25 YEARS AGO ON AMBERGRIS CAYE BY ANGEL NUÑEZ
Famous Markers, Funny Markers
When you live at the mercy of Mother Nature, you need natural markers to know where you are, or what time it is, or where to go or not to go. Forty years ago, in the absence of television, radios, clocks, telephone, and other gadgets, there was the need of special markers to assist in oneís life. Here are some famous markers used in San Pedro in the 1960ís.
A fisherman could simply look at the sky and tell what time of the morning or afternoon it was. It is very simple. You simply have to divide the sky into half a circle. If the sun is right in the middle of the sky, it is midday. One fourth of the way it is nine in the morning. From there you can divide the sky into equal parts of one hour each. Fishermen used to be able to tell with good accuracy the time of the day. It was said that some could tell if it was 10: 30 or 10: 45 with close accuracy. What do you think if I tell you that some guys could even give you the seconds? No need for a clock, right?
Large protruding corals along the reef were used by lobster trap fishermen to mark the spots where their traps commenced, or the good spots, or where his fishing waters ended. Other things used as markers by the same fisherman were patches of grassy seabeds, large pine trees on land, a tall coconut tree, or a very crooked coconut tree. No need for buoys, brother.
On the way from Chetumal to San Pedro by sea, sailors marked their way into the cut to the lagoon by three giant pine trees that could be seen several miles away. Similarly, these trees were used by navigating sailors coming back to San Pedro from their fishing expeditions at Gloverís Reef or Turneffe. At the entrance of Boca del Rio, there was a very narrow and shallow waterway. A pimento tree with leaves was usually placed on both sides of the canal to indicate the navigable waterway so as not to get stuck in the shallow water. Pimento palms were also stuck on several patches of corals that were close to the surface and dangerous to sailors.
The North Star, a shinny star in the north, was used by sailors traveling by night. It indicated sailing in a northerly direction. So from Belize City to San Pedro, one always made sure that the bow of the boat was pointing towards the North Star. No need for a compass, eh? Once you cleared Caye Caulker, then you could spot one bright light and it came from Papa Blakeís house, then to become Barrier Reef Hotel and now The Alliance Bank. That light was a beacon to many night travelers.
FUNNY MARKERS: One certain fisherman is said to have marked his fishing spot with a pelican perched on a log on the reef. Great idea, right? Another guy is said to have marked an area of his lobster traps by using a perfectly round cloud that was directly east of him. A genius, right? Another fisherman whose name I will not mention claimed to have passed the North Star and literally had the star at the stern of his boat when he woke up after a few hours of sailing. What do you think happened there? I donít know where this marker came from, but the island kids used to measure distance like this: From the main pier to Boca del Rio- one mile. From the Primary school to La Ensenada now San Telmo- one mile. From there we calculated how many miles we traveled north or south of the village.
So what do you think of the markers used 25 years a go? What are the markers used today? The sun is still there and very reliable? What are the main landmarks? Weíll look at them in the next 25 years, that is, if you are still around.