Monday, June 06, 2011


Time to move on

Uh-oh! Those are clouds and a rain squall moving in on the Niki Wiki on a mooring ball in the Roatan Marine Park. Now that hurricane season has officially begun, it's time for us to move on to safer territory. The lazy, mostly dry sunshine days of the winter and spring cruising season here in the Western Caribbean are over. We have been watching the thunderstorm clouds build up over the mainland of Honduras 25 miles away each day. Then we enjoy the wild lightening shows at night. Overhead, we see the stars at the same time.
But those high-energy clouds are moving closer all the time. The tropics are heating up. It is now time to take that final load of trash and recycle aluminum cans to shore in West End Roatan Island (Honduras). Jonesy does a fine job of toting garbage from the boat, to the dinghy, up on the dock, and then down the long sandy road to the trash bins.

The little village  at West End has been very quiet these past few weeks. The big cruise ships are visiting less frequently. The cooling trade winds have been less intense and even missing on some days which means we have been left to swelter in the heat and humidity with only the ocean water to cool us (oh darn).
Where we once had to dodge the tourist tour buses, rental cars, and honking taxi's, we now drift up the open road only having to pay attention to the occasional vehicle. There still are plenty of young folks here for the scuba diving adventures, but they are either out at sea diving or are sleeping it off from a wild night of partying. This little town really ROCKS at night - we know that only from being told about it and from the loud music and occasional raucous laughter we can hear way out at the anchorage (sound travels over water). Only old folks like us are out and about in the tropical sun at mid-day.

Many of the other yachties have already left for safer seas. Some left a while ago to head north up to Florida and then up the eastern seaboard of the USA. Others have headed south towards Panama and Colombia for the summer to hide from hurricanes - or even go through the Panama Canal into the Pacific Ocean.

We are returning to Guatemala and going straight back up the Rio Dulce river to Mario's Marina again.

But first, there's a lot of preparation to do before we head out to sea. We have some maintenance, and potential repair, and of course, provisioning. To support the tourist industry, there are a lot of specialty food items imported into Roatan which are also available in a couple of the larger grocery stores in the towns of Coxen Hole and French Harbor. These items are not available in Guatemala, or really anywhere else that we've been in the last 5 years (except the outstanding Riba Smith store in Panama City).

What "specialties"? How about canned sauerkraut, Hormel chili for hot dogs, and sweet potatoes/yams - and then there's the frozen Johnsonville Hot Italian sausages and Jimmy Dean breakfast sausage. These items, which are readily available in the states of course are very, very special to us as we didn't have access to them for many years. We reserve these goodies for the occasional treat.

Just days before we planned to sail off, one of our cruising friends noticed that our spreaders on our mast had exposed bolts - way up high. Oh-oh. That didn't look right - we could see hardware and most boats have these spreaders mounted flush to the mast. Was the spreader tweaking loose?

So Cheryl from the sailing vessel Interlude quickly volunteered to go up our mast in her bosun's chair (I think she's an adventure junkie and risk taker). After we got her all rigged up to the halyard (rope thing that goes up high) we all hoisted Cheryl up the mast.

The good news was that there wasn't a problem. It was only that the rigging tape had been destroyed by the sun and had disintegrated away exposing the bolts (see photo). No biggie. We didn't have any more tape aboard so we added it to the (growing) boat parts list for me to haul back from the states this summer.

Cheryl thoughtfully took photos of our rigging and of us (Karen from Interlude, Jonesy, and me Terry) lounging on the deck of Niki Wiki while she risked her life. And because Cheryl had the camera, this is the only photo we have of her performing her heroics - she's wearing blue shorts, a gray shirt and is sitting in her black and gray bosun's chair.

Next on the agenda was cleaning the prop. Our propeller had accumulated a beautiful garden of aquatic life. Unfortunately, this would inhibit our forward motion when using the engine. So I got to  had to don scuba gear and play  work really hard at scraping this flora and fauna off of not only the prop, but the shaft, zincs, and the bottom of the keel (which didn't have anti-fouling bottom paint on it due to a little mishap with a sandbar last year in Panama that we're not talking about).

Wow! What a difference being able to breathe underwater makes when cleaning the bottom of the boat! It was a lot of fun. Jonesy was in the water with me as my buddy and to point out the thru-hulls (holes in the boat to suck in water for the toilets and engine or to blow water back out) that needed cleaning.

How do you like our dead boat pet? Ah, the just never know what you'll find on the boat.

Our 26-hour overnight passage direct from Roatan to Guatemala was planned so that we left at the crack 'o dawn. That way we arrived in Livingston, Guate at the peak of high tide. Why high tide? Because we have to cross a sandbar at the entrance to the big river and need to be sure that we have water beneath the keel.

We joined up with the sailing vessels Interlude and High States to make the passage together. There's safety in numbers. Besides the 3 rain squalls we went through, it turned out to be a very pleasant motor passage for all of us. Low winds, low seas, and no pirates, just had to keep our eyes peeled for the freighters coming from the banana and pineapple plantations of Honduras and Guatemala and heading out to somewhere in the world.

Well, that's enough for today. Tomorrow I'll share some of the knitting that's been going on.

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