The Windlass and The Mennonites (part 1)

When we arrived in Belize, the windlass (the anchor puller upper) finally gave up the ghost. Pete and Tony tried, several times to manufacture fixes to keep it going including rubber rings and aluminum foil. On our final anchor, while heading to Belize City, fixes were no longer an option. This part is no longer made so, aside from buying a brand new windlass, machining new parts seemed the best option.

We found out about a place called Spanish Lookout in Belize interior, a local Mennonite community known for their ability to do amazing work including craftsmen to help machine the parts necessary to fix the windlass. Sunday, prior to Tony and Jane departing Belize for San Francisco, the two men disconnected the windlass.

On Monday morning (2/25/2013), Pete and Gayle made arrangements for a car, hotel and Mennonite contact, including a read of guidebooks, and additional instruction from the locals.

Tuesday night, Mr. Elmer, the rental agency driver, arrived to take us to the rental company.* We rented a Pontiac Torrent (some bodywork included modifying the name to Orrent), got instructions of where we should have dinner as Chinese is king in Belize City, and anxious began. Chinese dinner included the most delicious fried chicken. So delicious and plentiful, that we had leftovers to take on our trip.

*This is our first car rental since Aruba, this is our first SUV car rental since Florida. We have specific instructions about traffic rules, and speed humps at cross walks.

Wednesday morning at 5:30 am, the alarm sounded. Butts in seats at 6:30 am, overnight bags and windlass in tow, we headed off to Spanish Lookout where Peter Janzen, our Mennonite contact, told us to call and he would find us “in town”.

At 9:00 am, we make the turn to Spanish Lookout. The turn takes us down the best-paved road of the trip, beautiful homes on the hills, palm trees and the most orderly farm plots. I don’t know Spanish Lookout, the Mennonite Community in Belize, but it is Pennsylvania, Lancaster, Pennsylvania from my recollection. Further inspection indicated that the weather is no good for mushrooms and while most have a more modern lifestyle (replete with dirt bikes, Wrangler jeans and Blundstone-style work boots). These folks run the largest dairy in the country (with the best ice cream) and the largest poultry farm (with the tastiest, happiest chickens) and people that are both friendly and curious, while very reserved and incredibly conservative.

Pete called Peter Janzen who comes zooming down the road in a white minivan and tells us to follow him, we squeal the tires a little (just a little) and within a couple miles, arrive at Mr. Janzen’s workshop. Aaron, his son, following some dialogue in Low German and English and English and Low German decides, indeed, he can manufacture a cone clutch for the windlass in bronze. Indeed, it would be ready the next day and we should check in mid-day.

The Inside of the Mennonite Workshop - Where the Magic Happens

The Inside of the Mennonite Workshop – Where the Magic Happens

The Mennonite Workshop - From the Road

The Mennonite Workshop – From the Road

Aaron called around 11:30 am on Wednesday. He was ready. We set off, nervous and excited to see what our young friend crafted in bronze. Aaron, he is a genius. I think he should make jewelry, Pete sincerely appreciated his bronze work, and I believe I saw a tear (possibly because Pete may no longer have to hand-haul the anchor). Aaron had the entire windlass put together on his workbench to display the new parts. Pete poked, prodded and tested and with a smile, paid Aaron ($175 US for two bronze cone clutches which included $90 in materials and 24-hour turn around).

The Windlass and All the Parts

The Windlass and All the Parts

The Windlass with the Clutch Parts Assembled - Thank You, Aaron.

The Windlass with the Clutch Parts Assembled – Thank You, Aaron.

Our New Bronze Cone Clutches with the Existing Clutch.

Our New Bronze Cone Clutches with the Existing Clutch.

Next stop, Belize City, for reinstallation of the windlass…

4 thoughts on “The Windlass and The Mennonites (part 1)

  1. I’m delighted by the story, the adventure, that Pete no longer has to haul the anchor by hand AND that Gayle is keeping the blog posts coming in Jane’s absence. I like your style Gaylee.

  2. Great story Gayle! Loved the idea of Lancaster, PA (near where my Dad grew up) in Belize. Looking forward to Part Deux, winching w/out effort!

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