Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Update Wednesday, March 30th & news on March 31

March 31 news: Scott managed to get someone at the Independence Post Office this afternoon and found out that the part is there. But Customs needs to see the part and establish a fee so they arranged a meeting on Monday morning over there. Independence is across the lagoon from Placencia and Scott will need to take the 7:30 AM Hokey Poky water taxi to be at the office at 8 AM. He's now trying to reach our mechanic and the boatyard manager to arrange for the repair work as soon as possible. BUT we now can start to make plans!

 This is just a quick update on our situation. Really not much has changed. Our part arrived in Belize City on Monday and we had hopes it would be here in Placencia soon. But we visited the local Post Office yesterday morning and they announced that the entire country's Post Offices would be closing "for end of the year inventory" as of Noon and would reopen on Friday! Can you imagine that happening in the States?

Yoli's husband Reagan is the master
BBQ chef - here yummy pork chops

Scott and Yoli hanging out together

Meanwhile we are settled in our very simple but comfortable (except for the lack of air conditioning, although we have several fans) one bedroom apartment behind our friend Yoli's bar and home. A number of our cruising friends are still here so we enjoy their company in the evenings. During the day we take several walks, eat out occasionally and swim at the nearby beach. So no complaints...I'll let you know when we have news.

Monday, March 21, 2022

Update Monday March 21st.

 Quick update. We got towed into Thunderbird Boat Yard this morning and Pete, a South African mechanic here, with several helpers pulled apart the transmission from the engine and as Scott predicted, the damper plate had a piece broken off. That was what caused the noise and stopped the transmission working. Sott ordered this part last Friday and it is on its way - not an expensive item. No telling how long that will be of course. We are staying here tonight and then moving into our friend's Yoli & Regan's one bedroom apartment behind their home tomorrow. 

Sunrise this morning over Placencia Caye. We were up early as usual preparing for our tow into the boatyard.
When the repair is finished we'll motor back to Placencia harbor and start looking for another weather window north. A friend of ours's is planning to head to Florida at the end of this month. It would be wonderful if we could buddy boat with him. We'll see. Everyone here seems to think we'd be lucky to get the part in 10 days, but Scott had one delivered once in 8. But no instant solution. But we are healthy and safe so no complaints!

It was an open coffin in the church but closed at the Dinner afterwards - this is the porch of Meryl's Cafe just behind Yoli's Bar. Tents were erected and dinner was served underneath and in both establishments. They served plates high with turkey, ham, stuffing, potato salad, beans & rice, and cranberry sauce. Then, out came trays of pastries. Meryl was famous for her wonderful desserts. Her cakes graced every special occasion here in Placencia. 

Last Saturday we attended the funeral services for our Belizean friend Yoli's mother Meryl. She was only 65 and died very suddenly. It was a huge loss for her family and the whole community. Pretty much everyone who lives in Placencia was there and it was a beautiful service. We enjoyed being with her whenever we could - her smile could light up a room. Afterwards everyone gathered for a feast held between Meryl's Cafe and Yoli's Bar and exchanged memories. What a lovely tribute.

Our tow boat pulled us for an hour
to the Thunderbird Boatyard.

On the way we circled this small Caye with more solar
panels that we've seen anywhere in Belize. 

Thursday, March 17, 2022

Update Thursday, March 17th

 Happy St. Patrick's Day to all. We now have 3 mechanics names and have contacted them but haven't been able to arrange a visit out to our boat yet. We may have to wait till the weekend as most have full time jobs with either the one boatyard here or one of the charter companies. Meanwhile I wanted to answer an obvious question you might have had: "Why didn't you just sail up to Mexico?"

When this happened we were still inside the barrier reef in Belize. The main Ship Channel was just north of us and goes east/west for a few miles threading through small cayes and reefs. It is lined with lighted buoys and serves as the main entrance into Belize for large ships. In order for us to sail out of this we would need to beat our way up wind. This is a fun exercise for a small or lighter boat designed for racing, but our motor sailor is built for long voyages on one tack. We have a wide tacking angle and the genoa, because of the inner staysail, needs to be furled in every time we would change tacks. Secondarily we had the possibility of sharing the channel with large ships and not much maneuverability. Now we could do this but there are more problems ahead. 

Once out of the channel we could sail slowly north in the light winds until they filled in later in the week and in a few days reach Isla Mujeres or Puerto Morales. Now we would face narrow twisty channels into these tight harbors. We would probably have to reach out and get towed in by someone. Then there would be difficulty getting repairs done there. Belize isn't anywhere as good as Guatemala, but this section of Mexico isn't a cruising area and we believe there isn't a boatyard or marine parts store anywhere around. If our transmission needs to be replaced, we would need a boatyard. 

So that didn't look like a reasonable choice, although we did consider it. We were pretty desperate to reach Mexico and if this had happened after we had made it out to sea, we would probably have continued on. Any way, I just wanted to explain the situation better for you. I'll post an update when we have real news,

Scott and I play Cats Monopoly with Ama at 
Hideaway Caye after we dropped off Connie and
Mark in Placencia. 

Connie enjoys a Belican beer at the Blue Marlin
Resort (photos here dropped from earlier post)

Mark pretends to "heel over" under sail. In reality
we were sailed downwind in a light breeze.

Connie or Mark took this photo of a pelican
checking out Scott Free at anchor at South
Water Caye.

Wednesday, March 16, 2022

Bad News

 Quick update: 

We checked out of Belize on Monday with an excellent weather window to Mexico from our weather guru, Chris Parker. As soon as we returned to the boat, we cast off and made our way north up to the Colson Cayes, near the Ship Channel out of the country and anchored for the night. The next morning as we were leaving our anchorage at 5:30 AM the engine started making loud clanking hissing noises. We stopped and Scott investigated but was baffled. The only thing he had done after anchored the night before was add more transmission fluid. So he took some out and for a while it didn't seem to make noises. He suggested we start north again, but I was concerned we didn't know what had happened We'd chosen the weather window due the lack of wind and waves - we needed an engine.

So we decided to head south motoring and see if it reoccurred. After awhile despite very emotional concern, I suggested we might turn north again. Before we did however, the noises came back and the transmission stopped working - it wouldn't go into gear. Something was really wrong and we didn't know what was causing it. [Editor's note - it turned out the stress plate that goes between the transmission and the engine had small pieces break off and that's what caused the problem!] We couldn't continue and turned south under sail back to Placencia, the nearest port of entry. It was a long 10 hour sail as there was little wind and the slow entry into the north channel to Placencia and anchoring under sail, took all our experience. But we made it last night and this morning have successfully reextended our time in Belize for another 30 days - everyone at the Port Authority, Customs and Immigration were very nice to us. 

Anchored safely back in Placencia, Belize a golden sunset greets us!

We have contacted a few mechanics and are trying to arrange for a visit. It looks like it is either the transmission, which is really bad news as rebuilding that is probably not available here in Belize, or the pressure plate between the transmission and the engine, which may be fixed here. 

We are very disappointed that this probably means we will not be able to spend the much hoped for visit with our friends Lily and Eldred French in Isla Mujeres. They are flying there on 3/22. And it means that our trip north is delayed for who knows how long at present. BUT we are not floating around off the coast of Mexico without an engine. We have our health and are safe - so we are thankful for that. 

More to come!

Friday, March 11, 2022

Now It's Connie and Mark's Turn


Scott, Heather, Connie and Mark at Yoli's Bar in Placencia

Jenny left on Monday morning and on Tuesday our friends and Shrewsbury neighbors Connie & Mark Youngstrom arrived. The first half of their vacation in Belize was at the Table Rock Resort near St. Ignacio in the interior of the country. They kayaked, did some bird watching tours, and saw Caracol, the largest Mayan site in Belize. They were pretty impressed with the Sanctuary Development and the Reserve Marina when they arrived and we had a lovely first day. We enjoyed a great dinner and got them all settled in for the night. 

Mark peaks out from on top of the engine
 while Scott provides support.

Boat repairs continue to dog us and one problem had become a real concern. Our water meter shows a decline in our water storage that is not due to usage. We could hear the water pump going at odd hours and Scott knew we had a serious water leak in the system. When Mark heard what was happening, he dove into the problem - head first! For 3 hours on his first morning, he crawled over the engine space and eventually found the leak and repaired it!!! 

That allowed us to cast off from the dock and head out of the lagoon and over to Blue Ground Range for our second night. It was a lovely spot although overcast all day. The next morning however the clouds parted and we continued over to South Water Caye for two nights. The weather was as perfect as possible down here - not too hot and a gentle breeze. Connie and Mark did some snorkeling in two different locations and we all enjoyed the crystal clear water for swimming. 

In the evening we went over to IZE for Happy Hour and had fun with bartender Camille and Yoga Instructor Heather. One afternoon we walked around the island and had a drink at the Blue Marlin Resort on the north end. Our next stop was at our friends Dustin, Kim and Ama's resort at Hideaway Caye. We enjoyed a big dinner there after Scott and Connie enjoyed the good snorkeling nearby. Connie said it was the best so far and they saw a wide variety of fish and a shark - a nurse shark and resting on the bottom but still a thrill. 

That's Scott Free anchored off South Water Caye. 

Our last few days were spent in Placencia and happily we were able to sail for part of the way there - a nice change from our usual motoring. The chef was delighted to take a further brake as we enjoyed breakfast at De Tatch, the BBQ at Yoli's, and dinner at the Barefoot Bar. Of course we had several happy hours at Yoli's Bar so that Connie and Mark could meet some of our cruiser friends. It was a sad morning saying good-bye!!! What a fantastic visit and over all too soon.

BBQ Sunday at Yoli's: from left Mark, Connie, Lori, Peter, Jerry, Debarah, Marc, Brigitte and Heather. 

This week has been spent provisioning and saying good-bye to our friends here in Placencia. It's Friday and we go up to Hideaway for the last time and then to Sapadilla Lagoon to weather the cold front arriving tomorrow night. If all goes well, we will sail to an anchorage in the north of Belize on Tuesday and sail overnight Wednesday to Mexico Wish us fair winds and calm seas.

Fresh veggies and fruits at the start of our trip

Scott and I pose on South Water Caye

And checks the sail on the way to Placencia.

An iguana poses on a tire for his photo
Camille and Heather snap a selfie at
the IZE bar

Heather prepares papaya for breakfast, still
in her PJs

Tuesday, March 08, 2022

Jenny Wolf Signs on as Crew!

Jenny poses with the cliffs of the Rio Dulce behind her as we motor down to Livingston to check out of Guatemala. 

Jenny Wolf is the daughter of our old friends Russ and Marty and we've known her all her life. Now she is our friend too. After we were unable to check out of Guatemala she changed her plans to meet us in Belize and flew to Guatemala City on Saturday, February 19th. We had a driver pick her up at the airport and drive her down to us at our Tortugal Marina. The drive is a long one, around 6 hours, and she arrived around 9 PM.  We met her in Fronteras, the small town near our Marina, with a launcha and brought her back to Scott Free. It was a very long day for her and unfortunately we had to head off the next morning! Our permission to depart had arrived and we needed to leave the country on Monday. 
Scott and Jenny relax at the Maya Beach Bistro near Placencia (sorry for the quality - Jenny couldn't send the full pixel version.

We were able to spend some time with our friends at the Marina for coffee and breakfast before motoring down to Cayo Quemado, near the mouth of the river. Jenny enjoyed a good swim with us on the lake on the way down. The next morning at 6 AM we were continuing down the river to anchor off the Municipal dock at Livingston with Czech & Mate, our good friends and buddy boat for the trip. Raul, our agent there, arranged for all 5 of us to be picked up at our boats at 8 AM. It took about 2 hours to complete the procedures, which included COVID rapid tests. We didn't actually need them as Belize required them again when we checked in there. But if we tested positive, we wanted to stay in Guatemala not face quarantine in Belize. In that case we would have been allowed to quarantine back at our Marina, where in Belize we would need to stay in a hotel. 

We pose in front of the car that drove Jenny to the airport in Dangriga, where she got tested and then took a small Maya Airlines plane to Belize City and then home. This was at the Reserve Marina

The high tide was at 10:30 AM and we were lined up with Czech & Mate right on time. We went first and got quite a ways out before we started bumping and then came to a stop. Hector, whose boat has helped us many times before, caught our halyard and pulled us over on our side so that we could power forward and get over the shallow bar at the mouth of the river. It didn't take long. Then he returned for Czech & Mate and the two of us motored over to Tres Puntas where we had dinner together on our boat before spending a quiet night anchored there. 
The next morning it was another 6 AM start over to Punta Gorda, the southern most town on Belize, where we checked into the country. It took 3 hours as we had to wait quite a time for the "medical team" to arrive for our COVID tests. As the morning before in Livingston, we all tested negative. The wind was really ramping up when we returned to our boats and it was a rocky trip up to New Haven, our well protected anchorage for that night. 
The next morning it was blowing hard and Scott checked his AIS and found a cruise ship only 5 miles away from us traveling north to Placencia. He called them and after we discovered that they were seeing 30 knots of wind, we decided to stay put another night! Later My Island Girl joined us after a 6 hour miserable trip up from Punta Gorda (it had taken us 2 hours the day before) and they had gusts of 35 knots. So we settled in for a game of Mexican Train Dominos and drinks with Jerry & Debarah after a good swim and dinghy exploration of the area. 
But on Thursday morning we raised our mainsail and tightened it up mid ship for stability and headed north. We were headed directly into the wind for the first couple of hours and it was rough. But we all managed and after Monkey River, the wind abated some and shifted enough to fill our sail. Still it was a big relief to anchor in Placencia in time for lunch. We were happy to stay there for two nights and enjoy some amazing meals at De Tatch, Rum Fish and the Maya Beach Resort. We rented a golf cart to travel up to the later and enjoyed time on the beach before the excellent dinner. 
On Saturday we bashed our way again into the wind to the Pelican Cayes for one night anchored off Hideaway Caye to visit our good friends who live there and run the small resort, Dustin, Kim and Ama. We were able to deliver the gifts Renate and Jim had left for Ama and our own gift. Jenny enjoyed their company and got some good snorkeling in nearby. 
The next day was an easy trip over to the Reserve Marina. Our wonderful visit with Jenny was coming to an end. The next morning she had to fly home. Friends at the Marina arranged a taxi driver to pick her up for the trip to Dangriga where she flew the small Maya Airlines plane to Belize City and then through Miami to Boston. Everything went very smoothly, but it was another long day for her. And we were SO sad to see her go - what a wonderful time we all had!
It's hard to see but the boat is on it's side here and
I am braced on the rail steering. You can get some
idea as Scott hangs on below.

Jenny loved the flowers everywhere.

Sunset at the Maya Beach Resort

Jenny in mid air jumping off the bow. She could
climb up the sides of the boat in two seconds, a feat
we had only seen duplicated by Sean.

And the launch! 

Scott had to use the swim ladder - but he looks
really good in his speedos!