Day 2- go to sunsail at 8, and ask for earlier chart briefing. Eventually, they relent and say okay to 2p. We rent golf carts and go to town for breakfast at Wendy's (not the fast food joint), which is terrific on the outdoor deck just as a downpour begins. Jen and Jake ordered fried jacks, fried dough stuffed with eggs, cheese, beans and ham. The fruit and fruit juice are delicious. Then, we go on a massive grocery shop to two stores and a fruit vendor. We buy some things we shouldn't (ice cream) and not enough of items we should (water). We get back in time for lunch at Habaneros and with time for Jen and willow to take a dip in the pool. We start the chart briefing at 2p. Diego runs through a bunch of destinations in no particular order. We learn that a bunch of the go-to anchorages are now off-limits because of a three-month-old law that says you need a belizean captain onboard. We get the boat briefing very quickly and then Diego takes us out into placencia lagoon and out to the town anchorage. He puts down one anchor right at dark. We dinghy into a restaurant for dinner and say goodbye to Diego. As we get back to the dinghy, the rain comes down in sheets and we wait. Then, back to the boat for a good night.
Day 3- we wake up at 630 and make breakfast. We get going around 9 and head to wippari cay. Our first snorkel is a success. Willow snorkels for 45 mins and Jen tries out her new underwater camera. After snorkeling, Elliott, Bonnie, willow go back to boat and Jen and jake go to the cay and find the geocache. Jen is the first to find! The woman on the island tells us to go slow and appreciate the beauty. We decide not to follow the advice and sail east to hatchet, which is highly recommended. We arrive to find the resort closed. And, really, there's nothing on hatchet except for the resort, so this is a bummer. Elliott buys a giant, dirty bag of ice and we go back to the boat, which is on a mooring buoy and not particularly protected. We sleep after a dinner of BBQ chicken.
Day 4- willow wakes up at 545a and Jen and jake decide to get going while others are still asleep. We head north toward rendezvous and north long cocoa cays. Getting there is a big challenge, with unmarked coral heads and a difficult entrance. Turns out, rendezvous is private with a wall around it, so we go to north long cocoa cay. It is terrific! It's private but accepts visitors. Good snorkeling first with some good fish and so-so coral (opposite of wippari). It ends abruptly when willow gets stung on the wrist and leg by a jellyfish. Ouch! Then, to shore, where there is our first real white-sand beach. We hang out for 3 hours or so and play on the beach and in the warm water (85degrees!). We walk out to a gazebo in the water for a lovely view. We also call sunsail to come fix the freezer and dinghy davits. They come and fix and bring us some ice. We realize we cannot spend the night there and reluctantly head northeast. After some difficult navigating, we get into a group of mangrove islets called, "pelican cay" - which is an odd name because we see no pelicans and there are 8 cays each with its own name. We head up to the top and anchor in 60 feet of water- the deepest anchorage around. It is also very protected. We wonder whether it is worth snorkeling around mangroves, but try it and it's very good! Lots of fish (millions) school around the mangrove roots. Very cool. We go on a long dinghy ride to cat key, willow falls asleep and Elliott and Bonnie decide it is getting too dark. Back to the boat for steak dinner. We realize we are in trouble: we are almost out of drinking water! We sleep very well as the boat barely moves. One note: sunsail says you have to use two anchors. One is on an electric windlass and the other is not. We toss the other one, not even sure it hits the bottom. But, keep note of the necessary 2nd anchor for later.
Day5- we wake up early again, at sunrise. We wake up Elliott (Bonnie is already awake) and we zig zag back south out of pelican. We then get out into Victoria channel and put up the main (no small feat) and sail north on a beam reach. We take a hard right into blueground range, another group of mangrove islets. The entrance has a bar that is 5 ft deep. We anchor in blue ground and go for a snorkel. Jake jumps off the dinghy and almost right onto a huge black urchin. Turns out, the seas are too rough for a group snorkel. We go to a calmer area with not much to see and snorkel. It's still terrific to get out of the heat.
We pull up anchor and head east to Carrie bow island, a perfect little patch of carribean sand with palm trees on it. We anchor in a rather unsettled anchorage (after dodging coral heads) and snorkel. It is very shallow next to the island and willow gives up quickly, preferring to be pulled around on a raft until she falls asleep and rolls off the raft (rude awakening). We then go ashore and the island is owned by the Smithsonian. There is a permanent resident, a local cook and an American manager. The American managers get three weeks on the island per year to manage it and they rotate out. The guy who is there when we arrive is a retired autoworker who made pontiacs. He gives us an extensive tour and willow plays with huge hermit crabs. We also see a nurse shark.
We pull up anchor and head to the island next door, south water cay. Turns out, it has an open restaurant. We anchor in 6ft of water with two anchor and go ashore. We walk around, take photos of the barrier reef and then have drinks on a dock in Adirondacks. Dinner is surprisingly good, with lobster and spinach. We also buy 11 gallons of water at 7-11 prices. We sleep soundly in the gentle anchorage.
Day 6- we stick around and have a leisurely breakfast of pancakes. Then, we split up, with Bonnie going to shore and the rest going to snorkel. We realize the seas are rough, willow gets unhappy, and we take her back to the beach. A long dinghy ride later, we pull up next to a snorkeling boat and figure they must know something we don't. We're right. Much better snorkeling- probably the best of the trip- in deepish water near Carrie bow. We see barracuda, a stingray, and many fish. Then, back to the beach where Bonnie and willow are playing. We all play for a bit, then back to the dinghy. We ask some guys on the dock if they have fish to sell and they sell a barracuda. We have no idea whether it will taste good. We pull up anchor and head south, back through blueground and down Victoria channel to lagoon cay. On the way, the wind picks up and the seas do, too. There are storms in the skies. We pull into a difficult anchorage at lagoon, throw the anchor and realize that we're in a chop. After much debate, we decide to stay the night, but move the boat. We start moving the boat and almost run aground. We re-anchor twice. It's not a comfortable anchorage, but we are shielded from the worst of the 25kt wind. We throw the 2nd anchor and then go for a dingy ride in the lagoon. If there wasn't a three foot reef, this lagoon would make a perfect anchorage. Oh well. We see nothing except a few splashes and maybe a turtle in the lagoon. Back to the boat where we sit down to a magnificent dinner. Barracuda, slaw (Jen made great slaw!) and fried plantains (also Jen made). We go to sleep rocking back and forth.
Day 7- at 4a, jake's anchor alarm goes off. At first, he assumes it must be a GPS problem, but there's a big thunderstorm outside and he goes to investigate with Jen closely behind. As we turn on the boat GPS, it becomes immediately clear that we are dragging anchor. We've moved 100 yards, it's blowing 48kts and raining with thunder and lightning. The anchor catches again and we breathe a sigh of relief. That relief lasts for five minutes, when we pull free again and all of a sudden, we are in 95ft water. Uh oh. Elliott goes to the bow and pulls up the main anchor while jake tries to maneuver the boat in huge winds and a tight anchorage. We get the boat back in, re-drop the anchor but it doesn't catch. Jen takes the helm, while jake and Elliott deal with the anchors. It becomes clear that the two anchors are intertwined and cannot be easily moved. She gets us to a 9ft patch and we re-drop anchor. It catches! We don't know how long it will stay caught but the wind is now down to 19 kts. Jake and Elliott stay in the cockpit waiting for daylight while Jen and Bonnie go back to bed. At about 630, Jen takes the helm again while jake and Elliott try to puzzle out the anchor situation-- it's quite a problem. The rode is tangled in the chain, the chain is actually knotted (!), and the chain of anchor 1 is wrapped around anchor 2. Jake pulls up both anchors by hand (this takes about 45 min) and then they start working on the chains. Meanwhile, we head to the next anchorage, forgetting about the dinghy on the davits. It flips over, dumping the gas tank into the water. Elliott lifts it while jake get the gas with a boat hook. Finally, dinghy ready and anchor/chain fixed. Only two hours after sunrise!
We get going in heavy wind and seas. And it gets worse: seas 4-7ft and 20-25kts. Oh, and rain. But it is still beautiful and warm! We decide to skip all day stops and go straight to ranguana cay, which has mooring balls and a mostly-protected anchorage. We get there at 11. It is beautiful! We go ashore and spend the whole day on the beach with clouds and rain. Desiree the cook on the island makes us dinner. Desiree's partner on the island is a fisherman/handyman named demby. He has a big net and invites us to watch while he throws it from the beach. It lands about 3 feet from shore and he pulls in 40 sardines (of note: the pelicans have also figured out where the sardines are and have been diving for them all day). Willow touches a fish and screams, appropriately. Then, we look at the boat and can see it really rocking back and forth. Bonnie decides to check out a room on the island and it's actually quite beautiful! She gets the room for the night. We all have a terrific dinner of red snapper and coconut rice (willow got to see a coconut being opened, drained, and shaved). After dinner, most of us head back to the boat for the night. Luckily, we are both on a mooring buoy and have an anchor out, because it blows at 50kts. Bonnie's hotel room (shack on stilts) shakes, too. Rough night, but we hold steady.
Day 8- wake up and go to shore with cereal and bowls to eat on shore. The anchorage is too rough for eating. We eat and wander the island. It's raining on and off. One truly awesome thing: in the overnight storm, a turtle hatched and Demby found it. He put it in a bucket for willow to see (and so a pelican wouldn't eat it). We get to see the baby turtle and Demby lets Willow bring the turtle to water's edge to set it free. (Wow!) oh, willow named the turtle, "Abby."
Jen, jake, and Elliott decide to go for a snorkel. It's pretty good! Visibility is only 15 feet because of the storms, but we see lobster and lots of fish. The water is getting choppier and we decide we should get going. It takes us a while to say goodbye to ranguana and its inhabitants (and willow is just having the most terrific time on the beach). We eventually get going and we are about 3 miles out of ranguana when the engine temp light goes on for the starboard engine. We turn it off and see that the raw water intake pump is not brining in any water to cool the engine. We get on the VHF but sunsail doesn't answer. We try again every five minutes until we get a static-filled response that we cannot hear. Meanwhile, seas have built and we're in 4-8 foot seas with 15-30kt winds. We put up the jib and do a one-engine motor sail averaging 4kts. We drop our plans to go to any more destinations and head for Lark Cay, which is supposed to be very protected. We eventually hail sunsail and (with some Jen-insistence), they send a couple of guys out. When the guys arrive, the mechanic realized our winch remote is broken and fixes the engine. Luckily, the engine fix involves many tools and a belt. Why luckily? Because if it was easy, we would have felt silly.
We eventually get to Lark Cay, and it is VERY protected from the northeast wind (which is blowing hard at 25kts by now). We anchor 3 times to get the anchor to set. We also much more carefully set the 2nd anchor so it doesn't cross the main anchor. Then, we go for a semi-rainy dinghy ride into the lagoon. We see nothing, realize that mangroves just aren't our thing, and go back to the boat. This may be a good time to mention that we haven't seen the sun all day and the temp has dropped 10degrees or so.
We make dinner- sausage spaghetti with zucchini. There's a long debate over garlic bread, that doesn't get made and we eat. We discuss just how wonderfully calm the anchorage is, dooming ourselves... An hour later, as we are about to fall asleep, the wind shift and all of a sudden, the wind blows us toward the mangroves. Also, we are now in chop and the boat is lightly bucking.
Day 9 - The day begins at 12:22a - with the anchor alarm going off. Jake goes outside to find driving rain, 40kt wind, and the boat spinning. The anchor has slipped a little, maybe, but we are held solidly in place. Jake stays up the rest of the night, starting the engines every now and hen to keep of off the mangroves. At 6a, a big thunderstorm blows through (note: there has not been a break in the rain since 6p) and shifts the wind to south! South is the only direction from which we have NO protection. We wake up Elliott and decide to pull up the anchors. Jen takes the helm (rain so strong, she has to wear willow's goggles, which is pretty funny - even in the moment). Jake and Elliott pull the 2nd anchor up by hand. It takes about 20 mins. The the windlass slips on the main anchor and they have to pull it up mostly by hand. Ugh. But, it works! And off we go.
Jen makes a spectacular breakfast of pancakes, bacon, kiwi, eggs, and juice. We head back to sunsail base, anchor along the way to eat,and then head in and return the boat.