Sunday, March 21, 2010

Spring Cleaning

Looking around our new, temporary, home, here's what we see downstream. The Caribbean is down the river less than a mile away, but we're well insulated from most of its effects, it seems

and up this little branch stream - the cockpit view toward the mountains on a lovely morning. With all these fishing boats around it's easy to forget that there's a land-based nation quite near, but tonight the clouds ahead of the latest cold front are all that can be seen inland.

The views to the east and west are less romantic, but we'll get to them another time.

Meanwhile, here in the shipyard, Doug is focused on dismantling the old engine. It's sad, really, to be taking it apart simply because it wasn't modern, or might break down in mid-Pacific. Why, someone might say the same about me!

But no, I'm secure on the 'keeper' list. For one thing, I am taking advantage of all this water and space to do a thorough spring cleaning. Truth be told, it's the first thorough and methodical cleaning and re-shuffling we've done since we left a year and a half ago. I'm washing clothes, and even foul weather gear, now that I've got a small but unending trickle of fresh water. The boat was clean, by my standards, when we got it, and we haven't trashed it much. Opinions may vary, however.

The Westerbeke is looking less desirable every day. We're beginning to accumulate boxes of hoses and 'beke bits tagged with blue masking tape labels. Doug sits in there all day long scratching his head and sighing. I think we should have a de-engining ceremony, but how to design it?

The Music Whore's Over-Stuffed Ipod on shuffle offered up opera, so Doug dueted an aria Where Did This Wire Come From? and the refrain, Stop Skinning My Knuckles.

Meanwhile, outside, there's a local woman singing - if she isn't famous, she should be. She knows all the words, and what a voice! The big motor yacht with the big speakers is broadcasting a soccer game which even has me excited with every R trilled for at least five seconds. SCCCOOOORRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRREEEEEE!!!!!!!!

Friday, March 19, 2010

The Engine Has Arrived

It took a little Skypeing to Miami to find out that our new Beta 43 was loaded on container #55, and container #55 was en route to Honduras. When we heard that, we moved ourselves toward La Ceiba.

As soon as we got here the heavens opened, same as last time. The river streams thick with mud, branches and trash. We don't get the full effect of the deluge outside because we're hunkered below, looking at the new leak over the hanging locker. This is how the river at Lagoon Marina looks after the rain. I'm reminded of a man we met in the mining business, a Canadian, who said that after Mitch, he took a boat up all the coastal rivers and dredged for gold in the deep pockets and bends. The coast is backed up with mountains and apparently, there's gold, and other minerals too, in them thar hills. In another of those small-world stories, he now owns the boat that we began our charter boat career on, and keeps it in Roatan.

The leak was postponed with a trash bag over the shoulders of Doug's shirt collection. Doug started ripping open the engine compartment

But he won't take begin engine disassembly without actually seeing the replacement, so we took a taxi out to Rapido Cargo for a quick peek at this wood and chipboard box which weighs 398 kilos. The shipping packages is 172 x 89 x 135H cms. Now he believes, but I'm starting to wonder exactly what's in that monstrous box - how could an engine that other people have put into this very model Valiant 40 gotten so big and heavy!

Today, we move to the shipyard and the real fun begins.

Friday, March 12, 2010

A pedestrian's view of Roatan

We took a hike the other day from our anchorage at West End along the road to the nearest height (a 3-cell tower hill, plus microwave). Then we meandered down toward the beach, diverting from the main road at one of several real estate development signs.

Another diversion at a sign 'pirate bridge' took us through a lovely light-dappled woodland and gardens over a small lake on said bridge to an aviary and then toward a Monkey House. At this point we were stopped by staff (young men reclining in hammocks) and told that the monkeys were private, owned by Marcos Galinda. We backed out, wondering what great wealth could afford a private estate like this, and at how much effort was made to entertain their guests. I began to think of the estates owned by extremely wealthy Britons in the 1700 and 1800s with their trout streams, deer-hunting forests, mazes and ha-has. Mr Galinda's estate, as I saw it, had lovely trees, and mature; the 'stream' was an artificial construct of concrete, very artistic, done by a Guatemalan, perhaps the same one who did Aurora Zoo.

Eventually we reached the beach where it was revealed to us that we had just toured the GumbaLimba Recreational Park. Turns out that 'private' meant 'public, if you've paid the fee'.Had we arrived at the Pirate Bridge via the Zipline which we saw up on the road, or the next day when a cruise ship was in, we'd have been welcomed with open arms, as upwards of $50 was extracted from our pockets for the zip line part.

We had planned to have lunch somewhere on the beach at West Bay, a resort area thick with tourists. So we strolled along, feeling pretty out of place among the sunbakers with our tans and real clothes. We must have looked out of place too, because it wasn't long before we were accosted by security guards. Turned out that this stumble was into an all-inclusive resort, and we looked like the kind of folks who might eat someone else's meal. The beach itself, 15 feet back from the water, is open to everyone, but there we were, suspiciously trying to skulk along the wall in the shade, without our plastic wristbands.

Roatan wants the cruise ship tourist business, but beyond diving and beach activities, there's not all that much to do. So there's this artificial shopping village built by Carnival Cruise Lines; other ships which dock in Coxen Hole are pretty rapidly whisked away to some beach, or to the GumbaLimba Recreational Park. One day we tried to anchor in the cruise ship bay, Dixon Cove, but it's all channel.

If you push your luck, you'll end up here.

Canopy tours via zipline are getting popular - hang from a wire in a harness, wearing thick gloves for brakes, and glide from pole to thickly padded pole at leaf-top level. I was hoping I could hang out on the wire with the birds for a while, but apparently 'zip' is the operative speed, so I haven't done it (yet).

Also on Roatan is a privately 'home'built owner-operated 2 passenger plus pilot deep-sea submersible Idabel that will take you 2000 feet down into the Cayman Trench if you'd care to go. I'd be interested, but I think prices begin at about $600 per person. This submarine went into the trench that was going to be used for dredge spoil dumping as the cruise ship dock was built, just to see what they were covering up.

Caged birds and monkeys are perpetual attractions. I'm starting to think that there are more scarlet macaws behind chain link or chicken wire than free in trees. I felt terrible to see this young toucan though, especially after I was told that it was the last of three - "they're hard to keep, and can't digest seeds" Oscar told me. I felt like saying, well, why do you have it then? But I know better, don't I! Don't I?

Had to check on what a ha=ha actually is: from the Dictionary of Architecture and Landscape Architecture. In landscape-gardening, a boundary to a garden designed not to interrupt a view from e.g. a country-house. It consists of a ditch with side or revetment nearest the viewpoint perpendicular (or slightly battered), faced with brick or stone, and the other side sloped and turfed. It kept animals away from the area contiguous to the house, yet was concealed.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Coxen Hole 2

Of course we didn't get robbed in Coxen Hole despite what the cruising guide said. So don't believe everything you read! It's a clean and friendly place, with a character totally unaffected by Disneyfication.
Maybe it used to be a little rough, but with tourism being such a big part of Roatan's economy, they can't afford any incidents.

Our specific missions in the 'Big Smoke' were to buy a 30 amp female Hubbell receptacle and some gasket material suitable for hatches. We couldn't find either and can easily do without both, but we rather like the process of exploration. We covered some ground and got handed off between a dozen nice folks. We did our part to amuse and entertain them with our linguistic efforts and general appearance.

Finding a working ATM machine isn't too hard, if you stick with a local whose cell phone brings in the up-to-the-second status of each of the five machines in town.
Sometimes the machine is 'en malo estado' and sometimes it's the operator. I used the English menu, which asked me to state the amount of money I wanted 'in units of one hundred'. So I erased '4000' lempira, and put in 40, since I wanted that many 100 lempira notes. But of course the machine just stood stubbornly until I gave it the answer it wanted, not the over-analyzed answer I was contemplating. Next time maybe I'll use the Spanish menu.
UPDATE: after a recent case of ATM fraud in the Rio Dulce, word is circulating that only people who use the English menu have a problem. All the more reason to stick to the Spanish menu, if true.

We have our snacks on the street. I'm really getting to like these mangos, cucumbers, radishes and other cut fruits and vegs sold in these little bags for fifty cents or so.The vendor adds salt and ground pumpkin seeds, a squeeze of lime or vinegar, and sometimes hot sauce. (although now that I look carefully, these are pictures of chili peppers, which no amount of lime juice could tame)
And I'd eat a lot more oranges if they were peeled for me like this.

The Port Captain graciously amended our cruising permit with his Underwood typewriter. At this office, the broom closet and the alcoves are stacked with neat bundles of permits from previous decades. By 2004 they were building shelves above the windows for the overflow. In three months, our permit will have expired, but apparently its shadow will live forever.

The school children are kept locked up: not really, but don't cross this woman! There are soldiers behind her, further inside. They are dressed in arctic-looking gray/white camoflage and some look like very recent graduates.

I almost forgot to mention that for three straight days we were treated to some great acrobatic flying by a pair of bi-planes and a red 'trainer' whose wings read Fagen. Are they famous somewhere? Triple axels and reverse flips, just like in the Olympics. There are advantages to these airport anchorages.

Just like us, spectators trying to stay in the shade.