June 9, 2019, Belize
Mary T is currently anchored off the northern Belizean island of Caye Caulker. Once a vibrant fishermen’s community, it’s now a bustling tourist destination. This is the turn-around point for our temporary exile from Guatemala. We’re unsure though, how long we’ll be here. A week ago, Amy started noticing that our transmission was slipping. (If it’s not a knee, it’s a boat issue). That is, we were not moving forward at the appropriate speed in relation to the amount of throttle applied. Since we experienced this before, we knew that there wasn’t much time before there would be no forward motion at all. Some of our pirate readers might be thinking, “Arrr, yer a sailboat! What care ye for a motor when ye can sail?” Well, sailing all the way back to Guatemala didn’t seem like a great option since our head-sail is severely compromised–the duct tape repair hasn’t done that well in this hot, salty environment. Then there are some shallow, narrow channels to transit and getting towed up the Rio Dulce canyon seemed like a costly proposition.
Knowing that there was a good chance of finding parts and help in Belize City, we opted to stay in Caye Caulker where we could hop on a ferry to the big city. Finding the mechanic took a good bit of asking, but the friendly employees at the Radisson Hotel pointed us toward a dive boat mechanic named Ron Sanchez, who agreed to take on the job. As for the Hurth transmission parts we needed, they didn’t seem to exist in Belize. We contemplated ordering a whole new transmission until we learned about the bureaucratic red tape involved with customs. We were told that importing anything over $1500 US would require us to hire a customs broker. So, we ended up just ordering a rebuild kit from ebay and are awaiting delivery. Now the plan is to take the transmission out when we know the parts have arrived in customs—get on the ferry to Belize City and deliver the transmission and rebuild kit to our new best friend, Ron the mechanic. Maybe, if all goes well, we’ll be underway again around June 16.
Where were we since the last blog entry? We left the well-built but vacant Marina at the Reserve in Sapodilla lagoon and headed back to Placencia simply because it was the easiest way to get to an ATM and do food shopping. The Reserve is far off the beaten track making taxis or car rentals expensive options.
During our second visit to Placencia, we decided to do a little inland exploration. We signed up for a hike in the Cockscomb Wildlife Reserve and inner tube trip down the river that runs through it. Nestor, our guide, was great. His narration was most enlightening. He also explained the fairly rigorous training that licensed guides must go through. The tubing trip left a lot to be desired, however. The river was so low that Nestor had to pull and push us nearly the whole way, while we sucked in our butts over the many shallow spots. He didn’t want us out walking for fear we’d slip and fall. He did not want any fractured patellas on his watch. The tubing was followed by lunch and a trip to a waterfall in what seemed to be a Mayan themed amusement park.
While driving back from our inland excursion, Nestor pointed out a seaside bistro that had garnered the top restaurant in Belize on TripAdvisor. So, two days later, we hopped on a bus and went there for lunch. It was not as good as what Amy cooks but, pretty delectable nonetheless. There was a funky little swimming pool and shower there that brought much needed relief from the heat.
During our stay in Placencia, one day while fetching water, I slipped on the dock and fell hurting my foot, so to steal my thunder, Amy got stung by a jellyfish. She discovered copious amounts of vinegar to be an excellent antidote. We realized while there that our month long visas had nearly run out, so Amy went to renew them for us with another sailing couple who had donated vinegar to her cause. I stayed behind to nurse my foot, which is now fully recovered.
After about nine days of fun and sun in Placencia, we headed back to Hideaway Caye. The wind picked up to 24 knots along the way, giving us a rather rough upwind trip. Salty but secure on a mooring ball, we ventured in for a delicious meal of fresh fish. Ama, owners Kim and Dustin’s six-year old daughter, joined us for dinner. She wisely steered us to the only table sheltered from the wind, while the other customers were blown to bits. She is delightful dinner company and shared with us a scrap book put together by her classmates in Florida, where she attended school for six weeks last fall. It was quite the eye opening experience for Ama, as she is home-schooled by her mother for the most part. It was clear from the comments of teachers and classmates, that they enjoyed her immensely for the brief time she joined them. Amy and Ama made a short movie together on our previous visit to Hideaway Caye, which is now on YouTube.
From Hideaway we revisited the superbly sheltered Twin Cayes where we were chased out the next morning by vicious, biting sand flies. Amy was literally dancing on the deck in agony, as we pulled out of the anchorage at 5:30 AM. Then it was back to Tobacco Caye for more snorkeling and interviews with the owners of the Reef’s End Inn and other denizens of the island for an article in Cruising World magazine. Amy’s article will appear in a to-be-determined issue.
The luxurious pool at the Marina at the Reserve in Sapodilla lagoon lured us back as we were sweating buckets in the windless conditions. We went back for another round of laundry, showers, water tank refills and of course, chillin’ by that wonderful swimming pool.
Heading north, we stopped at Garbutts Caye—a totally new destination for us. We found a small resort on nearby Hutson Caye that afforded us a long view of Mary T while sipping Beliken beers.
The next stop was St. George’s Caye—the original capital of Belize when it was still “British Honduras.” As on our previous visit here in 2015, the place seemed pretty deserted. It’s populated with old falling down army barracks and many nice homes that were all boarded up for hurricane season. We found some life at the Lodge on St. George’s Caye. There, we enjoyed apps and beverages with the crew of Annalena, a Dutch couple, we’d run into previously at Hideaway Caye.
So, here we are in Caye Caulker making the most of it. Yesterday we took the ferry to San Pedro on Ambergis Caye—former home of John McAfee of McAfee Anti-Virus fame. If you’ve not seen the movie, “Gringo: The Dangerous Life of John McAfee,” we highly recommend it. If nothing else, you’ll learn of an alternative use for a hammock.
San Pedro, like much of the western Caribbean, is undergoing a crisis of Sargassum inundation. This seaweed is enjoying an overwhelming bloom that is wreaking havoc on mangroves and beaches. If left to rot on the beach, it can produce a very unpleasant stench and cause respiratory problems. We often see guys with rakes and pitchforks removing it by the truck-full. Yes, every paradise has it’s downside.
Today Amy is out on a snorkel tour while I’m slaving away writing this blog post. However, I’ll bet I saw a more interesting fish than she did. The guy at the fuel dock pointed it out to me when I was there in the dinghy fetching water. He pointed to a spot in the water, and declared, “I’ve never seen a fish like this before, have you?” It was a fish with legs! I looked it up online later and believe it is a frogfish. (https://www.sciencealert.com/images/articles/processed/WeirdFish_web2_1024.jpg)