The journey from Guatemala to Belize was one of the shortest new country sails we had ever done. We left at about 8am and were anchored in Punta Gorda in Belize by midday! Wonderful – now for check in…. should be easy because they speak English but Belize time moves very slow and it took most of the day even though all the offices, harbour master, immigration, customs and quarantine are all in the same building. They did allow us to go into the town to get a sim card and some internet and we took the opportunity to grab some lunch. Punta Gorda is a very sleepy little town, with dusty streets and run down buildings but we liked it… it felt very safe.
We needed to get to the next anchorage before dusk so we had to leave by about 4pm – we arrived at about 6pm and dropped anchor. Belize has many islands, but has some of the shallowist water we have ever sailed in – I mean less than 1 metre and we draw 1.1m! I had to stay up at the bow directing Ian through the water. The water clarity was fantastic but the sun was low in the sky, so it was nail-biting stuff. We had heard of many boats hitting the reef in Belize and we didn’t want to join that gang.
We set off for the town of Placencia the next morning, a small tourist island where Darryl was waiting for us. We spent a very enjoyable week visiting various bars and walking along the beach. Placencia has a few American ex-pats living here so the shops cater for them and as a result we could get pretty much everything. One morning we were having a coffee in a really cool coffee shop upstairs overlooking the main street, when an elderly American lady, all bangles and long hair, wearing a faded Grateful Dead t-shirt that she had probably bought at one of their concerts 30 years ago leant over and said “Sorry, I was eavesdropping but I missed that last bit!” We thought it was hilarious and we started chatting. She was in her 80’s from Idaho and goes away every winter – and particularly likes backpackers haunts. I decided there and then I want to be like her when I grow up…..
One day we hauled out our scooters and went round the island. The main town was definitely the most exciting place – the other town was so sleepy we thought it must be in a coma! We found some kids playing and they thought our scooters were fun so we took them out on them.
After a week of relaxing and enjoying Darryl’s company, we parted ways again as he was going to the Cayman Islands and we were heading north to Mexico. The journey was fraught with scary moments with all these shallow spots. We passed the island owned by Ringo Star but it was loo late to call in. Stayed in a delightful anchorage surrounded by mangroves and didn’t see any other yachts until we arrived at the tiny island of Cay Calker. This island is so small they have no cars, just golf carts and all the roads are just sand tracks. It caters for the American tourist market so all the restaurants sell burgers and pizzas. We found a great cruisers bar at the southern end of the island where the cruisers anchor and had a lovely meal watching over Indian Summer.
We were going to spend a few days here but walked round it in half an hour so only ended up staying overnight.
Our next stop was San Pedro. The biggest tourist island in Belize – with cars and bitumen! The entry was so shallow that we had to go down the marked channel and only a few shallow drafted cats could make it. As a result most of the monohulls skip San Pedro which made for a lovely empty anchorage. Tourism is still down here but there were a few Americans so most of the bars were open. No provisioning as such, though we did find a supermarket for staples. We preferred Placencia as San Pedro had a bit of a mass tourisism feel about it. I liked the multi-sign though which normally has towns on it – theirs was food and drinks!
We checked out of Belize in San Pedro which was painless and quite fast. Our next stop was going to be Mexico but only one of the islands due to time constriction. We need to be back in Panama in about 4 weeks.
The sail to the Mexican island of Isla Mujeres (the island of women) was a bit rough and I felt quite unwell. I have been feeling a bit seasick over the past few months but it always goes after about 24 hours. It was a couple of hundred miles so it took a couple of days and unfortunately we arrived at night which we always try to avoid, but sometimes it can’t really be helped. We sailed past the island of Cozumel – one of Mexico’s biggest tourist places and all we could see was miles of high rise building and neon lights…. not our scene at all. We then passed Cancun, another is Mexico’s biggest tourist places and saw nothing but buildings and lights….. Isla Mujeres is only a few miles across the water from Cancun and has become a favourite day trip by ferry.
We were meeting our friends Ian and Diane from SV Blue Infinity who we hadn’t seen since Roatan in Honduras but couldn’t spot them at night so we just dropped anchor and turned in.
We were woken the next day early by Ian from Blue Infinity asking where we were. It turned out they were up in the Lagoon as there was some bad weather on the way and asked us to come up to join them there, so we set off and 20 minutes later we were anchoring beside them. Hugs all round, coffee and cake and they told us not to check in until Monday as the offices were shut until then. We had the whole weekend to play with them as they were leaving Tuesday for America.
We went into the town with them and found a very touristy place catering for hundreds of day trippers. The main street was lined with shops that all sold the same things and all the restaurants had the same American type food. We wanted authentic Mexican food- and did find a cute colourful little restaurant that only sold Mexican. There was great beach and lots of bars but we really could have been anywhere in the world – it didn’t feel like Mexico, except that there were sombreos hanging outside some shops.
We checked on the Monday and in all honesty, it was one of the worst we have ever done. There was just a one-room office where everyone checking in or out had to wait with only 3 chairs. We waited 8 hours and eventually we were checked in. We were lucky, because it was late in the day and we were in the lagoon, the quarantine guy didn’t want to come on board in case he missed his ferry home, so we were done in one day. Most people take 2 days as they are not checked in until their boat has been checked. Ian and Diane were checked out by early afternoon and left the next day for America. Sad to see them leave as we had first met back in Curacao and spent our time in Cartagena with them, explored the San Blas with them, celebrated Ian’s birthday in Honduras with them and now a few days in Mexico. We were on our own for the first time in months, or so we thought….
Later on that day I got a text from Darryl – they had been refused entry to the Cayman Islands as their vaccination certificate was not electronic but on paper! They had not been told this and had sailed 6 days there to be turned away. He had to just cut his losses and then around and head north again. As his itiniery was to be in the British Virgin Islands by March, he decided to come and catch up with us in Mexico and re-evaluate his options then.
A couple of days later he rocked up – 13 days at sea…. He came straight over to Indian Summer where he enjoyed his first beer.. He was exhausted but happy to be able to get off Medea.
We spent the next few days enjoying cheap happy hours and eating cheap quesadillas but both boats decided to head out after the weekend. On checking out, we discovered after waiting for 6 hours that they hadn’t checked us in properly – so they had to do it all over again and then immediately check us out – all in all we spent 20% of our time in Mexico sitting in the customs office – 2 full days out of 10 days there!
Conversation over beer had been dominated by ‘Where next’? We were going to the Caymans but were in the same boat (no pun intended) as Darryl. In fact by sheer co-incidence we were in exactly the same boat as we had both got our first vaccine in Bequia, our second in Grenada and our third together in Belize so we had identical paper work. We decided not to push our luck and hope they might let us in so the Caymans were off the list. That left Cuba or even Jamaica – a no-brainer for us…… CUBA!
Only 3 days after Darryl arrived and 10 days after we arrived, both boats up-anchored and set off the 265nm journey (3 days) to the island of Cayo Largo – the first port of entry in Cuba. We were all very excited……