Missler describes his trip from Florida to Belize aboard Dutch Lion
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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.