31 March, 2010

Vacation Take 2

Location: West End, Roatan, Honduras
Position: 16 17.570 N 086 35.841 W

Wow!!  Two vacations in one month - this is awesome! Our son, Dan, from Redding, California was just here for a visit and we got to play again for a whole week. We could get used to this! We snorkeled, ate out, rented scooters, toured the island, visited a lovely botanical garden, sailed, fished, and every sunset we looked for the elusive green flash to no avail.

Even though we didn't have any luck in the fishing department we all had a great time together. Dan got a taste of our cruising lifestyle and enjoyed meeting and hanging out with some of our cruising friends. As an added bonus, he brought a waterproof camera (we have to get one of those) and likes taking pictures - so for a change we actually have some photos to post! As you know pictures tell a thousand words so check these out and see how much fun we had.

Lunch on the beach with friends

Mark & Dan on the rental scooters overlooking the reefs


Dan chillin' on the beach

underwater photos thanks to Dan

Carambola Botanical Gardens

Dan playing with the Monkeys at Gumbalimba Park

Queen Angelfish

Julie & Dan snorkeling

Another sunset with no green flash

Julie & Dan swinging in Gumbalimba park

Thanks for coming Dan - we had a blast!

12 March, 2010

On Vacation

Location: West End, Roatan, Honduras
Position: 16 17.570 N 086 35.841 W

Our friends, Shep & Deb, from Blacksburg were coming for a one day stop on a cruise ship so we thought West End would be a good place to entertain them.
Here's a view of the beach and a resort from Rachel at anchor.

West End (surprisingly located at the west end of Roatan) is a small town that has one street which is just a dirt road. On one side is the Caribbean Sea and the other are a variety of bars, restaurants, little shops, street venders and dive operations.

Mark doing 'research' .

We got here a few days ahead of time so that we could check the place out. As we would only have a day together we wanted to make sure we showed them all the “best” stuff to make sure they’d have a really good time. Also, since Julie’s son Dan will be coming for a visit later this month, we had another valid reason for all our exhausting ‘research’. A tough job but someone has to do it!!

The main street in West End

See how close to the reef we are anchored

We sampled several bars, snorkeled inside and outside the reef to find the prettiest coral and fish, walked on the beach and up the hills. We had stocked up on rum, ice and lunch treats and were ready and excited about their visit.

On the morning of the scheduled visit we received a hail on our VHF radio – “We’re backing in to the cruise ship dock! We’ll be there soon.”

So we went ashore to wait for them. Nothing. So we walked through town, keeping a close eye on all the cabs and vans that went by. Back to the dinghy and still nothing. So we walked through town and back again. Still nothing. Just as we were getting ready to walk through town yet a third time, we received a hail on our handheld VHF from some friends on another boat in the anchorage. Shep and Deb had been trying to hail us, but our handheld wasn’t strong enough to reach the cruise ship. Apparently the winds were too strong and the captain too inexperienced to make the final docking, so they were cancelling the day stop in Roatan and heading to Belize! How disappointing!!

See the cruise ship sailing away with our friends. Note the mountains on the mainland, 26 miles away, in the background

Now we had a big decision to make - what were we going to do with all this food and ice and rum? Easy, invite other cruisers over and have party! We all drank a toast to the missing Shep & Deb.

We stayed a few more days, just to complete our “research” and are now ready for Dan’s visit. Hopefully he won’t get turned away too.
The last week has been like being on vacation. No boat jobs, no shopping, just fun and games and time with (and without :<) friends.


03 March, 2010


Location: French Cay Harbour, Roatan, Honduras
Position: 16 21.255 N 086 26.646 W

We are anchored inside the bounds of a Honduran marine park – no fishing is allowed within the park boundaries. Knowing this, a local fellow comes around the anchorage in his skiff a couple of times a week selling freshly caught fish out of a cooler. Warren is very personable and witty and we look forward to his visits.

The first day he showed up it was pretty rolly (blowing about 25 knots in the anchorage) and he was bouncing around pretty good in his skiff. He had fresh grouper that day. We haggled over the price - that’s a fact of life here - you never pay the asking price. We picked one out and he said he’d fillet it at no extra charge. He had no knife or cutting board so we handed ours over to him and he deftly filleted the grouper while bouncing all over the place. He had fun calling Mark “Castro” and giving us a hard time about how dull the knife was. Needless to say, Mark had it all sharpened up for Warren’s next visit.

Recently, he’s started calling us “Mr. Mark” and “Mama”. When he came by yesterday he told us he had decided to start growing a beard “like Mr. Mark’s”. Sure enough, there was new stubble on his chin. He also said that, if he likes someone, after they’ve bought from him three or four times he gives them a better deal. Then he threw in two extra conchs with our purchase. So we’re pretty sure he likes us, too.

We don’t buy from him every time he comes by, but we always look forward to his visits as he is invariably cheerful and has time for a chat. His selection is always different and varies from lobster to shrimp to wahoo to grouper to snapper to conch. We never know what he’s going to bring other than his sunny disposition and wit.

01 March, 2010

16 degrees

Location: French Cay Harbour, Roatan, Honduras
Position: 16 21.255 N 086 26.646 W

That’s our current latitude - 16 degrees 21 minutes north of the equator.

Our latitude last summer at Mt. Desert Island, Maine was 44 degrees 21 minutes north. Each minute of latitude equals one nautical mile, so that’s 1,380 nautical miles (or 1,588 statute miles) further south than we were just 6 months ago. If we travel seven degrees further south (420 more nautical miles) we’ll be south of the insurance companies “hurricane box”.

To date, we’ve traveled 12,270 nautical miles (or 14,120 statute miles) on Rachel since we’ve owned her - that’s a distance equal to more than half way around the world! Who’d have thought?

A friend recently emailed us. She and her family have been living aboard and cruising for almost 2 years. She freely admits that she’s always been afraid of sinking or smashing into stuff. The anticipation of thunderstorms, night watches, fog, and dragging anchor all have filled her with trepidation and given her many sleepless nights. She said they’ve suffered through several thunderstorms at anchor this year. Last year she used to stay up all night in the cockpit making sure the boat didn’t move. This year she goes up top, looks around, and when she sees everything’s okay, goes back down and sleeps. Julie wrote back to her and congratulated her on making the transition from “someone who is out cruising” to “someone who has become a cruiser”.

Looking back, we wonder when that happened for us. We remember with great clarity our first overnight sail on Rachel. How excited and nervous we both were, how beautiful the moon was that night. We think about how nervous we were the first time we talked on the ham radio and how naturally it comes to us now.  And how embarrassing the first time we flew Rachel’s spinnaker ended up being.  Then there was the time  Rachel’s engine quit running right in front of the Spa Creek Bridge in Annapolis.  And spending the night at anchor for our first gale. And the first fish we ever caught on Rachel. And, not so long ago, the first time we both got sea sick.

There have been so many “firsts” for us in this process. And it seems that all of them have slowly, over time, fitted together into a mosaic of experience from which we now draw strength and confidence. That seems to be pretty much how life works for all of us, doesn’t it? Like it or not, when we push ourselves (or are pushed) outside our comfort zone, we grow.

That’s pretty darned cool.

Mark & Julie
s/v Rachel