A: Just Pay first. Then you can say whatever you like!
We had been cleared through customs for four months now. The time was upon us to get our boat “Third Aye”, temporarily imported. We had been warned that this was coming, it’s not an easy process and it could be expensive. Our manager, Peter, was confident that he had a way around the system, and planned to get our boat licensed with the Coast Guard at the same time as “Stess”, our Tradewinds 45 foot catamaran. In order to meet him and “Stess” at the inspection area, Lindsay and I set off for Belize city, sailing “Third Aye” due North on January 16th. We had two weeks off charter, which meant eleven days off work. We planned to get the official business done as soon as possible, then enjoy a casual sail back down from Belize City, visiting the many lush cays along the way. We finally got ourselves sorted and provisioned enough to sail away by about eleven o’clock in the morning. We should have left much sooner.
The sailing was slower than we remembered,. We were beating to windward, about 40 degrees off the wind, and only making about three knots over ground. We didn’t get very far that first day, as I kept having to find closer anchorages due to our not being able to get there by sunset. We were motor sailing in 20 knot winds and four foot waves when the engine stopped. Now that really messed up our ETA! Lindsay and I hove to as I when below to check the filter. Not fun. Sure enough, it was clogged. Algae had grown in the diesel tank as the boat was tied to a dock in Placencia for several weeks. I changed the filter and got the engine going again. We used the back up plan and headed to a safe place on the mainland called Sapodilla Lagoon. All was good, until the engine died again, right as we were entering the lagoon. Not good. I went below and followed all of the fuel lines. I found a small filter casing in an invisible location. I took a guess on how to open it and removed the black, collapsed filter element. I put the casing back together without the element and bled the fuel lines. She started up again and took us safely into the lagoon. What a beautiful anchorage. A live-aboard sailor puttered over and chatted with us for awhile as we got thing put away. We dined and slept in complete stillness as the wind blew all night.
The second day, we were up before the sun and off to Cucumber Beach Marina, just South of Belize City. No fooling around today, we just HAD to get there to meet Peter. We motor sailed to windward, tacking ever so slightly to keep the boat stable, with the engine running full throttle. We pulled into Cucumber Beach Marina about 4:30 in the afternoon on Monday the 17th. We were impressed with the marina’s appearance. It had an amusement area, lots of boat slips and good help standing by on the radio.
The next morning, we were informed that the Coast Guard would not inspect our vessel for a license. Therefore, Lindsay and I scrambled for thought about how to get the boat temporarily imported, and in a hurry. We didn’t want to spend our entire eleven days off dealing with this issue. We went straight to customs in Belize City for our information. While sitting in front of a clearing officer, I opened my “Important Documents” case, felt my heart sink as I discovered that Peter had not returned our boat’s papers to us, and felt foolish for not remembering that I had given them to him about a week prior. (Some other idea about a license instead of customs clearance that didn’t work out.) We most definitely needed those clearing documents to get started. We called Peter immediately, and he arranged to fly the papers to the Municipal airport in Belize City the next day, January 20th, Lindsay’s birthday.
Lindsay and I agreed that we would spend her birthday dealing with government officials and the like, so we found a nice Chinese restaurant and a casino movie theater to entertain us. Not much of a gambler, Lindsay got friendly with the local wildlife at the tiny bowling alley and we played a few games until we both managed to get bowling injuries…. who knew that could happen!!??
Not much else in Belize City, unfortunately. We did meet Ray, the nicest taxi driver around. We called him lots and he always came to get us. We did some power shopping. Fishing gear, kitchen utensils, specialty food items, toiletries, hooray!
The good news is, we got a customs broker, talked him into negotiating with customs for us to get temporarily imported instead of fully imported. We paid the rest of our cash for the duty and fees and got out of the marina for a few days off.
Before we left, Lindsay was brave enough to go up the mast for me and inspect the anchor light bulb… not a bad feat as she’s scared of heights!! At least she managed to get some nice pictures of Third Aye from the vantage point.
We felt a little pressure to make miles, but had a nice time sailing strong yet favorable winds down the cayes until we needed to be back at the TradeWinds base on January 27th.