12/09/2011, French Harbor Roatan
So as I told you I have started diving again and the man I dive with is certified to shoot lionfish. It is presently illegal to use a speargun in Roatan but it is legal to shoot the lion fish. So Dave has a license to kill! You see the Lion fish is not native to the Carribbean but has arrived over the last several years with no natural predators, it is a threat to native species that it is eating. The fins you see are poisonous so you don't want to touch.
One story is that an aquarium containing the fish was accidentally released during hurricaine Andrew some years back. The official NOAA site says people have dumped unwanted lionfish for years. So now there are lionfish roundups in Roatan and Bocas Del Toro and I believe the Bahamas where people go out to compete bring back as many lionfish as possible and then local restaurants compete with various recipes to prepare the fish to be eaten.
It is not a big fish but when it opens up the fins (more like a peacock or a turkey than a lion) it is quite imposing about the size of a volleyball.
Dove again yesterday quite deep so I am taking some time off and doing boat chores etc. The number of boats in the anchorage is increasing daily.
Wednesday I went Diving with Dave from Expectations. He is a veteran cruiser from this part of the Caribbean and has all the dive gear on board.
I asked Connie to snap a picture of me since most of the blog pictures are of her. Now you see why, she snapped a picture of the back of my head. This is the best of the pictures, she also snapped a picture of my foot and one of my hand. She doesnt seem to grasp that you have to let the auto focus work for a moment before you give up and lower the camera. But don't worry she has other redeeming features so she hasn't been beached.
The diving was spectacular. We did a wall in the morning and a double wreck in the afternoon (small ship and a plane). I havent been to 80 feet in more than 20 yrs. I brought the gear primarily for cleaning the boat bottom but now I am in one of the premier diving spots so I am diving once again. Connie snorkeled near by as she doesnt like diving deep.
We are meeting new boat people every day as they are coming out of the Rio Dulce (nearby Guatemala) now that the hurricane season is over and the real winter cruising season has begun. Like the many Mexico cruisers we met there ,they are 5,6 and more years veterans.
Probably dive again today.
We have settled in to live on Roatan and we love it here. We are anchored in a safe and protected anchorage on the South side of the island and protected not only by the body of the island but by secondary islands and reefs. There is enough civilization here to provide the comforts and we are only a dinghy ride away from snorkeling and diving. Yesterday we made a tour of the island on the small mini busses. These are 15 passenger vans from Japan that ply the roads. It took us some time to figure it out however as this is the first Central American country where they dont paint them with decorations and customized drawings they're just factory colors with a small sign in the windshiel telling you where they are going. It's not too hard really since there is only one road running down the island.
We went over to west end which is nothing but, small hotels, dive shops, and restaurants. Very touristy. I bought a new dive mask to replace the one that was stolen and then back to Coxens hole to mingle with the tourists off the cruise ship for a quick tour of the shops catering to them. I think we stood out a little with those pasty white tourists as we are tanned from head to foot but who knows. The cruise ship had left Tampa, was in Roatan, going on to Belize, Cancun and back to the states. We are following a similar itinerary it just is going to take until next summer.
After a day of shopping we had sundowners on a new friends catamaran, and went back to the boat. Life is good here we have already run into two boats that came here and never left. Stay tuned.
We left Guanaja after a week, on Friday and sailed 35miles to French Harbor Roatan. The Bay Islands of Honduras are the only area that we don't have a supplemental cruising guide that would give us details on anchorages etc.
So I have been checking in to the NW Carribbean net on SSB radio each morning and on Friday morning I asked about French Harbor and was told to contact boats on VHF radio when I got closer. We enjoyed a leisurely sail dodging squalls and arrived outside French Harbor mid afternoon. Calling on the radio we made contact with Sailors Run. We had just missed meeting these people in the San Blas but had seen their boat and a hailing port of Long Branch WA. Jeff and Debbie have been sailing their Baba 40 for 13 yrs and have been all over the world. Jeff came on the radio and zipped out in his dinghy to help us over the reef. What a help that was.
We went ashore Saturday to explore and buy a few groceries. Roatan is night and day different from Guanaja . Cruise ships arrive here a few times a week and there is an international airport with daily flights to the States. We put up our Christmas decorations today so we are probably going to stay here for the holidays and then go to the Rio Dulce after the first of the year.
Better to actually visit the Mayan temples in the year 2012 when the world is scheduled to end according to the Mayan calendar.
We have spent the last few days snowed in. Well not really but the closest thing to it. There has been a norther forecast for a couple of days that would bring 30-35kt winds sustained. So we moved a little closer to shore and re anchored putting out 175ft of chain (7-1) and got ready. It is similar to being snowed in as you cant leave the house, and you have to make do with what is on hand etc. We played cards, watched movies and listened to the wind howling with occasional gusts laying us over on our beam ends. This is as a result of all the canvas of the dodger and bimini. We sail up on the anchor and then get laid over due to the windage. Taking the canvas off would be a major job and we won't be doing it for anything short of a hurracaine.
Once again we appear to be going the wrong way. Last year in Mexico in the late fall we were heading north and most were crossing to the mainland Then in late spring as we headed south in Mexico most were heading north to put their boats away for summer.
We found Costa Rica and western Panama empty because it was the rainy season. Now as we head north once again boats that have layed up in the Rio Dulce are begining to come out and cruise into the Caribbean.
Well we never liked crowds so we will continue to do our thing.
While we remain hunkered down as this Norther blows through we are sharing impressions of the Caribbean vs the Pacific. For the most part there has been less wildlife to date. However the flying fish are amazing.
On the starlight night passages the flying fish come out of the water in flocks or schools (take your pick) and seem to know which way the wind is blowing as they take off into the wind as any self respecting bird or plane will do.
They skim the water surface for 75 yards or more which is amazing until......they hit you in the head. Yes that's right I was attacked by a flying fish. It skimmed through my hair leaving an oily smelly residue that I had to live with for a couple of days as bathing was suicidal in the roll we had. The bruises and potential sea sickness were not worth keeping clean.
Enough landed on the deck to make a meal but only one at a time usually. They were about 8-9inches long much, larger I believe than the Pacific variety.