three pictures which you may be able to use if you wish.

All the best,
Aubrey

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Veleda IV – Ontario 32 – 4.5’ draft

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