Thursday, November 28, 2013

Sapodilla Bay

Begonia arrives in Sapodilla Bay

We spent the day in and around Sapodilla Bay. We knew we wouldn't be right in the middle of the tourist trade there, but I think we were hoping we'd get to at least skirt the edge of it. We were in the mood for a little action after a week of being the only boat around, even in Sapodilla Bay.

Well, it turns out Customs and the loading docks are basically the only diversions around for miles. We had packed a bag with all sorts of contingency items in addition to our official paperwork in the hopes that we might find a small store or a little café or something along the way.

At Customs, we were second in line behind a guy who was trying to import a used car from Florida. His bill of sale was for $3,800, but the Customs guy wasn't having any of it. He checked the Blue Book value and then revalued the car at $5,000. This, of course, dramatically increased the import duty the guy had to pay, so he entered into a long back and forth with the Customs man that was less of an argument than a series of the same polite assertions over and over for thirty minutes. In the end, of course, the Customs guy won with his only small concession being that the young man could appeal to the downtown office if he chose.

We weren't in any particular hurry ourselves, but the mile or so walk from Sapodilla Bay had heated us up. This was enhanced by the fact that we were dressed up in "customs clothes", a long sleeved shirt and long pants for me and a dress for Maryanne. I haven't noticed that it seems to make a lot of difference with most, but the one Customs and Immigration Officer who sees shorts, a t-shirt and flip-flops as a sign of disrespect for his important position can make our lives really tough, so we generally don't take the chance. The inside of the small office was hot already and had no hint of airflow. I was constantly trying to discreetly wipe the sweat from my brow and not pass out onto the floor. I have no idea how people in hot countries survive the day dressed in suffocating polyester uniforms or business attire without soaking through everything.

When it was our turn, we paid our fee and stamp, stamp, stamp; we were finished in two minutes. We burst outside into the cooling breath of the trade winds. The only downside was that our wait had allowed the sun to climb higher in the sky, so it ended up being kind of a wash after the first few minutes.

On a search for a high spot to see just how for we were from anything, we found a convenience store along the way where we picked up a dozen eggs, a couple of cold sodas and a can of Pringles for just over $9. At the next crest on the same road, which was filled with trundling semis going back and forth to and from the docks kicking up dust, we confirmed that there was no point going any further in that direction.

We backtracked to the turnoff leading to the dinghy landing, skipped it and kept going. We shortly came upon a resort that had a sandwich board by the guardhouse advertising a restaurant and bar. Neither were open officially yet, but the staff was busy cleaning and the doors were open. We asked if it would be okay to look around, and were told, "No Problem!" The place was very pretty. We had a look at the menu and quickly determined that a modest vegetarian lunch would probably end up being close to $100 after tax(!) and tip, so we took a few pictures and then skipped it.

Remembering that there was a cluster of roads loosely labeled "Sand Cay" at the northern end of Sapodilla Bay, we took the main road in that direction hoping for something worth seeing. We walked for half an hour in both the sun's heat and the heat radiating from the pavement, but all we could see from the road was thick landscaping interrupted occasionally by gate after gate, each with fancy signs announcing the entrance to villas with cheesy names that looked as if they had been come up with by an American real estate developer. Next to these signs were always the other two: "Private Property" and "Protected by Some Private Security Company". Once we realized this motif was going to go on pretty much forever, we gave up and headed back to the boat.

About four villas before the dinghy, we managed to find a cut-through to the beach and had a walk along it past their guests, all sitting in chairs facing the beach. Once again, we bypassed the dinghy turnoff in favor of a short trail around the point to a gazebo on the end, where we got a nice view of Begonia, still all alone in her own anchorage.

Maryanne had found mention somewhere of a site nearby reputedly containing graffiti from early settlers, so we set off in search of that. We found the trail, which had the benefit of heading pretty steeply up to the top of the nearest hill. At the top, we did indeed find lots of the old graffiti. It was in pretty good shape, too. The oldest inscription we found was dated 1707.

Notes from passers by of long ago..

From the top, we had nice views of the bay to one side and the less nice shipping port on the other. We descended toward the port since we needed to return to Customs for a receipt that was for some reason not available when we checked out earlier.

On the way back again, feeling pretty worn out by then, we stopped at a decent looking restaurant/bar whose sign promised they would be open in fifteen minutes. There were no cars parked by the building and a peek in the windows revealed a lack of furniture, but there were still unopened bottles of booze behind the bar. Since we were tired anyway, we figured we"d just have a rest at one of their outdoor tables until the appointed time. When no one showed up, we gave up and headed back to the boat.

We were sitting in the cockpit debating whether we had the energy to go snorkeling when Maryanne spotted a sea turtle nearby. That solved that. I was in within the minute, but I never did find him again. As consolation, we took a swim to the rocky shore and then to the nearby wreck of a big fishing vessel.

Snorkelling the wreck

It looked like it had been lost in a recent storm rather than having run aground. There was no breech of the hull. Both anchors were deployed and the boat had been rolled upside down in the direction of the shore, crushing the superstructure.

The sun was about to set, so we started back for Begonia. Along the way, we spotted a sailboat coming in to anchor! We diverted over to say hi. The boat was a schooner with Beaufort, NC as homeport. They also had a white Portland Pudgy as tender. They had come the Florida/Thorny Path route and were still flying their "Q" flag, indicating they had not yet officially cleared in, so we couldn't do anything with them other than chat across the water. The Captain had just started the forty-five minute question and answer session with Port Control over the radio, so we gave one of his crew directions to Customs with advice not to bother wearing himself out looking for anything else. We then swam back to Begonia for the night, ready for an early morning departure.

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