Baby It’s Hot Outside

May 18, 2024

Who knows why we are cruising in this heat. I’m not sure we do. One looks at a picture of a palm tree island and it looks so inviting. It IS inviting, except for the heat. It’s cool here… 99 F but feels like 111F according to Weatherunderground! Well, that is better than where we are going, the Rio Dulce. Right now it is, 102, feels like 126! We are sitting inside the boat in Placencia, Belize, with the AC running, writing posts, cleaning filters, doing laundry, … and basically staying inside. This weather is HOT. The locals all say this is way beyond normal for now.

Visitors

We were very happy to have my brother Chuck and sister-in-law Jan visit us for a week, but I’m so sorry about the heat. They so very kindly brought us a LARGE duffle bag filled with boat parts and tools and a few other things which we shipped to their home. This included the replacement blind for the salon and 3 membranes for the watermaker, neither of which were small). Thank you, thank you, thank you! Above and beyond!

Jan and Chuck. They visited us in the Chesapeake several years back.

I believe I left you last with us picking them up at the dock-from-hell in Belize City. We returned to our Drowned Cays anchorage for the night (we’d stayed there the night before and it was close). It’s a protected mangrove area, but easy in and out.

Kinds of a funny name for a group of cayes; drowned. But, they were pretty and quiet. Like a big river, and NO BUGS!

Jim installed the new membranes for the watermaker. Check. They work! Sadly, the watermaker is still having some finicky issues, even though we CAN make water now. Jim’s current system from hell.

Rinconsito was happy to head out for a spin. When we had put her up in Caye Caulker, we’d found two 8 inch fish in the well behind the back seat. Sorry we did not find them sooner. Not sure how they got there, or when. They were not smelly or decomposed but had to have been there for a minimum of 12 hours when we put Rinconsito back on the boat deck. Very strange…

We took a boat ride farther out through the mangrove towards the reef. A bit too rough to go out past the mangroves to the reef, but we did find a protected place for a swim. I managed to spot 1 fish, but that was all. Very refreshing swim, but not good snorkeling.

The little swimming hole in Drowned Cayes. It was very protected from bigger waves just to the left on the other side of the little island. Amazingly devoid of fish though. At some point this must have been a seafood processing spot as lots of leftover dock parts and shells (clams?) in the water.

We headed down to the Bluefield Range in the big boat, a group of mangrove cays where we anchored in the middle. Very protected. We did see quite a few manatees there which was the highlight of this spot. We thought about going around the islands to explore a bit, but it was time to head on.

This was a cool spot with just a small opening at the top and bottom for us to enter. Good deep water inside and a reasonable path to follow in. We have found (as have most other cruisers in this area) that a combination of a book written in the 90’s and aughts with detailed hand drawn maps and Navionics charts on a tablet are the best charts for Belize and Mexico. These along with a couple of apps that sometimes have reviews of potential anchorages by other cruisers. Forget big expensive paper charts or our expensive chart plotter. Those devices have charts that in some cases were last surveyed in the mid-1800’s! A new world of cruising for us!

There were corals around just outside the mangroves, but we were headed for civilization of sorts. We saw one lancha come through and otherwise, we were all alone.

Civilization”

Jim and I are used to being “nowhere”, but Charles and Jan wanted to see a bit of Belize culture. A reasonable request. Off we headed to Tobacco Cay. A bit of a rough ride for the first half of the trip which we almost aborted. We had water on the nose which was not terribly rough, but it was coming over the pilothouse. We checked out a mid-trip anchorage option but it did not seem very protected and did not get us to civilization, so we pressed on to the original destination. Glad we did.

Civilization requires sharing. There were three captained catamarans here when we arrived. All on the multi-day jaunt with a captain and chef. Well, I guess we are too. It’s just we are the captain and chef!

The anchorage was bit rolly (we put out the flopper stoppers to dampen the roll) and disconcerting as we could hear the waves breaking on the reef. Just on the other side of the reef is the Caribbean and Atlantic which is basically open water all the way to Africa. A beautiful spot and we adjusted nicely being here. We could have stayed longer.

There are a couple small lodges and a marine station on the 3 acre island. We headed over to the Reefs End Lodge for drinks and to see if we could have dinner. Sometimes they can accommodate folks if they have enough food. They had a group of undergraduate students from the marine station and 3 captained catamarans and thus they said they did not have enough food prepared for us that evening. It was after 4 PM when we asked and food prep was well underway for their 30 folks.

The little bar and restaurant. A very cute and well protected spot with the reef just on the other side.

We settled in for drinks and the owner came over a bit later and said, yes, they could accommodate us! Two chicken and two fish dinners. Ok, we’re in! The food was good and it was nice to have a bit of civilization in such a pretty spot.

Go to the water level deck on the other side of the bar and here is the view. That is the edge of the Meso-American Reef. I really liked this spot! Finally Chuck and Jan got to see some crystal clear water. The clearest day from the Saharan dust we had while they were here.
Our bartender and waitress seemed to really enjoy her job. She was a ton of fun, even though she was very busy with other guests.
We’re ready to leave and folks are out night snorkeling. Makes for a tricky exit. Of course, they were snorkeling when we arrived as well. A tricky entrance with reef on both sides, waves breaking on one side and a bunch of snorkelers. Sheeze!

On To Placencia

We had toyed with a snorkeling excursion at Tobacco Cay, but everyone was a bit concerned with the wave action being more than we wanted after Jim and my snorkeling in Caye Caulker. Instead we wound our way through the mangroves and coral down to Placencia, a bigger town were we could have a bit more civilization and also find some snorkeling. We also found many good restaurants!

Snorkeling

I found a last minute snorkel trip for us. I thought we were going to Moho Cay which is close; no one really wanted a long boat trip to snorkel. Wrong, we were headed to the Silk Cayes and Gladden Spit Reserve right on the reef. An hour boat ride and we were a bit concerned it might be current-y. But, the weather was VERY calm, so it was not a bumpy ride and it turns out there was not a lot of current here.

The islands kept getting smaller. There were a bunch of colorful picnic tables, a couple of toilets and a BBQ spot. And 3 palm trees.

We had 3 snorkels, two 40 minute excursions and one about 20 minutes plus a barbecue on the island. You’ll have to wait for underwater pics from my brother. I have to say, it was the best snorkeling I’ve done; not that I’ve done lots.

The guy cooking the chicken had come over a bit earlier to get things started.

We snorkeled around the island which is coral lined, then out to a coral reef just submerged and around it. These were both snorkels from the beach. Then we headed out a bit further in the boat and jumped in the water. One of the guides had brought a couple of live conchs which he had just killed. He put them in the water and a loggerhead sea turtle, 3 nurse sharks, a spotted eagle ray, a BIG stingray and two ramora all came and had their way with the conch. It was amazing how they all seemed to share and did not mind that we were all around watching them. Very cool. I was only a bit worried by the stingray when he swan right under me. Sorry no pics, but I will be getting an underwater camera!

They feed all the chicken bones to this barracuda that knows to come by for bones after lunch. He could eat a whole wing and breast in two bites. There were a bunch of 8 inch snapper around also working on the smaller pieces. Clearly the fish love chicken and BBQ sauce!

It was a lovely day on the water!

Many/most of these little cays are in different protected areas in the Belize cays. Each is managed independently. As best we know, you are not supposed to anchor in these areas unless with a guide, but that covers most of the cays. The “hot spots” are generally the only places policed by rangers and you have to pay a fee to be there (which is fine by us). We hear, you also are supposed to have a guide; individuals cannot go there on their own. We don’t know if this is just people saying so to promote the local economy, or if it is true. Reading our trusty books and what we hear from locals don’t always jive. We’ve definitely anchored in protected areas, but not near coral cayes. No one has said anything to us so far.

It Has Gotten Too Hot!

Next day we had a nice breakfast out and did a bit of frivolous shopping. But, damn, it was so hot! Luckily we found an airconditioned shop. We ended up back and the boat just hanging. Charles and Jan had to finish packing anyway as they had a shuttle to Belize City for their flight home. The fun was over.

The main beach at Placencia. A pretty spot and not crowded.

Jim and I did take a walk along the beach before heading back to the boat. It is so hard to make the transitions to having visitors after being just us on the boat for so long and then once they leave to being alone. We so enjoy sharing our travels with family and friends. I do wish it had not been so hot and hazy while they were here. Although the water was beautiful, it was not as stunningly beautiful as when we first arrived in Belize. It also put a damper on the fun when we were all hiding from the heat.

I keep watching the weather, but unfortunately, there is no end in sight for Belize, or Guatemala.

The little coco that could. This guy reminded me of the growth and opportunities that await us on the next steps in our journey.
The world is our coconut!