Wednesday, February 23, 2011


Rain, Rain and LOTS of rain

Rain, rain, and LOTS of rain. That's what we had last week here in Roatan. Although it is not unusual to have the occasional squall come through, these torrential rains were bizarre. We had two solid days of downpour from the same big storm that had earlier swept across the USA.

One morning we woke up to the water looking quite similar to my morning coffee (I take it with milk and use the local panela or light-brown sugar). There was so much dirt/earth/soil from the runoff from the island in the water! It wasn't until hours later when the rain stopped that I could get out and take a photo and by then it was already clearing. Within 24 hours it was again clear enough to see the bottom and the scuba dive boats were out on the reef. Fast!

We later discovered that the main road (sand & dirt) in the village of West End had been wiped out by flooding and that was the source of the mud in the bay. We were quite impressed that the local community had dump trucks of earth and a hoard of men repairing the road within a day and were done by nightfall. If the tourists can't get to the restaurants, dive shops, and trinket shops then they can't spend money, so time was critical.

So we stayed on the boat and read, knit, and put bowls under all of the new leaks. Dang, I thought I had made good progress in sealing known leaks, but the amount of rain we had proved me very wrong. I had borrowed a copy of the PADI Open Water diving manual from another boat and spent some of this downtime studying up for my future scuba diving lessons. With so much rain I felt I WAS underwater anyway. As for knitting...well, I worked on some brainless projects like this dishcloth which are little gifts to other boaters.

Eventually, the sun came out. We loaded up the stinking garbage and dashed to town dispose of it and to pick up some provisions. There usually are a couple of pickup trucks with vendors of fruits and vegetables parked along the road in the shade. The assortment is limited to the basic goods (peppers, carrots, tomatoes, onions, potatoes, limes, plantains and oranges. But we can also find cantaloupes, watermelon and the occasional broccoli and celery. Here's a photo of Jonesy hauling in a bag of groceries to the end of the dock where we tie up our dinghy in West End. We do a LOT of hauling in this lifestyle.

We also do a lot of walking - sometimes just to get our basic needs and other times to explore and stretch our legs. On shore, there is one stretch of beach that is bisected by a canal on private property. In order to continue our walks we must cross the sky bridge over the canal. Great. I'm not wild about heights especially when there are gaps in the structure and I can see how far up I am.

We climbed up the rusty steps and managed to get across the bridge. That was the good news. The bad news is that we'd have to do it again on the way back. Ugh.

Did I say rusty steps? Yep. Especially the bottom steps which I have pictured here. All the steps were rusty and many had rusted clear through and had holes. So, as we climbed (and descended) we had to step on the far left and right sides of each step where the metal was more intact. So we waddled up the steps, carefully cross the wooden boards on the top, and waddled down the other side.

But it was worth it as we got to stroll along the big wide beach at West Bay! Our entertainment in the tourist area of West Bay is checking out the sunbathers and trying to place their language. Most are Europeans and we marvel at all the different languages (and the skimpy men's bathing suits - eeew).

And then there's the sand art to study. Hmmmm.
And even tree houses!

Up this spiraling wooden staircase is a full house, complete with plumbing. You can see the structure in the 2nd photo. How cool is that? Of course this takes hauling your groceries up to a new level.
There are about 15 to 20 boats on moorings here in the West End with some staying long periods (months) and others only hanging out with us for a few days. Right now fully half of the boats are Canadian flagged vessels which if you think about the difference in population sizes is a very odd thing. We've all been generously patronizing the local restaurants and bars (Jonesy can't pass up $1 chili dog night at the Crooked Palm) as part of our duty to keep the local economy going.

Jonesy & Terry at the Crooked Palm
For all of our cruising years, we have made a point of being back on the boat by dark. This is part of our plan for safety. But, here at West End we've allowed ourselves some evening and yes, even past sunset and into dark adventures. That's because the main road - and all the establishments line an open road that is well lit. We have never seen a shady character rowing through the mooring field unlike most of the places we anchor. So we've enjoyed the perceived safety of West End and the businesses have profited from us. Just doing our part to help the flailing tourist industry.

Thursday, February 10, 2011


Dive! Dive! Dive!

This may give y'all a better idea of where we are now. Right here. See the little group of yachts in the farthest bay? That's West End on the island of Roatan. In the foreground is the tourist area of West Bay.

These photos were taken by our friends Ted and Joan on the motor vessel Panchita when they took an open cockpit airplane ride around the island! Check out that little sea plane - we would see it take off and land several times a week from the Fantasy Island Resort. We may not ever see Panchitia again as they just headed off for the Eastern Caribbean islands and Cuba. But, you never know about that...cruisers can and do change their minds.

In fact, we just ran into Enrique and Katheryn on the sailing vessel Pelican in French Harbor a couple of days ago! The last time we saw them over a year ago they were headed north up to the US state of North Carolina. Plans changed and now they are here!

I went scuba diving for the first time ever! It was fantastic and so much easier than I thought! Of course I'm already used to the water and having a snorkel in my mouth for a long time, but all that other gear looked a little (ok, a lot) overwhelming. I had my own personal instructor for 2 dives which made me feel very comfortable. This is a picture of Cheryl from the sailing vessel Interlude who was instrumental in talking me into taking the dive lessons. I lust over her pink fishy cap.

What was it like? Totally a Disney experience! Big schools of blue fish, big groupers lurking, and lots of colorful reef fish. The best part was being able to get in close and watch the behavior of the fish in their natural environment. Because this all is part of the Roatan Marine Park the fish are used to divers and don't fear us because there is no hunting or even touching allowed.

The little dive boat was crowded with gear and cruisers and I didn't get many pictures because I was way too busy (and happily nervous). We all went into the water for the first dive of the day. Even Jonesy, who snorkeled on top of the water and watched me the entire time. After about an hour, we rested on the boat and snacked. Then the rest of the divers went in for a 2nd "tank" (dive) while Jonesy and I relaxed in the sunshine of a beautiful day.

On the knitting front, I finished up a little pair of socks knit from Brown Sheep Wildfoote sock yarn. The foot is about 6 1/4" long which is the smallest size we make for the older children's orphanage.

Also on the needles is a very nice sock design that I am testing for another group. Sorry - I can't show you until April.

So, we've just been snorkeling, walking on the different stretches of beaches, making water, reading, watching the cruise ship tourists pass us on adventure boats. Then we have been listening to music, cooking and eating good food, and monitoring the sunset every evening and watch as the cruise ships leave the big ports around the corner of the island and head off to their next ports of call.

Queen Angelfish
Banded Butterflyfish
Tiger Grouper
Nassau Grouper
Foureye Butterflyfish
Rock Beauty Angelfish
Blue Tangs
French Brunts
Sergeant Major
Yellowtail Damselfish
Queen Parrotfish
Donkey Dung Sea Cucumber
Spiny Lobster
Queen Conch
Caribbean Reef Squid
Fairy Basslet  (aka Royal Gamma) pretty purple and yellow little fish
Spotlight Parrotfish
Bluehead Wrasse
Trumpet Fish
Remora Sharksucker - on another fish!
Yellow Goatfish

Plus lots of super healthy corals, sponges, and anemones and worms. I don't have an identification book (yet!) for this but that's on my shopping list now.

Sunday, February 06, 2011


HUG ME Socks

Introducing my super easy sock pattern that is perfect for those wildly colored hand-dyed yarns. Hug Me Socks is the February/March 2011 pattern on the Six Sox Knitalong Yahoo group .

Hand-dyed, painted and variegated sock yarns are often so colorfully busy that any knitting stitch patterning simply disappears. These special yarns require a more simplistic approach such as the easy knit and purl combination used in these socks. The bonus is that this patterning makes a stretchy sock that wants to hug your leg and foot. Heel construction is the traditional flap & gusset method.

See how it stretches to fit even my heifer calf quite comfortably? Nope, I won't keep them - they are tucked safely into a locker to be sent to the orphanage in Kazakhstan.

Thursday, February 03, 2011


Hammock Feet & Ducky Races

These are my feet in the hammock and this is the view looking west away from the island. That's one of the best parts of cruising - the scenic beauty that we have 24-hours a day from our home. Because we now have an unobstructed view of the west, we get stunning sunsets too as we watch the sun sink into the ocean!

The weather has been fabulous - in the low 80's during the day and the low 70's at night with a steady breeze. Although we are always ready for rain (close the hatches when we leave the boat), we haven't had any in almost a week. We are enjoying living at this higher latitude where it is cooler than down in Colombia and Panama. The water temps are still a little cool at about 79/80 degrees so we just bought another tropical light weight wet suit at a local dive shop so we now have one for each of us.

The next photo is the view towards the island (Roatan), and finally a picture of our mooring ball for those folks who don't know what one is. The ball is about 15" in diameter and we're in water that is about 12 feet deep. When snorkeling yesterday, I noticed that a large queen conch (shell with animal inside) was visiting the turtle grass by our mooring ball.

On our last day over in the French Harbor/Fantasy Island anchorage, we were treated to a Rubber Ducky Race. Ted & Joan on the motor vessel Panchita have an extensive collection of these bath toys and have organized many events in the past. This one was a fund-raiser for the Fantasy Island Marina Cruiser's fund to purchase some new furniture for our "green" park area where we have our Happy Hour get-togethers and potluck dinners.

Jonesy and I each selected a duck and placed our bets. Then we had some time before the official event to prepare a large rum & coke for me and a beer for Jonesy at the "bar" set up under the thatch-roofed palapa. While we waited for folks to arrive, the local monkey family came over to check us out (and get a few handouts of food).

It was a sunny day following a solid day of heavy rain so we walked along the bay to stretch our legs. Then it was time to sit and get out the knitting.

Race time! The ducks were ceremoniously dumped into a bucket and transported to the starting point out in the bay. Go! The crowd stood on the shore in the shade and watched the ducks drift slowly to shore - kinda like watching the grass grow in the summertime. Yes - there are ducks floating in this picture. Really. Look closely.

Finally, they moved in closer to the finish line so we could actually see them. Within a short time, the first ducks rode the tiny little wavelets up to the sand and "stuck". Winners were applauded. Jonesy and I still had to wait for our duckies to drift ashore. Waiting, waiting...then my green duck arrived somewhere in the middle of the pack.

Jonesy's duck? Well, it was 2nd from last and only a few seconds away from being dead last which would have resulted in a boobie prize of $5! This stupid duck spent almost the whole race floating on it's side. Oh well, a lot of fun was had by all and money was raised for our group and future cruisers who arrive. The hot dog feed and potluck followed on the "green" making it a full day of activities; shopping in the morning, macaroni salad preparation, duck races, and potluck - whew! Finally we got back to the boat and it was time for hammock swinging and star gazing.

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