Hanging in here

View from Tortola

After our first training charter back in November, we were sent off to the British Virgin Islands for some land-based TradeWinds training. We met up with 3 other couples who were all about to launch into their TradeWinds debuts like us… we had a great camaraderie among the group and have enjoyed hearing about how they’re doing during the weekly staff meetings!!

And we had some fun running around the island on our day off… our lives at the hands of a crazy South African driver!

And then it was all over and we all went off into the TradeWinds sunset!

Busy Busy Busy

“So… do you want a job?” Peter stuck out his hand to me and asked, having spent another hour blowing us over with all reasons we really should “Join the Club” and work for TradeWinds. I’m not sure we could have said no even if I’d wanted too… but of course we didn’t want to!

A few days later, on the Saturday of Halloween, we zipped around the point of Placencia, into the canal, and into the controlled, craziness of changeover day with TradeWinds.

At 5pm the guests were invited on board of Restless Spirit(Privelege 47’) and we headed out with Captain Geoff and 1st Mate Anna, along with John & Miriam, Harvey & Ann, and Bert & Kay to really find out what this TradeWinds Cruise Club was all about.

Over the next 6 days, while we were cruising some of the many tiny little Cays of the reef east and southeast of Placencia we tried
to absorb as much as we could about how to cook, clean, entertain and generally dazzle the guests into loving the crew, the boat, the experience and everything about the fab concept and reality that is TradeWinds.

I spent A LOT of time in the galley… inevitable really feeding 10 people on a yacht… or at least it did seem that way, but there was still lots of time for many snorkeling trips, games of spoons and pickled pigs, and taking the helm and sailing the boat through the rain – we had a fair amount of it, thanks to Hurricane Ida passing around us (though we had no idea about her at the time!).

Tadd busied himself helping Geoff out around the boat, picking up cocktails (I mean learning how to make them!) and wooing the guests, which was a particular success when he pulled out our emergency moustaches.

The guests were loads of fun, a great mix of ages, backgrounds and personalities and I think we all mingled pretty well… it can be hard when you’re thrust on a 47-foot boat with a bunch of strangers! So, by the time we arrived back on the dock in Placencia Friday afternoon, we were quite a merry bunch as we headed out to a local restaurant.

All in all it was a fun time, with a lot to learn… but the main thing is that it didn’t turn us off the idea of chartering with TradeWinds, so after a bit of a debrief and a couple of days relaxing we headed off for the next step in the training process.

We mustached the group!

The Good News and…

The really good news!! After all these stimulating days here in Placencia borrowing, pilfering and even (gasp!) paying (highly) for wireless internet… we have a job!! AND… we don’t have to miss out on Christmas is San Pedro, Ambergris with my crazy family… extended family… random weird and whacky friends… and anyone else that turns up.

Did this miraculous job come from all those many, many, many emails we sent to random charter companies, I hear you ask? Well, no… not exactly.
It was kind of a referral from a the TMM charter people in San Pedro (who wouldn’t hire us) and we kind of tried to get hold of the local people here in Placencia… and ended up emailing their head base in the British Virgin Islands … there was a meeting a few weeks ago… and another meeting last night to clear up some details and get more information… and it was sealed with a shake and a hug!

We will be working for TradeWinds Cruise Club, running one of their catamarans. This coming Saturday we will be tagging along on another charter run by another couple to start learning what’s expected (read: helping out, but getting to sail to some other cays and snorkel, dive and generally schmooze with the guests). Then, when we get back the following Saturday we’ll have some time to debrief with Peter and Melissa (who run the local TradeWinds base here in Placencia) and then we fly to Tortola in the BVI for more training, followed by a couple more weeks on some supervised charters before we finally find out where we will be based.


The current hope is that we’ll get to come back to Belize and work here… but we won’t find that out until the training is done. In any case… IT IS A JOB!! Wooohooo! We had our back-up plan (well, of course I did!), but we were still getting a little concerned.

This way we’ll work for 6 months and then have a month off. During the six months we’ll work two charters followed by a week with a few days off and the rest of the week as prep/maintenance for the following two weeks of charters.

Bring it on!!

Almost to Rio Dulce… but not quite

Having explored the ruins and dealt with Customs, we felt that we’d pretty much seen all that Punta Gorda had to offer. With hurricane season luckily still showing little signs of wreaking havoc here, we felt that the cost (quite a lot) of sailing to Guatemala’s Rio Dulce for only a week or two, while we waited on job stuff or head back to Ambergris for the PADI Instructor Course, was not worth the expense… so sadly no seafood, coconut Garifuna soup (we’ll try it one of these days Ian!). So for the first time since Tadd and I met (almost a year ago exactly) we would set sail north!

punta gorda from anchor

The cold front was still with us, but that meant the west winds were still very gentle, so we decided just to motor a couple of hours away to another of the million-and-one cays and stop for the night.

The cay of choice, this time, was South Moho Cay, with a private resort that was purported to welcome cruisers in for drinks and dinner… and who are we to give up the opportunity of a cold beer on an island paradise! But as we approached, it once again looked sadly still out of season. So, we weren’t too disappointed when we tried to anchor and discovered that there wasn’t enough room to let us swing… we were in no rush to repeat the rude awakening of West Snake Cay… so we pulled the anchor back up and kept going… all surveyed by a small audience that had gathered on the dock. I bet they’re wondering what we were up to!

So the next best place nearby was the almost-360-degree-protection of the Mangrove Cays. We searched and searched for the promised 17 feet of water to anchor in, and finally gave up and settled for 30–ish feet of water a good 100 yards away from all mangrove covered land masses. We chilled, had a cocktail and listened to some BBC Radio 1 podcasts before dinner, followed by a spectacular sunset beyond the hills of southern Belize, and our next round of Cribbage (our latest favourite distraction).

The wind hadn’t picked up by morning, but there was no point in hanging out in the mangroves and the water down there was still all green, murky and generally not at all enticing! So it was back to Placencia.

We had a couple of interesting moments feeling our way over and around sandy shoals… sometimes rather too close for comfort!

By the early afternoon the wind had picked up a little and Tadd entertained himself with tacking upwind back to the secure anchorage in the mud just off the Paradise Resort and Yoli’s Bar… and back to the fulltime slog of jobhunting. But first we need some water.

Tadd fetches water

Compact and Bijoux Ruins

After sailing from Placencia to Punta Gorda Lindsay and I had the urge to go sightseeing. And, besides being the place for checking in and out of the country, the State of Southern Belize called Toledo is known for it’s Mayan culture and ruins.

Having sailed down the coast of Belize, we’ve noticed the inland topography change from a flat marsh to tall forested hills. We went around town and discovered the cost of tours was quite high at $95 USD per person. Lindsay referenced her Lonely Planet guide book and we decided to use a public bus to get to an archaeological site called Nim Li Punit (It’s not English or Spanish, it’s a Mayan name). It wasn’t too far from the main highway, so we wouldn’t need to walk too far. The reason we decided to use a bus was because, for the most part, Punta Gorda is one big bus stop for the travelers between Belize, Guatemala, and Honduras. Lots of American-made school buses to choose from, so we just showed up at the edge of town and waved down the first one going our way. The 45 minute journey cost us just $2.5 USD each. It was worth every penny!

The road leading North from Punta Gorda is called the Southern Highway. My opinion of it’s condition, using a scale of one to ten, is a nine. The absence of paint and reflectors is all that separates it from a Texas-sized paved highway in the States! The roadside was quite populated with simple concrete and metal houses in various states of construction or demise. One in ten was made of wood.

Lindsay at RuinsWe arrived at our site as the attendant, or conductor, told us we were there and pulled over to the left hand side of the road. My inexperience in public transportation showed as I exited the bus and passed in front. The driver was quite clear in his disapproval as he used his horn until I was clear of his path. I don’t think I will do that again. Lindsay told me that apparently the driver is in a hurry to make it to the next stop before his competition does. This enthusiasm for efficiency and income in Central America is rare. Maybe they just enjoy the race, I’m unsure, but I do know that I for one didn’t appreciate it.

Lindsay and I were the only ones off the bus. It was early in the day, and the only people we saw were some women washing clothes in the shaded stream adjacent the gravel road going uphill to the ruins. Of course, they asked if we were interested in a necklace or bracelet, which we were not. We climbed the hill for about a quarter mile. The wild parrots were easily spooked and made lots of noise as they flew out of the trees by the pairs. Other long-tailed and colorful birds flew and called all around us. Very cool.

As we approached the entry point of the site, we saw a few nicely constructed buildings for the officials and some of the more valuable artifacts. We paid our $5 USD each and made our way through the placards and cases of stone relics. We knew that the name Nim Li Punit is derived from a carving on one of the site’s twenty-six stelae, which depicts a figure wearing a large headdress. In the Maya Kekchi language, nim li punit means “the big hat”. The monument on which this carving appears is the longest stela in Belize. It was laying down in one of the buildings and was probably over twenty feet long and two feet wide. It was two-thirds carved with a figure, and then many squaresymbols that represent the date and purpose of the stela. Translation code has theoretically been “cracked”, but there are so many question marks in the description of what it said that I can’t recall any of it. It was about 1500 years old.

The entire site was a rather small one, but interesting none the less. It is assumed from the types of structures there, that this city was primarily into political and religious undertakings, and the ruling family engaged in long distance trading. Touring the ruins, only a small percentage of the structures and walls have been rebuilt. I had a strong urge to stay and put it back together again, and a feeling of disappointment to see some of the sites left to overgrow again. More signs would have been helpful, but I suspect that the lack of knowledge about these sites is the reason for that. I left with more curiosity about the ruins and the Mayan culture than when I came.
Lindsay and I made our way back to the road to find a bus to the next town called Big Falls. We had seen some waterfalls in the tour books and thought it would be fun to see and perhaps swim. We decided to start walking, and wave a bus down headed our way. We walked for over an hour, through a construction site, and finally waved down a young guy in his pickup truck. We were disappointed to find out that there are no falls in the traditional sense, just an area where it slopes down a bit more than the rest of the river in the area. We discovered a fancy lodge along the river and hitched a ride back to Punta Gorda with some people that we met there. Not a bad day of exercise and adventure, and we were back by lunch time!

As if we hadn’t had enough excitement for one day, Customs and Immigration (these are two separate departments, if you didn’t know), and a Health Department official decided to pay us a visit on our boat. I think because we were up on deck finishing lunch, and the ferry boat had just arrived with very few passengers, and the officials were already there on the dock, they decided to come over and check our papers.

Unfortunately, we had a problem. The Customs officer pointed out that we had not extended our ships papers along with our passports last month. Ooops. Nobody told us we needed to do that. But of course, explaining the procedures is apparently only their job once someone has not followed their procedures, based on our experience. We straightened the entire problem out on shore for zero dollars, her signature and a stamp, that’s it.

Now we’re good until October 29th. Who knows what will happen when we go to extend our stay at that time! We’ll be sure to write about it if it’s interesting!



During the night on West Snake Cay, the almost unheard of in Belize had happened – the winds had shifted to out of the west… and we had swung around to sit on top of the sandbar… and I mean sit! We were ever so slightly grounded. Luckily the sand was soft and tide high enough that shortly after we realized that we were sitting on the bottom, the wind shifted slightly and we floating happily, though with just inches to spare.

The cool, overcast day and the prospect of snorkeling in the murky green water, just added to our motivation to leave behind the Belizian boa constrictors (unsighted by us), and keep moving to Punta Gorda.

As the westerlies were quite gentle, we motored away before we could get pushed back onto the sand. The skies continued to cloud and darken and we could see rain behind us and off over the mountains, of what we worked out to be Guatemala (it’s always a bit of a mind bender when you can actually see a foreign country across the water). I was determined to outrun the rain, and Third Aye held up her end, as we sped up and slowed down while cautiously passing over numerous shoals.

Probably the biggest shock was when we spotted a strange line of colour change ahead of us… could it be a huge sandbar not on the charts?? Nope! Just the milky, brown waters of the Rio Grande and the Rio Blanco mixing ever so slowly, while flowing out into the Gulf of Honduras. Minor panic over, we spotted a few dolphins swimming in the blending waters.

From then on in to Punta Gorda we entertained ourselves with trying to identify which of the many bumps and lumps on shore were the different hills on the charts… not so easy… you tell me how to successfully count the seven peaks of the so-called Seven Hills… not as easy as you’d think!

With no beaches along the coast here, the town just seemed to sit right on top of the waves. From a far it looked quite nice… but the closer we got the more dilapidated the building seemed. By the time we anchored between the immigration and Texaco docks just offshore, we were definitely planted back in a border town of Central America.
Being Sunday, we relaxed and went for a bit of a wander around town, but nothing much more than the internet café (Yay!) and someone to sell us ice were open, so after orienting ourselves around Front, Main, Middle Main and West streets (can you say town planner needed!) we headed back to the boat for the night, ready to check out the tour options and catch up on job hunting the next day.

Lindsay ties the dink
Lindsay smile
The cold front that had brought the westerly winds made for some very pleasant sleeping conditions… we even had to dig out our blanket!!
Sunset over Punta Gorda

Escape from Placencia

After many different things that kept us still anchored off the village of Placencia… including no wind… waiting on a friend that was waiting on a fax… and, most exciting of all, an interview with a charter company who has a base here (fingers crossed!!)… we finally managed to pry ourselves away from Placencia (it’s really quite amazing how easy it is to use the days up in a place where there is truly almost nothing to do… we seem to spend most of our time buying food!). Once Tadd had to go rescue a boat load of kids getting swept out to sea by the tide and wind.

Placencia shop

Sadly, our final delay with the charter company, meant that our friend Englebert had already left for Punta Gorda, by land, the day before and didn’t get to sail with us south and show us his family’s island – Middle Snake Cay. Unperturbed by the light winds we hauled the anchor from it’s cozy spot in the thick, sticky mud and headed southwards.

Third Aye Mast


Delightfully the wind picked up as we picked our way between the shoals until we reached East Snake Cay and then on to Middle Snake Cay. With no sign of the promised moorings off the Cay and no Englebert to offer guidance on anchoring, we decided to abandon the tiny spit of land, that offered next to no shelter from the NE winds and head to the next cay.

West Snake Cay… as a rule we tend to shy away from places with names you shouldn’t waste much time pondering their origin! (feel free to ask Tadd about Thunder Bay) But the guidebook claimed that the cays were named for the resident boa constrictors, which tend to be on the very chill, rather lazy side of the serpents and not any threat, and we heard later that no one actually knows how they got there, and so it’s believed that they floated there on some flotsam and now hang out high up in the mangroves waiting for an unsuspecting sea bird to land.

So we cautiously dodged around the sandbar to the NW of the island and came in towards what we thought would be a reasonable anchorage. We’d seen a couple of boats on the shore and people swimming, and as we approached one of the guys jumped out of the water, threw on some clothes and whizzed out in his official boat to let us know we were in the Honduras Bay Marine Park and could happily stay for the price of 10 Belize dollars (USD$5). As he gave us some advice on anchoring we felt it fair to pay and spend the night.




As directed, we motored all they way in to the pale green water over the sandbar, beyond the deep coral heads we couldn’t even make out through the murky green water (not so enticing for snorkeling as the clear, blue waters further north). With the anchors set, we set about relaxing and enjoying the cocktail hour… until the rolling back and forth of the boat got to us, after a short period of time. The waves coming around the sandbar to the north and around the south end of the island were crisscrossing the wind coming from the northeast were making for some pretty uncomfortable conditions, and that’s without even trying to cook!

A handy trick from the Annapolis Book of Seamanship (apparently THE book to end all books on handy boat stuff) and Tadd had us literally back on an even keel and we settled in for the night… knowing that if we did slip anchor we’d simply float towards Guatemala and would be awake long before we hit anything….

So it was quite a shock to wake up and see greenery and palm trees off the back of the boat!!!


Won’t you take me to.. Monkey Town?

After doing all we could to apply for work online and calling a few people, Lindsay and I decided to take some time for sight seeing. She and I had been talking about going to see the Howler Monkeys located on Monkey River, south of Placencia, ever since we read about it in the cruising guide. We asked around and after negotiating a lower price, booked with Ocean Motion Tours. Nice guy. We were scheduled to meet at his office the next morning, October 13th, at 7:45 am.

We met our boat driver, Englebert Westby and promptly set off, just the three of us. We were in a fiberglass open hulled lancha about twenty feet long with the all important canvas bimini top and padded bench seats down the sides. We stopped at a local resort and picked up another man, who we found out later was Englebert’s Honduran friend and that he only spoke Spanish which mostly explained why he didn’t speak at all.We sped off South at about 30 mph down the smooth green water and followed the contour of the mangroves. Surprisingly enough, Englebert sped right into a very small gap in the mangroves and took us along a sheltered shortcut to Monkey River. We surprised a few cormorants inside the mangroves as well. Funny how they can’t fly very well while they are still soaking wet, and have to flap exaggeratedly fast and sort of run on top of the water! Silly birds.

We spotted lots of Osprays perched on top of dead trees in the mangroves. They were generally unphased by our noisy commute.

At one point, he slowed the boat to make some rather tight turns with mangrove roots on either side of the boat, and the branches lightly brushing the top of the bimini. I think he only slowed down to make sure no other boats were coming. He was definitely on it!

We popped back out of another narrow pass in the mangrove maze and we were again at sea. We recognized “No Name Point” from our navigational charts, and Big Monkey Cay. We were very close and arrived much sooner than we had planned for. Seems us sailors just can’t get used to the power boats ability to make lots of way.They water turned the color of coffee with cream as we went full speed over the sand bar at the entrance to Monkey River. There was a green sign, just like the American interstate highway ones, that read, “Welcome to Monkey River Town”. We already new it was hardly a town, more like a gathering of some houses between dense vegetation and beach. There were several local men, apparently tour guides and maybe some others with nothing better to do than to watch the tourists come in, sitting on the shoreline. We went ashore to meet our guide, and placed our lunch order at the restaurant for when we returned from the tour. Rice and beans, naturally. We both chose “with chicken” rather than “with fish”, which has turned out to be the safest choice so far while in Belize. If we have ever ordered something that can’t be cooked in the morning and left in a pot to wait to be served, we’ve been sorry. As it turns out, the lunch was quite nice, although twice as pricey as anywhere else. I guess they’ve got the captive audience thing worked out pretty well.

Upon boarding the boat and making our way upstream, our guide, Raymond did a fine job of pointing out local wildlife. Since many species prefer to remain in the same types of habitat, he knew right where to look. Lindsay also did a fine job of pointing out local wildlife and comparing it to the rainforests of Equador. It didn’t seem to bother Raymond at all.

We finally went ashore, into the marshy forest amidst hundreds of crabs. Large ones. Raymond was busy looking up and down and chopping occasionally with his machete. He picked up crabs, we tasted different vegetation, and crossed a pool of water using a fallen tree. He clanged his machete on trees and gave out a loud “Wooooooooouuhh!” holler, trying to get a response from any nearby Howler monkeys. Finally, after the mosquitos were about to drive us mad, we heard one. He was right above us. Very cool. Raymond continued to evoke the young male to grunt for us by making his “wuh”call and shaking the tree on which the monkey was perched. He certainly did get agitated with Raymond’s attention to him and responded by urinating in his general direction. Unfortunately, I missed the shot on video, for I was doing the same thing, just not at Raymond. I did get quite a few minutes of video nonetheless.
We finally went ashore, into the marshy forest amidst hundreds of crabs. Large ones. Raymond was busy looking up and down and chopping occasionally with his machete. He picked up crabs, we tasted different vegetation, and crossed a pool of water using a fallen tree. He clanged his machete on trees and gave out a loud “Wooooooooouuhh!” holler, trying to get a response from any nearby Howler monkeys. Finally, after the mosquitos were about to drive us mad, we heard one. He was right above us. Very cool. Raymond continued to evoke the young male to grunt for us by making his “wuh”call and shaking the tree on which the monkey was perched. He certainly did get agitated with Raymond’s attention to him and responded by urinating in his general direction. Unfortunately, I missed the shot on video, for I was doing the same thing, just not at Raymond. I did get quite a few minutes of video nonetheless.

We had a nice time and made a good friend in Englebert. In fact, we had dinner with him that very night.

Can You Say Chill ?

We’ve been in Placencia for a few days now… wow… make that 4 days!!

Lindsay's fender
Not quite what we’d planned… but there must have been something about this sleepy little place that has sucked us in. We stopped by to check out the local charter companies for the chance of work… but we pretty much did that last Friday.

Placencia shop
Maybe it has something to do with discovering the funny little Seranade Bar and Hotel with it’s cheap happy hour and funny Ruddy the singer who entertained us and our new-found friends on Thursday? Or maybe it has to do with being a little hungover on Friday when we started our jobsearch? Actually I think it has something to do with the presence (previously mostly unseen) of the rainy season. Oh… and the lack of wind that seemed to accompany the rain clouds.

And then, just when we were definitely leaving the prospect of a potential job, and knowing that as much fun as checking out Monkey River Town and it’s river full of wildlife, it would leave us without internet, and therefore communication to most of the world.

So, one day turned into another, and then yet another… with it’s tie to the internet cafés in this, to be honest, overly chill town filled with glazed-eye rastas and crazy ladies trying to sell you the worst coconut macaroons ever, not to mention the fact that, presumably due to the lack of tourists, most things are closed or only open sporadically on their own, mysterious and indecipherable schedule!

So… ok… one more day spending money on the internet for the sake of gainful employment….. JUST ONE MORE!

Third Aye on cloudy anchor

Now This Must Be What They Mean by Cruising

Up with the sun as usual, we left behind our lapsed paradise island of Southeastern Cay on Glover’s Reef and headed back west to the mainland.

Glover's sunrise
Heading almost downwind on the easterlies we surfed the waves and snuck behind Glover’s Reef in search of some illusive respite from the swells. 6.5 knots with just the jib!! Now that’s sailing… we eventually added in the mainsail and maintained our speed as we headed for gap in the reef between Southwater Cay and Carrie Bow Cay (who named these places?? I mean what was with the dive site off Ambergris – Victoria’s Canyon… are they kidding??)

Third Aye Mast

Still trying to surf the somewhat erratic waves… pushing the bow this way then that… we spotted the tiny, low-lying cays and pointed the boat as best we could for the gap between them. It certainly wasn’t the scariest of cuts, but we kept a close eye on the breaking reef on either side and headed in. Even before we had passed through the cut the seas began to calm… got to love the shelter of the reef! We continued to follow the plotted course (from our trusty Rauscher guide) but started to get a little suspicious of the heading as we were instructed by the GPS to turn towards the pale green patch or water to the south that clearly indicated a sandbar… well she got us here… close enough!

Third Aye Jib
Sailing inside the reef was so different… passing numerous tiny… and I mean tiny – just a matter of feet in length – cays, cruising gently through channels, while keeping a keen eye on the lightening waters that cover the nearby corals and shallow sands.

A few adjustments to the course here and there to avoid what could have been shifting sandbars or mis-directions and we continued to fly downwind, leaving behind cays and finally the coast of mainland Belize (a new thing for us!) until at only 2pm, instead of the predicted 5pm, we arrived at the skinny channel between the rustic, lazy beach town of Placencia and it’s Cay next door.

Placencia anchorage

Some of the easiest anchoring so far in our trip, left us with plenty of daylight to head ashore and check our what was doing in our new temporary home.

Third Aye Placencia Anchor