Diane & Harold, Sea Camp with Joan
The Cruising Adventures of Joan & Ben Schuetz aboard
Part 4: Peaks and valleys
Angelica and Peter on the sailing vessel "Awab" (all women are beautiful or b----es, sic) arrived in San Pedro early Wednesday, December 19. We had planned to move on that day, but decided to put the move off to join them in San Pedro. That was a good and bad decision. We really enjoyed their company, but that night in the tenuous anchorage behind the reef, the wind picked up and a monsoon hit. Within 3 hours, by 10:00 PM, it had rained about 8 inches. I had to bail the dinghy out twice. The first time, the battery was underwater. At 3:00 AM, still raining and with wind blowing about 25 knots, Joan and I gave up and put the dinghy up on the davits. By necessity, this was done with as few clothes as modesty would permit. Finally, with the dinghy up and the drain plug pulled, that was one problem solved. By morning, our 5 gallon bucket on the aft deck, clear of any runoff, was overflowing. We and "Awab" discovered cabin leaks we had never imagined. "Awab's" worst leak soaked their mattress. Ours was around a forward window with runoff into the galley.
The next day, the rain was on again, off again. Just enough that it didn't allow us to dry anything out. In 85 deg. weather and 100% humidity, things that don't dry take on a life of their own. Oh well, it wasn't anything not experienced before.
"Awab" joined us to cruise a few miles south to Caye Caulker. This key is a funky, hippy kind of place. You love it or hate it. But the bakery makes good bread and it gave us a much more secure anchorage than San Pedro. We remained there two days, dried out and were ready to go again. "Awab" decided to stay on for a while. Years ago, one could get lobster sandwiches, lobster omelets, lobster soup or just lobster for very little money. Times have changed and I don't have much more to say about Caye Caulker. We agreed to meet up with the folks from "Awab" further down the line.
Gene on "Queen Mary" has been in Bahia Ascension for a week. We heard that he was catching a bounty of lobster. When I talked to him on single side band, he said they were having great fun and eating well. Gene reported on the net that the sailing vessel "Hazel Bell" had foundered on the reef near Bahia del Espiritos Santos. They had apparently been close in at night and hit the reef. After some hours, the vessel was pushed further onto the reef and "holed". The Mexican Navy had been notified, but did not make the scene. The couple on board were elderly and in some health distress, but we understand they survived. The vessel is undoubtedly a total loss.
Running close in at night is risky business. Any failure, gps, autopilot, engine, sail, or whatever, makes for an unhappy mix. We grieve for the loss of the vessel and even more for the dreams of it's captain and mate.
Yesterday morning, December 22, Francesca set a leisurely pace toward theTurneffe Atoll (pronounced Turneff). Since it was just a bit too far for one easy day, we stopped at Water Caye for the night. There were two sailboats at anchor when we arrived, considerately we gave them at least a quarter mile of privacy. Soon, one sailboat left, hmmmm. We dinghied over to the other and caught the lady of the house sunbathing au natural. No problem, a towel was handy. She was very nice and talked about their plans and where they had been. They were from Sweden, I think.
Joan, Maggie and I then proceeded to the beach on Water Caye to let Maggie have some quality time. It was about then we noticed the second sailboat leaving too. As it turned out, they were joining the first sailboat out on the reef, but given some of our other experiences, we were getting pretty self conscious. Down here, with our stink pot power boat, we have found that sailboaters cut us some slack. We are, after all, the only liveaboard power boat in these parts.
That night and today were perfect. The weather was settled, with less than 10 knots of wind, and puffy white clouds moderated the intensity of the sun. This morning, we left Water Caye, cleared the reef and crossed about 15 miles of open water to get to the south end of Turneffe Atoll. On the way, while dragging a fishing lure, we hooked up with a monster that was never slowed down nor seen. We wanted only a small fish for supper, not a side of beef. So it's escape was in both our best interests. Adios amigo.
We entered the Atoll through Blue Creek which meanders through the mangroves for about a half mile. Then picked our way through a shallow, sometimes very very shallow lagoon to anchor near the Turneffe Island Lodge. We were in a bad anchorage spot, but planned to stay there for just a few hours. A quick dinghy ride to the Lodge and we found that we would be welcome for their Christmas Buffet. Next we went to a fish camp a couple miles away and put in our order for lobster to be picked up tomorrow. Price, a little high at $3.00 a pound, but its Christmas. Before finding a better anchorage, Joan and I went out and snorkeled the reef. Whoopee-, within a minute, we boated a lobster. Then nothing.
Lots of nice reef fish, snapper and a few grouper about and we had some good exercise too.
Finally, to end a perfect day, we moved the "Francesca" into the lee of a nearby island, set the hook, mixed gin and tonics, and smiled a lot.
The Turneffe Atoll is about 30 miles long and 10 miles wide and has many islands within the ring like reef. The population is the lodge and a half dozen fish camps. The one we visited today was a family with three children and two dogs. Much of the inner lagoon is not navigable for "Francesca", but the dinghy gets about well. We're pleased to be here and will remain for several days to explore this beautiful region. We are the only visiting vessel at this time.
With our best wishes for a happy holiday season to all.
Joan, Ben & Maggie