T wenty-five years ago, no one got hit by a speed boat because there were scarcely any of those fast boats on the island. Most of the sea travelling was done by wind Power- the sailing boats.
A regular sailing trip from San Pedro to Belize City was about 5 to 6 hours. The Elsa P., with its Sailboats anchored at the mouth of the giant sails for hauling cargo, boasted a 4-hour trip to the city. But it was an 8-hour journey on its return with cargo.
If a boat was caught in a dead calm, it could be anything between 20 to 24 hours to complete the journey. Most fishing boats were equipped with cooking facilities since at times preparing lunch or supper was necessary. Similarly, if you were unlucky and got caught in a headwind, that was another very long and extremely boring expedition. It was nerve wrecking seeing San Pedro in the horizon and taking 3 or 4 hours to get there.
In the days of sailing boats, there were interesting boat races held. Baron Bliss Day served as a perfect day to settle many disputes about "fast sailing boats." Today it is a matter of who has the largest engines, but in the "sailing days" it was a matter of great boat builders giving your vessel the perfect depth, shape and contour. It also meant having a perfect sail. Maurice Bladen, a local shipwright now living in Belize City, had the fame of the best-streamlined boats. And Don Francisco Arceo had the fame of creating the perfect sails-the one with the right shape and pocket to hold in 100% of the breeze.
Sunday afternoons also provided an ideal setting for the young boys to get into their boats, load them up with girls and friends and sail the afternoon away. It was picturesque and romantic spending Sunday afternoons in front of the San Pedro fishing village.
Twenty or thirty sailing vessels used to leave San Pedro all on the same day for a 15 day fishing trip to Glover's Reef or Turneffe. San Pedro then became empty, and solitude took over as wives and girlfriends counted the days anxiously awaiting the return of their men. A tiny white sail in the horizon would be the first indication of an arriving vessel as ladies took to the beach. Some of the wives and girlfriends knew their men's boats by the color or shape of the sail, a flag, or perhaps by the smell of the boat or fishermen aboard.
And when there were stormy days and the struggle was between man and the sea, wives would light tip their candles and men would lower the main sail to cruise the open seas beyond the reef using only the front small sail know as the "Jib." They were masters of the sea and sailing was a way of life. One time a fisherman boasted sailing from Glover's Reef to San Pedro during the night and entering the channel (break) at 3 a.m. What a trek!
Yes, many boats did overturn. And still today we have many mishaps. No one is to blame. These are simply accidents, which prove that progress brings some problems. problems. But problems are there for men to solve, and solve them they will.