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A Pier Full Of Memories

Of course the inauguration of the new marina for Ambergris Caye does ring memories for me. A new marina, Wow! It is actually the first marina, not a new one. We have never had a marina. We have had one main pier from which all our transport and cargo was handled. Of course now we need a marina for the amount of cargo that comes to Ambergris Caye is tremendous. Now let us look at our pier, 25 years ago.

The pier was a wooden pier and it extended about 50 feet out into the sea, more or less in front of Daddy’s Club by the beach. Only one cargo boat docked at this pier in the 1960’s, and it was the Elsa P. owned by Mr. Felipe Paz better known as Tio Pil. On Monday Tio Pil started loading his boat with empty lemonade bottles from Chavannes or Bradleys Bottling Works. If you wanted four cases of lemonade, you had to send in your four empty cases. He also took your orders for groceries, canned goods, lumber, nail, etc. Tio Pil also purchased coconuts, which he took and sold in Belize City. On his way to the city, Tio Pil also took along passengers, most of whom could go free, but a fee of two dollars was generally charged. These passengers would sleep on deck, or on top of the lemonade bottles, or wherever they could find a nice space.

Now for the story of the pier, for it is beginning to sound like a story of the Elsa P. Well, they are closely related. Once the Elsa P. put out its cargo on the main pier, the villagers were required to remove it as soon as possible so that the cargo would not cause annoyance to the fishing vessels, which could arrive anytime with a load of fish, conch or lobster. A sack of rice or beans or sugar, all one hundred pounds each, had to be transported by shoulder from the main dock to the store. Every square inch of lumber, every box of merchandise was moved on the shoulder. Thank goodness the farthest store was only three blocks away for the storekeeper and his family had to make some ten trips before all the cargo was hauled.

The main pier was also the best swimming area in the village and in the evenings, the children would delight in jumping off the pier and swimming in the neighborhood. On Sundays, the pier was filled to capacity the teenagers and their dates also came to enjoy the view, the children and the ambience. The main pier was also a very good fishing spot. School children gathered at different spots to cast their lines for a catch of snapper, grouper, and the grunts. When the snapper was “running” during the cold months of November, villagers gathered at this main pier from three in the morning, and by dawn or six in the morning each fisherman or boy had a bucketful of snappers. That made a great breakfast of fresh fried snappers or an even greater lunch of “chechac” or fish soup with recado and tomatoes.

Though the main pier was made of wooden planks, it lasted for quite some years, and the village council along with volunteer Sanpedranos repaired it frequently. After it was destroyed by some bad storm, the government would usually send more lumber to have it repaired. The arrival of jeeps and vehicles to the island started adding a lot of pressure to the wooden pier. It deteriorated even faster, and parts of it were replaced with concrete slabs. Then the island grew and commerce grew and the amount of cargo unloaded at this main pier became an ugly sight and a traffic nuisance. We hear that there are attractive plans to convert it into a very scenic and romantic tourist attraction that will serve yachts etc. First we have to educate our cargo boats to use the new marina and then build up into our main pier to make it an attractive little spot right into the middle of town. Hope no one wants to open up a restaurant or diving operation right there as we have seen happen at so many piers. Hope it will not be put up for sale. Hope it can remain a part of San Pedro’s tradition.

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