Building our new home in Belize, the good, the bad and the horrible

One thing you will learn about doing anything in Belize, you will never stay within any timelines.”

1

Morning view from the deck

 

The guys have been pretty busy this past week or so, building the concrete storage/security room under the house, and putting the finishing layer over all the concrete columns and beams. Its pretty amazing how things are done here in Belize. I watched as the crew went over all the poured concrete and chipped them with tomahawks ! OK, well…actually hatchets. I just wanted to get your attention.

2

Wood forms removed from stairs. Cool look to the single support post.

Next they got special sand delivered, a massive dump truck full, which they then sifted thru a screen, and mixed with cement.They would then fill a homemade “palate”, and scoop a trowel of this liquid pure cement up and throw it on the columns. Now that may sound messy and easy, but trust me, to have it land and stick correctly, there’s an art to it, which includes a special “flick” of the wrist.

 

All the forms have been removed from the front and back stairs, and I really love the single column supporting the landing on both front and back.

The security room is pretty much finished, with exception of final finish on walls. The guys have completed the double door entryway, and the window. We will be installing a pretty heavy duty solid set of doors, and the window will enjoy custom steel security bars.

101

The secure concrete “storage / security” room under house.

Its finally at the time when the roof is the next major project to raise, I looked out the front door of the Cabana last week and saw the guys erecting these long boards on top of the walls, to sort of a point in middle of house. When I asked the foreman what they were for, he told me to walk on while building the roof! They were Belize scaffolding, which I will be mentioning again shortly. hen they were completed, I watched my foreman walking on them, thinking to myself “balance pole anyone?”. Keep in mind that he is walking the plank, about 15 feet in the air, above a concrete floor with tons of rebar sticking straight up!

 

So the next thing we need after the scaffolding is the special beams being cut special order from Belize hardwood at the mill. Kevin had told me they were delivering it last Thursday or Friday. While waiting the guys proceeded to build more scaffolding all around the outside of the house, about 20 feet high, as the main floor is about 12 feet in air.

102

Tall scaffolding along sides of the house 

So Monday and Tuesday go by, and no lumbar from the mill. I hear from Kevin that the mill had equipment failure, as in broken plainer. They hoped to get it fixed and have the wood here by Wednesday or Thursday. The crew are getting a bit nervous as they know the rain is coming soon, and they really want the roof up before it starts again.

So to avoid a day-to-day rundown, today is Sunday, and here comes the truck!

timbers

Got Wood?

As I watched the guys unloading beams, some over 24 feet long from the flatbed, all I could think about was the fact they would be lifting those beams twenty feet above the main floor to build the cathedral ceiling! Back in the U.S. the crew would have unloaded them with a skid steer and raised them with a crane!

 

So now I can tell you about “power” / electric in Belize. I have often heard about loosing power here, but over the past 6 months, only lost it a couple times, not more than a couple hours. Until this week, when we lost power at 5 PM and it was out until midnight! Needless to say, with the whole village in a blackout, both Oliver and I were shall we say, alert ? When the main house is complete it will have a whole-house butane generator hooked up to the panel which will continue running everything. But for now…what to do?

103

Our new generator, lights, fans, security lights and movies ?

Daddy Saves The Day!

Just a little scenery from my trip to Spanish Lookout to purchase the generator.

104

Got Beef ?

 

So, the next step is raising the roof. I’ll be back!

 

The Pirate…Gary

 

 

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Building our Dream Home in Belize, the Good, Bad and Horrible

When you finally make that decision to build, buy and move to Belize.

 

For months now I have been helping you follow the progress of our new home build here on the Placencia Peninsula, Stann Creek, Belize, Central America. I’m going to take a break from that to actually go backwards a bit and talk about what we did when we first made a decision to look at buying, building and moving to Belize. These are steps that everyone should make before making that all important decision.

pool

Sure! Staying at Luxury Resorts is fun, but is it really living in Belize? Really?

So many time and way to often, people do their research, pack bags and drag loved ones down to Belize to experience this country and discover if its where they want to move to. They book a room in a hotel or resort on Ambergris Caye, on the Placencia Peninsula, Corozal, god forbid Belize City or somewhere. They may even book a week in one then another, and sometimes come back to Belize a second time, and book into a hotel or resort again.

And then they think they know everything about Belize, that they can live here no problem, and they purchase land, condo or house somewhere.

h3

Shopping locally and cooking for you and your family is important experience.

I will tell you this is a recipe for disaster, in my opinion, as well as most Expats living here, or those who did this, and moved back to the states or Canada within a year.

h1

Lou’s rental house on beach in Placencia, where we fell in love with Placencia.

What I suggest is what Marsha and I did, because after all, we are experts…right? We visited many area’s of Belize, stayed in hotels, resorts multiple times, and realized Belize was for us. Then we made the correct decision, to rent a house and actually live for weeks or months as close to a Belizean as possible. Shop for food, cook your meals, shop for day to day things you are used to back home. Find out what you can and can’t find, or better yet, what you can live without. Test the waters, the community, see if you can walk your streets after dark. Get to know other Expats and locals and pick their brains.

h4

View from the porch of Lou’s Beach House.

We rented homes twice, once in downtown Placencia and again in Maya Beach, which sealed our decision to build and move there.

h5

Ted’s Cabana / Caribbean front House on in Maya Beach

The 1st house we rented was at the very end, North side of the Placencia Sidewalk. The owner Lou was an elderly lady, living in her trailer behind the beautiful beachfront wood house, built back in the 60’s. Lou was there to greet us and welcome us to her house, and there if we needed her for anything, but staying out of our way. Lou and her husband now passed, were the 1st whites to move to Placencia back n the 1960’s. They were touring Central America in their van, and just ended up here, deciding this was a great place to settle.

h6

 The view of the “Toucan House” we rented in Maya Beach.

Living for weeks in that house helped us make the decision to move to Belize, and that we loved living on our private beach. We were walking distance to everything we would need or want in Placencia. We could walk to the stores and shop for groceries and supplies, like Rum, or choose to hit the Barefoot or Tipsy if that was our desire. The decision to rent that house on the ocean, solidified our eventual decision to do just that ourselves, years later.

h7

Living and full kitchen in Ted’s rental house on beach.

A couple years later we again rented a beachfront house/cabana on the Caribbean, this time in Maya Beach, Placencia Peninsula, Belize. Maya Beach is about 20 minutes from the “village” or downtown Placencia, yet smaller and not as busy. It is being called the “Florida Key” of Belize, and very popular with all visitors to Belize. Again we can walk to five awesome restaurants, a store that has just about anything we might need, a hardware/ lumber store, a Police Station, and friendly wonderful locals and Expats.

This stay in the home on the beach in Maya Beach solidified our decision that Maya Beach was the perfect place for us. We knew that we would have to live without some things, and some we could get in the weirdest ways, which you would never learn just living in a hotel room. Like for instance, a refrigerated truck that makes deliveries once a week to my house, with fresh organic fruit and vegetables from Spanish Lookout. A refrigerated truck that comes to my house twice a week, with frozen chickens and pork for sale.

oli

Although having not a care in this world is nice, we should always be aware of surroundings.

And then there is the issue I would never learn about if I only stayed in fancy resorts. We learned from the owners and neighbors of those houses we rented, that “surprise”, there is crime throughout Belize, even on the Placencia Peninsula!  Go figure, why had i not heard about this before? Now granted, I had known that like any vacation destination in the world, you have pick pockets and petty thieves. But how many of you readers know that almost weekly, someone in Belize is “chopped” by a machete? How many know of the homes being broken into? You won’t learn that from your resort staff or managers, because that would hurt the tourist industry.

So the correct answer is, rent a house or two, meet the neighbors, and really live like a local before you spend that retirement fund.

On that note, Cheers all 😉

Gary….the Pirate

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Building Our New Beach Home in Belize, the story continues.

                         Lots of progress on the ground and in the air.

 

I am really blown away buy the diversity of my builder’s crew, as I watch them in this building process. They don’t work on just one thing, but move around the build, working on whatever need to get done today, or this week. And like I said before, these guys are like the seven dwarfs, they actually do whistle while they work.

stairs1

Forms for front stairs built and poured.

The front/road side concrete steps and landing to front deck have now been completed via another amazing feat by building forms, rebar cages to keep it all strong. I can certainly appreciate being able to walk up the 12 foot stairs up to main floor. I can assure you, the crew also appreciates the front stairs instead of climbing and carrying everything heavy, up homemade ladders!

stairs2

Note what floor looks like here 😉

While that was going on underneath the main floor some 12 feet below, loads of beach sand were brought in and spread over the floorspace in preparation of building the ground level storage/security concrete room under the house. Truckload after truckload arrived and was dumped in the driveway, them moved via caterpillar.

bricksarrive

Cinderblocks arrive for underneath concrete room.

 

Once that was done, the guys started constructing the storage room with cinderblocks. I’m sure that they might have fought over who got that job, because its under the main floor, and quite a bit cooler down there. Once all the walls are completed and floor poured with concrete, all it will need are the 2 security doors. Then I actually will have a secure storage room. Can’t wait!

dirtdownunder

See what I meant? flooring has been covered.

But probably the most exciting part of the build so far is happening up topside on the main floor. First I looked out the Cabana window and say a wall going up! Yahoo! Then a second wall went up and a third. I was actually able to see the floorpan start to take shape, and my face was all smile!

marshadeck

My honey Marsha blessed me with a ten day visit. Standing on her new deck, actually in the “barbecue / cook center”. Crappy view, isn’t it?

Next the front covered deck support uprights went up and I could walk around and actually get a feel of just how massive our 42 foot deck overlooking the Caribbean was.

This is where I plan to live, with my wife, my cook center, outside suspension swinging bed, overlooking our pier and custom built boat. Am I excited? Yes! Am I a lucky boy? Yes!

oliverlooking down

Oliver looking for the stairs to the ocean 😉

Finally I looked out this morning and it looked like the guys were putting up a circus tent frame that peaked in the middle of the house. The fact is, its basically scaffolding for the guys to walk on while building the roof structure. And yes, these guys walk around up there on top of the wall structure like circus performers or tight walk walkers! And, let me tell you, the ocean winds have really kicked up, and the wind surfers are loving it! Not sure if the guys are.

housefromroad

View of house from roadside.

And so another chapter ends, and another page turns to a new one.

I end this blog post with a heavy heart, because my sweetheart’s ten days here are over and she flew out yesterday. As I start my two month countdown until her return, I can only smile as my memories of her excitement at what has been accomplished were absorbed by her eyes and heart this time. What will be here for her to experience on her return, one can only wonder and hope. I expect at least a roof and walls,

and possibly a chilled bottle of French Champagne, a rose and 2 flutes?

IMG_6736

I decided to go fishing ! What a catch ! Actually we were the first purchase at this new art studio that just opened this weekend on the Placencia Sidewalk. Really cool place, story and art.

 

Cheers all from your Belizean Pirate, Gary

 

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Maya Beach, Belize “Fine Dining” Experiences.

This is an article I wrote for a new magazine I am writing for about life in Central America, soon to release the first issue. I thought it was perfect for promoting Placencia Peninsula, Maya Beach and Belize.

Enjoy,

Gary

 

     Oceanfront dining options in Maya Beach, Belize, the new “Florida Keys”.

 

The Placencia Peninsula on the southern coast of Belize is quickly becoming the “go-to” destination for not only vacationers but also Expats. Considered part of Placencia is the small village of Maya Beach just north of downtown Placencia. Here the peninsula narrows to where in some places there is water on both sides of the road. However, the Maya Beach section is known as the Florida Keys of Belize. Offering both oceanfront homes and building lots as well as lagoon side lots, it quickly becomes a target for development.

man1

This parking lot overflows many nights a week at Mango’s, for visitors and locals.

Besides some of the best sandy beaches in Belize, the main draw for many is the handful of restaurants in the village. On any given evening they are packed with cars lining the streets. Locals, as well as visitors in Placencia, will drive or take a cab just to eat and socialize in Maya Beach, for a good reason.

man2

Inside Mango’s is a comfortable oval bar, my personal seat, and inside / outside tables with ocean view.

If you visit TripAdvisor and search “Best Restaurants in Placencia, Belize,” the #1 is the Maya Beach Hotel Bistro” located in Maya Beach. With well over 1,200 reviews, including a few of my own, everyone loves the menu, food, bartenders and especially the ocean views. They encourage you to come for happy hour with your bathing suit, relax in the pool, and then dine in the open-air restaurant.

mb2

Bar / counter seats at the Maya Beach Bistro, #1 Restaurant on Placencia Peninsula.

What’s not to love with an exceptional wine list, fresh seafood, and fine dining menu.

Ellen and John opened the Bistro eight years ago and had built reputations that will certainly last years. My personal recommendation for breakfast is the Duck Sausage Hash, and dinner Seafood and Coconut Chowder, or truthfully, everything!

MBI

Inside seating at the Maya Beach Bistro, and awesome view! A two minute walk from my house!

The next restaurant, especially with the Expat population is Mango’s which offers a large parking lot, which you rarely will find a space. Ask anyone what they don’t like about Mango’s and they will tell you the fact that it’s closed on Monday and Tuesday! It’s that popular, as you can experience on a Wednesday night when cars line the main street in front. They offer a large menu of both American and Belize cuisines, with emphasis on local seafood. Another specialty served, and a local favorite is custom pizza! Climb the stairs, and as you enter the open restaurant doors, you immediately scan the “Specials Board,” offering dishes at a discount. You can bet when I see Lasagna on there; it becomes my choice. With an American named Frank as an owner, you can bet the pizza and lasagna are excellent. With Belizean cooks, guaranteed the seafood and traditional Belize dishes like the “Belizean Special of the Day” is the bomb!

bone1

Inside dining room at the Bonefish Grill in Maya Beach, spectacular !

And then there’s the Bonefish Grille located at Singing Sands Resort located within what appears a small Belize village in itself. This tropical setting, all under palm and Belize hardwoods creates a picture perfect dining experience. With a large multi-level open experience restaurant, Warm Ocean breezes, soft music and fine dining, you have arrived in heaven. With a delicious menu featuring local seafood with the Asian influence, a super open bar, and one of the best wine lists I have experienced in Belize, prepare to dazzle your taste buds.

bone3

Outside on oceanfront beach looking in at Bonefish Grill in Maya Beach.

Although there are a couple of other restaurants in Maya Beach, these are the ones that offer some of the best the area has to offer. Offering ambiance, fine dining, picture perfect locations and are frequented by locals, expats and vacationers more frequently than not. They are a major part of what keeps Maya Beach one of the most popular and visited villages in Belize today.

Look forward to dining at you all in one or all of these fine restaurants when you visit or move to Belize.

Cheers to all,

 

Gary……The Pirate

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Building our new home in Belize, the Saga Continues.

                                                     Got Wood ?

Now that the entire upper floor has been poured in concrete, I have anxiously awaited the building of the concrete stairs to it in front and back. I did climb up a rickety wood ladder once to view the concrete floor and view from up to on my new deck once, but it appeared a “death wish” to do it again.

1

The day after the floor was poured I climbed up to check out view.

Finally it appears that my wish is being answered, with the construction of forms for the stairs in front.

w1

Starting to build forms for concrete front steps

Another pleasant surprise was the delivery of wood to start the framing of the house. I was out and about with my good friends Oliver and Della DeHart, also building in the area, and returning found wood stacked “upstairs”.

w2

Pouring rain, guys underneath taking out support poles 😉

This morning as the crew arrived, a load of concrete bags followed them on a truck, and so did the pouring rain! They had told me they would be mixing and pouring the steps, but now that process is postponed.

w4

Instead they all ran under the house and started removing all the support poles and sheets of plywood that supported all the upper concrete until it hardened. I am actually thrilled with that so I can see the view of ocean under the house from the Cabana.

w5

Here comes another load of wood!

And then the next load of building/framing lumber arrived and watched the crew unload and lift up the 12 feet to upper level of house.I bet they wish those front stairs were built!

Now I should tell you that when Kevin places an order for the wood, it is cut to order at that time, dried and shipped to the building site directly from the lumber yard. There is no “Home Depot” or the like here to just go pick up lumber. Its cut to order!

w6

Unloading lumber from truck, and lifting up on top to stack! Where are the stairs ??? 

Seems that the rain is subsiding and the guys are back to work outside. The next blog should feature concrete from steps and some house framing started.

See ya then.

Gary……The Pirate

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Building our new home in Belize, the Saga Continues

                               OMG…from up here I can see Cuba !

 

My last post the guys were laying rebar steel, a lot of it, criss crossed on the top floor of the house, in preparation of pouring the concrete floor. They also installed all water, electric and gas PVC tubes thru the floor area before the concrete is poured, so it comes up inside walls.

3

         Pumper and cement truck show up this morning !

The arrival of the concrete pumper tower truck is a welcome site because my dreams are being answered to finally have a floor that I can walk around up there, to see what views I will have when the house is completed.

4

Watching them pour concrete floor from my neighbors, Pat and Wendy’s pool 😉

These guys work really, really, really hard during the concrete pouring stage. Just hauling that monster hose that the concrete shoots out of is hard work. Add to that the guys raking and smoothing all that concrete, in 80 degree F. hot sun!

5

       Pouring and raking/leveling concrete in the hot sun.

That’s a crew of eight guys on this, and every one is a hard worker! That’s for sure gets high marks for my builder / contractor, Kevin Brodsky.

1

    Standing on the new poured floor, looking back at the cabana and sunset.

After they completed the pour, the next day the crew started pouring the bases for the front steps, and removing some of the poles supporting the structure. Looking forward to having those gone, so I can see what I can see under the house?

2

Starting the structure for the concrete steps up to front deck.

 

End of day, floor done, waiting on wood and tile 😉

10

         It’s going to be quite a view, and wait, isn’t that CUBA ???

12

For those of you that have not yet been to Placencia, my “in-town” office 😉

 

Not sure exactly what the next phase will be, but rest assured, you’ll all be the first to know. Remember, if you don’t have the answer yet…you have not drunk enough rum!

Gary …the Pirate

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The building of our new home in Belize “The Story Continues.”

        It’s been many days since my last confession, and I have sinned!

liz

My new friend from The Placencia in Maya Beach, bigger than he looks!

OK, I know, I know, I have been away from this desk for a few weeks now, but for good reasons. Everybody needed a break for various reasons, and after all, it takes a while for concrete to really “cure”. That being said, the upright columns are hard as rocks!

cat

Excellent day aboard (and in the water) on Day Tripper. Can you say RUM 🙂

I have actually gotten to play a bit, enjoying the Easter holiday here in Placencia, which is a really big time here. Then there was the day sail catamaran sail on the “Day Tripper” with my buds Tracy and Ryan. Of course, something new in my life is becoming a member in the newly formed “Parrothead Club” here on the Peninsula, which is just another “drinking game with friends”, along with benefit events for local things.

rebar

The guys were working hard laying reinforced rebar in flooring sections before concrete.

But now the crew are back on the job and have been working days preparing the upper level for pouring the concrete floor. Eight inches of wood frame needed to be perfectly installed all around the perimeter.

rebar2

My crew finishing wood borders for concrete pour, and steel reinforcement.

Next, it was time to lay tons of iron rebar criss crossing each other, which needed to be wired together at each intersection. This will be the support for inside the concrete once its poured, and will make the structure strong as bull! Or should I just say, stronger than a hurricane!

plum

Starting adding plumbing lines inside flooring.

The next step in the process is to run all the water supply, drain lines and air vent tubes up through the flooring and secure them in place before pouring concrete floor. This is very critical because all these must be in perfect placement before pouring, so they will correctly connect to sinks, toilets and showers in the house.

Stay tuned because they are supposed to be here tomorrow to pout the concrete flooring for the house and entire deck. This is oh so exciting on so many levels. After the concrete floor in poured, the next step is walls! OMG, have I been waiting for the day that I actually see walls going up.

plum2

Just about finished securing all the rebar steel, and plumbing lines for pouring floor tomorrow.

And then there is the celebration of actually walking on the edge of my deck at waters edge! I will finally get to see, as will you, what the view will be for the rest of my life, every day from our master bedroom. Already my Architects, Tracy and Ryan are planning to come over and next weekend for a cocktail from on top of the new deck!

But then, any excuse for RUM when the Pirate is around…

parrot

Oliver checking out the two new inhabitants to the Pirates Cabana !

Until the “Big Pour”, Cheers my friends,

 

Gary…The Pirate

 

 

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment