Author Archives: sage

About sage

I'm just a spiritual being having a human experience. And man-oh-man, what a ride!

From the Janitor

Just to let you know I’ve moved things around a little. Photos are no longer on their own gallery pages but have been included into the appropriate (I hope) posts.

You’ll have noticed the pages are gone from the top. The information on them are now in a normal blog post but entitled “xxxxx – INFO”. So the information has not been lost, just rearranged a bit.

Renovations are ongoing for a bit.

Advertisements

Grand Cayman – Info

In one word: expensive.

Georgetown is a beautiful harbour to navigate, well marked, open with no hidden surprises. Customs and Immigration is super easy: they meet your boat and hand you paperwork, once completed they’ll tie you up to the nearest pier and finish the stamping and welcoming inside. No matter how long you’re staying, it seems to be an automatic 30 day permit.

Just off the main harbour, there is a row of transit buoys. From there you can dinghy pretty much everywhere depending on how long you want to take to get there. It’s safe to beach or tie up anywhere that’s not in the way or private property – take the keys and your valuables, of course, but the dinghy will be there when you get back.

Georgetown seems to be geared exclusively for cruise ships and that is understandable as they get usually 2-5 per day. Almost the entire downtown is duty free shops and high end merchandise. The cruise ships come in Monday to Friday with an occasional visit on Saturday. Since no one is around, everything is closed Sundays (I guess sailors and other visitors don’t count); bars and churches are about the only things open.

Restaurants are expensive but the food is pretty good. At Breeze’s, we had one order of fish and chips, an appetizer of shrimp poppers, one beer, one drink and it totaled about $60 US. Cayman Cabana has great cheeseburgers and super salad – there again though, it’s expensive.

Divers Supply is the largest diving store here and they have a great selection of everything watersports. Their prices are a little high so shop around; the little dive shops along West Bay Road offer much the same stuff (a little at a time) but usually cheaper.

Grand Cayman, like Jamaica, is a British island so they drive on the wrong side of the road here too. The difference is that here they will sometimes stop to let you cross, there is much beeping of hellos and waves and they are not as crazy. Sidewalks are hit and miss; it seems they change from one side of the road to the other every block or so so you’re either constantly crossing the road or having to walk on very narrow shoulders.

There is almost every type of bank here and they seem to be more tied into the main system. For example, in Curacao, the CIBC First Caribbean Bank could not take care of normal day-to-day banking needs; you had to withdraw from the machine to get Gilders and deal with your daily limits, etc. If you exchanged at the teller, they charged you tax on top of the exchange rate. Here in Grand Cayman, the CIBC is also First Caribbean but you can do everything there that you would normally do at CIBC at home. Of course, you can always pay in US and get CI in change; all places take US dollars and most will take a major credit card. The exchange rate at the moment is $1 CI = $1.25 US so approx

$8 CI = $10 US. It’s backwards to what it normally is outside the country but I guess that’s what happens when the economy of Cayman is strengthened by the offshore banking of the US elite.

Fuel (gasoline) is about $5.60 CI per imperial gallon = $7 or so US. Diesel is a little more expensive, about $0.40 per gallon.

Gunk-holing and camping on the hook is allowed pretty much anywhere around the island. You don’t need a special permit to move around here, ya just gotta tell ‘em when you’re leaving.

Fishing is allowed off the boat or off the shore but you need a permit and it’s catch and release only. Other seafood taking is not allowed at all.

Cigarettes can be found at the gas stations or at Foster’s Food Mart. Marlboro at ESSO is about $8.50 CI, at Foster’s is about $7.15 CI. Gas stations have some beer in cans, not a wide selection. Big Daddy’s is a liquor store next to Foster’s that has everything and is kinda central to Georgetown/Seven Mile Beach.

The local brew, Caybrew, is done right here and has various types under the same name….Light, Amber, Lager, etc. I’m told it’s pretty good (personally I loathe beer in all its forms both before and after it has been drunk)

You can pick up a tourist book at the bank or a free map at the gas station; they are also geared mainly for cruise ship or resort type people. Restaurants, hotels, shopping, touristy attractions are all front and centre but the marine stores/liquor stores/wifi hotspots, etc are nowhere to be found.

Speaking of wifi, there is free wifi at Burger King but it sucks worse than their burgers and there are no outlets. There is free wifi at the coffee shop on Fort St but it is closed weekends. When it is open, it looks very very similar to a Starbucks inside and has great latte.  Guy Harvey’s, right across from what they call North or South Terminal which doubles as a taxi stand, is a restaurant/bar that has free wifi, outlets and is open every day.

There are very very few laundromats on the island but the best one is ____________ on Eastern Ave. It costs $2.00 CI per wash, $3.00 CI for dryer but the many many machines are well maintained and the place is very clean, open and airy, with sturdy and clean folding tables. The lady who runs it, Linda, is a love who takes pride in keeping her place nice and it shows.

There is no such thing as a public shower. The only think I can think of is to pay a drop-in fee at one of the local gyms (there are several) and use the locker room/shower there.

Shopkeepers are a funny lot here. They automatically assume you’re with the cruise ship and will ask for your ID for the duty free. When you tell them you’re not “that” kind of boat people, they are split right down the middle: some love you and some will ignore you. There doesn’t seem to be any in-between. Except in the marine stores….they just love everybody connected to boats.

Cabs, like everything else, are expensive. We dinghied to the Avalon Resort right beside the public beach about ¾ the way up Seven Mile Beach then taxied over to Marine Diesel in Morgan’s Harbour. It was $30 CI return with about a 10 minute wait in between and big smiles and welcoming conversation from Barry with Charlie’s Cab Service (shameless plug for you). The next day we taxied from the South Terminal Taxi Stand to Harbour House Marina, about the same distance; it was $30 US return with about a 15 minute wait in between but also included grumbles and complaints from the taciturn driver about having to wait a few minutes longer than we said. Ya takes yer chances.

Marine stores: There are a few smaller ones that cater mostly to outboards, fishing, skiing, tubing and the like. In our estimation, there is only one marine store on the island: Harbour House Marina, Marina Drive (www.harbourhousemarina.com). They are a full boatyard and chandlery and their retail store is huge, two floors, that contains almost everything you could need. If they don’t have it, they will gladly order it in for you. The people there are wonderful, friendly and helpful, and really advertise the fact they like their work. Alfredo Challenger is the Assistant Manager and so accomodating, he will talk with you on the phone, answer questions, follow up with your needs, etc. Carl knows the store inside out and has great knowledge about a lot of different things. He can help you with rigging, wiring, plumbing, a step for your ladder, stern lights, just everything from soup to nuts. What he really excels at though (and you can tell he is interested and likes it) is electronics. We were told our brand new Garmin 4210 was toast, that it wouldn’t even accept power, and so have been navigating (if you could call it that) without it so far. Carl took a look at it, connected it at the store and said it was fine. He connected all the wiring for us, gave us instructions on how to finish it, and even did the internal setup of our boat dimensions, mast height, draft, etc. This we didn’t find out until later when we had it all set up on the boat and turned it on. Poof! It was all done.

We were like 0 for 10 with this thing. The dealer/salesman who sold it to us said it was a “plug and play” type thing since we already had a Garmin (421S) – nope. He told us it had an internal antenna and the one in the box was an “extra” – nope. The technician who tried to install it said it wouldn’t accept power let alone anything else – nope. He said we needed to almost re-wire in order for this to be accepted – nope. He said we got a duff machine and we should send it back – nope. Everything anyone said about this thing was wrong. Carl didn’t say a word, just took it and plugged it in and set it up. Then explained it all. We can’t thank him enough for all his help, time and energy spent on us this week. Garmin will also be getting a letter of kudos about Carl.

Weather forecast for this area is found at the NOAA site: http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/text/MIAOFFNT3.shtml but use your judgment. They were calling for 10-15 knots NE to N and 2-4 ft seas today and tonight. It hasn’t gone under about 30 knots all day and I’m damned sure the seas are higher than 2-4 feet! We are in an inlet marina, surrounded on all sides by breakwater and land, and we’re rocking and rolling.

Jamaica – Info

Finally, a blurb about Jamaica.

Royal Jamaica Yacht Club, Kingston – only marina of any size. Port Royal was almost destroyed by Hurricane Sandy in October and is just rebuilding.

The yacht club has electricity, water, terrace bar, clubhouse, pool, change rooms, showers, washing machine ($600 J per load; there’s a clothesline out back you can use), fuel ($1.33 J per litre). Mooring was $286/week in the main marina, $216/week at the overfill dock where we were. It may sound like we were stuck out on the ‘wrong side of the tracks’ but we had a better breeze (less mosquitoes), better view, more quiet, and still had power and water.

Most of the boats there are in storage of sorts, their owners being foreigners that come a couple times a year to visit. Most of the people that work at the yacht club are the managers of these boats – they clean and maintain them, captain them when the owner comes in, etc. In their spare time, when they have any, they act also as maintenance people for visitors. Luther, the mechanic, is one such – he takes care of a boat regularly but has time to do repairs for visitors.

There is a bus to Port Royal (west) or Harbourview (east) but dangerous to ride after dark. It’s about a 1-1.5 mile walk from the yacht club security gate to the main road and the lane is not lit. If you want to go anywhere, have the marina people call a cab they trust as not all cab drivers are reliable either.

A Jamaican dollar is 85:1 USD approx depending on the exchange rate of the day. So $1 US = $85 JD

The supermarket in Harbourview has pretty much everything and the prices are okay.

Bread – $200-300 JD or $1.50-2.00 USD

Yogurt – 3 for $107 JD or $.90 USD

Cigarettes are found at smoke shops only and are local brands only. Romeo y Julieta is like mild Marlboro. At the club bar: Rothman blue – $750 JD = $8-9 US

The local beer is Red Stripe and I’m told it’s quite good. Club bar price: $200 JD = $1.75 US, juice is the same price, water is $100 JD, Gatorade is $185 JD.

“Tastee” is like a small fast food place that seems to be as numerous as donut shops in NA. A Tastee Pattie can be ground beef or chicken lightly spiced Jamaican style, folded in a flaky pastry and baked. And they are oh so good! 3 patties, 3 sodas, 1 large fries came to about $800 JD = $7-8 US

There is one marine store for the whole island and situated pretty much in the middle, 50 km and over the hill from everywhere. It’s not got a whole lot of choice, basic parts only, and very expensive. Racor fuel filters were $50 US each. If you gotta go there, go with someone you can spend time with because it’s about an hour each way through some pretty rough areas – it’s worth it to stop for lunch and a beer.

Gloria’s in Port Royal has the BEST seafood EVER!! You sit outside downstairs or upstairs and, because it’s so popular and packed all the time, you get to share a 6 ft table with others. It is a fantastic way to meet people. We had a lobster dinner and drink each, taking home about 2/3 of each dinner because there was just way too much food. The total came to $3125 JD = about $36 US ! One of the favourite local dishes is parrotfish and it is done so well that you can pick up the whole skeleton in one go – and it is still so moist and tender.

Gunk-holing and camping out on the hook are allowed all around Jamaica. You need to get an intracoastal waterway permit which is no big deal – they just like to know where you are and whe

The yacht club is okay for staying at but real inconvenient to get anywhere. It costs a lot to go by cab over to Kingston to do anything like restaurant, sightseeing, shopping, etc. And you can’t take the dinghy across even though it’s only a mile or so because it would be stolen. In fact, we had to put the dinghy up on the davits at night just to be safe.

You can tell Jamaica is a British island – they drive on the wrong side of the road….and they are crazy! You don’t dare walk anywhere; even sidewalks are unsafe, they seem to be just parking lot overflow areas.

Banks are hard to find unless you are downtown in the business district. Most places takes major credit cards and US cash, and will give J dollars in change.

I don’t know anything about shopping like what kinds of stores besides groceries or marine. In old Kingston, however, there is a huge shopping district that reminds me of an outdoor bazaar or market. The streets are lined with little shops but it looked like all the merchandise was on the sidewalks. That just meant that the people were all in the middle of the road. There were times the car was surrounded and they just wouldn’t (couldn’t?) move, so we inched forward as best we could, beeping all the way. There was absolutely no animosity though, from anyone. Everyone was smiling, waving, yelling to chat with us, calling to each other, laughing, dancing in front of the car instead of walking, etc. It was just busy – oh so busy.

There were probably restaurants and bars and nightlife in Kingston but we didn’t go there except on our little tour the one day. If you want typical North American food, I’m sure you could probably get it. Why you would want it when Jamaican food is ever so much better is beyond me, though. We always found that if you want the best of anything, especially food, go where you see locals lining up.

Curacao – Info

Curacao

A special thanks to Arie and Henrietta two of the most fantastic people here in Curacao

Since this our first blog let me explain the format, I write about things regarding the sailing department, as first mate Peggy would put it ( the important stuff); and she writes about what she calls the interesting stuff.

Let’s start with the first impression. If you are planning to come here on a short (1 week or 2) at a resort and do not plan to venture too far out, then this is a very nice place. But if you plan to be here for a month or so boating from bay to bay and gunk holing there is one word: DON’T.

Actually I am waiting to set sail before posting this blog as I am sure the local authorities will not appreciate what I think about Curacao.

Two years ago they got their independence and the general feeling of the island has made a 180 degree turn. One of the local politicians was quoted in the paper as to say, “ all whites should be taken off the island in body bags.“ It might have been simple rhethoric, but you get the picture. There is a huge sense of not being wanted there.

Don’t get me wrong, there are many fabulous people around but the majority do not like outsiders (whites), and are unfriendly, not service oriented at all, downright cold and their favorite past time is to ignore you. Even if you are in their store to buy $1,000.00 of merchandise, expect to be ignored.

Gunk holing is not permitted, boaters have to stay in a marina in the water or on the hard, or in Spanish Waters.

Me, I am refitting Ete Infini in Piscadera bay at Royal Marine( yes with an ‘e’ not ‘a’ ). People here are the very friendly kind with Juan-Carlos the marina manager but he will nickel and dime you to death: we were leaving Nov 30, paid up until Dec 12 but were still charged $20 for water use. Here you can dinghy to Pirate Bay just adjacent to Piscadera Bay. Nice swimming water, but the beach is full of broken coral thanks to a hurricane a few years back.

The price at the marina is somewhat affordable, haul in and out and three months with power was about $1,800.00 U.S . But I am sure things will go higher soon. Since the island is almost bankrupt and prices are already starting to climb.

Boat store wise, is on the good part of this trip. There is plenty of marine stores here, Budget marine (2) and Island Water World are my favorites, but get their catalogue first. Some items are cheaper at one store, and others are cheaper at the other store; they are very competitive. So shop around. They have a very decent inventory. Other marine stores are, Curacao Marine fairly ok, and Caribbean Nautical. This one I would stay away from. Caribbean Nautical was formely known as ABC marine. I waited 3 months for a quote on $4,000.00 worth of electronics, $1,500.00 worth of installation, still I only have a partial quote. As I said before, people ignoring you is a national pasttime here.

Most beaches, if not on resort properties, have entry fees, and like I said gunk holing is frown upon. Some people do it, until the authorities kick them out after a few days. On the other hand, the boat entrance is fairly easy, uncomplicated and somewhat efficient, mind you Custom and Immigration are quite a bit apart, so a cab ride would be a good idea. Clearing out is also easy, visit custom a day or 2 before the planned date, and turn in your visa card at immigration the day you leave, and you are on your way. If you had the same experience that I had, it will be a one time visit.

Pegg: a blurb about what we found in Curacao. Pictures to follow. 🙂

NAVIGATION

It can take a bit to get around Curacao, especially in town, ie Willemstad. But that’s where pretty much everything is so you got no choice. Sorry about that.

There are no (or very few) street names, even on what seem to be main roads. The streets themselves are more like what we would call alleys, or large driveways. They are laid out like a rabbit warren so even looking down them to see if they connect to anything is useless. The map is extremely large scale and every single road/pathway/alley/driveway/cowpath is on it, paved or gravel. What is approximately 2 inches away on the map is only about 100 yards in actuality. But that is only in town – once out in “the country”, that all changes. If you are lucky enough to have a navigator, please cut her some slack when she says “I just don’t have a clue.” If her nose is in the map trying to figure out where you are, she’s missed the turnoff already.

The "road" to the propane station

The “road” to the propane station

We found that navigating by landmarks is THE way to go. Turn right at KFC, left at Subway or just past McDonald’s….you get the idea. (For you fast food junkies, you’ll be in seventh heaven here! More on that in the food section.) In fact, KFC and Subway are about the only places actually written out; other stores, banks, gas stations are icon only. Take a pen with you and mark stuff on the map that you come across. I will tell you that you’ll find all kinds of neat stores and shops when you get lost and if you don’t mark them, you’ll never find them again.

And to top off your adventure: turn signals are only an option, cars are usually halfway into the intersection before they stop and most of this is done at high speed. Have fun! J

MONEY

Currency accepted here is either Dutch Guilders or US Dollars and almost all businesses take either or even a combination of both. If you don’t bring Guilders with you, don’t try to change them at the bank. IF the bank allows you to without an account, they’ll charge you 6% on top of the exchange rate.

The easiest way to exchange your money is right at the store. You give them US Dollars and they’ll convert it and give you Guilders in change. Do that a few times the first day or so and it will build up fast. If you have a hard time differentiating the coinage (like we do) just hold out your hand full of coins and the cashier will pick out the correct amount. One thing I’ve noticed is that they are very nice about it and completely honest.

SHOPPING

If you are here for any length of time, shop around for the best prices. Otherwise, here are a few ideas for staple items:

Centrum– groceries, small household items, beer, cigarettes, drugstore items that don’t need a pharmacist.

La Curacao – big department store, great for bedding, housewares, small and large appliances

Kooyman – a semi-independent store competing with Home Depot and doing a fine job of staying in business. They may not have as much stuff but what they do have is quality and the staff is most excellent. Potable grade marine hose is available here.

Building Depot – the large chain wannabe of Home Depot, and it seems they expanded into more home-making oriented items. They do the tool thing, plumbing and electrical supplies, bathroom and kitchen fixtures, carpet and flooring, lawn and garden…..all the same as HD; but they also have a department store type portion with bedding, housewares, appliances, some sports equipment, school supplies, decoration and knick-knacks. The staff is not as friendly as Kooyman, though, and a lot of items are not priced so you have to take them to the cashier to find out.

Marine Stores:

Budget Marine – a large chain around the Caribbean found on most islands. Register your boat with them and save the tax. Good selection of hardware, plumbing and painting supplies. Not bad electronics and water sports departments. The store here has super nice and helpful staff and they remember you when you come back for stuff you forgot the first time – which always happens.

Island Water World – a large, semi-independent store with great hardware and plumbing supplies. A good selection of electronics, painting and plumbing supplies. Some water sports equipment, some clothing/footwear, a few charts, and good miscellaneous items like coolers and air horns. Very nice rope/chain section.Register your boat and save the tax. Most helpful and friendly staff, extremely clean store.

Caribbean Nautical (ABC Marine) – a smallish store with big attitude. It seemed to me that paint and electronics are their specialties with not much else. They may know a bit more about electronics but customer service is not their forte.

The three marine stores are on the same road within .5 mile of each other so it’s easy to shop around.

If you have a Yamaha motor, there is only one guy on the island that can or will work on it, Jan Tak. Ask at one of the marine stores to get his number – then be prepared for a run-around that takes lots of time and energy. He’s good at what he does and comes highly recommended but the guys you have to deal with up front are a pain.

There is no certified Garmin technician on the island. There are, however, lots of people that will tell you they are. Some are good techs, some I wouldn’t trust our machine with. Island Water World staff don’t know a whole lot about electronics but they are extremely helpful in finding someone who does.

Gas stations are not as plentiful as we are used to but an unexpected empty fuel tank means only a couple miles walk anyway. The island is just not that big.

There is only one place to get propane on the island and it’s tucked back into one of those rabbit warrens I mentioned earlier, and closed on weekends. You need to go to the CurOil office and get a receipt for your tanks. We were charged $24.80 NAG per tank, a full BBQ tank price even though ours were only 12 pounds not 20. We took the tanks across the compound and left them Monday morning and were told to come back Wed afternoon for them; he took one copy of the receipt and we took one. Wed afternoon, they weren’t there – “come back tomorrow”. Our car was due to be turned in that day so we now had to pay an extra day. Thursday at 2:00 pm turned into 4:00 pm but we finally got our tanks. Once we were sure they were in this shipment, it was back to the office to pay for them, bring the receipt back and he turned them over. Super nice guy, we couldn’t get angry as it wasn’t his fault.

Other Shopping:

Downtown in the Renaissance Hotel area is a huge promenade full of upscale stores. If you are dire need of a new Rolex or Gucci bag, you’ll find it there.

There are clothing, footwear and sports stores scattered all throughout the Willemstad area. Some little jems are tucked away on side streets and are only discovered when you’re trying to find somewhere else.

downtown shopping

downtown shopping

4 main street shopping Willemstad

You can find computers and parts, printers, office supplies, music, cameras and photo equipment…pretty much anything. There are a few large strip malls but mostly it’s independent shops and boutiques.

INTERNET

There is free wifi at Starbucks, McDonalds, Burger King and some Subways. There is also wifi at the marinas but not very strong so you need to either boost it, get closer or just go with what you get.

FOOD

There is fast food all over the freakin place. McDonalds, Burger King, Subway, KFC and they all seem to be on corners which makes navigation easy. We found a Tony Roma’s and a Denny’s as well. Of course, there are little cafes and bistros all around, several Chinese and Thai and Spanish and Italian restaurants, and down on the promenade there are many independent restaurants. You won’t lack for food here.

MEDICAL

I was very surprised and impressed to see the various medical facilities here. Thank goodness we didn’t have to use them but I hear they are great. There is a huge hospital here and I saw signs for Internist, Cardiologist, Nephrologist, Immunologist, and many many MDs. There are dental clinics and denturists, as well. The pharmacy section at Centrum is pretty well stocked with normal stuff from Tylenol to shampoo, first aid supplies, tooth care, skin care, etc. For anything else you need to go to “Botica” which is sorta like a Shopper’s or Rexall. There you can find just about everything you need. For contact lens wearers – there are optical stores that carry Bosch and Lomb products.

Placencia – the “Pleasant” Bay

Placencia is a fascinating little village and, as such, has an interesting and colourful history.  Here it is, from http://www.belizespecialists.com/Placencia.htm:

“Placencia has a long history of occupation starting with the Maya who established at least 14 sites around the Placencia Lagoon. These were principally engaged in the making of salt as well as participating in the extensive coastal trade.

In the seventeenth century, Placencia was settled by the English Puritans who were originally from Nova Scotia and latterly from the island of Providencia. This settlement died out during the Central American wars of independence in the 1820’s.

The Spaniards that travelled the southern coast of Belize gave Placencia its name. At that time Placencia was called Placentia, with the point being called Punta Placentia or Pleasant Point. The Placencia Peninsula was resettled in the late 1800’s by the Garbutt family, who decided to settle and eventually own most of the Peninsula. In 1894 Abner Westby, whose family originated in Scotland, came to Placencia and purchased land from the Garbutts. He was later joined by a younger member of his family, John Eiley. The Cabral family, originally from Lisbon, Portugal, closed their business in Sao Paulo, Brazil and the Caribbean and sailed to the southern part of Belize on two schooners, The Colibri and The Jane. Soon they began doing business with and eventually married into the Placencia community. In the early 1900’s the Leslie’s, originally from Rotan, also came to Placencia.

Placencia prospered and soon became a village, earning its livelihood from the sea. On June 20th, 1962, the fishermen of the Village came together and formed the Placencia Produces Cooperative, which is still in operation today, to provide the village with competitive prices for their seafood production. In the early 1970’s Placencia was provided with electricity (although sometimes less than 110V) from the generators of the Cooperative, and eventually in 1993 the Belize Electricity Limited assumed that role, providing 110V and 220V to supply the increasing demand.

Placencia is as culturally diverse today as it was in its formation. Walking down the sidewalk on any given day you will see and hear people from all over Belize and the world gracing the little village. The people in Placencia are united in their love for the sea and in their commitment to tourism and development. .Since 1990, Placencia has made large and sure strides toward making it one of the most popular tourist destinations in Belize. Hurricane Iris that hit the village on October 8 of last year (2001) set Placencia back a bit but today Placencia is back on the track of tourism.”

In fact, Hurricane Iris destroyed 95% of the village and surrounding area and structures and it has grown back bigger and better than ever.  Placencia is in the Guinness Book of World Records for the world’s narrowest main street:  a sidewalk 4071 feet long and 4 feet wide.  It took 30 years to build, all done by hand, and has ceramic tile inlaid and family names inscribed and character galore.

The one waterfront bar that most cruisers frequent is called Yoli’s.  They have Sunday BBQs and local musician nights and the best information around:  whatever you need to know you’ll find out here from other cruisers.  Yoli’s also has the main dink dock in town where it is not unusual to see dinks lined up 2 deep on both sides.

We were anchored just off of Paradise Resort, where “Paradise is a state of mind”…so true.  The other sign said, “No shoes, no shirt, no problem”, which gives a good indication of the laid back and casual style of Belizeans.  Everywhere was like that, friendly, welcoming and warm.  We happened to frequent Paradise more than Yoli’s because there was good food, friendly people, mucho knowledgeable bartenders (and yes, they knew everything about the town too) and good wifi.

I think I’ll dedicate a page of photos just to “Cool Signs” because there were so many in Belize.  I forgot most of the ones I saw in San Pedro  before I got home to write them down so, in Placencia, I just took pictures of them.  One that made me laugh every time I saw it was “Omar’s Creole Grub”….I’m a sucker for oxymorons.

One thing I noticed about the flora and foliage in Belize was that, as beautiful as it looked, there was no smell to it, any of it, at all, nada, period.  You’d think that pretty flowers would smell pretty but they don’t and I don’t know why.  I have an entire folder of flower pics to put up too just cuz they’re nice to look at.

Our time in Placencia was most enjoyable, we explored the village, the lagoon, the beaches, just everywhere.   We went up the lagoon to get gas (the only gas station in town) for the dinghy, and also when taking the water taxi over to the other side to get our Customs papers.  It reminded me of the sloughs in southern Ontario, waterways that people live beside and use as their main ‘road’,  ‘parking’ in their ‘driveways’ or ‘covered garages’.  It’s just a beautiful little boat ride just to go and experience it.

We tried many different restaurants while there and looked at menus at another hundred or so.  The prices were decent, remembering that Belize is only 2:1 USD, but the food was usually very good.  There was Crow’s Nest Cafe (a more sophisticated menu), Pickled Parrot (super burgers and everyday $10 specials), Friends (with tropical pancakes), Paradise (EVERYTHING was good there), Omar’s Creole Grub (good old fashioned downhome bacon ‘n eggs), Above Grounds coffee shop (THE best coffee around and yes, it’s in a treehouse..lol), The Shak (vegetarian style bistro on the beach), BJ’s Belizean Bellyful (LOTS of food at good prices), Barefoot (where the food was so-so but the people were great).  And probably more that I have forgotten.

Everything is within walking distance because the town is only a mile square – or less.  The famous Mile-Long Sidewalk winds along the beach with homes, restaurants, cabanas, artistes, tour shacks and hammock hangouts all along it.  Every colour of the rainbow is used in decorating homes and business in Placencia and no colour is repeated two buildings in a row.  Street signs, where there are any, are handpainted; billboards are unobtrusive; and smiles are everywhere.

Jean-Marie and I took two nights in a beach cabana – mostly for the hot shower included within.  Sleeping in a bed that wasn’t moving proved not to be the luxury it sounds like:  we still woke up every couple hours to “check the anchor”…lol.  But, finding four people on a  boat for a month getting to be a little close, staying in town was a comfort.  The little cabana had a microwave (for what reason I don’t know), a mini fridge to hold the beer and water, and a coffeepot that we never used.  No phone, no tv, no radio, no clock – perfect.  On the beach, behind the palms, with a lattice gazebo type porch, windows open and fan on, it was cool and breezy and comfortable.

We met a little Mayan lady, Olivia, who comes into town to sell her homemade goodies.  We saw her somewhere in town almost every day and finally, while in the cabana, bought some stuff from her – a table runner for the salon and a head scarf/bandanna for Jean-Marie.  She stopped to chat on her way by every day, maybe took a glass of water, and brought us some oranges from her yard.  Turns out that she takes an hour’s bus ride each way every day to come from her village to Placencia, $40 per day.

There are many many of these artisans all around town, some just walking around, some with tables set up, none in the same place day to day.  We stopped to watch a guy making bracelets out of plastic bags.  He tied one end to a post and twisted it and twisted it until it made a tiny rope about 2 mm wide.  Once he had the lengths he wanted in various colours, he would weave them or macrame them together to make bracelets or necklace cords.  Recycling on steroids!  And they were just beautiful.

Most of the furniture in the restaurants, especially on the beach, was made from the local mahogany trees or bamboo; roofs were mostly thatch from palm fronds – watching the process of one of those being built is incredible.  Most of the buildings and homes were second story, built on stilts, to catch whatever breeze was blowing.  And yes, being on the ground floor was usually very hot.  Windows and walls along the beach were practically non-existent – they would roll down a screen during higher winds or rain – and you could sit or take shelter in any closed business because the main floor and tables were still open.

Crime in Placencia was a rarity.  Oh, there were petty thefts and such, mostly crimes of opportunity but we never locked the dinghy, we never worried about walking after dark, we could leave computer on table to go to the washroom, I didn’t have to hug my purse, etc.  What a difference from Belize City just up the coast!

Besides meeting up with Yonder and Wind Whisperer again, we also saw Takatuka for a bit.  Placencia Bay soon became the United Nations parking lot with cruisers from Switzerland and Italy and England and Australia…and Canada!  We were Canadian boat #8 when we pulled in and there were a bunch more came in later.

While there, our batteries decided they didn’t want to charge anymore so we ended up replacing the whole bank of 4.  Even with the exchange rate, it cost about the same as it would in Canada – about $200 each including tax, shipping, etc.

For being a village of about 750 people, Placencia has really got it together.  All schools have a uniform policy, crossing guards set up morning and afternoon on school days, and there is a Tourism Police force which routinely carries out roadblocks.  I found it pretty cool to see these things in a town where “rush hour traffic” means there are more than 3 vehicles or bicycles on the road at the same time.  But what I found amusing were the golf cart/motorcycle rentals and taxicabs – in a town less than a square mile in area.

Life in Placencia, like most of the Caribbean that we’ve seen, is slow and easy.  Not much is open before 11:00, maybe a restaurant that serves breakfast and even then it closes at about 4.  During the day, siesta is normal between 2 and 4-ish, dinner is normally about 7 or so.  Even parties or dances don’t last much beyond midnight at the very latest.  Belizeans seem to cram a whole lot of living into the 12 hours or less that they are active.

As cruisers, we found it more normal to do the sun-up sun-down thing.  It is hazardous to be out on the water in the dinghy after dark because so many boats rip around the harbour with no lights; and dinghies don’t have lights unless we carry a little flashlight to show our whereabouts.  Being up at sunrise has the disadvantage, however, of being upright and mobile while no one else is.  Coffee in the cockpit can only last so long, a bit of cleaning or maintenance before it gets too warm and then it’s off to town to explore and wait for things to open.  The biggest advantage to early rising is getting to see the beautiful colours and patterns of each unique sunrise.

We had been there about a week when word went around that a norther was coming, ETA Super Bowl Sunday.  Friday, Saturday, and Sunday morning saw many boats making a run in for the shelter of the bay.  A cute trend that we noticed was all the boats pulling up anchor and nosing toward the shore that offered the best protection.  When we arrived they were all over on the eastern shore, actually the western shore of the island lying off the east of town.  As the storm day approached many of them moved over to our side, tucking in behind the spit that formed the north edge of the bay and ranging down the line.  Personally, we found it didn’t really matter:  no matter what or where the wind, the bay stayed fairly calm and we didn’t rock and roll much at all.  The best indication of wind was which way our nose was pointing.

Sunday afternoon the sky lowered and the wind picked up to form quite large chops (comparatively) with whitecaps, the rain started and it pounded so hard it left holes in the sand and bounced 2 feet off the water.  And it just kept on.  One boat that had just made it in time didn’t fare so well.  We watched as he dropped the anchor then dropped about 100 feet of chain directly on top of it, turned off the engine and left in the dinghy not waiting to see if he grabbed.  Well, he didn’t grab.  Over the next couple hours we noticed the boat wasn’t there anymore and found it had dragged about ½ mile away to the south toward the rocks on the next shore.  Jean-Marie and a couple others took our dinghy out to the boat and tried to reset the anchor.  They were working on it when the owners finally returned and took over, bringing the boat back up into shelter and re-anchoring – properly this time.

As it turns out, the boat was from Italy and had come across the Atlantic and toodled around the Caribbean before reaching Placencia.  I’m quite sure I wouldn’t want to be on it, not after seeing the botched attempts at anchoring, I wouldn’t trust the competency of the captain.  But that’s me.  We’ve seen many boats like that, ones we wouldn’t want to be on, but they were mostly rentals.  A boating license (that you can get online for $50 and a multiple question test) and a credit card allows you to charter a boat wherever whenever for however long.  For some reason, they seem to be the ones that put everyone else into danger with their incompetency.  Just a week or so before we got to Placencia, a rental boat had dragged 150 feet into another boat, causing tens of thousands of dollars worth of damage and 2 weeks of waiting for parts and repairs.

We spent the rest of the day and evening at Paradise where the game was on the big screen.  Between the power outage at the Super Bowl and the off and on flickers from our own storm, the losing and regaining of the satellite, the wind blowing the rain in over the first row of tables (remember there are no walls) it was an interesting day.  I sat and played on the puter the whole time ignoring the hooting and hollering, and had a great dinner.  I was happy.

The next morning I counted:  33 sailboats of all sizes and models, 2 cargo ships and 1 barge lying off, and a mini-cruise ship that had come in and was able to beach itself.  It was a virtual parking lot!  The cruise ship was interesting to watch.  About 10:30 pm it came off the beach and made its way through the maze of boats to lie off nearer the cargo ships.  Making way dead slow, it had a monstrous searchlight going back and forth to find all the boats, sometimes shining on a particular boat for a few extra seconds to determine where the anchor chain was.  It zigzagged through without mishap, turned about into the wind and lay with no anchor for the whole night; even with the engines running the current was strong enough to hold it in place.  I thoroughly enjoyed watching his adventure.  Kudos to the captain for a job well done!

So 33 boats and a 150 foot anchor drag doesn’t really sound like much until you realize that the bay is only about 1.5 miles long and 1 mile wide and each boat has probably 100 feet or more chain in front of them, requiring a good 300 foot diameter swinging circle for good clearance.  I am impressed with the seamanship of all the captains there that day: no incidents occurred.  Same with all the local boats – fishermen, divers, lanchas, resort tenders – they had to do the same weaving in and out to get from one of the bay to the other; and they usually do it at full speed and without lights!  They done good – there was no crashing that night.

The night of the full moon, I was honoured by the presence of a pair of dolphins that came in to feed.  The gentle shoosh of them sounding was the only indication and it took me a bit to find them in the moonlight.  The water would ripple and part to reveal the sleek forms curving on the surface for just a moment before slipping silently beneath the water.  The full moon reflecting on the mirror-like surface was the perfect  backdrop for these gentle creatures.

They were in the bay all the time and came in close to shore almost every night to feed but that was the only time I saw them.  For that moment, I am grateful.

As with most beach front cafes, Yoli’s was built on a pier and piles extending out over the water with a plank walk to the dinghy dock in front.  The fish would hang around for the tidbits thrown to them.  It was fun to feed and watch them, perch-like ones, needlefish, even a white stingray in San Pedro (there is photos of that one).

Something we had been told, and found to be true, is that Belizeans love to gamble and they will gamble on anything – literally anything and everything.  One favourite pasttime turned into a Thursday night routine was Chicken Drop.  They built a walled square with checkerboard pattern floor, each square being numbered.  Then they let a chicken loose into the square and bet on which square he would “drop” (ie, poop).

At the Pickled Parrot one night for dinner (BEST burgers in town), the owner, Eugene, said that the bartender was on break and due back at 5 but that it could be whenever because Kareem was not known for his punctuality, the night before being 5:25 before his return.  So we started a pool to see what time he would get back, park his bike and walk through the gate.  It was $1 per bet (2 BZ) and winner took all; so everyone put in their money and Tommy wrote the time on the bill with a Sharpie.  We covered right up until 5:30 and as it was getting close to that time, we had to revise the rules and place new bets.  When Kareem finally did walk in at 5:38 or something like that, he did so to cheers and jeers and loud applause.  He didn’t mind at all being the centre of a gambling pool based on his tardiness.

Placencia was just an awesome little town to visit and I can completely understand why so many people come for a vacation and just never leave.   Everyone is so friendly and helpful, smiling and laughing all the time; there were never any fights or arguments or even loud angry voices.  The people there really don’t have much but will share or give what they’ve got and they always have time for a sit and a chat.

Crash – Boom – Pound

If a stopover could be described in short, yet very descriptive, verbs, Dangriga would be crash – boom – pound.  Lightning crashed, thunder boomed and the rain pounded.  That was the strongest impression I retain of Dangriga.

We arrived about noon-ish off the little town of Dangriga, Stann Creek.  Home to about 10,000 people, it was the second largest settlement after Belize City and is now the third.  It was settled in the early 1800’s by “Garinagu”, Black Caribs from Honduras and, since the 1980’s has undergone a cultural awakening.  This included changing their name from Stann Creek to Dangriga and fostering a cultural renaissance of the Garifuna, the ethnic group descended from shipwrecked African slaves and native Caribs.  They had adopted the Carib language which is an interesting mixture of African, Creole, English, French, Spanish and probably a few others; it has very little relationship to any of them singularly but a keen ear can pick out terms and words from each.  Fascinating, singsong, language and very pleasant to listen to.

These Garifuna have kept their African musical and religious traditions more so than other islands/countries in the Caribbean and celebrate mightily with festivals and rituals lasting days.

Dangriga is also where the Caribbean music, Punta Rock, originated and some of Belize’s more well-known folk bands came from here.

We didn’t get much of a chance to explore this little gem of a town that one day we were there but what we saw was lovely.  We found a few provisions and stopped for dinner.  Believe it or not we had THE BEST chop suey we’ve ever had anywhere – in downtown Dangriga, Belize!  Fresh made, piping hot and way too much for any normal person to eat.  I had asked for a coffee and, true to Belizean custom, was handed a mug of boiling water and the instant Nescafe jar and a huge bowl of sugar.  Usually taking cream only, I asked if there was some, or even milk.  After umming for a moment, the waitress conferred with another guy who took off out the door; we heard “Just buy one!” and then it dawned on us.  The custom is to drink heavily sugared strong black instant coffee – they actually went to the nearby grocery store to buy a can of condensed milk just for me.  Hmmm, third world country indeed!  How little we know of these wonderful people.

It was amazing just how many Asian owned shops and restaurants there were there.  There were Thai, Vietnamese, Korean, Chinese, Japanese, Philippino establishments everywhere.  No one we asked could supply an answer for this phenomenon.

Loaded down with our booty (and full stomachs plus doggy bags), we decided to head back to the boat and maybe leave exploring for the next day.  We had just gotten to the beach when we noticed the sky to the east was dark, black, and  moving fast.  We whistled for David to bring the dinghy up for us and were being pelted by rain before we even got off the dock.

Rushing to close hatches and put away everything, we were soon soaked and completely overtaken by this storm.  Although only about 4:00 pm, it was like twilight with such heavy clouds.  Waaaay over in the east we saw lightning but with all the low-hanging clouds it looked more like sheet lightning.  Then we started hearing the thunder as it got closer and closer.   Withing a couple hours, the lightning and thunder had combined into a loud cacophony being directly overhead; coupled with the pounding rain, we couldn’t even hear ourselves think.  We were rocking and rolling pretty good in waves kicked up by the wind, the wind generator about to take off into the ether it was spinning so hard.  We had had the presence of mind to bring the dinghy up onto the davits to prevent drag on the boat, not knowing how the anchor would hold.  (We found out next morning we had only dragged about 10 feet!)

Jean-Marie was very glad there was a 300 ft tower just a few hundred yards away, hoping that any lightning strike would find it instead of us.  Me, I just sat up in the companionway and watched the awesome power and beauty of it all.  Oblivious to the dangers of lightning (or ignoring them), I just love to watch thunderstorms – usually from as close as possible.

The storm passed by overhead and was going inland by about 10:00 so we were able to turn in and get whatever sleep there was to be found.  It was a pretty rocky night and there is always the concern of dragging in the back of our heads.  Jean-Marie and I met each other upstairs quite a few times that night, watching the shoreline to make sure it wasn’t moving.  <sigh>  the joys of anchoring.

The next morning dawned clear and beautiful with a brilliant sunrise.  We decided to get the hell out of Dodge while we could as we didn’t have internet or any weather information, and really REALLY didn’t want that to happen again.  We didn’t have a clue this storm was on its way, nothing had shown up in the weather reports we looked at.  So we upped anchor and took off for Placencia, about 40 miles down the coast.

It was a gorgeous day yet again, spent watching the cays go by and looking out for the little fishing marker-sticks.  It was a bit of a concern, since our prop is a rope-magnet, because they were in the main channel and we didn’t know just how much line was tied to them or where it was exactly.   Our earlier dodging through a literal minefield of them had taught us they were not nets strung out – thank goodness for that, at least.

As we neared Placencia Bay we saw other sailboats in what looked like the opening between the mainland and the island.  The gap was not large to begin with and we knew it widened out afterward but didn’t know just how congested the passage would be with those 4 or 5 boats there.

As it happened, the perspective changed totally when we got right up on it and we found that yes, the sailboats were  directly in front of the opening but back in the middle of the bay.  It is incredible the different perspectives on everything being out on the water as opposed to standing on the shore.  I am learning every day – mostly that my spacial estimation ability is very limited.

During the day, from the water, the shore and other boats look a certain distance away.  From the shore, the boat looks a lot closer.  At night, it’s the same thing.  It’s very disconcerting to say the least.

We found, once in Placencia Bay, that there were actually about 15 -18 boats there, all anchored here and there.  We decided to pull up fairly close to one end of town just off what looked to be a decent sized hotel (hoping to be able to pull in their wifi from the boat), and laid the anchor.  The current was fairly strong and it took a few tries to catch but when we did it held us very well for the duration of our stay.  The bottom in Belize was more mud or clay than it was in Mexico, where it was more sand or sand over coral.

Looking around the bay we saw that Yonder had made it there already (Steve and Sandy) and Wind Whisperer was parked just behind them (another couple we met in Belize City).  We are finding out that cruisers never really leave one another behind, we will always meet up again somewhere.

3  First sight Dangriga

3 First sight Dangriga

2  Misty foggy raining but calm and no wind

2 Misty foggy raining but calm and no wind

1  Not a nice day for sailing

1 Not a nice day for sailing

4

5  Yes it is waiting for us

5 Yes it is waiting for us

6  It was like this the whole day, night, day

6 It was like this the whole day, night, day

7  A great shot of a pocket of rain

7 A great shot of a pocket of rain

8  Dangriga, population about 600

8 Dangriga, population about 600

9  Dangriga

9 Dangriga

10  Main street (there is only one street)

10 Main street (there is only one street)

11  Beautiful sunset except....this is facing east.  Figure that one out!

11 Beautiful sunset except….this is facing east. Figure that one out!

Adventures in Belize City

It seems that pretty much everywhere is 25-30 miles away from where we are; so again, we did a half day of motor-sailing down to Belize City. Travelling south behind the reef is beautiful; there are cays everywhere, some inhabited, some treed, some filled with mangrove. Something we found a little out of the ordinary was that the water was murky – it was nowhere near as clear as up in Mexico. Maybe it had become more of a muddy bottom than a sandy one? There didn’t seem to be as much coral either which may explain it. Whatever the cause, it was almost disappointing not to be able to see into the water. But it was still lovely and various shades of blue and green, sometimes reflecting the clouds in a shimmering white swath or dulling to the colour of old jade when the clouds took over completely. The camera would not, could not, capture the subtle changes but the water changed completely if there was a gray sky behind it rather than a blue sunny one.

San Pedro to Belize City required dodging a few little islands/cays which looked infinitely more difficult on paper (the chart) than it did in real life. What looks to be a trip through a maze on the map was actually a nice sail through wide channels between treed and gorgeous islands. I think the trickiest part was catching sight of the little posts the lobstermen used to mark their traps as no one used buoys in this area. They were hard to pick out, usually being just a branch stuck in the rocks no bigger than a broomstick and they stuck up anywhere between 6” and 6 ft above the water. The sticks were not so much the problem but the rope they were attached to was – our propellor seems to be a rope-magnet. Also, a lobster trap meant rocks and we didn’t know how far down they would be. So we just watched carefully for them and steered clear.

Coming through the last entrance between two cays, there were cruise ships lying off. There didn’t seem to be any tenders around them or movement that we could see so we have no idea just what they were doing there. Belize City is a destination port but they were lying off so far from the shore that it didn’t make sense.

We cruised up and down in front of the main part of town where we knew there were a couple of marinas advertised. The only thing we saw was a small-ish area that had only motorboats which meant that we probably couldn’t have gotten in. We decided to head a little farther south of town to Cucumber Beach. Coming around the point and heading in we saw a nice little norther kicking up with its attending wind but we got in just ahead of it.

Ete Infini is a most wonderful boat to handle: under sail it constantly seeks the wind and responds, motoring forward it can turn on a dime. But motoring in reverse it is an obstinate tub that just will not go where you want it to. You can turn and crank and cajole and swear all you want but it will do whatever it wants…and if there is even the slightest hint of wind, it will respond to that and totally screw you over. The slip that the marina wanted us in was a side tie but we needed to back into it first and, with the wind threatening to kick up, we were not amused. But Jean-Marie did an amazing job with it, kicking and gearing and turning ever so slightly and we slid in without a hitch. Beautiful job!

And the rain started.

Cucumber Beach Marina, also known as Old Belize, is a nice little place and will be quite comfortable for an extended stay when it is finished. It seems that the owners had run into financial difficulties with the economy and it was allowed to run down a bit; they were in the process of rebuilding and expanding while we were there. In the meantime, their hot water tank system broke and they didn’t bother to fix it because the renovations in that area would be completed in about a month….so that meant cold showers for us but hot ones in the future. There was shore power and water, the bathrooms were not far away, the wifi was at the office where a little table and chairs were set up on the porch, the restaurant was on the other side of the marina which meant a bit of a walk around but was worth it for the food, prices and people.

It had been called Old Belize because there was a museum on the property where your tour guide could explain all the history, flora and fauna, and stories of the area. In fact, you had to walk through a bit of it to get to the restaurant, something like an arboreum with native plants and trees under trellis and thatch. It was beautiful and had such a peaceful feeling in there.

Instead of the normal pool to swim in, they had made a “swimming area” out of a natural bowl. It was all sand and dug out approx an acre large with a nice gentle drop off; a waterslide at one end and a rope swing at the other, it reached up right to the balcony of the restaurant. It was loaded with fish and there were crabs on the rocks and some coral along the side, cabanas and chairs and a beach cafe were on the ocean side. A novel idea that turned out lovely.

Past the beach cafe they were building a second swimming area, this one lined with blue tile and steps leading in. It also had coral and fish and a natural feel to it, but with more manmade surroundings and no sand.

It rained the whole time we were there and the stiff wind made it somewhat uncomfortable. Cruise ships normally stopped there so the sheeple could have a swim and lunch and go snorkeling, etc, but the weather forbade that. It was nice to have the restaurant and all to ourselves but we felt bad for the staff because they weren’t getting the business they depend on.

While there, we took a day trip into Belize City for supplies and banking. The bus came along every ½ hour or so and stopped if you waved them down, $1.50 BD was the fare into the city about 5 miles away. Once on the bus, it stopped if you yelled to the driver. lol We rode it right into the terminal and started walking from there. We had no clue where we were going but headed toward the water figuring that most of the businesses we wanted were down that way.

Belize City is a small, cramped, dirty, depressed, violent, slummy and just all round ‘not a nice place’. Over 10,000 people live on approx 18 square miles, or rather, exist. The buildings are all the same gray stone or gray wood or gray metal or a combination of all of them; even the old cars and the rusted everythings were gray – or so it seemed in the rain. Small, narrow streets with a rain gutter in the middle, built of stones not pavement; sidewalks, where there are any, were only 1.5 to 2 feet wide and most of them crumbling. Every other doorway seemed to be sleeping quarters, all windows and doors had wrought iron bars across them and very few places even looked to be open. The big thing we noticed missing were the smiles that we were used to – very few people smiled or said hello back to us.

Banks and other government buildings, or prosperous foreign-owned business that catered to cruise ship sheeple were large and colourful and clean and landscaped and well maintained – of course. All school age children were dressed in one colour of uniform or another and it seemed that all the schools were church-oriented or church-sponsored. There were no parks or gardens or greenery or natural little spots anywhere in the city until you got down right to the waterfront by the resorts and casinos – of course. It was impossible to tell where the business centre ended and the slums began, they sorta just ran into each other and blended everywhere. It was definitely not a place to walk around at night, and even during the day the feeling of violence was just beneath the surface.

Belize hoards American dollars. The banks will give a $250 advance on credit card only once per day. The one bank told us to go to the Central Bank and get an authorization and they would be able to give us a different amount. Two hours later (pouring rain all the while) we finally were talking to the bank representative – after walking and finding the place tucked away back in a corner on the opposite side of town – to find out that they “don’t do that”. This is where we found out, for certain, that American dollars were completely unavailable in Belize in any quantity.

We put up with the rain and cold, the 0530 starts of the tenders, the lack of hot water and the overall miasma of despair for almost a week before crying “Uncle” and deciding to cast off for better climes. We found a decent weather window and set our sails for Dangriga, another ½ day’s motor down the coast.

It was clear and mostly sunny, no wind to speak of, with calm waters as we made our run to Dangriga. Innumerable little cays, some inhabited but mostly not, swept by on both sides. Some were treed, some had little beaches, some were cliff edged, some were just massive mangrove swamps….and all beautiful in their own way.

1  Sunrise before leaving San Pedro

1 Sunrise before leaving San Pedro

2  There it is

2 There it is

3 Last sight of San Pedro

3 Last sight of San Pedro

4  On our way

4 On our way

5  Marker for a lobster trap, they were all over the place

5 Marker for a lobster trap, they were all over the place

6 Calm, no wind, but no sun either

6 Calm, no wind, but no sun either

7 The gap is where we're heading

7 The gap is where we’re heading

8 Gap between cays.  There are hundreds of them along the Belize coast

8 Gap between cays. There are hundreds of them along the Belize coast

9  Some are really tiny

9 Some are really tiny

10 Still inhabited, a usual sight

10 Still inhabited, a usual sight

11  A typical Belize residence

11 A typical Belize residence

12  Finally, the tower marking the entrance, with ever present bird on top

12 Finally, the tower marking the entrance, with ever present bird on top

13  Another cay to go around

13 Another cay to go around

14  Welcoming committee

14 Welcoming committee

15  Beauty babies

15 Beauty babies

16  I think they were a couple

16 I think they were a couple

17  First site of Belize city

17 First site of Belize city

18  After we go around yet another cay

18 After we go around yet another cay

19  A calm ride

19 A calm ride

20

21  Cucumber beach

21 Cucumber beach

22  The swimming area at the marina, with water slide

22 The swimming area at the marina, with water slide

23 Pathway to the beach cabanas and outdoor bar

23 Pathway to the beach cabanas and outdoor bar

24  The beach bar

24 The beach bar

25  The second swimming area, also natural

25 The second swimming area, also natural

26  Amphitheatre

26 Amphitheatre

27  The restaurant on the near side of the 'pool'

27 The restaurant on the near side of the ‘pool’

28  Beautification along the edge of the bay

28 Beautification along the edge of the bay

29  More swamp than inlet, a great home for the mangroves

29 More swamp than inlet, a great home for the mangroves

30  The rope swing

30 The rope swing

31  View from the restaurant

31 View from the restaurant

32  Downtown Belize city, and yes it rained all week

32 Downtown Belize city, and yes it rained all week

33  Boats lined up at the swing bridge, canal in the middle of the city

33 Boats lined up at the swing bridge, canal in the middle of the city

34  Bridge opens twice per day to let the boats upriver

34 Bridge opens twice per day to let the boats upriver