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|In December of 1973 I had just finished my third semester of punishment at the University of Michigan Law School. I figured the worst was over and it was time to reward myself with a vacation. The previous summer I had met Jim Gavagan, a fascinating Irish-American who claimed to own a resort and 50-foot yacht in British Honduras. “If you can find your way down there the rest is on me,” he said, and when the snow grew three feet deep outside my Ann Arbor apartment the invitation proved too good to resist. I took a jet from Detroit to Miami and a four engine propeller plane from Miami to Belize. I was somehow seated at the rear of the aircraft where a big round table turned out to be a very friendly bar at which endless Bloody Marys became the beverage of choice.The rest of the day is still kind of fuzzy, but I do remember stumbling off a tiny Maya Airways plane at Big Creek and then being paddled in a dugout canoe across the lagoon to Placencia peninsula. The “resort” was closer to a collection of dilapidated shacks and the “yacht” was a rotting wooden tub that sailed better sideways than forward. But the week I spent aboard the “Leprechaun” remains the most memorable in my life. We sailed through azure waters between exotically named cayes like Ranguana, Pompion, Buttonwood and Nicholas. I learned to snorkel—and spear fish—with more skill than I ever knew I possessed, and when I walked ashore at Hunting Caye with a ten pound grouper in one hand and a six pound hog snapper in the other, the lighthouse keeper’s “Nice catch!” was the greatest compliment I had—or have—ever received.When we returned to port—sunburned, rum soaked and extremely well fed—it was with great regret that I anticipated the journey back to the States. Then came the words that would change a young man’s life forever: “Stewart,” explained the captain, “I need a first mate for some upcoming charters, not to mention a manager for the hotel. Would you like the job?” My lips spat out an answer before my brain even heard the question. “Yes sir. When do I start?”|
|That was 38 years ago and I suppose I’m technically still on leave from law school…at least that’s what my mother hopes. And while the first mate’s job lasted only six months and was succeeded by enjoyable stints as a tennis teacher, journalist, TV station owner and now resort developer, those same qualities that caused me to say “yes” to this country in 1973 are even more in evidence today. While Belize may boast more world class natural attractions per square mile than any other place on earth, what makes it special for me is that elusive quality called authenticity. What you see is what you get.And in a world of endless hype, constant cons and shameless self promotion, where marketing seems to substitute for substance…it’s nice to know that there is someplace that’s unapologetically real. I’m proud to call it home.|
|Stewart Krohn is the lead partner in Cocoplum,a residential/resort community on the Placencia Peninsula.www.cocoplumbelize.net|