The Cruising Adventures of Joan & Ben Schuetz aboard
Part 33: A few days of ambling
Friday, 28 April 2000
Early the morning of Monday, April 24, it was as calm and the sea was as slick as it gets. Delphys slipped the hook and departed for home. We had expected to stay, but as the morning developed, there wasn't a breeze and it got really hot. Joan and I said the heck with it and decided to make our own breeze. Promising ourselves to return someday, we set out for Rendezvous Cay, back inside the barrier reef. A 7 or 8 knot breeze did come up, but it was on the stern. So, for us, even though we were underway, there was no cooling air. While underway we trolled a lure and managed to catch a couple of large Spanish Mackerel. The freezer was restocked with lovely white fillets.
A couple of days before, during an afternoon dive on the outside reef at Glover's, we noticed that there were lots of tiny bits of brown something in the water. We also noticed that these bits caused a mild itch. As it turned out, the bits were pieces of stinging coral cells apparently broken loose by the large number of parrot fish in the area. Curiously, the bits were only present during that one sortie. We all experienced some discomfort, but pretty much shrugged it off at the time. For the next five days, the consequences became more apparent. Wherever our wet suits had chaffed the skin slightly, itching red welts broke out. Still today, in some areas, we look like we have the creeping crud. It is getting better, but the Cortaid and Benadril continue to get a work out.
We arrived at Rendezvous Cay (different from the Rendezvous Cay visited with Marge and Marv) at about 2:00 PM. Again, it was a small island with a coral ringed lagoon. We had a nice night, but in the morning there was no wind and the islands sand gnats seemed to be drawn to our boat. We beat a hasty retreat, headed for Frank's Cay for the night and the next day went to Punta Gorda to check out of Belize.
Late in the day we were anchored off Punta Gorda. A 36 foot sail boat (nameless), that had just checked in at Punta Gorda, hauled anchor and began sailing north toward the Stuart and Sicle Cays. It's an area that Francesca and Heide had poked around in and had found to be thoroughly infested with coral heads. The heads are difficult to see in any light because the water is murky. That late in the day they would be impossible to see and avoid.
I called the sail boat on VHF and asked it they were familiar with the area they were shortly getting into. The captain said that he had been there before, but thanked us for the concern. They continued under full sail to penetrate the badlands. Thirty minutes later the sailboat called us and announced that they had hit a coral head while running at 6 knots. They were aground and taking on water. I got their position and Joan and I prepared to get underway. It was going to be dark soon and we would have to anchor about a mile and a half away from them and go to their assistance in the dinghy. I called them back to tell them our intentions, but got no reply. So, hoping that there would be a local rescue operation, I put out a Mayday in their behalf. Only one boat responded and it was twice as far away as Francesca.
The sailboat finally called us back saying that the leak wasn't too bad and that the pumps were now handling it.
The captain had stuffed some rags in the hole. Francesca got within a couple of miles of them before they said that they thought they would be alright for the night. Since the sea was building, we went back to Punta Gorda to returned again in the morning and help them off of their grounding.
In the morning Francesca anchored about one half mile from the sailboat. At the sailboat, a mast lanyard was tied to an anchor and winched to pull the boat over and reduce the depth of the keel. Then, using only the dinghy, we pushed and pulled without result. They dumped all of their water, removed anchors, chain and any loose gear to reduce weight, but it still wouldn't budge. Finally, we backed Francesca to within 200 feet of the sailboat, and with a towing bridle began pulling the boat off of the bar. The sailboat had to be dragged stern first nearly 100 feet before it was safely floating again. If we had not been able to move it, the next thing would have been to get a tug out of Livingston, Guatemala. That would have been both expensive and complicated.
So, we made some new friends, had a few new experiences and slept really well last night. This morning, after returning to Punta Gorda and checking out of Belize, we cruised south and are now at anchor in the harbor at Livingston, Guat. The Port Captain, Health Official, and Customs Agent have just finished visiting the boat and after lunch we must go to their offices to complete the check-in. As usual, they all liked Maggie and she got all the attention. Later today, we will cruise up the Rio and spend the night anchored in Lago Golfette.
One thing for sure about cruising, you never know what adventures lie ahead. Happily, most of them are good ones.
Joan, Ben & Maggie