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…..to 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…..so 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