25 YEARS AGO ON AMBERGRIS CAYE BY ANGEL NUÑEZ
Very Windy Days, Horrible or Beautiful?
How do you see strong winds and rough seas today? Windy days can really spoil your day. It could mean that you cannot go outside the reef to your favorite sport fishing. It could ground even an expert captain like Hilliboo. It could also mean that the sea is too murky for scuba diving. Even an expert dive master like Eddy Alamilla would be obliged to tell his eager divers, “I’m sorry, it is too windy and murky!” Windy days could also spoil your beach activities like a picnic or barbecue because everyone would be eating sand. Indeed, windy days can be very miserable.
However, windy days 25 years ago could also mean good business, especially for the children of the village. And how could this be? You see, when someone lost a coin in San Pedro’s very sandy streets back then, it was money that was buried very deep in the soft sand and it was almost impossible to locate that coin. The same was true of lost rings, earrings, and necklaces. But on windy days, (25 knots) many sandy streets were blown away right down to the hard crust. And those large “coppers” or one cent pieces were easy to locate; and so it was easy to locate the ¼ dollar or shilling and the ½ dollar or fifty cent coin.
Early in the morning of a windy day, the children would be seen by the street corners looking for these lost coins or valuable pieces of jewelry. Trust me, finding a 50 cent piece twenty five years ago was a real joy. A 50 cent piece was like Christmas. That could purchase a coke for 10 cents, ice with syrup (fresco) for 2 cents, pepitos for 5 cents, biscuits at 2 for 5 cents, spearmints at 5 cents a pack of five pieces, or a large chocolate bar for 15 cents. That was a pretty large buy and you would still have some change for the following day. Don’t even talk about fights when two boys or girls spotted a ½ dollar at the same time. Boys were willing to defend their precious finding with teeth, hair, and skin.
Windy days also gave the children an opportunity to play “airplane”. Any piece of cardboard cut and twisted in the shape an airplane propeller with a pin punched through the center did the job. Children would run all about the streets towards the wind and the propellers would spin in full force. The children also made the sound of an airplane engine as they ran along.
One more thing, windy days also gave us children an opportunity to race in the sea. Every child, whose father was a fisherman, had his little canoe or dory rigged up with a sail and rudder, and nothing delighted the boys more than windy days when they could have a lot of fun racing their dories. Normally we used to go down the beach to gather coconut husk or firewood, but on calm days it meant having to use a pole or a paddle and that was a lot of work. For children, sailing was a lot of fun and windy days gave us the perfect opportunity.
However, perhaps the best blessing of a windy day was the hope that the stormy seas would fill up the fishing traps with snapper, grunt, shads, or lobster or whatever was in season at the time of the rough weather. Fishermen always believed that stormy seas caused “movement” of fish, bringing them closer to the shoreline. A full load of fish in the trap would fill the boat’s well and it meant a good trip to Belize City to sell the product. This brought happiness to the entire family since daddy would return from Belize City with cash, meat (mostly beef), vegetables, buns, loaves of bread and even gifts for the children, who were assistants at the fish trap.
As we can appreciate, though windy days did bring some measure of discomfort, they were very special to most people in San Pedro 25 years ago. Windy days were so important that fishermen and their families even had several superstitions on how to bring wind on calm days. Stay tuned next week for this amusing episode on creating wind or breeze.