Back in 2005 I spent 10 days with my good friends Carol and Jim cruising in the Belizean Cays. We had a memorable 2 night stay in Glovers Reef sharing ice, sundowners, and great meals with two other cruisers. During my recent Guatemala to Florida passage with Jim and Carol on S/V Windquest, I asked them for their insights on bareboating in Belize.
Having cruised for at least 3 seasons in the second largest barrier reef in the world, Jim and Carol had a great perspective on this fantastic bareboating destination. With Moorings operating for many years and Sunsail to open a base in 2011, Belize is primed to become an even more attractive bareboating destination.
Objective – Great Snorkeling
Jim and Carol strongly recommend Queens Cays, South Water Cay, and the Sapadilla Cays for some fantastic snorkeling. In addition, Glovers Reef and Lighthouse Reef are don’t miss spots, but, the charter companies and Belize government will require a certified skipper/guide to sail these areas. If you have the time, make the appropriate arrangements. From what I remember snorkeling the coral heads in Glovers, you will not be disappointed.
Other anchorages with good snorkeling are the Pelican Cays, Blue Ground Range, Ranguana Cay, and Cary Cay.
Transportation – Belize City is your international gateway, but, you will not arrive until you take the island hopper down to Placencia. Make sure you get off at the right stop. Jim’s cousin made the mistake of getting off before Placencia and spent the night with representatives from the airline. It was a fun experience for him, a day lost that would be costly on a fixed schedule bareboat charter.
Restaurants – Placencia has one of the best Gelato shops in North America – Tutti Frutti and this is coming from someone who lived in Italy for 6 years and I’m a gelato snob, just ask Carol.
Land Excursions – If you have the time, plan a side trip to a Mayan Ruin site. Everyone whose been says Tikal and Peten in Guatemala are must see sights. Consider adding this side trip to your itinerary if you can afford the extra time.
Placencia is a small town, but, offers decent provisioning with 3 small grocery stories, one of which is run by a Chinese family.
Beverages – Order your water, soft drinks, and beer from the charter company to avoid having to carry these heavy, bluky items back to the boat. Good wine will be hard to find with the best selection at the gourmet shop by the airport. Belikin beer is the local brew, so go native and enjoy.
Meat and Fish – Most meat you find will be frozen and fresh fish may only be available at the fish coop at the waterfront in the mornings. Frozen conch may also be available.
Fruit and Vegetables – Carol recommends washing all produce with vinegar and has not had any problems with the fresh produce she’s purchased. Don’t hesitate to buy the green oranges they are great for squeezing and very sweet to eat. Some local vegetables to try are Cho-cho (Chayote Squash), a mild squash, and Boniato also known as Cuban Sweet Potatoes taste a bit like chestnuts.
Fishing – Great fishing between the Cays, but, make sure any fishing is done outside the marine park boundaries and don’t collect conch in these areas.
Navigating Reefs – Navigating the barrier reef of Belize requires care, particularly, approaching an anchorage near a cay for the night. Jim’s basic rules are have a good pair of polarized sunglass, approach with the sun behind, beware of brownish green coral heads, find a sandy patch to drop the hook, and make sure you snorkel on the anchor.