By Diana Rell Dean

Having just returned from my third cruise in Belize, I can report that it is still one of the most beautifully pristine pieces of water a sailor can visit in this part of the world. 

On Feb 2, I traveled to Belize City, hopped on a 12-seater plane, and made my way down to Placencia, where The Moorings/Sunsail base is located. The next day we boarded four 45-50-foot catamarans, (hence the flotilla), and hoved out of there after several feverish hours of checking provisions, gear, and operating systems on the boats.

We headed over to downtown Placencia for dinner, anchoring out, and then set sail up the INNER PASSAGE on the 4th. The Inner Passage is a wide and deep body of water that is bordered by the mainland of Belize to the west and the second-largest barrier reef in the world to the east. The term “deep” here is quite variable as the areas out to the east, close to the reef, are veritable minefields of coral heads that sit in 2-4-8 feet of water. 

This makes for a really different kind of experience for a sailor. Instead of hurtling through the water, one creeps very carefully, ducks-in-a-row, through the BLUE GROUND. This we did; cutting slowly and carefully eastward after sailing north up the passage, to reach Pelican Caye on the 5th.

The main attraction there is a three-acre island called Hideaway Caye, supported by mangroves and connected by planked walkways to a gorgeous tiki bar restaurant and private cabana rental. Of course, we had reservations for dinner! Dustin (who built the place himself), his wife Kim, (who is the chef), and their daughter Amma presented a delicious, fresh seafood menu with a full bar. It doesn’t get any better than this. We left in darkness and made it over to the boats for some evening entertainment over cards and chocolate.

The next day we carefully extricated ourselves from this low area and, sailing back southward through the passage, moved over to the area of Carrie Bow Cay, intent on doing some snorkeling of the gorgeous barrier reef.  We anchored close to the edge of the reef. Bad weather, however, threatened 7-10 foot waves and up to 30 knots of wind. We hightailed it out of there early next morning, going as quickly as we could over the myriad coral heads and low places.

The next stop on the itinerary was the Monkey River. We sailed back down close to Placencia where Monkey River Village lies and anchored in the silty water there. The Monkey River Excursion lives up to its name with a boat ride up the river, and two hikes into the forest to see the wild howler monkeys. We saw plenty, and quite a few alligators as well. Our guide pointed out all the herbs of the forest and explained their medicinal applications.

Lastly, we sailed over to Raye Caye. This World Class resort features snorkeling with the nurse sharks and big turtles, and snorkel-circumnavigating a small island that is flanked by an amazing coral forest underwater. The menus and bar in the tiki hut are fabulous, and the diving is undoubtedly equal to it. The dolphins had paid us a visit on the way over there; a mother and two babies. Sailing with a dolphin entourage is one of the most glorious connections we humans can make to the sea.

We saw everything and were amazed. It was wonderful. The next day we had good solid wind support and sailed out of there in 20-23 knots. Needless to say, the wind pushed us down the channel early and we arrived in plenty of time to go out to dinner for our last night out together.

Heather and Nate Atwater are the fleet Captains affiliated with Offshore Sailing School who orchestrate all this fun, and we get the luck of the draw to be our shipmates and crew. Frequent flyers such as myself have a lovely group of friends and acquaintances who pop up on cruises. The voyagers intend to learn cruising while enjoying the beautiful places we have been. I have traveled with them many times. It has always been wonderful, even when it was terrifying.

Unfortunately, Belize is being discovered by the world. Don’t wait to go.

Mar 13, 2024
Day Trippin'

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