Sailing in Belize – A Learning Vacation

Belize signIf you want a vacation that combines resort style comforts and gourmet meals with adventure sightseeing and communing with nature then you should consider a sailing vacation.  It’s an excellent way to travel around and experience life aboard a boat while being pampered like royalty.

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A few years ago we made the decision to sail during the winter months when we retire. Before buying our dream boat, we wanted to take some formal sailing lessons. I searched around the Caribbean and Bahamas for a cool charter that met our learning needs and found the perfect answer with Belize Sailing Vacations. This company does a wide variety of sailing charters depending on your vacation time frame and needs as well as learning to sail live aboard courses. We combined the two and booked an 8 day, 7 night charter with them.

sailing Leopard Catamaran LunaSeaWe flew into Belize City and taxi’d to our hotel for the night and were picked up the next morning by shuttle van to take us to the marina. The crew from Belize Sailing Vacations quickly sorted out our luggage and showed us aboard our boat for the week – a 46 foot Leopard catamaran named LunaSea. We met the crew and the other guest and were shown around the yacht. There were three cabins for guests and one for crew. We had our own cabin with a queen size bed and a private bathroom, as well as locker and shelf storage for our clothes. The salon or main living quarters was very bright and a really comfy fit for guests and crew. We had a captain/instructor (Captain Casey), a chef/first mate (Sarah), and one other guest (Trace) who was also doing the ASA sailing courses.

sunset in BelizeIf you’re new to sailing or you fear the deep dark blue, you will breathe easy in Belize. It is on the second biggest barrier reef in the world and much of our trip was inside the reef in shallow water. Here the winds are calm and the trip is smooth.  It was a great place to take our catamaran lessons because we had to pay close attention to the charts, the depths and the markers, or lack thereof. The water is a beautiful crystal-clear turquoise that stays in your memory long after your vacation ends.

A catamaran has two large hulls which makes it more stable in the water and less prone to rocking (which can give you that queasy feeling).

Your sailing vacation will be as adventurous or as relaxing as you decide it should be. You can lounge about all day with drink in hand admiring the scenery or you can kayak, swim and sail your way through the vacation. Of course if you’re going to play hard you need to stay fueled up. That’s where Sarah, our chef, played her role.

We ate like royalty during our vacation thanks to her skill in the galley. When you book a sailing vacation you get to fill out “preference sheets” which record your likes and dislikes. If you dislike brussel sprouts, just mark it on the sheet and they will never see the light of day on your trip. We noted that we LOVED lobster and I think we had it almost every single day in a different dish each time. We enjoyed three beautiful meals a day, snacks in between, and all the boozy Belizean drinks you could wish for, all included in our charter. The only time we paid out of pocket is when we went ashore. We had a few great meals on Caye Caulker and Ambergris Caye too where I discovered the coconut mint mojito – arguably my best find!

IMG_4408-1One of my favourite features of a catamaran is the large net in the front between the two hulls. It’s a great place to relax with a good book or nap. It’s also a fun place to watch dolphins when you’re underway.  The hulls create a type of wave between them when you’re sailing that dolphins love to play in. They were racing along with us right under the net and looking right at us with those beautiful intelligent eyes.  Everyone cheered them on as they jumped and spun ahead of us. It was a daily occurrence to see dolphins while sailing.

dolphin bottlenose

Belize is a paradise for folks who love snorkeling, diving, kayaking and other water sports. Our boat was equipped with kayaks and water toys for guests to use and you get a lot of opportunity to play. Captain Casey dropped anchor a few times so that we could all jump in the water to cool off and look along the reef for fish, turtles and other sea critters. The crew and Trace even took it step further to hunt for a meal. Sarah snagged lobster and a lionfish which we got to taste with dinner. She explained how lionfish was an invasive species that the country was trying to contain by catching them and teaching local restaurants how to prepare and cook them.  Although the spines of the fish are poisonous, the fish is delicious, white and oh-so-delicate. I ordered it a few times while in Belize.

IMG_4768We went on a snorkeling excursion in Ambergris Caye.  The reef is strictly protected by the Belizean government and as a result, you can’t just drop anchor and jump in anywhere. If you want to snorkel or dive the reef you must go with an approved tour operator. The reef is beautiful in Belize and it hasn’t experienced the same symptoms of bleaching and damage that the Great Barrier Reef in Australia has suffered. Our tour boat took us to a few popular sites where we swam with sharks, saw sea turtles, rays, a moray eel and all types of fish. Snorkeling is a breeze in the calm shallow waters, but you can also go diving just beyond the reef for some more spectacular sea life. It was so good that we went back on a night dive after our sailing charter was over when we stayed on Ambergris Caye for an extra week.

feeding stingray

On this charter we were a small group and maybe because of that we really bonded during our sailing vacation. The very talented Captain Casey and First mate Sarah (also a Captain!) told us some fascinating stories of working on charters and restoring their own sailboats.  We told Canadian stories of our own and heard about life in Texas from our 20180115_171436fellow guest.  The group gleefully came up name suggestions for our future Canadian catamaran. “Sorry, eh” was one of the best. Thanks to social media we can still keep in touch with each other and we are watching Sarah’s progress with great admiration and anticipation for the day she launches her boat “Alani”.  Our Texan friend Trace has since bought a boat that is the same type as LunaSea and called her Mary. We picked up two more guests for the last few nights of our charter, two sisters Sue and Molly, who joined in on our shenanigans for the rest of the trip.

stopping in Ambergris CayBelize was a perfect spot to have a relaxing vacation and to learn how to sail a catamaran. The weather is good, the waters are calm and boat traffic is very light.  At night you lie on deck and watch the sky come alive with an incredible amount of stars while you listen to the waves lightly slap against the hulls.  During the day you play, eat, rest and just enjoy this sphere we live on. We saw very few other boats during our time out sailing. This is probably the result of the shallow waters and treacherous reef areas but it makes for a very peaceful, almost out of this world vacation.

Our time with the crew and guests aboard LunaSea was priceless and something that we would recommend to anyone.  If you are considering a resort vacation, consider sailing charters for something different.  If you are looking at sailing charters, make sure to check out Belize Sailing Vacations.

LunaSea cast and crew
The motley cast and crew of LunaSea

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