Posts Tagged: ‘Roatan’

Roatan Wrap and Return to Guatemala 2017

April 23, 2017 Posted by Deb

The Changes in Roatan

A great island but evolving with up to five cruise ships at a time and thousands of cruise ship people on a power vacation clogging up the roads and filling up the beaches. Fantasy Island has suffered a big change. While the west end of the island parties and booms, Fantasy has hit the skids. Here’s a list:

  1. The well went salty so tap water and showers are with sea water now
  2. The generator partially died so they cut of power to the boats on the dock (us) from 7:00 a.m. to up to 8:00 p.m.
  3. The garbage piled up and the flies invaded
  4. With no A/C from shore power, the flies invade the open hatches and companionways
  5. Boat temperatures run around 93 degrees in the sheltered marine environment
  6. The WIFI bounces between 750 bytes to 10K with some spurts to 200K
  7. The pine trees get sap and debris all over the boat

FrenchCayDockSo … we paid for a month, we stayed two weeks, and we left for the anchorage to get comfortable … no refunds. We were also waiting for our 90-day “stay out of Guatemala” time restriction to expire on April 20.

We each thought Roatan was great for two different reasons. One of us voted for the La Pina Fitness Center followed by Herbie’s Sports Bar and Grill and the other voted for our day trips east and west. We definitely underachieved on the tourist stuff … maybe because we were coming to the end of our year or we were fresh out of buddy boats.

LaPinaPoolLaPinaFitnessCenter

Rather than go through the five-day port captain shuffle on Easter we elected to pay for an agent to clear us out. Bateman did a great job and even topped off one of our phones. Those who didn’t use Bateman missed their weather windows because the port captain told them to come back after the holiday in a week.

The Short, Easy Hop from Roatan to Guatemala

Don’t believe it. We’ve had lots of friends and acquaintances run into real trouble with weather on this stretch, not including the recent incidents of piracy in broad daylight. We motored in calm weather to get to Roatan and figured we would wait for a good breeze to sail downwind back to the west and Livingston, Guatemala.

The forecast from three sources all had the wind from the East North East at 15 to 18 gusting to 21. That is perfect for a downwind run and we put up the gennaker in case the winds were a bit light.

We Had Big Hopes for This Sail

We Had Big Hopes for This Sail

We did not bother topping off with fuel and probably should have. The actual wind was about zero for a few hours followed by mostly winds right out of 270 to 310 degrees at 10 to 15. That’s basically in our face. When the wind clocked, we put of the main and flew for about 45 minutes. The wind finally shifted to the east as predicted and was too light to sail so the main came down. We had a few more teasers and put up sails only to take them down minutes later. Of course, at night we had a squall with blinding rain and lightning in all directions.

Sailing through the Corner of Honduras, Belize and Guatemala

Sailing through the Corner of Honduras, Belize and Guatemala

Star Trek Trivia: Admiral, There Be Whales Here

Star Trek Trivia: Admiral, There Be Whales Here

We crossed the bar at Livingston about an hour ahead of schedule and again very close to low tide. Raul’s office informed us that the computer had us a 89 days, not 90 as is required. It was touch and go as to whether we were going to be let into Guatemala; but when the correct palms get greased, the rules can be bent a little. We grabbed our old berth at the Crow’s Nest in Cayo Quemado and Carlos had his extended family out there to give Neytiri a thorough cleaning and a wax job to get ready for showings up at NanaJuana Marina.CayoQuemadoWaterLilliesNanaJuanaSunsetPoolNanaJuanaDockSunset

Roatan 2017

April 6, 2017 Posted by Deb

We can’t believe it has been four years since Casa del Mar, Aquadesiac, Neytiri, and others visited these waters. We staged at Hatchet Caye in Belize with Jim and Renata of Emerald Seas for the overnight trip to Roatan. Emerald Seas detected some banging in their rudder on the way over to Hatchet and decided to head to Guatemala and RAM Marine to get it checked. We took off at about 3:00 in the afternoon alone. The wind dropped to somewhere in the 2 to 6 knot range and we didn’t even bother putting up a sail. The seas were calm and we motored on one engine at a time through the night. Not much to report except a lot of cruise ship dodging and a bit of adverse current at times.

We pulled into French Harbor, dropped the hook, and wondered where all the boats went. We practically owned the whole anchorage except for a couple of derelicts. An empty anchorage is a security concern since we learned four years ago that we had anchored in “Bandit Bay” one night. It turned out the boats had bailed for West Bay due to weather.

Neytiri in French Harbor

Neytiri in French Harbor

The Port Captain Shuffle

Check in procedures have changed and not for the better. Immigration moved to Plaza Mar in Coxen Hole, the Port Captain has to run everything through the capital now causing up to a five-day delay, and they want three pictures of the boat in digital form to be emailed to the capital. The Port Captain is also AWOL much of the day due to heavy cruise ship traffic (or long lunches) and he walked in at 2:30 p.m. We had been waiting since 1:00 and others longer. Deb had done a great job of putting our three pictures on one 8.5×11 piece of paper; and when we found out they wanted digital only, we took a picture of the piece of paper. No good. They wanted individual shots.

So … we failed. Eighty percent of the cruisers waiting in line until 2:30 also failed. The dockmaster here said they are trolling for tips, but they are on camera so it’s tough to pull off. We did not see anyone trying to buy their way in or out and we really felt sorry for the folks trying to catch weather to get out only to find that it could take days to get their Clearance (Zarpe). To make this short, we paid taxis three times over five days to take us to the Port Captain and back to French Harbor before we got our Entrada. On the positive side, Roatan is a free check in.

Fantasy Island

Fantasy Island from the Air

Fantasy Island from the Air

Zee plane, Zee plane. Not the same place. In fact, very little maintenance has been done on this resort since the last time we were here. All the wood buildings are kind of right out of the Dirty Dancing era but a little more faded each time we come back. There are no longer fresh water showers for the cruisers but there is a bathroom that works most of the time with a dirty salt water shower. The WIFI is a whopping 10 to 30 K. The Dockmaster, Rob, said that if we were here four years ago, we would really notice the difference now. There are themed events much like Dirty Dancing for the guests and another set for the cruisers in the Palapa bar. We do BBQ night, movie night, and 2-for-1 ladies night. Some of the guys are showing up in dresses for the 2-for-1 ladies night. We even got a pole dance from one of the guys.

Dirty Dancing Agenda for the Cruisers

Dirty Dancing Agenda for the Cruisers

Dirty Dancing Agenda for Resort Guests

Dirty Dancing Agenda for Resort Guests

This Is Our Back Yard

This Is Our Back Yard

Seaweed

Roatan is in the middle of a seaweed invasion. Massive islands of seaweed are floating in and the staff rake huge piles off the beach. Front end loaders and trucks haul the smelly piles away. The resort is usually losing the battle though the invasion seems to be tapering off lately. One cruiser said he hit an island of this stuff in the middle of the night and his boat came to a complete stop. This level of seaweed in the ocean has not been seen before.

Seaweed Invasion

Seaweed Invasion

The Animals of Roatan

Fantasy Island Peacock

Fantasy Island Peacock

Agouti

Agouti or Roatan Rabbit

Fantasy Island mixes zoo animals with people. We mostly see agoutis, peacocks, monkeys, and iguanas. Of these, the monkeys are a good story. They have been known to run off with cell phones, shoes, anything left in boat cockpits, and they climb up on people as part of their routine. Deb’s encounter was fun as he tried to get inside her shirt but the little …. did tear a key off her laptop keyboard.

Quit Monkeying Around

Quit Monkeying Around

Road Trips

We had our car rental from hell the week of April Fools Day. The morning of our big road trip to West Bay, the battery was dead. No problem for a cruiser, just grab any one of the jump starters and off we go. Our jump starters had partial charges but not enough to bring up the dead car battery so we had to haul out the extension cords and 110 charger. Eventually that worked and off we went, wondering what we had left on the night before that would drain the battery. I dropped a tire off the edge of the road and it got punctured. We pulled off on a hill in the middle of nowhere on a Sunday when everything was closed and started the spare tire drill. We were partially blocking traffic so that was an added bonus. The spare tire had an even bigger hole in it. A Honduran on a motorcycle who happened to own a car wash and gas station stopped by and took our main tire to his shop to try and inflate/fix it. He couldn’t but we gave him something for trying.

So…we called the Alamo manager and actually got him on a Sunday. He drove out, put his spare on our car, and took our two bad tires. Over the next two days, we had to jump the car if we let it stand for more than a couple hours and our newly charged car starters worked great. We did have to drive all the way to the airport to pick up a new tire and there was no one there to put it on so, once again, we got to use the “toy” jacks that they include with those little cars.

Flat Tire and a Flat Spare

Flat Tire and a Flat Spare

After the March Madness final on April 3, the jump start battery just wouldn’t cut it one more time. It was 10:30 at night after way too many drinks in the parking lot of Herby’s Sports Bar and Grill (great place). Thankfully a security guard came over and said “No problem” (the only English he knew) and grabbed a hotel van, jumper cables, and a buddy to get the show on the road again. The next day we called Alamo and swapped cars.

West End, West Bay

West End

West End

Nice places right out of the brochure. We bought a beach pass at the Paradise Hotel for $10 U.S. each which gave us a place to park and access to the pool, shower, and beach chairs. The highlight was the snorkeling. The Roatan wall is right off the beach with massive coral formations and a steep drop into the abyss. We also swam with the most fish we’ve seen in a long time. We got a kick out of diving down to the scuba divers and waiving like “we’re down here doing this for free and you’re paying a bundle.”

Underwater World

Underwater World

We lounged until the end of the day and the flies got too bad. On the trip back, we got beat badly by a guy on a bike. It wasn’t because of traffic, just potholes.

Beacher's Bar, West Bay

Beacher’s Bar, West Bay

East Roatan

On April 4, we teamed up with M.J. and Louisa from CarieAnn and headed East. We took almost every side road between Fantasy Island and the end of Roatan. The highlight was a trip to the Hole in the Wall restaurant in Jonesville.

The Famous Pirate Bar Was Only Open 2 Weeks

The Famous Pirate Bar Was Only Open 2 Weeks

Two Norwegians

Two Norwegians on the Way to Hole in the Wall

Hole in the Wall in Jonesville Bight

Hole in the Wall in Jonesville Bight

Roatan to Livingston: Nice, Easy Overnighter

May 9, 2013 Posted by Deb

RoatanSunset

The boat was crippled coming back from Cayos Cochinos and we were with a group of boats that had set a departure for Zero Dark Thirty the next morning. We’ve never been the boat holding up the party before; and we knew we had to scramble to get a new port battery, get the starboard engine starting again, and check out of the country with the port captain, customs, and immigration. To make matters worse, our mechanic contacts were either unavailable or sick.

We immediately went to the dockmaster for Fantasy Island, Jerry, and got a new contact for engine and electrical work. Not only did we reach Pedro, but he dropped what he was doing and met us at Frenchy’s 44 by 3:30 for a ride out to Neytiri. We got a chance to pick up a new battery, and Deb did a bit of last-minute provisioning before he arrived. It seems Pedro loves working on boats and solving problems and our issues seemed more interesting than the large project he was working on. He solved the starboard engine problem as quickly as the prior two or three pros. This time is was a bad connector on a wire. We installed a new battery, tested the port alternator, and Neytiri was ready to go. The charge for his services was around $30 U.S., and we drank beer for another two hours. During the drinking session, he mentioned that the relays as well as the electrical layout for the engines made no sense. That observation loomed large in the next few days.

WestEndTown

The group changed plans and decided not leave that night but later the following day. We would stage at Cabos Tres Puntas for a night before tackling the dreaded Livingston bar at around 8:00 a.m. two mornings down the line. Checkout was a comedy if it wasn’t so painful. We had to wait, make calls, wait, visit the airport, and fill out forms, visit offices multiple times in the proper order, and deal with a wide variety of cab charges. Mike on Casa del Mar double checked our passports and the stamped exit date was more than a month off, actually before we arrived. Good catch and we had to arrange for another stamp. Always fun to explain multiple stamps down the road.

Departure was uneventful but we noticed the new starting battery was getting hit with too much of a charge and pulled the terminal quickly. We met Aquadesiac coming out of West Bay and the three-boat fleet sailed off into the sunset. Neytiri sailed initially, Casa del Mar motorsailed the entire trip, and Aquadesiac motor sailed (about 700 rpm lower than normal) and sailed. When we tried to motorsail to catch up a bit, the starboard engine failed to start again. We rewired the port alternator to the original, pre-Pedro configuration and found it was not charging the house bank at all and the starting battery was trying to cook again. After shutting down the alternator completely, we found ourselves with one engine and no means of engine driven charging of the house battery. We would soon be turning on nav lights and the autohelm chewed up lots of amps from the battery. We shut down refrigeration, the autohelm, and all unnecessary energy consumption and hand steered for the first time on this boat into the night. That makes a long night of it. The autohelm is like a third crewmember. Without it and with the off duty crew asleep, it is challenging to take a pit stop, get a drink, check navigation, trim sails, or do anything that requires leaving the helm.

By morning the solar panels kicked in. The lowest battery reading was 12.62 so we had plenty of juice in reserve. We flipped on refrigeration but the autohelm failed for the first time; and we continued hand steering, arriving way behind the fleet in Cabo Tres Puntas at about 2:30. We kicked back and re-read all the guides and their slightly different techniques for tackling the bar at Livingston. We remember well our last crossing 18 years ago and the depth alarms squawking (until we turned them off).

Cayos Cochinos or Islands of Pigs

May 7, 2013 Posted by Deb

We motored from Roatan to Cayos Cochinos in 4 to 5 hours in flat calm. When we grabbed a mooring, we couldn’t believe the bad rotten egg smell coming off the island. It turned out the smell was coming from our port starting battery which had cooked itself to the point of losing about four inches of acid into the battery compartment. We jerked the battery and put it on the sugar scoop, cleaned the battery box, and waited for the trades to flush out the smell. Of course, now we’re out a port engine within days of getting the starboard engine running. Maybe we were meant to have only one engine at a time.

CayosParkRangers

CayosNeytiri

This little group of islands is becoming our favorite. We are here with Casa del Mar and Aquadesiac and the diving is gorgeous and the locals are incredibly welcoming.

CayosFosterAtBoat

Of course they want to sell us jewelry, food, and Mike on Casa del Mar got an authentic Indian paddle. The little kids are great entertainment and love to have their picture taken. The head greeter has a name we can’t quite get but it is close to Foster. We dinked over to his restaurant on a tiny island called Cachuate after a hard morning of diving and finished up lunch at 4:30. He said he had 150 family members on that island. The island was shy about 15 beers when we left.

CayosBoySailKayuka

ChachuteFromNeytiri

CayosDebApproachIsland

ChachuateSchoolKids

CayosKinder

CayosLunchAtFosters

CayosTortillaWoman

CayosFosterCooking

Cinco de Mayo Party on Neytiri

Cinco de Mayo Party on Neytiri

Hank and Old Port Royal Revisited

May 2, 2013 Posted by Deb

When we set up shop in French Harbor, Roatan, we went to the nearest boat, Sunyata, and started the process of getting a feel for the area and finding a good mechanic to bring our starboard engine back to life (again). We could not have picked a better boat to ask. Hank had been there for 28 years running a charter operation with his boat three or four months a year and generally kicking back the rest of the time. He set us up with Smiley, so named because he never smiles. Smiley pulled the starter, took it to a starter repair guy, reinstalled it, and chased down two new relays all in about a 3-day period and the total cost to bring the boat back online was under $150 U.S. with tip.

We also met Roy while waiting for a laundry pickup. Roy on Avion had been in Roatan for a long time as well, and he did a double take when we told him we anchored overnight in Old Port Royal. He said that the bay we were in was known as burglary bay and we were lucky to get out of there intact. Oops..

Roatan Road Trip

We actually did hook up with a part of the Panama fleet when Casa del Mar returned from the islands just south of Roatan called Cayos Cochinos. We didn’t so much catch up as they decided they liked the area and let the rest of the fleet sail on. We, along with Aquadesiac, did a road trip around Roatan with Santos, a tour guide who we chartered for a day. When three boats charter a van, that means a lot of stops at the top tourist sites like every hardware store on the island, every marine store, the grocery store, and finally, the gas station. We did a fair amount of sightseeing but the van was very full at the end of the day. The highlight was the tip of Roatan called West End.

WestEndChuckDeb

ChuckRumGlassView

CocoLocoChuck

RoatanShopping

Dive Roatan

The thing to do in Roatan is dive. Some folks are doing five dives a day. We dusted off our PADI cards and signed up at Fantasy Island. Importantly for us, we gathered up all the dive gear we inherited from the former owners and had Darren, the head divemaster, tell us what we had. He was like Eli Wallich in Good Bad and the Ugly when Tuco (Eli) pieced together a gun from three or four others. Darren assembled one good regulator from all our stuff, tested, cleaned, and explained what we had for the stunning price of $30. So, not only did we splash for the first time since St. Kitts, we did it with a good amount of our own gear. We did a great wall dive with some folks from Michigan.

DiveBoatChuck

 

That's a really big iguana on the top of the Dive Shop

That’s a really big iguana on the top of the Dive Shop

 

BraziliansInDiveBoats

Frozen Freecell

Okay, it got hot with 92% humidity and the winds went flat. We bailed out of the anchorage and grabbed a spot at Fantasy Island so we could fire up the AC for a few days and dry the boat out. When you’re used to the tropics, AC is a bit harsh and I winter up to keep from getting a nasty cold. Looks pretty strange in this climate, though.

ChuckAirConditioner

Drones, Dinghy Watchers, Derelicts, Dead Computers, and Dead Engines

April 23, 2013 Posted by Deb

The ex-military guys we sail with from time to time informed us that we were overflown three times by drones while underway at night in Columbian and Nicaraguan waters. We knew there were some very weird aircraft over our heads but have never heard a drone before. We have a feeling it was U.S. taxpayers’ money at work fighting the drug war.

Kite Surfer in the Anchorage

Kite Surfer in the Anchorage

Rasta news. A very rasta looking Honduran started talking to us at a little local food joint near the bridge in Providencia. He told us about the Boston Marathon bombings. We had been without internet for so long, major events slipped by. Deb went to three different internet cafes the next day and still did not get a page to load (bandwidth is challenging) regarding the bombs but we had better luck on day two. What really worked was a satellite call to the relatives.

Richards_Providencia

Three Degrees Left and Fire

Three Degrees Left and Fire

Neytiri in Providencia from the Hike to the Fort

Neytiri in Providencia from the Hike to the Fort

Henry Morgan made Providencia Famous

Henry Morgan Made Providencia Famous

Lumping Pirates and Protestants

Lumping Pirates and Protestants?

That’s a Tonka Front End Loader He’s Playing With

That’s a Tonka Front End Loader He’s Playing With

We pulled up the hook and sailed out of Providencia on Thursday morning, April 18, for our second longest passage on Neytiri — something in the neighborhood of 375 miles to Guanaja, Honduras. Most cruisers stop at the Vivorillos but we elected to keep on trucking due to a significant drop in the wind forecast for our third day. That trip turned into a perfect catamaran sail with 70 miles in the first 8 hours and 190 for the first 24 hours. We pulled into Guanaja 50 hours later with only one incident … having a light wind sail up in the middle of the night when a squall hit. A sail that was meant for 17 knots maximum wind got hit with 22 knots before we could wrestle it down at around 3:30 a.m. on Saturday morning. The seas were impressive for the entire trip and did not drop to 5 feet as forecast. Neytiri surfed repeatedly on the downwind leg, a first for us and spectacular at times on the knot meter.

El_Cayo_Guanaja

Guanaja was pretty and virtually empty of cruisers. We got directions and a feel for the area from Gar, an ex pat who came to Guanaja 9 years ago and never left. We were in a hurry to clear into the Honduras and forgot the camera. We should have taken it because the main town (which was on stilts 18 years) was pretty cool. Leon jumped up when we arrived and signed on as our tour guide and dinghy watcher. He was actually very helpful and we planned to give him a nice tip but the head “Guido” showed up and ran Leon off. Meanwhile our dinghy got used for a trampoline by the local teenagers and had saltwater and dirt on the inside and probably aged a few years from the beating. On the upside, immigration and the port captain were both open and we were charged exactly zero for clearing into Honduras.

We celebrated at the Manati restaurant, owned an operated by Germans that met in Guanaja but lived about 20k from each other in Germany. The food and German beer was great but the real entertainment came from Gar and John, a couple of guys who had been coming to Manatis almost daily for nine years and violently arguing a broad spectrum of subjects (the night we were there it was gun manufacturers and the migration of humans to the North American continent with a sidebar on the origins of blue-eyed humans). At the conclusion of each evening’s angry debate they would hug and part friends. Deb said it was like Norm and Cliff from Cheers; and come to think of it, they sat at exactly the same position at the bar. We dinked home in the dark, slightly impaired.

That evening my laptop died and the following morning the starboard engine failed to start again. We made contact with our friends that we were trying to catch by renting a dongle for Deb’s laptop and configuring it without a teenager to help. We got it to work just long enough to send “we arrived” email and send out a few queries about where the fleet was. The next morning, we could only get Facebook so Deb chatted with her sister and asked her to check Deb’s Google mail account and we got the travel plans for the fleet that way. We took off for Roatan at about 10:30 with zero wind and one engine. Rather than jack the rpm’s, we altered course for Old Port Royal Bay so that we could get in with enough light to see the reefs.

Somebody’s Bad Day Made a Fair Channel Marker

Somebody’s Bad Day Made a Fair Channel Marker

Our destination changed as we passed a nice little town with a mast or two anchored off. As we pulled in, we got swarmed by boat boys (men) paddling like crazy to get in front of us. We cut throttle to keep from running them over. As we neared town, we could see the one mast was a derelict and the other was a large local fishing boat. Deb said “I don’t like this” and we spun the boat and headed out to Old Port Royal. We had to bust through the boat boys again and tossed them each a Coke but they wanted lots more. We told them we had no local currency and they were scratching their heads on that line while we throttled up and got away. We damn near went aground in the Coke exchange and it would have been tough getting off a reef with only one engine. Our chosen anchorage was gorgeous with a narrow entry and a wreck to mark one edge. We were anchored off a nice beach with some kind of plantation to port but at night, there was not a single light from the huge building. The next morning, we ghosted the coast in light wind and eventually dropped the hook in French Harbour, Roatan, Honduras, after an absence of over 18 years.

Reef Watching

Reef Watching