March 2 - 19, 2003
Puerto Morelos, Mexico to San Pedro, Belize

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Beam reach
from Banco Chinchorro to Xcalak

(Click on a photo for a larger version)

Bahia Ascension is a large bay some 60 miles south of Hut Point. Twenty knots of southeasterly wind and one of adverse current made again for a long uncomfortable, wet day of motor sailing. This seemed to be the prevailing pattern during most of our stay in this part of Mexico. Several times we were, however, cheered up by big turtles passing by. We just made it inside the reef east of the Punta Allen lighthouse before dark. Before finding a suitable spot to lay the anchor we bounced on the sandbanks a few times, but were lucky to get free before the swells carried us further into shallower water.

Dinghy exploring to the Black Lagoon

Boarded by the Mexican Navy,
Art of s/y That's It in the middle

The next day we steerd around the sandbanks to the south of Punta Allen and anchored west of the point. Here we stayed for several days waiting for the conditions outside the reef to improve. The bay is part of the Sian Ki nature reserve, but the waters are not clear and we could not find any good snorkeling spots on this side of the point. We found a nice dinghy passage to the Black Lagoon and the fishing village, but could not spot any of the crocodiles. During these days we made friends with the crews of three other southbound yachts that were stucked in the anchorage. It later turned out that we were going to be cruising loosely together with s/y Tao, s/y Twenda and s/y That's It!  for several weeks. We called our little flotilla "The Punta Allen Fleet".

The Dinghy Drift

About to check out from Mexico

When the weather improved we continued south and anchored for a couple of nights inside the reefs in the northeast corner of the Bahia Espiritu Santu. Here we were introduced by That's It! to the Dinghy Drift. Instead of gathering in one of the cockpits for a sundowner, as usual, we took the dinghies close to the reef upwind from the mother ships. There we rafted the dinghies on one anchor while we enjoyed our drinks and hors d'oeuvres. After sunset we broke up the raft and let the dinghies drift home, each to our own yacht.

The snorkeling was better here than anywhere before in Mexico, but we looked forward to the coral gardens of Cayo Norte in the northern part of Banco Chinchorro, which was our next destination. Chinchorro Bank and Belize's three atolls, which were on our itinerary later on, are the only true atolls in the so called Western Hemisphere, looking very much like those found in the Southern Pacific. To protect this remote reef system, Banco Chinchorro has been declared an Underwater National Park.

To our surprise Mexican Navy chaseded us out from the anchorage at Cayo Norte after one night. They boarded us  (our third boarding in Mexico) at 6.30 in the morning and told us to be out before 10 o'clock! We had not heard of such regulations before - maybe there was a new commander on the island. So much for the much awaited snorkeling.

The whole Punta Allen Fleet then sailed an hour south outside of the reef and anchored in the lee on the west side of the atoll. The reef is not breaking here, so it looked as if we were all anchored in the middle of the ocean, no land in sight. The next day Scorpio and Tao sailed to Xcalak. That's It! and Twenda (who already had cleared out of Mexico) headed for San Pedro, further south in Belize.

Checking out at Xcalak,
together with s/y Tao

Watering hole at Xcalak ....

We cleared out from Mexico at Xcalak, a sleepy genuine little village far off the beaten track. We liked it a lot, but would not have liked to be stuck there for a longer time as several cruisers had been shortly before (while we were at Punta Allen). The strong southeasterly wind and swell had made the reef entry impassable. Two boats had suffered damage trying to enter in those conditions. Luckily without fatal consequences this time, but several boats a year are written off here and in other similar passes along the coast.

.. and another 50 meters further

La Isla Bonita, San Pedro

Our first contact with Belize was in San Pedro, our favorite place so far on this coast. With 2500 residents it is the largest island settlement in Belize. For Belize's standards it is a little bit touristy, but not too much. It is a welcome change for us cruisers and a good place to replenish the stores aboard. We stayed for a week.

Rush hour, San Pedro, Belize

Airport security, Island style

In the old days Belize was known as British Honduras. It is therefore the only country in Central America where English is the official language, although everybody speaks Spanish as well.

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