Beautiful Belize: Photo Journalist Susan Colby Joins an All-Girl Charter (by Susan Colby)

The Endless Options crew stays in shape with group yoga on the bow of the Moorings 4800
All Girl Charter
The Endless Options crew stays in shape with group yoga on the bow of the Moorings 4800

…We welcomed seven women guests aboard for a fun week-long charter. With this all-girl crew, the boat was quickly renamed Endless Estrogen!

It took me 16 years to get back to Belize, a tiny country I fell in love with back then. The same feelings immediately overwhelmed me as I felt the warm Caribbean water wash over my toes on that first magical evening. The warm turquoise sea, the pale, fine sand and palm trees; friendly smiles, great beer and wonderful rum. I felt as if I had come home.

Home this time was a 48-foot Moorings 4800 catamaran called Endless Options. With Betsy Crowfoot, my friend and co-worker of many years, her as skipper and me as her first mate, we welcomed seven women guests aboard for a fun week-long charter. With this all-girl crew, the boat was quickly renamed Endless Estrogen!

Our guests’ experience ranged from minimal sailing experience to long-distance cruisers and racers and everything in-between. Several of the ladies knew each other but for others, it was a time to meet new friends.

Our plan was to start each morning early, get in some sailing, find an anchorage or mooring around mid-day, then spend the rest of the day snorkeling, relaxing and visiting any bar, restaurant or resort within dinghy range. With just seven days on board, we wanted to make the most of our time, without pushing ourselves to cover a lot of area.

All Girl Charter
Laura Francis and Claire Fackler, both affiliated with the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), examine the beach of one of the many tiny cayes that dot the Belize Barrier Reef.

Our first night was in the Moorings Marina as several guests had late-arriving flights, but we were well on our way early next morning, with our first destination, Ranguana Caye, about 20nm away on the Belize Barrier reef system.

As expected, the weather was perfect, except there was no wind at all, a condition that prevailed the entire week, although we did raise the sails as a practice exercise!

We couldn’t have picked a better first night spot. Ranguana Caye is the quintessential tropical island; palm-fringed white sand beaches and Billy’s Beach Bar for the toes-in-the-sand, beer-in-the-hand experience. The anchorage was quite busy but we finally ended up with a mooring, after completing a few un-planned practice anchoring exercises. Once secure, a routine that became familiar over the week emerged, beginning with everybody overboard!

Several of the ladies are accomplished divers and immediately headed for the magnificent reef to snorkel. Others paddled to shore to explore the tiny caye and make reservations for dinner at Billy’s. As the fiery sun set on our first day cruising, Desiree, the resident cook, whipped up a wonderful meal of fresh snapper and grouper, caught that day, which was of course, washed down with the requisite rum punch!

The first day set the pace for the week. Leisurely coffee and breakfast before dropping the mooring, then picking our course through the hundreds of tiny cayes and coral outcroppings, always mindful of Moorings’ instructions to navigate by their programmed waypoints to avoid any disasters!

All Girl Charter
Heading to shore for a night out on Hatchet Caye (from left): Tina Claps, Claire Fackler, Jane Cairns, Laura Francis, Katie Davis, Pam Gartner and Lu Ann Curtis

Next stop, Hatchet Caye, a private island, close to Silk Cayes Marine Reserve where we spent two nights, comfortably attached to one of the several moorings available. A licensed guide is required to enter the Reserve. The water in the Reserve is very shallow but with our guide’s help and direction, we anchored safely in waist-deep water before jumping overboard to follow him as he pointed out the different corals and fish and giant conch that litter the sea floor. The biggest attraction there are the rays, nurse sharks and turtles. Swimming with these creatures, with the rays’ undulating wings swishing by and nurse sharks cruising the bottom was an amazing adventure. A huge loggerhead turtle, estimated at between 50-75 years old, who obviously owned the place, also joined the fun. “Give him space, give him space,” Eyanick implored, knowing the turtle has been known to nibble toes!

Toes intact, we headed back to our mooring and a good night’s sleep before making our way north to Hideaway Caye, with a short stop at Lagoon Caye to look for the elusive manatees, which remained elusive. But Hideaway Caye made up for our disappointment.

Hideaway Caye is proof that dreams can come true! Kim and Dustin have created a Robinson Crusoe existence on this tiny coral island, complete with a bar and restaurant and Airbnb cabin. Built among the mangroves, perched high on pilings, the structures are all hand-crafted from local woods. We radioed ahead as instructed and even though our group of nine could have swamped the tiny kitchen, Kim cooked up a storm and Dustin poured what he claims are the best rum punches in the Caribbean, keeping everyone happy!

All Girl Charter
Conch shells litter the powder-sand beach at Silk Cayes Marine Reserve, a protected area on the Belize Barrier Reef

As had become customary over the week aboard, everyone immediately jumped in, determined to get in as much snorkeling and swimming as possible before heading back to reality.

Navigation-wise, the following day was probably the trickiest, wending our way through the Blue Ground Range to South Water Caye, a part of the South Water Caye Marine Reserve. Two crew took bow watch as Betsy and I kept an eye on the depth sounder and waypoints, creeping through some extremely narrow, shallow passages!

South Water was the busiest anchorage we encountered, with no mooring available, but our anchoring was picture-perfect. Dinner ashore that night was my birthday celebration, and our group was treated to true Belizean hospitality at Pelican Beach, with special fruit wine and a birthday treat dessert!

Anchor retrieval next morning was also picture perfect and we began making our way south to Wippari Caye, last stop on this adventure. We chose Wippari as it is just a few miles off Placentia but still way out on the reef. No one was ready to go home yet, but several of the crew had to fly out early the following day. We snagged a mooring before several other boats with the same idea appeared. As had become customary over the week aboard, everyone immediately jumped in, determined to get in as much snorkeling and swimming as possible before heading back to reality.

Besides Betsy’s capable boat handling, the most amazing aspect of this trip was the fact that nine women, some strangers to start with, spent an entire week in total harmony. It was a completely cooperative venture and we can only wish the rest of our worldly relationships were as copacetic.

 

Susan Colby is a veteran photojournalist/editor with thousands of cruising miles to her credit. She fell in love with Belize many years ago and returned recently to rekindle that love. Follow Susan’s many adventures at: www.grannytravels.com

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2 comments

  1. I received this via a friend

    Good day. I am trying to reach Forrest Jones. I met a friend of his daughter who told me he lives in San Pedro. As I am moving there early next year, I thought it would be fun to connect. http://www.allatsea.net/beautiful-belize-photo-journalist-susan-colby-joins-girl-charter-susan-colby

    I rarely visit Facebook. I check emails twice daily. My email is [email protected]. phone (mobile) is +501 610-4550. Skype+1 415 315-9791. Moving here and living here re both idiosyncratic. I can probably help you avoid mistakes, misconceptions, etc. Happy to help. Best, Forrest

  2. Great and beautiful photos!

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