Belize, February 2010

February 3, 2010

Bluefield Range,
Belize
17°13.621´ N
88°05.314´ W
January 26, 2010

…and don’t it feel like a long time
feel like a long time
feel like a long, long time
-Rod Stewart

I’ve just been on deck, watching the resident manatee lazily diving, getting closer to the boat, obviously curious. I’m trying to get up the courage to dive in to swim with him. It’s not that I’m afraid of the manatee; it’s that the air is cold, the water is cold, and I don’t really feel like putting on a wet suit, jumping in, then spending a half hour getting hypothermic. So, I punked out and came below to write. Another norther (cold front) is upon us.

It has been a long time since the last blog. In part, it’s because we have been a little busy: finding spots to hide out from the too frequent cold fronts and other weird weather we’re having this year (thanks, Al Gore!), trying to get Antares’ 6’9” draft off the perennial 6’8” bottom, or keeping the hands of the Belizean officials out of my pockets, and (unsuccessfully) the peaceful, friendly locals from stealing my dinghy and outboard.

It’s very beautiful here, with nearly endless islands, clear water, a huge barrier reef, and 3 of the only 4 atolls in the Western Hemisphere. It’s also very shallow (we should have had a catamaran) (sorry, Joel), very difficult to navigate (we’ve had several close encounters of the reef kind), the officials are pirates, the locals (although mostly friendly and funny) are also pirates, and worst of all, the weather has been unusual this year (when have you ever heard that before?). I expected cold fronts every week or so, but even between the fronts, we’ve had very little good weather. In fact, Lyle and Shannon came to visit for a week, never got in the water, and only saw the sun for the 2 hours before they left. Since then, it’s been a little better, but not much.

The worst was getting our dinghy stolen. Most cruising boats have davits on the back, that are used to hoist the dinghy and outboard out of the water at night. We don’t, but I rigged a way to hoist it up alongside (called hipping). However, I got lazy, and got into the habit of letting it stay in the water, behind the boat, chained and locked. One morning, I was talking on the radio net, and 3 boats reported their dinghies stolen. I asked Phyllis to check ours, and guess what….during the night, someone cut our chain, stole the dinghy (which they had no use for) and the outboard. They then proceeded, just for fun, to stab the dinghy (an inflatable) 8 times, and abandon it. Cute. We found it barely afloat nearby.

It’s a long and sad story, so I’ll tell it (what else do I have to do?). We had an extra dinghy (smaller), but discovered that the inflatable floor had blown a seam. We also had an extra, smaller outboard engine, but discovered that it wouldn’t start (it hadn’t been used in over 2 years). Mr. Mechanic (me) decided to rebuild the carburetor. After several hours, I put it back together, pulled the cord, and it started! (Boy, I am good). Offering Phyllis a ride in our new, more modest, rig, I tried to shift into gear, but the gear shift was frozen. Not a good day.

End of story: we bought a new, smaller outboard from the local Yamaha pirates (very expensive, and they took out the spark plugs and the spare plugs, substituting inferior ones). I had the spare outboard fixed, patched the air floor as well as I could (it actually only leaked a little) and had Lyle bring a new airfloor with him from the States. Now, we’re back in business, but with a smaller, slower setup, and a smaller, less impressive bank account. By the way, we hip our dinghy every night.

The best parts of Belize are the offshore atolls. They’re just like Pacific atolls, with a nearly complete fringing reef encircling a huge lagoon (the atolls are miles long and wide) with endless coral heads dotting the white sand bottom. They have a couple of passes where the reef is broken, allowing entry (sometimes a bit hair raising). Once inside, it’s calm and beautiful, even when the wind blows. Snorkeling on the coral heads is good (although the spearfishing has been disappointing), and, on calm days, diving on the outside of the reef is good. There are lots of fairly large marine creatures here, like huge manatees, numerous dolphins, big barracudas, and rays. I spent one pleasant hour swimming and playing with an eagle ray about my size. I hope it was a girl.

This is a very small country, but its been cleverly divided into numerous marine preserves and national parks, where you are forced to pay a fee. The sole purpose of the fee seems to be to pay the salaries of the “rangers” who come around to collect it, since there is no other obvious manifestation of any other service being provided. They all proudly describe themselves as an “NGO” (non government organization), which means the government doesn’t pay for it, I do.

Reading this, you may have been stuck by the omission of certain constructs that I was previously foolish enough to use, such as “he/she”, “one of us”, etc. These were used by me, the writer, (who’s initials are JR), in an attempt to make this blog appear neutral as to the participants in this great adventure. It’s another example of political correctness gone amok. The reason I point this out, is that we have attained a certain level of achievement (a very insignificant level, but you take what you get), by being published in the famous sailing rag “Latitude 38”. Interested parties may read the distorted version of our adventures in the January issue, in the section called “Changes in Latitudes”. The hard copy is available for free (already, you get the idea of the significance of this event) at chandleries like West Marine, yacht clubs, and other places having to do with boats, if you’re lucky enough to live in Northern California. If you’re not, or are too lazy to get in your car, or confused how to start it, you can download the on-line version (again for free) at http://www.latitude38.com/ebooks.html. The catastrophe occurs right at the end, where credit is given to the writer, Phyllis. Can you imagine, after all the hours I’ve spent, all the words I had to look up, all the lies I had to tell, Phyllis gets the credit for the writing. It’s absolutely true that she did all the paintings, took many of the photos (with my direction, of course), and is much better looking than me, but credit should be given where due. So, no more coy attempts at being neutral or fair. I am the writer.

We’re awaiting the arrival of friends Jordy and Cindy next week (they’re bringing down comforters). As they leave, so will we, as our 90 days allowed in Belize will expire. I have gotten two 30 day extensions to the original 30 days, at great expense of time and money. Each time, I have been asked why I wanted to stay longer by the friendly, smiling official pirates. “Why, to drop a few more thousand dollars in your pockets”, I cheerfully replied. That did it: stamp!

Next stop, the Yucatan peninsula of Mexico. Coronas, Tecates., tequila, oh my.

Phyllis, bathing suit designer

6 guys live on these fishing boats full time

New friend

Goodbye Mario's Marina

"Hide-away"

Lyle, Lyle, Lyle

Beautiful Shannon

Wounded dinghy (8 stab wounds)

Advertisements