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Old 11-07-2013, 21:44   #16
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One more question for the group...

This is our first charter outside of the US/Canada - our previous charter company didn't offer provisioning. Of course, Moorings does...does it make sense to have them provision the boat with some of the essentials ahead of time or would it be much more cost effective to provision ourselves at the supermarket (Wallins) in Placencia? Note - my sailing buddy and I are all about the sailing and less about fine dining and creature comforts. We don't really like to throw money away but, if the price is about the same, might as well have someone else do the work...thx all!
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Old 12-07-2013, 07:19   #17
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Re: Chartering in Belize

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Originally Posted by Pivo View Post
One more question for the group...

This is our first charter outside of the US/Canada - our previous charter company didn't offer provisioning. Of course, Moorings does...does it make sense to have them provision the boat with some of the essentials ahead of time or would it be much more cost effective to provision ourselves at the supermarket (Wallins) in Placencia? Note - my sailing buddy and I are all about the sailing and less about fine dining and creature comforts. We don't really like to throw money away but, if the price is about the same, might as well have someone else do the work...thx all!
My 2c: Why waste your limited vacation time running errands? Have Moorings provision for you and it will be aboard the boat in the cooler when you arrive.

You can still go into the village and pick up a few things just for the experience. Keep in mind that Moorings is well North of Placencia Village proper so you have to take a cab into town and back (about $20BZ each way).

Wallens used to be the only option in town, and it is still a good one, but in recent years there has been an explosion of Chinese run grocery stores in Placencia. There must be about half-a-dozen now. Placencia is small place...who is buying all these groceries? And a couple of new veggie stands. So you have a lot more options for provisioning, but you won't find most of the name brands you know and they all stock essentially the same stuff (and don't worry about the fine cuisine...you won't find that in the groceries either...although there some good resturants in Placencia). Any USA/Canada brands names will be imported of course and way expensive.

One suggestion if you go into the Village is have someone prepare your first meal for you to go. This way you can either eat on the way out or have your first meal ready to eat when you drop the hook. Go to Mr. Omar's Creole Grub for some excellent authentic Creole food.

Take a look at the section in my notes on provisioning. There is more detail and some suggestions on uniquely Belizean things to buy (...you might even find some Gibnut or Cow Foot Soup if you are lucky!).
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Old 12-07-2013, 08:53   #18
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Re: Chartering in Belize

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Thanks very much! This is awesome information and will really help with trip planning. We r in a monohull so draft issues are even more significant than with a cat. Knowing that Tobacco Cay is the furthest north we can expect to go is very important. Looking forward to reviewing the HTML document. Thanks!
My wife and I took a 46' cat out of Placencia 2 weeks last fall. We went up to Tobacco (had been there 15 years earlier) wow, has that changed for the worst! To bad. Snorkeling was great though to the south and the sail up from S.Water Caye was great.. flat water and strong winds.

Anyway, I wanted to say.. out in the middle of nowhere, about 1/2 way between Tobacco and the caye to the west of it, a monohull was stuck! A boat from tobacco went out and they used the halyard to tip the mast/boat and the dinghy from the boat to tow and drift it off whatever it was stuck on.. sand or reef, I couldn't tell. I know the locals running the boat expected some $$ in return.

It seemed navigating around Belize you had to be very vigilant most all the time. One of us was at the front quite often keeping our eyes open for brown spots. Our handheld garmin with charts was much more accurate than what was on the boat.. at least it never showed our boat in the middle of an island! We always planned for where the sun was going to be while traveling to keep it overhead or behind us. That is a must in a lot of the Belize waters.

Anchorages are nothing like elsewhere we've been. Many are deep, rocky, shoaly.. poor holding. The mooring lines were so wore looking sometimes I free dove the secondary anchor rode down to the mooring block and shackled it off just so we could sleep. One mooring let loose a different cat at South Water during a good nights wind, fortunately the captain heard the difference and woke and motored to safety.

Always have your tracking on... we had boat trouble in an area with no anchoring and only 1 wore out mooring and it was late in the afternoon when we got going.. no option but to move, and tracking back amongst the islands and coral to a spot we knew would have holding for us was a good thing! Arrived just at sunset, but never could have done it without the tracking.. it was a zig and zag through shallows and shoals and a lot of it into the sun. I suppose in a true emergency we could have dropped the anchor out in the middle of nowhere.. but did not really want to do that.

I know all the above sounds bad, but we loved Belize! Still almost as charming as many years ago.. and spearfishing is legal. Snorkeling was great! Just like years ago, we still love Belize.

I'd provision at Wallon's, he's a good local.
(edit) - no reason to take a cab to Placencia village.. you could make Placencia bay the first stop and dinghy in, then walk and short taxi back to dock. Placencia is a neat village.. loved it. It's not the few huts it was years ago, but still has good vibe. Lot's of cruisers hanging out at Paradise hotel, wifi, and good drinks and food.
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Old 12-07-2013, 09:17   #19
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Re: Chartering in Belize

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Originally Posted by Pivo View Post
One more question for the group...

This is our first charter outside of the US/Canada - our previous charter company didn't offer provisioning. Of course, Moorings does...does it make sense to have them provision the boat with some of the essentials ahead of time or would it be much more cost effective to provision ourselves at the supermarket (Wallins) in Placencia? Note - my sailing buddy and I are all about the sailing and less about fine dining and creature comforts. We don't really like to throw money away but, if the price is about the same, might as well have someone else do the work...thx all!
I enjoy grocery shopping as part of the experience, my wife doesn't but she bears with me. Next time around though we have a lot of family joining us and will need a lot of drinking water. That's the worst thing to provision so I'll have the charter company or a grocery store deliver the gallons of drinking water. We'll do the rest.
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Old 12-07-2013, 09:32   #20
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Re: Chartering in Belize

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...

Anyway, I wanted to say.. out in the middle of nowhere, about 1/2 way between Tobacco and the caye to the west of it, a monohull was stuck!. A boat from tobacco went out and they used the halyard to tip the mast/boat and the dinghy from the boat to tow and drift it off whatever it was stuck on.. sand or reef, I couldn't tell. I know the locals running the boat expected some $$ in return.

It seemed navigating around Belize you had to be very vigilant most all the time. ...That is a must in a lot of the Belize waters.

Anchorages are nothing like elsewhere we've been. Many are deep, rocky, shoaly.. poor holding. The mooring lines were so wore looking sometimes I free dove the secondary anchor rode down to the mooring block and shackled it off just so we could sleep. One mooring let loose a different cat at South Water during a good nights wind, fortunately the captain heard the difference and woke and motored to safety.
...
I know all the above sounds bad, but we loved Belize! Still almost as charming as many years ago.. and spearfishing is legal. Snorkeling was great! Just like years ago, we still love Belize.

....
Yes, Belizean waters tend to alternate dramatically between shoal and deep so you do have to pay attention. This is especially true outside the reef as you approach the atolls where you can go from thousands of feet deep to aground in a few boat lengths. A mistake many charterers make is to have their eyes glued to the chart plotter and not paying attention to what is visible around them. A number of charter boats have been put aground this way...running into shoals which were clearly visible in front of them....if they had just used their eyeballs. Good "eyeball" navigation is important in Belize.

Mooring Buoys. Unfortunately the mooring program which was started a number of years ago has floundered and the moorings are no longer being maintained. Use at your own risk and dive them to check for sure. The anchoring points are typically good so I usually dive and run my own line as back up. Related note: under Belizean law once you put a mooring on the bottom it becomes public property...the entity who installed it has "priority" use (whatever that means), but it is fair game for anyone to use and no one can legally charge you for using a mooring...so don't pay if they ask (this is NOT the same as the marine park fee...which they can and do charge in some places).

While there is plenty of poor holding in Belize, there are also some excellent anchorages. Around Placencia: Placencia Harbour, Placencia Lagoon (a bit mucky but good holding), Lark Caye Range (60+ feet deep, but good holding), Pelican Cayes (deep like Lark, but good holding), No Name Point (down near Monkey River Town)... Holding sucks at the ever popular Ranguana Caye, but you may be able to find some old moorings on the bottom (including a couple of large engine blocks...in close near the eroding southern end of the island) and tie to those...or with local knowledge...skirt around to a sandy area where the local fishermen sometimes anchor. Moorings will point out their recommend, and not, anchorages during their chart briefing to you...they don't want you to drag either.

Re Spearfishing. Legal with a pole spear...not with a spear gun (although the locals still use them anyway, but remember you are not a local).
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Old 13-07-2013, 08:05   #21
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Thx Privleoplag and belizesailor for this awesome information. When I look at my Navionics map (iPad) I see the sand bar just west of Tobacco Cay. Good thing to avoid. When I compare Freya Rauscher's cruising guide and the Navionics map they are eerily similar. I trained with the Vancouver Island Marine Academy and my sailing instructor used to say that the Navionics maps were more accurate than the on board chart plotters. We tested this and found it to be true over and over in the Pacific Northwest. In Belize, we plan to use Freya's guide cross referenced with Navionics and the on board plotters and any paper maps that they have. I wonder if anyone has tried the Navionics maps in Belize. The trick is keeping the iPad dry! Luckily I have a waterproof case...thx again!
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Old 14-07-2013, 09:21   #22
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Re: Chartering in Belize

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Thx Privleoplag and belizesailor for this awesome information. When I look at my Navionics map (iPad) I see the sand bar just west of Tobacco Cay. Good thing to avoid. When I compare Freya Rauscher's cruising guide and the Navionics map they are eerily similar. I trained with the Vancouver Island Marine Academy and my sailing instructor used to say that the Navionics maps were more accurate than the on board chart plotters. We tested this and found it to be true over and over in the Pacific Northwest. In Belize, we plan to use Freya's guide cross referenced with Navionics and the on board plotters and any paper maps that they have. I wonder if anyone has tried the Navionics maps in Belize. The trick is keeping the iPad dry! Luckily I have a waterproof case...thx again!
I've run Navionics and C-MAP in Belize.

Navionics are pretty good for Belize also. In fact, some of the text notes included appear to be from Freya's guide. Not sure to what degree they shared/pilfered info, but there are definitely some similarities (which is good for us). Navionics + Freya + Eyeballs is a good combination.

C-MAP is a bad joke for Belize, complete with irregular rectangles for islands, but for some odd reason quite accurate and detailed for Honduras.

The bar W of Tobacco is very visible (again: use your eyeballs). In fact, if your draft permits it is an anchoring option.

To approach Tobacco from the W. There is a long shoal area that extends N from Coco Plum Cayes. Most charts do not extend it far enough North. To set up for your approach and miss this shoal, go N in the Inner Channel (big open channel between the cayes and the mainland) until you are just North of a line drawn from this tower to the N end of Tobacco Range, then turn and put your stern on the tower and your bow just above the N end of Tobacco Range. Follow this route in until you are well past Coco Plum, but not yet to Tobacco Range...then adjust your course N a bit to avoid the shoal that extends off the N end of Tobacco Range. The water N of this approach line (between there and just south Garbut & Cross Cayes is consistently relatively deep and you should have no less than 8', but usually about 12'). Freya shows an approach from the W to Tobacco that starts much closer to Garbutt Caye -- this is good too, but you don't actually need to go that far North.

Another handy nav tool is Google Earth. I run Fugawi which supports Google Earth overlays so that I can merge a chart image and the corresponding Google Earth image. This is very handy for confirming the accuracy of charts. Some of the Google imagery for the Belize coast is not that great, but handy when it is good.

Image of Tobacco approach route and E leg of this route with Google Earth image layer overlaid attached.
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Name:	Tobacco Caye Approach w Google Layer.jpg
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Old 14-07-2013, 09:41   #23
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Re: Chartering in Belize

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.... I know the locals running the boat expected some $$ in return....
Something to keep in mind when dealing with paying locals in Belize. As with anywhere always establish a price up front (Belizeans don't like to do this and will avoid it...they are hoping the stupid Gringo will volunteer to pay them some crazy amount...so you will likely have to propose the amount...start low...they will likely then protest and now at least you are negotiating). And, establish whether the price is in US$ or BZ$....this is a favorite trick...the local will just say "dollars" without specifying which type of "dollars"....then when you start whipping out BZ$, they will say "oh no, I meant US$" (twice as much)...by that point you are not in a good negotiating position.
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Old 14-07-2013, 10:09   #24
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Re: Chartering in Belize

I wouldnt believe ANY chart or chartplotter in Belize. We got what were reckoned to be the best paper charts (admiralty) and if you look at the notes they were made on the basis of lead line surveys from the 1840's (no joke) updated by satellite pictures. The chartplotter cant be any more accurate than the chart it is based on.

We had a Garmin handheld which was somewhat better than the raymarine plotter on the charter boat. But the only thing that proved accurate was Capt. Freya;s guide. Also our eyeballs. Dont rely on the plotter! Not at all.

Best nav equipment we brought was a pair of good polarized sunglasses
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Old 15-07-2013, 08:10   #25
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Re: Chartering in Belize

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I wouldnt believe ANY chart or chartplotter in Belize. We got what were reckoned to be the best paper charts (admiralty) and if you look at the notes they were made on the basis of lead line surveys from the 1840's (no joke) updated by satellite pictures. The chartplotter cant be any more accurate than the chart it is based on.

We had a Garmin handheld which was somewhat better than the raymarine plotter on the charter boat. But the only thing that proved accurate was Capt. Freya;s guide. Also our eyeballs. Dont rely on the plotter! Not at all.

Best nav equipment we brought was a pair of good polarized sunglasses
All good advice. Yes, most charts of Belize are still based on old British Admiralty surveys. The only significant exception to that is around Belize City. This has been more recently surveyed because of the commercial traffic that transits there, but good eyeballs and a good pair of polarized sunglasses (bring several just in case yo lose one) combined with Freya's guide are the best "nav tools" for the rest of Belize. Best to use the chart plotter/GPS mostly to manage and track to waypoints and routes (known good ones from Freya's guide).

Discuss your approaches into cuts and anchorages with your crew, post a bow watch, and go slow (it is always better to hit stuff when moving slow).

Most of the charter boats that run aground in Belize (sometimes rather dramatically) do so typically because they are glued to the chart plotter and not looking at the water in front of them.

More tips re eyeball navigation. The water clarity in Belize can be separated into several "zones" moving from the mainland out to the atolls. Between the Inner Channel and the mainland water clarity is typically not very good because of run off from rivers. Up the rivers or back in the mangrove lagoons visibility is zero. So, eyeball navigation is more challenging here -- you need local knowledge. The Inner Channel, with about a 1 knot south flowing current sweeps most the the silt from the rivers southward. So, on the East side of the inner channel the water clears up noticeably. The further East you go towards the reef the clearer it gets. Outside the reef and out to the atolls the powerful Yucatan current flows north and continually flushes the area with clean clear sea water. As a result, out at the atolls the water is typically crystal clear.
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Old 20-07-2013, 18:35   #26
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I have asked Moorings to provide me with some additional details on where we can and cannot go before we arrive in October. We would like to do some general route planning ahead of time recognizing that weather etc.. could change our plans at any point. I assume they have some written details on this but we will see. As this is our first time in the Caribbean, our route will be conservative.
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Old 20-07-2013, 19:28   #27
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Its been a few years since I sat in on a Moorings chart briefing, but their exclusions at the time were reasonable and would not significantly restrict your planning.

No sailing outside the main reef of course.

They excluded the "inside" route from Southwater Caye to Pelican Cayes. This is a common route which skirts the western edge of the Bad Lands and then enters the Inner Channel just N of Pelican Cays. It is a scenic route and a good sail going S but, It requires local knowledge and good light. It is shown in Freya's guide. Excluding it just means that you must return to the Inner Channel further N. Taking the Inner Channel back S is still a good sail with prevailing winds and favorable current. The Inner Channel is wide, deep, and free from nav hazards all the way back to Placencia except for Lark Rock which is shown on Freya's charts and easy to avoid.

Also the N entrance into Placencia Harbor...it is common for boats to go aground here...just use the wide and easy S entrance.

Also Tom Owens Caye in the Sapodillas as an overnight anchorage (and a few others...all good recommendations).

As I recall there were only a few other minor exclusions.

Hopefully they will get back to you with an update, but worst case they will cover it in their briefing (which is a good one).

Conservative is good in Belize. Stick to Freya's major routes, and Mooring's restrictions, and you will be fine.
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