From the briefing we were hooked – vivid descriptions of snorkelling on the World's second largest barrier reef, sunbathing and swimming along the way with reassurances that the food would be ample if not the highlight of the trip. Three days aboard a sailboat and camping out on desert islands under the stars. There was something for everyone. For a group of 15 passengers, everyone seemed easygoing (READ: No one seemed particularly annoying) so it was looking like smooth sailing and good times ahead.
We set sail from Caye Caulker with a crew of three – Ramsay taking on the role of captain for most of the day, Esteban some of the time with Bobby mostly attending to the dishes. Our first impressions of the crew were this: Ramsay – the responsible one, Esteban – maybe a bit of a kid, and Bobby – WOW! Do you think he got that buff in prison? Yep.
The boat had character – everything from the hull to the deck from bow to stern was solid wood and painted white while the paintjob around the outside reflected its name, the Ragga King. There was just enough room for all 18 full sized adults to find sun or shade at any time of day, as long as the wind didn’t change direction in a hurry sending the bamboo boom into the back of anyone’s head. Is that duct tape holding the mast together? Oh yeah.
With the sails soaring high and the line trawling behind the boat, we made our way to the first snorkeling stop along a shallow reef pulling in at least two big fish – a barracuda and a red snapper… Buff Bobby grinning ear to ear like a child holding his catch – is he just a little simple? Maybe.
Caribbean culture, sunny days on sandy cays, maybe a manatee – but for us the snorkeling was the highlight, full stop. Shallow, well protected reefs full of colourful coral and sea critters – much of the same life as we saw in Utila but add many reef sharks as well as the animal most recently voted “Coolest Fish in the Entire Ocean”: the EAGLE RAY.
With two snorkeling stops already, an ample lunch and more than enough sun, we arrived at Rendezvous Caye to set up camp for the night.
Drinking rum around a blazing fire as befits a sailor, feasting on the catch of the day, we watched as the crew gathered up whatever combustible materials they could find - and is that a large plastic rope Buff Bobby is burning on the bonfire? I´m afraid so.
I was reluctant to get in the water on the second day since several people reported seeing a large shark fin, and not of the friendly nurse or reef shark kind. Buff Bobby, looking a little too stoked – veins popping from his neck in an unnatural way, kinda crazed look in his eyes – grabbed for the spear gun and charged for the water. Strangely, it wasn’t the shark that scared me. And while the shark-spotting didn’t turn up much, Bobby did manage to tear up a tonne of coral with his bare hand to lay his spear into a sizable lobster. And just to make sure it was dead, he speared it again. I’m sorry, but isn’t lobster out of season? Yes. It is.
And Esteban - why do you have a toy gun on the boat? It is a toy, isn’t it? Pardon me, you’ve been shot HOW MANY TIMES?
Tobacco Caye wasn’t as Robinson Crusoefied as Rendezvous Caye – there was a bar, a few holiday cabins and a shower where you could wash 2 days of sunscreen and salt off your skin. Snorkeling straight from the shore there was plenty to see and plenty of the Coolest Fish in the Entire Ocean were swimming right around the dock in waters so clear you could photograph them from the surface.
The crew was getting tired on the third day at sea, with the exception of Bobby who seemed unusually energetic and increasingly touchy-feely. The boat was getting smaller, the sun a little hotter, the food portions and quality less than adequate. Bobby had been pouring himself glass after glass of rum from breakfast onward and to my horror, Esteban and Ramsay took a siesta after lunch leaving Drunk Bobby at the helm, grinning ear to ear for no apparent reason. Calculating whether I could swim to the shoreline in the distance, I decided the risk was negligible, but the whole thing screamed negligence.
Once we were safely on the shores of Placencia, we parted ways with the crew feeling that it was three days well spent but that three days was enough. I never got much chance to say my proper good-byes to the other passengers on the boat. Bobby was making round after round hugging the ladies and I’d had my turn three times. A quick getaway was necessary.
It was good luck that we ran into a few of our fellow passengers the next morning at breakfast so we could exchange email addresses and stories.
So did you really see Bobby smoking crack yesterday morning before we left? Yes, oh yes we did.