Preparing for Belize: Said goodbye to an old friend

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My loyal friend and companion -- and sanity insurance -- for almost two decades, a Cobra Explorer.
My loyal friend and companion — and sanity insurance — for almost two decades, a Cobra Explorer.

The pile of trash and yard sale items is finally beginning to look larger than the pile of stuff labelled “possessions.”

I never thought we’d get to that point, as we pack for Belize.

One of the big surprises of the past week was how quickly my kayak went after I posted it on Craigslist.  The trick, apparently, is to underprice your goods. Ridiculously.  And, yes, I can be ridiculous.

On the other hand, I posted a pair of psychedelic patched blue jeans from 1970 on Craigslist for $10,000 — thinking that this is more than a very old and smelly pair of pants; this is art! Apparently nobody else does. Last week I dropped the price to $5,000 but nobody took the bait. (OK, I went to $500 last night. Still too much???)

Hey, it is only crazy until somebody buys it.

Me, I see the pants encased in Lucite on a slowly rotating pedestal,  artfully lit of course. They would look incredibly cool in the San Francisco penthouse apartment of some Google or Facebook uber-executive.

Work with me, people.

The kayak, on the other hand, went for a tragically low price to Ray from Sacramento who plans to use it for fishing. I never used it for fishing. I used it to keep my mind from exploding when the Incredible Pneumatic Vise of Life put the squeeze on my head.  Just drag it to the shore, get in and paddle.

Perspective restored.

Sure it can be dangerous, like the January day that I ignored the warning signs and launched into the Pacific Ocean without a life vest. The warning signs? Just two, really. The swirling wind-whipped gray-black storm clouds and the 20-foot waves breaking about a hundred yards off shore.

I was sure I could get through the waves. Right up until the one that stood me up vertical and flipped me back like the soggy butt of a cigarette.

Did you know that even with a wetsuit on, it is incredibly hard to catch your breath in winter waters? Even in Southern California? It is also very hard to catch your kayak when the next wave rips it out of your grasp and hurtles it toward shore.

The waves were coming in big, fast, furious and very close together. It took me too long to figure out that you dive under the breaking waves and then come up for a breath.

I was pretty sure I was going to die that day.

I am ashamed to say that it wasn’t thoughts of my young children that kept me going. It was the realization that I had a whole newspaper section to write, edit and publish by Thursday and, dammit, I almost never missed a deadline ….

To be fair, I had some fabulous moments in that kayak – spinning around as dolphins circled my boat, back-paddling out of the path of a whale train headed down the coast to Baja, paddling to Coronado with my son Ryan, chasing seals and gazing at fish below in the kelp bed, running into an old friend in a kayak in the middle of a dense fog as we both looked for migrating whales … and we found them, not more than 20 feet from where we talked.

Some of my fondest kayaking memories are of the short paddle to an outdoor concert venue called Humphrey’s by the Bay on Shelter Island. I’d pull into the narrow channel between the dock and shore with dozens of other kayaks, rafts, canoes and even some larger boats. We’d tie up together and at high tide enjoy the best view of the stage, and cheapest too.

After the show, paddling back in the pitch black night the water would explode with phosphorescence as the paddle dug in. The effect, when combined with the stars above, was magical.

Well, Ray, enjoy the kayak. May your hooks always hold a fish and your time on the water be at least as pleasurable as mine once was.
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9 thoughts on “Preparing for Belize: Said goodbye to an old friend

    Renee said:
    January 15, 2014 at 1:39 pm

    When are you having your garage sale? I currently live in Danville but I too will be moving to Belize (I’ll be going back an forth for a while) and would love to stop by your sale. How exciting that you are getting so close. I love the blog; keep up the great work!



      robertjhawkins1 responded:
      January 15, 2014 at 3:42 pm

      Hi Renee!
      Great! Where will you be moving to in Belize? We met some people there who made annual trips to the country for years before retiring there. They seem well adjusted because of it. Our learning curve is so steep it sometimes worries me. Mistakes will be made but hopefully they won’t be severe.
      I’d love for you to come to the yard sale. We are planning on Jan. 24 & 25, 8 a.m.-Noon. The address is 2716 Seminole Circle, Fairfield. Come on down, we’d love to meet you!


    Karen Kelly said:
    January 15, 2014 at 3:27 pm

    I want to hear more about the whales. How amazing!


    Betsy said:
    January 15, 2014 at 7:24 pm

    Love your stories Bob.


    Emily said:
    January 15, 2014 at 7:37 pm

    Are you sure you should have sold your kayak? We deeply regretted selling ours (also on craigslist) once we got to Belize and realized how expensive it would be to try to buy new ones there, or how difficult to find used ones, or how pricey it would be to have new ones shipped in from the US. We would have done better just to have our old ones shipped down — still costly, but the least costly alternative we could come up with. Since we didn’t, we missed having kayaks the entire time we were in Ambergris Caye.


      robertjhawkins1 responded:
      January 15, 2014 at 11:49 pm

      Hi Emily. Believe me, all those thoughts ran through my head but in the end it just had to go. The few things we are putting into storage will stay there for about a year. I just couldn’t justify paying for storage all that time. Also, while I loved the sit-on-top kayak, I’m ready for one with a cockpit that’s lighter and more-capable of long-distance paddling. Plus, after a year, if I join the qualified retired person program, bringing one into the country won’t be too expensive!
      One way or another though, I’ll be kayaking through Belize!


        Emily said:
        January 16, 2014 at 6:07 am

        That’s true, Robert! We did not want to enter the QRP so would have had to pay customs duty on top of shipping charges — plus buying new kayaks. We did have nice touring boats, so we really missed them in Belize. We will probably eventually buy another kayak in the US — looking serious at the Mercury Tandem take-apart one now. Pricey, but can be used as a single or tandem and easier to transport since it comes apart. Best of luck with your move!


    […] Preparing for Belize: Saying goodbye to an old friend […]


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