Belize has a reputation of clear water and year round great weather. As we sailed into the small southern town of Punta Gorda, that was exactly our experience. The weather was perfect and the sea perfectly calm as we anchored just off the town pier. We took the dinghy to the pier and hiked up to customs and immigration. It was a simple task as all the government requirements were right there at the pier. We spent about an hour filling out all the forms and presenting all of our documents. When it was all finished we walked into town looking for a grocery store. We had read that Belize was very strict on not allowing us to bring any fresh fruits or vegetables into the country. So our refrigerator and fresh fruit and veggies pantry was bare. As it turned out the officials never even went to our boat. No problem, the market was close to the pier and soon enough we had bags of fresh food and we headed back to Samadhi. The anchorage in front of Puta Gorda was not recommended for anything other than checking into an out of the country. There was no protection from any sort of wind or waves. So we raised anchor and headed to a small group of islands about 10 miles north. We quickly learned that an “island” in Belize is not exactly what we were used to. On the charts and the GPS they looked like large islands with much land mass. In person they turned out to be just very large mangroves with no real land or beach. They were just a bunch of branches growing out of the sea all tangled together. They made great wind and wave breaks but offered nothing in the way of land to get off the boat and explore. This also complicated taking Ranger to shore to conduct his business. There were a few days of less than pleasant weather on the way so we decided to stay put in the mangroves until the weather passed. It turns out that was a very good choice. Over the next 5 days we were pummeled by squall after squall. One of them with winds gusting over 50 knots! Luckily the seafloor around mangroves is well known to be good holding for anchoring. And our Rocna anchor once again did amazing. We did not move an inch despite the constant wind and current. We were able to find a sliver of beach for Ranger to do his business but it was nearly 2 miles away! I would run him to shore in between squalls and most of the time I would make it back before the next one. However, I did have to hunker down during one trip back as Ranger and I were pelted with sharp rain drops and 30+ knots of wind. We were able to get into the water and snorkel for a little bit but otherwise our Belize time was not off to a great start.
When a more stable albeit small weather window opened, we jumped at the chance to head north to the more protected islands behind the reef. We sailed to the town of Palencia and found a nice place to anchor right in front of the town behind a small island to protect us from the weather that soon began raging again. The town was pretty cool but the wind strong and gusty so we stayed with the boat most of the time. If the wind was not blowing hard then the rain would unleash a torrent of water that reduced visibility to less than 300 feet. We had this type of weather for another 4 days. There were so many places that we wanted to visit but the weather would just not let up long enough for us to get out and explore. Add to the fact that everywhere that looked interesting was extremely shallow. We were able to finally get out to the reef and a small island for some calm weather exploration. The island was just inside the reef. The snorkeling was some of the best we have ever seen. The water was warm and crystal clear. There was not a huge amount of fish but plenty to see. Victoria and I had a massive ray swim right at us and turn away at the last moment we also saw a large barracuda. I have a great gopro video of it. The weather window for this foray was only two days and we soon had to find another spot to hide from the weather. We sailed north to Belize City and found a great spot in the mangroves about 5 miles out of town. This time there was a small beach within a 5 minute dinghy ride for Ranger. We were able to provision and explore the city a little and were able to get a few supplies for a few boat projects. We waited out some weather and then finally made our way north. We planned to head to the Florida Keys from there which is a 550 mile passage. We made the passage in 4 days with great sailing and slightly rough seas for the first 3 days and then the wind died and we motored the last day through lightening and confused seas. We anchored just off Key West exactly four days after leaving Belize.
We did have an interesting event happen on the passage. We had slightly heavy winds so we were using our staysail a lot, particularly at night. However, one morning I was trimming the staysail when it began to come down. It turns out the strap that is sewn onto the top of the sail had come apart and the sail just came down. I gathered it up on deck and Ashley began repairing it. Once it was repaired the problem became that the halyard (that is the rope that is used to raise the sails) was still up the mast. Nothing I did would get it come down. So I told everyone that we were going to have to divert about 50 miles to find calm seas so that someone can go up the mast and bring down the halyard. Alexander without hesitation said he would go up and get it now. Now, we are out in the ocean with 15-20 knot winds and seas 2-3 meters and less than 6 seconds apart. That is not the type of conditions that you want to spend much time on deck let alone be raised up 60 ft in the air. The boat was rising a falling with the waves and the winds were healing the boat unsteadily. So we turned down wind to ease some of the chaos. Alexander wore his rock climbing harness and I tied him to the staysail stay to keep him from banging against the mast. I hoisted him about 15ft in the air and stopped to make sure he was OK. He said he was fine so I sent him the rest of the way up. Once to the top of the stay he grabbed the halyard and I let him quickly but under control fall back to the pitching deck. I am not sure Ashley even took a breath the whole time Alexander was up there. All told he was up the mast for about 3 minutes and then we were back in business with our staysail. When we got everything back to normal, the sail up and harnesses put away, I asked Alexander how he felt. He said that the only reason he volunteered to do that was for the glory in telling the story. Hey whatever works. J