Thursday, July 31, 2014

Leaving Honduras

Some take offense to this I love it!

Two weeks in Utila and we never ventured out to experience the night life, which is one of the great things Utila is known for. I wonder what that says about us. We’re either getting old, lazy or possibly both.

Utila is a small island. The majority of the visitors here are young adults who arrive to get their dive certification by day and party by night. In the daylight hours we’ll see dozens of dive boats going out to the reefs and back. By night the restaurant bars play all sorts of music from country to light rock to techno. We could hear the music on Sanibel as if we were  playing it ourselves. And in the evening, while sitting in the cockpit, it was nice. However, at night when we were trying to sleep it wasn’t so nice. Some nights the music played until 5am. Jimi slept with ear plugs and I just managed.  After a week, we moved  Sanibel further from shore. It’s much quieter.

The  main and almost only road on the island is less than wide. If there were any full size American made cars here, the road would only wide enough for one and that’s a stretch. We saw a few smaller vehicles, but mostly all that’s used is motorcycles (probably 250 cc’s), mopeds, four-wheelers and tut-tuts; otherwise people walk. Somehow they make it work. Jimi and I were a little hesitant walking on the road with all the traffic buzzing by and there’s a lot of traffic. It’s laid back, everyone seems to get along. There’s no hustling or begging. The street is lined with businesses such as rooms for rent, bikes for rent, laundry service, some souvenir shops, grocery stores, bars and restaurants.
Tut-tut; I want one.

We had a delightful afternoon our first day in Utila. We walked to one end of the horseshoe shaped harbour and then to the other end; about three miles in all. We found the coolest restaurant/bar on the water called Babalu, but we couldn't eat there as they were still preparing for the evening. We ate lunch on the porch of a comfy lil' cafe and I played with the restaurant kitty. On the way back to the dinghy we stopped at Cocoloco for a quick afternoon beer.

 The signs that hang outside Babalu.

 Some of the tables in Babalu have checker boards painted on them; bottle caps are used for the pieces.

 Babalu bar.

Sandy shorts wall decor.

The bar is completely over water. In the middle of the bar is a large opening called the fish tank. Here hangs a small pirate ship, as the fish swim the ocean below.

We snorkeled the reefs a few times. I’m always amazed at the underwater terrain. It’s different everywhere we go. We love swimming in the middle of large schools of fish or watching an itty bitty fish chase away a larger fish when he’s protecting his home. Parts of this reef reminded us much of the movie “Finding Nemo.” Where the reef stops, all we can see is the deep blue never ending ocean, no floor in sight. And just east we swam between reefs like we were driving a four wheeler through the rocky mountains or parts of Moab, Utah.

The harbour has a reputation for bad holding and while we didn’t have any trouble, a large red sailboat anchored in front of us dragged toward us during the night. Luckily his anchor caught and he was far enough away not to hit us. Just another day in the life of anchorages.
Jimi cleaning the wenches.

We were fortunate enough to be here during the annual Utila Carnival celebration. A weeklong celebration with different festivities and events each day. We walked around a little, but never took much interest in the festivities until the Carnival (aka a parade). It was short, but it was great. Anywhere from all out feathered costumes, pirates, high school bands, dancing horses or simply a truck load of drunken gringos, we enjoyed every moment.
 Free cups thrown to the crowd from the Carnival floats.

The band was grand and their masks were even grander.

The horses danced to the music as they led the parade.

Yes, and these are the gringos having the time of their lives. I can say with certainty that they were harmless and the crowd very much enjoyed their presence.

 One representation of a feathered costume.

 The horses and one of these men is the Mayor.

The brave Honduran military paroling the area.

 Nearly a dozen pirates and they went all out. Their costumes and persona were absolutely among the best. 

A small boy patiently waits for the parade to begin.

We’ve prepared ourselves and Sanibel to leave on Friday. The winds are predicted to be light, therefore, it may be a slow ride, but with any luck we’ll arrive in Guatemala in twenty-four hours. We have a slip reserved at Captain John’s Rio Dulce Marina on the river. We’re excited for a new country and where Sanibel will be stationary for the next five months.

Talk to you from Guatemala – adios mi amigos!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Goodbye West End - Hello Utila

 Nice place for a rest.

A week ago we left Fantasy Island in the French Harbour and sailed 18 miles to another part of the Roatan Island called West End. Friends, Sandi and Patrick, aboard s/v YachtCruz sailed with us and Brian aboard s/v Molly followed behind. Sandrine and Eric had guests from New York aboard their vessel and left for Cayo Cachinos the day before us.

Arriving in West End, we were pleased to see three sets of friends we’d previously gotten to know in Guana and French Harbour. So naturally that evening we rondevued  at a local establishment.  Cruisers typically don’t need a reason for getting together for a sundowner, but we used our arrival as an excuse anyhow.
The anchorage area is full of reefs all around. In fact anchoring is not allowed. Visitors must use one of the many mooring balls provided and since the town has a vested interest in protecting the reefs for the many tourists, there is no charge for the mooring balls.

The snorkeling and diving is wonderful. Dozens upon dozens of fish of all shapes, sizes and colors swim around. And to them we are just another large sea creature. We spotted many lobster, conch, barracuda, an eel and a lion fish. Jimi took a short video. You can watch it here:

The restaurant we tie our dinghies to offered to let us girls do our yoga upstairs in the morning before they open.  With a nice breeze and free from no-see-um bugs, we loved it. After yoga we got in the habit of sitting at the bar drinking a glass of cranberry juice or orange juice.

We heard an announcement over the radio that hundreds of whales were spotted outside the reef. Jimi immediately jumped in the dinghy, grabbed Eric and his guess, Kevin and headed to the sighting. Unfortunately, they never found the whales, but fortunately they  stumbled upon a sailboat, anchored and heeled over with a bent mast. Someone made it into a floating jungle gym. A platform was built and a rope attached to the top of the mast allows fun-doers to swing and plunge into the water. The guys had a blast, however, quickly determined they were much too heavy for the swing and their plunge came entirely too soon.

A floating jungle gym.

There’s a road that runs along the beach which is lined with restaurants, bars, shops, vegetable stands and so much more. The area caters to the large cruise ships. From our perspective, it takes away from the true Honduran culture. Still it’s nice to enjoy the cool blue waters and an occasional social cocktail overlooking the ocean.

 Bottles found on the ocean floor covered in coral.

 Hammocks over the water.

 The sign screams tourist marketing - but I like the sign anyhow.

 A view of serenity.

 Wow - buffet by the pound. This is the lunch price. Evening it changes to $7.


We took a colectivo, which is a form of public transportation, to the town of Coxen Hole. It’s basically what we know of as a minivan. Folks seeking transportation will stand on the side of the road until the small bus drives up. The driver stops, the passengers board and the driver continues. The rule of thumb is- there’s always room for one more, no matter how full the bus is. The cost is 25 lem per person, which is about $1.25.

Not knowing the area, we missed our drop off point and ended up downtown at the bus station. Not to worry though, we walked a pleasant six or seven blocks to the grocery store, which gave us a chance to see a little of the area. We wish we’d had more time to be able to explore some of the stores and true Honduran culture.

After getting our groceries, we waited for a colectivo to come around. But we gave up when a taxi offered to take us back to West End for only 100 lem ($5). Yes, it was a little more expensive, but a much quicker ride and an entire truck for our four large bags of groceries.

YachtCruz left just a couple of days after we arrived and Molly left the following day. Eric and Sandrine show up two days after we did. For a short period the gang was together again. However, for us it’s time to move on.

Leaving our friends behind, we’ll sail Friday morning about 7am. Food is prepared, the dinghy is on the deck and we spent the evening saying our goodbyes at our hangout on shore. Some folks we’ll see in the Rio in a month or so and others, going in other directions, we’ll keep in touch through Facebook and email.   The hardest part, for me, was leaving Eric and Sandrine. They plan to stay here for a couple more weeks, while we are going to Utila for a while and then to the Rio Dulce. We’ll meet back up with them there.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Happy 4th!

We are still in Roatan Honduras. Our hangout is at the tiki palapa on Fantasy Island. Roatan is simply a blast! The cruising community is small and not overwhelming; everyone knows your name.  A few of our boater friends have left, but many are still here, stretching out the hurricane season as long as they can, us included. And new friends are still arriving.

The weather has been wonderful . It’s not too hot and we almost always have a lot of wind which keeps a nice breeze coming through the cabin.

My feet and ankles are swollen and ache from all the activities. I took a couple of days off and saw a slight difference. We played volleyball every day(up until a few days ago). I started doing yoga with Michele and Stephanie, and when they left Sandrine and I continued. Jimi taxi’s us to our grassy spot on shore in the mornings and someone else taxi’s us home. Elle from S/V Capella has joined our group and John, from Australia, and Julie from the U.S., joined us for one morning. They are crew on the S/V Gypsy Moth, who was just passing through.

June 25th was Christmas for us cruisers in Roatan. People decorated the tiki palapa with Christmas trees and other holiday decor. Participants wore Santa and elf hats. Suzie brought her DJ equipment and we heard all the traditional songs we know and more. We had a traditional American Christmas dinner; ham and all the tasty treats that go with it. Each participant brought a small gift (either store bought or homemade) for a gift exchange.  The gifts Jimi and I brought were a set of sock puppets and a three pack of hand stitched greeting cards. The gifts we received is a small serving bowl and a small waterproof case. Other gifts exchanged were a bag of miniature snickers bars, a mini bottle of rum with coke, a coupon for a massage, a notepad cube and more goodies.

 My puppets were a hit. Here's  Michele dancing with her puppet. 
Joe, Michele, a puppet and me...oh ya, that's Susie peaking in.

The same evening we celebrated Larry from S/V Beatrice’s birthday. He and his wife are from South Africa.
One afternoon at volleyball the monkey’s showed up . They were on the roof of a small building next to the court. One of them had a plastic cup with a straw in it and what looked to be rum punch. He would take a drink, move about a bit and then take another drink. This continued and after a while he was rolling around and doing summer salts on the roof. It was a cute sight.

Another day while we were playing volleyball, we heard shrilling screams. The beach was filled with young school age locals. Looking over we saw all the kids running into the ocean as they were screaming and laughing, the monkey was chasing them. We laughed hysterically, as they were too.

We bought a small jar of homemade mango jam from a local. It’s yummy! We also invested in a blender and now enjoy smoothies everyday with all the fresh fruits available to us and Jimi made us a batch of sprouts a couple of weeks ago.  My homemade yogurt has never been better. We like to put about half a cup of fresh homemade yogurt in our smoothies for a fruity creamy delight.

Home grown sprouts.

Football (soccer in the United States and New Zealand) has been widely watched by the cruisers. The day France and Honduras played, the resort set up TVs in their lobby. Of course all the French cruisers were there and a few more. A Honduras High School Marching Band played and marched through the lobby during game breaks.

Honduras High School Band

Many of our new friends told us about a seasickness medication they take. The English name is Stugeron. We’re told there are no side effects and I’ll be able to function as a normal human during sails. The drug isn’t available in the U.S., but widely used in Europe and the Caribbean. I’m excited to try it. We bought several boxes.

After I wrote this email, we found out that we’re no longer able to play volleyball on the beach. The beach we used belongs to the resort. Management would rather the cruisers not flood the beaches that are meant for paying resort guests. There is a concrete court available to us, but Jimi and I are not interested in playing there. Therefore, no more volleyball for us right now.

A few days ago on our way to shore our dinghy motor failed to start. Jimi tried and tried to start the motor as we drifted further and further away from the anchorage area. We just began getting the ores out when Eric came racing up in his dinghy and towed us back to Sanibel. We were fortunate. We were scheduled to pick Eric up for volleyball and when we didn’t show he got his binoculars to see if we’d left yet and that’s when he saw our distress.  Thank goodness for friends who look out for one another. Jimi fixed the motor the following morning. There was a short in the ignition system and the cut off switch had to me modified.

A recent evening at the tiki palapa turned in to a late night. Sitting around the table with crew from Gypsy Moth and several resident cruisers we found ourselves with plenty of rum, but no mixer. John from Gypsy Moth and Jimi set out on a mission to find coconuts. They came back with two large coconuts, which Jimi said John retrieved by climbing a twenty foot tree with only his bare feet and hands. With Dave’s machete, Jimi opened the coconuts and they enjoyed the natural mixer. We also scraped the inside for the meat and enjoyed eating fresh coconut.

This past Wednesday we were served a traditional Honduras meal at the tiki palapa. Homemade tortillas, shredded cheese, homemade salsa, beans, chicken and pork. The meal was superb.

We’re staying in on the fourth of July. We have the opportunity to go to another resort across the island for a celebration, however, we feel the cost is too high and we’d just rather stay on Sanibel this year.

I suppose that wraps it up. Here are some additional pictures for you to enjoy.

Happy Independence Day Today!

 Jimi made us a hammock to hang our fresh fruits and vegetables in. It's perfect.

 Peacock eating from my hand.

Jimi and Eric at the grill.

This pair of vice grips is our new throttle lever...for now.