Sunday, June 10, 2018

Ninety Days (that's all we get)

In Belize when the trades die bad things come from the West!
Belize, in fact all the Central American countries have this weird time thing going on. In the CA4 countries of El Salvador, Nicaragua, Honduras and Guatemala you can't stay longer than 120 days total. So if we wanted to go from the Rio, which is in Guatemala, to the Bay Islands of Honduras after spending hurricane season on the river we'd have to first head to Belize for a minimum of 72 hrs to reset our 120 days. But our boats can only stay in Guatemala for 90 days before having to be "imported" for 9 months. Once that's been done we need to stay out for 3 months before starting all over again. But back to Belize, that country only gives our boats 90 days before we have to clear out for at least 24 hours before clearing back in. Does that make your head hurt? No idea what the reasoning is; some say its the money, some say it's to prevent derelict boats - derelict boat prevention!!!, ha, ha, ha have you seem some of the boats on the Rio? Derelict is a step up!

Regardless, or is it irregardless, of the reasoning - as our friend Douglas Fleming says "No reason, just policy". our 90 days in Belize were up and we left. Back to the Rio Dulce and Wahoo's home for hurricane season. But from the last blog to this one we still had one more month of sailing these lovely azure waters. We made the most of them and visited some of the most picturesque places around.

southern ray, hiding in the sand


For us, it's always about the snorkeling

It was time to bid goodbye to the sailing yachties who had made our first 60 days so much fun. Alta Mae (Kent & Shelley) and Cordelia (singing, guitar playing Dave & Ellen) both were headed back to the Rio in early May then back to the states for 6 months. It's always a bit sad to see your buddy boats sail away but it's just a part of the wanderlust life we lead. In this case, we'll all be sailing together again next year.  And then there's the fact that Cordelia is our neighboring boat in Tortugal Marina. So after a final evening at Yoli's Bar in Placencia they headed South and we headed back to the cayes to see what we had missed.

Laughing Bird Caye
More coral = more fish 
Our first stop was a small caye that has had a big impact on Belize's efforts to regrow coral. Laughing Bird Caye is one of Belize's National Parks. As such it cost $10US per day/per person to be there and, as in Hol Chan up North, you can't snorkel without a licensed guide. We anchored off and explored the little island on foot and by dinghy. I must say I was tempted to go over the side. Who would have seen me? Fragments of Hope, the coral restoration program in Belize, has done a wonderful job here and pictures show huge stands of Elkhorn coral that have been regrown from coral seedlings. But we resisted the urge and sailed on to spend several nights at South Long Coco Caye which lies on the edge of the park and is obviously benefitting from even being close by. We had last snorkeled here with Sammy and Grouper in 2012 and it had been very disappointing. Well boy, not this time! This time it was amazing, saw a school of tarpon swim right by me!! We ended up spending 3 nights here and snorkeled both the East and the West side of the island. Stunning even though the water clarity wasn't great. See more about Fragments of Hope

Panorama of Wahoo approaching the Silk Cayes

Easternmost Silk Caye that we snorkeled to.
Evening at Hatchet Caye
Next, we visited another National Park and beauty, the Silk Cayes. These 3 specs of sand and coral sit along Gladden Spit, the most Easterly part of the Belize Barrier Reef. We did a sneaky snorkel workaround. We anchored Wahoo and swam ashore thus ensuring we'd get to see what's beneath the waves. Of course, we still paid our $10. This time Roy had it with him, a little soggy but still... The Silk Cayes are definitely not an overnight stop but 3NM away is lovely Hatchet Caye with its beautiful restaurant where the service, the food, and the view couldn't be more spectacular.

A healthy coral reef is a wonder to see! Two big elkhorn coral(center & right). 
Inside the Lighthouse Reef Atoll-approaching Half Moon Caye

Roy & I were doing our best to lift heavy hearts as the one year anniversary of Austin's death was upon us. We wanted to do something that would be as memorable as he is. We decided on something a little challenging and oh so beautiful - just like him. We sailed beyond the barrier reef out to the furthest atoll, Lighthouse Reef. This is the atoll that contains the famous Blue Hole.

Anchored off of Half Moon Caye, nesting site for the Red Footed Booby

We had visitors (picture taken from Wahoo's deck!)
 Lighthouse Reef is a perfect Pacific-type atoll with a coral reef enclosing an inner lagoon that contains small coral islands, including Half Moon Caye which hosts one of the few nesting colonies of Red Footed Boobies. (not that Austin was a red-footed booby kind of guy but he liked exploring and seeing new things, so it worked) This proved as good an idea as something like this can be. It offered hours of solitude as we made the 30+ miles in open ocean and ended up giving us something we would have loved to share with him. Of only...
In addition, it added the crew on Blue Jacket to our list of "great yachty friends." We continued our remaining time in Belize together with this amazing couple on their Freedom 40 sailboat. At home in Boston, Geoff and Sue run a charity called "Fresh Start" and help people who need a helping hand trying to start their life again.  Knowing them got us even more involved with Pass It On Guatemala which is an organization that helps Mayan villages. See more about Pass It On, Guatemala

Red-Footed Booby

Brown Booby

You can see the birds up close from an Observation Deck. They don't seem to mind that you are standing right in the midst of their colonies.

So our time in Belize came to an end for 2018 and our time in Guatemala started back up. We have a visit from John Edward and Laura to look forward to. They will meet us for our last week and we'll travel inland before heading back to Houston on July 18 and then it will be on to New Orleans.

If you're counting, this is our ninth year with Wahoo. 2009 & 2011 saw us take extended sailing trips to the Bahamas. Now it's the sixth year that she hasn't been back in the states.