Belize - from Cruising Information Community

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Flying Fish

Belize – 17°30.00'N, 88°00.00'W [Approximate]

Belize - 7 Anchorages and Harbours Contributed by Alan & Jan Pulfrey, Yacht - Coral Moon June 2005
INTRODUCTION The purpose of these notes is to supplement the out of date information provided by Calder’s Cruising Guide to the NW Caribbean or the sparse details contained in Rhodes’ Honduras and Its Bay Islands - a Mariner’s Guide. The former guide, although written in the early 90’s is still very useful. Unfortunately, it is out of print now but it’s worthwhile obtaining a copy if possible. Rauscher’s Cruising Guide to Belize and Mexico’s Caribbean Coast including the Rio Dulce is also a useful document.
The list of anchorages we visited is by no means all inclusive – many more exist but there was only a certain amount of time available; moreover, we found several wonderful anchorages where time just disappeared.
RADIO NETS AND WEATHER INFORMATION The NW Caribbean Net at 0800 CST (UTC-6) on 8188 KHz is an informal net that normally includes a useful amateur forecast. Chris Parker on 8104 at 0630 CST mentions the western Caribbean briefly. Navtex transmissions from Miami cover the NW Caribbean. We also downloaded weatherfax from New Orleans - 24, 48 and 72hr Wind and Wave charts are transmitted on 4316.1, 8502.1 or 12788.1 every 6 hours starting 0035 UTC. -
Charges. A lot of angst has been expressed in various forms reference the cost of cruising in Belize. Entry charges into the national parks are posted but we found they were rarely enforced. See below for clearance procedure. -
Communications. Moorings Charters monitor Ch 74 and transmit a brief weather forecast between 0900 and 0930. There is also a local weather and maritime forecast at about 7am on 98.5 FM from Radio Belize.
Placencia - Clearance. Clearing in at Placencia, or at the Big Creek Harbour to be more precise, could not have been simpler. The channel is well buoyed – anchor in mud at the head of the creek near the 3 buoys marking the turning area. Customs and Agricultural Inspector are located here but you must first take a taxi or walk 1.5 miles to Mango Creek to clear immigration at the Police Station. We shared a taxi with another couple and the round trip cost BZ$25 (BZ$2/US$1). There was no charge for immigration or at customs and the latter made no comment on the 3 days elapsed time since clearing Guatemala. The Agricultural Inspector, a pleasant young lady, charged BZ$20 to visit the boat. She checked our fruit and veg plus contents of the fridge and made no comment. Evidently she has no complaint with produce that is obviously for consumption onboard. All the officials were business-like and agreeable. -
Anchorage. The anchorage between Placencia Cay and the town is well protected and holding is good – we sat out a norther here with no problem. This is the Moorings base so you’ll find several of their catamarans anchored here but there is plenty of room. Park the dink on the inside of the fuel dock – at night, they lock the gates but there is sufficient space on the landside of the gate to tie up. -
Cash. Three banks in town but their ATMs are for local account holders only – they hope to extend this service to international customers soon – don’t hold your breath! Scotia Bank give advances of cash on credit/debit cards at a rate of BZ$1.9825 to the US$. -
Provisions. Just to the left as you exit the dock you’ll find the information centre – they supply a good map of the town for a small fee. Most of what you need is available at Wallan’s Store, the biggest supermarket in town. There is a reasonable selection of frozen meat and dry goods. The fruit and veg were very average – we preferred the small stall outside the supermarket, which supplied much fresher, although limited, produce. In addition, there are a couple of small Chinese-run supermarkets along the main road. -
Restaurants and Eateries. -- Cosy Corner Bar and Restaurant. Situated off the main footpath, this thatched, beach-side restaurant provides simple but well prepared food at reasonable prices. The special of the day is normally worth considering. -- Pickled Parrot. Another thatched restaurant that has been consistently rated as the best in town by the Rough Guide. Not inexpensive – a large pizza to share cost BZ$40 plus 9% tax but it was very tasty. -- De Tatch. Yet another thatched restaurant serving seafood and meat dishes. Well prepared and good service – probably our favourite place to eat. -- The Garden Brew Coffee House. Situated behind Wallen’s, this is a small cafe with a real espresso machine and serves good cappuccino (BZ$5), espresso, latte etc and excellent snacks such as chocolate chip banana muffins. -- Tutti Frutti Ice Cream Parlour. Just past the dinghy dock on the right hand side. Serves wonderful home made ice cream in many flavours.
Cay Caulker - Approach. After leaving Colson Cays (see below), we passed through the barrier reef using the eastern end of the main Belize City channel and then returned via Long Cay Pass –waypoint 17°38.80,N 88°01.80’W. Depths over the reef did not fall below 2.8m – it was low tide (neaps) and the sea was running 2ft. From this waypoint we headed 270 deg until north of Long Cay – only one shoal patch encountered, again 2.8m. From abeam Long Cay we headed in a northerly direction, eyeballing our way to Cay Caulker. The average depth on this leg was about 4.0m. - Anchorage. The anchorage is more indented than we expected and we were able to drop in a well-protected area in 2.7m. The anchor held securely in shallow grass but soft sand.
Ashore. Cay Caulker is a very relaxed island that is almost totally devoted to supporting tourism of the adventurous/backpacking kind. The streets are compacted sand and the main forms of transport are golf carts, bicycles and shank’s pony. Most facilities are available including laundry, internet, restaurants and groceries, though prices are higher than those in other parts of Central America.
Cash. The Atlantic Bank normally will give cash advances on debit/credit cards – no ATM. During our visit, however, telecommunication workers involved in an industrial dispute had sabotaged some crucial fibre optic cables, one of which serviced the bank and so no card transactions were possible. Fortunately, we had a few US$s - universally accepted - and several shops and restaurants take credit cards – the odd proprietor helped by giving cash advances on credit cards.
Provisions. Chan’s grocery store seemed to be open all the time. It had a fair supply of most essentials but fruit and vegetables vary in quality and availability. There are a few smaller shops and stalls dotted around but again good fresh produce was scarce. -- Laundry. There are several but we found Jasmine Laundry to be the best - BZ$5 for a wash and free dry.
Restaurants. We tried the Rasta Pasta, which has the motto – no shoes, no shirt, no problem. Good shore-side location and reasonably priced and quality food, and happy hour from 4 ‘til 7. Many more to choose from.
San Pedro - Approach. We timed our departure from Cay Caulker to San Pedro to coincide with high tide at Belize City – nevertheless, parts of this leg were very shallow and we read 1.9 metres on occasion. The offset on our depth gauge may be a little pessimistic but not by much.
Anchorage. San Pedro anchorage is between the reef and the shore so it is not protected from the wind, nor is the holding brilliant as the sand is hard.
Clearing Out. The Immigration and Customs Offices are on the main street opposite Fido’s Restaurant – they are set back on the first floor. Immigration wanted to see all the crew and charged BZ$15 per head. Customs charged US$20 for the Zarpe. For Mexico you will need 3 copies of the Zarpe and 5 copies of the crewlist provided by immigration, plus a copy of your insurance, boat papers and passports. In preparation, there is a convenient place below the immigration office to get these copies made.
Ashore. San Pedro looks to be a pleasant place to stroll around and there are a host of restaurants. Unfortunately, unless the weather is calm, the anchorage is not conducive to a long stay. - Departure. Transiting the reef is not a problem – follow the directions in Rauscher, passing close to the yellow buoy. The lowest depth encountered was 3.5 metres.
Other Anchorages
General. We cruised through Belize fairly quickly in order to make our deadline for insurance purposes to be in Virginia by 1 Jul. Thus we stayed inside the main reef and did not venture outside to Lighthouse Reef. By all accounts this is a beautiful atoll-type anchorage, well worth a visit. The inner cays are mainly mangrove in nature and the water is perhaps not as clear as at Lighthouse.
Sapodillo Cays. We broke the passage between the Rio and Placencia here. Grass Cay (aka Frank’s Cay) is shallow and the holding is very poor in hard sand. Our buddy boat ran aground and had to kedge off at high water. We couldn’t get the anchor to hold here or in the neighbouring NE Sapodilla Cay.
Hunting Cay may be a better bet, but as night was approaching and the weather was settled, we anchored outside the reef.
Ranguana Cay. This cay is easy to approach and we anchored in 5m in clear water and hard sand – I had to dive on my CQR to force the point into the sand. The island is private – nestling amidst the palms are 4 cabanas and small restaurant where, with sufficient notice, you can dine we were told. The reef was nothing to shout about in terms of coral but the fish, though not plentiful, were interesting – we saw a nurse shark, a stingray, a large porcupine fish and the largest grey angel ever.
Twin Cays. Enter through Blue Ground Range (waypoint for entrance 1648.75N 8809.32W) as per Rauscher. Exit BGR to the north and then head 090T for Tin Cays – there are numerous shoals along this leg but by avoiding the coral heads, we saw nothing below 2.7M. Holding is good in soft sand but we did not see a manatee! - Colson Cays. The entrance is straightforward with no hazards. Having dropped the anchor in 3.5m, I had to dive on the CQR to force the tip into the crunchy sand – after that it held well. Relatively clear water in which we saw several rays. The islands are mainly mangrove with nothing much to see ashore.
1) Information Submitted by John and Jean Armitage OSTRICA OF ORWELL
2) Date September 1997
3) Harbour or Area Covered Include Lat & Long Belize, 17?30’N 88? W approx Offshore and inside reef South of Belize City. Did not visit San Pedro. (North of Belize City - max. draft is l.8M inside the reef)
4) Suitability and Attraction for Yachts English speaking, friendly and scenic country Second longest coral reef in the world running approx. 150 miles North - South 10 to 25 miles offshore. Three South Sea type atolls further offshore each over 10 x 3 miles, coral heads, wall diving and superb snorkelling in water with 100 ft plus visibility. Literally thousands of anchorages, beam reaching in trade winds and swell free inner channel. Still quiet and a complete contrast to Eastern Caribbean.
5) Marinas, Berthing or Anchorage Maya Landings Marina, VHF 78, 1 mile north of Belize City, Moho Cay, about 2.lM control depth, check. lB/ft/day (2 Belize dollars = 1 US dollar). Protected. Fiesta Hotel, Belize City, VHF 16, waterfront part protected, controling depth 1.8M, lB/ft/day. Five mins. walking distance of town.
6) Entry Ports San Pedro - understand they now have resident officials here, Sep. 1997. Belize City - most inconvenient, used to large ships etc. Dangriga - very easy, open roadstead anchorage untenable in onshore wind over 15 knots, go early morning! Big Creek - near Placencia anchorage, or via buoyed deep channel into town. 15 mm walk from customs to imigration. Punta Gorda - Almost one stop, offices very close, but pay 15B for paperwork here which was not required elsewhere (1997).
7) Formal Requirements for Yachts Entering/Departing: a) from/to same country b) from/to abroad 30 day cruising permit free (called a Ships Report), renewal costs 25B per passport, and max. 90 day stay. Departure Environmental Tax is 7.5B each passport. No other paperwork required for U.K. citizens and we think same for U.S.. c) visa requirements
9) Control of Foreign Yachts Marine Police patrols stop and search, particular1y on the outer reefs, all due to busy drug trade: only total politeness and friendly waves thereafter. Boats are not marked and no uniforms, but offer credentials when alongside.
10) Attitude of Officials to Visiting Yachtsmen Always steer clear of clever remarks, smile and get big smile back.
11) Repair/Hauling Facilities None used. Subject to draught restrictions in Belize River at DUKE MARINE (vhf 68) where all marine engineering, fabrications, fibreglass and joinery were being carried out. Best Chandlery we found. Marine Railway at New Haven Bight is operational, 1.8M draft, 17.5 tons max. Need to bring your own chandlery. Nearest travel lift:Puerto Cortez, Honduras. Engineering: We were encouraged by the skills available to repair just about everything, from a laptop computer to the usual starter motor, alternator, pump failures. Cruisers searched out such skills ashore and were pleased with successes. They keep 25 year old taxis going! Belize Electrical Rebuilders Ltd, tel: 02-24291 particularly recommended.
12) Sailing Directions or Charts N.B. surveys for charts are 1810 and 1830, by Admiralty, copied by DMA in US and found to differ with GPS. When a mile off land switch off the GPS! Pilots/guides similarly inaccurate with GPS but OK for usual cross bearings and visual pilotage. Reading the colour of the water is how we approached every anchorage. Charts: note good charts are included in the Freya Rauscher Guide. B.A. best: 1220 Gulf Honduras to Yucatan Channel 959 Approaches to Belize City 1797 Ranguana Cay to Columbus Cay, incl. Glovers Reef 1573 Gulf of Honduras with Sapodilla Cays 522 Belize Harbour.( we did not open it)
13) Cruising Guide and where Obtainable. Include Phone and/or E-Mail Best Guide/pilot: Cruising Guide To Belize And Mexico 's Caribbean Coast by Freya Rauscher Also useful: Cruising Guide To N.W. Caribbean by Nigel Calder ( this essential if going to the Bay Islands and mainland of Honduras)
14) Port Radio Services We only monitored VHF, and heard traffic to Belize Port on Ch 16. If persist you can raise the other ports of entry at normal office hours approx. 0800 to 1600. Someone always seems to respond on Ch 16 and try to help using a landline or cellphone.
15) Weather Forecasts Radio Belize, FM 89.0 about every hour, some from the airport, very good at telling you what happened yesterday. SSB Upper side band: WOM at 0800 and 1800 local time most useful(See A.L.R.S. vol 3). N.W. Caribbean Ham maritime net (not exclusive to HAMs) at 0800 local (1400Z) on 4054 kHz, cruiser chat, help, info, weather, etc. T.V. weather if near Belize City. Weatherfax reception excellent from Belle Chase, Louisiana: ssb USB on 4316, 8502.2, 12788, (after taking off 1.9). Try 0600 and leave on to get all different info. and schedule of broadcasts.
16) Yacht Club(S)
17) Other Facilities: drinking water Both marinas above have fuels and water.(We treated water as usual). We collected more than enough rain (July, August). Usually carry it and most water is not treated. Alongside at marinas and Placencia. fuel Alongside at marinas and Placencia. Carry it in Dangriga and Punta Gorda. Always use biocide additive in this climate. gas (propane)/gaz : Alongside via dinghy in Belize river before second bridge. Usually at least a mile out of town in other places but if phone they bring tanker to the waterfront (eventually). We think it is a mix somewhere between propane and butane so used propane regulators. Central American bottles have different valves to any we have seen but US fittings are common and they use ingenuity to get over other problems. chandlers Duke Marine in Belize City VHF 68.
Lots of good hardware shops which have boat orientated goods, outboards particularly. DHL couriers in Belize City receive and clear customs (no charge for "Yacht in transit") for parts ordered from US or UK, received within three or four days of despatch. US mail order catalogues are a great help to have with you e.g. West Marine, P0 Box 50050, Watsonville, CA 95077-5050. USA.
bank There were no ATMs in 1997. No problems using Visa and Mastercard in the banks, and can draw US dollars. Passport required wherever you use credit cards. Some bigger stores and traders accept credit cards, but few. US dollars readily accepted and Belize dollar linked to Us dollar so rates are constant shops/market .
Shops and (markets: Belize City provides everything we needed for body and boat. Excellent fresh produce in two markets. Good meat in supermarkets. Other towns have less choice but have market days when fresh produce is excellent, get there early, also best time to be sure of getting bread. Belize City is rarely more than a day 's sail away. restaurants/hotels International standards at Fiesta and Fort George hotels in Belize City. On the outer reef there are backpacker and specialist dive resort accommodations. First place we have been without a MacDonalds!! Enjoy eating local fare, or be disappointed. Armadillo is "interesting".
post office/telephones including mobile facilities Post offices in each town, closed sat and sun. Will keep mail addressed "Hold for collection,General Delivery", but only for 28 days. Mail from UK takes a minimum of a week but if it is a package it may never arrive, use a courier. Telephone/faz: BELTEL offices in each town for international calls, stand in the queue and take a good book. Same for faxes out (12B/page to UK) and will receive faxes. We used the business centre at Fiesta Hotel and found it both efficient, cheaper, and air conditioned! Communications with the outlying cays is by VHF radio but they are about to embrace satellite telephones so things may improve. We suggest you avoid making promises to call home regularly. internet cafes best mailing address
Best mailing address: Only found the Post Office facility but probably could come to some arrangement with a hotel or local business if essential, or at a cost with couriers DHL. showers None other than heavy rain. laundry Several in Belize City, one DIY and a one lady, four machine, service wash both near clock tower N. end Barrack Road. Also seen but not used in Dangriga and Placencia.
transport/air services : Towns are linked by metalled roads in various states of disrepair. Buses travel everywhere on roads metalled or not. Punta Gorda was cut off for a while when we were there due to road or bridge being washed away. One road runs to the border with Mexico and one to Guatemala. Airport at Belize City has international links via USA and other Central and South American countries. (From UK try Trailfinders for value). medical facilities/hospital : Belize City has facilities. USA is two hours or less by air.
Clinics in each town seem well staffed, also plenty of dentists. No experience of any. 18) Recommendations or Warnings Security: If you don 't want to loose it, lock it up, preferably below decks. Accept that it is a relatively poor population so remove temptation. We only heard of one incident on an unlocked unattended boat.
Copying : Angelus Press, Queen Street, Belize City do all sorts of photocopying, dyeline printing;stock office, artwork and computer supplies, as well as books and stationery. 19) Other Information – please include here general impressions, opinions, comments or any other matter which might be of use to those visiting.

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