World Travel Tales

Unknown Cay, Belize

Self Proclaimed Mayor

We often looked for small deserted cays to drop our anchor for the night. We only realized that we weren't alone here when Harry, the sole inhabitant and self proclaimed mayor of this little cay, paddled out to us in his dugout canoe to offer us some fresh coconuts that he had just chopped out of a tall palm tree that morning, so we invited him onboard our boat and listened to his stories over a fresh coco verde.

This photo was taken as he paddled away from us to head home. You can see dense mangroves on the shoreline that are largely responsible for keeping this little sand island from washing away into the Caribbean Sea.

Location: Unknown Cay, Belize

Camera: Nikon D300 with 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 lens.
Settings: ISO 250, 1/160 sec at f/6.3.

Caribbean Sea off the coast of Belize

Caribbean Paradise

The Caribbean Sea and the islands it holds are an absolute paradise. Soft white sand beaches lined with palm trees, perfectly clear water the colour of a glowing emerald, and bright blue skies with puffy white clouds.

If you're sailing here it's good to have a shoal draft boat. Ideally, your draft should be no more than about 150cm (about 5 ft.) to get closer into shore and more sheltered anchorages. Of course deeper draft boats can sail here as well, it's just that many of the shallow water anchorages are unavailable to them.

This anchorage was known for having great snorkelling with stingrays. The water is shallow and warm and the rays collect here to clean themselves on the abrasive sand. They're very friendly and will swim right up to swimmers and offer their bellies to be petted - they're very smooth and soft, similar to the texture of a wet hotdog.

Location: Caribbean Sea off the coast of Belize

Camera: Nikon D300 with 18-200mm f//3.5-5.6 lens.
Settings: ISO 200, 1/250 sec at f/8.0.

Caribbean Sea, San Pedro, Ambergris Cay, Belize

Transiting the Reef

The Belize Barrier Reef is the second longest reef in the world, only The Great Barrier Reef in Australia is longer.

For sailboats to access the shore at San Pedro, Belize, there are two possible entry points through the reef - the North Reef Pass and the South Reef Pass.

Transiting the pass can be tricky business and holds high consequences for making a mistake. The ideal time to pass is when the sun is high in the sky slightly behind your course, which makes the dangerous reef more visible to a spotter on the bow, but that's not always possible or feasible.

This photo is taken from our position safely at anchor in the shelter of the reef, while three boats transit the North Reef Pass. The lead boat had been in the anchorage before and had an accurate GPS track to follow and a good spotter on the bow to look for coral heads under the water. The other boats followed closely to ensure they could line up then narrow gap in the reef correctly.

The single-hand captain of the third boat had been on a long crossing prior to his arrival at San Pedro and hadn't slept in nearly two days, so he was incredibly happy to have a boat to follow into the anchorage. I'm sure he was even happier to drop the anchor and get some sleep.

Location: Caribbean Sea, San Pedro, Ambergris Cay, Belize

Camera: Nikon D300 with 70-200mm f/2.8 lens.
Settings: ISO 400, 1/800 sec at f/5.6.

Caribbean Sea off the coast of Belize, Central America

Bow Spray on a Close Reach

We were sailing in the Caribbean Sea somewhere near Belize when the wind picked up from the direction of our destination. We reefed the main and shortened the headsail to accommodate the higher wind, and we bashed forward on a close reach to get to a sheltered tropical island paradise which would be our anchorage for the night.

The boat is a beautifully maintained Bristol 45.5 centre cockpit sloop.

Location: Caribbean Sea off the coast of Belize, Central America

Camera: Nikon D300 with 70-200mm f/2.8 lens.
Settings: ISO 400, 1/4000 sec at f/3.2.