The Endless Estrogen Chronicles Part 2

Ranguana Caye, the quintessential Caribbean island
Ranguana Caye, the quintessential Caribbean island

All Aboard

Waking in the tropics is heavenly! Walking out onto the cool sand, paddling in the warm water in the still of the can't beat it! Add a cup of coffee and this, for me, is paradise.

But this was the big day; we board the boat and the rest of the crew arrives. The plan was to load up at the hotel, head to the boat and provision at the local stores. But Maria, our hotel driver had other plans! Fortunately, Paradise Resort has a golf cart to take us and all our baggage to the van so we avoided dragging our bags up the gravel path! Once in the van, Maria suggested we stop at the vegetable stand on our way to the boat, all on her time. This was one of the many kind and thoughtful instances we encountered on this trip. She took us right to the vege stand, where Betsy and Lu Ann, our designated cook, stocked up. The arrays of papaya and coconuts and yes, granadillas was a sight to behold! Packed into boxes, we headed for the marina to unload. We planned to take a taxi to the grocery store but once again, Maria said she would drop us there. So we piled back into the van and off we went. At the grocery store, she talked to the store owner, asking to have him deliver us and the groceries back to the boat.


Although that didn't happen, for various reasons, mainly that there were too many of us and too many groceries to fit in the truck, we managed to cruise the grocery aisles, finding just about everything we needed. Remembering that we are in Belize and on Belizean time, we hung around the front of the store, sipping our Belikin beers, and waiting for the taxi the store owner grudgingly called for us. We heard later that the Asian store owners are not the most popular people in the community and their unwillingness to help was not unexpected. We did not let their attitude affect us!

Back to Moorings base, all our gear had been transported to the boat. No schlepping for us!

The boat, a Moorings 4800 catamaran, was amazing! And huge! Stepping on board was like stepping into a fair-sized condo, only better! With four big cabins, four heads and a small v-berth and head up forward, there was ample room for all of us. The aft undercover seating and table was where we all spent a lot of time, plus the forward seating and trampoline strung between the amas provided lots of seating and lounging areas. The steering station has all the necessary, latest nav devices, too.

Designating who was to occupy which cabin involved who wakes early, who are the party animals, who snores, etc. These details all noted on a questionnaire Betsy had sent out early in the planning process. My roomie was Pam, my friend from Washington, but it ended up I slept out on deck, my favorite place! But I was always ready to pop back inside if it rained!

And Then There Were Nine

Dinner at Laru Beya
Dinner at Laru Beya

Our remaining four crew, Pam, Claire, Laura and Katie showed up in the early evening. After getting everything stowed, we made our way across the road to the only restaurant within walking distance. The Laru Beya is a beautiful resort with a good restaurant where we celebrated our first night together.

The next morning, bright and early and after a quick Betsy briefing, Diego our go-to person at the Moorings base, took us out of the slip and we were off on the Big Adventure, making our way down the very shallow channel and out to the deep water. Although the boat is big, Betsy is a pro and because the setup and navigation systems are very similar to the Moorings 4400 she recently sailed on, she soon got a handle on it. We did a bit of maneuvering out in the open water to get the feel of the boat and then it was off to our first anchorage - Ranguana Caye.

Ranguana is a tiny two-acre caye but it is the quintessential Caribbean island. Beach bar, sandy beach, palm trees and turquoise sea. Pulling into the anchorage, we had hoped to find a vacant mooring buoy but they were all taken so this became our first anchoring experience! Third time was a charm. Our avid swimmers were overboard almost instantly, snorkeling over the anchor and Betsy got the thumbs up - anchor in sand and holding well. Shortly after that, we got a message that the French boat with the closest mooring was vacating it and letting us have it because "we were damaging the coral!" We later found that the reason he gave it up was that he didn't want to pay the nightly fee! What a wanker!

The paddle boards and kayak were deployed and the crew dispersed. I went snorkeling with my new prescription goggles and camera which I discovered is going to take some getting used to! But nothing was going to stop the bliss I felt as I cruised the reef, enjoying every second of it. Being so fair skinned and white from living in the gray Washington climate, I was very careful to use lots of sunscreen and wear coverups as the sun in Belize is ferocious. By the end of the trip, I was very proud of myself for developing a light tan and no burns!

That evening, we went ashore for dinner at Billy's on the Beach. What a pleasure to sit out on the benches, toes in the sand, enjoying a tropical rum drink and eating fresh snapper and grouper, caught fresh that day.

It just felt like life couldn't get any better!

Stay tuned...

Part 1
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6

Three Days to go


After spending a few days with Ryan in Studio City and taking a drive out to Palm Springs for the day, I was happy to be out of the awful Airbnb and heading north to Santa Barbara to spend the next three days with Betsy.

After another enormous thunder and lightning and rain storm yesterday morning, we had a lovely drive up the coast, stopping in Camarillo at the outlet mall to do something neither of us much like doing - shopping! But we both needed some stuff and we had to get the bug spray and sunscreen etc. And I needed another bathing suit and some shorts. I just don't understand people who can spend all day just going from shop to shop, browsing. It's exhausting! But we were successful in our endeavors, scoring some good stuff - shorts and sun protection shirts so I don't absolutely shrivel up in the tropical Belizean sun. Even here, in what is still technically winter, I can feel myself burning, so I have to be very, very careful!

By the time we got home it was cocktail hour. Tara, Betsy's room mate came home and we had a very lively evening which I regretted this morning. You'd think I would know better by now than to have that last drink - such a good gin, Death's Door! And that is what I felt like this morning.

But we went for a great walk which definitely cleared my head, much as the rain cleared the sky, athough I must say the sky was clearer than my head. We discussed some ideas we have - ways to make some money, start a small business and this trip is going to be a test run and I will describe the idea when it is more fleshed out. I think it's a good one - not new. We talked about doing it last time Betsy was up in Washington, visiting. But now, I think, is the time. This evening and tomorrow, we will put our heads together and sort out some of the details.

Santa Barbara is such a pretty area. The harbor is wonderful, still with all the fishing boats and the wharf which really hasn't changed much in the last few decades. I remember doing a photo project for college when I was about 25. And I think some of the boats that I took pictures of, are still there! That was when I did all my own film processing and printing - something I just loved to do. Working in the darkroom was always so much more fun than sitting at a computer, digitally processing the images. Oh well.... Progress I suppose.

Belize It!

Planning the Next New Big Adventure

Betsy, Bobby g and me

Way back in 2000, I spent my birthday (link to my original blog of the trip) in Punta Gorda, Belize. My friend Susan, who was traveling with me, celebrated her 50th there! And that is where I will be spending my birthday this year! Probably not in PG Town, but on a boat. A big Moorings charter catamaran!

It's a lot of years since I had anything to do with running a charter boat, but that is the big plan. In March, Betsy and I are taking a group of woman to Belize to sail the islands aboard a large catamaran. There will be a total of eight of us, all AARP qualified! Some have some sailing experience, while the others are novices. Betsy knows them all; I only know her and Pam, a friend from this area. We will be on assignment for Sailing Magazine - Betsy as the journalist and me as the photographer.

Betsy has been involved in several of these charters with Bobby G, a good friend who isn't able to do them any more, so I volunteered to fill in as first mate, with Miss B as the skipper. I was able to join them both on a sail on the Chesapeake in 2011 I think it was!

Below is a promo video of the boat we will be on, although this one is sailing in the British Virgin islands. (Maybe that's our next charter expedition!)

We have been doing the trip planning and will spend seven days on the boat and extend the trip for four more days in the jungle.

The Moorings base is in Placentia, which is a small town where Susan and I stayed for a night when we were there. I know it has changed a lot since then, as there are now numerous large, glitzy hotels whereas we stayed in a small guest house on the beach. Betsy and I get there a day early to provision and load the boat and get the usual pre-charter check out. The following day, the crew arrives, late in the day, and we head out at first light the next day- to the cays and the second largest coral reef in the world.

moorings_4800Our plan is to island hop, dropping a hook after sailing for a couple of hours and then spending the rest of the day either ashore exploring or snorkeling or lazing on the boat - or all of the above! It's a small country so distances are quite small and hopefully very protected within the reef. Several of the small islands have restaurants and bars, so we will probably eat ashore quite a bit but will also be doing the cooking aboard as needed.

When we return to Placentia on the morning of the last day, four of the crew leave to make their flights out of Belize City but the other lucky four, including me, head to a jungle hotel called Maya Mountain Lodge. From there, we are doing a day trip to Tikal, a Maya ruin across the Guatemala border, and a caving expedition at Actun Tunichil Muknal Cave close by the hotel.

My biggest concern while there is the sun! Living up here in the PNW, I am so pale that any sun is really going to nail me, so I am looking at heavy duty sunscreen and clothing with Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF). And of course, after having two nasty BCCs taken off my face in the last couple of years, I will have to be extremely cautious about sun on my face! I expect I will even swim in a hat! But I just can't wait to get into that warm, crystal clear, silky water with my new bifocal snorkeling mask (on the list to order). The mask will make a huge difference, especially as I will do underwater photos too, with a camera I hope to get very soon.

My other concern is I have still to find a house sitter to take care of the kitties. I've found two who have both bailed on me! So the ad is running again, and I just hope I find someone soon.