I am pretty sure that the owner of the Moorings 4800 catamaran did not have this in mind when he named his boat Endless Options. With nine women on board between the ages of 43 and (gulp) 67, it was quickly renamed Endless Estrogen.
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Back in November, Betsy and I put our heads together and decided to do this trip to Belize, a place I nearly moved to 16 years ago and have been hankering to go back to. As soon as the word went out, all bunks were filled and it became clear right away that it would be a an all-girls trip.
Organizing and planning and confirming our assignment for Sailing Magazine continued right up to our departure. Anxious to get out of the nasty Pacific Northwest winter, I flew south to Southern California a week prior to our flight out of LAX to Belize City. A few days with Ryan and then the few days before departure with Betsy in Santa Barbara, where we put the finishing touches (sort of) to our trip.
First stop was to pick up Jane, one of our crew who drove with us to the airport. We dropped the car at La Quinta where we would stay on our return, hopped on the hotel shuttle and made it to the Delta gate with time to spare. Feeling like naughty schoolgirls, we slipped into the ladies room before security for a quick nip on the gin Betsy had hidden in a flask! We certainly got some funny looks as we sipped and slugged away!
After a long red-eye on Delta, we arrived in Belize City at 7:30 am. without so much as a cup of coffee on the flight. I have never been on a 4:45 hour flight without any sort of service! And after not getting even two hours of sleep I was ready for some caffeine. Which we did find, but not the kind of coffee us spoiled American girls wanted. Try lukewarm water with a spoonful of local instant coffee in a styrofoam cup, heated in a microwave! It came from a tiny little food stand within the Tropic Air departure lounge. Marginal!
Two other crew appeared while we were fueling up at the Duty Free liquor store. Tina and Lu Ann had arrived on an earlier flight and were booked on a later puddle jumper for Placencia, the Moorings base. The half-hour flight down, with three of us in the back of the bus, er plane, took us low over the mangrove-lined coastline, which peeked out from the low clouds. But the water was dazzling - brilliant, clear turquoise and shades of blue. I noticed a lot of development along the shoreline of the peninsula and sad to see the mangroves being torn up for houses and marinas.
The dirt runway in Placencia has water both ends - quite an incentive to hit it just right. No problem!
But first getting to our hotel, the Paradise Hotel and Resort was via a beat up old taxi that dropped us at the end of a gravel pathway. Have you ever tried rolling a wheelie bag along gravel? It doesn't work well and by the time we made the couple of hundred yard haul, we were soaking, sweating like crazy. The room was basic and three of us shared it. The redeeming factor at that time was the free welcome rum punch which we consumed in the open air bar, with it's overhead fans and lovely view of the water. By this time it was lunch time and I had the local stew chicken with rice and beans which was surprisingly good.
I'm a lousy napper, but the others all had snoozes on the lounges by the water. I ended up floating with some of the local little girls who are so friendly and not filled with the "don't talk to strangers" admonitions the Americans have drummed into their children's heads. They wanted me to take pictures of them and then I allowed one of them to take pictures of them with me! Very cute.
Betsy and I went for our fact-filled chart briefing at the Moorings base later in the afternoon - a lot of info and of course masses of questions and astonishment and several raised eyebrows from the men in the briefing (also going out on charters) when they found out Betsy is the captain and me first mate!
Dinner at De Tatch (The Thatch, we discovered ) right on the beach in Placencia that came well-recommended and definitely worth it. That was the beginning of the Caribbean drink exploration that continued throughout the charter! Fortunately, we had stocked up at the Duty Free store at the airport, so there wasn't a dry day on the boat!
By this time, I was really dragging but the others wanted to stop at Tipsy Tuna as there was a fireman's benefit going on and as we had made an agreement that we would go with a buddy system whenever we went anywhere, I was outnumbered. So we stayed for a while - the music was actually pretty good, rock and roll and not really appreciated by the younger ones in the group!
By the time we left, the sidewalk through town was almost deserted and we walked back to the boat, passing by some dodgy bars and dark areas along the shore. But we navigated our way home to the Paradise Resort and fell into bed, looking forward to a new day in Belize.