Photo: Radio v United
BELIZE CITY, Thurs. Mar. 2, 2023
“I feel like crying whenever I see it,” says the last captain of the “United,” Collet “Bunas” Maheia as he indicated the wreckage of what was the historic sailing lighter, and indeed a hole has been torn in the fabric of Belize’s storied sailing history.
Last November’s passage of Hurricane Lisa across Belize City had reduced the storied boat to a pile of scrap and its owners the Maheia family cannot restore it.
For the first time in nearly its entire history, this weekend’s 94th Baron Bliss Harbour Regatta will not feature a race between sailing lighters, and the 128-year-old “Radio” will race alone, partially fulfilling a prediction made by its owner Don Pol Smith who in 1979 told AMANDALA’s short lived “Fun & Games” magazine in a profile, that he had sent all his competitors “to bed”.
The Smith family has owned “Radio” since it was built in 1895 and it has been passed down from Don Pol through Melvin Smith to Marlon Smith. It was named after the invention of “the wireless telegraph” in 1895, by a young Italian named Gugliemo Marconi while experimenting in his parents’ attic. He used radio waves to transmit Morse code and the instrument he used became known as the radio.
The Maheia family is uncertain when “United” was built and launched but believe it was also over 100 years old.
On Sunday, March 5th at the 94th Baron Bliss Harbour Regatta to be held in Buttonwood Bay in the sea in front of Seashore Drive, there will be 14 races in which Optimists, Lasers, Bosuns, and Sailing Dories will compete in 16 races on a 2-mile triangular course, but there will be no lighters race. Instead, “Radio” will sail in an exhibition alone.
A piece of Belize’s boat racing tradition and storied sailing history is gone, and so too a piece of our cultural hearts.
Alan Usher is the Principal Racing Officer of the Baron Bliss Harbour Regatta Committee.