Month: December 2015

Sailing around

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We thought about setting sail for Cozumel yesterday, but once we set out the current was so strong against us and wind was directly on our nose, making us move at a snails pace of 3 knots. It would have taken 11 hours to get there, so instead we sailed for a while then anchored in the Playa de Carmen area. The water we sailed through was an amazing shade of turquoise.

While sailing all the creatures gathered on the sugar scoop and looked out over the water. What a fun group of kids!

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We thoroughly enjoyed relaxing, swimming and  paddle boarding, and close to sunset, set sail back to Isla Mujeres.

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Sunsets never grow old on the ocean.

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Another wonderful day in our home on the sea came to an end, and we are so grateful to have spent it with our amazing friends, the Nell Family. We are so blessed.

 

Cooking with our Amigos

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Though I am quite exhausted tonight, today was an absolute blast and a half. It started with Marci and I meeting our Amigos for a trip to the grocery store. Five of us piled into their red minivan and drove over to purchase the supplies needed for them to teach us how to cook legit Mexican rice, beans, salsa and tacos. They were so sweet and wouldn’t let us do a thing…no placing items in the cart or getting them out, or loading them on to the counter at check out or into the car.

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We loaded the cart with thinly sliced beef and pork, tomatoes, cilantro, onions, habaneros, garlic, limes, rice, beans and spices. Marci and I also picked out a smorgasbord of pastries to take home for breakfast, since it’s Jude’s birthday today. We stopped by a farmers market to grab cucumbers, avocados and fruit. Our plan was to meet in the kitchen at 3pm to start cooking.

The creatures wanted to head over to the beach we found on the other side of the island to collect more sea glass, so they set off on bicycles while Chad, Marci, Danny and I enjoyed a few moments to sit down in a quiet boat and enjoy each others company. Before long, we headed into town too, with Chad and Danny on bikes and Marci and I walking. The creatures texted while we were en route saying they were done and were moving in the direction of the ice cream shop, which sounded like a fantastic idea to us. Since it’s  Jude’s birthday we figured she deserved 3 scoops today, and she was more than happy to oblige.

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We all made our way through town to Playa Norte (North Beach), which somehow happens to be on the North end of the island, and when we arrived we were amazed at how crowded it was. The sand is a beautiful bright white, like some of those beaches I’ve been on in South Africa, and the water gorgeous shades of blue that are the color of peace.

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Many boats were anchored in the sandy bottom close to shore, and music played across the crowds.On our walk over to the beach, we noticed a vehicle with an Idaho license plate! It seemed so out of place here across the ocean.

Before long it was time to head back to the marina to begin cooking our feast. I had been so excited all day to learn the secrets of good Mexican cooking. Our Amigos met us in the kitchen and put us to work.

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We chopped, crushed, shredded, sauteed, squeezed, diced, stirred and grilled. The aromas coming from our creations were making our mouths water as we worked. Danny and Chad grilled the meat for us and did a mighty fine job.

 

 

A few minutes before eating, one of our Amigos ran over to the tortilla factory and bought a stack of fresh, hot tortillas, and they were heavenly.

Finally after 3 1/2 hours we spread our creations out on the table and gathered the family around, and they were so excited to dig in.

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What an amazing time we had, and the food was delicious. I love cooking, and I especially love learning the correct way from locals. Marci loved it too. I hope to learn cooking traditions and skills in many many more countries as we sail around the world.

Emma baked Jude a chocolate cake from scratch, and then whipped up her famous cream cheese peanut butter frosting and sprinkled it with coconut to top it off. I think that tonight all bodies on Tanda Malaika will be laying down a few pounds heavier, but we will all have extremely satisfied grins on our faces.

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Enjoying Isla with the Nells

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Last night our awesome friends, the Nell Family, arrived. They flew to Cancun and caught the ferry across, and Danny and I took the dinghy over to the ferry dock to pick them up. Our ride back was a wet one! We had 7 people in the dinghy, plus all their luggage, and with the added weight we were taking on all sorts of drenching sprays over the bow as we motored. By the time we reached the marina we were all soaked. It is so wonderful to have them here on Tanda Malaika with us. Aidan and Glade slept out on the trampoline and didn’t wake till 9am – long after the sun had risen.

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This morning when we awoke we gathered around, ate breakfast and played in the water for a while. We dropped everyone off for a snorkel at a reef where they drifted down in the current, and picked them up farther down afterward. The current is so strong here, and makes being in the water a major workout.

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After returning to the boat we grazed on watermelon for a while then decided to walk/cycle into town for ice cream. It’s always an adventure with a crowd like ours.

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Ethan, Aidan and Glade were ninjas on the skateboard and Penny board.

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We walked across to the other side of the island and some of the creatures jumped in for a while, but we had everyone come out when we saw that there was an intense long shore current and riptide. The scene before us was exquisite, saturated with intense varying shades of blue edged with crisp white breakers.

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After meandering through some of the market places we devoured ice cream and the sat down to a delicious meal. (It is important to eat dessert first.)

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When I checked my emails this afternoon, we had a fun surprise. The message in the bottle that we sent flying overboard off the coast of Nicaragua last week, traveled about 150 miles and washed up on shore on a Caye in Belize. The man who found it emailed us:

“Hi! I hope you made it safe to Roatan. I found you drifting letter that you posted on the glass bottle and I just wanted to say hi. I found it in San Pedro Ambergris Caye Belize. I was raking the beach front of a resort by name EL PESCADOR.

Hope to hear from you.
Byron Rodriguez”

We will write back and share our adventures with him.

 

 

This evening we are all back safe and sound on Tanda Malaika, and are so grateful to be able to share a part of our lives with our friends, and to see the joy and peace it brings them too.

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Our little corner

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El Milagro Marina has quite the charm. It is smaller than other marinas we’ve been in, but has a big friendly spirit.

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There is only room for about a dozen sailboats, one of which is a spot wide enough for a catamaran, and unlike many marinas, there’s only one cat spot.

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Just off the dock there is a large open area with tables and chairs, where marina folk can gather. A large kitchen with an awesome oven is available to us as well. There is an area with a ping pong table and darts, and a ‘movie theater’ where we can take our DVD’s to watch shows altogether, and hammocks hang from many trees. A small beach area and a swimming pool are also here to enjoy.

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Isla Mujeres, otherwise known as “Island of the Women”, is an island 8 miles off the coast of Cancun. It is 4.3 miles long and 2,130 ft wide. In Pre Colombian times, Isla Mujeres was sacred to the Maya Goddess of childbirth and medicine. The Maya also exploited the salt produced in the interior lagoons, called ‘salinas’. Though there are many cars, golf carts can be seen driven all over the island by locals as well as tourists. Some of them resemble jeeps, some Cadillacs, and some are just cute and jacked up and many of the buildings are painted in beautiful bright colors

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The locals are so friendly and are a very happy people. I spoke with some of them last night, and on Tuesday morning I’m joining them for a trip to the grocery store to buy supplies for them to teach me how to make legit beans, rice, salsa and tacos on Tuesday night. In exchange I will teach them how to bake bread.

Today we met a family who are new to the area and are in great need. They go hungry much of the time. We will be making a trip to the grocery store to buy them groceries.

We are so grateful to be here, to see the surrounding beauty, enjoy the people and their traditions, learn from them, and help them in any way we can. Tonight, our friends, the Nell family, will be joining us from St George, Utah, until the 6th, and we are excited to share this with them too.

 

 

Christmas in Mexico

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On Christmas Eve, the 12 of us set out on foot to find an ice cream shop. Since I’d been here before, I knew there was Nutella flavored ice cream somewhere on this island, and we were going to find it! We walked for about 15-20 minutes into town, while Danny rode a bicycle due to a sore foot, and there, next to the town square, we found the treasure.

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Out on the streets, people were excitedly shopping for their final gifts, the smell of food  filled the air from taco stands and children laughed as they ran in between their parents legs while they gathered in groups to converse. A large Christmas tree stood tall in the square, with a beautiful Nativity to its side. These were happy sounds in beautiful surroundings.

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As a family we decided that this would be a different Christmas than those we’d had in the past. Rather than focusing on physical gifts, we wanted to set aside gift exchange between us, and in its place, find humanitarian work to do, and focus on gifts of love for others. Online I found an orphanage close by, where we will go and help in any way we can. They have 35-40 children there, including some with special needs.

On Christmas morning I cooked everyone pancakes and bacon and prepared some fresh paw paw, and everyone loved it. Danny was especially excited for the bacon. After eating we took the creatures out and played in the water for a while. The current is so strong here, and at one point Danny had to go on a ‘rescue mission’ in the dinghy to tow a bunch of kids back to the marina.

I made a big potato salad and Emma baked a cake for the marina Christmas pot luck. Shad and Denise and their creatures joined us as we had quite the feast along with about 50 other people. Everyone mingled and enjoyed each others company, and finally with full  bellies we lay on the trampoline and talked till after sunset.

(I have so many photos to share but my camera seems to be having some issues. )

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The clouds were so beautiful. A thick, bright golden glow shone from them as they spread out above the starboard side of Tanda Malaika.

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The creatures trickled in after a while, hinting about more ice cream, so we all made our way into town once again for round two.

Time came for goodbyes, and each of us gave Skyler an extra long hug. I whispered to her how much I love her through teary eyes, as did Jude, Emma and Mycah, and we walked back to our home talking about how much we miss her already. I loved spending that time with my sweet sister, Denise, and her awesome husband, Shad. We hope they will return to us soon so that we can sail the Eastern Caribbean together.

 

Passage to Isla Mujeres

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We wanted to set sail as early as possible, but waited patiently for the package to arrive. Tanda Malaika was prepped and ready for the journey, so we took advantage of the time and played for a bit. The creatures broke out the paddle boards and Danny and I towed them around behind the dinghy. While out playing we were called on the radio and told that the package was in Roatan, but was on the other side of the Island and would only be delivered to us next week. So, we set sail.

 

From the moment we raised the sails to the time we pulled in to port, we had fantastic winds. It became obvious shortly after setting out that the winds were strong enough that we needed to reef the main, and after a while we reefed the jib as well. With two reefs in each sail, we averaged 9 to 10 knots, sometimes reaching up to almost 15 knots. Winds were 20 to 30 knots and the seas were rough. Huge swells came from the East as we sailed North, putting us on a beam reach, and Tanda Malaika took it all in stride as she rose and fell over swells and billowed beautifully in her sails. Ocean spray would reach 10 ft high as it swept up over the bow and periodically those on watch at the helm would be sprayed as water fanned out over the starboard hull. It was exhilarating! The power of the wind and ocean is something to be respected, and is so amazing to experience as we use it to drive us around the world.

A sea bird found refuge on Tanda Malaika, tucking its head into the warmth beneath it’s wing, and only left us as we passed Cancun.

What should have taken us 2 1/2 days, took us 1 1/2, and at about 2am yesterday morning we pulled in to El Milagro Marina in Isla Mujeres and dropped anchor. Both  vessel and crew were covered with salt, and after quick showers we snuggled down in our berths and rested soundly till morning.

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Skyler’s family were already in Isla Mujeres waiting for her, but she didn’t know it, and when Danny and I set out in the dinghy to check in at the dock, they were there excitedly waiting. They piled into the dinghy with us and Skyler was quite surprised to see them as we pulled up to the stern.

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The slip that we were assigned, is probably about 27ft wide, and Tanda Malaika is 25ft wide. Water is extremely shallow, barely deep enough for our 4 1/2 draft, and the wind was blowing pretty hard, so Danny had to use his amazing ninja Captain skills to back us in to the dock. It’s time to get settled in and explore our surroundings, and to find out more about the humanitarian work opportunities around us.

A ship named Jan

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We are still in Roatan. Danny checked his tracking number on an important package yesterday morning and realized it had finally arrived in Honduras and would be delivered today. He figured it’d be worth waiting here another day just in case by some miracle it does in fact arrive.

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He and I took a taxi in to Coxen Hole yesterday morning to check out, and while en route my sister sent me photos of Daddy and Jan’s graves.  The family had met out at the cemetery to place miniature Harley’s where they lie. Snow covers the ground adding a miserable aching cold to the scene. Jan’s headstone is still being worked on, and will most likely be set in place after the snow melts in the Spring.

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I began my usual free flowing of tears as I thought about them. That overwhelming aching that time cannot heal. I tried to collect myself as we arrived at the immigration office, and as I made my way across the  concrete, I looked out over the ocean, and anchored in the bay was a huge orange ship, named Jan.

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Though Jan has always liked the color combination of red, black and white, orange has been his favorite for some time. (It is the Harley color, of course.) I was filled with overflowing emotion, and somehow among the sadness, found peace in the scene as well.

Late afternoon, I talked Danny into walking down to the beach with me, where we pulled loungers out into the water and relaxed for a while. The monkeys were causing havoc with the tourists, as they stole sunscreen and cameras, and after some time when the bugs arrived in larger swarms, we made our way through the palms back to the boat. On the way, we met a woman named Alison Wright. She walked with us to Tanda Malaika as she told us that she was a writer and photographer, and was here on Fantasy Island photographing it. She has published several books and has been featured in galleries and magazines like National Geographic. She sat with us in our home for quite some time, sharing her adventures, and when Danny told her he has a drone, they decided to meet this morning so that she can fly it and photograph with him.  Danny has been chomping at the bit since 6:30am, excitedly waiting for her, which has been quite something to witness…it takes a pretty special person to get him up at that hour.

So, today is the day (once again), that we leave Fantasy Island. This time it will be for sure, because in order to be docked in Isla Mujeres by Christmas, we can leave no later than today. As I have been writing, Cheeky has been sitting on my shoulder – completely mesmerized by my computer while playing with my hair. I’m going to miss his sweet little face.

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Leaving Roatan

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Our time in Roatan has come to an end, much to our dismay. We would live to stay much longer and continue to explore and spend time with these beautiful people.

Aidan, Emma, Jonathan and I had such an awesome day on Saturday. Jude, Skyler and Mycah went to the beach with their friends, and while they were gone we dove the wrecks and some ‘Mayan Ruins’. All three of them loved the wreck, and Aidan surfaced exclaiming that he wants to salvage wrecks as a career. I am impressed with my awesome little divers, they did so well on air consumption and buoyancy. They make their Mama proud!

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Aidan has been wanting to see a lion fish, and we found a beautiful one at about 25ft on a free dive. That’s one more item checked off his bucket list.

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I took them to see the giant green moray, and right after leaving it, a beautiful big Spotted Eagle Ray glided past with a Remora stuck to its belly.

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Yesterday, the eight of us piled into a taxi and went in to church. The service was beautiful. They provided translators for almost everyone, which was much appreciated. An elder who translated everything, spoke into a contraption which our family could hear through headphones.

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Last night our wonderful friends, Martin and Dunbar, came over for steak fajitas and great conversation. Martin and his wife, Kym, own a beautiful Lagoon 560, named Amara.  They have been sailing for a while and have their catamaran listed for sale now. We will catch up with them again in Mexico.

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The monkeys have continued to bond with the creatures, and just get cuter every day. Yesterday I was walking along when I saw Cheeky, the baby, placing his hand along the fascia of a hotel building to collect water, then he sucked it off his fingers. I stood below him and tapped my shoulder while calling his name, and he immediately jumped onto me and I walked over to a faucet, dribbled water into my cupped hand, and he drank to his hearts content. Afterward her looked me in the yes, then rubbed his cheek against mine, and jumped into a nearby tree.

Danny and I are about to head into Coxen Hole this morning, to check out with the Port Master and Immigration. After that we’ll grab some fresh fruit and veggies, then set sail for Isla Mujeres, Mexico. It should take us about 2 full days. It is here that our niece, Skyler will leave us, and our awesome friends, the Nel Family, will join us for a week on Tanda Malaika. According to the weather, we should have 8 – 20 knot winds the entire time, so hopefully our sails will be full, as well as our fishing hooks. I am so excited to use a magnificent reel and lure that Danny bought for me, and have no doubt that I’ll be posting pictures of all sorts of Mahi Mahi and other scrumptious critters.

Island time

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The past couple of days have been filled with scuba diving, snorkeling, monkeys and gatherings.

Mycah set a new record at the Tiki Hut here, in limbo. She cleared 26″. When she was doing it she resembled one of those little yellow rubber men that you can bend in crazy positions.

We gathered for dinner with most of the marina folks at a place close by that just opened and needed support. They served hamburger plates and we conversed until 11pm. The creatures made friends with the owners kids, and their daughter invited the girls to join her and her family at a local sushi restaurant last night. Danny and I had fun chatting with several of the people,  and we especially had fun watching the creatures interact with everyone. It always amazes us at how well they get along with everyone of all ages, and end up being the life of the party.

Our sweet friend, Debbie, has spent lots of time trying to teach Jonathan and Aidan how to dance. She is so patient and such a beautiful person.

The monkeys have continued to love the attention we are giving them. Yesterday one of them was hanging around the boat and stole a can of bug spray. Danny had to trade it for an almond to get it back. They also broke into the Tiki hut and broke a wine glass and took off with a bottle of rum. Mycah coaxed it from him, and when he climbed onto he shoulder, she took the bottle away and walked over to nearby trees for him to play there instead. The baby curled up in Mycah and Emma’s arms at different times yesterday.

Since I’ve been here before, I knew where there is an airplane wreck and a ship wreck to dive, and I took Danny diving there on Thursday, and Jude and Mycah yesterday. I’ll be taking Jonathan and the twins today. The airplane is at 45 ft and is pretty broken apart. The visibility was poor because the water was really stirred up from recent rains.

The ship wreck is in pretty good condition still. The bow rests at about 75ft and the stern at about 85ft.

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Jude and Mycah are so fun to dive with, because they are so goofy. At one point I turned to check on them and Jude was giving Mycah a piggy back ride. Another time they were hanging upside down. I took several pictures of them, but they didn’t turn out. It’s definitely time for a new underwater camera. I have the first generation GoPro, and it just doesn’t cut it!

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Yesterday evening, shortly before sunset, I taught a young couple in the  marina, the Discover Scuba Diving course. They were curious what scuba was like and have snorkeled a lot, so I sat with them on Tanda Malaika and taught them the basics, introduced the gear and how it works, then took them diving close by while Danny snorkeled above us. They loved it. One of the things I love about teaching is watching others feel the magic that I have felt while diving. There’s simply nothing quite like it. When we surfaced, the sunset was gorgeous and cast an orange glow over the water.

Depending on the weather, we are planning on leaving Roatan on Monday morning after checking out with the Port Captain in Coxen Hole. We will sail to Isla Mujeres, Mexico and it should take 2 – 3 days. Yesterday Mycah asked me, ‘You know those days when you have a whole bunch of exciting things planned, and you’re so excited and it’s just an amazing, beautiful day?’ I told her yes, I do, and she said, ‘I feel like those days are my life right now. I’m loving everyday with my best friends, experiencing exciting and beautiful things.’ Cruisers have mentioned several times to me, how unique our family is, in that everyone on board is passionate about travel and sailing. In family cruising, there are usually one or two people that aren’t too thrilled and would rather be somewhere else, but the Tanda Malaika crew love what they do – including all the hard work that it involves.

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Checking in

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I need to make a correction on my last blog post. The marina manager here, is not Aussie Tim, but actually Aussie Pete, and he is such a character! He loves having the creatures around and is always full of laughter and jokes.

The two things we really needed to accomplish, was to check in with the Roatan Port Master and also Immigration to get all our paperwork done, and the second thing was to do laundry. Aussie Pete made a call and arranged for a cab driver to pick Danny and I up at 9:30am so we could drive to Coxen Hole to get paperwork done, and the Creatures loaded all the laundry into the dinghy and drove across the bay to the laundry facility. Danny and I started our morning with a walk around the resort. It hasn’t changed at all since the last time I was here in 2009. Iguanas and watusas are all over the place and the water is crystal clear.

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Watusas are a shy rodent related to Guinea pigs. They eat fallen fruit, leaves and roots, and sometimes hoard food in small, buried stores. When greens are scarce, they eat the eggs of ground-nesting birds and even shellfish on the seashore.

On the way into town, our cab driver, made a stop at the marine store so we could purchase a new bilge pump for our starboard bilge. When we entered the store, I felt like a kid in a candy store, because there was a huge section of the most beautiful lures in every color and size that I’ve ever seen. One of my goals is to make our own lures, and there were tons of lure making supplies. I’m definitely going to have to find a wholesale dealer to purchase supplies from, because I can tell this will be an expensive hobby. We did purchase a new lure which our cab driver highly recommended, and I am so excited to try it out.

Roads are narrow in Roatan, and locals drive like maniacs.

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Whenever cruisers set foot in a new country, they have to show passports, crew lists, boat registration paperwork, cruising permits, and the zarpe (exit papers) from the previous country they were in. Some countries charge an arm and leg, and some not so much. Honduras is free, (unlike Colombia, which was quite expensive) but the immigration officer who tries to be intimidating, is very dishonest and tries to charge crazy amounts of money which he pockets. We were forewarned about this, so when he tried charging us $200 per crew member, we refused, and right before leaving his office when he said that all was complete, and that will be $100 please, we laughed and said, ‘nice joke, but heck no’, and went on our way without paying a cent. The port captain was far more pleasant, and after 3 hours all our paperwork was done. The day we leave Honduras, we’ll have to check out with the same people to obtain our zarpe. The creatures are excited to have stamps from 3 countries in their passports, in one week.

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After returning home, Danny installed the new bilge pump and found where the leak was – the hot water heater was dripping, and he fixed that with his infinite McGuiver skills, after which we went to play with monkeys. The baby, which locals call ‘cheeky’, fell in love with Danny. Up until meeting him, he liked playing with the creatures too, but once he climbed onto Danny, when ever Emma came close he would pull her hair and want Danny for himself. It was adorable (to Emma’s dismay). They love eating grapes and almonds, which the creatures fed them.. Cheeky’s mom and dad were there too, and mama and I bonded right away. (Most likely because we have motherhood in common).

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These monkey are known to steal things off people’s boats or just right off of the person. A man in the marina’s rolex watch was snatched up by them recently, as well as sat phones, tools, baseball caps, sunglasses etc. Danny wants to fly the drone around to attempt to find where they keep their stash. It could be financially beneficial for us!

Shortly before the marina braai (bbq), Danny and I grabbed our snorkel gear and climbed into the dinghy to explore, when Jude came on board from having just barely taking a shower, saw what we were doing, and joined us. We came across a green moray that was about 5ft long and his companion was perhaps a foot shorter. They were beautiful and were hiding inside a large metal contraption. The reef fish were in great abundance, and corals were healthy and overflowing.

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I checked in with the dive shop to see if they had any scuba tanks for sale, because we want to add 5 more to the boat, but they didn’t have any. Somehow they found out that I am a scuba instructor, and told me that they really need my help next week to get a bunch of guests certified. Their instructors are ill right now. Unfortunately we will be leaving on Monday after checking out, and are headed to Mexico, otherwise I would most definitely have loved to help.

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Our cab driver told us something interesting today. We noticed 4 huge cruise ships in town, and he said that the islanders appreciate and need the business, but the draw back is that the thousands of cruise ship people bring so much disease and sickness to the island. The dive shop instructors are just a few of the people who keep getting sick because of it.

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Aussie Pete had arranged for everyone in the marina to bring their meat over to the Tiki hut at dinner time, and all grill and eat together. Everyone was in good spirits, and we all sat as one big family, chatting, listening to music, and enjoying each others company. Aussie Pete taught the creatures a new dance, and Mycah became especially skilled at it. Everyone did quite well. We also sat and chatted with Keith and Patty, the couple that owned the dive shop in Idaho Falls where I certified many years ago, who happen to be staying at the resort here for a couple weeks. It was a wonderful way to end the day. Once again the sunset was breathtaking as orange and blue rays reached heavenward before disappearing below the horizon.