Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Belize Charter - Puurfect .......... June 2006

Here is "Puurfect the 46' Bahia
Captain Derek and  Judy (top right),Jerry & Melanie, Lynn, Katie&Greg enjoying our 1st Fish Camp Dinner at Blue Field Range

Lynn at the Helm, with Jerry's small portable GPS guiding the way.
Rendezvous Caye, our snorkling destination with Pirate encounters.

Lynn and I stayed behind to guard the dingy at Rendezvous Caye, it could have been a long swim back to our anchored Cat.
Sportin Judy's sunglasses & fishing at the incredible Blue Field Range...What a night, Every Star in the sky came out to meet us that night.

Dozens of these guys right at the edge of the Little Blue Hole at Colson Caye.
Everyone a different color & design.

Puurfect at Tobacco Caye
A Lobster crew going out for the day, carrying several small canoes each would take out & fill with lobster then return to their mother ship for the return home.

Our Self appointed Dangregan Guide assisting our efforts to re-provision & find more food & Beer!

A couple of years after our Virgin Islands Charter trip our friends from Hill Country Yacht Club called us up & invited us to go with them to charter a Catamaran in Belize. I was involved in the hunt for our cruiser so I was reluctant to go but Lynn knew this would be a good experience since we would be sailing islands with few inhabitants. In the Virgins you had to get in by 4pm if you wanted to get a mooring ball and there always 10-20 or more sailboats sharing the space with you. That would not be the case in Belize. So we called Captain Derek up and signed on as crew. Captain Derek made all the arrangements and since we had lived close with 2 of the couples in this crew for 9 days on a 46' Jenneau we new it would be a fun opportunity. Also we would get to sail a Bahia 46' "Puurfect" which turned out to be a lot of space for 8: http://sailtmm/belize/boats/puurfect_home.cfm Everyone had there own cabin and head, lots of interior and exterior space to share the experience. Chart plotters were relatively new but Jerry had a small portable unit he brought along. It really paid off since the chart the charter company provided looked like a hand drawn chart and they advised the error on the chart could be a half mile or more. During the pre-departure briefing they warned us not to use the VHF if we were aground or had other non-life threatening problems since it could draw the attention of those who would take advantage of a group of stranded sailors. I did get Cell service in Belize before we left the states so we had 1 cell phone that we could use to call the charter company for help if needed. Our plan was to sail down the northern 50 miles from San Pedro to South water Caye& return island hopping and snorkeling along the way. Provisioning for 8 was a major trip for and the Beer was $38 US per case. We knew we did not buy enough provisions for the entire trip but we would pick up more along the way. Greg brought along trolling gear so we might just catch some of our dinner as well.
Day 1 6.09.06 to Caye Caulker this was our shakedown, motor sailing checking out all the systems, just about a 4 hour sail from San Pedro. Since all of our trip would be approx. 50 miles offshore from the Belize mainland and inside the Great Barrier Reef the waters are shallow 9-10' and you must be on constant lookout for small chunks of reef that could put a hole in the cruise. The charts on Jerry's GPS proved to be quite good. Caye Caulker was the 2nd largest of the islands we would visit and we celebrated our shake down with dinner ashore in the bustling town.

Day 2 6.10 to Water Caye We got the sails out this day and did not push it to much, the winds were light and we all just sort of tried to familiarize ourselves with the running rigging and give all a turn at the wheel. Greg deployed his trolling gear and soon we had a fair sized Barracuda. The locals advised not to eat the reef fish ...we were unsure about the Barracuda so that toothy boy was released. Dinner aboard, Greg was always the Grill chef and he was an expert.

Day3 6.11 This would be a full day, first off to English Caye for snorkeling, wow that was great but next on to Rendezvous Caye, a little deserted looking patch of sand & a few palms where the snorkeling would be incredible. Just as we get the anchor set and prepare to dingy to the little Caye, a local reef fishing boat zooms up to the beach with what appeared to be perhaps a guided snorkeling tour. Lynn said we needed to lock the boat up but I said, not to worry there were women and children aboard the boat. As we neared the beach I began to take Lynn's concern seriously, the men looked like a bunch of pirates. I told the others to go ahead without me, I would stay with the dingy and make sure it stayed safe. The oldest man with the group asked to speak to our Captain. So Captain Derek had a little conversation with the man who claimed to own the little island ( I think he was fishing for some compensation from us for using his assumed spot in paradise. Not sure what Derek told the guy but he just put him off. Then the other three couples put on there snorkeling gear and enjoyed to reef. Lynn stayed behind with me and we protected our turf. I traded some threatening looks with the younger men in the group. Then it was time to go, we explained to our captain and crew we needed to get aboard and depart. Just as we pulled up anchor the pirates got in there boat & speed away, I waved and said "BYE", & just got stone cold stares in return. If I had disregarded Lynn's concern they would have surely made off with the dingy and any loose stuff aboard our big Cat. We sailed on to Blue Field Range for our nights anchorage. It is a small collection of Caye's with fishing camps and 1 small very primitive resort. Absolutely beautiful.

Day 4 6.12 Lynn had read that you can take t-shits and old denim jeans and trade for fish at the fish camps.She had cleaned out the closets a bit to bring along & trade. Since our provisions were waneing we visit a fish camp, Greg & I dingy over to a fish camp and unfortunately it is not quite lobster season but we do trade the t-shirts & jeans for fish and have a great fish dinner that night anchored near the "Little Blue Hole". this was another great snorkeling spot, star fish everywhere and a hole about 20 yards diameter that appeared to have no bottom.

Day 5 6.13 to Tobacco Caye about a 5 hour sail to a beautiful small island with 4 very small resorts, and 2-3 places to eat. We chose the larger building and made reservations for 8, we would be the only ones enjoying the Conch soup that night.

Day6/7 6.14 & 15 to South Water Caye, about a 5 mile square area Island. Here we got to have the full presence of the Great Barrier Reef, I was enjoying the reef to much as I found myself on the ocean side of the reef and had to use all my skills to swim back to the calm waters. In the process I just barely scrapped my shin on the reef, I would visit my physician when I returned to Austin to get some special cream to destroy the critters causing a very irritating rash. After the big snorkel event we met ashore for a beer. As I returned to the dinghy I discover the little launch sprang a leak. We used 12 of the PFD's on board and stuffed into the deflated aft tube, tapped it up with duck tape and we were able to continue to ferry 3 at a time to and from the mother ship. We were just about out of Beer & other things like food so we took a water taxi 40 miles into the Dangriga for another adventure. Dangriga was like a little African town, very busy, colorful & bustling. Our self appointed guide helped us find all the necessary provisions. He accepted a combination of t-shirts, jeans and US$ for his services. That's our guide in the next to last pic at a local grocery store.

Day 8 6.16 to Middle Long Caye, time to head back North, our sails would be longer each day as we had to be back in San Pedro by the 19th. On the way we stopped at Pancho's fish camp and picked up several Lobsters for dinner since the Lobster season opened that day. Middle Long Caye offered a chance to dingy into the Mangroves...had to be careful to note the way in so you would not get lost in the maze.

Day 9 6.17 to St. Georges there were lots of fabulous Sunset photos but the one above was the best I got at St Georges. Great bar at St. Georges and tour of a private aquarium a family maintains as part of their contribution to the health of the area waters.

Day 10 6.18 On the return to Cay Caulker we were feeling pretty confident and had all the sails out in 15-20, we were sailing fast. I was at the helm and we were nearing a narrow pass, Jerry our navigator had been studying the chart plotter and as we were nearing the pass he said "I do not feel good about this" I knew what he ment so I said we would come about and go back toward deeper water, but just then one hull ran aground, Fourtunatly no one got hurt as we came to a screcching halt, everyone was seated except Katy and she was able to catch herself before she flew across the Galley. Another lesson learned avoid going through narrow passes with your sails up and engine off, Derek took control of the helm as we got the sails down and using the two engines he spun us off and we were free. After anchoring that afternoon I dove on the hull and all was ok, it just sanded off a little bottom paint.
Lynn was still trading her t-shirts and jeans, this time for Mangoes & Lobster on Caye Caulker and we had another great meal near the end of our trip.

Day 11 6.19 to San Pedro Coming in on diesel fumes, we were hoping our fuel would hold out since we employed the onboard Generator to run the Air conditioning every night at 10pm and escape the near equatorial heat at night. We would all fall to sleep immediately and would rise rested for another full day of adventure. We picked up a TMM pilot on the fly and headed for the fuel docks. 8 beers remained one for each of us to savour and remember the incredible fun we had all enjoyed together.

This was a very valuable trip in our jouney to become cruisers. We learned several things about sailing in Paradise, especially isolated paradise. You need to do your homework & learn how to fit in with the locals and avoid unpleasant encounters. You need to do your navigation homework before leaving port, and you need to go slow through narrow passes and be prepared to change course immediately if needed. We were able to renew our friendships with our Canyon Lake Friends and share another once in a lifetime opportunity. We might make it back to Belize and if we do we will be sure to vist the Big "Blue Hole" next time.


  1. Sounds a little scary but makes a great story! Bruce and I loved our stay on Ambergris Cay and hope to return. Maybe next year.