Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Heading out to Lark Cay and a BSR Firewall

Today we plan on motoring to Placencia Harbor to anchor for the night.  We can then run the dinghy into the village and buy a few last minute things.  We will then head out to Lark Cay, which is one of the closest cays to Placencia Harbor.  We hope that our visit in Placencia Harbor will be better than then last one, when we had a storm hit us from the southwest!  We are watching the weather and so far it looks good for the rest of the week.  We should be out until Friday or Saturday, so there won't be any new posts until we return.  We did get a local cell phone, so we have the ability to call or use the VHF radio for any emergencies.
We also ordered a Yamaha 15HP 2 stroke outboard yesterday!  We should have it in a few weeks, but it is located in Belize City, about 4 hours away.  Once it arrives, we will decide if we can ship it down here or be adventuresome and take the bus.  We are looking forward to a little more horsepower on our dinghy, as our last trip to the village, the dinghy wouldn't get up on a plane with the both of us and all of our groceries.  It was a wet and long ride back to the boat.  It was still better than paying $20 for taxis! 

On the BSR front, we set the trap and caught nothing, so we believe that we are BSR free!  I cut up a 1 gallon plastic water bottle and created a BSR Firewall.  I am not sure it will defend the boat from all BSR attacks, but it can't hurt.  The only way that a BSR can get on the boat is to walk on the ropes that are cleated on shore.  The new BSR Firewall should prevent any intruders from hacking our boat.

 Prototype BSR Firewall (patent pending :) )
The Moorings Charter operation will be taking a one month break during the month of September.  All of the boats are currently in the harbor, except one rowdy group of Chileans!  I talked to them briefly before they headed out, and they knew the D&S stores and Walmart!  They were all from Santiago.  They should be returning on Sunday, so maybe we will see them again.  The team here is busy cleaning all of the boats and spacing them out.  They will keep the 24X7 security during the month, but it will be more lonely here!  It looks like it will be just us, Termite, Wiley, the security guards, and the three guard dogs for most of the month of September.  We have emails and phone number for emergencies, and if there is a named storm that threatens the area, the team will be called in to secure the boats.  A lot of the guys working here will travel back to their home town to visit family during this time.  They are excited about having the time off. 

 Moorings  Fleet all in the harbor except one charter!

Monday, August 26, 2013

Unwanted Guest Aboard - BSR Alert

The night that we returned from Ranguana Cay, we shared lobster with Termite and had a great time!  Of course there is several ways to eat lobster, and there is not a wrong way.  Termite pulled off the tail, and dug out the meat, eating it with in a few minutes, and he was done!  My mom and I take a different approach to lobster or crab, and we have to go through every leg and possible piece to pick out any size morsel that we can find.  Well, in doing this, it makes quite a mess, with butter and lime scattered around!  Obviously we had a good meal on three little lobsters!  We did a modest job of cleaning up, but were tired, so the hosing off can wait until the morning!
In the morning I noticed that the bread that was on the counter had been moved, and that there was a large section eaten.  We had the doors closed on the salon, so if some critter came aboard, he didn't come through the doors.  I dismissed it as a one time event, and the next night I left out a piece of bread to see if the critter was still aboard.  Well, the bread was eaten again, so we definitely have some sort of critter living on the boat with us!  This is not a good thing!  (I can hear my wife, Maria Paula screaming all of the way from Arkansas after reading this!) 
So I talked to the guys at the Moorings to see if they have a little mouse trap that I can borrow.  Luckily they had a trap and I went to pick it up, and was really surprised at the size of the trap.  I tried to explain to them that this was just a little mouse, but they said that it would work. 
The large rat trap that the Moorings guys let me borrow!
So I drug the trap over the boat and put some peanut butter on the hook, setting the trap.  Now all we had to do is wait until morning!
Early this morning about 1:00 am, I heard a large pop!  Of course I knew what this noise was, and instantly ran up into the salon to check the trap!  Yes, we finally had our little stowaway!  I was amazed at the size of it, as it was definitely not a mouse!  I guess I will call it a Belize Swap Rat for a better name.  That is BSR for those techies out there. 
BSR (Belize Swap Rat)
This morning while I was waiting for the guys from the Moorings to show up and help dispose of my little friend, Termite and Riley come by for their morning walk!  Of course Riley had to torment my little friend for a few minutes, until he knocked over the cage, almost letting Mr. BSR out!  I then took the cage over to the guys to dispose of.  They were all impressed that we actually caught the BSR inside the boat!  It still gives me chills to think that we had this guy running a muck on the boat as we slept! 
Moral to this story....always hose down the lobster fest before you go to bed!!!

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Ranguana Cay, Belize - Day 5 - Rant On and Return to Moorings Marina

I want to apologize for the rant for the next few paragraphs, but I need to express my thoughts!  I do have to remember that we are on a catamaran, and some people think that we are rich, but every cruiser has a budget and a cruising kitty, that will eventually run out! 
Ok, the night that we ate dinner and the island caretaker wanted to charge us $40 for the entry fee, I thought that discussion was over.  I had promised Desiree some fishing line, as I had a large spool of 50 lb. test, and she was out.  So after I snorkeled (and caught 3 more lobster), I ran the dinghy over to the island to give her the line.  As soon as I approached the little restaurant, the caretaker, I can't remember his name, approached me and told me that I was a liar and that I had stayed on the island the day before.  He also said that I was catching illegal lobster, as there was a size limit, and he knew all of the spots, and the lobsters were too small to take.  Also, he said that I needed a fishing license, and he knew that I didn't have one, because no one buys the license.  Wow!  I stepped back surprised, as I was now only on the island giving his girlfriend some free fishing line, and now I am being attacked!   I calmly explained that I had a valid fishing license and the legal limit for lobster was 3 inches from the horns to the back of the main body, and all of my lobsters were at least 3 inches.  He was very agitated, so my statements didn't seem to make any difference in his attitude.  I finally just walked away from him and gave Desiree the fishing line and left the island. 
 I believe that he probably felt that the lobsters were his property, and he was upset that I caught them before he did.  The disappoint part is that we spend more than $50 for a dinner that usually would be half that price back on the mainland.  It is visitors like us that keep this island going, and to have a bad experience by the caretaker does not help.  I also was legal and paid $25 for the week long fishing license.  I found out later that RGroveMarina, the one next to us at the Moorings is responsible for the management of the island.  I have already reported to the Moorings about this incident, so that they can get a clear understanding of the rules.  Ok, take a deep breath, rant off and I didn't take any pictures of this incident! 
Desiree and the Restaurant on Ranguana Cay
I was ready to head back to the Moorings, as it was 11:00 and it could take 5 or 6 hours to get back.  The Moorings closes at 5:00, and I needed help getting the boat back into my slip.  Yes, I know, I am still a baby at parking the catamaran into the slip.  When we left, there wasn't any wind, so we started motoring.  I really hated motoring 20 NM back, but once we got away from the island the wind kicked up, and we raised the sails!  While looking back, we saw black clouds coming from the southwest, another possible Bayama.  We were sailing for about an hour, keeping ahead of the storm, when the wind died, and then started coming from the southwest.  I started both engines, and we motored for the next hour, getting further east of the storm.  Finally the wind came back from the NE, and we raised the sails again (a double workout for me today).  We were running 6 to 7 knots in 15 to 20 knots of wind, and it was fun!  We were flying!!!  We made record time getting back to the lagoon, and the guys helped me back into the slip, closing our another trip for MokaKat! 
I really enjoyed the trip to Ranguana Cay, even with the incident with the caretaker.  It was very beautiful and had excellent snorkeling.  The next time that we go, we will stay off the island, which is a shame for them to loose the income and for us not to see the island.  Maybe they will clarify the rules so that there is not any confusion on what fees are to be paid. 
After we cleaned the boat, we invited Termite to come over and share our lobster dinner with us!  He came over and we all had a lobster, rice and avocado!  It was a nice end to our Ranguana Cay trip.
Sharing our lobster with Termite

Ranguana Cay, Belize - Day 4 - Snorkeling, Spotted Eagle Ray, and Dinner

The day started rainy as normal here in Belize.  It was cloudy but with a nice breeze.  We watched several boats going to the beautiful island that sat just in front of our boat.  They were dive boats that would drop off a cook, and then the boat would head out to the outer reefs and deep water for the scuba enthusiasts.  We decided that we would eat dinner on the island tonight as a treat, so we took the dingy over to talk to the caretaker.  This is a private island, and they charge $10 US for each person to use the facilities on the island.  We were told or I understood from our Moorings briefing that if you ate dinner, they waived the charge.  Once on the island, we talked to Desiree to confirm our reservation and choose what we wanted to eat.  We asked her about the access charge, and she said that if we ate there it should be waived, but we needed to talk to her boyfriend.  We then asked if we can take a few pictures, so we walked around the little island and left, after 15 minutes or so.  I only mention these facts, as later they will be important!

Desiree, Standing by the kitchen and restaurant
We also saw an Arkansas Razorback t-shirt hanging on the wall of the restaurant and it had a list of names from people from Arkansas on it!  We also signed the shirt, so that everyone will know that MokaKat was there!

We then headed out to the reef for snorkeling.  I traded my lobster stick for a camera, and focused on seeing the beautiful sea life on the reef!  The water was very clear and we really enjoyed the trip.  Mom saw the most amazing animals, a spotted moray eel and a couple of very large spotted eagle rays! 
Spotted Eagle Ray
 Spotted Moray Eel
 Can you see the lobsters?  Today they were safe, as I only have my camera!
 Squirrel Fish
 Queen Parrotfish (we saw a number of these, but they are all camera shy)
 Poisonous Stone Fish
Not sure what these fish are called, but they hang upside down, blending into the plan stalks, waiting for something to swim by to eat.
For dinner, we had grilled grouper with their special seasoning!  It was very good!  We enjoyed the dinner and spent some time talking to Desiree.  She and her boyfriend live on the island for 3 weeks straight, and then go back to the mainland for 1 week.  They do this year around.  When it was time to go back to the boat, I asked for the bill.  I was a little shocked when they wanted to charge us $20 each for access to the island, plus the cost of the meal!  I asked Desiree about this, but she said that I had to talk to her boyfriend.  I talked to him and he thought that we had entered the island the day before, so he waived the charges.  He didn't seem happy about it, but we didn't want this to spoil a perfect day and evening on Ranguana Cay.  It was back to the boat and to bed early!



Saturday, August 24, 2013

Ranguana Cay, Belize - Day 3 - Sailing, Lobster, and a Great Ending

You can tell it's rainy season here, as we woke to rain and thunderstorms.  It seems that every morning the thunderstorms move through and the day clears up before lunch.  The seas were flat, so we waited for the 9:00 am weather report from the Mooring base.  Good weather, seas 3 to 5 feet, wind 5 to 15 knots, scattered thunderstorms.  I this this is a recording, as the same forecast has been reported almost everyday that we have been here! 

We pulled up the anchor, and motored out of the harbor.  It is a 20 NM sail to Ranguana Cay, so we wanted to get a early start.  We had planned on motoring, as the seas were flat, but once we got out into the channel, the wind kicked up!  I was nervous about all of the thunderstorms, so I decided to put a reef in the main.  No one showed me how to do this on our orientation of the boat, so it took me about 20 minutes to figure out how to tie the reeling points on the main, and which line to tightened the foot of the main.  Once this was done, we were off sailing.  It was an excellent sail, as we were running about 5 to 6 knots in 10 to 15 knots of wind!

As a warning of the weather conditions, we watched a water spout dropping from a dark cloud about 10 NM away.  It was moving slowly away from us, but stayed down for about 30 minutes.  I was thankful that it didn't come our way.    Water spouts are tornadoes, but over water.  This was the first one that we have seen in these waters.

 We had to do a couple of tacks to finally get to where we were going, as the wind was coming from the east, and Ranguana Cay was south east.  We also threw out our fishing line, but no luck today. 

As we approached Ranguana Cay, it look like a perfect little island with aqua blue water around!  It was amazing!!!  There were a couple of mooring balls, to happily, we grabbed one and tied off the boat.  I snorkeled down and checked out the mooring, and was happy it looked secure.

The water was calling me, even though it was a little late to start snorkeling.  I grabbed my new lobster hook, and motored the dinghy over to the reefs, with lobster hunting on my mind!  The water was incredible clear and there were all the beautiful fish around!  I was focused on lobsters, so I started looking in all of the holes trying to find one.  Finally, I saw one, and tried to catch it, but he was too quick.  Lobster 1 dale 0.  I finally figured out where they were, and it didn't take too long before I caught my first one!!  It wasn't any record in size, so I kept hunting.  I finally caught 4 in total, enough for dinner, so back to the boat I went.  I then realized how exhausted I was, and had to drink a beer and eat a lit snack. 
We boiled the lobsters and had potatoes and avocado!  It was a feast!  What a perfect day it was!  I crashed at 8:00 PM from exhaustion, but happy for the excellent day.
My First Lobster Catch
Lobster Dinner

Ranguana Cay, Belize - Day 2 - A Bayamas Storm and Stuck in Placencia Harbor

Well, it's day 2 and we are still at Placencia Harbor.  Last night started out extremely well, with a nice easterly breeze and an almost full moon.  This was our first night on anchor, so I was a little nervous to see how well we anchored. We had two little squalls come through during the night, and I woke up, closed all of the hatches and sat and watched to see if we were dragging anchor.  So far so good.  The squalls were coming from the east, and we were protected by Placencia Cay that we anchored very close to, a recommendation from the local team.
Well about 5:00 am, all of that changed.  I woke to high winds, lightning, and large waves.  I looked out my porthole and instead of seeing the house lights on the island, I was seeing the village of Placencia!  The wind was coming directly opposite, from the southwest.  The locals call this type of storm a Bayamas, and they can be dangerous.  We were totally exposed and besides that, if the anchor drug, we would be pushed right in a dock and island, now behind us about 200 meters.  I jumped up, put on my raincoat, and started the engines, putting them in a slow idle, but in gear.  Over the next hour or two, the winds hit 24 knots, but our anchor held. 
We were too close to the dock and Placencia Cay!
When we finally had a break, we decided to pull up the anchor and move into the middle of the harbor, with more room to drag.  Well, we have never raised the anchor before, so I was worried that it might not go as smooth as I wanted, plus we were still in winds and waves.  I had mom run the windlass, and I motored the boat.  We took off the bridle, and the anchor came up easy.  We then motored over across the harbor and dropped the anchor in a new spot.  Everything went well, and we finally felt secure, with all of the chain out and the boat nicely anchored!  Wow, what a long start to the day!
Quick video of how our morning started! 

It finally cleared up around 10:00, but I had to crash for an hour or two.  I guess we will stay another night in Placencia harbor, as now there is no wind and it is too late to leave. 

It was ironic that we are anchored in front of a resort called 'Paradise Resort'.  It was anything but a paradise this morning!!!

Ranguana Cay, Belize - Day 1 - Cheers from the cheap seats!

Wow, what a long day, and it is just 7:00 pm!  We prepared the boat for our voyage, getting gas for the outboard, bread from the local store, filled the water tank, and after posting our blog, we headed out!  We had a side wind, so we came up with our plan to cast off the line closest to Termite's boat and as I pulled forward, mom would cast off of the front line that is connected to a pole.  Well, as soon as we turn the first line off the wind started pushing into Termite's boat.  I ran over and pushed us off, and checked on the bumper, but it was hard to hold our boat off.  Finally, I was able to move forward a little and finally squeeze by Termite's boat without any scratches, not exactly smooth....  I really don't like how we are backed in and tied to one pole on the front.  There is a concrete pier behind us, so if you make any mistakes on the front line, you could hit the pier...ouch!  So far we have had help putting the boat back into the slip, so I am sure after today, they will insist! 

We motored up about 45 minutes to Placencia Harbor and we got ready to drop anchor.  I was thinking that this would be easy, as it was open with a nice breeze.  Well, mom is still a little challenged with driving a boat with two engines.  Luckily, there was plenty of space to circle a round a little, as I tried to tell her which way to steer and which engines to run.  I also noticed a group of guys sitting on the pier watching our show.  Well, we finally got in the perfect position, and I went to drop the anchor, but nothing.....the new anchor wouldn't go down!  So I played with the windlass raising the anchor up one inch and releasing it, but the top of the anchor would hit the fiberglass housing and would stick.  I finally got the emergency tiller, the only 'bigger hammer' that I could find and went beating the heck out of it....but it wouldn't budge.  The group of guys on the pier got larger.  I was sweating, hot and our easy anchoring has turned out to be a fiasco!  I finally drug out the secondary anchor, and after moving the boat in a few circles, I dropped the anchor and tightened the line.  We were anchored, but I didn't trust the secondary anchor.  I took a break, drank some water and thought how we can get the primary anchor down.  We finally poured some dish washing liquid on the areas that it was sticking, and using our emergency tiller aka 'larger hammer' I beat it into submission, and it dropped a few inches, free from the housing!  I was expecting applause from the cheap sets, but I am sure they were still puzzled why I was beating the hell out of my new catamaran.  So, then I manually pulled up the secondary anchor, and then circle around a few times, and finally, we had a text book anchor drop and set!  I was exhausted, and we haven't even made it into the village for supplies!
 A shot of our anchor housing and the stuck anchor on left.
 Captain Dale motoring in the lagoon
 Our dinghy in the davits for the first time
Placencia Village from the harbor

While waiting for fresh chicken at Brenda's BBQ stand, the cheap seaters came over and asked what I was doing to my boat, with all of the banging.  I had to laugh, but told them about the hanging anchor and my bigger hammer.  I think there was some relief in the group, that I wasn't just beating the hell out of my boat for fun!  The chicken was great, we scored some fresh fruit and veggies, and we finally have a local cell phone!  Life is good in Belize!

BTW, I also broke down and bought a new fishing pole!  I have my fishing license, fishing pole, and my lobster stick!  I am ready to eat lobster and fish!!!!

Monday, August 19, 2013

Heading out to Ranguana Cay!!!

We are about to throw off the lines at the Mooring Marina and head over to Placencia Village Harbor.  Since we now have a dinghy, we will run over to the dinghy dock, and walk into town.  We plan on getting some of the jerk chicken at Brenda's little shack, and provision for our trip to Ranguana Cay.  We will spend the night on anchor in the Placencia Harbor, then head offshore tomorrow.  The weather looks steady for the next few days, which is good, as Ranguana Cay is all the way out to the barrier reef, about 20nm.  We will have our new lobster catcher, shown below, and hopefully, we will find a few!  So if we don't have any blogs for a few days don't worry!  We don't have Internet while we are offshore!  We are also planning on getting a local cell phone, so it will be nice to be able to make local calls! 
My homemade lobster catcher!

Ranguana Cay - (Courtesy of the internet) 

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Updates and Marina Life

We have a dinghy!!!  This may sound like a small thing to most everyone, but here dinghies are hard to find!  It is our 'car' here as without a dinghy, we can't get off the boat while on anchor, except by swimming.  After our last trip to the cays, we decided that finding a dinghy was our number one task, once we returned back to port.  The Moorings team has been very good to us here, and they offered to sale us one of the older, but serviceable ones.  It looks like a 9 foot RIB (this means that it has a fiberglass bottom).  It is ugly and old, but it holds air and it works perfectly for our needs.  They also loaned us an outboard until get a new one from Belize City. 

Our new, ugly, but beautiful to us dinghy!!!
After all of the dinghy excitement, I caught a ride into the village with the Moorings Team.  On Friday, which is payday, the company truck takes everyone into the village to get their paycheck.  So I hopped in the back of the truck and rode to town with the guys!   This was a last minute decision, so I completely forgot to take any pictures!  Once in town I went to many stores looking for a fishing rod, as I only had two reels and couldn't take the poles on the plane.  I had thought that it would be easy to find poles down here, but all that I am finding are combos, which are very high priced.  I finally find a couple of nice combos, but at $400 BZ (about $200 US), it was just a little too high for my budget.  So I will keep looking.  One thing that I found out was that between 12:00 and 1:00, everything shuts down and closes!  So I was waiting at 'El Capitan', the fishing store, I was kidnapped, in a nice way, by Brenda, the owner of a little chicken and juice stand.  As the guy that ran the fishing store took a two hour lunch that day, I ended up getting juice and homemade macaroons from Brenda!  The macaroons were excellent, with fresh coconut and almonds.  She got me for $5 BZ, but I was entertained while waiting for Mr. El Capitan to return from his two hour lunch break.
Brenda and her cook! 
Well, El Capitan was a bust, as they had less fishing poles than the hardware store back in town.  I did pick up a few things, including a dive flag for our boat. 
 Dinghy dock at Placencia Village
 Placencia Village, looking back towards the docks
Another shot of Placencia Village
I then headed back to the Chinese Market, and loaded up a shopping cart of food, plus 10 gallons of water, called Sam our favorite taxi, and made my way back to the boat. 
Our neighbor Termite offered us some pasta that he didn't want.  We ended up cooking one bag of it, adding Prego sauce and onions, and invited Termite over for dinner.  So for all of those folks that have been asking for a picture of Termite, here it is!!!

Famous 'Termite' from Louisiana!
Diablo Fruit, colorful, but not very sweet!

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Wippari Cay, Belize Trip - Day 3 - August 15

We were disappointed when we awoke on Thursday, as the day was cloudy and there was no wind.  Actually there was some wind, but it was from the south west, the way that we needed to go to get back to port.  We tried a couple of things with our port engine, but it still wouldn't pump any water.  We didn't get any engine manuals with the boat papers (they are looking for those), so I really didn't know what else to do, except not run it. 
Our first challenge was to get up our secondary anchor, that we had been advised to put out while on a mooring ball.  To run the windlass, you usually need the port engine running.  I guess the windlass runs on the starter battery of the port engine.  So I started the engine, and because I was so nervous about overheating the engine, I never could get the windlass to pull up the secondary anchor correctly.  The secondary anchor is mostly rode, so on the windlass I should be able to loosen up the chain side, and run the rode over the other side and pull it up.  For some reason, it kept overlapping itself, causing the whole thing to bind up.  Since I was so worried about the engine, I finally shut down the engine, and used the main winch manually to raise the secondary.  We were both sweating hard by the time we finally got the secondary anchor in!  Of course it hung on the mooring lines, making it a little harder!  We hadn't even left the mooring ball, and we had our workout! 
We dropped off of the mooring ball and headed back to port.  It was about a three hour motor, with one engine running, on flat seas.  It was rather peaceful motor, and I got to enjoy the autopilot and was really lazy driving back.  Once we got close to the marina, I called the Moorings base, and asked for assistance to dock the boat.  Backing between a pole and then stopping before I hit the concrete bulkheads was too much for me on one engine.  I will still be a challenge for me, as it usually takes three people to man the lines.  I guess you can watch out for that blog in the future, to see if we can actually do it!
Once back I showed the pictures of the sail drive boot to Renee and Kevin.  They couldn't believe that it had happened, but we will have it put back on in October, when I travel down to Guatemala to the travel lift. 
Safely back to the marina!  The next task is to find a dinghy and motor, as without it, we are limited to what we can down out on the cays. 

Flat Seas

 Mom, reading during our slow ride home!
Sunset back on the lagoon