South to Belize

Outside the Xcalak Pass
Outside the Xcalak Pass

No one wanted to grab the cameras as we were launching ourselves out through the pass at Xcalak, so we’ll have to leave those few moments of horror to your imagination. Darnell took these two photos as we sailed south from Xcalak to Belize. The waves had moderated quite a bit by the time I rolled out the jib, and our heading put us just a bit off the wind. We’re sailing along under reefed main and jib, making about 9 knots and covering some serious miles to the southwest. We were about 100 yards away from Kashmir in these photos, and these waves are pretty small compared to those we encountered for the first hour or so.

Big Wind and Waves in the Yucatan Channel
Big Wind and Waves in the Yucatan Channel

I promised Joy that the waves would moderate and that the ride would be enjoyable as soon as we reached deeper water and turned to the southwest. I know she didn’t believe me for about the first hour, maybe more, as the winds were still up around 20 true, on the nose as we headed out. Once offshore a bit, Joy began to think we might live to see another day. I grabbed her iPod, plugged her in, and helped her forget about the winds for awhile. I assured her that once we got in the lee of Turneffe Islands, there would be no waves at all, and the rest our trip would be in flat water. She smiled, sort of.

Not so Happy
Not so Happy

All three boats, Hasta la Vista, Kashmir, and Ocean Angel, wanted to enter Belize at San Pedro, but a call to one of the marinas on shore produced the response I expected. We were told in no uncertain terms not to even think about entering the pass on that day as we would risk losing our boats on the reef if we did. So on we went. I made up my mind that Ocean Angel would travel the extra distance to enter the big ship channel to Belize Harbor, some 36 miles further south. We were making great time, and the further south we traveled, the smoother the water became. Hasta la Vista called to tell us they were going to attempt the next pass to the south, one that was wider and deeper, as they were not sure they would be going any further south. We said our goodbyes as they headed for Long Cay pass. Some time later they called again to let us know they were safe and we wished them well on the rest of their trip. Kashmir continued on with us, as the crew had reached a decision some time earlier that they were going to join us on our trip all the way to our southern most destination. All six crew on our two boats were smiling and happy about that decision. After all, good friends and good times are what life is all about.

Belize Harbor Light
Belize Harbor Light

Not long after we bade Hasta la Vista farewell, we sailed into the lee of Turneffe Islands. Almost as soon as we did the water went completely flat, and so did the wind. So reluctantly we rolled up the jib, started the iron genny, and puttered along at a measly 7 knots listening to the low pitched growl of our faithful Perkins. Before we knew it, we were crossing the paths of a few local fishing boats and shortly spied the harbor entrance lighthouse poking up through a grove of palm trees. From any distance in the daytime, this light is difficult to see, but when I plotted it out on the chart and took a compass bearing, there it was, right where it belonged. We were still moving fast enough that it seemed out of place, but it was my perception of space and time that was off. The entrance to Belize harbor is extremely wide and deep, marked by very large red and green buoys with excellent radar returns. Even though the marks are widely spaced, they are easy to find due to their size and the radar echo. It was like driving down a super highway.

Full Moon inside the reefs of Belize
Full Moon inside the reefs of Belize

We’d had a fairly long day and a brief discussion ended with the decision to anchor behind Water Cay, a pretty good sized island just a few miles in from the Caribbean Sea. That way, we wouldn’t have to deal with the hassle of formally entering the country late in the day on a week end. We could unwind, have a nice dinner on the grill, maybe swallow a cold cerveza or two, then head into Belize City in the morning sometime after breakfast.
The full moon rose that night behind the cay illuminating the entire harbor with its brilliance piercing the clear blue sky. This beautiful scenery made for a spectacular ending to the few difficult legs of our journey south. Light breezes whispered across the harbor; bird sounds faded away, and the cool, clear evening gave way to a gorgeous restful night, our first in many days.

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