Arrival in Belize was bittersweet as it marked the beginning of the end of our travels together. Although we had one last big party to look forward to, and another beautiful country to explore, we would begin the process of saying our goodbyes.
We have come so far in the past four months, both geographically and in establishing wonderful relationships with people we likely never would have met had it not been for this experience. Traveling with this group has been an amazing experience, thanks so much to Suzanne and David for making it a reality!
It was an overnight sail from Utila, Honduras to Belize and we arrived at Ranguana Caye about 10:00 AM. We had enjoyed a great sail although some of the boats encountered squalls during the night. Our luck held out as we got the last mooring and the other 4 boats moved on to another anchorage. There is not good holding for anchoring at this island and plans are underway to add moorings. The morning and early afternoon were stormy but it eventually cleared and Jeff and I enjoyed a nice few days at Ranguana – a beautiful and peaceful spot.
Suzanne had arranged a group check in and welcome party at The Placencia resort and marina. The rally boats were beginning to gather so we headed in too. Customs and Immigration officers came to the marina to handle the clear in process and, although a bit cumbersome, all was accomplished at one spot. Belize does require a lot of paperwork and Madeleine Lomont had done some upfront work with us by email in an effort to move the process along. Madeleine works at the resort and was our contact for many things. She was quite helpful in organizing what ever was needed and provided a great deal of information about Belize. We were also welcomed and assisted by Paul Hunt, the Ocean Cruising Club Port Officer for Belize, another great resource. Thanks to both Madeleine and Paul!
Along with the Belize Tourism Board, Madeleine and Paul had organized a wonderful welcome party held in our honor and we recognized this event as the last rally activity. There were speeches, music, food and drinks in a beautiful setting at the marina. The tourism representatives were happy to talk about their country and provide information for exploring. Rally members took the opportunity to present some thank you gifts to Suzanne and David for having organized such an amazing experience. One special gift was the painting done by John of Oyster Go. He had been working on it as we traveled through our various stops and included many special details as memories of the rally, a wonderful keepsake for Suzanne and David.
Several of us left for a land trip by bus the following morning. Suzanne had once again made all the arrangements including travel and lodging to visit the Mayan site Actun Tunichil Muknal (ATM). It was about four hour drive to our hotel at Cahal Pech Village Resort which was just beside the Cahal Pech Mayan site. The resort was comfortable, with air-conditioned rooms, a pool and restaurant. We set out the following morning for our tour of the ATM Cave. It’s a fairly rigorous journey and no cameras are allowed in so I have no photos to share of this incredible place. We had to wear hardhats with lights and swam through some areas of water to get further into the cave system. The guide explained that Mayans entered these caves to honor the gods during times of drought, hoping to bring rain. There was one point where you had to turn sideways and maneuver your head and body through a narrow spot in the rock. I remember thinking that I should not go further into the cave for fear of claustrophobia, I pushed on and am so glad I did. This site is special and well worth the journey!
We enjoyed time at the resort that evening and learned, after running out of food the previous night that we could, and should, ask for additional servings for our buffet meals if needed. While there we also explored Cahal Pech with a guide. This site is a large, well preserved and provides insight into Mayan life. The tour was worthwhile. All in all, this land journey was a wonderful way to get a small glimpse of mainland Belize and one more fun experience with our rally friends.
Jeff was fortunate enough to have his birthday celebration in Placencia before all the boats began to head off exploring the waters of Belize. He was treated to an amazing celebration the likes of which he had never seen before and he loved every minute of it. From a big breakfast aboard Echo, to a massage, then a wonderful champagne lunch aboard Milpat, next stop a sundowner get-together on the dock, and finally on to an amazing dinner and a very special birthday cake. It was such a fun day, thanks to all that made it possible.
Due to our travel schedule, we had not had any visitors during the season and Sarah and Kristi were coming to visit in Belize. We remained at the marina enjoying it’s amenities until their arrival. There’s a beautiful pool, restaurant and a brand new casino which had just done a “soft” opening and allowed free use of some of the machines and a poker training session for us one night. Not a bad place to spend a few days.
Once Sarah and Kristi arrived we let them have one day enjoying the pool then headed out to explore some of the islands of Belize. The weather wasn’t perfect but the overcast skies added a different look to the views and it eased Sarah and Kristi in to the very hot and sunny climate in Belize. Their first day out on the water started out under motor but soon allowed for a beautiful sail. After a quick stop at Lagoon Caye we were heading to Rendezvous Caye. On the way Claire from Ocean Rainbow hailed us to say how nice it was at North Long Cocoa Caye so we stopped there instead. Glad she did as it was quite beautiful. We spent the next night on a mooring at Hatchet Caye where it was nice to go ashore for a drink and a very pretty spot but not much protection from the swells.
Sarah and Kristi wanted to check under the boat before jumping in and found a big barracuda had taken up residence in the shade under Echo. Click here to see a video.
There are so many beautiful places to visit but we had to keep in mind that the girls had a flight to catch in a few days (a week goes so fast) so we opted to spend a two days at Glover’s Reef then circle back to Placencia. On the way they caught a tuna, cleaned it and later prepared it for dinner which was delicious!
Glover’s Reef is one of three atolls in Belize, it’s about 20 miles by 8 miles and reported to have some of the best wall diving in the world. An atoll is an area of shallow water atop a flat plateau in the ocean that is almost completely surrounded by coral reefs. It makes an incredible place where you are in sheltered water but appear to be out in the middle of the ocean. Glover’s is a marine reserve and home to many species of sea life and birds. All in all it it’s a beautiful, peaceful place and the anchorage was almost empty when we arrived. Several rally boats came in the following day, we met ashore for drinks that evening and it was great for Sarah and Kristi to meet some more of our rally friends. They had previously met Beyzano, Ocean Rainbow and Makani and now met Oyster Mist, Blu Elinor, Angela, and Moon Dancer. Sarah and Kristi enjoyed meeting everyone and were happy to put a few names to faces they had been hearing about from our adventures on the rally.
We explored the area by dinghy, visited Middle Caye where there is a marine research and monitoring station. Visitors are allowed to explore the island and we snorkeled nearby on a shallow reef with beautiful sea life and amazing clarity. Christine of Angela had brought over a fish that her husband Frank had speared while free diving at about 45 feet – amazing! The fish provided a great dinner too.
We moved on to Water Caye at South Water Cut to do a little more exploring before heading back to Placencia for Sarah and Kristi’s flight home. The weather was very hot and there was little wind. This, along with Sarah’s sunburn allowed us to have a somewhat relaxing day in the shade. We did go ashore for a cold beer and internet and we did jump in the water when we saw some dolphins in the anchorage. After dinner we played a competitive game of Euchre; one of several played that week.
We returned to Placencia where we dropped anchor in the harbor and went ashore to Placencia Village for a very nice dinner and a wander around town. The next day they were off on Tropic Air from Placencia to Belize City where they would catch their Delta flight home. We had a great time and enjoyed having them aboard Echo!
Although we had barely touched the surface on exploring what Belize has to offer, we began planning our departure just after our visitors left. We fueled up by jerry can in Placencia Harbor, did some provisioning and headed back out to Ranguana Caye. We once again enjoyed the beauty of this spot and had a nice dinner ashore. We made our way north with a few stops along the way. One of which was Caye Caulker where we once again met up with Shamal and Alembic. We had a nice evening ashore with them to celebrate my birthday. I had received many well wishes over the VHF radio as we passed by other boats that morning.
For the process of clearing out of Belize we all went to San Pedro by water taxi. Along with Shamal and Alembic we were joined by Bob and Anne from Baloo. We all talked about the weather, routes and departure time over lunch and we decided to head a bit back to Ships Channel as the one at San Pedro would be much too wild for an exit there. We along with Alembic moved back to Tenerife Islands to anchor for the night in preparation for our departure early the next morning.
Many of the rally boats had moved on to Mexico and we opted to sail on by heading to Key West in the good old USA. There were various reasons for making this decision and we do hope to visit Mexico at some point.
Amazing to think that we will soon be back in the US with Echo, there’s so much we can accomplish with the resources there. We have begun making our lists for projects to be completed while Echo sits out the upcoming hurricane season.
~ Jeff and Mary ~