After Susan and Kevin left us in early April, it was time to leave Placencia and move north through Belize and begin watching for a weather window to make the leap to Galveston, TX. Originally we planned on stopping at Isla Mujeres, Mexico, but we had heard all kinds of things about the complications of checking into and out of Mexico. We were only going to have a day or two to visit there, so we decided to skip Isla Mujeres this trip. Our thought is that we will have a lot of time in Mexico on the western side when we move south from California on the new boat, so our visit would wait.
Anyway, instead of spending two days in Mexico, we decide to stay a bit longer in Belize and see a couple of islands on our way north. We set out from Placencia and sailed about 29nm to Twin Cayes. We were the last boat to arrive in this beautiful anchorage because we had waited until late in the morning to leave Placencia to make sure a weather system had passed. Also, we think overnight passages inside the barrier reef of Belize are a bad idea because the charts are poor and there is a lot of shallow water.
Three other boats were anchored in Twin Cayes
Twin Cayes is very well protected and an excellent place to hide from weather as evidenced by one of the boats which had been anchored there for three days before we arrived. There was a pretty decent wind storm predicted along with unruly seas and Twin Cayes was a prefect hiding place.
The next morning we left Twin Cayes and sailed 41nm to Dronwed Cayes. Drowned Cayes is another island of mangrove trees with inlets running through it and no development that we saw. We meandered through the twisting inlet, closely watching our depth sounder since our charts were unreliable or unmarked, and found a perfect spot to drop anchor.
Once anchored, we grabbed our masks and fins and jumped in the water to see if we could get close to the dolphins that were playing near the boat as we settled the anchor. Frank was the first in and I quickly followed. But just as I was beginning to swim toward the dolphins, Captain jumped in the water to give chase as well.
Cappy was not going to help us get close to the dolphins, so I grabbed her and we swam back to LIB. Frank continued toward the dolphins, but they quickly swam away.
Although this panoramic picture is a little distorted, it offers a good view of Drowned Caye.
Drowned Caye was perfectly quiet and we felt like we were all alone in an undiscovered land. We pulled out the SUPs and explored some of the narrow fingers of water until they dead ended or exited to the ocean. What a delightful end to a fairly long day of sailing.
The red route to Caye Caulker and the yellow was a very challenging route out of the reef.
The next morning we picked up early and headed toward Caye Caulker. The route we took from Drowned Cayes to Caye Caulker had a several shallow spots and we had to pick and choose our way through the water including a skinny cut at Hicks Caye where we passed two barges coming the opposite direction. I am very thankful that we have a good amount of experience reading the water. It certainly augments chart information and the depth sounder!
Caye Caulker has charming streets and few automobiles.
Caye Caulker was absolutely delightful! This was by far our favorite stop in Belize. Although we were watching for a weather window, we enjoyed a week on this pretty and laid back island. Cay Caulker is small, but has a ton of things to offer. Along the dirt streets are plenty of shops and small groceries, restaurants and tour companies. The people were happy and very welcoming!
Stressless Tours was excellent!
We chose to take a snorkeling tour from Stressless Tours and we had a perfectly amazing day. Everyone we interacted with from Stressless was positive, welcoming and accommodating. Our day began with a stop to see a seahorse hanging out by a peer, which was great since that brought my seahorse in the wild count up to three.
Our day with Stressless included a stop to swim with manatees, with specific instructions that we were not pester or approach the manatees.
All together we stopped in five places during our tour and got in the water in three of them. Our guides were superb! They jumped in the water with us and pointed out all kinds of coral and fish, teaching about their surroundings and sharing their efforts to protect the reefs and marine life.
Mr. Manatee is very chill!
We were extremely impressed with Stressless Tours. They even asked us to refrain from using sunscreen and they provided a special lotion which is designed with protection of the reefs in mind. It is great to see a forward thinking company like Stressless.
The fish are cool, but I loved that turtle!
Plenty of fish and sharks where another boat was chumming.
Because of the storm system just prior to our arrival at Caye Caulker, there were no other boats in the anchorage when we arrived. But there was plenty (in a positive way) of activity with fishing, snorkeling and diving boats coming in and out of the area.
This boat carrying cinder blocks to a building site motored past us one morning.
We heard that San Pedro, an island right next to Caye Caulker, was a lot like Caye Caulker before it became so populated so we took a 20 minute ferry ride to that neighboring island to see it for ourselves.
It didn’t take long to decide we much preferred the less crowded and slower pace of Caye Caulker to the hectic crowds of San Pedro. We rented a golf cart and found San Pedro teeming with cars, bikes and golf carts.
Sorry it’s blurry….no stopping for pics without getting honked at!
We did find a very pretty Catholic Church in San Pedro and we took a minute to look inside and be thankful for the opportunity to explore so many places.
San Pedro Roman Catholic Church
We drove the golf cart from one end of the island to the other and stopped at a poorly attended market where we didn’t find anything we wanted to buy. But we did chuckle when we found a Boomer Sooner graduate had set up a cafe! Of course we sent a picture to our youngest son who graduated from the University of Oklahoma.
A taste of Oklahoma in Belize!!
Pretty quickly we decided to head back to the ferry dock and return to Caye Caulker where the vibe was slower and more laid back. Since we had to wait an hour or so for the ferry we took refuge at Palapa Bar. I can definitely see the appeal of this bar where you can order a drink from your inner tube and have it delivered from a bucket on a pulley system!
Definitely bring your swim suit if you stop at the Palapa Bar!
Back in Caye Caulker, we decided we should sign up for a dive tour since this would be our last opportunity to dive for quite a while. We found a very good tour company and signed up for a two tank day.
We saw a fish ball/circle. Pretty cool.
This grouper came right up to me while filming.
Oh hello! Mr. Shark came swimming right toward me from over this reef.
The reef walls created a canyon like feeling underwater.
I’m turning to keep this shark in view….no sneaking up behind me, please!
The bar by The Split.
After a day under water, we decided to relax in the sun and hang out at a bar near “the split.” The split is where, in 1961, Hurricane Hattie caused a break in Caye Caulker Island. The locals use the split to boat to the opposite side of the island and a smart business man opened a bar where folks can hang out. The split is a perfect place to grab a drink, watch people enjoy the water and check out shallow draft boats going through the channel.
Our time in Caye Caulker was a fabulous way to end our time in Belize. We couldn’t have asked for a more relaxed and comfortable place to prepare for our passage to Texas. If you have a chance to visit Belize, make sure Caye Caulker is on your list of places to spend a few nights!
Sunset from the anchorage at Caye Caulker.
Next time I’ll talk about our passage from Caye Caulker to Galveston. We had a great sail, but we definitely had some interesting times. And the beginning of our journey getting out of the Belize Barrier Reef was a bit of a challenge!
Thank you for reading our blog. We appreciate your taking time to share our travels. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.
Although we had hoped to have a few visitors this season, the changes in our location and the devastation wrought by Hurricanes Irma and Maria, plus the possible sale of LIB, caused our plans to change and discouraged visitors.
So we were very happy that our Sail to the Sun friends, Susan and Kevin, managed to adjust their plans and come sail with us in Belize. They were only able to stay for a few days, but the wind was cooperative and we had an excellent time.
Some visitors are all about the land, others enjoy the water and some are focused on the sailing aspect. As avid and experienced sailors, Susan and Kevin were very happy the winds cooperated and we could explore under sail. It is especially nice to have guests on board who understand sailing and all its’ capriciousness because they know we are limited by weather, wind and seas.
Kevin and Susan are right at home at the helm of LIB.
Fortunately those three aspects came together and allowed us to sail to South Water Caye the first full day Susan and Kevin were with us.
Frank and I had “pre-visited” South Water Caye and Tobacco Caye and we were really happy to return to them and explore with Susan and Kevin.
South Water is about 12 acres in size and has pretty cottages and bars on white sand. It also boasts an IZE (International Zoological Exploration) location on the island. IZE is best described as educational travel in the rainforest or reefs of Belize. Open to high school and university students or families interested in learning about Belize, the setting is absolutely beautiful and the marine life around South Water Caye unique. We spoke with a group of high school students from Georgia who were having an incredible experience with IZE.
Steps leading to the open air dining area of IZE.
Kids who come to spend a week or two here have to suffer through these harsh accommodations! And in between snorkeling and diving excursions, the kids are stuck finding ways to entertain themselves…
Resting after a grueling day?
So although I am poking fun, this really does seem like a very cool experience that could help raise awareness and knowledge in younger generations. Boston University even has a facility for lab work and study.
Yes, Boston University!
Strolling along SW Caye doesn’t take very long, but it is very pretty.
Shaded cabins, hammocks and the sound of the sea are very restful.
Even Captain enjoyed the swings at the bar.
Cappy met up with her friend Hurley again.
Conch shells lined the “streets” and faith is evident where the locals live.
After strolling around South Water Caye, we headed back to LIB to enjoy a relaxed afternoon and dinner on board.
The following day we took advantage of the shallow area on the southern end of South Water Caye where we sat in the azure water and watched Captain alternate between rolling in sand and swimming in the water. We took turns snorkeling and sitting in the shallow water and just idling away some time in a beautiful place.
After water time, we hoisted the sails and sailed to Tobacco Caye. It was an easy day and a great opportunity to just relax and enjoy having the boat pushed along by the wind.
So many places to relax on LIB.
Until, Cappy sounded the alert…. dolphins had come to play at our bow!
No great pics this time, unfortunately.
South Water Caye seems huge compared to Tobacco Caye which is only 200 feet by 400 feet and all of it is in use!
Tobacco is tiny but mighty nice!
Do not let the fact that this island is crowded discourage you from visiting! We had a great time walking around and seeing how well the space is used. Here are some photos:
Picturesque bungalows at the edge of Tobacco Caye.
An artist captured sea life.
Not every building is in good shape but it adds character.
Such a pretty setting and I love the matching boat and house!
Apparently seeing the wonders of the sea doesn’t get old even when you live on an island. The local children attend school on another island so they are only home on Tobacco for the weekends. I would find it hard to have my young children away all week long. (I find it hard to be away from my grown children!)
I wonder what they see?
They were watching giant stingrays!
$20 for a delicious dinner at Reef’s End.
The first time Frank and I visited Tobacco Caye, we had dinner at Reef’s End Lodge. It is an upstairs, small, open air spot with one dinner seating at 6 pm. I was surprised to learn that there was no menu ~ dinner was whatever was available that evening. At first I was hesitant about the lack of choice, but it was actually really nice to sit back, enjoy the sunset and not even concern myself with what to order.
Lots of activity near Reef’s End.
When Susan and Kevin were with us, Reef’s End was pretty busy and we all preferred to hang out in the water and cook on LIB instead of dinghying to a restaurant. After walking around Tobacco Caye, we headed back to LIB for more water time. We had snorkeled the day before at South Water, so we decided it was time to pull out the paddle boards. Kevin and Susan have not done much SUPing, so they took the dinghy up toward the reef and anchored in the shallow area while Frank and I paddled up to them. Once we were close to the dinghy, Susan and Kevin hopped on the SUPs and paddled around the clear shallows while Frank and I swam about with Captain.
Lounging at anchor off of Tobacco Caye.
Of course all that exercise earned us nice warm showers and sundowners on the top deck before preparing dinner.
Unfortunately, Susan and Kevin had to fly back to the States rather quickly so we didn’t have time to explore any other islands. But happily the wind was our friend again and we had a very nice trip back to Placencia.
Our last day in Placencia, Frank and Kevin hung out on LIB while Susan and I explored the sidewalk shops I mentioned in this blog. Susan bought a really beautiful wooden cutting board that I think will be put to use on s/v Radiance very soon.
Fresh tamales wrapped in jungle leaves.
While walking Captain in Placencia, Frank came across someone selling tamales. The tamales were wrapped in leaves that our Monkey River guide, Percy, had mentioned were used in cooking. So Frank bought the tamales and we shared them with Kevin and Susan…. you have to have at least one authentic meal when in a different country, right? Anyway, it was neat to see the local leaf used for cooking and the tamales were a nice change. The outer layer of the tamale was thicker than we were accustomed to in Texas, but I rarely complain when I don’t have to do the cooking. 😉
We were sorry to say goodbye to Susan and Kevin, but we hope to catch up with them at the Annapolis Boat Show in October. Or perhaps they will join us somewhere along the road in Temporary Digs.
In closing, I thought I ought to include at least one sunset so you can enjoy the beauty we shared at sundown on LIB.
Sunset on our first visit to Tobacco Caye, Belize.
~ HH55 Catamaran Update ~
In May, Frank traveled to China to take a look at our HH55 catamaran which is under construction in Xiaman. The really good news about Frank’s visit is that everything looks great on our boat. Similar to building a custom home, there are many unique details to every build project and sometimes communication which appears clear just misses the mark.
Happily, Frank found that our communication with HH has progressed very well and the special requests we have made look like they are being handled accurately. However, Frank was disappointed to learn that our HH55 is behind schedule and will be delayed an additional month. Based on what he learned while in China, we hope our new boat will be delivered to California by mid-December at the latest.
One specification we have requested on our catamaran is a different counter surface for the galley. I guess I was spoiled by the granite we had in our home and I hoped to find a material we could use in our HH that would work well but was of a reasonable weight. Gino Morrelli suggested a product called Kerlite and we forged ahead with this tile product. It has not yet been installed on our HH55-03, but Frank had a chance to see our selection while at the HH site.
Kerlite ceramic tile for our galley counters.
I wanted to find a product that doesn’t scratch as easily as the surface we had on LIB and that won’t be marred if someone sets a hot pot on it. I am hopeful that Kerlite will accomplish both aims. What do you think? Do you like the look? Do you think poured ceramic will accomplish our goal?
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