Monday evening we went ashore and went to Paradise for a few drinks…..enjoyed socialising with Kieron who also gave us souvenir coozies. Thanks!
Great time had by all – although we weren’t planning to stay out so late – and had to find our way back to Morphie in the dark without any lights. And would you believe it, the weather was calm overnight for the first time in ages, which made us question our judgment not to explore other cays.
Tuesday morning, however, we listened to Chris Parker. The forecast was for relatively settled weather Tuesday into Wednesday but for it to deteriorate significantly with constant rain, thunderstorms and squalls at 40+ knots from Thursday for at least five days. That’s it – decision made – we’re leaving Belize.
So we went ashore – admiring the local fishing boats on the dock – and walked to the Hokey Pokey dock for the ride through the mangroves to Independence.
First stop immigration. This is supposed to be a free service with just a BZD 7.50 each environmental tax. Guess what – not today – the young woman demanded an additional BZD 90 for a ‘vessel administration fee’. We argued but she would not be moved – so we demanded an official receipt – and, of course, the receipt was annotated as a ‘boarding fee’ which was total rubbish. We knew that we had been ripped off but what can you do? So brazen though when there is a board on the wall outlining the applicable fees!
Fed up by this latest brush with corrupt officialdom we headed off to customs where we received our Zarpe (exit clearance) – in contrast this guy was a pleasure to deal with. Walking back to the taxi and suddenly we were chased down by a Port Authority official. She wanted to check that we had paid our daily port fees. Of course – we couldn’t have got our Zarpe without that receipt – but she wanted to just double check. Actually we’ve overpaid as we’re leaving ahead of our planned schedule – funnily enough she soon vanished back inside her office once she realised that. No chance of a refund for unused days then???
We went back to the Hokey Pokey – enjoyed watching a bit of European football with the crew while waiting for our departure – and headed back to Placencia.
We then decided to go to a coffee shop so that I could call mum as we knew that the next internet connection would be a way off. Sitting down and Richard was chatting to this guy while I was on the phone – then we realised that we’d met before – last year in Marsh Harbour (Bahamas). What a small world!!!
Back to Morphie we did our pre-passage checks and sorted out the documentation for checking into Guatamala. We entered our waypoints into our plotter heading through the inner reef channel to Tres Puntas which is a recommended safe overnight anchorage. All sorted – we went out to Yolis – and had a final couple of drinks with all the English ex-pats. We then returned to Morphie for an early night. Then the storms started and they continued throughout the night giving us another disturbed sleep grrrrrr……
Wednesday morning and we were up bright and early looking forward to our 40 mile passage. And the forecast was wrong again – it was cloudy and raining with very little wind. We picked up our anchor at just gone seven – assisted by a sole dolphin at the bow – and started motor sailing out of the anchorage into the gloom.
We then slowed down to let the Maxy Express pass ahead of us into the shipping channel before we headed towards the inner reef channel.
By 10 o’clock the wind had dropped below 5 knots and was now on the nose so sails got put away and we carried on motoring. At 11 we had East Snake Cay ahead and storms were threatening all around us – by 12 we were being tossed around in white-out conditions with wind speeds of 38 knots.
Thunder was booming with the occasional flash of lightning but, thankfully, no hits. Check out the radar image of this storm.
Although wet and weary we were cheered up by the strengthening wind moving behind us and so we started to get the genoa out anticipating a brisk downwind run. Suddenly we are going around in circles – the autopilot had failed. I took the helm and got us back on course while Richard investigated. We had blown a fuse…no worries we have more….and he contorted himself into the restricted space and replaced it. Oops it tripped again immediately. Damn. No more easy fixes it will have to wait – so we took it in turns and hand steered. Oh yes and the wind promptly died again so the sails were put away again. Finally at 2.30 pm we had our anchor down at Tres Punta, Guatemala.
We were the only boat in this isolated spot so decided to have something to eat and retire locked down below with a good book. A few hours later and the wind picked up and it started raining. Oh well, that gets the salt off. We kept a look out throughout the evening and realised that another boat had anchored near us in the dark. That’s fine – feel a bit better having company.
We turned in for the night and then we started nodding furiously. Yes the wind had switched and we were now facing into a big fetch and the shift had put us on a lee shore. We had a good anchor set though and didn’t move an inch although it was really uncomfortable. As the sun started to come up around five we realised that the other boat was an Island Packet…. Hang on… we recognise that tender… that’s Charlie and Saundra on Island Sol. We hailed them on the radio and they said they couldn’t believe it when they arrived from Isla Mujeres (Mexico) to find a boat anchored on their favourite spot – and yes, it was us, using their recommended waypoint! We did laugh about this – what a happy coincidence that they turned up on the same night we did having last seen each other in March.
Having had a disturbed night’s sleep we decided to leave early Thursday morning to make the 11 mile run – across the Rio Dulce bar – as we calculated we would have enough water on a rising tide to make it to Livingston. The scenery was pretty dramatic with the cloud-covered mountains ahead. We made it across without bumping bottom – but it was tight – check out the depth below the keel LOL.
By 8.30 am we had anchored off of Livingston and we enjoyed the sights and sounds of this town which is only accessible by water.
We waited for the officials to come out to us, as we were quarantined, then we returned with them in the water taxi to finish the proceedings ashore. First stop was immigration – all done. No fee. Then we found the only ATM in town to get some local currency to pay for our clearance. Next stop customs. Got turned around and told to see the Port Authority first. Headed further up the hill and found the office.
We were given our Port Authority documents and were told to come back when we had finished with customs. So….off back down the hill to customs…..and both Island Sol and ourselves wanted to get the nine month cruising permit straight away. Not possible they say – you’ll get three months and then you will have to renew. But we’re not going to be in the country at the end of three months for this renewal process – no worries you can get it done early – just talk to your marina. Fingers crossed for that bit then! Customs gave us a receipt to take to the bank which we paid and got stamped – back to the customs office and we were given our clearance papers. Oh yes…guess what…customs are on holiday today so there is an additional ‘overtime’ payment of Q300 (11.25 to the pound). Hey ho…. Back up the hill and we go to the Port Authority to be told by the security guard that he had left for the day. Oh well….that’s it then. Hopefully we’ve not missed something here – we think he only wanted to photocopy our customs clearance for our file.
So back down the hill to the harbour where we picked up the water taxi to return to the boats – the guy had been standing security guard duty for us while we had been ashore as petty theft is common in Livingston.
Total clearance cost was Q1,090 – but we still have to shell out for the extension which is, apparently, about another thousand but we’ll find out about that later when we get to our final destination up the Rio Dulce river.
On board we picked up our anchor and followed Island Sol into the mouth of the river and into the gorge. OMG this place is just amazingly beautiful……some money here too judging by some of the fancy houses lining the river… and then you come across really basic villages. Birds were flying….biting bugs found us….kids were fishing and there were boats everywhere. And this goes on for almost ten miles. Richard entertained me with his Tarzan impressions LOL as this is where some of the original filming took place.
We entered Cayo Quemado and pulled into Burnt Key Marina by 2 o’clock.
Hungry, tired, hot and bothered we all decided to go to Texan Mike’s for a late lunch. Mike picked us up in his boat and took us around the corner to his restaurant.
We had a lovely reunion with Charlie and Saundra over some great food and a few very cold local beers – before returning to the marina for a couple more before turning in early. Beer costs less than a £1 a bottle here so think our ATM tokens will keep us going for a while LOL.
Overnight we slept really well…..no rocking….no rolling…..no anchor alarms…..no watching for vagabonds…. Flashes of lightning around but nothing close – just lots of rain to wash the salt from Morphie. It was lovely to finally sleep properly.
Friday morning and we are trying to contact Tom the rigger who lives / works in this bay. We want a full rigging check before we head through the Panama Canal next year. Charlie and Saundra want to talk to him too – so we have decided to stay here for another night. Although was becoming a bit frustrated by now with the lack of internet – we were particularly keen to know the outcome of the UK referendum.
Tom it turns out was in Livingston for the day and expected back later….so we all spent the late morning / early afternoon in the marina bar- admiring the hooded lizards, the fantastic huge butterflies and the hummingbirds coming through the palapa. Later on we decided to have a drink and played pool – yes I know!!! Had a good laugh actually…. We also made reservations for dinner in the marina.
Later on Tom came back so Richard and Charlie went over to see him – and he confirmed he will be over at 8.30 in the morning. So we carried on having a lounging around type of day before having a lovely dinner of pork / chicken / veggie skewers / fried shrimp and rice. Was very nice!
Back on board for an early night again….
During the night the heavens opened…then the lightning started…and one thunder clap was so close and loud I awoke with a scream! Richard just laughed…. Then we realised that the storm had taken out the electricity on the island so we had lost our shore power. It doesn’t matter, our batteries are in good order, we just reset temperatures on the fridge and freezer to reduce the draw overnight and settled back down again.
Saturday morning Tom visited and finished with Island Sol and completed his rigging check of Morphie. He was like a little monkey going up the mast – never seen anyone quite so agile!!!
He found a few things – and made a few suggestions – but overall we are in good shape. A bit of work to get done but nothing we weren’t aware of – eg UV damage to the stitching on the sacrificial edge of the sails. So we’ll engage Tom to do that as he is happy to come up the river to our marina to collect them when we are ready.
Around noon we both pulled out of our slips and motored into the Rio Dulce for another 10 miles towards Fronteras, our final destination this season. The lake was flat calm and pretty shallow – we only had two feet under our keel at times – and we enjoyed the scenery and looking at the life tucked away into the trees. Every home has a boat as this area is only accessible by water.
As we got closer to Fronteras we saw more and more evidence of life with some very expensive looking properties and boat sheds for their power boats living alongside simple village houses and fishing folk. We saw the road bridge ahead and turned into the bay towards NanaJuana marina which is where we have a slot booked (although we are 10 days earlier than our reservation).
We couldn’t raise them on the radio so we anchored off and went ashore. We found the marina office and they said that our slip was available but would have to wait until later in the afternoon and they’d come out to us.
So we sat in the cockpit and used the marina’s wifi to let people know we were safe and sound – and caught up with the news including the Brexit vote. Wow….a bit stunned by the result. Will need to do some reading to catch up on the implications of this decision – of course the pound slumping was felt straight away with the Q now standing at 10:1.
Finally, at about five, and just as the heavens opened, the marina guys came out in a panga to us. One got on board to help with ropes and we pulled up the anchor. We have a very snug alongside slip and Richard was great at the helm as we were being pushed around by the squally winds….and we both got soaked getting Morphie tied up nicely. The marina is a little modern and not quite surrounded by the forest we expected but we do have a pool. Island Sol are staying elsewhere so we were very grateful for them navigating us in as the plotter was useless – we went across land loads of times!
Snug as a bug we decided to stay put for the rest of the day and had dinner on board before an early night.
The wifi signal was not very strong so we gave up on that. During the night the rain came down hard again and woke us up – but no worries about dragging and we have some pretty tall masts alongside us for those lightning strikes LOL. As neither of us could sleep we decided to try the internet again and got online. Yay it worked! So I checked my ATM transaction had gone through all OK and, you’ve guessed it, the card was cloned in Livingston. Damn….. So we waited until it was daylight – around 5am – went ashore to the restaurant and phoned the fraud department. The vagabonds had used the cloned card in Florida and had got away with $100 but the next $500 cash withdrawal was blocked. We’ll get the money back so no worries – but, of course, that means my card is now out of action for the rest of the season. After being caught like this before we came with multiple means of getting cash so it’s not too much of a problem just an annoyance.
We returned to bed for a few hours and have just had a late breakfast – and thankfully the sun looks like it is trying to come out. Richard is troubleshooting the autopilot and taking the instrument panel apart while I’m working on the blog. We have a few other tasks to do so the plan is for a lazy Sunday afternoon, maybe in the pool… Meanwhile Morphie is taking a well-earned rest.
Looking forward to exploring this area – checking out where Morphie is going to be hauled – and the frontier town of Fronteras which is supposed to be an experience! We also want to talk to some tradesmen about some jobs we need doing….
Bye for now