Friday, 25 January 2013

The Unbelizeable Sapodilla Cays ….. Jan 2013

12 – 16 January 2013:  Sapodilla Cays, Southern Belize  16 06N  88 16W Balvenie and Bandit,  Nicholas Cay

Another Top Spot
We have been lucky enough to drop anchor in some amazing locations during our cruising life…. South Pacific atolls, rainforest fringed coves, ancient city harbours, even the odd subterranean volcanic crater!!  So when we arrived at dawn in the Sapodilla Cays,  both somewhat dopey after an overnight sail, it was great to find another spot with the WOW factor. 

The Sapodilla Cays lay scattered at the very bottom of the huge reef system that runs the entire length of Belize,Caretaker, Nicholas Cay, Belize 2nd only in size to the Australian Great Barrier Reef.  This southern area sees very little tourism, seemingly just a few cruising boats stopping off briefly enroute to Honduras or the Rio Dulce in Guatemala.  There is a National Park Rangers Office with some very laid back, hammock swinging, friendly staff  who swung by the boat to suggest we might just want to pop ashore sometime and pay our park fee…. “but there’s no rush mun”!!

Gentle Breezes and Sunny Skies – Magic
How beautiful is this, Nicholas Cay, Belize   Nicholas Cay, Belize
We anchored at Lime Cay before moving to neighbouring Nicholas Cay and enjoyed postcard weather for swimming, snorkelling and beach sundowners with fellow kiwis Brenda and David on Bandit . However, nothing lasts forever ~ we always listen carefully to the weather forecast via our long distance HF radio and a cold front was forming in the Gulf of Mexico.  We are now far enough north for our weather to be influenced by the winter weather in the USA, something to keep an eye on ~ and there we were thinking we were still in the tropics!  
Nicolas Cay, Belize Nicolas Cay, Belize
Hurricane Mitch swept through this area a few years ago wiping out what was once a thriving dive resort, the remains of some of the buildings still stand as a reminder of the devastation that hurricanes can cause. The lone caretaker told us that Nicholas Cay was submerged for several days due to the storm surge, now days he does an outstanding job of keeping the cay pristine.  We thanked him with a few goodies to brighten his day.
Sundowners, Nicholas Cay, Belize phoning on satphone to see how Dad was
We spent a wonderful few days there, cut off from the outside world, but as a famous person once said  “No man is an island”.  During this time my Dad was taken into hospital for surgery, paradise has it limitations when your family are at home having to deal with medical issues and hospitals.  It was the first time in months we didn’t have cell phone coverage but we were able to keep in touch with the satellite phone, still working after a being drowned in Panama.  It was great to be able to talk regularly but its times like this that we feel a long way from home.
Snorkelling at Nicholas Cay
Heading for Shelter
Whilst not forecast to effect us too much this far south, the “Norther”, (an odd word used by Americans to describe a strong northerly wind caused by the associated cold front) was heading our way.

We moved further north inside the reef to Tom Owens Cay.  Quite a small anchorage which became somewhat overcrowded when two dive charter catamarans pulled in after Balvenie and Bandit.  There is a small dive resort ashore, built to withstand hurricanes it would seem rather than blending into the surroundings, the rock cave like cabanas could easily have doubled as prison cells.  Still ~ the guests looked happy, the sun shone, the diving was excellent ~ what more do you want?

Actually we wanted more sunshine and settled weather and that just wasn’t going to happen. We had a day to head for shelter.  Bandit and Balvenie weighed anchor the next morning and pointed toward the mainland and the small town of  Placencia.   Two boats, 20 miles to run, full sail, perfect conditions, 10 –12 knots of wind, tight reaching, flat water, only a few reefs and shallows to avoid – you guessed it ....

Race On !!!
Blurry sunset with new moon Nicholas Cay, Belize
For cruising information on the anchorage waypoints and where we entered the reef click here.

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