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.


Cheeky

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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