It would be hard to imagine a more secure spot than the Sunsail base on the outskirts of the beachside community of Placencia, Belize. The entire marina is protected by a robust seawall with a channel scarcely a few boatlengths across. It’s also located far enough up Placencia Lagoon that it takes the better part of a half hour before you get out into open water (and can stop playing connect-the-dots with your chartplotter waypoints to avoid plowing into the muddy shallows to either side). Once you come around the southern end of the Placencia waterfront, though…well, that’s a different story.

Not that the aspect that greeted my wife, Shelly, and our daughter, Bridget, and me was in any way a terrible one. On the contrary, nothing could be further from the truth. It’s just that, in stark contrast to so many of the world’s other popular charter destination, once you cast off lines in Belize, you’re very much on your own.

Coming out from behind the narrow, sandy peninsula that is Placencia, we promptly hardened up onto a close reach to stay well clear of Potts Shoal to the south. A short while after that, we came about and started heading north along the Inner Channel—an area of relatively deep water between the mainland and the islands off shore, leaving Placencia to port and the Bugles Cays to starboard. It was then, as , our Sunsail 404 catamaran, was powering through the chop on a close

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