Sunday, March 30, 2014

Providencia, Colombia

Isla Providencia (AKA Old Providence) and Santa Catalina Island, Colombia

Sunday 16 March – Sunday 30 March

We arrived to Providencia around 3 PM Sunday afternoon, greeted by JoAnne & Bill who were out snorkeling as we were coming in the channel. Informing us the agent Mr. Bush, who you have to use to check in, was thought to be off island and that dinner would be on their boat that night. We tried to hail the Bush Agency on VFH 16 a little after 4 once we were anchored, and were glad we got no response. Cleaned up the salt water from the dodger and hand rails, sorry we had just missed the short rain storm that we could see cover the island as we approached, it would have given the boat a good rinse.

Over to Ultra for dinner along with friends Gina & Bruce on S/V Dream Catcher and Hinnerk & Kinga from S/V Paulinchen. It was a great way to be welcomed to the beautiful island of Providencia.

Monday morning we tried to check in, calling Mr. Bush several times on the VHF. The Port Authority answered us and said they would also try to reach him and call us back. Since we were “stuck” on the boat not being allowed on shore until we could check in, Steve decided he would make dinner for the group that night on Ocean Star. After lunch and still not hearing from either we tried again to reach the Bush Agency, still no answer. This left us not knowing if he was back on the island, and if we should try to go check in. Bill & JoAnne were going into town, so they said they would stop by his house/office and check for us. They called us back and confirmed that Mr. Bush was still off island BUT his housekeeper Adella could help us get our paper work started.

We wanted to get checked in since there was a planned hike on Tuesday with a group of cruisers that we wanted to go on. We met B&J at the dock just before 3, and they showed us to Mr. Bush's pointing out the different stores & bakeries along the way. We had a nice visit with Adella as she has lived on the island over 20 years and had lots of stories to share. Finally the port authority guy showed up and took some of our information. Customs & Immigration never made it so we left our passports with Adella to have them stamped the following day. Even though we had been told by other cruisers that we might have to leave our passports at the office, and that this was a common occurrence here, it was still a strange feeling leaving our passports behind. We were told we could come ashore as we wished and that the rest of the paperwork would be completed by Mr. Bush. Picked up some SIM cards for the local phone company so we can get internet, and back to the boat by 5 to finish getting dinner ready. Good thing it was a main course salad, with minimal cooking required. Another fun evening.

Tuesday one of the boats Baros with Linda & Hans, who have been to Providencia many times so know the island very well, were leading the way on a hike to the Peak. This was the 14th time for them to do the hike but a first for Shirley & Tom on S/V Rio Nimpkish, Hinnerk & Kinga on S/V Paulinchen, Bill & JoAnne on Ultra and us and we were glad to have their knowledge of the island and the trail.

We met at the town dock at 9 and caught a van taxi to the park entrance to start the hike by 9:30. Stopping along the way to read the park signs about the local flora & fauna and take pictures we reached the peak 90 minutes later, and were rewarded with spectacular views. Rested for about 30 minutes up on top enjoying the views before starting down. The heat of the day was bringing out all the lizards and we spent some time trying to get a good picture of one of the many Blue Lizards we saw. They are skittish little guys but their bright neon blue coloring makes them a sight to see amongst the green & brown of their landscape. Once we were all down our “guides” Linda & Hans had us go over to Southwest Beach for lunch at Restaurante Divino Nino and a refreshing swim in the ocean. A huge fish platter was had by all and not much went uneaten. Too full to go far we walked down the beach to Richards Beach Bar for another drink to enjoy while we continued the conversations. We were joined by Laura & Russel S/V Luturna II who also know a lot about the island as Laura is from here. Called the taxi van driver, Nelson, to bring us back returning to the boats by 6 after a great day.

Wednesday tried reaching the Bush Agency on the VHF to see when we needed to come in and finish clearance. No answer until later when another new arrival entered the harbor and called in. They were told to come in then and we were told to come in at 4, freeing the day. We have limited internet with only Steve's tablet, the Movistar SIM card would not work in my Tigo USB stick, so trying to get caught up on some emails. The watermaker was started, and a few minutes later we got the system fail alarm, so Steve shut it down. After lunch we went to the fore-peak where the watermaker lives to see what the problem was and discovered another small problem – a container of Stabil (a gasoline additive) which is greasy leaked so we needed to clean that up before looking at the watermaker. Mess cleaned up and Steve gets to the watermaker and it is NOT good. A hole was blown out of a crucial fitting. No clue as to how it could have happened, not going to be an easy fix if at all possible. By now it is time to get ready to go see Mr. Bush to finish our check in. Stopped by the internet place to check options to get my computer connected to the internet. Finished our paperwork with Mr. Bush so he can clear us and the boat into Colombia, and getting our Passports back. Back by the internet place to drop off my Tigo (Honduras Internet) USB stick so it can get unlocked to be used by Movistar the internet provider here.

Thursday morning I picked up Shirley so she could show me where Alitea, a woman on island that does laundry for the cruisers, lives. NOT an easy home to find, climbing stairs and hiking a path we finally get to her house, and she agrees to do some laundry for us. A quick stop at the internet store to pick up my now unlocked USB dongle and back to the boat to see if it works and to get laundry. I can't get dongle to work so go back in with my computer and Daisy at the internet store fixes it. Back to the boat and internet now working on my computer. Need Steve's help to bring our 2 loads of laundry in, and climb back up again to Alita's house. Steve continues working on the watermaker problem, finding how to take it apart and finding a replacement part. Luckily friend Gina on Dream Catcher has her brother coming to visit in 2 weeks so we will be able to get the part brought in. Join most of the other boats in the anchorage 8 out of 10 for happy hour drinks at the Bamboo Bar on Santa Catalina Island.

Friday Steve & I met up with JoAnne & Bill, and Gina & Bruce at 10 to rent motor bikes to tour the island. We rented from the grocery store, $25 for the day, no deposit, no form(s) to fill out, only Bruce showed an ID and we drove away. We had a great day circumnavigating the island on its main road and exploring many of the side streets of the tiny island seeing the beautiful beaches along the way. Lunch back at Southwest Bay, opting for smaller dishes this time, before continuing on around the island. After a full day we turned the bikes back in by 5:30, no one wanted to be riding around at night and no one thought they would come back in in the morning to go for a ride. Steve & I made another hike up to pick up our laundry before heading back to the boat for the night.

Saturday few jobs on the boat and in to town to pick up bread (they have two good bakeries here, not like the French islands but pretty good) and to hike back up to the laundry house to pay as she was not there the day before when we picked it up and her husband did not know the cost. You need to look at the pictures of the TRAIL to the house for laundry and think about that next time you do laundry at home. Bruce & Gina hosted a group dinner of Lasagna for 8 on Dream Catcher, we brought garlic bread, Ultra brought a salad, and Paulinchen brought Baileys liquor and pastries for desert to go with a desert Gina made.

Sunday, lazy day spent relaxing on the boat.

Monday was a holiday on the Island , but no one could tell us what holiday. Some stores said they would be closed and some were open, not much different from any other day that we could tell. At first we had heard that maybe they would have one of the island horse races that we had heard is a fun event to see. But Linda from S/V Baros found out there was a Black Crab Festival & Cat Boat Racing on another beach. Black crabs are small land crabs that migrate to the sea once a year to lay their eggs, then go back to the forests. She made the announcement on VHF 16 to see who wanted to go, 8 out of the 10 boats did. So Steve & I along with Linda & Hans from Baros Shirley & Tom on Rio Nimpkish, Hinnerk & Kinga on Paulinchen, Laura & Russel Luturna II, Bruce & Gina on Dream Catcher, John & Lucy on Mate, and Bill & JoAnne on Ultra, piled into Nelsons taxi van again to go over to Manchineel Bay for the day. We had stopped by here the other day when we rented motor bikes, but it was a different scene today. Full with people, and vendors set up selling food & drinks, watching the locals set the sail on the Cat Boats is always a sight to watch. Another great day hanging out on a beautiful beach. 

Tuesday 3/25 was Bills B-Day so there was a big party planned onboard Ultra for that night. Russel & Laura had left to sail over to San Andres so that just left 7 boats / 14 people for the party. Good thing they have a big Trimaran, so we had a wonderful night filled with great food, drinks and fun. We even all sent off messages in a bottle, supplied from B&J's left over wine bottles.

Wednesday everyone was moving a little slow so not much was done. Since our watermaker is broken and we are waiting on a part to fix it. Bill & JoAnne were making extra, so we went over and got another 25 gallons in 5 gallon jugs to put into our tanks. Paulinchen left late in the day to sail over to San Andres and then on to Panama.

Thursday easy day, Steve worked on cleaning off some of the rust spots on the boat. When we were in the boat yard where they are grinding and welding on other boats small little shavings wind up on our boat when mixed with salt water make little rust spots that need to get cleaned up before they get worse. Cleaning up requires rust remover, a toothbrush and a small pick to dislodge the metal specks. Tedious mind-numbing work.

Friday morning it rained for the first time since we arrived, it did not last long but it came down heavy and gave the boat a nice rinse. It cleared up in plenty of time for the days planned activity of hiking & snorkeling. Over on Santa Catalina Island (the little island next to & connected to Providencia by a foot bridge) is one of Pablo Escobar's homes, OR what remains of it, which is very little. The home is on top of a hill that the main path has long since been overgrown. Bill & Joanne had been over to the beach and saw that it looked like an easier path up from the beach. So along with Bruce & Gina and John & Lucy we all took the dinghies around to that side of the island. The path was in much better shape then what we expected. And even though there is not much left of the house you can tell how impressive it must have been back in the 1980's. Just the logistics of getting the material to these islands and then to the top of the hill with no road access would have been a major ordeal, but then he sure had the money to pay for it. It was very interesting to see, back down to the beach for a picnic lunch then snorkeling on the way back to the boats.

That night we planned to go into a pizza place in town. Shirley had gone by the day before to make sure they would be open and ready for 10 people. So after meeting at the town dock, stopping at the “corner” for a beer then going up there at 6:30 we were very surprised to see it closed ! Some how she forgot to mention that she might be having surgery that morning and might not be feeling well that night and might be closed. There are no other dinner places in “town” so Shirley knew of another place called Martins that is good with good prices. But we had to try to get a taxi for 10 people to get there. None of us knew Nelson's #, so we stopped by the internet store and Daisy helped us. First she called the restaurant to see if they were open then made the reservation then called to find us a taxi. The first taxi to show up Jerry in a nice van but only 7 seats, we tried to tell him we did not mind squeezing in (we are all VERY use to overloaded vans) but he said no he could not do it. By this time we are all very hungry, so he says he can call his cousin Larry who has a truck to come get us. We negotiate a round trip price over the phone and a few minutes later Larry shows up. A nice 4 door pick up with bench seats in the bed, we all climb in and he brings us to the restaurant where we all have wonderful meals. The restaurant calls him as we are checking out to come and bring us back. On the way back we mention the horse races again and he says that there will be one on Saturday. He stops to ask a friend on the way to confirm and we are told yes it will happen on Saturday afternoon around 1. We have his card if we need his truck for another big group, not sure who will be going at that time.

Sunday morning John & Lucy on Mate head out for Roatan. Bruce & Gina have boat projects to work on before guest arrive. Linda & Hans have friends that have just arrived so want to spend time with them and help them check in. Shirley & Tom said they were going to rent a motor bike for a ½ day and ride over seeing a few more things before they leave on Monday. Steve & I picked Bill & JoAnne up with our dinghy and walked down the street from the dock. Under the “tree” locals with motor bikes hang out and give each other and tourists taxi rides. We negotiate another fare and hop on 4 different bikes to be driven over to Southwest Bay arriving around 12:30. Shirley & Tom arrive a little while later, and the places along the beach are filling up. Confirming that yes there will be a horse race that day maybe around 2. We enjoy another great lunch at Restaurante Divino Nino. Finally see one guy walking a horse down the beach, and that horse is ready to run, just a beautiful animal. We had been told that only 2 horses race together at a time, it's a narrow beach. We were also under the impression that several different races could take place on the same day, just not on this day. The 2nd horse finally shows up and they go down to the starting line past Richards Bar. They have several people around warning unknowing people to be aware that a couple of horses will soon be tearing down the beach and if you are in the way you will get trampled. The 2 horses come running around the bend and down towards where we are watching from, fly past us and down to the other end of the beach. We are not sure which if either won ?? Apparently / maybe one of the horses turned to wide and pushed the other too far into the water? Both horses continued to the end and then a LOT of people from both sides who had been placing bets were following down the beach doing a lot of yelling. Unable to understand all that was being said and by which side we never did know the final outcome. We still enjoyed another fun island event. Went to catch a ride back to “town”, our motor bike guys said they would be around but we did not see them, so we flagged down a car passing by and asked if they could give us a ride, negotiated a price and the 4 of us fit in the back seat of a Buick La Saber. We had a very slow (but safe!) ride with very loud music back to town. Most of the time the driver's hands were clapping or eating iguana that a passing motorbike handed through the window. Dropped Bill & JoAnne off at their boat picking up 5 more containers of water.

Sunday another relaxing day on the boat, enjoying this beautiful anchorage that has a wonderful breeze blowing through it almost all day, every day. Not a bad place to be stuck waiting on parts, glad for the extra time to do more exploring of this unique island. 

It has been a great two weeks in the island of Providencia, where we passed our 4 year anniversary. Cruising in our floating home, Ocean Star, we have traveled via the sea to 24 countries plus the US Virgin Islands & Puerto Rico. Lost count of how many different islands and cays / keys we have been to. It has been a remarkable journey so far one that we hope to continue. A lot of hard work mixed with a lot of fun and exciting adventures and many really wonderful friendships formed along the way. So thankful to be living this lifestyle and for the love and support from family whom we miss dearly everyday.


Thursday, March 20, 2014

Return to Roatan AGAIN

Return to Roatan Again

Friday 7 March – Thursday 16 March

As the sun was rising Friday morning in Guanaja and we were getting ready to leave we noticed the bilge pump going off more frequently. Normally our bilge is very dry, and we had noticed after the passage from the Rio and during our time in Roatan that it would go off intermittently. We did several searches / inspections of all the thru hulls and found NO leaks, so we contributed it to running the A/C, which drains into the bilge. But now after not running the A/C it was going off even more. We inspected the thru hulls again, and this time found the leak in the starboard forward head sink drain. The bronze thru hull was cracked between the hull and the shutoff valve. We had had a similar problem with the second sink in that head on the port side back in December 2012, so knew it could easily turn into a major problem. It was an easy decision to return to Roatan where we knew we could get hauled out and have it repaired. As we got close to French Harbor we called Jerry the dock master at Fantasy Island Marina to get the phone # for the ship yard. Jerry called them for us and explained our problem and they said they would be able to haul us out that same day.

We arrived back into the Harbour shortly after noon, lunch time for the ship yard. Jerry let us tie up at our old spot at the dock, until they returned from lunch, this gave us a few minutes to have lunch also. By 1:15 the boat yard had a crew moving a big barge out of the way so we could move into the slip with the travel lift to get us out of the water. It is a slow process, making sure the straps are in the right place and then slowly lifting the boat and moving to land, then resting the boat back down on chocks so it can “stand” safely on land, so we didn't finish until 3:30. I called friends, old neighbors from Kemah, who have a second home in Roatan to see if they were still in town. They were and offered their assistance in whatever way we needed. Friday after Steve removed the leaking thru hull, he showed it to the yard manager who said he would go see if he could find one if not he could have it made. He couldn't find any on the island or the nearest mainland town, so we had 5 made so we could replace all of the similar thru hulls. It was late Friday afternoon, and the machine shop promised to make them over the weekend to be ready Monday morning. We spent a quiet night on the boat, with a meal we had made for our overnight passages.

Saturday morning Autie & Janie came to pick us up to get us out of the yard. Steve had a short list of things he would need to do the repairs so we made the rounds to the different shops looking for and getting all but one, a 1.25” deep socket to remove the remaining thru hulls, but a call to the boatyard manager at home confirmed he had one we could use on Monday. We also made a stop to top up another weeks worth of internet. Autie & Janie took us to lunch at Gio's in French Harbour, a place we had heard about but had never been to then back to their house in Parrot Tree Plantation for a relaxing afternoon in the pool. They again graciously offered for us to stay at their house but Steve did not feel comfortable leaving the boat unattended in the yard. They lent us one of their cars to go back to the ship yard for the night. Plans were made for Sunday afternoon since no work would be done in the yard.

Sunday morning Steve ran to Ace Hardware and started to get things ready for Monday before Autie & Janie came by at 11:30. They took us over to Sandy Bay, near West End, to go to Blue Bahia for lunch. Another great restaurant with a great location on Roatan. A stop at Sundowners Beach Bar in West End for a beverage where we also picked up some DVD movies. Then over to Fosters in West Bay , all new spots for us to see. Heading back via Coxen Hole stopping at Gio's 2nd restaurant location for dinner. On the way back the car died, alternator problem, got a taxi to jump us and being a diesel made it back to the boat yard. Janie used their 2nd car to lead Autie who used our spot light as a headlight to get back to their home in Parrot Tree. NOT your typical day in a boat yard !!

Monday was a working day for Steve, once we decided he did not need my help, I went over to the Pineapple Resort for a massage. We had made plans to be picked up at 5 to go to dinner with Autie & Janie at a friends house. One of their friends Steffie opens their lovely home up on Mondays to serve dinner to a group of their friends. A great venue for them all to get together.

Tuesday Autie & Janie wanted us to go out to Mango Creek Lodge in Port Royal out further east on the island. They had bought the place about a year and a half ago and wanted to show it to us. We had met the managers Doc & DeDe the night before and had been hearing a lot of wonderful things about the place. Tuesday morning we got another thru hull put in, BUT Steve said there was still too much work to be done for him to go. Another weather window was coming up on Thursday and he wanted to be sure the boat was back in the water and ready to go by then. So when Janie came to pick us up at 1, only I went & Steve stayed to work on the boat :(.

Autie had taken their Martinez runabout boat “Patrona” out to Oak Ridge earlier, so now Janie & I were driving there to meet him at BJ's bar & restaurant. BJ's is the “parking lot” / pick up point for anyone going out to Mango Creek as there are no roads leading there. We also met up with Michelle who is a massage therapist on the island and was going out to give two of the guests massages. Loaded up the boat with our overnight bags and we were heading east by 1:45. A ride thru Oak Ridge Harbor, then thru the mangrove cut to Calabash Bight, out past the reef then back in thru the reef at Port Royal. Arriving at Mango Creek Lodge ( 45 minutes later. Mango Creek Lodge is an all inclusive Eco lodge, with 5 cabanas over the water for guests. It also has a main house along with staff lodging and a wood shop. They do all of their own wood work for the resort and it is very impressive. A tour of the grounds then a short rest before dinner. One of the guests had a birthday that evening and Janie & DeDe's were coming up, so they decided to have a little celebration dinner. Lobster tail, steak, asparagus, & risotto, followed by a champagne toast and 3 different cakes and a chocolate pie !!! Just a wonderful lovely evening the only thing missing was Steve of course. I had called him right before dinner and he had a very productive day getting all the repairs done and was just cleaning up glad he still had a meal already made and waiting.

Wednesday easy lazy morning for me while Steve was finishing up in the yard. The yard takes credit cards but the card machine was at a different location so Steve had them stop by the grocery store on the way to pick up a few last things. I went for a little boat ride with Janie & Autie seeing the bays further east, then back to the lodge to pick up our bags and head back by 11. When we got to Oak Ridge and the car I called Steve and he was already being launched, and was just tying up at an empty spot at Fantasy Island Marina until I got back. Janie & I also stopped at the grocery store for a few more things before going back to the marina. Said good bye to Janie, not able to thank them enough for all their help. Jerry the dock master stopped by and said we could stay the night at the dock for no fee and come to happy hour at the palapa hut one more time. It was hamburger night also but we had not made reservations and thought they were sold out but Jerry said they had room for 2 more. Steve went for a swim and relaxed on the beach for a few hours while I cleaned up the boat from all his work. Stowing everything away for our early departure the next morning. It was a good turn out for happy hour and hamburger night, so we had a good time seeing friends one more time. Steve also cooked a steak to make a steak salad for when we were underway the following night.

Thursday we were under way by 6:45 AM, motor sailing in calm seas with light winds. Later in the day the winds were even less and more on the nose so we were just motoring. As we were approaching Guanaja we talked to friends Gina & Bruce on Dream Catcher who were just leaving Guanaja to head to Providencia also. We kept in touch via the VHF radio for a while but then they turned off to go via one route while we planed an overnight stop at the Hobbies Cays. We arrived there around 11:30 AM Friday morning. A nice little stop, able to snorkel and rest some BUT not really worth it. If Steve had not been working so hard over the last few days it would have been easier to just keep going. We had a nice swim and a very restful night and made another meal for our next overnight passage before taking off early Saturday morning.

Saturday started to leave at 7 AM, when the engine did not sound right, shut her down then Steve bled it again. Started up again and tried to rev the RPM's in neutral, but they did not increase. Shut the engine down again one more bleeding and Steve checked the pressure of the fuel filters and noticed they were off. So he changed the filters and she started back up sounding like she should. Underway by 8:15, motor sailing out of the reefs surrounding the Hobbies Cays then we were able to shut the engine down and sail. We had good winds 15 – 20 knots and 3-5 foot waves on the beam for most of the way. The water off Nicaragua where we were traveling with no land in sight is only about 100 feet deep, which just seemed really strange after sailing ½ mile off Roatan and being in 1000's of feet deep water. It was a good 3 day passage and we arrived in Isla Providencia, Columbia 3 PM Sunday March 16.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Return to Roatan

Return to Roatan

Thursday 5 December – Thursday 6 March 2014

We were glad to be leaving the Rio Dulce to be heading back to the clear blue waters of Roatan. After a lot of last minute preparations, we finally left the dock at Mario's marina at 3:30 Wednesday afternoon saying goodbye to friends still there and headed down river for 1 1/2 hours to stop in Texan bay for the night. Under way by 7 AM Thursday for the short trip further down river to Livingston to check out with customs. Cleared out and crossing the bar by 10 AM. We were a little concerned as this high tide was not going to be as high as the full moon tide we came in on but we had a new set of way-points for a deeper channel and had no problem getting across the ½ mile wide low water bar.

Motoring in flat seas with no winds all day until sunset, then the winds started to build and continued to build to 20k on the nose, the waves were building also so we just kept motoring (bashing) into the wind and waves. It was going to be a long night ! At 1 am, an hour into my shift the engine alarm went off so I shut the engine off. That got Steve back up on deck fast, he quickly concluded it was a fuel problem. We were ½ full in both tanks, Steve believed that with all the bouncing into the waves the engine got air in the line. So we put up the sails, since we now had plenty of wind, and altered course to get us heeled over to move all the fuel into one tank. Once the fuel was in one tank Steve closed it off and bled the air out of the engine. By now it was 2 AM so we decided to continue sailing through the night even if it was a little off course and save the fuel and motoring for the next day. At 6 AM when Steve came back on deck we tacked over to get back on course, on this new course we had too much sail out so went to reef in the genoa sail and the furling line got jammed ! Could not roll the sail in or out ! The plan was to turn on the engine get the boat pointed in a calmer direction to drop the sail to the deck of the boat. Well the engine just kept stalling, Steve bled it a few more times but still no luck. He managed to get the sail down and tied off on deck as I tried to keep the boat from bouncing around with no engine and no sails in 5 ft.+ waves. Steve bled the engine again and again, each time it would last a few minutes longer but would keep stalling. With the engine going we would stay on course for a short time until it died and Steve would have to go down below to the HOT engine and bleed it again as the wind & waves rocked & rolled us. As we neared the west end of Roatan the engine was staying on longer and we were just hoping it would not stall as we had to enter the harbor between the reef. As we approached French Cay Harbour and Fantasy Island Marina we tried to reach the marina on the VFH, just in case we had trouble, but I had the wrong channel # so no answer. We made it in safe & sound and put the anchor down and relaxed. Later friends Jody & Stephen from Blue Pelican saw us on the way back to their boat and stopped by to say HI and told us the correct hailing channel they use here (72). 

We had reservations at Fantasy Island Marina but we wanted to get fuel before we docked and when we talked to Jerry the dock-master he told us that would not be available until Monday so we told him we would stay at anchor & come in on Monday. Saturday AM we fixed the sail furling line, then went to the re-opened Roatan Yacht club had lunch then caught a taxi to Coxen Hole to check in at customs but no officials showed up at customs after lunch so after waiting 2 hours we went back to the boat. Monday as we went to the fuel dock the engine stalled once, threw down the anchor again and bled the engine again. Friend Stephen from Blue Pelican came along side with his dinghy in case we stalled again. We made it to the fuel dock and filled up both tanks, one more stall as we were ready to leave the fuel dock. Another bleed then we had to go out the Harbour and around the reef to another entrance to go to a slip around the back of the island & we made it without stalling. Steve went to check in with customs, making our return to Roatan official.

Tuesday Dec. 10, my Dad was arriving via Princess Cruise Ship so we planned to spend the day with him. He had made good progress on his recovery from his back injury, but was still using a cane. I rented a car and we picked him up along with his friend Barbara, who had joined him on the cruise. We had a wonderful day showing them the island and the boat. It was so great to see him getting around better as the last time I saw him he was still in the hospital. 

Roatan has a busy cruising community with a lot of activities going on. So the next couple of weeks leading up to Christmas were busy with Pot Luck dinners, movie nights, social happy hour gatherings getting to know new boats arriving and reuniting with friends we had met in the Rio and other places. Along with a few boat projects, snorkeling & kayaking we kept busy. Christmas Eve we had a huge party at our marina, a pot luck that the marina provided the Turkey & Ham and a white elephant gift exchange. Christmas day another big pot luck lunch at the marina next door and another white elephant exchange followed by some great live music with Brion James. A very merry 2 days of celebration.

Christmas day we also moved to another slip up on the west side of the marina, a better location and closer to the palapa hut where all the marina activities take place. Now it was time to get ready for my brother Stephen's visit.

Stephen arrived December 30 around 3 PM. We got him settled on the boat & unpacked checking out the goods we'd bought and he brought down for us, another Christmas. We took a walking tour of the marina and resort grounds, followed by a dinghy tour, followed by dinner on board with friends JoAnne & Bill from Ultra. Tuesday New Years Eve Day we started out snorkeling at lobster city, then stopped at Little French Cay and visited the all the animals they keep on the island followed by a drink and a dive off their “high” dive, then a stop at Arch's iguana farm before going back to the boat to get ready for the New Years Eve party. The Fantasy Island resort along with several other marinas & restaurants were putting on all inclusive parties for $$$. So several of us cruisers decided we would do our own party at the marina's palapa hut, once word got out about bringing your own food and drink the more people got involved. We got an order of lobster tails and grilled them up along with steaks or whatever else you wanted and had a great party with great dance music. Fantasy Island put on a great fireworks show that we walked down to the beach to watch, but we could also see fireworks from Little French Cay and other parts of the island. New Years day we went snorkeling then gathered at 3 for some fun beach games. Thursday another beautiful day so we were making the most of the good weather and went snorkeling again down by Parrot Tree Resort and had lunch down there, dinner on board followed by a live jam session with a few other cruisers down at the palapa hut. Friday the weather turned bad as predicted and we had rain on & off most of the day. Steve & Stephen got out between showers to run a few errands. Saturday we had rented a car to tour the island, the weather was cloudy with a chance of more rain so it was a good day to be in the car. The rain held off for most of the day but the views of the reefs were not as beautiful without the sun. We went over to West End, with the winds out of the west, West End was not the usual tranquil beach street scene. The waves were crashing onto the beach and the spray was going all the way across the street. Just a few people out walking around in most in sweatshirts instead of bathing suits. Sunday a nice break in the weather as Stephen was getting ready to leave, we had the first pancake/ taco/ Bloody Mary breakfast here at the marina, it was a great hit and a great way for Stephen to end his visit. 

Monday another front blew thru bringing more high winds and rain.  Tuesday we had a big group scheduled to go to lunch at Temporary Cal's Cantina but with more bad weather predicted most opted not to go, especially the boats at anchor. The weather stayed calm during the day as 12 of us went and had a great lunch. Early Wednesday morning the storm hit hard wind & waves in the harbor had boats at anchor dragging and the boats at the dock putting out extra fenders & lines. It was all over by noon, so we had a good happy hour that night everyone glad no serious damage was done. 

Saturday January 11th , my sister Carol arrived for a visit. She had a whole extra bag of more stuff we'd bought online to bring us, so I met her at the airport. Back to the boat and settled in, another Christmas seeing what she brought for us. Then a walk around the island showing her the resort and marina. That night we had an Asian Pot Luck dinner planned at the palapa, and we had another great turn out with wonderful dishes to try. Sunday another Bloody Mary/ Pancake / taco breakfast, both a great welcome for Carol's visit. We had good weather so after breakfast we left to go snorkeling, first to lobster city then down to Parrot Tree, then stopped at Little French Cay to show Carol the animals, then a stop a the Iguana farm before heading back to the boat at 4, a fun filled day. Carol & I spent Monday morning at the resorts beach then we took the dinghy down to the Roatan Yacht Club, a great restaurant with a beautiful view of French Harbour, for lunch. Tuesday we rented a car to tour the Island. Carol & I started off heading east to see some of the sights out that way while Steve took care of some boat problems. Carol & I stopped for lunch at Temporary Cal's before heading back to the boat to pick up Steve to head over to West End. A much nicer day to visit West End, then we went over to West Bay to watch the sun set and have dinner. Wednesday another good day for snorkeling and using the dive plane, lunch on the boat followed by an afternoon back at the beach followed by dinner on Ultra with JoAnne & Bill. Thursday Carol was on a flight back to Houston.

Saturday long term marina residents Floris & Judith from S/V True North threw a party to celebrate their wedding. The weather was not the best but the party was great, the actual wedding took place a few weeks earlier with their family on a beautiful sunny day on the beach. They thru this party to celebrate with their marina friends, another fun night of food, drink & dance.

During the next week we got several dives in, renting tanks from the dive shop and going out in the dinghy to different dive spots. Then we helped our Australian friends celebrate Australian Day with some more fun beach games and of course a game of cricket. The few times I had glanced at the game on TV it looked boring and we knew it was a slow strange game. We did have a lot of fun playing it on the beach, but I can definitely say I would never want to watch a real game played with official rules !!

We had to have some repairs done to our arch. Thankful we found the problem before being out at sea and having it break apart !! We moved the boat over to one of the shrimp docks, since all the shrimp boats were out. This allowed us to back into the dock and also side tie so the welder could have access to the arch. The arch is only 2 years old and we were very disappointed that it was showing cracks at most of the joints and one had broken. We had 2 reinforcement bars put in and 8 gussets at joints to ease the load and re-welded all the joints. Hopefully this will prevent further damage, they did a little polishing but after it rained rust showed up right away. Steve spent another 3 days really polishing the places that were re-welded and now it looks great. 

Still a lot of activities / gatherings / events going on thru out the weeks, some during the day some at night. It seemed we were always on the go, we were grateful for the days or nights when nothing was going on. Still in a “dead zone” for Wi-Fi at the marina so when we need to do internet at anything other then a snails pace we have to go up to the hotel lobby

With the arch repaired we were able to leave the dock to go over to Cayos Cochinos, a group of 10 small islands that are all part of a protected marine park. The nature conservancy works with the locals to protect the reefs and tries to get them some income generating projects. Cayos Cochinos forms part of the second largest barrier reef system in the world known as the Meso-American Barrier Reef System and have been identified by the Smithsonian Institute as one of the key sections of Barrier Reef to preserve. In 1993, the Honduran government designated these cays and surrounding sea a Marine Biological Reserve. There is a Eco dive resort on the main Island that used to be a pineapple plantation. One island has a Garifuna village community that welcomes tourists from private yachts or brought over from the main land, and you can have lunch there. We had a great sail over and enjoyed 6 days of perfect weather and some great diving and snorkeling and hiking, then another great sail back.

When we returned and just after we entered the Harbour and got around the reef we heard a noise come from the boat. Not sure what it was, we continued through the anchorage and were close to the marina when the engine overheating alarm went off. We were in a good spot so we turned off the engine and put the anchor down. Steve surmised it was the impeller, and he was correct. So we had lunch and waited for the engine to cool off before he could change the impeller. That done we started the engine up and all looked well so we headed into the dock, as we were approaching the dock smoke / steam was coming out of the engine room. Secured to the dock Steve found that the cooling water discharge hose had come loose so he went on to fix that also. Luckily we had left overs for dinner, so dining on the deck Sunday evening was easy to do.

Tuesday Bill from Ultra had a dentist appointment and we were going to make another run to the grocery store as it looked like a good weather window to leave over the next few days. Steve has one ATM card he uses to get cash, when he went to use it it was declined. Not an unusual event down here with ATM's, so he tried another one and was declined again, that was unusual. When we got back to the marina he went on line to check with his credit card company and found out there were 3 small charges they thought were suspicious so a stop was put on the card. They were not his charges, all 3 less then $50 total, two made on the mainland. So now he had to deal with getting a new card sent here, and we could not leave as planned. We got the information of a shipping company to use and got that info. to his credit card company. But the credit card company did not get it mailed out as fast as they said they would so we are waiting on the card to arrive and the next weather window to head out.

While we were waiting we got in another dive and had a few more fun events going on, so not a bad place to be stuck for a few extra days, Fantasy Island Resort & Marina is one of our all time favorite places.  Another bonus of our time here in Roatan was that two neighbors from our old neighborhood of Lazy Bend back in Kemah have second homes down here.  We were able to meet up with both Kelly & Ken and Janie & Autie for short visits with both.  

Our 90 days will be up on March 9th which should give us just the right amount of time to get the credit card and check out for the next weather window to head out. Which looks like it will be this weekend.   We have to travel east for about 200 miles before we can turn South to make our way to Panama, so we are looking for calm seas to avoid bashing our way east.