Archive for March, 2009

Rob’s Roatan Rendezvous

Wednesday, March 18th, 2009

We had about a week between the end of Sabrina and Tom’s visit and Rob’s arrival on 2/21. We spent the time in a leisurely manner, as is our accustomed style. Ralph and Nancy finished up the scuba lessons and Nancy is now a PADI certified Open Water Diver. We stayed put in West End, Roatan and on Saturday the 21st, we met Rob at the Pura Vida Restaurant. It had been a year and quite a few miles since we’d seen Rob and it was very good to see him again.

We introduced him to Salva Vida, the local Honduran beer, and also to Ralph, Tiffany and Max, who popped into the restaurant to visit. That evening we just sat on the boat and visited and introduced Rob to Flor de CaƱa, the local Honduran rum, which mixed very well in his Cuba Libre’s. Rob and I went for our first dive Sunday morning just outside the reef at West End. The dive was an excellent one. We entered in 20 feet of water and swam through patch reef to the edge of the wall, where the reef drops off sharply to another slope at about 90 feet, and then drops sharply again to hundreds of feet deep. We followed the wall down to about 80 feet. We saw two hawksbill sea turtles on this dive, one of them quite large, along with lobsters and various kinds of reef fish such as french angelfish, parrotfish, blue tang, etc. Nancy and I had bought a digital camera with a waterproof case and I have started taking lots of pictures on our dives, so be sure to check out the Picture Gallery page. They aren’t professional-quality underwater pictures, of course, but they are still quite interesting. We went ashore to get provisions in the afternoon and saw Ralph, Tiffany and Max on their way back from Port Royal, where they’d gone for a job interview as caretakers of some property. We invited them to dinner that evening and Rob fixed boiled shrimp, rice and beans, guacamole and pico de gallo.

Monday was a rainy day so we didn’t go diving. Rob made some excellent shrimp scampi burritos with the boiled shrimp left over from the previous day. Tuesday morning the sun was out and we went diving. Ralph and Tiffany heard that they got the caretaking job, so we invited them over for dinner to celebrate. Rob made shrimp salad and pasta with your choice of putanesca sauce or clam sauce and Tiffany brought over a boat pie for desert.

Wednesday we motor-sailed to Parrot Tree Marina in Second Bight, just east of French Harbor. We spent the night in the marina in order to fill our water tanks and top the batteries off on shore power. Thursday we sailed to Calabash Bight to meet up with our friends Ed and Julie, whom we hadn’t seen for about 3 years, since we visited them on Free Radical in St. Marten. It was very exciting to see them again and they invited us over to Spirit of Free Radical for dinner. They still have Free Radical, their monohull, and have since bought a catamaran they named Spirit of Free Radical, which they have been fixing up for most of the past year. They are pretty much finished and have done a wonderful job fixing it up.

Friday morning Rob got a tour of Free Radical and we went for a dive later in the morning. After the dive, Ed and Julie accompanied us into the town of Oak Ridge and showed us around. From Calabash Bight, you can dinghy through a canal into Fiddler’s Bight, across Fiddler’s Bight and through another canal into Oak Ridge Harbor, and then across the Harbor into the town of Oak Ridge itself. Rob bought some pork chops to grill and we invited Ed and Julie over to Stolen Child for dinner.

Saturday morning Rob and Nancy dinghied into Oak Ridge for the vegetable market and then Rob and I went diving in the afternoon. Rob fixed lobster tails, spanish rice and candied carrots for dinner Sunday morning we left Calabash and motor-sailed to Guanaja, the next island east of Roatan. We anchored just west of Bonacca. Guanaja is the easternmost of the Bay Islands. Christopher Columbus landed here on his fourth and final voyage to the New World in 1502. There are approximately 10,000 people living on Guanaja, 8,000 of which live in Bonacca. Bonacca is the capital of Guanaja and is a tiny cay less than 100 acres in size. All the houses and structures are two and three stories tall and many of them are built over the water on stilts. It is quite interesting to see, but quickly looses its appeal after a few hours. We spent a couple of days there and met up with some very interesting and colorful local characters, but were glad to leave on Tuesday and head to Graham’s Cay, just a couple of miles away to the east.

Just as we were approaching Graham’s Cay, we saw a cruise ship entering the harbor. We picked up a mooring ball just off Graham’s Cay and watched as the cruise ship anchored near us and began ferrying crew, food and passengers ashore to Graham’s Cay. Nancy found out later from one of the women from the cruise ship that it is actually owned by the passengers, who each buy a condominium-sized chunk of the ship. There were 107 owner-passengers aboard and I would assume that there were almost that many who were not aboard. Every year the owners get together and figure out where the ship is going for the year and many of them live aboard all year round. It sounds quite interesting, but I have to think the operating costs would be very high. We had dinner ashore and just relaxed in the cockpit that evening. I woke up at 1:00 in the morning, as I often do, and checked the boat over, paying particular attention to the mooring line. Everything looked fine and I went back to bed. About 5:30 I woke up when I heard an unfamiliar bump. I went topside to discover that we were no longer moored and had drifted almost ashore. This is what you call an “Oh, Sh*t!” moment. I fired up the engine and quickly motored us away from shore with no harm done, other than using up my monthly allotment of adrenaline. Apparently sometime between 1:00 and 5:30, some chop had built up in the harbor and caused the mooring line to chafe through, setting us adrift. I knew when we picked up the mooring that I should have put some chafe gear on the line. Just one of several reasons why I’d much rather anchor than pick up a mooring. We decided that we’d had enough of Guanaja and headed back to Roatan, arriving in French Cay Harbor about 15:00, Wednesday afternoon.

After we got anchored in French Cay Harbor, Rob and I took the scuba tanks to Coco View Resort to get them filled. We got the distinct impression from the lady who runs the place that she’d rather not be bothered with it, but said they’d do it if we had current hydrostatic testing stamps and visual inspection stickers. Our hydro stamps were good, but they were out of date for visual, so she turned us over to a guy named Doc, who said they could inspect them for $15 per tank. We needed them filled, so we said ok. Doc was nice enough to let us borrow a couple of their full tanks so we could dive the next morning.

Rob and I went for two dives on Thursday. In the morning, we went outside the entrance to French Harbor and dove the wreck of a freighter named Mr Bud, which is right on the edge of the wall in about 50 feet of water. Mr Bud is a rather small freighter and it hasn’t been down long enough to have lots of interesting coral growing on it, but it was still a very interesting dive. We saw a stingray, a grouper and a very large sea slug, in addition to the usual reef fish. After the dive, we took the loaner tanks back to Coco View to swap for our tanks, but they weren’t ready yet, so Doc let us borrow a couple more full tanks and we next dove the wall outside the entrance to Coco View. This was a pretty spectacular dive site. The mooring ball is in about 20 feet of water right at the edge of the wall, which descends vertically down to about 80 feet, where it descends more gradually for a while before taking another vertical plunge. There are lots of crevasses and overhangs and we saw some large crabs, lobsters and queen angelfish, among other reef fish. Rob fixed shrimp scampi burritos and spanish rice for dinner and I ate until I was ready to pop. The shrimp scampi he fixes is very good all by itself, but then he puts a tortilla in a frying pan with a little butter to crisp it a little on the outside and while it is in the pan, he puts cheese, onion, tomato, avocado, shrimp scampi and probably some other good stuff on the tortilla. Shake a little hot sauce on that and roll it up and eat it with some spanish rice and wash it down with an ice cold Salva Vida and life just doesn’t get any better.

Friday we returned to Coco View and two of our four tanks were almost ready, so we waited around for them to be filled, then went to dive the Prince Albert wreck. Unfortunately, the wreck lies in the channel into Coco View and the visibility was very poor. There is also a crashed DC-3 airplane near the Prince Albert wreck and we came across the DC-3 before we made it to the Prince Albert. Since the visibility was so poor, we decided to abort the wreck dive and go back to the wall we had dove the previous day. We had another spectacular dive on the wall for Rob’s last dive before flying back to real life on Saturday. We were just returning from the dive as Daydream was pulling into French Cay Harbor and I dove their anchor for them since I was already wet and had my gear handy. Friday evening we went into French Harbor and ate dinner at a nice restaurant named Romeo’s. Saturday was another somber goodbye day. Rob got all packed up in the morning and caught a taxi for the airport a little after noon. I’m really glad we got certified for scuba and bought our equipment because I think it really added an extra dimension to Rob’s visit. He hadn’t been diving in years and really enjoyed it. I know that we really enjoyed having him aboard and are looking forward to his next visit. We are also hoping for more visitors while we are here, as this is an exceptional spot to visit and it is pretty easy to get flights in and out from most anywhere in the States.