My husband Charles keeps a travel journal which is one of our prized possessions. Captains Log is the unedited excerpts from this journal, with daily details, places, and events as they happened. Enjoy!

February 2016

Day 1

  • Super Bowl Sunday!! Our itinerary took us from Denver to Dallas to Belize City on American then from Belize City to Placencia. The trip was smooth and uneventfully with no surprises. Once on the ground in Placencia, we hailed a taxi with instructions to drop our bags at the Moorings marina base then find a TV so we could watch Denver vs Caroina in Super Bowl 50.
  • Big Mike was our driver. Once at Laru Beya Marina there was nobody there to receive us. After looking around we found the night watchman and his big lapdog Cholo. He quickly helped us find our boat Mango where we dropped our luggage. Big Mike then took us to the Flying Pig Restaurant to watch the football game.
  • Our arrival at the Flying Pig became a party crash. It turns out a local developer was hosting a party for USA ex-pat property owners. It was not what we were hoping for, but it was the best we could find. I quickly lost my voice because I was screaming so loud. The bar owner let us join the party for $150 including dinner and booze. It was a great game. Denver 24 to Carolina 10. Great game and great day 1. After the game we returned to the boat and slept there.

Day 2

  • Shower, put provisions away. 9 am chart briefing with Mateo. It took longer than we planned to get out of there. For next time remember this marina is very small and has very limited facilities. In hindsight, the detailed chart briefing is VERY IMPORTANT. This is not the BVI where anyone with a credit card can rent a boat and get drunk and cruise around. Belize demands caution and attention to details.
  • We forgot some items for the boat. After leaving the marina we stopped in Placencia Harbour to finish our shopping. Finally on our way at 1 pm. Our plan was Hatchet Caye. Because of our late started, we executed Plan B which was Wippari Caye. Anchored for the night (2 anchors). A storm passed through the night which made me very nervous about our anchors not holding. I barely slept. Fortunately, our anchors held firm. Dinner on boat. NEVER leave something breakable unsecured. I learned this lesson when my dinner landed on the cockpit floor in a pile of food and shattered glass. My beautiful Lea talked me back from the edge and shared her dinner with me. I LOVE HER!! Alcohol also helps take the edge off.

Day 3

  • Casual breakfast; pull both anchors then casual sail to Hatchet Caye where we grabbed a mooring ball by 2 pm. Hurrah for mooring balls!
  • Snorkeling was awesome with amazing coral and sea life. We saw a very large eagle ray crusing around and the water visibility was good.  Happy hour on boat; then dinner at 6:30 at Lion Fish Restaurant on Hatchet Caye. It was very nice. We met a father and son at the bar who lost their dinghy motor to thieves the night before. I am glad I brought my padlock and cable.
  • Another choppy night due to stormy weather. I slept ok knowing we were safely hooked to a mooring ball.

Day 4

  • Spectacular sunrise; seas were very choppy. We dropped the mooring ball and motored to safe water. Once in deep water we raised our sails and aimed for Pelican Caye. The wind was not cooperating. Although it was blowing more than 15 knots it was mostly in our face. When we reached the Victoria Channel it was clear we would not reach our destination unless we motor-sailed. We were able to motor sail at 6+ knots on a close reach. It was fun because we were heeling the boat and attaching the waves straight on. We made very good time and we were on a mooring ball by 2:30 pm (one of three mooring balls).
  • We tried snorkeling but quit because the visibility was bad. Run unfriendly French catamaran on neighboring mooring ball.
  • 6:30 pm reservation at The Hideaway with Dustin, Kim, and daughter Ama. INCREDIBLE!! Dennis and Kim purchased the mangrove island and have transformed it into a real life Robinson Crusoe meets Swiss Family Robinson. This place is so cool. And Kim is an amazing cook. She prepared lobster and conch with coconut rice, a fresh salad, and home-made bread. Everything was delicious. Although we did not meet him, they have a Rottweiler named Caye that swims tirelessly and fetches live conch. It seems he hates outboard motors and frightens everyone which explains why his is kept away from guests. Making the visit more special was the captivating life story and conversation. After dinner, the stars were spectacular. The mooring and anchorage are very protected. We slept like babies. This has been the highlight of the trip so far (and the Broncos Super Bowl win).

Day 5

  • Getting to The Hideaway at Pelican Caye requires strict and vigilant following of navigation waypoints that were programmed into the boat charting and GPS systems. Leaving required we retrace our path to deep water almost 3 nautical miles in the wrong direction.
  • Our objective today was Coco Plum Caye which was north more than X nm from Pelican Caye. We quickly determine the only way to reach our destination before dark was to motor sail and redline our Yanmar engine.
  • This day provided many very important sailing lessons. Among the most notable and important is ALWAYS have a Plan B that is clearly understood before the day begins. Today we did not have a Plan B. Our only plan was to reach Coco Plum Caye before dark and grab a mooring ball we were told would be on the NW side of the island. Lesson 2 was to confirm and corroborate all info and advice from multiple credible sources along the way. Lesson 3 was be flexible, especially when prudent, AND be decisive when circumstances demand a change of plans. Lesson 4 was have good binoculars.
  • So, we dropped our sails as we approached the island. Then, we motored to the spot on the chart where we expected 3 mooring balls because we were told so. Our anxiety was off the charts because we found only 1 mooring ball tied to 3 x 50 gallon plastic drums in 10 feet of water. Our keel is almost 6 ft and our depth gauge was alarming that we were “aground”. (5 ft cushion/tolerance was pre-programmed). I quickly jumped in with my mask to inspect our predicament. It was bad!
  • The weather forecast made things worse. Overnight we expected stormy weather and 4-7 ft seas coming from the NW. If our inadequate mooring ball failed we would be blown onto the island with no time to save ourselves. Also, there was nothing protecting us from wind and waves.
  • We quickly took the dinghy ashore for local advice. the first guy we bumped into was a service employee who did not speak English. My Spanish is bad enough that we had a serious communication barrier. I asked about a safe mooring ball using my best Spanglish. He looked at us with a concerned look and pointed to the other side of the island. F***!! we had less than 2 hours of daylight to motor almost 6 nm around coral on the north side of this island so we could find sheltered anchorage on the East side of the island.
  • Lesson 4 again was have really good optics for many reasons. On the other side of the island it was practically dark. We did not see the 3 mooring balls available until it was too late to do anything about it. Our reality was we dropped 2 anchors in a hasty manner at dark. I twas too dark to inspect our anchorage which means cross your fingers and hope for the best.
  • Knowing the weather report and the uncertainty of our anchors we were very anxious.
  • We crafted a sensible plan B in case shit happened during the night. Our Plan B was I manufactured a flotation buoy from 4 empty water jugs that I tied to the bitter end of our second anchor. If we lost our primary anchor during the night I would throw the second anchor into the sea to be found and recovered the next day. We would retrieve our primary anchor and try to grab a mooring ball. If that attempt failed, we would retrace our path to deep water and motor in circles all night until morning. DICEY PLAN B!!!
  • We were both spent. We needed dinner and booze to relieve our tension and anxiety. Fortunately, the Thatch Caye Resort allowed us to crash the prepared group dinner. It cost us $150 dollars but was worth it. At dinner the assembled resort guests were friendly and seemed genuinely impressed by our “skills” as sailors. Of course we did not tell them the real story.
  • I barely slept. I was so nervous about our anchors especially with the wind and rough seas. Thank God we made it safely through the night.

Day 6

  • I was so relieved to see the sun rise and realize our anchors held firm. Yesterday was filled with valuable lessons for Lea and me. Today would be an epic long motor sail to achieve our sail plan. We decided over breakfast to aim for the shelter of Placencia Harbour for our last night. 33 nautical miles downwind. The day was comparatively uneventful. We did not see another boat until we were close to Placencia.
  • The highlights of the day were the pod of dolphins I saw, the spectacular sunset, the tasty hamburger meal I prepared with sauteed veggies, and we killed our remaining booze while watching a big thunderstorm roll through. It rained hard most of the night.

Day 7

  • Last day sailing!! We motored along the waypoints as instructed in our pre-trip chart briefing. At waypoint #5 we radioed the moorings base to request a harbor pilot. Once aboard, the harbor pilot took mango to a nearby fuel depot to refill our tanks.
  • At the marina we enjoyed a casual and relaxing debrief. During the debrief I asked the manager about the outboard motor theft of another charter and the grounding 2 weeks prior at Coco Plum Caye/Thatch Caye Resort. He said the small dinghy motors cost more than #2,000 US after all taxes and expenses are included. OUCH.
  • The grounding we heard about and were warned to avoid happened at Coco Plum Caye. It seems that 3 weeks prior a large catamaran was taking a short cut around the north end of the island and severely grounded themselves on the reef. They breached one hull and dented the second. AND they damaged the reef, which is a serious no no in Belize. We were told the boat damage was almost $40,000 and the reef damage at least $70,000. The Belize government confiscated the passports of the skipper and first mate until money for reparations were guaranteed. Wow!
  • After completing the debriefing tasks the Moorings taxi took us to our hotel for Part II of our Belize adventure.