Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The strange cruising life

Today I checked out of Belize. There is a big controversy here about new charges from the Port Captains. When I was in Cucumber the Port Captain insisted on collecting a "clearing out fee." I said, but I am not clearing out. When I got to Punta Gorda to clear out the Port Captain said: "Oh, I see you already have the clearing out document." I said "Yes but I have overpaid since I did not stay in Belize as long as the Port Captain at Cucumber made me pay. The local guy said "I can't give you a refund." What a clear rip-off. I think this is a case of bureaucratic stupidity. The documents all seem appropriate and reflect the actual monies collected. Its just that the moneys collected have nothing in common with the appropriate fees. You might think this is no big thing but lots of people are skipping Belize this year rather than feeling like they have been ripped off. The radio nets are full of angry cruisers. Hopefully someone in the Belize Government will hear the clamor and make this all right in the future.

I told you that yesterday was a lazy day. Today was the opposite. It started at about 2 AM when the radar indicated that I was headed into a region of rain. Rain itself is not a problem but one never knows what kind of wind it will bring with it. Other than a few weird wind shifts the showers were pretty benign and REBOOT got a very needed fresh water wash down. Then the wind died completely. I of course can motor but I was trying to conserve fuel as diesel is $5.00 + US per gallon and also I am trying to learn how to run for days on end without using fuel. This is in preparation for long crossings, e.g. the Atlantic or Pacific.

I made it into Punta Gorda harbor by about 10:30 AM local and tied up at the Texaco fuel dock. I met four young Canadians who where sailing their boat to the Rio to store it for the summer as they had run out of money and needed to go back to work. I left REBOOT and walked down and checked out. On the way back I stopped at the local pizza place (Ed King are you listening) as I figured I could get a slice or two. I was greeted by a young Dutch woman. She told me that this was her third day on the job and then related her world travels since age 18. I have discovered many European men and women in their 20's and early 30's who seem to be "back packing" around the world. Apparently they are not concerned about jobs or careers.

The pizza was meh and the wind was kicking up so I went back to REBOOT and cast off. Punta Gorda harbor has no protection from the trade winds (why would it, the trades blow just about every day.) It was too late to head for Livingston Guatemala so I headed generally Northeast to hide behind one of the Cays for the night. By this time the wind was kicking 20 gusts to 25 and the seas were 4 to 5 feet on the nose. I finally said "what the heck am I doing, turned 180 degrees and headed for Bajo de Ox Tongue off Punta Manabique for the night. There I found another sailboat "AIRBORNE" that I have heard on the radio bands for the last few days. We chatted on the radio and agreed that we would head out tomorrow for Livingston, Guatemala and the Rio Dulce. Tonight we sit in the lee of the point with our Guatemalan courtesy flags and our yellow "leper" flags. The yellow flag indicates we need Customs and Immigration to come out and clear us into the country, in this case Guatemala.

So tomorrow the famous Rio Dulce, Velcro for Gringos...

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