Belize to Guatemala

Monday evening we went ashore and went to Paradise for a few drinks…..enjoyed socialising with Kieron who also gave us souvenir coozies.  Thanks!    

New coozies Selfie with Kieron

Great time had by all – although we weren’t planning to stay out so late – and had to find our way back to Morphie in the dark without any lights.    And would you believe it, the weather was calm overnight for the first time in ages, which made us question our judgment not to explore other cays.

Tuesday morning, however, we listened to Chris Parker.   The forecast was for relatively settled weather Tuesday into Wednesday but for it to deteriorate significantly with constant rain, thunderstorms and squalls at 40+ knots from Thursday for at least five days.  That’s it – decision made – we’re leaving Belize.

So we went ashore – admiring the local fishing boats on the dock – and walked to the Hokey Pokey dock for the ride through the mangroves to Independence.  

Fishing boats in town Fishing boats in town 2

All aboard the Hokey Pokey Heading through the mangroves

First stop immigration. This is supposed to be a free service with just a BZD 7.50 each environmental tax.   Guess what – not today – the young woman demanded an additional BZD 90 for a ‘vessel administration fee’.  We argued but she would not be moved – so we demanded an official receipt – and, of course, the receipt was annotated as a ‘boarding fee’ which was total rubbish.  We knew that we had been ripped off but what can you do?   So brazen though when there is a board on the wall outlining the applicable fees!

Fed up by this latest brush with corrupt officialdom we headed off to customs where we received our Zarpe (exit clearance) – in contrast this guy was a pleasure to deal with.  Walking back to the taxi and suddenly we were chased down by a Port Authority official. She wanted to check that we had paid our daily port fees.   Of course – we couldn’t have got our Zarpe without that receipt – but she wanted to just double check.   Actually we’ve overpaid as we’re leaving ahead of our planned schedule – funnily enough she soon vanished back inside her office once she realised that.   No chance of a refund for unused days then??? 

We went back to the Hokey Pokey – enjoyed watching a bit of European football with the crew while waiting for our departure – and headed back to Placencia.   

Watching the footie

We then decided to go to a coffee shop so that I could call mum as we knew that the next internet connection would be a way off.    Sitting down and Richard was chatting to this guy while I was on the phone – then we realised that we’d met before – last year in Marsh Harbour (Bahamas).    What a small world!!!

Back to Morphie we did our pre-passage checks and sorted out the documentation for checking into Guatamala.   We entered our waypoints into our plotter heading through the inner reef channel to Tres Puntas which is a recommended safe overnight anchorage.   All sorted – we went out to Yolis – and had a final couple of drinks with all the English ex-pats.   We then returned to Morphie for an early night.   Then the storms started and they continued throughout the night giving us another disturbed sleep grrrrrr……

Wednesday morning and we were up bright and early looking forward to our 40 mile passage.   And the forecast was wrong again – it was cloudy and raining with very little wind.   We picked up our anchor at just gone seven – assisted by a sole dolphin at the bow – and started motor sailing out of the anchorage into the gloom. 

Heading out into the gloom

We then slowed down to let the Maxy Express pass ahead of us into the shipping channel before we headed towards the inner reef channel.  

Maxy Express

By 10 o’clock the wind had dropped below 5 knots and was now on the nose so sails got put away and we carried on motoring.   At 11 we had East Snake Cay ahead and storms were threatening all around us – by 12 we were being tossed around in white-out conditions with wind speeds of 38 knots. 

Down comes the rain

Thunder was booming with the occasional flash of lightning but, thankfully, no hits.  Check out the radar image of this storm.

Storm on the radar

Although wet and weary we were cheered up by the strengthening wind moving behind us and so we started to get the genoa out anticipating a brisk downwind run.  Suddenly we are going around in circles – the autopilot had failed.   I took the helm and got us back on course while Richard investigated.   We had blown a fuse…no worries we have more….and he contorted himself into the restricted space and replaced it.   Oops it tripped again immediately.  Damn.   No more easy fixes it will have to wait – so we took it in turns and hand steered.   Oh yes and the wind promptly died again so the sails were put away again.    Finally at 2.30 pm we had our anchor down at Tres Punta, Guatemala.

Our anchorage for the night

We were the only boat in this isolated spot so decided to have something to eat and retire locked down below with a good book.   A few hours later and the wind picked up and it started raining.  Oh well, that gets the salt off.   We kept a look out throughout the evening and realised that another boat had anchored near us in the dark.  That’s fine – feel a bit better having company.

We turned in for the night and then we started nodding furiously.    Yes the wind had switched and we were now facing into a big fetch and the shift had put us on a lee shore.   We had a good anchor set though and didn’t move an inch although it was really uncomfortable.   As the sun started to come up around five we realised that the other boat was an Island Packet….   Hang on… we recognise that tender… that’s Charlie and Saundra on Island Sol.   We hailed them on the radio and they said they couldn’t believe it when they arrived from Isla Mujeres (Mexico) to find a boat anchored on their favourite spot – and yes, it was us, using their recommended waypoint!   We did laugh about this – what a happy coincidence that they turned up on the same night we did having last seen each other in March.

Having had a disturbed night’s sleep we decided to leave early Thursday morning to make the 11 mile run – across the Rio Dulce bar – as we calculated we would have enough water on a rising tide to make it to Livingston.   The scenery was pretty dramatic with the cloud-covered mountains ahead.  We made it across without bumping bottom – but it was tight – check out the depth below the keel LOL.

Heading across to Livingstone Shallow water across the bar Dramatic coastline

By 8.30 am we had anchored off of Livingston and we enjoyed the sights and sounds of this town which is only accessible by water.  

Livingstone anchorage

We waited for the officials to come out to us, as we were quarantined, then we returned with them in the water taxi to finish the proceedings ashore.    First stop was immigration – all done.  No fee.   Then we found the only ATM in town to get some local currency to pay for our clearance.  Next stop customs.  Got turned around and told to see the Port Authority first.    Headed further up the hill and found the office.  

Livingstone 1 Livingstone 2 Livingstone 3

We were given our Port Authority documents and were told to come back when we had finished with customs.   So….off back down the hill to customs…..and both Island Sol and ourselves wanted to get the nine month cruising permit straight away.   Not possible they say – you’ll get three months and then you will have to renew.  But we’re not going to be in the country at the end of three months for this renewal process – no worries you can get it done early – just talk to your marina.    Fingers crossed for that bit then!    Customs gave us a receipt to take to the bank which we paid and got stamped – back to the customs office and we were given our clearance papers.  Oh yes…guess what…customs are on holiday today so there is an additional ‘overtime’ payment of Q300 (11.25 to the pound).    Hey ho….  Back up the hill and we go to the Port Authority to be told by the security guard that he had left for the day.   Oh well….that’s it then.  Hopefully we’ve not missed something here – we think he only wanted to photocopy our customs clearance for our file.   Livingstone 4 Livingstone 5

So back down the hill to the harbour where we picked up the water taxi to return to the boats – the guy had been standing security guard duty for us while we had been ashore as petty theft is common in Livingston. 

Total clearance cost was Q1,090 – but we still have to shell out for the extension which is, apparently, about another thousand but we’ll find out about that later when we get to our final destination up the Rio Dulce river.

On board we picked up our anchor and followed Island Sol into the mouth of the river and into the gorge.  OMG this place is just amazingly beautiful……some money here too judging by some of the fancy houses lining the river… and then you come across really basic villages.  Birds were flying….biting bugs found us….kids were fishing and there were boats everywhere.  And this goes on for almost ten miles.    Richard entertained me with his Tarzan impressions LOL as this is where some of the original filming took place.

River 1 River 2 River 3 River 4 River 5 River 6 River 7 River 8 River 9 River 10 River 11 River 12 River 13 River 14 River 15 River 16 River 17 River 18 River 20

We entered Cayo Quemado and pulled into Burnt Key Marina by 2 o’clock.   

Burnt Key marina

Tied up safe

Hungry, tired, hot and bothered we all decided to go to Texan Mike’s for a late lunch.   Mike picked us up in his boat and took us around the corner to his restaurant.  

Texan Mikes

We had a lovely reunion with Charlie and Saundra over some great food and a few very cold local beers – before returning to the marina for a couple more before turning in early.  Beer costs less than a £1 a bottle here so think our ATM tokens will keep us going for a while LOL. 


Overnight we slept really well… rocking….no rolling… anchor alarms… watching for vagabonds….    Flashes of lightning around but nothing close – just lots of rain to wash the salt from Morphie.    It was lovely to finally sleep properly.

Friday morning and we are trying to contact Tom the rigger who lives / works in this bay.   We want a full rigging check before we head through the Panama Canal next year.    Charlie and Saundra want to talk to him too – so we have decided to stay here for another night.   Although was becoming a bit frustrated by now with the lack of internet – we were particularly keen to know the outcome of the UK referendum. 

Tom it turns out was in Livingston for the day and expected back later….so we all spent the late morning / early afternoon in the marina bar- admiring the hooded lizards, the fantastic huge butterflies and the hummingbirds coming through the palapa.     Later on we decided to have a drink and played pool – yes I know!!!   Had a good laugh actually….   We also made reservations for dinner in the marina.

Strange looking beasty

Later on Tom came back so Richard and Charlie went over to see him – and he confirmed he will be over at 8.30 in the morning.   So we carried on having a lounging around type of day before having a lovely dinner of pork / chicken / veggie skewers / fried shrimp and rice.    Was very nice!    

Dinner in the marina

Back on board for an early night again….

During the night the heavens opened…then the lightning started…and one thunder clap was so close and loud I awoke with a scream!   Richard just laughed….  Then we realised that the storm had taken out the electricity on the island so we had lost our shore power.  It doesn’t matter, our batteries are in good order, we just reset temperatures on the fridge and freezer to reduce the draw overnight and settled back down again.  

Saturday morning Tom visited and finished with Island Sol and completed his rigging check of Morphie.   He was like a little monkey going up the mast – never seen anyone quite so agile!!!  

Tom up the mast

He found a few things – and made a few suggestions – but overall we are in good shape.   A bit of work to get done but nothing we weren’t aware of – eg UV damage to the stitching on the sacrificial edge of the sails.  So we’ll engage Tom to do that as he is happy to come up the river to our marina to collect them when we are ready.

Around noon we both pulled out of our slips and motored into the Rio Dulce for another 10 miles towards Fronteras, our final destination this season.   The lake was flat calm and pretty shallow – we only had two feet under our keel at times – and we enjoyed the scenery and looking at the life tucked away into the trees.    Every home has a boat as this area is only accessible by water.

Boat activity Homes tucked away Heading up the Rio Dulce Following Island Sol

As we got closer to Fronteras we saw more and more evidence of life with some very expensive looking properties and boat sheds for their power boats living alongside simple village houses and fishing folk.    We saw the road bridge ahead and turned into the bay towards NanaJuana marina which is where we have a slot booked (although we are 10 days earlier than our reservation).   

Bridge at Fronteras Heading towards NanaJuana Sheds for powerboats

We couldn’t raise them on the radio so we anchored off and went ashore.    We found the marina office and they said that our slip was available but would have to wait until later in the afternoon and they’d come out to us.

So we sat in the cockpit and used the marina’s wifi to let people know we were safe and sound – and caught up with the news including the Brexit vote.  Wow….a bit stunned by the result.  Will need to do some reading to catch up on the implications of this decision – of course the pound slumping was felt straight away with the Q now standing at 10:1.

Finally, at about five, and just as the heavens opened, the marina guys came out in a panga to us.   One got on board to help with ropes and we pulled up the anchor.   We have a very snug alongside slip and Richard was great at the helm as we were being pushed around by the squally winds….and we both got soaked getting Morphie tied up nicely.  The marina is a little modern and not quite surrounded by the forest we expected but we do have a pool.  Island Sol are staying elsewhere so we were very grateful for them navigating us in as the plotter was useless – we went across land loads of times!

Snug as a bug we decided to stay put for the rest of the day and had dinner on board before an early night.    

The wifi signal was not very strong so we gave up on that.   During the night the rain came down hard again and woke us up – but no worries about dragging and we have some pretty tall masts alongside us for those lightning strikes LOL.  As neither of us could sleep we decided to try the internet again and got online.    Yay it worked!   So I checked my ATM transaction had gone through all OK and, you’ve guessed it, the card was cloned in Livingston.  Damn…..    So we waited until it was daylight – around 5am – went ashore to the restaurant and phoned the fraud department.   The vagabonds had used the cloned card in Florida and had got away with $100 but the next $500 cash withdrawal was blocked.   We’ll get the money back so no worries – but, of course, that means my card is now out of action for the rest of the season.   After being caught like this before we came with multiple means of getting cash so it’s not too much of a problem just an annoyance.

We returned to bed for a few hours and have just had a late breakfast – and thankfully the sun looks like it is trying to come out.   Richard is troubleshooting the autopilot and taking the instrument panel apart while I’m working on the blog.   We have a few other tasks to do so the plan is for a lazy Sunday afternoon, maybe in the pool…  Meanwhile Morphie is taking a well-earned rest.

Morphie taking a rest

Looking forward to exploring this area – checking out where Morphie is going to be hauled – and the frontier town of Fronteras which is supposed to be an experience!   We also want to talk to some tradesmen about some jobs we need doing…. 

Bye for now


Stormy Belize!

Tuesday afternoon we headed off into town – and this time wandered the concrete walkway that goes from one end of the island to the other, between the beach and the high road.   Apparently it took 30 years to build!   The walkway meanders through local housing and small artisan gift shops….all woven together with lovely gardens and beach access…and quaint street names.

Pathway 1 Local homes on walkway Pathway 2 Quaint street names Walkway flowers

There are also new apartments being built – at US $50k with direct beach access they seem quite reasonable! 

New apartments

We found the sign to the Tipsy Tuna and went through the entrance – surprised by how big it opened up onto the beach – and enjoyed the walkway of signs.  This one was our favourite…..

Tipsy Tuna Entrance to Tipsy Tuna Wall of signs

We got a couple of beers and enjoyed watching the drunken antics of the holidaymakers who had clearly been on the sauce all day long…..reminded us a bit of the BVIs on a quiet day LOL.    

Time for a beer Tipsy Tuna beach

Later on we stripped off and went bobbing in the sea.  The sea was pretty rough – and the beach was covered in sea grass – so we didn’t stay in for long….  But we did enjoy being in the water for a while….

Beach selfie Surfs up

After a few hours of people watching we returned to Morphie just in time to see the sun disappearing….but not before we had a dolphin encounter.   Not that close to us in the dink but was lovely to see them in the anchorage.   

Dolphin encounter Dolphin encounter 2

Had been a lovely day….goodnight.


Wednesday we awoke to a very stormy day…..with rain on and off and thunder and lightning surrounding us.    We had hoped to be moving off to explore many of the little cays that lie inside Belize’s huge barrier reef – the second largest in the world – but the weather forecast was for disturbed weather with scattered thunderstorms gusting 30-40 knots for the foreseeable future….   There are few anchorages with all round protection so we, regretfully, decided to wait for the weather to change. 

More storms

Later on – with the sky showing signs of improvement – we went out for a couple and you can see how the weather was affecting the sea which was much improved. 

Getting better....

Walking back along the walkway we were lucky enough to catch a photo of the woodpecker which had created a huge nest in a palm tree and we could hear the chicks chirping to be fed.     

Mr WoodpeckerOn the way back to the town’s dinghy dock we came across a school graduation ceremony – for those moving from nursery to primary education – all a bit strange!!!

Graduation ceremony

Overnight there was lots more thunder and lightning….very very frightening….

Thursday morning we had a lazy time as we were a bit sleep deprived and decided to return to the beach in the afternoon but this time we frequented the Barefoot Bar.   

Barefoot bar Barefoot bar 2

Was a nice place – very friendly – and we chatted with a number of ex-pats that had settled here.   The Belizean government are actively encouraging people to retire to the country with tax breaks – especially promoting that this is an English-speaking country.   Well, it is, but the local creole takes some getting used to LOL.

Having left Barefoot we popped over to visit Yolis beach bar and had a couple of sundowners before returning to Morphie and another spectacular sunset.

Goodnight 2

Friday morning it was grey and cloudy again…but the forecast had improved slightly.   We stayed on board again doing boat jobs and went out late afternoon to catch the local live band at Barefoot.  They were good – reggae based – but most of their songs were pretty rude if you actually listened to the words.   

Local music

Later on we walked back towards the harbour and popped into the Pickled Parrot.  This bar is slightly more upmarket than the beach bars… we settled in and had an early dinner before returning to Morphie.  Food was average sadly. 

Pickled parrot Parrot selfie

Overnight was another stormy one…..

Saturday morning and we listened to the forecast again….and was pleased to hear that it was improving.   Chris Parker was still forecasting unsettled weather but the wind strengths appeared to be diminishing so we decided to move on from Placencia.   Our destination for the day was Ranguana Cay – a little desert island.     We started off with all sails up – and then the wind direction switched on us – and now we are virtually head to wind.    Damn…..   We can’t really move far from our rhumb line because of coral bombies and uncharted hazards / shoals – so we furled the genoa and motor sailed the rest of the way.

We arrived – felt our way in through the surrounding reef – and found ourselves opposite a really pretty little island and our own slice of paradise, surrounded by lovely azure blue sea.    We went ashore and had a couple of beers – chatting to the family that had come in on the Moorings catamaran just after us – before returning to Morphie for dinner and an early night.

Approaching Ranguana Cay Ranguana 1

During the night….and storms were raging all around us again.   Luckily we had our very own lightning conductor in the huge catamaran which is on a mooring ball not far from us LOL.   

Lightning conductor

Was a pretty disturbed and sleepless night……reminiscent of our night on the Turks and Caicos banks with the vigorous nodding into the surf….and we were very glad that we were not on the local sailing skiff which had six fishermen on board! 

Local fishermen

Sunday morning and the weather remained miserable….grey skies all round….and storms continued to threaten.   

Weather coming in again

Around three in the afternoon the skies brightened for a short while so we took the opportunity to go ashore and explore a little.   This is an eco-resort with a number of rooms available – but they look like garden sheds on stilts with corrugated roofing and no bathrooms.   We didn’t fancy it.   Lovely beach though….

Ranguana 2 Ranguana 3 Ranguana 4 Ranguana 5 Ranguana 6

The island sadly is suffering from erosion due to the rising level of the sea and has shrunk by almost two thirds.   They are filling sacks with concrete and making small walls around the island and moving sand to backfill behind….    It was interesting to hear all about it and hopefully they will be successful in their endeavours.     

Trying to stop the erosion

We enjoyed the bar and chatting to the staff – but our favourite had to be the birds.  There were pelicans and frigate birds everywhere – and they very excitedly mugged the local kid when he came back from fishing in his dinghy LOL.Found the bar! Pelicans Pelicans 2 Frigates Pelicans 3 Any fish for me

Back to Morphie for dinner and another early night.    Was much calmer – thankfully – and we were able to sleep.    But the wind was howling and the rain started again in the early hours, with lightning flashing around us.    Getting fed up with this…..

This morning, Monday, and we listened to Chris Parker.   Disturbed weather with frequent and high wind squalls forecast for another week – we are not sure we want to continue riding these out – so we headed back to Placencia and had a great reach in 20 knots. But with the grey water and the grey skies – always threatening rain – it was more like sailing in the Solent than in the Caribbean!!!

Not like the caribbean

We need to make a plan and we’ll decide in the morning.   If the forecast persists and we continue to get these tropical waves and fronts coming through then we may well check out and head off to Guatemala earlier than planned.    Exploring other Belizean cays may have to wait until next season….

Bye for now


Utila (Honduras) to Placencia (Belize)

Friday morning – having done all our pre-passage checks – we went ashore and confirmed the weather was still good.  The forecast remained for 25-30 knots of breeze and settled conditions – so we are good to go.  We checked out with the Port Captain and Immigration, got our Zarpe (exit clearance document), and had a lovely lunch ashore.

Back to Morphie and we rested up – and picked up anchor at 5pm – and motored out into large seas.  For the first part of this passage we were going head to wind so anticipated that this would be uncomfortable, and it was.   

Goodbye Utila

By the time the light faded we were sailing along nicely downwind on genoa alone in 20 knots of breeze and we watched the sun go down before we started our normal three hour shift system.   

Underway as the light fades Goodnight

By now we have lightning to port (hmmmmm….) and the wind has dropped… 12 knots.   That’s not supposed to happen – but we can still sail, although obviously not at the speed we had hoped for.   The wind then started being a bit fickle and we had to gybe a couple of times….and it was very rolly so sleep was a bit elusive for both of us.   We then had lightning both behind and ahead of us along with a few large cargo ships and we had to change course to pass safely ahead of one of them.  At two in the morning the wind died and we put the sails away – having only covered 42 miles of our 100 mile passage.    Damn….motoring again…..    At 5.30 the wind picked up and we got the sails out again…..  We welcomed the sun up and then the wind died again… the sails went away again.  

Sunrise at seaWe finally reached the pass through the barrier reef at 10.00 am – and I kept a careful watch on the bow for coral bombies until we were safely through – and we were anchored in Placencia by 1.30 pm.   

Morphie in Belize

We made sure we were set and went ashore – suitably impressed by the town having special dinghy docks – although there is a cost it is tiny at US $1 (we didn’t have any local currency at this stage).   

Placencia 1 Town docks

The kid taking our money said that we couldn’t check in today as the Government offices are closed at weekends.   We weren’t sure about that so we asked a couple of cruisers on the dock and they said – don’t bother with the water taxi as the weekend schedule is limited – go by dinghy instead.  They gave us directions so we headed off….

We went round the end of the island – spotting a couple of bars over the water that looked promising for later – and into the lagoon.  This is a mangrove lagoon and it is huge…..   We followed instructions and we got hopelessly lost – by this time we were hot, bothered, tired and fed up.   We found a construction site on the mainland and pulled in – they told us how to get to Independence (the village we were looking for) and we carried on around the corner.   By now we are getting low on fuel and we decide to give it up as a bad job – we don’t want to get stranded out here in the middle of nowhere.  So we start back towards Morphie and the wind picked up and so did the chop on the water….so we got completely soaked.   Not amused!!!   We decided – sod it – to pull into the bar which belongs to Paradise Resort.   They had internet – woo hoo – so we could tell everyone we were safe and sound.    Soggy, tired and illegal but we felt better when Kieron (the barman) asked whether we were on a boat – a bit obvious as we’d tied our dinghy to his dock LOL – and he said, without prompting, check in Monday as the offices are shut today.   But tell them you arrived Monday otherwise they’ll charge you overtime for arriving on a weekend.   OK….bit surprised….but we’ll live with that.

Wide open anchorage

We got back to Morphie and had an early night.   During the night the wind picked up…..and the anchor alarm went off around one am.    But Richard checked and all was well – we had just swung a bit wider as the wind direction had changed.   But all good – so back to bed.    At four am we are being thrown out of our bed by Morphie bucking, nodding and snatching at her anchor chain.   We popped our heads up and OMG we are next to mangroves – and we’ve obviously dragged.   Quickly we got dressed, put the instruments on, started the engine and I picked up the anchor while Richard kept us out of the shallows with the engine.    We motored back to our original place and were horrified to realise that we had dragged past about eight boats and had travelled 0.4 of a mile!!!   We got reset back in the deep water and I investigated the anchor alarm – why hadn’t it gone off???  Well – the weather conditions were very poor – and the satellites had dropped out.  It had given us an alarm to that effect but both of us slept through it.   What a catalogue of disasters.  Richard spent the last few hours of the night in the cockpit while I returned to bed.   Phew!

Sunday we spent on board just doing domestic jobs, chilling out and recovering!   I wanted to re-print documents as I’d pre-dated them for a Saturday check-in – so Richard plugged the printer in for me.  Suddenly it’s hissing and he realises that smoke is coming out the back.  Quickly we disconnected it and put it in the cockpit.   What the hell?!?   Then we realise that we’ve plugged it into our UK inverter rather than our US one – not thinking about the different voltages.  Duh!!!   Anyway, it cooled down, we plugged it back into the correct 110v inverter and much to our surprise the thing still works….   Richard quickly got his machine out and put a label on the back of the printer so that we don’t do that again.     

During the day the wind remained high and we were both a bit nervous about leaving Morphie as we are not sure why the anchor didn’t set properly.    Finally around five we went ashore to Yolis for a couple of drinks – this thatched bar overlooks the water so we can keep an eye on her.   


We met up with quite a few ex-pats from the USA, Canada and the UK and, those that are on boats rather than own property on land, told us that the anchorage here is soft and gloopy mud and that you have to let the anchor settle for quite a long time so that it can penetrate the harder mud below – then you get a good set.   OK we now know and hope that we got it right this time!  

Monday morning and it was time to brave the officialdom.   We went ashore and found a Port Authority guy sitting in his hut on the town dock.   He checked Morphie in and we only asked for two weeks.  They charge per person per day and we didn’t want to pay too much in advance as we have heard that they do not give refunds if you leave earlier.   Job done….we now walked through town to the water taxi dock.  These are called Hokey Pokeys and we took our seats.  

Hokey Pokey

We traversed the canal slowly to start with, headed out into the mangroves and then the speed was ramped up.  These things fly!!!

Travelling by Hokey Pokey Up the canal on the Hokey Pokey They go fast! Into the mangroves

We finally arrived in Independence – and it was about five miles further on from where we got with dink.  There was no way we could have found it – thanks for nothing to those cruisers who gave us the duff information!!!   We got off the hokey pokey – which wasn’t fun actually as the climbing up and down was making my swollen ankle scream – but needs must and all that…..    We got into a shared taxi and went first to the immigration office.   All sorted – one month granted – and they gave us change in Belizean dollars (BZD) and were very keen to point out that we share the Queen!   Back in the taxi and it’s time for customs.   Forms filled in and good to go – one month granted.    Back in the taxi and this time it is to see the agriculture guys.    Forms filled in and job done.   All in all the total cost of checking in (without the transport) was US $130. Back in the taxi again – all for only BZD 25 (3:1 to the pound) so pretty reasonable – and we were taken back to Independence to get the hokey pokey (BZD 6 pp each way) and back through the mangrove jungle to Placencia.       

We returned via the bank so we now have local drinking vouchers rather than US ones….and checked out some of the shops.    We enjoyed wandering down the unmade and quirky High Road and shopped at one of the little stalls selling fresh fruit and veg.   We found a deli to sell us fresh bread and also picked up a local SIM card for internet access.   Nice place – lots of places to eat and drink – and has a very friendly vibe.  We look forward to exploring further.  Interesting to note that most of the small shops are Chinese owned and run.  Was quite a busy and productive day!  

Main Street 1 Main Street 2 Main Street 3 Main Street 4

We chilled on board for a while and then went out again to Paradise as a live band was playing.   Kieron was pleased to see us again….and he asked us whether the check in process had gone OK…and we were glad to report that we were now legal and flying the appropriate courtesy flag.  

Kieron Belize flag

The band, the Lost Reefers, was rubbish!!!   They really should retire.   

Lost Reefers

We decided to go find something to eat and return to Morphie.   We wandered the town and came across a Chinese restaurant – oh yes fancy that! – so we got a takeaway and had a great meal on board before another early night.

This morning we have been ashore to get rid of rubbish which is charged at BZD 2 a bag – and then we went off in dink around the corner of the island into the lagoon.    We admired the fancy hotels tucked away along the coast and wondered about the attractions of the private island resort ahead of us.   

Tucked away resort Private island resort

We entered the canal and meandered our way through the narrow channel which is lined with fancy hotel resorts, fish camps, hostelries, local homes, undeveloped plots for sale (with buzzards!), and some pretty fancy private homes.   Now we know where the ex-pats we met in the bar are living…. Nice!  

Into the canal

Into the canal 2

In the canal In the canal 2 BuzzardsIn the canal 3 In the canal 4

We came alongside the fuel dock and Richard filled up some jerry cans with diesel – seemed quite expensive at BZD 180 for 20 gallons….

Canal fuel dock Filling up on diesel

Back to Morphie and I’m sitting down below blogging while Richard is in the cockpit reading.  Later on we are going to check out the beach….we’ve heard the Tipsy Tuna is a good place to be…will let you know!    Current thinking is that we’ll explore a few of the smaller islands before returning to Placencia to check out on our way to Guatemala….

Bye for now


Underwater adventures in Utila

Tuesday remained cloudy and grey all day with the occasional rainy squall coming through but, thankfully, no more thunderstorms.   While ashore we checked out lots of weather sources and have decided to stay here for a few more days – so we’ve booked to go diving again in the morning.   We had an early night and although there were thunderstorms over both Roatan and the mountains of mainland Honduras none came our way so we finally had a good night’s sleep.

Wednesday morning we were up really early again and headed into town to meet our diving buddies.   Again the majority of the divers were on a course so there were only four of us going to be diving together – although the boat was full to the gunnels with divers and snorkelers.    We motored to the north side of the island – in the gloom – and we were surprised to see that a couple of these tiny little islands off the coast are heavily populated – not sure why that would be the case?!?

Habited island Habited island 2

Anyway, we arrived at the dive site after around a 45 minute boat ride and jumped in.   Was another fantastic dive with great coral although the visibility remained gloomy after the recent heavy rains.  But another fantastic dive – including a nurse shark sleeping in a little cave- we’re definitely thoroughly enjoying these underwater adventures. After a 45 minute dive down to 90 feet we surfaced full of anticipation for the next one.

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Suddenly, the captain is gunning out to sea.   He’d spotted whale sharks!!!   Excitement mounted – fins on / snorkels ready to go / and we’re all sitting along the rail waiting for the shout.   Suddenly we were told to get ready – jump!!!   We all jumped in and I was absolutely flabbergasted to find myself almost on top of a juvenile whale shark as he swam below me and away into the deep.   OMG – amazing – huge huge fish!!!    Back on board……he’d gone….but what a treat.    Then the captain spots another one – and we’re off again……   Back in the water and this time I managed to land just behind the whale shark as he turned – sadly not showing me his huge mouth – but I saw the full length of him as he moved away into the blue.    Definitely a tick off that bucket list – really can’t believe that we were lucky enough to see two – and all in our diving surface interval!

1 Whaleshark 2 Whaleshark

Time to kit up again and we all piled into the water – this time we all went in together – although we peeled off to go deeper than the students.   But the minute we all got in the water we were being chased around by a pretty aggressive eel….terrorising the students….and he had to be warned off.   Another great dive…..45 minutes dive to 70 feet.    Amazing day!

Dive 2 - 1 Dive 2 - 2 Dive 2 - 3 Dive 2 - 4 Dive 2 - 5 Dive 2 - 6 Dive 2 - 7 Dive 2 - 8 Dive 2 - 9 Dive 2 - 10

Back to Morphie and the sun came out – doesn’t she look pretty out in the blue water?  

Morphie at anchorWe got ourselves cleaned up and went back out to Buccaneers for a bite to eat and a couple of beers before returning for an early night.

Thursday morning and we’re up early again…another 6.45 rendezvous with the dive boat.   This time we are going to a wreck – and the students are doing the wreck dive too – so a bit of chaos ensued as we all went down.   They, however, are restricted in their depth so we spent quite a bit of time avoiding them looking under the wreck in almost 100 feet of water.   We then went round this huge cargo ship rising as we did so – we went into the cargo hold – and through the wheel house.   Great to see a turtle swimming by….. When we got back to the wheel house we ran into the hoards again so it was a bit chaotic trying to get everyone in the right group to do their safety stops on the mooring line – we took ourselves off and kept out of the way by doing ours freely out in the blue.    Great dive – another 42 minutes to 98 feet.

Dive 3 - 1 Dive 3 - 3 Dive 3 - 4 Dive 3 - 5 Dive 3 - 6 Dive 3 - 7 Dive 3 - 8 Dive 3 - 9 Dive 3 - 10 Dive 3 - 11

Back on board and the captain takes us out to sea again – obviously after a whale shark.   Sadly after about 20 minutes there were none to be found so we returned to another dive site.   This time there was a bit of a current so the experienced group dropped off the boat and did a mini drift dive to rendezvous later.   Another great dive – and huge excitement at seeing a sea cucumber that was moving.  Have never seen a live one before…..only dead ones on the ocean floor….and I think they look a little bit like the dog out of the Magic Roundabout!     Another brilliant dive – can’t wax lyrical enough about the diving here in Utila – in our opinion it is way better than Roatan.  Longer safety stops this time on the way back to the surface as we’d pretty much maxed our non-decompression limits today – but still stayed within the safety margins.  The boat spotted us quickly and came over to pick us up.

Dive 4 - 1 Dive 4 - 2 Dive 4 - 3 Dive 4 - 4 Dive 4 - 5 Dive 4 - 6 Dive 4 - 7 Dive 4 - 8 Dive 4 - 9 Dive 4 - 10On the way back to the dive shop we were getting our gear together on the boat and I slipped on the cabin sole and twisted my (good) ankle on the engine cover.   Damn….that hurt….and it started swelling up straight away.    So I sat like a princess while everyone fussed over me – and Richard got all the gear tidied up.   I got off the boat with lots of assistance and waited in the dive shop for Richard to finish before we finally settled our bill and left.  Back on Morphie and I’ve sprayed it; taken anti-inflammatories; have a deep freeze dressing on it right now; with a crepe bandage in the freezer for later tonight.   Hopefully all that treatment will bring the swelling down and it will recover overnight.   At least I didn’t break it this time – that makes a nice change LOL.

So we’re not going back out today – we’ve rested up from the exertions of the morning – and have made water.     I’m blogging while Richard is catching a few rays listening to music on the coach roof.    I also need to create a ‘Ship’s Stores’ list of all our groceries / alcohol etc and print it off for our customs entry into Belize…..and tonight we’ll eat all the fresh produce as they are not allowed to be imported.   A quiet night on board beckons.

Tomorrow – Friday – we are planning to leave Utila so need to check out with the officials once we’ve done a final weather check ashore in the morning.     If the weather window remains open we’ll be leaving around 5pm for an overnight sail which should position us at the entry through the barrier reef around 9am on Saturday morning – we are going further north than is necessary to keep out of the known trouble areas off the coast of Honduras.  The sun comes up here around 5am so even if we make good time – it’s a downwind sail with a positive current – we’ll still be there in daylight hours.    Hoping for anchor down in Placentia by early afternoon and then it will be the usual customs / immigration / port captain / flag changing routine – which involves a ferry and a taxi ride this time apparently!   Delaying our departure from Utila means we’ll have to pay ‘overtime fees’ for a weekend arrival – we’ve heard that the fees are very variable (and high) according to the official so have fingers crossed on that one!  Can’t be any worse than Mexico…can it?!?  

Utila to Belize

We will be in touch again when we find internet coverage.   Bye for now


The thriller in Utila

Wednesday morning it was really hot…..and just got hotter.    We decided to go to the hotel lobby – where it is always cooler – and took our charts and pilot guides with us so that we could do a provisional passage plan to Belize.   On the way we bumped into Cheeky who decided to sit on my shoulder as I entered the lobby.    He then cleared off upstairs and we settled down to check on the internet –and he came back clutching a chocolate cupcake that he’d stolen – and decided to eat it on my shoulder.   Still not sure why he likes me so much but am glad that he’s my friend as I’ve seen him terrorising others LOL.

Cheeky boy

We spent most of the afternoon in the lobby and went back to Morphie to prepare our kebabs in readiness for BBQ night at the palapa.    Later on we took our goodies over, cooked on the shared BBQ, and had a very social night.   We didn’t get to bed until after 10pm which is really late for us these days!

Thursday morning and another hot day beckoned.    Richard did engine checks while I did some other domestic duties.   We had decided not to do any more diving so went to the dive shop to pay our bill – and were surprised that with the marina discount etc we ended up paying US $25 per dive.  Bargain.   We had a lazy rest of the day….a couple of sundowners in the palapa…and an early night.

Friday morning and, checking the weather again, we realised that we had to leave that day if we wanted to get that downwind sail in to Utila.   So we got ourselves ready – paid our bills – and left the dock around 11.00 saying a fond farewell to Fantasy Island.  We had had a good time there.

Goodbye Fantasy Island

We motored out through the reef and had to take some pretty big waves on the side before we could turn towards our destination.    We got the genoa out and started sailing along the coast of Roatan. 

Perfect sailing conditions

The seas were lumpier and the winds were lighter than forecast but we had a fantastic sail and were on anchor in Utila before five.  We sat in the cockpit and enjoyed the sunset before having an early night.   Expecting a calm night we had a very disturbed one instead as the wind clocked so that we did not get any protection from the swells rolling through the anchorage.

Sunset Utila 1

Saturday morning we were up early and off out in dink – first stop was the Mango Tango for breakfast.   Then we took dink further up the coast to Utila Diving Company as they had been recommended to us – and they had seen whale sharks in the last couple of days.   Yes please……  We put our names down but weren’t convinced as the list of divers was numbering 18 on one boat and $76 each for a two tank dive seemed expensive.   So we parked dink up again and wandered the town – and went to Paradise Divers instead. They offered us a two tank dive for $52 each so we instantly booked for Monday morning.

Paradise divers

We then went to the Mares dive supplies shop.   We both have 3mm Mares wetsuits which are great but are just too hot and bulky in this climate.  I have been wearing my old (circa 1992) 1mm red wetsuit which has definitely seen better days…so we are on the hunt for new thin ones for both of us.  They had unisex 1mm suits so Richard tried a medium on and it fit like a glove – so we bought it.   In the absence of any changing rooms I decided not to bother.

New wetsuit

We then returned to Morphie and Richard cleaned her bottom from all the growth we had accumulated in Roatan.   We had a swim off the back followed by a lazy afternoon and evening on board.

Sunday morning we had a late start and went ashore – we went to Utila Divers to cancel our reservation – and wandered the town and got some more drinking vouchers from the ATM.    We then went to Buccaneers for a spot of lunch and a couple of beers.   Great place.


As this is not a place to leave your boat after dark we returned later in the afternoon – and were a little intimated by the ominous looking sky.   

Ominous looking sky

We just got on board, raised dink, and the heavens opened.   Oh well, Morphie needed a wash anyway.    The rain got worse, the wind picked up, and the lightning and thunder started.  

Down comes the rain

We were in a full-blown thunderstorm with 40 knot winds and the lightning strikes were hitting the water just ahead of us – and, of course, it was now pitch black.   I involuntarily screamed at one point when the thunder was so loud that it was like cymbals being slammed against my eardrums.    We rode it out and watched our French neighbour picking up his anchor in the squall….and then we started dragging too.    So we started the engine and held our position while he got resettled and then re-anchored ourselves – luckily there is lots of room here – so we put out a lot of scope and sat out the rest of the storm in the cockpit.   We finally made it to bed about 9pm absolutely exhausted.   Was not a fun evening!

Monday morning we were up really early and it was still grey out – we got to the dive shop at 6.45 and by 7.30 we were on our way out along the island on the most dilapidated boat ever, driven by a guy who was more like Captain Ron than Captain Ron!!!!   I found him a bit creepy actually….    We were lucky that everyone else was on a diving course so we had our own dive leader, Nico.   We dropped into the water and it was pretty murky – this dive site was called Little Bight – a wall going down to about 70 feet onto a sandy bottom.    Well, it was spectacular.    The coral was in fantastic condition and we saw a cleaner shrimp and a giant puffer fish almost immediately – followed by a humongous Southern stingray eating in the sand – and then an Eagle ray followed us out in the blue.    Amazing…. 

1 Dive 1 1 Dive 2 1 Dive 3 1 Dive 4 1 Dive 5 1 Dive 6 1 Dive 7 1 Dive 8 1 Dive 9 1 Dive 10 1 Dive 11 1 Dive 12

Moving along the coast we did our surface interval and then dropped onto another site called Black Coral.   This was another wall with canyons with more great coral including a forest of trees….   Again the water was murky but we had another fantastic dive and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.   These two dives alone were better than anything we had seen in Roatan and we were very pleasantly surprised.

2 Dive 9 2 Dive 10 2 Dive 11 2 Dive 12 2 Dive 13 2 Dive 1 2 Dive 2 2 Dive 3 2 Dive 4 2 Dive 5 2 Dive 6 2 Dive 7

2 Dive 8

We went back to Morphie to get cleaned up and Richard was waxing lyrical about his new suit – so I tried it on – and it was a surprisingly good fit.   We headed back into town to the Mares shop laden with our regulators as we wanted to get rebuild kits for future use.  The German guy is a bit intense but he knows his stuff and, even though Richard’s regulators are almost 15 years old he was able to come up with the goods.   So while I was there I got a new dive suit too….. Woo hoo. 

We then went to Munchies for lunch.   Bad decision!   My chicken salad was disgusting as it came topped with an undercooked poached egg which soaked the rest of it in warm vinegary water.  Richard had a wrap and fared better – but won’t be going there again….    We left quickly and went back to Bucaneers but neither of us fancied a drink so just caught up on the internet over a Club Soda.


Back to the boat and I was promptly ill……not surprised really……but recovered quickly once I’d got it out of my system.    We had a lazy time in the cockpit before having a small dinner and an early night having watched another beautiful sunset.  We were pretty tired after the diving and the lack of sleep from the night before.

Sunset Utila 2

Around two am this morning (Tuesday) and the heavens opened……and then the storm started.   Back into the cockpit in our foul weather gear and we rode it out – the wind only hit 30 knots this time – and the thunder and lightning were further away but still needed our full attention.    We didn’t drag and, come 3.30, we were tucked up back in bed listening to the rain hammering on the deck above.

We listened to Chris Parker, the weather guru, at 7 this morning on the SSB and his forecast is very different from those we’ve seen.  Online – from three different sources – it is saying light winds until Friday night then high trade winds 30+ knots in the normal diurnal pattern through until Monday.  No mention of low pressure or storms.   Chris, however, is saying we should expect disturbed weather / more squalls / thunderstorms through until Friday night when we will have high winds but more settled weather.    The passage to Belize is approximately 16 hours and we’ll need to do an overnighter to get to the cut through the barrier reef where we need good visibility in daylight hours.   Decisions, decisions, decisions……   

In the meantime it is grey, cloudy and rainy today and we are facing out to sea.   The waves have calmed down a little and we can see the mountains of Honduras away in the distance. 

Mountains of Honduras

We’re planning to go ashore to publish this blog and do more weather research to plan our departure – if we decide to stay we’ll definitely be doing more diving here.  Haven’t given up on seeing a whale shark yet!     

Bye for now