Trinidad to Belize

Moving from country to country, working expat contracts and being relocated (or choosing to relocate) has taught us to let go of things and collect experiences instead. It sounds cheesy but it’s true. You have to, especially when you cannot take all your precious possessions with you everywhere you go. 

What we are attached to though, is a space we can call home. It doesn’t have to be fancy or stationary, it just has to be our space. At this time in our lives our home space is Melody – our trusty 38ft steel boat. After 4 months working in Belize, and having a brilliant time, we started feeling homesick for our space. We had been staying on whichever boat we were chartering at the time, living out of a backpack each, and that worked well because we were always working so there wasn’t much time for anything else. And while that is liberating for a time, we started to miss having our space, for just us two, with our espresso cups and our fold up bikes.

So after another 2 charters, one over new years with Jen & Andy and the second with a brilliant family from Costa Rica, we decided at the last minute to fly to Trinidad and go and get our home! It was less than 24hrs from the minute we decided to fly that evening of Jan 24th to the moment we took off from Belize airport the next day. We are beyond blessed to have supportive (and flexible) employers who were all for us bringing Melody over to Belize. They took over some of our charters and gave us the 2 weeks off that we would need to prep our boat and complete the crossing of the Caribbean Sea.

We landed at Piarco International airport, in Port of Spain, and immediately took a taxi to the boatyard. We arrived quite late that night and there was no ladder to access Melody (it is at least 3m from the ground to her deck, when she stands on the chocks in the yard) so we grabbed a steel trestle from a neighbouring boat, positioned it under her bum (“stern” if you want to be proper) and dropped her swim ladder to climb the rest of the way with bags and all. It was a stretch but well worth it to finally be home! 

We worked like crazy people over the next three and a half days, replacing sails, engine maintenance, cleaning, provisioning, sat phone updates and travel admin, and by lunch time on the 29th we were back in the water! Clearing out was quick and easy and we motored over to Scotland Bay to organise the last few things before setting sail that late afternoon. 

The first day was great, we were so happy to be back on Melody that I think the joy cancelled out the motion and the discomfort of a monohull in open sea, after living on catamarans on flat water. The second day we started to feel it again but managed to acclimatise rather quickly, to the movement and the watches we had to do with just 2 people onboard. 

We did a total of 1,700nm, over 12 days, with 15-20kt winds at an average speed of 6kts. The first 10 days were the best, wind and speed wise, but then it all stopped 2 days from the coast of Belize. We were anticipating the drop in wind but it’s still never a good feeling on a crossing. When the ocean is as smooth as glass, as far as your eye can see, and you are so close to land you can almost taste the spare ribs you are going to eat when you arrive, the frustration sets in and the engine has to be engaged.

Dont get me wrong, after 10 days in our steel washing machine it was lovely to have some calm but that almost always means that you are not moving and we had to get back to Belize ASAP for a charter we had scheduled. During the trip we sent my dad an sms from our satellite phone, every day, with our position, sailing conditions and how we were doing. Unfortunately somewhere along the  grapevine one of those messages got misinterpreted and we later found out that Rufus’ mom had half of the Western Cape praying for our safe deliverance through a rough storm… Let me be clear, we never had dangerous weather. Large waves, good wind speeds and being gatvol of little sleep and constant movement can sometimes sound scary to those who don’t sail but for us it was a good crossing. We were sleep deprived, yes, but in danger, never. We were always safe and sound 🙂 Thank you for everyone’s support though, we very much appreciate it (and thank you for following our journey on facebook via my dad’s google map!).

At 4am on Jan 10th we sailed through Belize’s barrier reef channel, together with a couple of Carnival cruise ships, and by 8am we were literally back on dry land as Melody ran aground in Cucumber Marina… It sounds worse than it was. It was actually quite funny to be honest. I’m not sure if it was because of the sleep deprivation or the sheer ridiculousness of the situation but we laughed a lot. Two friendly cruisers helped us take her alongside and, as one of them tried to tighten the stern line, we realised that her bum would have to stay stuck out into the marina waters for a little while longer as her keel had settled in the mud, due to low tide. So, for a couple of hours, we just had to jump from the deck to the land, instead of a small step over the rail, but eventually the water level rose and she floated up above the mud.

That was our first crossing, longer than 24hrs, with just the two of us. We have always had at least two other crew to share the responsibility and work with. This was a good trip though, now I understand why so many cruisers do the Pacific crossing with just two people (and an autopilot!). It’s definitely doable with only two people. We get asked if it’s boring doing a crossing but once you settle in and make the most of the situation it is very peaceful and relaxing. We did a lot of planning for the next leg of our journey during that trip, and created a few more exciting dreams for the the future too 😉

This is not a trick of the camera, that is literally the angle we were sailing at. Forget any workout you can think of on land - if you want six pack abs in a short space of time, do a crossing on a mono-hull. It is a permanent core workout, even in your sleep.

This is not a trick of the camera, that is literally the angle we were sailing at. Forget any workout you can think of on land – if you want six pack abs in a short space of time, do a crossing on a mono-hull. It is a permanent core workout, even in your sleep.

completely calm Caribbean Sea

completely calm Caribbean Sea

our trusty old Suunto compass, still going strong after 30-odd years

our trusty old Suunto compass, still going strong after 30-odd years

the spinnaker pole goes out.

the spinnaker pole goes out.

seafood buffet on deck - we had a lot of these little guys, and flying fish jump aboard or thrown on by rogue waves.

seafood buffet on deck – we had a lot of these little guys, and flying fish jump aboard or thrown on by rogue waves.

sunsets are always more breathtaking at sea, with no land lights and noise pollution.

sunsets are always more breathtaking at sea, with no land lights and noise pollution.

nap time in between watches.

nap time in between watches.

doing good speed.

doing good speed.

skipper checking his sails.

skipper checking his sails.

I love this view.

I love this view.

the best storeage while under way. you culd probably also store a baby there and te boat's movement would rock it to sleep for you ;)

the best storeage while under way. you culd probably also store a baby there and te boat’s movement would rock it to sleep for you 😉

Entering the log details after every watch and then updating the route on our paper chart. We actually still haven't filled in the last entry, of when we arrived... it's a bad habit we have developed.

Entering the log details after every watch and then updating the route on our paper chart. We actually still haven’t filled in the last entry, of when we arrived… it’s a bad habit we have developed.

We had a few close calls with very large ships. This photo doesn't capture how close these fatties get. luckily our AIS helps with alarms and comms to correct collision courses. 

We had a few close calls with very large ships. This photo doesn’t capture how close these fatties get. luckily our AIS helps with alarms and comms to correct collision courses. 

This is the route my dad mapped in real time as we crossed. The fourth pin from the east, under St Thomas, is a bit off (too high) but you can get a pretty accurate idea of our route. Thank you Daddy!

This is the route my dad mapped in real time as we crossed. The fourth pin from the east, under St Thomas, is a bit off (too high) but you can get a pretty accurate idea of our route. Thank you Daddy!

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