December 2009

Ashley & Mike



Early in the month we made our way to Belize City to meet our daughter Ashley and son-in-law Mike for an action-packed five-day visit. We were docked at Cucumber Beach Marina and enjoyed their beach volleyball, water slide, and rope swing as we swatted away some very vicious sand flies. The following morning, Ashley, John and Mike traveled about one hour inland and explored caves while floating on a river in inner tubes. They hiked through the rain forest to the river. Mike tried a taste of termites from a termite mound. At the river they donned life jackets and head lamps as they floated in and out of three different cave systems along the river.





Ashley and Mike in Belize

Cave tourWe have floated down rivers on inner tubes before and we had done some exploring in caves before but we had never floated down a river inside a cave. The ceiling of the cave was anywhere from five feet over our heads at some points to as much as fifty feet over our heads at others. The river curves around after it enters the cave so after a while except for the glow of our headlamps, it was completely black. The guide had us turn off our lamps and you could not see your hand in front of your face but you could hear the gentle current propelling us down the river. In the second cave we came across a waterfall that was feeding the river. The river current was gentle and slow so the ride was not scary or anything but it was eerie to be floating down the river in complete darkness.

Ready for the cave tour

Arriving back at the boat after cave tubing, we cast off the dock lines and headed to some of the outer islands along Belize’s famous barrier reef. We spent most of our time enjoying the beautiful underwater life in Belize while snorkeling. Mike tried his luck at spear fishing and he proved to be a born spear fisherman. He speared a fish on his first shot and provided us with the fish for our seafood platter which included lobster and conch.

Mike spearfishing

Mike the hunter

There is a cruisers information network (net) each day at 8:00 am on the single side band (SSB) radio that includes cruisers in the northwest Caribbean from the Yucatan peninsula of Mexico southward through Honduras. The net depends on volunteers to act as hosts and moderators and Ann has volunteered as a moderator for Thursdays. Another volunteer provides weather forecast for the area and the net tracks cruising boats as they travel from one location to another. Cruisers “check in” on the net whenever they want and can use the net as a forum to ask questions or share important information about purchasing fuel, official check-in procedures, anchorages, good grocery stores, etc. 

Our four years of cruising have taught us that we must be patient with the weather and this month has been a test of our patience.  We have been plagued with nasty weather for most of December. A series of cold fronts have exited the U.S. and traveled south bringing strong winds, rain, and cooler temperatures (in the 70’s). The cold fronts get trapped in this area and hang out for a while so the nasty weather also hangs around for a while. The forecast predicted some nice calm days around Christmas, so we headed 40 miles off the coast of Belize to Lighthouse Reef.

Belize coral reef

Lighthouse Reef is an atoll, which is a round ring of coral that rises from the ocean along the edges of a steep limestone plateau. Inside the reef, there is about 20 feet or less of water and just outside of the reef the ocean drops to more than 2000 feet. Inside the 25 mile long circle of reef are smaller reef patches with beautiful coral formations and tropical fish. This has been great opportunity for John to do some spear fishing. Unfortunately, the weather only allowed us a couple of calm days for good snorkeling and spear fishing during our two week stay. 

Belize coral reef

Christmas boat at Cucumber Beach Marina

Boat Christmas TreeIt was difficult to be away from family during the holidays, but we finally got into the Christmas spirit as the holidays neared. We listened to Christmas music either on the local radio or from a holiday CD sent from our daughter Courtney. We didn’t have a Christmas tree on board, but we enjoyed the Christmas tree and Christmas lighted boat at Cucumber Beach Marina. On Christmas Eve we anchored at Lighthouse Reef with five other boats. Just before sunset Jan and Dave from Winterlude donned Santa hats and steered their dinghy from boat to boat singing Christmas carols. We invited them on board and gave them a bag of homemade Christmas cookies and candy (you always give carolers a gift). Early the next morning, Mike from Windfree delivered Gloria’s fresh-baked scones to all the boats in the anchorage. We had several gifts to open on Christmas morning. Ann’s parents had sent along gifts when we returned in the fall and Ashley and Mike brought us several gifts when they visited earlier in the month. Our most treasured gift was a collection of notes, drawings and photos from our 16 grandchildren. Phyllis and Jeff from Antares and Gloria and Mike from Windfree joined us onboard for a holiday dinner in the afternoon. We had a great meal of Christmas ham, Bahamian macaroni and cheese and vegetables.

Christmas 2009 at Lighthouse Reef

On New Year’s Eve, Sara II hailing from the U.K. invited everyone to bring along drinks and appetizers to celebrate the New Year on their boat. We had a beautiful full moon and got a quick glimpse of the International Space Station as it glided across the sky. Since cruisers are all “early to bed” people, we toasted the New Year in the U.K. at 6:00 pm local time. 

 We continue to wait at Lighthouse Reef for good weather to travel to Honduras where we hope to spend a couple of months.  

Christmas morning on Livin the Dream