Sailing Belize

Trip Start Feb 07, 2012
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Trip End Apr 24, 2012


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Felicity Catamaran

Flag of Belize  , Belize,
Saturday, April 7, 2012

Paul here....As you probably know, we love to sail.  we have been sailing in Maine for about 4 years now.  We have done some sailing in the British Virgin Islands thru the years, almost all with a captain.  This time we decided to charter a 38' catamaran named "Felicity".  Our plan was to explore the "cayes" (keys or islands) off Belize in Caribbean Sea. 

We picked up our boat in Ambergris Key (San Pedro).  After a thorough briefing from the charter company, the crew of 6 (us 4 and my parents Gerry and Barbara) set sail.  Sailing a 38' Catamaran was a bit nerve-racking at first, but we quickly got a handle on the vessel.  The biggest challenges turned out to be the navigation and depth.  There were virtually NO navigation aids.  As a comparison, nearly all channels, obstructions, and other hazards off the coast of Maine are marked or noted on the GPS.  In Belize, there was none of this.  Combine this with an average depth of about 8 feet (our boat draws 4 feet), we often had anywhere from 10 feet down to less than 1 foot under our keels.  Was very "exciting" trying to figure out the possible routes. Remember there are no navigation aids to show you where to go.  Took a lot of planning, looking at our charts and having a "bow watch" up front watching for shoals and coral heads. 

We maybe saw 5 sailboats the entire trip.  It was very,very remote and quiet.  Saw a handful of local fisherman and a few ferry's in the more populated areas where we started, but otherwise very remote.  Even in the anchorages we were usually by ourselves, on a rare occasion 1 or 2 other boats in the area.  There were also usually no people on the islands.  A few Cayes (islands) had a few fish camps, and even 1 or 2 had a little bar/restaurant (which we always visited) and a few houses/cottages.

To make it even a bit more exciting, for the first time in the 15 years that TMM has been charting boats in the region, there was a "pirate incident" a few weeks before our charter.  It was in a very remote location, many miles from where we would visit, but all of this added up to a bit of nervous conversations.

With all of this said, the trip was amazing.  We had perfect weather.  The colors were absolutely stunning. Blues and greens in amazing spectrum, depending on the depth.  The islands were all beautiful, some tiny with a palm or 2 surrounded by sand, others very large surrounded by mangroves.  The sunsets and sunrises, plus the full moon made for beautiful vistas as well.  We visited numerous islands, some inhabited, others with people. Seeing the rustic fishing camps, the little bars, the land-based beautify was wonderful.

We did have several exciting non-sailing moments including Hunter hitting his head and requiring stitches. Luckily it was a time when we were near civilization (beautiful Caye Caulker).  3 stitches later and a great job bandaging his whole head and we were on our way.  But for the most part, we were able to read, do some homework and relax.

We also were blessed with amazing snorkeling.  We dove every day, sometimes 2 or 3 times.  We did reef snorkels where we saw amazing life - too much to list, but some highlights include massive sting rays (southern and spotted-eagle), barracudas, turtles, moray eels, and many varieties of tropical fish.  From the boat we often had dolphins chasing us, riding in front of our bow.  We even saw a shark swimming by the boat.  Sawyer and Hunter cataloged all of their dives for the Reef.org fish-count project. 

We were blessed to spend quality time with my parents.  Sailing, eating, playing cards, joking and having fun.  We even had a beautiful Easter service right on the boat.

I love to sail, most people who know me already aware of this.  All the challenges we listed above were able to be overcome by working as a team and using our experience and in some cases a bit of luck.  We became a confident crew and were able to truly cruise these beautiful waters.  8 days at sea with little contact with civilization.  It was wonderful.
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