Dean Kelsey sent us this update about his travels in the Caribbean
Some would say our plan to buy a boat and sail around the Caribbean was lunacy. However, after several sailing courses and chartered boats in the Virgin Islands and Panama, we were ready to take the plunge on boat ownership.
So last Fall, my two partners and I purchased a new 38 ft. catamaran and promptly placed it in a chartered sailing program with Sunsail Yacht Charters. Our boat named “LUNA SEA” was assigned to Placencia, Belize (south of Cancun, Mexico) in the Caribbean waters just off the largest barrier reef in the Western Hemisphere.
In this program, we can sail our own boat or a similar one anywhere in the world Sunsail has a marina. So it was this past April that we headed to Belize for a 3 week sailing adventure that was anything but lunacy. If you know Belize…skip this brief geography/history lesson, otherwise this might help a bit to establish the scene: Belize, formerly known as British Honduras, gained independence in 1981 and has approximately 350,000 residents. Bordered by Mexico to the North, Guatemala to the West & South and the Caribbean Sea to the East, Belize has three Atolls and 350 miles of barrier reef (only Australia has a larger reef system).
This country is a peaceful and democratic nation with very strong ties to the U.S. and Great Britain. Belize is slightly smaller than the state of New Hampshire (8,867 sq. miles) or about twice the size of Jamaica. Within the borders of Belize are some of the last virgin rain forests in the world. Sailing these waters is among the finest in the Caribbean. The waters are well protected by the extensive reef system and the hundreds of coral studded cays and mangrove outcroppings dotted with swaying strands of palm trees and beautiful beaches. English is the official language and the local currency known as the Belize Dollar is tied directly to the US Dollar (BZ $2 equals US $1).
Our sailing base is located 1 hour south of Belize City and accessible via Tropic Air on a 12 passenger Cessna aircraft. Placencia sits at the end of a 16 mile long peninsula and is home to 600 people and the “Narrowest Main Street in the World” according to the Guinness World Book of Records.
Our boat is anchored in a well-protected lagoon along with 35 other boats, some monohulls and others catamarans. Placencia is home to some very exclusive resorts: Director Francis Ford Coppola’s “Turtle Inn” and “The Inn at Robert’s Grove” both are stunning and offer luxurious beachfront lodging and Oceanside dining. However, we were there to sail and “live aboard” our 4 cabin Cat. So for 21 days we tied up dockside and on mooring balls in nearly 20 different and very unique locations. These places had a variety of interesting names: Wippari Cay, Silk Cay, Ranguana Cay, Laughing Bird Cay, Pelican Cay, Cocoa Plum Cay, South Harbor Cay, Larks Cay, No Name Point and of course Placencia Harbor.
Every day was sunny and pleasant with water temperature at 81 degrees and air temps between 70 degrees at night and 90 degrees in the day. Sailing was very rewarding and at times a bit challenging with winds 15-20 knots on occasion and water depths over 150 feet to barely 4 feet along some reefs. We anchored several nights along the inside of this wonderful barrier reef which placed us about 2 – 20 miles off shore.
Each day we snorkeled for 2-3 hours split between mid-day sailing from cay to cay. The water was crystal clear with excellent visibility to 30 feet everywhere. Just on the other side of the reef, water depths were 100 fathoms (that’s 600 feet). The marine life was very plentiful…Starfish, Nurse Sharks, Barracudas, Sting Rays and Man-O-Wars. There were more fish than you’d see in a big city aquarium like the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago. Too much to detail here.
This was an experience to remember and one that we intend to re-live each Spring in Belize. There are only a couple hundred cays left to go.
Next sailing adventure will take us to the Abacos Islands of the Bahamas this October 2011. This time we will be on a similar boat, but not ours…It remains in Belize.
If you have an interest in sailing, you too can enjoy a similar experience with a chartered boat from Sunsail. Go to www.sunsail.com for all the worldwide destinations, boat types and details or drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Fair Winds & Following Seas!