The run out of the bay to cross the reef was more than 5 miles. For the next 26 hours we would sail a while, then motorsail a while, off and on for the 128 miles to our next port in San Pedro, Belize.
Around noon we hooked another tuna on the fishing line and shortly after that a barracuda. With that we hauled in the line for the rest of the day.
All along the Mexican coast we had played the currents to our advantage. By staying less than a mile off the reefs during the day and keeping a careful watch on our position, we were able to avoid the strong north-setting current that can run 2 to 3 knots at times. But in this area we were not able to avoid it and had to deal with a 1- to 1-1/2-knot counter-current. Even with that, we found ourselves just outside the reef break at San Pedro on Ambergris Cay Belize at 10 a.m. Monday morning.
Once again we had good waypoints outside the reef and through to the inside anchorage, but we arrived to find the area busy with boat traffic and dive boats anchored all along the reef. The entrance was still easy as long as we avoided the partially submerged portion of the reef that extends inside the break and required us to make a sharp turn to the north just after we entered. This cut would be treacherous in strong easterly winds.
The entire area shallows quickly, so we did not have much choice in where to anchor. With our 6-foot draft it was strange to have to anchor in 6-1/2 feet of water. The occasional wakes from the boats coming and going actually caused us to bump on the bottom. As we anchored we discovered that two other boats we had briefly met along the way were also anchored and had been there for several days.
To our surprise we learned that we had entered on a national holiday and had to pay the extra fees to clear in anyway — so much for careful planning. Because of the holiday, we had to wait for about a half-hour for the customs worker to come from her house. No matter, we just went and had ice cream while we waited. We enjoyed our visit, but because of the heavy boat traffic and wakes, we decided to move on after only spending one night.
Almost as soon as the anchor was up we bumped bottom, but were able to continue on our way. We had timed this to keep us about an hour ahead of high tide just in case we ran aground. With the exception of touching bottom at the anchorage, the average depths along our route were around 7 feet. We arrived at Cay Caulker three hours later.
Restaurants line most of the streets as do the dive and fishing charters. The most famous eatery is the SandBox Bar and Grill, which serves great meals, sandwiches and even vegetarian food. We also found a post office, hardware and grocery stores, a bank, gift shops, a soda-and-beer distributor that sells to the public and one of the best bakeries we have found so far. Susan often bakes bread and other goodies on board, but we still found ourselves visiting the bakery almost every day. We also found a coin laundry — a rarity in our travels.
There is a large commercial dock where the supply ferries come in on a regular basis. Cruisers can tie their dinghies here on a side dock built especially for that purpose.
We left Cay Chapel at 8 a.m. and passed through Porto Stuck at 9:30 a.m., just about 20 minutes before the scheduled high tide. Some of the shallow depths were nail-biters, but we navigated through without parking Sea Trek. We only touched bottom in the trough of a wave just north of Porto Stuck.
In just six days we had traveled about a third of the way through the outer cays. All of the reports we had gotten before we arrived in Belize were all accurate. This is truly a wonderful tropical cruising ground that could take months of exploration.