Route to the Rio: Meet the Crew

 The gals, photo by Tom.

The gals, photo by Tom.

 The fellas, photo by Mel.

The fellas, photo by Mel.

Just yesterday we wrote the first account of our trip from Mexico to Guatemala. What we didn't do is introduce you to the team. Katy and I are the mainstays on the boat and for the Mexico-Belize leg we were lucky to have two of our closest friends join us for two weeks.

Meet the Crew

Mikee

El Capitán. Mikee captains the boat, makes sure it doesn't crash into hard objects below the surface, and probably other important things.

Several pieces of technology aboard are said to have the ability to help with these tasks, but being a pisces he has no need for such distractions, including paying any kind of attention to astrological signs, and navigates strictly on gut feeling... and usually his gut steers us to beach bars and beer.

Katy

This one is the lady of the ship. Katy is an organizational champion and rationalizer of El Capitán. Mikee may run the helm, but this one is the captain of their lives. She makes everyone’s lives more comfortable, inside and out.

She has an iron stomach and has never been seasick in her life… which makes her the ace for prepping anything below while we’re heeling at 30 degrees flying over whitecaps.

She is married to Mikee. To this day no one has yet discovered exactly why.

Melissa

New to the sea, Mel was a welcomed addition to the crew for a two week stretch from Mexico to Belize. 

Mel is the calm before the storm (see below for the storm), the delicate touch to a typically rugged affair. She is the head that shakes at the black bear tearing apart the cabin (see El Capitán) and a voice of reason.

If you have a chance for Mel as crew, you should be so lucky. You will not be so lucky.

Tom

Tommy is one of those friends you hold closest to your heart in the world. The man can do no wrong.

But, Tommy is more than just a dear friend. He is help whenever needed, he is a wild card when you have a ticket that needs to be punched. He can be both, the right kind of liability and your only stability. This man can take one of the finest photos you’ve ever seen.You should see some here. Immediately.

With any luck, after this sailing trip he is now hooked for life, because every boat is better off with this man aboard.

Route to the Rio: Puerto Aventuras to Bahía de la Ascension, Mexico

Route to the Rio: Puerto Aventuras to Bahía de la Ascension, Mexico

The house we had lived in for almost four years in Playa del Carmen, Mexico was being packed up. The movers and their truck were in and out over several days with multiple trips. It was as hot as it gets in May in the Caribbean.

Simultaneously, work was at its capacity with Katy organizing the entire decor for the handful of weddings her company would be decorating during the month we would be sailing. I was busy running deliveries and working a convention for my beer distribution company and managing all of the day to day of our online marketing company.

For more about our sail along the Mayan Riviera coastline and waypoints you can use for your own sail, read on...

A Week Later, You Miss the Sea

When you come back to stable ground after a time away, you miss the sea. Maybe because it's all new to us, or each day out there has something different. A new high, a new low. Engine trouble, the perfect sail trim, the bow bursting through waves taller than the boat, or cutting through the shallow blues of the Caribbean. While living in the same quarters your front yard changes every day.

It's calm and clear, two feet and coral with thousands of fish below the keel. It's tall, and deep, and dark purple mixed with blue and thousands of feet underneath.

Every day you see dolphins, or tired birds that find the pulpit for a nap, sharks, tuna, squalls or sunshine.

You look forward to the early mornings, shutting down evenings with the sunset and a glass. Tending to sheets and winches while underway, watching the weather and killing time finding that extra half knot.

I would live on the sea. Not in marinas or even on the hook, but out to sea in the big stuff. We can't just yet, we have our work and our lives to manage. For now it's just something to visit, and something to miss when you step ashore, and look forward to returning to as soon as you can.

Soon, To the Rio

sailing-tulum.jpg

In the last week we have been moving from one three bedroom house to another, provisioning the boat, installing the new halyard, mast light, windex, new barometer, new autopilot bracket, replacing the head discharge hose, gasket, running three businesses, and fitting in some route study sessions between it all.

With everything going on, we pushed back the departure date 24 hours. Thursday morning at the first sign of light, we are out of here and cannot wait to be out of range of emails, notifications, trips to the hardware store, phone calls and everything in between that the land beckons. 

15 days of swimming, fishing, sailing and drinking at anchor on Edward Blair can't come soon enough.

Route to the Rio: Making Plans for Rio Dulce

  The channel for our current marina in Puerto Aventuras, Mexico. When we exit this in May, it will be the last time until we return in winter.

The channel for our current marina in Puerto Aventuras, Mexico. When we exit this in May, it will be the last time until we return in winter.

Making Plans

A couple of total amateurs are planning another adventure at sea. After our first real sail from Florida to Mexico, we're getting ready for the next one, late spring 2015.

Mexico to Belize to Rio Dulce, Guatemala

We're aiming to untie the lines on May 22nd, exactly two years after we were married on the beach in Tulum. This would give us a nice 7-10 day window to explore Belize without taking too much time before storm season shows up, arriving in Rio Dulce around June 1st. We'll stay until late November and begin the passage north back to Puerto Aventuras after hurricane season comes to a close.

Goff's Cay, Belize — 17° 21.00'N 88° 02.18'W

Sure, it's about five months away so planning now might seem a bit eager, but with our work schedules, months seem to disappear and dates approach with speed. 

There is some minor boat maintenance, installing a wind generator our friend from H2Oh Sun Cruises donated to us with a new auto-pilot, route planning and navigational studies, patching the dinghy, and your general provisioning closer to the date.

One night while we were out of town, a drunken tourist couple boarded our boat. The guy took the helm, turning the wheel back and forth pretending to steer while the girl hung off our davits (a system on the stern of the boat used to raise and lower your dinghy from the water) jumping up and down on our dinghy, "Woo! Woooo!" 

Good thing our pal Mack was at the marina and came to the rescue. When he told them to get off the boat, the drunken man got a little verbal and aggressive. Mack put him to the ground, forcing him to call for his girl to hurry up and get off the boat. And that was that. We came back to a dingy, deflated in the middle hanging in a "V" shape to the water. So, we now have a deflated dingy with a few little tears in the seams.

SUCH A THING AS Route Planning TOO FAR IN ADVANCE?

We like to know our routes well in advance and have them memorized as well as possible so while underway recognizing the fixes and horizons doesn't feel like new territory. Especially with all of the shoals, rock and coral along Belize.

We draw 4', so it shouldn't be as much of a concern as others have in the region, but there are still some tricky spots along the reef line. For those not sure what a boat's "draw" means, it's your boat's draft — the vertical distance from the water to the bottom of your boat under water.

We have paper charts, Freya Rauscher's charts, Navionics (with MacENC), Garmin's BlueCharts and have been referencing ActiveCaptain. Between the lot of them we should have as good a reference of the area as you can without having been through yet. 

The western Caribbean region here doesn't seem to be consistently documented by any of the chart makers, so we've been taking notes of inconsistencies between each from first-hand accounts of other sailors. One may be right at this anchorage, while another has a reef entry a bit too far east.

When we write our own posts for each anchorage along the way I will account for corrected waypoints in the sidebar and any details. This Route to the Rio series, when complete, should help out anyone else heading along the same path.

Plans for rio dulce

  • Haul the boat for a new bottom paint job.
  • Brightwork from some storm damage against a concrete pier (we lost five fenders to the concrete, and then the teak rail became a fender before we were able to fix the problem).
  • Fresh non-slip topside paint job.
  • Eat, fish, drink. Repeat.
  • Work remotely from the boat.
  • Visit interior Guatemala.

We have a growing list of the cays to stop off at along the way, but any suggestions, waypoints or tips for the route or while in Rio Dulce are welcome in the comments or use the contact page!

 Photo of the Rio Dulce from Flickr, by  Domingo Leiva .

Photo of the Rio Dulce from Flickr, by Domingo Leiva.

Current Location

Puerto Aventuras, Mexico
20° 29.96'N 87° 13.45'W

Required Reading

To Belize and Mexico's Caribbean Coast

Capt. Freya Rauscher's is the go-to guide covering the region from Mexico's Caribbean coast all the way down to the Rio Dulce. She covers Honduras a bit as well, but that's not on our itinerary, so we'll leave it out of anything we cover.

Click the image above to buy her guide on Amazon.

Active Captain

While the guide book is our main source of well documented information about the different regions, Active Captain works as great supplementary content. Double checking all of the anchorages in Active Captain has already corrected a waypoint error I was wondering about off in Capt. Rauscher's book while entering Banco Chinchorro, which you can see by clicking here.