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Leaving the Rio, on to Placencia,
John and I were away from Catamaran Marina and out at the anchorage as we were awaiting work to be done to the engine by RAM. Our transmission on the engine was dying and so John had ordered a new transmission to arrive any day, we hoped. Our time for crossing the bar at the entrance to the Rio was limited to the days around the full moon, we basically only had the few days prior and few days after the full moon when the tide would be at its highest. Finally on the Friday before the full moon on the Tuesday our transmission arrived. We were ecstatic! Karen at RAM told us the mechanic could work on it that Monday. Well Monday arrived and he was still busy with another job, we were promised Tuesday. Tuesday – Full moon day – arrived and he was still busy working on a powerboat. Wednesday was his day off, so we were told Thursday for sure, definitely without a doubt Thursday it will be. We were not hopeful…..
On the Wednesday we were in the “grocery” store optimistically buying last minute necessities like beer, snacks, bread, etc when we met up with David off of Expectations. He asked me what were our plans, I recounted to him our wows and worries, and he then said he knew the perfect mechanic for the job, his friend Johnny Diesel! We followed David to his boat, which was on Johnny’s dock and ashore to where his “workshop” was to be found. He was not busy, was very happy to take a look at what had to be done and by 1:30 was at Aeeshah stripping the engine. Long story short: Johnny worked from Wednesday pm till 2:00pm on Saturday, he fixed not only the transmission, but also replaced the engine seal and engine mounts as John had wanted done for a long time. And we never heard back from Karen at RAM!
By 2:30 Saturday we were headed down river to Texas Bay with the plan to head out that evening. However, I called Raoul our agent and he advised me that the shrimp nets would be across the river mouth. He then asked our draft and informed me that the high tide of 10:30am Sunday would be fine for us to get over the bar. Plus he would have help standing by if necessary. That was great news!
The next morning we arose at 5am and by 8am were in Livingstone at Raoul’s office and checking out!
We had wonderful weather as we headed over the bar. Although the depth sounder did read 0:00 – nothing under the keel – we made it out of the Rio!
It was off towards Belize…..we headed to the cays offshore arriving at West Snake Cay in the afternoon. There was a lovely, calm, anchorage, with beautiful clear water and nobody else around.
The next morning we headed for Placencia, arriving in the afternoon we could see by the other yellow flags that others too had just arrived. Placencia is really just a huge sand bar at the end of a peninsular. It is very flat, sandy and laid back. We had been there 10 years previously and really from the boat it looked much the same as then.
Checking in the next day we headed off to check in with 2 other boats to save transport costs. To check in we had to go to the Texaco gas station to catch the Hoity Toity water taxi.
Well we had missed the 7:45am. Instead we begged a ride from a fisherman at the dock. So for just a bit more $$ we were taken across Mango Creek to the shore of Independence, close to where the offices of the officials were located in Big Creek. Once ashore we had to get a taxi to the offices. There we had quite a drawn out process of checking in, plus several expenses too. By 10:00 we were on the Hoity Toity heading back to Placencia.
Christmas in Placencia
We had a lovely impromptu Christmas in Placencia. John and I shopped for each other in the local pharmacy and grocery store, as there is nowhere else to shop for Christmas gifts.
Christmas morning David off s.v.Expectations had invited many of us to his boat for cinnamon buns. We all took something to add to the 8:30am breakfast. Altogether there were about a dozen of us there. We enjoyed sharing stories and generally chatting for several hours. There was one fellow – Rob – that had sailed to Bermuda years before with a co-worker and friend of mine. In fact Rob and his wife had just visited with him too. – Small world!
Back at Aeeshah we had a relaxing quiet day. Then we met a group of friends ashore for a Christmas meal in the Paradise Hotel. The meal was traditional Christmas fare and excellent! It was as said a lovely Christmas in Placencia, Belize.
On Boxing Day we found out that our daughter – Chrissie – was coming to visit on New Year’s Eve. That meant we needed to ready the boat for a guest. This requires moving all our stored items from the bow cabin to else where on the boat. Plus stocking up with foods of all types. Bad weather arrived in the form of heavy rain and wind and the dingy engine decided to pack up.
So during the next week we explored Placentia, taking daily walks looking for mechanics and any help. Around, up and down all the lanes and byways of Placencia we walked.
The village really is tiny, quaint, colourful and populated with very friendly people. However mechanics were not easy to find. Meanwhile John along with a friend Chris off of s.v.Aolus worked on our outboard. Plus Chris kindly
towed us everywhere and even lent us his dingy! We still owe him big time.
John and Chris had a carb cleaning morning aboard Aeeshah.
Sigrid another friend off s.v.Lucky Bitch came and cleaned her carb too. But no luck our engine was dead and needed professional help. Sigrid’s was up and running again.
David off s.v.Expectations, found a fellow – Hero – was his name who was the only local outboard mechanic. Plus John found a second hand, but newish Tohatsu outboard engine for sale from a fellow called Elvis at the Peninsular store, out near past the airport. John decided to buy the engine, as he always had wanted a second engine.
The engine was delivered and bingo! It did not work! So we had 2 dead engines. Chris towed John in our dingy with the “new” dead engine, plus the old dead engine to Hero. He only had time to work on our “new” engine and believe it or not – found water in the carb plus fuel tank….. Well all that rain we had just had, rainwater had leaked via the air vent in the fuel tank into the fuel and had been sucked into the “new” engine. Our old engine we didn’t have time to get Hero to work on as our daughter was arriving the next day! So it sits on the back rail of Aeeshah awaiting a mechanic in Mexico.
Chrissie in Belize
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Chrissie arrived on the 4:30 Mayan airlines flight on New Years Eve. This is just an 8-seater plane landing on a strip of concrete in outback Belize. She survived!
In Chrissie’s words:
“On the very last day of 2016 I found myself on a last minute flight out to Belize … well 3 fights to be exact …. the 3rd a little hair-raising I have to admit. From Bermuda to Miami, to Belize City, to Placencia ….. however Mom and dad both failed to mention the fact that my flight from Belize City to Placencia would be on a little putt putt plane!!!!!!!!! To my great relief I landed safely to what almost looked like someone’s house with a really long driveway ….. nope …. that was the airport!!
Anyway with a short cab ride, walk through a back yard, a beach bar and a dinghy ride I had finally made it aboard Aeeshah, just in time to celebrate NYE!!!”
As it was New Years Eve we had made arrangements with friends to go out to dinner at the Tipsy Tuna. We all met at Yollis Bar. Our friends off Moonstone had arrived the day before, they came, plus Chris and Sigrid. At the Tipsy Tuna we enjoyed dinner, drinks and fireworks at mid-night. Plus John let off his huge fireworks that he had bought on the Rio. They created a huge bang and much smoke, and had people running for cover. It was a great New Years!
So with ‘no rest for the wicked’ as they say…we quickly freshen up and hopped back in the dinghy to ‘hit the town’. We all had an awesome night; I got to meet some of my parent’s fellow cruising friends and together we brought in 2017 with a bang!!!!!! Ha! Ha! Ha! well thanks to dad because he insisted on setting off these dynamite looking sticks that he was convinced were fireworks….. I’m still not convinced!!!! So back to the boat for 1:30am I am very impressed with everyone’s stamina that evening.
The next morning I was amazed to wake up and see what a beautiful place I was in and on top of that….. No hangover, yay!!
New Year’s Day we “toured” Placencia with Chrissie, did a dingy tour through the mangrove canals past the hidden homes and waterways. Huge iguanas were sunning themselves on the banks and gardens.
That day we went for a lovely dinghy ride and Dad showed me iguanas…that was really cool, especially the 2 that were ‘getting busy’ in someone’s back yard! 😉
We then did a bit of exploring and back to the boat for a bit of a chilly swim…first one for 2017.
Monday it was off to explore the cays. Our first stop was:
For the next week we explored a few of the Cays, starting with a very beautiful one called Ranguana, very small, lush and the glistening waters were full of life… We had a wonderful time snorkeling the reef.
We had a wonderfully sunny day to travel to Ranguana. Along the way John had caught a fish, a type of mackerel, being too small for all of us it became Chico’s dinner for several days. We arrived by midday and we spent the afternoon snorkeling.
The snorkeling was excellent along the outside of the reef. Chrissie was at first a bit nervous of snorkeling the outside, being fearful of sharks. But she soon relaxed and was lost in the wonderful underwater scenery. After our snorkel we went ashore and wandered around the beach. The sunset was lovely.
Silk Cays or Queen’s Cays
Tuesday we headed via the inside passage to the Silk Cays or Queen’s Cays as they are also called. Again the scenery was amazing, the day just wonderfully sunny and relaxing. At the Silk Cays we anchored off of a tiny, tiny cay and went snorkeling. Here we again snorkeled the outside of the reef which ran all around the sand bar and tiny cay.
The underwater scenery was amazing, the number of fish was impressive, plus the coral of all types was beautiful. We agreed it was some of the best reef we had seen.
Again we explored ashore. This time the island being so small it took minutes. That evening there was another divine sunset.
The next day we set sail…or set motor (due to traveling head to wind) for the Most amazing place I think I have ever seen, Silk Cays…. if you have a bucket list this place must be on it!! The crystal clear turquoise waters that surround three flawless tiny islands is something that you would think you would only see in the movies. Such an abundance of fish and coral. We even saw hatched turtle eggs on the beach. (I think this is probably my favourite place we went to) However we had one rocky night!!! Oh yea, we all woke up to the boat making all sorts of boat noise and feeling like you were in a washing machine…and I was the only one concerned I think
….. The parents are trying to tell me it’s all quite normal!!!! No, normal is not having your bed moving in the middle of the night thank you very much!
Blue Ground Range
Our next stop was still on the inside of the reef at a group of cays called Blue Ground Range. These are a group of cays that consist of mangroves and a resort property. The inner lagoon area where we anchored was as flat as a pond. Arriving here in the later afternoon we swam and enjoyed the evening light and had a peacefull night’s sleep.
The following day we had decided to head out of the barrier reef and to sail to the southern end of Turneffe atoll. There was great wind for a sail, our 1st real sail since leaving the Rio! John again didn’t have much luck with the fishing, one strike and then just seaweed. We arrived and tried to go in via the Southeast Pass.
Well going through the pass between the reefs was intimidating, but then motoring very slowly over 6 foot depth of water with reef below and with a 5ft 8ins depth of hull was just too risky. We carefully navigated our way out. Looking again at our information we could see that there was another anchorage behind the end of the reef at Big Cay Bokel. Once there we found the water to be again on the shallow side, but we were outside the reef and the bottom was all sand and grass. We anchored for the night and set off in the dingy to snorkel the reef next to the Southeast Pass.
Through the next couple of days we stopped at Turneffe Atoll…. now yes it looks like a lot of mangroves, with a lovely resort, but after being somewhere like the Silks my standards now are pretty height and I’m like hmmmmm…
But let me tell you when I was in that water….. It was like a whole different world!!! The clarity of the water there was breathtaking, my mind was officially blown!!!…. Well that was until the dinghy decided to make a run for in and broke loose…. so then my mind really was blown and it was a mad dash swim…. first one to catch the dinghy wins!
Turneffe is made up of small islands many of which are just mangroves or mounds of sand. The area is heavily populated by birds of all types, from sea to wading birds, to ospreys, there are manatees and crocodiles around the mangrove cays. The atoll is renowned for its diving, however it was snorkeling for us and we were all amazed by the excellent reef we saw. The water clarity was incredible; we saw fish that we had never seen before. Also beautiful corals and reef creatures that we had again never seen. Turneffe atoll southern reef is just spectacular! And the dingy did somehow drift off leaving us to swim for it….quite scary for a few minutes, being way off from land and see the dingy taking off without us!
We were incredibly smart to have not anchored inside the atoll and to go with our instinctive sense that it was just not safe, because that evening and night the weather came in. We had wind and rain along with rougher seas. Chrissie felt the worse of it being in the bow cabin, another rough night for her.
The morning came and we sailed for the Eastern passage back inside the barrier reef. We were headed for the Drowned Cays.
The sail again was a great one, however coming over and through the reef the seas were large. Heading towards our destination the water depth got increasingly shallow. We knew that there was little water, but to see a constant warning on the depth sounder is not reassuring. We followed the waypoints and arrived at Mapps Cay amongst the Drowned Cays. These cays are all mangrove cays, known for the number of manatees inhabiting them the area is protected.
We went slowly to our proposed anchorage, but decided against staying. John felt strongly we needed to get to Cay Caulker. He was not happy with the situation; being alone in this mangrove channel between the cays did not sit right with him.
So off we went towards Cay Caulker. Now to get to Cay Caulker one must follow a very shallow stretch of water with the head of it being Porto Stuck. Why Porto Stuck – because many boats get stuck, aground in this shallow narrow part. For us we had the depth sounder shrieking its alarm the whole way. We had no room to maneuver, it was straight on and in or else we were in trouble. John followed the way points we had, he had to make way for a tug towing 4 barges that were also going in our direction. Plus other boats moving towards us. But we made it!! At one point we believe we were nearly stuck but were pushed over by our engine as we had disturbed even a greater amount of sand than we had previously been leaving in our wake. So it was into Cay Caulker we went for our final anchorage with Chrissie.
So for the last part of my wonderful adventure we arrive at Cay Caulker…just before the bad weather hits dad insisted…I wasn’t so sure…everything seemed fine…. that’s until a wall of wind hit like seriously out of nowhere, ok so now I’m getting a little worried, firstly about the storm secondly about the chicken dad had cooking on the bbq…. I was really hungry and thought for sure it might be a gunner…. but the champ that he is, clipped on his trusty head torch and battled the winds in the name of dinner!!!!!! Now let me tell you…this was not a comfortable night to be at sea! Captain Dad was up almost all night making sure the anchor didn’t drag, and mom and I were getting tousled around our cabins…. even when morning broke the winds were still licking us. I must say the I was very impressed with Cay Caulker…. what a beautiful place with a whole lot going on for such a small island. Loved the bright coloured buildings, sandy streets and the barefooted laid back atmosphere.
Cay Caulker is quite an amazing destination. We were anchored on the west side – inside – and we found a small area of dock space next to a dive shop to leave the dingy. Ashore the lanes are sandy, the homes are gaily-painted wooden structures. The shops are small and again quaint. Most locals walk around bare foot, many visitors are backpackers or day-trippers. Along the front – eastern shore – there is the sandy main street with vendors selling all types of Belizean crafts and souvenirs, many made from conch.
The beach runs all along this shore and is lined with palm trees and many eateries beneath them. It has a lovely laid-back atmosphere, everyone is happy and friendly. We enjoyed our days there wandering all the lanes, exploring all the quaint stores, enjoying drinks, lunches and dinners in the various eateries and chatting to the locals.
Our first night the weather started to turn, a front was approaching from the north. When it arrived the next day it came in with tremendous force of wind and drop in temperature. We were blasted for a good 24 hours and never left Aeeshah, couldn’t anyway. The water went milky with all the disturbed sand, waves were large, but we were safely dug into the sand by the anchor. Chrissie saw her 1st bad weather on Aeeshah.
After the passing of the front we had another day of enjoying Cay Caulker with Chrissie and then it was off to Belize City.
The day before I had to leave Mom and I took a ferry to Belize City, and overnighter at a hotel…just us girls. Was a fun lil adventure and Mom was very close to smuggling a stray kitten back to the boat with her…. she has a soft spot for little furry things that go meow! However she settled for finding a shop to buy 2 cans of cat food and sneaking out in the evening to make sure it wouldn’t go hungry instead.
I must say it was very sad saying goodbye…had such an amazing time, in such a very special place.
Oh and my parents are the coolest kids on the block!!! They are so brave, a have wicked sense of adventure…always on the go and happy with just going with the flow…
I will be back!!xoxxo
I caught the water taxi with Chrissie to Belize City where we stayed in a hotel over night before her early morning flight home.
It had been a fun holiday for us all.
“I claimed myself and remade my life.” – Dorothy Allison
“Above all be the heroine of your life, not the victim” – Nora Ephron