Sunday, April 27, 2014

Blitzing through Belize

This little guy landed on our fishing rod to try and last out the down pour.

Before we left the Rio Dulce, we met a family who had just arrived from Belize, where they had spent four months cruising through the Belizean Cays, protected by the second largest barrier reef in the world.  As beautiful as that sounds, only one thing about that story registered with Sara and me.  Four months!  We hadn’t planned anywhere near that long for our time in Belize.

In fact, we have broken one of the cardinal rules of cruising.  We find ourselves slave to the “s” word, as in “schedule”.  Because of the timing on my trip home for work we are a bit further behind than we planned to be at this point.  Now we need to get to Florida by June, since hurricane season is fast approaching.  So, as other cruisers were heading in to the Rio Dulce to put their boats away for the summer, we headed out and turned left, bound first for Belize.

Initially, we had planned to spend a couple of weeks enjoying the Belizean Cays.  While a lot of them appear to be nothing more than mangrove hideouts for no-see-‘ums, there are a few palm-treed, beach encircled jewels scattered here and there.  Once we got moving, though, it was hard to stop.  We reasoned that if we make good time on this leg of our north bound trip, it will give us more flexibility if the weather slows us down later.

So, after a rainy departure from Guatemala, we quickly made our way north through Belize.  We stopped one night in a deserted, mangrove-lined bay called New Haven, and the next night anchored off the pleasant town of Placencia, where we checked into the country.

Dinghy dock in Placencia.
Belize has quite a few charter operations.  I guess the end of April is a slow time, though, since we have only seen a couple of other boats.
We have seen a few party boats, too.  Maybe instead of going back to Florida, we should just stay here, and give dozens of tourists rides around the Cays?  (I don't think so).
After that, we bucked a north easterly wind to head to the outer reef, where we overnighted off the beautiful South Water Cay.  The next day was spent picking our way through shallow water along the inner side of the reef, dodging coral heads.  It was a relief to finally slip out through an opening in the reef and head to the island atoll of Turneffe.  We thought we might relax there for a couple of days, but once again found ourselves in a deserted, shallow, muddy bay, surrounded by mangroves.

These kayakers were taking advantage of the trade winds to avoid paddling between the Cays.
Tobacco Cay, one of the beautiful Cays sitting right on the reef.
Heading up Blue Creek, into the mangroves around the atoll of Turneffe.  It doesn't look like the boys are picking up Katie's message of peace.

So, today, we turned back to the northwest, and sailed along outside the reef.  About an hour before we anchored, we cut back in through a hole in the reef, and now we find ourselves anchored off the touristy village on Cay Caulker.  At this point, we have covered almost all of Belize, from south to north.  We only have about 10 miles left to go to San Pedro, where we will check out.  Then, we will slip back out through the reef and make our way north to Mexico.  That is still a couple of days away, though.  We are pretty sure we can’t check out of the country over the weekend, so we will rest up from our frantic pace for a day or two, and enjoy Cay Caulker.

Do we feel bad about zipping so quickly through Belize?  Not really.  We have enjoyed one of the things Belize is famous for, which is the calm sailing inside the reef.  You still get the strength of the ocean wind, but the waves are broken by the reef, so you can fly along as if you were on a lake.  And we have seen a few of the beautiful Cays.  We haven’t done any diving, and only a little snorkelling, but after our round of ear infections in Honduras, we are all a bit gun-shy to spend too much time in the water.

To give you a bit of an impression of what it is like to sail in the beautiful calm waters inside the reef, I have put together this time lapse video.  It starts with us leaving the Rio Dulce, on the rainiest day we have had our entire trip.  Then, it transitions to a calm motor-sail, starting with raising the anchor in Placencia, and ending with our arrival at South Water Cay.  I hope it gives you an idea of what it looks like on the days that we move the boat.  Enjoy!

Placencia to South Water Cay from Scot Mountain on Vimeo.


  1. Love the video - makes me want to be there with you, though Belize and the south coast of Cambodia look pretty similar.

    1. Glad you liked the video. I was thinking something similar on your bikes would be good. I used my Contour video camera, and set it up to take a shot every 30 seconds, then mashed all the pictures together with a short display time in a video editing app. Do you guys have a GoPro or a Contour?