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Showing posts from February, 2011

Random Thoughts from Cucumber Beach Marina - Belize

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1.  Cucumber Beach Marina is about 5 miles south of Belize City.  In the 1950's it was built to export cucumbers, hence the name.  It didn't work out, as did several other ideas.  Today it is a very nice marina - mostly commerical and government craft.  It is a much better stop for fuel, water, and to visit downtown Belize City than the docks at the city themselves.  The downtown docks are quite exposed to the weather.
2.  The VHF channel 16 traffic included "Warship 44" in a variety of clearly American dialects.  Warship 44 turned out to be the USS Gunston Hall (LSD 44) on an exercise and port visit to Belize.  An LSD is a "Landing Ship Dock."  In particular the Gunston Hall is designed to carry four LCAC's (Landing Craft Air Cushion) in its well deck.  One of the LCAC's was ferrying crew to shore and decided to make a close pass of Reboot and Hobo II on our transit from the Drowned Cays.

3.  There has been quite a bit of traffic on the morning  HF …

Cay Caulker (sometimes)

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Ah, my kind of place.

We left San Pedro and ran about 10NM south inside the reef to Cay Caulker.  Of course I could not find it on the big chart.  You know, the useless one.  That is because it is called Cay Corker on the printed chart and also the electronic chart.

We are in the eastern trades.  It blows 15 to 20 every day, day in and day out. Unless of course you are struggling with a case of food poisoning and wondering  how well your anchor is set.  Then it gusts to 30 at 4 AM while you are puking over the side.

The good news is that we have found the "secret button" on Jim's M802 marine radio.  Hopefully we will now be able to make it do all the things Jim purchased it to do.  The good part is he always invites his friend Jack (Daniels) when I come to work on his boat.

San Pedro, Belize

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This is a town my brother would love. He is to airplanes what I am to boats. What to do?
1. Build a 2600 foot airstrip in the center of the island (Ambergris Cay - (pronounced Key as in Florida.))
2. Widen one end for a ramp area.
3 Build a couple of hangers and a shed for baggage, mail and cargo (no doors or windows needed.)
4. Put some chain link fence about 100 feet from the runway, etc. Yes, only 100 feet!
5. Build the entire town around the runway. Keep buildings 3 stories and under so as not to interfere with the glide slope.
I know that Ace has flown his plane to Canada but I think he needs to experience Island aviation!
My friend Jim went to Belize City via commuter plane to meet a friend ($80 round trip, about 15 minutes vs 1 1/2 wet hours by ferry.) He asked about a seat for his scheduled departure. "Oh, we have 88 people booked for your flight sir." "How big is the plane?" "13 seats sir. We just keep flying back and forth until everyone …

Belize

After a fast sail in 20 knot winds and a 7 - 8 foot beam sea Reboot is now in San Pedro, Belize.  It is a very cool town.  Pictures will follow tomorrow.

Anchoring Nowhere

Hobo II and Reboot have been working our way south down the Yucatan Channel. For the past couple of days we have been in the vicinity of the Chinchorro Bank, apparently one of only four true atolls in the Western Hemisphere. It sits about 20 nm off the coast of Mexico. We waited out high winds at the north end, last night we anchored at the south end.
What is weird is the total lack of references. The reef that surrounds the plateau is under water. All one sees is the breaking seas. I now understand how ships could so easily run aground. If the wave tops are being blown off by the wind the reef is almost impossible to find. And as I pointed out earlier the charts are useless. You need waypoints from someone who has visited and surveyed a safe route.
Last night we anchored in about 20 feet of water. The only thing to the horizon in any direction was ocean. We knew we had some protection from the reef as the waves were much lower than they had been in deeper water. But that was…

Out of the Nest

My experience in Mexico must be what it is like to be a fledgling thrown out of the nest! I have rapidly come to appreciate how fortunate I have been to sail in US waters. I am used to very detailed AND ACCURATE charts real time weather downloads from the XM Radio marine weather service, and frequent full service marinas almost everywhere I have gone. (OK, I still hate the coast of New Jersey, but who doesn't!) The marine guides are more focused on the best restaurant or T-shirt shop than navigation details.
My trip to Canada was a harbinger of things to come. The XM weather service became more spotty. The weather on the other hand is much more changeable. Charts were good and as I have pointed out before the people were great. But my comfort level was reduced as the marine services in the Maritimes are almost all focused on commercial shipping interests. Plus a lot more people get in trouble, I heard more calls for help while there than I had in the remainder of my sailin…

Off Cozumel

Reboot and Hobo II are headed south to Xcalak along the Mexican coast. We have been fighting adverse currents ever since Key west and today is no exception. Xcalak is at the south end of Mexico's Caribbean coast and where I will check out of Mexico. The current of the day is of course the Yucatan Channel current. Since I am not finding any current arrows on the chart south of Cozumel so hopefully it will moderate. The currents are strong, 2 to 3 knots is not unusual. The good news, I suppose, is that it will all be in my favor as I head back to Key West.
The Mexican coast reminds me a lot of Nova Scotia and Newfoundland which is weird. The similarity is that there are a very few good places to come into port. In NS and NF it was a rocky coast, here in Mexico it is a barrier reef. The coast seems to be almost continuous large resort developments. The major towns are just even larger clusters of big resort complexes.
The charts here (Mostly based on DMA charts) are a far cry…

Cancun

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I had planned to go to Cancun today to the Port Authority and get my final Mexican clearance document.  However, the office were closed today for a holiday so I need to go back tomorrow.

Since I had already planned to go Jim and I decided that we would take the day and ferry over to see Cancun.  We arrived after a very pleasant 25 minute ride at the Ferry Terminal with absolutely no idea where to go.  Eventually we hired a cab that took us to Cancun City.  We wandered around for a while not really enjoying it and eventually ended up at Wal-Mart.  Yes, I know, don't remind me.  It actually worked out as we both needed to do some simple shopping.  Downtown Cancun is a big tourist shopping area - something that leaves me cold.  We then got on a bus and headed for the hotel district.  After a bit Jim got impatient and said lets get off and get a drink.  We walked across the street to the nearest hotel only to be told that it was an "adult paradise" and unless we were staying…

Snorkeling

We took the dinghy out for a snorkeling trip today.  The water here is about 80 degrees and crystal clear.  We spent some time just swimming over groups of hundreds of fish.  Very cool.  The only downside was the current.  We had to make sure that we were not drifting too far from the dinghy.
After a bit of snorkeling we went into a very calm and protected area and just hung out in the water for a while.  Then we discovered that we had anchored above a sunken boat that was slowly rotting away.  So on went the fins and masks again for some more snorkeling.  What a great day.

Marina Paraiso Isla Mujeres

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The "Q" flag is finally down.  Reboot, XO and I are finally cleared into Mexico.  The only remaining step it to get the official sticker for Reboot from Customs in Cancun on Monday (The office is only open Monday, Wednesday and Friday.)  Jim (HOBO II) and I made landfall here at Marina Paraiso in Isla Mujeres.  It was a very fortunate decision.  The staff here has been very helpful in getting all of the paperwork filed, the various official visits taken care of, and all those other little things like getting my propane tank refilled that always require "local knowledge" the first time.

Last night I walked to the downtown area of the island.  There is a two by four block area that is clearly where all of the tourist shops and restaurants are located.  It was fun to walk around for a few hours.  It reminded me of my trip to the US Virgin Islands - a lot of stores selling jewelry in addition to the more normal stuff.  So there must be some duty free or discount deal f…

Transit to Isla Mujeres Mexico

I had an interesting transit from Key West to Isla Mujeres, Mexico.  HOBO II (Jim) and REBOOT departed Key West just in time to watch the Wreckers Race.  This is an annual event to celebrate (?) the fact that Key West was once a haven for real pirates - the "wreckers" kind.  They would move the lights and marks to lure ships unto the reef and wreck.  The Key Wester's would then go out and salvage the ships that had run aground.

The first day was pleasant as we ran out toward the Dry Tortugas.  I have visited Fort Jefferson a couple of times in the past.  As we approached Jim voted to bypass and continue on to Mexico as the winds were very favorable.  We then set a great circle course direct to the reef buoy at the north end of Isla.  (Even at 300 nm it was interesting to see that the great circle course differed from the rhumb line course by a couple of degrees.) Within a hour we were being set by the Gulf Stream.  We decided to increase our southing toward Cuba to escap…

Off the coast of Cuba

Hobo II and Reboot are currently about 50 miles north of Cayo De La Lena on the northwest coast of Cuba. The last 24 hours have been beautiful sailing, warm, light to moderate winds, fairly gentle following seas. We did motor for about 13 hours last night as the wind died and we were fighting the current of the Gulf Stream. This morning the wind picked back up and we are now sailing along at about 7 knots under clear and sunny skies. We have about 150 miles left to go to Isla Mujeres where we will check into Mexico. More when we arrive, as the radio filed blog entries are by necessity short.