Belize, Day Five….

Yellow Head Jawfish out of it’s hole.

Ah, Mother Nature was capricious yesterday. The Blue Hole did not come about due to weather, and the first dive had a strong enough current for me to ask my husband to stick close to the boat so we were shallow rather than going deeper along the wall. Rain moved in between the morning dives and then, surprisingly, the sky cleared, and the sun shone. There was nothing big on the first afternoon dive, although it was quite pleasant. Yellow-head jawfish are delightful little creatures and for those of us who like them we can watch them for many minutes on end. They dig a hole and go in tail first, only coming up and out if they think it is safe. They quickly disappear again if you don’t approach them very carefully.

Oh, lunch today was an excellent conch chowder – the tomato-based variety with a perfect blend of spices. There were other items for lunch, but the chowder was so good, I stuck with it. I don’t care for mollusks in general and only like conch chowder when the conch is minced, as it was today.

Back to diving, however. The afternoon dives brought a couple of large tarpon that we don’t normally see on Key Largo reefs. We didn’t see the turtle that others did, but there was a nice Southern stingray.  My request to the scuba god for eels was apparently misinterpreted because we got sea cucumbers instead. A sea cucumber is one of the truly odd marine creatures. It does indeed resemble a segmented cucumber. Actually, they look a bit like some alien invader and if there are a lot of them in one spot, it can be a bit creepy. They also make for easy photographs since they move very, very slowly.

Okay, what type of people book trips on dive vessels? It can be a good way for fairly new divers to become comfortable with diving because you are surrounded by dive professionals and avid divers who are not necessarily on the professional track. Sometimes a dive group will book much of a boat; people who have been diving together on different trips. Husbands and wives, sibling pairs, older parents and adult child, significant other pairs, close friends, and singles are the usual combination. (There are some dive cruises specifically for singles by the way.) Underwater photographers tend to enjoy dive cruises because they don’t have to haul their gear around. There will be tables set up for the cameras, connections to charge the batteries, and other photographers to trade stories with. Plus, the dive staff will always have at least one and often more photographers/videographers who can teach classes, etc.  On this trip there are people from Florida, Maine, California, Ohio, Texas, Paris, Chicago, and so forth – a cross section of the country. Ages are thirties and older, although some of the staff is younger. And yes, there are many of life stories to mix within the tales of diving.

Scrawled Cowfish have pretty colors

Belize, Day Four…..

Hugh taking photo of small Southern stingray and yellow tail snappers

I love sunrises and always have. As we sit in the water, Lighthouse Island in sight to one side, a sister dive vessel to the other, and nothing else around, it would be a perfect morning were there fewer clouds. The one thing that cannot be controlled is weather and like any outdoor-centric activity, divers learn to adopt a philosophical attitude about Mother Nature. As with Mother Ocean, she will have her way.  We are allegedly on the front end of a “system” and may be able to dodge it by going around to another part of the island.

Anyway, I promised to talk about food. Yesterday’s menu will give you an idea. A continental breakfast is set out at 5:30 for we early risers. Oatmeal and cooked-to-order eggs, sausage or bacon, and/or other “breakfast” foods are available at 7:00. There was a lovely plump coffee cake made for the mid-morning snack that is served after the first dive. Lunch was build-your-own sub with turkey, tuna salad, lettuce, etc., fruit, leftover cake (to include chocolate cake from the previous dinner), soup, and potato chips. The afternoon snack was pizza. Dinner was lentil soup, salad, a choice of grilled snapper with a lovely cilantro sauce or pork with caramelized onions, potatoes, and sautéed green beans. Dessert was banana cream pie with a caramel sauce layer. Thereare also a jar of Oreo-type cookies (Chocolate and vanilla) and a jar of dry roasted peanuts that sit out 24/7 for those who need an extra “munch” at all hours.

Today (weather permitting) will be the famous Blue Hole of Belize. I will not actually make the deep dive into it, but the shallow dive (or snorkel) around the edges as the others descend the 130 feet allowed in recreational diving. I can dive that deep, but I prefer not to. As for diving, yesterday’s sightings included French, Gray, Queen, and Rock Beauty angelfish (some of my favorites), yellow-headed jaw fish (also favorites), trumpetfish, fairy basselets, chromis, rays, a seahorse, a small turtle, jacks, chubs, yellowtail snappers, tigertail sea cucumbers, corals, sponges, sea fans, and others too numerous to mention. We shall see what today brings.

Belize, Day Three……

The Sundance II Dive Vessel in Belize City

This series of posts are all related to our time on the dive part of the Belize trip. If you haven’t been to Belize, I think you will find them interesting. If you have been, then perhaps they will bring back fond memories.

Day Three: The computer is telling me that I have no connectivity and yes, I am well aware of that as I look out on the open water near Lighthouse Island. We said good-bye to our friends in Ambergis Caye and made it to the Sundancer II in Belize City. Our friends from Maine came in a bit later and we caught up on the time since we’d seen each other. They had been on the Sundancer the year prior and they booked again this year. I want to digress for a moment to explain a dive live-aboard. Divers, please be patient. A dedicated dive vessel is not like other cruises. The boat is usually only about 125 or so feet and usually 18 divers plus approximately 7 crew members. There can be up to 32 divers (passengers) and 11 crew members on a slightly larger boat, but that’s about it. There are usually three-four levels; a crew/engine room level, cabins/dive deck, salon/wheelhouse, and sundeck. The cabins are small, the beds elevated so you can slide luggage underneath. Amenities are limited, but do vary according to the operation and there is no “bar”. There will usually be beer & wine, however, and of course meals are included. Food selection is limited, but good to excellent and a variety of cuisine throughout the week as well as accomodation for special dietary needs.  There is no entertainment except perhaps some DVDs and a small collection of books. Now, there may also be marine-related seminars after dinner. If you regularly cruise, this may strike you as odd, but the point to a dive cruise is to dive. In fact, the mantra is, “Eat, dive, sleep, repeat.” You are on board with people who love to dive and stories of dive destinations around the globe quickly emerge. You may have some fairly new divers, but you frequently have those with 1000+ dives as well.

The normal arrangement is to do 4 dives during the day, and a night dive is offered. I don’t personally care for night diving, although my husband goes occasionally. On the other hand, you aren’t allowed to mix booze and diving, so he usually decides to forego the night diving and has a beer after diving and wine with dinner. With all of that said, here’s the way it works. Breakfast, morning dive. A break that has to do with keeping you from getting the bends. A second morning dive. Lunch and move the boat. Two afternoon dives at the new location, then a short break until time for dinner. Those who choose to do so will do the night dive immediately following dinner while the rest of us entertain ourselves with videos, reading, talking, etc. There is also star-gazing of course.

We did the four dives today with the usual array of Caribbean marine life, to include a lovely eagle ray on the last dive. No other big creatures, but lots of fish that we enjoy. Tomorrow, more diving and I’ll describe a typical day’s menu,

An Indigo Hamlet

Belize, Day Two…….

Overview of Casa Brisa by the Sea. Solar panel array to the left.

The day began as the earlier evening had ended, although with coffee as the morning beverage. The screened gallery of our friends’ home is surrounded by palms and other trees, the water veiwed through the fronds. There are an amazing number of dragonflies, gheckos of course scampering about both inside and out. There is a lovely warbler that we haven’t seen since we lived in Puerto Rico, a “banana bird” that won’t stay still for a photo. And for you birders, check out if you are not already familiar with it. Since the lots around this area are undeveloped, my friends had a trail carved through the property, again, taking out as few trees/plants as possible and none of the palms. As we paused at one part with a small beach, the indention stretching across the sand was evidently from where the crocodile had passed from one side of the property to the other. In what is essentially a small nature preserve, the ocelot that was hanging about hasn’t been seen lately, the anteater and sloth make periodic appearances and I was told that the boa hasn’t been in the carport (that actually holds the windsurfing equipment) for a while.  The bulbous termite “nests” that are in the trees are fairly static, and apparently the wild pigs come around infrequently.

After our stroll, it was in to town to get the tickets for the water taxi for the return trip to Belize City, lunch at Palapa, a very casual open air bar and grill where we sat and watched our second stingray of the day glide by beneath us, as did several schools of fish. You could see the charter dive boats moored to the reef in the distance. Then it was on to Mexican Rocks, a closer set of patch reefs, where we spent an hour snorkeling. Our friend felt it wasn’t as good as the last time they’d been there, but anemones, a ray, rock beauties, a flounder, lots of parrotfish, a couple of flamingo tongues, tangs, yellow and orange coral, lavender sea fans, and other assorted reef fish gave us plenty to see. We opted for the slightly longer boat ride back to the house to see yet another part of the island, going past small inns, condos, a row of dive shops, and beachfront properties of various sizes. Like many such areas, Belize was hit with the real estate bust, the tourist industry dipping, but still holding as an important source of income. The Belizeans exude smiling warmth for those who come to visit.

A brown pelican just swooped across my view and one of the black and orange banana birds rested momentarily before flitting away. Ah, one of the warblers – oops gone again. Oh well, I shall have to be content with showing another view of the property as a photo. Anyway, in a few hours we head back to Belize City to catch the dive boat. We lose connectivity later today so I will maintain a daily log that I will use to post the rest of the trip once we re-gain connectivity. So long for now from


First Day in Belize……(Correction)

Views of Casa Brisa

A lack of connectivity will keep me from posting each day we are in Belize, but let me give you  a sense of it and some background that relates to some other posts I have done. We are with a couple who chose to become ex-pats here some time back and have created at wonderful place that can be seen at

We were all in the Army together and followed the many aspects of them purchasing land, building the home and living in Belize on Ambergis Caye. Those aspects are far too numerous to explain, but telling of them would most assuredly fill a book as others have done with similar experiences. Our friends have loved the past 14 years, but like many of us as we get older, they’ve decided that it’s time to be more accessbile to family and friends and they’ve put the house up for sale.

As divers, Belize has long been on our list and since we’ve wanted to see Casa Brisa, we flew in yesterday to visit with our friends and will take a water taxi tomorrow back to Belize City where we will catch the dive boat for a one-week dive trip. Now, to say that we flew in to visit is correct. That was a direct flight from Miami of just at two hours to then catch a very small plane for the 15-minute flight to San Pedro, the main town on Ambergis Caye. Our friends’ place is actually on the “back” side of the island, meaning not on the reef side. We were greeted with hugs and one of their regular taxi drivers loaded us into the little van to go to the dock where their small boat waited, complete with groceries and Belikin beer (local and good) for the 15-minute ride to their place. I say one of their regular taxi drivers because they have no car. They have no car because their part of the island has no roads. They have two boats they use for making the quick run into town that can be as short as 8-10 minutes depending on which part of town they go into.

To say that the grounds here are lovely is an understatement. Palms, hibiscus, orchids, mangroves, and thousands of trees/plants cover the 3 acres. Despite the delays it caused in building the grounds, they were adamant that the double lot not be clear-cut as was the custom. Of course, when Cat Four Hurricane Keith roared through, he was not so considerate, but other trees have now grown back to replace those that were destroyed.

This is our first time to personally be in a house with primarily solar power and we spent part of yesterday looking at panels, the array of batteries, electrical system, and generator. Okay yes, such things appeal to our logisitcs background. It is a great system and we were most impressed from an engineering point of view.

Anyway, today will bring snorkeling and more relaxing in the beautiful Casa Brisa with dear friends. I’ll post tomorrow with those adventures.


“You Can Say No”…..

“Aaack”, is what I believe Bill the Cat used to exclaim, and with Snoopy it was “Aargh!” perhaps. Notwithstanding the distinct possibility those are spelled incorrectly, it is the sentiment that I am after. I’ve managed to once again allow myself to be utterly jammed up before leaving for a trip. I had gone out of my way to have as few obligations as possible today, and yet, somewhere along the way, that intention collided with my usual, “Well yes, I  suppose I could take care of that…”

In the course of a discussion of this habit, someone who hasn’t known me that long said, “You can say no, you know.” While that is a correct statement at face value, had the same individual said that to my husband about me he would have smiled, shaken his head, and replied something along the lines of, “I gave up telling her that a long time ago.” He does still occasionally bring the point up more because he feels that he should than that I will actually take such advice. Oh yes, I know all the reasons, and what a bad habit this is, but for all of you out there who also have a terrible time saying, “No, I can’t help,” do remember that you are not alone. Providing the cyberbugs don’t interfere, the next post will be from the lovely country of Belize.

Happy Birthday Time…..

At our age, birthday celebrations are not a big deal, and especially not when it’s a Monday. On the other hand,since my husband’s birthday and our anniversary are fairly close together, we sometimes combine them for “an event”. This is one such year and we will be headed to Belize in a couple of days. Belize has been on our dive-list for a while and three different factors came together to send us on our way. First, we have some friends who’ve lived there for a number of years and they’ve put their house on the market. It is a spectacular place according to the photos we’ve seen and when you have snorkeling in your “front yard”, it is worth checking out. The second factor is some other friends did the Belize trip last year and enjoyed it so much they are going back – always a good recommendation since they have certainly been diving in many places. Lastly, we were supposed to go do the Red Sea this year for our big dive trip and the geopolitical situation caused us to re-think that.

You put that all together and voila!, Belize seemed like a really good idea. So here’s to what we hope will be sunny skies, calm seas, and lots of wonderful marine lfe. Of course we did go out to dinner this evening for a jumpstart on seafood. Hogfish for my husband and a chef’s special of wasabi-crusted shrimp for me. Happy Birthday to my wonderful husband!

There’s a Rainbow Outside….

We just had an early morning shower and I glanced out in time to see a rainbow fading, but still with distinctive colors. I was having a conversation the other day with my friend, Kelly, about rainbows because she’d seen a double. Those really are spectacular and for ayone who has ever been in Hawaii, you know why they have a rainbow on their licence plate. During the two years we lived there, we didn’t make it to Molokai or Lanai – well, didn’t land on Lanai, but did visit the Big Island, Kaui, and Maui. I have to say that even though all the islands are resplendant with rainbows, Kaui probably was more so than the others. The almost daily showers varied intensity-wise, yet at the end, or sometimes in the midst of, a single, often double, and frequently a triple rainbow would stretch across the sky.

We didn’t get to dive Lanai, although we did do a snorkeling trip crossing from Maui, so we were in the Lanai waters. We were flying the next day, so couldn’t book a dive. We’d tried once before for the little island, but couldn’t make the crossing because of weather. The same with not being able to dive Kaui. The one trip we made there was on the tail end of a storm and while snorkeling in the protected bays was fine, the dive boats weren’t going out.

Anyway, back to rainbows. We had them so often in Hawaii that we sometimes forgot to stop and pay attention to how pretty they were. I do try to make that a habit and we do get our fair share here. So, I would urge each of you to take a moment the next time you see a rainbow and enjoy the sight.


About Putting That Cable in Upside Down…..

Alert! This is more or less a guy-girl thing. And before I go any further, in defense of my wonderful husband and males in general, I know this is puzzling to you, I do. With that said, however, why on earth would a cable be designed so it almost fits going in the incorrect way? Here was the situation. My computer is connected to two printers. (We tried wireless and there were constant issues.) Anyway, one of the cables goes in the back. Back – that means I don’t pay a whole lot of attention and plug it in by feel. So, yesterday, after having taken the laptop downstairs for something, I come up, plug everything in. Then, I need to do a scan and the computer tells me that printer isn’t connected. Okay, I didn’t get the plug all the way in – easy to do. Disconnect, replug, feels like a solid fit. Now comes the “blue air” moment that my husband has become all too familiar with. In some cases, it is my recognition of the computer having done something that I told it to do rather than what I wanted it to do. This was one of those cases though where I was not to blame – ergo, needed husband intervention.

Husband comes up, temporarily forgetting the first rule when I am involved. He did check the connections in the sense of unplugging and replugging as I had. No good. Hmmm, hit a few buttons, ask a few questions. Puzzle over what the problem could be. Okay, standard next step – shut printer and computer off and turn back on. No luck. Aha!, he suddenly remembers, folds the top of the computer down and looks to see that sure enough I had plugged the cable in upside down. That meant it felt like a good connection and yet it wasn’t because the cable is desgined to only plug in correctly if the side with the raised symbol is “up”.

Now, seriously, I ask again, why do a design this way? He patiently explains that he has told me this before. Yeah, okay, got it, but that doesn’t address my point. To a guy – yes, I’m generalizing – there’s a symbol and so you just remember that. But wouldn’t it be easier to have it not matter? The symbol is hard to see, although it is raised so you can feel it, if you remember to do so. Let this be a plea to all you would-be techie designers – try and make all things that plug in without this annoying characteristic. Actually, that reminds me of how we came to have touch-tone telephones, but that is the subject of another post.

Another Easy Fish Dish……

Fish with lobster crab sauce is easy, but it is in two steps and does take careful watching because the second step cooks quickly. It also requires a pot and a skillet. The simplest way to approach this dish is decide what to pair it with and have that done before you get to step two. For example, it goes wonderfully with rice dishes. Most of those will easily hold their heat for 20 minutes and step two of the fish only takes ten minutes. So, you can have the rice dish on a back burner or in the microwave and start step two of the fish as you turn off the rice dish. The same goes for a vegetable dish. If you’re microwaving a vegetable dish, those usually require no more than 5 or 6 minutes. So, if you’re doing a stovetop rice dish, a microwave vegetable dish, and the fish in lobster crab sauce, you will have multiple pots and pans, but timing them doesn’t have to be a problem. A microwave or oven potato dish is another option. While pasta is delicious with it, I don’t like to try to manage the big pot of boiling water for pasta, plus that sauce and the fish in one meal. A solution there is a packaged pasta and sauce dish if you enjoy those.

The key point to this recipe is using a commercial refrigerated or frozen lobster bisque (or you can substitute shrimp bisque). I have not found a canned variety that gives the richness of the frozen and refrigeartor types. This recipe serves four, but it can be cut in half or the leftover will keep for a day or two and can be reheated in one minute in a microwave.

Fish in Lobster and Crab Sauce:

Ingredients: 1 container of refrigerated or frozen lobster bisque, 8-12 ounces  (can use shrimp instead); 1 container of backfin crab meat, 6-8 ounce (you can use claw); 4 fillets of any firm white fish, to include tilapia; salt and pepper to taste;1-2 Tablespoons olive oil. Since you will be cooking at medium heat, you can use a combination of olive oil and butter if you prefer. Infused olive oils work well with this dish, too.

Preparation: Remove the fish and crabmeat from the refrigerator 30-60 minutes before cooking to allow them to come to room temperature. Salt and pepper both sides of the fish to taste. If bisque is frozen, let thaw. (You can do this by leaving it in the refrigerator overnight if you have time). Approximately 40 minutes from the time you want to serve, empty bisque into a 1.5 to 2 quart sauce pan and cook according to package instructions. As soon as the bisque is “done”, stir the crabmeat into the bisque, turn to low, and cover. Stir about every 5-6 minutes, keeping the heat on low. Preheat a 10-12 inch skillet over medium heat and add as much olive oil as is needed to coat the bottom of the skillet. Allow 1-2 minutes for the olive oil to heat and place the fillets in the pan. Cook for 2-4 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fillets and turn. (A 1 inch fillet takes about 4 minutes to brown; thinner takes less time). As soon as you turn the fillets, pour the sauce over the fillets, turn the heat to medium low and cook for another 6 minutes. The fillets should retain their shape and you spoon the rest of the sauce over the fillets as you serve them. (If you prefer, you can do the final 6 minutes in a 400 degree oven.)

Although the bisque may be high in calories and fat, nothing else in the dish is, plus it’s four servings, so when the amount id divided by four, it isn’t all that much per serving.