Thursday, March 13, 2014

Da plane, boss, da plane!

Posted by Scot

Calm morning in French Key Harbour

That’s right, we spent the last 5 days on Fantasy Island.  Unfortunately, it was not that Fantasy Island.  Maybe sometime in the past, Ricardo Montalban and Tattoo wandered around making dreams come true, but by the looks of things, nobody has done any work on the Fantasy Island Resort in Roatan since about the same time the eponymous TV show was cancelled.  Which is too bad, since the resort is situated in a pretty fantastic place.  It is on a 21 acre island, with two beautiful beaches protected by a fringing coral reef, a dive operation on site, a marina, and a wildlife park/zoo of sorts.  If someone actually put some effort into it, it would be an amazing place.

For marina guests, though, since we didn’t have to avail ourselves of the run down facilities, and could just use the beaches and enjoy the wildlife, it was still pretty good.  The Fantasy Island marina is sort of the focal point for the very active cruiser’s community that calls French Key Harbour on Roatan their winter home.  A lot of folks come over from the Rio Dulce in Guatemala to spend the winter here, after spending hurricane season up the protected Rio.

Sunrise over Fantasy Island
That makes French Key Harbour a sort of summer (winter?) camp for baby-boomers with boats.  There were probably around 30 retired couples docked or anchored in French Key Harbour while we were there.  Most had been there for weeks, and were planning to stay through to the end of “the season”.  Their days are filled with volleyball, shopping trips, potluck dinners, swap meets, and evening drinks at the Tiki Palapa.  Actually, we were lucky enough to be docked right in front of the Tiki Palapa, so we got to enjoy evening drinks with the group on several nights we were there.  We met lots of really nice people, and joined them for a few volleyball games, and a potluck as well.

We were definitely an anomaly in the main demographic though.  On the night we went to the potluck, as we were coming in, one of the guests took a look at our family and exclaimed “Look, kids!”  She said it the same way you might say, “Look, aliens!”  We really haven’t had much luck seeing other kid boats on this trip.  It is a good thing we have three of them, and they can keep each other company.

Cruiser's out for dinner.
In fact, it is especially lucky they can amuse each other when we are working on the inevitable boat projects that crop up.  After our motor/sail from the Caymans, our engines were due for another oil change, as well as an overall tune up.  So, for three days, every morning in the blazing sun, I got to descend into the nice shady engine rooms.  Using a mixture of sweat, engine oil and corrosion inhibitor for lubrication, I wedged myself in next to our Volvo Pentas, and managed to change the oil and filters, tighten the belts, and put in new impellers on both engines.

One of the locals, Fantasy Island.
Once we got done with the engine work, we cast off from the dock and anchored out in the harbour.  There, we realized that one of our heads wasn’t flushing right, so I spent another morning pulling apart the macerator pump.  It turned out that was working just fine, but I did take the opportunity to rebuild the pump with parts from our new pump that we had gotten shipped to Georgetown.  In fact, I wanted to just replace the whole thing, but was surprised to find that the new pump wasn’t actually the right one for our head.  So, instead, I pulled every part off the new pump that I could use on the old pump, and built a sort of a “Frankenpump”, using the best parts of each.

Then, I got to pulling apart the plumbing.  It turns out there is a sort of tri-leaflet valve downstream of the pump that was blocked with a mixture of seawater and… well, you know, the stuff that flows through a toilet pipe.  Once I figured out how to remove the valve and clean it, the toilet is back to full working order.  I think what actually happened is that the toilet was sitting long enough without being used while we were in the marina (when we were using the on-shore toilets), that things just sort of hardened up, and eventually obstructed the outflow.  Anyway, after a long sweaty fight with the toilet, followed by a very long swim and a shower once it was fixed, all is now well.  It is often said that boats that are used have less go wrong with them than boats that sit, and I think this is a good example of why that is.

For you cardiac surgeons out there, think heavily calcified aortic sclerosis.  For everyone else, just think "yuck".  (I used my phone camera to look in the pipe and take this picture before committing to taking it all apart).
It wasn’t all work, though.  Roatan is famous for it’s great diving.  Since we were docked about 80 feet from the dive shop, and itching to use our newly minted PADI certificates, we made sure to take in one of the local dives.  Diving in Honduras is ridiculously cheap.  For just over $50.00 we rented gear for Alexander, Christopher, and me.  Then, we dinghied over to a dive site that was about five minutes from our boat.  It was great.  There was a wreck of a ship and a plane right next to each other.  While Sara and Katie waited for us in the dinghy, we explored below.  None of us had ever dived on a wreck before.  Gliding weightlessly over the coral and fish inhabiting the skeletal remains of these huge objects was as close to flying as we have ever been.

I think Katie is driving the dinghy here, but I note that no one is actually steering in this picture.
New growth, old ship.
Flying above the wreck.

Diving partners.


  1. We have been experiencing the same demographic issues over here - no one is the same age bracket as we are. They are either retired or straight out of college. We find we have much more in common with the retired folk, who seem to have been just about everywhere and seen just about everything.

    1. I guess for most people life gets in the way of taking some time out to look around. It's too bad, really. When we see what other people live with, I don't think it is truly an economic issue - lots of people get by with way less than everyone we know at home.