Friday, January 31, 2014

Sailing to Wippari Cay, a Dolphin Visit, Snorkling, and back to Placencia Harbor

We stayed at Sittee Point for a couple nights, and then decided to head over to Wippari Cay for a few days.  The weather looked really nice, and I wanted to snorkel a little before heading into Placencia Harbor.  We enjoyed the anchorage at Sittee Point, as it allowed us to plan our next steps in a comfortable anchorage. 
Another beautiful sunset at Sittee Point, Belize
Our mood improved at the thought of heading over to Wippari Cay.  Wippari Cay was the first Cay that we traveled to on our maiden voyage, back in August 2013.  I remembered how difficult the first trip was, as I was leaning about the boat, and it was the first time that I sailed any large catamaran by myself.  Now we have a lot more experience under our belts.  Mom is the expert at running the windlass and anchoring, and I do most of the navigation and sailing.  It has proven to be a good team!  On top of that, Mom is an excellent cook, so we are not exactly suffering out here :)! 
Breakfast, before heading to Wippari Cay
We raised the main sail while on anchor, as this is an easy way to get the mainsail up, without worrying about keeping the boat pointed into the wind.  It also give me more time to raise the sail.  We can only do this if we have a clear anchorage, as once we get the anchor up, we will start to sail. 
We had a very nice sail into Wippari Cay.  It was about 20 NM trip, taking about 4 hours.  We averaged about 5 knots with full sails up.  On the way, we were accompanied by a couple of dolphins, who really liked riding our bows!  This was the first time that we had dolphins actually ride our bows for any amount of time!  It was excellent!  Mom sat in one bow chair and I in the other and we watched the dolphins just a few feet below!  I took a few pictures, and we enjoyed the incredible experience.  At times, they would roll on to their side, looking up at you!  We always enjoy seeing dolphins, but this was memorable. 

We arrived at Wippari Cay, just after lunch!  We had to go around Viper Rocks and a couple of shallow spots that were not on the charts, but made it just fine.  There are two free mooring balls at Wippari Cay, so mom grabbed the banner to one of the balls and tied us up!  It was so easy this time, but the first time, back in August, we were much more nervous! 
Wippari Cay

Small dock and restaurant on Wippary Cay

Google Earth view of Wippari Cay - Look at all of the reefs for us to explore!
We enjoyed the afternoon, relaxing and getting ready for the next day's snorkeling.  I pulled up Google Earth, and saved a screen shot of our area.  It looks like there are many reefs, just east of Wippari that we can explore tomorrow.  I was also on the hunt for lobster, before the season closes next month. 
The next morning, we decided to hit some of the reefs that were north east of Wippari Cay.  We like trying to go to places that are not on the cruising guide, as maybe we will see more lobsters or other animals.  This has proven to be true in other areas that we have travelled. 
Mom and I went to two places, before calling it for lunch.  We were able to catch a couple of lobster at one place, and saw many nice coral reefs and plants.  There were deep drop offs around the shallower reefs, which was a little creepy, not able to see the bottom.  It seemed like most of the animal life and hard coral was on the west side of these reefs, so in the future I will remember that, in my search for lobster!  Mom found a really nice conch, but we ended leaving it there, as we hate killing them.  We also had a couple of lobsters for dinner, so we were good! 
Dale heading back to the dinghy with two lobsters!

Lobster peeking out of his hole!

One lucky and freed Conch  

Spanish Mackerel

Small Reef Crab

Beautiful designs on a jelly fish
After lunch, I headed out on my own and snorkeled a couple other spots.  I was able to catch one really ugly crab, and almost caught another larger one.  The larger one's body was the size of a large dinner plate, with legs and claws even larger.  It was down about 15 feet of water, and when I hooked him with my lobster pole, it drug me and the pole down deeper into his hole.  I had to leave the pole and swim to the surface to get a breath.  I then headed down, but realized, that he was too large to pull out of the hole, and too strong, so I unhooked my pole, and left him alone.  I am not sure that I wanted to meet him face to face, as he was huge!  The hunter could become the hunted, so I left him alone in his hole. 
I found a couple other really nice coral formations, but in both of them there was a large moray eel that came out and greeted me!  They can be aggressive, and these aren't the tame ones that we saw back in Hol Chan Marina Reserve.  They both came out showing their teeth, as I was just a few feet from them, looking for lobsters!  Ok, I will look in other places then!  I didn't get any pictures, as I only had my lobster stick at the time.  I did see a couple of lobsters, but they were small, so I left them to grow up.  I then headed back to the boat with my one reef crab.
An ugly fuzzy, but tasty Reef Cab
We then boiled the lobster and the large reef cab in some spicy water!  We enjoyed an excellent dinner, and the reef crab, although really ugly and fuzzy, had the sweetest taste.  As normal with us eating lobster or crab, there were only some shells left for the fish under the boat!
I was sitting outside after eating dinner, and I saw running lights just behind us!  It had been dark for an hour or so, and no one sails here after dark!  It looked like they were heading over for the south east side of the island, which there is a large reef there, so I tried to call them on the VHF radio.  Since Moorings doesn't allow their boats to travel after dark, I switched over to channel 16 and hailed them, but nothing.  I finally switched back over to channel 74, the one that Moorings uses, and they answered!  Wow, I couldn't believe that a charter boat came out here in the dark, crazy!  I told them that there was an extra mooring ball just ahead of me, and it would be better to tie to the mooring, than try to anchor.  After some discussion, they finally motored over on the port side of me and to the mooring ball.  Wow, I am sure that in the morning they are going to freak out when they see what they traveled through in the dark! 
The next morning I went over and visited with them.  It turned out that it was their first night out, and they got a late start out of the Moorings dock.  They were excited about their week on the boat, and were heading off for Hatchet or Ranquana Cays later in the morning.  They were all from Canada and I will keep the boat name anonymous, as I don't want to get anyone in trouble with the Moorings.  I hope they have a safer week, than their first night!
We stayed another day on Wippari Cay and enjoyed the scenes.  The weather was going to change, and the wind was supposed to come from the north west.  So, we decided to head back into the Placencia Harbor to be in a calm anchorage for the cold front that was supposed to come in. 
We ended up motor sailing most of the way to Placencia.  The seas were calm with very little wind.  We came into the harbor and here were already about 16 boats anchored.  We found a spot, without any close neighbors and set the anchor.  Tonight the wind was supposed to swing around to the north west, so we were in a perfect spot to handle the 180 degree swing. 
Placencia Village
All of the boats facing East!
Paradise Resort and Yoli's Bar in the distance
We then dropped the dinghy and headed into the new dinghy dock!  We went to Mom's favorite Chinese restaurant and ate their Broccoli Chicken!  As always it was excellent!  We were both amazed at how much Placencia had changed in just two months!  The new dock had a dinghy dock added, which was a huge improvement from the old dinghy dock that is falling apart!  This was the dock that the board broke, almost dumping mom into the water!  We also walked down the new sidewalk from the new dock, seeing new restaurants and shops.  The city had come to life since we were here back in November!  We bought a few vegetables and headed back to the boat.
Well, the Belize weather forecasters really missed their forecast this time, as I woke up to south west winds and swells!  The winds were light, but the swells were large, coming directly into the anchorage.  All of the boats were swaying in the swells, and I am sure no one was enjoying the weather!  It was total opposite than the forecast, with sunny skies and wind from the opposite direction! 
The boat with the clanging halyard o the right!

All of these boat are now facing us, total opposite than yesterday!

Finally that night things calmed out, and the anchorage was back to normal.  I felt sorry for the mono hulls anchored, as they really were rolling around.  There was also a boat anchored next to us that didn't have anyone on board.  There was a loose halyard that had pulled a metal plate, and was constantly clanging!  I am sure that they owners will not be happen then they return and find out that their gel coat was beaten up!  They should have someone watch their boat, if they are going to leave it anchored unattended. 
We will probably head down to Monkey Cay to see some new friends that are house sitting at the Stepping Stones Resort!  We will probably return to Placencia Harbor to watch the Super Bowl at the Paradise Resort on Sunday! 
Happy Sailing from MokaKat!!!


Tuesday, January 28, 2014

A Hard Day Sailing - Fighting High Winds and a Cold Front

Our original plan was to hang out at Colson Cay during the cold front that was heading our way.  I found some secret lobster holes last time that we were here, so I was looking forward to anchoring in the protected side, and enjoy catching and eating some lobster!  Again, our plan didn't work out so well!
A couple of pelicans came by when we were anchored at Water Cay. 
They didn't like the bread that we gave them!

So, after enjoying a nice anchorage at Water Cay, we headed south to one of my favorite cays, Colson Cay.  We had a nice sail under full sails, running around 5 knots most of the day.  We cut over to the east side just north of Alligator Cay.  I don't like going through the pass at Colson, if we can keep from it as the water is very shallow.  We also lost our track files, so the next time through the pass will be without any reference to our tracks.  The last time that we waited out some rough weather here, the wind was from the Northwest, so we thought that it would be a safe place to anchor.  This front was coming more north and possibly east, so I started to be concerned when we arrived and our anchorage looked a little rough.  At the time, I thought that it was just a wind shift, so we anchored on the south side, but exposed to the east.  We had a good night, and planned on spending the next day or two hunting for lobster!
Sailing to Colson Cays under cloudy skies

Colson Cays and pass

Sunset at Colson Cays

After a little rolly night, I woke up early and realized that the front that was going to hit today and will be more directly from the north and not north west.  Our anchorage would not be safe in these conditions.  So before I could make coffee, I pulled up the anchor and motored through the shallow pass into the deeper waters of the inner channel.  Mom woke up as I was running the windlass to bring up the anchor, and she helped spot our travel though the shallow pass.  Unfortunately, we also ran out of propane, and I hadn't made coffee yet.  Once under way, I swapped out the propane bottles, and made coffee.  What a lousy start to the day!  Besides, the wind was gusting over 20 knots, and the clouds were rolling in.

We decided to head over to the Fly Range, to Hutson Cay.  From the cruising guide, it looked protected from the north winds.  It was also close to the open channel, so we wouldn't have to dodge too many reefs in the rough water.  We sailed with just the jib, as we had plenty of wind, and we had been in a hurry to leave Colson Cays.  We sailed for about two hours, running 5 to 7 knots in 20 knots of wind.  We arrived in a couple hours and it looks like a beautiful anchorage with a small beautiful resort. 
Beautiful Resort at Hutson Cay

The anchorage was a little tight, with reefs on all sides.  We anchored, pointing north, with spectators watching from the resort.  Our first anchor set didn't hold, and I was able to drag the anchor, so we had to anchor again.  This time I went in really close to the reef to drop the anchor, and it finally set.  This was perfect!!!!  The water was calm, and we were happy to relax a little with such a nice resort and lots of reefs to explore!  We were planning on later checking out the resort to see if we could eat dinner there. 

As we finally got settled from our sail and anchoring, the self proclaimed Mayer of The Fly Range, Harry, paddled over and introduced himself.  We invited him aboard and we talked for a while.  We ended up traded some rice, corn beef hash, and a beer for 5 small lobsters.  The lobsters were a little small, so we decided to have them for lunch.  Harry was an interesting guy to talk to, giving us his opinion about many things. 
Harry, the Mayor of the Fly Range

We then cooked the lobster and started to eat our lunch.  I just finished my first lobster, when I noticed that the wind had shifted to the east.  Our boat was only 20 feet from some shallow coral heads!  Yikes!!!  So much for a peaceful lunch!!! 
We then realized that as hard as the wind was blowing, that it was going to really be difficult to get our anchor up, as I had to head sideways to the wind and thread between a shallow cut in the reefs!  I am sure that we put on a good show for the tourist at the resort, as I was running both engines hard to keep the boat off of the reefs, but move forward enough to pick up chain and our anchor.  At the last, the anchor broke free, allowing us to pull up the anchor in a little deeper water!  Just when we thought that we were going to relax all day!!!  What happened to the North winds????
After picking up our anchor, we motored around the Fly Range looking for a safe place to anchor.  There just wasn't any place that looked good enough to give it a try, with 20 knots of wind coming from the northeast.  We also didn't have much day left if we needed to head further south for a safer anchorage.  So we headed out into the deep water of the channel, and headed south, and reviewed the cruising guide for our next anchorage.

After reviewing all of our options, we decided to head over to the mainland, to Sittee Point. The waters were rough, as the wind was blowing 20 knots and greater.  We were on a nice broad reach, with only the jib up running about 5 to 6 knots.  I was concerned about arriving after dark to a new anchorage, so I ran the motors a little to gain a couple more knots whenever the wind slacked alittle. 

It then started to rain, topping off a tough day.  We arrived to Sittee Point just before dark, in the pouring rain.  We were happy to see calmer waters and no reefs!!!  After anchoring, it continued to rain for most of the night.  We were cold and wet, but happy we were finally anchored somewhere safe!  We were both disappointed that we were not able to explore the Fly Range.  We will remember it for the next time that we head north, hopefully in more settled weather!  This was a tough day sailing on MokaKat!
We stayed at Sittee Point for a couple of days, trying to improve the mood of the crew.  The disappointment of not staying at Hutson Cay hung heavy, plus the dreary weather.  We discussed the day and what we could have done to improve it, but at the end, we chalked it up to experience.  In my mind, the poor decision to anchor at Colson Cays was the catalyst for the bad day.  It didn't provide the protection from the Northeast high winds.  On the positive side, we made good decisions after that, but had to deal with shifting high winds, and rain. 
We ate fried snapper and enjoyed a beautiful sunset, knowing that there would be better days ahead!

Happy Sailing from MokaKat!

Good Bye San Pedro - Heading South - San Pedro to Water Cay


We stayed in San Pedro for several days, renewing our boat and personal immigration visas and waiting out a northern front.  Immigrations is easy to do it here, as you just walk about two blocks from the TMM dock.  We need to renew our visas every 30 days, which is a real pain in the butt for us long term cruisers.  In other places in the country, you have to take a long dingy ride and a taxi, or a long bus.  Even though the immigrations was easy here, we also need to pay for our boat cruising permit.  We try to keep both in sync so that we don't have to pay any penalties at checkout.  The port captain was a different story, so I had to hire a taxi to drive about four miles to their office.  It was a long four miles through rough roads and mud puddles!  I was glad that I was in a taxi.  Also, some parts of the town were very run down and would not be the safest for me to walk.  The port captain was very nice, and we caught up out cruising permit for the next month.  We have to pay $5 B ($2.50 US) per day to have the boat stay in Belize waters.  This is on top of a $25 US per month, per person, personal visa.
Beautiful water and city of San Pedro

Other catamarans at anchor with us at San Pedro
We were able to watch a junior regatta on a Sunday afternoon!  They put out some starting buoys and another one about a mile away!  The kids are from 8 to 12 and really know how to sail.  As you can imagine, trying to round up all of the boats for a start was difficult, as the kids were really enjoying the day.  At the last, they all lined up, and the race started!  They looked like they had a great time during the race.

Trying to round up all of the kids!

Get Ready, GO!!!!

And they are off!!!

The rolly anchorage finally got the best of us, and we were ready to head back to Cay Caulker.  We had an easy sail to Cay Caulker and anchored next to s/v Hellion and our friend Drew.  We were able to stock up on cases of cokes and beer, ice, and got our clothes cleaned.  There was another northern coming in, so we needed to head south to find a more protected anchorage. 

Our plan was to head out the pass just south of Cay Chapel.  This would be our first time to be outside the barrier reef.  We would then sail down to the ship channel, and anchor at Water Cay.  At least that was the plan.  After passing Cay Chapel, I headed directly east toward the pass.  We had about 2 miles of shallow water before arriving at the pass.  The wind picked up to 20 knots, and we were now on a beam reach, pushing our speed past 7 knots!  Yikes!, the large waves, shallow water, and high boat speed started making me nervous.  Mom was sitting on the front looking for coral heads and shallow water.  It was hard to see anything except rough water and waves, so I finally turned around and headed back the way that we came.  This pass will have to wait until a calmer day, at least for my first time out the pass.  We were disappointed in not going out the pass, but safety is always number 1.

We then sailed down through Porto Stuck pass and Swallow Cay pass without any issues.  We headed over to Water Cay, anchoring on the south west side of the cay.  There were already four cruise liners at anchor in the distant. 
Tower at Porto Stuck Pass

Fishing hut at Porto Stuck Pass

We were joined for a few minutes by a couple of dolphins!

Local fishing boat passed going north

Once we were anchored, our friend Wayne, who lives on the island, paddled over for a chat.  He was the same guy that paddled over in the dark when Blake was with us and about scared me to death.  It was really a dark night, and he paddled up next to the boat as we were cleaning a fish, and said hello!  I think that I jumped a foot!!! 
We talked with him for a while and gave him some food.  He lives in the house at the end of the island over the water.  Since it is not technically on the island, he is allowed to stay there, but he can not go ashore.  He has a little solar charger, a battery, a small TV, and a small light.  He cooks on a propane stove.  He gets supplies from fishing boats that come back and forth from Belize City.  It's crazy to see his little house and then see the huge cruise liners, with an incredible amount of electricity, lights, and food, passing almost every evening and morning.
Our friend Wayne paddling up to our boat

Wayne paddling back to his house over the water

Huge cruise ships heading out to sea, after a day stop in Belize

We watched the cruise lines head out to sea, just as it was getting dark.  I still enjoy seeing these huge ships and the hundreds of tourist cruise by.  They are all lit up, probably using more electricity than a small city.  One of my friends from back at work, Tommy, is supposed to be on a cruise ship heading to Belize.  We were thinking he may be on one of the four ships, but after emailing him, it will be next week before he will be here. 

We enjoyed a nice dinner and watched the cruise ships head out to sea. 

Happy Sailing from MokaKat!