The Cruising Adventures of Joan & Ben Schuetz aboard
Part 7: Just a bunch of stuff
Some of you might wonder what our daily routine is like. Well, unless we are planning a long crossing, it almost always starts at 6:00 AM with the startup of the generator. The coffee pot is turned on, watermaker on, computer on, and the single side band radio (SSB) is set to the weatherfax frequency. The house batteries must be charged about every 12 hours. We depend on them to keep the refrigerator and freezer operating during periods when the generator is not running. While we have coffee and breakfast, the weather is received until about 7:20. Then, clean up and get ready for the day.
Before 8:00 AM, the house batteries are fully charged and the watermaker and genset are turned off. Then at 8:00 AM, the NW Caribbean Net begins on SSB and we listen to their weather and check-in. Every few days, we will have "traffic" (communications) with another boat friend somewhere in the western Caribbean. At that time of day, on the 8 megahertz marine band, our SSB does pretty well up to about 350 miles so we can easily communicate from Isla Mujeres, Mex. to Honduras.
Considering the forecast weather, by the time the Net is over, our day has been planned. Then, we either move to a new location or spend the day free diving or otherwise exploring.
Around 5:00 PM, the generator, watermaker, routine is repeated. While the genset is on, we can cook with the electric stove, so dinner is prepared. Sometimes, we use the gas grill on the back of the boat. After dinner, it's cocktails on the flybridge. Finally, around 8:00 PM, we are tuckered out and start a hopefully unseen videotape to be watched in bed. Most of the boaters carry a good stock of movies and we swap them liberally. It is unusual if we manage to stay awake through a whole movie, so, very often it is finished the next night. If we don't have an unseen movie, there is a good supply of books to read. These are also liberally swapped between boaters and at the marinas.
The days are full and we are seldom bored. Sometimes, even the challenge of bad weather provides an interesting diversion. But adverse weather conditions are never welcome at the hours when they are most often experienced. You know-, between 12:00 midnight and 4:00 AM.
On the evening of January 10, we arrived at a place just a mile or so north of the natural harbor of New Haven, Belize. Anchoring behind a small island, we dinghied over to the mainland where there were several miles of excellent beach with not a soul around. What a lovely spot with coconut palms, lots of driftwood, and few if any bugs. Peter and Angelica brought their dog, Niko and of course we had Maggie. After returning to the boat, I felt really tired. Within 30 minutes I developed severe chills and had little control over shaking. Although the ambient temperature was around 80 degrees, Joan piled on blankets. After an hour or so, the chilling stopped and a fever set in. Shit-, it's malaria (some people will do anything to have something to write about). The fever finally broke about 5:00 AM, but by then I was very weak. The next night, after a low grade fever, the sweats soaked my night clothes, the sheets and pillow case.
We had been taking Chloroquin (Arafen) to prevent the disease, but as we learned on the Net, the dose had been incorrect. It is supposed to be 500 mg, once a week, while we had been taking only 250 mg. The NW Caribbean Net was also helpful in giving us the cure dosage. It is 1000 mg Chloroquin immediately, an additional 500 mg six hours later, then 500 mg per day for two days. Fortunately, the strain of malaria in these parts is not very dangerous and easily cured. But, I had a couple of uncomfortable days and don't wish to repeat it.
In the US, Chloroquin is expensive and a prescription is required. In most other countries it is sold over the counter and inexpensive. The various health services don't recommend taking Chloroquin for a short visit here, but anyone planning an extended trip should begin taking preventive doses a week before arrival.
Back to cruising. We were planning our days so that we would arrive at Punta Gorda on Sunday, for an early Monday check-out of Belize. So, our daily movements were only a few miles each day to a new anchorage. After the beautiful beach area, we moved to New Haven. This balloon shaped lagoon is protected from winds from all directions except the south to southwest. The lagoon is about 1/2 mile in diameter with an average depth of about 12 feet. With all that excellence, there is only one small abandoned house. Again, no boats of any kind were seen.
Near the mainland, between New Haven and Punta Gorda, are the Mangrove Cays. This area is astonishingly different from any other in Belize. The water is deep, 30 to 60 feet, and the Cays and rocky bars are steep to (rise abruptly). There are perhaps a hundred Cays with narrow channels in an area 3 miles wide by 5 miles long. Wandering around in there, it is easy to misread your position. Saturday, January 12, "Francesca", with "Awab" following closely, very slowly (about 4.5 knots) made her way through the Cays. Twice Joan and I argued about where we were and one other time we were in agreement, but found we were both wrong. Moving slowly sometimes has its benefits.
At the south end of the Cays lies the beautiful little island of south Mojo (moho) Cay where we anchored for the night. The Cay is perhaps 3 acres in area and festooned with angular coconut palms. An inviting sandy beach completely rings the island with a small dock on the western side extending out about 50 feet. When Belize was a British protectorate the Brits used this island for R and R. Today, only the dock remains as witness to that time and the rest of the island has become mostly overgrown. Sadly, no matter how remote, there is always plastic. Plastic bottles, oil containers, caps, milk jugs, strapping, etc. Often, when burning trash on the beach, we try to leave a place better than we found it by burning the bits of plastic and burying the remains.
The seven hills near Punta Gorda
South of Mangrove Cays and just a couple miles north of Punta Gorda, is another small area I think of as no man's land. That region has many coral heads just far enough below the surface to be hidden by the cloudy inshore waters. It is a region we explored last time and where Sea Lion was holed by a coral head. We shall not revisit it again. Tomorrow it is off to Punta Gorda for the day and to check-out of Belize.
Joan, Ben & her magnificence, Maggie