What a delightful surprise this morning to open the latest post on San Pedro Scoop and find out it is all about my friends Mark and Deb Schaffer. Well, specifically, about the beautiful home they have built on the shore of North Ambergris Caye.
Rebecca “Scoop” Coutant is launching a new feature on her ever-expanding blog: a peek inside Ambergris Caye homes that are for sale by owner. Not quite “Househunters International” — how about “House Peekers San Pedro”? Something for the voyeur in all of us!
I’m going to jump right in and say that Scoop picked a cool one for her debut.
For 18 months, I enjoyed a ringside seat on this show. As anyone who has tried it knows, home building in Belize and on Ambergris Caye especially can be immensely entertaining. And Mark and Deb are immensely entertaining story tellers. We would meet periodically over a few beers and wine for progress reports. They reveled in the challenges — the problem solving. Especially the problem solving. As Scoop mentioned — not incidentally — both are engineers. And engineers are planners, detail people, innovators, obsessed with spreadsheets and sticklers for deadlines. Now, any one of those characteristics would send an ordinary Belize home-builder around the bend.
But not when you are both engineers — and husband and wife. That is a team to be reckoned with.
With spreadsheets on screen, Mark and Deb knew where their house was every step of the way. They knew what materials were missing, which were due, which had been double-billed and which had been substituted out for other products. They kept everything on task and target and if I remember correctly came in early and below estimate.
For all this, they got an extremely comfortable home of their own design. It is the sort of place where you sit at the kitchen counter while dinner is being prepped and never leave it because everyone is having such a good time there. Or the pool. Once you are in the pool, why get out? Mark and I did skip the pool one time, to take his kayak out to the reef for a little snorkeling. It is a classic engineer’s kayak — modular features galore, snap-in seats, paddle racks, pedals for non-paddling types. A fascinating watercraft, which I gather from Scoop, comes with the home.
There are some very stylized components to the house, like Graniel-built railings, furniture pieces and carved doors. There are portal windows to further the one-with-the-sea effect.
I can recall Mark explaining his innovative and efficient water capture and purification system to me but I couldn’t for the life of me tell you how it works. It sounded amazing, though. Lately Mark has been toying with a three-tier hydroponic system to water the native orchids and other plantings he has been bringing onto the property. He is using bamboo salvaged from the beach as aqueducts. Currently my tinkering friend is working on a model for a solar-powered aeration system. It consists of a Styrofoam float in the pool, with a tube shooting up from the center through which water squirts into the air. This, I suspect, will provide hours of endless amusement, especially if Mark mounts the tube on a remote-controlled turret.
Anyway, the house is a beaut. Just look at Scoop’s photos and you’ll see what I mean. Which puts me in an odd way. One side of me gets that Mark and Deb want to be closer to their children and grandchildren — especially those adorable grandchildren. I get that. I have two grandchildren of my own in California and every time I see pictures I ache, knowing that their lives are moving ahead without me. I’m sure that is on Mark’s and Deb’s minds, too. Well that and those Nebraska Cornhuskers …
The other side of me realizes what good people and good friends Mark and Deb are and too many of that sort seem to be skipping off this island these days for other ports.
Well, as Hurricane Earl taught us last year, nothing lasts forever on an island in the Caribbean Sea. Mark and Deb’s house withstood that test, by the way. It is a fortress. Not a nick on it. Took the pounding like a champ. The wooden fence on the seaside wasn’t so lucky but it was long since been replaced.
So, thanks for jostling all the good memories, Scoop. I love this new feature but if you’d make the next one or two about complete strangers, I’ll be able to shake this melancholy feeling.
Good luck, Mark and Deb. That is one house that won’t sit for long. I just hope the new occupants are every bit as nice as you!