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Voyages: Dutch Lion

Leo Missler describes his trip from Florida to Belize aboard Dutch Lion (#1183).


This is the story of a C34 move from the Puget Sound to the western Caribbean. Several years ago my wife and I decided that the winters here in the Northwest were too wet and cold for our aging bones. Having cruised the Eastern and Southern Caribbean, which we liked very much, we decided that the Eastern Caribbean has too many Hurricanes for us to leave our boat and belongings during the Summertime. It is too far away to checkup after a hurricane or severe storm. The Southern part, Venezuela, the A,B,C Islands were not attractive enough and too far away. So we started looking into the Western Caribbean.

The Mexican Quintano Roo, Cancun, etc., is too commercialized and besides it is hard to own property there. To make a long story short we decided after looking into Central America to settle in Belize. Why Belize? Beach property was inexpensive at the time and you can outright own it. Property taxes were very low to unheard off. Getting to Belize was easy, you can fly and drive to that country. Government is stable, with an English style constitution, and the Belize Dollar is pegged 2 to 1 to the American Dollar.

Eight years ago we first visited Belize and six years ago we bought 200 feet of beachfront property on Ambergris Caye two miles south of San Pedro. My neighbor, in Belize, originally from Texas , bought 100 feet and started building his house four years ago and also constructed a pier 300 feet long from shore to get to deep enough water to dock his sailboat there. I invested into his pier at that time and own a part of that pier.

Last year we decided to make the move. On October the second 1999, I moved Dutch Lion from Bellingham to Everett. We hauled her out of the Puget Sound, removed the sails, then the boom and after that the mast. We removed the standing rigging and coiled them up. We removed the dodger and folded it up. Painted the bottom with Copolymer, ablative antifouling paint after installing my new P.C. view thru hull transducer, touched up the mast and boom where paint had rubbed off, cleaned all the painted areas with rubbing compound and waxed and rubbed it twice with boat wax with Teflon. We took off the steering wheel. Put it, the boom and all the parts that I thought we were going to need, the dodger and the standing rigging on the floor in the boat. Closed the companion way hatches, put on a combination lock and taped the hole shut where the mast goes thru the deck and taped all the windows. While the mast was down we inspected, tested and greased all the lights, installed the bracket for the new wind indicator and ran the wire thru the mast. We also cleaned and waxed the mast and boom while they were down. After that we wrapped the mast and running rigging with carpet and covered it with shrink wrap. Now the boat and the mast were ready for shipment. For approximately a year before we decided to move the boat to the Caribbean we contemplated how to make the move. Should we sail it down the Pacific and thru the Panama canal or put it on a truck and ship it either to Belize thru Mexico, or ship it to Texas or Louisiana or Florida? After a lot of soul-searching we decided to truck it to Florida and sail it from there to Belize. Going the Pacific route seemed for me to dangerous especially in the stretch from Washington to Southern California. Shipping the Boat to Belize seemed impossible, you cannot find a trucking outfit that will carry it all the way, besides you never know what will happen in Mexico. We got many quotes, anywhere from $3800.00 to $12500.00. We decided on the $3800.00 quoted price from A & B. Marine trucking for a backhaul price. I was in contact almost weekly months prior to hauling. I gave them a shipping window from October 6 thru October 22. No problem they said. All we need is about one week notice!! Well, I gave them 6 weeks notice! Called them almost every day since hauling the boat on October the second. We were promised a date of October 12. Called them October 10 and was told the truck was on its way.

Meanwhile my wife, myself, my two daughters and their husbands had booked a cruise with Holland America Line for a week's cruise to the Caribbean, October 31 thru November 6. Since I am not a blue water sailor and feared the Gulfstream passage which we had to do two times I hired a delivery captain to sail with me and my crew of three to Belize, leaving Ft. Lauderdale November 15. This would give me a week to prepare the boat for the passage to Belize after arrival in Florida. Well, the boat was ready October 8. October 12 came and no truck. Called the trucking Co. and was told the truck was in Portland Ore but they had problems unloading the boat they were bringing there. I asked them to call me when they were close to Seattle so I could meet the truck in the yard and arrange loading the boat since I had to pay the boatyard before loading the boat on the truck. That was fine with them and I waited for the phone call and waited and waited but no call was coming. I didn't panic at that time since I could load the truck even in the week of October 24 thru October 28. We had to leave for Ft. Lauderdale October 29 to catch the cruise.! Called daily from October 24 thru October 28 and was told every day that the truck was coming in any minute now. They plainly lied to me on the phone!! October 28 we were told the truck was going to be in the yard October 29 at 8 am! I arranged with my brother in law to have him supervise the loading and meanwhile I paid the boatyard their dues thru October 29. October 29 came and went with no truck showing up. The truck finally showed up November 3, was loaded and went on its way. The trucking CO then said that the boat would be in Ft. Lauderdale Nov. 8 latest. After all the frustration and waiting that still would have been all right. After the cruise on Nov. 8, the truck didn't show up in Ft. Lauderdale. I called the trucking CO and was told that the truck was stuck in Montana with a blowout tire and they couldn't get a tire. Many more excuses and untruths ensued during the next week and a half. The truck finally showed up Monday morning Nov. 15. I asked the truck driver what had happened. He told me that he had not arrived in Portland Ore. until Thursday, October 30 and that he had to take another load to Vancouver BC after that, before he could come to Everett.! As far as the haul from Everett to Ft. Lauderdale he said that he was stuck in Montana all right, and that the haul takes at least one week. The trucking CO never told us about the freight to Vancouver BC and never told us the real whereabouts of the truck. Well, I guess that is what you can expect when you go for the cheapest quote. Anyway the boat arrived in a good appearing condition, no exterior damage. Later on I found some hairline cracks in the bilge area and was very concerned about the water that was flowing into the bilge during the passage to Belize and after that. Especially since had installed a P.S.S. shaft seal. Meanwhile the delivery captain told me that if we didn't leave Nov. 17 or before he wouldn't be able to make the trip. So my brother in law and my other crew member, who had arrived one week earlier had our work cut out for us. But we got all the work done by Nov. 16 except for installing the solar panel I had bought from Joe Turner in Ft. Lauderdale.

Wednesday afternoon Nov. 17 we left Ft. Lauderdale for Belize with a crew of four including the delivery captain John Jones, my brother in law Paul, my friend Karl and myself. The following equipment was bought for this passage and further use in the Caribbean; P.C. View scanning sonar. I figured this would really help me in shallow water and coral reef area. This is a forward and sideways looking sonar and fishfinder. It really did its job finding deep enough water on the backside of the island of Contoy, which is above the island of Mujeres which is the first island you meet in Mexico coming from the US. P.C. View is and has been very helpful in the shallow waters of Belize. S. T. 60 wind system. Was very helpful with knowing the windspeed for reefing purposes and also knowing how hard it had been blowing. We logged 40 knot winds in the night passage in the Gulf Stream from Key West straight across to Cuba.! I am not good at estimating wave heights but the captain said they were 20 to 30 ft. high. Surfing down the waves we logged 12 plus knots!! Had I known this beforehand I don't think I would have done this passage! One thing I know now and that is that the boat can handle it! Backstay adjuster. Used it and glad to have it. Electronic charting, Chartview pro. Very helpful especially during the night. Shows you exactly where you are, makes you feel safe. Must have GPS interfaced. Handheld VHF. Much handier for close distances than the fixed mount. Repitched 15x9 propeller to 15x10, increased speed by min. of one knot with the same rpm setting. Should have done this long before. Waterfixer. Filters all potable water including "Montezuma" water from Mexico! Wouldn't leave country without it. Although it doesn't make potable water out of salt water. Balmar alternator. Replaced stock alternator with Balmar 91-100. This one fills up your battery in a hurry. Used the same bracket, replaced the alternator belt with a 39.5 inch by 7/16 h.d. belt and bought 2 spares. Belt wore down a bit to start with, but after 600 plus miles is holding up well. Offshore inflatable vests with harness. Wouldn't leave harbor for open ocean without it.

Equipment I would like to have had; Radar, whisker pole.

We left Ft. Lauderdale Wednesday afternoon at 4 P.M. and arrived in Key West Thursday afternoon at 6 P.M. having sailed and motor sailed a distance of 178 N.M. at an average of 7 plus knots. We stayed outside in the Florida Strait all the way. Thursday night we stayed in Key West, visited Jimmy Buffet's place and a few other ones. Friday morning we left Key West at 11 A.M. and headed straight across the Gulfstream towards Cuba. Made landfall several miles west of Havana and followed the coast of Cuba at a mile or so distance and keeping an eye on the lighthouses and an eye on the electronic chart to see where we were. As mentioned before the crossing of the Gulfstream was rough. High waves and winds as I never have encountered before. We motor sailed with double reefed main and roller reefed 150% genoa to about 50%. As mentioned before we logged 12 plus knots of speed at peak times and averaged 8.5 knots from several miles out of Key West to several miles out from the Cuban coast.! During the rest of Friday night and Saturday we followed the Cuban coast where we found a countercurrent of approx. 1 to 2 knots until Cabo San Antonio, the farthest west point of Cuba. I feared crossing the Gulfstream from Cuba to Mexico more than the crossing from Key West to Cuba. Fortunately that crossing was very smooth.

Part of Saturday night and Sunday morning was spent following the Cuban coast and Sunday Nov. 21 we crossed the Yucatan channel. We aimed for Isla Mujeres but wound up a few miles north of Isla Contoy. We couldn't aim farther south due to the wind direction. We were beating all the way across the Channel, and the Gulfstream pushed us north. Sunday afternoon at 4 P.M. we sighted Isla Contoy. Again the Electronic charting was very helpful, we knew exactly where we were at all times without doing direct reckoning or using a Sextant. We sailed on the west side of the island towards Isla Mujeres where we arrived at 6 P.M. Sunday Evening. We sailed this leg 396 n.miles in 79 hrs. for an average of 5 knots. Sunday night and most of Monday we spent in Isla Mujeres and left Monday afternoon for the last leg along the coast of Mexico and northern Belize where we arrived at Ambergris Caye Tuesday night at 8 P.M. We tried to hail someone on the VHF radio to help us thru the break in the reef but nobody answered and I was not confident enough yet the cross the reef entrance towards San Pedro with the help of the P.C. View sonar. Especially since there is a large piece of coral just inside the break. So we cruised back and forth during the night and entered thru the reef at daybreak. The leg from Isla Mujeres to San Pedro is 215 N.M. and we spent 28 hrs. for an average of 7.6 knots. We took advantage of several counter currents that run very close to the coast. Winds were east to northeast for mostly beam reaches. Again without the Electronic charts I don't think we could have stayed as close to the coast especially during the night and thus taking advantage of the countercurrent.

Last modified by Phil Imhof, Monday, August 09, 2004 . Copyright 2001 by Catalina 34 International Association.  All rights reserved.