25 YEARS AGO ON AMBERGRIS CAYE BY ANGEL NUÑEZ
Our World Famous Skindivers
Last week I touched on some of the tough aspects of the life of a skin diver like the absence of having a fresh water bath or sleeping on the deck of the boat wrapped up in the sail. Adventurous you might say, but that is tough living. Today I have a few more thoughts of a skin diver 25 years ago when Caribena Fishing Cooperative was in its prime and they were out there at Glover’s Reef and Turneffe.
Antonio thought about the three large and fluffy lobster claws that he had gotten for his girlfriend Patty. He was going to take it to Chetumal where the jeweler was going to make a fine pendant for Patty and perhaps he would also make a key ring for his mom. When Patty wears the perfumed pendant, she would surely remember him all the time when he was away.
Pedrito meditates as he lies on deck to try to sleep. Boy, how lucky was I to have found that large pink conch pearl for Rosita. She will be so glad! I wonder if she will make a ring or a pendant with it. If I should find another one tomorrow, I will send to make a pair of earrings and give it to Rosita for her birthday.
Senor Rodolfo also had his thoughts that night. Man, I already have those 20 pairs of grouper roe (spawn or eggs) that my wife asked me for. I am tired of eating fish roe, but for her, it will be a treat. I am sure she will give 2 pairs to her mom and two to her “comadre”, and perhaps send a few pairs to her Tia Dora in Belize City. I will salt or corn half of them and keep the other ten pairs in the ice box and eat them fresh, fried with onions and eggs and some “chaya” in it. Yes, that San Pedro chaya is better than spinach.
A young and unseasoned 15 year-old skin diver has his fears. Goodness gracious, that shark that swam over me today must have been 15 feet long. Maybe it was ten feet cause things do look bigger underwater, but I was scared for a moment. I remember Mr. Wilber being bitten by one. Almost took off his hands! And my partner tells me not to be afraid because they do not attack unless they are hungry. Hell, they always look hungry to me. Boy, I must have held my breath for at least five minutes waiting for that shark to swim away. I hope I never see another one that close and that big.
In the month of December another young skin diver has his thoughts. Goodness gracious, that water is very cold. It is cold enough to sleep wrapped up in that sail, but to dive at 7 a.m. is to much. That water feels like it is ready to freeze and when you come up and the breeze hits you, it feels like you will freeze. Sure wish I were home with my Paulita in our cozy bedroom. Anyway, when I get home it will be to celebrate Christmas and the New Year so it will mean at least 12 days in San Pedro. It will feel like a honeymoon. I’m gonna live it up like a king.
Edwardo finally has his thoughts. Our ice box is almost full of lobster tails. Two more days and we shall have our expected catch of 1,600 pounds of lobster tails. Each crew member will earn his 500 dollars for sure. Will use 75 bucks for food bills and order 100 dollars of lumber to change all the flooring of my house. Will pay 100 dollars towards my new Johnson outboard motor and still have 225 to save in the Credit Union. This month surely was a good month. November is cold weather, but it surely brings out the lobsters and our catch will be even better. I with every month was like this. Nothing like skin diving. You are independent and the income is great.
And thus, anchored some 500 feet from the coast of a caye, a tired fisherman finishes his supper at 6:30 p.m. After not having a shower, and after the salt water dries on his bare back, he lies on the deck of this 22 foot fishing boat, looks at the endless starry night and lets his imagination go wild. But soon tiredness and sleep take over.