We have already read and enjoyed a trip on board the Elsa P but that was to tell you of its importance in the cargo transport industry. Now this time around we will live the actual trip on board this famous boat owned by Felipe Paz and which operated from the 1950’s and way into the 1990’s when it was replaced by the huge barges. Let’s enjoy an actual trip from start to finish.
Most trips started at two or three in the wee hours of early morning. Tio Pil liked to travel at night and that way arrive in the city early in the day and made full use of that working day.
Travelers who wanted to go to the city had to wake up at midnight and be on board at 2 a.m. We only paid 50 cents for the trip and if you were related to Tio Pil you traveled free. The first thing passengers did was to locate a good spot to lie down or sit. It could be either on a flat part of the deck or on top of some lumber, pint bottles or even on top of some sacks filled with coconuts. By all means it was not the most comfortable ride, but it was the best you could get.
You covered yourself with a blanket for it was quite cool traveling at night. Those lying down would admire the stars and try to entertain themselves observing falling stars or the light of a moving satellite. After an hour or so you would fall asleep listening to the lapping waves beating against the side of the Elsa P. An occasional gust of cold breeze would wake you up, but soon you would fall asleep once more.
The first rays of sunlight would surprise you about five miles from Belize City. At this time most passengers had and shared a light breakfast which would include some flour tortillas, Johnny cakes or even soda biscuits accompanied by potted meat, corned beef or sausage. Passengers who needed to relieve themselves had to go up front behind the sail and stoop/lean over the side of the boat to pee or defecate. Boys had no problem but ladies usually went in pairs and one of them would sort of cover the other one. There was no latrine on board the Elsa P, so you had to lose all shame and do what you had to do to feel comfortable.
Next, the passengers started putting on their shoes as they got ready to arrive at the metropolis. The island folks would be all too excited to see who would spot the first car and then started admiring all the cars as they sped along the street along the fort. As the Elsa P entered the river and approached the harbor after the five-hour long sailing trip, the island passengers would be excited spotting cars, trucks, motorcycles, and the large buildings of the large city.
And once the Elsa P was tied at the wharf, specifically at Tuto Alamilla’s Wharf, the passengers were eager to find a taxi and enjoy a car ride - for most islanders, their first ride in a vehicle. This was the fun of going by sailing boat to the city twenty five years ago.
- by Angel Nuñez, Columnist