The Heron H. passenger and freight boat, long ago
The Heron H was a passenger and freight boat that went to the Southern Districts of Belize. Built by Dwight Hunter in the 1920's, this popular passenger and Cargo vessel was an essential means of transport from Belize City to Southern Belize prior to the construction of the Southern Highway. In the 1950's, Captain Jack was running it and the whistle blew at 6am. I remember the rice and corn beef they served on board. It was mostly white with Grey lines horizontally and copper red on the bottom. Mr. Buster Hunter and the Hunter family were the owners of the Heron H.
Leter, Captain was Fred Garbutt and his brother Oswald Garbutt was the captain of the Maya Prince. Famous Brown Man with his mule and cart was their brother as well.
There was that blaring sound from the horn whenever the Boats were arriving or leaving the Pier, and the clanging of bell signals from the Captain to the engineer below to throttle or slow down the engines.
Before the southern highway was completed, transportation from PG to Belize City was only by boat, including the Heron H., Maya Prince, Cubbs Arm, and Honduran, E.M.L. Transportation within Punta Gorda was mostly wheelbarrow which served as a sort of taxi for cargo, and bicycles (used mainly by men, and admired by women if you have one). Cars in town were very rare and could have only been shipped to from Belize City by boat. There were trucks for passengers, freight, and logging. There were Caterpillar tractors and a few Jeeps or Land Rovers for work uses (owned by chicle and logging people, I like the Espats.) But a nice comfortable car? PG never had such a luxury until Mr Carlton Johnson took the plunge and graced the streets of PG with one around 1960. Up until May 1962, it was still the only car there.
They made one trip a week. The boat would arrive on one day, offload and load on the next day and depart the day after that. Heron H arrived on Tuesdays and departed Thursday's (Mr John Noralez, Sr. was the 2nd captain in command. Mr Fred Garbutt was the 1st captain.) then Honduran arrived Fridays departed Sundays. There were locally constructed wheelbarrows transporting luggage from the wharf and red skirts on the Wharf to pick up mails. The journey by sea in those days took about 18 hours, stopping along the way at Punta Negra, Monkey River, Plascencia Seine Bight, Stann Creek then Belize City in the morning.
The Maya Prince, by the way, only substituted for the Heron H, while she went on dry dock for regular overhaul each year. Both vessels kept the same precise schedule:
Left Belize - Sat. 1 pm
Arrive PG - Sun. 6 am
Left PG - Sun. 4 pm
Arrive Bz - Mon.8 am
Left Belize - Tue. 1 pm
Arrived PG -Wed. 6am
Left PG - Wed.11am for Puerto Barrios. Return to PG - Thu. 6am
Left. PG - Thu. ? pm (Can't remember)
Arrive Bz - Fri. ? am. (Can't remember)
A regular transport between Belize City and PG in the 1960s before the Southern Highway was built. Israel Penglass was chief mechanic on that boat. It was a key form of transportation throughout Belize from Belize to other parts of Central America. The Heron was always always packed. many things were going on aboard.
I remember traveling on it to Stann Creek as a kid. My vague memory includes an overnight trip and sleeping on a bunk bed on the boat. Nice tasty food on request. There was the Belizean Queen as well, no?
On this Boat a Stammerer learned to sing. - An intoxicated passenger fell over board on a night trip. - The only person that saw this was a person with a speech impairment ( Stammerer ) - He ran to Mr. John Ayuso, the Purser to make a report but couldn't make it. - So Mr Ayuso slapped him on his back and shouted- " " Sing it man " - - the atammerer sang - " ONE MAN FALL OVER BOARD - The Heron turned around and saved the drunk.
The Captain, Mr Fredrick Garbutt, was from Monkey River, came to the City early 1900.His brother Oswald Garbutt also was the Captain,Andrew nd myself traveled to River '69 summer on that boat. When the "Heron" got in it's old age, it docked at Davis boat yard on North Front St. We used to jump off the Heron H into the murky river as it lay rotting in the Belize river at Davis boatyard.
We used to ride the Heron H quite a bit going to Mango Creek where my sister lived with her husband. The company was called Brown and Root I think. The Heron was always a pleasant ride.
We lived by the old Custom's House at Fort Point, right in front where it docked, and whenever the Heron H came in, it blew its horn and I would go hide under the bed!!!
My mom travelled on it when she was six years old, from Stann Creek to Belize City. Took like two or three days to get there.
It was a long slow ride!
I remember when going back to Belize City from PG the loading of shrieking pigs in the cargo hole. Also we would sit on the deck on anything there. They had bunks for the first class passengers to sleep. I remember the galley and the dining area.
Ernesto Acosta Sr:
I travelled on the HERON H the first time in 1947 & 1948 ... then almost every year afterward untill 1957 when i moved to Puerto Cortes... In those days the purser was John Ayuso from Ayuso Brothers at the Corner of New Road and Victoria St... the Chief Steward was Mr. Richard (Dick) Flowers... a wonderful trip back and fort stopping along the way until we dived under the waves of the Gulf of Honduras...
Tom Greenwood Sr.:
My Dad was transferred as a customs boat officer to Punta Gorda and I often as a child travelled with him aboard the Heron H on the Belize city to Punta Gorda and back. No proper road transport at the time. It was an overnight run and absolutely beautiful. The moonlit runs I remember to this day.
I was the Heron H that we used to get to Placencia. My family did summer vacations in Placencia in the early 1970s. I recall us loading up all our stuff/supplies and boarded Heron H. I recall sleeping in a room on a bunk bed on the boat. Listening to the hum and vibration of the engine. We always arrived in Placencia very late at night and I don't recall much unloading. I do recall being tired (I was may 10 at the time) and following people who carried the supplies in wheel barrows down the Placencia sidewalk.
We rode the Heron H. every year from Belize to "False Bight" (now Maya Beach) for vacation when our grandmother had a coconut plantation there.
I went on it when it landed in Dangiga or Punta Gorda, it was a family affair kudos to the engineers like the late John B Noralez Sr.
Judy Locke Alpuche:
Mode of travel to a from Punta Gorda slept in a berth, bunks.
It was a very good experience unless if you get seasick You had your bunk bed, you could buy food in the cafeteria and relax.
Top photograph courtesy Noel Escalante
Click here to comment on this picture.