Saturday, December 13, 2008

Tale of Two Islas - Part One

The Tale of Two Islas

"It was the worst of times, it was the best of times, it was the age of wisdom…" Originally penned by Charles Dickens in The Tale of Two Cities, no words could more accurately describe our last day sailing in Belize and our first day in Mexico.

We arrived with great anticipation at Lighthouse Reef excited to see this often spoke of and widely proclaimed natural wonder. One of three atolls in Belize and home to the Blue Hole it was the final atoll for us to visit and we had heard so many good things about the water clarity, healthy coral and abundant sea life. After a lazy 3 hour sail from the Turneffe Island Atoll we anchored in the lee of Long Cay and along with s/v Side by Side and s/v Siren's Song we began exploring this magical place.

Before we had even dropped the hook we could see the water was crystal clear and abundant coral life assured us we were in a healthy reef system. We spent the next few days diving and snorkeling the reef. We have seen many turtles on our trip but Lighthouse afforded us the opportunity to see a giant, mature Loggerhead Turtle. Although protected, and harvesting is clearly illegal, large adults are not commonly seen and this was a real treat to swim with a gentle giant. Lighthouse was to be our last stop in Belize before heading toward Isla Mujeres, Mexico to stage for our crossing to Florida. Belize has been a wonderful chapter for us and we lamented leaving.

During the winter season the majority of wind comes out of the North. We needed to head 250 miles almost due North and when an unusual weather window presented us with 15-20 knot winds out of the southeast we chose to take advantage of the favorable winds and prepared to head north. We arose to clear skies and a beautiful sunrise. We took advantage of the good light and all headed out for one more snorkel along the reef wall. It was in fact on this snorkel that we were visited by the afore mentioned Hawksbill Turtle along with a big hogfish, a few marauding mackerel and barracuda and 1000's of reef fish. Marshall even managed to shoot a couple of nice fish for dinner.

An early lunch of grilled Hogfish, one of my favorite fish, and we weighed anchor on what can only be described as our idea of a perfect sailing day. The sun was out and we had a steady 15 knots of wind on a starboard run and the seas were flat. We hooked up with a large barracuda within the first 10 minutes and Marshall and I got excited about our fishing prospects. With a little help from a favorable current we spent the day averaging over 8 knots all while reading, working on our tans, and Marshall and I serenading the fish with our fish song. You know the one, sing along with us "I want a ten pound tuna, I want a ten pound tuna, I want a ten pound tuna, it will be sushi for my tummy". Alright it may be a little corny but hey what can we say, it works.

It was simply the best of times. As we all sat watching a spectacular sunset Amy commented, "I think God has fun painting sunsets". I could not agree more and this was one of his more inspired works. As we sat watching the sunset and discussing whether this thing mariners call a "green flash" really occurs or is it just the result of an overactive or tired imagination at sea, both our fishing lines were hammered. This created a real dilemma for me. I wanted to watch the sunset but our fish song had worked once again and Marshall and I began working on our lines. We had one Blackfin Tuna on board (this is when you sing the "sushi for my tummy" line) and we all paused to watch as the sun vanished below the horizon.

Then it happened, at the instant when the sun finally sank into the liquid abyss we were treated by an intense burst of green light. We all seemed to yell in concert, "I saw the green flash, I saw the green flash." I guess I have to apologize for making fun of this imagined event by others. While lamenting the fact we did not capture the green flash on film we were reminded by line screaming from Marshall's reel… we still had work to do. After another five minutes we had our second Blackfin Tuna on board and after securing our tackle we all got back to the business of enjoying the close to a perfect day at sea.

The kids take watch during the day but mom and dad cover at night and with the kids in bed we settled into our night routine. The sea state changed around midnight and we began to encounter much lumpier seas. It made rest difficult between our night watches but as the sun rose we still had averaged over 8 knots in 15-20 knots of wind with the sails reefed. Based on our current rate of sail we were a full 8-10 hours ahead of schedule and realized we would make Isla Mujeres in the middle of the following night instead of around noon. We decided to tuck into Cozumel and after tying to a mooring ball we realized we had just had our best 24 hours of sailing ever. Averaging almost 8 knots even with 2 fishing interruptions and a sail change we had covered just less than 200 miles. Dinner was fresh tuna sashimi and as we retold our green flash fishing story, sang a few bars of our fish song, and watched the cruise ships come and go we were reminded once again… It had been the best of days. We went to bed tired but wondering what would tomorrow bring?

To be continued……

Live Slow, Sail Fast, Love Well

The 4Wheelers

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