We sailed over some lumpy seas last Thursday to reach Cozumel. The guidebooks explained that you could anchor right by San Miguel’s downtown area and land your dinghy on the sandy beach that stretches along the anchorage. We got anchored close up to shore right in front of the Capitania de Puerto building. However, the coast was nothing but a long line of breaking surf on rocks. One tiny sandy beach had been roped off against dinghy encroachment. We finally located a dock that the guidebooks said would allow temporary tie-ups. Then, we started what they call the Mexican Paperwork Cha Cha Cha. First to the Puerto de Captainia to start the check out process and get the blank zarpe form. Then to the Immigration office to get the zarpe form signed, provide boat documentation and prove that we had paid all necessary entry fees when we initially arrived. Then back to the Puerto De Captitania for the form to take to the bank to pay the exit fee. Then back to the Puerto de Captainia for one last signature, date and next destination on the zarpe. Now we were checked out of Mexico and technically had three days to leave. We bought some groceries at the Cozumel Mega Mart which had all kinds of interesting things on the shelves. We bought some Achiote which is a red adobe spice for pork or beef. We got some different varieties of chili-flavored peanuts and dried garbanzo beans to munch on in the cockpit and plantains which Randall can saute’ to buttery perfection. We discussed buying a few cases of Coke since we have heard that is the preferred trade good for securing lobster from Belizean fisherman. We just didn’t want to add it to our growing load of groceries to taxi across town with and then load into our dinghy for a half mile trip across the water.
We decided to depart on Saturday for the overnight sail to Belize. We had a couple of options for tucking in for the night instead of sailing straight through. However, we got out on the water and had steady 20 – 25 knots of east wind right on the beam. Even sailing against the two knot current, we were reaching seven knots. We decided to keep sailing although we had, at times, pretty steep seas hitting us abeam.
Sunday morning as we approached San Pedro, Belize, we all three read over the instructions for crossing the reef which protects Ambergris Cay. The pass through the reef is only 100 yards wide. Plus, once through the pass, you have to make a sharp right turn to avoid another reef sitting just inside the pass. The only marker to help you is one yellow sea buoy marking the center of the pass. You motor up to the yellow bouy using a GPS heading of 317M and then look up to shore to locate a white house with arches and a red roof. Once you have the buoy lined up with the house, you sail through. Once past the barrier reef, you take an immediate right to a heading of 354M to avoid the inner reef, lining up for this with a tall antenna up on shore. As we approached, Jake and Lily stood on the bow in order to get a visual on the reef. I stayed in the cockpit with the binoculars trying to help Randall locate the onshore range markers (white house and antenna). As we started through the cut, the 10′ following seas picked up Foxtrot and started carrying us off course. Randall had to fight against several big waves but we finally surfed in, all the while unable to locate the house with the white arches. We made the right turn and did find the antenna while also watching waves break on both sides of us as we closed in on more calm water.
We got anchored right by town. Since it was late Sunday, we knew check-in would be delayed until Monday. We spent the afternoon stowing sailing gear, napping and reading up on all the Belizean cays we could hop to as we head south.
Randall got started early Monday checking in. First, he was unable to find the immigration office as indicated on our maps. He was pointed in a different direction to the new office location. Once he got there, he learned it was Commonwealth day (Memorial Day in the US) and everyone was off work. Luckily, there was one employee working and he called in employees from Immigration, Customs and Agriculture needed for the check-in. Although it was a bit of a wait, we were grateful they were willing to put the holiday on hold and clear us in. After Randall returned with stamped passports, we went to shore for some fried chicken, rice and beans and plantains – the most common Belizean combo plate – and chased it down with strawberry Fantas, fresh Watermelon juice and a Pineapple shake. We looked around the dusty little tourist town a bit before heading back to the boat as the wind picked up. Our anchor is holding precariously with one fluke tucked under a rock and we want to be aboard for squalls.
The weather moved around without hitting us, though.
Pics to come when the internet connection is better…