Friday, November 9, 2012

Adventures In Belize - Day Three

Saturday, October 13, 2012
    Heavy swells and a strong wind kept "Lovely Cruise" rocking from side to side most of the night. Sunrise this morning was at 5:45, and when I came up on deck a few minutes later the sun was just above the low vegetation of Wippari Cay, turning the whole expanse of eastern sky tangerine orange. The sun itself was thinly veiled by a narrow veil of heavy rain falling in the distance.
    Eventually everyone was up for a leisurely breakfast of bacon and eggs. We got on the VHF radio briefly to report our position to the Sunsail base, and cast off from the mooring sometime between nine-thirty and ten.
    We headed back south along yesterday's track with the wind at our backs for a short distance before turning due east and setting a course for Moho Cay, a few miles off. There were several times when we slowed to ease our way cautiously through much shallower water where coral banks approached the surface. 
      Passing just north of Moho we came to a wide stretch of open unobstructed water, and finally hoisted the main, unfurled the jib, and turned off the engines to sail on a close reach across the north winds.
    The weather was improved considerably over yesterday's, the seas and winds both diminished to comfortable levels, with mostly sunny skies. We dropped the sails as we neared Hatchett Cay, swinging around to approach it from the south, and easily picked up the mooring ball on the sheltered southeast side of the island.
     Hatchett Cay is small. John and I took the dinghy and motored over to the dock, a few hundred yards from our mooring. We tied up next to the large open sided dock house that marked the end of a long low pier. In the clear shallow water below the pier we could see patches of white sand and expanses of coral. We walked to the foot of the pier where there was an immaculate little cottage nestled beneath small coconut palms on the very edge of a narrow white sand beach at the edge of the water.
    A red concrete pathway meandered off both to the right and left. We turned left and strolled along past coconut palms, hibiscus, plumeria, and other bright blooming flowers. Passing several other cottages at the edge of the water, we came to an elevated deck under the palms, with a bar at its edge. A workman was on hands and knees, varnishing the weathered hardwood. He informed us that neither the bar nor the restaurant was open, and that they were getting ready for the start of the season. On October 17th they planned to reopen the bar and small restaurant, and the cottages should be ready for guests the following week. I realized that the dates coincided with the projected end of the hurricane season.
    We continued our walk, winding around the windward side of the cay, where wind-whipped waves surged across the shallow waters to splash mini-surf along the beaches. A total of perhaps ten minutes walking brought us around the entire circumference of the island and back to the pier where the dinghy was tied. We climbed on and made out way back to the catamaran to report our findings.
    Sheila, Mary Ann, and Jane all wanted to go see the coral formations near shore so the three of them, John, and I loaded masks, fins, and snorkeling gear into the inflatable dinghy, and we motored the hundred and fifty yards to the end of the dock on the lee side of the cay.
    A lower section at the edge of the dock provided a good place to tie up and unload, and there was a ladder down into the water to make it easy to climb back out again.

     The windward side of the island and out in deeper water where the catamaran was moored had an incredible amount of garbage drifting past, both on the surface and underwater, but the lee side seemed to be clear. 
      Floating on the surface of the warm, clear water we looked down ten or twelve feet to a spectacular landscape of sea fans and soft corals, waving gently back and forth as the small waves passed many feet above them.
    The soft corals looked almost like brown velveteen many branched plants, and on close examination revealed that the fuzzy appearance was the presence of thousands of individual coral polyps all living together as a growing, living colony.
     The sea fans, each anywhere from six to as much as twenty-four inches tall, and often a bit wider, reminded me of delicate Belgian lacework. Some were a light gray, some were brilliant purple. Only a few fish were visible as we swam slowly on the surface, but we soon discovered that if we stopped moving and floated motionless, more and more fish would appear from hiding places in the reef. Hundreds of colorful fish of all kinds darted about between and under the fans, nibbling at the bottom, patrolling territories, chasing each other, or wandering through the coral forest.
     After swimming we all climbed back up on the dock to sit on the long rattan couch in the shady dock house for awhile before climbing back into the dinghy for the short trip back to "Lovely Cruise". 

     In the evening we sat on deck to watch the sun set behind distant banks of clouds.

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