We had a couple of waypoints to get us in front of the southern opening for Glovers. This is a oval shaped atoll surrounded by coral reef. It is about 15 miles long and 4-5 miles wide. The depths average 50-60 feet with hundreds of large coral heads rising to just below the surface. We needed to eyeball navigate once inside the atoll dodging coral heads. As long as the sun is up you can easily identify them as brown patches in surrounding Aqua water. We were the first boat into the reef and we anchored in front of a small resort at the southern end. This little island, one of three inside the reef provided good wind protection.
Not too long after arrival several other yachts joined us in the anchorage. There was fantastic snorkeling very close to the boat. We also did several dives including a night dive with the resort. I also went bone fishing and within two hours had probably caught 20 fish it's funny, when its that easy it's no fun, I prefer hunting that fish. This was like fishing in a barrel. In the mornings I would go out to the shallow along the reef and walk the sand bars looking for permit but had no luck. I will need to hire a guide to catch this elusive fish.
After a lovely 4 day visit to Glovers we left for Placencia. We made the offshore portion of the trip to Ranguana Cay and anchored up here for the night. This little Cay had a few cabins on it but was pretty much empty. We shared the anchorage with a local fishing boat and planned to depart in the morning. These little fishing sail boats have usually 3-5 guys on board and carry little dug out canoes. The fisherman use the little skiffs from the sailboat and go out all day to catch. It appears that they will go for 5-7 days at a time and them come back to the mainland to sell their catch.
We pulled into Placencia after 3 weeks at the outer islands.
We were completely out of fresh fruit and vegetables as we had not been to a market since San Pedro when we first arrived. We were craving a restaurant and some ice cream. And Internet and communication. We have for the last month been away from towns so we were looking forward to civilization. Placencia is a busy little expat gringo town. It is a nice mix of foreigners and locals but you get the feeling that this place is quickly developing and will soon be taken over and turn into a little retirement haven for snow birds. Whatever, we have enjoyed our stay here. The harbor has about 20 cruising sailboats from all over the world, and town has really good food.
March 11, 2015
We decided to take a week off the boat and do some land travel. Not far from Placencia Harbor there is a lagoon with a protected Marina. We booked ourselves into the marina and rented a car. Jessica put together the arrangements and off we went. We were heading for Tikal park in Guatemala.
On the way out of Placencia we took pity on 3 young girls hitch hiking. These kids were all taking some time off from school and backpacking Central America. They were all from Denmark and excited to share a FREE air conditioned vehicle. They were heading to the little town on the border, San Ignacio, as were we so they lucked out and we took them the whole way. They had some very funny war stories and this luxury transportation was exactly what they needed. We checked into the nicest hotel in town. We figured we may as well treat ourselves since we have not stayed off tHe boat since Florida. San Ignacio is a little frontier town on the border of Guatemala where many people come to leave Guatemala long enough to renew their visas to be able to return. We stayed two nights and caught the town bus to the border where we were going to have to wing it for finding transport the 2 1/2 hours to Tikal. What a difference when crossing the border. Belize is very peaceful and Laid back Guatemala not so much. Guys with machine guns all over the place. Heavy military presence. The people are much poorer and this was immediately evident by the houses and folks all looking to sell or provide a service. Looking for gringo dollars.
We met a young man named Ronnie who was going to take us to Tikal. For the 2.5 hour trip and then having Ronnie wait an additional 1.5 hours at the park entrance so we could get tickets the price was $60 US. Not bad but after being in the country for a few days we realized we could have done much better. Guatemala is definitely the country to come to to save money.
We arrived at the Tikal Inn which was right in the park. Our room was pretty basic with electricity from 6-8am and 6-8 pm, included two meals and a tour gide each day. Not a bad deal at all.
The park is a UNESCO world heritage site, it is right in the jungle and was the site for a large Mayan city with over 100,000 people at its peak. The ruins dated from 600BC to 900AD hen the urban center collapsed. It was only discovered in the mid 1800's by the gum tree climbers. They would climb the tallest trees in the jungle and only from their were they able to see the tops of the temples that were higher than the canopy. The entire city below the tree line was grown over, you would never know there was a bustling city underneath he ground. Apparently the trees in the jungle only take 50-60 years to reach maximum height and the city had been dead for so long that the jungle completely took it over. The city of Tikal used so much wood in its prime that the entire area was deforested.
We enjoyed two days in the park with an excellent tour guide provided by the hotel. One of our tours was a sunrise tour where we left the hotel at 4 am and climbed to the top of one of the highest temples facing east and watched the sunrise and jungle wake up. What a beautiful sight. It was a foggy morning so you could hear the rain falling from the leaves of the lush jungle. As it became more light the monkeys wake up and make a large roaring growl sound. They sounded possessed. I can imagine if you didn't know they were monkeys you would be pretty scared. After sunrise we spent several hours touring the ruins. It was nice getting a head start before the park fills with tourists. We felt like we had the whole place to our selves. (see ponderings, a new section on the website with my personal thoughts as I free my mind from the encumbrances of the real world, or man made bustling world of the 21st century)
Jessica had her pedometer going on her phone and after 2 tours and a one hour hike we had logged 9.2 miles. The next morning we made our way to Flores Guatemala. Flores is a little tourist town in the middle of a large lake, Lago Peten Itza. You can walk the whole island in about 15 minutes. This place was built for tourists. There was a healthy population of young backpackers from all over the world. We stayed at one of the nicest hotels in town and it was $50 but we spoke with some of the back packers and their housing was 3-15 dollars a day. One young couple said they found housing in another area of Guatemala for less than $1 a day and said it was clean and decent. If there are any young folk readers, go buy a back pack and a lonely planet guide book and hit the road. Travel is the best education and being able to find the time later in life is very hard. There are a lot of solo travelers out there, they always find other travelers to go places with and are having the time of their life, not to mention a great life education. (That comment should be in ponderings, sorry)
We arrived back home on Cadence the next day and are preparing for David Tobin and Dylan Odell to arrive for their spring brake. We are back in Placencia harbor and looking forward to hitting some beautiful offshore Cays. The week after that we get Grace Tobin. Woohoo, miss the kids and can't wait to see them.
March 20, 2015David and Dylan arrived Placencia Saturday afternoon. We decided to stay an extra day in Placencia as Belize only has a few towns on the coast where there are amusements for young men, if you know what I mean. David and Dylan quickly figured out the landscape of the town and didn’t make it back to the boat until the wee hours the first night. Do you ever stop worrying about kids, or young men in this case, as a father. I am still restless and sleepless on nights when they are out. I swear having kids away in college where you don’t know what they are up to makes sleep so much better. Besides town life, Placencia doesn’t have much to offer unless you take an excursion somewhere. The anchorage is not ideal for swimming, the water is a bit murky. There are no close reefs to snorkel, we were ready to get out of there as we had spent so much time before the guys arrived here.
Our original plans were to get off the grid and hit some offshore Cays but the guys wanted night life. We decided that we would make the run back up to North Belize and make a stop at Cay Caulker. En route we stopped at one of our favorite spots, South Water Cay the first night. We like this little Cay as it has good snorkeling and a nice low key beach bar with a small university research center that brings the possiblity of young somethings for the guys. We enjoyed a nice happy hour sunset beach bar trip and the next day some snorkeling and a dinghy exploration trip before we hauled anchor and made tracks north.
We had a good sail for most of the trip to Rendezvous Point where we anchored up just as the sun was setting. The next morning we made for Cay Caulker weaving our way through the cays and shallow channels en route. Its nerve racking when you are cruising along for hours with less than a foot under the keel. We only hit ground once though and it didn’t take long for us to get back into deep water.
We arrived Cay Caulker mid day. We enjoyed some goofing around along the way to keep the guys amused. We towed the boys along behind the boat with a long dock line. They are able to hold on, and with mask and snorkel get a great view of the seabed as we cruise along. You are able to use your hands in front of you like a fin to submerge yourself to the bottom, we are in only 10 feet of water and you can cruise like a fish on the bottom and then surface for air with your snorkel. Pretty fun, but its like being towed as bait so there is always a little trepidation on the towees part. There were some porpoise that were leading the boat and I am sure they realized the humans being towed behind but they would not leave the bow. We were hoping they would swim back to the stern and see the human bait we were offering. No such luck.
Cay Caulker is on the gringo trail. Its a little island that is a popular stop over for backpackers that are heading south through central america. There are a load of hostels, cheap youth housing, mixed with a few higher end but still reasonable low key accommodations. There must be 20 or so bars and little restaurants, everything from little houses serving food from their kitchen to big beach bars. We figured this is the kind of place the guys would like. We had some decent wind while we were there, at night it was blowing up to 25 knots. The second night we were there, while the boys were out, Jessica woke me up as there was some halyards banging against the mast making a racquet. I went up to tighten them up and when looking at our location, town seemed really far away and I could only see one stern light of a boat far off towards town. It took me a few minutes to realize we had dragged anchor probably 1/4 mile out. Fortunately no one was behind us and I awoke before the boys were trying to make their way back to the boat. Jess and I weaved our way back into the harbor and tried to anchor back where we were so the boys would have no issues finding us. This time we put out a 10-1 scope to make sure we would not drag again. We spent a half hour on anchor watch and then hit the rack again.
Dylan realized he booked his flight for Sunday instead of Saturday so he spent an extra day with boring Jess and I while David was off to cold harsh winter weather in Potsdam. Graces flight was cancelled so she arrived a day late so it all worked out where Dylan left Sunday morning and Grace arrived that afternoon. I picked up Grace at the little airstrip in Cay Caulker and we made our way back to Cadence via the little dirt road. Grace was in the water 5 minutes after she arrived. We hung out for while and had happy hour before going back into to town for dinner.
March 29, 2015
Grace was looking more for solitude than she was for night life so we decided we would head to Turneffe for a few days. She also wanted to do some inland hiking so we figured we could do Turneffe and then head to Belize city to rent a car and go inland for another hike and some more spelunking. Another action packed week, as opposed to our normal routine which is a bit more laid back without as much coming and going.
We decided to go to the north end of Turneffe into an area called Rendezvous point. There is a 100 yard break in the reef here where you can get into the atoll and anchor up in 8 feet of water over sand. Coming into these breaks is always a bit nerve racking. We had some way points to get in but going through had to dodge a coral head right the middle of our path. You need good sunlight over head and someone on the bow with good polarized glasses to dodge these. We are paranoid of hitting not only for the damage to Cadence but also the reef, which carries a HUGE fine if you do any damage. We heard of a french boat running into a reef and they had a 1 million dollar fine.
Rendezvous point was definitely a high light of our Belize travels. The anchorage was spectacular. We were in crystal clear water with a beautiful landscape and only a hundred yards from the reef which had the best snorkeling we have yet to see in Belize. We took the dinghy out to the reef and found a sandy patch to anchor and then snorkeled for an hour or so. The reef was in excellent condition and marine life abundant. This is obviously an area that doesn’t see much in the way of tourists as everything was pristine. The out of the way places such as these really demonstrate how much damage occurs due to the larger numbers of tourist in the well visited places. Unfortunately they are far a few between.
e stayed at Turneffe for two days and had a very relaxing time. No crowds, just a bit of snorkeling and some dinghy exploration and a very special visit with Grace. We decided we would head back to Belize City and on the way anchored up at St. Georges Cay. There is a beautiful lodge on the island that we made our way to for happy hour. Probably the nicest resort we have seen here in Belize with a fantastic bar to match. We were shocked out our $90 US bar bill after only a few drinks, thought they were charging Belize dollars here. I guess the high prices go with the swanky place. The next late morning we made our way through ships bogue to Belize City and cucumber marina. The marina had no electricity for our spot the first night and there was zero wind. We could not turn on the AC unit and with the windows open were swarmed with the tiniest of no see ums.
We all had barely slept a wink but rallied early for our departure that was an hour and half away for spelunking Crystal Cave and Wonderland. We met Eddy, our tour guide and started in on a 6 hour hike through jungle and underground into the caves. This trip is definitely not for the faint of heart. We had some very rigorous climbs up and down the limestone caves. You often have to wedge yourself into the tiniest of holes and then climb rocks and limestone stalagmites with huge drop offs. Impending doom is all around and you only have your little head light to lead the way. If anything happened to Eddy we would never have made it out from the caves. It is so difficult to remember from which way you came inside the caves.
The scenery is absolutely amazing. The stalagmite and stalactite formations, and columns are breathtaking. This underground world is just as foreign to us as is the coral reef and its differing landscape. The formations are beautiful and you feel like you are on a different planet. The Mayan artifacts were also very impressive. There were many remnants of bones, skulls from human sacrifice and pottery left behind throughout the cave. The caves were a significant holy place for the Mayans where they would make offerings to the Gods many in the form of human and animal sacrifice. Unfortunately our Go Pro camera and video did not come out well at all. We took a billion photos and video which all came out blurry. When we finally were making our way back out of the cave and saw daylight we all had a great sense of accomplishment. We had been down 300 meters below the entrance, about 100 meters below sea level. Parts of the hike were rather intimidating. We all were soaked in sweat from hiking. Next stop, the Blue Hole at Hermans Cave for some fresh water swimming, cool down, and cleaning as we were all filthy. We then made our way back to Belize city and the boat and then a well deserved dinner out in town.
It was sad have Grace leaving the next day but we really enjoyed her visit. She makes a great ship mate and helped out a lot with ship life. We are hoping for her return perhaps this summer in Greece. We love you Grace.