Queen Elizabeth II christened the QE2 in 1967 with a bottle of champagne. When Prince Harry christened the Jubilee last week, named in honour of his grandmother’s Diamond Jubilee, or 60th anniversary of occupying the throne, he used a bottle of beer, according to the canoe’s builder, Chaa Creek owner Mick Fleming.
But the beer was Beliken, the country is Belize, and the Jubilee is a canoe, so it was perfectly fitting.
The prince was christening the canoe for the 15th annual La Ruta Maya River Challenge, arguably Belize’s biggest sporting event with over 80 local and overseas teams paddling the 175 miles from San Ignacio town, close to the Guatemalan border, to Belize City on the Caribbean coast.
Sponsored by the British High Commission in Belize and Bowen and Bowen who among other things brew the national beer, Beliken, the specially designed, Chaa Creek built canoe will be crewed by three teenagers selected from a nationwide competition.
The canoe was launched at the ancient Maya temple site of Xunantunich on the Mopan River near the Guatemalan border after the Prince toured the archaeological site and enjoyed a traditional Maya Deer Dance performance from the top of the temple, just as his ancient Maya royal counterparts would have done centuries before.
After the tour of Xunantunich, the Prince inspected the canoe and, with a bottle of Beliken beer officially christened her the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee, or Jubilee for short. By coincidence, the Jubilee was built by The Lodge at Chaa Creek where the Prince stayed and had dinner the night before.
Video of Prince Harry christening the Diamond Jubilee canoe built by The Lodge at Chaa Creek
That Belize’s premier eco resort would be in the boat building business is not unusual considering Chaa Creek’s enthusiastic participation in La Ruta Maya over the years. Chaa Creek’s owners, Mick and Lucy Fleming, are well known environmentalists who have been working to safeguard the Macal River which borders the resort and nourishes the 365 acre private nature reserve the Flemings established around it.
There will be several Chaa Creek-built canoes among over 80 craft expected to compete in this year’s race, which traces ancient Maya river trade routes during the three days it winds through Belize’s pristine rainforest environment, stopping nights at villages with picturesque names such as Banana Bank, Bermudian Landing and Burrell Boom.
The La Ruta Maya race is part of Belize’s annual Baron Bliss Day Celebration, a national bank holiday named after an eccentric wealthy Englishman who fell in love with Belize while visiting aboard his yacht and bequeathed a fortune to the country, even though, confined in a wheelchair aboard his boat, he never actually set foot ashore.
Photo credit: Ambergristoday.com