Published: March 3rd 2010December 11th 2009
Dec 12, 2009
Very excited to start our sailing trip we dismissed the early cloudy sky thinking that it would go away. Well…it didn’t. We were told to bring our bags to the boat around 0730 so they could begin loading. Afterwards I traded my Bolivia guide book for a Clive Cussler novel (appropriate because he writes about the sea). Then we got breakfast where the rest of the group was meeting. Everyone else seemed to know each other (met in a hostel), so we initially felt kind of like the outcasts. We knew as soon as we were under way, we would get to know everybody.
Our group consisted of: Claire, Katherine, and Kasha from the U.K.; Kevin and Morris from Ireland; Dan from Denmark; Liz from Australia; and Francesco from New York. Their ages ranged from 23 - 34, so everybody it was a pretty young group.
Our group originally was supposed to be eight people, but two more signed up. Therefore, there was a total of 12 people (two crew) staring at a 30ft sailboat shadowed by a sky of storm clouds. I think a lot of people were having second thoughts - I was
still excited. Rumi was only bummed because she wouldn’t get her beloved sun (I’m pretty sure she was already the darkest Japanese girl anyways!)
Regardless of the group’s grumbling over the weather, our crew, Patrick and Kevin, set “sail,” a.ka. turned the motor on, and we got under way. We motored for about an hour and then came upon an island - it was Caye Caulker. A man came up to us on a small motorboat and gave us our clean linen for camping. I’m still not sure why we left early, only to come back. Afterwards, we attempted to set sail, but it didn’t prove very useful, so we remained with the motor most of the day.
We stopped for our first snorkeling stop shortly afterward as the crew prepared our lunch. The unique part of the snorkeling stops was being able to dive on sites not often explored. The snorkeling and scuba boats leaving from the main islands go to a few designated stops. Since we were on a leisurely sail boat cruising for 3 days down the Caribbean, we were able to stop at places off the beaten path. As far as the abundance of
diverse wildlife - well, we saw more on our snorkeling trip a couple days prior. I still had lots of fun….after awhile I was the only one getting in the water.
When we got back to boat, lunch was ready for us. Since the boat was pretty small, we tried to spread out as much as possible. We like being on the top of the boat on the outside. Most of the people were on the top and a few were below the deck. After a few minutes, it started to rain….then it started to Really rain. It almost felt like hail. Eventually everyone made their way below, huddled together with ten people in the space for about four. A couple of us stayed on top and tried to ride out the storm.
After the storm a couple of the guys caught some Barracuda fish. They were small Barracudas, but overall big fish. Rumi had never fished before, so was anxious to try. A couple of the guys occasionally forgot the concept of sharing, but Rumi did get a couple of opportunities. She did catch a fish, but it got off the hook before she could reel it
The rest of the day we rode through storms on our way to Rendevous Caye. As we approached our island, the Captain told us we should take pictures. It’s the island you always see on postcards and tourist brochures advertising Belice. The island itself is large enough for about six palm trees, a small shack, and a dock. When we made camp, our five tents literally took the last reaming square footage. It was on our own tropical paradise in the middle of the Caribbean. Rumi and I thought it was amazing, but some of the group was disappointed with its seclusion.
We were very interested to meet Leon, the young guy who looks after the island. He literally is alone, with no contact, electric, water, etc. He lives by himself ensuring the island remains beautiful. He must talk to “Wilson” all the time. I asked him “what happens when a Hurricane comes?”… he replied shrugging his shoulders and said, “hopefully someone will come and get me.” Well, I hope so too.
After setting up camp, a few of us explored the surrounding water. One side of the island was home to a Conch graveyard, so
we stayed away from that area for fear of cutting our feet. It was really cool being able to snorkel around a small Caribbean island in the middle of nowhere. Sunset came so we decided to get out of the water and get ready for dinner.
Patrick prepared the Barracuda, Ceviche (conch fish with salsa for nachos), lobster, and some sides. Delicious. Then the famous Raggamuffin Tour Rum Punch was brought out. We all agreed they must have mixed Rum, Bilge, and Motor Oil together to create the glorious concoction. It was actually pretty bad, but we finished off a few jugs playing cards. We played “Kings” for a few rounds before heading to our bonfire. Around the bonfire we played other card games and got to know each other. Some of the people headed in really early - I don’t think they realized it was only 9-10 in the evening.
The greatest part was the fact you could see every star in the sky. The clouds had gone away and the distance from city lights allowed you to see everything. Awesome. We all saw brilliant shooting stars as well (that’s an UK adjective by the way). Being
on an island the size of a living room, there’s not much drift wood to burn. As the fire was burning out, some of the guys thought it would be smart to burn coconuts…Rumi and decided that would be a good time to call it a night!
During the late evening/early morning the storms returned and there was massive wind. One of the Irish guys was not very good a setting up tents, so his tent blew over. He ended up sleeping inside the blown over tent…pretty funny.
Dec 13, 2009
Since everyone went to sleep relatively early and we were camping, everyone made it out of the tents early. I was one of the first to get up, so I decided to snorkel around the island again. One of the guys decided he wanted to try out spear fishing as well. Being that it was his first time and he was over-eager, I decided it would be wise to stay on the Other side of the island.
Once everyone finished packing away their tents, the crew brought out our glorious breakfast. Shortly after everyone finished breakfast, the Mighty Spear Fisherman joined us. He had been
searching the water for the spear he lost.
The day was a short sail day; we were supposed to get to Tobacco Caye, our night destination, around mid-day. It was a decent wind day, so we set sail. The best part was the sun decided to come out, so Rumi was very happy. Some of the people were so happy with the sun, that they skipped the diving spots and stayed on the boat. The only thing significant that I found was a huge stingray. Additionally, the crew showed Rumi and me how to filet and eat a Conch fish raw. It had the same texture of an octopus and possessed the same lack of taste. Not bad, but it’s better in salsa.
In the early afternoon, we stopped for another snorkeling break. Our Captain and one of the guys went spear fishing. Rumi yelled and told me they were going because I was already in the water. Therefore, I met the other guys and followed them. Patrick, the Captain, kept handing me the fish/lobster/Conch he was catching. Later I found out that all of the sea life he was giving me was bait for catching a larger
fish - the Barracuda. In other words, I was the dumb guy with bait hanging all over me.
Unfortunately, the G10 (camera) decided to take the sailing trip off, so we only got pictures from the first day. Our home the second day was Tobacco Caye, a much larger island than Rendevous Caye. It is used for scientific observation: marine biology specifically. It probably has 20-30 structures and you can walk around the island in about 10 min, so it was still pretty small. The island’s position is located near a break in the famous reef (second largest reef in the world next to the Great Barrier). Because of the break and the islands unique location, it has a variety of wildlife and is a great launch point for marine biologists. Apparently, there are octopus, bull sharks, and even crocodiles in the water according to our Belizian guide (who never lies… hmmm).
Since we did get in earlier than the night before, we had enough time for a short island tour and were able to shower, setup camp, and eat dinner in the daylight. After dinner, everyone started drinking again, but refrained from the rum punch. We opted
for straight rum and a simple mixer instead. We played card games and sat around a talked for awhile. A few hours into it, our guide who told grand tales of all the wildlife surrounding us decided to go on a night safari and prove his story.
He started to shine his flashlight over the dock in the shallow water around us. We thought he was crazy, but then he claimed there was a florescent green and yellow octopus swimming in the water. Sure enough - there was a very cool octopus trying to swim away from the five humans hovering over him.
Then Kevin, the guide, took us to an observation deck to look for the “crocodiles”… but we didn’t find any. I do believe there are crocodiles in the area, but not there! Despite, his Belize integrity, we still had fun wandering around in the dark trying to find animals.
A few hours later, Rumi and I headed in for the night. We would find out the next day that a few minutes after we turned in, thieves drifted in and demanded some products from our ship’s crew. Everyone was very quiet and gave them
what they wanted. So Rumi and I missed the Pirates of the Caribbean!
Dec 14, 2009
We had another great breakfast before leaving Tobacco Caye. Unfortunately, it threatened to storm again, so we moved all of the food under the island bar’s patio bar area. After breakfast, we set sail with wind in our favor. We sailed for a few hours before stopping in a short snorkeling stop. It started raining while we were out, so I stayed in the water longer than everyone - it was actually a lot warmer in the Caribbean water than getting poured on by the rain water.
On our next stop, the last snorkeling spot, I finally got a chance to go spear fishing. Unfortunately, there was no fish worth spearing, so I didn’t catch anything. The guy with me kept wanting to shoot everything, including the tropical reef fish (you are not supposed to eat those).
Around 4:00 PM we arrived in the port of Palencia. Everyone parted ways and headed to hostels/hotels. We stayed behind with the crew because we wanted to get back to the Belice City area. We were definitely running out of time and we
really wanted to see Tikal, Guatemala before heading to Mexico. Therefore, against recommendations, we decided to head back on the 14 hour sailboat ride through the night to Caye Caulker.
We ate a quick dinner at a local Palencia restaurant before heading out. As we were departing from the dock, three dolphins were escorting us through the channel - very cool. The first several hours of the trip were in open seas and it was a very rough ride. Sleeping on the floor of the boat, you could see all of the stars. I drifted off to sleep for a short bit before being waken up in the middle of the night. A part of the rudder had come off the boat and Patrick had to dive down and fix the bottom of the boat. Fortunately, it was a quick fix and we were on our way.
We arrived to Caye Caulker in the early morning, and were able to catch an early ferry back to Belice City early enough to catch the early bus to Guatemala.
There are more photos below