Saturday, June 14, 2014

Busy, busy - all play and no work.

The tiki palapa is the place to be.

The preliminary exploration of our first day in the French Harbor of Roatan was a large success. First we went over to Fantasy Island where we met an American couple from California, Rick and Marsha. They told us where to find Jerry, who manages the marina. A short walk down the dirt road led us to a hotel  lobby.

On the way to the hotel, we saw several agoutis (a guinea pig relative), iguanas nearly as large as a basset hound, green parrots, a peacock having a stare down with itself in a mirrored window and small black monkey’s  running across the lobby of the hotel. I’m like a small child with excitement every time I see the most common animal. I was anxious to take my camera back to fantasy island.
 This is an agouti. It's a relative to the guinea pig. They roam around, staying close by minding their own business and seem quite harmless.

This iguana just emerged from the hole under the tree roots. It must be his home.

This young rooster lives at the tiki palapa. He plops down to sleep next to anyone who will let him. I guess he wants to be around the humans.

There's no missing this bright green iguana.

At the hotel we found Eric and Sandrine enjoying  the use of free internet. We also found Jerry;  he told us we could drop our propane tank off to be filled at three that afternoon, we could leave our laundry (if needed) and dump our trash. Rick and Marsha gave us all the details on the potluck that evening and how to get to the grocery store.

We retrieved our propane tank and dropped it off at the tiki hut, as instructed and then dinghied across the harbor to Old French Harbor. We tied our dinghy up at the Roatan Yacht Club. The cost is $2.50 or free if you order something from the restaurant/bar. Just a short hop, skip and jump and we were at the grocery store. The store is modern and quite large; they have all the brands and products  we’re used to. We bought our groceries and headed home.

The potluck was a hoot. Between twenty and thirty people showed up. When we first arrived, a newly acquainted cruiser, Susie had us talked in to playing volleyball on Monday. Later that evening she put together a game of Mexican Train at the tiki palapa for the following day. Rick and Marsha sat with Eric and Sandrine and Jimi and I. After dinner an American couple from North Carolina, Tim and Pam, visited with us. They gave us a lot of good information on the Rio Dulce. They are headed that way around the same time we are.

We were told of a ship wreck and a plane wreck we could dive and snorkel, as well as other reefs with plenty of sea life. I was told to watch for the horses that are transported by boat every morning across the bay to another island. I’ve never seen a horse on a boat before.

We’ve made it through our first week here and beginning on our second.  It’s a blast. Social events everyday – all play and no work.  Volleyball every day at 3 pm, we’ve only been twice though. Hamburger night on Wednesdays, nautical swap meet on Thursday, Lion fish fry on Fridays, Potluck on Saturdays, the bus run Eldon’s grocery store on Tuesdays, the veggie truck arrives with fresh produce on Mondays and the tiki palapa is open for business every evening except Sundays. The drinks are cheap. A can of beer is 30 LEM ($1.50).

Musicians among us – an evening at the tiki palapa. Jimi, Eric and Stu brought their guitars and Stu’s wife, Stephanie, brought  her violin. They strummed until well past dark, while Stu sang. The only thing missing was a camp fire.

At Wednesday’s potluck we celebrated cruiser Joe’s birthday. Susie brought her DJ equipment, Stu and Stephanie played their instruments and a man named Brian played some old rock and roll. Some of us danced to love songs, the YMCA and…yes, the macarena. We’ve made so many new friends here; most are American, a few French and the rest are British. Many of them are going to the Rio Dulce, as we are, and we’re hoping to see them there.

Jimi and I spent an afternoon at the park. As you can see from the photos I’ve attached we  saw parrots, ducks, geese, a turkey, a grand representation of Foghorn Leghorn, agoutis, iguanas and a couple of monkeys.
 This size of a basset hound.

The roosters are quite large.

Is this rooster mean mugging me?

The sweetest face.

As I walked across the park and small monkey came running up to me like we were long lost friends. I was a bit startled at first. He wrapped his arms around my ankles and then began climbing up towards my shoulders. After a couple of minutes I was in love. We spent the next hour playing with the little guy. He would bounce off to another park of the park, but with camera in hand I would follow him. At the drinking hole, he tried to get a sip, but it was too deep. He dipped his tail in the pond and then sucked the water from it. A larger monkey showed up after a while and we could tell they were competing with each other when they became a little aggressive. We’re told they like to steal things: sunglasses, hats and anything not held down. We kept a pretty close hold on our belongings. Their little hands and feet are soft like velvet and their eyes and faces are expressive. Jimi clearly saw an expression on the larger monkey’s face when he mean mugged Jimi. As Jimi was teasing him with a pair of sunglasses, finally the monkey became annoyed. He looked at Jimi with angry eyes, brows puffed and pointed, eyes slightly squinted and mouth open making a slight hissing noise. Then the monkey let go of the sunglasses, turned around and left.
Getting a drink of water.

I just wanted to cuddle him like a baby, but he was a little nervous of me.

Monkey playing with me.

Tuesday everyone in the harbor experienced a bit of excitement when we heard a distress call over the radio.  A sailing vessel landed on the reef and was calling for help. The female voice spoke broken English. We only heard her cry for help once and then nothing. We were told the victims might be French, so Eric was asked to continue to try to make radio contact with them. A dive boat from the dive center was sent out to help and there may have been other boats who responded also. Jimi and I wanted to go out there, but the seas and winds were too rough. Our anxiety levels were raised as we could sit and do nothing but listen and wait. After a couple of hours, we were notified that the couple (in their 70s) were leaving the boat and coming ashore. Cay’s Harbour gave them a place to stay for the night. Other than a few bruises, they were safe, however, their boat was still bouncing around on the reef and the chances of it surviving was not good.

We’re not sure how long the tug boats spent trying to free the vessel. Jimi and I went out to the wreck at 11am on Thursday morning and finally at 5:30 Thursday evening they succeeded. They towed the boat to another harbor so the damage could be accessed. We at least knew it was still floating. They next day, Friday, we were informed that the aluminum boat has a large dent on one side, but it is otherwise fine. The twin keels, rutter and prop, as far as we’re told, is not damaged. What an amazing blessing for this couple, who by the way are German, not French.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Here and There in Honduras

I had wanted to write a week ago, but when we moved to a new anchorage, we found ourselves without an internet connection. I’ll have to back up a bit to catch you up to the present day.

On the sail to Honduras, Eric caught a large tuna. He invited us and Gerard and Elle to share in his catch. Jimi and I provided the appetizers: bananas wrapped in bacon. Sandrine prepared the tuna in a sauce with rice and Gerard and Elle treated us with two flavors of homemade ice cream, mango and chocolate, made from their own ice cream machine. We were suppose to play Mexican train after, but the hours flew by and we didn’t have time.

A few days after our last post we decided to move to another anchorage a couple of miles away. The area was empty. We were the only cruiser there, until one evening a sailboat anchored not far from us. After a couple of hours Jimi noticed they weren’t floating. The tide had gone out and they were sitting on the ocean’s sandy floor.

Jimi jumped in the dinghy to offer them some assistance. After roughly and hour of tugging and pushing with two dinghies, and the use of the second anchor, the monohull was again floating. They left the area shortly after and we heard them on the radio later telling their friends about their misadventure. Even with our own problems piling up, Jimi was able to offer a lending hand to someone in need.

On our way to the new spot, our Garmin chart plotter quit, it just blacked out. Jimi tried numerous troubleshooting attempts, but nothing brought it back to life. He then called Garmin tech support just to hear, “We’re sorry sir. You can send it in and we’ll refurbish it for $225.” The fact that it’s less than two years old and we paid nearly $700 for it and the fact that we are in Honduras, had no bearing and we got no sympathy.

Being without the chart plotter isn’t the end for us. We have other means to chart our course, but the crucial point is the loss of depth. Our depth sounder was wired in to the plotter. Sailing without knowing our depth could be risky.

Jimi had another idea though. He had a spare depth sounder aboard. The old depth sensor imbedded in Sanibel’s hull had to come out, so the spare could be inserted. Normally this is only done out of the water, but we had no choice.

I was nervous, but Jimi went forward. After a lot of pounding and banging, he removed the old sensor. Water sprouted through the almost two inch hole until he could get the spare in. And even then the spare was a different shape than the original and water continued to leak in. I sopped up water with a towel, ringing it in a bucket, while Jimi took a tube of  5200 and dove under Sanibel to apply the goop and fill the hole. This process took a few hours, but we finally succeeded. To our disappointment the spare depth sounder did not work.  He even tested it before installing it and it worked. He tested it again after he installed it, but before he glued it in place and it worked then too. However, now it doesn’t work.

We are now sailing without any measure of depth other than a thirty foot piece of string with a weight tied on one end.

That’s not all our bad news, at some point during one of our recent sails the throttle lever broke off. Jimi now uses a pair of vice grips to give our old girl the momentum she needs.

Not to be discouraged. We take the bad with the good and on a sail boat these things are to be expected.
May 24th was my day…my birthday. My family has always made birthdays a special event and even though I am far from home, I still try to do it. Jimi and I baked a small cake (half of a boxed mix) cut it in the shape of a sailboat, frosted it and gave it two masts. It didn’t look fantastic, but it was recognizable as a sail boat. We were so eager to dig in that we didn’t take any pictures. We ate the majority of the cake that day and finished it off for breakfast the next day. Yum!

At 5pm that evening, we met our French friends, Eric, Sandrine, Gerard and Elle at a German run establishment for dinner and drinks. It was the Manati Restaurant and Bar. Clouse and Annette came from Germany nineteen years ago and have been running the restaurant for fourteen years. Hans, also from Germany, owns the land and building, but rents it to Clouse and Annette. Hans came to Honduras twenty-eight years ago and liked it so much, he stayed. We also met a couple of Americans and a man from New Zealand. The place was filled with laughter and every time, I turned around I heard a happy birthday.
For dinner I ate homemade German noodles and chicken cordon blue, which was divine. Jimi had French fries and roasted pork. I was surprised with a large dish of chocolate ice cream with a heart shaped lollipop on top. It was a great evening.  So if asked what I did for my birthday, I will say “I, being American, spent the evening with French friends, New Zealand and German company in Honduras.” Now who can say that?

Jimi and I headed home about 1:30am. Gerard tried to talk us in to coming over to his boat to continue the celebration, but Jimi and I were too tired. We heard the next day that Eric saw the sun rise with Gerard. J
After our special night out, we stayed put for several days. Jimi and I both had projects to work on on Sanibel. We took laundry to shore, ate lunch at a local Honduras place and bought a few groceries. The lady that did our laundry, does it by hand. Many people don’t have washing machines and no one has dryers. We’re told the electricity is very expensive. She did three large loads for us for 300 LEM (about fifteen U.S. dollars). We picked it up a couple of days later, clean and smelling a lot better than it did when we dropped it off. She was even able to get all the ‘ring around the collar’ out of Jimi’s white shirts.

Unexpectedly one evening, Eric sent Jimi and message asking him if he wanted to go to Manati to play pool. “Sure,” we both said. We arrived expecting to have one maybe two drinks, play some pool and then leave. Sandrine wasn’t feeling well, so she stayed home and Elle came later. We played half a dozen (or more) games of pool, drank more than two drinks, and Jimi and I shared a dinner of german sausage and french fries. We got home about ten.

A couple of days later we left Banaka sailing twenty-six miles towards Roatan. That is where we sat without any contact from the world wide web. A local fisherman came by everyday for several days trying to sell us conch, lobsters and fish. We weren’t interested, but Jimi engaged him in conversation and we gave him some goodies to take to his daughter and family.

This is a wreck we came across while out and about in the dinghy.

Eric and Sandrine showed up after five days or so. They brought us water for our tanks and then we shared an evening of pizza, cookies and Mexican train.

This morning both vessels sailed to the French Harbor of Roatan. We have our internet back – Yay! Tomorrow we’ll check out the town and our surroundings. There are a lot of boats here and we understand that there may be weekly potluck events along with other cruiser activities.