The Cruising Adventures of Joan & Ben Schuetz aboard
Part 14: San Pedro and Caye Caulker, Belize
Monday, 24 January 2000
Getting through the break in the reef at San Pedro, Ambergris Caye, Belize was a piece of cake. So far, although we had been warned of serious discrepancies, the Rauscher Cruising Guide to the area has been good. To be forewarned is forearmed though and we don't take any information as gospel. A bad waypoint or incorrectly drawn chart feature could be real trouble if you don't consider it as suspect until proven.
Belize is an English speaking country. It used to be British Honduras until is gained independence sometime in the 70s I think. The population is a mixture of Spanish, Mayan, other indians and Caribe and all possible combinations thereof.
San Pedro isn't the same sleepy little place we knew 12 to 15 years ago. Then, there were only two vehicles in town, a VW van with no doors and a really tired pickup truck. The dogs laid in the street and traffic, foot or otherwise, had to go around them. Today, San Pedro has about doubled in size and there are cars and golf carts everywhere. Still dirt streets though and no stop lights. San Pedro is pretty pricey too. A loaf of bread is about $3.50 US and beach front property can't be touched.
We were anchored between the reef and shore with seven sailboats. The holding was poor, but for normal weather we were secure enough. We stocked up on Belikin Beer, motor oil ($10 US a gal), gasoline for the dink ($2.50 US a gal), and some fresh produce. Otherwise, as Joan said, we just roamed the streets.
Marv and I dived a small section of the reef one day and it was very nice. It was in an area that gets far too much traffic though, so mostly we got some good exercise. The really good stuff we expect will begin south of Caye Caulker.
My (Ben) little health problem has kept nagging at me. So, we decided to move the boats south about eight miles to Caye Caulker where there is a very secure place to anchor. I must bite the bullet, go to the US and let the quacks probe, poke me and send me off with some more pills. Someday, maybe they will get it right.
Meanwhile, at Caye Caulker, we are anchored, again with about seven sailboats, and yesterday afternoon visited the Caye. This place has changed, but not so much as San Pedro. We are going to get together with the Heides later this morning to discuss whether to stay here or not. Just a few miles south is Caye Chapel. It has a small marina and we could tie up there while I'm gone. The issue is not so much one of safety as it is that Joan will have to keep all the machinery going. Generator, watermaker, SSB for weather, Satphone and computer for email and so on. It shouldn't be a problem though as Marv and sailboat friends are around if there is a problem. If we stay at Caye Caulker, I will put out a second anchor for added safety.
It is finally pretty warm during the day, but in the evening it drops to the low 70s. We're not far from monkeys, mahogany trees, jungle, the magnificent ruins at Tikal, which we have visited three times before, and malaria. The latter isn't too much of a concern, but we will get the pills to fend it off when we can. Belize has a barrier reef that extends the length of the country and which is generally more than a half mile offshore. Behind the reef it is navigable and protected from all but the worst storms. If a storm approaches, we can always duck behind an island for really good protection.
The Satellite TV doesn't work here, a larger dish is required. So, we get our news on HF radio through Voice of America, the BBC and the Canadian BBC. Weather comes to us from Louisiana, I think, on the weather FAX. The WEFAX includes wind direction and velocity, sea state, a satellite picture and the isobar pictures. Weather forecasts are for the next 24 and 36 hours. So far, the forecasts have been pretty good.
Right now, the plan is for me to fly out tomorrow, Tues. the 24th and return in a week. I will spend the time with my Dad in Arkansas. Maybe this time, the flight problems will not be so bad as they were in Mexico.
Joan, Ben, Marge, Marv & Maggie