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.
After the craziness of the New Years crowd, we went out on charter with a great family – the Zellers. David and Eileen, 19-year-old twins Trevor & Kellen, 16-year-old Chelsea, and not forgetting the bundle of fun and energy that is 10-year-old David.
Sadly, in spite of the not-so-favorable weather, we had a load of fun… so much so that we don’t seem to have any photographic evidence of that week with the family (Zeller’s – we’d love to steal some of your pics for the blog!).
There was snorkelling… and fishing… swimming… and fishing… sailing… and fishing… diving… and fishing… of course, plenty of eating…. and fishing…. I think you’re catching on – little David was by far the most avid, not to mention successful fisherman we’ve had on board. And no overcast skies, strong winds, rolling waves or absence of light (yes! night fishing!) could deter him… the only thing that seemed to slow his enthusiasm was the number of electronic fish that appeared on Tadd’s fancy fishing watch that apparently tells you when the fish are eating in any part of the world by putting up between one and four little fish on the face.
We did the rounds and tried to forget the cool weather and dark clouds, while still enjoying the amazing sites of the outer Cays, as well as the taste of conch fritters and the many rounds of Uno and Taboo!
A jaunt back to the mainland allowed them to enjoy the wildlife Tadd and I had seen last fall in Monkey River.
And we still got in some great snorkeling and diving, including a snorkel on the old wreck off Hunting Cay.
Lindsay and I took out Stess and six guests for a charter during the New Years week. It was a mixed bag of guests and emotions as well. Two of our guests had a request for more champagne, so our manager, Melissa, sold them eight bottles. They were excited, and quite generous. They set a new record for us, and stayed up almost till midnight drinking wine on the first night aboard. (My oh my).
Four of our guests had been looking forward to their trip in Belize for almost a year. We had an absolute blast out there despite the occasional rain shower. We had some beautiful snorkeling areas where the sun came out just for us. I learned a new rum punch recipe and built a new playlist on my Ipod from the songs our guests chose.
We snorkeled on a shipwreck, miles offshore.
We all donned party hats, poured the champagne and picked up kazoos to celebrate New Year’s Day for London at five o’clock, and again in about four other time zones. (dear oh dear) At midnight, we had a front row seat near Hunting Cay for their fireworks display. The next day, as we returned to the dock in Placencia, the party hats were back on and the kazoos were blasting away to annoy all present. They set a new record of five cases of Belikin beer downed by Friday afternoon! Priceless.
Having too much fun?? Never!
p.s. AND! The guests were so nice they gave me my very own island for the new year!! Linz Cay!! Not too shabby – check it out! Great snorkeling and a small lean-to… if anyone wants to come and stay!