Saturday, February 26, 2011

Random Thoughts from Cucumber Beach Marina - Belize

XO Checking the Approach to Cucumber Beach
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.

Belize Port Authority Boat
3.  There has been quite a bit of traffic on the morning  HF cruisers net about the costs for entering Belize.  Until recently it has been very inexpensive.  Recent boaters have been charged several hundred dollars by the Port Captains of the various Belize ports.  There has been some belief that these were really rip offs by the local officials rather than legitimate fees.  When I checked in I did not pay the Port Captain fee.  However when I arrived at Cucumber I was approached for my paperwork including a receipt for the port captain's fee. Since I did not have one I was charged the fee.  However, the local gentleman showed me the memo from the Port Authority.  Apparently these are new fees just instituted a couple of weeks ago hence the confusion.  It is unfortunate that Belize has become yet another Caribbean country that is creating even more disincentives for cruisers to visit.  What is particularly hillarious is that $30 BZ of the fee is for "navigation aids."  The following picture is a standard "Belize Navigation Aid."
Belize Navigation Aid

Note the clever use of old T-shirts to distinguish this mark.  Other versions include bleach bottles, white T-shirts, white sticks, etc.  I have already mentioned in the blog that the charts are totally useless.  The general shapes of things are fine but improperly located and there are no depth soundings.  In North Belize this is a real issue as much of the water is 8 feet or less deep.

4.  When I left Milwaukee soon after the current recession hit (depression?) I commented that with the exception of Lake St. Clair (that was filled with laid off auto workers drawing pay to fish) most of the marinas were quite empty.  The same seems to be true for the "Mayan Riviera."  In both Mexico and now in Belize the resorts, beaches, ferries, etc. are empty.  And this is high season.  The economy is really hurting.

Lifeguard Stand
5.  This is a pretty place and quite inexpensive for a marina.  It has a good restaurant that actually puts alcohol in their drinks.  Actually having alcohol does not seem to be the norm in the various "tourist" watering holes we have seen on our way down.  It is quite hot here and I intend to go swimming in the outdoor pool tomorrow.  I have been swimming off Reboot just about every day but the water in the marina is not particularly clean.

More to follow later ...

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