Sustainable Wooden Boat of Sarteneja – Belize Rotating Header Image



Wooden boats (and working boats) have been built in Sarteneja since the 50’s.

With Sustainable Wooden Boat we would like to keep going with this unique activity, protect the resource, use eco-friendly materials and develop new projects in boat construction with the boat builders of Sarteneja.

Fishermen of Sarteneja represent more than 40 traditional wooden working boats. They are now using Super Sap, the bio-epoxy we are distributing in Sarteneja.


Our priorities: sustainability of the resource & the community.

A perfect representation of the idea, from Adbusters Vol 21 No.1; Economics vs Bionomics

Adbuster bionomics

An example with the mahogany


The mahogany is not only the symbol of Belize, it is also one of the most valuable hardwoods available for wooden boat construction.

Mahogany thrived throughout Belize and Central America before they were nearly all cut down by the log industries and their colonialist empires beginning in the late 17oo’s. Their plan was simple yet insustainable: cut everything they could, (with the strong backs of slaves as labor, of course), and make big profits exporting this freely available, irreplaceable, incalculable, non-refundable, natural resource to western countries, (Europe-North America) where the demand and profit for
hardwood was high.

The positive cycle: maintain the resource

Some people believe that instead of taking everything possible from nature to make big profits and create destruction, you can take it easy on the environment and look ahead…

Because money generally doesn’t help us to THINK !

It’s a fact: if wooden boats need trees, then trees must be cut. But what else can we do ?

It seems easy to understand that if we want trees with which to create, then we need to replant trees !

And that’s exactly what we are doing. When we cut one tree, we then replant another, sometimes 3 or 4, or even many more!

The excessive amount of time a tree needs to grow is no reason to forget that trees must be replanted !

And in fact, a mahogany grows faster than you think, especially if you plant it on a clear area with a lot of sun.

And so, the formula for sustainability is clear & simple: one tree cut, many more planted.

Community Tree nursery:

Located at Backpackers Paradise, our community nursery (also call vivero forestal) is a simple open area in the Belizean bush available to sprout and support mahogany saplings in black seed bags with the right amount of sun, shade and water. Our goal is not to build a big, industrial nursery to sell trees and make profits. Rather, our goal is to keep it small, easy to maintain, and demonstrate that it’s not difficult to grow trees purposefully!

We don’t do this to make money. Instead, we do it as a natural positive thing in our lives, bringing us happiness and a sense of satisfaction.

A simple fact: when taking resources from nature, one should
consider ways to GIVE IT BACK !

This could be a revolution in our society, but in fact it’s not: civilizations before us used to practice this approach.

It’s also interesting to note that one of the main reasons so many societies have collapsed is because of environmental destruction: deforestation, soil erosion, pollution, and related climate changes…

One of the best examples of this is the ancient Maya: here is a complete study of scientists from NASA  explaining how deforestation was the principal reason for the collapse of the mayan civilization.


Boat builders from Sarteneja

Sarteneja is avery unique village in Central America, where the art of traditional boat building is still alive. Sarteneja is also where the most productive fishing community in Belize is located, and many local boat builders are working there today to maintain its fleet of traditional wooden fishing boats.

Incomes for the community

Currently, the Belize fishing industry is facing decline. The primary products from the reef are lobster and conch; both are becoming rare due to overexploitation. (Most of the catch is exported to the US)

Less fishing activity means less money for boat building and less work for boat builders. An economic lack ultimately felt by the  entire village.

A sustainable alternative income is needed and can be realized in the traditional wooden boats of Belize…

Keep the art and tradition of wooden boat building alive in Belize.

Acquire financing  to create a school and develop a cultural center.

Research in bio-materials

Typicaly, boats require the use of many different types of hazardous materials, chemicals, and compounds in their production. (Varied degrees of) Toxic substances such as epoxy, paint & paint thinnner,
wood glue & varnish, wood sealer,etc…are commonly chosen for their durability and price, usually with little regard for their adverse environmental impact.

Searching for the most environmental friendly altenative products for wooden boat construction led us to ‘Bio-Epoxy’.

Bio-Epoxy Resin


The first experience was our introduction to a new ‘Bio-Epoxy’ developed in California for surfboard production.

Entropy Resins is a young and dynamic company from Gardena, managed by two cool, laid back, roots engineers from Berkeley.

We are the first to use their revolutionary epoxy products in traditional wooden boat construction. As an alternative to the toxic norm, they are irreplaceable. No substitute, dude. Visit the project gallery:

Entropy Resins Technology diagram

Hemp deck caulking

We use natural hemp fiber, the best that humanity has known since the beginning of the sailing history. For rope, sails, oils, etc…
Hemp harvesting use generally no pesticides and no fertilizer, contrary to cotton…

We proudly support Belize Hemp initiative. More info to come…




And a little Hemp propaganda film brought to you by the U.S. Department of Agriculture !

Hemp for Victory

Bottom paint

Traditionally, all boats receive a final coat of ‘bottom paint’ as their last layer on the hull below the waterline. Bottom paint protects the boat by deterring marine growth on the hull, usually with highly toxic ingredients or heavy metals, such as copper & lead.

Entropy Resins is currently developing an environmentally sound, non-contaminating alternative to toxic bottom paint.

Biomimetic is unfortunately not yet available in wooden boat technologies. But stay tuned…


Find more info here:


All ePaint products are free of copper, tributyltin, and other biocides that persist in the environment.  ePaint coatings combine novel patented photo-active technology with environmentally preferred active ingredients to provide you with a safe, effective alternative to traditional bottom paints.

ePaint antifouling and foul release coatings combine several different mechanisms to keep your boat hull clean:

> The main mechanism found in all ePaint coatings is a patented photo-active technology that is unique only to ePaint’s.   Energy from visible light in the water column is used to combine water and dissolved oxygen molecules to form hydrogen peroxide that blankets around the boat hull, creating a surface inhospitable to bio-fouling animal larvae such as barnacles and zebra mussels.  Hydrogen peroxide is very effective at deterring bio-fouling from settling yet quickly
decomposes back into water and dissolved oxygen.

Boat design

Tradition and new technologies can work together.

First a model is made in wood and will be the main reference in the design of the boat.

Using open source and free software like Delftship there is no limit for the imagination. It will be easy to see the boat in a virtual space and create new possibilities on the deck and the roof.


New flag of Belize



Is there something wrong with this flag ? (here is the original flag of Belize).


Not really, because these two guys are doing their job,which clearly is cutting trees, and when you do it effectively, there are no trees left!


Even though Belize is covered by many protected areas and reserves (map of protected areas), deforestation is still a problem in our country. We believe,  like many others, that we can do something simple to combat deforestation; we just need to learn to change few habits.


ED of Sustainable wooden boat

Master boat builder Juan Guerrero of Sarteneja, 26 boats made.

Visit the pictures gallery to see more of Juan Guerrero’s work.