Hola from… Miami Beach..!?
Yes, as I’ve previously alluded to, I am in fact in Miami right now. I’m not even in Roatan!
In any case, I was over the bullshit and said to myself, to the universe and to my poor roommates about 100 times, “I NEED A BREAK FROM THIS”!! And like magic, I’m sure you can guess what happened next.
I had student divers who were guests on a megayacht that was moored at our dive resort’s marina. They took another instructor and me on a 2-day trip to some islands between Roatan and the mainland of Honduras. We all had a blast and I loved being part of the ‘crew’ on the boat. A few days later, the boat was leaving for the rest of its trip, and the owner and his son asked me if I wanted to stay on as a private dive instructor and teach the owner’s grandson his open water course as he was coming to join the rest of the trip. I would be paid but get to stay on the boat as a guest in my own private suite. We would be heading to Belize, Mexico, Cuba, the Florida Keys, and finally to Ft. Lauderdale where the boat would dock and I would be flown back to Roatan. It took me all of half a second to say UMMMMMMM FUCK YEAH. I spoke to my boss… we both understood where the other one was coming from. He couldn’t hold my position during the busiest time of the year, but knew that this was a once in a lifetime opportunity that I couldn’t say no to. I rushed home, threw whatever I could find into a bag, gave my roommates the next month’s rent and took off. I knew there would be champagne waiting for me on the boat (my affinity for all things pink and bubbly was already well-known):
I got back to the boat late on Christmas Eve. As I pulled up in a taxi, the people who I was having issues with were arriving back at the dive shop from a day trip. I got my big-girl pants on and went over and apologized, forgave those who did me wrong, and we all hugged it out. I really think this was a huge part of why things went so well for me. If you can be the bigger person – DO IT. I might have been right in this situation, but it was making me unhappy. I value my happiness more than my ego. So I waved goodbye with a happy heart, and we pulled out of the marina and took off for Belize.
I soon found out that being a guest on a yacht is much different than being crew on a yacht. I had my own massive VIP suite:
I ate beautifully prepared meals from an amazing on-board chef (who happened to live in the same neighborhood as me in Vancouver at the same time…small world!):
I was given a choice of champagne for my birthday, and chose one… and ended up receiving a $300 bottle of rosé Dom Perignon instead:
It was ridiculous and luxurious – I was bought things everywhere we went off the ship….new Ray-Ban sunglasses, jewelry, meals, drinks, whatever I wanted. My room was cleaned 4 times a day and someone did my laundry, turned down my sheets at night, and gave me anything and everything I asked for. I know this sounds amazing… but I was really uncomfortable at first as the crew were my friends, and I had stayed with them in the crew quarters and ate crew meals with them on our previous 2-day trip to Cayos Cochinos. Now the girls were constantly asking me if they could get me a drink and cleaning my hair out of my shower (sorry ladies, love you), and the guys were my personal chauffers, driving me to and from the dock on the boat’s tender every time I wanted to go into town to check my email (thanks dudes, love you). I tried to enjoy it but for the first week I was mired in guilt every time I asked them for anything. The second week I did a little better at it. If there are any hot rich dudes out there with yachts who want to take me on them, I promise I can work on it.
We spent four days anchored off of Belize City. The first day we were trapped on the boat due to about 487 different ‘inspectors’ that all needed to board the boat, stamp our passports, and from what I could tell, ogle all the shit the rich people inside the boat owned. When we could finally get off the boat, we went into Belize City which was a shock to some of those on board but to me was a bigger, busier version of Coxen Hole. It appears that 5 months living in Honduras has made me unfazed by poverty (note that I said unfazed, not uninterested). The city has very distinct rich/poor divides, but even the rich aren’t that rich here.
There are hints of old British influence everywhere here, from the crumbling Victorian architecture to using the letter “u” in words like color (that gets a high five from me since I’m Canadian). Queen Elizabeth still reigns on the money and the postboxes, but Belize City seems to be having an identity crisis now that it is no longer the capital of Belize. Nobody seemed to be doing much here besides trying to sell garbage to the cruise ship tourists they cart around like cattle. I still liked the energy of the city though, and it was nice to see a place not overrun with expats. And I’ve never seen so many rasta dudes with dreadlocks in one place before, so that was kind of awesome.
After getting set with some dive gear, PADI materials, and a gift of a new mask for me (!!!), we left Belize City in search of kickass diving. We spent the next four days anchored off of Ambergris Caye which might just be the next place I end up. I LOVED San Pedro (yeah, Madonna got it right). The town was exactly my style – on the beach, low key but still places to party at night, cheap food stands but also organic grocery stores, big enough to have a large group of friends but enough expats and tourists to keep things fresh, and hot island men with Caribbean accents (um, you think diving is the only reason I like living on tropical islands?)
San Pedro was awesome, and we did some pretty good diving with Amigos del Mar, who I’d recommend. The only thing I did not like about the diving here was that they interfere with the ecosystem quite a bit, which I don’t agree with. You’ll see divemasters from all different shops feeding the nurse sharks (who will follow you for your entire dive at a creepily close distance) and green moray eels. Lots of old local divemasters will grab the nurse sharks and turn them over to put them to ‘sleep’ and let divers hold them. I’m sorry, but I don’t like that kind of crap and I refused to partake in it while we were there. Aquatic life is there for us to observe, not ride on. (/end rant)
every dive so not too colorful. The boat ride was a riot though, I am used to nice calm water in Roatan – the ride to the reef in San Pedro involves jumping 10ft breaks to get out, and wave-riding on the way back to the shop. I had fun but others were puking off the back of the boats 🙁 I did enjoy the pick up and drop off right at our yacht though!
We spent New Year’s Eve in San Pedro, which was one of the most fun NYEs I’ve had in years. We went out for a big fancy dinner with all the crew, and then the owner’s grandson and I went out on the town with the crew to celebrate. We went to a couple bars and ended up at “the” place to be, Fido’s, just in time for midnight. We all got our new year’s kiss, we laughed, we danced, we got really drunk and watched the fireworks on the beach and then went back to the town square for a huge street dance party… we all somehow ended up on stage and danced for hours with little Belizean kids who kicked our asses at dancing. We had a dive boat drive us back to our yacht and left 2012 behind.
The next morning we set out for Mexico, and most of the crew and I spent the first day of 2013 lying on the floor of the salon. Luckily I don’t get seasick so I was just there for company, but as the boat heaved and rolled so did their stomachs and I felt awful for them! How miserable to have to work while you’re seasick.
After 24 hours of traveling, we made it to Cozumel, where we anchored for five days. I didn’t care much for the island… it was kind of like America on a tropical island. Everything was catered towards the cruise shippers, and there were HORDES of them there. It was so westernized; I didn’t feel like I was in Mexico at all. I had my first Starbucks in 6 months and went to a mall, which was surreal and weird after being away from “civilization” for so long.
I spent most of my time in Cozumel on the yacht because I hated the city. It was full of fat, sunburned cruise shippers walking around drunk with balloon hats on and massive cups from Senor Frogs full of shitty margaritas. If that’s your thing then cool, enjoy, but I like to get a more authentic experience of a place than walking down one street and having tacos and tequila at a place run by foreigners and then getting back on the boat.
However – the diving in Cozumel was insane. I had people come to Roatan and laugh at our ‘drift’ dives, which are really only drifts because we’re too lazy to go back to the boat. In Cozumel, a drift dive means you get to the bottom at 80ft or more, and are flying along in a ripping current that’s going at 5 knots!! We drifted almost 5km in a 25 minute dive… SO FUN. The coral was beautiful, and we saw amazing stuff – eagle rays, spotted stingrays, lots of cowfish and trunkfish, turtles, queen triggerfish, midnight parrotfish and I even managed to find an incredibly rare splendid toadfish, which are endemic to Cozumel!! Dive nerd alert!!
After Cozumel we made our way to Puerto Morelos, which is near Cancun, because we had to cut the trip short. The yacht owner and his wife had flown home from Cozumel due to some health issues, and the owner’s son and grandson, who I was diving with, needed to get home to Miami earlier than planned for their own reasons. After finding out that I had never been to Miami, the owner’s son booked me a ticket to Miami as well, and said he would show me the town!So we spent 2 uneventful days in Puerto Morelos, with a day in Playa del Carmen which I found to be pretty overrated. I don’t think I would go back, unless it was for free!
We flew to Miami out of Cancun and I’ve been staying in the cabana at the yacht owner’s apartment building. They have a huge apartment in Miami Beach with an amazing view:
The cabana is downstairs and is basically a studio apartment. It works for me and I’m incredibly grateful they’re letting me stay here for free! The owner’s grandson lives in Ft. Lauderdale and recently bought a beautiful 4-bedroom townhouse. I’ve been helping him paint it and this week the floors, appliances and furniture are arriving, and then I am heading out there to stay with him. Again, I’m so blessed to have people giving me free accommodation in such an expensive place. Yay!
So what the fuck am I doing in Florida?
1) waiting for my dive gear and plane ticket to Roatan. My dive gear was left behind and it’s still on the yacht. They were supposed to follow us shortly after but have been held up with bad weather in the Caribbean. They’re slowly but surely making their way to the boat yard in Ft. Lauderdale, where I’ll pick up my dive gear. Also, when the captain gets here, he’ll book my ticket back to Roatan for me.
2) Since I’m stuck here anyway, I decided to take my yacht crew courses while I’m waiting. I really enjoyed being on the boat as a guest, but I also think I’d like working on one as a dive instructor/deckhand or stewardess. So I’m getting set up at Maritime Professional Training to head in this direction.
Today, I don’t know. Tomorrow, I might know, or I might not. Right now it depends on when the yacht gets back, and what happens when I finish these yacht crew courses. If I get an opportunity to get work on a boat… I might not go back to Roatan for awhile. I still have my place there with a lease, and I still have stuff there and I’m not planning on screwing my roommates housing situation up. I might just pay it while I’m away and keep my things there. There are a lot of “maybes” and “mights” in my life right now. After planning and planning so hard to get to where I was in Roatan, this is a new thing for me. I’m trying to learn to enjoy it.