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!

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