Friday, 30 September 2016

Honduras, Roatan (Repairs) 2016-03-09

Fixing. Fixing, fixing, fixing.

That’s all we ever seem to do. Luckily this time we’ve had a lot of help. So instead of spending all of our time rigging up weird ways to fix things because we don’t have access to what we need, everybody around us has just been overwhelming us with generosity. I can’t even name all the people who have helped us out in some small way, because I think I would just be listing everybody here. Whether it’s somebody shouting us a beer after we rock up to the Tiki Palapa covered in fiberglass and dust, or all of the numerous things that people have loaned us to help get the job done faster. Our friends Liz and Marty have put in ridiculous amounts of time helping us out, from spending a whole afternoon slaving away on the sewing maching to throwing copious tools and parts at us that we’ve needed to finish various jobs. The boat has certainly not been neglected in the last while, but we’re taking advantage of the shops and ability to order things online to replace all of our temporary fixes with real ones. Plus the marina here is really cheap, so we’re just doing everything at once while we’re attached to land.

We took out all the windows and replaced the seals, which is a job we’ve been wanting to do for a while. We replaced one side a while ago when water started getting in, but we hadn’t done the other one yet. The seals were the same age, so we had to get onto that before it went as well.

We also decided to give in and redo the deck, which has been a challenge. We did it in New Zealand when we first bought the boat, sanding it all off and repainting. When we sanded it back we discovered that the deck had been covered in teak at some stage. That teak had been attached with rivets, and instead of removing it properly the previous owners had just sawed the rivets off. The right thing to do was to drill out all the rivets and fill the holes with epoxy or something equally as waterproof, to keep it watertight. They didn’t do that. They filled a few of them properly, but not all of them. The first time we stripped it back in New Zealand, we went over the whole deck with a fine-toothed comb and fixed all the rivet spots we could find. Then we painted it over, good as new.

Unfortunately, over the last year a few rust spots have been popping up here and there, which means that water is getting in through some of the neglected rivets. Not good. So this time we weren’t taking any chances – we drilled out every single rivet on the entire deck and filled it in, whether it had been done before or not. We were going to do them all ourselves this time, to make sure it was done right. With the deck sanded and the rivets drilled, you could see exactly where the teak had been attached. There were lines running across the whole deck. So we dried it out, made sure the balsa core was all good and there wasn’t any water in any of it, then we filled all the holes in. It’s so watertight now it’s not even funny (knock on wood!). However, it’s taken us a lot longer than we originally thought. It seems crazy undertaking such a big job so close to the end of our trip, but we wanted to make sure our baby stays in good condition after we’ve said goodbye to her.

We’re bad at fine touches, so we tried really hard to do the painting properly. I covered all the windows and anything that couldn’t be taped with plastic bags. Liz and Marty, amazing as always, spent a whole day helping us finish sanding off the deck before we started and then they helped us mark up the edges. I can’t even begin to express how much time they saved us. The deck was beautiful, all ready for the paint.

But we awoke the next morning to the sound of little monkey feet running all over the deck, ripping off every bit of plastic they could find. There were new toys to play with! It took us several days to finish the painting, and every day they came onboard and tried to rip off all the plastic bags. I’m not sure why I bothered fixing them. They were so excited that we were outside all day that they kept coming by to visit, and I had to keep chasing them away… despite my best efforts we still ended up with a few trails of white monkey footprints that disappeared into the trees!

We used Kiwi Grip for the deck last time, which is a type of paint that you apply with a textured roller. It drys with a bumpy texture, which leaves a non-skid surface on the deck. It’s fabulous. Unfortunately, it’s very hard to find outside of New Zealand. Most people make a complicated mix of sand and paint to produce the desired effect, which can be quite harsh on bare feet and much harder to remove later. To do this after sanding the deck we would have had to reapply the layer of gelcoat we took off and then put the sand and paint mixture on over the top of that (The gelcoat is a very hard type of plastic paint, which protects the fibreglass from UV). Instead of going to all the trouble of painting it with two different things, we decided to just paint on a layer of gelcoat using the textured roller left over from the Kiwi Grip. It worked perfectly. Our deck is now solid and very non-skid. Plus, if we want to re-do a section, we don’t have to sand the edges back properly to remove all paint first – we can just apply more gel coat over both the remaining gel coat as well as the fibreglass.

With heaps of gelcoat floating around, we’ve taken the opportunity to fix up up and paint the dinghy. More fibreglass, lots of sanding and some tweaking of the rudder and tiller. Garth came up with a good way to attach the rudder and he tweaked the parts to make it move more smoothly. A few coats of gelcoat and our dinghy finally sails!

The other person who’s been helping us out a lot is Fred. He’s the sweetest thing, and his boat is right in front of ours on the dock. He has a house in Roatan as well as a car, which he’s been very generous with in regards to giving us lifts and just generally helping out. His house is pretty much my dream house. It’s all wooden and quite small in terms of normal houses, but the exact size I’d like my house to be. There’s a small lounge, a generous kitchen and two bedrooms, one of which is a loft with an amazing view of the ocean. He also has a huge verandah which wraps around three sides of the building, and a small workshop downstairs with everything you’d ever need to build stuff. Oh, and it’s perched up in the mountains in amongst the trees and is completely off-grid. I love it so much.

Looking up from the lounge room. Kitchen on the left, awesome loft up high

He invited a heap of us over for a dinner party last month, which was a lot of fun. It was really nice to get off Fantasy Island and see more of Roatan, and the company of all our new friends made it even nicer.

We’ve been completely blown away by how nice everybody is here. I know I’ve said that a whole heap of times, but it’s true. I’m not sure whether we’ve just been lucky to meet so many amazing people, or if it’s because we’re in a populated place where we can hang out and drink with everybody (which we haven’t really done before). Either way, Fantasy Island is kind of magical.

The view from the Tiki Palapa

A really amazing family came through here a while ago on a big catamaran (Tanda Malaika) filled to the brim with kids. They were all teenagers (not really kids at all) and every single one of them was a lot of fun. They were in the Palapa every night dancing along with Pete, and the kids (affectionately labeled ‘the creatures’ by their mum) all visited our boat while we were at anchor to have a go on our trapeze. So we’ve had a lot of fun hanging out with them. (They've been doing a lot of interesting humanitarian work lately and they're a great bunch, go check out their blog!)

Emma hanging out on the trapeze

The parents (Belinda and Danny) are equally as awesome, and Danny brought out his drone so we could play with it. He got some amazing shots of the anchorage which made me really, really want one! It would be amazing to launch it while we’re sailing, and I bet they get some pretty epic footage out there. Belinda is a dive instructor and she volunteered to take us out for an introductory dive near the Tiki Palapa. It’s mostly sand out there but it’s shallow and the perfect spot for an intro dive. It was really sweet of her and Danny to take us out and let us use their gear! We don’t have room for dive equipment on the boat and don’t have the money to hire it, so this whole time we’ve been telling ourselves that we’re not missing out on anything. We’ve seen so many amazing reefs with our snorkels and they’ve all been pretty shallow – we can usually get down to the bottom with our dive belts on. These last few years have been filled with amazing underwater adventures. So we were happy without the dive gear. But after we went out with Belinda and Danny, I realised that we had in fact been missing out on a whole lot! The fish act really differently around you when you’re diving as opposed to when you’re snorkelling. They normally dart around and swim past you, sometimes hiding and sometimes swimming away. We’re always surrounded by fish and it’s always amazing. But scuba diving allowed us to just hang out near the ocean floor and the fish just sat there staring at us. They hardly moved at all. I guess because we weren’t really moving much either. It was definitely a whole different world, where everything was a lot calmer and more serene. I thought diving would be really different but because we were in shallow water it felt the same as snorkelling anyway. We just didn’t have to go up for air.

A dodgy photo of the drone camera screen. You can see how pretty both the anchorage and Fantasy island are! (As well as the reflection of my phone…)

Roatan (and the other islands near here) is the 2nd cheapest place in the world to get PADI certified, so after that amazing experience we were really tempted to do a dive course. But unfortunately we just don’t have the money or the time. It’s cheap to visit and you get unlimited dives as a resort guest, so maybe we’ll be back in a few years mingling with all the tourists in the hotel!

Our quick dive experience was one of the few fun things we’ve done lately. So after spending so much time slaving away on the boat, our friend Anju dragged us away with Liz and Marty to be tourists for a day. Anju is really lovely. A lot of the hotel guests are Canadian, because they do cheap package deals to Roatan from Canada. So Anju (she’s French-Canadian) works for an airline at the hotel as a tour coordinator. She doesn't really work for the hotel but she stays in one of the rooms there, so she’s more like us than the rest of the hotel workers – living here temporarily and just doing her thing each day. She often hangs out with us at the Tiki Palapa and it’s nice to see a friendly face floating around the place.

Looking down at a village on the way to Punta Gorda

There’s a place called Punta Gorda not too far from Fantasy Island, and on Sunday afternoons all the locals gather there to sing and dance. It’s not really a tourist attraction but it’s a fun thing to do if you’re in the area. So Anju drove us all out there and the afternoon quickly turned into a party when she emerged from the shop across the road with local spirits and little cups. It seemed to be the thing to do, as all the locals were involving themselves in the local drinks as well, so I’m glad she was with us to lead the way! It was a bit drizzly so they had moved the dancing under cover, which quickly packed out. It was indeed mostly locals, with a line of guys drumming away in the middle. There were also some guys blowing on conch shells in the corner in time to the beat. Everybody took turns dancing in the middle, including very young girls who were trying to copy their parents. The dance was really hard and involved moving your weight onto your toes and shaking your hips from side to side as you kind of jump quickly from one foot to another. It was like a combination of polynesian dancing with hips swaying everywhere, and twerking. Either way there were a lot of bums bouncing from left to right!

Anju pouring out the drinks

Everybody had a go, including the older ladies (who had way more energy than they should have!). After it got dark and a lot of shots were had, Liz convinced a young girl to show her how to do the dance. She then dragged us onto the dancefloor and the locals cheered their heads off for us. It was exhausting! I tried to exit about halfway through but our instructor said I couldn’t – it was up to the guys on the drums. We had to dance for as long as they wanted us to. I had noticed them getting faster and faster for some girls, amid the cheers and laughter of the crowd. The dancing always matched the music, and it wasn’t until we were in amongst it that I realized the drums were indeed in charge. They stopped when they thought your dance had come to an end. The beat was constantly changing for the mood of the crowd, and it was a lot of fun to both watch and be apart of. I really love it here!

Xxx Monique

Click here for LOTS more pictures!

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Honduras, Roatan (Sloths) 2016-02-22

Best. Day. Ever. Our friends John and Lisa from S/V Morningstar took the lovely Shelley and I on an excursion to cuddle some sloths. I freaking love sloths. There were lots of them in Panama, and it was really exciting when we went out in the evening to find a random sloth hanging off a tree or creeping along a power line. But they usually only come down from the trees at night, so the only pictures I have are of blurry grey shapes lurking in the darkness. Occasionally they would hide in the electrical box near the La Playita anchorage during the day, because it was much cooler in there. But for the most part we didn't really get to play with them.

It just so happens that there’s a little zoo thing near the anchorage here in Roatan. I don't do zoos. I don't like seeing animals in cages, and I don't support places that cage up animals. But I decided to give in just this once so that we could see the sloths. I don't think they’re native to Honduras, but the climate here is exactly the same as in the neighbouring countries where they're abundunt, such as Panama and Costa Rica.

I was hoping it would be more like a sanctuary than a zoo, but there were still animals in cages. We were the only ones there and it wasn’t a big place (we’d certainly never heard of it). The friendly owners were probably just looking after the animals in their backyard to start with and they figured they may as well charge tourists to see them. There were a few smaller animals in big cages (three racoons and a few of the native watusas that you see everywhere near the marina). There was also a spider monkey in a cage and another one on a long leash, which I hated. But he was on a leash so he could live in a little tree house and still hang out in the trees without running off. I didn't like it, but he seemed pretty happy playing up in the branches. Spider monkeys can be pretty aggressive if they want to be, so I doubt they would last very long running around with the people on the island. The one in the cage was very possessive of the guy showing us around - Mr monkey reached out and grabbed our guides hand, wrapping fingers around his arm and pulling him closer. The guy said that because they play with them every day and are close with them, the spider monkeys don't like anybody else taking away their attention.

John with a spider monkey. They were very different to the spider monkeys we saw in Panama

There were also capuchin monkeys. Lots of them. They were in two huge cages, with a few running wild around the place. I was trying to figure out why they didn't let more monkeys out to play, when the guys working there found us a sloth.

The sloths were just hanging out in the trees, but there was one close to the ground with a little baby clinging to her stomach. It was pretty much the cutest thing I've ever seen in my life. The baby was sooo little and sooo cute! The pair were munching on leaves together and being adorable, when a capuchin monkey came along and peeled one of her hands off the branch. Then it peeled another hand off. They move so slowly and the monkeys are so quick, it was very easy for them to just drop the sloths off the branches. When the guys yelled at it, the monkey tried to pick up the baby. It was being an absolute terror. The guys said that the monkeys loved causing trouble and that they’re always trying to drop the sloths into the water. This one in particular needed to be watched all day because of the little baby. So that's why most of the capuchins were locked up…

Our friendly guide went about finding us a sloth near the ground who wasn't trying to look after a tiny little baby. This was the one he came back with.

Shelley with our new friend

Sloths are just ridiculous! He was so chilled out and relaxed. When the guy picked him up, he pretended his arms were branches so the sloth just gripped onto his hands and was slowly moved onto us. They look so silly hanging in the air! You could tell these guys cared about the animals, which made me feel better about the whole cages situation - they showed us where to put our hands so the little guy would be supported properly, and our slothy friend was handled like a delicate baby.

John with the sloth

He seemed perfectly content to just cling onto us. He looked around every once and a while, and we we were told he was slowly trying to decide which tree he was going climb up onto once we were done. This seemed like a decision that he wasnt going to make easily… there was a lot of pondering going on in his little head. I could just picture him sitting back in an armchair slowly sipping a cup of tea and thinking about his options for the entire afternoon. He made no signs of wanting to move any time soon, and just sat there quietly.

I nearly died when it was my turn. It was like cuddling a koala bear that doesn't stink, isn't going to go to the toilet on you and has no interest in scratching your eyes out. He wrapped his arms around my neck, holding onto my back with his claws. The claws were very long but not at all sharp. I was tempted to just walk off with my cuddly little friend, and I don't think he would have minded. But I think we would have had some concerned caretakers chasing after us!

After we were done cuddling him, John placed him back onto a tree with the help of our young leader. He looked around and very slowly made his way back up into the branches, trying to find the perfect spot to hang from.

Inspecting the branch

We went to check on the baby again before we left, and I nearly died when I saw the other caretaker playing with it. Sloths only produce milk for two weeks and they only carry their babies for a few months. After that they're on their own. This one was still very small, but it was starting to look around as it gets ready to explore on its own.

I'm not sure sure if the monkeys were messing with it or if it was being returned from an exploratory mission, but the guy had it sitting on his chest. It looked so tiny next to a full grown person! It was just this little furry ball clinging to his shirt. I got the impression that they didn't handle it very often and I've never seen two boys fuss over something so carefully before. They agreed to let me hold the baby when I nearly exploded from excitement and cuteness, but I'm not sure they were very confident about it. I was given very specific instructions on how to hold it. The little thing fit right in my hand! I held my hand out to support it and it latched onto me, wrapping both legs around the bottom of my hand. It gripped on tight!

You can just see his tiny little claws clinging onto the bottom of my right hand

The boys weren't happy with that, so they detached it from me and then placed it on my shirt, where it could grip with tiny little claws. I nearly passed out from the cuteness overload.

I didn't get to play for long, because they wanted the bubba back on mum’s tummy. It's still very young and and I don't think they've really let anybody else handle it before. It wanted to go exploring along the branch, but eventually it snuggled into her fur and wrapped itself around her as much as it could. So. Cute.

We got to visit with some birds before we left, which was actually pretty cool. They had Macaws and some green parrots, both of which are native to Honduras. I think he Macaw is actually the national bird. I had no idea how big they were! We got to go in the enclosure and feed them, which was exactly like feeding a normal parrot...If the parrot was the size of a small dog and had the ability to bite off your hand along with the birdseed.

Xxx Monique

Click here for LOTS more pictures!

Monday, 12 September 2016

Honduras, Roatan (Monkeys) 2016-02-20

Monkeys. That's what our whole lives revolve around now. Three cheeky, adorable little monkeys.

This little family of capuchins lives on the same island that the marina is on here in Roatan. They're the cutest things ever and Garth is in heaven. Their typical day involves visiting their favourite mangrove trees for breakfast, running around the island near their favourite mangrove trees, fishing for crabs,then making a total nuisence of themselves in the resort lobby. Sometimes they bug the animals in the chicken coop, and occasionally they visit the Tiki Palapa. Then they go to sleep.

Unfortunately, the people at anchor aren't allowed in the hotel lobby. So on two occasions Debbie and Steve have kept them entertained near the Palapa long enough for us to dinghy to shore and play with them. But that's it. Garth has been so frustrated knowing that we’re sharing an island with monkeys and we can't play with them.

But then we brought our boat in and tied up to the dock. Something we never do, but it was necessary in order to get some work done on our deck. We have to take all the sails down, and there isn’t really room to move around them while we’re at anchor! Plus we need both power and power tools to get the job done. So to the dock we went.

Garth has quickly become a ladder

And we happened to get the spot right in front of the monkey’s favourite trees.

For the last month or so, every morning has been the same. We’re woken by a cute little squeaking noise above our heads, and we open our eyes to see little monkey heads looking down at us. We have tried not to encourage them to get on the boat, but they're so damned cute… We usually just carry them off, or yell at them if they're trying to get inside or destroy things.

Early morning view from the dock

At first they wanted to play with everything. They would run round the cockpit, picking random things up and playing with them. Everybody calls the baby ‘Cheeky’ (He’s two years old and very much a terror). Then there’s his mum and possibly his grandmother (for a long time we thought she was his dad… she’s quite shy and hesitant to get too close. But after befriending her, closer inspection revealed that she is indeed a female). Cheeky must be teething. He doesn't have his big pointy teeth yet, and he puts everything he can find In his mouth and gnaws on it. Then he gets bored and drops it wherever he happens to be. Which is usually on a roof or over the water. So once he picks picks something up and wanders off with it, you had better hope that it's either waterproof or not valuable.

"Dad” has all his teeth!

Is Garth’s foot food?

They are one of the main tourist attractions here. Imagine getting off the plane in a foreign country, going straight to your hotel and into the lobby, and the first thing you see are tiny monkeys running around and jumping on all the tables and chairs. Cheeky loves people, and either jumps or climbs onto everybody looking for both new friends to play with and fun things to chew on. The hotel guests love it! They whip out their phones and take pictures of the adorable little critters. And then Cheeky snatches their phones, runs outside onto the roof or up a tree and chews on it until he gets bored. If they're lucky, he eventually gives it up. Maybe when he's a safe distance from the ground. Maybe not.


He knows that pockets and handbags have many exciting things inside them. So while you're coo-ing over the monkey sitting on your shoulder, he reaches down and steals your wallet. People have lost lots of things to their theiving nature, including expensive medications, dive cameras, phones, a rollex, and even a sat phone from inside somebody’s boat. Debbie put a hummingbird feeder up a while ago, and the monkeys swiftly dismantled it and stashed it somewhere. So they're pretty destructive!

He always thinks there might be things hidden down my top

But they're also adorable. We’ve been having a great time playing with them, getting up early every day as soon as the little monkey chatter starts up. Our friend Shelley walks her dog past our boat every morning and she swears they just sit in the trees staring at our boat, waiting for us to get up. They must eventually get impatient and then come over to wake us up!

I think he's still asleep...

At first they were having a great time picking things up and running off with them (although nothing of value!) Water bottles, Tupperware containers... anything in the cockpit that Cheeky can grab and run off with, he does. But after a while they stopped trying to rip our boat apart, and it was as if they just came to see us. In the beginning they would peer in at us through the hatch with their tails wrapped around the side of the boat as if it were a safety net. They didn't want to get too close in case it was dangerous.

Now Cheeky jumps up and down above our hatch, sticking his hands in trying to touch us. As soon as one of us sits up, he jumps on our heads. Then we have to get dressed with a monkey for a hat, trying to keep our heads outside the boat so he doesn’t think that it’s okay to come inside!

Trying to get dressed

Garth usually goes out via the companionway. As soon as Garth disappears from sight, Cheeky runs to the cockpit to wait for him. If Garth takes too long, the silly monkey comes back to the bow and peers in trying to find his giant friend. One day Garth was taking too long and the companionway was all shut up. I closed the bow as I climbed out (to make sure they couldn't get in!) and sat on the dock with some nuts ready to give Cheeky his treat. But Garth was still inside. Uninterested in treats, Cheeky ran back to the bow to see where he was, and started tugging up on the hatch trying to get it to open. He's smart enough to know which way to turn the handles, but not strong enough to actually do it. He just wanted to play with his buddy.

Some mornings he sticks his hands in through our hatch while we’re asleep, trying desperately to touch us. One day when Garth stuck his arm out to hold hands with Cheeky, the poor monkey started tugging on Garths arm in an attempt to get him to come out and play.

So Garth has made some new friends.

It's totally his own fault. These two rough house on the dock, wrestling and tumbling around together. Cheeky grooms him, pulling on his hair and occasionally trying to eat it. Cheeky often hangs upside down by his tail from the branches by our boat and Garth stands underneath him… they play fight in mid air, hairy arms flailing everywhere. They jump up and down together like idiots, and I think Garth could play with this little monkey all day long if I let him.

Usually they just visit in the morning. We feed them a few nuts or some fruit and they eventually get bored and go back to chasing crabs or mangrove nuts. Sometimes they snap the smaller branches and eat all the bugs that crawl out, and when there's seaweed in the water they fish it out and pick off whatever is crawling around in amongst the salty mess. When there's ants on the boat, I call Cheeky over and he immediately snatches them up one by one. They are definitely well fed!

Mangrove nuts (probably not their actual name)

Once he's worn himself out, Cheeky is all Zen

Garth has taken to sometimes sharing his breakfast with the monkeys instead of just handing out a few nuts. He’ll take an apple or banana outside with him and bite off some for himself, then hand a piece over to Cheeky. He peels off the skin of the banana and they gather around it like a couple of mischevious troublemakers. The silly bugger hates getting his hands sticky, so he sits there and eats it with no hands, just leaning forward whenever he wants a bite. With his hands held behind his back and he reminds me of one of those weighted drinking bird toys (the ones that repeatedly go up and down forever). If Garth doens’t pay enough attention, Cheeky will bob down and take a nibble straight from the banana. I hear him protesting from inside the boat, but I’m sure he’s secretly pleased with his naughty friend.

Sharing an apple

There’s not much fresh water on the island – it has to be trucked in from somewhere else. It hasn’t rained much for a while, which is why I think they like visiting our side of the island. It takes a long time for the sun to get above the trees and we’re in the shadows for most of the day (which is not helping our batteries or solar panels). But it’s good for the monkeys. In the morning there’s quite a bit of moisture on the leaves in the trees, which I’m sure is why they come by. But hat doesn’t seem to ever be enough for Cheeky. With no shower onboard, I try to fill up our solar camping shower from shore whenever I can. But when I forget or couldn’t be bothered, we use a 1.25L soda bottle with holes drilled in the lid as our shower. Even with our small tanks, 1L a day for showering isn’t that big of a deal. So the shower bottle lives in the cockpit… You probably see where I’m going with this. We usually bring them a cup of water in the morning, but one day I just grabbed the bottle. Cheeky quickly figured out that the bottle always has water in it, and that all he has to do is tip it up and it comes straight out. I keep finding him sitting in a tree or on the dock with my stolen bottle, drinking out of it like a baby.

There’s a boat just up the dock from us that has been left here for a few months, while the owners are overseas. Cheeky thinks it’s a playground. The dodger sags in the middle and the bimini is attached with bungy cord, so after he terrorizes us in the morning he heads straight to this boat and starts jumping up and down on the bimini like it’s a trampoline. Water collects in the middle of the dodger, so after he wears himself out jumping up and down he climbs down and drinks whatever he can find. Then he tries to jump up and down on the dodger but it doesn’t bounce, so he climbs back up onto the bimini so he can jump around some more. He’s exactly like a small child (or Garth… who often stands around bouncing up and down on the dock in time with Cheeky).

Taking a break from bouncing to scoop up some water

Another one of Cheeky’s favourite toys Is Freds little charcoal BBQ. The little munchkin thinks that Fred has put it there just for him. He even filled it with expensive charcoal with a smokey flavour (imported from the USA) so Cheeky would have little black balls to play with every morning. Freds boat is right in front of ours and he has a house on Roatan, so he doesn't often stay on board. Usually we hear the clang as Cheeky throws back the metal lid, which gives me just enough time to chase him away before he destroys everything. So I usually catch him as he's perched on the back of Freds boat, tasting the charcoal and then smashing it on the rails as he tries to break open the strange nuts. But sometimes we must not be awake early enough and Cheeky finds other things to entertain himself with until he decides to get us up. So occasionally we wake up to the sight of a little black monkey face peering down at us, a trail of charcoaly destruction between the two boats.

The monkeys have recently started coming back to visit later on in the day, well after their breakfast time. They have figured out that we are a constant source of entertainment. This has been problematic while we are fixing things, mostly because we have been leaving things on the dock that they’re not used to seeing. New things. Interesting things. Things small enough for them to play with. Unfortunately, they have developed a taste for alcohol after spending years hanging around the hotel lobby. The packages for the resort here are all inclusive, so people don’t pay much attention to their drinks. They can have as many as they want. So whilst the hotel staff try to pick up forgotten drinks, the monkeys are used to finding plastic cups and beer cans lying around. And they definitely know what to do with them. We accidentally left an empty beer can in the dinghy a while ago, which has become a good monkey alarm. Every time Cheeky goes past he sees the beer can and goes straight for it. He knows it was empty last time, but he’s always hopeful. He goes to drink out of it, finds it empty, and then drops it back into the dinghy. The rattling of the can being dropped always alerts us to their presence. It amazes me how smart they are… whenever they pick up a can they rotate it to get the hole to line up in the right place so they can drink out of it efficiently. If they just tipped it up they would still get the liquid, so they don’t really need to drink out of it like little people. But they still rotate it every time. They learn very quickly and they’re very smart.

Unfortunately, we’re mixing lots of small batches of epoxy to do some repairs on the deck. And we mix our epoxy in plastic cups. We have huge bottles of hardner and resin wich get tipped into smaller portions in plastic shot cups. That way it’s a lot easier to suck the right amount up with syringes and mix them together in normal sized cups (because the plastic flexes, it’s very easy to peel off the hardened epoxy and reuse the cups again later). So while I’m mixing them together and Garth is running around using the mixture, the source cups with epoxy and resin in them are left unguarded on a tarp. Needless to say, I’ve spent a lot of time trying to shoo monkeys away both from the appetizing cups and the wet epoxy smeared on our deck.

Whilst we play with them every day, they’ve been very good about staying out of the boat. A few boats on the dock have found both rats and boa constrictors onboard (the rats haven’t bothered anybody in a while after traps were laid out, but there’s not much you can do about the snakes… they normally just sun themselves on deck anyway). So to prevent any nasty surprises we close the hatches and put the boards in the companionway overnight. We often leave the companionway open during the day though, and Cheeky often sits on the top step looking down at us until we come out to play.

But the other day I was sitting in the saloon and I heard cooing from the bow. It sounded a lot like baby talk. I asked Garth what he was doing, but he didn’t reply. As I got up I heard ‘Hi sweetie! Do you want a cuddle?’ And as I stuck my head round the corner to the sounds of ‘You’re such a sweetie!’ I was met with the sight of my naughty husband cuddled up in bed with a monkey. Cheeky seemed perfectly happy to just sit still and cuddle in the bed, and Garth was quite pleased with himself. I tried to remove the both of them, but Garth can be very persuasive. He’s very good at making me laugh, which usually causes me to abandon whatever discipline I was trying inflict upon him. He looked up at me with a big grin and wide eyes and said ‘Look how cute he is!’ Then Cheeky stuck his tongue out and gave Garth a big hug. My husband is a huge sucker for monkey cuddles, so it took me a very long time to get the two of them out of bed and out of the boat. Garth refuses to behave when Cheeky is around. They’re both as bad as each other.

Xxx Monique

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