Entering fishing camp

Outer Cays of Belize

Thursday December 5, 2013

*So, I kind of forgot to take photos here and had to borrow some from other cruisers.

Entering fishing camp

Approach to Colson Cays
(Photo courtesy of Sailing Bailando)


To my surprise, Serendipity picked up some speed as I was sleeping, and now we were gliding through the inner channel at a steady 5.5 knots. During my slumber I had heard Matt try and open the headsail, hoping that the engine would not be needed, but the wind was still too close on our nose and we had to continue motorsailing with the main. My spirits instantly lifted when I heard the engine come back to life since I am not a fan of sailing through channels at night. Alone. On my first day back to sailing in 5 months. There were a few times in my sleep shift that I was also called up to lend an eye with my navigation skills.

Throughout the channel were markers of the channel as well as various buoys marking shoals and cays. As I rubbed my blurry eyes and looked at the chartplotter while Matt tried to place a green buoy that he could not see on there, I turned to look for the source of light. “Do you see that green one between the two reds?”, Matt asked me. “No, I see two reds with a white in the middle though.” “I don’t know how you can’t see it, they’re right there about a mile away from us!” I looked at it again. And again and again to make sure I was seeing it right. Then I turned to Matt and shouted “It’s not green, it’s white! Like really, really white!”. Poor guy. His somewhat colorblindness was cute back in our home when he thought our living room was painted light green, and not the oatmeal it actually was, but out on the water it’s a little scary. I matched the white buoy with the one it was representing on the chartplotter and went back to sleep. Luckily he saw a real green buoy shortly after and is now able to tell the difference again.

My next shift up was full of nothing, and that’s just the way I like it. Calm seas, starry skies, and good music playing through our cockpit speakers. By the time my shift was ending at 4:30 am, we were already passing the Tabacco Cays which meant we would not be stopping there unless we wanted to circle that area for the next two hours. Which I did not. I found something else about 15 miles further up and told Matt of our new destination as I went back to bed. Where I heard that Matt figured out our course had taken us off the wind enough that he now actually could let out all the sails and cut the engine. Oh well, at least I wouldn’t have to touch them. My next sleep shift would take us all the way to anchor.

The next time I was woken up we were just about to make our entry into the Colson Cays. It was a pretty straightforward entry with only a few coral heads near the entrance, so I was put at the bow with my polarized sunglasses to keep a lookout for them. Which of course did nothing for us since the sun was so low in the sky and I couldn’t make out anything more than three feet past our bow. There were no issues though, and moments later we were dropping our hook in 12 feet of clear green water. After we went through the steps of putting the boat back together we happily passed out in the v-berth for the next three hours.

Getting up in the late morning we tackled a few chores like trying to get the bottom of the dinghy from a nice espresso color to a lightly coffee stained color. Then came the most important part of the day, trying to find a good snorkeling patch. All of our guides showed a spot for excellent snorkeling just out from the northernmost Colson Cay. Searching through the depths of our lazarette for items that we hadn’t used in almost six months, such as our snorkel gear and the dinghy anchor, we packed everything up and set off for clear waters full of fish. Who knows where those were hiding, because we did not find them here. Dropping in the anchor that looked like it might have coral around in, we fell into the water only to find nothing but eel grass.

Swimming for a few hundred feet, that’s all we continued to find. Pulling ourselves back into the dinghy we continued further up the little island made of mangroves. No coral patches popped up, but we did cross over the blue hole that was marked on our charts. As many times as I tell myself that taking a dinghy or swimming over the top of one means it’s going to suck you into it’s depths, they always give me an uneasy feeling in my stomach when we pass over one. Just for something to do, we anchored the dinghy outside of the hole and decided to swim around it’s outskirts. I was hoping for the same kind of clarity and fish that we came across when we encountered blue holes in the Bahamas, but this one was a little bit of a let down. Visibility was slightly murky and again, all we could see was eel grass and one or two chameleon fish that blended in with their surroundings. Dejected, we got back in the dinghy and puttered back to Serendipity.

Still determined to find good snorkeling, we powered up the chartplotter so we could grab the coordinates of the so called excellent coral in the area. Entering them into a little handheld GPS, we set off once more. Tracking down the exact spot we had marked for ourselves we once again lowered the anchor and slipped into the water. And once again there was nothing. Visibility was even worse out here and the only thing we seemed to find was a ton of those little jellyfish without the tendrils. Circling the whole parimiter we saw nothing, but I think I did get a few small stings from those little jellyfish. Nothing very painful, just a little prickling that stayed with me for the next 30 minutes.

Back at Serendipity we went about the rest of our chores, Matt tightening our stays and me trying to make bread, hamburger buns actually, with only a lingering memory of the recipe in my head. As the afternoon wore on we relaxed in the cockpit, and good book in one hand and a Red Stripe in the other. We enjoyed a spectacular sunset while watching that big orange ball fade behind the mountainous backdrop of mainland Belize.

Today we moved ourselves 10 miles up the coast in hopes to find good snorkeling at a little place called Rendevoux Cay. It sits right next to the barrier reef, and our charts show it as a good day anchorage while you’re exploring the water, but shelter overnight should take place at another cay three miles away. We hauled anchor mid morning, falling back into the routine of the Bahamas where we were doing everything under sail power as to keep ourselves from using the engine more than necessary. It came up with ease, and the help of our windless, soon we were sailing back out into the channel. Winds were strong and steady, holding at 20 knots with gusts to 25. We pressed forward at 5 knots with only a double reefed main, and watched as Georgie gave us the death glare while trying to squeeze herself into her little hiding spot under the combing.

Watching the wind steadily build around us as the very tips of waves frothed into white, we both knew that snorkeling was now a no-go for the day. Conditions didn’t appear calm enough to make the tricky pass with Serendipity through the coral heads that circled Rendevous Cay, and neither of us were too keen on taking the dinghy for a 6 mile round trip in this weather. Falling into our back up plan we set course directly for the overnight anchorage again, hoping that tomorrow will bring us good enough weather to finally check out the Mesoamerican Reef.


Colson blue hole

Blue hole at Colson Cays
(Photo courtesy of Sail Winterlude)

Reef at Colson Cay

We saw one starfish like this. It was the highlight of our snorkeling.
(Photo courtesy of Wand’rin Star)

boat at Colson Cay

The cays here are all made up of mangroves. No beaches to stroll.
(Photo courtesy of MokaKat Sailing)