An early morning start saw us at the Moorings base in Raiatea, loading and stowing the provisions for our 7-day charter aboard the Moorings 48 catamaran. With our crew of women, we set sail for out first snorkeling spot and then on to Taha'a for a traditional Tahitian feast.
When Betsy and I were planning the Moorings sailing trip to Belize, we thought it would be fun, seeing as our crew was to be all women, that it would be fun to have some girlie stuff on board. Among the goodies we packed along with us were delightful, all natural perfumes from the French company, Acorelle. [su_pullquote]Acorelle perfumes are crafted under the principal of olfactology, thanks to the essential oils which act on the cycle emotional sphere of the brain to restore balance and harmony, for more well-being.[/su_pullquote]
I don't wear perfume much as I really try to keep away from all the synthetics and chemicals that are usually loaded into them. And so many people are allergic to
perfumes so to be an enclosed area and be responsible for someone's sneezing and wheezing is not something I want to do.
On reading about Acorelle products, I was thrilled to find out that they are all created from natural active agents from readily-available organic sources, and based on aromatherapy principles. To maintain the Ecocert certification, the products must all be manufactured in a responsible, sustainable way, another plus in my mind.
As we travel so much, I was particularly interested in the Parfum Roll-on. So handy to slip into a purse for those long flights.
When the products arrived, first of all I was very impressed with the lovely packaging. Simple, colorful - and minimal, so they were easy to pack for the trip. And then, of course, I had to try them out! I love how the perfumes are based on aromatherapy and categorized into energizing (Dynamisant), balancing (Equilibrant) and soothing (Apaisant). The Perfume Discovery pack has 9 different 1.5ml tiny spray vials. I zeroed in on the Absolu Tiare, to remind of Tahiti! But over the following days, I tried out all the different scents, finding my favorites. The Tiare remains my favorite, and Betsy went for the Patchouli Roll-on, which reminded me too much of the 60s!
Beauty Evening On Board
It was a beautiful, tropical evening in Belize and we had plans to go ashore for dinner. The perfect time to try our Acorelle!
The samples were handed around, with all nine of us selecting, trying and then choosing a different scent! The main comments were about how natural they smelled and when the ladies learned more about the company and how only natural and organic ingredients are used, they were very complimentary.
I left the Discovery out for the duration of the trip and by the end, almost all the vials were gone! Secreted in various duffle bags!
Back home, I did a "blind test" with an unsuspecting friend who is very sensitive to scents and perfumes. I used a liberal amount of Fleur de Vanille (Vanilla Blossom) on a day trip. As I didn't get any kickback after a whole day in the car, I asked her if she had noticed that I was wearing perfume. She looked surprised but said she hadn't noticed! Obviously, the natural ingredients hadn't bothered her sensitive nose!
[su_box title="The three pillars of Acorelle" box_color="#f9c5c5" title_color="#990808"]The three pillars of Acorelle:
• Aromatherapy: The power of essential oils is used in every formulation so that none of the plants’ energy is lost. The result is effective products with concentrated active agents from plant sources.
• Body: Nature has given every woman one unique body for her whole life. Acorelle creates beauty products that are adapted to the different rhythms in a constant quest for balance and harmony.
• Woman: Acorelle responds to women's needs by tackling specific problems, linked to the cycles of life and the seasons: fragrances, hair removal, baby products, care for first fine lines.[/su_box]
[contact-form][contact-field label='Name' type='name' required='1'/][contact-field label='Email' type='email' required='1'/][contact-field label='Comment' type='textarea' required='1'/][/contact-form]
Life on Board
Cruising the Belize Barrier Reef System on board a 4800 Moorings catamaran is anything but boring! But there are everyday tasks that need to be performed to keep the boat and crew happy.
First, it's all about the food!
A great deal of thought goes into provisioning for one of these trips. Especially in out-of-the-way places like Placencia, Belize. Mid-way in the trip planning process, Betsy sends out a questionnaire to the guests, asking them to identify any allergies, likes, dislikes (liver), gluten-free, etc., and suggests to anyone with off-the-wall preferences, (chocolate low fat soy milk) that they bring it with them, as it is highly unlikely this kind of product will be available. When these questionnaires are returned, she starts considering the meals. On this trip, Lu Ann was the designated cook, so when we landed in Placencia, she and Betsy went grocery shopping, using the lists as a guideline, and improvising, depending on what is available.
So, first thing in the morning, the generator is started to provide power to the coffee maker, probably (in my mind) one of the most important pieces of equipment on board. This trip, a normal breakfast was coffee, granola, yogurt and the wonderful fresh fruit available in this part of the world. Other breakfasts included breakfast burritos, pancakes and scrambled eggs.
Lunch was varied, including pasta salads, sandwiches and salads. This was often enjoyed underway as we headed to our overnight destination.
And then, as is at home, the dishes need to be washed and put away (no dishwasher here!)
On this trip, we ate dinner ashore several times, able to sample the local fare; traditional Belizean food and lots of seafood. Some of the restaurants were toes-in-the-sand but none required shoes! Definitely a bonus.
General Boat Maintenance
Just like a car, the boat required general maintenance. Not the heavy kind, just things like engine oil check, water intake strainer cleaning, cooling fluids check, and holding tank clearing. Betsy was the "lucky" person responsible for this and it is no mean feat to slither down into the engine compartments to do the checking!
There are four heads (toilets) on this boat (actually five, but one was way up forward that did not get used) and four showers. The heads empty into holding tanks (no paper or any other "solids" went down) and when we were in the deep channels, it was permissible to flush the tanks. It's something that goes against the grain for me, but there are no other options as there are no holding tank pump-out facilities. The showers drain into sumps which also have to be pumped after each use. With 160 gallons of water, it was important to use restraint when showering. The California crew members were used to this, as they live through the devastating drought there. So the below-deck showers weren't used a lot, as there is a fresh water shower on deck to rinse off after swimming. And most of us used biodegradable, natural soaps and cleansers to minimize any adverse issues!
We collected out trash and it was stowed in the forward lazarette for disposal at the Moorings base on our return.
Our engines, which we used a lot, as there was absolutely NO wind to sail, kept our 12-volt system healthy, but we ran the generator every morning to charge electronics and make coffee, which is a household machine.
The boat is air conditioned, but we only used it two nights - one on our first night which we spent at the dock, and the second time the last night out, when it was totally still and the cabins were stifling. The AC requires generator power, which is noisy so mostly we opted for natural breeze and circulation. However, Jane and I both chose to sleep on deck, and as there was absolutely no sign of rain, we felt pretty confident that we wouldn't have to make a bee-line below during the night!
The VHF radio is the lifeline to civilization in the boating world. Every morning between 9:00 and 9:30, the Moorings base came on with a weather forecast, that incidentally didn't change until the day we disembarked, when a cold front and rain was predicted. Talk about good timing. The radio is also used to call the local island restaurants for reservations, a very important function! Most boats monitored Ch. 16, the safety channel, so the quiet was often broken by a call asking a boat to switch channels for a chat.
As skipper, Betsy was in charge of getting where we wanted to go. The boat is well-equipped with the latest navigation gear, including a chart plotter, depth sounder, windex etc. The base also provided a cruising guide and a chart with preferred routes marked on it. The chart plotter was also programmed with waypoints to follow through some of the extremely shallow, narrow passages!
The area is only partially charted, and the guide books courses and waypoints didn't necessarily match with the ones from the base. So navigating was a bit hair-raising and we always had two of us at the steering station, plus through the tricky areas, crew were stationed as lookouts on the bow, watching for shallow areas (bright turquoise), areas of sea grass (clear but tinged with brown) and the deep channels (deep blue).
Anchoring and Mooring
Mooring was preferred and we were fortunate to pick up a buoy at almost all our overnight anchorages. By the end of the trip, the crew were masters at it, picking up the mooring line on the first try and threading the mooring lines quickly before securing them.
Anchoring can be an issue, but again, by the end of the trip, we had it down to a fine art. Learning how a boat responds, the feeling of the anchor "setting" and how much scope to let out is something that takes a bit of time. The last spot we anchored was picture perfect! Right on the edge of the sandy spot, the anchor dug in just like it supposed to and with lots of chain out, we spent a very secure night!
Toys and Dinghy
We were lucky to have two paddle boards and a three-man kayak to play on. They were kept lashed to the lifelines while underway. Once anchored, they either went directly overboard or stored on the forward trampoline for easy access. But each time they were used, they were brought aboard.
Our great inflatable dinghy lived in its davits most of the time. It was always brought out of the water at night for security and generally we ran with it secured, as well. Only once, on a very short passage to Silk Cayes Maritime Reserve, did we tow it.
Everyone did their share, specifically keeping their own space tidy and helping keep the main salon and deck areas comfortable. There were times when piles of goggles, snorkels and fins threatened to take over the cockpit, but generally everyone was conscious of safety issues (keeping walkways clear etc.).
The only rule we tried to keep was to dry off as much as possible before going into the main salon, and we kept a large towel in the doorway to catch drips. The cabin sole could get quite slick and we didn't need anyone slipping and hurting themselves.
So generally, life was simple for everyone.
Eat, swim, sleep.
Waking in the tropics is heavenly! Walking out onto the cool sand, paddling in the warm water in the still of the morning...you 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
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!
I am pretty sure that the owner of the Moorings 4800 catamaran did not have this in mind when he named his boat Endless Options. With nine women on board between the ages of 43 and (gulp) 67, it was quickly renamed Endless Estrogen.
🏝 Note to readers: I will be posting the Chronicles in sections, so sign up to receive updates through the link on the right.
Back in November, Betsy and I put our heads together and decided to do this trip to Belize, a place I nearly moved to 16 years ago and have been hankering to go back to. As soon as the word went out, all bunks were filled and it became clear right away that it would be a an all-girls trip.
Organizing and planning and confirming our assignment for Sailing Magazine continued right up to our departure. Anxious to get out of the nasty Pacific Northwest winter, I flew south to Southern California a week prior to our flight out of LAX to Belize City. A few days with Ryan and then the few days before departure with Betsy in Santa Barbara, where we put the finishing touches (sort of) to our trip.
First stop was to pick up Jane, one of our crew who drove with us to the airport. We dropped the car at La Quinta where we would stay on our return, hopped on the hotel shuttle and made it to the Delta gate with time to spare. Feeling like naughty schoolgirls, we slipped into the ladies room before security for a quick nip on the gin Betsy had hidden in a flask! We certainly got some funny looks as we sipped and slugged away!
After a long red-eye on Delta, we arrived in Belize City at 7:30 am. without so much as a cup of coffee on the flight. I have never been on a 4:45 hour flight without any sort of service! And after not getting even two hours of sleep I was ready for some caffeine. Which we did find, but not the kind of coffee us spoiled American girls wanted. Try lukewarm water with a spoonful of local instant coffee in a styrofoam cup, heated in a microwave! It came from a tiny little food stand within the Tropic Air departure lounge. Marginal!
Two other crew appeared while we were fueling up at the Duty Free liquor store. Tina and Lu Ann had arrived on an earlier flight and were booked on a later puddle jumper for Placencia, the Moorings base. The half-hour flight down, with three of us in the back of the bus, er plane, took us low over the mangrove-lined coastline, which peeked out from the low clouds. But the water was dazzling - brilliant, clear turquoise and shades of blue. I noticed a lot of development along the shoreline of the peninsula and sad to see the mangroves being torn up for houses and marinas.
The dirt runway in Placencia has water both ends - quite an incentive to hit it just right. No problem!
But first getting to our hotel, the Paradise Hotel and Resort was via a beat up old taxi that dropped us at the end of a gravel pathway. Have you ever tried rolling a wheelie bag along gravel? It doesn't work well and by the time we made the couple of hundred yard haul, we were soaking, sweating like crazy. The room was basic and three of us shared it. The redeeming factor at that time was the free welcome rum punch which we consumed in the open air bar, with it's overhead fans and lovely view of the water. By this time it was lunch time and I had the local stew chicken with rice and beans which was surprisingly good.
I'm a lousy napper, but the others all had snoozes on the lounges by the water. I ended up floating with some of the local little girls who are so friendly and not filled with the "don't talk to strangers" admonitions the Americans have drummed into their children's heads. They wanted me to take pictures of them and then I allowed one of them to take pictures of them with me! Very cute.
Betsy and I went for our fact-filled chart briefing at the Moorings base later in the afternoon - a lot of info and of course masses of questions and astonishment and several raised eyebrows from the men in the briefing (also going out on charters) when they found out Betsy is the captain and me first mate!
Dinner at De Tatch (The Thatch, we discovered ) right on the beach in Placencia that came well-recommended and definitely worth it. That was the beginning of the Caribbean drink exploration that continued throughout the charter! Fortunately, we had stocked up at the Duty Free store at the airport, so there wasn't a dry day on the boat!
By this time, I was really dragging but the others wanted to stop at Tipsy Tuna as there was a fireman's benefit going on and as we had made an agreement that we would go with a buddy system whenever we went anywhere, I was outnumbered. So we stayed for a while - the music was actually pretty good, rock and roll and not really appreciated by the younger ones in the group!
By the time we left, the sidewalk through town was almost deserted and we walked back to the boat, passing by some dodgy bars and dark areas along the shore. But we navigated our way home to the Paradise Resort and fell into bed, looking forward to a new day in Belize.