Day 7 - continued
Our plan was to take the dinghy over to the shore and barbeque for dinner, but nobody wanted to go out again after cleaning up from being drenched by the dinghy ride, so we went with plan B and put another movie in, "The Blind Side", and watched it with a simple quesadilla dinner. We were inspired to watch that particular movie (we had brought it with us) by a boat neighbor, Jamie. Noah had worn his completely faded but completely loved Emmet Smith Cowboys jersey, and when we pulled up alongside his boat on the dock, he commented on the jersey and said he had something to show Noah. He reappeared a few minutes later with an official NFL Philadelphia Eagles ring! He played with the NY Jets in his rookie year 1969 - the year they won the Superbowl, but he doesn't carry that ring with him.He was traded to the Eagles after a few years. His position was Split End and Punt Return. Noah was in awe. Jamie later became a forensic psychiatrist for awhile, then retired to be a dive instructor, specializing in teaching disabled people to dive.
Day 8 -Fantasy Island, Roatan, Honduras
The wind was still blowing (though not as hard), and the seas were still rough for diving today. Lee stayed onboard and caulked the kitchen sink. The rest of us motored over to the Iguana farm in the dinghy. We were met under the trees by Joe (Jose), a 9-year-old boy who proceeded to give us a wonderful tour of the iguanas, monkeys and birds that they have there. His grandmother runs the gift shop, and his mother helps out there, so he and his brother are there most weekends when they are off school. He remembered Wendy, and their last guest that they brought a few weeks ago, Anne. He and Anne had formed a special connection and he wanted very much to send her some email.We ended up bringing him and his brother, Joseph (age 11) back to the boat while Wendy hunted down her email address. They spent about an hour on the boat, taking a tour, playing games on the iPod Touch with Noah and Zachary, and Joe answering questions and telling us stories in English (his second language). I thought it was funny when Joseph said, "let's go down and play in your room", apparently a universal hang-out place. We got them each to sign the guest book:
Im from Roatan
I like to go to Iguana Farm
And Im a tour guide
Its Roatan (with an accent mark over the last a)
Remember you can come any time you want
We cruised back to the dock where (all) the boys could swim in the pool at the resort, and I could get on the internet in the hotel lobby. I ended up getting eaten by mosquitoes, but the boys had fun. For dinner we met the other boat people at the dock lawn for a barbeque/potluck, organized by the harbor host (kind of like a campground host). Noah and Zach got to play football catch with their football player buddy, Jamie.
Day 9 - Happy July 4 from Roatan, Honduras!
Today began with calm wind (stifling really) and almost glassy seas. We made plans to meet Jamie for a dive on Coco View Wall this morning. It took us awhile to get moving, but we finally got our act together. The dive was the outside of the coral reef, with lots of shelves of various coral, apparently healthy enough, but there were hardly any fish! We all thought it was kind of weird not seeing lots of fish. We are wondering if we are spoiled by having dived in some of the best places in the world, or if this was just an anomaly. The coral was truly very cool, and the wall was, as Jim put it, "like a cathedral". Noah's only comment in his dive book was "I didn't like the dive", and when asked to elaborate…"It was boring". I think we all would have enjoyed diving in the 20 foot depth on top of the reef where there were at least a few more fish. Ah well, some dives are like that.
After cleaning up and getting lunch, we pondered the weather while passing out from the still air and heat, and wondered what to do next. The consensus was to go further east along the island, as the ocean travel would be easy on those of us who find waves a little sickening, and the act of motoring would be cooling. Our destination was Port Royal, a former hang out of pirate ships, and the subject of a book, Roatan Odyssey, that Lee and Wendy have read, and Jim is just finishing - the specific goal being to find the house that is the subject of this autobiographical book about an amazing woman living here in the 1970s.
We heard our names being called from the Iguana farm dock as we were leaving - Joe and Joseph were waving their arms madly in our direction and saying goodbye. As we pulled out of the reef, a pod of 7 (at least) dolphins (some really big and some smaller) joined us to swim with the boat.They were heading west (we were heading east), so we circled around and they played with us for a bit before peeling off and continuing their journey.It was a perfect day for a cruise up the coast - the sea had very little swell and hardly any wind, so we sat up on the foredeck and enjoyed the cruise.Noah dropped his water bottle overboard, so we practiced a man-overboard drill and fished it back out of the water. We pulled into Port Royal just as the sun set.We pulled out the American flag tablecloth, napkins, paper plates and some flashing flag light sticks (our version of fireworks) that I brought along and sang a few patriotic songs, and had a little July 4th party of our own.
Wendy and I caught some glow worms blinking at us in the water after dinner and watched the stars. A speed boat came through the harbor at full speed without lights as we were standing there - apparently we are just off the drug runner pathway. We almost anchored directly in the pathway. Oops. Several boats sped by at top speed without lights during the night. Kind of odd.
Day 10 - Port Royal, Roatan, Honduras
I finally finished the book I've been reading City of Falling Angels(a non-fiction book about Venice) after I woke up this morning, and grabbed another book from the boat, An Embarrassment of Mangoes (about a couple who sailed to and around the Caribbean for two years from Toronto). While I was reading, the motor started and they pulled up the anchor. Apparently we were anchored too close to the mangroves, and those who were above deck were being eaten by no-see-ums. Fortunately, I missed out on that. We moved anchorage over the bay a bit farther away from the mangroves.
After breakfast we all picked pirate names (Captain Morgan,Blackbeard, Captain Bligh, Captain Crunch, Captain Hook, and La Fete) to commemorate being in the pirate cove, and boarded the dinghy to explore. We first checked out the short canal through the mangroves (at high speed so we didn't get any new no-see-um bites), then over to the British built Fort St. George, destroyed by the Spanish in 1782. The island (Fort Cay) is now owned by an American. We started to dock, but big signs proclaiming it to be private property made us leery, so we circled the island to the sea side and proceeded to disembark. A caretaker came over in his 4-wheeler to keep us from wandering around without paying a fee. We didn't want to pay, but did talk to him in broken Spanish a little bit before reboarding our dinghy. Next stop was Jennings Point where the goal was to hike up and find the house where the author, Anne Jennings Brown, of the Roatan Odyssey book lived. We hiked up and found a foundation which we thought might be it, but later determined was her friend's house not far away. We also found the ruins of Roatan Lodge, and as we were exploring, a boat came by. We struck up a conversation, and found it was piloted by a man named Hank who had worked for the author for several years after the period that the book was written about. He said he was still in touch with her down in Fiji, and that she left unexpectedly after digging a big hole (perhaps finding the buried treasure she had been looking for). The exploration to the former house was through jungle overgrowth with sawgrass and other brush along the path.We ended up with cuts and more bug bites after that hike.It was not my favorite thing! As we were exploring the shoreline, we came across some live trilobites - I think I've only seen them in fossils before (really called chitons).
We explored two more very sharp/rocky islands by dinghy, then returned to the boat for lunch. After lunch was siesta time, then the boys geared up and went snorkeling on the reef in the late afternoon. They saw lobster, crab and other fun things, and came back just at dark declaring it a huge success. Meanwhile, Wendy and I hung some laundry, chatted a bit, and I got to read some more while Wendy fixed dinner. Somehow we ended up watching the DVD, "Captain Ron" during dinner, keeping the boys up late yet again (but building their repertoire of classic movies seen).
Our host, Lee is a laid back guy who often gets lost in the moment, completely forgetting that there is someone waiting for him somewhere, prompting the person waiting to ask, "Where's Lee?" As the guys came back to the boat from snorkeling after dark tonight, Wendy and I were asking just that question, "Where's Lee?" That reminded us of a similar story… when diving, each person is assigned a buddy for safety's sake, and you always need to stick close to your buddy. Underwater you have to use hand signals to communicate, and the signal for buddy is two pointed index fingers touched together. On Noah's first ever open water dive, Lee was both Noah's instructor and dive buddy. Jim was underwater diving with Wendy as a buddy when Noah tapped him on the shoulder and gave him the buddy signal and shrugged his shoulder with his hands out - an underwater hand signal version of "Where's Lee?"
Our (other?) motto for the trip… "If you aren't pushing the envelope, you can't get the mail" (not sure if that should be male or mail) - first spoken by Lee as we were going through a huge expanse of extremely shallow water in the dinghy, and then used several times afterward.There's always something new to explore…
Day 11 - Jonesville, Roatan, Honduras
We woke up and all went out for a snorkel before breakfast.It was well worth it. We saw a baby nurse shark under a rock, a clear jellyfish with tentacles at least 5 feet long and many cool fish - one really cute little purple one with white stripes and yellow fins that we had never seen before (and it wasn't in our book). We saw seven lionfish - an invasive species from Asia that look really cool, but are poisonous and multiplying rapidly. The local dive shops are having a contest to see who can kill the most.
My stomach was not doing well today, and I was trying to take it easy all day (somewhat hard to do when everyone is ready to go and do stuff). We have been struggling with prickly heat and bug bites too - it's all part of the package of having fun in the tropics I guess.
After a big breakfast we set sail and sailed off anchor with Zach at the helm all the way through the harbor and out into the open sea. Jim wanted to sail farther and faster, so we sailed out a ways so we could have more time, since our next port was only a few miles downwind. It was a beautiful day for a sail (even if all I wanted to do was sit). Our destination for today was Jonesville. We pulled into the bight (harbor) and anchored. I took a nap while everyone else ate lunch, then dragged myself up so we could all go exploring by dinghy.
We took off in the late afternoon to explore the town of Jonesville, a fascinating place with a main inside-passage "canal" lined with houses on stilts, and then on to the town of Oakridge, a similar canal-based town across the bay. The main form of transportation seems to be boat with outboard motor - speeding from one end of one town to the other. The people here seem still very poor, but the houses seem to be somewhat better kept than in other places we have been. All the people smile and wave, and seem to love to have their picture taken. As we pulled into town, the boats were lined up in the "parking lot" of the church. We found out later it was a funeral for an 86-year-old woman, as we saw the casket driving by in the back of a pickup truck. We parked the dinghy and got out to walk the town. Everyone in town was at the funeral, it seemed. We talked as we walked along to one couple, Ino and Carolina, who lived on the hill and both grew up in the town. He works in Angola in the oil industry and they also own a lobster boat, "reputed to be the nicest in town" (we took a look later and it was very nice). He said the lobster season started June 22, but they are still awaiting one piece of paperwork before they can go out - "hopefully it will come in tomorrow". The boat holds 2000 traps and carries a crew of 15. They go out for 4-5 months, but most of the catch comes in the first 2 months. Some traps catch one to five lobsters, and some catch none.
Wendy's hip was giving her trouble after sailing, being pounded on the dinghy, and then walking through town, so we walked over to the closest dock, which just happened to be BJ's restaurant, a place Lee and Wendy had heard really good things about on the "sailors network". BJ was there, but closed but we got her to open the bar to give us a drink while Lee brought the dinghy over to pick us up. Meanwhile, the sun set. We pulled out the flashlight so we could be seen, then took off across two harbors (around the reefs) and through two canals in the dark with boats without lights speeding by us (and towards us). It started sprinkling as we pulled into the harbor we were anchored in - pushing that envelope yet again. I cooked up rice and beans while Wendy rested her hip, and we talked of our adventures as we ate.
I sorted through pictures and we had a slideshow of about half the pictures before we all started falling asleep.
Day 12 - Jonesville/Oakridge, Roatan, Honduras
My stomach was feeling much better today - yea!
Our goal for the morning was to go explore the mangrove canals, hand dug as the "inside passage" in the other direction from the town canals we explored yesterday. It was cool and peaceful in there. We also explored the bay to the east of us, but it had an uncomfortable feeling to it - perhaps a drug money kind of feeling, so we didn't stay long.
We decided to explore Oakridge a little further than we got last night. We got to see Survivor II, the lobster boat that Ino and Carolina own (apparently the paperwork still hadn't come through), and saw a 2-year old "pirate brig" replica that is being finished up to sail tourists around in about 10 days.
We had been going fairly slowly all day, when we decided to speed up to get through the waves in the bay. We pulled through a narrow opening, with a wider bay on the other side, and heard a whistle blowing at us, and two policemen motioning us over. Looking back at where the police were standing at the edge of the narrow spot, we could see a "slow down" sign, but none of us saw one from the direction in which we came. We pulled up and they began speaking to us in fluent Spanish, and we talked back in fluent English. Along came a guy, Felix, the captain of the pirate boat that we were looking at earlier, and started explaining to us that we were speeding in a no-wake zone. The policemen said that the policewoman (hiding in the mangroves) would go with us to the Municipalidad (City Hall) so we could tell our story and she would translate to the judge, who would make us pay a fine. Incredulous, we allowed Wandale to board our boat to go with us. But first (with Wandale aboard), we stopped to get gasoline (directly across the canal). Felix met us at the dock in front of the Municipalidad, having "arranged it all with his friend, the judge", so that we would just have to pay a reduced fine (it was posted at $50, but he could get it knocked down to $25 for us, since we were friends - he had met Lee and Wendy before). Wandale, the policewoman, admitted that the sign on our side was missing and had been knocked down (and I think she was on our side to get the fine dismissed from what I could pick up from my VERY limited Spanish), but our "friend" Felix brokered a deal that we should pay half "to help pay for the people standing out there in the sun". I'm sure he went back to get his cut later. It was all a little surreal with all of us traipsing into their (very small) city hall to a back room with a typewriter sitting on the file cabinets (though the judge and clerk had PCs), and a few extra people watching from the hall though the window in the door. We were a spectacle for sure. We traipsed back out, waiting on the front stoop, then got our picture taken with Felix and Wandale before heading off to BJs again for lunch this time. As we were eating our lunch, we watched another dingy (locals don't have dinghies) go by with Wandale aboard towards City Hall.
Felix promised to bring over Miss Sandy, a character that Wendy had heard about, and before we even finished ordering lunch, she appeared to meet us. She was a southern girl at heart, but had ended up here after her husband's construction business went bankrupt in the 70's. They were part-owners in a dive shop here, which was the only asset that the bank didn't want, so they came down to run it and have been here ever since. We commented on her beautiful lawn, and she filled in more of a story for us. She knew the boat owner that was bringing a boatload of special grass to a "really intelligent scientist from San Antonio who brought it in for his island" - the island with the fort that we stopped on a few days ago where we talked to the caretaker, but couldn't look around without paying. We did notice the grass there - very lush. She said she asked for one square of the grass on the boat captain's way past, and she cut it into quarters and planted it.Every year she divided the grass and replanted it until it finally became a whole lawn - it took 8 years to do it. I commented that it looked like her house was built on infill, and she agreed - she dredged 3 times to get the yard she has now, and she is hoping to fill the lot next to her one of these days when she gets enough money and a dredge permit (permits are hard to get nowdays because they are worried about the damage they do).
Another piece of the puzzle was put together when we started talking with Felix. He said he used to work for Anne Jennings Brown (the author of Roatan Odyssey), and Noah asked him if he knew Hank that we met when we were hiking around looking for her house. It turns out that Felix is Hank's brother. We were starting to think we were on to something. Then we found out that BJ (of BJ's Restaurant) was Anne's best friend, and a picture of her with Anne when they were young is in the book. I ended up buying a copy of the book (it's not readily available in the USA), and had BJ sign it. Now I HAVE to read the book. We walked away amazed at the connections we had made in such a short time - taking a book that was just history to us and turning it into current events, meanwhile getting a much better picture of life here. We saw Hank's boat parked a couple of doors down from the grocery store that we stopped at on the way back. It's a small world here.
We pulled up anchor and motored out of the harbor, then sailed the few miles downwind to Fantasy Island.
As soon as we arrived, Noah, Jim and Lee went for one last snorkel (though the wind was picking up so it was a little rough - but they went to a more protected area). They came back totally pumped up by the cool things they saw. Besides the usual assortment, they saw two eels (one chased Noah) and 3 cuttlefish.
After boat drinks (and after dark in the wind that was picking up - pushing that envelope again), Lee went with the kids to grill the chicken for dinner on the dock where we had the barbeque the other night. They came back with stories from a huge catamaran that followed us from our last mooring to this one, and two big grilled lobster heads left over from that boat's dinner that they didn't even touch.
As we picked out our top 100 pictures from the trip (out of 1200-ish combined) tonight, the wind picked up even more. Jim and Lee set out the second anchor "just in case" we need to get up in the night for some reason. It was howling out by the time we went to bed (their wind gauge was not working, but we estimated gusts of 40-50 mph).We came in with a storm, we're going out with a gale…