Captain Josh Scrimshaw and the Crew of V6's off-season adventures in Belize

12 April 2024 By Kate Lardy

Kate got her start in the yachting industry working as crew. She spent five years cruising the Bahamas, Caribbean, New England, and Central America, then segued that experience into a career in marine journalism, including stints as editor of Dockwalk and ShowBoats International.

It was diving that drew 159ft explorer V6 to Belize, but the rainforest made them stay.  Captain Josh Scrimshaw and the crew share tales of their off-season adventure… 

It’s one thing to go off the beaten track, but how about going off-track in the off-season when you don’t have to share world-famous dive sites with a single other boat? Then add in unrestricted access to fly the yacht’s chopper pretty much anywhere in the virgin rainforest and you have the makings of a real adventure. This was how V6 spent three weeks in summer 2023, taking in the delights of a relatively undiscovered superyacht destination — Belize.

Adventure is nothing new to the crew of the 159ft explorer, which was custom built in New Zealand and launched in 2006 as T6. When Dockwalk caught up with them, they had just left Patagonia and were on a 12-day passage to Costa Rica. Chief mate Jason Fourie and chief stew Kathryn (KJ) Jennings, spoke to us via Zoom from the bridge, while Captain Josh Scrimshaw, on a break from the yacht, joined from his home in the UK.

The current owner purchased the yacht three years earlier. “I’ve known him for seven years,” says Captain Josh. “He used to charter a boat that I worked on quite a lot and decided he wanted to set up his own operation. I anticipated that he would use the boat quite heavily, but I think nobody expected him to use it quite as heavily as he does. We’ve just ticked over about 80,000 nautical miles, I think of which he’s done 25,000 himself on board.”

The government recently approved two marina projects, in Punta Gorda and in Commerce Bight, to accommodate very large yachts

While this may sound exhausting, every crew member is on full rotation, and the owner, a keen kite surfer and helicopter pilot, involves them in all the fun stuff so they get to enjoy the travels too. “It’s very rare that there aren’t crew members along for excursions and doing things,” says Josh. “As a result, we have really good crew retention and the crew are quite happy on board.”

Planning for Belize began long before they set course for the tiny Central American country on the far western reaches of the Caribbean. It was to be the second stop after Mexico on a voyage that began in Fort Pierce, Florida, where they took delivery of a brand new AS350 B2 helicopter, which travels in a hangar tucked under the aft deck. Captain Josh got his initial must-do information from a friend of the owner’s who had spent a week there, and 18 months in advance, he began talking with Madeleine Lomont of The Placencia Resort, which has the country’s only superyacht marina able to handle V6’s 13ft draft. The yacht’s time in Belize began and ended at its docks, just north of its namesake village in southern Belize, and in between, they headed to the atolls for some diving.

“Navigating around the reefs, all chart information has to be taken with a pinch of salt,” says Captain Josh. He had no issues close to the mainland, which he says is well charted. Farther offshore he got help from the WASSP system in the tender, which they sent ahead. The side scanning sonar pings the sea floor 250 times a second and relays a live 3D map of the ocean floor back to the bridge.

V6’s helicopter explored the Maya Mountains from the yacht’s base in Placencia.

“We went over to Glover’s Reef and Lighthouse Reef, where the Great Blue Hole is, and actually managed to get into the atolls, which the charts basically say you can’t do,” he says. “We were very cautious. We got in through some cuts on the south side of both atolls; we only made it about a mile and a half in before we dropped anchor, but it meant we could get out of the predominant swell.” With the swell and current, they weren’t particularly lucky with the diving visibility, which wasn’t crystal clear like they were expecting, but “the boss liked it and that’s the main goal,” Jason says.

Jacques Cousteau called the Great Blue Hole one of the world’s top dive sites

The fact that the yacht returned to the marina was testament to the country’s enduring allure. The Belize Tourism Board likes to say “reef to rainforest,” and it was the latter half of this that proved more interesting in the crew’s opinion. “Inland Belize was more exciting than being out at anchor,” says KJ.

Describing a crowded marina as “the boss’s worst nightmare,” she says, “We’re not a yacht that would ever go to a berth with our owners on board, so [the owner] must have really liked it to come back there from the anchorage.”

In the off season V6 had the marina all to itself, and the secluded seafront with pool and volleyball courts became like an extension of the yacht, a contained place for the owner’s children to roam. “We would do crew versus guest and family volleyball matches until the sun came down,” KJ says. The marina also had flat water a minute away by tender for the owner to kite surf. Most importantly, though, it was the perfect spot to fly from, as the yacht took on the role of helipad.

“The Belize authorities were very accommodating,” says V6’s pilot, Andy Radford. “They gave us a permit to fly through Belize. There were a few areas that are sensitive due to military activity, but we liaised with the Belize Defence Force and did our best then to avoid those areas so we didn’t disrupt any military training. And then we had basically carte blanche to fly wherever we wanted to go and do whatever we wanted to do.”

The pilot liaised with the Belize Defence Force.

Belize has the lowest population density in all of Latin America and is blanketed by more than 60 percent rainforest. The inland southern half of the country with the low-lying, lush Maya Mountains is particularly remote and ripe for exploration, and this was the chopper’s playground. “It was like being in a movie,” KJ says of the low jungle flying that took them down ravines, over rivers and past waterfalls, with the owner practicing his confined area landings anywhere they could find a small clearing. “The boss would go and drop me off for a five-minute walk in places where I suspect people may have never even stepped foot before. The feeling of complete isolation in the virgin rainforest was really quite special,” says Captain Josh.

The helicopter also allowed effortless access to jungle activities for the whole family like rafting, tubing, ziplining and river cruises replete with monkeys and tropical birds. Something they would have missed had it not been for the easy air commute (“the boss would rather not sit in the car for three hours,” KJ says), ended up being the number-one highlight for the captain and crew, Actun Tunichil Muknal, or the more easily pronounced “ATM cave.”

Believed by the Maya to be a portal to the underworld, the three-mile-long cave is filled with perfectly preserved artifacts and calcified skeletons of human sacrifices, and visiting it is an Indiana Jones-like experience that starts with a jungle trek that involves river crossings. For V6, it began with a helicopter ride, landing at the jungle lodge Pook’s Hill, before a short journey by car and the 45-minute trek, leading to a four-and-a-half-hour swim, hike and climb through the cave. Only a few operators offer this tour, which allows visitors surprisingly unhindered access to the thousand-year-old remnants of a bygone civilization. “If it was in Europe, there would be barriers up and everything would be hidden away and there’d be security guards. It was absolutely fascinating,” Captain Josh says.

Belize's 190-mile-long reef is part of the Mesoamerican Reef, the world’s second-largest barrier reef

When asked about the challenges of cruising in Belize, the captain and crew were hard-pressed to come up with much besides mosquitoes and an unfortunate bout of stomach uneasiness. This was in part because Madeleine at The Placencia made things easy for them. Her actual job is sales manager, but she acted as an agent for V6 as well, sorting provisions and getting permission for the helicopter to land at other resorts. “She knew everyone. Our provisions and everything came right to the dock. And all excursions were perfectly organized and executed,” says Jason. “So working with somebody like that made the trip a lot better than it would have been if we just winged it.

“As far as provisioning goes, she was discerning and honest,” he continues, “leading us away from farmed oysters as she couldn’t vouch for their quality, to offering substitutes such as the best fish and fruit, meaning the chef could cook with the freshest ingredients available.” Berries were swapped out for mangoes, and the owner was happy to take it as it comes.

As it often goes with a good adventure, being flexible like this and allowing some leeway in your plans can be more gratifying and leaves a longer lasting impression. When most people think of Belize, they picture that seductive Instagram pic of the Great Blue Hole. This image may have lured V6 to Belize, but they ended up staying longer than planned for an entirely different reason.

“You have to have a thirst for adventure,” says the captain in closing. “Belize is not the most polished experience, but that’s what makes it interesting.”

This article was first published in the April 2024 edition of Dockwalk.


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