The Cruising Adventures of Joan & Ben Schuetz aboard
Part 5: A very merry Christmas
Turneffe Lodge, near the southernmost tip of Turneffe Atoll, is very nicely done diving resort. For example, the docks are made from heavy plank Honduran Mahogany throughout. The grounds are manicured and the sandy areas raked as cleanly and smoothly as a golf course sand trap. We inquired about having Christmas dinner with them and they were happy to accommodate us.
Christmas day, Joan and I snorkeled and explored more extensively around the reef areas. It was all quite nice and enjoyable. We discovered that another boat had arrived and was anchored in Blue Creek a few miles away. Visiting, we learned they were Harold and Diane on the sailing vessel "Sea Camp". We had a good visit and found out that their next planned destination was the same as ours, "Blue Field Range", back inside the barrier reef. They have been full time liveaboards for 8 years and have pretty well covered the Caribbean and the "must see" parts of South America.
Joan made up Christmas packages for the folks at a couple of the fish camps and we delivered them. Later in the day, a group of them came to the boat and gave us about a dozen lobster tails.
Christmas evening, we dinghied about 2 miles to the Lodge. They really put on a spread with tipico American buffet style turkey, beef, ham, several dressings, wonderful deserts and large pitchers of wine. We enjoyed the company of several of the divers, one of whom was an electrical engineer and it tickled me to talk some shop. Joan and I were very impressed by the staff at the lodge. A little side note: we found out that the Manta Reef Resort at Glover's Atoll was completely destroyed by hurricane Iris. However, the only loss of life from Iris was with a dive boat that had put in at Placencia's Big Creek on the mainland. The boat capsized and all aboard were killed.
Francesca idled away several move days at Turneffe, the weather was perfect. The snorkeling was good and we added a few more lobster to our cache. Then December 28, we together with "Sea Camp", moved across the straights and behind the barrier reef to the island group of Blue Field Range. Over the next several days, we got to know Diane and Harold better and together dived at least twice a day. Their hunter prowess kept us in fish. There was great snorkeling at Rendezvous Cay and later around the Colson Cays.
From experience in the Bahamas, most cruisers believe that in the shallow waters behind the barrier reef, there are only barracuda. Therefore, very few people bother to troll there. At least for this time of year, we have found that there are only few barracuda and rather a nice mix of king and Spanish mackerel. The day before new years, Sea Camp and Francesca moved further south to Tobacco Cay. We dragged a couple of trolling lines and within 20 minutes there were two nice king mackerel aboard. Our New Year's eve dinner was assured.
Tobacco Cay lies just a few yards behind the barrier reef and a mile or so from the island group of Tobacco Range. The cay is an island of roughly 4 acres with sandy beaches, a couple dozen rental houses, two palapa beach bars, a few dogs and lots of very nice people. Later that afternoon, "Awab" motored down from Rendezvous Cay. On the way, they hit a coral head hard and very nearly holed their boat. The damage was manageable, but they were unable to join our group aboard "Francesca" for New Year's eve dinner and drinks.
One of the most redeeming qualities of a trawler in these parts is that, from the fly bridge, it is relatively easy to spot coral heads and read the water. The charts and cruising guides can't possibly include all of the coral hazards, but they are good indicators of areas to avoid and where to be especially alert. Those who followed our first trip to Belize may remember when s/v "Sea Lion" hit a coral head and was holed. In both cases the boats were moving at cruise speed when they hit. Boats are tough, but coral heads are tougher. Sailboats have a difficult time reading the water from low vantage points.
The Bahamas are fine, but these are wonderful cruising grounds for trawlers. Diane kept asking us why there were no other trawlers here. Our replies weren't very satisfying. Trawlers need all weather ground tackle, plenty of batteries, good inverter(s), a good spares kit, weatherfax, SSB, and some open water experience. But that's what is necessary for sailboats too. Come on MTOAers, your missing a lot here.
The 6:00 AM weather fax on January 1st indicated that some foul weather was headed our way. Two fronts had joined up in the Gulf of Mexico with gale force winds and the local wind/wave forecast for 48 to 72 hours showed 20 to 30 knot NNE winds. While that's not all that bad and most of the barrier reef havens would have been alright, we decided that it would be better to go to a really secure spot where we have hidden from weather before; Sapodillo Lagoon. The lagoon was only about 20 miles away and how dumb it would be to have bad nights when real comfort was so close. The lagoon is secluded and protected from all directions. Rarely have we seen other boats there.
"Sea Camp" was expecting guests to fly in to Belize City and they also had to extend their visas. Sadly, we said goodbye to them, but promised to keep in touch on "the net" and get together again at the Bay Islands of Honduras. "Awab" needing some additional temporary repairs, decided to go with us to Sapodilla Lagoon where they could take care of things in calm water.
So here we are today, January 2 at Sapodillo Lagoon. The wind and seas are calm-, really calm-, but the weather fax this morning said that by tomorrow morning it will be SW 20 knots. Then, over the next two days, the winds will clock around to the NE at 25 to 30 knots. Today, we will do some boat maintenance and put up the 1 meter satellite TV dish. In the calm conditions of the lagoon, we can probably get our TV "fix" and find out what is going on with the rest of the world. Voice of America, the BBC and CBC on hf radio are OK, but don't replace the tube.
Joan, Ben & Maggie