November 1, 2013... We're Back!

Five months without sailing -- the longest break we've had in 5 years. So, this is our story.

In May, we were in Belize. After snorkeling for a few weeks we went to Placencia, a sailing hub in the southern part of the country. Word of mouth was that this was one of the best places in the Western Caribbean. We stayed a week, kayaked, provisioned, ate in town, and wondered what it was that recommended this place. What was it that we were missing? It just didn't seem so fabulous. So, we were planning our next moves to Honduras, Providencia, and Panama, and just decided to can the whole thing. After 4 months in Mexico and Belize, we couldn't really see going further. We heard not wonderful things about the Honduran islands and though Panama looked beautiful in the cruising guides, the stormy weather and lightning seemed a poor alternative to hurricane season in the north. It was difficult and maybe crazy, but we decided to turn the boat around and head north again.

The hunt for the weather window began. We finally had one, but wow, the Yucatan Channel can be mean. Ended up with the worst passage we ever had -- incredibly rough; broke our rigging, bent our rail. Had to overnight in Espiritu Santo and jury-rig something so that we could continue on. Then of course the weather changed and there was no wind for days. So we motored to Florida, anchoring again at Big Pine Key. Hello America! So happy to be back. Then we had squalls and got stuck on the boat for days, but having had the miserable passage, we didn't care. We were safe.

In June cousin Debbie was getting married in New York and niece Lauren was graduating high school in Virginia. We thought, why not go? Let's celebrate with family. We may have been overly dramatic, but we really thought that last passage from Mexico would do us in. So, we got flights, booked a slip at Cooley's Landing in Ft. Lauderdale, and planned to spend time with Patti's parents in Delray Beach. We chugged up the New River, put the boat away, and made it to Renee's birthday dinner.

While Anhinga had LOTS of work done, we had our Virginia and New York journeys. It was mega-culture shock coming from Placencia, Belize to New York City. We soaked up every second, walking miles from midtown to the village and back, up the west side, visiting our brick at the Alvin Ailey school, seeing the Ailey performance at Lincoln Center, and of course the wonderful event of Debbie and Bill's wedding at the Essex House. So beautiful, great music, and the family all together. We were so happy we didn't miss it. The icing on the cake was back in Virginia at Karen and Ronnie's seeing little Lauren, the peanut, graduate high school. How is that even possible? Well, let's not talk about how quickly the years go by.

We took more 'shore excursions'. Once driving across Alligator Alley to the FL west coast with Renee and Irv, stopping in Ft Myers, Sanibel Island, and Bradenton, visiting the Ford and Edison estates, looking for wildlife that must have been somewhere else...hmmm, and seeing Les Miserables. We also took advantage of Anhinga being in the slip and went to two blues festivals -- one in Davenport, Iowa, and another in Daytona Beach. It was great to see bands we used to follow like groupies. And hear bands new to us too. Not having access to professional live music was one of the things we missed most when cruising. We danced for hours, saw places we'd never been before, loved it all.

Back in south FL, we spent some time taking care of ourselves, those medical appointments, new glasses, contact lenses, etc. Mass transportation was our friend -- the Tri-Rail system got us back and forth to Delray for stays with Renee and Irv, and the Broward county buses got us all over Ft Lauderdale (when we weren't walking MILES for exercise!). We saw John III a couple of times, once with Aleja, Sarah, and Evan too. It had been so long, and this was our first time meeting Evan! We also cheered for Jay and the Global Formula Racing team as it competed in Europe this summer, winning at the HockenheimRing. Yes!!

But we started to miss the water like mad. And, nights in a slip in a marina don't hold a candle to being at anchor. We needed to go. Finally, we got everything back together on Anhinga and planned our escape. In the dark, 6:30am on Halloween, we back away from the dock, went through the bridge openings on the New River, under the 17th St bridge and out the inlet, back on the ocean. Sails up, off we went. We didn't forget how to sail (our big fear after all that time) but we were rusty. Luckily the conditions were forgiving, we got our sea legs back, and in 6 hours we were headed into Lake Worth inlet after a fabulous sail (with some lift from the Gulf Stream!). Down the ICW and anchored at West Palm Beach -- one of our favorite spots. Ecstatic. We did it. We're home.

West Palm Beach: 26d42.143'N. 80d02.904'W

April 23 - May 10, 2013... Sailing and Snorkeling Belize

We spent three weeks sailing island to island, snorkeling.  There is a barrier reef about 7-12 miles off the Belize coastline that keeps the inner waters calm, and that makes for some wonderful sailing -- wind without seas -- a great combination.  We loved that.  

And the waters around the cays were so beautiful and inviting, we snorkeled as much as possible.  In addition, we went to one of the three atolls outside the barrier reef, Glovers Reef, for some more snorkeling.  Hands down, our favorite outing was the first one at the Colson Cays -- after finding the coral heads near our boat, we jumped in and within minutes came face to face with a spotted eagle ray.  With time we grew a bit more blasé about seeing these fabulous creatures as they are everywhere, but they are so big and yet graceful, it is hard to believe they are real.  From the boat, we saw them break the water surface and crash back down -- and once we saw them fly while we were in the kayak.  Amazing.

Of course we saw all our old friends, the tropical fish, and John loved the opportunity to take photos of them, as well as the beautiful coral formations.  We also saw a couple of black grouper, with their very distinctive markings.  The fan gardens at Glovers Reef were gorgeous and you never knew who would swim out from behind one of those.  John spotted a shark in the deeper waters, luckily he wasn’t interested in us.  We have hundreds of pics, but won’t post them all.  Enjoy these photos!

English Cay:  17d19.681’N  88d03.086’W
Colson Cays:  17d08.428’N  88d05.247’W
Dangriga:  16d58.402’N  88d13.077’W
Garbutt Cay:  16d58.217’N  88d05.505’W
Commerce Bight, Dangriga:  16d55.851’N  88d14.361’W
Twin Cays:  16d49.272’N  88d05.958’W
South Water Cay:  16d49.069’N  88d05.099’W
Southwest Cays, Glovers Reef:  16d43.059’N  87d51.134’W
North Long Cocoa Cay:  16d33.659’N  88d06.308’W

April 19-22, 2013... San Pedro, Belize

The overnight at Caye Caulker was wonderful -- calm anchorage, the boat still. Just right, after the rowdy passage from Mexico. Sorry to leave, but had to go the 12 miles up to Ambergris Cay to check into Belize. And San Pedro, the town on Ambergris, offered a choice of restaurants, provisioning options, wifi and fuel -- all necessary (or wanted) after two weeks off the grid. So motored up some pretty skinny water, seeing the depth sounder go to zero at times to anchor in front of the town.

After checking in we explored the little town. Another place with madcap tourists (and residents) racing around in golf carts. But somehow, much lower key than Isla Mujeres, where touts tried selling you souvenirs or tours at every turn. Here, with an expat population, it was less clear that you were a tourist, so travelers were left alone. We indeed found many restaurants to try, and with no fresh food aboard, seemed like a great thing to do. And we couldn't resist sitting at a table overlooking gorgeous clear seas. But we did seriously stock up, loving the fresh produce available at all the small shops in town. José at the Costa Maya grocery gave us extra special attention and we thoroughly enjoyed doing business with him.

We spent half a day ferrying jerry jugs of diesel to Anhinga. A hot, back-breaking job, but we didn't mind the breezy dinghy rides to the fuel dock. That day, the water was so calm and clear, we saw a nurse shark while underway, and had stingrays under the boat most of the morning.

Finished with our chores, we decided to leave on a day with calm, east winds. The only hurdle was getting through the reef to deep water. The pass once had a buoy marking the doglegged channel, but it broke off a few weeks before. We scouted the channel by dinghy after checking with a dive shop to make sure we understood the geography. And we had a waypoint from the cruising guide. (Unfortunately, our chartplotter only has cartoon blobs for this particular area -- not helpful when you need exact data for critical navigation.) So, clear day, calm seas, John on the bow directing through coral reef with hand signals, Patti at the helm, we motored out like we knew what we were doing! (Always a surprise...) Past the reef, we brought out the sails and turned south for a daysail to English Cay. One of our best sails ever!

San Pedro, Ambergris Cay, Belize: 17d54.877'N 87d57.652'W