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Sailing from Florida to Cenral America

a travel blog by bobandglennda

After sailing in Canada for thirty years, retirement provided the perfect oportunity to become more adventurous.
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Leaving the USA

Port Charlotte, United States

After an intense month of working on our 37' Irwin Sailing Sloop, December 30, 2008 was departure day. I know. I know. The next day was New Years evening. However, the wather was perfect for a 4 day crossing to Mexico, we had: crew, food, water and diesel, so we were OFF!! Captain Bob just couldn't wait another day!

At 3:00 am we started the 50 horsepower engine in order to motor down the freshwater canal to the lock that would allow us to enter Charlotte Harbor proper with its salt water. We made the lock at 4:00 a.m. just in time to pass through the very shallow waters outside of the lock on a full tide.

For Sarah, our young friend,taking a gap year before university, this was her first major sailing trip ever. Her previous sailing experience consisted of weekend afternoon jaunts on our previous boat on the St. Lawrence River. We really appreciated her enthusiasm to come with us and assist

us all to expand our horizons.

Our good friend, and professional captain, Mark had previously crossed the Gulf of Mexico with us two years earlier. Mark's energy meant that we had very little work to do in the first few hours of the crossing.

Watching the land disappear through the mists of dawn is always an awesome experience and this time, it was spectacular. Still totally wound with excitement, we all passed the majority of the day in the cockpit.

As head cook and bottle washer, I had a hot time of it in the galley. As we moved further out into the Gulf we started to roll and pitch slightly, as we continued to pick up speed. Suddenly, after 30 years of sailing I discovered the meaning of being 'sea sick', in a very personal way.

By the next day, I had once again found my sea legs and was in stride again, but all of us found it a struggle to stay up until midnight to wish each other Happy New Year!

permalink written by  bobandglennda on February 26, 2009 from Port Charlotte, United States
from the travel blog: Sailing from Florida to Cenral America
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Fun in Isla Mujeres

Isla Mujeres, Mexico

We arrived in Isla after 4 days of major wind changes: experiencing everything from no wind to too much wind. We were ready to celebrate and wanted to go and EAT. We knew that our favourite place to eat, Rene y Rennee, would be closed on Sunday. However, we had a joyous meeting with them for lunch on Monday and in the maeantime found a wonderful brunch buffett for $7.50US.
Fruit just doesn't taste any better than here in Isla!

This picture shows the first point of land that we had seen in 4 days. A very welcome site indeed!!

There were new cruisers to meet and lots of parties ahead, but these had to wait until after we had a sleep!

With the marina full of boats and all of the apartments rented, a community pot luck supper seemed in order. Jamie and Julio,the mangagers of el Milagro Marina, BBQ'd snapper and grouper for us to share and everyone brought a dish to contribute. Afterwards, the locals couldn't resist trying to teach us how to Salsa. What a laugh!!!

Before moving south we decided to visit Isla Contoy which a National Park which is a good place to see many of Mexico's birds and fish.

While anchored here watching the sunset, we were treated to a wonderful work of nature. Pinpoints of light bagan to appear all around which resembled fireflies being seen in the water. As we watched, the number grew to over a hundred and then possibly two hundred or more. Our flashlights revealed a small gelatinous body, so we thought we might be seeing a species of jelly-fish, but none of our nature guides had any reference to such a phenomena. Within an hour they were all gone again as suddenly as they had appeared. The naturalists later told us that we had seen a type of snail. Wouldn't it be neat to have some of those in your aquarium!

permalink written by  bobandglennda on February 27, 2009 from Isla Mujeres, Mexico
from the travel blog: Sailing from Florida to Cenral America
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Down the Mayan Coast

Puerto Morelos, Mexico

Sailing is not an easy way to travel, even with the many new digital technologies of our modern era. That's what makes it so exciting! You are pitting yourself and your boat against the elements and trying to ensure that those elements work in your favour!

So, having backpacked across the Yucatan Penninsula, to Merida, Viodalid and Isla Holbox on a previous voyage, we spent our time in Isla Mujeres getting ready to take off for territory that we had not yet explored.

The preparations included, reading every sailing/cruising gude that we were able to buy or borrow, checking as many different weather sites as possible, finding a buddy boat with whom to travel, inputting waypoints (lattitude and longtitude) for the various ports we wished to enter and studying the paper backup charts. Fro sailing the Mayan coast the Raushers' Guide is indispensible.

Since leaving Isla Mujeres, we anchored off Puerto Morales, then sailed for Puerto Adventuras, but strong winds made us change our plans and stop at Hut Point. Then, on to Puerto Adventura, where we stayed for two days. Puerto Adventura is a top ranking resort with lots of entertainment, restaurants, pools, and even dolphin shows. Here, sailboats are always VERY WELCOME and stay for a very modest overnight fee. This beautiful spot lulled us into spending a day longer than planned.

Sarah Grant (our crew member who joined us in Port Charlotte) and I spent one day at Tulum, a beautiful Mayan ruin on the ocean. After walking in the wrong direction for picking up a collectivo, we bargained for a taxi.

After a wonderful 3 hours at Tulum, we returned by collectivo to Puerto Aventuras and on our walk back to the dock visited the free museum on the grounds. The museum consists of treasures reclaimed from the sea wrecks of the past. They have the most extensive collection in the world of religious relics worn by sailors of the past. Well worth the time taken to go through!

Then, Ivy (from Ruby Slippers, our buddy boat for this leg) and I went to Playa del Carmen to re-provision for the next several days. This time we knew where to catch the collectivo and were surprised with the short wait. There is a WALMART in Playa which definitely caught our interest and our money. The ride back was in a taxi since there was no way that we could walk back to the collectivo stand with all that we had purchased or manage to stow it under our seat, if we did find help to get all our provisions transported there.

We left Advenrturas that same evening in order to keep to our deadlines. (Sarah and Chuck both had to be back in Isla Mujeres by the January 28th: Sarah to fly home to Ottawa and go back to work, Chuck to entertain company from the states and then to begin a cruise on the boat MUSIC owned by he and his wife Stuart. We are hoping to see them again soon.) Leaving at night also assured us of arriving at Baiha del Espiritu Santo in full daylight.

The Size of this bay left us breathless! Due to our shallow draft we were able to anchor inside an uninhabited island. We went ashore with the dingy after having a short nap, and had the beach all to ourselves. No one else was even in sight! Only the occasional fisherman passed by in their pangas.

permalink written by  bobandglennda on February 28, 2009 from Puerto Morelos, Mexico
from the travel blog: Sailing from Florida to Cenral America
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Down the Mayan Coast II: From Bahia Espiritu Santo to Xcalak

Xcalak, Mexico

We left early in the morning in order to get out to Banco Chinchorro before dinner time. It's 25 to 30 knotical miles from Bahia Espiritu Santo to Banco Chinchorro.

Better sailing today and pleasant 80 degree temperatures. However, b y 3:00 o'clock we put on the engine to ensure our safe arrival well before sundown.

The entrance to the Banco Chinchorro is tricky. First, you must find the opening in the reef, then, line the boat up with the lighthouse which is on one of the two small islands inside the reef. Thank goodness for the information that we were able to read in the Rauscher's Sailing Guide. The updates from friends who have been here also helped immensely.

Once inside the reef the waves calmed and we were able to turn our minds to preparing a hot meal. But before we could do that we had to clear in with the Mexican Navy, who came along side in a launcha. They were very polite and soon we had satisfied them with the appropriate paperwork.

The young men who boarded us told us that they are stationed in this outpost for 6 to 8 weeks at a time, without television, beer, softdrinks and lack many other modern conveniences. Larger patrol boats leave from here hoping to intercept and stop the drug delivieries along this coast. We wished them good luck and safe passage.

They reassured us that they were there for our safety and that we could call them anytime, day or night. We were very happy to be in this safe harbour as the rainstorm which had been brewing all day blew in behind us.

The next morning was another early start as we had 40 knotical miles to go to Xcalak, which would be our last port of call in Mexico. The weather did not look promising, but the forecast said that we had the hours required to do the crossing before the next storm would blow through. So, anchors away!

By noon time we knew that the storm was catching us as the waves were already double the size of those we sailed into earlier in the day. 3:30 p.m. found us calling for help to find the entrance to Xcalak. We could not see the 300 foot break in the reef and visibility was so poor that we couldnot line up with the range markers on shore.

The local dive boat rescued us by coming out to the break in the reef and staying where we could see him. Then we simply sailed to him, following his directions into the harbour. Thank You, Alexandro!

With great relief, we followed the crew of Ruby Slippers into the nicest restaurant we had seen in a very long time. The Leaky Palapa is run by a Canadian Chef who really knows how to cook seafood and fish and also how to help her customers relax and have a great time. Her lemon fish sauce was the best I have ever tasted. It's wonderful the things you find in the "back of beyond."

The next day, you would never understand why we had such a problem getting into the harbour. Bob and John used the calm seas to take the dingy to the opening in the reef and plot some waypoints that would ensure that we would not go aground on our return to the deeper waters of the gulf.

The next day at 2:00 p.m. Sarah from Island Girl II and Chuck from Ruby Slippers were off on the bus back to Isla Mujeres. Now we had no crew. Just the same, Belize here we come!

Checking out with the Captiana in Xcalak was definitely and easy process, but as always it cost us a few dollars, but not bad when you consider all the fees you pay to enter and leave a country when you fly!

permalink written by  bobandglennda on March 4, 2009 from Xcalak, Mexico
from the travel blog: Sailing from Florida to Cenral America
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Xcalak, Mexico to San Pedro (Ambergris Cay), Belize

Xcalak, Mexico

January 29, 2009.

Checking out of Xcalak proved to be a painless process. Of course, it always costs a few dollars to check in and out of a country, but the fees are usually modest, especially when you consider all of the fees which are attached to an airline ticket.

We traveled all morning in sight of land. Great, but we must be vigilant about the reefs, some of which, are not visible!

The Entrance to the harbour at Ambergris Cay was clearly visible, but with the wind, waves and current all pushing us it was “Hair Splitting”. Bob actually hollered, “ Ride ‘em, Cowboy!,” as he pushed the throttle to full. I think it helped dispel some of the anxiety!!!

All was well and the anchor was safely down before 2:00 p.m.

San Pedro is very different from the villages in Mexico! Hustle, bustle, exhaust fumes and watch very carefully before you cross the street! There are golf carts, motor bikes, bicycles and SUV’s coming at you from every direction and there don’t seem to be any rules!

However, the internet is reliable and supplies are readily available. We even have the use of our BBQ again. All over Mexico, we searched for the proper propane tanks, but could not find them, even at places like Sam’s Club and Costco. But in a hardware store at the north end of the town of San Pedro, there were lots of them!

Things are not cheap here. Two Belize dollars equal one US dollar, but the price may be the same as in the US.

January 30, 2009.

We were dragging anchor due to the norther which has been blowing since yesterday, we have re-anchored, much closer to shore. This time we found an area of sand and hope to stay put.

February 1, 2009.

We moved to the only marina, so Donna and Steve could find us more easily. They flew into Belize City and then took a connecting flight to San Pedro and were here faster than we could have believed possible! It is wonderful to see them!

permalink written by  bobandglennda on March 10, 2009 from Xcalak, Mexico
from the travel blog: Sailing from Florida to Cenral America
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San Pedro to Cay Caulker, Belize

Belize City, Belize

From San Pedro to Cay Caulker we had a great sail with full main and part Genie. We average about 4 to 4.5 knots per hour. We spotted dolphins in close, but they did not stay to play for very long.

Knowing the dragging problem at San Pedro, we carefully motored in toward shore and with Steve on Bow Watch, selected a good sandy spot in which to set the anchor. Then we motored to shore and pulled the dingy up near the fisherman's co-op.

After negotiating a good price for some large lobster tails, the fisherman told us that a huge North Blow was expected overnight and is we wanted the best protection we should change our location and hug the far coast from where we were currently anchored. So, as quickly as possible we returned to the boat and changed our mooring spot. However, Ruby Slippers were unable to move because of their deep draft.

Over the next few days we were able to go to shore several times, but we also had one day when we didn't get off the boat due to rough seas! We visited and read and ate and then read some more!

However, on our travels around town I did manage to find the local library.

permalink written by  bobandglennda on March 10, 2009 from Belize City, Belize
from the travel blog: Sailing from Florida to Cenral America
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Caye Caulker to the Drowned Cayes

Belize City, Belize

We pulled anchor again and are on the move.
Today, we did a short hop from Caye Caulker to the drowned Cayes, which means that we are much closer to Belize City.

We had some rain again today, after a late start. Yesterday, was too miserable to go to shore, so early this morning the guys went for gas and propane, while Donna and I bought some provisions.

Despite the rain and later start we were anchored at the Drowned Cayes just after 3:00 p.m. This is considered to be a Hurricane hole and we can see why! This is the most protected Anchorage we have seen in many, many days!

The crew from Ruby Slippers made the suggestion that we head for Cucumber Marina tomorrow. It was a unanimous YES onboard Island Girl II. Hot Showers, Laundry, and electricity sound really good!

permalink written by  bobandglennda on March 12, 2009 from Belize City, Belize
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Drowned Cayes to Cucmber Marine

Belize City, Belize

Today, was a great sail. Good winds and for most of the day we could see Belize City in the distance. We arrived at Cucmber Marina by mid-afternoon. We are only about 5 or 6 Miles south of Belize City.

The Marina inside the highest wire link fence that I have ever seen and razor wire tops this! Armed guards walk the perimeter, but everyone is very friendly and the facility is wonderfully clean, with pools,zip lines, beaches, museum, restaurant and gift shop.

We immediately packed up our laundry and headed to the far side of the marina, where we found the office and showers, as well as, laundry. There was a lineup of the laundry, but between Donna and myself, we were able to get everything clean again!

While doing laundry, an Ontario motorhome arrived and after they were settled, they offered a ride to Belize City in the car they were towing. I was thankful that we found a more full service gorcery store. However, after we were already in the city, my new friends confessed that they did not have a guidebook or map. The streets we followed into the city, so while I shopped our driver, tried to get directions to get us back to the marina.

It was not an easy drive, but we eventually found ourselves back on the western highway, headed to the marina. It was a big relief to see that high fence again.

Dinner in the restaurant was a wonderful treat and the crew from Ruby Slippers also took advantage of this great setting!

The next morning we visited the museum Olde Belize and are very glad that we did. It really is a wonderful display!

permalink written by  bobandglennda on March 12, 2009 from Belize City, Belize
from the travel blog: Sailing from Florida to Cenral America
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Cucumber Marina to Colson Cayes

Belize City, Belize

By mid-morning we were motoring toward Colson Cayes, in order to top up our house batteries. Cucumber Marina had not been able to hook us up to electricity.

However, the wind picked up and ,as soon as, possible we hoisted sails, in a brisk wind that soon pushed the boat to over 7 knots. We reduced sail and then reduced sail some more. By 4:30p.m.we were safely anchored.

The rainy weather is following us down the coast but we were hoping to snorkle and bird watch here. We also understand that there is a blue hole on the other side of the island from were we are anchored.

When we took the dingy into the lagoon to bird watch, but the birds were hiding from the rain! It is still a beautiful spot!

permalink written by  bobandglennda on March 12, 2009 from Belize City, Belize
from the travel blog: Sailing from Florida to Cenral America
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Colson Cayes To Placentia

Placentia Village, Belize

Today, we have found the jewel of Belize. Lots of diving and snorkling, as well as, a really picturesque village on a point of land with surrounding islands to protect it in the windy season.

Here you can find most items you might wish to buy, and laundry service and internet are readily available. But the Anchorage is quite rough if you are not close to the point.

While exploring the island, I found the local school, and before you know it, I was volunteering a week of my time to help. It was a very rewarding experience! However, I was not looking forward to my daily dingy ride to the mainland because, I kept getting soaking wet! Not a nice feelig to stay wet for most of the day!

Fortunately for me, when Bob was out exploring with Donna and Steve, they came into the back harbour, where some new townhomes are being built. They toured one of the new townhomes and got acquainted with the builder, who offered to allow us to tie up at his dock. The townhomes and their setting is absolutely gorgeous, with very upgraded finsihes and the shared facilities include a pool and hot tub, as well as, a large palapa where you can BBQ or sit and read.What a beautiful spot! THANK YOU ED!

We also found several good restaraunts and coffee bars in Placencia. I think my favourite restaraunt was the Secret Garden, which is run by a young couple from Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The food was excellent and they are also a lot of fun!

We also really enjoyed the Paradise Resort for its great food, good morning coffee and wonderful fresh squeezed juices. Donna and Steve stayed at the resort before leaving us to fly home to Toronto.
We are already missing them!

permalink written by  bobandglennda on March 14, 2009 from Placentia Village, Belize
from the travel blog: Sailing from Florida to Cenral America
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Bob and Glennda are sailing their Irwin 37' Sloop from Charlotte Harbor,Florida to the Rio Dolce,Guatemala looking for adventure and a way to help others as they travel.

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