Thursday, January 16, 2014

Colson Cays, Boat Friends, and Sailing Back to San Pedro

1/09/2014 Cucumber Beach Marina to Colson Cays

After staying in the marina for 8 days we were finally ready to head back out to the cays!  We ended up staying two extra days in the Marina because of a cold front with high winds, rain, and colder temps.  Our friends on Avengo were out in Twin Cays and they saw 35 knots of wind, so we were happy paying for a couple of days more. 
We were also happy that we have new house batteries, and our solar panel was charging them fully during sunny days!  This is a big relief, as our refrigerator and freezer will stay cold and frozen. 

The last task to do before we head out was to top off our diesel tanks.  We haven't filled up since Guatemala, and we need about 30 gallons.  The marina manager asked us to back into a slip that was across the marina, and they would bring the fuel truck over for us.  Unfortunately, just as we backed out from our slip, the wind kicked up, running sideways to our boat.  When I was trying to come across to the new slip, the gust caught us, and started to push us into a large steel commercial boat.  I quickly ran over to the port side, grabbed a bumper, and put it between our boats.  I had to walk with it, as the wind pushed us back out into the clear water.  I hate docking!!!!  Once clear of the boat, we  motored down by the swimming area, and did a 180, coming back into the marina.  We found another slip at the back of the marina that was more protected from the wind and finally docked our boat.  I was still shaking from the experience.  Luckily, we had no damage, except my pride and the knots in my stomach.   
Good bye Cucumber Beach Marina!

After refueling, 33 gallons, and $175 later, we headed out.  Since the wind was high again today, we just put up the jib, and headed to Colson Cays, about 20 NM away. We averaged about 5 to 6 knots, but with a beam reach, the waves were hitting our side, creating a rolling effect.  Mom felt a little wheezy, the first time on the boat.  Once we improved our angle to the wind, heading more east, the wave action was better.  Mom started feeling better soon after that.
Either a shipwreck or abandoned ship.  Either way it was an eye sore! 

We cut to the east side of the cays between Alligator Cay and The Blue Range Field.  I like this route better than the thin water pass at Colson Cay Pass.  As we were passing Alligator Cay, we heard on the VHF radio a call out for the catamaran sailing by Alligator Cay, so I answered.  It turns out it was Felicity, one of the TMM charter catamarans.  It seems that they ran aground on a sand bar, somewhere on the east side of Long Cay.  That side of Long Cay was were we had to dodge many sandbars and coral heads earlier last month, so not my favorite for going back!  I ended up calling Simon, the manager of TMM on our cell phone, to see what can be done.  At the same time, our friends on Neytiri, Chuck and Deb, also heard the call, and they were going over with their dinghy to see if they could help.  I talked to Simon, but they had another catamaran grounded and it would be the next day before help could come.  We continued our sail to Colson Cays, and to meet up with our friends on Avengo, Glen and his brother Don.  It turned out that Chuck and the guy on Felicity were able to pull the catamaran off of the sand, freeing them.  Felicity then anchored close to Neytiri in the Blue Range Field, north of Alligator Cay.

I ended up eating dinner on Avengo with Glen, his brother and their friend.  We exchanged stories, and he was interested in the solar power install on MokaKat.  They just bought their boat, a Lagoon 42, and will take possession of it in September from TMM.  I was impressed with Glens sailing experience, as he has crossed the Atlantic twice and sailed to Australia.  He also met Seth and Jamie from Slapdash, one of my first blogs that I read, when they did their circumnavigation on a Gemini 3200.  (

I returned to MokaKat and crashed about 10:00.  Another nice day in Belize!


Avengo left early this morning, heading north toward San Pedro.  I believe they had to return back to the States in the next few days.  After a lazy morning, I headed over by dinghy to the snorkeling place that Blake, mom, and I went to just east of Colson Cays.  I was on the hunt for lobsters!  The water was a little cloudy, because of all of the high winds from the west.  I found a couple of lobsters, but they were a little small, and I passed on them.  I also went to a new spot that was further north.  It was amazing, with deep water just off the reefs.  I didn't find any lobsters to catch, but had a nice snorkel. 

Mom had cooked a large pot of black beans with chicken and bacon for dinner.  There was a fishing boat that anchored next to us, so I asked them if they wanted to share some black beans.  Of course, so one guy came over and we gave him a plastic container with half of our pot of beans.  I think that there were 6 or 8 guys on their small boat.  They gave us a lobster tail and some conch, a nice trade.  After a few minutes, the guy came back returning the plastic bowl and asked for some hot sauce and some oil.  We gave him both, as we had plenty.  We like these guys out here, as it is just the fishing boats and the catamarans out here.  We like to stay on the good side of our new friends. 
It is amazing that 8 guys live for a week at a time on this little sailboat.  There are 8 guys and about 5 dories aboard.  They put up a tarp for rain protection and they sleep on the deck.  You could hear them laughing and having a good time, as they enjoyed their life and freedom on the waters of Belize.
 Our fishing friends coming into the protected side of Colson Cays

Our new neighbors at anchor, putting up their red tarp for rain protection
Sunset over Colson Cays

We had an excellent meal of beans, and watched the beautiful sunset!  It's nice to be back out on the reefs and to see sunsets again.  Another great day on MokaKat.


In the morning, one of the fishermen came over and asked if we had any medicine for an infection.  He had cut his foot on coral and had two, inch long gashes.  He foot was red and swollen, and he really needed to see a doctor.  He said that they were not going to be able to see a doctor for a week, since they were so far out.  I ended giving him some antibiotics, some band aids, and some Polysporin.  I really didn't want to give him the antibiotics, but in this situation, he could be in trouble if he didn't get help.  I guess it was my call, as I felt it was serious enough, the captain gets stuck making these decisions.  I went over the rules of using the antibiotics and I hope he does fine and his foot improves quickly.  He also asked for some coffee for breakfast, which we also had.  They sailed south soon after, in search of more lobster, fish, and conch.

We then pulled up anchor and motored out to the east snorkeling spot with Neytiri, and anchored close to the reef.  We all enjoyed a very nice snorkel on a couple spots there.  On one spot, on the north side, the water drops off, and the fish and coral were excellent.  I found one nice lobster on the very first coral head, and didn't find any more. 
Neytiri anchored next to us by the reef

One of our favorite snorkeling spots, east of the Colson Cays 

The first and only lobster caught that day!

Beautiful coral heads

Crew of Neytiri and their dink
We had an excellent snorkel, and headed back through the Colson Cay pass, and thin water, to anchor on the west side, as the wind had shifter to the south east.  After anchoring, we were invited for happy hour on Neytiri, as the lady on Felicity brought over rum as a gift for helping them out of the sand.  Mom was too tired, so I motored over and enjoyed visiting with everyone.  The family that was charting Felicity was from Alaska and was having a great vacation, besides the day they went aground. 
Grilled Lobster

Mom fried some conch, and I grilled the whole lobster and the tail that the fishermen gave us.  We had an excellent dinner and I crashed hard early.  Another great day on MokaKat.

It turned out that there was four catamarans on the west side of Colson Cays, Neytiri, Felicity, and another Lagoon 380 with a couple from France.  We saw them in Cucumber Marina, but they only spoke French.  Everyone headed out in the morning to new cays, leaving us to enjoy the day.
Three other catamarans anchored
 Neytiri raising their main before heading out

Neytiri sailing south!   Good bye Chuck and Deb!
This morning I spent some time cleaning the stainless steel.  I am using the 3M polishing cream for the fiberglass, but it seems to work very nice on the stainless steel too.  I then hopped into the water to mark our anchor chain at 50 foot increments with a nylon tie.  The water here is about 6 feet deep, so marking the chain was easy.
I then went on a hunt for conch, as it was grassy around the boat.  I found a small coral head about 100 yards off of the boat with more than 10 lobsters under it!  I returned back to the boat and got the dinghy and my lobster stick.  I managed to catch two off of that coral head, as the others were too small.  I then drug the dinghy by the anchor looking for more coral heads.  I ended up finding several large coral heads and caught three more lobsters, one almost 2 pounds!  This was my personal record! 
I also managed to find 5 conch also, so I was really happy with my catch.  Mom started boiling the water for the lobster, while I tried to clean the conch.  We did so well with cleaning the conch when Blake was here.  I got the first one out, but the other four I made the mistake of pulling off the hard foot part, and then I couldn't get anything to pull them out.  One I finally busted the whole shell and finally got it.  One I finally gave back to the stingrays that were circling the boat, waiting for handouts.  The other two I put in the boiling waster after the lobsters were done, and finally was able to get them out.  Wow, I need a lesson in conch cleaning! 
Using a wrench and screwdriver to make a hole in the 3rd ring

This part of the cleaning I can is pulling the animal out that is the trick!  This was about the time that I told mom to quit taking pictures, as I was getting frustrated with the whole process, and I didn't need to record my conch cleaning meltdown!
Another lobster dinner!

I ate the two pound lobster and couldn't eat any more.  Mom worked on a couple smaller ones.  I was very tired and crashed early.  One of my best days on MokaKat!
Today we needed to head back north toward San Pedro.  We needed to be there on Thursday, so that on Friday morning we could renew our visas.  This is really a pain, to have to renew our visas every 30 days.  The best place to renew them is in San Pedro, as I can take the dinghy into the TMM dock, and walk two blocks to the immigration building.  We can also renew our visas in Belize City, Dangria, and Big Creek (Placencia), but they require an expensive taxi or bus ride.  So we like renewing in San Pedro better.  We also need to extend our boat cruising permit.  We paid forward until January 10th, but now need to extend it further, as we plan on staying in Belize for another couple of months. 
Since we saw Neytiri raise their main sail while on anchor, we decided to do the same.  It turned out to be very easy, plus allowed me to get the main up without any help, as the boat stayed pointed into the wind.  Once the anchor was raised, I just turned the boat a little away from the wind, and we sailed right out of the anchorage!
Our plan was to sail back to Water Cay, which was only 10 NM or so, an easy sail.  We put a reef in the main sail as we had some strong winds in the morning.  We were sailing between 5 and 6 knots with the reef  in, a very comfortable sail.
As we were passing Long Cay, the fishing reel started to sing!  Fish on!!!!  I ran over and grabbed the rod and set the hook, but the fish continued to take line!  I could start to see the end of the line, so I needed to slow the boat down.  I gave the pole to mom, and quickly turned the boat into the wind.  whew, I could see the spool through the little bit of line left!  I ended up fighting the fish for about 15 minutes.  It turned out to be a large Mutton Snapper.  I believe that we broke the boat record that Blake set back in December!  Sorry Blake!!!
Fighting the snapper!

Wow, this was a big fish!

Just after catching the fish, we started getting Internet from our new cellular based Smart Modem.  After posting the picture of the snapper on Facebook, I checked the weather.  It turns out that there is a strong north front coming and it will hit on Wednesday.  This changed our plan, so we need to make it to Cay Caulker tonight!  Wow, that is another 30 NM and two narrow passes away!  I calculated that we would arrive around 6 PM, if we can average 5 knots.  We then shook out the reef, and headed north.

This guy and a few of his friends escorted us for a few minutes!  This was the first good picture of a dolphin that I have been able to get since we arrived in Belize in August!
We had to motor sail for some of the way, as the winds died down a little.  We had to keep a 5 knot average to make it to Cay Caulker before dark.  At least it was going to be a full moon tonight, so it was a good night to make our first night anchoring.  We made the two passes easy, as we had track files from our earlier trips.  We watched for the fishing markers the best that we could in the failing light.  They are usually sticks that the fishermen stick into the sand to make their traps.  We had a beautiful sunset behind us as we headed north to Cay Caulker. 
Another beautiful sunset as we sailed to Cay Caulker
We arrived around 6:00 PM, but right on schedule.  It was dark, and hard to see the other boats, some which either didn't have a light, or it was too dim to see.  I finally found a spot between our friend Drew on s/v Hellion (yes, he is still there!), and another mono hull.   We dropped the anchor, cleaned up the boat, ate a light dinner, and crashed!  The snapper dinner will have to wait for another night Wow, we sailed 42 NM today, tying the boat record for a single day sail.  After three straight days of snorkeling and a long sailing day, I am ready for some rest!  Another great day on MokaKat!
I got up early and go the dinghy ready for some provisioning.  We can buy drinks by the case here in Cay Caulker, so we usually stock up.  Mom also went into town to get some fresh fruit and vegetables.  We got 3 cases of soft drinks, 2 cases of beer, and 2 cases of water!  It took three trips, counting picking up mom from the Dive dock.
We then headed north to San Pedro, trying to sail in light winds.  We ended up running the engines most of the way, as the wind would not cooperate, and we wanted to get our anchors down early today.  The seas were flat, and it was very interesting watching the sea floor a couple of feet under the keel of the boat.  We saw stingrays, starfish, and even a shark as we traveled.  We put the boat on autopilot and both of us were sitting on the bow, watching the sites.  It reminded me of Oklahoma, with a sandy terrain with tumble weeds as the grass and coral patches.  We tried to take some pictures of the beauty of the colors and shapes, but these pictures will not truly show the beauty.

We arrived to San Pedro and anchored just off of the TMM dock.  We knew that the storm was going to hit on the next day, so we anchored pointing north west.  I then took the dinghy out and set our secondary anchor at a 45 degree angle to our primary for additional holding power.  Of course the wind shifted and tangled the rodes, so I had to snorkel out and set them correctly.  We were ready for the front to hit, so we then enjoyed a great dinner of grilled snapper!  We are glad to be anchored for a few days and catch up on some rest.  Another great day on MokaKat!
We finally had our grilled snapper!  It was about a 4 pound slab of  fish, so we both had plenty!
1/15/2014 - 1/16/2014

The next morning I worked on the blog and we waited for the front to hit.  It started to rain early and the wind picked up in the afternoon. There were four catamarans anchored near us, including Felicity, returning back to the TMM dock.
Welcome to San Pedro! This guy came by early the a few yards off our port side!  I was working on the blog and heard a loud engine noise and saw only the side of the tugboat when I looked out the port windows!   Yikes!, can he get any closer?

Beautiful day after the northern front!
That night the northern front hit with it's full strength, with wind hitting over 30 knots, but our anchors held just fine!  I was up a couple of times during the night, but everything was fine.  We will relax for a few days and renew our visas before heading out again. 
Happy on MokaKat!   

1 comment:

  1. Great blog, Dale! Beautiful pictures of Neytiri! Glad we had some time with you and Augie!