Birthday Celebrations

The weather on Scott’s birthday wasn’t the best, and since we’d had such a great time at Mi Casa Too on our first visit (great food and free champagne for the owner’s birthday), we planned a return trip. It’s just so darned inviting!

Before heading up the hill, we stopped in at Manati for a quick drink and a hello. When we arrived, a birthday party was in full swing for Paisley, who made the permanent move to Guanaja two months ago. We were welcomed in, and soon realized that making it up the hill probably wasn’t going to happen. When Shawn arrived, (the owner of Mi Casa Too, and the place wouldn’t be the same without him there) the decision to delay a night, and stay at Manati was made.

We spent time chatting with the expats in attendance, as well as Klaus and Annette, who own Manati. Gus, a cruiser from South Africa, received my vote for best dressed. He and Sally have decided to stay here and buy property.

The canine guests enjoyed the party as well. Simba even came in a party dress, although I don’t think it was her idea.

Eventually we said good night, thanking Paisley for sharing her evening with us (she’s the brunette with long hair in the photo below). When I woke for a bathroom run at 3am, the music was still going strong!

We left Sea Life the next night to head up the hill, this time with no stops along the way. Once again, we climbed the million steps up to the house, and once again it was worth the climb.

Shawn was there to welcome us. We opted for seats at the bar this time, and he played the role of dj. While Shawn chose songs ranging from salsa, to reggae, to classic rock, to rap and country, the large tv behind the bar showed music videos for each one. It was more than entertaining, especially when the locals sang along to their favorites!

After great food and fun, we said goodnight and made our way back down the hill. It was a nice way to “extend” Scott’s birthday a bit!

Here are more photos of our birthday celebrations.

“Shells Sink, Dreams Float. Life’s Good On Our Boat!”

 

Shopping Day

Once a week, supply boats arrive from mainland Honduras, delivering food and supplies of all kinds to Bonacca, the main settlement on Guanaja. If you remember, Bonacca (or the cay (key) as the locals call it) is a small cay off of Guanaja that is home to roughly 6,000 people. Here’s a neat before and after photo of Bonacca, that shows how much the cay has changed over the years.

“Shopping Day,” as it is referred to here, is a big deal, and we have been told by many local expats here about going to the cay for the day. Since we haven’t yet visited Bonacca on actual shopping day, it was on our list during this visit to the island. However, strong winds were going to make for a very “spirited” ride, as Scott likes to call it. As we hemmed and hawed about making the trip, we were invited to go with Hans, and some others on his sailboat…… shopping day here we come!

On Thursday morning, our ride approached. Hans towed a skiff behind him, that would be used to drop off trash and get fuel while in town.

We prepared for a quick “touch and go,” as Hans pulled alongside for us to get on board. Unfortunately, I didn’t scurry fast enough, and as the boat pulled away I didn’t have a firm footing. My choices were to either slip into the water, or do a back bend over  Sea Life’s side rail. I chose the latter, channeling my inner yogi.

There wasn’t a way for me to get a firm footing, and slide back onto the side deck, and I couldn’t reach anything with my hands either. So there I was, bent backward over the side rail, hanging on while Hans made a second pass (of course, Scott was upset that I had the camera with me during all of this!). It felt like 15 minutes, but eventually the boat came back alongside, and Scott grabbed me into a upward position so that I could get on. The day was off to an eventful start.

There were seven of us on Hans’ 23′ sailboat, so we were a friendly bunch, sitting in the cockpit and on the bow. We had a smooth sail, and arrived at the cay in under 30 minutes.

Hans has a dock that he uses in town, but it was full when we arrived, as was the second place he tried. We headed for the main city pier, and tied up in front of one of the supply boats that had just arrived.

It was quite a site on the pier, as the two large supply boats began to unload. Many locals work the pier for the day, helping to off load the boats, and deliver the supplies to stores in town. Since there are no cars, golf carts, scooters or bikes on the cay, all of the supplies are loaded onto flat beds, and rolled through the streets, to their destinations in town. The scene was like ants attacking food, and then scurrying away with the crumbs.

As we headed into town, Hans arranged for some “shopping cart” help (a man with a wheel barrow).  We turned and made our way down the main street, dodging carts loaded with produce.

I expected everyone to head to the stores, but realized that it would be hours before things on the pier would be delivered. Instead, we followed Hans and the others to an open air bar on the main street. Before long, the tables were full of expats, drinking and chatting.

Some had lunch at the bar, which is sold from a cart on site, and others headed off for a restaurant. We bought a really cheap, and really good lunch from the cart. You choose either fish or chicken, to go with side dishes (beans, rice, slaw, etc.). Scott managed to talk his way into getting both!

Ok, so we’ve eaten, chatted and had drinks. It was time to shop…right? I got up to head for the stores, and was told that they were closed for lunch until 2pm. Huh?? Then why did we get here at 11:00?? And where was the “shopping cart” guy during all of this?? I realized that this was just as much a social event as a shopping trip. Most people only go to town once or twice a week, so shopping day is a chance for them to see each other, spend time together and talk. This was all fine and good, but by 2pm, it’s stinkin’ hot!

I needed very little in the store (we had already stocked up on canned goods and other things in Roatan), and had come mostly for fresh bread and produce. However, we had come with Hans, who needed to stock up, so it seemed we’d be in town for most of the day. Good thing the beer was cold and cheap…we ordered two more.

To kill some time, Scott and I decided to walk and see if the man who bakes bread had any ready to buy. This is where we go to buy bread…welcome to cruising.

Unfortunately,  it would be another hour or so before the loaves were ready. We asked the man to hold two loaves for us, and made our way to one of the produce stalls. They were still unloading things, but we were able to buy what we needed.

After more socializing, and much, much sweating (the breeze that we enjoyed in the morning had shifted directions, away from the bar), we went to get our bread. It was still hot from the oven, and we left with open bags of both wheat and white.

It was now suffocatingly hot in the bar (where many people still gathered, did they even need groceries?), so we waited for Hans back at the main pier. There was a great breeze on the upper deck, where we watched the ants still hard at it at 4pm.

There were just four of us on Hans’ boat for the sail back, as the rest of our group rode in the skiff. The winds were blowing in the 30s, and as we rounded the far side of the cay, the boat was heeled far over. My short legs had trouble reaching the port side cockpit bench, which we had to stand on for balance, so I was keeping grip with my toes. I am by no means a sailor…give me my roll-ly pilot house anytime!

As we crossed the channel, waves began to break over the bow. We weren’t heeled over anymore, but it was now a wet ride. I took this photo just before I put the camera away, notice Scott  hanging on. We got that spirited ride after all!

As we approached Sea Life, Hans lowered the sail, making it much more easy to climb aboard! He then headed off toward his pier.

We’d done shopping day with the locals and survived. I think in future, I’d go for morning socializing, and stick to the quick in and out of Friday morning shopping! Here are more photos of shopping day.

“Shells Sink, Dreams Float. Life’s Good On Our Boat!”

 

 

 

Returning To Guanaja

On Sunday we made our way back to Guanaja. We’re going to pick up our refrigerator parts, that have been delivered to Graham’s Place, and spend some more time on the island. The plan is to then return to Fantasy Island Marina, where Scott can fix the refrigerator and cool it back down while we’re plugged in. We’ve paid for a month’s slip rental there, and Steve was nice enough to let us split the time.

With head seas forecasted, I was not looking forward to the six hour trip. We only had a three hour ride from West End around to French Harbour, but the head seas made it a nasty go; a repeat made me cringe. Thankfully, the winds were much calmer this time, and aside from having to cool Howard down we had a good run back to beautiful Guanaja.

The forecast calls for strong winds this week (surprise), so we tucked back into El Bight. It offers more protection for us, than if we anchor off of Graham’s Cay. We’re surrounded by the familiar sights of Manati bar and Han’s place.

Monday morning brought pouring rain (not called for), a beautiful rainbow and then more stormy clouds. It was neat to watch them settle down onto the mountains around us.

By mid morning, there was a break in the weather, so we jumped into the Aluminum Princess and headed for Graham’s Cay to pick up our parts and grab some lunch. It was just a quick 20 minute ride, and the sun came out to greet us as we arrived at Graham’s Place.

However, not two hours later, as we were finishing our yummy fish sandwiches (mine blackened and Scott’s fried), I noticed the sky darkening again. We paid our bill, jumped back into the boat with our boxes and set off for El Bight. Within minutes, the seas went from calm and clear blue to threatening grey. We made our way through an angry chop back to the boat, amidst building white caps. As usual at times like this, we were glad to be tucked into the Aluminum Princess.

Once aboard Sea Life, we unpacked our boxes in the cockpit. Corrugated cardboard is a favorite place for cockroaches to lay their eggs, so we bagged it up (unbeknownst to Howard, as he can’t resist a box) and set it out into the Aluminum Princess. Our parts now wait in the saloon, until they are installed.

The process was costly (2,000.00 in total: cost of parts, shipping to Miami, shipping to mainland Honduras, customs fees, and shipping to Guanaja..plus a tip for Alex, the manager at Graham’s, who was such a great help to us), but took just under two weeks. All in all, we can’t complain, especially since Defender was great enough to refund Scott the cost of his first order to Mexico (minus the shipping). It seems that they are having such a problem with Mexican Fed Ex customs that the parts will just be written off as a loss. Their customer service is fantastic!

In the meantime, our windlass decided to give us attitude as we came in to anchor on Sunday. Scott spent yesterday taking it apart and repairing it. Thankfully, no part ordering necessary! He promises to do a short Captain’s Corner post on the repair soon. Once the windlass was back together, he fixed a problem with the valving in our shower fixture in the guest head. Because why be bored?

The heat and humidity are in full force (86 degress, with 70% humidity by 8:30am), so we do our best to move as little as possible. Howard doesn’t quite understand the heat. He’ll get a wild hair and have a crazy session in his latest play area, an Ace Hardware bag. The thing has been torn almost to bits.

Exhausted and hot, Howard will splay out for a nap in his Africa basket taco. If his breathing gets consistently fast,  we’ve started placing a cold, wet towel on him. It seems to work well at cooling him down (with great success on our trip here from Roatan). I’m shocked though, at how much he’s starting to tolerate it.

Once cooled down, it’s into a good, deep sleep.

Last night we visited Hans’ place, catching up with the regulars and enjoying some pizza. We’ll stay in Guanaja for a week or so, before returning to Roatan. Here are some photos of our trip back, and the last few days.

“Shells Sink, Dreams Float. Life’s Good On Our Boat!”

 

 

 

 

Pizza Night In El Bight

As you know, Scott and I loved pizza night when we were in Isla Mujeres. We looked forward to chatting with fellow cruisers, and then the yummy pizza and garlic knots at Oscars. As we left to head for Honduras, and Guanaja, we wondered when we’d get really good pizza again. Well, our wait was short!

As we checked online for reviews of local places to eat, only three showed up. Mi Casa Too, our place on the hill. Manati, run by Klaus and Annette, who helped us with our propeller. They moved here from Germany over 20 yeas ago, and run a beautifully casual bar, specializing in German food and beer. The third listing was for Hans’ Pizza. The reviews raved about his pizza, and stated that Monday was pizza night..”If you see smoke, he’s making pizza.”

There were no photos with the reviews, and we could see no visible evidence of a third restaurant in the bight. After scanning the shoreline with our binoculars, we caught sight of the top of a thatched roof, just down from Manati. We learned that it was indeed Hans’ place, when Klaus sent us there to talk with him about our propeller.

Hans is originally from Germany, but has called Guanaja his home for more than 40 years now. He owns a large piece of land here in El Bight, that sits on the water’s edge. There is a small bar, large outdoor kitchen, and several spots for enjoying shade, all built by Hans.

After meeting Hans, and talking about our propeller, we ended up staying for a few hours, enjoying cold beer and meeting the others who were gathered there.

He seems to have a group of regulars who come every morning and spend the day. Some are cruisers, who linger longer than planned at anchor before continuing on, and others call Guanaja home permanently. They pitch in with food preparation, tending bar and other things to help Hans around the property.

As we talked that first evening, enjoying his homemade red wine and bread, Hans offered to make pizza for us that Friday (and a loaf of bread for me!). We considered ourselves quite special, not having to wait for the usual Monday treat!

When Friday came, I arrived with dessert in tow, as a thank you for Hans’ extra effort. There were several of us gathered, and we chatted while he got to work. Hans makes his own dough, and the only ingredient that isn’t raw or fresh made, is the Hunt’s tomato sauce from a can, used for the red pizzas. We’ll forgive that. His oven is a large barrel, fueled by a roaring wood fire underneath.

Most chose to have half of their pizza with tomato sauce and half with white. The white sauce is a fresh made crema, that is sold in town. It’s similar in consistency to sour cream, but not taste. We followed suite with a half and half,  and our pizza was delicious! We left with full, happy bellies, and looked forward to returning on Monday!

When we returned for dinner on Monday, there were many more people. There was a large group of local residents seated at one of the long wooden tables, who were there to celebrate a 13th birthday. Inside the bar, and throughout the property,  other locals and “regulars” chatted and drank.

After the birthday group was fed, it was our turn. We were told that some evenings, the wait is quite long. John, a cruiser who’s spent a month of Mondays here, didn’t get his pizza until 10pm one night! Hans tries to accommodate tourists and larger groups first. Fair enough, we were content to watch and wait.

We chose to go with an all white pizza this time. Hans’ traditional way is topped with caraway seeds, onion and bacon…delish!!

He even whipped up some key lime pie in the oven, but we were too tired and stuffed to wait for it to cool. We will leave soon, to visit Roatan, and return here for a few more weeks. Hans has promised to smoke some fish and make us our first breadfruit, which will be in season when we return. Cheers to our chef and new friend!

Please check out more photos from pizza night, and of Hans’ property!

“Shells Sink, Dreams Float. Life’s Good On Our Boat!”

Boats Big And Small…And Many Friendly People

We are surprised at the amount of large, commercial boats that come and go from this area. In addition to the many commercial fishing boats that work the local waters, there are often larger ships loading and unloading goods. One ran aground recently, just behind where we’re anchored. Two fishing boats helped to free it, before it headed south.

Since there are very few cars on the island, and the main town is only accessible by water, most locals seem to motor, or row where they need to go by boat.

Water taxis are also popular, ferrying both locals and the few tourists that visit back and forth.

Scott got the chance to use one recently, when the Aluminum Princess had a set back. We also discovered how great the locals, and our cruising friends are.

We were on our way to town for “shopping day,” when the supply boat brings the weekly load of fresh fruits, vegetables and supplies. Scott went to increase our speed, and instead the motor revved up, but our speed remained the same.

Not wanting to get stuck in the choppy waters, we turned back and putted our way toward Sea Life. Whenever Scott tried to increase speed, the motor would again rev up, but not accelerate. He was almost certain that the bushing between the hub and the propeller had worn, allowing the motor to rev without engaging the prop. So it seems we needed a new propeller…the search began.

I started with emailing our friend, Louis. He was one of the first cruising friends we’d met in Isla Mujeres, and has spent much time here. I got a quick reply, telling us to find a local couple, Jim and Cathy. He described where there house was, and also told us to just ask anyone about where to find them. He also told us to see Hans, a German man who lives here on the beach (he also makes a mean pizza, more on that later).

We headed to shore, and stopped in to see Klaus and Annette, a friendly German couple who have been here for over 20 years, and run Manati bar. They also told us to go talk to Hans, so we walked the grass path, and over the bridge to see him.

Hans told us that he could “rig” the prop, but if we wanted a replacement, it should be available in town. Scott had already researched this, and had put in an email to the business he thought may have what we needed.

We stayed and enjoyed beer and conversation with Hans and others at his small bar, and then headed back to Manati. Annette and Klaus told us to stop by the next day, when they would help us call the store, just in case we got no email reply.

The next day, after our sweaty hike, we stopped into Manati, but found no one downstairs. Scott decided to give the email some more time, as we were still able to use the Aluminum Princess at a slow speed. A day later, we received an email reply. The place in town had what we needed…hurray! We were so happy not to have to order it!

That afternoon, a local panga boat made it’s way to our swim platform. It was Louis’ friends, Jim and Cathy! With all else going on, we’d forgotten to ask about them. It seems that Louis had emailed the couple about our situation, so they stopped by to see if we needed help. I think Scott wants to stay here permanently.

We stopped into Manati after our second hike, and found Klaus and Anntte sitting down to lunch. They had seen our boat tied to the pier the day before (we’d left it there to go and hike) , and went looking for us at Hans’. It seems that they’d called the store in town on their own, and were trying to let us know that the part was in stock. It’s so nice to have so many people here look out for us.

I convinced Scott to take a water taxi to get the prop, instead of putting back and forth to town in the choppy water. He dropped me at the boat, and then went back to shore. Annette phoned a water taxi for him, and soon he was off to town in style.

With part in hand, Scott now wondered how he’d work on the motor while we were at anchor. When the Aluminum Princess is up on the flybridge, the motor hangs off the back. He thought of taking it to the pier at Manati, and backing it up into shallow water. Eventually, he came up with this “MacGyver” idea that worked great!

The prop went on in no time at all, and after a brief test drive (with turns that I will not allow when I’m onboard) the Aluminum Princess is back in business!

A few more boat photos.

“Shells Sink, Dreams Float. Life’s Good On Our Boat!”

A Evening Up On The Hill

There is a restaurant up on the hill here in El Bight, Mi Casa Too, which the owners run out of their home.

With it’s happy colors by day, and inviting lights and music at night, it has intrigued us since we arrived, so last night we headed up for a visit.

We tied up at the end of a local canal, and made our way up the many, many stairs to the restaurant. Enjoying plants and views as we climbed.

Once at the top, we discovered a large, wrap-around porch. At one end was a large open area with a bar and several tables. The owner greeted us warmly, and sat us at a table near the railing. We enjoyed the views of El Bight, and Sea Life at anchor below, while we waited for our food.

Our dinner arrived, with plates full of fish, salad, rice and french fries. At 12.00 US a person, it was more than we could eat. The music varied between island/reggae, country and Spanish, and we enjoyed listening to the locals at the bar sing along to many of the tunes. Eventually, we asked for our check. After several minutes, we got no check, but instead two more drinks…on the house! Well of course we’ll stay!

The owner came to our table, asking if we were having fun, and if the music was too loud. He told us, “the gringos don’t usually like the loud music.” We replied that the music was just fine, and that we were having a great time. So great of a time, that we ordered two more drinks and settled in to watch the people at the bar sing some more.

After some more time passed, we again asked for the check, with success. We were finishing our drinks and preparing to leave, when out of nowhere the owner breezed by, placing a full, chilled bottle of champagne on our table! Exclaiming that it was his birthday, he did the same at all the surrounding tables, and then placed four or five bottles along the bar. It seemed like we were destined to spend the entire night there!

Bottles were opened, and as glasses were passed around everyone raised a toast to the birthday boy. I saw a cake behind the bar, and was hoping that it would get the same treatment as the bottles of champagne, but we decided to make an exit while we could… who knows what might show up with the cake!

We said good-bye, happy birthday and a big thank you to our host, re-corked our champagne to go and made our way back down the hill. A warm glow of light shown through the bamboo and palms, lighting our way as we climbed down to the water, and to the awaiting Aluminum Princess.

It was a terrific evening, and we plan to return again. The owner, the food and the fun are too much to resist! Here are more pictures of our evening up on the hill.

“Shells Sink, Dreams Float. Life’s Good On Our Boat!”

Hiking Guanaja

The internet has been iffy the past few days, so I’m catching up….

We spent two mornings this week hiking some of the hills around our anchorage. Covered with hats and long sleeves, and coated in bug spray we set out the first day, heading off on one of the local roads.

The plan was to walk some of the perimeter of the island, but Scott soon spotted a trail, so we made a right and started trudging upward.

As we followed it, the “path” got more and more narrow and overgrown. Just when I thought we must be wandering aimlessly, Scott would spot a blue dot sprayed onto a random surface meaning we were still on track. We passed several signs in Spanish, which Scott attempted to read. “Prohibited” was mentioned, but he didn’t feel that it applied to us….so on we trudged.

The trail made its way up, and got steeper and steeper. It was now completely covered with pine needles, which made for a slippery surface in places. We eventually came upon a clearing, where there was a reservoir that supplies the island with natural spring water.

I was ready to call the adventure complete, knowing I’d have to slide my way back down all those pine needles, but Scott was already looking ahead for the trail. We continued on just a bit more, where we enjoyed great views of the waters below.

We made our way back down the pine needle-caked path. I took advantage of a rope “railing” that locals had tied to some trees. It was a great help! Along the way, we could hear the water below ground, running downhill.

The highest point we climbed to was about 500 feet, and the total walk came in just under two miles. I’m sure it won’t impress serious hikers or backpackers, but it was nice exercise for us, and the views were great.

Inspired by our first “trek,” we set out again the next day, following a route that one of the locals suggested. This path started closer to the shore, and on more level ground. We passed beautiful flowers, bushes and plants as we made our way past houses nestled in the trees.

The paths around the island runs through people’s yards at times, which are fenced in, with “go-around” gates built in.

Along the way, we crossed many small streams and drainage ditches. The path across them was often questionable….I let Scott go first.

Eventually, we came to a paved road. It seemed to be part of a planned subdivision that never came to be, except for this huge house being built.

As we walked, the road got steeper, and steeper and steeper. Soon, it was as if we were on level 10 of a stair master work out! The road finally ended, and again we were rewarded with wonderful views.

At the end of the road, there were stairs that led up to a trail, which continued on up the hill. Of course, Scott argued his case for continuing on.

The path got immediately steep and was again caked in slippery, ankle-twisting pine needles. I did a few feet, and turned around, not wanting to push my luck. Scott left me behind, while he climbed on for a bit. I had a shady spot to sit in, and an Ipad with good internet, he could take as long as he liked!

Scott soon returned, and we made our way back down the ridiculously steep road. Our second hike took us higher, to approximately 700 feet, and we traveled just under three miles.

Both days we came back soaked through in sweat, but happy to have seen some of the local area up close, as well as up high. Here are many more photos from our two days of hiking Guanaja. You can also check out the routes we took on our little hikes by following the link on the Where Are We Now page.

“Shells Sink, Dreams Float. Life’s Good On Our Boat!”

Our New Surroundings

We’re currently anchored in El Bight, on the southeast side of Guanaja. It offers good protection from the winds, and we’ll spend time here until they are more favorable to head around the corner. The anchorage is much more quiet than what we used to in Isla Mujeres, as there is little tourism here..so no party boats! Our “fleet” is smaller, but still makes for a welcoming view at sunrise.

The sun comes up here at 5:29 am, so it is noticeably light just after 5:00. It’s nice to have the light and sun wake us up early, so we can enjoy a bit of time before our daily sweating sets in, which usually starts before 8am.

It’s not joke..it’s hot here, and humid. We’re usually at 85 degrees by 7am, and the humidity runs around 65%. For those of you from my hometown of Baltimore, you know what I speak of…soupy. We move slower, swim and shower more, and generally try to block it out. The sun sets at 6:00pm, and it gets beastly between 2:00 and 4:00. The temperatures hover at 90 before dusk brings a reprieve.

Despite all that, our surroundings are beautiful and remote. The water temperature is between 83 and 84. Scott’s ideal temperature is between 81 and 82, so he’s eager to get in!

There are actually several restaurants in the hills nearby, and we look forward to visiting them.

Howard has quickly settled in.

We love the area so far, and look forward to exploring it more thoroughly! Here are a few more photos.

“Shells Sink, Dreams Float. Life’s Good On Our Boat!”