After 2 years of chartering the in the BVIs we were up for something a little different. Don’t get me wrong, the BVIs are amazing and we’re planning on going back many more times, but we wanted a little change of pace. Belize seemed to fit the bill. We knew it would be much less “developed” than the BVIs – more secluded anchorages & snorkeling – less mooring fields & beach bars. I was a little nervous however, as looking at the charts indicated that it was quite shallow with many reefs. Additionally, I was told that most of the charts were fairly out-of-date and potentially inaccurate. Navigational aids? forget it… This would be a good test of our eyeball-nav skills.
As it turns out, we didn’t really need to worry. The captain who ran the charter company knew the waters like the back of his hand. He gave us charts that he had personally annotated, marking the safe/unsafe areas. He also gave us a binder of satellite photos of the charted areas, with passages/anchorages marked, and even had waypoints pre-programmed into the on-board GPS for navigating tricky passages. Pretty sweet! Even so we still touched ground (softly) while circling around in shallow anchorages – it is *shallow* there!
Since the areas we were sailing in were relatively remote/undeveloped, there weren’t any marinas/docks to pull into to refill our water supplies. The boat carried a fair bit of water, but it definitely meant we weren’t showering on board! Instead we showered by lathering up and jumping into the ocean. I actually found that these “salt water showers” were amazing for my skin, it never felt so smooth and soft! Who knew!
The other thing about being in remote areas is that there weren’t any real places to go ashore for restaurants etc… however we did read about two nice resorts, that were hospitable to cruising sailors – normally you have to radio/call them 24hrs in advance so they can order enough food for dinner that night (did I mention these were small, remote places?). Of course, due to poor planning on our parts, we arrived without having made a 24hr reservation. Both places were awesome, and accommodated us anyway. We had some fantastic dinners with amazingly fresh seafood (seems like most of the restaurants menus consist of whatever the local fishing boat brings in that day!). The second place (off water cay IIRC) actually came over and picked us up in their launch, as we had anchored pretty far away (not realizing where the resort actually was). Talk about service – they saved us quite a long dhingy ride!
At the end of the trip, we actually made it back to home port a night early (we had to catch an early flight the next morning) and anchored off the charter companies docs. There were a number of other boats anchored around us, both charter and private. As I sat in the cockpit, I admired a pretty little classic ketch anchored right next to us. Such a pretty boat… As I watched it, I was like “hey that boat looks familiar, I swear I’ve seen it before”. Then it hit me, it was the Lizzy Belle (http://www.twentyeightfeet.com/). I had seen the short film on David and Lizzy Belle earlier, and recognized her from that! What were the odds! Unfortunately we didn’t get a chance to hang out, but hopefully we’ll run into each other again out their on our own boat!
Now that we have our own boat, I’m not sure how many charters are going to be feasible in the near future, but Belize definitely ended on a high note. Next stop will be the Bahamas, aboard Elara!