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.

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