Monday, July 9, 2012

San Pedro, Ambergris Caye, Belize


Thought we’d start this post off with a view of some things the family misses from Belize. 

Cashew and Plantain Chips, Avocados, Craboo. Those girls are also selling Tamales, Dukunu, Supa, Tableta AND Rice and Beans!

Wharves, Dive Boats and the Reef
San Pedro has exploded! Can’t say we didn't recognize it (6 years since we've been to Belize), but it sure is much more of itself. Many, many more dive shops. Little restaurants are  everywhere. All the little hotels have gotten bigger or better and so many more! The streets are now paved to accommodate the gulf carts which are EVERYWHERE. There’s more gift shops than just Salty Dog, though it's still there. Even the Conch Shell Hotel, where we always stayed, has more firmly attached that back section with the bathrooms. Its now pink instead of blue and has a new owner. A gazillion docks accommodate the bizillion dive boats and EVERYONE on the island seems to be a dive boat operator. Both North and South of San Pedro are developed, with a bridge to the North part of the Island. We do see several operations standing empty, but understand its because they hired gringos to run them. The island looks prosperous and that’s a good thing.

Hey John Edward, here's the Conch Shell Hotel

We do miss our old friend Richie Woods, a boyhood friend of Roy's, who always had something interesting to show us. He would have us snorkeling a wreck on the reef or investigating a Mayan ruin on the island or giving me my first taste of conch cooked only in lime juice (pre-ceviche). 

Josh at Hurricanes - see the bottle in the air?

Checking into Belize in San Pedro was a little long but no real problem. Everyone was really nice and friendly. We went to the office, filled out some papers and a man from Customs came back with us to the boat. He looked around a little and we took him back. Later, after lunch Roy picked up the health officier and took him to the boat. Galnoir understood to be nice to the health inspector when he came aboard to check her out. Sebastian and I just hung out at Hurricane's Bar & Grill.

We paid $20 each for Immigration and Customs. Port Authority for cruising was $100 plus $2.50/ day for the maximum of 30 days. Added up that's $225 for the 30 days. Extensions are available. Having our cat was another $75. it would have been $25 less if we had gotten permission ahead of time (but suppose they had said no!). We do have a current health certificate for her from our vet in the states. When you compare this year's cruising permits with last year its more, but only because we pay for each country. You get all of the Bahamas for $350 for 90 days (no cat). Mexico and Belize charge to stay in any marine preserve. Belize is $5 a night. Haven't been yet so don't know how that will work. Supposedly someone will come out and collect. In the Bahamas it was $10 per night. Some places there was a box to put the money in; other places someone collected. I'm talking US dollars, not Belize, for those keeping score. ($1US=$2BZ)

Seabastien left us on June 28th. Great having him aboard. We're hoping he and Lily meet up with us later.

Gulf Carts - Everywhere!
In case you've remembered the fiasco with the Raymarine Chart Plotter, I should let you know we were able to fix the problem. Seems there's a problem in the design - hope they fix that real soon. Sometimes the bezel (the finish frame around the face) moves a little and causes the "Back" Button to stick in the ON position. This results in the chart plotter not working next time you turn it on. While sailing, with no internet or phone connection, we couldn't get in touch with Raymarine to discover that the fix is easy. Just take off the bezel and put it back on. This releases the button and you are set to go. Seems to me that this could have been an email alert to everyone who had bought the e7D. Its their new Hybrid Touch Chart Plotter. A little care given to customers should have been in order!! But we're good to go and just chalk it up to experience. As Captain Ron says "if its gonna happen its gonna happen out there."

Watermelon Juice, lots of tranquil scenes

Our anchorage is a little rocky as the ferrys, dive and tour boats go right past us. We swim off the boat but are careful to stay away from all that boat traffic. Everyone smiles and waves. San Pedro is a friendly town. Snorkeling the reef is so great – we just dinghy over. it’s only about 600 ft off the beach. We are a little disappointed in the condition of the reef. I guess you can’t have all this development without some deterioration. When we talk to the locals they refer to the warming of the oceans. I think that’s part of it but not all. We saw coral bleaching all through the Bahamas but nothing like this. We hear that its much better about 20 ft down. There's also a chance that us humans CAN grow coral. Click here for the link. We’re still seeing some amazing stuff and the most favorite is my first time sighting of a turtle while snorkeling.

Saturday was Lobster Fest on Caye Caulker, about 12 miles south of Ambergris Caye.
We took the ferry over and enjoyed Caye Caulker's more laid back atmosphere. Its streets are still sand and everything is ...
well different, smaller,  more back-pack then suitcase. The family never stayed on Caye Caulker so it was my first real visit there. Not so quiet on festival day; met loads of new folks; ate lots of lobsters and the Tourism Police were there to keep us all in order.

But don't get any funny ideas!

That's Wahoo anchored right in front of Hurricane’s where Josh and his dad, Daniel run a great little bar, restaurant and dive operation. Both food and company are outstanding. It's their WiFi that keeps us connected. Always new folks to meet and somehow there’s always one more thing to do so we just can’t seem to find a compelling reason to  leave.

Fried whole fish with coconut rice. Look at the presentation!
The food here on the island is another amazing thing. In the back streets you'll still find tamales, garnaches, panades and of course, rice and beans. But, in addition, so many restaurants have menus that even fancy New Orleans' restaurants would envy. It's the easy friendships we love. On Tuesday, Charles, owner of Estelle's Restaurant on the beach, brought these to our boat!! We'd asked for Johnny Cakes but didn't want to seem ungrateful.

Anchor flukes aren't supposed bend like this, right?
Our only bad moment was a few nights ago when a squall line came through and the anchor slipped! Yikes, that hasn’t happened since we’ve been anchoring with the Fortress anchor that was on this boat when we bought it. It was out with 90 ft of scope (chain) and we heard the anchor alarm go off. Roy went topside and it did indeed look like we had moved a little. What worried him was TMM Charter's 3 catamarans moored behind us. Didn't want to drift into them. With me at the helm and Roy at the bow we tried to lift the anchor, motor forward and anchor again. Simple right? We’ve done this a a hundred times but this night, the wind was really blowing and we just couldn’t seem to get away from those catamarans! At first the anchor wouldn’t budge, then it got stuck on the keel, then we almost ran aground. Finally Roy was able to get our spare anchor, a Plow, in place and it held fast. Didn’t sleep much for the rest of that night. But no problem since that night and we’ve had several squall lines come through as there’s been several Tropical Waves. The strongest so far is supposed to be over today.

Maybe next week we’ll sail to Belize City with a stop-over at English Caye. Got to eventually get to Placencia, Samme and Grouper are meeting us there.

Sunset in San Pedro, Ambergris Caye - Belize

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