Leaving Belize - Sailing South

Thursday, April 06, 2000

It has been quite a while since we last communicated with all of you. That does not mean that you have been out of our minds. In fact Jane has had quite a bout of homesickness lately. There are wonderful sides of traveling but there are the down sides too. The hardest part is to be away from those that you love.

We have had a lovely one week visit from Sander's sister, Violet, and her husband, Rammy. They came all the way from Amsterdam, The Netherlands to see us. Because they had only one week and wanted to see a lot we were never in one place for very long. We traveled out to the Lighthouse Atoll which is about 30 miles east of the reef that protects the coast of Belize. We had to beat into the wind and waves to get there and began to wonder if the praises sung about the atoll were really worth all of that torture. I think I can speak safely for the four of us to say that they were.

An atoll is formed when a volcanic explosion in the middle of the ocean brings lava to the surface. As you have seen in the inactive volcanoes ashore there is a ring at the top with a depression inside. The ring at the top of Lighthouse is in the form of a reef which is submerged on the west side. Within the atoll the depth is about 10'-20' mostly over white sand.

The gap in the reef on the west side. At this entrance the colors of the water change dramatically. Depths of over 700' with dark navy blue colors go abruptly to 20' over white sand causing the color of the water to change to a bright turquoise. We anchored right at this line and Jane was able to snorkel over the reef passage. A lovely ray was watching my moves and swam along the bottom with me as I swam along the line.

Within the reef is an island aptly called Half Moon Caye. It is on the eastern side of the atoll and runs in an east/west direction with the east side nearly up to the east side reef. On the eastern side of the island is a lovely sand beach with palm trees and a lighthouse. There is a path that leads one to the western side of the island covered with a forest of gumbo limbo and ziricote trees. These trees do not grow very tall - about 40' but provide lovely shade. On the ground along the trail we found large land crabs in their borrowed shells. They drag those shells along the ground making quite a noise as they disturb branches and leaves. Not long after starting on the path we began to hear the noises of the young red footed boobies and the young frigate birds. They nest side by side in the tops of the trees here. The Audobon Society has done a nice job of caring for the area. They have erected a 10' platform that will hold 8 people at a time.

The platform puts you right up in the tops of the trees. The nests are as close as 10' away as you stand on the platform. It was a very exciting site and one that man is seldom privileged to have. Lots of digital photos taken there, Folks! I would have loved to stay at Lighthouse Atoll for two weeks snorkeling and diving the many locations. Perhaps you remember Jacque Costeau's episodes in the "Blue Hole" of Lighthouse Atoll?

After Violet and Rammy left us we had a few things left to do around Belize City. Picked up a mail package from Tracy yesterday and today we are bound south. A front has just passed through with very uncommon gray skies and rain. The wind actually came from the west for the first time since our arrival in Belize. Today the wind has gone back to its prevailing side from the east. With the Jib, the Main and the Gollywobbler flying we are making 5.5-7 knots of speed...a great day for sailing!

Our boat papers run out on Sunday, the ninth, so we must continue on south and head for the Rio Dulce. We have developed numerous electrical problems and a nagging engine-starting problem. We seriously hope to find some expertise in the Rio Dulce to sort out all these problems.

If possible we will come back to Belize for the month of May to meet our friend, Kathy, from Nova Scotia. She and her daughter will be in the southern part of Belize for a holiday and we look forward to a day aboard with them.

If you would like to locate the Rio Dulce on your atlas map, follow the coast of Belize from north to south. It meets the country of Hoduras in a right angle with the Caribbean. At that juncture you will see the port of Livingston. This is the mouth of the Rio Dulce. Follow the river west to El Golfete which is a large lake. That is where you would find many Americans and other international boaters. Many have relocated to the Rio Dulce full time.

We will send another group mail once we have safely entered the Rio Dulce. Don't forget that we are only a few finger taps away using your e mail. We miss you all.

Jane and Sander aboard the Sailing Vessel Satori

PS My dad asked about the pronunciation of Belize - it is Bell Ease with the accent on the second syllable.