Sailing and the TIDES -- Belize Inside the reefs!!

by: Peter Singfield

Click here for current tide informationin for Belize.

Tides are a real dangerous condition of "Reef-Crawling" here in Belize. We never have enough water -- and my old boat (Ray's old boat) -- needs at least 3 ft so the keel don't rub reef heads!

Actually -- less if you consider wave action.

This last trip out was something else!

Never saw such low tides!! And it left us with a permanent gut feeling -- expecting to hear "crunch" as we "sailed" the channels.

Well, it did not happen -- and we came back with our keel in one piece -- no new nicks. (But you should see all the "chunks" knocked out -- and repaired -- from when Ray ran this boat!!) -- but more due to "luck" and caution than anything else. What one would not give for an accurate idea of how the tide stands.

So -- how to get accurate tide level charts for Belize??

Enter the modern age and the WWW!!

Spent a few hours over the past two days researching this topic and found the best there is -- and Free-Ware besides??

To make a long story extremely shorter -- go here and get this!!

1.5 megs worth -- nothing for today's bloatware stuff!!

Power that up -- and enter "location" as Belize City.

Look under "options" -- then -- "location"

A map pops up -- click the coast of Belize -- and Belize City pops up -- good enough!!

You have all kinds of other set-ups under "options" -- play around. Then save that configuration (also as "Save" under "options")

Boy -- do we have weird tides here or what!! (Below sea level tides!!)

And "Boy" -- does this software make a difference to keeping keel smooth!!

This folks is my personal contribution to the welfare of boats here in Belize -- take it or leave it!

Though the program can do nice graphs -- here is an example of a simple text printout:

(Just 3 days worth)

 Units are feet
 Initial Time Zone is CST
 Monday 2002-04-01   
 Sunrise  5:47 AM CST, Sunset  6:05 PM CST
 Moonset  8:59 AM CST, Moonrise 10:25 PM CST
   High Tide:  12:53 AM CST   0.52
   Low Tide:    6:07 AM CST   0.13
   High Tide:  12:18 PM CST   0.85
   Low Tide:    7:33 PM CST  -0.17
 Tuesday 2002-04-02   
 Sunrise  5:46 AM CST, Sunset  6:06 PM CST
 Moonset  9:50 AM CST, Moonrise 11:24 PM CST
   High Tide:   1:46 AM CST   0.44
   Low Tide:    6:47 AM CST   0.19
   High Tide:   1:01 PM CST   0.81
   Low Tide:    8:37 PM CST  -0.11
 Wednesday 2002-04-03   
 Sunrise  5:45 AM CST, Sunset  6:06 PM CST
 Moonset 10:43 AM CST, Moonrise 12:20 AM CST
   High Tide:   2:49 AM CST   0.37
   Low Tide:    7:34 AM CST   0.24
   High Tide:   1:49 PM CST   0.76
   Low Tide:    9:47 PM CST  -0.05
 Thursday 2002-04-04   Last Quarter Moon
 Sunrise  5:44 AM CST, Sunset  6:06 PM CST
 Moonrise 12:20 AM CST, Moonset 11:37 AM CST
   High Tide:   4:35 AM CST   0.33
   Low Tide:    8:42 AM CST   0.28
   High Tide:   2:48 PM CST   0.69
   Low Tide:   11:00 PM CST  -0.01
 Friday 2002-04-05   
 Sunrise  5:44 AM CST, Sunset  6:06 PM CST
 Moonrise  1:12 AM CST, Moonset 12:30 PM CST
   High Tide:   6:57 AM CST   0.35
   Low Tide:   10:14 AM CST   0.29
   High Tide:   4:02 PM CST   0.64
 And here it is by the hour!! Extremely handy!!
 Units are feet
 Initial Time Zone is CST
   0.49 12:00 AM CST 2002-04-01
   0.52 1:00 AM CST 
   0.48 2:00 AM CST 
   0.39 3:00 AM CST 
   0.28 4:00 AM CST 
   0.18 5:00 AM CST 
   0.13 6:00 AM CST 
   0.16 7:00 AM CST 
   0.28 8:00 AM CST 
   0.44 9:00 AM CST 
   0.62 10:00 AM CST 
   0.77 11:00 AM CST 
   0.84 12:00 PM CST 
   0.82 1:00 PM CST 
   0.72 2:00 PM CST 
   0.54 3:00 PM CST 
   0.33 4:00 PM CST 
   0.12 5:00 PM CST 
  -0.05 6:00 PM CST 
  -0.15 7:00 PM CST 
  -0.16 8:00 PM CST 
  -0.08 9:00 PM CST 
   0.06 10:00 PM CST 
   0.22 11:00 PM CST 
   0.35 12:00 AM CST 2002-04-02
   0.42 1:00 AM CST 
   0.44 2:00 AM CST 
   0.41 3:00 AM CST 
   0.34 4:00 AM CST 
   0.27 5:00 AM CST 
   0.21 6:00 AM CST 
   0.19 7:00 AM CST 
   0.24 8:00 AM CST 
   0.35 9:00 AM CST 
   0.50 10:00 AM CST 
   0.66 11:00 AM CST 
   0.77 12:00 PM CST 
   0.81 1:00 PM CST 
   0.77 2:00 PM CST 
   0.67 3:00 PM CST 
   0.51 4:00 PM CST 
   0.33 5:00 PM CST 
   0.14 6:00 PM CST 
  -0.00 7:00 PM CST 
  -0.09 8:00 PM CST 
  -0.10 9:00 PM CST 
  -0.04 10:00 PM CST 
   0.08 11:00 PM CST 
   0.20 12:00 AM CST 2002-04-03
   0.31 1:00 AM CST 
   0.36 2:00 AM CST 
   0.37 3:00 AM CST 
   0.35 4:00 AM CST 
   0.32 5:00 AM CST 
   0.28 6:00 AM CST 
   0.25 7:00 AM CST 
   0.25 8:00 AM CST 
   0.29 9:00 AM CST 
   0.39 10:00 AM CST 
   0.52 11:00 AM CST 
   0.65 12:00 PM CST 
   0.73 1:00 PM CST 
   0.76 2:00 PM CST 
   0.71 3:00 PM CST 
   0.62 4:00 PM CST 
   0.49 5:00 PM CST 
   0.34 6:00 PM CST 
   0.19 7:00 PM CST 
   0.06 8:00 PM CST 
  -0.03 9:00 PM CST 
  -0.05 10:00 PM CST 
  -0.00 11:00 PM CST 
Great stuff!!

And all in standard ASCII --

No more guessing the tide and bashing keel on reef head --

To verify the accuracy of this tide software:

Here we go --

From our local weather:


DATE:   04/02/02
TIME:   6:00am
    HIGH- 12:56PM              LOW-  6:55AM
    HIGH- 2:54AM(Wed.)         LOW-  8:42PM
 SUNRISE- 5:48AM         MOONSET-  9:51AM
  SUNSET- 6:07PM         MOONRISE-  11:26PM

From the Software:

Units are feet

Tuesday 2002-04-02   
Sunrise  5:46 AM CST, Sunset  6:06 PM CST
Moonset  9:50 AM CST, Moonrise 11:24 PM CST
  High Tide:   1:46 AM CST   0.44
  Low Tide:    6:47 AM CST   0.19
  High Tide:   1:01 PM CST   0.81
  Low Tide:    8:37 PM CST  -0.11

Very close indeed!! So this works well!!

But notice this --

The program gives actual heights of tide!! And this is so crucial!!

The high tide of 1:46 AM = .44 ft (5.28 in)

And ---

High Tide: 1:01 PM CST 0.81 (9.72 in)

A difference of 4.44 inches!!

And that folks -- makes all the difference in the world when coming out of the back lagoon at San Pedro Town -- out past Cayo Espanto -- to the "main".

For my future micro-freighting venture -- this software is more than gold.

On my last trip out, the part that gave me the most worries and trouble was the last 4 ft of keel. This from thumping at anchor in shallow water -- probably.

I made up side braces from a thick aluminum bumper from one of my old Volks Rabbits.

I also mounted a 4 in by 3/4 in stainless plate -- 4 ft long -- directly along the bottom. This fully protects the last part of keel from thumping.

When I started this -- the last part of keel was split in numerous layers. So before clamping it all back together using 3/4 stainless bolts -- I cleaned and inserted fresh resin.

Ray's old boat is twice what it used to be!! The hard wood bracing alone gives it 3 times the strength!

I raised the hatch by 8 inches -- the deck by 4 inches. So total increase regarding waves -- one foot!!

The hatches are heavy hard-wood and have strong tie downs. We can now surge through heavy seas -- washing completely over the deck -- submerging the boat -- and not take water!! Just hang on real tight though!!

Winds have increased substantially here -- probably due to global warming -- (Oops -- forgot -- George Bush raised his arms to the heavens and ordered that not to be)

And the seas have risen accordingly. Many days now have a small craft warning!!

Seriously folks -- every boat and captain crunches out at some time when working the back of the reefs and their narrow channels. With wooden boats this results in leaks and the need of an immediate haul-out.

But with this boat -- so well re-enforced -- it is business as normal -- no matter what it hits -- as long as you take your time -- and are not racing to your doom at -- say -- 7 mph.

Thumping at anchor -- due to large swells -- now that is the real problem. And that is well fixed on this boat.

Should call it rock-crusher!!

Wait till my ten ton micro freighter is finished if you want to see how a reef crawler should be set up!!

We did over 400 miles with a little more than 10 gallons of gasoline used. And never slowed down! 6 to 7 mph always. (OK -- except creeping through channels)

The best way to cross the Cayo Espanto shallows is by sailing them. You can then jump out into the shallow water and push when required -- leaving sails up.

But leave a heavy rope dragging out the back -- just in case it slips ahead of you and you need to grab your ride.

Some great new resorts up Northern Ambergris --

Met Fred Good at English Caye this trip.

And so many other people -- from all about the world.

Peter Singfield

One comment from Richard Watson:

It is likely that the tide program is giving the same results as the local forecast tide, because it is using the same algorithms. BUT, beware when you are dealing with the tide in wide shallow bays when it is windy. In a wide shallow bay, the wind can blow much of the water from one side of the bay to the other and create a water level change greater than the astronomical tide. Here in south Texas it is common for the wind tide to be as much as three feet in Laguna Madre. I wouldn't be surprised to see similar effects of the wind on water level in Chetumal Bay and perhaps some effect on the area inside of the reef everywhere in Belize. So, if you trip is going to be depth critical, look at the direction and strength of the wind and think about how it will be pushing the water in enclosed shallow bays.

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