Sheltered anchorages behind tiny islands where you very well might be the only vessel anchored, perfect thirteen to fifteen knot winds in protected, turquoise waters, healthy, vibrant reefs waiting to be snorkeled, good food, and friendly people are just some of the treasures you’ll find while sailing the southern end of Belize’s inner channel.
For those heading to the Caribbean or Mediterranean from California, Belize is an easy, non-stop five day sail around Nicaragua and Honduras from Panama. Plan to do most of your provisioning on Panama’s Pacific side. The Riba Smith supermarkets are well stocked with fresh fruits, vegetables, and shelf products hard to find anywhere else.
Leaving Colon, the island of San Andres Cayos will provide a rest for those wishing to make smaller hops. Its is located 218 nm north west at 151 degrees. From there, sail for 133 nm at a heading of 321 degrees to the mouth of Miskito Channel, a wide route running north around Nicaragua. Situated behind a barrier reef, Miskito Channel offers a protection from seas and a slight distance savings. Though some sources list this channel as something one should consider only when in great need, we would choose to sail it again. At night, small fishing boats carrying one white light travel the southern end of the channel. They maintained a safe distance from us. Care should be taken when leaving the northern end of Miskito Channel near Honduras as the area lacks accurate, recent survey data and nine foot shoals were found around 16* 09.180'N and 084 26.029'W. Sailing towards Belize from Panama follows prevailing winds allowing us to adopt a wing-on-wing sail plan.
Adventure awaits when clearing into in Placencia where the average walk to customs and immigration is replaced by a ten minute trip down Mango Creek aboard the Hokey Pokey Water Taxi. From the harbor,
head left and walk down the semi-paved road. Ask for the M&M Hardware store. Right next door you will buy a ticket for a round trip ride on the Hokey Pokey Water Taxi. Get there early and board as departure time is when the boat is full. Try to sit in the first two rows or middle seats to avoid getting splashed with salt water as the boat works itself to a plane. The water taxi weaves past river-side villages before winding through the mangroves to Independence and Mango Creek Village. Upon disembarking, you will be greeted by a friendly taxi driver who will take you to customs in Big Creek. Enter through the side door. With your stamped passport in hand, walk across the back field and road to the two story building across the street. Enter the sidewalk half hidden by a flowering shrub. Clear in with immigration at the first door before heading into the next. Welcome to Belize!
Hailed as the “world’s narrowest street” by the Guinness Book of World Records,
a stroll down Placencia Sidewalk will quickly introduce you to quaint artisan shops teeming with paintings, weavings, wood carvings, cinnamon buns, and absolutely delicious grilled chicken, ribs, and beef brisket. The area’s international community ensures rich diversity in crafts as well as foods. Sweet, vine-ripened tomatoes and watermelon, fresh basil and parsley, green beans and green, leafy lettuce, cassava and sweet potato are but some of the delicious ingredients waiting for you at the street-side markets. Well provisioned, you’re ready to experience this cruising playground.
Surrounded by calm, turquoise water, hundreds of low-lying islands and pristine reefs await discovery.
Belize’s barrier reef, the second largest in the world, ensures the “story book” version of cruising. Anchor next to a deserted island and start your day with a picnic breakfast to the sound of wavelets lapping the shore. Leave only footprints as you head out to snorkel the reefs prolific with a wide variety of coral, aquarium-size reef fish, rays, and, if you’re lucky, sea turtles. Holding a floating device ensures even the most intrepid of swimmers will have a memorable experience. At eighty four degrees, who can stay out of these waters?
Stretch your legs and palette before checking out of Belize by spending some time in her lush jungles.
Mayan structures, standing as majestically as the day they were inhabited, rise out of the lush green grounds. Plan to visit early in the morning and you will enjoy time alone marveling at these engineering feats before the busses arrive. Talk with those maintaining the grounds to gain insights otherwise missed.
Though many fly into this British territory, cruising Belize aboard your own vessel provides unlimited opportunities to experience one of the finest and less populated of cruising grounds. You won’t “Belize” the experiences you’ll have in Belize.