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HOMERS’ODYSSEY - EMAIL NEWSLETTER #40 – May 28, 2014

                                                    Belize

Hello all; (English in Belize!)

No surprise buyer for Homers’ Odyssey came by to deposit $ into our bank account by mid January so we departed our marina in late January, stopping off to visit a friend a few miles downstream from Fronteras, who is a doer & builder. He built his own boat in Port Townsend many years ago & sailed around the world, part of it engineless. In recent years he has built his own house, cabin, work shop, wharves for 6 boats, plus 2 kayaks &  a 25ft runabout. He is currently building a two person seaplane (scaled down version of the old Seebee). Did I mention that he has no flying experience or license yet? Talented fellow.

We stayed a couple of nights & then hit the high tide at Livingston & arrived at the salt water anchorage 8 miles away about 2000 hrs. In a couple of easy day sails we had worked our way up to Placencia, Belize where one can check into the country at the small deep water Port of Big Creek by taking the Hokey Pokey water taxi (really) to Independence & then a short land taxi to the Port offices. After 3 consecutive years of checking in at Big Creek & anchoring off Placencia we had a lot of friendly familiar faces to greet. The folk at Paradise Hotel have always been cruiser friendly & Lynn got to visit her little produce market lady on Mainstreet (there is only one street). Rum is cheap & soooo good with Squash, which is Belizean fruit concentrate in many flavours. Oh, and let’s not forget the Italian Tutti Fruiti Gelato (ice cream) just up the block that makes the best ice cream in the Caribbean!

We sailed out of Placencia to some of the many Cayes, visited more friends ashore, met known cruisers & new-to-us cruisers. Several times we went out & then returned to Placencia when we ran low on rum or veggies or some other item that we could not live without. Then we would shop, do laundry, try a few of the many restaurants ashore, meet up with more sailing friends,  new & old, listen to live music & check out the wood carvings, again.

Calgary friends Harry & Pat flew into the little airport in Placencia one day on a Cessna 208 (about 12 passengers – all domestic flights within Belize use these aircraft). They stayed at the Paradise Hotel for a few nights (short dinghy ride from HO) while we visited a couple of Mayan sites in Southern Belize, Lubaantun & Nim Li Punit & took a panga tour to Monkey River where we saw huge bamboo stalks, crocodiles, howler monkeys, large Iguana in the jungle as well manatee on our way back to Placencia. We then introduced Harry & Pat to life aboard a small vessel by taking them out sailing & snorkeling for 6 days around some of the Cayes within 20 miles of Placencia. The weather was sunny & warm with light breezes instead of strong trades & we had a great time together.

After they departed we headed North for a few weeks with the goal of getting up & into Caye Caulker, about 20 miles NE of Belize City. Very few marinas exist in Belize and almost all of those are too shallow for HO to slip into. The very unfinished (still no cleats, fuel, bar, restaurant, etc) at Sapadillo Lagoon is the only exception. Southern Belize has many deep water areas for sailing while Northern Belize DEFINITELY favours shallow draft vessels. Near Belize City we holed up with one other boat for 4 days in the mangroves while a Norther blew through. We then exited out through the deep water channel that the freighters & cruise ships use & sailed north about 30 miles in deep water before crossing the barrier reef (world’s second longest) just south of Caye Chapel. We were still under sail as the waters shallowed so we reefed in more sail to slow HO down & finally crossed over this inside reef with 2ft of water under our keel. Five more miles of sailing in 10 to 12 feet brought us to the anchorage on the west side of Caye Caulker. This small island is very low tech with many small restaurants, bars, rooms for backpackers, dirt roads for the golf carts (no cars) with plane & small ferry service to both San Pedro & Belize City. We spent a week here, extended our visas in San Pedro, enjoyed some of the restaurants while I booked myself onto a couple of scuba diving day trips.

We then made our way back south inside the inner reef with the first challenge being Porto Stuck. Yup, a narrow, shallow cut where the loaded sugar barges from Southern Mexico & Northern Belize pass through.  Lynn sucked on some tranquilizers for a while but we had at least 6” under the keel & stayed afloat. We then visited some Belizean friends at their cottage on St Georges’s Caye, the first Capitol of Belize way back in history. We had to anchor out so far here that they came & picked us up with their panga! Small island, great visit.

Our next challenge was the North entrance to Ship’s Bogue. The channel itself is 20 -30 ft deep but the shallows prior to the channel required more tranquilizers! Boats over 6 ft draft do not use this route but with the aid of 7” (yup – inches) of tide & a little route planning, we again made it through with no casualties other than Lynn’s nerves!

We sailed through the cruise ship anchorage just outside Belize City as well as alongside of a bulk carrier loading raw sugar from multiple barges. One always feels a little insignificant when sailing that close to large ships. Already on a roll, we continued sailing on to an anchorage in the Bluefield Range where thankfully the weather was very settled because the anchor holding was very poor. Nothing but the anchor & a bunch of chain just laying on top of the hard coral surface.

Next stop was the Hideaway Resort hidden in the middle of the Pelican Cayes where a young American couple have built a tiny resort on a mangrove island which is all water at high tide (1 ft). It is hard work to build catwalks, small docks &buildings when there is no land to stand on but they have succeeded & serve great rums & meals.

One last week long stay in Placencia to say goodbye to many friends, afloat & ashore, & it was time to head back to Guatemala. After a couple of day sails south we crossed the bar at Livingstone on a high tide (1.6 ft in this area!) & checked into Guatemala, stopping for a night on the way upriver to check on the plane building status. We decommissioned HO at Mario’s Marina but then changed our routine by hauling her out at Ram Marine instead of leaving her in the water. This change of plan was partially due to a minor problem with our propeller which necessitated removal & repair. We arrived back in Canada May 2nd after a great season in Belize during which time we got to see much more of the country& its people than we had during our previous, shorter visits.

We wish you all the very best for 2014, whether you will be sailing our great Oceans or on land somewhere with your anchors firmly planted.

Stan & Lynn – Calgary, Alberta