Day 1 - Roatan, Honduras
We had a whole day and a half at home after getting back from our Glacier NP roadtrip to unpack, wash, repack, mow the farm lawn and get ourselves out the door again for a flight that left at 6am. I managed to sneek in a pedicure among my ToDo's, which you will hear more about later… The flight was long and we had a short layover in Houston on the way down. They held our flight out of Houston for about 15 minutes to make sure some last minute luggage changes finished up. It wasn't until we were on the plane that we saw a weather map with a tropical depression right where we were heading.
The flight was a bit bumpy (over the storm), and the landing was a very hard bump (lots of wind) with a lot of breaking (short runway) - one of the hardest landings I've experienced. Otherwise, all's well that ends well.
The boys were immediately impressed by the size of the airport (very small). We made it through customs and were met by Lee Adamson, our host for the week, along with his taxi driver, Jose. We all piled in the taxi and headed across the island to the West End, a strange little town on the beach (literally built on the sand) which is a mixture of locals and expats making their living off of tourists coming to dive.
Jim and Zach stayed with the stuff on a restaurant pier where they talked to the owner - a local who married a woman from Seattle, managed a restaurant there for 5 years, then moved back here to have a restaurant of their own for the past 7 years. Noah and I accompanied Lee to buy ice at the grocery store and fruit at the vegetable stand (Noah wanted me to point out that one of the vegetable "stands" was just the back of a truck parked in the same place every day). The town is quite a different place. The bars were getting ready to open - sweeping the sand in front of their place to clean up. The street was more potholes than road - paved right over the sand (accounts for the potholes). The good news is the cars can't go fast as people wander back and forth through the streets. Everything is on a smaller scale - shops are small and carry little inventory. It's very much a rural feel - not much going on. Chickens and dogs are running loose, kids are playing here and there and eating snacks of fruit right at the fruit stand, old folks sitting on their porches watching the world go by. The locals speak Spanish, but it was once ruled by the British, so many people speak English too. The older shopkeepers seem to speak mostly Spanish, and the younger people speak Engilsh (with an odd Jamacian-esque accent). The shops are a strange mixture of traditional stores (clothing, grocery, fruit), dive shops, bars, a few craft/souvenir shops, and alternative lifestyle shops (yoga studio, Rastafarian wear, natural healing stuff). A lot of people seem to be just hanging around.
We finally got all that we needed, and realized that it was going to take two dingy rides to get all our luggage and all us to the boat. Lee took most of the luggage with the boys to the boat to get acquainted with Wendy, while Jim and I sat and watched from the dock. We noticed some pink and purple things floating on the water all over the place - the restaurant owner said they were Man of Wars, and sure enough we could see their tentacles. Lee was thrilled to see them, and the other sailors were too - hadn't seen that for years (or ever) around here - blown in by the tropical storm. Meanwhile the waves were crashing over the reef into the harbor and there was a bit of a chop. We figured all this was normal, of course - not knowing any better. Everyone promised us glassy seas and clear water soon. On our ride to the boat Lee stopped at a couple of boats and introduced us to some of the people in their neighborhood, whom we agreed to meet at the restaurant we came in at for brunch tomorrow.
I brought a ton of books and some DVDs for (our and their) entertainment, and lots of snacks, so it was kind of like Christmas getting all the stuff out for them. We had a fun time telling stories while Wendy made yummy fajitas for dinner (Lee made us a round of boat drinks to get us into the proper frame of reference). Noah made the observation that the sun went down early here, so we had a little flashlight-on-the-cantaloupe impromptu demonstration on the rotation of the tilted earth around the sun. Zach fell asleep on the bench after dinner, while the rest of us talked and talked. We first met Lee as one of the original core group of ski friends that we skied with every winter and we've been doing fun adventures with him ever since, so we had lots of stories of remembrance, and catching up on mutual friends.
We also got acquainted with Jaques, the resident boat gecko, and the resident tiki gods and their elaborate care needs (they need to be bathed daily, offered food, taken for rides occasionally, the original two tiki boys got lonely and needed a girl friend so they had quite an adventure of getting a suitable tiki friend, etc.). The tiki thing is something an island friend thought they needed, so they went along with the stories, but they forget sometimes to properly take care of them.
It was a hot night, but not unbearable. The rocking of the boat was a nice way to fall asleep. During the night the rocking of the waves slowed way down as the water calmed.
Day 2 - West End, Honduras
We awoke to clear water and calm seas. For the most part, it was still cloudy - something I appreciated for keeping the hot sun away.
After leisurely getting ready, we made our way back across the harbor to the restaurant where we ate a very yummy champagne brunch. I got a tipico breakfast - tortilla, beans, queso, pork steak and eggs - all very yummy. They served fresh tropical fruit and coffeecake as appetizers with the fresh squeezed (we watched them squeeze it) orange juice and champagne. The breakfast took hours - nothing happens fast around here. Our breakfast companions (besides the six of us) were a couple from Florida that had been sailing for 5 years, and a doctor who had been sailing with his wife for 2 years .I talked to the doctor a bit - of all things, an allergist/autoimmuneologist with a heart for teaching best practices to the industry, and (before retiring to sail) a practice with a track record that gave him the credentials to do so. He convinced me to modify my allergy maintenance plan - something I will likely give a try when I get back. One of the things I did in my day-and-a-half at home was to get my allergy shot - my first at maintenance level - so my body has been fighting to get back on track after that, allergies are on my mind. His boat is a Leopard (boatmaker), and the name of the boat is Changing Spots (I like his name) - our nearest neighbor in the mooring.
The sun was out and it was hot, so rather than take a stroll through town, the boys were ready to get at it and get into the WATER! We came back to the boat and changed to go snorkeling on the reef. We all climbed in the dingy and traveled to the reef where we moored the boat on a buoy and all hopped in the water. Lee took Zach as a snorkel partner, Wendy & Noah were partners, and Jim and I partnered up. The reef is very shallow in many parts and the water very clear, so we were able to see everything from snorkeling. We all saw a giant lobster, Jim and I saw a sea snake, Wendy and Noah saw an octopus, and we saw beautiful diverse coral and fish. Zach and I each had a bar jack follow us as a friend - we could have reached out and touched him. The reef was kind of sandy - somewhat a product of the rough seas we just had, but I also heard that a large (7+) earthquake off the coast a year or so ago trashed the reef from its pristine state. We were hardly disappointed though.
Towards the end of the snorkel time my legs started itching. By the time we all got back in the dingy and I got back on the sailboat, my legs were one giant itch. I'm not exactly sure of the cause of this one, but I've had this problem with sea water on sensitive legs before. I had a reaction to the oil used for the leg massage during the pedicure, so I had a rash from that anyway, but this itching was all over my legs. I quickly showered off and took all my antihistamine drugs. My poor body is just not able to fight off extra stuff right now. Fortunately there was a nice cool breeze blowing, and some clouds were keeping the sun down, so I was able to get out on the deck and let the cool breezes help take the itch away. While out there, the sun peeked through for a beautiful sunset, and someone brought out a boat drink, so other than the itch, I was living the good life!
The people at breakfast tried their hardest to convince the boys that they were getting to do something very special. I think it's starting to sink in. Noah was able to kick back in a hammock this afternoon, but Zach was still restless and looking to be entertained.
Wendy knows boys, so she made hamburgers for dinner, making the kids happy. We ate out on the deck, enjoying the almost full moonrise. Dinner conversation was about the cool fish we saw during the day, "Did you see the one with the neon blue spots?"…