Trip Report 10/30-11/6/2021 on BAIV and the next non-diving week in San Pedro, AC

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I fear this will be lengthy. First a bit about the week on BAIV. Then some discussion of logistics as I paired my Aggressor trip with a week in San Pedro visiting young daughter.

BAIV

This was my 4th trip on BAIV. As always, I thoroughly enjoyed myself. Usually I go on the 10-day trips because 7 is just not enough, but 10 days was not offered on BAIV this year (It still is offered on BAIII I think).

Crew - Captain Dennis Gautreaux (sp?), very personable, safety conscious, and willing to do whatever to get in the best possible dives. He claims there are things he won't eat, but he's from South Louisiana, so... Steward - Elia, great as always. Carlos and Jean worked magic in the kitchen. John, Rocke, Daniel as DM's and Daniel also serves as engineer. Zander is a new addition as night watch, so you don't see much of him unless you're up late or early. Jerry was off after pulling a double shift. A great crew, always willing and able.

Boat - My last two trips were plagued by some mechanical problems. This time everything was perfect, at least nothing known to the guests.

New to me was a "generator switch" each evening around 2100-2130 where power would go off for about 5 seconds while they changed operational generators. I don't remember this, so maybe a second generator was added during covid shutdown refurbishing?

The salon was redone during the shutdown, and new furniture on the Lido deck. My cabin (6) was exactly the same as previous trips with one exception. The twin beds each have a sheet, light blanket, and a bedspread. I think that damned bedspread has a saran wrap liner. The AC in the cabin kept it cold, but I felt like I was sleeping in a sauna. After 2 nights I took it off all together and comfort was achieved (there are 2 extra lightweight blankets in the closet if needed).

Diving - We started at Turneffe and did all the Sunday dives on the west side. I much prefer Lighthouse and Half Moon Caye, so I was must marking time. Still, good dives with lots of critter sightings.

The balance of the week (except Friday) was spent at HMC and the vicinity. Excellent, most excellent dives. Dennis moved the boat a good bit based on prevailing winds, which were 8-10+ from the N/NE mostly, so asked us to try to keep it to 60 min dives.

We returned to Turneffe on Thursday evening for the last 2 dive on Friday there.

No Blue Hole due to winds. Happens sometimes, and I didn't really care.

Guests - In years past I noticed that the Aggressor guests tended to be a bit older, well no, just old. This year about half were less than 40, and only a few of us were truly old.

As it turned out this was one of my most enjoyable trips yet on BAIV. A good group, good divers, good diving, friendly folks, lotta beer and wine. Everything performed to spec and I had a great time.

Logistics - This was a complicated trip for me, not on the scale of going to Indonesia or somewhere, but a lot of moving parts for me. Usually I go on the boat, maybe do a tour at the end, then go home. None of this is about diving on AC, but maybe some of it will help somebody making the trip.

This past August my young daughter bought a restaurant in San Pedro, AC and moved from Seattle to Ambergris Caye to run it. This whole trip started out as "Hey Dad, why don't you come see me. (And bring a big suitcase full of stuff I want/need. And take me out to all the places on AC I'm too cheap to go to on my own)".

I started investigating doing so, and it turned out I could fly Delta for 20,000 skymiles, do the BAIV trip, then go to San Pedro.

I flew in Friday 10/29 via ATL. Left home at 0400 and arrived BZE at 1130. No muss no fuss. I had a PCR test done the previous Tuesday (<92 hours before the trip). I could have had a rapid test done <48 hours, but I couldn't find anywhere close by to commit to results on time. I chose the PCR because it left me some runway. $165.

I had two large roller duffels, one with my gear, and with young daughters stuff. I had all my receipts in hand for her stuff, but it never came up at customs and I didn't volunteer to pay duties. They looked at my covid test, but didn't seem to care about my vaccine card.

I had previously arranged transport to, and Friday night stay at the Fort George Radisson. Bob Thompson at Aggressor Travel handled both, and I pre-paid Aggressor for both. Seems like $25 for the shuttle, and $180 for a tower room. I didn't price-shop either, just too easy to let Bob do it.

Young daughter told me to take her bag to the ferry terminal Friday PM before leaving on BAIV and put it on the water taxi to SP, that she'd pick it up when it arrived. After checking in at Radisson I did so. When you leave the Ft George under the portico, turn right, not left. Seemed wrong to me, but it was a short walk. I was skittish about the whole idea of just putting the bag on the boat, but it went off perfectly. $10usd to ship it, $5usd to the baggage handler who grabbed me at the entrance and checked it in for me.

My plan was to get off BAIV after the week, walk to the water taxi and ride it to SP. While I was dropping young daughters bag I decided to go ahead and buy my ticket to SP. You drop bags at the entry to the ferry terminal, then walk to the far end to buy tickets.

As I was headed in the Security guard asked me if I wanted to buy a ticket from his "friend" who happened to be standing there. He said they charge Americans more the Belizeans, and I could buy his friends ticket at the Belizean price, discounted. $70us round trip. I declined. Tickets for everybody are $35.50usd one way. Your name is printed on the ticket, and it's an open ticket good for 90 days. I don't know whether I could have used his friends ticket or not.

They did want to see my passport when I bought mine.

Also, no food/drink allowed on the ferry. There are several places in the terminal to buy beer. They are happy to sell you one, but really... you should buy a six-pack at a discount. Young daughter had forewarned me. If you can guzzle a 6-pack while you wait on the ferry, good on ya, but remember no beer on the ferry. And they said there was a head on the ferry, but I didn't look for it. So, have a beer while waiting, but I probably wouldn't buy a six pack, guzzle it, then get on the boat.

Which reminds me. If you need to use the facilities in the ferry terminal there is a $1bzd charge to an attendant sitting just outside.

The boat stops at Caye Caulker (about 45ish minutes I think), then on to San Pedro (about another 45ish minutes). I could be wrong about the times - I was napping mostly.

I had a large time with young daughter on AC. None of it diving related. I did check into a day of diving, but decided not to get my gear wet. The standard mode of operation at 2 shops I checked is 0900 departure for 2 tanks - 1 outside, 1 inside the barrier reef, return for lunch, 1400 for 1 tank. The PM dive is mostly instructional and inside the barrier reef.

Covid checking - Mask wearing is mandatory except when in a golf cart or eating/drinking. It's about 50/50 with the locals. About 1/2 think your mask should be worn over mouth and nose. The others think masks should be worn over your neck and chin. Wouldn't want that neck exhaling corona germs into the wild.

We only experienced a vaccine requirement once. A fundraiser was held at Palapa Bar for the local childrens clinic/hospital. They checked vaccine cards and temperature at the entrace. Some places checked temp and wrote down your first name as you entered. Some did nothing.

Most bars and restaurants have free wifi. just ask for the password.

Return from AC - I flew Tropic Air to BZE. Unless you're already at the ferry terminal as I was when leaving BAIV, DO TROPIC AIR. The terminal is clean with A/C and check-in is literally 10 steps from the drop-off point. Seems like my ticket was $70ish-usd with 1 checked bag. 20 minutes back to BZE. I didn't bother checking Maya Air, but I suspect it is the same. Young daughter said both have sale prices regularly, to watch the website.

Return to US Covid testing - There is a test facility at the SP airport on the north end. $75usd for an acceptable-to-US rapid test. I made an appointment on-line before leaving home. I knew it was on Tuesday for a Thursday departure, but didn't remember the time. I walked over and asked what time my appt was and they said just do it now. 15 mins later I left with my negative test result.

This is a lot of stuff about getting to from AC and nothing about diving. I hope it helps someone who is thinking about going. A lot of the folks in SP are desperately poor and need the tourist business to live. If you're thinking about going, Tropic Air and Maya Air make it really easy from BZE. The ferry is good, just takes a bit longer. I'd only ride the ferry if you're starting downtown.

I had a great time on my dive portion of the trip, and on the land portion on AC.

Brad.

no photos. There are some of me and young daughter mostly drinking beer and such, and of no interest to anyone except my friends who need a laugh at the old guy doing jello shots with the young folks.
 
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