The Cruising Adventures of Joan & Ben Schuetz aboard
Part 32: Jack's Cay No - Glover's Reef Si
Sunday, 23 April 2000
Jack's Cay, although a pretty nice anchorage, was a bust for diving. Mark did shoot a really nice 15 pound hogfish, but the scenery was pretty sparse and the water clarity below our now high standards. So, yesterday morning, we up and left Jack's and headed for Glover's Reef about 25 miles away. Glover's is an atoll (completely enclosed reef structure) located about 15 miles outside of the Belizean barrier reef. It is the southernmost of three such atolls and is roughly 18 miles long, 8 miles wide and shaped kind of like an egg. We had heard that the diving was excellent at Glover's.
The cruise out to the reef belied an ideal weather report. Seas were choppy and the wind was NE 15 to 20. But, it was only a 15 mile passage so we slogged through it arriving at Glover's around 1:00 PM. Glover's reef was named after a British buccaneer John Glover, who based his operations here in the 1700s. We entered the reef through a cut on the south end near a couple of islands that have been set up for US diving tourist packages. There are cabinas and a restaurant /bar. Just imagine they want 25 US bucks for a meal. We bought a beer and enjoyed the view. They also said not to bring Maggie back next time (imagine). There were no other cruisers visiting the restaurant. Word gets around fast. And on the VHF, a cruiser let his feelings be known to anyone who would listen. But I don't think that the Manta Resort and Dive Center could have cared less.
As long as the wind doesn't switch to the north or south, you can anchor almost anywhere behind the reef for 15 miles. So there is no need for crowding. Still, boats tend to congregate and in one area there were six sailboats including a couple that we were familiar with. Delphys and Francesca found a nice quiet and private spot in a shallow area behind the reef and settled down for the night with visions of groupers dancing in our heads.
In the morning, Saturday the 22nd, Mark and I set out to reconnoiter the area. First we checked inside the atoll where there are over 600 large and distinct coral structures. The waters are typically 40 to 60 feet deep, but the coral structures are set on tops of mounds which depths range from zero to 20 feet. We visited several of them, and were visited in turn by several sharks, one about 9 feet long. It was not a docile old nurse shark. At the time, Mark was chasing a 15 lb. grouper and I had to yell to him on the surface not to shoot anything. The visibility inside the atoll was kind of poor, only about 25 feet, and we felt it might be prudent to look elsewhere.
We decided to try snorkeling on the outside of the main reef. To get to it, we ran the dinghy up close on the inside of the eastern reef, anchored, then walked with our gear across the rocks to the ocean side and entered the water. There the bottom slopes to about 60 feet with lots of canyons and caves and crevices. Beyond the 60 foot depth it drops vertically to 2000 feet and more. The sharp drop off insured that the visibility was good, 100 feet or better, and the fish large. On our first dive we were just checking out the area and Mark did not take his spear gun. Within a minute or two we saw 20 lb. snapper and in the next few minutes a 15 lb. grouper followed by a 35 to 45 lb. grouper. Then a 5 or 6 foot black tip reef shark, and later a 5 foot tarpon. The fish didn't even mind when we swam up to within a couple of feet of them.
After a couple of hours, we went back to our boats for lunch and to get the girls for an afternoon dive. Returning to the same area around 1:00 PM, it was just as impressive and fun to snorkel, but the big fish had vanished. I think it may have something to do with the tide or time of day, but we promised ourselves that we would return early the next morning.
At around 8:30 AM we went back to the outside reef. We found several medium size grouper, but held off shooting anything while looking for Mr. Big. With the reef sharks around we wanted only one good fish and then we would leave the water. Mark got a shot at a 25 lb. grouper but missed. A few minutes later a 6 to 7 foot black tip shark swam back and forth 10 feet below us. It seemed agitated and we didn't crowd it.
The wind had blown 20 knots most of the night and with the surf up some. Our two hour search in the moderate surf pretty well pooped us out. We returned to our boats - skunked, but happy tired.
Tomorrow morning Delphys is leaving for the States. We plan to stay here at Glovers for a day or two more then go to Placencia to get a Vet. to look at Maggie's on-again, off-again sore toe.
Joan, Ben & Maggie