Monday, March 28, 2011

March 27,2011

Greetings from Belize. Tom and I have just finished a week of sailing with two friends from Colorado, Doug and Janet camp. We bareboated a 35' beneteau sailboat out of Placencia, Belize, a town at the tip of a peninsula, on the eastern coast of Belize. Initially we were led to believe by the debriefing staff that the trip was laden with traps of sand bars and fines for touching coral with the keel. However, when we finally got underway, we learned that this was partially true, but that the distances between cays were plenty and the sailing smooth

After a night in Placencia Harbor, just barely out of the marina, we headed north to coco plum cay where we discovered a beautiful, hidden place where could have dinner to celebrate the Camp's 25th anniversary. After a short kayak paddle and a bit of snorkeling, and of course rum, we watched the sun set. In the orange, pink glow of the aura a pair of dolphins graced us with three smiling salutes, then swam away to the depths of the sea. We took the dinghy to shore, met a party of 14 who were celebrating a birthday party and had rented the resort for the week. We entered Thatch Cay restaurant through a bamboo frond archway and found a mix of modern architecture and native thatching mixed with exotic wood appointed decor that included a lounge area with couches, board games, a fabulous bar made of multiple hardwoods, and were heartily greeted by the manager, owner, bartender, all dressed for the islands, and barefooted. We knew we had hit the right place. We shared a bottle of champagne, dinner, and great conversation, and agreed to return for the Mexican buffet the next night. As the birthday party folks drifted to the north shore for a bonfire, we headed to the dinghy in the dark. Tom escorted an older lady to the dinghy dock who turned out to be the famous Marie Sharp. Janet and Doug knew of her pepper products from their previous visit. She told us her story of building an industry of Belizian hot sauces, jellies, and chips, and even let us take our picture with her.

The next dated we sailed around coco plum cay, enjoyed some late afternoon kayaking, and returned for the Mexican buffet and enjoyed another evening with our new found friends. Doug, Penny the manager, and Steve the owner talked long and hard about their need for a good fly fisherman, which is one of Doug's points of expertise. Who knows where this will go. Penny, the manager told us about her daughter Pam's restaurant in Placencia, Rum Fish y Vino, and we agreed to check it out. Look for us in the t-shirts to mark the rum fish adventure in the Facebook album. More about this later in the blog.

Our next sailing day was a long, broad reach south to Pelican Cay. The morning was fraught with very light wind, but as par for sailing here, the winds picked up by mid-day, and we had a nice sail into the motoring only area that led us past hidden sand bars to the Pelican Islands, which are primarily mangroves and some sand.  Doug and I stood on the deck, reading the sand bars, which were glaringly apparent in brilliant greens and blues.  We made it through the treachery of sand pits, and settled in the Pelican Cay cove, which is nestled in a circle of mangrove islands.  The four of us first explored the area in the dinghy, and most of the islands were either for sale, deserted, or empty, except for mangroves.  We noticed a palapa on one island, sticking out of the palm height of the mangroves and other taller trees. A little further down we saw a dock, and were greeted by a spry young lady, who tied our dinghy to the dock, then invited us up for a tour of the Ingersoll Hideaway. 

Kim and Dustin, two young people from the U.S. who had bought the island, built a bar, house, and cabana for guests. We joined Kim for a drink, and agreed to come back for dinner that night.  Just like in the more expanded coco plum resort, this place had no menu, just what the cook was preparing.  Kim offered conch fritters and snapper, so we were in.  The buildings they had on the property were on stilts that had been drilled into the mangrove. The roof was thatched by the Mayans from the mainland, and the rest of the walkways over the mangroves, and house construction was completed by Kim and Dustin. What impressed us the most about these mangrove pioneers was their sense of balance, kindness, and willingness to give an idea a try. They had lived on a sailboat for 14 years in Florida, and finally gave up on this because of the condominium idea had encroached on the boating life. They struck out, built a utopia of sorts, and were living off the sea, seafaring folks, and finding a way to make it in a more natural setting.  They have been up and running since November and seem very content.

After this fine adventure, the rest of our sailing trip was being on the boat, bringing it back into the dock, and spending a day and night in Placencia.  In the evening, we ventured to Penny's daughter's restaurant, Rum Fish y vino.  This was an amazing find. There were four types of mojitos, excellent fish appetizers, and fresh snapper with mango sauce. We had a glorious evening with Doug and Janet, regaling stories about the trip, visiting with the owners, visiting with folks from Colorado, one of whom was interested in fly fishing and the other in sailing.  We were so taken that we bought matching tshirts, and even wore them to breakfast at Larubeja for pictures the next day.

The trip ended with three flights and a van ride to Antigua, and for both of us, it was great to be home.  The cool air of the mountains was a welcome respite after a week of sun, heat, and humidity.  We are back, readying ourselves for the festivities of semana Santa, observing at the school, and reuniting with our Spanish teachers. All is well here, hope it is the same for you and yours. Pictures of the trip will be posted on Jeanne's facebook sometime in the next day or so.  jt

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