FROM THE LOG # 15
March 20 - April 9, 2003
(Click on a photo for a larger version)
From San Pedro we sailed south on the inside of the reef to Caye Caulker and Cay Chapel. The reef in Belize is the second largest on the Earth, after the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. On the way we anchored in the Hol Chan Marine Reserve for a couple of hours while we vent snorkeling. We found the snorkeling very good in the Hol Chan Cut, especially regarding the fauna: Snappers, schoolmasters, spadefish, jacks, a couple of nurse sharks and half a dozen well fed barracudas. Also the fauna was fair: brain, star and rose corals and brilliant sponges.
Caye Caulker is a popular retreat
among international back packers. It is a "funky, relaxed, barefoot kind
of place where the casual island rythm" attracts mostly young people who
are heading down the Central American "gringo trail" (Freya Rauscher).
It felt almost as if we were back in the hippie age of the late 1960's.
Some of the older guys looked as if they still were on their way home
South of Cay Chapel there is an area with very shallow depths, so we vent outside of the reef and sailed to the southern end of Turneffe atoll where we anchored over night in the lee of Cay Bokel. Turneffe, together with Chinchorro bank in Mexico and Lighthouse Reef and Glovers Reef in Belize, are the only true atolls in this hemisphere. The next day we had a wonderfull beam reach out to Lighthouse Reef, where we anchored north of Halfmoon Cay.
Lighthouse Reef is a place that gets very high on our Top 10 list. The waters are exceptionally clear. Half Moon Cay is a paradise island with big palm trees and beautiful beaches surrounded by spectacular water colors. There is a big colony of red-footed boobies and lots of frigate birds. On the way to the bird sanctuary we saw some quite big green iguanas climbing in the trees. They are said to grow as long as 7 feet, most of it tail. Half Moon Cay is the first national park in Belize, founded in 1981.
One day we vent snorkeling on the Blue Hole. On photos taken from above it is a breathtaking sight. It looks like a round lake fringed by a coral ring with a diameter of about 150 meters. The shallower water on the outside is light blue while the 150 meter deep water inside is dark blue. There are two narrow passes where boats can enter. Jacques Cousteau explored this strange phenomenon in 1972, all the way to the bottom with mini subs. We only snorkeled along the rimming reefs.
We had originally intended to stay at Lighthouse for a longer time, but were chased out by a strong cold front approaching from the northwest. With forecasted northerly winds of 40 knots behind the front we preferred not to remain in this anchorage, which did not have any protection from that direction. Even though there are reefs all around, the distance from the southern end to the northern is 25 miles. Therefore we headed southwest into the shelter of the main reef and anchored in the completely secluded "lagoon" of Twin Cays. We had 360° protection by the mangroves. On the photo to the left above, taken from Scorpio's spreaders, you can see Tao anchored in this veritable hurricane hole. Even better shelter could have been found tucking up further into the mangroves. On the photo to the right we could have taken both boats around the bend to the right in the back ground, indicated by the red arrow.
That would have been to over do it this time, however. We got 40 knots of wind, but in the all around shelter, no waves. No problem.
When the weather returned to normal we set course, still in company with Tao, towards Placencia. Here our paths would divert, at least for a while. Sarah and Beaney were heading for the Rio Dulce in Guatemala, in the south, and Scorpio to Utila in the Bay Islands of Honduras in the east. For more than a month we had been sailing together with at least one of the other vessels of the Punta Allen fleet, founded when we got trapped in the Bahia Ascension. Twenda and That's It! had steered north a few days earlier. They were slowly heading back to the U.S.
Fair winds and calm anchorages! We will see you all again someday, somewhere.
In Placencia we met a third OCC (Ocean Cruising Club) vessel, s/y Anasazi, from Falmouth, Massachusetts, with Beth and Garry aboard. Of course we took the opprtunity to arrange the presumably first OCC event in Belize.