Puerto Rico: Sea Life Returns To U.S. Waters

After a good night’s sleep, tied to the fuel dock at the Ponce Yacht & Fishing Club, we spent the next morning filling Sea Life’s fuel tanks, taking on 670 gallons of diesel. We then moved over to our assigned slip, and settled in.

With our week-long, “nautical” passage from Cartagena behind us, it was time to clear into Puerto Rico…a U.S. territory. Easy-peasy, right? Well, not so much. We hadn’t bothered to call in when we arrived, as it was 7pm on a Saturday. Once we had refueled and tied into our slip, Scott rang the Ponce Coast Guard office. They were not happy with us, upon finding out that we’d waited 16 hours before contacting them. Scott explained our late arrival the day before, and was informed that he was expected to call upon arrival, no matter the time, leaving a message if there was no answer.  Hmm, not something we’d ever think of doing, or be expected to do….being U.S. citizens.

Scott was told that officers were on their way to the boat, to clear us in. After waiting, and waiting some more, and calling to check on their progress, three officers finally arrived at our slip. Only one came aboard; a friendly woman, who briefly checked the refrigerator and freezer stores, and asked about fresh stuff. I explained that we had no fresh things left, after our long passage from Cartagena. She asked if we had any trash from Cartagena, and I replied no; the only trash on board was from our passage. However, as far as customs was concerned, our passage trash was Colombia trash, and needed to be incinerated.

Sadly for us, there was no incinerator in Ponce….so she “quarantined” our garbage.  The bag was sealed  with yellow tape, marked “Quarantine.” The  officer went on to explain that it could not be kept in the cockpit, and had to be stored inside….HUH?!? The woman was very apologetic, and explained that once we arrived in St. Thomas, we could inform officials there that we had trash to dispose of, and that they most likely had an incinerator. So we were to keep the stinky trash bag inside?….until we get to St. Thomas?…which will be weeks away?? HUH?!?!?

While I was dealing with the trash police, Scott was being berated by one of the officers who remained out on the pier. Here’s how the conversation roughly went:

Officer Unfriendly:  How much does a boat like this go for??

Scott: We have her insured for $250,000.00

Officer Unfriendly: Really..what do you do for a living?

Scott: I’m a mechanical contractor.

Officer Unfriendly: So you have a job like that, and you can afford a boat like this?

Scott: I spent 4,000 hours, working on her myself.

Officer Unfriendly: So you know how to do all of that?

Scott: Would you like to come aboard? I’d be happy to show you?

Officer Unfriendly: I don’t want to come on your boat.

Scott was seething under the surface, getting the distinct impression the officer was insinuating that illegal money was involved in our refit/cruising budget. To be fair, we had just come from Cartagena, and Puerto Rico is not a routine destination for a boat coming from Colombia to the Eastern Caribbean. Still, Scott wanted to scream at the guy… Either get on my boat and inspect it, and do your job….or back off!

After managing to get through the Officer Unfriendly conversation without erupting, Scott came aboard to find out about our trash situation….not good. He told the woman we’d be happy to store the bag up on the flybridge, in the Aluminum Princess, but she refused. Since the boat wasn’t enclosed, it was not an option, and therefore the trash had to stay inside the boat.

Scott remained calm, long enough for us to get cleared back into our own country (welcome back to the U.S., and to ridiculous rules that make no sense). He then got straight to work, figuring a way around the trash issue. We were not going to lug this smelly bag around with us for weeks, so after some thought, Captain MacGyver hatched a plan.

The bag couldn’t be opened from the top, as that would break the quarantine tape. Instead, Scott decided to go at it from the bottom. He sliced the bag at the seal, and emptied the smelly contents into a new bag that we promptly dumped into the nearest trash can on the pier.  The quarantine bag was then filled with “clean” trash that we collected over the next several days….paper, plastic, empty cans that were rinsed out, etc. When it was acceptably full with said clean trash, Scott sealed the bottom of the bag closed with super glue along the seam, and voila!…a full bag of quarantined trash.

Thankfully, we wouldn’t have to deal with customs when leaving Puerto Rico, as our next stop would be the U.S. Virgin Islands, and U.S. boats aren’t required to clear in and out when moving between U.S. territories. Good thing, as we’d had enough “Welcome to the U.S.” to last us a while!

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

On To Colombia

After spending four months in the San Blas, doing short, 2-4 hour jumps at most, between anchorages, we now faced a thirty-some hour run to Colombia. Whenever we settle in for an extended period, the thought of a long, overnight passage is unsettling. It’s always nerve wracking as we set out. Seas that were previously the norm for us, seem insanely huge until we get our passage “pants” back on.

We settled in and had an easy trip, with no severe waves or wind. After 27 hours, we approached Cartagena Bay, noticing the increased presence of fast pleasure boats running in and out of Cartagena (yay….wakes!).

The Colombian National Navy has a base near Cartagena, and we saw several of their ships on our way into the harbor.

We passed the remains of several forts, their walls still mostly intact. At one time, all of Cartagena harbor’s natural entrances were protected by forts, and the huge  Castillo San Felipe de Barajas that dominated the city to the east, from atop it’s rocky cliff.

MAQUETA

CUADRO DESEMBARCO

Many of these forts are still standing in some form, and we passed several on our way into the bay.

After passing towns and villages,  we eventually got our first glimpse at the modern skyline of Cartagena’s Boca Grande peninsula.

To the west was Cartagena’s commercial port, reminding us of scenes from our home port of Baltimore, Maryland, and it’s busy commercial shoreline.

As we came further into the harbor, the expanse of Boca Grande’s high rises came into clear view. The bright, white buildings with their blue and green glass windows gleamed among the palm trees and blue sky.

The Castillo Grande Lighthouse, and remains of Fort San Matias stand as a reminder of Cartagena’s history, among the modern skyline.

As we neared the harbor, the old, walled part of the city came into view, with it’s many church steeples rising into the midday sky.

We arrived at Club de Pesca, and headed for our slip. Docking was a bit challenging, as we only have one motor and don’t have the luxury of a bow thruster (they provide propulsion, making a boat more maneuverable). We usually rely on the outer poles of a slip, resting against one as we pivot into the place.

The slips at Club de Pesca didn’t have outer poles, and there were only finger piers on one side of our slip. That meant we had to come into the slip without making contact with the boat next to us, and without a pole to use for pivoting…making  things extra challenging.

Luckily, our friends on s/v Sirena were docked right next to us, on the “open” side of the slip. They’d heard us hail the marina on vhf, and Shawna was out on the bow, in case she needed to fend us off. That left me free to keep watch on the very large boat on the other side of us, as he stuck pretty far out past the short finger pier. There’s always a flurry of activity, and calling back and forth as we back in, but everything went fine.

We were required to use an agent for clearing into Colombia, and Julio was waiting for us on the dock as we came around the corner to our slip. He collected our passports and other needed documents, and was off to begin our clear in process. We settled into our slip, with a great view Roman Bridge, and the edge of the walled city.

 

We could see over to the many church steeples in old town, and also had views of Castillo San Felipe; behind us, the skyline of Boca Grande.

Howard took his usual post-passage, coma nap.

Once rested it was “turtle” box time. He loves to get under this collapsed box and run around, wearing it like a shell. Throw in some string and a straw, and it’s pure bliss…cats are weird. After clearing in, it was time to again raise the Colombian courtesy flag, and Howard helped make sure we had the right one.

 

 

Scott visited the atm to withdraw some cash. The exchange rate in Colombia (as we learned during our stays last year in Providencia and San Andres) is insane: 3,000 Colombian pesos to 1 US dollar; we’re millionaires here! Scott returned with a fist-full of bills…..20,000, 50,000, good grief!

We began to explore our surroundings. Shawna and Chris (s/v Sirena) filled us in on the need-to-knows: locations of grocery stores, restaurants, ice cream spots, etc., and we perused the marina grounds. It was a full house, with lots of daily activity, in the form of washing, waxing and detailing. I think most of the boats were cleaned more than they were used!

The fuel dock was a traffic jam every day, with boats of all sizes waiting in line to fill tanks and/or jugs. It was amusing for Scott to watch the organized chaos.

We stopped at one of the two restaurants on site for a happy hour cocktail, and were convinced that there was a meeting of the Colombian mafia at a nearby table. It was like a scene out of Scarface or Goodfellas. We remained quietly amused, not needing Colombian enemies.

Shawna had told me of the many kitties that call the marina grounds home. I bought some cheap cat food at the grocery store, and carried a bag with me whenever we came and went (Of course, I couldn’t get the bag out, without giving Howard some… I called it his McDonald’s treat). The cats came to know our step, and would pop out of their shelter spots, or run up to us for food.

Groucho (aptly named by Shawna because of his black mustache) was one of my favorites. He was very vocal, always greeting us for food near the rear marina entrance. If I thought I could talk Scott into it, and if there was a chance that Howard would share his space….and food, we’d have a second cat.

Club de Pesca in located in the Manga neighborhood, just a short walk across the bridge from the walled city. It was a very safe area, and we enjoyed wandering the streets.

Of course….Scott can always sniff out a unique vehicle.

Shawna and Chris took us to their favorite local find, D’Res. It was just across the park outside the  marina, and had terrific steaks at great prices! We returned several times, to get our red meat fix.

The streets of Cartagena are insanely clean, with crews sweeping them every morning. However, the condition of the sidewalks are treacherous. If you’re not frequently looking down as you walk, it’s easy to twist and ankle on the horribly uneven surfaces, or in the patches of rubble “repairs.”

In other places, exposed rebar and open holes wait to cause you harm, making it challenging to try and find your way along streets and across intersections, while looking down for these sidewalk traps.

In the late afternoon, when the marina office is closed, we enter through the old walls of Fort Manga, a daily reminder of the history surrounding us.

We ventured out to the nearby mall, in search of a sim card for our phone and of course, a McDonald’s fix for Scott. They made the food to order; still quick, but deliciously hot and yummy….. the best McDonald’s ever!!!

You couldn’t spit without hitting an ice cream place in the mall (or in all of Cartagena for that matter). I counted four, just in the food court area, including a McDonald’s stand-alone kiosk. At most locations, there is a separate ice cream counter, next to where you order burgers and fries. They’re serious about ice cream here.

Scott sought out a dermatologist in Boca Grande, and made an appointment for some routine scans. He walked there and back, past the high-rises and beaches. As a reward, he visited Burger King after the appointment, for another fast food fix. Much to his disappointment, it was not nearly as yummy as the McDonald’s food we’d enjoyed at the mall, much to his disappointment.

We were spending a month in Cartagena, so Scott took time for some boat projects. He replaced the raw water impeller, during routine maintenance of the pump. He finds it more thorough to just take the pump apart, so he can inspect all of it’s workings.

An oil change for the motor was also in order. During the process, he used a jiggle siphon to transfer oil from a five gallon bucket that he’d purchased in Bocas del Toro, to smaller containers for easier storage.

And, our poor, dirty cockpit got a fresh coat of paint…hurray!

As usual, we’re one of the smallest, oldest boats in the marina…but we’re ok with that. We’re enjoying our Cartagena home, and look forward to exploring the walled city!

Here are more photos.

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

 

 

 

 

 

Our Passage From Roatan to Providencia

To travel straight through from Roatan to Bocas del Toro, our first stop in Panama, would mean running approximately 140 hours (or seven days) straight through. You now know how I feel about lengthy passages, and since there are several secure places to anchor and explore along the way, we obviously chose to break up the journey into several legs.

Our first stop along the will be Providencia. The island sits off of main land Nicaragua, but is owned by Colombia. It’s a popular stop for  cruisers on their way to and from Panama.

Monday: We left our Fantasy Island family in the early morning, for a 70-80 hour run to Providencia . A “great” weather widow had been predicted for days, with winds at 5-10 knots, and waves at 2-3 feet, sometimes less. Before we even tossed the lines, Scott bashed a toe when making final checks in the engine room (good thing he’s better at shaking off pain than I am).

We headed east, with our slip neighbors on Scurvy Dog off our port side, as they traveled to Guanaja for a few days. After six hours or so, as we passed by Guanaja, the winds and seas picked up considerably. By evening, we were into a hefty, unnerving head sea. If I had to describe it, the movement feels like being on a roller coaster ride, when it’s traveling across a stretch of short hills; a continuous undulating motion.

Unfortunately, the sea state had me too rattled to do my usual night shift, so Scott filled in. I laid down with Howard, who was also less than thrilled with the change in wind and seas. He hadn’t used his litter box in over a day, and now that we were under way, his bladder was beyond full. The poor guy was too nervous to get to his box, with our rolling, up-down movement, so he relieved himself on a towel in front of the saloon doors. When he finally finished, I threw it outside into the cockpit, to deal with it once we’d anchored. He then settled into his usual travel spot on the couch.

After re-acclimating myself to passage rolling, I realized that we’d been dealt a bad hand with the forecast, and that the winds weren’t dying down anytime soon. I relieved Scott in the wee hours of the morning, and he got some rest.

Tuesday: The winds died a bit during the day, but were still nowhere near what was predicted. We’d set a course to travel almost 40 miles off the coast of main land Honduras, hoping to keep clear of any pirate activity that randomly occurs in this area.

In the early morning, I spotted a large boat on the horizon. I thought it was something commercial, and went to wake Scott so he could confirm. He didn’t feel that it was a commercial boat, and changed course to stay away from it. We haven’t needed to check for boats at a greater distance until now, so by the time I noticed it, the boat was within two miles of us.

When Scott changed course, the boat did the exact same. Three more times Scott changed course, and three more times the boat followed our course change. After the fourth course change, Scott said to me, “they’re coming at us.”

I began to immediately shake uncontrollably, at the thought of being boarded. We’ve heard about many incidents of cruisers being boarded, robbed and assaulted while passing through this area, and therefore chose to travel this far off shore. This was not what we had planned for.

Scott put out a pan pan call on the vhf, stating that a large, steel boat was coming at us. A pan pan is an international radio distress signal,  less urgent than a mayday signal. At the same time, I was alerting my brother-in-law on the Delorme, as he’s our level-headed, emergency go-to. I gave him a brief description of what was happening, and he received our latitude and longitude coordinates with the text.

The boat replied to Scott’s pan pan, saying that he saw us. Scott made him aware that he’d mimicked four course changes that we’d made,  and the captain replied that he was heading for La Cieba, on main land Honduras. Scott replied, “fine, you hold your course, and I’ll hold mine.” It took forever for him to move away from us, and then finally turn away.

Shortly after, a huge pod of dolphins arrived for a visit; there must have been 15 or more. It was as if they knew we’d been shaken, and were there to lighten the mood. They stayed and played around us for almost 30 minutes, before heading off on their way.

It got hotter and hotter as the day went on. We tried to keep the pilot house doors open, and let in as much air and breeze as possible, but had to close the port side after a large wave broke on us, splashing water all the way down into the saloon. The heat made it even more challenging for me to sleep, but Howard was faring better, sleeping under a fan, with a damp towel.

In the early evening, I spotted another boat on radar. This one was smaller and farther away. I woke Scott, and we both watched  it slowly approach. The boat had running lights, and when it got closer to us, they changed course and moved away. We assumed they were legitimately fishing,  and running without radar, making it unable to see us until we were very close. Big sigh of relief number two!

I finally got some bits of sleep, and relieved Scott sometime around midnight. The stupid winds were sustained at 23 knots, and as a result the seas were big. Scott’s toe was looking really ugly, and we assume he’d broken it. Luckily, he says, it’s a “non-essential” little toe. We were on track for arrival in Providencia by sunset on Thursday. A few hours later than we’d planned, but still better than a Friday arrival.

It had become sauna-hot inside the boat, as we weren’t getting  air from the strong winds outside. By now, I couldn’t stand the smell of myself, and vowed to take a shower the next day, no matter how challenging!

Wednesday: We listened to Chris Parker at 7am. His forecast must have been for a parallel universe, because we were seeing a much different picture outside our windows. Instead of his continued forecast of 5-10 knot wind, we had sustained 20s. with large swells. At several times, Scott would take us down a half knot or so in speed, to try and improve our ride, and we watched our arrival time get later and later. We were now on course for a Friday morning arrival…for the love of Pete!

At this point, Howard and I were thoroughly done with this passage! The seas, wind and heat had gotten very old. Howard kept trying to relocate, becoming sick of just laying on the couch under a damp towel. Unfortunately, moving around was a wobbly go, and every new location was unstable, so inevitably it was back to the couch.

As we passed far off of the Honduras/Nicaragua border, Scott spotted two large ships on the radar, at the point where we were to make our final turn. Thinking that they were up to no good, and working together, he changed our course to avoid coming close to them. However, they never moved, so we assumed that they were just fishing, most likely with one large net strung between the two of them…whew!

With the worst of the “threat” area behind us, it was time for me to bathe! I could stand it no more, and went down for a shower. Luckily, our guest head has a built in seat, and I made good use of it, emerging a new and unoffensive person!

As I came on shift at 9:30pm, lightening was visible all around us. Lightening is one of Scott’s two biggest fears (fire being the other). It’s scary enough when you’re at anchor, or in a slip, but on a passage, you’re an open target. I kept an eye on the radar, watching the front come closer and grow larger.

At the same time, the winds became more and more calm, subsiding to 3 knots…calm before the storm?  I hoped not.

On a positive note, Scott had finally caught sight of the Southern Cross constellation, before coming off watch…..pretty cool!

Thursday: I woke Scott in the early morning, as the front had finally come to within ten miles of us. We watched, amazed, as the whole ugly thing broke apart and passed by, moving off behind us. We were grateful to have dodged the bullet.  However, the stronger winds had that had been blocked for the last twelve hours or so by the large storm front came quickly back, in full force…terrific.

As the morning went on, Howard must have thought that the motor was never going to stop, so he may as well eat. He was a machine, making up for lost time, and chowed through an entire can of food in a flash. His balancing skills also improved, as he braced himself in front of the food bowl.

Finally, we caught sight of Providencia in the distance!

We had somehow made up time, and were on track to arrive and anchor at 1pm…hooray!! We stared at the island, as it inched closer. This time Scott was the impatient one, feeling that we must have slowed down (we hadn’t), and why the heck was it taking so long?!

As a final icing on our passage “cake,” the entire island was suddenly blocked from view…by rain. A lot of rain….a big, wide dark swath of pouring rain.

Luckily, there was no lightening associated with this one, and it moved quickly. In just minutes, we were traveling through a downpour. However, with no lightening threat, and little wind increase, we were happy to have the boat get a good rinse before coming in to anchor.

As we came into anchor, I immediately hailed our friends, Marina and Kevin, on s/v Lucky Seven. We hadn’t seen them since we left Isla Mujeres two months ago, and I was eager for a hello. Marina replied, saying that it was good to finally see us arrive, and Kevin came over by dinghy soon after we dropped anchor.

We all went into town together, rapidly chattering to each other as we tied to the town dock and made our way to find Mr. Bush, the customs agent; we needed to start our check in, and they needed to pick up their papers. Mr. Bush started our check in process, but there seemed to be no hurry to finish. We expect it to take a few days.

Once back aboard Sea Life, we probably should have slept, but were too wound up. Kevin soon hailed us on the radio…”we’re coming over.” We had drinks, and enjoyed a dinner of peanuts, pretzels and potato chips, while catching up on the last two months of each others cruising lives. In no time, it was 9:30, and Marina declared it time for us to sleep!

With our windy, bumpy passage behind us, we look forward to exploring Providencia for a week or so…..or at least until I can forget the last four days! Here are photos from our passage.

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

 

 

 

 

 

Daniel’s Sloth And Monkey Farm

We couldn’t leave for Providencia without spending time with our British friends, Richard and Jan, who are circumnavigating on s/v Morpheus, so we made sure to save time for a day of fun. In the morning, we made our way to Daniel’s Sloth & Monkey Farm. Daniel’s had been on our radar since we found out it existed, but they were closed for renovations on our first attempt at a visit.

Jan, Richard and I set out on their dinghy, while Scott stayed behind. We had decided to pay an agent to check us out of Roatan on a weekend, and he didn’t want to miss the man returning with our passports and exit papers.

Daniel’s “farm” is actually a house with many large cages behind it. His brother, Luke, came out to give us a tour and introduce us to the animals. Daniel started with just a few animals as pets, and has expanded to include several varieties. The cages are very large and kept meticulously clean. It is also obvious by his way with the animals, and by their behavior, that Luke and his family truly care for them.

We began with the coatimundi, or jungle raccoon. Their long, narrow nose balances their long, straight narrow tail. They definitely resemble raccoons, and we learned that they are more friendly. However, because of their sharp nails, we didn’t interact with them.

After stopping by the raccoons and agoutis, we were lead into one of the monkey cages. The three young monkeys were immediately smitten with Richard.

These little guys were not quite as old as Cheeky, our youngest  Fantasy Island monkey. They climbed all over us, and were very adept at unsnapping the back of mine and Jan’s hats while trying to remove them.

When monkey play time was over, we headed for the cages that held macaws and parrots. We were able to feed both types of these beautiful birds. The macaws were a bit heavy, like holding Howard on my forearm!

Luke pointed out several sloths sleeping, un-caged, in the surrounding mangroves (obviously, they are too slow to escape!). We saw two adults…..and a baby!

Sloths are naturally nocturnal, and are only awake for an average of four hours a day. Fun fact, they only poop three times a week, so that four hours is predominantly used for eating. Each evening, Luke and his family hang clusters of leaves from the trumpet tree for the sloths to munch on when they awake.

Many of the sloths at Daniel’s have been brought there by people from the mainland, who have rescued them from harm. Daniel’s Farm now host school groups, educating the children about sloths, and their non-threat to humans

It was now time to do what we’d really come for…hold a sloth!! Luke went into the mangroves along the water’s edge, and helped Snow White down for us to hold.

He placed her on each of us in turn, in a bear hug hold.

She seemed perfectly comfortable to be held, and turned her head to check us out. Sloths have an extra vertebrae in their spine, similar to an owl, allowing them to turn their heads 180 degrees in either direction.

Her fur was coarse, but not scratchy, and we didn’t even feel her “toes” on our back. She has such a sweet, “smiling” face!

When we’d each had time with her, Luke took Snow White back to here perch in the mangroves. He was careful to make sure that she had a firm hold before letting go.

In a sloth’s flash, she had assumed her previous position, and was sound asleep. Would she even remember us when she awoke for dinner?

Of course, there was only one thing to do after an awesome, but hot and buggy day with the animals….bobbing! This time, we stayed in our own back yard, spending the afternoon in the water off of the beach at the resort.

We stayed in the water, drinking and talking, until thoroughly pruned, and then headed off to meet the others at the pavilion. We took advantage of Pizza Inn & Bojangles delivery, and had an easy, yummy and “healthy” dinner of pizza and chicken, before parting ways and heading to our boats.

Our time with the monkeys and sloths was awesome, and the four of us had a great day together. We again have to say good bye to new friends, hoping to share an anchorage or marina again somewhere down the line. To quote a line from a Billy Joel song, “Life is a series of hellos and good byes, I’m afraid it’s time for good bye again.” How true these words are in the cruising world…Cheers mates!

Here are many more photos of our day at Daniel’s Sloth and Monkey Farm.

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

Our Last Days On Roatan

As I’ve mentioned, we returned to Fantasy Island to prepare for our journey toward Providencia, and eventually Panama. Scott was finally able to repair our refrigerator with only a few slight snags along the way. Things were pretty disheveled for a few days, but well worth it to finally have normal cooling and freezing on board…hurray!

We rented a car, to visit Eldon’s for a fill up on cold and frozen foods. Luckily, I remembered that Howard is soon due for his rabies shot. Since I’d much rather take him by car, than by dinghy and cab in Panama, I searched out a vet on the island. Dr. Soto, at Animal Kingdom, was great. He saw us with less than a day’s notice, and was very good with Howard, despite my cat’s “sassy-ness” (If anyone happens to be cruising in Roatan, and are in need of a vet, I’ve included Dr. Soto’s information in my photos).

Howard pitched such a fit that I think only half of the vaccine actually went in, the rest running down my hand. Nevertheless, I left with paperwork that shows Howard’s rabies vaccination is good for another year, which is most important to customs officials. The charge for our entire visit was 13.00 U.S.!! At home, the vaccine runs 60.00, in addition to the cost of a vet visit…so Animal Kingdom’s price was a great surprise! Howard was not as impressed or happy as I was about this.

Even thinking about the whole experience stressed him out.

Now that Howard was set, we focused on the rest of our pre departure errands. We first grabbed a quick lunch at Bojangles. They are the only U.S. fast food-type place on Roatan, and we were surprised that they beat out McDonald’s. Pizza Inn also shares the space. Apparently, it’s also in the U.S., although we’ve never seen one in our area. After our chicken lunch, we made stops at the marine store, Ace Hardware and Eldon’s, for a final “fill up.” I’ll miss that awesome American item-filled store!

Next up was the Megaplaza Mall (I think “mall” is a stretch”). There are several useful places here…two phone stores, two banks, a pharmacy, several clothing stores, a few food places, a second hand store and a place much like Walmart, which had everything from furniture, to electronics and appliances, to housewares, to toys and mattresses. We found some shorts for Scott at one of the clothing stores, and scored a 4.00 salad spinner at the second hand store!

We also made a stop into the pharmacy. They operate differently here than in the U.S., in that everything is located behind glass cases. You ask the counter person for whatever you need, there are no off the shelf items.

After we’d run all day, it was time to make some popcorn for the cruisers, and head to the pavilion for Friday movie night. The movie of the night was Captain Ron, a favorite of Scott’s (I’m learning that it’s a favorite of most cruisers). It was a fun way to unwind from our whirlwind day. Here a a few more photos.

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

Monkey Business On Fantasy Island

There are many animals and birds that roam the property of Fantasy Island Resort, but the monkeys are definitely the stars of the show. Until recently, there were seventeen monkeys on the island, but they were so mischievous toward guests that the owners had to relocate all but three (the rest have found good homes). Cheeky is a male, and the youngest of the three.

Lucy and Ethel are older females, and Scott and I have yet to tell them apart.

Mischievous is definitely putting it lightly. These three rule the island, sometimes with an iron fist! They will open hatches, climb into boats and take things. Scott and I witnessed one of the girls come out of a sailboat with an entire canister of powdered coffee creamer. She proceeded to climb to the roof of a nearby building and pour the creamer down her throat, her mouth covered in white powder. We’ve also see them slide down electric wires like they’re vines, and dig at the electrical boxes. It’s a wonder they’re still alive.

Most mornings, you’ll find them in the resort’s lobby, stealing whatever breakfast they can from the guests and wreaking havoc in general. Always on a quest for fresh water, they’ll drink from the cooler in the lobby, leaving the knob up and the water running when through. The same goes for the showers in the dive area, they’ll turn the shower on for a drink and then leave it running.

At happy hour, when cruisers gather in the pavilion, the monkeys usually appear for peanuts, climbing from person to person searching for their nutty treats (Scott always keeps some handy in his pocket).

If you’re not careful, they’ll help themselves to your drink to wash down the peanuts. I left a glass of wine unattended for a second, and turned to find it in Cheeky’s hands. He also managed to get a hold of margaritas that were left over from Cinco de Mayo, which made for an interesting and hyper evening.

If the monkeys take something from you, the best way to get it back is to trade for it (except for liquid, which they immediately drink, or dump on the ground). Just demanding it back is unsuccessful, and met with much attitude and noise. Everything is “child proofed” in the pavilion, with locks on the refrigerators and freezers, glass and utensils cabinet and tv.

Lucy will seek out a man she fancies, and stick like glue to him for days. Our friends Kevin and Jeff each told us of their experience with her on separate occasions, and we’ve seen it first hand with Steve, the dock master. For days, Lucy followed Steve from his boat to the office, running along rooftops and across tree limbs. If she couldn’t  make her way inside with him, she’d sit outside and bang on the door to get in. When Steve spent time in the lobby, using the internet, Lucy would lay on him like clothing. One morning, he went to his stateroom to make the bed, and found Lucy sitting on it!

All of the monkeys tease dogs here at the marina constantly, working them into a frenzy.

They have learned to bark like dogs, and Lucy even tried to pick poor Libby (Steve’s dog) off the ground. I think she would have succeeded, had Steve not intervened. We frequently see Cheeky chasing the agoutis and peacocks around as well. No one is off limits.

Cruisers here are used to the monkeys antics, and are always ready for a surprise “hop-on” when walking the grounds, or while sitting in the cock pit. Scott and I had a visit up on the flybridge, while we enjoyed cooler weather outside. They tried to use our paravane rigging to climb over to us. When Scott blocked their attempt, Cheeky showed his frustration by throwing coconuts down from a nearby tree. Lucy/Ethel successfully persevered, and joined us on board.

Here’s some video:

Resort guests are usually surprised and often afraid of the monkeys’ in-your-face interaction. While bobbing in the water with Richard and Jan, we witnessed all three monkeys descend on some tourists who were sitting on the beach.

We went to help, and found Cheeky up in a tree with a tube of sunscreen in his mouth. He immediately realized that it was less than tasty, and threw it down onto the sand below. Ethel/Lucy had obviously done the same, as we spied another tube on top of a beach bed frame. A bag of chips had been ripped open and left for dead on a nearby beach lounger, obviously not their favorite flavor.

We then spotted a girl whimpering with fear, while Cheeky curled his tail around her neck and grabbed her face. He meant no harm and was just saying hello, but she was terrified. Jan went over to intervene, and Cheeky quickly jumped to her, just in time for another guest to hand him a sugar packet! In a flash, he’d ripped it open and gulped it down…great, added energy. Thankfully, they lose interest quickly, and were soon off on their way.

Howard hasn’t escaped the monkey’s attention either. They have recently noticed him through the windows of the boat. The girls were especially interested, and came in for a closer look, getting pretty worked up when they make eye contact.

We were surprised at how Howard kept his cool during the interaction. Here’s video of the monkeys eyeballing Howard through the pilot house window:

We’re going to miss their daily antics. It’s been such a treat to interact with them up close, whether we want to or not! Here are many more monkey photos.

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

On To Panama…By Way Of Colombia.

A weather window has presented itself this week, so we raced back from Guanaja and have been preparing full steam for the next leg of our journey.

We will leave this morning, and travel 60-70 hours straight through to the island of Providencia. The island sits approximately 100 nautical miles off the coast of Nicaragua, but is owned by Colombia, and many cruisers stop here on there way to and from Panama. We’ll clear in and stay for a bit, before heading on toward Panama.

Our friends Kevin and Marina, who are cruising on Lucky Seven, will meet us there. They left from the Cayman islands on Friday,  and should arrive today. We met them during our stay in Isla Mujeres, and it will be nice to see a familiar face when we arrive in Providencia. They plan to spend hurricane season in Panama as well, so we can all endure the heat together!

The last five days have been busy with passage preparations. Scott fixed our fridge (hooray!), and we spent a day stocking up on cold and frozen foods. We also visited the “mall” for some things, as well as Ace Hardware and the pharmacy. Howard also took a field trip to the vet for his rabies shot, so he’s ready as well.

We’ve said final good byes to our friends here at the marina, and spent a day with our British friends, Richard and Jan. After time with some sloths in the morning (more to come!), we enjoyed some more bobbing, this time here in our own “backyard,” at the resort. It’s surprising how quickly you get comfortable in a place. We already feel so at home here at Fantasy Island Marina, and will miss it.

I have had no time to pour through photos and update the blog, so that will be something to take up my time as we travel the next few days. When we arrive in Providencia, I’ll catch you up on our waterfall hike in Guanaja, the crazy monkey business here at the marina and our day of sloths and bobbing. I also plan to write about our passages, how and when we decided to go, prepare for and endure them.

Be sure to follow the link on the Where Are We Now page, and check our progress over the next few days. On to Panama!!, by way of Colombia.

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

Guanaja…It’s SOO Pretty Here!

The waters surrounding our anchorage off of Graham’s Cay were beautifully clear.

Scott enjoyed many hours of exploring and snorkeling. By the way, the Aluminum Princess has recently been equipped with an oscillating fan (thank the Lord) and a rod holder…ain’t she fancy!

In the evenings, Scott would drop his fish light off of the swim platform, providing hours of entertainment for Howard. The fish were so intriguing, that he eventually ended up hanging down and swatting the water…I couldn’t watch.

We also took the Aluminum Princess over to Savannah Bight for a “drive by.” Sitting opposite Graham’s Cay, on mainland Guanaja, Savannah Bight is the larger of two main settlements on the island.

We all enjoyed the anchorage here, especially Howard. He spent much more time outside.

Unfortunately, due to stronger winds in the wrong direction, we were unable to anchor here this time around. A weather window appears to be opening early next week, for us to start our journey toward Panama, so this morning we raised anchor, said a second goodbye to El Bight and headed for Roatan.

Scott wants to repair the fridge while we are plugged in, as cooling the unit back down will take a decent amount of power. We’ll also do a final grocery run, to stock up on cold and frozen foods, since we’ll be back at 100%. Hopefully, there will be time to squeeze in an outing before we shove off.

In the meantime, here are some photos from our anchorage off of Graham’s Cay. If you like pretty water, click here.

And here are some Guanaja grocery photos that I forgot to include with Shopping Day, for those who are interested.

“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!”

 

 

 

 

Groceries in Roatan

Groceries in Roatan have been easy to get to, for the most part, and the selection of food has been surprisingly great. When in West End, we went to shore and did a quick walk to Woody’s Groceries. Being in a touristy area, prices were a bit high, but the selection was good.

Just before Woody’s was a terrific produce stand, with some of the best fruits and vegetables we’ve seen.

Here in French Harbor, we have several options. Tuesday is grocery day here at the marina. At 11:30, a local man arrives with a truck load of fresh fruit, vegetables and eggs. When he pulls up it’s every man for himself, as cruisers grab what they need.

Howard loves the “veg” truck, as he’s crazy for pineapple leaves.

Later in the day, a mini bus arrives at 3pm to shuttle us off to Eldon’s grocery store. On our first grocery day, the bus was packed full, with all of the jump seats down the aisles in use. Yesterday, we had much more wiggle room.

The bus first stops at a gas station right near Eldon’s. Anyone needing dinghy or motor gas is welcome to bring their jugs along, and get off at the station to fill them up.  They then walk back to  meet the bus at Eldon’s, just a short distance away.

Eldon’s is awesome!!! It is huge, and full of familiar items and brands that we haven’t seen since Florida. We have heard that they get weekly shipments from Miami, which explains the many familiar sights from home.

We have an hour to shop, which was nowhere near enough for me on the first visit. There was so much sensory overload, that I barely had a chance to get anything on my list before it was time to get in line and check out, where we realized that tax here is close to 30%! Yikes!

It’s amazing how all of the people, groceries and gas jugs fit onto the bus for the trip back (especially with so many people last week). Grocery bags and boxes are stacked high in the back of the bus. Gas jugs are under seats or at feet and crush-able things are on laps.

It’s great knowing that we have a definite day of easy accessibility to food, but I wanted more time in that awesome store, so we set out in the Aluminum Princess for our own grocery excursion.

To get to shore, we headed to the Roatan Yacht Club. It’s currently closed, but there is someone there to collect 2.50 from you for tying up at the dock. The grounds, bathrooms and buildings are well maintained, considering the yacht club is closed.

We followed a path that led us up some stairs, through colorful trees and plants, past what was a hotel for the yacht club, but is now private apartments and onto the street.

Once on the street, it was just a five minute walk to Eldon’s.

On this visit, I had plenty of time to peruse every aisle, finding all kinds of welcome sights. I think I’ve mentioned that butter in Mexico was challenging. Here, I happily found good old Land o Lakes! I saw the Indian on the box, but heard angels singing!

We also found many different types of french fries…waffle cut, sweet potato, and onion rings! However, things like this will have to wait, until we get our fridge and freezer back to normal.

Once I’d had my fill of Eldon’s, and we’d reached our carrying capacity, we checked out and made our way back to the dock; up the road; through yacht club entrance; up, down, back and forth along the path; down the steps and back to the boat. If you’re interested, we took out Delorme satellite tracker with us. You can see our route to Eldon’s by clicking the link on our Where Are We Now page.

On Monday, we visited Bulk Gourmet, a store that carries specialty things shipped in from the States. The owners will stop by on their way in, and pick up marina guests who want to shop. Scott and I made our way across the rickety bridge, up to the main entrance and waited out by the main road.

We were picked up in a hummer (not a bad way to go), and delivered to the front door. Inside, there were all kinds of neat treats. Gourmet potato chips, ginger beer for Scott, peanut butter filled pretzels, and spices that weren’t available at Eldon’s. They also had a great selection of frozen meats, but again, that would wait for now.

We have been spoiled here in Roatan, with plentiful fresh produce and an enormous selection of groceries. Here are more photos of the food here, and our travel to get it.

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