Log #56i Final Days in Roatan

April 27, 2013 in Log Series 50-59, Logs by Series, Series 56, The Logs

 

French Cay Harbour, Roatan, Honduras

April 27, 2013

Hi Folks,

This may be the last log for a while as we are about to depart Roatan on our way up to Isla Mujeres in Mexico, a two day passage. I may or may not send another from there, or possibly not until we are in Texas ready to ship Veleda over to the west coast, depending upon internet access.

Judy is doing well. I am getting antsy and looking forward to getting back on the water heading north.  Our plans are to leave first thing on Tuesday April 30 for a 48 hour passage. This is the longest we have stayed in one area since Hog Island on Grenada six years ago. We have been here off and on since early December last year. The diving and snorkeling are great; the weather warm to hot, and the living is easy. But!

I have attached several pictures with this log, and will have many more on my website shortly.

Please drop me a line to let me know you have received my log, and any impression you have of it or my website.

All the best,

Aubrey

PS There has been a screw up in my contacts list, and my last few logs may have not gotten out to all whom I thought were on the list.If you have not received the last few logs of this sequence, including my last Log #56x or if you received this when you did not wish to, please let me know.

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French Cay Harbour,

April 24, 2013

We took a tour of the island with the crew of Estrella Del Mar (Star of the Sea), a large 47 foot catamaran from the U.S. The tour took us up to the east end of the island first, to a few seaside communities, one of which was of Garifuna origin, peopled by the black slaves who escaped from St. Vincent and other Caribbean islands to settle in Central America. The town of Livingston in Guatemala was similarly of Garifuna origin. The east end is not as touristy or as populated as the west end, and it gets little of the cruise ship patronage. There are some beautiful exotic resorts in the area. (See the attached picture of the Blue Reef Resort entrance and the offlying protective reef) However anchoring in the east end bays is not advisable because of the poverty in the area and the boat boys who come out pestering cruisers for a wide variety of things. Some friends of ours motored into one of the bays and were swarmed by boat boys, some of whom hung on to their toe rail asking for pop or beer or whatever. To get them off, they threw out a few cans of Coke, and when they let go turned the boat around and headed back out of the bay. So we do not feel venturesome enough to visit any of the other bays or communities to the east before we leave.

We are safe and comfortable here in French Cay Harbour. French Cay is a town, part of the west end municipality, as are the other major towns of Coxen Hole and West End. The western part also has the cruise ship docks at Coxen Hole and Mahogany Bay. We originally thought Coxen Hole was derived from the nautical term for a coxswain or cox’n of a boat, but instead it is named after a British pirate by the name of Coxen who settled the area, using it as his base. The western tip of the island has several resorts, including Anthony’s Cay Resort which also has a marina, extensive fishing, diving facilities and other on water activities, including a daily dolphin show, allowing swimmers to swim with the dolphins.

Motoring the 14 miles around to West End last week, we enjoyed snorkeling on some of the reefs there. It is another favourite dive and snorkel paradise, with more than a dozen dive buoys located on the seaward side of the protecting reef. There are only two entrances through the reef, marked by pairs of white buoys. Inside the reef is 7 to 12 feet of water for anchoring to the left of the first entrance and a defunct mooring field to the right. When we entered Wayne and Elly of Zeppelin guided us in to the mooring field and hailed us over to the sunken buoy line which they had retrieved for us.

The story is that the mooring field has been there for a few years as part of the marine park. A logical choice of development, as the bottom would be more protected from the scouring that anchoring does. However we heard the mayor of the west end (There are two municipalities, East and West Roatan.) did not want boaters to stay very long, and did not want to provide competition for his resort of Anthony’s Key, his catamaran fleet of charter boats, or to disrupt the ocean view or pollute the area in front of his sister’s nearby villa. So he had all the mooring balls removed from the mooring lines. How he had the authority to overrule the Marine Park policy is probably part of an autocratic (or corrupt?) island administration. However, enterprising cruisers realized the moorings were still there, and it was a simple matter motoring into the area, identifying a mooring block in the 7 to 12 feet of clear water, then dropping in a snorkeler who would dive down to retrieve the un-buoyed line to attach to the incoming boat. It was a line like this that Elly handed us as we motored near Zeppelin. Thanks Wayne and Elly. There were another 8 to 10 boats moored in the area.

West End is well sheltered from the predominantly southeast winds that had been blowing steadily for several days. French Cay Harbour is protected by the reef, but is open to the southeast winds. They can be so strong that a chop is set up in the bay, making a dinghy ride over to the shrimp docks for a trip into town a wet bumpy dinghy ride. In addition, the spray kicked up by the waves bashing themselves against the reef spreads a mist across the anchorage coating the closer boats with a rime of salt. As well, the boats have to be well anchored, putting out at least 5:1 all chain scope.  For us where we are presently anchored in French Cay Harbour in 15 feet of water, it means we have to put out over 100 feet of chain rode. This is calculated as 15 feet of water plus five feet to the bow roller for a 20 foot times five to equal 100 feet, to which we add another 10 feet when we attach a rope snubber to the chain. Anything less is liable to drag in the 30 to 35 knot gusts which can blow over the harbour.

Back at West End we wandered the main road along the shoreline after securing the dinghy to an unused wooden pier. The busy street is a tourist mecca with laid back dive shops, water taxis, bamboo and thatched bars and restaurants, tour kiosks, small grocery stores, internet cafes and book exchanges, low and medium ranged hostels, cabins and apartments, with several places undergoing slow island-time renovation or construction projects. Every hundred metres or so there are thick manila hawsers stretched across the road to serve as speed bumps.  Towards the east end of the street is a small white chapel on the beach side, a quiet oasis in contrast to the hurly burly of the rest of the street. Another hundred metres down is a small busy roundabout intersection looking over the water with stranded sailboat at a cockeyed angle, its mast canted crazily overboard, mute testimony to the dangers of navigation in reef shoaled waters. Apparently it has been there for over a year and has been stripped of anything useful.

We left the dinghy at the derelict pier located across the street from its defunct resort along the lush sandy beach strip. It is on prime land, but I guess the economy won’t support it. Similarly along the street are other  businesses closed up or under small scale renovation. The area depends upon the cruise ship industry dropping passengers off to wander the “quaint” seaside community for a few hours or to take one of the many tours available, from dive packages and day sails on the mayor’s catamarans, to exotic garden trips and zip lining across the tropical jungle canopy.

Thinking to see exotic birds, we took one of the tours to the GumboLimbo Park. We could have dinghied over to it, but the price ($30.00 each) included transportation. It was worthwhile, not so much for the bird life, although Judy enjoyed watching the dozens of hummingbirds flitting around, as well as Yucatan woodpeckers (similar to our red headed woodpeckers in Canada), but for the animal life. In addition there was a tour through a couple of caves giving the history of Roatan and an extremely good “insectarium”  which displayed insects from all over the world in beautifully fashioned displays with informative plaques giving interesting facts about insect life. (see attached picture of the Morpho butterfly display) Large (five foot long), golden brown with black tail bands, male iguanas, bobbing their heads and shaking their jowls in mating displays, lumbered across the lawns. Smaller black iguanas (found only on Roatan) roamed about. Basilisk lizards, when startled, darted around, running on their hind legs. We had to watch our step less we inadvertently step on one of them on the path, they were so numerous.

The main attractions were the Capuchin monkeys and the Macaws. Several of the monkeys climbed up Judy’s legs and arms and were trying to get into her purse. Their padded hands and feet were surprisingly soft and warm, with no scratching whatever as they clambered about us. The Macaws too were gentle, their clawed feet daintily supporting them perched on our shoulders, picking at our hair and shirt buttons. A spider monkey was restricted by a chain leash as it sometimes was too aggressive. (See attached pictures)

Chained Spider Monkey

Chained Spider Monkey

Capuchin Monkey climbing up Judys arm.

Capuchin Monkey climbing up Judys arm.

Aubrey with a Capuchin Monkey

Aubrey with a Capuchin Monkey

 

I lounged in the picturesque pool over the noon hour while Judy went in search of more birds. Intrigued by a double floating hookah scuba set up (See attached picture), we waddled backwards out with the flotation tubes, dive tank, and two 25 foot hoses attached to regulators for a snorkel on the offlying reef. It was a bit of a letdown as we had to wade 100 yards out before getting to a few scattered coral heads. The hoses allowed us to dive down 20 feet or so, but we found the restriction of being attached to a hose limiting as opposed to free swimming with a scuba tank or even just snorkeling. I was not impressed with the experience. The “dive master”, with scuba gear, led us around the few scattered coral heads, constantly moving, and not looking back to check our safety, and giving us no time to linger over some of the more interesting corals. In addition, we were not issued snorkels to allow us to swim easily after the air from the single tank expired. We had to wade out and back, a process that took up half of the 45 minute activity. We have had much better snorkeling experiences from our dinghy. Oh well, it was interesting to see this rig in operation. (See attached picture)

Snuba raft with 25 foot hoses

Snuba raft with 25 foot hoses

Entrance to Blue Ocean Reef Resort

Entrance to Blue Ocean Reef Resort

 

When cruise ships are not in, the pace of life in West End slows down even more. The high end resorts are well out of town. There are several of them in this west end of the island, luxurious seaside villas, with sandy beaches, swimming pools, gracious dining in their restaurants, and many water sports. These include not only diving, snorkeling, and dinghy and paddle boat rentals, but para-sailing, banana tube riding, water skiing, and fishing trips.

As I write about these resorts and their services and the tropical island of Roatan, I realize we have done all these things. We have visited many exotic islands of the Caribbean. We have done para-sailing, water skiing, and para-surfing, hang gliding, swum with dolphins, dove and snorkeled many reefs, enjoyed luxurious all-inclusive resorts in Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and Cuba, zip lined and completed canopy tree tours, climbed mountains and watched sunsets, green flashes and sunrises, caught marlin and barracuda, swum with sharks, crossed an ocean and encountered many civilizations past and present in North and Central America, Europe, Asia and North Africa. (The only thing I haven’t done yet in which I would be interested is tandem sky diving. I don’t think it would put as much stress on my body as would bungee jumping. Maybe when we get to B.C.?)

This reminiscence was triggered by an article I read in the Seven Seas Cruising Association Bulletin entitled “Musing on Hedonic Adaptation”. I will attach a copy of the whole article written by a couple of cruisers like us, except they have been out for only three years, whereas Judy and I have been out for fifteen years! They use the term Hedonic Adaptation defined as a phenomenon in which people quickly become adapted to changes great or terrible in order to maintain a stable level of happiness. In psychological terminology it refers to “congruence” in which people strive to accommodate their perception (or expectations) of reality with reality (adaptation). If these two concepts are far apart, it results in Cognitive Dissonance, an uncomfortable state which strives to reduce the difference between reality and one’s perception of such. But what happens when one achieves “congruence”? As the song says, “Is that all there is?”

The author of the article says this about Hedonic Adaptation (congruence),

 

It affects those of us who have reached a happy state of keeping-up-with-the-Joneses, except that we’re not so happy about it anymore. It affects people who are living their passion, but three years into it, are looking for more. Like me. I’m not dissatisfied; I’m grateful. In fact, I’m grateful on a daily basis—truly. But I’m missing my “wows!”

Wouldn’t you think that retiring early, following my dream, living on our sailboat

with a man that I adore, who brings out the very best in me (because, as my children

will testify, there’s definitely a not-so-pretty, worst of me too)—wouldn’t you think that

would be enough? Wouldn’t you think that the freedom that this lifestyle affords, the

opportunity to move your home on a whim and a wind shift, sailing amid exquisite

beauty and experiencing different cultures is more than any human being could ask for?

Yeah, you’d think so. I thought so, too.”

 

Then she says, “The anticipation of seeing something new is gone because I’ve already seen it. At the risk of sounding crass and ungrateful (although I know it does, anyway), “been there, done that.”

 

Perhaps this is why we are looking at going to the Northwest, shipping Veleda to Bellingham, Washington, and sailing Puget Sound, the San Juan and Gulf Islands and gunkholing around Vancouver Island and the B.C. mainland to Alaska this year and next. After that, who knows?

We are getting ready to leave Roatan by the end of the month.

 

Three unfortunate news flashes:

 

One: the mayor of West End has kicked the cruisers off the moorings, and threatened them with fines if still there in 24 hours.  (We had left two days before.) The cruisers were obligated to go to the far side of the area to anchor instead. Crazy, no? I may write a letter to the editor of the Info Insular, an island newspaper, about the regrettable arbitrary policy of the mayor.

 

Two: a cruising boat had its dive boat tender stolen its first night on a mooring in the Cochinos Islands just south of Roatan. The boat was found next day, but the 75 hp motor and all the steering mechanisms were removed. (Lift it, lock it, or lose it)

 

Three: I was ripped off by an unscrupulous local who sold me a used 15 hp Yamaha without providing any promised documentation, and not following up on repairs to the engine as promised. It was a lesson in not trusting people that cost me a hundred dollars extra, but at least I have a good 15 hp Yamaha two stroke engine to replace my unreliable Mercury 9.9. four stroke. (I will keep the Mercury onboard and try to sell it in the U.S. or Canada when I return.) Two stroke engines are no longer available in Canada or the USA.

 

At present we have a few more days before we head up to Isla Mujeres in Mexico, a two day passage. I may have another chance to send off another log before then. If not, then from Mexico..