Belize

Reisebericht in Englisch von Axel K.:

Sailing was always a sport I thought for elder and rich people. My hobby is travelling all around the world bringing with me my own mean of transports like: bicycle, folding kayak, inflatable canoes or simple by foot.
I never even considered that it would be possible to bring with me my own sailing boat.
Once, searching for an inflatable kayak for an expedition in Bolivia, I stoumbled over a folding Katamaran from a famous brand name, but it seemed to me very poorly build and engineered, but the concept intrigued me.
Searching the net I found some high tech folding Katamarans from England, low tech from eastern europe but both were not suited to be brought along oterwise than in a big Van.
Than I discovered the Vario Cat from Germany. It was love at first sight. Every detail seemed to be constructed for ease of use and toughness.
My first phone call with Manfred Rassweiler was very interesting. For over an hour he listed me all the innovative details and the advantages. My curiosity was stimulated.
I did a trip of 1400km to see and try the vario Cat in June 2002.
I spent almost the whole day with Manfred.
It looked really great, much better than the pictures I saw on his homepage. After showing me all the details like:
Rolling fock sail, Mainsail reefable rolling it on the boom, selfturning fock etc. He took me to a lake in southern Bavaria to try it. During the trip Manfred, the only head and builder behind the Vario Cat, made me feel his love for his creature. He was really convincing explaining me all the phisycal principles why his catamaran was better than the others but what really convinced me was the performance on the lake. He maneovered the Cat singlehanded easyly and the speed was much more than I expected for an inflatable boat. He made several 360° turns in a row without loosing too much speed and without having to struggle with the lines. It was incredible.
In september I bought the Vario Cat ‘full optional’ for about 5000 Euro. The learning process was very easy and straightforward. As the handling is very easy, thanks to the central keel the catamaran behaves more like a sailboat than a catamaran, but with greater speed and far greater stability. In fact even in wind force 5 I never risked to capsize.
I added a Honda 2 CV engine and had now my own colapsable sailboat, with my wife we spent even several nights sleeping on the boat which we fitted with mosquitonet and flysheet.
Now the problem was how to carry all this material to Belize where we decided to spend Christmas.
Belize is the ideal country for beginners like me as the sea is protected by a over 200km long bareer reef which means that the waves never gets really dangerous even in high wind.
Again Manfred was very helpfull helping me to solve the problems I had reducing the longest part of the Vario Cat to only 1.50 m which is the maximum Airlines allows on board.
After two month of planning I had evrything ready.
150 Kg of equipment including:
The vario Cat
Outboard engine
Camping equipment
Snorkelling gear
Fishing gear
Anchor and other utensils

To our astonishment they didn’t even comment at the check in counter and I didn’t have to pay any extra charges. We arrived to the little Island Cay Chaulker in the north of Belize, under a thunderstorm which forced the little airplane to fly at not more than 50 mt over the sea. Fortunately the next day weather improved and I assembled the Catamaran which took me the better part of the morning. As we couldn’t wait we made our first trip to the reef in the afternoon. To a place called ‘ The stingray alley’.
Sailing was wonderful with a force 3-4 easterly, flat sea and bright sun. The spot was easily found because several tou boats ferrying around tourists. Ana juped in the only 1m deep water and shouting tried to get back on board. Once I had my mask in place I saw that the bottom of the sea was plasterd with stingrays hoping for some food.
On the way back we aroused a lot of curiosity stopping by at a beach bar to have a drink.
Next morning we were ready to leave, we had stored water and food for 5-6 days to allow us to stop at the many little, uninhabitated islands. Our intention was to go south as far as possible in 12 days.
The wind was supposed to blow, in this period of the year, steadily from north east.
Our plan was simple cover daily more or less 20 miles and stop wherever it was beatiful. The first day was perfect but we had to sleep out in the sea because of the bugs which penetrated also out mosquito net. Next day the wind turned to south, which is always a bad Omen in this area, we tackled the whole day against a strong wind and short steep waves. But it was great to see this little overloaded boat setting a REAL course of 50° against the wind.
The weather worsend in the next days when a strong northern front came trough, we found ourselves stranded on a little Island of 30 meters diameter.
The wind was almost gale force and we had to setup a shelter with the sail because our tent was thorn away by the storm. Next day was Christmas and it was quite fun seeing big US cruise ships pass by decorated with light everywhere while we were playing castaways.
Two days later the wind subsided a little to force 5-6 and we decided to go. GPS was essential as we were sailing under heavy rain and the visibility was not more than 200 meters. Our top speed was in excess of 8 knots!
We were trying to reach the bluefield range resort. Some very nice but basic rooms build on stilts in the middle of the sea. We arrived there frozen nonetheless we had wetsuits and the place looked to us like paradise. In the next days we discovered that it WAS paradise. Ernesto, the cook served us delicious seafood for lunch and dinner, especially the lobster, fished right in front of the hotel, was wonderfull.
The weather was not stable, sudden storms alternated with blasting sunshine. This was a good excuse to stay 4 days. We sailed around the small islands which are part of the bluefield range, met some nice fishermen and saw the manatees, a large mammal resembling a cow.
Especially the rendevous Island right on the reef is worth a visit, small dotted with palm trees and sorounded by beautiful reefs with plenty of fishes.
On the last day of the year we decided to leave, a strong southerly (to be followed by another ‘Northern’) convinced us to head for the mainland. A crossing of 15 miles not to be taken too easily in this changing weather patterns would bring us to a huge lagoon entered by a small river.
The crossing was perfect we had a nice crosswind for the whole day, the water was of that deep blue that you see always in the movies.
The entrance to the lagoon was gorgeous a river lined with palms and tropical flowers. We enterd a system of internal waterways which arrive all the way to Belize city. We found a nice Hotel in Punta Gorda even if it was above our usual standard we stayed there for two days, mainly because of the great setting.
Next day, reluctantely, I started to dismount my Vario Cat because we wanted to see something of the interior of Belize. I was able to sell about 30 kg of our gear to the hotel manager, this allowed us to travel a little more easily. Once arrived in Belize city by bus we stored our gear in a hostel and left for San Pedro. There we enjoyed another 3 days in a jungle lodge, canoeing on the rivers and visiting the many maya sites in the area.


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