Wednesday, September 25, 2013

September 24th - Belize Checkout!

In preparation for our departure to Guatemala, we checked out of Belize today!  Phil and Julie, who are heading to Costa Rica for a new house sitting opportunity, are going with us for the sail to Rio Dulce.  They will then catch a bus to Guatemala City, and then on to Costa Rica!  They need to be in Costa Rica by October 5th, so we want to have plenty of time to sail down and enjoy a few offshore cays on the way down.  We hope to arrive in Livingston, Guatemala on Monday, September 31st, and then head down to Rio Dulce. 
To check out of Belize in Placencia, you usually have to take a taxi from the Moorings Office to M&M gas station.  There you take the Hokey Pokey water taxi over to Mango Creek and then catch a taxi over to Big Creek (a few miles away).  We decided to try out our new dinghy and 15hp Yamaha motor and head directly to Mango Creek ourselves, saving the taxi and Hokey Pokey charges!  So all four of us hopped into the dinghy and we headed over to Mango Creek.  We finally made it as we snaked down a long and windy creek.  Just when I thought that we might be lost, Phil recognized something, and then we were there!  We tied up the dinghy, and locked it up with our new security cable!  We asked a nice gentleman to watch it for us, and we headed out in a taxi! 
The first office was the Immigration office.  The guy came across a little macho in the beginning, but after we paid a $90BZ penalty for something, he was much happier.  We also had to pay $7.5BZ for each person.  We still don't know what the $90BZ charge was for, except maybe because we said that we were leaving the next morning, they made us pay some overtime charge. 
Next we headed over to the Port Authority, and the lady was really nice to us!  We paid our $30BZ to get the boat out of the country, gave her our crew list again, and headed over to Customs!  The guy at Customs was very nice, and made some copies of our crew list for Guatemala!  After that we were finished and heading back to the dinghy.  Since Phil and Julie are heading back to their current house in Monkey River, they took a long taxi over to their house.  We then left in the dinghy!  We didn't take any pictures of these events, as we didn't know if the officials wanted their picture taken.  Below are a few that we took after the fact! 
Heading to Guatemala in the morning!!!!  We will be out of Internet range for the next 5 days, so don't worry!  We should have some good blogs to share after we get down to Guatemala!
 Mango Creek
 Mango Creek
Mom hang on!!!
Check out our Super Charged Dinghy!

Super Charged Dinghy (with aka: Mr. Outboard Motor)

The first thing that I did on Monday morning was hire Estevan, our nightly security guard, to help me get the dinghy off of the our catamaran's trampoline and back into the water!  He was also going to help me connect the new Yamaha 15hp outboard (Mr. Outboard Motor) to the dinghy! 

New Yahama 15hp (aka Mr. Outboard Motor) with security cable for overnight!

The dinghy looked in poor shape, as it has some slow leaks, and in the last two weeks has deflated some.  We were able to use a halyard to raise up the dinghy, and then guide it over the life lines into the water! 

When I was back in the US, I had ordered a dinghy repair kit from West Marine.  When the dinghy was on the trampoline, we used some soapy water and found the leak and used this new tape stuff to fix the leak.  I can tell you that this product will be put on my official 'Vendors of Shame' list, as it worked for a couple of hours and then blew out!  I was disappointed that West Marine sells this stuff as a Hypalon repair kit, and to me it looked like a little inflatable toy repair kit, except it cost $29.95.  I was expecting some heavy Hypalon material and some sort of outer space super glue, but I got a 5 foot roll of clear tape....

I then took out the dinghy for the engine break-in!  I had to run it with double oil for the first tank.  The first hour, I could only go half throttle, but it was enough to put it on plane.  A couple of dolphins hung around for a few minutes, but they quickly got bored with my slow speed and left for more fun things.  After a couple of hours of running around, I was able to run at full throttle, which was too way too fast for this little dinghy with only one person aboard.  It is nice to have some power!  On the following blog, there is a short video of our trip to Mango Creek in the dinghy.  It does get up and scoot!  Hang on mom!!!!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Return to Belize - September 21/22 - Plans coming together, Belize Customs, Mr. Outboard Motor, and helpful new friends

Sometimes it is amazing that everything falls into place!  I had ordered a WirieAP (marine wifi antenna), and when I didn't receive the confirmation email on the shipping after a week, I opened a ticket with them.  They were very responsive, making sure that it would get it just before my leaving on the 21st.  It made it with a day to spare!  I also received some other packages the day before I left too! 
One of my largest worries was that I had ordered a new Yamaha outboard for our dinghy, and it was supposed to be in Belize City before I returned.  We couldn't leave Belize without our outboard, so this could affect our plans for exiting the country before the end of the month!  We also wanted to take Phil and Julie, our friends that were house sitting here in Belize, to Guatemala with us.  They have to be in Costa Rica by October 5th, so we do have a timetable to watch!  I had sent a couple of emails to the Belize City Yamaha dealer, but after several days, they haven't responded.  On Wednesday before I was going to leave, I finally received an email confirming the delivery!  Perfect timing!
I called the company with the outboard, and found out that they were going to be closed on Saturday, as it is Independence Day in Belize.  The owner, Peter, agreed to take the outboard home with him, and they gave me his address and phone number.  My mom called him and let him know when I was going to arrive in Belize City, and he would be available! 
I headed to the XNA airport with my two check bags, both weighing in at 54 pounds, and a 40 pound carry on, and my backpack, packed to the max!  I also had many things in my carry on, a Dewalt drill, 30 foot security cable, and some tools  They told me that I can't take the drill in my carry on, something about unscrewing bulkheads or something, plus I needed to lighten my bags by about 3 pounds each.  I spread out all of my suitcases in the area just outside of the check in area, and tried to redistribute the weight, and keep the prohibited things out of my carry on!  At last we found the right combination, and we were allowed to check in!

You can tell I am heading to a boat, with Yanmar parts kit and lines!
The orange bad is my carry on, with a two wheeler strapped underneath!
As I went through the security checkpoint, Maria Paula waited just outside to see if I made it through!  If they denied something, she could take it home, instead of throwing it away!  Of course, when I sent my orange bag through the scanner, all of the warning lights came on, and I got escorted over to the side to investigate.  I had to open the bag, and they did bomb swabs on all of my Dewalt batteries, but at the end, they allowed everything to go through!   Maria Paula was totally amazed that I made it through without losing something! 
My flights to Belize City were perfect, arriving in Belize City around 3:20.  My next challenge was to get through Immigration and Customs without paying too much in taxes.  I know that I had to claim the Yanmar parts, the WirieAP, and the Dewalt drill, but I hoped that all of the other stuff would be considered personal items, and hopefully they would be excluded. 
Immigration was fine, even though I had a one way ticket.  I just explained that I was catching a private boat, and that I was heading down to Guatemala in a week or so.  Of course Customs was a different story!  I am sure that they have heard every excuse not to pay taxes, but I had to plead my case!  They guy was really good in my case, as we discussed every item, and whether they should charge me taxes or not.  Tourists are not supposed to pay taxes on fishing items, personal electronics and  tourist types of things.  One of the Yanmar parts kit case contained a small coffee maker, which surprised the Customs guy!  He laughed a little, expecting to see many motor parts, but instead was a $20 coffee maker!  At the end, I had to pay taxes of about $120 on the Yanmar parts, WirieAP, and the drill.  The fishing reel and large spear gun were excluded, as well as my iPad and my mom's new Apple Laptop.   I felt good about this, as it could have been much worse. 
The next challenge was to pick up the motor and the case of oil, and then decide how I can get all of my stuff down to Placencia, about 150 miles south!  I had called ahead to Maya Island Air, and they agreed to take the outboard motor on the plane, if I would buy a seat for it!  So I ended up buying two seats, one for Mr. Dale McDaniel, and the other for Mr. Outboard Motor!  The flight was at 10:30 the next morning, out of the Municipal airport, inside Belize City, instead of the International Airport, which was further away from the outboard motor!  
I had the airport porter talk to the taxi drivers, looking for one with a vehicle large enough for my outboard motor.  A guy named Louis, had a older Lincoln, that was larger.  There wasn't any vans around, so I went with Louis.  He drove me over to Peter's house, and we picked up the outboard.  It was still packed in a cardboard box, with the gas can included.  We had to stick it in the truck, with half of it sticking out, and then headed to find a hotel.  We were recommended the Paradise Hotel and Casino, so we headed over there.  When I checked in, I asked them where I could keep the outboard motor.  At the end, they put all of my suitcases on a large cart, and took it to my room.  It was the first time anyone had checked into the hotel with an outboard motor!

Mr. Outboard Motor and my suitcases.
The next morning, I headed down to the lobby early, looking for a taxi that was large enough for the motor.  The only guy that was around had an old Lincoln, and from my previous experience, this should work.  It was only 5 minutes to the airport, so we loaded up the motor, sticking out of the trunk, and headed to the airport! 
 Taxi heading to the airport!
The whole cart was my stuff!
The flight from Belize City to Placencia was pleasant!  I met a guy at the airport, Paul, that received a Sam Walton Scholarship back in the mid 80s, and went to college in Harding University, in central Arkansas!  He now lives in Houston, and was traveling back for his brother's birthday!  It is crazy the people that you meet in far away places!  His brother picked him up at the airport in a truck, and they gave me a ride, with Mr. Outboard Motor and all of my stuff!  Thank you Paul!!!!  They left before I had a chance to take a photo of them helping me, so I was disappointed that the blog will not have a picture of these two guys helping me! 
So, I made it back to the boat with Mr. Outboard Motor, and all of my stuff!  My wife still is amazed that I made it back with everything.  It was hot and humid, but I am glad to be back on the boat again!

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Traveling Back Home - September 5th

The activity at the Moorings Marina had dwindled down to nothing, as most of the staff took a month vacation during September.  We still had our security guards and dogs, Termite, and Wiley with us.  As I travel back, my mom will help out feeding the cats, which are permanent fixtures there.  All of the boats have been cleaned up and readied for a month of inactivity.  Also, since this is usually the highest hurricane activity month, the boats have the main sails wrapped up, and the jibs are taken down.  In the event of a hurricane, the local staff is called back in, and the boats are moved into the mangroves for safety.  Our boat will also be taken to a safe spot in the event of a strong storm. 

 MokaKat on the dock
Termite's Boat
 Moorings Fleet shutdown
 Moorings Fleet shutdown
 Last sunset before I head back home for two weeks.
Termite and Wiley
Wiley on his evening walk!

My travel back home was an all day affair!  Sam's Wife (our favorite taxi driver), picked me up at 6:30 to head to the airport.  Five minutes later I was there!  It is only two miles down the road, and the only traffic we saw was a couple of bicycles.  I chose Maya Island Air to travel from Placencia to Belize City, where I pick up my American Airline flight.  It is a 45 minute flight, but we stop in Dangriga for additional passengers.  The flight is nice, as you step on the plane, strap in, and it goes without any waiting.  It is almost like a bus, as people come and go on each stop. 

 I like the luggage claim area!

6:35 AM - I was the only passenger!

 View of a new Resort and Marina
A stop in Dangriga

 Distant view of some of the Cays that we went to.
 Cays in the distant and calm seas.
Yes, that is the runway ahead (looking past the bug splatter!)

I arrived in Belize City about 3 hours before my flight to Miami.  Luckily there was a small restaurant that served coffee and a good breakfast.  Soon, I was heading back to the USA. 

Of all of the airports in the US that I despise the most, the Miami Airport is the highest on my list.  Going through immigrations is usually not an issue for most returning citizens.  I know the frustrations of this for foreigners, as my wife, from Colombia, usually gets special treatment.  Maybe it was just the line that I choose, but the guy that was checking us was taking forever for each person.  The guy finally ended his shift, and a new guy replaced him, checking the 5 people in front of me in a few minutes, and I went through in a matter of minutes.  I am not sure what happened with this guy, but the hour delay in immigrations was now pushing me to be late to catch my connecting flight to Dallas.  After immigrations, I quickly went through customs and on to security.  When I arrived at the security, the line was full and out into the corridor.  I then walked down to the next security gate, which was at the other terminal, and quickly made it through security.  Now this is where I really don't like the Miami airport.  I couldn't find any map showing me where I was and no terminals showing me where my next flight was!  I finally saw a tram, and hopped on it thinking it would take me somewhere, but it was a dead end, and I wasted 10 minutes going to the next group of gates and back to my original stop.  I finally asked a guard where Terminal D was, and he pointed me down a corridor and finally saw some signs for Terminal D.  After a 1/4 mile hike, I finally had to take another tram to the Terminal, and then walk from Gate 25 to Gate 6 for my flight.  Well, when I arrived, the flight had just closed the doors.  Luckily, there was another flight in one hour, so they moved me to that flight and I had time to finally eat some dinner.  Did I mention that I really hate the Miami Airport! 

I finally arrived at Dallas, and made my original flight to North West Arkansas (XNA).  My suitcase also managed to make it too, which was amazing, as I had changed flights three times.  I was happy to be back in North West Arkansas, with my wife was waiting for me!  Back in the land of Diet Dr. Pepper, hamburgers, and Walmart!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Farewells and Future Plans

Captain Allan and Philicity are leaving on Tuesday, heading to Cancun, Mexico for a much needed vacation.  They will then head back to South Africa to enjoy time with their families before the head over to the BVI for their next work assignment.  We met another couple, Phil and Julie, who are currently house sitting down by Monkey River.  Their obligation is ending later this month and they are heading to Guatemala and then Costa Rica for another house sitting assignment.  They may travel with us to Guatemala (Rio Dulce), later in September.

We all went out to dinner on Saturday night, at Cozy Corner Hotel and Bar, which was a treat, as Phil and Julie have a car.  We piled six into a small SUV, but it was fun!

 Left: Phil, Julie, Allan     Right:  Dale, Audrey, Philicity

On the way home we saw this huge boa in the road.  Of course I had to jump out and take a picture.  I didn't want to get too close as I was barefooted and it was dark!  The boa was between 2 and 3 meters long (picture makes it look small, but it was thicker than my arm!  It was very beautiful with nice marking, but I didn't have much time to watch it, as it headed quickly into the jungle.
Our last dinner with Allan and Philicity on the Laru Baya Resort Restaurant.  Good luck in your travels and hope to see you in the BVI!
Well, this get us back to our plans on MokaKat.  I have to fly back to Arkansas for a couple of weeks for a court date.  Long story there, but I will keep it private.  I will be very happy to see my beautiful wife again, as she is currently applying for her US Residency and is waiting on her US Passport before she can catch up with us!
Maria Paula mi esposa linda!
 Mom will be staying on the boat, but it is safe in the Moorings Marina.  It is still hurricane season, so the Moorings will help move our boat into the lagoon and safety of the mangroves, if there is a storm coming.  It will be nice to spend a couple of weeks back in my home, with Maria Paula and Pepper (our dog).  Of course air conditioning and nice steaks are an additional benefit.  I am sure that I will stay busy with my list of projects left over from the summer! 
Maria Paula y Pepper
Once I return back to Belize, we plan to travel down to Rio Dulce, Guatemala.  There is one repair that is pending, and that is to repair our saildrive boots, which will require the travel lift.  Once that repair is complete, we will most likely stay in Rio Dulce for the remainder of the hurricane season, as it is more safe from hurricanes than in Belize.  It will be a nice change of scenery, as I understand that Rio Dulce is very beautiful and there is a lot of activities to do there.  Belize has been very nice and the cays are beautiful, but we are missing an active cruising social life, as there are not many cruisers here during the off season.  We look forward to being able to go to activities and interact with other cruisers. 
After Guatemala, we hope to sail to Mexico, and then on to Florida.  After Florida, we plan on heading over to the Bahamas and then down the Easter Caribbean island chain!  Of course these plans could change, depending on how the wind blows!

Monday, September 2, 2013

Hatchet Caye, Belize - Day 4 - Heading back to Placencia Harbor and a Bubba/Dean Boat!

Today started out with storms and a little rain.  We had a lot of rain last night, but little strong winds.  I was planning to snorkel a little before we headed back, but because of the cloudy weather and the occasional lightning, I relaxed and planned our trip home.  We decided to go around the shallow spots, reefs, and smaller cays, by taking a route directly south around Laughing Bird Cay, and the west to the coast.  The only problem was the wind was coming from the west, north west, in the direction that we needed to go. 

Orchid Two - Allan, Philicity, and the Chileans

 Early Morning storms

 Good Bye Hatchet Caye!

We motored about 30 minutes and then set the sails, cruising along around 5 knots.  It took several tacks, but we arrived in Placencia Harbor about 5 and a half hours later.  We had travelled about 25 NM today.  It was a very nice sail, with little trauma over shallow water and reefs.  We fished the whole way, and still have not caught a fish yet!

 Welcome back to Placencia Harbor
This is the boat for you, Dean and Bubba!!!!

We dropped anchor around 5 pm, and then had a great dinner of guacamole and broiled lobster.  Allan, Philicity, and his group of Chileans motored into the harbor and anchored just in front of us.  This will be their last night, as they have a noon flight back to the real world.  This is also Allan and Philicity's last charter for the Belize Mooring Company, as they are going back to South African for three weeks to visit family and then they start their next job in the BVI.  We will miss them!!!
Track files from our iPad App tracking our progress.
26.5 NM Total

Hatchet Caye, Belize - Day 3 - Environmental Foot Note

I am not a tree hunger environmentalist type, but seeing the trash lines that flowed though Hatchet Caye made me take notice!  It was truly disgusting to see a large line of trash float through the beautiful Caye.  These pictures will say the thousand words that I couldn't find to say.  I am not blaming Belize or any other country, but the oceans are not the dumping grounds of all of the world's waste!  The most sad part is below the plastic forks, shoe parts, coffee cups, was a layer of clear plastic floating just below the surface.  How many birds, sea mammals, and fish die because if the contamination.  We need to find better ways to recycle and reduce the amount of plastic that is put into our environment. 
We had several of these trash lines come through our mooring on our first morning.  We also sailed through a couple of trash lines to get out to the caye.  Maybe this is common in all of the world's oceans, but this is not the best solution.  Please recycle!!!
Trash Line Heading for us!  Yuck!  Do we want to snorkel in this?

Disgusting trash and plastic.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Hatchet Caye, Belize - Day 3 - Storms, Lionfish, Shark, 4 Star Dinner, and my Mother(again)!

Wow, last night was really stormy!  The wind hit 35 knots, and I was glad that we were on a mooring ball.  I had also dropped our main anchor straight down, so if the mooring ball was to break free, we would at least have our anchor down.  The mooring balls here at Hatchet Caye where the best that we have seen.  They are only about a year old and very solid.  After watching the wind hit over 30 knots, and we were solid in the mooring ball, I tried to sleep.  The only problem with Hatchet Caye is that the mooring balls are on both sides of the island, and they are not protected.  This means, that although the moorings are solid, the boat was getting hit by waves all night long.  It was a long night of big winds and waves. 
Huge concrete blocks to hold the mooring balls!  They were only about a year old!
Beautiful Sunrise after Storm Night!
We survived the night just fine, but with some loss of sleep.  Today was snorkel day, so I was excited to head out.  I swam over to the reef from the boat and enjoyed seeing many fish and found some sand dollars.  I didn't see any lobsters, but many nice fish.  I saw my first lionfish, which was very huge, about 18 inches.  It was down about 12 feet, hiding in a hole.  It was very beautiful, but because the are not a native fish, they hated here in Belize.  They are eating all of the beautiful reef fish, and there is an open season on killing them.  Unfortunately, I didn't have a spear gun, so I could only take some pictures. 

This guy was waiting for us to return to the boat!
After lunch I wanted to take the dinghy over to a sand bar and rock pile that was on the north east side of the island.  Mom didn't want to go, so I went alone.  I was on the hunt for lobster!  When I arrived over at the spot, I put on my snorkel gear and jumped into  the water to set the anchor.  The anchor that we have is a little jet ski foldup anchor and doesn't hold very well.  So usually I will dive down and find some dead coral to secure it to.
While I was swimming back to the boat, without my lobster stick or camera, a large nurse shark cruised by and settled down on the sand a few meters away.  First of all, I was totally shocked, not expecting to see a shark, as maybe it was attracted to the boat motor.  I swam back to the boat, looking around nervously, and pulled out my underwater camera.  I always wondered how I would feel the first time that I saw a shark while snorkeling.  At this point, I was confident that I would swim over to the resting shark and take as many pictures as I could without any concerns or issues.  So I headed over to the shark.  I pulled up my camera to start taking pictures, and then the shark came off the bottom and did a 180 directly for me!  I took one quick picture, and realized that the shark was getting really close, so I kicked it away with my fin!  So much for docile nurse sharks!  I then followed it, taking a couple pictures, but then it turned again coming straight for me!  I again kicked at it and it swam away.  I took a short video as it was swimming away, and I decided that I was done playing with it, as maybe it would get mad or something.  After reflection, I believe that it was just curious in me and was not trying to attack or anything.  Still, to see a 5 foot shark swimming directly toward you is a little unnerving.  I feel better after this experience, so next time maybe I will be more relaxed, maybe! 


The rest of the snorkel was excellent with some nice pictures.  The water was shallow with white sand, so the colors came out better. 


The other Mooring Charter boat with Allan as captain, picked up an anchor ball in front of us.  We actually moved to the other side of the island to see if this side was more protected than the side that we were on.  Allan asked if my mom and I wanted to eat dinner at the Hatchet Caye resort with the group, so of course we couldn't say no!  We had a great time talking with Allan and his wife Philicity.  They are from Africa, and both of they have great experience sailing and living on a boat.  We really enjoyed talking with them!  After dinner, we walked to a lighted pier and saw spotted devil rays swimming around.  It was really cool! 
 Allen and Philicity
 Audrey and Dale
 Blackened Grouper!
Grilled Grouper

I really didn't plan on saying anything about my mom's dinghy etiquette, but I can't hold my tongue any  longer.  I really think that she is doing these things to get attention, but who knows.  Tonight, for the third time since we have been on our adventure, she did face first, trip and dive over the front and to the bottom of the dingy!  I scored it at least a '9' out of '10'.  This dive, one of her best so far, had her feet sticking up in the air, and her face down in excellent form.  Of course there is no video or pictures to show off her skills, so you will have to take my word on it.  At least most of the dinghy is soft rubber, so no bones where broken.  I expected the group of Chileans to say something, but maybe they were focusing in not taking the plunge themselves, but no one said anything.  I just quietly backed up the dinghy, muttering something about my mom's balance issues, and we headed back to the boat.  Another bruise and another day in paradise.  Cruising with your mom can be interesting, to say the least!