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s/v Always & All Ways
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Mark
05/10/2012

More pics added to the Bay Islands sub-folder of our 2012 Cruise album in the Gallery.

Day 55. One more time (or two).
Mark
05/10/2012, French Cay Harbor, Roatan, Honduras, CA

Wednesday, May 9. When I arose this morning, the sky was blue and the wind was ~10 kts ESE, enough to sail to West End. Shortly after the morning net, however, George & Pixie on Silver Sea decided they wanted to see the local dentist and Craig on Salida had issues with his batteries to sort out so neither was ready to leave today, although Craig was pretty sure he would be ready tomorrow. About that time I noticed that the wind had dropped and it was near calm. OK, we'll stay here another day and do another dive. Craig was busy and Liz wasn't interested. Pixie was not supposed to get her nose wet after having the biopsy, but George wanted to come so I set the hookah up for 3 and off we went. We picked a different ball from last time, but the dive was very similar – fantastic! We started in canyons of coral sand between coral masses that at times were so narrow we had to go single file (or sometimes Deb swam above the canyon). And then the edge. As may times as I've done it, crossing the edge of a wall like this never fails to catch me. It is truly awesome in the original meaning of the word. Dave, you would have loved this dive. At one point I had the hose stretched straight down – 60' with at least another 60' below me. I think part of what makes wall dives special is all the sponges and soft coral growing on it. There were barrel sponges 2' in diameter, delicate vase sponges that looked like the finest translucent jade, brilliant purple tube sponges, and fans of every shape and size. And lots of fish. We saw a whole school of Atlantic spade fish, all at least 12' in diameter. I have to get a new cheapo dive watch. My old one died and I really should time our deep time on dives like this. I know we were well under 30 minutes at depth (and most of that 40-50' instead of 60'), but timing it would allow me to stay down longer as I always err on the side of safety. Anyway, after our down time, we came back up to ~30' and followed the canyons chasing fish back and forth, up and down. Gradually we came up to 15-20' and finished our dive at that depth before returning to the dink. George was amazed at how beautiful it all was, and Deb & I both loved it as well. After lunch we went to the iguana farm. This local guy had taken it upon himself to protect and preserve native iguana, so he has 30 or 40 of them wandering around his property and it is open to the public – free. They also have some parrots, macaws, and a couple monkeys, all in cages, but the iguana roamed free. We brought mango peels and radishes to feed them (They liked radish better.) and eventually Craig got one to take a piece from his hand. About that time another iguana licked Liz's leg, much to her shock. Deb, who had the radishes, was surrounded and not sure how to “escape.” Two of the larger males (most were 3-4' long) started fighting and one of the women who worked there had to grab one by the scruff of his neck and pull him off and then cuff him when he went back after the other. We had a great time and then bought several items at the souvenir shop. Then it was time for another dive. Deb & I went alone this time and as all the other balls were taken by dive boats, we sued the same one again. This time, however, we turned right at the wall instead of left so it was really a totally different dive. And just as fantastic. We did have one miscommunication. Deb had said that she wasn't sure how long she would be good for and after we had been deep for only about 10 minutes she tapped her wrist, flashed 15 fingers at me and pointed up. I wasn't sure about the 15, but I assumed she meant that she felt we had been deep long enough and wanted to go up. So we did. Actually she was trying to get me to LOOK up and see the big (at least 15) school of Atlantic spade fish swimming above us. She thought I was cutting the dive short for some reason. Oh well, we had a great time anyway. As we were coming over the edge, there was a small damsel fish “defending” his patch of coral. I always like to play with them as they are so tiny and yet so aggressive. They always drive off fish many times their size. This one was even more so and bit my finger two or three times as I got too close to “his” coral. The reef top on this side did not have the canyons of the other side. It was mostly at 30' and had very beautiful coral formations including lots of big elkhorn stands. A big school of tangs let us swim right in their midst and a large school of good sized chub clearly expected to be fed as the swam right up to us. I was actually able to touch one. By the time we made it back to dink, we were both ready to call it a day – a very good day. Shortly after we returned to Always, we got a call from Salida inviting us over for drinks in the water so we grabbed our life jackets and did another official life jacket drill with beer in hand. Then we returned and had lobster tails, summer squash, and fried plantains (the sweet ones) for dinner. A brandy in the tramp was the perfect cap to a great day. Tomorrow maybe we'll sail to West End.

Day 54, Calm.
Mark
05/09/2012, French Cay Harbor, Roatan, Honduras, CA

Tuesday, May 8. There had been a nice breeze during the night, but by dawn it was dead calm. The water was glassy and points pointed at random angles throughout the anchorage. A perfect day to take the hookah outside the reef! So we did. Craig & Liz wanted to come also after hearing about all the fun we had yesterday. Liz was still freaked out by wearing weights, so opted to just snorkel on the surface while we went down. I warned her that it might be quite deep and she might not be able to see much, but when we got out to the dive sites, we were able to grab a ball at a place where there were rows of sandy canyons between coral that averaged 15' or so from the surface. Visibility was great – close to 100' – so we should all have fun. I had guessed at the weights for Craig just right (same as mine) and all was well. We started out following a canyon towards where the reef shoals and breaks. The canyon walls were 5-10' high with white sand bottom and nice coral. Lots of reef fish including a couple we had never seen before (one turned out to be a file fish and the other an Atlantic spade fish). When things started to get too shallow, we swam over to the next canyon and followed it back. The bottom sank gradually – 15', 20', 25'. And then –infinity! The deep blue was startling. We could actually see a bottom, but it was well over 100' away. We had started to drift down the wall when Craig pulled on my hose to get my attention and motioned to the surface. Liz had panicked going over the wall and wanted out. We did a controlled ascent and then helped her remove her regulator and secured it to the hookah. She was fine with snorkeling the shallower sections, but just didn't like being over the drop. Once she was OK, we returned to the wall and dropped to ~50'. It was amazing. Lots of larger fish – several 2-3' snappers – and great sponges and soft coral growing on the wall. After 30 minutes or so at depth, we chose another canyon – this one starting at probably 35' – and followed it back up to shallower water. We continued to follow canyons back and forth in 30-15'. we came upon a large school of yellow tail snapper – at least 50 fish – and hidden in their midst was a chub and another fish that looked sort of like a chub but with a dark band around him (later learned that it was a black margate). As we turned into the next canyon, we spotted what I initially thought was a jewfish at a cleaning station (a place on the reef where large fish come and tiny fish “clean” them by eating parasites off their skin and especially their mouths). As we got closer, I could see that it was a snapper – the biggest snapper I have ever seen. It was probably a cubera snapper as they are one of the few that attain that size. He watched us approach and then swam sedately away when we got too close. We worked our way back to the dinghies where Liz was snorkeling happily. As we loaded everything back into the dinghy, we all agreed it was a great spot. Liz even thought she might tolerate swimming out over the drop if she was not on the hookah because part of what bothered her was that she had to follow us as we went further off the edge. After lunch, I was game for another dive, but Craig & Liz were going in to the shopping center and Deb wanted to go with them to get a few more provisions before we left. Since I won't use the hookah alone and did NOT want to go shopping, I stayed on the boat and put away the hookah and all our gear, read in the hammock, swam in the water to cool off and just generally hung out. Tomorrow we will probably sail to West End, but if it dawns as calm as today, I vote for another dive instead.

Day 53, Shallow & Deep.
Mark
05/08/2012, French Cay Harbor, Roatan, Honduras, CA

Monday, May 7. Today was going to be a slow day. Deb had some cleaning she needed to do, but not much else. I decided to take dink over to the marine park that was right next to the boat and check it out. The area was only about waist deep over sand, but there was a ball there and we had seen dive boats take groups of snorkelers there, so I had to check it out. At first I couldn''t figure out what the big deal was. Sand, turtle grass, and rather boring coral – mostly that frilly leaf like coral that is so common in the shoals. And then I saw the lobster. At first just one or two, but then I found ledges with 10-12 under it. All sizes, up to 5 #. At one point I floated in one spot and counted 15 lobster in sight, and probably more back under the ledges further. They were also fairly bold, coming out of their ledge and waving their antennae about when I approached. (Lobsters can only see poorly so they depend on their antennae as their primary means of sensory input. As long as you avoid the antennae, you and get close enough to grab them.) since it was a park (with a big sign in Spanish and English announcing the 5000L fine) I couldn't take any, but I mentally grabbed them working my hand back over their carapace while avoiding the antennae. Then I'd give one antenna a tweak and watch them snap backwards, often crashing into the other lobster in the hole. I had never seen so many lobster in one place and never congregated like that. It was a fun snorkel and now I know why the boats go there. On the way back to the boat, I took dink out through the breakwater that creates the entrance channel for Coco Beach Resort and Fantasy Island, two up scale dive resorts. There were balls marked with dive flags in the deep water by the entrance. Back at the boat, I inquired over VHF about being able to use the balls and was told it was fine as long as a dive boat wasn't on it, but I should wait until the dive boats went out, either at 9:00 or 2:30. At 2:30 we took the hookah to the empty ball. It was a deep dive. Right off the ball, the wall dropped to ~100'. We could see the bottom directly below us, but looking at any angle all you could see was the deep blue of infinity. We dropped to about 40' and worked our way out the wall going up and down as the topography (or fish) suggested. The wall was covered with an amazing array of soft coral and sponges. Strangely, most of the fish we saw were tiny – inhabiting the sponges mostly. A few big chub, but very few pelagic fish. After following the wall out a ways, we rose to the top of the wall (10-15' mostly with occasional breakers) to swim back. I had not really planned a dive profile, but below 30' out and above 15' back should be fine. It is hard (but NOT impossible) to get in trouble with the hookah as you are limited to 60' and really anything much more than 50' puts an awkward pull on the hose. When we got back to the dink, Deb wanted to go see the lobster, so we zoomed over to the park and went from 100' to 3', just snorkeling this time. By the time we got done playing with the lobster, it was 5:00 and Salida was having a happy hour in the water floating behind their boat to fight the hot day (temp in the 90's today). We stopped at Always to get some wine and then joined them along with Silver Sea and Wet Bar. Tomorrow Craig & Liz want to go with us on a deep dive so I'll hook up the extra hoses. Back at our boat, I made blackened grouper for dinner from the filets I had bought from a local fisherman who stopped by that morning. Nothing like fresh grouper, especially since I couldn't get my own lobster or conch. Tomorrow Pixie is taking the ferry to La Ceiba on the mainland to see a dermatologist about a lesion on her nose (I recommended she do it.) and we said we would wait here and then probably the three boats will sail together down to West End. As long as this mild weather holds, we can use the hookah on the outside of the reef. Great.

Day 52, Laundry & Spinnakers.
Mark
05/07/2012, French Cay Harbor, Roatan, Honduras, CA

Sunday, May 6. As predicted, the day dawn with a gentle breeze blowing from the ENE, never more than 10 kts. A perfect day for George to try out his spinnaker. He had bought a tri-radial symmetric spinnaker over a year ago, but had never used it. He had a sock and an ATN tacker to attach the forward clew (would be the tack of an asymmetric) to a collar around the furled genoa, but really didn't know how to use them. Craig, from Salida, had raced monohulls and had lots of experience with spinnakers. I was certainly gaining knowledge of cruising spinnakers. So, I volunteered the two of us to go out with George on Silver Sea and play with his spinnaker. Pixie and then Deb both did laundry and then got together with Liz on Salida while the men went out to play. We motored out to deep water and raised the main (Craig insisted that you needed to have the main up to fly a spinnaker on a monohull. I told him that we flew the spinnaker without the main in real light air on little All Ways all the time, but deferred to his judgment for today.) With the main up and the course about 150* off the port and nothing ahead of us for 30 nm or so, we raised the spinnaker in its sock, made sure that everything was led correctly, and popped the sock. The spinnaker filled beautifully and then immediately collapsed as the D ring on the clew exploded. I quickly recovered the sail in the sock and we examined the damages. My first thought was that somebody's knot let go, but no, the ring itself had broken! This was a heavy D ring on a sail that was supposed to be new and we were in very light air. Must have been a manufacturing defect. Anyway, to salvage the day we twisted up the end of the sail and tied the sheet around it. That would never work in heavy air, but for today it would do fine. Once again we popped the sock. This time the spinnaker filled beautifully and stayed that way. Craig trimmed the sheet showing George what to look for and how to determine that it was properly trimmed. (I learned a few things too.) We then tried several different “depths” of down wind course from 120* to 180*. We did not try sailing by the lee. Each time we would make a course change and re-trim the spinnaker. I played arbiter between Craig's racing, “got to get the last 0.1 kt by constantly trimming” and George's “I have no idea what I'm doing and just want to sail down wind.” (On our sail from Guanaja, I had not trimmed the spinnaker for 15 nm.) We all had a great time. Eventually we settled down to 4.5 kts in 10 kts of wind @ 150* apparent. Not bad and very comfortable. We celebrated with some beers. And then it was time to go back. The sock came down very nicely snuffing the chute without problems and then I lowered the sock while George stuffed it in the bag. He will need to repair the loop on the clew, but now he has the confidence to try sailing it again. Returning was, of course, an up wind slog and once again I arbitrated between Craig's “pull it tighter” and George's “I don't want to break anything just to gain 0.1 kt. I can turn on the engine.” We returned to the harbor and picked up Silver Sea's mooring without incident. By the time we got back, the women had all the laundry done and had put together an “experimental” dinner with everyone's leftovers, so we all had drinks and ate on Salida. A great way to end a great day with friends.

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