Monday, June 25, 2012

Hasta La Vista Mexico; Hello Belize

We did It!! Yeah, we are anchored behind the reef outside of San Pedro on Ambergris Caye.

The narrow pass out of Puerto Aventuras
We "passed a good time" in Puerto Aventuras but like all good things it had to end. Once we felt it was time to move on we visited Geraldo, the Puerto Aventuras dockmaster, to get the scoop on checking out of Mexico.  Option 1; take a bus, then a ferry then hire a taxi to drive us around Cozumel to visit immigration, customs and the port captain in order to pay for the Zarpe (exit papers) and get our passports stamped. Option 2, we could pay for an agent to make the trip to the marina. He would then do all that running around and bring everything back to us. Not able to tell which would cost more we opted for the easier route and asked that he come to us. Like a bad Central American movie we met in a dimly lit bar and handed over money and passports. Actually, it worked fine and the next day we were all cleared out and ready to travel. Though, we were $200US poorer.

But... yep, there's that but. This was the day that what became Debby appeared over the Yucatan. Had us making up new lyrics to Hotel California.

"Next thing I remembered we were headed for the reef
Had to find the way back out to the sea we left before
But Halt said Geraldo the red flag's in place
You can check out anytime you like
But its not safe to leave."

Eventually the rain and wind slacked off and hopes for better weather entered the forecast. At 6pm on Thursday, June 21st we headed out through the narrow pass that leads from Puerto Aventuras Marina to the Caribbean Sea. Turned South and we were on our way to Belize, with four carefully mapped out anchorages to make for a delightful trip. A 10 kt South wind and a 3 kt northward current didn't make for swift sailing but at least the waves were only 4 ft and they were from the East, from all those days of East winds. As soon as the wind moved a little East of South we raised both the jib and the main and sailed close hauled. The only disappointment was passing Tulum at night. As the gloomy evening settled into a dark rainy night we closed up the cockpit and let our Raymarine chart plotter work its magic. After setting the course the autopilot and the chart plotter kept us on track. The radar screen became our eyes and the depth finder provided the comfort of knowing we were in deep waters with no shoals. Considering all that, we actually made excellent time and passed our first possible anchorage about 4 am. Knowing we couldn't attempt to go through a reef opening in the dark we sailed on to our 2nd anchorage. Arrived there about 10am and found a wide passage through the reef to a roly but secure spot, dropped the anchor, had a little lunch, watched a movie, went to sleep. Next morning, time to go, started the engine, turned on the instruments. That new, wonderful Raymarine chart plotter had died overnight! Roy and Sebastien tried everything, I even read the manual!! Nothing.

What to do? What to do?  We have a backup GPS/Chart Plotter program, in fact we have two; one on the computer and one on the Ipad. All our course planning is done on the computer so that meant all our waypoints down the coast were available. However, that would not provide radar or depth. We had no backup for that. 

Roy felt he could get us back out through the reef (remember that wide opening) to the sea so we decided to continue South, stay where it was deep, not make another anchorage, and sail the 108 nm straight to Belize. We would figure out how to get through the reef when we got there. It was a beautiful day to sail, the first blue sky we'd seen in over a week. Seas were just some 4 -5 ft swells, the winds were SSE and we were watching for that elusive sailor's dream, a beam reach. It was that kind of day, the kind that makes you know why you go out on the sea in a small ship. 

All days end, and at the end of this one, 
in the dark, we started seeing lightning over the mainland. Without radar we couldn't tell how the storm was moving. We watched the night hours wear slowly away. Then shortly after Sebastien came on the helm at 1am he saw the wind go from 15 to 23 kts in a matter of seconds. He woke Roy and rushed to get in the mainsail, we had taken in the jib earlier. He fought to get the last of the sail down as Roy held the boat into the wind which had risen to 55 kts (62 m/hr). However, heading into the wind meant heading towards the coast and the reefs! I was watching the computer's chart plotter for whatever depth information I could give him. Fortune smiled and the storm only lasted about 1 1/2 hours. The winds started to die down and Roy could safely turn the boat away from the coast and back towards our southerly course. We sailed through what was left of the night and were relieved to see daylight come.

Being guided through San Pedro Pass
By 9am we were outside of the reef which runs along the Belizean coast and now faced trying to get through the San Pedro Pass. The answer turned out so simple, glad we hadn't worried all night about this. We hailed a tour boat on its way to Turneff  Atoll. They called a local dive shop that sent a boat to guide us in. Welcome to Belize!

New Friends and a Celebratory Dinner - what's not to love

Puerto Aventuras to San Pedro Pass 188.61NM 

Entrance to Bahia del Espiritu Santo is through a very wide pass with Fupar Reef to the north and Naja Reef to the south. You have to look for the reefs' breaking water to see them.
Approach to Fupar Pass  19 23.23N  87 21.39W
Fupar Pass 19 22.77N  87 26.39W
Anchorage  19 22.65N  87 27.99W
Freya gives 2 other anchorages, one behind each of the reefs but we had settled weather and choose not to go any farther. Above waypoint is where we dropped the anchor.

San Pedro Pass Approach from the Caribbean 17 54.23N  87 56.99W
San Pedro Pass 17 54.36N  87 57.56W  
In 2012 there was a Yellow Can marking the pass. Keep a bow watch as you must steer to starboard to avoid a coral head once in the pass. Do Not Attempt in rough seas. In light wind even on a cloudy day you can see the pass and the reef. Once inside the reef continue to starboard and drop anchor. We anchored between Ramon's and Hurricane's Bar. Stay near your boat when swimming. Better yet dingy to the reef.

1 comment:

  1. How I wish I was with ya'll. Move in friday, when you have time, need to know a few things.