Island Hopping

We leave Placencia on a calm morning the day after Graysen’s birthday. We are excited to explore more of Belize as we make our way north. Graysen spots an eagle ray gliding gracefully next to the boat, and a few minutes later he spots the rolling back of a manatee.

The water is smooth and silky and there is barely enough wind to push the sails. We move at a snail’s pace north. We are in no hurry. The boys take a nap and I sunbathe on the deck. Pure luxury. Eventually the wind picks up enough to get us to a safe anchorage in the Pelican Cayes.

We just have to cross over a shallow bar which the book says is 8 feet deep and we only draft 6.5 feet. Still, I go up on the bow as we get shallow. The water is so clear, I can see right to the bottom, but it is difficult to really tell how deep it is. We get shallower and shallower, but we don’t bump. As the water begins to get deep again, I release my breath I didn’t realize I was holding.

We drop anchor behind a mangrove island just before the sun sets and enjoy a glass of carbordeaux smuggled in from Guatemala. If this is the sailing life, I think I could get used to it.

The second day is similar, making our way north in light to moderate winds, across a shallow bar, and anchoring behind a mangrove island. Matt goes fishing while the boys and I swim behind the boat.

The third day we go east to South Water Caye on the outer barrier reef. We motor because the wind is coming from the east and there are numerous shallow patches we have to avoid. The water becomes bright aqua as we get shallower and I go to the bow to make sure we don’t run into any shallow patches or random coral heads.

“How are we looking up there?” Matt yells to me. “Shallow!” I yell back. It looks super shallow, but nothing looks too much more shallow than anything else, so we keep going, slowly. The boys are up front with me, talking away and playing, while I watch, trying to breathe. It gets a little deeper, and then goes shallow again. My heart is in my throat.

Thankfully, we don’t have far to go and we are anchored by lunch time. The wind has really picked up and the small, low island doesn’t offer a whole lot of protection.  The anchor seems to be holding, though, so after the kids take a nap we go to the small beach on the south end of the island.

The water is very shallow and the boys have a great time practicing swimming without their life jackets on. We see a small skate go by in the grass and other fish swimming in the shallows. There are some dive boats coming and going from the island, but there isn’t anyone else on the beach. It is kind of strange how quiet it is.

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The sun is sinking low and we are getting ready to pack up and go back to the boat when a launch pulls up. The woman is holding a baby and next to her is a little girl about Rylan’s age. It’s not often the boys have other kids to play with so of course we have to stay a little longer. They are Americans managing a lodge on a nearby caye, and we have a lot in common.

An hour goes by in the blink of an eye and it is getting dark out. We must get back to the boat and feed the boys dinner, but we are all really enjoying spending time with our peers. In the two months we have been back down at the boat, we have not met any other family. We might be able to go to their island but they have a wedding party coming to the lodge so they will be busy.

Back at the boat we try to see how we can make that work. Our book doesn’t talk about their island, and we are not sure if we can make it there with our deep drafted boat. We also know we have to get water soon, and think that Belize City is the best place to do that. We also know that we have just a few days left of good weather before some nasty storms are supposed to come.

We snorkel in the morning and then head up to the Tobacco Range. We share the calm, protected anchorage with a local fishing boat and have a great night’s sleep.  It feels good to be out of the relentless wind.

The next day we decide to take advantage of the strong east winds to make our way north. The sailing is wonderful. Behind the protection of the barrier reef, the sea is calm despite all the wind. It’s Matt’s birthday and we have no cake, no party, and no presents. But we do have sunshine and perfect sailing. He even almost lands a 5-foot tarpon.

We anchor outside a marina by Belize City, hoping to fill our tanks with water. We make grilled pizzas for dinner and go to bed early, but the bar is having a major dance party and the music carries across the water like we are right there. It is a really strange contrast from the peaceful nights on the islands.

We aren’t able to get into the marina to get fuel or water, and the marina in Belize City has been destroyed by a hurricane, so we must head up to Caye Caulker and hope that we can get some there. We make a quick stop in Belize City for supplies, and then head north again.

We have to time our trip to get through Porto Stuck during high tide so we don’t become victims of the narrow, shallow passage. Luckily, we go right through without a problem, and end up anchoring in Caye Caulker right before sunset. We are excited to get to know this place a little and maybe meet some new people. We will stay here for at least a week, so our island hopping is done for now.

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