Tobacco & Colsen Cayes, Bluefield Range
February 2005 ... Hi all! Winterlude is anchored behind Gilligan's Island (actually Tobacco Caye). The palms are swaying, the beach beckoning, the smell of a wood fire baking something delicious wafts over Winterlude with the light breeze blowing over the island -- wonder what MaryAnn & Ginger are cooking this morning??? There are 226 square miles of just ISLANDS in Belize & our goal is to explore them all!!! Yesterday, I traded a package of Tyson canned chicken for 5 already husked coconuts and later we had fish balls & red beans & rice in one of our rare dinners ashore, this one at a little wooden building on stilts out over the water at the end of Tobacco Caye. BTW, fish balls are REALLY DELICIOUS, kind of a crab cake but made with fresh yellowtail. :)
Belize has 226 square miles of islands, all with totally different personalities. When David & I first started reading the cruising guide, we were overwhelmed with the possibilities -- it was impossible to keep them straight -- where is Long Island -- difficult when there are literally 10 different Long Islands, more if you include Middle Long Island, Long Caye, Long this & Long that.... It seems that every island over a couple miles long, is named "Long Island"! There are also several Rendezvous Cayes, and at least 3 Water Cayes, not including South Water Caye that the locals call Water Caye. Totally perplexing! Right now we're anchored at Tobacco CAYE - totally different from the Tobacco RANGE, where we spent two nights hiding from an intense Norther (30+ winds - Winterlude drug anchor slightly when the wind switched BAM from S to NW providing a few intense minutes to get reanchored before dragging into the mangroves that ended up less than a boatlength off our stern) earlier this week! Tobacco CAYE is the perfect Gilligan's Island. Tobacco RANGE is a cluster of mangrove islands with a maze of good all around protection and lagoons complete with kamikaze pelicans, manatees & plenty of noseeums!
Belize Barrier Reef
Look Closely -- See The Blue Hole?
The barrier reef is the 2nd largest in the world (behind Australia) & it would be impossible to visit every island or cluster of islands. We've discovered that the Fly Range & Garbutt Caye hold nothing of interest for us, altho' there is a lobster camp there, abandoned now that lobster season was over Feb 13. The Colson Cayes are look-alikes for Garbutt (read BORING) above water, but underwater have a great little reef for snorkeling, a small blue hole & alot of grass offering poor holding - the first place ever Winterlude drug anchor.
In contrast, the Bluefield Range is also a mangrove cluster, but lying within a mile or so of the reef. It was magical -- manatees playing in the lagoon where we were anchored, rays leaping clear out of the water to do their airborne aerobics, birds everywhere, a tiny "resort" on the end of one of the islands where each morning the resident Belizean opens the windows of the tiny blue wooden "rooms" built out on stilts over the water & every sunset, he closes them. We never saw anyone else, much less any tourists, except his trusty black Lab! While kayaking up to the other fish camp, where we were hoping to buy fresh fish, their dogs chased us away. You can't imagine my panic over these barking, mean dogs jumping in the water and swimming to chase our kayaks. Suffice it to say, I've never paddled faster in my life!!! I NEVER expected them to jump OFF that dock!!!
Bluefield Range ... 1st Meeting With s/v Kristiana!
While at the Bluefield Range, we met new friends, Doug & Rayene on Kristiana, a Niagra 35. The wind was blowing 15-20 daily & Winterlude was hiding inside the lagoon, playing with the manatees (altho' I have yet to get to snorkel with one, despite trying several times), kayaking around the mangroves & hanging out. Doug & Rayene convinced us to go with them in their "big boat" out to the reef & Rendezvous Caye. This particular Rendezvous Caye sits directly on the reef and like most islands out on the reef, has crystal clear water, fabulous snorkeling & diving, perfect sugar sand beaches & a few coconut palm trees. We never got there -- unfortunately the cruise ship industry has discovered this gem & our idea of a tropical paradise these days does not include 500 sunburned cruise ship passengers!
Learning To Explore
Instead we had a lesson on anchoring literally 6 feet behind the reef! Traveling out, Doug gave us a eyes-on lesson in dodging coral heads & reading the water - prior to this, I never realized that a "sand bore" existed, much less what it looked like under water! And NO clue that sand bores likely contain adult sized conch, prime for the taking in 4' of clear water! While David & I took our dinghy & snorkeled inside the reef cut and two close sand bores, Doug was busy spearfishing. He got a hogfish, several yellowtail snappers & a small grouper -- and Rayene fixed them for dinner, YUM! Doug showed David how it was done & what he needed -- unfortunately, in order to spearfish effectively, it's important to be able to free dive to 30' or so -- David has been practicing, but we're not there yet! :) The next night, David & I had Doug & Rayene over for chicken on the grill & learned to play what is apparently the cruiser's favorite game -- Mexican Train! Who would have thunk playing dominoes with my Mom & Dad would be practice for the cruising life!