December 19, 2010

Rio Dulce (Sweet River)

Hello Again,

Well I am spending a lazy Sunday afternoon catching up on my writing, I apologize to all our readers for leaving you with nothing to read for the last week.

We spent out last days in Belize heading south to the last town Punta Guorda. This is the last place to clear out of Belize and would serve as our hopping off point on our way to Honduras.

Before we left Belize we decided to take a trip to Rio Dulce, Guatemala a favorite spot for cruisers that spend summers there avoiding the Caribbean hurricanes. We fueled up Super Dink for the 35 mile trip to Guatemala! The first leg is 15 miles across the ocean to the entrance of the river. The mouth of the river is roughly 3/4 of a mile across and 6 to 7 feet deep. Livingston is positioned right at the mouth of the river. It is a fishing town with many fishing boats moored about. Continuing up the river we encountered many small dug-out canoes and small fishing boats. Life along the river looked timeless. Simple homes with thatched roofs built off the ground. The people here are friendly and everyone waves with a smile when you go by. After two miles the limestone banks of the river climb to 300 feet creating gorge. The river winds through the gorge and opens up to a lake over 2 miles wide. The lake goes for 8 miles before it narrows back to a river. Three more miles and you are arrive at Fonteras.

Fonteras is a market town. The streets are packed with vendors and the main highway goes right through it all. You have to be careful since the big trucks don't slow down much going through town. Fresh produce is available and fairy inexpensive. It seems the local diet consits of allot of corn and grains. There is fried chicken for sale from street vendors and little old ladies selling fresh tortillas.
We bought some fresh vegetables, local beer, and some other goodies. After seeing the town we loaded back in the dink for the journey back to Punta Gourda. It took two hours of bouncing over waves to get back to Downtime.

Guatemala is a beautifully country. The people are friendly and living is very inexpensive. All in all it is a great place to visit!!

Peace, the captain

Adios Belize !!!

Hello from Honduras!!

We cleared Belize on Sunday December 12th. Clearing out was about a big of circus as clearing in. The first stop clearing out is finding the right forms they require, a basic crew list. They sent us down the road to the only copy machine in town, closed on Sundays!! Off to the boat to print our own generic crew list. Then to Customs, being Sunday we went when the morning ferry was clearing passengers. There are no written clearing prices so it is a free for all. The first guy asked for $50 Belize! Belize dollars are 2-1 US. Then you have to pay departure tax, $30 per person. We gave the lady what money we had left in our pockets, but one twenty had a 1 inch rip. She said "No Good" hmmm back to the boat again.

By now it has been over an hour and we had three more stops. Port Captain did some math and came up with $120 US!! Then to immigration a mere $20 just for overtime and printing a zarpe ( Ships Travel papers) . One more stop Agriculture inspector who would want another $50? Well, by this time we had got to "Lunch Time" 11 something till 1 or 2 something? Who knows on Sunday? Ag inspector is off to lunch along with the lady who needed the "Not Ripped $20". By now I had had enough!! I had our Zarpe and stamped passports. Back to the boat! We are out of here!! Asta la vista Belize!!

We motored out to Seal Cay with intentions of spending the night there. Seal Cay is about 200 yards across and 30 feet tall! Not a good place to anchor, so we continued on to Pelican Cay. Pelican cay is a nice little island surrounded by decent reefs to snorkel on. The only problem is the bottom is grass and the anchor was tough to set. Thank goodness we decided to find shelter! During the night a front blew through and the little island protected us from it. We had read the weather charts and they showed good winds for Tuesday night. Right on time the winds showed up on Tuesday night. We set sail at 6:00 with 20 to 25 knot winds blowing out of the north-west. Perfect winds to blow us to Roatan, Honduras. The seas were ROUGH!! For crew we had Dwight, from Canada, Dimitri from Switzerland, Daria and myself.

The wind stayed with us all the way. Seas were a rough as I have seen in a while. Must have something to do with the current and the proximity to the Honduran coastline? But this was a quick sail we covered the 100 miles in 14 hours. As soon as we were south of Roatan the waves calmed and the wind settled down. We dropped the hook in Coxen Hole. The first port to clear in. After a nice breakfast and a nap, we went to clear in.

The port captain was hard to get a hold of since lunch here is allot like Belize 11 something till 1 something? When I finally caught up with he asked a few questions, where you come from and how long you staying. I said Belize and one week. He said, "come back in a week and clear in/out at the same time" Groovie!! a easy country to clear!! I am starting to like Honduras!! A few days later we cleared to go east, it involved calling them on the radio, meeting a courier, paying $50 US and that's it!! I love Honduras!!

Coxens Hole is a small fishing town that is being over run with cruise ship traffic. There is a new ship every day, the culture of these little towns is slowly changing. Although this is not as bad as the Caymans yet. You can still deal with the street vendors and pay local prices for produce and such. Jamaica got to a point of hassling all the cruise ship people so bad that no one wants to go back!

Further east there is French Harbor, where I am writing this story from. We planned on staying a night or two, but now it has been a week? Daria is taking dive lessons here, while Dwight and I do dive from Super Dink. The diving here is really good. They have banned spearfishing and the whole east end of the island is a marine preserve.

Roatan is an island surrounded with reef and deep waters. Some places just a few hundred yards off land are over 600 feet deep!!! Most of the dives here are wall dives were you can tie the dink to a mooring in 25 feet of water and jump inn and swim out a ways and be on a 100 foot wall!! Most of the sea life is in less than 60 feet so going deep is really no that necessary. It is just a awesome feeling to swim off a ledge and look 200 feet strait down in the abyss.

December 16, 2010

Hello from Honduras!

We met one swiss guy Dimitri in Platentia, Belize,  he wanted to sail to Punta Gorda!
So Capt. Pedro invited him!
He was exiting. From Punta Gorda we did trip to Rio Dulce, Guatemala ( pics coming...) together with our new crew
"The Muffin Man" Dwight.
And finally Dimitri sailed with us until Honduras, Roatan over night! Pedro will write long story about our sail! It was cool to have some one from Europe on board!

Wish u all the best, have fun and travel save!
Daria x

PS: we will save your shirt :) so you have to come back!
and thx for cool drawing of Downtime! :)

December 9, 2010

Monkey River

Hello from Monkey River!!

Monkey river is a 15 mile "Super Dink" ride south of Placencia. The coast of Belize for the most part consists of shallow mangrove reefs. The charts are not very accurate so you have to be really careful navigating the waters.

We entered Monkey River and encountered wildlife immediately. First was mister turtle who gave a nice pose for the camera. A little further up the river we met a local and asked him "where's the monkeys?" No monkey along the river. You have to hike through the jungle to go see them. We passed on that since we forgot the bug spray. The bugs love Daria!! The no-see-ems are ferocious here!!

A little further up the river we met mister aligator!! We saw a lots of gators!! Most were small about two to three feet. This guy was the biggest about 6 feet long. They are very timid and do not let you get to close before swimming off. The river continued into the jungle about 5 miles. We saw cranes,egrids, buzzard and lots of smaller birds. There were a few more locals fishing and padling their small boats along the river.

Continuing up the river was like playing "where's Waldo" This Iguana was 30 feet up in a palm tree and just posed for a minute before taking cover. I guess tasting like a chicken would make you want to hide!! We never saw a orange Iguana before!! Our new Canon digital camera with the 250mm lense really takes great pictures!!

Two hours on the river was alot of fun! Time for some lunch on Downtime!!
Until the next adventure!! Peace!! The Captain

December 8, 2010

Downtime this is Downtime!!!

Hello again!

We arrived in Placentia mid morning on Dec 7th. We spent the previous night in Pelican Cay, A small mangrove cay about 10 miles from Placencia. It seems the entire coast of Belize was affected to some extent by the last hurricane that passed through 6 weeks ago. Placencia was no exception, several of the docks at the marina had been destroyed by the storm.

There were several boats anchored off of what was left of the marina. we steered to a open spot to drop anchor. Going around the back or a 50 foot trawler I noticed the name, Downtime!! Wow another Downtime!! This is only the second Downtime I have seen since I bought our Downtime.

Daria and I spent the rest of the morning taking Super Dink down the coast to Monkey River, which is a whole other story.

Back on Downtime, Walter the owner of the other Downtime came by in his dingy and invited us over for drinks later.

We went over for a sun downer a little after 5:30. Walter and Mary's Downtime is a Nordhaven 50 trawler, the top of the line of trawlers. These boats are made to drive around the world. Built tough and reliable. A truly beautiful machine!

Sitting on a aft deck we started discussing the name of the boat. I told Walter I bought the boat with the name on it from a guy named Josh Green. His face was surprised and he said " So did We"!!! What a coincidence!! Their Downtime was the boat Josh built prior to buying Our Downtime.

Josh Green is a wonderful guy! He put as much time and love into putting together their Downtime as he did ours. He really knows what needs to be on boats to make them function and stay together. The equipment he chooses is all the best and no expense is spared. We both had a trouble free experience buying boats from Josh. Buying a boat from Josh is better than buying a new boat, everything works!!

Later we went to a nice little Italian restaurant, Rumfish. The food was amazing and not very expensive. Diner for under 20 bucks!

Placencia is a small town, you can walk across it in 20 minutes. There is a nice beach with a few small hotels. Walking down the street we smelled the bakery!! We followed our nose's and bought some fresh Cinnamon rolls!!

December 5, 2010

Belize by Land.

Hello again,
We spent a restfull night unwinding aboard Downtime. Three days at sea wears you out being on watch three hours and off for six. A good nights sleep felt so good.

On the morning of Nov 30th we went ashore in San Pedro, Ambergris Cay to clear in. Well, the first trip to the Customs office was a bust. Come to find out Daria would need a visa, not the kind you use a Macy's either! We needed to figure this one out! Originally we were going to stop in Cancun which has a Belize embassy and get her visa there, but with all the crazy stuff going on in Mexico we canceled that idea. Back to the Customs office, thinking I would just clear in Dave and I along with Downtime and in the morning take a ferry ( the boat kind) to Chatumal,MX. Go to the embassy get a visa and then clear her in. The customs guy looked at me like I was on crack or something? Never good! He asked again "why" I did not have a visa for Daria? Hmm time to get creative..... New story...I told him we originally were going to Cancun but had mechanical problems and had to come in for repairs. This is a international "Free" stop card that you can play. Well, it worked! He took about 20 minutes it seemed acting all official saying we usually don't do this.....but.... we can get you a visa here. Wheww!!! What a relief!
Back to the boat to get Daria! In another hour we were officially cleared in.

The next morning Dave took a water taxi to the airport after spending 30 days aboard Downtime. Thanks for all the help Dave!!

After weeks of warm sunny weather winter finally showed it self. It rained two days strait, a cool steady rain in the low 70's. It felt like the winters in So. California. A lazy day on the boat watching movies and reading. The anchorage in San Pedro is anything but calm. Most the people get around on water taxi and they fly by every 15 minutes it seems. Thank goodness we are on a catamaran which is allot smoother at anchor. Thursday we headed south to Cay Caulker to anchored for the night. No sooner had we pulled anchor, here comes Port Authority and Customs along with a few guys with REALLY big guns! The same guy that cleared us in the day before hopped aboard and asked if we cleared in? This must have been a show for his colleagues? We showed them the paperwork we filled out the day before and gave them a copy and were back on our way.

Cay caulker is a small island with a few restaurants and shops. Not too much else going on unless you want peace and quiet. We pulled anchor and headed to Belize City.

Along the way we passed Cay Chapel a two mile by 1/2 mile island owned by a Kentucky coal miner. This island has it's own airstrip, 18 hole golf course and every thing else you can think of! Some people go all out in life!! Needless to say you can only visit if you rent a villa.

Belize City is the biggest city in Belize, some 80,000 people. It, like New Orleans sits at or below sea level. We saw the impact of a Category 1 hurricane they just had 6 weeks ago. It completely destroyed Ft. Georges marina and lots of trees in the area.The rest of town looks really old! Along the water front are 100 to 150 year old colonial homes in various states of repair. Some in really good shape. The rest of town is clean considering how poor the country is. Keeping the trash picked up is something they do really good here! Cucumber Beach Marina is south of town a few miles. They had a slip available for the weekend so we pulled in there. The last time I was in this marina was 5 years ago on a charter with my sister Kelley and my Bro Todd and his Sister and Brother-in-law. We pulled up to the dock and who of all people was there to tie us off? Cliff the Captain of the boat we chartered! He did not recognize me at first with the long hair, but then the memories came back. We spent some time catching up with he and his wife Sherry over dinner. The friends you meet sailing are for a life time!!

On Saturday we hired Mason a local driver to show us some sites. First we we to Xunantunich which sounds like sooantuich. This was a our and a half drive down fairly good roads. you start the tour by getting on a hand crank ferry across the river. Then a mile up the road are the ruins. Mayan ruins are amazing to say the least. Most were build 5 to 7 hundred A.D.. These particular ones were inhabited until 900 A.D. The structures took thousands of man hours to complete and are very impressive. Allot of work for a few small rooms!!
This one is 130 feet tall!! The steps are at least 16" Quite big considering the Mayan were only four and a half feet tall. In about 900A.D. the civilization disappeared from here some say from Yellow Fever. The Mayans had the stars figured out and even knew about the wheel, but did not use it. They all lived next to rivers which was the easiest way through the jungles.

After the Tour we went back to town which was market day on Saturday. We walked through the local vendors and sampled local lunch specials. Lunch was mostly based on BBQ chicken,pork, tortillas, stuffed corn cakes. Much like Mexico. It all was very good and cost only a few dollars.

Back in the car with our driver Mason we headed to the cave tubing site. Belize geology has mostly limestone mountains. The rivers over time erode the lime stone and actually go under the mountains instead of around them!! We arived, found our guide and tubes and went for a two mile hike to the entrance of the cave. Wow the water was a bit cool after all the rains they been having!! The day before the caves were closed due to the river being to high! Our guide tied us together and off we went. Within minutes we enterd the first cave and it bacame very dark!! Halfway through we came upon a sinkhole wich let in natural sunlight and a view to the jungle 100 feet above. Continuing on back into total darkness, You heard waterfalls and the story of a big drop ahead. Caves echo and small streams apparently make big noises!! The "big drop" was a 6 inch river coming in from the side!

It was nice to do these tours when there were no cruise ships in town. We were the only ones touring either palce!! After exiting the last cave we floated through the jungle for a while before coming back to where we started. Very refreshing and exciting!

On the way back to the marina we stoped at a roadside resurant and had the local's Saturday favorite BBQ pork!! Wow what a day!!

Driving around the country on a Saturday letsyou feel the life of the small towns. It seems everyone is out at the the markets and spending time with their families and friends. In their hand is a local meal and a soda pop. The laundry is is out on the clothes lines, kids are on their bikes or waiting at the bus stops. The country just feels alive. Most peole do not have much but seem perfectly fine with that, they still have a warm hello and a smile. It seems like a much simpler life than we are used to in the States. We deffinately spend allot of time managing all our stuff in life!!

Well tomorrow we are off to the next stop in Placencia!!

Peace until then, The Captain