“Boat Drinks” in San Pedro, Ambergris Caye, Belize.

Yesterday morning after producing and publishing the edition of the blog from my ‘office’ on the western (lagoon) side of the house I was tempted (oh how I was tempted) to drive to ‘Town for breakfast at Estel’s. But I didn’t have time for that (but you’ve go loads of time you’re thinking). No, Rose and I had stuff to do. We had to revise the Belize Port Authority’s Mariners’ Handbook.


THE book.

Why would you want to do that when you’ve got a fence to cover with protector you are wondering. Well, number one it was raining. Number two, I didn’t particularly feel like getting the brush out anyway. But, and more importantly, Rose and I were scheduled to take the Theory section of the test/exam for a Master’s License that, once successfully taken, will enable us to drive a powered boat in Belize waters.

A few years ago I would have had no problem in reading and memorising the booklet. Virtually word by word, line by line. But a combination of an absence of regularly using my brain this way and increasing age ((and diminishing grey cells – compensated for (not) by increasing amounts of grey hair!)) has all but taken this attribute away from me. So, unlike years gone by, it was a matter of reading the booklet again and again. And again.

Learning the content of the booklet really shouldn’t have been so difficult . When Rose and I lived in the UK we had the pleasure of owning a boat (OK an inland, river cruiser – but the principles are essentially the same) for over twenty years. In fact had we not moved to Belize we would have it to this day.


Our old boat, Marbel.

We set off with trepidation at 14.10 hours (cannot be precise because I didn’t have the alarm clock with me – it stays in the bedroom) for Caribbean Villas Hotel where the test was scheduled for 15.00 hours. We didn’t want to risk being late and fail to take the test.

As it transpired we didn’t need to arrive so early because Austin Martinez, the Examiner from the Port of Belize, didn’t arrive until around 16.00 hours, however, once he had arrived things moved fairly quickly. In our case he needed to see our QRP (Qualified Retirement Program) identity cards, proof that we had paid our Property Tax and a utility bill. Once he had verified that these were in ‘good order’ we were approved to take the test. A similar (it varies only slightly for a Resident or Citizen of Belize) process was undertaken for the other three people taking the test and then he handed out the test papers to each of us but before doing so he made sure that none of us were sitting too close to each other. As if we would attempt to cheat!!!!

The ‘paper contained twenty-five questions, around half of them being multiple choice answers, and I rattled through them fairly quickly but had a ‘senior moment’ for one of the questions which, for the life of me, I could not remember the answer to. Knowing that I had definitely got one question wrong I had in my completed ‘paper hoping that I would achieve the required seventy percent success rate (I needed to get at least eighteen answers right).

Within minutes of handing in my ‘paper I knew that I had answered one of the questions incorrectly – another senior moment – but I was still reasonably confident of achieving the required number of right answers.

When everyone had handed in their completed ‘papers, Austin, who had moved to a corner of the bar well away from us all, set about checking and marking them and after around fifteen minutes rejoined us to announce the results. Both Rose and I achieved pass marks of eighty-eight percent but after we had reviewed our respective papers felt that Austin had made an error when marking them. We brought this to his attention, pointing out the questions he had marked as wrong when they were right, and after reviewing the answers (to different questions I might add) we had each given he agreed that he had marked them incorrectly so we both moved up to a ninety-two percent success rate and had comfortably passed the theory test.

We now need to take the practical test (the test itself and the practice for it will be covered in future editions) and pass it for us to be licensed to drive motor powered boats up to thirty-four feet in length. I am so looking forward to being on water again, loading up a cooler with boat drinks (Coca Cola of course) and getting some fishing in.

Buoyed with the success of passing the theory test Rose and I celebrated on the way home with a Belikin (or three!)

This morning , not having to worry about revising, I spent some very pleasurable time on the veranda ( I got out there shortly after 04.00 hours – a consequence of going to bed around 22.30 hours the previous night) until the rain started to come down. And I mean COME DOWN.

View from the veranda in the rain this morning.


Looking north-west.


Looking west.


Looking east.

Even though it was absolutely bucketing down (raining heavily for non UK readers) I decided to brave the elements and head to Estel’s for breakfast.

The journey took a little longer though because the road to the bridge was ‘holding’ the rain.


Road in front of Legends Burger House

And in front of Reef Village.



I was pleased that when I got to Estel’s it was fairly empty and I got to choose a table, one near the door. And this proved to be a good choice when the rain came down again.


Nearly everyone at the front of the deck and those sitting at tables on the sides moved inside to avoid the heavy rain. Not this guy though, he just opened his umbrella!


I’ll close today’s edition with another of the photos from yesteryear that Melissa and Ken Fellure gave me. This one of the old hand-pulled ferry


which was in operation until 2006 when the Boca del Rio Bridge (subsequently renamed the Sir Barry Bowen Bridge) was built.


Where the hand pulled barge used to operate and where the ‘Bridge stands today.

The headline for today’s edition is based on the single released (as the B-side) in 1979 by Jimmy Buffett. The song (or the A-side) never made the charts but is considered to be one of Buffett’s most popular songs.


  1. Steve Ward says:

    Congrats on passing the boat theory test John, I did mine here in Sydney about a year ago. Boating is fab.
    Marbel looked great!
    Great blog

    1. Thanks Steve. I would imagine that the test in Australia is a bit more demanding than here.

      Once the practical test is ‘out of the way’ we will start looking around for a boat. Then the fishing starts!

      Hope that all is good for you in Australia.

  2. Emily says:

    The photos of the road in front of “The Hotel” (that never was one) and Reef Village surely took me back, and as bad as it sometimes was during rainy seasons in 2010-2011-2012, I daresay I’ve never seen it quite that bad even at the peak of rainy season, and especially not in late January, which is supposed to be dry season! I really feel for the workers who have to commute by bike from San Pedro Town to resorts north of the bridge when the road is completely flooded. There is literally nowhere high and dry to ride in places where riding on the beach is not an option (like in front of Reef Village), and they are often wearing nice clothing for their jobs. What a mess! Thanks for sharing the photos and hope the rains stop soon.

    1. Hi Emily. I’ve never experienced rain like this all the time we have been coming to Belize.
      As to the workers you mention, I couldn’t agree more. I also feel for the building workers that have ‘lost’ more days than normal ie when it rains there is no build and no build = no pay.

  3. footballbat says:

    Hi John,

    Good on you both for working toward your license and getting back on the water. There’s no place better with the barrier reef and smooth, crystal clear water all around.

    Every time I see a photo of standing water in front of Reef Village a ‘flood’ of memories comes back. During our visit in 2011 the road was completely covered there (as it is in your photo) and as we tried to find our way through by sticking to the side of the road, we stalled out in what turned out to be a 2 ft deep rut. I climbed out in the down pour and pushed the cart (& my wife) to dryer ground. Luckily we were able to continue our journey to Palapa Bar. Not so lucky on the way back, The air filter had gotten soaked during our submergence & we were unable to get back. We called for rescue and the good folks at Xanadu & Carts Belize arrived within an hour and swapped us into a new ride free of charge.

    There seems to be one plus for you with all this rain, it appears that a low spot has been revealed between the house and the gate. 🙂

    1. Hi Derek. The stretch of road around Reef Village can be particularly ‘nasty’. Lots of deep holes.

      As the areas in our garden needing landfill, there are quite a few spots and I have photos of all of them. Now just need to get them filled. When it stops raining!

  4. Louise Gow says:

    I had no idea we would need a license to drive own/use a boat there. A boat is part of our plans – we too have one in the UK – which we will sadly sell when we move over there. I wonder if our UK credentials will work!!

    1. Hi Louise. You will need both a Masters’ License and a license for the boat.
      If you like I will photograph the relevant pages of the handbook and email them to you.
      By the way, I finished reading Forward Arsenal last week (I purposely dragged it out). Just as enjoyable as it was all those years ago. Thank you.

  5. Congratulations on passing the test John. A boat just seems to be he next logical extension for you and Rose. The amount of rain certainly seems extraordinary this year (or this season). Is it unusual? We had a most productive day selling of possessions. We were swamped with bargain hunters all morning and cleared out about half the unwanted “stuff” left in his house! Still shooting for Feb. 7-8 . Thinking I should pack the raincoats closer to the top of the bag …….
    Met a guy today who was a pilot aboard a British aircraft carrier in 1972 when they were called off a trip into New York harbor to defend Belize from a Guatemalan invasion.

    1. Thanks Bob. The challenges now (presupposing that we pass the practical test) will be finding a boat (with engine) at a reasonable price. And then keeping it ie it is not stolen.
      As to the rain, I have never experienced anything like this in our years of visiting. The water tank is full again.
      Pleased to learn that the clearance is going well. Look forward to seeing you both in around two weeks. And yes, put the rainwear at the top. Hopefully you won’t need it but …

  6. I loved the old ferry. We would actually walk from Journey’s End up North and take the ferry into San Pedro. Quite the experience.

    1. Hi Marsa. We did it in reverse by bike a few times but never walked it. It was, as you say, an experience. And a nice one.

  7. Erik Jensen says:

    Wow, lots of rain, good thing you’ll both be captain’s soon, you may need to build an ark!
    There sure seems to have been more rain this year; would you say an unusual amount John?

    1. Hi Erik. I haven’t looked at any records but I cannot believe that this has been abnormal year for rainfall. Our collection tank is full again.

  8. Sharyn says:

    John, I’m curious…why do you choose the lagoon (west) side for your morning coffee when the ocean (east) side would give you the sunrise? When it’s not raining, of course. 🙂

    1. Hi Sharyn. The western veranda is much, much larger for a start. It also doesn’t feel the north-east wind (when there is one ) as much. To watch the sunrise I just walk around the side of the house.

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