Years ago, we both read a book of this name by Phil Keoghan, best known in the US as the host of the television show The Amazing Race.  As Phil summarizes the gist of the book:  "No Opportunity Wasted is about learning how to live while you still have the chance, about letting go of the handrails, taking off your tie (and maybe taking off a lot more, while you're at it), and swerving off that predictable road you've been following for years--onto a strange and bumpy path that just might, with a bit of luck, get you lost. It is about taking the time to enjoy experiences you've denied yourself. It's also about sharing experiences with other people you know and connecting with people you don't know - beginning with yourself."

Kinda powerful, right?  Needless to say, this book made an impact on us, and since reading it, we've tried to keep its principles in our minds when making life decisions over the past years -- from learning to sail and buying a sailboat -- to retiring in Belize.  Both of these choices have introduced us to entirely new worlds of different people, cultures, and experiences from our former workaday lives in North Carolina.  Our recent trip to Placencia, where we chose to travel with the locals on ferries and buses rather than to catch a quick (but more expensive) flight, was another example of pushing ourselves just a bit out of our comfort zones and thereby reaping the rewards of more interesting, scenic, and less expensive travel.

We were offered yet another chance to travel off the beaten path recently, and embracing it was as easy a decision as we've ever had to make.  We still can't believe our amazingly good luck.  We were riding our bikes down to Maria's fruit stand and chose to take the back, unpaved road rather than the main cobblestone road on this particular day.  We just happened to run into friends Chunky and Ruthie riding their bikes in the opposite direction.  We were in town later than normal because Barry got into a long poolside conversation with a tourist staying in our building that morning; otherwise, we would have been long gone by the time they were riding on that particular one block of road!  So we figure our chance meeting with them was meant to be.

Seeing us triggered Ruthie to recall that we enjoyed sailing, and she filled us in on an opportunity to jump aboard a large charter catamaran for a run down to Rio Dulce, Guatemala.  The boat needed to be hauled out to replace the transducer (depth sounder), and this was the boatyard that the charter company (TMM) used.  TMM had offered up the extra berths to people who would like to join them for the ride down and back, with the only costs being immigration fees and food for the trip.  Chunky and Ruthie had already committed to the trip, along with one other person, but there was one double cabin left.  Once we determined that the offer was legit, we were quick to jump right in.  Barry had heard about the beauty of the Rio Dulce ("Sweet River") and had added it to our list of destinations to visit in Central America.  Not to mention that the trip would give us the opportunity to visit another new country.  The boat we would be traveling on was s/v (sailing vessel) Hope, a 46-foot Leopard catamaran, and the most expensive boat in TMM's fleet to charter.  Say what???  Did I mention how lucky we felt!?

We had to be on the boat by 8pm Friday night to sleep aboard, since we'd be taking off Saturday morning at 5 am.  So, the next few days were a whirlwind of packing and organizing our stuff for the trip, buying our food, and taking care of whatever business we needed to take care of.  We knew Ruthie had been cooking up a storm (and would probably have enough to feed an army -- she's pretty well known for that!), so we went with simpler stuff that was easy to fix and eat: oatmeal, fruit, sandwich stuff, cheese, snack bars, peanut butter, crackers, and so forth.  We figured we'd be eating dinners in town most nights, so didn't think we'd need a whole lot of dinner food.  Also, boat refrigerators have only so much space, so we didn't want to bring too much that required refrigeration.  Thanks to Ruthie, no one ever would go hungry on this boat!

Our first trip to town on Friday was to take Paisley to Pampered Paws for boarding.  We had originally planned to take her with us on the water taxi, but Barry came up with a plan to bungee her airline travel case to his bike rack, and it actually did work!  I carried her bedding and toys in my front basket and rode behind him to make sure she was okay.  She looks pretty uncomfortable in this photo but later relaxed and did just fine.  This was her first-ever transport by bike, and she was a trooper as usual!
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Paisley on rear rack in travel bag
In the afternoon, we rode back to town again.  Everyone going on the trip had to attend a meeting with the two TMM captains, Simon and Clive, so we could all go to immigration together to check out of Belize.  You actually have some time (48 hours, I believe) to leave the country after getting your passports stamped and paying the exit fee -- only $3.75 US when leaving by sea, as opposed to $39.25 by air. Nice!  We met the last passenger, Bruce, at this time.  His wife had decided that she couldn't handle five days on a boat, which is the only reason there was a double berth available; otherwise, Barry and I would not have been able to go.
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Chunky, Ruthie, and me
We had brought our food for the trip down on our bikes, so got to load it onto s/v Hope after the meeting.  This was our first time seeing the boat up close, and she was a real beaut!
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s/v Hope
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Two very lucky people
We had planned to bring our duffel bags down with us on the water taxi in time for dinner with Chunky and Ruthie, but Barry thought it would be easier not to have to do that, as the boat is often very full even for people, much less their luggage.  So, in his second display of MacGuyverism of the day, he bungeed our duffels to his rack and ran them down to the boat, a 6.5 mile round trip.  My butt was too sore ride into town a third time, so I sent him solo this time.
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Off he goes!
Since Barry was able to take our luggage down, we only had our day packs to carry when we left our condo for the trip.  As luck would have it, we actually got a water taxi all to ourselves, as they must have been running extra boats that day in between the regularly scheduled taxis -- it is high season here, after all.  So, there would have been room for our luggage after all, but we still would have had to schlep it down the beach to dinner and have it with us in the restaurant, so it was nice not to have to bother with all that. 

We met Chunky and Ruthie at Hurricane's over the water for dinner.  We had plenty of laughs and a great meal.  The food was a bit pricier than I expected since it's such a casual-appearing place (and we'd gotten spoiled by lower restaurant prices in Placencia), but it was delicious and nicely presented.  One pet peeve:  the menu prices did not include GST (Belize's 12.5% sales tax that is normally included in posted prices), but at least we got happy hour pricing on drinks!
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View from Hurricane's restaurant
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Ruthie, Emily, and Chunky - excited for the adventure lying ahead
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Delicious dinner -- chicken, potato, and veg
Stay tuned for Guatemala Cruise Day 1:  San Pedro to Placencia
paula segrest
2/23/2012 06:13:31 am

What a great start to your trip! I'm still excited for y'all! Way to sail!

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2/23/2012 07:15:32 am

Wow, I had been wondering why so few posts lately. I can't wait to hear about your adventures!!!

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Larry & Sandy
2/23/2012 10:50:35 pm

So that's where you went! I have been missing your posts. I think my wife Sandy emailed you. I am coming to the Caye on Mar. 7th. I was wondering if I can bring anything to you at that time. If not maybe bring some books for sharing/library. Anyway can't wait for the rest of the post.

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BeBelize Emily
2/24/2012 09:08:33 am

Thanks guys, and stay tuned -- we are going to try to get a post per day up. Larry, thank you, but we have a neighbor coming on the 15th bringing us some items, so we don't need anything else at this point. I am sure the San Pedro Public Library would love any books you can spare, though!

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