Saturday, March 11, 2017

"There and Back Again"(our way)

San Pedro Carnival

 A Rendezvous aboard SV Rendezvous
Yay! We're Here!!
Feb 4th, 2017, three years and two days between our departure from Placencia, Belize and our return. Three years of new places and new faces. Now memories to be treasured knowing all the challenges were faced up to and conquered. So many great times and super people. Cruising friends who will warm our hearts forever. Our adventure in the Antilles is over.

But now we’re back and feeling like Belize is our best Christmas and Birthday all rolled into one. All those cayes to visit, the atolls which we hardly touched in the other times we were here, the inland beauty of Mayan temples and rain forest just out there waiting for us. Strange to be so excited about a place we’ve been to so often. Belize is made for exploring, so many nooks and crannies! We are once again avidly reading and plotting our way thru Captain Freya Rauscher’s Pilot Book. Old as it is (3rd edition is from 2007, last printing in 2013) it’s still the best and only guidebook available. A great feeling is knowing there’s no time limit - it all stretches out for as long as we stay interested!

There’s even icing on that cake because we also get to look forward to being back in Guatemala, where we’ll spend hurricane season on the Rio Dulce with trips inland. Plus there will be time in the Bay Islands of Honduras which we’ve never visited. 

El Milagro - the miracle on Isla Mujeres

On Jan 24th we arrived on Isla Mujeres after an easy passage across the Yucatan Channel. Found a berth at El Milagro Marina, and were happy to use their agent service to get cleared in. Mexico easily wins the “who has the most convoluted clearance procedures” award. Certainly the amount of paperwork generated is inches higher than anywhere else. So it was wonderful to have each agency meet with us and our agent under the palapa at a tile covered table in El Milagro’s courtyard hearing the sound of a trickling fountain rather than running ourselves silly. Someone said it took them 3 days. Luckily our cruising permit is still good or that would have involved a trop to Cancun also.

El Milagro is a wonderful marina and small resort on Isla Mujere’s West coast. It was where we arrived for our first visit back in 2012 and it has only grown more beautiful and convenient since then. But the “miracle” was meeting Joe and Maribeth on La Peregrina. They were waiting for us to come in having heard me on the SSB with Chris Parker discussing our crossing; then heard us on the VHF arranging a berth. La Peregrina’s crew have been blog followers for years!! We’re an inspiration they say, WOW!!! Originally from Nashville they lived in New Orleans for awhile and ran into Capt Andy Galliano who first introduced them to our blog when this all first started. How’s that for serendipity. Several days and nights of drinks and laughter ensued.

Cheryl & JD, our friends from Lafitte
We left Isla Mujeres with a backward smile and sailed to Cozumel in time to meet up with Cheryl and JD Dempster, long time and dear friends from Lafitte. They were enjoying a Carnival cruise and it worked out perfectly for a little get together. The next morning, Feb 1 we started the trek along the Mexican coast that eventually would bring us to Belize. This is among our longest passages at 185 NM and never a good sail. Each time we make this passage, and this is our fifth, there's been problems. No matter how hard we try to pick the perfect weather window something occurs. The trades and seas coupled with the Yucatan current make this passage uncomfortable. This time, despite the forecast, wind and seas were raging as we approached Belize and the reef opening into San Pedro. 8 ft E waves were crashing across the opening and 25kt NE winds made it so rough that Roy hand steered as Otto, our auto pilot, kept giving up in despair. it was obvious we needed to sail on. 42NM later ( a total of 227 NM if you’re counting and believe me we were) we came through the reef at English Cay and used the wide ship channel to safely get behind Belize’s Barrier Reef. We breathed a heavy sigh of relief as we dropped the hook behind Middle Long Cay. Our intention of spending a couple of weeks in San Pedro would happen another time. Tomorrow it’s on to surprise friends waiting on us in Placencia and finally get to Yoli's, the Best Cruiser Bar in the Caribbean. We know. I think we've been to them all!
At Yoli's

Ya just never know who you'll meet again
that's Mary and Ralph from SV Restless Heart,
last seen in Dominica

After dropping the hook at Middle long Caye it was time for celebratory martinis and big, big grins! The next day we enjoyed a lovely sail with just our jib flying. We were doing about 6kts in 22 -25 kt NE wind with nothing but a light wind driven wrinkle on the water. That’s the difference the reef makes, same wind as yesterday but without the 6-8ft seas. We were heading for Garbutt Cay about 22 NM away. We plan to overnight there and get into Placencia the next day. At this point anything longer than 30NM feels too long to us.  

At Tackle Box Bar with the crew of Wanderlust & Rendezvous

PS: Its now been six weeks since our arrival and I guess we just couldn’t sit still for long. A couple of weeks enjoying Placencia and we were off with Rendezvous and Wanderlust to sail North to San Pedro. Off course there were stops along the way as none of us had a reason to hurry so Lagoon Caye, Garbutt Caye, Blue field Range and Caye Caulker had us for a night or two each with snorkeling and Happy Hours aboard each other’s boat. We sailed through Port-o-Stuck and eventually dropped anchor right in front of Ramon’s. Sipping Belikans at Hurricanes and Tackle Box. Had we ever left? 

Sailing Belize

Cruisers’ Notes
If you come in this way the anchorage at English Cay, while beautiful, offers very little protection. Instead Follow the Eastern ship channel in and turn left at the second green buoy after English Cay.
You can come across 12 Feet Bank in good depths to anchor in 15 ft of water with good holding behind Middle Long Cay, a mangrove cay.  Anchor near 17.16.240N 88.05.49W look for a sandy patch. Its suggested that you put a deck light on instead of your mast light. No use advertising.