Belize, March 2007
Greetings from the near frozen tundra of Minnesota! Although the snow has yet to stick to the ground, the temperature is dropping and winter has pushed the remnants of summer far off to the south.
This March, I’m bareboating Belize with my family and friends; 6 kids, 4 adults and lots of energy! We’re renting a Moorings 47 catamaran out of Placencia, and plan on being “in the area” for a week.
Anyone out there done the same or similar? I’m looking for some local knowledge about going North vs. South? Expectations of weather? Wind? Any good local spots that are “a must”?
We’ve bareboated in the Bahamas, Grenada and BVI.
(PS.. i've posted same request on "General" section)
I did Belize on a TMM -Belize 43 CAT from Placencia in Aug. '04. I've also done BVI & Leewards several times .....so I think I can help compare the experiences. Overall, it will be a very different experience........
Belize is a beautiful under-developed (not a bad thing especially after seeing what overdevelpment looks like in the usa) country with a range of landscapes from the stunning green mountainous interior with Mayan ruins & jungles to argicultural low lands then the beaches, world famous reef, Cayes (small islands) scattered between the mainland & reef running the full length of the country+ .
Placencia is very small under-developed town plus get ready for a very small plane ride from Belize City touching down on a postage stamp strip of dirt & old asphalt. The main road is paved & that's it. It fits perfectly into the scene...........the right amount of stuff along side water & beach.
Moorings has a nice base building on the water near the Fuel dock..............all their boats are either moored or anchored in the harbor until chartered then brought into a small dock for prep & guest loading. TMM was around the corner up a small shallow channel.
I'll keep the rest of my comments general but can dig back in my memory & files for more details.
Once You get past the Under-developed feeling after jetting in from the USA, it will become fun if you & your crew have an adventurous & environmental attitude.
Local People = friendly & helpful......mostly english speaking + spanish
Food & Drink = no problem.........the "downtown" section is along the beach on the NE part of town where the famous "sidewalk" (1 1/2 person wide concrete over sand) is the path between the fuel dock/shopping area on the lower part of town to most of the bars & restaurants "uptown"............many with great views / open to beach
Hotels = Broad range but limited number. You can find several very nice (expensive of course) hotels/resorts, a few mid range and a number of less expensive local hotels (similar to Caribbean island)..very basic I chose the latter for 2 nites as I was alone getting ready to skipper some non-sailors around.......A/C was my number one requirement , then clean & cheap....I would not bring a significant other there unless she was very adventurous. Plenty of info avail on internet. Think the charter companies offer accommodations too. A are Guest Houses Rooms available for rent too. We did a luxury one post-sail that fit about 10 of us easily with a pool....it had a link to one of the upscale hotels.
Provisioning = Key Point.............once you leave Placencia NOTHING let me repeat NOTHING exists in your Southern cruising area. No water, No fuel, No food store, No starbucks, no French cafes like Guadeloupe/Martinique, No Foxy's, No Bitter End Yacht Club and definitely No Ice...there maybe a meal to be had ie; @ Ranguana Caye (we had to pre-order once we arrived with caretakers on the island but it was excellent) which was one of my favorite stops. Placencia has a couple of food stores but it's not like Roadtown BVI where you have several large well stocked supermarkets to choose from......We provisioned w/TMM and even they were using a firm from Belize City & the food was flown in..............we supplemented with local purchases. However There will be fresh fruits & veggies available in the stores & even with locals in the street. Beer & Liquor is available locally. Ice & some fresh seafood (maybe) available at the fuel dock too.....we stopped putting ice in cockpit cooler(s) because it melted too fast.....used fridge. Heard that in the "winter" season, a supply boat may zip out to sell supplies to charter/cruise boats but we had to return to Placencia for supplies.
Harbors / Anchorages - The biggest one you will see is Placencia which is much smaller than Roadtown or Virgin Gorda. At most stops you will be anchored behind a Postage Stamp of an island or I should say Caye. They range in size but most are much smaller than I can really describe. The biggest protection you have from waves is the country's famous REEF. You will be on your own when it comes to wind protection as most Cayes only deflect a little. As you know Cats can easily absorb any smaller waves or bouncing at anchor. Ranguana had the only Moorings for Rent............$15 but it was heavy duty/newer ...otherwise it was double bow anchors (charter company strongly recommended)..................we needed them down south when we were anchored @ Nicholas Caye which is at the southern end of the reef with winds blowing 25+ at night............influenced by frontal systems............at least the skies were full of stars (more than you have ever seen)
Sailing - Since we were there in the summer the winds were light except when frontal systems were passing thru. Other times we were tring to get to a Caye with wind on the nose............so we motored. Many of the cayes are east of Placencia then spread North to South .............so depending on cruising plan & winds (s/b better & consistent in March).....it will depend. We had one great sail a 30nm run from Nicholas Caye back to Placencia because two other boats we were traveling with drank all their booze, ice was gone & water was low..............we were dodging fronts moving south ...winds bet 15-21kts & we avg over 10kts. Many Cayes are pretty close together so long sails are not necessary unless you plan it that way or decide to go all the way North to San Pedro.
Navigation = Cruising Guide not exactly perfect....I bought my GPS & a chart with me & it was very helpful........smaller cayes harder to identify vs bigger islands in BVI/caribbean
Shallow Water = Yes, there are some places that you will have to be very careful even on a Cat
but the charter company will help you with both of the above......also be careful dinghy / outboard prop in shallow water with coral heads
Fishing = Yes....you can rent gear near Moorings plus get bait + advice there too
Diving = absolutely.....some of the best in the world @ particular points in the reef.......side trips encouraged.....local dive masters required.............or they will meet your boat / pick you up.
Snorkling = absolutely......some places better than others....since you can run into Mangroves & "dark" areas with plant growth
Watersports = any & all........pretty safe for kids
Nature Loving = lots to see
Sun = strong ...........lat 16....will melt that MN snow
Mosquitos and other biting insects = watchout in Mangrove areas, beaches at dusk....spray & lotion at the ready
Communications = VHF was the primary method in '04 complete with relay (at certain points) arrangements but TMM had great antenna / transmitting power...no real obstacles.....we only used on the way in for various stuff........maybe cell phone towers have been installed shaped like palm trees
Entertainment - once you leave Placencia, look around 'cause your crew & you are the party. If you meet up with other cruisers/charter boats, then you will have a bigger party but don't think it will look like Jost Van Dyke or Virgin Gorda.......again, not bad just different
Here's a link from TMM about sailing in Belize...they talk about Northern (sees more Dive activity plus a few Cayes actually have a few businesses avail) cruising ground but you'll get a sense of what it feels like ...........
Shoot any other questions you have ............... Bottom line - I would go back - very unique & different than eastern Caribbean. or anywhere :cool:
sailing charters in Belize
Hi, has anyone had experience with sailboat charters out of Placencia with anyone besides the Moorings and TMM? I plan to charter a catamaran in October or November 2009.
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