Archive for February, 2009

Sabrina and Tom’s Excellent Adventure

Monday, February 16th, 2009

Saturday morning, February 7, we left Parrot Tree Marina and sailed back to French Harbor. I picked up our pack mules, I mean our guests, Tom and Sabrina at the Roatan airport in the afternoon. They had graciously brought us a lot of boat stuff we had ordered. There was so much stuff that one of their bags had started to come apart at the seams, so Tom had whipped out some duct tape he just happens to travel with and effected an emergency repair en route (this guy is a natural cruiser). Airport security in Roatan was about to inspect that particular bag when Sabrina cautioned him “be careful, that bag is about to explode.” Fortunately, Roatan is a pretty laid-back kind of place and the security guy got a chuckle out of her choice of words. Not only did they bring us all the stuff we had ordered and the mail we’d had shipped to them, they packed a bunch of goodies for us, too, such as peanut M&M;’s, York peppermint patties, a Paddy O’Quigley’s T-shirt, a couple of half-pint Guinness glasses, and lots of other great stuff from the Land of Plenty.

After getting them settled aboard, we went ashore for dinner and provisioning. We ate at a nice little restaurant and introduced them to Salva Vida, one of the local beers. There were only two tables in the restaurant and the other one was empty, but the food was great. After dinner, we stopped at a street-side stand selling fresh produce and got plenty of fresh fruit and veggies. They had these very large fruit objects they claimed were papayas. They were much bigger than papayas we had seen elsewhere, as big as a small watermelon. We bought one of the large fruit objects, some avocados, limes, a cantaloupe, some bananas and various other fresh things, then headed to the grocery store and got the rest of our provisions. After returning to Stolen Child and stowing the provisions, we dinghied over to Jupiter’s Smile to visit with Jay and Barb. Jupiter’s Smile is an Island Packet, which is one of the boats Tom and Sabrina are considering when they start cruising. We had a great visit with Jay and Barb. Sabrina and Tom have a Catalina 30 that they sail on Lake Perry in Kansas, and it turns out that the people they bought their Catalina from are good friends of Jay and Barb.

Sunday morning we carved up the large fruit object and Nancy made breakfast burritos for breakfast. The papaya was so large we only sliced half of it and I put out a call on the VHF to see if any of the other boats in French Harbor wanted the other half, which was promptly claimed by the folks on Pearl S. Buck. The weather was a little overcast and drizzly, but after breakfast we weighed anchor and set out for West End, Roatan. Practically all week before Sabrina and Tom arrived, the wind had been blowing 15 to 20 knots from the northeast and I was looking forward to a really good sail to West End. Unfortunately, and as so often happens, when we got out of French Harbor there was less than 5 knots of wind and we wound up motoring the whole way. We arrived at West End in the early afternoon and picked up a mooring. In West End they have put in a dozen or so moorings, which are basically permanent anchors, and attached a mooring ball, or float to them, so that boats don’t have to set their own anchor and consequently dig up the turtle grass on the bottom. You simply drive the boat up to the mooring ball and pass your dock line through the mooring line hanging under the mooring ball. There is usually stiff competition for moorings in West End, but we managed to get the mooring closest to the reef so that we could snorkel directly from the boat out to the reef. A boat named “Watch And Sea” was moored close to us, with Ben aboard single-handing. We had been in radio contact with Ben off and on since southern Mexico, but we’d never met him in person, so he dinghied over for a few beers and stayed for the spaghetti dinner Nancy had made. Ben is really nice and it was good to finally meet him in person. He’s an airline pilot who had taken a couple months of vacation and was now on his way back to the States and real life.

Monday morning dawned overcast and drizzly. I made pancakes for breakfast and by late morning the sky had cleared and we went ashore. West End is a very pleasant little village that is geared to scuba diving with more than a dozen dive shops. There is one street that runs parallel to the beach and isn’t paved, but is packed sand. We had lunch at a restaurant on stilts over the harbor and then went back to the boat for some snorkeling on the reef. There was a school of squid in the water right next to the boat. At sunset we got out the sextant and Tom practiced taking sights on Venus and several stars.

Tuesday dawned clear and sunny. Nancy made breakfast burritos while Tom and I put on the sail cover (something I’m quite lazy about doing). After breakfast Tom and I rigged up the Stolen Child Super Duper Rope Swing. We rigged up the whisker pole (a telescoping aluminum pole for holding one corner of a sail in a certain position away from the boat) with the end out over the water just forward of the beam on the port side with a 3/4″ dock line hanging from it. Next we lashed a 2×6 plank across the bow rail. You stand out on the end of the plank (walking the plank, so to speak) holding the rope hanging from the whisker pole and launch yourself out over the water. At the top of the rope’s far swing, you let go and execute your fanciest dive or belly-flop, whichever the case may be, into the water. We’re the only boat in Roatan with a Super Duper Rope Swing and I think Tom and Sabrina were duly impressed with the skill and determination we put into having fun. We went ashore in the afternoon for beers and a late lunch. Tuesday night we stayed up quite late debating politics, religion and philosophy. In other words, we drank a lot and talked a lot of trash.

Wednesday morning we saw the boat next to us, Beau Soleil, rigging its spinnaker for some spinnaker riding. What you do is turn your boat around at anchor, so that the anchor is attached to the stern instead of the bow, which makes your bow point downwind. Then you can fly the spinnaker (a big sail for downwind sailing) from the bow and someone can sit on a line tied between the two bottom corners of the sail. As the wind fills the sail, it will pick the person up out of the water and lift them pretty high, perhaps 20 feet or so. I went over and introduced myself to Mike and Karen and their son Falcon (so named because he was born in Malta). Falcon is about 20 years old and was on vacation visiting his folks. I invited him over to try out the rope swing and he came over later that morning to give it a try. Another boat moored near us, Aventur, was an Island Packet and the owners had heard that Sabrina and Tom were interested in Island Packets and had invited them over to see their boat. Sabrina and Tom dinghied over to take a look at Aventur in the early afternoon while we waited for Daydream to arrive from Utila. There weren’t any moorings available when Daydream showed up, so I snorkeled over to hand-set their anchor for them when they arrived. After they got settled in, Ralph, Tiffany and Max came over and we had a nice reunion. I was glad they made it over in time to meet Tom and Sabrina and they invited them over to Daydream to, in Ralph’s words, “take a look at a pretty boat.” After dinner, Ralph came back over and we sat in the cockpit sipping rum and Kahlua until about 2:30 in the morning. I had learned how to tie Turks Head knots from a book I had aboard and I had tied some on my wheel to mark the center position of the rudder. Ralph liked them and I loaned him the book and he’s now become a Turks Head fanatic. He taught Tom how to tie them and in the process, wound up tying Turks Heads on my furling lines and jib sheets. I think I still haven’t found all the Turks heads he tied that night.

Thursday morning Tom made pancakes for breakfast and then it was time for them to pack up for their trip back to real life. We took them ashore around noon to catch a cab to the airport. Nobody broke down and cried, but it was a pretty somber farewell. Nancy and I really enjoyed having them aboard and hope it won’t be too long before they visit again.

Hello Honduras

Friday, February 6th, 2009

Friday, January 23, we left Northeast Sapodilla Cay bound for Laguna El Diamante, Honduras. We had very light but favorable wind most of the way and also a favorable current. Unfortunately, Daydream developed what appeared to be a transmission problem on the way. His engine would occasionally rev up as though the clutch plates were slipping. Since the wind was so light we were motor-sailing as we needed to make it through the entrance to the lagoon before dark. Due to Daydream’s transmission problem, though, Ralph didn’t want to run his engine until just before reaching the entrance, so we went ahead to make the entrance before dark and then stood by waiting to guide Daydream in with a spotlight in the dinghy when they arrived after dark. The entrance to El Diamante is very scenic. The Honduran coastline is low foothills leading to mountains in the distance. To enter El Diamante, you pass through a moderately narrow gap in the shoreline, with the forested hills rising perhaps 100 feet on either side. There is also a very large rock outcropping in the middle of the entrance, so the moderately narrow gap has now become decidedly narrow. It looks a little scary at first, particularly because the water is muddy and you can’t see the bottom to watch out for submerged rocks, but it is really a quite easy entrance to navigate. Inside the lagoon you are in a large, very well-protected body of water surrounded by 100 foot hills, densely wooded with palms and tropical hardwoods. The bottom is quite muddy, which means the anchor holds really well, so you could ride out quite a strong blow in this lagoon. Daydream arrived about an hour after dark and I met them at the entrance in the dinghy, shining a spotlight on the rocks to either side of the channel. Tiffany was on the bow with a spotlight as well, so they made it in pretty easy and didn’t have to push the transmission very hard. Ralph and Tiffany have helped us out so many times that it was nice to be able to help them a little.

Ralph had had problems with his transmission before, and just happened to have a spare transmission aboard. The spare had good internals, but the housing had a repaired crack and so was slightly questionable. Ralph decided to swap the internals, figuring it was either the plates or thrust washers that were the problem. Saturday he performed surgery on the transmission and it seemed a success, based on how the input and output shafts felt (smooth and easy spinning, but almost zero end-play or run-out). He used a liquid gasket material to seal the housing together, so we decided to stay another day and allow the sealant to cure before putting transmission fluid in and bolting it back on the engine. While he worked on the transmission, Nancy, Tiffany, Max and I went ashore and followed a short path through the mangroves and jungle to a neighboring bay to the east. The neighboring bay, Bahia Escondido, has a nice beach and we strolled the beach and found some very nice seashells. Nancy made some incredible dinner using pork tenderloin, jerk seasoning, and apricot marmelade. Another boat, 40 Mile, with Grant single-handing, arrived Sunday and was also bound for Utila. Sunday Ralph installed the repaired transmission and gave it a little test and it seemed to work fine.

Monday morning Daydream, 40 Mile and Stolen Child formed a little flotilla leaving El Diamante bound for Utila. The wind was again very light, but still favorable and we were able to average 5 knots motor-sailing. Unfortunately and unbelievably, Daydream started experiencing the same symptoms as before. Ralph and I were both scratching our heads. I knew that a fuel filter that is starting to get clogged up will cause the engine to surge in RPM, particularly when advancing the throttle, so I suggested he change his fuel filter, just to rule that out as a possibility. He changed out the filter and bingo, the problem disappeared. Ralph said I’m now his hero and he’ll buy all my beer for the rest of my life. Well, that’s not exactly what he said, but little kids may read this blog, so I won’t print what he really said, and I’m sure that is what he really meant to say.

Isla Utila, Honduras is a really neat, kind of funky island. The entire economy of the island is based around scuba diving and they cater largely to the young backpacker-type of crowd. We checked in with the Port Captain and Immigration on Tuesday and began exploring the town, staying a week before moving on to Roatan. We found a really nice little restaurant, the Cafe Mariposa, and met the manager, Jeff. I had shrimp grilled in a coconut rum sauce on a bed of saffron rice that was incredibly good. Best of all, from 4:00 to 6:00 beers are 20 lempira, or roughly a buck a beer. The coffee is also excellent.

Thursday I helped Ralph move a mooring. Ralph used to be a diving instructor in Utila years ago and had sunk an old engine block in the bay to use as a mooring. He found the engine block and wanted to move it a little further out and reuse it as a mooring. He rounded up 3 plastic drums to use for flotation and while we were moving it we met Louis from the catamaran Simpatica, who came over to give us a hand. Friday Ralph and I went diving with the dive boat from Paradise Divers dive shop, where he used to work as an instructor. He had stopped by Thursday afternoon and helped them rebuild some of their dive gear, and said they needed some 2-inch nylon webbing to replace their weight belts, which he knew I had a supply of. They let us dive for free since he had helped repair their gear and I had given them a bunch of webbing. We dove a site on the north side of the island named Duppy Waters, which is a wall dive. The sea floor goes from about 30 feet to over 600 feet almost vertically. We descended the wall to about 140′ and there was still no end in sight. There was an incredible amount of coral growing all up and down the wall, much more than we had seen on the wall in Belize we had dove. We also dove a site on the southeast of the island called Ted’s Point that has some really neat spur and groove coral formations and also the wreck of a 40′ sailboat. Sunday we went to Daydream for dinner r="0" />and to say goodbye to Ralph and Tiffany as we were planning to leave for Roatan Monday. Another boat in the bay had caught more fish than they could eat and gave some fish steaks to Ralph and Tiff, which they shared with us for dinner.

We left Utila early Monday morning, February 2, bound for French Cay Harbor on the island of Roatan, Honduras. We arrived after a 9-hour motor-sail and anchored near Jupiter’s Smile. We had met Jay and Barb aboard Jupiter’s Smile on our way from Dry Tortugas to Isla Mujeres. We had really enjoyed their company in Isla Mujeres and it was really nice to see them again. We had them over for coffee Monday evening. Tuesday we went ashore to Eldon’s, the grocery store in French Harbor. I can hardly contain my excitement as I write this, because at Eldon’s, they not only had Little Debbie Nutty Bars, they had cases of Guinness Draught!!! That was several days ago as I write this, and I still have a huge ear-to-ear grin. I haven’t had a Guinness since we left Key West, way back in April of 2008, but now I have a case of them in the fridge. I am also quite a fan of Little Debbie, which I have not found in Mexico or Belize, where the leading brand of snack food is Bimbo, and it should be obvious that a Bimbo just can’t compare to a Little Debbie (no, I’m not making that name up, Bimbo makes most of the sandwich bread and snack foods around here).

Wednesday we went ashore with Jay and Barb and explored French Harbor, then in the evening went to happy hour at Coco View Resort and met folks from some of the other boats anchored in French Cay Harbor. Thursday morning (this morning as I write this entry) we waited for a squall to pass, then weighed anchor and got underway for the short trip to Parrot Tree Marina in Second Bight, Roatan. It only took us about an hour to get here and it would have been a great sail had we been going the other direction, but unfortunately we were heading into 15 to 20 knot northeast trade-winds. It was such a short trip we didn’t bother putting up the main, we just motored out of French Harbor and then put out the jib and sailed as close to the wind as we could without backwinding the jib, then tacked onto starboard tack and entered Second Bight. On the way we crossed paths with Ben aboard Watch And Sea, who we had shared an anchorage with in Bahia de La Espiritu Santo, Mexico. We had only talked via the radio, not in person, and were hoping to meet him in Roatan. He was headed from Guanaja to French Harbor, and then to West End before heading north again. We are hoping to meet up with him in West End while Sabrina and Tom are aboard. We are also hoping Ralph, Tiffany and Max make it over to West End from Utila while we are there. We travelled in company with them for over a month and we’ve really missed them these last few days.

Tomorrow we will take advantage of our shore power hook-up here at the dock and do some heavy-duty cleaning on the boat before Sabrina and Tom arrive. They fly in Saturday and we are really looking forward to seeing them. We’ll pick them up at the airport and get them aboard Saturday, then Sunday we plan to sail down to West End. The beaches, restaurants, snorkeling and diving are all supposed to be excellent at West End, and I think they will enjoy the sail down there. We’ve had several cold fronts blow through in the last week, bringing rainy, squally weather, but that is supposed to have all cleared up by this weekend and we should have excellent weather for their visit. My next log entry should be shortly after their visit.