Here are some photos from a sailing trip to Belize in 2001. My friend Mark Heppler came along for part of the trip, starting at Key West, Florida. Along the way we stopped at the Marquesas, the Dry Tortugas, Isla Mujeres and Xcalak in Mexico before arriving at San Pedro on Ambergris Caye in Belize. The photos were taken with a film camera then scanned years later after the photos had faded a bit.
From Key West it's about 32 nautical miles to the Marquesas then another 40 to the Dry Tortugas. We had perfect sailing weather for both legs.
This is Fort Jefferson where Dr. Mudd was imprisoned after being convicted of abetting the Lincoln assassination. Cuban fishing boats like to hang out in the harbor there.
We spent two days in the Tortugas, waiting for weather, touring the fort and chatting with the fishermen and other sailors. From there it's 270 miles to the Yucatan, against the Gulf Stream. We were able to find a counter current near the Cuban coast which helped. Catching a two foot long Mahi Mahi also helped. It took us three days and two nights, arriving well after dark on the third day. It was disconcerting to find that the light marking the harbor entrance was out and that our electronic charts were off by a half mile of longitude. Still, we made safely into the anchorage.
Isla Mujeras, Mexico
The next morning we were awoken by a series of patriotic songs from the naval base. The day was spent working through the clearing in process, visiting the immigration office, the health office, the customs office and the port captain. We finished off the day by walking along the beach, pretending not to notice all the topless women, and stopping in at a bar offering cockteles con el pescado - beer with fried grouper.
After clearing out with the port captain, we sailed south 165 miles overnight to Xcalak, Mexico. Along the way we were treated, at dawn, to the most impressive dolphin performance I've ever seen. A large group of them raced toward our boat slapping the water and doing back flips.
The opening through the reef at Xcalak was hard to spot but a pair of range markers on shore guided us in. We anchored off the beach at Marina Mike's and rowed in.
We cleared in and out of Xcalak with Capt.Morales, paying the $28 fee.
This is "Main Street" in downtown Xcalak.
We entered Belize at San Pedro on Ambergris Caye, cleared in paying the $10 fee, and spent the night at anchor off Big Daddy's. From there we sailed the inside route over very shallow water to Belize City where we met another friend who had flown in from the States. (It seems I took no photos during this part of the trip.)
After fueling up in Belize City we sailed to the Turneffe Atoll, one of the few atolls in the North Atlantic.
We came in through the reef at Blue Creek and sailed to Big Caye Bokel where the Turneffe Island Lodge is a luxurious temporary home to those who come for the bone fishing or scuba diving.
Above is the view from the lodge.
And this is the view from the reef.
Lighthouse is another atoll, 24 miles from Turneffe. Half Moon Caye, one of six small islands there, is a protected nature reserve with a lookout tower for bird watchers.
These are two of the blue footed boobies that nest there.
These are frigate birds that nest nearby.
From Lighthouse we sailed back to Turneffe then Bannister Caye on our way to Caye Caulker.
We entered Caye Caulker through Ship's Bogue and anchored in the busy harbor.
This one of the main streets in town.
There's a great beach here.
An Internet Cafe was conveniently located right on the beach.
We sailed back to Belize City where my two crew members could catch a flight back home. On my own again, I headed for Placentia abut 80 miles south. Along the way I stopped at Robinson Island and South Water Caye. It was all wonderful sailing conditions with the trade winds abeam and the waters flat, protected by the barrier reef.
This is the anchorage at Placentia.
The locals were very proud of their one paved thoroughfare - the sidewalk in the center of town. There was good shopping available there at Olga's, Mallon's and Bakerman John's. Cara did loads of laundry at her home. Internet service worked at times.
I continued south to Punta Gorda on the Guatemala border. A friend was working as a marine biologist there.
Below is the lighthouse which hangs from a tall pole in the center of town.
I had wanted to go up the Rio Dulce in Guatemala but hears too many stories about a dangerous character who was armed and targeting single handed boats. I turned around and headed back north but later learned the guy was caught just after I left.
On the way north I stopped in again at Caye Caulker then sailed up Chetumal Bay to Sarteneja, Belize.
Sarteneja is a large fishing and boat building village populated mainly by Mayans.
I saw no tourists or emigres while I was there but large homes under construction hinted that they were on the way.
Donkey carts and bicycles were the predominant transportation ashore.
At the public dock, cargo was being loaded on the ubiquitous working sailboats.
What I remember most about my time in Belize were the working sailboats.
These fast, open decked sailing ships have no engine and are used for fishing and transporting cargo. They have no lights but are out night and day. I asked one of the captains what this type of boat is called. He said "It's a sailing boat."