25 YEARS AGO ON AMBERGRIS CAYE BY ANGEL NUÑEZ
Boat building is an art that is self-taught in Belize and though Caulker has had a wider exposure and fame in boat building, San Pedro does have its credits to boast of.
Let us go back many years ago in San Pedro in the 1950’s when Mr. Maurice Bladen (+) lived in San Pedro with his entire family and made his living from this interesting art- boat building. Mista Maurice, as he was called by everyone, lived right on the beach where Holiday Hotel is now located and there he had fabricated wood sailing boats, cargo boats and fishing boats. If he got his hands on a large log he would even carve out a dory or a ‘dugout’, as they were popularly known. Boat owners also hauled their boats at Mista Maurice’s place for periodical repairs. On an interesting note Mista Maurice not only fabricated boats but children as well. When he moved from San Pedro to Belize City to continue his trade there, he already had eighteen children. One of his daughters and several grandchildren and great grandchildren still live in San Pedro.
Another shipwright that built several small sailing boats was Mr. Andres Manrique (+) who was dad of my beloved Tia Marcia (RIP). With a box load of all hand tools and a few giant iron clamps, he meticulously assembled part after part to come up with some beautifully designed mahogany boats. He was also the first boat builder to come out with a mahogany wood skiff.
Maurice Bladen and Andres Manrique, San Pedro Boat Builders
Miguel Alamilla, Gonzalo Munoz and Aldo Marin, San Pedro Boat Builders
Then there were three very talented boat builders, Miguel Alamilla and Gonzalo Muñoz Sr., and Aldo Marin, who built dozens of mahogany skiffs in the 1970’s and 1980’s. This was the period when lobster fishing was at its highest peak and there was a high demand of these small skiffs to be used with 25 and 40 horsepower outboard engines. Alamilla, Muñoz and Marin, who were also fishermen, fabricated these skiffs right downstairs of their houses as their second source of income.
Norman Eiley, Boat Builder
Finally there is a very talented carpenter and furniture maker, Norman Eiley, who was never a fisherman but fabricated a skiff for himself to commence his new venture into tourist guiding. And the good news is that today, when the industry and art of building skiffs has been taken over by fiberglass skiffs, Norman Eiley is once again building a large mahogany skiff which I suppose will soon be floating and cruising around Ambergris Caye. “Years Ago in San Pedro” salutes our very own talented shipwrights for their contributions to the industry and art that boat building is.